Adapted from a Jim Black sermonhttp://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly. asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=53852
During one of Theodore Rooseveltspolitical campaigns, a delegation called onhim at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up. "Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work."
I don’t really think Teddy Roosevelt wastwo-faced like that, but who knows? Howabout Christians? Are there any who say they belong to Christ but act like they’re a child of Satan?Though difficult, the call for Christians tolive lives different than the world around us is based firmly in what God has done for us. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ!
In Ephesians 1:1-14 Paul encourages Christians to see how God has blessed them in Christ & to be motivated to live differently because of it.In 1991 a young missionary who had grownup in a Chattanooga, TN area church cameto the elders with the proposal of beginning an inner city ministry in downtown Chattanooga.
The goal was to involve Christians from all over the area in spreading the gospelthrough the urban communities and to plant a new congregation in the inner city.The ministry immediately began working inthe city‟s south side and God blessed their efforts tremendously. Many individuals,mostly young men, came to faith and were baptized!
As Christians continued to work, God continued to bless and eventually a new facility was needed to meet in and operate out of. It must have been the working ofGod, because an older congregation acrosstown, but still in the downtown region, voted to close its doors. It had been a long-standing congregation that had simply died.
Its members had grown too old and too fewto maintain the facility and so they donated it to the work of the inner city. It was a wonderful boost and blessing to the new Inner City Church of Christ!But the building was on the city‟s east side!Now, Chattanooga doesn‟t have „gangs‟ like New York or L.A., but there does exist a „gang‟ mentality among many of the young people in the inner city.
For the church to move from the city‟s southside – where the gangs dressed in blue– to the city‟s east side -where the gangs preferred red to separate themselves from the blue- was to be a monumental challenge! It wasn‟t unlike the initialundertakings of Paul in taking the gospel to the Gentiles!
After their first church service in the new territory, a fight broke out in the parking lot between the „reds‟ and the „blues‟. Eventhough all these folks were either Christians or had encountered the gospel through the ministry, they hadn‟t changed overnight! One young Christian had to be pulled off of another young Christian, going at each other simply because of the color of their bandana and what side of town they lived on.
We who have been Christians for many years might have expected them to simplydrop their previous way of life in a snap! But it just wasn‟t that simple!To them, their gangs and the rivalry were so much a part of their lives BEFORE becoming Christians, it wasn‟t somethingthat could change overnight. Sometimes it‟s tough to change! Sometimes it‟s tough to live for Jesus!
It took the better part of the next year in concentrated teaching for things to settledown in their new neighborhood and for theyoung church to realize that living for Jesusmeant that some of the old ways of life had to be done away with!
We might hear this story and think that it isfar removed from us. WE certainly wouldn‟t have gotten into a fight after church, wouldwe, over something so silly? Maybe not, but that doesn‟t mean that you or I changedovernight when we came to Christ, did we? Did the alcoholic who became a Christian no longer desire another drink? Did the person who had lived a sexually immorallifestyle all of a sudden no longer desire the opposite sex?
Did the person who had become so accustomed to deceit and lying that it had become a way of life all of a sudden become a pillar of truth? For some, yes. Their experiences ofconversion were so powerful that their lives did an immediate 180! But for most of us,the process is a slower one and sometimes a painful one.
Because of erosion, the historic CapeHatteras Lighthouse was in peril of washing into the Atlantic Ocean. So Congress appropriated $12 million for the NationalPark service to move it 2900 feet to safety. With a combination of care, expertise,patience and raw power, The Expert HouseMovers of Sharptown, Maryland, moved the208 foot tall, 9.7 million-pound structure to its current home.
The option of moving the lighthouse wasfirst proposed in April of 1982, but the lightwasn‟t lit at its new location until November13, 1999. 17 years of study and 23 days of moving later. Why did it take so long?Small things can be moved quickly, but big things take time. Most people tend to overestimate what they can do in a week and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime.
We don‟t change overnight. We don‟tchange easily, some of us. If this describesyou, relax, you‟re in good company. That‟s just the folks that Paul is writing to in this letter to the Ephesians!
Ephesians 2:1 NET And although you weredead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you formerly lived according to thisworlds present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…We introduced Ephesians last week & you‟llremember that one of Paul‟s key emphases is on the CHANGED life.
A man came home one day and he saw a plaque on the kitchen wall. It had been placed there, obviously, by his sweet wife,and it simply read, "Prayer changes things!" Twenty-four hours later, the wife noticedthat the plaque had been removed from the wall of their home. She confronted her husband, asking, "Dont you like prayer?"He answered, "Of course I like prayer, but I dont like change!"
Life “in Christ” looks different than life “in the world.”Being a Christian makes a difference in the way you live your life! Paul also knows that sometimes that transformation is a difficult and demanding process and so he begins his letter by giving us the motivation behind the change that God wants to see in us!
In other words, Paul doesn‟t demand achange in our lifestyle by guilting us into it; or by threatening us into it; rather hespends the first 3 chapters describing what God has done for us so that we might live for him! In so doing, he mentions sevenblessings that are ours in Christ and should motivate us to live for Him.
Ephesians 1:1 NET From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints [in Ephesus], the faithful in ChristJesus. 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! 3Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.
Paul is playing off of the word „blessing‟ saying, “Blessed is the God...who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing!”We typically think of „blessings‟ in terms ofmaterial „blessings‟, don‟t we? Or physical? Good health, a house, a car, children, grandchildren, a job. Paul often uses thissection of his letters to describe blessings that are „other worldly‟, blessings that we don‟t usually think of as blessings.
These are „spiritual blessings‟ that are found „in the heavenly realms‟. That‟s not to saythat we have to wait till we get to heaven toreceive them– they are ours NOW! But it is to say that they are blessings found in the Kingdom of God & in the church; among God‟s people.So, if we have been blessed so thoroughly, why is it still hard to live for Jesus?
Paul goes on to describe these blessings. 4 For he chose us in Christ before thefoundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.A lot of people get hung up on this language of „election‟ or God‟s „choosing‟ us. Does God pick & choose among humanity whom he will save and whom he won‟t? If so, where is our free will?
Do we have a choice in the matter? Somebelieve & teach that God chooses us to be saved and that we have no choice in thematter. That necessarily means, that God chooses for others to be lost. I have aproblem with that. God wants ALL to come to repentance & be saved!
2 Peter 3:9 NET The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you,because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. No, remember who Paul is talking to: thechurch, NOT individuals! Notice, too, wherethe choosing takes place! “IN HIM”; that is, CHRIST!
God knew that if he created man, that man would sin and separate himself from God. So, He chose (from the very beginning before the foundation of the world) that those who would choose to be „in Christ‟ would be made holy and unblemished. Inother words, if you have committed to make Jesus the Lord of your life, then you have chosen to be chosen!
Properly understood, the emphasis is STILL on God! We‟ve still not done anything worthy of being chosen! But God haschosen us anyhow! We, the church, are the CHOSEN! How wonderful!
5 He did this by predestining us to adoptionas his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will —Again, lots of folks get hung up on the word „predestining.‟ That just means that God had the end in mind when He began.
When he created man it was with the idea that we would spend eternity with Him in Heaven. His idea for our destiny washeaven! What more beautiful imagery than„adoption‟ to speak of what God has done? When a husband takes his wife to the hospital to give birth they take home the child that is born! No choice in the matter!
Whatever came was what they will love-warts & all! With „adoption‟ there‟s a choice! You see what you‟re getting BEFOREsigning the papers! You see the warts & youchoose to bring them home anyway! That‟swhat God has done out of love! Even whenwe were dead in our sin (full of warts?) Godchose to make us his children! Because he loved us anyway! And notice, “according to the pleasure of his will ,” it brought him great joy!
6 to the praise of the glory of his grace thathe has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. Grace, „Undeserving loving kindness‟ We didn‟t deserve it, but he loves us anyhow.Freely bestowed, it is a „gift‟; we don‟t earn it, work for it, deserve it at all! But though offered to everybody, it is only given “through Jesus Christ!”
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 thathe lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.
The concept of redemption is an interestingone-with its roots in the Old Testament ideaof covenant and the language of the ancient marketplace. In both instances it involved the purchasing or buying back some item, or person that would otherwise be lost,taken prisoner or destroyed. In the OT, God redeemed Israel from the Egyptians.
2 Samuel 7:23 NIV And who is like yourpeople Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?
The Greeks would have used the word in connection with the purchase of a slave‟s freedom. God redeemed us from certaindestruction & the price was the blood of HisSon! We have been released from bondage because Christ died on the Cross!
We also have received forgiveness of our trespasses, through his blood; that act ofredemption! That‟s GRACE, lavished uponus, not grudgingly or without full knowledge of our sins & our undeservingness, but purposefully! “With all wisdom & insight.”
9 He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10toward the administration of the fullness ofthe times, to head up all things in Christ — the things in heaven and the things on earth.
We typically think of a „secret‟ as something very private, hush-hush. It could be something shameful that would cause embarrassment. You don‟t want anybodyelse to know about it. Here „secret‟ refers tothe divine plan of God that had at one time been hidden but is now revealed by God!
God‟s plan for mankind is revealed! It is known! There is no reason for us to beignorant of the fact that, For this is the wayGod loved the world: He gave his one andonly Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NET
If it has been revealed, then why hasn‟teveryone heard the good news of this plan? God has revealed Himself thru Jesus Christ! God has revealed Himself thru His Word! It has been said that fully 1/3 of the people in the world don‟t have access to a Bible, His Word. What does that say to Christians?
11 In Christ we too have been claimed as Gods own possession, since we werepredestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 12 sothat we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory.
Again, Paul says we are „chosen in Christ‟ by God himself according to his master plan. What is that master plan? That wespend eternity with Him! We weren‟t created to simply exist, go to work, come home, go to work, maybe raise a family, make somemoney, leave a few good works, have a fewlaughs and die, that being the end! NO! We were created to live with God forever praising Him! If you don‟t spend eternity with God then you‟re not doing what you were created for!
13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) — when youbelieved in Christ — you were marked withthe seal of the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of Gods own possession, to the praise of his glory.
Seals in Paul‟s day worked much like they do today. They were a symbol of authenticity, of genuineness, of proof of purchase!When you were a kid can you remembersending off for special offers in the mail? I remember sending for things I saw on a cereal box.
To get that de-coder ring, or whatever it was, you had to include the proof of purchase. That was the proof, evidence, that the special offer belonged to you. You were its legal and rightful owner! So yourhad a right to the thing you were sending off for.
The Holy Spirit for the Christian is the proof of purchase; the seal that guarantees that God is the rightful owner! Therefore wehave a right to our inheritance because weare God‟s possession! We‟ve been marked! As you can see, God has blessed us thoroughly in Christ! So completely! Why would we NOT want to live lives that reflect Jesus to those around us?
If God has done so much for us, and wantsus to change our habits, actions or lifestyle, how could we say no? Of course, this is Paul‟s point.Are you living for Christ? Do you have these blessings we‟ve mentioned? They‟re yours if you‟re “in Christ.” Are you? Have you named him as the Lord of yourlife? Have you turned away from sin? Have you been baptized into Christ for the washing away of your sins? Let me encourage you this morning to do so!
Maybe you are a Christian. I should ask this morning, “Are you enjoying the benefits ofthese blessings that you already have?” Did you know you had them? There is a story of an old pauper lady. She spent her days collecting aluminum cans and newspapers for recycling. She lived in an old worn out shack on the verge of collapse.
Her clothes were old, tattered and torn. She had no family and no one to take care of her. So, when she died the agents of thestate went into her house expecting to find very little. Instead they found stacks &stacks of old newspapers, each with a crisp new $20 dollar bill in its pages. She was wealthy, extremely wealthy for the smalltown in which she lived! But she had never enjoyed its benefits!
Are Christians sometimes like that? We‟ve been blessed beyond our own comprehension, yet we still live as if we were paupers! How many of us have tried to live our Christian life like that?