Here we sit! Most of us four to seven pounds heavier than we were last Sunday. I am not asking for confessions, so I will not ask for a show of hands. Please do not raise your hands, just answer to yourself--but be honest! How many of us ate too much last Thursday? How many of us are so tired of turkey that we do not appreciate anyone making us even think about turkey?

I hope sometime in the course of the past few days you had a time to either discuss your gratitude with your family or to quietly reflect on your gratitude. I hope you were able to spend time with your family. I hope you had a memorable meal or two. Yet, more than anything, I hope you had time to reflect on your blessings.

May I assume you spent some quality time thinking about your blessings? When you are grateful for your blessings, what do you think about?

Do you think exclusively in terms of material things? "I am grateful for my wonderful place to live. I am thankful for my lifestyle. I am thankful for my family. I am thankful the members of my family are alive. I am thankful for my job. I am thankful for my prosperity."

If your gratitude is confined to the material, do you realize how many grateful people exist that cannot be grateful for a single one of those material things? Many of them do not have a desirable place to live, or a good lifestyle, or family members who are alive, or jobs, or prosperity. You have many spiritual brothers and sisters who cannot think of material things (as we often do) when they reflect on gratitude.

Allow me to assume that most of you are Christians.

Is your gratitude based on a mix of spiritual blessings and material blessings? Do you include in your gratitude the fact that God forgives you every day of your existence? God continually covers you with Jesus' blood so you constantly remain in His redemption. Does your gratitude include the fact that you are redeemed? You are God's property. God acknowledges you are His without shame or embarrassment. Does your gratitude include that fact that you are sanctified? Each day God sees you as a holy person, not because of the absence of evil in our lives, but because God placed our sins on Jesus.

Every spiritual gift God gives us originated in Jesus' death and resurrection.

My point is not that it is inappropriate to be grateful for material blessings. My point is this: gratitude is incomplete if it does not begin with God's spiritual gifts in Jesus Christ.

This morning I want us to focus our thinking on a prayer that Paul prayed. The question I want each of us to ask is this: if I had been alive when Paul wrote this prayer, could he have prayed this prayer for me?

Read with me Ephesians 1:15-23.
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  1. This prayer is found in a letter Paul wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus.
    1. After identifying himself and extending greetings to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul focused them on the incredible acts of God in verses 3 through 14.
      1. God is to be honored (glorified, or praised) for many reasons.
        1. Through Christ God has extended to us every spiritual blessing.
        2. God always has intended to choose those people who would trust what He did in Christ.
        3. Through Jesus God is willing to adopt us as His children.
        4. That adoption can occur because of His incredible grace.
        5. We are forgiven because God used Jesus' blood to redeem us.
        6. God lavishes His grace on us as His children.
        7. We understand that we have the right to belong to God just as Israel did--and we have that right because of what God did in Jesus Christ
        8. God even has given us an inheritance.
        9. It should be obvious through God's Spirit existing in us that we are God's property.
      2. The objective of all these incredible things God does for us is simple: we should be to the praise of His glory.
        1. When people see what God makes us, they should praise God--not us.
        2. The only way our behavior and emotions can be explained is God's influence on us.

  2. Then Paul offered the prayer for them that we just read.
    1. Pay careful attention to what motivated Paul to pray this prayer for them.
      1. He heard of the faith they had in making Jesus Christ Lord of their lives.
      2. He heard of their great love for other Christians.
      3. The result of both was that Paul was deeply appreciative.
    2. Listen to the specific things Paul prayed for them.
      1. That God, the Father of Jesus Christ, would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God.
      2. That the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened in the specific ways.
        1. They would grasp the hope of God's calling.
        2. They would grasp the incredible wealth God had given them in His inheritance.
      3. That they would grasp the incredible power God gave those who trusted what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection.

  3. I ask you to focus on each of the three things Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians.
    1. They would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of God.
      1. If we are to change a person's life and world, we must change that person's concept and understanding of God.
        1. I have held that conviction for years.
        2. I share it often.
      2. Most of the Christians in Ephesus were people who were not Jews, who were converted from worshipping idols.
        1. Before conversion they worshipped many different gods in the conviction that all of them existed.
        2. Before conversion they worshipped many different gods to keep those gods from being offended with them.
        3. Before conversion, a god could be represented by a piece of human art.
      3. After conversion, they had to change their understanding of God.
        1. There was One, not many.
        2. The One loved them and was a source of help.
        3. The One could not be represented with a piece of human art work.
      4. Paul prayed they would have a better understanding of God.
        1. The better they understood God, the better they would understand themselves.
        2. The better they understood God, the wiser they would become.
        3. The better they understood God, the more God could reveal His will to them.
    2. Paul prayed the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened.
      1. They would never know the hope God provided them unless they could "see" God with their hearts.
      2. They would never know the value of their inheritance in God unless they could "see" God with their hearts.
      3. The only way to destroy hopelessness, the only way to understand that there was something more valuable than the material things of "right now," was to have the eyes of their hearts enlightened.
    3. Paul prayed that they would grasp the incredible power God made available to Christians through Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
      1. The grace that makes our salvation possible depends on God, not on us.
      2. God's resurrection of Jesus and God's enthronement of Jesus declares the great power of God.
      3. If God could do all He did in Jesus' resurrection and enthronement, God could surely keep all His promises to them.
      4. If:
        1. You will enthrone Christ in your life as Lord,
        2. You will humbly accept the authority of the enthroned Christ,
        3. You will be a part of Christ's body,
        4. You will allow Christ to demonstrate God's fullness by being a part of God's people.
      5. If you will do that, then the same power that raised Jesus from the dead will save you.

  4. Let's see if we as 21st century Christians can personalize the three elements of Paul's prayer.
    1. Do you want to know God so well that you are made wiser and understand what life is really about?
      1. Which attitude best typifies the drives of your life and relationships?
        1. "God, teach me just what I need to know, but don't change anything--I like me just like I am."
        2. Or, "God, help me understand everything I can about You so I can constantly change as a person."
      2. If you know God better, you will change as a person.
    2. Do you want God to teach you how to see from the heart so your Christian hope will increase and you will understand the value of your inheritance?
      1. Which attitude best typifies the drives of your life and relationships?
        1. "God, I do not want to know anything different or anything else."
          1. "I had rather live in a hopeless existence that to have to learn anything else about You."
          2. "I want to enjoy right here right now--I rather live for right now instead of eternity."
        2. Or, "God help me see how temporary right now is and how permanent eternity is."
      2. If we are to make our decisions in hope, we must let God teach us about our inheritance.
    3. Do you want the power of God to determine who you are and what your life is about?
      1. Which attitude best typifies the drives of your life and relationships?
        1. "God, leave me alone and let me live like I want to live--just save my soul without messing with my life."
        2. Or, "God, help me see that the power that raised Jesus from the death can work in my life to rescue me from any form of evil."
      2. If the power of Jesus' resurrection controls our lives, God will mess with our lives and change the way we behave and feel.

Do we have so much confidence in what God did and does through Jesus Christ, do we have so much love for other Christians, that God rejoices to recognize us as part of Christ's body?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 November 2003

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