Prayer and the Spirit Part 4

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Text: Eph 1:18-20

Introduction

  • Last week, I closed the sermon by reminding us of the four heart conditions Jesus describes in his parable of the soils. Later, he explained to his disciples the meaning of the parable. In the same way, His Spirit helps us understand the meaning of his teachings. (see 1 Cor. 2:14).
    • Do you slow down and ask the Spirit to open your eyes?
      • Have you ever had an EKG? They connect electrodes to your chest & measure the electronic pulses of your heart.
      • A Spiritual EKG. Moments of silence when we ask the Spirit to show us the true rhythms of our spiritual hearts.
    • A Mini-Practice: Be still, silent, and listen to the Spirit.
      • Ask the Spirit to speak to you about your real heart condition.
      • Is your heart hardened because you resist & refuse to do the things that Jesus asks you to put into practice?
      • Is your faith shallow so that the suffering in your life withers your trust in Jesus and you constantly demand a boost?
      • Has anxiety about life and your drive to be a success in the world become thorns and weeds that choke your confidence in the reality of Jesus to provide?
      • Have you cultivated your heart-soil & found the presence of Jesus encouraging you as you listen & follow him?
    • Be quiet for 2 minutes & listen for God’s still, small voice.

Explore the Text: Paul prays that the eyes of our hearts would be opened.

The Problem: A Passive or an Active Understanding of the Spirit?

  • A friend of mine once told me how he thought about the HS.
    • He believed in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but he did not really think about the Spirit.
      • A passive view of the relationship between the follower of Jesus and the Spirit.
      • He assumed that the Spirit would do what Spirit does and that he would benefit from that as a Christian.
      • The Spirit was not someone he would seek or invite to be more active in his life.
    • I could identify with his words: I had been trained to believe that way. For years that was the way that I thought about the Spirit.
      • The Spirit used the words of Scripture to challenge & change my heart and mind.
      • It was not easy for the Spirit to change my mind! I had many ways of resisting the Spirit, especially because I believed the Spirit would not interfere with my well patterned Christianity.
    • Paul provides a different model: In Paul’s prayers in Eph. 1 and 3, he asks for the Holy Spirit to be directly involved in our knowing God.
      • Paul not only believes in the Holy Spirit, but he also prays that the Spirit will be active and evident in our lives—a living and dynamic resource who works in us so that we might know the experiential reality of this abundant life with Christ.

The Prayer: May the Eyes of Your Heart May Be Enlightened to Know

  • The hope to which he has called (invited) you.
    • When you read Eph 1:1-14, you discover that you have been called (invited) to be part of an astonishing new reality created in Christ.
    • My new hope is not based on my spiritual achievements but rooted in his death, resurrection, & reign (1 Cor. 15 & Rom. 8).
  • The riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.
    • We have an inheritance in Christ, and we are God’s inheritance, his treasure.
    • Many Christians live spiritually starved & impoverished lives.
    • The rich truth of our new spiritual condition is so profound that we cannot begin to understand it unless the Spirit works in our hearts and begins to develop our new character in Christ.
      • 3:1-17 describes our new life of hearts and minds set on the risen Jesus.
    • Why do we stubbornly tell ourselves that this quality of life with Christ in the power of the Spirit is not possible?
  • And his incomparably great power for us who believe.
    • Paul describes this dynamite spiritual power available to us.
      • The power exercised in Jesus’ resurrection, his ascension, and his reigning at the Father’s right hand.
    • As those forgiven by Jesus, we need this power because we now work with him to deal with the deep dynamics of sin in our lives
      • Becoming new people in Christ rather than managing sin.
      • With Jesus, the Way: Jesus teaches us that we must be in the yoke with him and learn from him (Mt. 11:25-30). He describes the process elsewhere as denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, and following him. (Luke 9:23-26)
    • In Eph. 3 this power forms Christ in us and opens us to know the depths of God’s love that surpasses knowledge.

The Possibility: The Growing Reality of an Abundant Life with Christ

  • Developing an abundant life is difficult within our institutional church structures & programs unless they are specifically designed to feed, nurture, & encourage a life with Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
    • For years, I lived a well-managed Christian life supported by the reality of the institutional church in contemporary America.
      • There were clues that indicated that there was something important & essential was missing:
      • I was trying to manage the life of a good man who was a husband, a father, a friend, a minister, a member of a church, and a good person in the world.
      • But there was little real evidence of the powerful resurrection life of Christ working in me to form a new man in Christ.
    • Paul contrasts these two kinds of life in Phil. 3.
  • Three steps that Cultivate the Reality of What is Possible.
    • Pray Paul’s Prayers and be Open to the Answer.
    • Practice Christian Meditation: Christian meditation is not emptying your mind but filling your mind with the word of God and a growing personal knowledge of God so that your mind is transformed. (see Tim Keller, J.I. Packer, and Ed Clowney on this)
      • Work with small sections of passages referred to today.
    • Participate in a group that Encourages Transformation.
      • Not a group that rationalizes problems, assures you that you are only human, and says you should not expect real change.
      • A group that intentionally cultivates and encourages a deeper faith that this abundant life with Jesus is possible.
    • Eventually, by God’s grace and help at every step, we begin to become new people who know & rely on the personal and relational reality of the One whom we say we believe and trust.

Conclusion: Is this just a study do you hear an invitation from Jesus: Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened?