Open Your Eyes
A sermon based on Ephesians 1:16-22
Sunday, June 1, 2014 – Ascension Sunday
He would never forget that day. He was on a road trip, about his business which was helping climb the ladder of success very quickly, when everything changed. One minute he saw everything clearly. The next, he saw nothing but darkness. He went completely blind. What terror struck his soul when he could see nothing at all!
For three long days he sat in the darkness pondering the event that made him blind. Jesus of Nazareth, the man they crucified appeared to him in a flash of blinding light that robbed him of his sight. He asked Saul, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4) And then a prophet came to visit Saul. He spoke to him and through him God restored his sight. And Saul was baptized. And after that day, Paul could see more clearly than ever. His physical sight was restored, but far more important, the eyes of his heart were opened. He believed in Jesus. He believed in Jesus' work for him. He was what he had so recently sought to kill—a Christian.
And you know how Saul changed his name to Paul and became the great missionary to the Gentiles, helping them to see what he now saw: the great truths of Christ crucified, risen, and ascended. He helped them to see what these truths meant for them in their life and in eternity. And he helps to open our eyes still today as we read his letters to those churches.
And I wonder if he thought of that week—when he lost his sight and then had his eyes opened in every sense—when he wrote our sermon text for this morning, Ephesians 1:16-22…
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
I. To See Your Inheritance
"Stick out your hand and close your eyes and I'll give you a big surprise." My wife absolutely hates it when I do that to her. I don't know why. I don't think the distrust she shows is well-deserved. I mean, not once have I ever tricked her. I've never spit in her hand, jabbed it with a pushpin, or placed a slug or worm. Never! Every time I put a surprise in her empty hand, it's a good one—usually one of her favorite candy bars. So I'm not sure why she squirms when I place that surprise in her hand and say, "Okay, open your eyes!"
But God is even more reliable and trustworthy than I. When he says, "Open your eyes and I'll give you a big surprise," it's always good. It's always great.
You see, at one point we were blind. Oh, we have been able to see physically, but we couldn't see anything spiritual, we couldn't see what God wanted for us, we couldn't see others in love. Our selfishness was like a big blindfold that kept us from seeing anything but ourselves and our desires.
Think of of it this way: Paul thanked God for his fellow believers. He thanked God for bringing them to faith, knowing they could never see or believe what God had done for them on their own. He thanked God for choosing them to be his own and for doing everything to make it happen.
Now, how about you? When was the last time you thanked God for the faith of the person sitting in the row behind you or in front of you? (Go ahead and turn around to see who it is if you want?) Have you thanked God for selecting that person to be his own? For bringing that person to faith? For making that person your fellow brother or sister in Christ?
If we're honest, we don't pray for each other nearly as often as we should. We don't pray for others instead of just ourselves very often at all. And when we do pray for others, how often is prayers of thanksgiving for all that God has given to them? Don't we more often pray for things for ourselves and let others worry about thanking God for what they have?
Why is this the case? Because at our core, sinners are self-absorbed. That's just what selfish sinners do. In fact, by nature, before God brought us to faith, that was all we could do. Our selfishness was like a blindfold. It's all we could see. We couldn't see the needs of others. We couldn't' see the love of God. We couldn't see our fate in an eternity of darkness in hell.
But that's the way we were. Now God has opened our eyes. The blindfold has been removed. The scales have fallen off.
"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."
For God has chosen you. He has given you faith."
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…"
God has opened your eyes and given you faith in him and in his Son. He has enlightened you—flooded the darkness of your heart with trust in Jesus' redemptive work—how he lived a perfect life in your place, how he died an innocent death for you, paying for the guilt of your sin, how he rose again to prove that the payment is complete! He has given you his Spirit of wisdom and revelation—and revealed these truths to you so you're wise for salvation!
Did you ever watch that TV show, Extreme Home Makeover? They didn't remove a blindfold, but they did something similar. Remember what they called at the end of the show? "Bus driver, move that bus!" And with their view unobstructed the saw the wonderful things that the crew had done for them.
Well, God has removed that bus of sin from you! He has made you perfect and sinless in his sight. And by his Holy Spirit, he's given you that sure and certain hope that you will receive an eternal inheritance in heaven with him. (And you know that an inheritance isn't something you work for, by the way. It's something that's just given to you, free of charge, like a home makeover, like an estate left by a relative.) Jesus, your brother, died and left you heaven. He rose again and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you. And he will return, just as he left, to take you there!
You see clearly now! You see God's son for who he is. You see what he has done. You see the riches that God has prepared for you! God doesn't say, "Close your eyes and I'll give you a big surprise," but, "Open your eyes and see the surprising grace I give you every day! You get an extreme you makeover! You are forgiven! You are a saint! You are a citizen of heaven and your inheritance awaits you there!
Keep seeing it, saints! Don't close your eyes to God's grace because you're too drowsy to come to Bible Class. Don't nod off when it's time read his Word and grow in your faith. Keep your eyes open as you continue to grow in the Word and when you do, you will see the power of God. You will see the power he's given you…
II. To See Your Power
Who's the most powerful person you know? Is an athlete? A president? A general? No. You know that the power of these compared to God is like a toddler trying to wrestle Schwarzenegger, just so much less. You know God's power. Yet still, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… his incomparably great power for us who believe."
And you've seen that power in Jesus' resurrection and in his ascension! "That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
You know, every year I get dozens of Christmas cards. And every year I get a handful of Easter cards. But I don't think I've ever heard of anyone ever sending an Ascension card. I know I've never given or received one. But Jesus' ascension is a very significant event that has meaning for our lives every day. You see, Jesus didn't just go away to begin his eternal vacation, sitting on his throne in heaven while angels wait on him hand and foot and choirs keep him entertained. No! He ascended into heaven to rule! To rule over everything!
Psalm 47, the Psalm appointed for the day of Ascension, says, "God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God… sing praises to our King… For God is the King of all the earth… God reigns over the nations… for the kings of the earth belong to God…"
But the best part of his rule is found in those two little words in our text which may be easy to read past with little notice: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… his incomparably great power… for us…"
Our ascended Savior is using his incomparably great power for us! He's guarding us and guiding us, he's protecting us and prospering us, he's holding us and helping us! And it he who is "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." It is he who has "all things under his feet…" who trampled satan, sin, death, and hell when he put his foot down. It is he who is "head over everything for the church." That is, for you and me.
And what's more, we share in that incomparably great power! How could we not since we are of the same body as he. We are connected to him. The Head is powerful and his body is too.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. You look at our finances and we seem pretty powerless to fix it. You look at the broken relationships that shatter our lives and we seem powerless to change them. You look at the sicknesses that plague our bodies and we seem weak, not powerful.
But God has given us greater power than that—a power that goes beyond the eternals. He hasn't given us the power to get our own way and indulge our sinful nature, but much better! He's given us the power to be like him! After all, the greater strength isn't in taking what you want, but in self-restraint and in finding contentment with what you have. You have that power! The greater strength isn't in demanding your way, but in patiently letting others have theirs. You have that power! The greater strength isn't in forcing others to submit to you, but in serving others in love, even when that love isn't returned. You have that power!
Jesus once promised, "Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…" That's the power that he promised to you and me. While we may not change water into wine, we get to be a part of changing people's lives! While we don't get to multiply loaves of bread or fish, we get to multiply the kingdom! While we don't get to open up tombs and call the dead back to life, we get to open people's eyes to see God's grace and be a part of the work of the Spirit in bringing the spiritually dead to life!
So open your eyes, dear saints, to the power that is yours! Open your eyes to the opportunities that you have to use the power that he gives you! When the power came back on for people on the Peninsula after the wind had knocked it out, the lights came back on and they could see again! The power is on for you! Use it to turn on the lights for others, to help them open their eyes to see the inheritance that is theirs in our ascended Savior.
And one day soon, he'll return—visibly, in the same the way that he left! And when he does, what an eye-opener that will be! We'll see our full inheritance. We will see our heaven. We'll see our Savior. But in the meantime, keep your eyes open… to the Word that shows you your inheritance… to the opportunities you have to live for him by the power that he gives. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.