Blinded By Effulgence

Delivered May 27, 2001 by Dr. John Murray Smoot.

Sermon Text:
Ephesians 1:15-23; 2:5-7

How much would you pay for a ten day trip to outer space? $200, $2,000, $20,000, $200,000, $2,000,000, $20,000,000? Dennis Tito plunked out a cool $20,000,000 to buzz about in a cumbersome space suit and to experience weightlessness. And today all he has to show for it, are some exciting memories and probably some videos. Do you know that I, without paying a single penny, am a spacial creature. Yes, I am. And instead of a cumbersome space suit, let’s say I was to take off my clothes and put on some swim trunks. And make my way to Ocean City and stand by the mogeling waves and suddenly think the bottoms of my feet are continuous with the planet earth. The bottom of my feet are continuous with the planet earth, but everything else about John Murray Smoot is in outer space. All the way up there, far as you can go I am there. That away, that away. I am a spacial creature. Yes the planet earth is lipping through space and turning on it’s axis and I am still touching a little bit of sand, but the only thing that keeps me from flinging out there is the pull of gravity. Now that’s very interesting, isn’t it? But right now you’re not going to believe one single word that I say to you clear until the benediction. You won’t. You will not believe what I am going to say in the next several sentences. I am not only a spacial creature and that’s interestingly enough to consider, but I have gone way beyond being a spacial creature. Now I say, you will not believe what I am going to say now. Do you know what has happened to me? Do you know what has happened to me? I have already died and gone to heaven.

Hear Colossians, Chapter 3, the first 4 verses. Which you will not believe. I have memorized it, but I am going to read it.

Since then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is. Sitteth at the right hand of God. Set you mind on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, you also will appear with him in glory”.

Now that word glory is very interesting. The Hebrew word for glory is “Kabod,” which really means “heavy.” It means something, which is very, very important. It is numbness and heavy and weighty. That’s what glory means. So we are not thinking about weightlessness at all this morning. But listen to this. You won’t believe this either. This is from Ephesians, Chapter 2, Verse 4.

But God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. And raised us up with him and made us sit with him in the heavenly places and Christ Jesus that in the coming ages, he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.

Now I know very well that you don’t believe that. And what you would really rather hear is the next verse. Forget all about these impossibilities and the next verse we all know. Ephesians, Chapter 2, verse 8-9. “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves that is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Now we evangelicals really revel and bet and we teach and preach it all over the place. But what about this other that I just read. Dear puzzled Christian friend, dear astonished Non-Christian friend, we are all blinded by effulgence. Now of course you are well educated and you know very well, what the word effulgence means. It’s a Latin derived word. It means brilliance, radiant splendor. We can not look at the sun with our natural eyes, nor can we look at the Son. We are blinded by effulgence.

Now last Thursday as you well know, was Ascension Day. Our Lord Jesus Christ, some two Millenia ago, died in our behalf on a gibbet and as he promised, rose again from the dead and then after that, 40 days he made appearances to his buddies, from time to time. At the close of those 40 days, as Al Finch read to you from Luke, because Luke wrote both the Gospel and the Acts, how that Jesus took his buddies out beyond Bethany and ascended. He went back to where he came from. He ascended into heaven and sat up on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty from whence he should come to judge the quick and the dead. So what? So just about everything, so just about everything. He ascended. He’s up there. And up there, he is exalted. Up there he has been fully vindicated by all existence and for all time. Up there, he ever lives to intercede for you and me at this very moment. And up there, you and I are there too. I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Incredible as it may seem, you and I are up there too. So that brings us, that was just the introduction, that brings us to our text this morning, which is the first chapter of Ephesians. Verses 15-23. And I beg of you that are here in this sanctuary to turn to that passage. I am going to read to you however, from a paraphrase by a very dear friend of mine, Eugene Peterson who was pastor for some time of Christ our King, in Presbyterian Church in Belair, Maryland and he has given us these astounding words. Ephesians, Chapter 1.

It is Christ that you once heard the truth and believed it. This message of your salvation. Found yourselves home free, signed, sealed and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we will get everything God has planned for us a praising and glorious life. That’s why when I heard of the solid trust you have in Master Jesus, and your outpouring of love to all Christians, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you. Every time I prayed I would think of your and give thanks. But I do more than thank, I ask. Ask the God of our Master Jesus Christ, the God of glory, to make you intelligent and discerning and knowing him personally. Your eyes focused and clear. So that you can see exactly what he is calling you to do. Perhaps the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, all of the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him, endless energy. Boundless strength. All this energy issues from Christ. God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to government, no name and no power exempt from his rule, and not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all. Has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church you see is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ body in which he speaks and acts by which he fills everything with his presence”.

Join me as we pray. Father, how we thank you for the inevitable privilege of being loved by so great a God and of your going to such lengths and depths and heights and breaths to tell us about it and to demonstrate it in the person of your own son, through him we give you this praise. Amen.

Just three thoughts from this text. In Ephesians, Chapter 1. Three thoughts I would like for you to take home with you this morning. An exalted vision, an exalted power, and yes an exalted church. An exalted vision, an exalted power and a exalted church.

Let me read to you Verses 15-18 from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 1:

For this reason, because I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and for the love towards 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 a spirit of wisdom and revelation and the super knowledge of him. Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

Now we have two eyes in our head. But those eyes are incapable of seeing anything other than physical things. Paul prayed that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened. God has given to believers, and not unbelievers, if you don’t believe in Jesus, don’t believe in the scripture, then you don’t savvy any of this, but try to stick with me because even the Christians and I are having trouble believing in such immeasurable glorious things, because all of us have been blinded by God’s effulgence. God has given us the eyes of our hearts. Now it is interesting to note back in the first covenant, the law that prophets and the writing, that Ezekial sees what can not been seen and writes about what can not be written about. And so he uses very unusual language and he describes the creatures who are living in glory. He describes these creatures that are living in glory as being “full of eyes.” I have only two eyes in my head, but we who are super spacial people, are full of eyes. We can see this way, that way, all round, why? Because we are up there, you don’t believe that, do you? We’re up there. And we have a different perspective, a totally different perspective, because we have a divine perspective. We have eyes of the heart and we’re up there with Jesus and we are looking down at ourselves, objectively. And we see, the way God sees. Isn’t that neat? My physical eyes see all kinds of unresolved conflicts in my life. I have seen all kinds of things that worry the dickens out of me. We see all kinds of nasty complexities. But Saint Paul says, that the eyes of our hearts are apocolypted. It’s a word he uses. We have been given spiritual insight and we see things the way God does, by faith, and we believe that all of these things are working together for good, to those who love God and who are the called ones according to his purpose. And I know it’s going to work out. And so I have a peace that passes all understanding. Enabling me to live in this crazy, mixed up world but looking at myself objectively from up there. What paltry lives that we live. If only we realized that all of us who have put our trust in Jesus, are princes and princesses. And we have been exalted to the heavens and sit there already redeemed, and washed, and sanctified and accepted in the beloved one.

Secondly, there is an exalted power. Look at Verses 19-21 of Ephesians, Chapter 1. “That the eyes of your heart, being enlightened, that you may know that to which he has called you and see things the way God does.” Then in Verse 19, “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe. According to the working of his great ‘might,'” another different Greek word that he uses here, “which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in heavenly places, 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 that which is to come.” You do not believe, I do not really believe, that the power that it took God to raise a dead body of Jesus from the grave and enabled him in that power to rise above all authorities and powers and to be seated in glory, that same power is working in us. You don’t believe it. The resurrection power of God Almighty is at work in us to live lives that are like Jesus. And if we really believed it, then it would really be true. We don’t just sit up there by our own puny strength. We sit up there by Christ’s resurrection power, isn’t that great? I wish you were a Christian, if you’re listening in on a radio today. I wish you knew what it is like to be related to God and Jesus. And to realize that all the beautiful things that can be predicated about Jesus, can be replicated in your life and in mine. In your real life, where you are right now, he will take you with himself up there.

The last thought is from Verses 22 and 23, in Ephesians, Chapter 1, where we find an exalted church. Yes, yes an exalted church. I know many people, some very closely aligned with my life, who don’t believe in the church. Who could get along without the church. You know the organized church has had its day. God, Almighty has harnessed the majesty and power and glory of Jesus Christ through the church. Listen to these words: “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him head over all things for the church, for the church. Which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all.”

Paul uses a marvelous Greek word, “pleroma”. The very fullness that is true of God is the fullness that is true of the church. Listen to these precious, personal relationships that God has brought about. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true vine, we are his branches. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, we are his sheep. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the great chief cornerstone, and we are his building. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the head and we are his body. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the second Adam, and we are a part of the new creation. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the great high priest, and we are a royal priesthood. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the loving bridegroom, and we are his bride. The bride eyes not her garment, but her dear bridegroom’s face. I will not look at glory, but on my king of grace. Not on the crown he gives us, but on his pierced hand, the lamb has all the glory of Emmanuel’s land.

Heavenly father, how grateful we are that You have made us heavenly people. And though it is hard to believe and though we can not look steadfastly at the sun, because we are naturally blinded by effulgence, grant that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened so that we may see the invisible, so that we may hear the inaudible, and that we may know and experience the unknowable. For Your holy namesake, Amen.