Good morning, saints! Good morning, sinners. Anybody feel like a saint today? Anyone feel like a sinner? That’s just where we are, isn’t it? We live in a world in which we know that God is at work within us, but we still have evidence that we’re not the finished product yet. That evidence is all around us every week. That’s what I want to talk to you about.
For the past five or six weeks, we’ve been looking at why God has put us here on earth. You’re here for a purpose, but it’s not about you. It’s about bringing him glory, about being part of something bigger than your own plans and goals and dreams. We’ve talked about worship: about walking with God just as Enoch did. We’ve talked about connecting with others in relationship; connecting in such a meaningful way that it could be said of us, “See how they love one another.” We’ve talked about growth: how it doesn’t happen automatically, and how it’s not about more head knowledge as much as it is about apprenticeship. We looked at the contributions we can make; that we all have been called to serve him, not just pastors and religious professionals. We’re all called. We talked about spiritual conversations – living this out not as a sales pitch, but in normal conversations that seem to come up all the time without our help. We don’t need to give a packaged presentation as much as simply be prepared to have a normal conversation. People are immune to sales pitches but they love to have spiritual conversations when they’re honest and authentic.
Now we’re at the end, and you’re brand spanking new. Right? Maybe not. Not many of us have been completely transformed by a book or a sermon series. Not likely. Maybe some of us would say we’ve been helped, or – let’s be honest – some of us might even think it’s a waste of time. That’s why I want to talk to you today.
I try to be pretty honest about where we all stand. At best, we’re a mess, aren’t we? I don’t like to do a lot of pretending, and the fact is that all of us have unresolved issues and flaws and all sorts of reminders that we should keep our feet on the ground. Not many of us think that we’re saints with halos. Today, though, I do want to give you the other side. You’re more than a mess, and even on your worst days, there’s something we need to know. My prayer is that God would open your eyes to what I’m going to talk about.
If you’ve got a Bible, let’s look together at Ephesians 1. As we read this, let’s remind ourselves that this was written to real people with real problems. They had kids and jobs and needed to take baths. They lived in a city we’d consider small but they considered big – about 250,000 people lived there. Paul writes to a group of Christ-followers and tells them that they’re more than just people with kids and problems and dusty feet. His prayer for them is my prayer for you as well: that God would open your eyes to who you really are.
Anyone ever get so excited that you trip over your tongue? The English translations do a good job of masking it, but Paul gets so excited in this passage that he stumbles a little. He gets carried away. It’s not hard to see why.
In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul paints the big picture of what God is accomplishing in this universe. Here’s the wild thing: it involves us. As much as it’s not about us, we get supporting roles in what God is doing. Even when we don’t feel particularly holy or useful, God is at work in and through us.
We could spend hours going through this passage. Some preachers have spent years studying this incredible book. Today, I want to give an overview of what Paul says is true of all of us who are on the road following Jesus, before I pray the simple prayer that Paul prays at the end of this chapter. I’m going to pray that God would open your eyes to the spiritual reality of this passage.
Loved and Chosen by the Father
Paul starts with God the Father in verses 3-5. Let’s read the passage together:
How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ. Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.
This is completely about God. It’s according to his plan, and it’s all for his pleasure. We get an insight into God’s unchanging plan, his overarching purpose throughout all of history.
Although it’s all about God, we’re part of the story. We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms”. It’s all there, and it’s all ours. There are these websites that list all the dormant bank accounts that have huge bank balances left unclaimed. Evidently, there are people who have lots of money who either forget what they have or else something happens to them. We’re like that. As messed up as we are, we’ve already been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. It’s ours.
The next part really gets me. Most of us either tend to think too much or too little about ourselves. This next part sets both types straight. We were on God’s mind before he even made this world. He “loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes”. You want to talk about a concept that can blow us away – this is it! God chose us for a relational connection before we even saw the light of day, before the light of day even existed. We’re part of God’s plan. He loved us and chose us not for our own sake, but because it gave him great pleasure. Because of him, not because of us, we’re blameless in his eyes. We’re pure and holy, not because we’re pure and holy but because God has given the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us.
We’re adopted. Adoption means more than just entering a family. It means giving up one’s old family as well as gaining all the advantages of the new family. Under Roman law, adopted children were given the same status and privileges as the real ones.
That’s who you are. Are you a mess? Just ask your family, your co-workers, your friends. Sure you are. But you’re also chosen by God. He knew and loved you before he even created this world. You’re spotless in his eyes. He’s given you every spiritual blessing. He’s adopted you as his own child, with all the rights and privileges. You’re part of God’s eternal purpose.
Blessed in Christ
Verse 6 begins to list some of what’s happened to us as a result of God’s plan. It talks about our present experience. This isn’t about what will happen to us one day. It’s what’s happening to us right now, as you’re breathing and getting hungry and living life. It’s not about the future. This is your present reality.
So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
God’s secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to his good pleasure. And this is his plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ-everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because of Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as he decided long ago. God’s purpose was that we who were the first to trust in Christ should praise our glorious God. (Ephesians 1:6-12)
What God purposed from eternity, he accomplished through Christ. We’re enjoying all of this right now. We’ve been set free. We’ve been forgiven. You haven’t just been forgiven of the sins you’ve already committed. You’ve been forgiven for sins you haven’t even committed yet, for sins you don’t even know about.
We’ve been let in on God’s plan – the meta-narrative of history, or the overarching story that ties all other stories together. We know how it’s going to end. As much as we don’t understand all the sub-stories and how they fit into the grand story, we do know the big picture.
We don’t just know the story. We’re part of the story. Eugene Peterson translates it this way:
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. (Ephesians 1:11-12)
Sealed by the Spirit
Here’s the best part. We can’t mess it up. We can pretty much mess up everything in our lives, but not this. I don’t pretend to understand how this works, but the end of our story has already been written. We’re signed, sealed, and delivered.
This is the insight that explains why we’re more than a mess. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Read verses 13-14:
And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.
From The Message:
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free-signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
The Spirit is the down payment, the guarantee that what God has done within us will be completed. He’s the assurance that the God who began his good work in us will complete it, and one day we will be the finished product.
So here is my prayer for you. Paul wrote these words to flesh and blood people, who were busy raising kids and making a living and living life just as we do today. His prayer for them was that God would open their eyes to what is already true about them.
Today, as we get to the end of this series on God’s purpose, and as we juggle our families, our jobs, our finances, and everything else, my prayer for you is that you would see yourself as God sees you: chosen, loved, adopted, freed, forgiven, part of his plan, signed, sealed, and delivered.
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms…
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen. (Ephesians 1:18-20; 3:16-21)