About five years ago, I read an article on TGC’s website about Andy Davis’ book on Scripture memory. I remember thinking, “I could never memorize a book of the Bible. I mean, he’s a preacher and works at a church. I’m working at a desk and walking around construction sites all day.” But I was curious and tend to like extreme things.
So I downloaded Andy’s (very short) book and found out that he started memorizing books of the Bible as an MIT trained engineer. The metaphorical game was changed for me. I read his simple method for memorizing God’s Word, set out to memorize the suggested book of Ephesians, and seven months later I could recite the book from start to finish in less than fifteen minutes. Oddly enough, I now serve on staff with my church and it has taken me twice as long to memorize the book of James.
When you think of the book of Ephesians, which verse comes to your mind? That we have been predestined as sons and daughters? Or the famous, “But God,” of Ephesians 2:4? Maybe you’ve even heard a wonderful sermon where the preacher brought out the beauty of the Greek word, poiema, (Ephesians 2:10) a poetic stanza of God’s glory written through sinners-made saints? You’ve probably even heard the prayer of Paul from Ephesians 3 a few times.
The odd thing is that Ephesians 1:4 and Ephesians 2:4-10 are not the verses I quote the most or continue to chew on. They are beautiful verses and I teach them as they arise. But here’s my coffee-mug verse recommendation. It’s why Paul says he has been called to preach the gospel to the gentiles:
“[It is] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10
It’s a bit long for a coffee mug, but I like a lot of coffee. We can make it work.
There is so much richness in the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to Ephesus. A part often neglected, though, is the wonder and majesty of the Church and its heavenly realities. This is no doubt a struggle for us in the West. We can tend to see the world through scientific, black-and-white lenses and so easily miss the spiritual world around us.
Or at least I can.
Last Sunday, did you walk into your local church gathering, shrug your shoulders and think, “The manifold wisdom—the many and varied wisdom—of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”? I know what I thought: “Oh no, I left my Bible in the truck again. One sec, Whit (my wife). I need to run to the truck!”
We greet the ones we love with a holy handshake, we say hi to the ones we don’t recognize and tell them we’re glad they are here, and we soak in the song and Word proclaimed. It truly is a beautiful thing.
But what if there’s more to it than that?
What if we became aware of a plan God set forth from the foundation of the world to redeem sinners, set them apart as saints, and to unite them under one Head—Jesus—as the Church so that we might proclaim the overwhelming majesty of the Father to even more than our neighbors? The church we consider ourselves members of is proclaiming God’s great wisdom and glory to majestic creatures and heavenly beings that our minds can’t comprehend.
This can change how we think about being the people of God set apart for His purposes—the Church. When the people of God love one another as intended, the world sees the glory of God. When the people of God love their neighbor as themselves, the world sees the glory of God. The church is commissioned to go from our neighborhoods to the nations for the glory of God. But that’s not the extent of its reach.
This week when you gather with followers in your local church, in missional communities, and when you love and serve your city, you are also proclaiming to a spiritual world at war that our God is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords. It matters that we show up in love for one another. We benefit, our brothers and sisters in Christ benefit, the nations are reached, and the glory of God is proclaimed in the heavenly realms.
But how does this practically shape our gathering on the Lord’s Day and throughout the week with the saints? How do we prepare ourselves to see such heavenly realities? We practice abiding. The abiding practices of prayer and scripture memory help us to see the heavenly reality of our local church.
We start by praying for the Father to give us eyes to see. We are now aware that we have these Western, non-spiritual lenses that we see the world through. In 2 Kings 6:17, Elisha the prophet asks the Lord to open the eyes of His servant to see the spiritual realm that was protecting them. We too can ask God to help us see our world in light of the spiritual battle that is taking place. Our gatherings begin with, are fueled by, and end with prayer.
Second, encourage one another to persevere in writing God’s Word on your heart. And don’t simply memorize this one-off verse in Ephesians. Memorize the chapter. It takes 10 minutes or less to practice yesterday’s verse, learn a new verse, and then put them all together. Andy Davis promises in his book that this work of memorization will also lead to a heartfelt meditation on the richness of our heavenly Father.
That’s it. And yet that is so profound. Set a weekly reminder right now to pray on Saturday night at 8:00pm for your gathering the following day. Say it with me; “Hey Siri, remind me weekly on Saturday at 8:00pm to pray for the church gathering and to ask the Spirit to remind me of the spiritual world at war.” Then, consider memorizing chapter 3 of Ephesians over the next three weeks. This might seem like a heavy commitment, but I promise this discipline of abiding will lead to greater delight in the family of God.
There is weight to the building of the Church, uniting men and women of all racial, tribal, and socioeconomic boundaries. That weight is a truly glorious thing. Paul goes on to say that this also gives us boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Him. Then Paul goes on to pray. I think it’s only fitting that we join Paul in his prayer of worship:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21
Ask the Spirit to increase the weight of His glorious Church and to help you see the spiritual realm around you. May we all feel the importance of the local church more deeply as we declare to the neighborhoods, the nations, and the heavens the glory of the one true God.