Open The Eyes Of Our Hearts
So far in Ephesians 1, we have learned who we are as Christ-followers. Blessed, Chosen, Adopted, Redeemed, Insiders, Heirs. Last week we considered how Paul prayed for his fellow Christians - (1) He thanked God for them and (2) Prayed for Holy Spirit to give wisdom & revelation. Today we see the third part of this prayer:
Pray that the EYES OF THEIR HEARTS be opened.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…” Ephesians 1:18a
What does “eyes of our hearts” mean? Clearly Paul is not talking about the physical pump of our circulatory system. When the Bible talks about our hearts, it usually is referring to our spiritual selves. The real us. Our sentient self. The me that is me beyond the physical body. We might say it’s the me inside of me. So what about the “eyes” of this real me, the inside me, the spiritual me? Wouldn’t this refer to my spiritual eyes? What I can see / sense / know beyond the physical realm?
When Paul prays that these spiritual eyes be “enlightened,” he is also saying in the same breath that these spiritual eyes can be blind - unseeing. Jesus often talked like this, saying “he who has ears let him hear.” Not just talking about physical hearing but spiritual hearing. There is a realm beyond the physical one in which we live. There is a space outside of our space. There is a time outside of our time. All that we know is a creation created by God Himself. To be enlightened is to know God, to know the Creator, and not be limited to His creation.
“You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
It is within this context that Paul prays for his fellow Christians. That their hearts would not be hardened. That their ears would be open to hear from God. That their eyes would be open to see beyond what’s right in front of them and be able to perceive the Creator God beyond the creation itself.
That is a really good prayer for other people. That is a really good prayer for ourselves. Wouldn’t each of you love that for yourself? Wouldn’t that be just a really wonderful gift, to be able to see beyond the veil of the physical - to be able to see with our spiritual eyes? I give each of you permission right here and now to pray this prayer for me! I sing it / pray it for myself:
“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord! I want to see You!!!”
In typical Pauline teaching fashion, Paul gives three specific ways that he wants people to be able to see with their spiritual eyes:
(2) INHERITANCE, and
All three will help us to see beyond the barriers of our problems, which could easily blind us. Let’s look at each one of these three “eye-opening” lenses.
#1 - Open our eyes to know HOPE.
“… in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” Ephesians 1:18b
The Bible has a lot to tell us about hope. We who are Christ-followers have reason to hope. The Creator God thought of us, knew us, loved us, chose us, adopted us - all before we were even born! In God’s Word, we are told that He loves us with an everlasting love. He never forsakes us! His love knows no bounds - so much that He was willing to give us His Son on a cross so that we might be able to know the hope of our salvation!
That’s real hope! Hope that goes beyond the physical. So when we are faced with circumstances that could lead us to despair, we truly have a hope that goes beyond the physical. Whatever I am facing in the here and now, in this present physical, time-limited world, is as nothing compared with the hope that comes from God.
When I preach about this “hope” to which we are called, some who hear me may think: that’s just so discouraging. Just another thing I’m not doing right. I’m down. I feel despair. I am worried. I may be depressed. But I should have spiritual eyes that can see hope where there is no hope.
May I share with you that this is NOT the purpose of my sermon to you today? I believe we all face hopeless situations at some point in our lives. My dad right now is struggling with cancer for which the doctors tell us there ultimately is NO HOPE. How am I to respond to that if I’m a Christian? Am I to put on my happy face, display my optimistic attitude, and pretend that everything is really ok? That I have hope? No!
Not at all! Ours is not a “pretend” faith. It’s real! And it can weather the challenges and circumstances of an evil world. Paul literally is praying that his Christian friends will be able to find real hope in Christ beyond the physical barriers in which we currently exist. That the eyes of our hearts would be opened (enlightened) to the the light of the eternal God to our eternal lives that go beyond this physical here and now.
The very fact that he is praying for the saints that the eyes of their hearts might be opened tells us that it is possible to be saints and yet be blind to the eternal glory which awaits us. That it is possible to be Christian and not be able to see the hope that awaits us. The very reason that Paul uses the words, “the hope to which he has called you” means that this is a hope that we aspire to own. And equally that it is possible to be a Christian and not own this hope.
This is not something we can do on our own. This isn’t a matter of a positive mental attitude. This is the very reason Paul prays the prayer. God … Holy Spirit… will You open the eyes of their hearts? This is why we sing, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.” This is a work that He must do within us - not something we can do for ourselves.
#2 - Open our eyes to know INHERITANCE.
“… in order that you may know… the glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18c
We’ve already talked extensively about our inheritance as Christ-followers (Oct. 24th), so we won’t repeat all that. We are heirs! We are the trust fund babies of God! We are adopted as His children. He has provided us an inheritance BOTH for now AND for our future with Him in Heaven! Amen!
What Paul is writing about here is different. He is praying NOT that his Christian friends would have an inheritance. Rather he is praying that they MAY KNOW this glorious inheritance. Remember, it’s possible to be an heir but not know that you are an heir. What a difference it makes if you know the inheritance you have now and the inheritance that awaits you! Don’t you think you would live differently if you had the confidence of an inheritance fully funded for you? Fully provided? Guarded for you by none other than the Holy Spirit Himself?
This prayer gives the secret to living confidently as one who knows he/she has an inheritance and that it is guaranteed. It’s found in the final four words of verse 18: “in his holy people.” In other words, the more you hang out with God’s people, the more you fellowship with them, pray with them, work alongside them, live life / do life with them… the more you will have a confidence in your own Christian inheritance.
God did not make us to be Lone Ranger Christians. Some of us less outgoing, less sociable people (yes, I’m talking about me here too!) some of us would just love to exist on our own without the need for others. But it’s not how God made us. All of us - even those of us not so outgoing - all of us need the interaction of the Christian family.
For two reasons:
(1) I need to be reminded of how much God has loved me. He shows this to me through all of you. When you love me, when you encourage me, when you challenge me, I know it is God Who is my Holy Heavenly Parent and He is loving me through you.
(2) I need to remind others of how much God loves them. This is a two-way street. I never know who I may be able to encourage with my God-inspired life. God wants to inspire others through me. God wants to inspire others through you.
#3 - Open our eyes to know POWER.
”… in order that you may know… his incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” Ephesians 1:19-20a
Wow! What a prayer. It’s not enough for Paul that his Christian friends would have eyes to see hope or eyes to see their inheritance. He wants them (and us too!) to be able to know God’s power. Notice how cleverly Paul connects the saints in Ephesus (and us too!) with the phrase, “for us who believe.” Belief. Faith.
This was always critical in every miracle Jesus ever performed. “Do you believe I can do this?” “Yes, I believe. Help my unbelief.” There is power in belief. There is power in faith. Even small faith can demonstrate great power. We more easily remember the boy’s father’s request to “help my unbelief.” But we forget Jesus incredible statement connecting belief and power.”
“If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23
Just like hope and inheritance, it is possible to live the Christian life without knowing the resurrecting power of God. He will love us anyway. He will resurrect us anyway. But oh, how much better is it to be able to have the spiritual eyes to see the power of God in our lives!
Again, notice that it’s not a matter of having the power of God in our lives. If we are Christians we have the Holy Spirit living inside us! When we hear the small voice of God before we slumber, we are hearing the breath of the Holy Spirit whispering His loving and affirming words to us. He is the One Who has the power. It is His mighty strength that raised Jesus from the dead and His power Who will raise us from the dead someday. The question is one of knowing we have this power in our lives while we are living this Christian life. It is the difference between living as if we have no control or living as one who knows the One Who has all the control! What a difference!
Conclusion: Two questions we can ask ourselves today -
(1) Am I living with my spiritual eyes wide open? Do I see beyond my physical circumstances? Do I find hope, inheritance and power when I would otherwise know only despair, poverty and helplessness?
(2) Do I pray boldly for other Christians in my life? Do I pray beyond the prayers for healing and help that naturally come our way from our friends who are struggling? Do I pray that their spiritual eyes might be opened to find their own hope, inheritance and power that God wants to richly bestow upon them?