Dare to Imagine

Ephesians 1:15-23

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Ephesians 1:15 - 23 

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,  16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,  20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.  22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,  23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

 Our hearts have eyes!

Maybe to your mind, that is almost a gruesome thought. But Paul is very clear here, he says our hearts have eyes.  He even prays that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened – opened up so that we can see.

Our hearts have eyes!

Rubem Alves, a Brazilian theologian philosopher has two large paintings on his office wall.  One is a mountain scenery, with blue skies and birds and snow and trees and cascading falls.  The painting on the opposite wall is a forest, nothing but leaves and darkness.  Rubem tells that when people come and look at the picture of the mountains, their universal reaction “beautiful!”  But when they turn to the dark painting of the forest, where the painting is leaves and darkness – their response always starts with silence.  The picture grabs their attention.  Many make no comment, others dare ask “What do you think those trees are hiding?”  They see past the leaves into the mystery of the forest.  And the reason they are curious about the mystery is because their hearts have eyes!  We have eyes that want to see things not seen, eyes that are drawn toward mystery, and eyes that want to understand things beyond comprehension.

Now we live in a time and a culture that has worked hard to make us ignorant of the eyes of our heart.  We live in an age heavily influenced by scientific thought that has taught us that only those things we can see, touch, feel, smell, taste and measure are real.  If something is not available to one of our five senses, if we can’t measure it, if we are not able to apply our faculty of reason and the rules of math and logic to it, its not really real, not trustworthy, not true.  So we say “Seeing is believing!” and by that we mean when see physical realities with our own eyes, we believe them.

But according to the scriptures, our hearts have eyes and they have the capacity to see beyond what is physically visible, and what they see is really real, equally trustworthy, and equally true.  That our heart has eyes to see comes through repeatedly throughout the scriptures. 

Even people who could see physically were blind.  According to the scriptures, it is very possible for the eyes of our heart to be blind.  To his disciples, Jesus said about the Pharisees: Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Their hearts had eyes, but they were blind.  They had been blinded by their hunger for power, their seared consciences, and their greed for gain, and their desire to control.  As Paul, who was once a Pharisee said later:  4 The god of this age has blinded their minds, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 

We need to recover from our blindness.  That is God’s work.  That is the Spirit’s work.  Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3 “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.

You see, when God by his Spirit enters our lives, one of the first things God does is restore our sight, he enables the eyes of our heart to see, he removes the blinders.  We start seeing the kingdom of God, we become people convince of things not physically seen and assured of things hoped for even though we might not see them in this life. 

What though is this faculty of seeing with the eyes of our heart?  Try this definition on for size:  This “eyes of the heart” are a Spirit enabled scripture led imagination.  Now I know that every definition has its weaknesses, but I have chosen this one for some very specific reasons. 

First of all – this seeing has to do with the imagination because imagination has everything to do with seeing in our mindscape, or what I prefer to call our heartscape.

But we have to do some redefining.  In our time and culture and modernism mindset, we tend to view the mind (and heart) as a closed system with just a few portals for influencing that closed system.  The portals of course are the senses, sight, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling – each of these senses is an access point of the closed system of the mind to the external world which is real.  In the world view of modernism, imagination is viewed as “out of touch with reality,” not connected to the outside world through the sense, something purely imaginary and therefore not real.

The biblical view of the mind and heart however, is that they are open systems, open to the influences the enabling Spirit of God, open to the Spirit enabling us to see what God has given us.  Because we are open to the Spirit – the Spirit can enable us to see in our imagination, in our dreams, in our visions truths from God.  The heart and mind however is also of the spirits of the age, the constructs of culture. That’s why our imagination has to be scripture led because our seeing can be distorted by this world and influences of evil.  By knowing the story of scripture well, we will learn to recognize what is of God and what is not from God.   

Our hearts have eyes

Now when the Spirit leads us, enables us to imagine what God has in store for us, what God has done for us, and how God is with us, when we see these pictures in our heartscape, it has the power to influence us as persons, how we behave, how we radiate with the love of God, what risks of faith we are willing to take, the list can go on and on – because out of the heart are all the issues of life.  That is exactly Paul’s point in this passage

 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. 

I will never forget Mrs. Betty, a frail, 85 year old, tiny elderly woman with fire in her eyes in the last church I served.  She had numerous health difficulties, the one which was the most dangerous was blood pressure that was at time uncontrollable.  She was in the hospital because her blood pressure had become unmanageable.  She wasn’t feeling to well so she went to the washroom, and while she was in the washroom, her blood pressure happened to fall through the floor.  She collapsed to the ground unconscious.  It took a few minutes for the nurses to arrive and with doctors to work franticly to get her back to life.  But they did a good job, when I arrived an hour later, having heard the news of her almost dying, she was laying in her bed with a very profound scowl on her face.  She was absolutely furious.  I asked her what the problem was.  It turned out she was angry at the nurses and doctors for reviving her because she had seen the glorious thrones of heaven, much like the picture of Daniel 7:9 and she did not want to come back.  She had tasted the beauty of her inheritance and glory was all she wanted.  She had seen with the eyes of her heart.

Paul prays that we will see with the eyes of our heart the glorious inheritance we have in store for us.  In your heartscape see what God has for you, dare to imagine what your future has in store and so let it influence who you are today.

Let me just add right here that like our physical eyes, for us to see anything, we need to focus.  Without focus we are blind.  So to with the eyes of our heart, without focus we are blind.  So often we choose to be so wrapped up in our day to day business that we have no time left to focus on our heartscape.  We discover in time that we may be physically healthy, but we feel like we are living in a spiritual desert, a wasteland.  The issue is focus.  To see with our hearts takes time in absolute unmixed attention, focusing on the mystery of what God is doing, has done, will do, focusing on the unseen and letting it shape who we are.

Our hearts have eyes… 

Paul goes further, he says… 

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.  And then he goes on to describe that power – its dynamite, the same kind of power that raised Christ from the dead, this power is God for us, power over everything in this world, every ruler, every force, every spiritual force of darkness.  We are called by this passage to dare to imagine in our heartscape exactly how incredibly rich and powerful we are.

Mother Theresa was a frail tiny nun with heart problems.  Every one of us would have regarded her as a weak person.   But she was incredibly powerful.  For over 50 years she selflessly helped the poor and dying of Calcutta – the reason, she saw with her heart that in serving these, she was serving her Lord, what she did for these, she was doing for Jesus.  She established 517 missions in over 100 countries.  Se won the Nobel Peace Prize.  This frail tiny nun was able to get governors and world rulers to do her bidding.  She had an intense awareness that Jesus, ruler of all was demanding that his will be done.  In her heartscape, she knew the Lord she served and so had an authority to persuade others to act on behalf of the poor.   The eyes of her heart were focused on Jesus.

Dare to imagine – that’s Paul’s call here, his prayer was that the Spirit enable us, we are called in the Spirit to dare to imagine God’s power for us, with us, on behalf of the church, for us the church.  Dare to imagine what we can do in Christ.  Dare to imagine the power over sin we have in Christ.  Dare to imagine the effectiveness of our prayer in Christ.  Dare to imagine how powerful our love can be in Christ.  In Absolute Unmixed Attention, dare to imagine.  It will change your life.  

Our hearts have eyes, focus with them. 

That is the concluding exercise of this morning’s service.  We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper together.  This is a spiritual exercise in seeing with the eyes of our heart.  To our physical eyes, this bread and this juice is nothing more than some carbohydrates and fluids.  But as we exercise the eyes of our heart, we see beyond the bread and juice, we see Jesus body broken, we see Jesus blood poured out.  And there is a very good reason to see with the eyes of our heart Jesus body broken.  Some have argued that because not a bone in Christ’s body was broken since he was the Passover Lamb, therefore we should not refer to Christ’s body broken.  But there are many different kinds of brokenness.  Christ’s body was whipped to weakness, he suffered the weight of all of our sins, the burden he carried to the cross took divine strength to shoulder and on the cross it broke him.  That was the price of love he paid.  His body gave up his Spirit into the hands of the Father.  If Christ had chosen the easy road, we would not benefit.  It is in the fact that his body broke, that he gave up his life for us, that we benefit and today glory in the cross.  And so today, we break bread.  And the simple truth about a loaf of bread is that it will do us absolute no good unless it is broken.  There are no benefits in a whole piece of bread.  To be eaten it must be broken.  And so as you partake of this broken bread, see with the eyes of your heart Christ giving up his life for you, as you drink, imagine with the eyes of your heart Christ’s blood poured out for you – because by his brokenness, by his death – we are forgiven, we are clean, we are free in his grace and able to see by his Spirit the glories God has in store for us. 

Dare to imagine.

Our hearts have eyes

(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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