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What Brings the Greatest Pleasure? A Concordia sermon on Ephesians 1:3-14

church at communion 2

What Brings the Greatest Pleasure?
Ephesians 1:3-14


† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you as much pleasure as you receive it and share it with others as it brings God!

 The Pleasure of a Job Well Done

This week I had to drop off nine cases of books at Concordia University. Mark Siegert, one of the professors in the Cross-cultural Ministry Center and I used dollies to bring them from the car to the building, a distance of about 100 feet up a gradual hill.

As we finished, we both laughed.  For we both managed bookstores before we got into ministry, he ran Concordia’s and I ran Pepperdine’s.  Back in the day, we would unload with our crew, shipments of 200 plus cases. And barely be tired.  That day, we were both exhausted after three simple trips! On the way back, I thought of those days, I remember the feeling after a long day shuttling cases of books, and watching the sun go down over the ocean, drinking a coke with my employees.

There is something special about doing a good job, and the sense of pleasure from accomplishing it with people you call your friends.

If that is so, how much more pleasure would God have, from accomplishing His greatest work, and celebrating it with those he loves?

The Job He Has Done

In Paul’s epistle to the church in Ephesus, we heard this morning about the work of God and the pleasure it gives Him.   In fact, Paul was so impressed, he told us about this work of God in 12 ways, which I want to go over again.

1.  He blessed us with every spiritual blessing as we are united to Jesus

2. He chose us to be in Christ to be holy and without fault, any fault, as He looks at us!

That I think is a bit of work!  At least in my case!

3.  He adopted us into His own family! He did this, again, by uniting us to Jesus, to His death and resurrection!  This wasn’t just down to make us happy, to give us joy, but this is what said gave God the greatest pleasure!  Making us His kids in every sense of the Word.

4.  He poured out His glorious grace on us, for we belong to Jesus

5. He is so rich in Kindness He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son

We need to pause here, and stop and think that Jesus’s blood paid for that sin you committed on Wednesday, yes, that one sin you thought you could hide, that no one would know about.  He paid for that sin, with the blood poured out, there on the cross.

We need to understand this, not just the thousands of sins that we commit over a lifetime, but that sin that haunts us, that we fear if it became known, it would ruin us. That sin, as well as all the others, paid for so that we could be adopted.

6.  He will bring everything together as one, at the right time!

What a day that will be, no more division, nor more struggle!

7.  Because we are united to Jesus, we have an inheritance waiting for us, we have a place!

8. Because He chose us, everything in life will work out according to His plan!

now there are days I don’t understand how everything works out into His plan, and I have to be honest with that.  There are those times I don’t see it, yet, what gets me through those times is refocusing on His plan, on His desire that all would be with Him!  When I refocus on that, the suffering is still there, but somehow its grip on me diminishes in strength. For the more we look to Him, the surer we are of His love, and therefore His promises

9.  Even though others were saved first, God made sure that because we have heard His word, He has saved us as well!

Number 10 in this recounting of God’s work is amazing, and I wish we had hours to go into it.

10.  He identified us as HIS! He picked us out of the lineup and said, you are mine, and He did this by giving us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, just as He promised long ago!

11. The Holy Spirit, given to us in baptism is the guarantee of the promises He gave us.

This wonderful comforter counted here as the guarantee of our salvation is just eh beginning of it.  Again, another sermon series could be on each of these points that Paul is sharing with the church in Ephesus!

and the final one, something that expands on an earlier point.

12.  He purchased us to be His people.

We are His people, and this is the work, the thing God has labored at, and suffered to see happen.

We are His, identified as His, adopted as His, united in Christ’s death where He paid for all our sins and freed us from them so we could have this wondrous relationship with Him!.

And someday, the sun will set for a final time, and all of us will arrive home.

This is what brings Him pleasure, not the

And find God rejoicing, with the largest of smiles, pleased at the work He has done, making us all His own.

Christianity is not just about getting us to heaven or avoiding hell, it isn’t just about doing good and not doing evil.  It is about being in a relationship with God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ whose blood was shed so that relationship would become possible.

Not just for you and me, but for every broken person that Christ died for, for every person He would save, for every person that God would adopt, for we know the pleasure it brings Him.

May he work through each one of us, helping us to see many more come to hear His of His work in their life!  AMEN!

 

His Plan His Desire take II

 so here is the revision – well not quite, the revision was revised during delivery, and after I listen to it – I may find a way to post it here – or somewhere else….. but here is take two – with much more focus on the idea of our being adopted….
 

His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!

Ephesians 1:3-14

 In Jesus Name


May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!

Too personal?  Yeah… so what

It is one of those things that is hard to explain, but every time I preach on this epistle passage, I overlook the obvious connection I have to it.  Perhaps it is because it is too personal, to talk about what it means to be adopted, or I find a way to gloss over it. Make the connection, and move on.

The emotional overload that comes, when discussing the challenges that face an adopted kid are immense – there are incredible joys, and yet incredible questions,  In my case, having met my birth mom 6 years ago this week – there is knowing the incredible love of two mothers, both of whom were intimately involved in making me, you pastor.  I am truly blessed, but even more so when I realize how different, more incredible God’s adoption of all us is…

Preaching on God adopting us is somewhat challenging then, as describing God making us His children opens levels of stuff I am not used to letting people see.  So, I usually don’t.  I come up with other ways to explain it, but a quick online comment of my high school coach made me change this sermon this morning….

But it is important to grasp the intimacy, the intentionality in God’s choice, in God wanting to make us His children, and in paying the price to process it – the price of Christ’s blood.  For if we understand God’s choice,

So be aware, this sermon may be a little rougher than usual, as I re-wrote the sermon this morning, knowing I had to bring it up this way….

For we need to grasp what it means for God to choose us, to bring us into the Family that is the Trinity, to grasp this incredible blessing

Chose us in Him

On April 1st, 1965, when Thomas and Marie Parker went to Catholic Charities in Lawrence, Massachusetts, they weren’t sure what they were getting themselves into.  They had been waiting to adopt a girl, but they had been called a few days before.  The couple originally slated to get me had panicked, or maybe had a vision, and bailed on the process. Some have said that April 1st date was very appropriate…

My folks came and got me, adopted me as their own, and would eventually get the daughter a few years later.  I used to joke with my friends that while their parents were stuck with them, mine chose me. But they didn’t choose me, they chose to adopt, if they had only known what they were getting themselves into…

God’s a bit different.  He knows all about us, every moment of our lives… and chooses to adopt us.  Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”

It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire.  From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.

There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice.  To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.

This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world.   It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire.  Peter phrases it this way,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…knowing everything about you…

Riches of His gift, lavished upon us

When my parents adopted me, there was little idea of the costs, financial, emotional, the nights sitting with me in the hospital over the years, the shock of finding out I have Marfans and the complications it brings.. the challenges they faced because of the odd person I am, but they didn’t know the cost.  That is where God the Father adopting us is so radically different.  He did know the cost… the cost of adopting us, of making us holy and blameless was very high.  Paul writes in verse 7.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives purchased at the price of His sacrifice on the cross.  He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?  Even more incredibly, Hebrews tells us it was for joy that Christ embraced that payment – as He, loving each of us, embraced that cross.

Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefully repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him.  Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His children, His people, His chosen people.

This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us!  It is  the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.

How we got there?

We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom.  It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.

Paul explains it in verse 13

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.

It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!

That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.

That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize.  We are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours.  Waiting to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will.  Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension!  The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…

Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….even as we are, right now, His children. His heirs, as we live in the Beloved.  Chosen by Him, chosen to be in Him, adopted as His. With all the knowledge of who we are, what we’ve done…..

He made us His.

So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… for we live in Christ.  AMEN?

His Plan His Desire His People in Christ

(this is the sermon wrote for this morning, but it went through drastic revision before it was delivered.  
I will post the other… which is much rougher,  but was well heard.
May you know God’s presence and love… to your very core.. )

His Plan, His Desire, His People, “in Christ”!

Ephesians 1:3-14

 In Jesus Name

May our lives bless our Father in Heaven, as it is revealed to us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing! AMEN!


A preposition for you!       

I have a life changing preposition for you!

Two little letters that change everything in life, that change our priorities, our plans, our dreams.  That gives life and meaning to life, even in these days when our world chases after all the things that are vain, that do not satisfy, that cannot make a difference.

I have a preposition for you my friends.. not a proposition – a preposition.

Remember that list you memorized,  about above among around at behind before,  remember those things?  Well in today’s epistle, one keeps showing up – and it makes all the difference in the world,

For it is combined with a pronoun – that word that takes the place of a name?  Two letters for the preposition, and three letters for the pronoun and the world is shaken, and everything made new…so radical a change in life these two simple words, these five letters, that our reaction to them is nothing less than to praise and glorify God, to bless Him, to in awe applaud His work.

The pronoun is Him, the preposition I have for you to consider is…

“In”

And when we realize what it means to be “in Him” we begin to realize how much of our life, our world has changed… even as we wait for the day when we fully understand it.

Chose us in Him

Of the dozen or so times the preposition and pronoun, (or a noun the preposition refers to) appears in this passage, we have to start somewhere to examine this incredible concept.  So let’s look at one first, there in the beginning of verse four, when Paul tells us that the Father has “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”


It is in choosing us, that we find every spiritual blessing coming upon us, it is there that that we realize that we aren’t just after thoughts in God’s plan, but indeed the focus of His will, and His desire.  From before the foundation of the earth, He has chosen mankind to have a special relationship with Him, and demonstrated that choice by placing us in Christ.

There, we find out what He has chosen us for, to be His children, adopted because of Jesus Christ, for it is in Christ that we are found to be holy and blameless, set apart for something special, with nothing able to mar or change that choice.  To share in the life and love of God, in what sounds amazing – to become part of that relationship that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  To share in such a relationship, as one of my friends has described it in a song – to join in the Trinity’s dance.

This indeed Paul tells us is no accident, it was a choice made from before the foundation of the world.   It is the very purpose of His will – or as another translation explains it – it is the plan to achieve God’s greatest desire.  Peter phrases it this way,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

The Lord’s choice, to choose you in Him, in Christ…

 Riches of His gift, lavished upon us

The next “in Him” to look at is in verse 7 and 8, as we read,

 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
In Christ’s death, we have been paid for, our lives redeemed at the price of His sacrifice on the cross.  He did this that because of the great grace, the gift which he lavishes upon us, why?

Paul calls this the making known of the mystery of His will, this incredible grace lavished upon us, as God picks us up in our brokenness, and instead of throwing us away, carefull repairs and heals us, bringing us into Himself, that we might be one with Him.  Imagine everything perfect, in His presence, a place where doors don’t creak and neither do our bodies, where our relationships are finally the way they should be, including our relationship with our Father, where we finally let God be God, and we rejoice in knowing we are His chosen people.

This is our lot for all eternity, that which God has planned for us, the life God has given to us, this great mystery of why He would choose us to be His children, that even as He makes this true now, we struggle to realize it, for we struggle to realize we are in Christ, we are in the Beloved son of God, and therefore share in the Father’s love.

How we got there?

We are the children of the king – waiting for that moment when we reach full maturity, when we share in His kingdom.  It is true now, and yet like a child waiting to reach the age of inheritance, we struggle with it. Indeed, we need to be reminded of it often, and how and when this incredible thing happened.

Paul explains it in verse 13

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

It’s the same story throughout scripture – the way we become His children, according to His plan is when we hear the truth – the truth of His love for us, that is this gospel, this good news.

It is the message of His love that causes us to trust in Him, to believe in Him, to realize that our very lives are in His hands, and that this is a good thing!

That when we were baptized, God marked us, He sealed us as His children, the sign of the cross is what we were marked with, that even as we share in Christ’ death, we too share in His resurrection, for we live in Him.

That has been His plan all along, a plan we have only begun to realize…. For we are still children, waiting for our inheritance to become ours, for us to reach the maturity of Christ, when we visibly know we are in His kingdom.
Until that day, we have a guarantee, a down payment if you will.  Something incredibly wonderful, something beyond our comprehension.  The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, what Peter describes as the gift of God’s Spirit, which Paul will also describe as our being the temple – the living place of the Spirit of God, the one called the Comforter, the Lord and Giver of life…

Here, in us, even as we dwell in Him….

A preposition for you my friends, a truth that is so incredible..found as we hear that we are “in”….

In Christ!

So knowing this we can rejoice as Paul does and declare, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… AMEN!

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