Please Open The Eyes Of [Our] Hearts!

May 16, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Ephesians 1:15-23

Please Open The Eyes Of [Our] Hearts!

1. "[Oh,] that you might open the eyes of [their] hearts!" That's what is written in the scripture passage that I read to you today. It is the prayer of Paul. [He prayed,] ["That you might open the eyes of [their] hearts!" -- Because we can't see with the eyes of the flesh. -- Because no matter how hard we might try to strain our eyes [to see], we can't see with the eyes of the flesh. Therefore, we only see with the heart. What is it [that we only see with the heart]? It is "the hope." According to the biblical expression, it has "What kind of hope are we being given by God's invitation?," (verse eighteen). We must see this with the opened eyes of our heart.

2. "What kind of hope are we being given by God's invitation?" The Bible speaks about "God's invitation." Yes, we are invited by God, called by God, here. Putting ourselves in church, worshipping God, listening attentively to the words of scripture, believing in God, and baptism, all of these actions did not come to pass simply because we wanted to do them. They came to pass for the first time as there were various events and various encounters that were given unrelated to our will. All of them had come from the beyond. Through everything, which has come from the beyond, God has invited us. And so, we are assembled. Therefore, these assemblies have been called "ecclesia" from the beginning. In our language, it is translated "church." However, "ecclesia" originally had the meaning of the "the ones called out to assemble together." That's the church.

3. When God assembled [the church], you would expect there to be a divine plan behind it. When a person assembles or gathers firewood, it is so he or she [can] throw it on the fire. When God assembles people, it would not be ridiculous even if it was so he [could] throw them on the fires of hell. If you think of humanity's sinfulness and you think of your own sinfulness, that is one possibility as well. By all rights, the possibility for that is pretty high. But, those of us, who have been assembled [by God], have heard a completely different message. Jesus Christ hung on the cross as the atonement for our sin. Because of his cross we have heard the message, "Your sins are forgiven." Having been assembled, we have heard the gospel. We have been informed that the God of Jesus Christ, the God who has sent Jesus Christ into this world, has assembled us. In other words, we have been informed through Christ that God has assembled us in order to save us.

4. The God who loves, forgives and saves us, has called us. After being called by the God of love and mercy, we are here now. That is the foundation for our hope. We are called by the God of love. Therefore, we are already given hope. Yes, it's true. In having been called, at a fundamental level of truth, we are already given hope. But, it's a whole other story of whether we can see it. Waiting for it and then rejoicing by seeing it is another story. It happens often that because we wait but can't see it, because we don't turn our eyes towards it, we do not rejoice at all. Therefore, we need "to be able to see."

5. Paul can clearly see. But, it seems like the folks at the church in Ephesus cannot see for nothing. So, Paul is praying to God on behalf of the Ephesian church. "[Oh,] that you might open the eyes of [their] hearts!" It sounds like a prayer for us, too. Everyone, have you ever felt a gap between the world of Paul's epistle and our own day to day lives? I feel it very much. What was visible to Paul is still not visible to us. I can't help but think that way. So, I want things to get where [we all] can see more. For that reason then, [I] pray. The prayer, "[Oh,] that you might open the eyes of [their] hearts!," is surely also a prayer for us.

That You Might See The Wealth Of The Glory That You Ought To Inherit!

6. Well, let's read a few more details in regard to the specifics of the hope, in which [we] want it to get where [we] can see more, praying, "[Oh,] that you might open the eyes of [our] hearts!" The specifics of the hope are huge on two points. The first detail on the hope has to do with the future, the second has to do with the present. The first has to do with ultimate conditions, the second has to do with the journey getting there. The first has to do with the kingdom of God, the second has to do with daily life in this passing world.

7. The hope that has to do with the future. The hope of the kingdom of God. It is expressed in the following way. "How much does that which the saints inherit shine in abundant glory?," (verse eighteen). Since it says "inherit," it has to do with the future. It has to do with the kingdom of God. The prayer is that you might come to understand how abundant it is, that which [the saints] will ultimately inherit.

8. We are heading into an awesomely bountiful future. We are heading into a future in which we will inherit abundant glory. Are you actually living with such a picture [before you]? If we go by how we feel it in the world, wouldn't it have to be the opposite instead? For example, when we consider that we are heading into "the future" known as the end of life, what do you think? Generally speaking, don't we get an image that "we're losing more and more," "we're getting weaker and weaker?" We're decaying, we're losing, we'll end up dead and gone. That is the general image of death. The end of the world is the same way, too. Ultimately it is falling apart and will come to ruin. We pretty much have only this image of the end. So, whether it be the end of life or the end of the world, it is generally held to be something that is pretty far from "abundance."

9. But Paul says to us, "That is not how it is!" Ultimately, fabulous riches [of some kind] await [us]. We are heading into that. It "shines with glory." This thing called "glory" is of course the glory of God. It means that it is an abundance which comes from God. It is saying, we are heading into that.

10. If we go by these words, "the abundance which comes from God," then without a doubt, when you're a believer, to an extent, you should be experiencing this [now]. In [your] day to day faith life, [there is] the experience of [your] heart being marvelously satisfied. [There is] the satisfaction of the soul, which can only be said to have come from heaven. [There is] the comfort that comes from God. [There is] the joy that God gives. We have already tasted a taste of salvation. But what we've experienced so far is just a portion here and there, it's been no more than as if we've licked some icing from a cake. The abundance we inherit at the time of the end will not be like this. A fabulous abundance awaits there. A great joy of salvation awaits. Paul prays that we might be enlightened as to the greatness of that abundance. The eyes of the heart must be opened for that purpose. We don't live seeing only the situation visible with the eyes of the flesh, thinking only of that, and being thrown around by the things right in front of our eyes, the things visible to the eye, but rather, having had the eyes of the heart opened, we need to get to where we can see that we are heading towards a fabulous abundance. We too must pray in regard to the hope for the future, "That he might open the eyes of our hearts!"

That We Might See The Power Of God As He Performs Tremendous Works!

11. And the second has to do with the present, with the journey along the way, with day to day living in this passing world. Paul continues the prayer like this, "In addition, that [God] might enlighten us to see how great is the power of God as he performs tremendous works for us believers!," (verse nineteen). This part where the scripture declares "the power of God as he performs tremendous works" has to do with our current world of reality.

12. As I've already mentioned, we taste in our day to day faith lives but a portion of the abundance that comes from God. Yet, in another sense, as long as we are alive in this world, we will have battles. There is not just joy in our daily faith, there is also agony. Where does this battlefield lie, for each of you? Is it at home? Is it at work? Is it in church? They say too that "A neutral man has seven enemies." But we must not suppose that there are battlefields at home, in the church, or elsewhere; rather, the battlefield is inside ourselves. First off, in our hearts and our thoughts, we must win the victory over the devil, [our] enemy. We mustn't get defeated by Satan. Therefore, Paul speaks of, "the power of God as he performs tremendous works for us believers." [Our Japanese] scripture says, "for us believers," but strictly speaking, the words have the meaning "in us believers."

13. It is first, "in us," where the power of God is at work. It is not around us. We tend to ask first that the circumstances around us change. We ask that the people around us change. But it is ourselves, first, which God wants to change. The power of God is at work "in believers."

14. Furthermore, we mustn't overlook the fact that the scripture deliberately says, "in believers." The word "believer" means "a person who believes." It is not "a person who believed" in the past. It is "a person who is believing" now. It's not somebody who quit believing during a hard situation around him or her. It is not somebody who murmurs, "God didn't change my circumstances." It is the person who keeps on believing. It is the person who keeps trusting in God, realizing that the true battle lies within the person, realizing that "I must be changed." That is exactly where the power of God is at work.

15. About that power, Paul puts it like this. "God caused this power to work in Christ, he caused Christ to rise from the dead and back to life, he caused him to sit on the throne to his right in heaven, and put [him] over every government, authority, power, and sovereignty, he has put him over every name that is named, not just in the world now, but in the world that is to come," (verses twenty and twenty-one). -- This power is at work in us. This power of the resurrection, that was in Christ, whereby God brought this great upset victory known as the resurrection, is also at work in us.

16. We anticipate the hope of the kingdom of God; however, we do not anticipate any hope in this life in this world. Let's not be such distorted believers! We're always saying, "Nothin's ever gonna change," and we don't anticipate anything being new and we are unable to look at our lives with hope. Let's not be believers like that! For that reason we need the eyes of our hearts to be opened. Let's seek in prayer, "That [God] might open the eyes of our hearts" so that we can see more and more how great is the power of God at work in this world and how [God] causes this great power to be at work in believers, and also that we will always be able to live with a great anticipation and hope in God!