Friday, October 05, 2007

It's just .. like ... WOW

Inexpressible, indescribable -- utterly amazing.

In an age of hyperbole -- especially in advertising (car commercials on the radio, anyone?) -- it is difficult to use words to express the glories revealed in God's Word. Actually, it has always been impossible to contain the glories of God and His works in words, but we should always be striving to do that very thing! Theologians teach that God's Word, though holy and perfect, is a condescension to our weakness. I'm reminded of the line in the hymn, "Stoop to our weakness, mighty as thou art." I wonder how our communication will develop over the timeless ages of eternity? We will always have the joy of trying to express the wonders of our Creator and Redeemer. That will be the chief occupation and pleasure of Heaven.

This fall I began a new sermon series on Ephesians. I knew Ephesians was a wonderful book (it has always been one of my favorites), but until I began a close study for preaching, I had no idea how, well, indescribable it was. I am overwhelmed, and I am just beginning.

It struck me this week that if we could even really get Ephesians 1 - even Ephesians 1:1-13 - the church would be done with foolish compromises (worldliness), petty fights, discrimination and partiality, pride in our works, and scores of other sins and faults. This is very practical theology, because we are brought into the very purposes of God, and not just for us, for the universe.

Ephesians is about God and His work for His people. The closer you look, the bigger God's purposes in His Son for His glory in the church become. You cannot overstate how BIG this all is! I'm going to title my October 14th message on 1:7-12, "How to Fix the World" (wouldn't the modern Postmodern don't-be-too-certain-now types love that "arrogance"!). Meditate for a moment on 1:9-10:

... making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Put that together with God's purposes for the church that Paul states in chapter 3 (... so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places ...) and your vision for what Christians are to be and do should grow immeasurably.

I was also humbled again this week by the sobering privilege of preaching. I can read and re-read a passage, do the text work and read commentaries. By that point, I understand the passage. Sort of. There is something else that happens, though, when I write out what I'm going to say to the congregation and then preach it. It is then that a passage often comes alive and I really get it in my heart as well as my head. This might sound rather esoteric, but I know other preachers will know what I'm talking about (if they're expositional preachers, that is!).

Lest you think too highly of me, let me admit that when I feel overwhelmed by what I discover, I am more likely to go get another cup of coffee or go online and check my blogs than I am to fall on my knees in worship, though there has been some of that as well. There is still a sense of Exodus 20:18-19 in my still sinful heart. When the light gets extreme, I often shrink away. I wish I could consistently want to bask in that light - to stay on the mountaintop, but I am so often weak. The more I realize the magnificence of God as He is revealed in His Word, the smaller I feel.

I know that there are some people from my congregation that read my blog (or at least did until I quit for a month), so I might be sticking my neck out with that last paragraph. I'm putting it there intentionally because I want to ask you, again, to pray for me. When I am weak, then I am strong. I want to grow in the grace of the Gospel. I want to be a doer of the word as well as a hearer (and preacher). I know it is only grace that gives me delight in God's Word, and I am thankful for this great honour preaching and preparing to preach.

Who is sufficient for these things?


Dan S. said...

Great struff, Terry. I was "Amen-ing" as I read through your entire post.

I have been teaching through Ephesians for the last 21 months. I too have been coming away with the same thoughts - this letter exalts God to new, unmatched heights. All of Ephesians hinges, of course on those first three chapters. And then once you get to chapter 4, Paul starts right in on what you called "foolish compromises (worldliness)."

Your comments on preaching and preparation also resonated with me - both the triumphs and the pitfalls.

Blessings to you this Lord's Day, brother.

stauf46 said...

Thanks, Dan!

I'll be mindful when I post on Ephesians that I've got an expert reading!

Re. ch. 4 ff., we've go to get the indicative right before we get to the imperative or the imperative won't be practical at all.

Patti said...

I guess I'll have to re-read Ephesians tomorrow. I did want to say, Terry, and maybe this isn't true of you, but when I see something especially important (and it doesn't always have to be something from Scripture, but something profound or enlightening), I might do as you have said--go get the cup of coffee, etc. (maybe not read a blog!) because I savor it a bit in thinking about it in some mundane task rather than just pushing on in the reading or studying.