Catching a Glimpse Behind the Curtain

Preaching through the first chapter of Ephesians isn’t easy. The whole chapter is packed with big ideas, abstract concepts, central doctrines to the Christian faith, and some talk about this “predestination” stuff. If you read a good commentary or study on the book, you will discover that the introduction is notoriously long and dense. Then you discover that the “Thanksgiving and Prayer” section is just as daunting.

The Epistle that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church (and likely the surrounding churches) is a soaring summation of so many of the central tenants of our faith. It is beautiful. It isn’t always easy to preach.

Last week I finished chapter one. I have spent the last 4 weeks trying to make the chapter accessible to a congregation while not losing the powerful and overwhelming theology of the text. That isn’t always an easy balance to strike. It takes a fair amount of work and prayer, and then it takes a lot of out of you to do it. But this morning I received a text about one of the teenaged girls in our church who is new to the faith and who has endured things that no human should have to endure. The text read:

“Yesterday one of our girls said, “During the sermon Sunday I wanted to stand up and say, ‘I love Jesus so much!’” Pastor, that is huge!! Rejoice!!!”

Moments like these make we want to do it all over again next Sunday. I have done this long enough to know that my cleverness or capability isn’t what induced that response. I did work hard, but only the Holy Spirit has the power to pull that out of anyone’s heart.

1 Corinthians 12:3b “…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.”

These moments also reinforce a few priorities for me.

People don’t always want the most watered down, easy-to-swallow version of the faith. A lot of conventional wisdom says people want it, and a lot of people think they want it, but something happens to the human heart when it is confronted with the truths of the gospel in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying sermons need to be seminary lectures. I am saying that we should not shy away from talking about the big ideas.

I need – I mean, really need – the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. The reaction cited in that text is exactly the kind of thing pastors want from week to week. We pray for it, work for it, and try to figure out how to get it from people. But in the end, we are only willing and available vessels for the work of God in the hearts and minds of His people. I need to decrease so that He may increase (John 3:30).

It really is worth it. I know that most weeks our reactions to our own services are a little like the coach telling the team, “At least we didn’t embarrass ourselves this time.” The temptation to feel like it isn’t worth it is real. Then, as God sees fit, these kinds of encouragements land in our laps. God lets us catch a glimpse behind the curtain of what He is up to. And it is good.

Keep it up, pastor. Make a big deal out of Jesus and let the Spirit do his work.

Keep it up, pastor. Make a big deal out of Jesus and let the Spirit do his work.

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