We have been talking about the incredible blessings that God freely lavished upon all Christians regardless of their background. Last Sunday we learned that a simple definition of a Christian is “a saint” A ‘saint’ or a set apart one for God. You may not be feeling a saint this morning, perhaps sick, sleepy and struggling with sin but nevertheless if you are a born again Christian then you are a saint. Not only has God set Christians apart for himself but also blessed them with manifold blessings and seven of them are found in Ephesians 1: 6-9.(Read)
A bit of background on the book of Ephesians will help us understand this better. The apostle Paul wrote this letter during (AD 60-64) to the church in the city of
capital of the Roman province of Asia ( Asia Minor,
Modern Turkey). Though it was addressed to the Church in Ephesus
it may have been a circular letter intended to be read by all the churches in Asia Minor. In this epistle, the word church means Church
universal. Therefore the truths from this letter are applicable to believers of
Ephesians is one of Paul’s five “Prison Epistles”, probably written while in prison in
Rome. This letter is rich in New Testament
doctrine but also is filled with practical suggestions on Christian behavior.
This is a letter of encouragement and admonition, written to remind believers
of their incredible blessings in Jesus Christ; and not only to be thankful for
those blessings but also to live in a manner of worthy of them. So far we
looked at three incredible blessings namely; 1. A divine election (Hand picked
by God) 2. A divine adoption (Adopted by God) 3. A divine redemption (Set free by
God.) Today we will focus on two more of the Incredible Blessings of
Christians: The abundant grace and the mystery of His will.
I THE ABUNDANT GRACE: (Vs 6)
Vs 6, “To the praise of the glory, of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” The ultimate purpose of our salvation is first and foremost for the glory of God. In Ephesians 2:8, we read, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast."
Our salvation is a free gift of grace. We did not deserve it neither did we earn it by our good works. It was absolutely God’s doing. The word grace in Greek means: a favor, acceptance, a kindness granted, a benefit. A favor done without expectation of return. God’s grace affects man’s sinfulness and not only forgives the repentant sinner, but brings joy and thankfulness to him. Let me illustrate grace. In a great article on grace Charles Stanley notes:
“One of my more memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating to his students the concept of grace. At the end of his evangelism course he would distribute the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well. As we read the test, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough.
The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard through out the lecture hall. On the last page, however, was a note that read, "You have a choice.
You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment." Wow? We sat there stunned. "Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?" Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room.
When I talked with the professor about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years. Some students began to take the exam without reading it all the way through, and they would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page. Others read the first two pages, became angry, turned the test in blank, and stormed out of the room without signing it. They never realized what was available, and as a result, they lost out totally.
One fellow, however, read the entire test, including the note at the end, but decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, but he could easily have had an A.
This story illustrates many people’s reaction to God’s solution to sin. Some people look at God’s standard--moral and ethical perfection--and throw their hands up in surrender. Why even try? They tell themselves. I could never live up to all that stuff. Others are like the student who read the test through and was aware of the professor’s offer but took the test anyway.
Unwilling to simply receive God’s gift of forgiveness, they set about to rack up enough points with God to earn it. But God’s grace truly is like the professor’s offer. It may seem unbelievable, but if we accept it, then, like the stunned students who accepted the professor’s offer, we, too, will discover that, Yes, God’s grace truly is free.
It is not only free it is abundant, it never runs dry. It is always available for a repentant sinner. No matter what horrible sin you have done, this morning, God’s grace is sufficient for you. You don’t deserve his grace but he gives it to you. All you have to do is to accept it by faith and receive his forgiveness. Dou you want to know what grace looks like and like, it looks like Jesus. “He came from the father, “full of grace and truth. He personified God’s grace. He showed us what grace is like through his life and death.
Though being in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing… he humbled himself to death even death on a cross. Through his substitutionary death, God imputed righteousness to us. In other words God accepts us as his righteous and beloved children and blesses us with his abundant grace.
What does it mean that we are blessed with his abundant grace? As undeserving as we were yet received grace so we are to give grace to the most undeserving people. We can not afford to hold grudges against the brothers and sisters in the family of God. If God could be gracious toward us and forgave and accepted us how can we not then be gracious towards our spouses, children and friends even when they hurt us? Being God’s children not only makes us recipients of his grace but also makes us his confidants. He reveals the mystery of His will.
II. THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL: (Vs 9)
Vs 9, “And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ.” This scripture explains that God keeps no secrets from his Children; moreover it was His pleasure to reveal His will to them and what he purposed to do in Christ.
The apostle Paul calls this a mystery (highly kept secret) and it is only meant for God’s children. For example: A stranger is denied a share of little familiarities and secrets of a family. No one in the family is willing to take him into the delightful confidence of its innermost secrets. In the same manner, the unregenerate are excluded from the sweet inner experiences and knowledge of the secrets of God which He entrusts to the members of his family or household. Ps 25:14, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”
What is the mystery of God’s will? The mystery of God’s will has two dimensions: one for the individual believer and the second is for the world. First, the mystery of God’s will in the life of an individual believer.
Paul unfolds this individual mystery in Colossians 1: 24-27. “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness- the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Can you imagine what would that do to you, when you know that Christ lives in you? It is indeed a mystery, how in the world is that possible, that the creator the whole universe makes his dwelling in your heart? It is highly impossible to fathom, but that is what exactly took place when we have opened our hearts to God and surrendered our lives to Him the king of the universe came to live inside of us.
Christ in you; let that truth sink in a bit. When Christ is living in us is there anything we lack? Is there anything or anyone we are afraid of? Is there anything that we can not do? When we know Christ is living in us how can we go out and offer the parts of our body to adultery, pornography, smoking pot and drunkenness? When Christ is living in us how can we not forgive those who have hurt us? Would Christ in you be honored when you let your tongue indulge in gossip? When Christ is in you can you honestly hold on to bitterness?
Christ in you, this profound truth has been kept hidden for all ages and generations but now has been disclosed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we believe it and apply to it and begin to live accordingly it will radically revolutionize our lives. This Christ living in me concept is not new to me but I am beginning to see it in a fresh way and it is changing my perspective on how I see myself, how I view others and how I interpret the world around me. If there is one thing you can take away from this message it is to know that Christ in you is the hope of glory. Christ in you is all you need or ever want, because in Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The second dimension of the mystery is what God will do at the end of the world. In our passage Paul explains, when the fullness of time comes God is going to bring everything in heaven and on earth together under one head that is His Son Jesus Christ. If we take a close look at our world who do you think is controlling the world? It looks like as if the most part of the world is under the grip of the prince of the air. There is crime, starvation, war, political unrest, economic crisis, apathy, greed, sexual immorality, arrogance, addiction, divorce, murdering of the innocent children, and the persecution of believers. It feels like as if the devil is in absolute control and he is having a field day.
We wonder and complain like the ancient prophet Habakkuk, saying, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help?...Why do you tolerate the wicked?..(Habakkuk 1:14-15). But let’s take heart. The long wait is over. There are signs all around us that remind us, not too long from now God is going to bring his judgment upon the earth. That will happen when Christ returns to the earth for the second time. When Christ returns what will happen to all the believers and to all those who rejected Him? He will gather all the believers to himself to rule and reign with him throughout eternity and He will send the devil and all his followers to a hopeless eternity.
That is the mystery revealed in God’s word. In closing, I want to ask how many of you are sure that you have received God’s abundant grace and understand the mystery of God’s will? If you are sure, then thank God. If you are not sure, you can be sure of it today; all you have to do is to ask Jesus to forgive your sins and come reside in your heart. If you do that sincerely; then you too will become a son of God and have access to all these incredible blessings. Amen