July 15, 2018  [Pentecost 8]  Ephesians 1:3-14  J.D.Roekle

 

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 predestined us to be adopted as his sons 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 And he 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 will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, 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 hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having 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. 

 

Praise God That You Can Be Certain

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          How will the next school year go?  Will I have any new classmates and will I get along with them?  When I finish college, will I be able to get a job in the field that I studied?  Am I putting away enough money for retirement?  Will I suffer the same illness or disease as my parents?  Will I live to see my granddaughter get married?  Will I live to see another day?

          There is so much uncertainty about life.  Uncertainty about the future.  But God wants us to know that not everything is uncertain.  In fact, we have great reason to praise our Triune God, because even among the uncertainty of life, there are things we can be sure of.  Let’s praise God for the things we can be certain of, because God’s certainties are a game changer as we face whatever might be ahead. 

          So what is it that you can be sure of?  First of all, you can be certain of your relationship with your heavenly Father and all the blessings that it brings.  Why can you be sure that your relationship is in good standing?  Because it doesn’t rely on you.  It is all in God’s court to make this relationship work.  In fact, it is impossible for you or me to initiate a relationship with our heavenly Father.  Our hostility toward him by nature prevents it. 

          And because we are hostile to God when we come into this world, God has no reason to want to pursue a relationship with us.  And yet he does.  In his unfathomable grace, he seeks you and me out.  In fact, Paul puts it this way:  “he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” 

          Have you ever watched American Idol?  In the early shows of the season, the judges travel to various locations around the country and listen to hundreds of auditions.  From each of these locations, they choose a few individuals.  When they are chosen, they announce to them “You’re going to Hollywood.”  That’s where the main competition takes place. 

          In a vast world of people, God chose you.  You specifically.  He chose you to be his own.  In fact, he chose you even before you existed.  He chose you before the world existed.  That’s how long you have been on God’s mind.  And he chose you not because of how you look or how talented you are.  He chose you not because of your personality or because of your heritage. 

          He chose you despite the fact that you are hostile to him by nature.  He chose you even though you are never able to measure up to his standards.  He chose you in view of Christ.  In view of who Christ is and what Christ would eventually do for you. 

          In view of Christ, he chose you to be holy and blameless in his sight.  There’s no other way to stand before God and survive.  You must be holy and blameless.  Left to ourselves, God would only see the things we constantly struggle with.  Our impure thoughts.  Thoughts of greed, lust, and hate.  God only sees our impure words, taking his name in vain.  Words that often betray the sinful nature that resides in our hearts.  Left to ourselves, God only sees our lack of love in what we do, or in what we fail to do. 

                    Praise God, that we have been chosen.  Chosen by God from eternity.  Chosen to be holy and blameless in his sight.  He does that by adopting us into his family.  He adopts us and loves us as our own even though by birth we are far from it.  And again, he does this in view of Christ Jesus, the Son of God. 

          Paul says: “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.” 

          You know well what Jesus has done.  You and I have strayed away from the narrow path that God has outlined in his law.  Jesus followed that path perfectly, never straying to one side or the other.  Jesus did what you and I could not do.  And in spilling his blood for us on the cross, Jesus did something extraordinary.  He bought us back.  He saved us from an eternity of slavery to sin.  He ensured that death would merely be a sleep that awakens to eternal life.  He prevented the devil from being our eternal master. 

          In buying us back, something had to be done with the sins we committed.  In Christ, our sins are forgiven.  Imagine being out in a boat in the deepest part of the ocean.  Drop a quarter into the water, and you’ll never see it again.  That’s what God has done with our sins because of Jesus.  He has hurled them into the depths of the sea never to be seen again.  They will nevermore prevent you from being a part of God’s family.  They will nevermore keep you from experiencing God’s overflowing grace.  God’s grace is like a bucket of water that is full, but the water keeps pouring in causing the bucket to overflow.  God’s love for you overflows! 

                    Because of Christ, you can be certain that you are God’s own.  And as if that wasn’t enough for you, God sends you the Holy Spirit to be a permanent resident in your heart. 

     Listen to Paul again: “Having 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.” 

          There’s two pictures here that serve to assure you of God’s loving purpose in sending the Holy Spirit to you.  The Holy Spirit is like a seal, and also like a deposit.  First of all focus on the picture of the seal.  In Jesus’ day, if you received a letter from an important government official, how could you be sure the letter wasn’t a fraud?  The official would put a lump of clay on the letter and then press his signet ring into the clay which would identify him and prove the letter’s authenticity.  The Holy Spirit is God’s seal in your heart that he has chosen you and that he has redeemed you, making you his own.  And you have received this seal at Baptism, as we sang about to begin with: “Baptized in water; sealed by the Spirit.”

          The other picture used to describe the Holy Spirit is that of a deposit.  When you are buying a home, you put down a deposit.  Sometimes, that is already done when making an offer on a home.  You put down earnest money.  You’re telling the seller that you are serious about buying their house, and you are promising that you will pay the full amount.  The Holy Spirit is like God’s earnest money.  He has invested in you.  He is serious about you.  He wants to keep you. 

          And the deposit of the Holy Spirit assures you that one day, you will realize all the blessings of God’s grace.  That one day you will fully see the extent of the riches God has in store for you.  God has put a deposit on you and one day you will see all of his glory in the heavenly realms.  You can be sure of it! 

What’s the longest sentence you’ve ever uttered?  I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t even come close to Paul’s.  These words of our text are actually one sentence in the original language…some 200 words!  It reminds me of someone who has just experienced something exciting and goes on and on talking about it without taking a breath.  Paul has good reason to be excited.  Look at all our gracious God has done for us.  Look at all the blessings we have and are yet to experience.  In a world of uncertainty, God gives us these sure truths. 

What will the future bring?  Most of it is unknown to us.  But be assured of this: because of Christ, you have a future that is bright.  A future that is filled with God’s grace.  A future that will one day end in God’s glory.  Praise God!  Amen.