Summary: If we want to build strong relationships for a strong church with a strong ministry, then we must know God, His hope, His wealth and His power.
A couple of hunters were out in the woods of New Jersey when one of them fell to the ground. He didn’t seem to be breathing, and his eyes were rolled back in his head. Terrified, his friend whipped out a cell phone and dialed 911.
“My friend is dead! What can I do?” he cried over the phone.
In a calm, soothing voice, the operator replied, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.”
There was a moment of silence. Then the operator heard a single shot.
The guy's voice came back on the line: “Okay, now what?” (www.laughlab.co.uk)
I don’t think the man understood what the operator really wanted.
In life, and especially in our relationships, it’s important that we understand some fundamental principles; it’s important that we grasp some foundational truths that will keep us from killing each other along the way. In fact, if these principles become a part of our everyday experience, then we could find ourselves forging the kind of relationships that would help us storm the gates of hell and establish God’s church in enemy territory.
That’s really why the book of Ephesians was written. God wants His church to “build itself up in love” (4:16), so it can “stand against the devil’s schemes” (6:11), as it fearlessly proclaims “the mystery of the gospel” (6:19).
But in order for that to happen, we must understand some foundational, spiritual realities. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians 1, Ephesians 1, where those foundational, spiritual realities are spelled out. Here, the great Apostle Paul is praying for the church, asking God that we might “know” some things.
Ephesians 1:15-18a For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened. (ESV)
If we want to build strong relationships for a strong church with a strong ministry, then first of all, we must…
Not just know about God, but know God fully & personally. We must be intimately acquainted with him. Everything starts with a growing knowledge of God Himself.
Tim Keller talks about his brother-in-law who would never wear a seat belt in the car. Tim always scolded him for it, but one time, Tim’s brother-in-law came to pick him up at the airport, and he was all buckled up! Tim asked him, “What happened? What changed you?”
His brother-in-law said, “I went to visit a friend of mine in the hospital who was in a car accident and went through the windshield. He had two or three hundred stitches in his face. I said to myself, I better wear my seat belt.”
They talked about that a little bit, and Tim asked, “Did you NOT know that if you don't wear your seat belt you go through the windshield if you have an accident?”
His brother-in-law replied, “Of course I knew it. When I went to the hospital to see my friend, I got no new information, but the information I had became new. The information got real to my heart and finally sank down and affected the way I live.” (Tim Keller, “Unintentional Preaching Models,” Preaching to the Heart, CD 3; Ockenga Institute of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)
That’s the kind of knowledge we need. We don’t need new information. Rather, we need information that becomes new. We need information that gets real to our hearts and affects the way we live. That’s how we need to know God. We don’t need more information about God. We just need for God Himself to get real to our hearts and affect the way we live.
Thomas Aquinas was perhaps the greatest medieval theologian who ever lived. When I teach philosophy, I require that my students read excerpts from Aquinas’ work, because what he had to say is still very relevant to the issues we face today.
Many scholars believe that his Summa Theologica, written in the 13th century, is still one of the greatest intellectual achieve-ments of Western civilization. It is a massive work: 38 treatises, 3,000 articles and 10,000 objections. In Summa Theologica, Aquinas tried to gather all of truth into one coherent whole. He was putting everything – anthropology, science, ethics, psychology, political theory and theology – all under his concept of God.
Then, on December 6, 1273, Aquinas abruptly stopped his work. He was celebrating Mass in the chapel of St. Thomas when he caught a glimpse of eternity. Suddenly, Aquinas knew that all his efforts to describe God fell so far short that he decided never to write again.