The Blessings Continue
September 18, 2016 | Randy Smith
The Blessings ContinueEphesians 1:7-10
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
You can learn a lot about our society by doing word searches on the Internet. It's a great way to tell what the majority of people consider most important.
This week I did a search for "everything you need." The overwhelming top hit, capturing almost every listing on the first page was everything you need to know about Pokemon Go. And it went on, page after page.
What I was personally looking for was nowhere to be found. Actually, what should interest all people most of all was nowhere to be found. It seems people don't sense the need of what they need most of all.
"Lick," "Hyper Beam," "Dragon Breath," "Frost," and "Blizzard" might be great finds for Pokemon, but how far will they get you in this world and in the world to come? How can we be so deceived to disregard the essential and spend so much energy running after the trivial? Ignore reality and pursue only fantasy.
You see, a relationship with God is what gives life meaning and purpose and direction. The tragic thing is that we don't want this and really have no idea how to achieve it if we did.
Some try, but few realize that God's not impressed with our religion. He's offended with our arrogant attempts to make ourselves right with Him. Bottom line is we can't. He is holy and we are contaminated with sin. The only hope we have is if God choses to love us and extend that love through mercy and grace. And He did exactly that at a tremendous cost to Himself to give us a tremendous gift.
Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 1 John 4:10, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Ephesians 5:2, "And walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
This is where most people do not get it. How about those who call themselves Christians? Most are familiar with these verses. They understand and accept the biblical truth that Jesus came to die for our sins and purchase for us the promise of everlasting life in heaven. Yet sadly for many Christians, that's about as far as it goes. I wonder if they really get it as well. For the Christian, what exactly has we been given? The biblical answer exceeds far more than most of us could ever imagine. Or I can put it this way based on my Internet search, God has given you everything you need.
And what is that?
The book of Ephesians is a masterpiece that expounds the greatness of God. Yet right off the bat, Paul beings chapter 1 describing in detail our great blessings in Christ. He starts off in verse 3 saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."
Imagine it like a pearl necklace. Last week we looked at two pearls. First was verse 4, that before the foundation of the world God chose to call us to Himself. In other words, salvation is entirely of God, including the ability that He gave you to express faith in the Gospel message. Spiritually dead people are incapable of choosing God. It's ultimately God's choice. His sovereignty. It's grace from beginning to end. All praise goes to Him.
Also last week we looked at, although very briefly, another pearl that is found in verse 5. The verse says, "He predestined us to adoption as sons." This means exactly what comes to our minds. Going from spiritual orphans with the devil as our father (Jn. 8:44), we have been brought into the family of God. God is our Father (as we are taught in the Lord's Prayer) and other Christians are spiritual siblings. Adoption speaks of intimacy, acceptance and provision.
This morning we will look at pearls three, four and five: redemption, forgiveness and knowledge, all mentioned in your sermon outline.
Look at verse 7, "In Him we have redemption through His blood."
Redemption, from the Greek verb "apolutroo," means a release brought about by means of a ransom. It was a common word in the culture of the day. Frequently it was used in relation to redeeming slaves, to buying their freedom through a ransom. In that case the ransom price was money.
The connotations are similar for the believer as well. Before Christ, the Bible teaches that we were "slaves to sin" (Rom. 6:6). We were in "bondage [to the] things of the world" (Gal. 4:3). We were "enslaved" to our flesh (2 Pet. 2:19). And therefore we were without "hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12).
Allow this biblical portrait to sink in. All the religious activity in the world can't fix this mess. All the good deeds we could ever do can't cover the reality of what we were by nature before Christ. We were in bondage. We were slaves to ourselves, to sin and to the devil. We needed Someone to release us. We needed Someone to liberate us. We needed Someone to set the captives free (Lk. 4:18) and pay the ransom. And who did that? Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
We were so messed up it took, as verse 7 says, the very blood of God to grant us our freedom. The life of Jesus Christ, that was the ransom price for our redemption. The Son of God chose to die. He chose to take our sin. He chose to spill His blood. He chose to face the wrath we deserved to break our chains and grant us our freedom.
1 Peter 1:18-19, "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.
It is not a flattering picture for us. Imagine you have been mistreated and abused your entire life as a slave. You have been unloved, ridiculed, lost, confused and are overwhelmed with feelings of uselessness. You are in chains owned by a cruel taskmaster. Nobody wants you and to make matters worse no one can afford you because of the price that has been set for your redemption. The auction for your release begins. Most walk away when you are introduced. The rest just stare and laugh. Only Jesus comes forward. Underserved love, infinite compassion, unlimited resources. The cost to redeem you is His blood. He gratefully pays the ransom price to purchase your freedom.
The second pearl I'd like to look at is also found in verse 7. We have "the forgiveness of our trespasses."
So not only were we enslaved, but we were also offensive to our Creator. We were born with a sin nature that found delight in opposing His will. And every time we sinned, we slapped God in the face and only stored up for ourselves, Romans 2:5, His wrath that awaited in the day of judgment.
You see, every sin we commit is a violation of His revealed law which was written as a reflection of His holy character. As the verse says, we continually "trespass" on His law, and in doing so we keep increasing our debt against Him. Every sin reveals a rebellious treason against the King of the universe. The Bible says we were "enemies" of God (Rom. 5:10). The wages of our sin was death (Rom. 3:23). And therefore we "were by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). More than anything else, we need God to forgive us.
Once again, our hearts are directed toward to the work of Christ. He chose to take our sin and the penalty of that sin upon Himself. And through His sacrifice on the cross, our sins have been eternally removed from the presence of God. We are completely forgiven. Our sin will never be held against us again.
Pretend with me that every time you sin, you owed God one million dollars. Immediately your debt exceeds the national debt. By the time you die, the number is beyond human calculation. At the judgment seat God says, "Pay up." Heaven and hell hang in the balance. You drop your head. Yet just when hope is lost, God says, "I have chosen to forgive you completely of the debt. Jesus Christ paid your penalty. You are forgiven. Enter My child into your heavenly rest."
And before I put all this together, let me show you one more pearl on this salvation necklace of blessings. Verse 9, "He made known to us the mystery of His will."
When we come to Christ, not only are we able to see things from God's perspective, but we are also forever learning about God Himself and His plan for us. The world gropes for the meaning of life. We've been given it. The world is clueless as to how to have a fulfilling marriage and raise children. We've been taught the principles. The world seeks to understand our beginning and end. We've been shown the truth. The world struggles on how to deal with suffering, afflictions and personal conflict. We've been rightly educated. The Bible is God's manual for life.
God the Creator has a purpose for you and He has a purpose for His creation. There is a master plan. Apart from doing it His way we struggle with futility, boredom, frustration, anxiety, disappointment and confusion. It's a lifetime of forcing a square peg into a round hole.
Yet God in His love has chosen to reveal Himself. He has chosen to give us the answers we need if we care to learn them and apply them to our lives. God has made known to us (verse 9) "the mystery of His will." That means apart from God choosing to reveal Himself we too would be groping in the dark as well.
Yet Paul had one mystery in mind when he composed these verses. It is seen in verse 10. "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." Do you understand what that means?
It means that God has a purpose for this world and specifically it all revolves around Jesus Christ. Even to the believer, it frequently seems as if things are spinning out of control. Even as believers we sometimes wonder if God is really working, really concerned, really making the right decisions, really aiming toward an end goal, really winning.
Here we see our fears can be put to an end. We walk by faith in the truth of this verse. That as crazy and as anti-God as things appear, God's purpose from eternity past is to find His final goal in the unity of all things in Christ.
In other words, when it is all said and done, we will see that all things are working toward the exaltation of Christ whereby He might have (verse 10) in "the fullness of the times" the recognized final authority and supremacy over all.
This is paradise lost in Adam, Paradise restored in Christ. This is present submission from His church. One day it will be future submission from the world. This is right rewarded and evil judged. This is all enemies under His feet. This is the supremacy of Christ recognized by all. Philippians 2:10-11, "So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This is moving from corruption, rebellion and division to recovery, conformity, unity. All things will be united in Christ with Him as the central focal point when not just the church, but all things, things "in the heavens and things on the earth" as Paul says rightfully acknowledge His headship.
So, pearl 3, do you feel enslaved or trapped? Realize Christian, you have set free by the ransom blood of Christ. You have been purchased at a great cost. Use your freedom to serve God and truly experience the fruit of your redemption.
Pearl 4, Do you feel dirty and unworthy? Are you experiencing guilt because of your sin? You think you are unacceptable to God? Realize Christian, all your sins, all your offenses have been taken away. God has completely forgiven you in Christ. Never will His face not be upon you and never will He hold your sins against you. Total pardon.
And, pearl 5, do you feel frustrated or confused as to how this world is going? Do you feel as if things are out of control? Realize Christian that God has a plan. It's a mystery, but He has revealed it to you. All things will one day be summed up in Christ. The King you love and serve will one day take this world back to Himself and bring complete harmony under His lordship. Remember that you are on the winning team. The One that has first place in your heart today will one day have first place in the universe.
And lastly, remember this. All these great pearls have been given to us, not because we deserved them, but because God has chosen to "bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (verse 3) while we were unworthy and incapable of achieving them for ourselves. What we could not do, He did for us. We offer nothing. These pearls of salvation are not a reward for our goodness, but entirely a display of His goodness.
Verse 4, "In [His[ love He predestined us." Verse 5, Our salvation was "according to the kind intention of His will." Verse 6, These spiritual gifts are "freely bestowed" by Him. Verses 7-8, Our forgiveness is "according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." Verse 9, We learn of God's will "according to His kind intention." So God-centered! It is all of Him!
And our response? It's not to pay Him back, but rather it's to realize all this, verse 6, is "to the praise of the glory of His grace." And that doxology leads to the duty to be, verse 4, "holy and blameless before Him."
Election, adoption, redemption, forgiveness and knowledge, and we still have a few more of these pearls to examine. What a great God that has given His children everything we need!