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Christ's Role in the Drama of Redemption - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 1:7-12

  • 2007-09-30 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


For those of you who are visiting with us this morning, you find us having recently begun a study of Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, and I invite all of us to turn there this morning. Ephesians 1, I was thinking this week a little bit about the human body. I had some back problems, and had to get that taken care of, and so I was thinking about the body. I was reminded of the fact that of all of the parts of the human body, there is none so fascinating or complex as that pinkish gray, jellylike ball inside your head, your brain. Your brain weighs only about three pounds, and yet, when your body is at rest, it consumes almost 20% of the oxygen that the lungs supply, because it's an extremely complex mechanism, placed there by God. Scientists tell us that the human brain consists roughly of 100 billion neurons. Every day, your brain regulates some 103,000 heartbeats, and over 23,000 breaths, most of those without any thought on your part whatsoever. The brain controls and directs some 600 different muscles within your body. And it appears that the brain is where the material part of you, your human body, joins to the immaterial part of you, your soul. It seems to be at the brain that the material and the immaterial intersect. And the metaphysical reality that is there where the two intersect is called your mind.

Today, I'm going to discuss the issue of the mind. Let me make sure we're clear on a definition of it. When I use the word mind today, I mean that part of man where we deliberate, where we evaluate, where we think, and where we plan. And the Bible makes it clear that nothing is more important to your spiritual growth and to your Christian life than what happens in your mind. The Bible says that we need desperately for our minds to be renewed so that we no longer think the thoughts we used to think before Christ, but that we begin to think, as it were, the very thoughts of God Himself. In fact, part of God's redemptive plan, part of that great drama of redemption that we've been studying, was to provide for us, in Christ, the very wisdom of God. That's where Paul takes us in the next passage that we come to in Ephesians 1.

Now, we've found ourselves studying this book for several weeks. Let me go back and remind you of how it came to be. It was on Paul's third missionary journey that he stayed in Ephesus for three full years. About six years after he left Ephesus, he wrote back to them this letter. But this letter was not only intended for Ephesus, but also for the surrounding churches in the general area of Asia Minor as well, and we've gone through that in great detail. Now, when Paul begins the letter, after a brief greeting, in the very first paragraph Paul unfolds for us the purpose for which he writes. That first paragraph is actually one sentence, one very long Greek sentence. It begins in 1:3 and runs all the way down through verse 14. This sentence or paragraph is an outburst of praise to God for His great eternal plan of redemption. And in that one sentence, we find the mind of God, the plan of God, unfolded for us to see. And we join Paul in praising Him for what He's done. Now, although it is one sentence, we've noted that it can logically be divided into three units of thought, or we could say three stanzas if you like. And each of those stanzas is marked by a recurring refrain that Paul uses three times, a phrase "to the praise of His glory".

The first stanza is the role of the Father in the great eternal plan of redemption, verses 4 - 6. In verses 7 - 12 we find the role of the Son in the eternal plan, and in verses 13 and 14, the third stanza, the role of the Spirit. Now, we've studied at length that the primary role of the Father in this great eternal plan of redemption, at least the one Paul wants to emphasize here, is sovereign election. Verse 4 begins "He chose us", and everything else in those verses relates back to that central concept that "God chose".

Then we began to study the second stanza, verses 7 - 12. In verses 7 - 12, Paul outlines for us the primary role of the Son in our redemption. Let me read this unit of thought to you, beginning in verse 7, running down through verse 12.

In Him we have redemption [that is, in Christ we have redemption] through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Now in these verses, Paul outlines for us the blessings or benefits that come to each of us because of Christ's role in our redemption, in the great plan of salvation. Now, we've already studied in detail the first great blessing that Christ has been made to us. Let me remind you of it. Christ, first of all, was made to us "redemption". Christ purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We saw this in verse 7.

Today, however, we come to the second great benefit or blessing that we have because of Christ, and because of His part in salvation, the second great blessing. Not only is Christ made to us redemption, but secondly, He is made to us "wisdom", wisdom. Christ teaches us God's eternal will. God, in Christ, becomes wisdom to us and teaches us His will. Notice again verse 8. We find this great principle laid out in verse 8 - 10. Grace, the grace that,

… He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times, that is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on the earth.

Now, the theme of those verses is that in Christ, God has given us His wisdom. Maybe you've never thought about this before. We often think about our redemption. We think about the deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, the forgiveness that's ours, that's there in verse 7. But here in verse 8, Paul tells us, not only have we in Christ received redemption, but we have received the wisdom of God. And this isn't the only place Paul makes this point. This is often the theme of his pen. In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul says, "… to those who are the called [that is, those who have been effectually called by God to repentance and faith] both Jews and Greeks, Christ the … wisdom of God".

Just a few verses later in 1 Corinthians 1:30 he says, "… by … [God's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God" [Christ became to us, if you're in Christ this is true of you, He became to you wisdom from God. Colossians 2:-3 says that Paul was praying that the Colossians would have a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is Christ Himself, "in whom are hidden [that is in Christ, are hidden] all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

So, listen carefully. The great role of Christ in this eternal plan of God's is not only to provide redemption for us by His death, but also, to provide wisdom for us, in teaching us the very mind of God.

In verses 8 - 10 as we examined this gift of Christ in wisdom to us, we see that there are three assertions made about the wisdom, three assertions about the wisdom that Christ has taught us, that Christ has become to us. The first assertion that's made here is that wisdom is a gift of God's grace. This wisdom that's ours is a gift of God's grace. Look again at verse 8. Notice it begins with the word "which", which is referring back to the word "grace" at the end of verse 7, the grace "which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight…." Now, you'll notice in the English text, of course, as you look at it, there's a period after the word "us" there in verse 8. In the Greek text there is no period after the word "us". In fact, in the original letter that Paul wrote there probably would have been no punctuation at all.

So, that immediately raises the question, does this phrase 'in all wisdom and insight' go with what comes before it, or does it go with what follows it. Obviously, the translators of the New American Standard have chosen to connect it to verse 9. But there are good reasons for following the NIV and a number of other translations here and making it part of what comes before. And I'll get to those in a moment. So, we could translate it like this, "His grace, which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight."

Now, that raises the related question, and that is, whose wisdom and insight are we talking about here? Are we talking about God's wisdom that He has intrinsically, as part of who He is, or is this a description of the wisdom and insight that God gives to believers, that He gives to us? Well, because of the context, it's best to see this as the wisdom that He gives to us as a gift. Let me explain this to you. First of all, notice in verses 9 and 10 that we have been given this wisdom so that we can know the mystery of God's will. That would make it seem obvious that it's our wisdom that he's talking about, wisdom given to us by God to know the mystery of God's will.

And then if you look further, in the same context, down in verse 17, notice that Paul prays that believers will be given the Spirit of wisdom. So, it's reasonable to assume then, back in verse 8, that Paul is referring to the wisdom and insight that God gives to us. If you were to look at a parallel passage, a book written around the same time, Colossians 1:9, it's made even clearer, because there he says, "I'm praying that you will be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." I want you to have wisdom and understanding. So, back then to what Paul is saying in Ephesians 1. Let me put it all together for you. In verse 7, Paul was dealing with the issue of "grace", the theme of grace. And at the end of verse 7, he mentions God's grace, and that becomes a hinge, if you will, on which the passage swings.

In verse 7 we learned that we enjoy redemption and forgiveness by grace. But there is another wonderful fruit that comes with grace. Not only redemption and forgiveness, but the grace which He lavished on us in Christ also brings us wisdom and insight. Wisdom and insight are but other gifts of the grace of God. Now, these two words are interesting words, "wisdom" and "insight", these gifts God has given us as an expression of His grace. They are very similar, and some even see them as having almost no distinction, but in the context where they appear together like this, it's probably best to see a distinction between them, much as was true in classical Greek. Let me define them for you.

"Wisdom", this gift God has given us, refers to the knowledge of the eternal questions of life, the questions of life and death, of God, and the world, of time, and eternity, those huge questions of why. Why are we here? Who made us? What is the end of all of this? All of those questions that govern our lives practically from day to day, but are the huge questions of existence.

"Insight" is much more day to day and practical. Insight is "the practical knowledge that helps us deal with the day to day problems of life". I like the way one commentator, J. Armitage Robinson, defines them. Listen to what he says. He says "wisdom is the knowledge which sees into the heart of things, which knows them as they really are. "Insight" is the understanding which leads to right action." One, far-reaching in its implications, the other, much more practical and day to day.

Now, notice that Paul adds the word "all." In "all wisdom and insight." This is modifying both wisdom and insight. In other words, here's what he's saying. God has given to us, as a gift of His grace in Christ, every kind of, all sorts of wisdom and all sorts of insight. You say, can you flesh this out a little bit, what we're talking about here? Well, let me give you a little insight into what this means. There are some people, and you know them, who are perfectly comfortable answering with and arguing the big questions of life. They can discuss philosophy, questions of ultimate existence, they are happy to delve into all the fine nuances of the great theological questions that stump most theologians, but they are thoroughly inept when it comes to living the practical Christian life.

Others know the ins and outs of living. They can get around in life pretty well. But they lack any understanding of life's big questions, of the grand questions of why. Why are we here and who made us? And where are things going? But here's the wonder of God's grace. In grace, God has given us both "wisdom and insight". I like the way William Barclay puts it, "Christ gives to men the ability to see the great ultimate truths of eternity, and to solve the problems of each moment of time." Christ helps us solve both the problem of "being", and the problem of "living". So as a gift of His grace, God gave us wisdom and insight. As we will see, God does this through His word.

But first we need to look at the second assertion that Paul makes about wisdom, here. This one is not explicitly stated. Rather it's implied here, and throughout the rest of Paul's writings it's stated explicitly. And so, it lies beneath the surface here. Paul would have taught the Ephesians, having been with them for three years, he would have taught them this great reality. So, the second assertion. Not only is wisdom a gift of God's grace, but secondly, wisdom is an essential of our spiritual growth, wisdom is an essential of our spiritual growth. Notice, he says God lavished grace upon us in all wisdom and insight.

By stressing to us that God's grace not only provided redemption, not only provided forgiveness, but also wisdom and insight, Paul is underlining just how important this is for us. Think about this for a moment. Maybe you've never considered this. Paul is saying that we needed God's wisdom just as desperately as we needed God's forgiveness. What Paul is essentially saying is this: the mind, and the work of God in the mind, is crucial in the Christian life and experience.

Now, to fully appreciate the point that is involved here in what Paul is saying, I need to take you on a brief journey through what the Bible teaches us about the mind, about our minds. So, get on board, and stay with me here as we look at exactly what it is the Bible says about your mind, that part of you that deliberates, that thinks, that evaluates, that plans. First of all, understand that our minds, that immaterial part of our being, our minds, are reflections of God's mind. You understand that the Scriptures teach us that God has a mind that does exactly what your mind does, only perfectly? In fact, we're told the Father has a mind, Romans 11:34, the Son has a mind, 1 Corinthians 2:16, and Romans 8:27 tells us the Spirit has a mind. So, our minds are but reflections of the divine mind. We could say it like this. Part of what it means that God made you in His image is, that He gave you a mind.

You remember from the very beginning this is what distinguishes man from the animals. In Genesis 2:19 and 20, God puts Adam there in the garden and marches all of the animals in front of him. And Adam names all of the animals, because he had the capacity that God had given him that was a reflection of the nature of God, a mind that could think and evaluate and communicate and plan. In Job 38:36, the Lord is speaking to Job, and he says, "Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, or given understanding to the mind?" It's a rhetorical question, the obvious answer God intended Job to come to was Me. I've done that. Your mind is a reflection of me. You're made in my image, and you have a mind to evaluate, to think, to deliberate, to plan. And understand this, we were made to love God and to serve God with our minds.

You remember that when the scribe came to Jesus asking how he could inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him what he thought, and he repeated to Jesus the great commandment. He said to Jesus, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind." And Jesus said, you're exactly right. You see, you and I were made to love and serve God with our minds. But here's the tragic news. At the fall, because of the sin of Adam, our minds became terribly and irreparably damaged and distorted.

I don't have time to take you to each of these passages, but listen to what the Scripture says about the minds of those who are unredeemed, those who are unregenerate. The Bible says that lost people have debased minds, Romans 1:28; hardened minds, 2 Corinthians 3:14; blinded, 2 Corinthians 4:4; futile, Ephesians 4:17; darkened, Ephesians 4:18; hostile, Colossians 1:21; deluded, Colossians 2:4; deceived, Colossians 2:8; sensuous, Colossians 2:18; depraved, 1 Timothy 6:5; corrupted, 2 Timothy 3:8; and defiled, Titus 1:15.

Not a very pretty picture of the human mind, and yet the Bible says that is what the mind of every unbelieving person looks like. That's what your mind was like before you came to faith in Christ. Sadly, tragically, what goes on in our minds reflects who we really are, and sets the course for what we will become. And so there's no hope for us. Proverbs 23:7, a verse you probably heard quoted all of your life, it's in the context of someone who is thinking one thing and doing something else. It says, 'as he thinks within himself, so he is" What's going on inside is an accurate reflection of who you really are. Proverbs 27:19 puts it this way, "As in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man."

He's saying, if you come up on a still pool of water and you look down in that water, and as it reflects your image back into your face where you can see it, in the same way, if you want to know what you really look like, look at your heart. That's who you are, and it maps the course for who you will become. Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 15:18 and 19. He said the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, in Hebrew terminology encompassing all of that inward part of man, the immaterial part of man, and those defile the man. What comes out of his heart. For out of the heart come evil thoughts and murders and adulteries and fornications and thefts and false witness and slanders. Well, our problem lies in our inward being, in that metaphysical part of us called our minds. We are flawed in how we think.

And understand this, that even after salvation, the struggle is still in the mind. That's where your struggle lies. It lies in your mind. In Matthew 16:23, you remember that when Peter got in the way of our Lord's mission to die on the cross, Jesus turned to him and said this, Peter, get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to Me. For here's the problem you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's. Your mind is not thinking properly. That's your problem here, Peter. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul tells the Corinthian church, … I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ"

He says, listen, I'm afraid for you. And I'm afraid because there is a battle on for your minds between the truth and falsehood. This is the same reason, in Ephesians 6:17, Paul is describing the armor of God that we're to put on. We will get there although I'm making no promises when that will be. In Ephesians 6 he says, I want you to put on the helmet of salvation. He's pulling from an Old Testament passage in Isaiah where he's essentially saying this: I want you to protect your mind from Satan's attacks, especially the attacks of doubt and discouragement in reference to your hope of salvation, according to the Isaiah passage. So, our minds continue to be the ground of struggle.

But here's the good news. As a result of your salvation, if you're in Christ, you began to experience a radical change and transformation in your mind. In fact, the key part of the process the Bible calls sanctification, being made more like Jesus Christ, being made more holy, the key part of that process takes place in your mind.

Let me show you this in several passages. Turn with me to Romans 8:6. Let's start in verse 5. Paul has already described the wonderful way of salvation in the first part of the book, justification by faith in Christ. In chapters 6 and 7, he's described our ongoing struggle with sin. And we come to chapter 8, which gives to us the wonderful security that we have in Christ, in the Spirit. But notice how he describes what we used to be compared to what we are. Verse 5 of Romans 8,

"For those who are according to the flesh set [that is, unregenerate set] their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit." [And then he gives this simple axiom.] "… the mind that's set on the flesh leads to spiritual death. [If your mind is set on the flesh, you're going to die,] "but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." [Now, verse 7, he wraps it all up for us.] "because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; it does not subject itself to the law of God, it is not even able to do so."

In other words, those whose minds are set on the flesh are those who are hostile to God, who disobey His law, and are not able to obey His law. We are talking about unregenerate people. Here's the point. That's what you used to be. But then by a miracle of God's grace, God took your mind and gave you a mind now set on the things of the Spirit, which results in life and peace.

So, a radical change began to happen, did happen, in who you were in your mind. Turn to Romans 12. Paul develops this a little more as he gets to the practical application of the great doctrine he's taught in the first eleven chapters. Of course, the familiar verse, verse 1 of Romans 12,

"I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship." [Notice verse 2.] "And do not be conformed to this world…."

Now there is a lot of theology in that phrase, and I don't have time to unpack it all, but listen carefully. The word "world" here is a different word than the normal Greek word for world. This word is a word which means "the age". It describes the values and mindset of the age in which you live. Here's what Paul is saying. Don't allow the mindset and values of the age in which you live to push you into its mold. Stop thinking like everybody around you. That's what he's saying. Instead, "… be transformed by the renewing of your mind…."

This is what the process of sanctification looks like. It means we begin to think, instead of like the world around us, the mindset of the age in which we live, we begin to renew our minds, and are transformed by that renewal. In Ephesians 4, as Paul deals with the very heart of the process of sanctification, we've been through this text in great detail before, so I won't do it again, but you'll remember that here as he describes the process of sanctification in three Greek infinitives, the first part of the process in verse 22 is to lay aside the old self and its practices. The third part of the process is in verse 24, put on the new self. Start putting on the behaviors that are appropriate to the new person you are.

But notice, between those two, the second part of the process, verse 23, that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind. As I've told you before, this is absolutely key, because if this part of the process isn't there, then all you're doing is behavior modification. You're doing nothing more than unbelievers do. Stop this and start this. Well, what has to happen for real change to take place is, you have to be renewed in the spirit of your mind. This is absolutely crucial. In Colossians 3 Paul makes the same point. Colossians 3:1. If you have been raised with Christ in new life, then verse 2, "Set your mind on the things above…." Verse 10 describes the process. You … "have put on the new self…." [and that new self, that new person that you are in Christ] "is being renewed to a true knowledge…."

It has to do with the mind. Verse 16 describes the process. It's by the word of Christ, richly dwelling within you, that is, in your mind. So that change, this change that occurs in us, this change in our minds, occurs by means of our knowledge and spiritual grasp of God's word through the work of the Spirit of God. Let me show this to you in 1 Corinthians 2. The word is absolutely central to this process. First Corinthians 2, Paul has already dealt in this chapter with the principle of revelation, God has revealed Himself.

He's already dealt with the principle of "inspiration", that God revealed Himself by inspiring His word by moving along holy men of God who spoke as they were borne along or moved along by the Holy spirit, as Peter puts it. But that's not all we need.

Okay, we have God's "revelation", His inspired revelation, but we still have a problem. Notice the problem in verse 14. … a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." He can't get it. He doesn't get the revelation, the inspired revelation of God.

How do we get it? Through "illumination", as it's called. Not revelation, not inspiration, but illumination. That is when the Holy Spirit turns on the light and allows us to grasp the truth. Notice verse 16. Here's the key. Quoting Isaiah 40 he says, "… WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD" Do you know God's mind? The answer is, in a measure, yes. Notice the rest of the verse, "… we have the mind of Christ." You know what Paul is saying? Here in this revealed, inspired book, you have the mind of Jesus Christ. You know the mind of God. And when the Holy Spirit opens your mind to understand it, to spiritually grasp it, then change occurs.

Now, I want you to understand that God's work in your mind is not peripheral. It's not unimportant to your spiritual growth. It is in fact the center, the core, the essence. You can increase, listen carefully, you can increase your biblical knowledge without spiritual growth. Sadly, there are people even in our church who know the truth but who don't practice it. We all struggle at times with that very reality, but listen to the corresponding reality. You cannot increase your spiritual growth without spiritual knowledge, without Biblical knowledge, absolutely has to be there. You will not grow without Biblical knowledge. In fact, the ultimate goal of the Scripture is to give us a full knowledge of God and His will. And this is what burned the heart of the apostle Paul. This is what he wanted for the churches that he wrote to. You see it in Ephesians. Look at Ephesians 1. He says, listen, I've heard about your faith, verse 15, your faith in the Lord Jesus. I don't cease to give thanks for you. I pray for you. Verse 17, here's what I pray.

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory [here's what I want] may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know … the hope of His calling … the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.

Paul says, you know what I'm most concerned about? You know what Paul would pray for you if he was alive today? If he were standing here in this pulpit this morning teaching you instead of me, which I'm sure would be a great desire of yours? What would he pray for you? His prayer would be the same as for these people in Ephesus. He would say, you know what I want for you more than anything else? I want you to have a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I want God to open up your eyes to spiritual truth. I want you to understand who you are and who God is, and what He's done. In Colossians 1 he prays the same thing in different words. Colossians 1:9, he says, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you [and here's what I'm praying for you, again he says] … be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding."

Have you ever prayed that for yourself? Have you ever prayed that for your spouse, for the people in your life who know Christ, for the people in this church? This is what Paul prayed. He didn't pray merely for health concerns, although we ought to pray for those. He said no, what really burdens my heart is that you would become filled with the knowledge of God and His ways.

How does that happen? Well, it happens through gifted teachers according to Ephesians 4. God has given the church teachers. You have a lot of different teachers in this church. I'm merely one of them. If you're a part of our church, then all of those people are given for your benefit to help you grow in your knowledge of the word of God, to instruct your mind. It also happens through your own serious Bible study. You're supposed to be noble, like the Bereans were, and examining the scriptures daily. You're supposed to be like Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, who was to be diligent in his study of the Scripture. And it happens through the work of the Spirit opening our eyes to see the truth, to really comprehend it and understand it. As we saw in Ephesians 1, "I pray … the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…." Or as the Psalmist in Psalm 119:18. "Open my eyes, God, that I may behold wonderful things from your law." That's how it happens, and we grow in our knowledge, our minds grasp more deeply the truth of God.

Now, why have I spent so much time showing you that the most important issue in the Christian life is what happens in your mind? The reason is because of the culture in which we live. We live in a culture that downplays serious thought and reflection for things like emotion and experience. And sadly, the American church has followed the culture's lead and has largely rejected the priority of the Christian mind. You understand that 150 years ago, if you were part of a church, you were catechized with the truth? For example, the Westminster Larger Catechism is 195 lengthy questions and answers about doctrine that the average Christian, sitting in the pew, was supposed to know. Or take the Shorter Catechism. It was written for children, and it has 107 questions. And over the last 150 years, the church has gradually jettisoned the importance of the mind as a place of priority in the Christian life.

And today, the church, instead has largely embraced two other priorities in exchange. Essentially, most churches today have substituted modern substitutes for the role of the mind. And they've substituted with two great problems. One is "emotion". One substitute for the mind in today's church is emotion. A deliberate play to the emotions and to feelings. In evangelical churches this expresses itself in many ways including, you know, long stories, tearful feel-good stories, and I'm all for good stories. I like stories with happy endings. They have a place, but not to manipulate the emotions. Or perhaps, some long invitation with a wonderful hymn like Just As I Am but, you know, you sing every verse about five times, and there's this appeal to the emotions. In charismatic churches this appeal often takes a more bizarre turn. Emotional expressions like screaming, laughing, shouting, crying are all sought and encouraged.

The other night I did what my wife always gets upset with me about when I do, but I turned on religious television. I can't help myself, you know it's like a train wreck. I don't want to look, but I have to. And I turned on a local broadcast. This is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and I watched enthralled for about fifteen minutes as they showed a portion of the service, quote-unquote, from a local charismatic church in which the same tune was sung over and over again for fifteen minutes, whipping up emotions. And people were doing all sorts of things. But the two most bizarre were, there were these two ladies, and the camera kept showing them, who, for the fifteen minutes I watched did nothing but incessantly scream at the top of their lungs. One scream after another. I was just glad I wasn't sitting in front of them. I felt so sorry for those people. But why? Why would they do that? Because they're convinced that emotion is the primary category in which the true worship of God falls. And if I express emotion, then that means something of significance has happened.

In many different kinds of churches there's repetitive music designed to play the emotions, but emotions have become a huge part of what characterizes the life of the church. Now, emotions are an important part of who we are. God made us with emotions. God has things in Him that are likened to our emotions. But God is not primarily an emotional being. God is primarily a being of mind. And He expects us to be as well.

Another saccharin substitute for the mind in today's church, not only emotion, but "experience". Seeking a thrill, an experience. In the charismatic church this looks like ecstatic speech. In the emerging church, it's medieval customs, things like candles and prayer labyrinths, and other experiences that you have.

And across many different kinds of churches, technology is today used to produce an experience. Lights, strobing lights of multi colors, all designed to give you this, this rush, this experience. Audio, blaring loud. Props designed to create an unforgettable experience. In both seeker sensitive churches and the emerging church, visual images have become all the rage. It may be props on stage, like cars and tanks, or a Starbucks espresso machine from which the minister shares his message. It may be art. In emergent services, it's not uncommon for the discussion to center on a piece of artwork that's set on the stage, or projected on the screen, and they literally exegete the piece of art work.

Another common approach is to play a secular movie clip, either as an illustration or as the source of the entire message. A local church here in our area had a series of messages exegeting secular songs, and finding the spiritual truth in secular songs. Now, there's nothing wrong with technology. There's nothing wrong with visual images. There's nothing wrong with citing a secular song as an illustration of something. There may be a place for some of those things from time to time, but don't miss the big point I'm making, okay?

If "emotion and experience" have become the focus, the center point of your faith, what you pursue, then you have strayed from biblical Christianity. They can never be and should never be a replacement for the primacy of the mind in the Christian life, because all of those other things can happen without spiritual growth. Listen, emotion and experience will not produce change in your life, because they bypass the role of the mind. Biblical Christianity is not primarily about your emotions. It's not primarily about your experiences. It is about a radical change in your mind that results in a change in your affections, in your decisions, in your habits, in your speech, and in your lifestyle. Ephesians 1:8 and 10 is, at its heart about the priority of the mind. We need God's wisdom, and in fact, all of chapters 1 - 3 are about what we need to know, what we need to understand about doctrine, about God's plan. And only after Paul has explained that, and only after he's changed our thinking, does he apply that knowledge in chapters 4 - 6 to our daily lives.

Now let me ask you to ask yourself this basic question. To what extent have you allowed the mindset of the age in which we live to push you into it's mold? What have you elevated in your own mind and experience over the priority of divine wisdom and insight? What have you elevated over the primacy of your mind in your spiritual growth, in your deep knowledge of the word and the ways of God? To whatever extent you have, you have left the path of Christ, the wisdom of God to us. Now, perhaps you realize you've left the path, or perhaps you say, look, I'm with you. This is a Bible Church. I embrace the primacy of the mind and knowledge in the Christian life.

Then let me ask you a question. What are you doing about it? If you really believe that, what in your daily life reflects that priority? How much time do you spend as a diligent student of the word and mind and wisdom of God? Let me challenge you to start this week to re-center yourself on the importance of the mind in your Christian life and experience, the importance of a mind permeated by the word of God, by doing two practical assignments. Very quickly, let me challenge you to do these two things this week.

Number one. Meditate and pray through Ephesians 1:17 - 19, that prayer of Paul's. Meditate and pray that prayer every day this week. Spend time living in those verses.

Secondly, and I've urged you to do this before, but I want to do it again in this context. Thoughtfully pray, "thoughtfully" is the key word, not repetitions that means nothing, but thoughtfully pray the words of Psalm 119 to the Lord every day this week. Set aside time to be alone with God. Take the words of Psalm 119, and pray them meaningfully back to God. And I can promise you this, if you will do that, it will re-center you away from emotion and experience back on the word of God, and a mind controlled and permeated by it. You see, what Paul wants us to know in Ephesians 1 is that Christ has become to us not only redemption, but the wisdom of God. Next week we'll look at verses 9 and 10, and how that wisdom is given to us.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, forgive us for how lightly we treat your word. Forgive us for allowing the mindset of the age in which we live to influence our thinking. Forgive us for pursuing emotion and experience as a substitute for the hard work of study and meditation and thinking.

Father, I pray that you would characterize us as believers, even as the Psalmist does, as those who delight in the law of God and who meditate therein day and night. Father, give us a renewed love for Your word. Center us again in the priority of the mind as a reflection of Your great mind. Thank you for the change You have begun, and we pray that it would continue by the power of Your Spirit, and the power of Your word. May we be individuals and a church that's driven by a word-dominated mind.

We pray in Jesus name and to His glory, Amen.