This sermon is number 7 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 7
"Paul's Prayer List For You - Part 1"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let me give you a warm welcome to our Bible study here, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Iron Hall. It's great to see you all and if you're visiting with us, maybe for the first time, we're especially glad to see you and we hope and trust that you feel at home with us and that the Lord blesses you through His own inspired book, the word of God.
Ephesians and chapter 1, and we'll take time to read the whole chapter together to get the context of what we're reading this evening. Reading from verse 1, and we're concentrating tonight on verses 15 probably only through to verse 19. So let's read from verse 1: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory".
I'm out of breath, for that was one whole sentence! All we have just read was one whole sentence of praise, and now we have a full-stop. Now we look at what we're going to think about this evening. What we've just read was the praise of Paul, and now we're looking at the prayer of Paul. It's the first prayer of two that we find in the book of Ephesians: "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all".
I've entitled our message this evening as 'Paul's Prayer List For You'. There are several things that Paul prays to God, and intercedes to God, that the children of God in the church in the city of Ephesus may have. He prays, he implores, he pleads to God that they may know, in their Christian lives and experience, certain things. We all ought to have prayer lists - and if you don't have one you should get one, and list down the things day by day, or week by week, or month by month, that you want to bring before the Throne of Grace, intercede for others and pray for yourself. But I wonder if we were to take out our prayer lists, and compare them with the prayer list of Paul, how they would compare?
If you look at what Paul asked God for, very little of it - in fact none of it - was physical, all that Paul prayed for was spiritual. We might have our Aunt Aggie's big toe on our prayer list; all the ailments that we can think of of friends and relatives - and it's important that we do pray for the healing of others, and for those who are going through physical turmoil and trial. But what Paul is indicating to this church in Ephesus, as he begins this letter - and he's just finished a long sentence and tirade of praise to God for the great plan of salvation from eternity past to eternity future, all that God has done and will do in Christ Jesus - and as he comes to a prayer of intercession for these Christians, he pleads for their spiritual need. Nothing physical, but spiritual. Also, interestingly, Paul's prayers are not centred around himself. If you look at that list from verse 15 right through to verse 22 you'll see that, always, his prayer life here is centred around prayer, intercession, and pleading at the Throne of Grace for others.
In a general sense there's a great deal of confusion about the whole subject of prayer. Even within the subject of who to pray for, and what to pray for, we find within our daily lives, individually, that there is a lot of imbalance. Sometimes we're always praying for others and we never think of ourselves - but I think most of the time it's more likely that we pray for ourselves and we forget about others. It's like the 40-year-old spinster (I hope there's no 40-year-old spinsters in the meeting tonight!) who prayed: 'Lord, I'm not asking just for myself, but please give my mother a son-in-law'. She was praying for others, but with herself at the centre. If you scour the pages of Holy Scripture you will find that a study of the prayer life of the saints of God, you will find that most of them, most of the time, centre their prayer life around others. Go to Genesis 18 and you find there, Abraham supplicating the Throne of Grace for that wicked, two wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Go to Exodus 33, and Moses has just come down from the mount where God dwelt and where God was giving him the law. As he came down - you remember he heard the singing and the orgy, as the children of Israel were bowing down and bringing obeisance to a golden calf - and he fell before God and he interceded for the people, and he even asked that God would punish him so that his own people might be saved, so that they might have salvation. You can go through the letters of Paul and we thought yesterday, Lord's Day morning, about Romans 9 and verse 1 where Paul prayed for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh - his brothers and sisters in Judaism. They were praying for others.
This was a theme within Paul's epistles. Turn with me for a moment to Romans chapter 1 and verse 9. You see that Paul, at the beginning of his letter to the people in Rome - the Christians in Rome - he writes in chapter 1 and verse 9: 'For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers'. Colossians chapter 1 and verse 9 - the same chapter and the same verse - 1 and verse 9. At the beginning of this letter to another city and another church, he introduces and again he starts with the subject of praying for them: 'For this cause we also, since the day we heard of it' - your faith - 'do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding'. Again in 1 Thessalonians 3 and verse 10, Paul again, he amplifies how he prays. He says: 'I make mention of you' - that means specifically he named their names before the Throne of Grace. He says he did it without ceasing, continually, he didn't forget, he didn't take a break from it - all the time he was remembering them. Then here, in chapter 3 and verse 10 of 1 Thessalonians, he says: 'Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?'. He prayed without ceasing. He prayed mentioning their names, and you think of the many people that Paul knew and Paul met and had come into contact with and led to Christ, and the churches and the sheep that he was tending and looking after. But day by day, night after night, if his time was not taken up with preaching the word of God or teaching the flock, his time - his minutes, his moments and seconds - were taken up with bringing their names before the Throne of Grace.
When we pray for others what do we ask for? What do we ask for? I want you to remember that in the book of Ephesians Paul was in prison. We looked at that in the introductory message of Ephesians - how he was locked up under house arrest. You think about that, and if you were there and you were writing a letter to the Iron Hall and you'd been locked up for your faith, what would you be asking? 'Oh, pray that God will do something miraculous! That God will break down the walls of the prison, bend the bars back, that He will strike the knees of the jailers and let me go'. Not Paul! What does he pray for? He doesn't ask that they have things that they do not already have, do you notice that? He doesn't ask that God would impart to them something that they had not been given at the moment of their conversion, but he asks, and he implores, and he pleads to God, that God the Holy Spirit would reveal to them what they already have.
We believe, 2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse 16, that 'All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness'. Therefore, as we look at this book in the New Testament - as we look at every book in the Bible - and we see that it was specifically, primarily written to the church at Ephesus, we note that it is personally 'for me'. The children's chorus says:
'Every promise in the book is mine
Every letter, every word, every line'.
And that's a reality! It's all for you! And if Paul is here, and he is praying it for the saints at this particular time, that means if we believe that Paul was praying in the Holy Spirit (and he was because it's the Holy Spirit who inspired this book and the words that we read before us in this letter) - so according to the philosophy of prayer, if the Holy Spirit of God had inspired the heart of Paul to pray for these specific things, that means that this is God's will for the children of God in Ephesus. And if all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for you and I today, that means that this is God's revealed will for you and me. What does God say? What is the Spirit of the living God praying for you? What is He interceding for you within the heart of Paul the apostle? What is it that Paul was brought to his knees to pray for?
Well, let's look at the first thing: he was led. How could he not be after such a beautiful sentence of praise and glory about election and predestination, and about redemption, and about adoption and so many things that we've read about already in chapter 1? How could he not thank God for their salvation? That's what he does, and he does it in a two-fold way. Look at verse 15: 'Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints'. He gives thanks to God for their salvation by talking about faith and love. Of course, first of all, the faith that he talks about - 'pistus' in Greek (sp?) - the faith is the saving faith, the faith by which we trust. We have received a gift from the hand of God to trust the crucified Christ: the bleeding Lamb at Calvary, we've received that gift of God which is eternal life, we have been saved! But what Paul is also talking about is not simply that first gift of faith that we received when we were born again, but he talks about how, as Christians, that we must live by faith, our life must be grounded within faith. I want you see this: that he was praising God that these Christians in Ephesus were grounded, knew in the depths of their soul, that the Lord Jesus Christ was upholding them. They had an assurance, they had an assurance that no matter what would fall at their feet, what troubles or trials or tribulations that they would experience; what opposition or persecution would come from the empires around them - they knew that, no matter what happened, it was well with their soul! They were firm, they were grounded, and because of that they could charge ahead with their Christian life.
I heard of a man in Canada and he was trying to cross a frozen river - St. Lawrence River. He got down on all fours, and first of all he put his first hand ahead of him and just tested the ice, and then his second hand, and gingerly he gradually got on to the ice. He crouched, trying not to put too much pressure on it - and, to his horror, he heard a noise behind him and he turned around to see just a team of horses coming! All he could see was the smoke, he thought: 'What am I going to do?', and he panicked! It was too late - the team of horses ran straight across the ice to the other side. He turned bright crimson, because if he had only known how firm the ice was, he would have galloped across himself. Friends, this is what this book is all about: to know how firm a foundation we have in Jesus Christ! To know that we cannot have a firmer foundation - that everything that we have is an inheritance in Him! We do not believe in a church, we do not believe in a creed, we do not even look to Christians, we believe, we place our faith in Jesus Christ alone! Never you forget that! Because I feel today that in some of our evangelical circles, and particularly in our circles, there is a popery that is akin to the church of Rome. Looking to a church, looking to a denomination, looking to a tradition of doctrinal interpretation - my friend, we have nothing but Christ!
Faith! When Paul saw the faith that saved him, and the faith that kept him, and when he could see, by the eye of faith, the faith that would lead them home, he turned to God and he praised Him: thanksgiving for their salvation. But look at verse 15, because he doesn't just mention faith, but the second thing down there is love. What's he saying? He's saying that true faith - such faith that is truly of God's Holy Spirit, that is rooted and grounded in Christ - will, and must, manifest itself in love. You find that in Galatians 5 verse 6 where Paul again says: 'For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love'.
An artist, on one occasion, painted a portrait - an erroneous portrait, it was totally false - of hell. Of course, it was nothing like hell, because you cannot describe or paint hell. But he thought he was doing a good job, and he put this circle of people - miserable faces - around the dinner table. They were all sitting with their miserable long faces looking at one another, and they had in their arms long spoons by which they couldn't feed their own mouths - and he said that this was like hell. Food on the table, a long spoon and they cannot feed themselves, they're being tormented and tortured. Now my friend, hell is nothing like that - but one thing he got right was this: they were so preoccupied with feeding themselves that they didn't realise that with the long spoons they could feed each other - and they died because they never saw that.
The Holy Scripture is full and the New Testament is full - believers of the church of Jesus Christ, please listen to this: he talks about love to all the saints. He was praying to God, and praising and thanking Him that these people were saved - and the evidence that they were saved was because they had love for one another! The Greek word that Paul uses for 'love' here is the word 'agape'. It is the word for the love of God. Do you know what kind of love that is? It is the love that wills to love the unlovable! You who were in sins, dead in your trespasses, in your filth and iniquity - God in grace and in love demonstrated in Christ Jesus, who died for you, that He loved you. That's 'agape' love. That is what Paul is talking about. That means this - and it's hard to take [but] you as a Christian are going to have to, if you want to show fruit that you're really saved, that the faith of God is in you - you are going to have to love people that you don't even agree with. Oh, that's hard isn't it? 'It would be nice if Paul just left and dropped out that little word, 'all' the saints. Oh, I can love some of them. Oh, I can love the separatist churches, yes, or the fundamentalist churches - I can love them'. My friend, listen! Don't water down God's word anywhere! All the saints! All of them! I'm not saying you have to agree with them. I'm not saying you have to join up and make a fellowship with them. But, listen, if they're saved, if they're washed in the blood of Christ it is the same blood that washed you, my friend. It's the same veins that brought that blood out at Calvary - and you're no more worthy of it than anyone else. All the saints, because they belong to Him - that's what the Lord said from His own lips: 'A new commandment I give unto you: that ye love one another as I have loved you; that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples: if ye have love one to another'.
I'd love to go into the book of 1 John because there's a passage there that says that no man has seen God at any time - and you know the passage I'm talking about - and how we will never really see God with our eyes. I don't know what's going to happen in Glory, but at the moment we can't see God, He is spirit, He is invisible. But John goes on to talk that we, as the temple of the Holy Ghost here on earth, are the way in which the world around sees God with the naked eye - if we love one another! How much of God is the world seeing? It's interesting that Paul combines these two great realities: truth and love, and he puts them together. Some people will tell me today that they might have faith, but they find it hard to love people. There are people who love and they're filled with love, but they don't have faith in the depths. Get the balance! Get it! That a true Christian - true Christianity - combines sound doctrine with sound living. Think of this: Paul is praising the spiritual success and blessing in others. That's what he's doing in reality and practical terms. Can you do that? Do you find it hard to look at another church and say 'God's really blessing them'? - and say 'Praise you Lord, I thank you Lord that you're blessing them; Lord continue to bless them, really bless them!'? It's a hard thing to do, and sometimes we can resent it when others are more blessed than we are and more praised than we are.
But let's move on because not only does he thank for their salvation with regards to faith and love, but the second point down on your sheet in verses 16b to 17 and 18 is this: that he prays for their illumination. '[I] cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints'. Now I want to pose a question to you this evening: do you think there is a difference between reading the word of God as a book, and reading it as a Christian should? Is there a difference? Some may say yes, some may say no, some say you need to read it intellectually first, and academically - but the word of God testifies this evening that, yes, there is a difference. A Christian, the child of God, when he opens this precious book he must see it as the word of God, and seek God's illumination. Paul prayed that the Christians in Ephesus may know illumination. Yes, I've already said all scripture is profitable, all scripture is God-inspired, God-breathed, as the word of God testifies that 'Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Spirit of God' - but listen! Do not make this mistake: a merely natural man, if he picks up this book, my friend, and if he looks at it, it is possible that he will see nothing in it. Why is that? He doesn't know the author, isn't that right? You could read the Belfast Telegraph (as I'm sure many of you do) and you flick through it every night and you don't really read it. But wait till your grandchild, or your brother or sister, makes a great achievement in school or in sport - and what do you do? You pick it up. You make sure you buy it, and then you read the article and perhaps you'll cut it out, and you'll read it over and over again and again and again - why? Because you know the person! It means something to you - and when the believer reads the word of God he should be looking at it, knowing that he is indwelt by the Spirit of the living God, and when he reads it he should be hearing the word of God - the very voice of God - through the word!
That's what Paul means when he says that we are given - or ought to be given - the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I've broken up into four sections, how we receive this spirit of wisdom and revelation. What exactly is it? Is it a charismatic gift that's being talked about here? Something about dreams or a vision in the night? Is that what the word of God is speaking of here? Well, first of all, Paul tells us very clearly that the author of this spirit of wisdom and revelation is God. That's why he thanks God. Who's he thanking for it? He says: 'I thank the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank You Lord!'. Verse 17: 'That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you' - God is the author.
If you are to be given this spirit of wisdom and revelation, my friend, you need to see that God is going to have to give it to you. There's so much working, there's so much trying, there's so much striving, there's so much in the flesh in so many Christian lives today - and they do not see the simple reality that everything that we have, or can have, or will have, in our faith is of God! All of it! Start to finish! Oh, we believe the Bible - oh, yes, that's true: but did you know that the Bible alone is not enough? Did you know that? What am I saying? Well, we need God! We need God, through the Holy Spirit, to open up its truth to our minds and to our hearts. See if I took this book and preached it, I could bind many of you up with rules and regulations if I was not preaching knowing the reality of this book. And there are men all around the world, in lecture theatres, in universities, in church pulpits, and they preach from this book - but they don't have the Spirit of God in them, and because of if they're misinterpreting and misrepresenting the word of God. You see my friend, this is what Paul is speaking of: that we need God to come as we read the word of God and reveal His truths, not simply to our minds, but to our hearts also - and then, when He acts, the spirit of wisdom and revelation will come to us.
God is the author! But secondly, look at the means. The means that we know God, and are able to know all the intricate details of spiritual life, and life in and about the Lord Jesus Christ, is through the means of this spirit of wisdom and revelation. Now this Greek word 'revelation' here is the word that seems to indicate 'insight and discernment'. This is something that the Holy Spirit gives to the believer. 'He who will lead you', the Lord Jesus said, 'into all truth' - that, as you read the word of God, He comes and He brings the mysteries of divine truth to our souls. We find it in 1 Corinthians 2 verse 14 and 16: 'But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'. That's the same idea that Paul is talking here about revelation: this must come from God! 'For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ'. That's what Paul means - that we have been given the mind of Christ, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that when we read the word of God we have the God-given ability to see Christ, to see God, to learn about these spiritual worlds, spiritual realms and things.
The author is God; the means is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, but thirdly look: the subject, the reason why we're given this ability, is to know Christ. Oh, that some people would get this! It's not to know the future. It's not to know the date the Lord is coming back. It is to know Him - 'Whom to know is life eternal'! Friend, this is not knowledge in general, this isn't mere intellectual knowledge on its own - for that is no good, and good for nothing! But this is the knowledge of Him, the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now the Ephesians had already been given divine knowledge and a divine revelation, they had been saved. Paul thanked God for their faith, and that is a divine revelation of God where the Holy Spirit:
'Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off,
My heart was free.
I rose, went forth,
And followed Thee'.
Never forget, my friend, that salvation is a divine revelation - and if salvation is to come, God must come! You can't work it up! You can't bring it with music or emotion! You can't bring it with fancy lights or a fancy church - God must bring it! Do you know Him? Do you?
Paul prayed that they would have a clearer, a sharper, a keener, a more detailed knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We were talking last evening about genetic engineering, and when we look around at the world today, and we are dazzled - aren't we? - we're surprised, we're taken aback with the discoveries that man has made in the natural realm. But Christian friends tonight, if we were to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, and if we were to take the enlightenment that He gives through the word of God, we would see things far greater than that!
You know the Prime Minister, don't you? You know him. You know what he looks like - you even know, perhaps, the way he's wearing his hair at the minute. You know his wife, you know that she's pregnant, you maybe even know the date that the baby's meant to be due. You know his whole family. You know what he stands for or what he falls for. You know so much about him, but you don't really know him, do you? Some of us - what Paul is trying to say - that when we get saved, if we leave it there, friends, that that's pitiful. That is tragic, because we have an opportunity to have an audience, to have an experience, to have a relationship, with the King of kings and the Lord of lords! Do you know Him? For God wants to give to you the knowledge of Him, God wants to draw you into the Holy Scriptures. The word for knowledge within this verse is the word 'gnosis', but Paul takes that word that simply means 'knowledge' and he intensifies it, and he puts a little word in front of it - a preposition: 'epi' - and he talks about 'epignosis'. The 'epignosis' of Christ - do you know what he's saying? A real, deep, full knowledge - he is talking about a thorough knowledge of Jesus Christ - to go deeper and deeper into God, in Christ.
What's the cry of the world today? 'Know yourself', isn't it? 'Know who you are, what you believe, what you feel, your emotions, all your natural instincts and senses. Know who you are'. Bullinger (sp?) says this: 'Society today, instead of breathing in this life-giving air of heaven, their windows are closed, their doors are shut, they are asphyxiated with their own exhalation. They are breathing over again and again their own breath, from which all vitality is gone'. The clarion cry today is: 'Find yourself'. 'I went away to this country or that country', or, 'I took up this career and I found myself'. Friend, you don't need to find yourself, you need to find Christ. You will do no good for yourself - whether you find yourself time, after time, after time, after time again - it'll do you no good: you need Jesus Christ the Son of God! That's why Paul said in Philippians 3:10: 'That I may know him'. You see, that's life - not just getting saved, but the whole relationship with Him, to get to know Him more and more and more. That is why Paul said again in 1 Corinthians 2, 10 and 11: 'But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God...even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God'. The Spirit of God inspired these pages, and if you're a believer this evening, you need the Spirit of God to come and illuminate these pages.
But fourthly, look at the instrument. The instrument that God uses to bring this wisdom and revelation, which is the word of God brought to our hearts individually, to our lives. The instrument is described as 'our hearts' - but a better translation of it would be this: 'the eyes of our hearts'. Look at the verse, verse 18: 'The eyes of your understanding' - the eyes of your heart - 'being enlightened that ye may know'. We thought about it yesterday morning - that our hearts have eyes and ears. And the way we will know God (oh, that we could grasp it!) is nothing to do with our intellect. God may have gifted us with a keen intellect, but what God wants is a tender heart, a contrite, a broken spirit. For His knowledge - that revelation of who Christ is - is something that is given to them who love Him enough to want to know more about Him! Your knowledge of God doesn't depend on your IQ, but the eyesight of your heart. Friend, how is the eyesight of your heart? What does your heart feed on? What does your heart thrive on? It is the seat of your thoughts and your affections, it is the place where you make your moral judgements, as well as you feel in your emotions. But, my friend, that is the instrument that God the Spirit wants to use to reveal Jesus Christ the Son of God to you. Does He have it, or does the world have it?
If this is going to happen, if God the author is going to do this - if He's going to bring the means through the spirit of wisdom and revelation, if He's going to reveal the subject of Jesus Christ to the instrument of the eyes of your heart - there's three things you need to do. One: you need to spend time. You will never get to know anyone without spending time with them. Two: you need to talk with Him. You need to talk with Him, converse with Him, commune with Him, and let me say this: when you're talking to your friends you need to talk about Him. There are people who confide in me that when they're with other believers, when they talk about the Lord, they look at them as if they've horns growing out of their head. They talk about the things of God - these are believers they're talking to - and they don't want to talk about Him. They want to talk about everything under the sun, but the meeting's over, they're out for a walk, or they're having supper, or they're doing something else, and their 'spiritual hour' has gone! Do you talk about Him? And you need to think about Him. Do you know what the key is of seeing Christ with your heart? It's taking the word of God and a holy Christ contemplation. Taking the word of God, through the Spirit of God, and meditating upon the Christ of God!
Harry Ironside tells of years previous to his so successful and blessed ministry, that he went home to his mother, and he was just staring in his gospel ministry, and when he got home (this is in America now) he found a man in their home from Northern Ireland. Ironside was a young man, but this man from Northern Ireland was dying of what they called in those days 'quick consumption'. He lived in a small tent under the olive trees. Ironside went out to see him one day, and they ended up on their knees with an open Bible. He said that this man, who could hardly talk, as he opened the word of God to him, as he looked upon his thin worn face, he could see the very peace of heaven manifested there. His name was Andrew Fraser, he could barely talk, his voice was ragged and old and dying. He said to Ironside as he came to him: 'Young man, you are trying to preach Christ are you not?'. They talked together, turning from page to page, passage to another, and the tears began to run down Harry Ironside's face as the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ was being brought to him from the whole gamut of scripture in ways that he had never seen before. He turned to the man and he said: 'Where did you learn these things? What books are you reading? Could you show me where they are? What seminary did you go to?'. The man said: 'Young man, I learned these things on my knees on a mud floor in a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland'.
Do you know one of the books that has blessed me, apart from the Bible, in my life? It's A.W. Tozer's book: 'The Pursuit of God'. It was written on his knees. One of the greatest works of all New Testament Christianity is Watchman Nee's work, the only book he ever wrote - all the other books are a combination of his diary writings and his messages - but the one book he wrote, 'The Spiritual Man', was written in a little log hut in the mountains of Asia - on his knees! Where do you think Paul was when he was writing this? He was on his knees, I dare to guess and - my friend - what he was praying for these believers was that they could know Christ in the deepest sense imaginable. And you know that the tone deaf will never stand up here and sing a solo - you can train them, you can send them to musical school and university, you can do all you like with them, but they will never learn to sing. The only way that is possible is that they become a new person and that they're given the nature of a soloist. We may not be the cleverest, we may be despised among all people but, my friend, listen to this: we have Christ! And because we have Him, we have everything. Because we have Him, we can be brought into the depths of the knowledge of God in His vastness, in His transcendence, in His love, in Christ for us at Calvary, in the depths of His justice in hell. We can know all of God through the word of God, breathed upon by the Spirit of God!
Two other things - quickly - that he prays for, thirdly, is the prayer to know hope. And what Paul is talking about here is the hope of His calling. We found it and we read about it in chapter 1 and verse 3 and 4: 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places'. He begins to talk about how we are chosen in Christ, how we are predestinated in Him. Why are we predestinated in him? So that one day - one day - listen to this, now don't miss this - we shall be like Him! Now I hope this is not irreverent what I'm about to say, but it pictures it for me: that spiritually speaking, when I get to heaven, if I could take my camera with me (spiritually speaking now), and I stand beside my Lord and get my photograph taken with Him - we would be the same! Isn't that wonderful? What will it be to look on His face, and not just to look on His face, but to be transformed to be like Him and to be like Him forever?
Our Father, we thank Thee for the word of God, and we thank Thee for the Spirit of God who shall lead us into all truth; who helps us - the 'paraklete' - the one who comes beside and takes us along the way. Lord, we pray that as we ponder Thy word and meditate upon it, that You may teach us Thy way. We know that that will be in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, for He has said: 'He that shall come will testify of me'. Lord, help us to know Him, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the seventh tape in his Ephesians series, titled 'Paul's Prayer List For You - Part 1' - Transcribed by Trevor Veale, Preach The Word.
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