September 7, 2014
"Blessings in Christ"
Pastor Brendon Wu
"Blessings in Christ"
Pastor Brendon Wu
We are starting a new book, Ephesians. Ephesians is a letter that Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ, wrote to the Ephesian church. When he was writing this letter, he was near the end of his life. Just like in Philippians, Paul was the near the end of his life. He didn’t know what was going to happen next. Was he going to be executed? Was he going to be freed? Was he going to have to live out the rest of his life in prison? He just didn’t know. So as we are reading this letter, let’s keep that in mind. That Paul the apostle is in prison! That’s really hard. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been in prison. But what’s amazing to me is that in the passage we have today, Ephesians is already a very unique letter compared to all the other prison letters that Paul writes.
If you notice in the passage today, Paul doesn’t really start off with his usual stuff. Like, “I thank you so much for this, Philippians.” Or “every time I think of you, it brings me joy”. But what we have today in the beginning of Ephesians is Paul just bursting out of the gates and giving praise to God. In the whole section from verses 3 – 14, in the original language it is actually one sentence. It’s a very long run on sentence in the original language. There are no punctuations either in the original sentence. But Paul just get’s so excited. Have you ever met anyone for the first time and instead of starting out with, “Hey, how are you?”, they rush off with starting off with an amazing story or an amazing thing that happened in their life. And they just can’t stop talking. So today what we’re going to talk about is the excitement that causes Paul to keep running his mouth and can’t help but praise God. Paul says, he is an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. And that should be really important to us because Paul is saying – he’s an apostle. An apostle is somebody that saw the resurrected Christ and just loved Him and dedicated his life to teaching about him. But he’s only an apostle by the will of God.
A lot of times we ask, “What’s God’s will for my life? Where is my life heading? Who am I going to marry? How many kids will I have?” And we think about that. But what I want us to think about this morning is what’s in scripture. Instead, of thinking about what we want for own lives is to take a look a God’s life. What God wants to do with His life. After all, God’s not somebody who had His life planned out by an academic advisor or by His parents. But in the beginning, everything started out with God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. The whole Bible is just about God and what He wants to do. So this morning, let’s take a look at what God wants to do with His life. He could do anything but what does God decide to do?
Every spiritual blessing
Paul says that he is an apostle by the will of God. He is writing to those in Ephesus. In verse 3, he starts with praising God – “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”. Pastor Kenny and I were talking the other day and wondering, “What does this mean??”. Ephesians, seems like such high octane, lofty stuff. It could be all the stuff that Paul writes after this verse. Or it could be every spiritual blessing that could be imaginable, could be fathomable to you. And actually, I think it’s both. For example, if you take a look at what Paul is saying here, what God chose to do is that “he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and the first of those spiritual blessing is in verse 4, “even as [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him, in love”. This is so amazing.
There’s gonna be some real talk here. I’m conceited. No surprise to a lot of people. Kind of superficial. We think we are so much for noble and self-less than we actually really are. Let’s say there’s a guy or a girl we’re really interested in. We haven’t talked to them yet, but we’re all like “I really care about them”. And we’re like – “God, if you’re calling me to her or calling him to me, I will obey you.” Boom. Honestly, I have yet to meet somebody that is like “I unconditionally love this person, even before I said hello to them”. I have heard people say that but man, that’s not realistic. The fact of the matter is that, you just wouldn’t go out with somebody that you didn’t have some kind of interest in. if there wasn’t some part of them that was really appealing to you or did something for you. And we’re just wired that way. I remember with my wife, during the first part of our relationship, I prayed the prayer in Gethsemane. The week before I asked her out, I spent five days just praying the same prayer Jesus prayed. “Lord, not my will. But father, your will be done. Yeah! I pray that our union would glorify you. But Lord, if that doesn’t happen, that’s okay. Your will be done. Glory to you!”. Needless to say, we got married and I guess that’s God’s will. But man, it didn’t turn out the way it we sometimes dream it up to be. And the reason why I’m going on with this example is because our love is so conditional. We think we’re selfless and unconditional but we’re selfish and conditional a lot of times. We really think that we would take a job as long as the job brings good stuff to us. We really think that we would just be committed to somebody just because somehow in us, we have all the goodness that says that – no matter what sin creeps up, I’m going to commit to them. The fact of the matter is that it’s not like that. But, God is like that.
For us, when we first get into a relationship, we really like that person. But I think that’s lust. I like this about that person. I like this about that person. But you get to a point where sin rears it’s ugly head. That job that you loved so much, all of a sudden becomes really hard to wake up for. That church you were so excited about, now becomes .. Why am I at church? Why am I here? Or a friendship becomes really hard. God, it’s hard to have the same joy that I did. God, I’m fading, fading fast. The thing with God is that, He chose us in Him. He committed to us before the foundation of the world. Meaning, before our life began, before the world began, God chose and committed to us. He loved before the fact. He loved before the sin. He loved before anything happened and could happen. God loved us and chose us before. It’s an “I love you and I’m committed to you before I even really started my relationship with you”. For us it’s, “I love you, but once sin rears its ugly head and I’m starting to see everything, maybe I’ll decide if I really love you”. What scripture is saying is that, even before any bad thing could happen in this whole world, God loved us. For us, we see one bad thing in the relationship or in the church sometimes, and we just want to run in the opposite direction. We want to do a 180 and get out of here.
There are countless times where I saw something that I didn’t like about the Bible or something that I didn’t like about church – in another words, something that I didn’t like about God, it made just want to hide. It made not want to care. It made me want to bail. It made me want to run away. And there are times in my life where I did run away. And there are times in our lives even right now, where we still want to run away. Even when we still want to hide. But that’s not God. That’s not how God chooses to live His life. In love (in this committed love) 5 he predestined us[b] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Is Christianity really about us choosing God? Is it really about us, mustering, mustering – forcing ourselves to go to church. Forcing ourselves to do A through Z, and then even more after that. Is Christianity about us choosing God? Ephesians shows us that it’s not. Everything here – it’s God who blesses. It’s God who chooses. It’s God who predestined. I don’t know if you’re spiritually tired or wiped out in some kind of way. If you’re bored in your life or you don’t know where you’re going. Just something between you and God is just not working. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re so focused on what you have to do. Throughout your whole life you think – I have to do this, I have to do that. But not with God. God doesn’t have to do any of these things but He does it because He wants to. He blesses us because He wants to. He predestines because He wants to. Even right now, as we are here hearing the word of God, God wants us to be here. And that’s God’s choosing. That’s God’s predestination. We don’t choose destiny. We don’t choose fate. God actually chooses those things for us. That’s not to say that, if we do something heinous in our lives, we can say that God made us do that. “Oh, I lied the other day. If God predestines everything, than He must have made me lie”. Or if something bad happened to us. “God, you did that didn’t you.” That’s what we think a lot of times. That’s what I think a lot of times. But what scripture is saying right here is that everything here – God is doing all these good things. In light of the fact that we ourselves don’t love God on our own, we don’t choose God on our own.
The reason why we can know that is because we have people in our lives. We have mom, dad, family, friends, people at church. Sometimes we learn something about them and we just don’t like it. And that little seed of judgment just grows and grows and grows until that seed just becomes a huge something that keeps us away from them. And we don’t want to love them. We don’t want to get to know them anymore. The way we love people is how we love God. But with God no. Through all the sin, through all of us not choosing Him, not having the inherent desire to want to be with Him and love Him, God chooses and God wants to bless us. In the beloved, God predestines us. And that’s what’s so amazing about Christianity. Christianity is not, I prayed a prayer once and then I became a Christian. I was baptized once and then I became baptized. But Christianity is the fact, maybe I did pray a prayer once. Maybe I did get baptized once. But even today as I’m standing on my two feet, and God you know just how sinful I am, even after coming to Christ – God you still love me. You still love? You still love me? You predestined me in love. You adopted me in love. You bless me in the beloved. You still love me. And because of that I want to praise you more and more. In verse 7, God goes into how He saved us. How He chose us. How He truly blessed us in the beloved. He blessed us in the beloved and in the beloved – in Christ. Scripture says that “we
have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
That’s amazing. So many of us want to live a great life. For those of us who are a little more ambitious, we would try to live the perfect life. For me, I’m a perfectionist. I hate to admit it but every perfectionist is smiling with me. I don’t know what kind of life you want to live, but how many of you want to live the kind of life where if you pumped out with your spouse, a perfect son. An amazing son that listens to you, obeys you. And you saw a kid who was imperfect, just vile, nasty, mean, not that great. How many of you would really give up your son for that kid. Just thinking about that, even on a human perspective, just blows my mind. This is how God loves us. He had one son named Jesus Christ. Perfect, beautiful, caring beyond caring. So self-sacrificing. And God would choose to sacrifice this son for us. For me. just think about your life. Look at your life. If that doesn’t hit you, if that doesn’t phase you, somehow you think you’re perfect than. Too perfect for Christ. Somehow you think you are the victim. You’ve never done anything wrong. And in my life, there are somethings that might have been done to me that was wrong. But when I look at my life, compared to how I have not loved God and not loved people in my life, it just doesn’t compare. When I see the grace, the glorious grace that this scripture is talking about, this is everything in the world. It’s the riches of God’s grace that He lavishes upon us. In Christ, we are getting showered with blessings. God’s patience, God’s love. His grace. Him choosing us and will never let us go. God choosing to love us even before He had a physical existing relationship with us. It’s just amazing grace.
Sealed with the Holy Spirit
Paul ends this section with verses 11-4. He talked about God the father. He talked about Jesus Christ the son. And now he’s talking about the holy spirit. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it,[e] to the praise of his glory. How do we know that God loves us? If you’re hearing these words, God loves you. I don’t know how much God loves you. That’s true. God chose. God predestined. It’s really up to God. At the end of the day, it’s really between God and you. I don’t know for every single one of us. But if we are hearing these words, this is the gospel. This is salvation. What Paul is saying in these final few verses is that, everything just came to this point. Isn’t that crazy? That before the world began, God. And then God created everything, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die for the church. For us. Not for creation. We are above creation. Everything that God has done has come up to this point in our life – September 7, 2014. Where are we on this day? Do we have a relationship with God? Do we know that God loves us, more than we can imagine? Do we know that?
Before these final verses, it talked about – He chose us, He predestined us, us, us. But in these final verses, Paul changes from us to you. This is a challenge for us in another words. Do we know that God has given us everything? His inheritance. All of Himself. “He predestined according to the purpose of Him, who works all things” – that’s where I’m getting September 7, 2014. “He worked all things according to the counsel of God’s will (right up until this point) so that we can hope in Christ”. Put your hope in Christ. So that we know we’re not made for this world, but we were made to the praise of God’s glorious grace. That we were made to praise God. What does that mean to you? Really, think about it. What does that mean to you? For much of my life, I spent so many years trying to praise my parents by pleasing them. I tried to live for my dad, who is a wonderful dad. Who are you living for? Are you living for your parents? Are you living for your boss at work? Are you living for retirement? Why do we follow that? Do we live for ourselves? What God is just saying, is that you’re not just created and existing. You’re redeemed through Christ’s blood! You’re meant to live a life where you know what God has done for you. And you just praise Him in return. This whole passage is just about how God loves us. God blesses us. He’s committed to us and redeems us. What do we have to do? Just praise Him. Thank God. Why are still living with that boyfriend? Girlfriend? Why are you living for that academic career? What’s academic career going to do for you in return? Hug you at night? Who are you living for you? Is he or she going to save you? You’ll either crush them or they’ll crush you. What Paul is saying is that you don’t need to search for an inheritance. You don’t need to search for everything. It’s right there in God and in His life. What we need to do is, stop worrying about our life. What we need to do is just stop asking, “What’s my personal calling?” All of us were made for God. Christ for all of us. Let’s pray.