Monday, October 15, 2012

A New Church – A New Life, Ephesians 1-2

Are you ready?  I sent out an email this past week to everybody that asked that question.  Are you ready?  The question was in regard to moving from Runaway Bay and starting a new church in Lake Bridgeport.  I was asking if you are ready to get involved and start the huge work of starting anew.  I hope you are ready because I have a confession.  I don’t think I can do it.  We haven’t even really started yet.  We just voted to do it last week and yet I feel overwhelmed just trying to start.  I am unprepared for this.  I don’t know how to do it.  I’m not trained for it.  I’ve not been educated about it and I don’t have any experience in doing it.  Top that off with the reality that I know I have made mistakes as a pastor and even in my own walk with the Lord and the fact that God’s will is sometimes a mystery.  I wonder sometimes if I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and I wonder who we are supposed to be as a church.  Sometimes I just wish I could start all of this over.   Have you ever felt that way?


The good news is that I’m right and that I already have everything I need.  I’m right in the fact that I can’t do it.  And God says in His word through the apostle Paul to the Ephesians that I already have a new life.  The even better news is that it doesn’t just apply to me and it doesn’t just apply to you but it applies to all of us as a church as well.


Paul says that we have everything we need to start a new life as individuals and as a church through the grace of God.  He says that we are given every spiritual blessing and that we are given forgiveness, and we have been adopted by God but that there is a catch to it.  We are given all of these things only one way and it is written in Ephesians over and over again what this catch is. 


Do you know what the catch is to all of these blessings?  We have to be “in Christ”.  That’s the catch.  Paul says it 11 times in just the first 14 verses.  He says, “In Him” or “In Christ” over and over again and I want you to pay attention to this repetition as we go through those verses.  Turn to Ephesians chapter 1 and let’s read verses 3-14.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.  11 In him we were also chosen,[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

I’m starting a new sermon series this morning and for the next 3 weeks we will look at how we as a church can have a new life, a new society, a new standard and a new relationship.  I thought this would be an appropriate time to look at the book of Ephesians because Paul the book, as he usually did, to a church, not unlike ours and he wrote it for a reason.




Paul wrote a lot of his letters to churches that had real problems.  The churches at Colosse and Galatia had some doctrinal problems and so Paul wrote them to set them straight.  The church at Corinth was so messed up he had to write them twice to get them back on the straight and narrow but the church at Ephesus was a growing and thriving church that Paul wanted to encourage and celebrate with them the “glorious grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”, as he would say so often.


So, I was once again reminded of our similarities to the first church, this time to the Ephesians and I want to encourage and celebrate with you the words of Paul to a new church on how we should act and relate to others and to God.  I want us to see in these passages how we are blessed by God’s grace and through our being “in Christ”.  We have the blessing of election, adoption and unification.


Let’s look first at our blessing of election.  Now, when I start talking about election, predestination or choosing, some of you start to cringe.  Some of you get ready to debate why you are a Calvinist or Arminian and why you are right and everybody else is wrong.  We are not going to debate that here.  I agree with the great old-time preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who was asked one time how he reconciled the concept of predestination and the sovereignty of God with the notion that man has a free will to choose his eternal destination. His answer was classic. He said, “I see no need to reconcile between friends.” In other words, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. The Bible also teaches that man is responsible for his actions. We are responsible to act in accordance with God’s will. And because God is in control, we are responsible to obey Him—that is our purpose. (The Church In Christ by Jim Drake, Sermoncentral)


It says in verse 4 that He chose us, in Him, before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  We are blessed because He chose us from His entirely unmerited favor.  He chose us in spite of the fact that, in our old life, we were unholy and blameworthy.  Why would He do such a thing?  Paul tells us further down in verse 6, “to the praise of His glorious grace”.


So, how are we to be as a new church?  Holy and blameless.  Why?  To promote our church?  No.  For the glory of God.  For His praise.  So people will see us and see that we are different and God will get the honor and praise.  That might be a good place to say “Amen” right there!


Next, let’s look at the blessing we have of our adoption.  In verse 5 it says that He has predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ.  My sister, Suzy, works for The Gladney Center for Adoption in south Ft. Worth and she was telling me a great story the other day.  About 6 years ago, the maintenance man, Richard Kelly, got to work there one morning and thought he heard a cat or something in the bushes.  He went to check it out and there was a baby boy wrapped up in a blanket in front of one of the side doors.  Somebody had dropped him off in the middle of the night and drove off.


He took it inside and took it to the Transitional Care unit and they took him to the doctor and got him checked out and fixed up.  He was basically healthy and then they placed him with a family that was on the waiting list who was waiting to adopt a baby and they were ecstatic!  They picked him up and it was a huge celebration.  In fact, on the day they estimate to be his birthday, his family brings him back to Gladney and the whole staff throws a party for him because that baby is so special.


On one hand my heart breaks for that baby’s birth-mother.  I can’t comprehend what she must have felt and probably still feels.  She must have been very confused and scared.  I’m sure she wondered why this had to happen to her and so she did what she could.  And thankfully, little Carson, as he was named because he was the son of somebody in a car, found a wonderful home where he is loved and protected and adored.


Some may wonder why God would go ahead with creation when He knew it would be followed by the fall.  Why would He do such a thing?  Because He also knew that He would adopt us as His sons, joint heirs with His Son Jesus to have all spiritual blessings here on earth and even more incredible blessings when we see Him in Heaven.


And with that adoption we have rights and responsibilities.  First, in verses 7-8 it says that we have forgiveness of our sins through the redemption of the blood of Jesus.  What an incredible gift!  Redemption means that a price was paid for our freedom.  It was used to speak of a slave and the price a master would pay.


We are no longer slaves to sin and the guilt that comes with it.  We don’t have to try to be good enough.  We can’t pay that price and we don’t have to.  Jesus paid that with His life and because of that we can be forgiven.


The responsibility of that adoption is that we are to be “holy and blameless” as it says back in verse 4.  We have talked about being holy before and now we see that we have a perfect model in our family.  His name is Jerry Ballard.  No! No! I’m kidding.  His name is, of course, Jesus!  We joke about Jerry being perfect and Jerry is a great role model but Jesus is absolutely perfect.  Don’t ask yourself what would Jerry do.  Ask yourself what would Jesus do.


We have seen the past blessing of election and the present blessing of adoption.  Let’s look at the future blessing of unification in verses 9-10.  Read.  Right now we don’t have all the answers.  Right now we see as though through a glass darkly.  We only see the back side of that tapestry that is this life and it is a mystery.


What a blessing it will be when we can know why God would allow little Carson to be born to a mother who couldn’t keep him.  One of these days we will know why God allowed illness and disaster; why he didn’t keep divorce and poverty away from us and our families.  I don’t understand why God would call me His friend nor do I understand why He allows some of the suffering that goes on but one day…”when the times will have reached their fulfillment”…when all of history is consummated and the time is right we will know.


In Galatians 4:4 it says that in the fullness of time God sent His Son and here it says that when the fulfillment of time has been reached everything will be brought together, unified, under the lordship of Christ.  That was the plan from the very beginning.  Before the creation of the world, God knew that you would have difficulties.  He knew what was going to happen to you and that you wouldn’t always understand it.


But to know that one day we will see both sides of the tapestry; we will see Jesus and we will know how and why all of this came about so that through all of it, God’s grace and mercy will be made known for those of us who are in Christ.


I have just a couple more verses I want to read in chapter 2 starting with verses 1-2 and then skipping to verses 4-7.  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world.  Now skip to verse 4.  4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”


Woo!  That Paul, he should have been a writer, huh?  That’s beautiful!  That’s wonderful!  And that is how we should act and be known as individuals and as a new church.  We are to be known as a church with a new life because of God’s grace through His Son Jesus.


We are to be known as a new church that has been elected to be His holy and blameless children.  We are to be known as loved, adored and protected adoptees of the Creator.  And we are to be known as those who have faith that one day very soon we will finally understand and be united with and under our Lord Jesus Christ and everything we do and say will be to His glory; not to make our name famous but His!

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