An Upbeat Word for a Downbeat World
Eph. 1: 3-14
Introd. There is a lot of things wrong with our world.
There are tensions in Middle East, innocent people are dying daily in such places as Syria, Sudan and North Korea; Christians are being persecuted in many areas of the world; women are denied their rights, world hunger and human trafficking are major problems.
We have our own problems in America: debt is being raised to 16.2 T; jobs are being lost, two parties who are bent on their own agendas as opposed to what is best for our country; seems like anger and greed has replaced cooperation and compassion in much of our land.
When it bring it down to a congregation level, we also have many issues to deal with: health issues that are severe; 2 month old baby diagnosed with cancer; people struggling in their marriages to survive; caught up in various addictions who desperately want to get relief. Our prayer lists are full. Despite all of our modern technology; we live in a world filled with tension, anxiety, and worries on all fronts. there is plenty in this world to keep you awake.
And then, just when we think there is no hope for this world . . . comes the story of Jesus birth – God came down to us to help us out. That's the good news for this first Sunday in a new year. Just when humanity was on the verge of giving up, here comes God.
If you and I want to wallow in despair and gloom we will have to do it somewhere else other than Bayside. We are going to choose to live in hope, faith, and love while we await the second arrival of Jesus in power and glory.
This is not to ignore the realities of our world. There is a moral and ethical crisis in our land that cannot be glossed over. It permeates our society from the corporate boardroom all the way down to the community grade school. But be careful of wringing your hands and declaring that the world is going to the dogs; we’re not going to major on what’s wrong but on who God is and what’s right. 2012 is filled with unlimited possibilities waiting to be grabbed. Here is the encouraging word from God:
Eph. 1: 3-14 3 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[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] 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 he[d] 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 reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen,[e] 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 put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you 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.(NIV)
This is one of my favorite passages of scripture – I have probably preached on this text as many times as any I have ever used. It is a powerful text. If we will allow it to enter into our thinking, it will change the way we view our lives and who we are in Christ. It is filled with praise to God, blessings from God and challenges to share God with a needy world.
I. WE ARE BLESSED. Vs. 3
One of the great principles of life is this: you will find what you are looking for. If you want to rail against our government, you have lots of ammunition; if you want to shake your head at corporate greed – easy target; if you want to complain our injustice in our world – you have reason to do so. Here’s an alternative: Let’s give thanks for God’s blessings as they are all around us if we have eyes to see.
If you want to feel sorry for yourself begin to compare yourself with others. You will begin to say: I don’t have as much as they do – you’ll get discouraged and disappointed. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, look at what this section tells us that God has done for us spiritually: we are blessed with every spiritual blessing! Then he elaborates and tells how we are blessed.
Vs. 4 He chose us. Can you get your mind around an idea so powerful? You have been chosen. What a beautiful word that is - chosen. Can you remember the agony of not being chosen? Is there anybody in the room who was ever the last to be chosen for a team? Anyone who did not make the cheerleading squad? Anyone ever sit on the bench while someone else got the glory? Anybody who sat at home while your friends were out on dates? Well, this time you and I are not left out. We have been chosen.
Several years ago, a California aerospace company hired a motivational consultant to evaluate its work force. The consultant interviewed one of the senior vice presidents who told him about a particular section where production and performance were extremely high. Turnover and absenteeism in this department were the lowest in the company. Morale was very high. What seemed to puzzle the executive was that the work done there was mechanical and repetitive. This group of employees maintained the pipes in the plant. Their job was checking temperatures and pressures. The delicacy of the equipment meant that the pipes had to work within strict tolerances or there would be expensive damage. But why was morale so high?
The consultant visited the department and the foreman took him on a tour. He noticed that all the workers wore green surgical smocks. He asked the foreman about it. The foreman explained that he got them from his son, a surgeon. The consultant said, "Ah, so you wear them for comfort." "No, no!" the foreman said, "It's because we are surgeons. Just like my son. He takes care of the pipes of the body. We take care of the pipes of the plant! We take care of these pipes exactly the way a doctor takes care of your heart." The consultant even noticed the stencils on their locker doors said, "Dr." and then the worker's name.
What was happening here? The workers in that maintenance department believed their work was important - just like a doctor's work is important. They felt privileged doing what they were doing. They felt chosen.
Everyone in this world has a need to feel like he or she counts. Thus it is with great joy that we hear the words from the Scripture, "we are chosen!" You have a job to do; a responsibility to fulfill; a goal to implement.
Vs. 5 he adopted us as sons and daughters Predestination has always been a hot button in spiritual circles. I have grown up with and believe that the plan is predetermined but that each individual must make their choice. Others believe that individuals are predetermined. Regardless of your view, I have no question that God's ultimate will for us all is that we become members of His own family. In its rawest sense, an adoption is to take someone who is not wanted and welcome them into your family.
And when we realize that we are members of God’s family we come to see ourselves as we really are " sons and daughters of the Divine nature of God.
Vs. 6 he gives us his grace – not just at salvation but throughout our life – aren’t you glad his grace doesn’t end at salvation. The unmerited love of God for us is exhibited every day of our life. Not only are we saved by grace, but we live by grace. He says I will pick you up with you fall; I will sustain you through trouble; I will still love you through bad choices. He floods us with his grace. Powerful thought.
Vs. 7 He forgives our sins –don’t have to carry the weight of things we have done wrong – released from that burden. Times when individuals may hold a grudge against you for the rest of your life because of something you have done; you don’t have to worry about that with Jesus. He treats us as if we have never sinned.
Wouldn’t it be terrible if God brought us into the family and then daily reminded us of what we did wrong? Psalm 103 says he cast them as far as the east is from the west never to be remembered again. Isa. 43 says he is doing a new thing.
Vs. 8 he lavishes us with wisdom and understanding - James 2:5 says if we lack wisdom, ask of God and he will supply us. You don’t have to be an intellectual giant to have wisdom. As we search the scriptures, God reveals himself to us. We have those aha moments. Now I see. The great news is that these aha moments go on all our lives. I’m still seeing things for the first time –Carole yesterday– as we go through life – God speaks to our current situation. As I need understanding and wisdom, he provides it.
Vs. 9 he reveals His will – do you want to know what God’s will is for your life – ask him and he will show it to you – but not too far in advance. His will is not a secret, it’s a journey. God never reveals his will to you for the rest of your life – he does it day by day so your dependence on Him is a daily event. One step at a time.
I don’t think we are spiritual blessed and chosen so we can tell everybody how wonderful we are. If that is the case then Christianity becomes a selfish religion. I believe we are blessed and chosen so we can proclaim God’s goodness to a world that is desperate for good news.
II. We are blessed to bless others
Author Leonard Sweet was looking for a good place to have lunch in the community of Cannon Beach, Oregon. He approached a quaint cafe and pulled on the door. It was locked. On the door was a sign: "Out to lunch. Be back at 1:30." During the noon hour, the owner of the cafe had gone out to lunch. Somehow, he didn't get the fact that it was important for his business, a cafe, to also be serving lunch.
There are many churches today that are "out to lunch" when it comes to reaching out to change the world. But fortunately, there are many other churches who are seeking the best they are able, to make a difference in the world.
If you come to this church only for what you can get; you are missing the point. We gather together for inspiration, teaching and instruction, encouragement, for corporate worship, and for Christian fellowship but if this is the extent of your spiritual experience, you are missing something. We can’t allow Christianity to be a selfish religion – everything is about me. We are blessed so we can bless others.
After we leave this congregation, we go out into the world to be the church – to live our lives in such a way that God is glorified. To honor God and serve others.
Young people are often criticized because they are agents of change. Consider another perspective on today's young people. Did you know that according to a survey in Time magazine compared to teens twenty years ago, today's young people are less likely to get pregnant, less likely to get an abortion, less likely to drink alcohol, less likely to commit a violent crime, and more likely to do volunteer work. I know I'm proud of the young people in our church. They are active in service projects seeking ways to make a difference. Many of them are serving the Lord in leadership in other congregations having gone through our intern program. They are discovering an important principle:
Hope is to be found right here in this faith community.
In other words, the reason Christ came into the world was to form us into his people, his body that we might do his work in the world. Where there are people who bow at the name of Jesus, there is hope for the world.
Hope is not going to be found in a political system, an economic system, and educational system or even a democratic system; hope is found in Jesus Christ. He can be the difference maker in this world.
In LEADERSHIP magazine Mark Todd tells about an old man who came to the back door of a house some college kids were renting. The old man's eyes were glassy and his weathered face glistened with unkempt stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bid the students a good morning and offered his produce for sale. They were uneasy. They made a quick purchase to alleviate both their pity and their fear.
To their chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As their fears subsided, they got close enough to realize it wasn't alcohol but cataracts that marbleized his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he'd puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion.
The students decided they should do something to help him. So they pooled their money, bought several items of clothes and some new shoes and left them anonymously at his doorstep.On his next visit, he exclaimed, "The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch." "That's wonderful, Mr. Roth!" the students said, "We're happy for you." "You know what's even more wonderful?" he asked. "Just yesterday I met some people that could use them."