Do You See What I See

Delivered at Ward UMC and 16th Section UMCJanuary 3, 2015

“Do You See What I See?”

Eph 3:1-12

3 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for[a] Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery[b] was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see[c] what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[d] God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.[e]

Many preachers today will be using the text of the Magi visiting Jesus for their epiphany sermon, for truly the Magi represented the Gentiles and their epiphany that Jesus was the Christ. But we are going to visit instead Paul’s epiphany on the road to Damascus. The scripture we just read shows us why Paul was chosen and for what he was chosen, to reveal the mystery that the Gentiles are fellow heirs in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We all know about Paul—his Hebrew name was Saul of Tarsus and he was both a Roman and a Jew. He was headed to Damascus to round up any Christ followers he might find and carry them back to Jerusalem. But the light that we have talked about during Advent and Christmas struck him, causing him to fall down blind and Jesus himself spoke to Saul and said, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Because you see, when Christ followers are persecuted, Jesus is persecuted along with them.

Over the next few days Saul underwent one of the most startling transformations in the history of Christianity as he was changed from a man intent on wiping Christ followers from the face of the earth to preaching Christ and Christ crucified to all he met.  Indeed, Paul would write 2/3 of the New Testament, many of his letters written while imprisoned. Paul was struck blind and as the scales fell from his eyes, not only was his physical vision restored, but his spiritual eyes were opened, and he began to see people the way God sees each one of us. If a man like Paul can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the zeal with which he persecuted people who followed Christ was turned toward revealing the mystery of Christ to all people, then why cant we, too, have an epiphany that is life changing. We can.

It was 1987 and we were having a revival in our church. This was a true revival where the focus was not on evangelism but on strengthening and restoring the body of Christ within the local church. We were given an assignment—chart your spiritual progress over the past 5 years. To my surprise and dismay, I had flatlined. I was in the choir, teaching Sunday School, attending church every time the door was open, but I had not grown in 5 years. So I began to pray for revival in my own spirit. April came and went, nothing changed, May, nothing, June, nothing, July, nothing. But then came August. I was in the house alone and the Holy Spirit fell upon me. I was filled with His presence, the room was filled with His presence. I fell on my knees and the tears flowed freely. I lifted my hands toward God and began to praise Him. I fell on my face and continued to pray and praise Him until I was exhausted.

From that moment my life changed. I had an epiphany that showed me that God loved me, He was faithful and because I had sought him with my whole heart he answered my prayers to restore the passion I once had for Him. I still had the same problems, but I knew God was bigger than my problems. My circumstances did not change but the way I reacted to my circumstances underwent a huge change.

We have been charged by our Conference to pray daily for revival. We will have sermons focusing on revival, we will have a 5 week study during Lent to prepare us for revival. I have put Daily Lectionary readings on our website so that you can increase your knowledge, increase your faithfulness, and increase your passion.

We are passing out a graph that you can use to chart your spiritual journey thus far. One good measure of spiritual maturity is found in Galatians 5:22–we call them the fruits of the spirit. I have listed the Fruits of the spirit and you have a scale of 1-10 to reflect how much these fruits are active in your life.

The bottom graph gives you the ability to chart your spiritual journey.

Take some time to reflect on your journey. Are you happy with your progress? Could you have done better? And here is the big question–how much did you rely on God?

Signs of spiritual growth

We repent of our sins instead of making excuses for them

Instead of praying to get out of a situation, we pray that God would teach us through the situation

Instead of asking God to bless us because after all we are his children, we ask him to direct us BECAUSE WE ARE HIS DISCIPLES

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs for thee o lord

Do you see what I see?

I see a new year where we can put the past behind us and look forward to a glorious future

I see a  new relationship possibility with Christ where we can find that his mercies are NEW every morning

And I see a dawning of a fresh new work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches where we are delivered from darkness and into his marvelous light.

I offer you these words in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

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