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His Mysterious Plan: A sermon on Ephesian 3:1-12

His Mysterious Plan
Ephesians 3:1-12

† In Jesus Name †


 May the grace of God our Father help you see your role in the church, as God displays His wisdom, found in the mystery of His eternal plan carried out through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A mysterious plan

As this sermon will be translated in to Mandarin, I decided to look into how to translate the word mystery.  It is one of those words, that doesn’t translate easily, there could be at least 4 ways to translate it.

The Cambridge-English dictionary suggested clarifying what is meant in our usage of the word mystery. What comes closest to my understanding of the Greek word is this option:  †

“something strange or not known, that has not yet been explained, or understood”  Another way to phrase it would be an enigma, and in this case, a divine enigma. 

Oddly enough, the word google translate suggest is Chinese is 谜, pronounced “Me” ( Mi)

So “Me” is a mystery and an enigma.

Makes sense in English!

But we are talking about God’s mystery today, this plan that has been in existence since before time began.  A secret which Paul would reveal, which is still challenging for us to comprehend, and it is still a challenge for us to use in our lives.

Not revealed? Kept secret?

Twice in this passage, Paul mentions that his mystery, this plan of God that is not yet completely known or understood was kept secret.  In verse 5 he says,  

 God did not reveal it to previous generations,

And then in verse 9,

I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.

There is a challenge here, that we need to deal with, this idea that God hides His mystery, that God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for us to deal with, for us to accept, for us to know.

That doesn’t just sound right, after all, shouldn’t God just be completely honest with us?  Why wasn’t He completely transparent with His people?  Why where His plans such a mystery? 

There is tendency in mankind to want to know, to understand, but along with that we want to be able to raise questions, to criticize, to help adjust the plans.  We want to be advisors to God, and we see that throughout history. 

Peter did this, when Jesus talked about the cross, and Jesus called Peter Satan, and told him to get lost.

We do it now, when we choose to give in to temptation, when we decide to sin, when we choose to ignore God’s commands, especially the two great commands,

To Love God with all our heart, soul and mind

To love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every time we do something that Is not loving, every time we sin, we tell God that we don’t trust Him.  How much more would we have done this, if we knew everything from the beginning?
The plan – all united in Christ

So God didn’t share the plan, but now He has.  And it is about that very thing, loving God and loving those people God brings into our lives.,

To bring us all into this incredible relationship where God is our Father, where we all become one body in Christ.

Where we all share in the riches that we have, because we are the children of God, the endless treasures of God’s grace and love.

For we dwell in Christ, united to each other, even as we are united to Him, at the cross.

That is why the cross is the center of the plan, for Paul will tell the church in Rome and the church in Colossae that we were united to Christ at His death on the cross, so that we could be brought to life with and in Him, when He rose from the dead.

And as we are all united to Him, we find ourselves united to each other.  Jewish person, Gentile person, Taiwanese, those of European extraction, Mainland Chinese, Filipino, people from South America, or Africa, or India or Indonesia. 

We are all one in Christ, that was the mystery that Paul revealed, the plan we needed.  For we needed to see what the cross would make possible. That cleansed of all sin, restored and reconciled in our relationship with God

The fulfillment of the plan – we come boldly

Every plan has a final goal, a final measurement when you know the work is done.

Even those plans that seem vague, have that moment when everything becomes known, when everything becomes clear.

In this case, the plan’s goal, is stated clearly in verse 12. 

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

So now you see God’s ultimate goal, the reason for everything He has planned. 

That we would be able to confidently dwell in the presence of God.  

No fear

no guilt

No shame

no doubt

Just simply dwelling with Him, find comfort and rest in His presence, depending on Him to guide us, and take care of us.


For that is what it means to have faith, to depend on God completely, no longer hidng behind illusions, but to trust God with everything…

For He is our God


And we, we are all His people!  AMEN!

His Mysterious and Awesome Plan!

His Mysterious and Awesome Plan!

Featured imageEphesians 1:3-14

May you realize the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the grace that reveals you are what they desired, as from before time, the manger and the cross became their plan in action!

18 times…. One Thought 

Eighteen times in the course of eleven verses, the plan of God is either mentioned directly or indirectly or the plan itself is simply reveled.

In these beginning verses of Ephesians, we are told over and over about this plan of God.

Paul wants to make sure the church in Ephesus knows that God’s mysterious plan, this awesome desire of His is made clear, that it is full revealed.

The Holy Spirit didn’t stop there, as this plan from before the foundation of world was executed, as it was completed.  As we, nearly 20 centuries later, see what God has planed and did impact our lives.

Right now, God’s plan is being revealed, and it is revealed in our lives..

18 times Paul mentions the plan….

It is that important to understand that plan for us…

Is real.

Is now….

…….And it defines who we are…..

The Amazing Plan….

We see the plan revealed with these words,

who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ

for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.

The apostle Paul is explaining the reason for the manger, for the cross, for the baptismal font, for the altar from which we receive the feast of all feasts, the Lord’s Supper.

This purpose, this plan, was to reconcile everything to God the Father, as it was united to Jesus.

Paul will use the gardening/farming illustration of grafting us to Christ, of binding us to Him, for He is the source of our life.

He will use the banking illustration of reconciling us to Christ, and of redeeming us from the debt owed.  Everything we are, moved from a liability to an asset in God’s balance book.

He will talk of freeing us, and declaring us justified/righteous, judicial terms, and the medical concept of quickening – the bringing back to life.  God uses the image of the travel agent even, delivering His people into the land of milk and honey, the image looking toward the day Paul mentions in Colossians,

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NAB)

 This is all why this exists, this plan of God to make for Himself a people, the masterpiece he will mention in chapter 2, verse 10.

A plan which no one could really understand prior to the cross, a mystery because no one could have understood that all this would be accomplished through a cross, through the violent death of God, as we killed Jesus, as God the Father raised Him from the dead.

The Amazing Reason….

If the plan for our deliverance, for our salvation, a plan put into place before the garden of Eden and is incredible and praiseworthy and glorious, there is a comment about this plan that is more astonishing.

It is mentioned a number of times as well…. The idea of bringing us home, of making us in Christ Jesus His children, is that this is His desire, this is what brings God, our creator great pleasure.

This is God’s goal for creation, it has been what the Trinity has determined to be their plan since the beginning.  God desired to adopt you Bob, and you Ben, you Carol, and you Julie.

If God had a facebook account with pictures of His kids….it would include you!

That may sound silly, (or it might cause some great concern – He’d have the most embarrassing pictures ever!)

But you are God’s adopted kids, a process that He takes the greatest joy in….

You are His, and you are the one He wanted….

Hear that again… all of this… all of Christmas….all of the symbolism, all of the decorations, all of advent and lent, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost… it’s all about one thing….

God desire to make us His children, and doing what it took to make it so….

Our Reaction

That’s why this passage from Ephesians is called a doxology – an ancient song of praise.

Because God has desired this, because He has done this.

He’s made us His!

He has blessed us in a way we know is promised, and occasionally we get a glimpse of, like when someone is brought into the family of God, whether as an infant, or as someone in their 90’s.

We are amazed at such love, and we have to delight in it – we have to praise Him directly and to others… it is the reaction that comes from knowing such great love!

It is why this is all here as well – to testify, to proclaim that this love is for every person that has lived – and celebrated, for those who are living now – to come and pray here, a place for this incredible, glorious plan of God to be revealed to them, for His desire to be His children to be made known.

For all the people who live with 20 miles of this place to know the height and depth, breadth and width of God’s love, for them to rejoice and praise Him, for them to dwell in the peace we know…. For in Christ, we live in that peace, awaiting the day of His return…with Him.

AMEN?

If you are interested in hearing this sermon – you can check it out at

God’s Not Dead… but He did die on a Cross…

Devotional Thought of the DayThe Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

22  Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. 23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (TEV)

16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:16-19 (TEV)

I venture to assure you, my dear reader, that if you and I enter into this forge of the Love of God, our souls will become better, being cleansed of some of the dross that clings to them.  (1)

I watched a couple of interesting movies yesterday.  The first was Good Will Hunting, and then I watched the movie that has become quite popular among Christians, God’s Not Dead.

I wrote last night on FB that both were about redemption, and that both fell short.  They both dealt with brokenness, they both had characters, several of them, that needed to be healed of the darkness they dwelt in, and they both seemed to find healing for their brokenness.  And both fell short. Both were incomplete.

But what surprised me is that I found that God’s not Dead seems to have fallen shorter in some ways.

Good Will Hunting isn’t a movie trying to serve as an apologetic.  It is simply a John Hughes movie, done in the context of Boston. Quite realistic, even to the language.  it got it when the character that is redeemed can’t be helped by the wisdom and knowledge of the world, of the professors and clinicians.  It takes a broken, battered man (Robin Williams) and the unlikely average joe to bring about the promise of redemption, of meaning.  And it is found, not in the career, not in the perfection of life, but in the need for real love, and the chase of the one who loves.  Replace Minnie Driver with Christ, the sexual scenes with times of intimate prayer – and you have something.

But the brokenness and pain can’t be healed by anything but love.

Now to God’s not dead

Did you notice anything really conspicuous missing from the movie?

Think.

Think again.

The ontological arguments were well done.  The brokenness of relationships with God and between Dean Cain and his family, and Kevin Sorbo and his girlfriend, students and life in general are well done, if a bit over the stop in stereotypes.  The dealing with cancer, and the band ministering to the girl with a cancerous death sentence, nice done as well.

But there is something missing.

Figure it out yet?

I’ll help.

Where was the cross?

You can prove the existence of the Divine, of a Creator, logically and completely, and still have someone who is bound by satan, enslaved by sin, in anxiety over death.

Luther noted that this was true, as he explained the work of the Holy Spirit in the Large Catechism

For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. (2)

We  can know all about the existence of God, but without the cross, you cannot know God’s attitude is towards you.  All we can realize is that you don’t deserve love, but punishment.  Like the mathematicians and fancy psychologists, we cannot find a way out of our brokenness.  We are so broken, so torn up, so enslaved by sin. Even forensic, scientific apologetics becomes, not a hope, but a hindrance.  The victory of young Wheaton in the movie is something we can triumph in, we defended God successfully!  We won the battle, even as they don’t see the victory in the back room, or out on the street, or even behind him, as the girl who lost her family but found Christ was there.

We have to have the cross, for it is there we find God’s attitude toward us, we see the incredible dimensions of His love in those rough beams, in the blood soaked body of Christ.  We proclaim His death until He comes again, as Paul says we do as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, the incredible love of the Eucharist.  We are joined to that cross in our baptism (see Colossians 2, Romans 6, Titus 3)

it is impossible to know the love of God without seeing His work, without seeing the cross.

And it was missing.

The relationship?  It was a minor secondary thing compared to the victory.  Compared to the people who came to “know” about God by deciding God’s case.

As if we could comprehend His ways, understand His actions simply by deducing there is a God.

We have to know there is a God who loves us……who loves us enough to die for us.

Yes, God’s not dead, but He did die….

for you.

Get to know Him, walk with Him, it is why He died.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 203-204). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.Part II  Of the Creed: Article III

 

My Name will Be There!

 My Name will Be There!

1 Kings 8:22-24, 27-29, 41-43

In Jesus Name

May You realize the presence of God, in those places where He has placed His Holy Name, and in those places where you go, knowing He has given you His name!

What the church Is Dedicated to…

As I looked at the Old Testament reading, one of my favorites, I began to think of all the churches I’ve been at.  From St. Francis in Lawrence Massachusetts, to St Joes in Salem, to the Crystal Cathedral, the church I went to when I moved to California, to churches I’ve pastored, to St Mary’s in Rome, and Mei Lin Christian Church in China, to little tiny chapels along the way, and monstrous auditoriums, there is something special about each of them.

It is how Solomon described the temple he had built at God’s direction.  I love this part of the prayer Solomon spoke at the dedication:

“Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29  May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there!

 His Name will be here…

For all peoples – for those who know Him, and those who do not…

Solomon’s prayer shows us how God would be there, where He put His name for both groups, as they gather and pray to Him.

In the very same way He shows us, that He will be there, where He has put His name for us, whether we know we are part of His family, or not.

The We know we are forgiven and healed

As I look at Solomon’s request, as I hear him plead with God for those who are part of God’s family, it seems interesting that what Solomon wants God to communicate to them is boiled down to one incredible word,

Forgiveness.

Hear Solomon’s words again.

30  May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.

Of all the things Solomon could have said, what he did ask for, what God will agree to in chapter 9, is this idea of forgiveness.  That whenever people came before God – the purpose was always about the forgiveness.

Which means, that is what they were asking for?!?

That’s how much they had come to value the relationship they had come to know with God – that which was on their mind most was… God, please let me know you still love me they cried, as we should.  God please don’t abandon me, please don’t give up…please forgive me…

God puts His name there, so that we can run to Him, and know that He won’t reject us, that He will still be our God, and He will take care of the sin.  That we don’t need to hide our sin, or make believe we don’t know it is sin,, or try to excuse it with excuses that didn’t work when we were kids….

But we come to our Lord, to the place where He put His name, and as He has always done, He will forgive us, and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

That’s what we, His children, more than anyone else needs to realize.  That when we come to Him, humbly and earnestly and ask Him for help – like every father in this room would run to help our kids, He will be there, more than just our knight in shining armor, our superhero,

He will be our God.  He won’t turn us away, when we come….looking for grace and mercy….

We know that…we need to trust in Him for that, and give up doing those things we know we shouldn’t.  We need to lean on Him to think, to say and yes to do the things that He’s told us are best for us,

And pray for forgiveness…and help when we struggle.

Knowing He’s always been faithful to this promise… is an incredible blessing.

That those outside the family – would know God is there for them as well

Solomon’s prayer just doesn’t leave off with those who are already part of God’s family, the people of Israel who are in a relationship with Him, God’s kin you might say.  Hear again Solomon’s prayer for them,

41 “In the future, foreigners who do not belong to your people Israel will hear of you. They will come from distant lands because of your name, 42 for they will hear of your great name and your strong hand and your powerful arm. And when they pray toward this Temple, 43 then hear from heaven where you live, and grant what they ask of you. In this way, all the people of the earth will come to know and fear you, just as your own people Israel do. They, too, will know that this Temple I have built honors your name.

 

Solomon asks God to respond to those who aren’t even believers in Him!  And He doesn’t change.  What is even more amazing is that what they ask – Solomon prays God will act on, And here is God’s response, from the next chapter,
2  the LORD appeared to him again, as he had in Gibeon. 3  The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer. I consecrate this Temple which you have built as the place where I shall be worshiped forever. I will watch over it and protect it for all time. 1 Kings 9:2-3 (TEV)

Even in the days of Israel’s greatest glory, and before, this has been God’s plan – that all people on Earth would come to intimately know Him, and live reverently with Him.

That is why He had Solomon put the temple there, so that all people could gather and know Him, not just any one ethnicity, not just any one language group.  A place where all would be welcome to pray to Him, to cry out to Him, and to be confident of His care, His love, and His hearing every one of our prayers.

This is why it is here…

Many people have many different reasons for building a temple or church.  But God has a reason above all that.  We aren’t here because we put our name in this place. We are here – whether person that has been part of God’s family, or the person who has never stepped foot in a church til this morning, who isn’t sure who God even is, because God has put His name here, it is here, like other places where He has done so, that we come to pray, believer and unbeliever alike, because He calls us here to do so… with the promise that He will listen.

If Solomon could see that in regards to this temple… how much more should we see it now… after the cross, after the splendor of Pentecost.

It is why we are here.

There is one more thing that we need to realize, that I think we forget.  It is not just the building where God puts His name… it is on the people gathered in that place.  Sometimes we forget that.  But when someone is baptized – the Bible talks about God adopting them, about His giving them a new name, about them becoming God’s people. That’s why we make the sign of the cross – to remember we bear His name, on our minds, and on our hearts.

The temple of Solomon no longer stands, but the people of God, the ones upon whom He has given His name – the church is alive, here in Cerritos, and in Yucca Valley, and in Rome and in China…all over the world God has sent those who bear His name.  We are loved, and we realize that more and more, not just listening to sermons, but in talking with God, in praying to Him.

As we who trust in His love and mercy realize He hasn’t given up on us yet, he still love and forgives. As those who come here, hearing from us about God’s love – come into His presence with us, and the Holy Spirit hears their prayers, and God acts. Indeed communicates with us, those who come to know and adore Him when He tells us of His love through His word, through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Hearing His voice, hearing Him tell of His commitment to us, we know something extraordinary.

We know, we find that we are at peace…resting assured of His love…knowing we are not alone, we are not going to be abandoned, but we will be loved until that day, when He gathers us home to be with Him.

AMEN?

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