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TEXT: Ephesians 1:3-12
SUBJECT: Enjoy Your Life, Part 2
In my last sermon, I urged you to enjoy your life. You ought to do this, in the first place, because God tells you to-
Eat your bread with joy,
Drink your wine with a merry heart,
Let your garments always be white,
Let your head lack no oil,
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love,
Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.
These are the commands of God, and yes, I know they're in Ecclesiastes, a book notoriously hard to interpret, but verses from other parts of the Bible can be cited to the same effect, without wondering how they're to be taken. I Timothy 6:17 is a good example-
Command those who are rich in the present age not to be haughty or to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
Everything we have-Paul says-is the gift of God and we ought to receive it with maximum gratitude and wring all the happiness out of it we can. In a word-
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits,
Even the God of our salvation.
Before we go in, I want to reflect on the word, loads. It is used several times in the Old Testament, and most often, refers to burdens borne by donkeys. Joseph's brothers-for example-loaded up their donkeys with all the grain they could buy in Egypt. These were wealthy men, of course, with big ranches, and they had to make due for years with what they bought. The loads must have been mighty heavy, as much as the poor donkeys could carry-and maybe a little more.
What the rich men did to their donkeys, a far richer God does to us-He heaps on us one blessing after another! Some people-our Lord said-are weary and heavy laden with guilt and fear and regret. We're not these people! The People of God are heavy laden with blessings!
I defy anyone in this room to say his father is more generous than mine. He gave me everything I needed, nearly everything I wanted, and nothing with a lousy attitude! He is not a rich man, but something far better: he's a good man! This is the kind of father I have, and his goodness to me is an incomplete picture of our Father our Heaven and His goodness to us all.
Our Lord's best-known story, I suppose is the parable of The Prodigal Son. Have you ever looked up the word, 'prodigal' in the dictionary? I did, and here's what I found as the first meaning:
Given to extravagant expenditures; expending money or other things without necessity; not frugal or economical.
By this definition, the father was more 'prodigal' than his son. His spending on the boy's welcome home party was extravagant, without necessity, not frugal, not economical. The man's other son resented his father's goodness, but he should have celebrated it, because he had as much of it as the runaway did!
Are you mindful of your Prodigal Father? Do you go through life with the words of Lou Gehrig in your soul? Two weeks after he was diagnosed with a disease that would soon kill him, he stood before the microphone in Yankee Stadium and said-
Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
We're more than lucky, of course; we are loved by a Father whose generosity is as infinite, eternal, and unchangeable as everything else about Him-
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
In my last sermon, we thought about the blessings we have under the sun, and how we mustn't despise them, but rather, rejoice in them because they're good in themselves, and because they point to things even better.
Some of these things are named in Ephesians 1:3-12. Scholars and preachers have numbered them differently, and in another sermon, I might weigh in with my opinion; but not in this one. My goal is to get you to enjoy the life God has given you, and not just the life He's given you under the sun. But also, the Life He has given you that will outlive the sun.
In the first place, God wants you to enjoy your election, v.4-
Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
To 'elect' means to choose. It is God who chooses and we who are chosen. Out of His sheer love, He chose us before He made the world, and what He chose us for is holiness-a real, but incomplete holiness in this life, and in the life to come, a perfect holiness.
I remember the day this doctrine clicked in my mind. It was the afternoon of Friday, November 23, 1979. Almost thirty years later, I have to confess I have preached it, taught it, discussed it, debated it, and fussed about it far more than I have enjoyed it. This is not how Paul felt about it. He doesn't explain the mystery or speculate on things God hasn't revealed, he simply enjoys it. He enjoys being part of God's chosen people and he tells us to join him in the celebration-
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us.
People often think theology is impractical, and it can be presented that way. But it shouldn't be-not in books, not in sermons, and not in our own thinking. Nothing is more 'everyday' than the doctrine of election. It's not just true, it's good for you.
What does election mean on Tuesday afternoon? It means I matter to God. He chose me-not because I was qualified or lived up to His expectations-but because He loved me and still does. You think this might help a middle-aged man when he's unemployed and nobody wants him? Think this might help the man who sees nothing in his wife's face but disappointment? Think this might help the girl sitting by the phone hoping for a boy to call who never does? What about the shy woman who comes to church and nobody says, 'hello'? Think this might help the senior citizen who feels like a burden to everyone? Are these people rejects? Are they losers? In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, are they-
Or, are they chosen by God before the world began? If they're this to God-they matter. No Christian is unimportant, because every one of us was loved before God made the world and will be loved every bit as much when the world is remade. Jeremiah 31:3-
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.
This is what Election means. It means we matter to God. We all do. Especially the losers.
In the second place, God wants you to enjoy your predestination, vv.5-6-
Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, that by which He has made us accepted in the beloved.
If election ties people in knots, predestination pulls the strings tight. What does it mean? It means a plan; God not only wants to save us, but He knows how to do it. Some people are warm hearted, but feeble minded. They want to throw a birthday party, for example, but they fail to bake the cake, forget to mail out the invitations, and leave their wallet at home when they go out to buy the gifts! Good wanting, bad planning.
The Lord is not this kind of person. Nor is He subject to the missteps that even the most organized people are. In other words, before He made the world He chose to save us, and He didn't leave it there: He also chose how to do it, and His wisdom, power, and patience, make the plan work to perfection.
Our salvation cannot fail because the Lord has planned it for us in exhaustive detail, and nothing gets by Him. Your sins and temptations and weaknesses and the failures of other people do not throw a monkey wrench into His plan; in fact, they're part of the plan, which we cannot explain, and don't need to because, in the words of the old TV show-
Father knows best.
We can enjoy our Predestination because it means even the worst things in life have a part in bringing us to glory. Romans 8:28 is a verse quoted more often than it is understood. The first part says-
All things work together for good to those who love God.
In a general sense, I believe 'all things' means just that-every single thing without exception. But this is not what Paul has in mind. If you read the verses around it, the things that most work together for our good are bad things-groaning, waiting, confusion, distress, famine, persecution, death, and even the devil.
Paul isn't saying these bad things are good-they're not. Cancer, unemployment, bereavement, family break-ups-these are evil things. But the Lord is so wise and powerful that He can use even them to conform us to the image of His Son.
Several years ago, I attended the funeral of a boy whose parents I knew fairly well. I cannot remember what year it was, where the funeral was held, what the preacher said, or how many came to it; even the boy's age has gotten fuzzy in my mind. Only one thing sticks in my mind about the service: it was the hymn sung at the end of it. We have it in our book, page 94-
Whate'er my God ordains is right: holy His will abideth;
I will be still whate'er He doth, and follow where he guideth:
He is my God, though dark my road, He holds me that I
Shall not fall: wherefore, to Him I leave it all.
After the service, I came up to the pastor (who's a friend a mine) and asked why he chose the hymn. I didn't choose it-he said-the parents did.
The parents were heartbroken, of course; but on the day they laid their son to rest, Predestination was not a theological argument, it was their greatest comfort. Like Job suffering the same loss, they worshiped, and said-
Naked came I from my mother's womb,
And naked shall I return;
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away:
Blessed be the name of the Lord.
God wants you to enjoy your Predestination because it means-
Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father;
And behold, you are worth more than many sparrows.
In the third place, God wants you to enjoy your redemption, v.7-
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace.
'Redemption' is an old Bible word with a rich and varied history. Its basic idea is 'to buy back' something that has been lost. Suppose a man fell into debt and had to sell his property, suppose too, that even that didn't cover his expenses, and he sold his family and himself into slavery. Since slavery was not a high-paying job, how could he ever get himself out of the hole he had dug for himself and his family? He couldn't, of course.
But God was not content letting the man lose everything. He commanded a relative to get it back for him. The man was called his Kinsman Redeemer.
What he was to the poor man in Israel, Jesus Christ is to us. His death in our place satisfies the justice of God and frees us from the power of our guilt and fear and sin.
Being redeemed doesn't mean we're sinless; it means we're forgiven, and being forgiven means we are not in trouble with God, we don't have to live in fear and shame, and we can die in hope because-
Jesus paid it all.
If 'Redemption' were way off in the future only, we could live in great hope. And in is future, but not only future; it is also a present reality, for in Christ, the future is now-the end of the world (in part) has come to us. Thus, we are already redeemed, already forgiven, already justified, already restored. And, what God has begun to do for us and in us will not be left undone. He will finish His great work and our salvation will be complete and forever.
God wants you to enjoy the life He has given you; both the physical life of eating and drinking, dressing up, kissing your wife and doing your job. And the life all these point to-the spiritual life we have in Christ; the life God chose for us before we were made, the life we live under His eye, and the life that ends in glory.
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