CLOTHES THAT TRANSFORM
Text: Ephesians 1:15 – 23, Luke 24:49
Ephesians 1:15-23 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason (16) I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. (17) I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, (18) so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, (19) and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (20) God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, (21) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. (22) And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, (23) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Luke 24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (NRSV).
“You will recall that every time Clark Kent transformed himself into Superman, he would go into a telephone booth and strip off his ordinary business suit, revealing his official Superman costume. He could only stop locomotives and lift skyscrapers when he was properly clothed in the outfit that revealed his true identity. As Christians, we can do no mighty deed unless we are properly clothed with the Spirit of God, which discloses our true spiritual selves and supplies the power to do wondrous things.” (Russell E. Anderson. Lectionary Preaching Workbook. Lima: CSS Publishing, 2008, p. 221). Without God’s input we are like a windmill without the wind. The Holy Spirit empowers us and unlocks God’s power in our potential.
Whose clothes are we wearing? If we think of the two natures flesh versus the spirit, then we can make sense of that question as it relates to the context of this scripture in Ephesians 1:15 -23. Are we trying to work in the clothes of our own flesh or are we clothed with God’s Spirit? The Hymn Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus, reminds us that “… the arm of flesh will fail you ye dare not trust your own…”. The strength that Jesus gives us comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. Unless we are clothed with the Spirit, then we will be powerless (Luke 24:49).
Today we will seek to examine how God’s wisdom, our enlightenment and His power are connected.
Where does wisdom come from? 1) Sources of Wisdom: Can we gain wisdom from experience? Of course we can. Should we be cautious of that kind of wisdom? Wisdom apart from God is wisdom that is guided by the nature of the flesh that will surely fail. Wisdom comes from God. Proverbs 9:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
2) Wisdom and the heart: Proverbs 2:10-11 tells us that “for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; (11) prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you” (NRSV).
3) Wisdom as a shield: The Cambridge Bible explains Proverbs 2:12 - 15 and “how it is like a shield because it can keep people from evil”. How can this shield work of the heart is not in tune with the Holy Spirit because the heart is deceitful as we are told in Jeremiah 17:9?
4) Imparted wisdom: John 14:26 says But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you (NRSV). Scoffers seek wisdom that they cannot find apart from God (Proverbs 14:6).
Do we lack wisdom when we are not familiar with God’s Word? Consider this story. “A pastor asked a class of Sunday School children, "Who broke down the wall of Jericho?" A boy answered, "Not me, sir!" The pastor was noticeably upset and turned to the Sunday School teacher, "Is this typical?" She replied, "Pastor, the boy is a trusted and honest child, and I really don't think he did it." Such a response sent the pastor straight to the Sunday School superintendent. After hearing the pastor's grievance, the superintendent consoled him by saying, "I've known the boy and his Sunday School teacher for a number of years and just can't picture either one of them doing such a terrible thing." In disbelief, the pastor sought out the Chairman of the Deacons. The wise deacon tried to smooth the waters with some of his conventional wisdom, "Pastor, let's not make a big issue of this. Let's just pay for the damages and charge it to our maintenance account."
The Library of Congress recently conducted a survey which asked, "What book has most influenced your life?" The Bible landed in the number one position. Yet, during a typical week only 45 percent of American Christians read the Bible. Of the 45 percent, just 12 percent claim to read God's Word daily. Fifty-five percent don't even bother to open it once a week! With stats like these, the above story might be true. (Raymond McHenry. ed. McHenry’s Quips, Quotes And Other Notes. [* What Americans Believe, George Barna, 1991, p. 284; Parade, Dec. 29, 1991, p. 20; Our Daily Bread, Oct. 2]. Third Printing. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004). How can daily we seek God’s Wisdom if we do not daily study His words in the Bible?
Paul was praying for a “spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know God” (Ephesians 1:17) Paul was praying for them to receive God’s irrevocable calling and gifts (Romans 11:29 NRSV).
What does it mean to be enlightened? It depends on what how we look at it.
1)The Age of reason: There was a time in history called the enlightenment. “The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself, convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and a respect for humanity. The period also often is referred to as the Age of Reason.” (A quote from Encarta Encyclopedia Online). Another way of looking at what it means to be enlightened is to be given insight on a topic. For some that means religious insight. Yet, we have to remember that apart from God we lack wisdom!
2) Eclipse: In many ways, through the events throughout history it appears that there are places where can see how time marched on as some things do not seem to have emerged much, if any, from those dark ages. Even though they call this period in history an “enlightenment” isn't possible for and eclipse of the heart for people in every generation because they left God out of the equation?
3) The eyes of the heart: The Greek word Paul uses here, photizo, means to shine, to illuminate, to bring to light. Paul wants their hearts to illuminate and shine with the things he goes on to describe. https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-enlightened-heart-derrick-tuper-sermon-on-power-233255 How often do we pray for God to give us an enlightened heart?
Is the heart a “secret garden”? That may sound like a strange question to you without further explanation. Fulton J. Sheen gives us an excellent explanation.
Ever since the days of Adam, man has been hiding from God and saying, “God is hard to find.” The truth is that, in each heart, there is a secret garden that God made uniquely for himself. That garden is locked … It has two keys. God has one key; hence the soul cannot let in anyone else but God. The human heart has the other key; hence not even God can get in without man’s consent. When the two keys of God’s love and human liberty … meet, then Paradise returns to a human heart. God is always at that Garden Gate with his key. We pretend to look for our key, to have mislaid it, to have given up the search; but all the while it is in our hand, if we would only see it. The reason we are not as happy as saints is because we do not wish to be saints. —Fulton J. Sheen, Peace of Soul. https://www.proclaimsermons.com/illustration.asp?LoggedIn=Yes&ID=Wil2850260583&illust_type=textsearch&illust_text=heart%20 How will we have the eyes---the revelation love and grace in our hearts if we will not let God in our hearts?
The Holy Spirit enlightens, our hearts and minds and empowers us. In the words of Billy Graham, “Many people have just enough natural religion to make them immune to the real thing”. (R. Daniel Watkins. An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations. [Billy Graham. World Aflame. ]. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2001). Consider Acts 19:11-16: "And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, mastered all of them, and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (RSV). Doesn't this passage of scripture illustrate very well how truly powerless we are without God in our lives?
Does God empower us for self-preservation or for our witness to others?
God did not save us to sit on the bench! God saves us to be busy shining for His kingdom!
1) The harvest: The harvest is plentiful in every generation and just before Christ was to ascend to His father in Heaven, He wanted His disciples to remain in the Upper Room until they had received the Holy Spirit.
2) Clothed with the Holy Spirit: From the Gospel section of today’s lectionary text is Luke 24:44 - 53. I want to emphasize a scripture from that text that emphasizes being clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit: Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (NRSV). In Matthew 28:19 -20, we are told why they have been given this power: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (NRSV).
3) Staying charged: Think about the image of this company represented in a parade in this illustration.
“ One New Year’s Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.
The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.
Often, Christians neglect their spiritual maintenance, and though they are “clothed with power” (Luke 24:49) find themselves out of gas”. Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.[Steve Blankenship, Source unknown].
4) Greater things : Jesus told His disciples before His crucifixion t something that probably did not make much sense to them until after His resurrection. John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (NRSV). Did Jesus mean that we would do greater quality works? No. Jesus meant that we would do a greater “quantity” of works (Robertson’s Word Pictures) because of the movement of the Holy Spirit in His disciples after His resurrection. Later in John 16:7 Jesus mentions how those greater things will happen: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (NRSV). Paul’s prayer was that God’s power would reach its full potential in our lives and our witness.
We are powerless unless we are plugged into our relationship with God through Bible study, prayer and meditation. It is through those things that we fan the flame of the Holy Spirit working in our lives (II Timothy 1:6). We have not been empowered by the Holy Spirit to be idle. We have been given this power to be fruitful in making disciples.
May God clothe us with His Holy Spirit, with the Spirit’s wisdom, and the Spirit’s transformation of our hearts so that we may live our lives in such a way that God may be at work in us, enabling us both to will and to work in harmony with His will for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13 paraphrased) for the transformation of the world.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.