The Eyes of Your Heart — Part One
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The Eyes of Your Heart — Part One

Ephesians 1:15–20  (ID: 3151)

When we talk about hope, we often do so in uncertain terms. But in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explained that the hope of those who follow Christ is certain. His primary concern for his readers was for them to know Christ and then to take hold of all that was, and is, theirs in Him—including the assurance of their hope. In this message, Alistair Begg teaches listeners to live in response to the benefits that belong to each one who has faith that is secure in Jesus.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Ephesians, Volume 1

The Believer’s Inheritance Ephesians 1:1–23 Series ID: 14901

Sermon Transcript: Print

We’re going to read now from the New Testament, in Ephesians and in chapter 1. And we’ve reached the fifteenth verse in our study here through the first chapter: the first fourteen verses, one really long chapter in Greek with no punctuation, and then, beginning in verse 15, a duplicate, and another long sentence that the English translators have punctuated for us to try and help us as we read through it.

Ephesians 1:15:

“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, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the 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 the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”


Father, help us. We desperately need your help to speak and to listen, to understand, to believe, and to live in the truth of your Word. And so we look from ourselves to you and to this end. In Christ’s name. Amen.

You know, it’s a great privilege to teach the Bible and to seek to bring the text to bear upon, first of all, one’s own life, and then together, and to realize that God chooses to do with his Word what God chooses to do. And I frequently remind myself that my task is to sow the Word of God. I’m not responsible for making it grow, which is a great relief, but I do want to sow it in such a way that it becomes possible, as a result of understanding, to at least track with what is being said.

And I said to the folks at our team meeting last Monday, you know, I feel almost at the point, just now, to have a service or a series of services that I would call “Time to Get Off the Fence.” “Time to Get Off the Fence.” In the past, if you track through all the sermons preached at Parkside, you will see that there have been occasions where the sermon title has been like “A Call to the Unconverted Believer,” to the person who has actually come to a sufficient understanding of what’s being said and yet has never actually taken a stand on the truth of the gospel itself. And I have no way of knowing this, but I do have a sense that there are a number who are in that very position. And so, you can know that I’m praying for you, and others are praying for you, and praying expressly that you will get off the fence and that you’ll get off on the right side.

And as we study this morning in this passage here in Ephesians 1, we’re going to end with a hymn of testimony. And it may prove to be your testimony—I trust it is—but we’ll end up singing words like:

Once I was blind,
Yet believed I saw everything,
Proud in my ways,
[But] a fool in my part;
Lost and alone
In the company of multitudes,
Life in my body, yet death in my heart.[1]

Those words by Townend are really an echo of the words from Newton in “Amazing Grace,” where in the famous couplet he said, “I once was lost, but now [I’m] found, was blind, but now I see.”[2] There’s a very clear distinction between blindness and sight: I once couldn’t see, and now I can see. It’s not like I kind of can see, or I’m kind of blind. But no, I once was blind. I was blind, and I thought I understood everything. I was really quite foolish. And God opened my eyes.

That, of course, is the testimony of Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus, when he met Jesus—and it’s Paul who’s writing Ephesians—when he met Jesus, you’ll remember that he was struck blind. And when Ananias went to minister to him, Luke tells us that in that encounter, “something like scales fell from [Saul’s] eyes.”[3] Scales fell from his eyes. It’s a picture. And in actual fact, that physical reaction was emblematic of the spiritual transformation that he experienced when he suddenly realized, “Wow! So Jesus is alive! So Jesus is real!” And in that encounter with his friends on that road going to do despite to Jesus, he asks the question, “Who are you, Lord?”[4] and discovers, of course, that he is.

Now, that metaphor runs through Paul’s writings; it’s here this morning in this section. He’s going to be praying that the eyes of the readers would be enlightened, that their eyes would be illuminated, and so on. And his great concern for those to whom he preached and in turn to whom he wrote was that this transformation might take place. He was concerned for his own people, the Jews, because he knew that they had so much material; they had all that God had provided for them right from the very beginning. They had the law of Moses, and they read it, not realizing that that law would lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ. And his great concern was that the veil that was over their eyes might be removed. And in 2 Corinthians 3 he says, concerning that process, there is “a veil … over their hearts,” and “only through Christ is it taken away.”[5] When it says “their hearts,” it means the very center of their existence, the core, the headquarters of who and what they are—their minds, their emotions, their wills. There’s a veil over that whole thing, he says, and only in Christ is it going to be taken away.

So, just as when a baby is born, it can see a wee bit—it can’t get everything—so, when you’re born again as a new creation in Jesus, you can see quite a bit, but you don’t get everything. And so Paul is praying here that those who have come to faith in Jesus may—verse 18—have “the eyes of [their] hearts enlightened” so that they might know these things.

For fourteen verses he has been providing what we’ve referred to as this great symphony of salvation, a great hymn of praise. He’s been assuring his readers of all that is theirs in the Lord Jesus Christ. And now in verse 15, he moves from praise to prayer, and he’s praying particularly that they might really see what they have. Now Paul, you know, is always moving from “to become what you are” and “to see what is yours”; he’s gone through this amazing list of the provision of God for them. And he says, “Now, do you really see this? If you really understood this, then it would revolutionize your life.” So he says, “I’m praying for you that the eyes of your hearts may be opened.” That’s why we sang earlier on, “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart.”[6]

The written Word of God introduces us to the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus.

There used to be a preacher in England years ago called S. D. Gordon, and he used to ask the question of his congregation, “Are you listening with all the ears of your heart?” “Are you listening with all the ears of your heart?” Well, of course, your heart doesn’t have ears, and your heart doesn’t have eyes. These are metaphors. These are pictures. We understand the difference between information simply going through your ears and engaging your brain at a certain level and an encounter with the Bible that starts to be perhaps unsettling, demanding, transformative. And you realize something is happening here that doesn’t happen in any other context. Something is happening with this book, about which we were singing again—about the written Word of God; the written Word of God introducing us to the living Word of God, the Lord Jesus.

Now, Paul comes to this by way of encouragement. He’s masterful at this; he’s not being Machiavellian in any way; he’s entirely sincere. “For this reason,” he says, verse 15, “because I[’ve] heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints…” He says, “I have been reminded of the fact that your faith is a reality and your love is sincere.” In other words, the congregations here that were the recipients of what, I take it, was a circular letter have been marked by such a factor that they are believing God’s promises and they are loving God’s people. Believing God’s promises and loving God’s people.

You will notice that it is not just faith, but it is faith in the Lord Jesus. There’s all kinds of things said about faith every day of the week, actually, if you’ve got your ears open. You go to the hairdresser and someone will say, “Well, do you have enough faith to allow me to do this to you?” or whatever it might be. And often the thought is that faith itself is like an entity, so you can have faith in faith: “Well, as long as I have faith.” Well, what does that mean? And Paul is not saying, “I’m so excited that you are men and women of faith,” but it is “faith in the Lord Jesus [Christ].” So the ground of faith is what makes it significant.

As I flew across the lake—two lakes in the last two days—and looked down, I said, “You know, this is not as frozen as it usually is. I’m not sure you would want to go ice-skating on this lake.” “Oh, but,” says somebody, “what does it matter, as long as you got faith? I mean, if you have enough faith, you’ll be able to skate on it, won’t you? Doesn’t matter how deep it is, just the amount of faith that you have.” No, what a silly idea. That’s not going to be called ice-skating, that’s going to be called water-skiing, because you are not going to be sustained by the amount of ice that is there. It is not the faith that makes the ground significant, it is the ground that gives the basis for faith—faith in the Lord Jesus.

Let me pause and ask you, do you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? We were just singing of it: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”[7] That’s what Paul is referencing here. Not some vague notion of an interest in spiritual things or an awareness of the historicity of the Bible—all of which will be of compelling interest to some—but “Is this me?” You see, the Bible, when it speaks of faith, speaks of it as, first of all, a decisive act, and then as a sustained attitude—a decisive act and then a sustained attitude. Abandoning, first of all, all trust and confidence in myself and placing all of my trust and confidence in another—namely, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device, not in creed;
But I trust the Ever-living One,
And His wounds for me must plead.[8]

It’s very straightforward, isn’t it?

Now, that’s what Paul is talking about here: “faith in the Lord Jesus and … love toward[s] all the saints”—a great company of people, the people that they knew and others that they didn’t know, the people for whom they were able to pray knowledgeably and those that we only know them from a distance and may not even have any idea of their circumstances at all. Faith and love. Paul routinely mentions this. You find it in his letters all the time.

Well, it’s a challenge, isn’t it? I wonder what Parkside is known for. Well, it’s known for different things, I’m sure. Some of them we probably wouldn’t be too pleased with. But nevertheless, it would be fine to be known for this, wouldn’t it? That people could speak of our faith in the Lord Jesus and our genuine love for all the saints.

Tonight, when we come together and have Communion and welcome new members, we’ll probably sing together the lines, “With our lips let us sing one confession.” What’s the one confession? That Jesus Christ is Savior, Lord, and King. “With our hearts…”

That’s the core of who we are.

With our hearts hold to one truth alone.
For he has erased our transgressions,
Has named us and called us his own,
His very own.

Then the refrain, “We’re the people of God, joined by his name,”[9] and set free, and so on. It’s fantastic!

Now, if you doubt it, just look along your row. Those are all the saints. I get to see you, you get to see me, I get to see… Look along the row. The saints. “Red and yellow, black and white,”[10] bright, not so bright, funny, rather dull. A phenomenal mixture of people, allowing us to fiddle with the Gaither song, as I always like to do; instead of singing, “I’m so glad that you’re part of the family of God,”[11] being far more honest and singing, “I’m surprised that you’re part of the family of God.” Because it is quite surprising, isn’t it? First of all, you’re surprised that you’re part of the family of God! Isn’t that right? If you’re not surprised that you’re part of the family of God, come and see me afterwards, ’cause I want to convince you of that fact.

That’s what Paul has been doing in the first fourteen verses. You should be amazed that the love of God for you goes back into eternity—that before he created the world he set his love upon you, that he drew you to himself, he included you in his company. And now, together, the word on the street, he says, “when I think about the church in Ephesus, in all of its complexities, is that you’re known for your faith and your love towards all the saints.”

And on account of this, he says, verse 16, “I am unceasingly thankful—I do not cease to give thanks for you—and I am purposefully prayerful, remembering you in my prayers.” And what is he doing when he prays? Well, to what end does he pray? Well, again, he wants them to understand and enter into the benefits they have already received. He doesn’t want them to be like people who go on a cruise, you know, up the fjords of Norway, sitting out on a blustery, windy, cloudy afternoon, sitting on a deck chair, eating Saltine crackers and drinking water, encountered by somebody who says, “Why are you doing this? Are you on a diet?”

“No,” says the person, “this is all I can afford!”

“But,” says the person, “don’t you realize that all the food came with your ticket? It’s all included in the deal that you’ve got. You shouldn’t be sitting out here eating Saltine crackers and drinking water. You should be in here enjoying the benefits of the package which is yours!” Which would make the metaphor even better if it was paid for by somebody else—which would be appealing to a Scotsman and a few others too. “It’s completely paid for! And I want you to enter into all of the benefits of it!” Well, why would you waste your time?

And so he says to the Ephesians, “You need to know this! You need to know this! Because it will transform you both inside and outside.” So he says, “This is my prayer: that the eyes of your hearts will be illuminated so that you might know—so that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” That ought to take you back to verse 8, which we saw some weeks ago, and “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know.”

The call of the Bible is a call to think.

You see this: “knowledge,” verse 17; “know,” verse 18. In other words, the mind matters. Your mind matters. Don’t let anybody tell you that Christianity is a trip into a sort of mindless existence. That there are a number of mindless Christians out there is a separate issue, but the call of the Bible is a call to think—to think. “So, these are the facts,” he says. “This is who Jesus is. This is what Jesus did. This is where Jesus is now. This is what Jesus has provided.” Now he says, “I want you to know this. I want you to come to a knowledge of this, that it is the work of God the Father Almighty, by the Spirit of God, to bring home the benefits that he has made available to us through the Son of God so that the people of God might become all that he desires for them to be.” In other words, you’ll see that it is a Trinitarian thing that runs all the way through. What God the Father is engaged in, the Son is procuring, the Holy Spirit is applying. This is not Mormonism. This is not Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not Unitarianism. This is biblical Christianity, Trinitarian, and it runs at the very heart of Paul’s concern.

Now, there can be little doubt that the initial readers of this letter, like ourselves, had many practical, pressing needs. They were a minority in a big, kinda wicked city. They were being called to live a holy life and keep their head in the game, surrounded by erotic paraphernalia.

I was driving in the car this morning. I was listening to a program from Norway, and the person was explaining this great celebration in Norway that comes just before Lent and so on. And as it went on through the thing, the gentleman asked the reporter, he says, “And what is your most memorable experience of these feasts in Norway? What have you enjoyed the most? I mean, is it the food or the architecture or whatever it might be?”

“Oh, no, no,” says the girl. She says, “The most memorable one is the reading of erotic poetry.” She says, “They all gather in a large square, and man after man and woman after woman stands up and reads out all this poetry.”

I thought to myself, “Even if that was my favorite thing—which, God help me, it wouldn’t be—but if it were, I’m not sure I would wanna tell everybody on the radio this was my best shot.”

But the thing is, the guy didn’t blink. He’s like, “Oh, yes, yes! Oh, that must have been quite fantastic! Oh, yeah!”

I said to myself, “I’m an alien. I live in a strange world. That’s abhorrent to me.”

Well, do you think these guys…? They got Diana of the Ephesians. They got the whole sexual revolution going on all day, every day, right in their town. And they’ve been called to belong to Jesus and to live in holiness. What are they gonna to do with their families? How are they going to bring up their children? What about their friends? Some of them are actually getting involved with that Diana stuff. What about their employment? The culture’s going south. Oh dear, oh dear, everything’s terrible!

Now, each area of those kind of concerns is entirely understandable and may in itself be an occasion for prayer. Paul, to the Philippians, says we should pray about everything. Don’t forget to pray about everything. Tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers—the Living Bible paraphrase of Philippians 4:4–6. Yes! But fascinatingly here, he’s not praying for their health, he’s not praying for their employment, he’s not actually addressing any of those practical issues. He’s praying that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened so “that you may know what is the hope,” first of all, “to which [you have been] called.”

You say, “Well, that’s not very practical.” It’s intensely practical! And one of the reasons for the predicament of conservative evangelicalism, if I may say to you kindly, is a failure at this very level. Everywhere you go to preach and teach, the people are always saying, “Why haven’t you told me what to do? Why haven’t you given me something practical? Why are we not ticking the boxes, as it were, of all of my felt needs?”

And part of the answer to that is in the prayer of Paul. “What you really need,” he says, “is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” You need to know God. You need to know God. You feel yourself alone and left, and you don’t have friends, and nobody, apparently, is paying attention to you, and you do your Instagram and you only get one response, and that’s from your Labrador dog, and you feel yourself alone in the world, so you want to come and have somebody help you and hold your hand. Let me tell you what you need: you need a knowledge of God! You need to know “the hope to which he has called you” in the Lord Jesus Christ. You say, “Well, that doesn’t seem very practical.” Let me tell you, that’s exactly what it is.

What is it that these people needed this week in the hospital? They need a knowledge of God. Who is God? He is the Creator and the Sustainer of everyone and everything. What kind of God is he? He is a kind God; he is slow to chide and he’s swift to bless. What kind of God is he? He’s a God who understands our needs and provides for our needs and answers our needs. See what he’s praying? “That you might know. That you might know these things.” In other words, that the reality of what it means to be united with Christ and the benefits of what it means to be in Christ might be embraced by them and then might be lived in the light of them.

I was greatly encouraged last Sunday night in our prayer time by a number of things, but not least of all by the fact that the prayers had a strong flavor of this—a strong flavor of this. A realization that this is about the business of the kingdom and that our eyes need to be opened to understand.

Now, we won’t get any further than the first, I think, of these three things, but you will see that he identifies three of them: “the hope to which he has called you,” “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” and “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward[s]” those “who believe.” He’s very specific.

“The Hope to Which He Has Called You”

“That you may know what is the hope.” “Well,” someone says, “well, wait a minute. How can you know the hope? I thought hope was all about uncertainty: ‘I hope I don’t trip. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. I hope the stock market rectifies itself,’ or whatever it might be.” So it’s got no sense of being able to deal with it at all. No. You’ll go wrong if you think of it in that way. The New Testament, when it uses “hope” like this, knows nothing of uncertainty. The hope to which he refers—“that you may know what is the hope”—it is the assurance of a reality that they have not yet fully experienced. The assurance of a reality that they have not yet fully experienced. They have been brought into the promise and security of it; it is not in doubt. Those that he predestined he also called to be conformed to the image of his Son.[12] That which he has begun he will bring to completion.[13]

Now, he says, “I am praying that you might actually know the hope to which he has called you in Christ Jesus.” He doesn’t simply mean intellectually, but he means both intellectually and, if you like, viscerally, experientially—objectively in the truth that is conveyed, subjectively in the reality of that truth taking a hold of my heart.

“I’m going to die one day. What is my hope? Well, my hope is in the resurrection of Jesus.”

“Well, how do you feel about that?”

“Well, I don’t know how I feel about it right now. What do you want me to say? What matters is, is my faith there? Is that my hope?”

Now you see, this comes across at funerals very clearly. That’s why funerals, I think, are a wonderful opportunity for the gospel, because people haven’t a clue what they’re doing most of the time. And I often have people come to me after the words of committal, and they say, “Well, I don’t see how that works.” And what they’re referring to is this, in the words of committal: “Forasmuch as it [has] pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to [receive] unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed: we therefore commit his body to the ground; … ashes to ashes, [and] dust to dust”—here we go—“in [the] sure and certain hope of … eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[14] And some bright ten-year-old always comes to me afterwards and says, “Well, wait a minute. How can you have a ‘sure and certain hope’? Aren’t they antithetical? If it’s hope, it can’t be sure and certain; if it’s sure and certain, it’s not hope.” So I have to explain to him: “Now listen here, Colin. What it’s referring to is a reality that is absolutely assured that is not yet fully experienced.” And it is on the strength of that hope that we approach our own demise. And it is the absence of that hope which pervades secular funerals here in America.

Some of you may read Joe Queenan in the Wall Street every so often. He’s written a number of books. He’s a funny fellow; he’s a little bit cynical, but very clever as well. And in one of his books called Balsamic Dreams—which is an older book now—he wrote in a chapter there about the baby boomer generation, of which he is a part, and the way in particular, he says, they have attempted to cover up and to deny the pervasive sense of hopelessness which is part and parcel of the average funeral. And he goes to some length to take on the deal, and he says, unable to face the reality of our mortality, we turn it into a party; we turn it into a video show; we turn it into whatever we can turn it into to try and deny the reality of death itself.[15] Why is that? Well, when we get to chapter 2, Paul is going to remind those to whom he writes that they were formerly without God and without hope in the world.[16] No God, no hope: n-o, n-o. Know God, know hope: k-n-o-w, k-n-o-w.

So here’s the real thing: Do you have this hope? Is this descriptive of you? Have the blessings that God has provided in Jesus laid hold upon your heart and mind in such a way that they have become personal to you? That in every realistic sense, your entire confidence, both in life and in death, is grounded in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ? And if not, can I ask you what your plan is? I mean, what is your plan?

Whether you die as a believer or as an unbeliever, you are going to be raised from the dead. When you get raised from the dead, that’s you forever, either in the presence of God, which the Bible calls heaven, or absent the presence of God, which the Bible calls hell.

Let’s just be straightforward for a moment. You’re not supposed to talk about this; it gets people upset. But the Bible says that when we die, we will meet God. Right? We got an appointment. So therefore, whether you die as a believer or as an unbeliever, you are going to be raised from the dead. When you get raised from the dead, that’s you forever, either in the presence of God, which the Bible calls heaven, or absent the presence of God, which the Bible calls hell.

The story of the Bible is the story of a God who seeks out people who are hiding from him. Adam and Eve: the thing goes pear-shaped; as a result of their rebellion, they are now hiding in the deeper part of the garden. God doesn’t say, “Well, fair enough, go ahead and do what you want.” No, he comes. He says, “[Adam,] where are you?”[17] He comes to those of us who are hiding from him, and he says, “Hey, why are you hiding? Don’t you know the provision that I have made for you in Jesus? Don’t you know that I have loved you to such an extent that I sent my Son to take the place of your judgment so that you need never fear judgment on that day? Don’t you know that I have made this available to you?” The person says, “Well, yeah, I guess so. I mean, my wife, she kinda likes that stuff, but for me… nah, I don’t think so.” Or, “That’s for my dad, or my sibling.”

Well, let me ask you, then: “Oh, sinnerman, where you gonna run to? Where are you gonna run to on that day?” It is a day that is absolutely fixed, it’s going to be entirely fair, and it’s completely final. I mean, if I can’t woo you by the immensity of the endearing love of God, let me at least try to scare you off the fence.

Now, be sensible. You have an insurance policy, Mr. Businessman; it’s for way more than you’re worth. You understand that. Why have you taken that out? Because you know you’re going to die. When you die, there is yet more to come. Listen to the picture of those who said no to God’s salvation in time and then they tried to hide from God when the chips were down. Revelation 6:15: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’”

Loved ones, when we sing about the wrath of God and Christ bearing the wrath of God, this is what we’re singing about—that Christ has entered into time to bear in himself the punishment that we deserve and to grant to us a forgiveness that we don’t deserve. And faith is a decisive act, and it is a sustained attitude. It has to have a beginning. There has to be a point at which you say to yourself, “I’m in. I’m on. I trust. I believe.” If you don’t, then get ready to join the group in Revelation 6.

What an irony! You’re going to ask creation to hide you from the Creator? You’re going to ask the rocks to hide you? Did you never hear the hymn? “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”[18] You see, there is no refuge from him, only in him. In him! And that’s why as long as you have life and you have breath and you have ears—if you would only listen with all the ears of your heart, if you would only look with all the eyes of your heart, if the Spirit of God will illumine your mind—then today would be the day when you would be able to say, “You know, I once was blind but believed I knew everything. I was so smart, you know. I was this. I was that. I had it done. And then something came knocking on my door.” Maybe a grandchild. Maybe a little hymn. Maybe a friend with a book. Maybe somebody’s life unraveling and them testifying to faith in Jesus. And you said to yourself, “You know what, I better consider this.” But my friends, if you don’t, that’s what awaits you. Call on the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, kill us!” They can’t kill you. You’re gonna live forever. The only question is where.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d be making my plans real soon. I wouldn’t be going out of this door saying, “You know what? I’ll take my chances.”

God in Christ reconciles the world to himself, and he invites you to receive that reconciliation.

Again I say to you, this is not mindlessness. This is not taking your head out of the game—some leap into esoteric subjectivism. This is actually the same process that you use in your business or in your science or in your reading of a novel. What are the facts? The facts are these: God in Christ reconciles the world to himself, and he asks you, invites you, to receive that reconciliation. He was “not counting their [sins] against them”[19]—2 Corinthians 5—because he was counting their sins against him. And therefore, it is in him that our confidence lies.

I don’t know why it is I’ve been thinking so much about death this week. I guess it was the loss of Perry and all that went with that. You folks who are medics deal with this all the time. It’s amazing that you do and can, but… You know, I found myself rehearsing M’Cheyne’s lines:

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
It is enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.[20]

What makes that true? The strength of your conviction? No. The trustworthiness of his promise: “I’m going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to myself so that you might be where I am.”[21]

Do you remember when you were fourteen, and it was freezing, and your father knew you had to be home by a certain time, and he made your bed up for you? In my case he put a hot water bottle in my bed. I can still remember the thrill of that: “How kind of you, Dad! You prepared this for me?”

“Yeah. I was looking forward to you coming. I got your room ready for you.”

The resurrection of Jesus, the ascension of Jesus, the promise of Jesus: “I got your room ready for you. You coming?”

Sorry. Went on a little bit. Let’s pray:

Look upon us, gracious God, in your mercy and in your grace. Grant that the eyes of our hearts may be illumined. Some of us are not buying this story. Some of us are wandering and wondering. Some of us are ready to get right down off the fence and take our stand with you.

Accomplish your purposes, Lord, we pray. We sow the seed. We can water it a little by our prayers, but only you can make it grow. Hear our prayers, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

[1] Stuart Townend, “I Will Sing of the Lamb” (1997).

[2] John Newton, “Amazing Grace! (How Sweet the Sound)” (1779).

[3] Acts 9:18 (ESV).

[4] Acts 9:5 (ESV).

[5] 2 Corinthians 3:14–15 (ESV).

[6] Paul Joseph Baloche, “Open the Eyes of My Heart” (1997).

[7] Edward Mote, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” (1834).

[8] Eliza E. Hewitt, “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” (1891). Lyrics lightly altered.

[9] Wayne Watson, “People of God” (1982). Lyrics lightly altered.

[10] C. H. Woolston, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

[11] Gloria and William J. Gaither, “The Family of God” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.

[12] See Romans 8:29–30.

[13] See Philippians 1:6.

[14] The Book of Common Prayer.

[15] Joe Queenan, Balsamic Dreams: A Short but Self-Important History of the Baby Boomer Generation (New York: Picador, 2001), 97–98. Paraphrased.

[16] See Ephesians 2:12.

[17] Genesis 3:9 (ESV).

[18] Augustus Toplady, “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me” (1776).

[19] 2 Corinthians 5:19 (ESV).

[20] “Lord, It Belongs Not to My Care,” originally written by Richard Baxter (1681). Lyrics lightly altered.

[21] John 14:2–3 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.