Rev. John Muhlfeld
In the Bible, the heart is not just the source of our emotions. It is the command center of our entire being that directs all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Among many important things to pray for, Paul understood that praying for the hearts of his hearers was his greatest pastoral priority. Only hearts that are increasingly transformed by the indwelling love of Christ will grow, serve, and multiply as God intends. God calls us to know the depth of His love for us in Christ and to pray that others might know it as well.
There were many “mystery religions” in Paul’s day that claimed to have secret knowledge available only to a select few. Their job was to keep hidden what they had learned. Paul said his job was to make known the revelation of Jesus Christ as broadly and clearly as possible. Such is the commission of every believer who has known the grace of Christ: to not only know Him but to make Him known!
The damage sin causes to our relationships is beyond mere patching and mending. Our deep-seated, heart-originated hostility toward one another must be demolished through the cross of Christ so that we may be rebuilt as His holy Church. Whether in a marriage, a family, or a church, only Jesus can reconcile us to God and to one another as we look to Him for grace.
Forgetting where we come from is not just a social danger; it is a spiritual danger as well. We easily forget the grace we have been shown in Christ, becoming prideful before God, combative with one another, and despondent within ourselves. But God reminds us of the grace He has shown us through the blood of Christ so that we might once again rejoice in His mercy and live for His glory.
We were made to boast. That’s why it is so hard to resist! The problem is that sin has warped our boasting, causing us to boast in ourselves rather than in God. But God’s grace redeems our boasting. It removes our selfish pride and redirects our adoration to the Savior who supremely humbled Himself for our salvation, Jesus Christ.
“But God” are two of the most important words we could ever hear. We were dead in our transgressions and sins, justly deserving His wrath and curse, but God made us alive with Christ by grace. Further, He has not only shown us His mercy, kindness, and love once, but keeps showing it to us every moment of every day. Whenever we find ourselves lost and undone, there is a “but God” moment He uses for His glory and our good. Best of all, in the ages to come we will see that we have only just begun to fathom the depth of His love for us in Christ.
Few topics seem more unpleasant than the wrath of God. Some people deny it entirely, suggesting a God of love cannot have wrath. Others seek to downplay or soften it. Most simply ignore it despite hundreds of biblical references. But as D.A. Carson says, “A wrath-less god does not make him more attractive. It makes him morally indifferent.” God’s holiness demands judgment against sin and without wrath Christ died for nothing. It is precisely because we were once objects of God’s wrath that God’s grace to us in Christ is such good news.
The discouraged, poor, and weak Christians in Ephesus needed to be reminded of the hope, riches, and power that were theirs in Christ. In particular, they needed to be assured of the power of their resurrected, triumphant Lord who rules His Church as its invincible King and Head. Beleaguered Christians today still need to hear of our invincible Lord and the power He continues to exert through His body, the Church.
Not being in control scares us, which is bad because we are never truly in control of our lives! We also tend to respond badly to not being in control, frequently resorting to compromise, attack, or flight. But Jesus was in complete control of His circumstances even when He seemed to be at His most vulnerable. When isolated, He remained secure. When betrayed, He remained undaunted. When arrested, He remained in command. The Savior who was in full control of His own crucifixion is more than able to govern our lives in righteousness as we look to Him for grace.
There are a virtually limitless number of things to pray and strive for in the Christian life. All of them have value, but when writing to the Ephesians Paul said his top concern was that they would know God better. How can we pray for others to know God better? How can we know Him better ourselves? God’s word teaches us how to know Him better through the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ.