Q. Have you ever been frustrated by a sense of powerlessness?
- The depression epidemic is one aspect of this feeling of powerlessness
- Some people are discontent with life & their jobs
- They feel a sense of hopelessness & that they are powerless to change their position
- Most people aspire & crave for a job greater than the one they have
- Whether it be for more pay or more prominence, at the very least, people dream for something better
- Women who aspire to higher executive positions in companies talk about a glass ceiling that inhibits their rise to the top
- They can see where they’d like to go, but keep bumping against that glass ceiling
- They will speak of this in frustrating terms
- Let’s think about this for a moment
Q. With the free exercise of your will, can you make it to the top?
Q. Can you change whatever you want simply because you choose to?
- E.G. If you want to become a commercial airline pilot, can you do it?
- Well perhaps you can, but is it true of everyone who dreams of becoming a commercial airline pilot?
- No – not at all
1. The person will need lots of money for the training
- Where will that come from if you were born & grew up in the Dominican Republic?
2. The person will have to have good health
- Airline companies will not take someone who may not be physically healthy – I happen to agree with that
- I wouldn’t like to be at 45,000 ft when the pilot has a turn
Q. Does a person have absolute control over their health?
3. The person has to have a mental capacity adequate for the task
- A commercial pilot requires a high level of intelligence
- What I’m saying is that the pure exercise of the human will is not enough to change your circumstances
- The human will is subject to human limitations
- As some people have commented to me about others: “hmmm, nature hasn’t graced him with the best of abilities”
- The blessings spoken of in this passage today, gives us encouragement
- For what we could not achieve, God has achieved & has brought all our hopes & dreams to fulfilment
- Here Paul elaborates on these blessings in 3 ways:
1. That God’s people are God’s possession
2. God’s people depend on God’s will
3. God’s people live for God’s glory
1. God’s People are God’s Possession
A man was walking across a bridge one day, and saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. He immediately ran over and said "Stop! Don’t do it!"
"Why shouldn’t I?" he said.
The man said, "Well, there’s so much to live for!" "Like what?"
"Well ... are you religious or atheist?" "Religious."
"Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?" "Christian."
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" "Protestant."
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" "Baptist."
"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God
or Baptist Church of the Lord?" "Baptist Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God,
or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?" "Reformed Baptist
Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God,
reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist
Church of God, reformation of 1915?" "Reformed Baptist
Church of God,
reformation of 1915!"
To which he said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off
- 200 yrs ago on the 23rd Feb. - that’s 2 days ago was the 200 yr anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire
- There is a new movie that has just been released in American cinemas called “Amazing Grace”
- It’s the story of William Wilberforce, the Christian member of parliament that worked tirelessly for abolition of the slave trade
- I went on the Internet & had a look at the movie trailer
- One part in the trailer really stood out to me...
- One of the African slaves was showing Wilberforce an ownership brand mark that was burnt onto his chest by a branding iron
He said to him...they did this (showing his chest) to let you know that you no longer belong to God, but to a man
- For years & years, people have lived through the uneasy sense of powerlessness & oppression from men, but this has been radically altered by God
- The OT spoke of the Jew being God’s possession
Dt 32:9 ..... 9 “For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
- To be a Jew, meant to belong to God
- To be a Gentile, however, (which is anyone who is not a Jew) meant that you were outside of the grace of God
- To the Jews, Gentiles were considered dogs – not as in the household pet variety – but wild dogs – scavengers - that inhabited rubbish tips
- So you can imagine the sort of problem that could have existed in the early church between Jews & Gentiles – could have been sharp division
- You have, no doubt, seen the ethnic rivalry on the TV that occurred outside the Rod Laver arena
- Of course, that is nothing compared to the rivalry we see in the European soccer tournaments
- Notice here, however, that the Gentiles – that’s us – have been given the same privilege as the Jew
- God has moved from a national community to an international community
- Now follow along here in Ephesians...
Eph 1:11 ..... 11 In him WE were also chosen (“we” here means Jews)
- Because he further says “we who were the first to hope in Christ”
- Jews were the first to respond to the Gospel of Christ
Eph 1:13 ..... 13 And YOU also were included in Christ (“you” is the church Paul is writing to – mainly Gentiles)
- He starts with “we”, moves to “you”, and finishes with “our”
Eph 1:14 ..... 14 [the Holy Spirit] who is a deposit guaranteeing OUR inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession
- You need to see that it is not us & them – the church is made up from all nations that equally become God’s possession
- We need to ask 2 further questions. First, HOW did we become God’s people? And secondly, WHY did He make us His people?
- Paul answers the first question with reference to God’s will
- And he answers the 2nd question with reference to His glory
2. God’s People Depend on God’s Will
Q. HOW did we become God’s people & God’s possession?
- There can be no doubt about Paul’s reply – It was by the will of God!
v. 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
v.9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
v.11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
- The whole passage is full of references to God’s will, good pleasure, purpose and plan
- Paul could not have been more forceful in insisting that our becoming members in God’s new community was due neither to chance nor choice, but to God’s own sovereign will and pleasure
2 Ti 1:9 ..... 9 [God] who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,
- Now this does not mean that we were inactive in the process
- We still have a responsibility to respond
- In the one breath, Paul can say we were chosen, & then he says, “having believed”
v.13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
- Heard, received, believed, sealed
- It is God who initiates, but man who actuates
- When Charles Spurgeon, the great English preacher, was asked how he reconciled God’s sovereignty and predestination with free human will, he said this...
“I see no need to reconcile between friends”
- In other words, the Bible teaches that God is sovereign. The Bible also teaches that man is responsible for his actions
- God’s people depend on God’s will because they understand their feebleness – that they are incapable of creating a relationship with God and staying faithful to God by their own power
- It’s a healthy dependence on the power of God that brings with it the assurance that everything will be OK because God is at the helm
- You have become God’s people because of God’s will & decision
- You have become God’s people through His power & through His grace
- I was viewing the “Sexual Integrity DVD” this week and listened to the testimonies of ex-prostitutes
- They spoke of the bondage that goes with being a prostitute – how powerless they were in breaking free from it
- Without the help of God & caring people, they would have remained until they or someone else took their lives
- We could go on to name others like Brittany Spears who is spiralling down into a self-destructive lifestyle
- We have become a society of addiction
- Alcohol, drugs, anorexia, gambling, pornography & a whole host of other obsessions
- The issue is this: man’s will cannot create a relationship with God
- Our wills are not able to free us from the bondage of human weakness
- Only through God’s Gospel – through the Holy Spirit – through the will of God’s elective purposes can we know the freedom that comes from being God’s possession
- Again, it is God who initiates, man who actuates
- Finally, we move from the “how” we became God’s people to the “why” we became God’s people – and that is to “live for God’s glory”
3. God’s People live for God’s Glory
- So we move from His will to His glory
In my apprenticeship as a Carpenter, I was working on an old home with 3 other carpenters. There was an old concrete septic tank that had been leaking and needed repair. They pumped it out and plasterers got down into it & rendered the inside walls with cement to fill up any gaps.
Someone had to then go down & use what was commonly called “Black Jack” to paint over the new inside surface to seal it off so no moisture could escape. Black Jack emits a high volume of vapour thinners that, if inhaled, can send you into a real spin. Out of all the carpenters on site, who usually got the dirty jobs? The apprentice!
I had to go down into the tank and paint the walls with the “Black Jack”. I started one afternoon with about 30 mins before knock off. It wasn’t too bad because I came up regularly for air, but the next day was real bad because I was down there for 2 hrs doing the job. My head was spinning. When I came up the fresh air hit me like a brick and I was quite sick for a few hours.
- Sometimes we are chosen to do the not-so-pleasant jobs, but we can also get the better end of the stick as well
- Like sweeping out a newly completed building while the other carpenters were laying the concrete driveway in the hot sun
- Yes carpenters did a lot more in the 70’s than just work with timber
- While I didn’t belong to my boss, I still had to do as I was told
- If he asked me to do a task, I would have to do it
- I couldn’t say, “I can’t do that because my hands will get dirty”
- At least, if I wanted to keep my job I couldn’t say that
- He chose me as his apprentice, but as that apprentice, I had a purpose to fulfil
- He did a lot for me in training me to be a Carpenter, but I also had a purpose to fulfil for him – and that is – to work and bring him a return on my labours
- Christians are chosen in Christ for a purpose – that is, to be for the praise of God’s glory
- 3 times in this section, this purpose comes through loud & clear
Eph 1:5-6 ..... 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace.
Eph 1:12 ..... 12 that we (Jews) who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
Eph 1:13 ..... 13 Having believed, you (Gentiles) 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.
Q. What does this mean & how is God praised?
- Remembering that praise is a word that roughly means “to boast”
- We do this in 2 ways: in our speech & in our actions
1. In speech – we confess God’s name & are not backward in, publicly, giving Him thanks
Heb 13:15 ..... 15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
2. In our actions – in how we live
- We simply cannot speak one thing & live out another – the word for this is hypocrisy & many Christians have been open to that charge because they have said one thing & done another
- A number of priests have been exposed to the charge of paedophilia
Q. How does God look to the world when men do such things?
Q. Does that enhance His glory; are people inclined to sing the praises of this God when those who profess to represent Him, abuse children?
1 Pe 2:9 ..... 9 [of Jews & Gentiles] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
- Here then is the how & why of God’s people...
Q. How do we become His people? According to the good pleasure of His will
Q. Why did He make us His people? For the praise of the glory of His grace
- Everything we have & are, in Christ, both comes from God & returns to God
- This talk, however, comes into sharp collision with the man-centredness of the world
As John Stott says “Fallen man, imprisoned in his own little ego, has an almost boundless confidence in the power of his own will, and an almost insatiable appetite for the praise of his own glory. But the people of God have at least begun to be turned inside out. The new society has new values and new ideals. For God’s people are God’s possession who live by God’s will and for God’s glory”