Pastor Joel Leyrer

Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

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Dear Friends in Christ,
If we know it’s more than just a greeting when someone asks us how things are going, our natural response is to reflect our present circumstances.  Our answer will register our feelings at the time; whether we are calm or stressed; happy or sad; emotionally up or emotionally down.  All the while it is understood that the answer we give today may be entirely different than the answer we give tomorrow, or two weeks from now, or next year – or even later in the day.


Related to this and drilling down even deeper, Americans, it is said, tend to have short attention spans.  A couple of years ago Microsoft conducted a study which concluded that the average attention span – defined as “the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted” – for the typical American is now 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000.  


The study goes on to state that we now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.  Something that I’m sure comes as no surprise to the typical American wife.  (And, I might add, strikes fear in the heart of the typical American preacher).


Put all this together and its not hard to understand how we can be given to moods, or easily distracted from the things that are truly important, or how our perception on the quality of our life can shift and change according to what’s going on with us in the immediate present.  All of which contributes to a rather short-term and somewhat unpredictable outlook on life.  


The Apostle Paul suggests a better way.  In our lesson for today he talks about our lives as Christians in terms that transcend and go beyond the ups and downs of everyday life.  He speaks of matters that apply to us regardless if our lives are marked by busyness or boredom, personal happiness or sadness, or whether we are in sickness or in health. He speaks of truths that create a stability and evenness throughout life. 
In contrast to our natural tendencies, what Paul provides for us and urges us to embrace is what we might call


THE CHRISTIAN LONG VIEW


We’re going to limit ourselves to just the first verses of this lesson.  As we work our way through them we’re going to concentrate on four specific words that Paul uses to describe us.


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.  Paul opens with an exclamation of praise to God.  Included in the word “praise” is the idea of gratitude and thankfulness and worship and adoration. Why do we as Christians “praise” God?  Paul tells us.


First, because God is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This calls to mind the whole plan of salvation which we’ll address further later.  For now it’s sufficient to say that Jesus Christ is the center of everything Paul talks about today, as well as the center of the believer’s life of praise.  We praise God first and foremost because of Jesus.


We also praise God because of the blessings we have received from him.  Note the expression Paul uses.  “He has blessed us in the heavenly realms…”  Meaning, the blessings God gives each of us originate in heaven.  All our blessings come down from his domain and are showered upon us like rain.


Just how many blessings has God given us?  “He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.”  That is, these blessings effect our spiritual life, our innermost being.  Paul tells us there is no spiritual blessing that has been withheld from us.  And, remember, all these blessings are connected to Jesus.  Think about this.


Because of Jesus we have the blessing of eternal life.  We deserve death because of our sins and our sinfulness, but we will receive just the opposite.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).


We have the blessing of a life free from worry, because “if God is for us, who can be against us… and nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31, 39).


We have the blessing of never being completely alone, because Jesus has promised “surely I am with you always to the very end of the age” (Mathew 28:20).  


This is not to say that God doesn’t give us physical blessings, because he most certainly does.  But that’s not Paul’s point here.  The point is that even if God gave us no physical blessings, we are still blessed beyond measure because of what God has given us in Jesus Christ.


So, the first word Paul uses to describe us as individuals and as a body of believers, and the first word to incorporate in our Christian long view is BLESSED.


The next is CHOSEN.  Paul now lets us in on one of the deepest, yet most comforting, teachings of Scripture. 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.


Here we are given a timeframe on the depth of God’s love for us.  Two words and phrases express the same idea: “He chose us” and “he predestined us” to become his children through faith in Jesus Christ.  When did this all take place?  “Before the creation of the world.”


In other words, before this world existed and well before anyone of us was a twinkle in our father’s eye or they were a twinkle in their father’s eye, God knew who we are, knew what we are, knew when and where we would arrive on this earth – and “chose” us to be “holy and blameless in his sight” (that is, forgiven and washed clean of our sin by the blood of Christ).  We call this teaching the doctrine of “election” or “predestination.”


This is a mind-boggling teaching.  We can’t grasp it and it is senseless and fruitless to press this teaching beyond what we are told (which, unfortunately, many have).  But what we can grasp is tremendously comforting and encouraging.  Consider it this way:


As a child or young person, have you ever had the playground experience of being “chosen” to be on someone’s side for a game (all the while hoping you wouldn’t be the last one picked; or worse yet, the cause for an argument about whose team had to take you)?  Or have you ever had the experience of having to “try out” for a team or a play, and then have to anxiously wait it out to see whether you were chosen or “cut”?  Those choices were made on the merits of your talent or skill or aptitude – some of which the Lord may have given you, others which he may not have.


Well, God works differently.  Here’s the good news.  When it comes to being on the only side that it truly important – the side of God that will last through eternity – we have been chosen!    So, we never have to worry about being passed over or good enough because we have been part of God’s plan forever.

 
God wants us to find comfort in the second word Paul uses to describe us, and which contributes to the Christian long view:  CHOSEN.


This leads to the next word:  We have been chosen for ADOPTION.  In the next chapter of this letter Paul will make the point that we are by nature sinful and unworthy of God’s affection; he talks about us being by nature the objects not of God’s love, but of God’s wrath.

 
Nevertheless, in his grace God the Father made the decision to adopt us as his own.  We might say the adoption papers were signed on the cross by the substitutionary and sacrificial blood of God the Son, Jesus Christ. And God the Holy Spirit delivered them to our hearts and created the faith necessary to understand our new relationship.

 
Now we are sons and daughters of the Most High, with all the blessings and assurances that go along with being members of the family of God.   We are always loved.   We are always listened to.  We are always welcome. And when we wander, we can always come home.

 
In and through Jesus not only are we blessed, not only are we chosen, not only are we adopted; we are also REDEEMED.  That’s Paul’s final word to describe what we are, and what we need to embrace as part of the Christian long view.  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…  


Redeemed means forgiven, saved, rescued – but at a cost.  We know the price that was paid for our salvation.  In the words of the catechism, it was “not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and death.”  The punishment that our sins and transgression deserve was meted out to Christ.  He took upon himself our sinfulness and gives us his holiness in exchange.  Now God sees us covered only in the righteousness of Jesus.  Forgiven.  Restored.  REDEEMED.

 
What does this all mean for us?  How do Paul’s words help us develop the Christian long view? 


Because I found it helpful and insightful as I worked on this sermon, I’d like to conclude by reading to you a somewhat extended passage from a well-respected Bible commentator (John Stott, “The Message of Ephesians” in The Bible Speaks Today series, IVP, pages 44, 45):


At this point it may be wise to pause a moment and consider how much all of us need to develop Paul’s broad perspective.  Let me remind you that he was a prisoner in Rome.  Not indeed in a cell or a dungeon, but still under house arrest and handcuffed to a Roman soldier.  Yet, though his wrist was chained and his body was confined, his heart and mind inhabited eternity.  He peered back before the foundation of the world and on to the fullness of time, and grasped hold of what ‘we have’ now and ought to ‘be’ now in the light of those two eternities.

 
As for us, how blinkered is our vision in comparison with his, how small our mind, how narrow are our horizons!  Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation with our own petty little affairs.  But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and future perfection.  Then, if we shared the apostle’s perspective, we would also share his praise.  For doctrine leads to doxology as well as to duty.  Life would become worship, and we would bless God constantly for having blessed us so richly in Christ.


Well said.  


Bottom line:  Regardless of whatever our present and future circumstances may be, these words of Paul to the Ephesians remind us of who we are, and encourage us to approach every situation in life from THE CHRISTIAN LONG VIEW – as blessed, chosen, adopted, and redeemed Children of God.  Amen.