Our True SelvesRev. Philip Miller | April 30, 2023
Selected highlights from this sermon
Did you know Christians have a secret identity? By grace, through faith, in Jesus, we are sons or daughters of God—eternal beings, hidden in time. One day we will be transformed into Christ’s likeness: splendid, beautiful, radiant, and glorious. There may be times when we feel like none of that’s true of us, but in Ephesians 1:15–23, Paul shares three ways we can be confident of this truth. As Pastor Miller walks us through this passage, he explains how our secret identity will ultimately be revealed one day in glory.
I've always loved stories and movies where the main character has a secret identity, whether it’s the superhero incognito, hiding in plain sight, or the young lady who turns out to be royalty, or the young man who discovers there’s a destiny on his life. I love secret identities.
And did you know that as a follower of Jesus Christ you have, in a sense, a secret identity? By grace, through faith in Christ you are a son or daughter of God right here, right now.
First John 3, verses 1 and 2, say this, “This is what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God, and so we are. We are God’s children now, and yet what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is.”
So, you are right now in your everyday life... You are royalty incognito. You are an eternal being hidden in time. You are a titan. Right? A son, a daughter of God. You are a titan in this everyday world.
You say, “Well, but I don’t feel very much like a titan. I don’t look very much like a titan. I mean, here I am just paying my bills, and you know, trying to not worry so much, and fighting the same old temptations, and just sort of living this relatively mundane life. Titans are supposed to be different. They’re supposed to be mighty and skillful and beautiful and glorious. And none of those words apply to me. That’s not true of me.”
Oh, but friends, one day it will be. One day it will be. Jesus says one day “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43) When you see Jesus fact-to-face, if you are in Christ, you shall be transformed into His likeness, and you will be splendid and beautiful and radiant and glorious. In fact, if you were to see who you will one day be, right now if you were to see the being that you will one day be, you would be sorely tempted to bow down and worship.
You say, “But how is that even possible? How do I know this will ever even come to pass? How do I know this secret identity isn’t just wishful thinking?”
Grab your Bibles. Ephesians, chapter 1! We’re looking at verses 15 down to 23 where Paul answers that very question. This is page 976 in the pew Bible if you want to grab that. Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 15 to 23. Last time we looked at verses 3 down to 14, which was one long sentence if you recall, and we saw how God the Father chose us from all eternity past to be adopted as His heirs. And for that reason, the Son of God, Jesus Himself, redeemed us and united us to Himself with the result that the Spirit of God has sealed us and guaranteed our inheritance as children of God. We’ve been given a secret identity, sons and daughters of God, to the praise of His glory.
And now we’re going to look at a second very long sentence in Ephesians, chapter 1, verses 15 down to 23, again all one sentence in Greek where Paul shares with us how we can be confident that this secret identity that has been given to us by the Father, Son, and Spirit will one day come to be. It will come to pass. It will be revealed in glory.
So, let’s read these verses together. Ephesians 1:15 down to 23: “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.”
Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His word.
Now, in this second long sentence Paul is going to give us
- a Prayer,
- a Perspective, and
- a Power.
This is our outline for this morning: prayer, perspective, and power. Let’s pray and we’ll jump in.
Father, would You remind us of who we are, remind us of your great power that is at work on our behalf, that we will one day be revealed in glory for who we really are in Christ. This seems too good to be true, but Father, show us that it is so. We pray this for Christ’s sake. Amen. Amen.
So, first of all, the prayer, the prayer. Verse 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.”
Just pause for a moment. Paul begins this sentence with the words, “For this reason,” For this reason, which refers back to the entirety of the previous sentence, that giant sentence from 3 down to 14. In light of the fact that the Father has chosen you for adoption, that the Son has redeemed you to unite you to Himself, that the Spirit has sealed you for the inheritance that is coming your way, and in light of all that the triune God has done to make you a child of God now and forever, called, redeemed, and sealed.
“For this reason,” he now says, “I’m going to pray,” and it’s not just for this cosmic reason, theological reason, but also because something has prompted his prayer. He says, “because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints…”
So somehow, news has traveled about the church in Ephesus to where Paul is imprisoned in Rome, and he has heard an update on how they are doing, and he is encouraged. And so, he highlights two things in particular that he wants to affirm that he has heard about the Ephesian church. He says, “I’ve heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and your love toward all the saints.”
So, faith is vertical, faith in Christ, and their love for the saints, horizontal. And in Paul’s writing all over the New Testament, we always get this sort of triad of cardinal virtues, faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope and love, and here we have, “I’ve heard of your faith, I’ve heard of your love,” and now the content of this prayer that he’s giving is going to center on hope. So here we have all three, faith, hope, and love, and the hope is what he’s going to focus on in the rest of this long sentence.
Verse 17: “So I’m praying,” he says, “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 (the Father).”
Now, notice all three members of the Trinity are once again at work here in verse 17. It’s the Son whose Father is now giving the Spirit. And there’s an interesting description here of the Father. Do you notice this phrase? Paul calls Him the Father of (What’s the word?) glory. The Father of glory.
Now this is reminiscent of Moses in the Old Testament who wanted to see the Lord’s glory (in Exodus 33) and he was not able to see the full face of the glory of God. He had to be content with the trailing afterglow of God’s glory, but now Paul says he’s praying that the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of wisdom, of revelation in the knowledge of God, would be given to us. We’ve already been sealed by the Spirit, and now he’s saying, “May He come to work and act in our lives in an increasingly full way in order that we might see the glory of the Father.” The Father of glory gives us the Spirit so that we can behold His glory, know His glory.
Through the Spirit it is that we will know, really know, the glories of our Father. The glories that Moses could only guess at; the Spirit is now making known to the children of God.
Now, this phrase, “The knowledge of God,” which is the ministry of the Spirit here, does not refer to abstract theology. It doesn’t mean go to seminary and learn a whole bunch of facts about God. That’s not what the Spirit does. No, the knowledge of God here is a deep, personal knowing of God. It’s relational knowledge. It’s like when you know someone so well that you can pretty much predict how they’re going to act in any given situation. You could sort of speak on their behalf.
“Well, listen they’re not going to like that.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, I know them. I know them.”
That’s the idea here. The Spirit enables us to know God in such a way that we really get Him. Paul says, “I’m praying that the Father will give you His Spirit in abundance so that you will know His glories,” because, friends, to know the glories of our Father is to become increasingly conformed to the image of the Son as the Spirit increasingly lives His life out within us. This is all grace as we grow in the knowledge of God. And friends, our growth is grace. Our growth is grace. That’s why this is a prayer. It’s a prayer. Paul is asking for grace, a gift. The only way the Ephesian church, and we, will ever grow to know the glories of our Father in Jesus Christ is by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our growth, friends, is dependent on the Living God who gives generously to his children as we call upon His name in prayer. Amen?
So, we ask, we seek, we knock because without grace there is no growth. And so, we fall on our knees in prayer. Prayer!
Now, Paul is going to turn from prayer to perspective. Not only does the Spirit help us grow in grace and the knowledge of God’s glories, but the Spirit also helps us understand what those glories, God’s glories, mean for us as His children. Not only is God glorious, but those glories mean something to you and me as His beloved children. We need our eyes opened to see that.
Verse 18, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know...” just pause. We’re going to work through each of these phrases. Paul says... He’s praying that the Father would give the Spirit in abundance so that we may know His glories, and the only way we’re going to see those glories is if the eyes of our hearts are open and enlightened. In other words, without the Spirit we cannot see the glories of our Father, or what those glories mean for us as His children. We need supernatural power to see the realities of our Father’s glory, and what that glory means for us. We need the Spirit’s perspective on three things here.
First he says, “That you might know what is the hope to which he has called you.” What is the hope to which He has called you? What is the hope of God’s calling on our lives, friend? Well, hope, by definition, is future oriented. Right? It’s something coming. It’s not something you have. It’s something you are awaiting. And so, in the context where God in eternity past has chosen us for Himself, Jesus has redeemed us by His blood, and by grace through faith we are united with Him. That’s all done (Right?) if we’ve trusted in Jesus. The thing we are waiting for is the inheritance that is coming, the deposit, the guarantee that the Spirit has sealed us for but we’re still awaiting.
So, the hope of the calling of God is referring out to the glorious inheritance of the sons of God. The glorious inheritance that’s coming our way. And if you read over the New Testament, you will find this language everywhere.
For example, Romans 8, verses 15 to 18: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
So, there’s glory, your glory. Your glory in Christ Jesus is on the horizon.
Colossians 3:4: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Second Corinthians 4:17: “For our light and momentary troubles are working for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
Friends, as Jesus says, one day the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. One day the sons and daughters of God... We will be revealed in glory. One day this glorious inheritance will be ours. We will take possession of it when God takes possession of us. (applause)
Now this is the next Spirit-perspective we need. Next phrase. The Spirit comes and enlightens the eyes of our hearts so that we might know, second phrase, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. What are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
Now, at first blush, you might think that Paul is describing here the riches of the glorious inheritance that is coming to the saints, but that’s not what he says. It’s true that we will inherit glory. That’s coming, but what Paul has in focus here is the riches of the glorious inheritance “in” the saints, so God is receiving the inheritance here that is glorious and rich, and that inheritance is the saints themselves. You and me. God will inherit us, so it’s not our inheritance here that’s immediately in perspective, but God’s inheritance of us. So, as we inherit the glorious hope of our calling, first phrase, God now is receiving a glorious inheritance in the saints in the second phrase. So, we inherit glory, and God inherits us. Do you see that?
So, the treasure... This is amazing. The treasure that God is most looking forward to in the universe, that’s He’s most eagerly awaiting, is not silver or gold, or fame, or majesty. It is the riches of His gloriously redeemed children who will one day stand before Him, holy and blameless in His sight to His good pleasure. God is looking forward to the day when you look like His son and daughter perfectly. He longs to see you in the fullness of who you will one day become. And Paul says, “Look, I’m praying that the Spirit will open your eyes, the eyes of your heart so that you might see just how treasured you are in the eyes of your Father who is awaiting, even now, the day when you will stand holy and blameless before Him in glory.”
As you inherit your glory, He will gloriously inherit you. How beautiful is that? You are valued, friends, to the skies. You will share in divine glory. The Father will have you as His treasured possession for all eternity. And even now, He’s on the job making that future reality real right here, right now, which is the third thing the Spirit needs to give us perspective on.
The third phrase—the Spirit opening the eyes of our hearts that we might know, verse 19, “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,” What is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.
So, the fullness of God’s immeasurably great power here, Paul says, is at work on our behalf. He’s bringing the hope of our calling into reality. He’s working that, and He’s bringing the riches of God’s glorious inheritance to fruition. He’s working that. All the resources of heaven are deployed in this grand and glorious end that you might be revealed in glory before the Father conformed to the image of the Son by the power of the Spirit as children of God, to the praise of His glory.
And friends, our future is glorious. Our future is glorious. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (2 Corinthians 2:9).
And Paul says in verse 10, right after that quotation, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” Through the Spirit. Same thing he’s talking about here. We need the Spirit of God to reveal the glories of our Father and what those glories mean for us as His sons and daughters. There’s so much to look forward to, friends, if we could only see it.
I grew up watching auto racing with my dad, and I remember one time we watched a race, and I had a driver that I really wanted to win. And I was on pins and needles watching that race. You know, they just drive in circles, but I was interested in it. Right? And my guy won. It was awesome, and I recorded it. This is a long time ago. It was on VHS. Remember those things? The big cartridge with the wheels? Yeah, we had those.
So anyway, we recorded it, and so I watched it back like two days later (I wanted to experience the moment all over.) and guess what. I was sitting back with my popcorn. I wasn’t on pins and needles. I was super relaxed. Why? Because I knew my guy won in the end, and it changed the way that I... When you know the outcome, when you know the destiny, it changes how stressed out you are in the present, doesn’t it?
And do you realize, that’s what Paul is saying, that if only the eyes of your heart could be opened to see the glorious destiny, the end of the story where you stand in beauty and majesty and glory before the Father, and you are revealed as the son, the daughter of the king that you were always meant to be, if you could just see who you will one day be, you would not panic nearly as much right here and right now.
So Holy Spirit, open our eyes to see who we will be to the praise of His glory. Amen? That’s the prayer.
So, we have prayer, the perspective, and now the power, the power.
Having prayed that the Spirit would help us know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,” Paul now goes on in extended meditation of just how immeasurably great that power is. Look at the next phrase here, the back half of verse 19: “according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
He says, “Look, if you want to know how powerful God is, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you right now.” The death-defying, life-giving power of God, the immeasurably great power of God that defeated sin, that triumphed over death, that vanquished Satan, that blew the doors off Jesus’ grave, that raised Him to life forevermore, that same resurrection power is working your glorious future right here, right now. He is on the job, and not only is it resurrection power. It’s ascension power.
Look at the next phrase, “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 in the age to come.”
So here we have resurrection. We have ascension. We have enthronement. We have exaltation. Not only is the Son risen with power, He is ascended to the right hand of God the Father. He is seated in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords. As the Father says in Psalm 110, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
So here we have the risen and exalted Son who is enthroned above all—all angels, all demons, all rulers, and authorities, all Caesars, and presidents, and kings, above all dominions and powers.
“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen?
And then Paul says in verse 22, “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.”
So, you have here...you’ve got resurrection, ascension, enthronement, exaltation, and now dominion. All things are subjected to His rule and reign.
Jesus Christ, friends, is King over all the universe. He is enthroned above all. His enemies are even now being made to be His footstool. All things have been put under His feet. So, He is already inaugurated as King, and we await His return where He will consummate His rule and reign.
And one day everything will be set to rights. Everything wrong will be righted. Everything broken will be mended. Everything ugly will be made beautiful. Everything sad will come untrue. And the cosmos will be made right, but in the meantime, the Father has now given Christ as head of the church, which is His body, this is us. And a body is supposed to follow the head. Yeah? This is why having a stroke is so very painful. When the body doesn’t obey the head we have problems. Right? The body follows the head.
When the body of Christ follows the lead of Christ, the church functions as a kind of microcosm of the eschaton. One day Jesus will be King of the cosmos, and all things will be made right, but right now, the church is a foretaste of the coming kingdom. We’re a people of the age to come. Under the headship of Christ, as we obey and follow Christ, the body of Christ becomes a mini picture of what the universe will one day be like when it is set perfect and whole again in the mending of all things.
Friends, one day the fullness of Christ will fill all the earth. The glory of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. One day Christ will fill all and be in all things, but until that day comes, if you want to glimpse the glory of Jesus Christ, Paul says you find the glory of God in the church. You find the beauty of Jesus in the church as we imperfectly but as we begin to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. As we follow His lead that glory is dripping down. It is filling us up. We have His DNA, if you will. The head is leading the body, and the glory is breaking through.
Here's the point. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the Father’s right hand, and enthroned Him above all things, and exalted Him before all peoples, and subjected all of creation to Himself, beginning now in the church and ending one day with the entire universe, that same immeasurably great power of God is working in us and toward us who believe.
Our destiny, friends, is grounded. Do you see that? Our destiny is grounded. If God’s power is on the job, His immeasurably great power that we’ve already seen in the life, the resurrection, exultation, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus, if we’ve already seen that power at work. Do you realize what that means for you and me?
Our destiny is grounded.
- We will receive the hope of our calling.
- We will stand holy and blameless in His sight.
- We will be revealed as the sons and heirs of God.
- We will be revealed as conformed to the image of the Beloved.
- We will be radiant in His glorious likeness.
- We will be transformed by the Spirit’s power.
- We will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.
We will be our true selves. There’s your takeaway. We will be our true selves. Our secret identity that is ours by grace through faith in Christ will one day be revealed for all to see, and we will finally be our true selves. We will be children of God.
We were made to be children of God, created in His image. We are fallen in our sin, marred in every way. We are reclaimed. The image of God is reclaimed by Jesus Christ. It is being restored even now by the power of the Spirit, and it will one day be revealed in glory before our Father. And we will finally be our true selves, our real selves, the selves we were always meant to be, for we are chosen, redeemed, and sealed for this destiny. And the immeasurably great power of our God will make it so.
It’s like those races I used to watch. If you know Jesus wins and you get to stand with Him in victory circle in glory, it changes everything. Oh friends, that the Spirit might open the eyes of our hearts so that we might know the glories of our Father and what those glories mean for us as His beloved children who are made alive in Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray toward that end.
Oh Father, would you fill us with your Holy Spirit so that the eyes of our hearts might see the glories of who you are, the power of the Holy Spirit, the image of Christ that we are becoming? Help us to see who we will one day be, and in light of those true and real things, Father, help us to live now as people who are on the way by grace through faith in Christ, for it is your power that is working in us always. We thank you that you, in your mercy, chose us for yourself when we were yet sinners, redeemed us by the blood of Jesus Christ, sealed us with your Holy Spirit, and have given us a destiny and glory that we can count on. It changes the way we live if we could just see it, so help us, Holy Spirit. Enlighten the eyes of our heart we pray for Jesus’ sake.
And all of God’s people said? Amen. Amen.