MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THOUGHT: A CALLED COMMUNITY
C: A Called Community
Th: Building Up in Love; Doing Our Work
Pr: GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD TO US.
TS: We will find in our study of Ephesians 1.3-14 four blessings that show how God is always good to us.
The ____ blessing is a…
I. NEW IDENTITY (3-6)
II. NEW FREEDOM (7-8)
III. NEW PURPOSE (9-12)
IV. NEW POWER (13-14)
PA: How is the change to be observed?
• Receive the blessing of His salvation
• Fulfill your purpose
• Be community that fulfills its calling
RMBC 03 September 06 AM
A man is sitting in a restaurant with his buddies and all of a sudden he turns white.
"What’s wrong?" they ask.
"Oh, man, I left my brand new accordion in the back seat of my car, and I parked it in a pretty dark area."
He runs outside to check on his car and comes back looking dejected.
"What happened" his buddies ask. "Did someone break in to your car? Did they steal the accordion?
"They broke in, all right, but now I have three more accordions."
Feeling rejection is a pretty strong emotion, isn’t it?
Especially when we are enthusiastic about the subject…
1. How are you on rejection?
I remember when Dondra and I candidated in Kearny, NJ, we were enthusiastic about going, in spite of the fact that Kearny was situated between Newark and Jersey City.
But we were stunned to get the news that we were rejected by the church the following Sunday when they voted.
That was a really lousy feeling.
It really hurt.
It stinks, because…
2. We like to belong.
We like being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
1. Our discipleship emphasis theme is “Building Up in Love; Doing Our Work.”
Hopefully, you have received a booklet like this by now, which is our devotional guide for the next 43 days.
Day 1 was on September 1st, so now we are on day 3.
But you can pick up right there, and get fully involved.
I encourage you to read the beginning pages because this is where we are describing what we desire to accomplish for the next month and a half.
Of course, I will be speaking more of that in succeeding weeks.
There is a point to this emphasis that we want you to get, and it is simply this…
2. We belong to a community.
As we mentioned before, we all enjoy belonging to something bigger than ourselves.
God has wired humanity this way, and He has especially wired us, as believers in the Lord Jesus, to be in community together.
This is, in a real sense, what it means to be a church.
3. We exist in a community that is called together.
That is the root meaning of the Greek word for church, ecclesia.
It is the idea of being “called out” to gather and meet together.
God has called together this community called Randall.
We exist, ultimately for the praise of God’s glory.
And the way God demonstrates how great He is, is by working for our good, so that we might establish His kingdom presence in this world.
So, He challenges us to be real community, a people joined together to accomplish the mission of worship, spiritual formation, love and care in relationships and getting the message of the good news connected to those who have not yet heard or understood it.
There are many ways we demonstrate our community, but I want to focus on two this morning.
The first is what we have traditionally called our Sunday or Bible School.
We have always considered our children a priority, but we began to realize a couple of years ago, we were stuck n a rut – both in facility and program.
There is no one to blame in this.
We are not pointing any fingers because it was a collective effort that got us there.
So, we have redesigned and retooled what we are doing in the hour before the worship service.
For grades K-6, we are calling it Power Planet (parents you need to get one of these folders about what is going on during September).
One of the ways we do community together is taking Christian Education seriously.
The primary place this takes place is in the home, but it is not intended to be a solo effort.
We are to cultivate spiritual growth in Christ with each other.
For our children, this is all the more powerful when they are learning Bible lessons that are geared for their age, and they are loved and cared for by Spirit-filled children who are dedicated to their spiritual formation.
So, if you have children in this age group, I strongly encourage you to be taking part in this new, exciting program.
As our brochure says, “Plug In – Power Up – Catch On!”
The second is small groups.
If you are a part of a small group, that is you meet together with a small group of people on a regular basis, this is a great thing.
We want to encourage you to use the material we are studying as a basis for your gathering through mid-October.
Take what we are learning, including the tasks regarding spiritual formation, and start working on the nitty-gritty together.
If you don’t belong to a small group, and would really like to, we want you to be a part of one.
If this is an interest of yours, after the service is done, I encourage you to see one of three people, myself, Pastor Dick or Marie Moy.
Now, let’s get to today’s passage.
And here is what I want you to understand…
4. GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD TO US.
You are more important to God that you think you are.
Don’t lose sight of that thought this morning.
God is pursuing you today for your good.
This thought so fascinates the apostle Paul that our text today, which has already been read, is one real long sentence in the Greek, that is difficult to translate, because he leaps from thought to thought without every employing a clear break in thought (we call them “periods”).
Regardless, though, we do understand what Paul is excited about!
God is good!
He bestows good.
And He does it continuously.
It is in His nature and He just does not stop!
5. We will find in our study of Ephesians 1.3-14 four blessings that show how God is always good to us.
When we think of blessings we tend to think materially.
We think of blessings like good health, a nice house, workable cars, children, grandchildren, jobs and good retirement plans.
Sometimes, I think God is just humoring us with these types of things.
Because they are nothing compared to what He really has for us.
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (11) In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (12) so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (13) In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, (14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
I. The first blessing is a NEW IDENTITY (3-6).
1. The world no longer has a claim on us.
When someone says to you, “Welcome to the real world,” as a Christian, you really know what that means, because the spiritual transcends the material.
As believers, we are able to see beyond that which is solely visible.
Our physical world is full of sound waves.
You can’t see them, and in fact you would be totally unaware of them unless you tuned into them with a radio.
In the same way, the natural world is filled with the unseen, unknown world of the heavenlies – the spiritual world.
You may not see it, but it most certainly exists, and as a believer in Jesus, you are able to tune into them.
I like how John MacArthur says it…
As citizens of God’s heavenly dominion, Christians hold all the rights and privileges that citizenship grants, even while they are living in the “foreign” and sometimes hostile land of earth. Our true life is in the supernatural, the heavenly places. Our Father is there, our Savior is there, our family and loved ones are there, our name is there, and our eternal dwelling place and throne are there.
In other words, God has blessed us with a life that is lifted above the commonplace.
There is more than just what is seen.
2. We have been chosen for more.
It is at this point we are exposed to the concept of election and predestination, which is the idea that salvation comes to us because God has chosen us.
It stands in opposition to the concept of the free will of humanity, which states that we choose to either accept the gift of God’s salvation or we reject it.
I do not intend to solve the tension between these two truths, because it is a paradox that the New Testament does not seek to resolve.
They seem to me to be opposite and irreconcilable truths in the finiteness of my mind, and to favor one over the other will compromise the other.
At the same time, I do believe that they operate perfectly together in the infinite mind of God.
I can, though, offer a couple of thoughts that correspond to this passage that reveal how God is good to us.
First, we are able to choose God because God has made the choice possible.
Second, I also believe that the text would have us understand that election and predestination is just as much about what kind of life we are to live as it is about salvation, maybe even more.
We are chosen to live a life and called to live a life that reflects His purity.
It is life that is to be separate, different and holy, and is for our good.
Last year, in Australia, there was a story about Lizzie Spender, Sir Barry Humphries’ wife. The story goes that one time when she was flying over a friend’s property, they spotted a herd of wild horses (called brumbies). Her friend said, “Pick one and it’s yours” and Spender did just that. She picked one and photographed it from the air. Then she came up with a plan to catch it.
And this was no mean task on a property the size of Tasmania. So over 18 months they pulled together a team from around the world. A chopper pilot, musterers, a horse whisperer (to break it in), and a float driver to transport it.
They even built a brand new road 19 miles long to get the transport vehicles close to where they needed to be. And they built 1 mile of covered fencing for the muster yard. All the stops were pulled out to catch this one horse to satisfy Spenders desire to own it.
In the end the horse was never caught and Lizzie Spender had to settle for two other horses from the herd.
Toward the end of the story she explained that she had no children of her own and that the depth of emotion she had for these horses was like that of a mother and her children.
That is quite a mammoth effort to catch one horse and give it a home.
How much more has been the effort of God to bring you into His family!
Paul is emphasizing this point of God’s choice at this point because he wants to appreciate God’s gracious activity toward us.
You see, as believers…
3. We know the grace of adoption.
Adoption is an act of love.
For God lovingly draws redeemed sinners into the intimacy of His own family.
You are pursued.
It is not because of what you have done.
It is not according to what you deserve.
It is because of who you are.
You are precious.
This is His blessing to you.
II. The second blessing is a NEW FREEDOM (7-8).
We are introduced to redemption here, and it is in redemption…
1. We are bought back.
The biblical concept of redemption is the setting free of a thing or person that has come to belong to another.
It is being released because the price is paid.
It is being let go because the payment of the ransom has been made.
We need this payment because of the condemnation that is ours because of sin.
ILL Sin (Richard III)
William Shakespeare caught the spirit of the human predicament in Richard III when he wrote:
My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Unable to liberate ourselves, we are hopelessly enslaved to self, Satan, and sin.
It traps us.
It holds us, rendering us powerless to escape its clutches.
We are unable to overcome our sin, whether it is anger, drugs, pornography, envy, lying, materialism, harmful attitudes, or whatever.
In our natural, unsaved state we are at the mercy of sin; powerless against it.
In spite of the fact that sin ruins relationships, wrecks lives and brings untold pain, misery and regret, we can not seem to overcome it.
Our only hope is Christ who can redeem us, setting us free from sin’s penalty and its power in our daily lives.
And here is the good news, when we are redeemed…
2. Our sins no longer control us.
We are released from the bondage of sin.
We know the freedom of forgiveness, for the sin is sent away.
Its power is removed.
And as a result…
3. We become discerning.
God enlightens us to His purposes.
We are given wisdom to see things as they really are.
And we are given the insight to move toward the right action.
We are no longer stuck.
We no longer have to travel the wrong path.
Thus, we have…
III. The third blessing is a NEW PURPOSE (9-12).
You may remember that our theme for the year is “A People with Purpose.”
God reveals that purpose to us by becoming part of the plan…
1. We become a plan member.
The mystery which Paul speaks of is not something mysterious.
Rather, it is about a truth that was previously hidden, but is now revealed.
This mystery, this plan, was made to demonstrate the magnificence of God’s grace.
For all eternity the Father cherished in His own mind a plan that was to be carried out in Jesus.
The text tells us that God has decisively acted at certain times to fulfill His plan.
In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth…
Macbeth pessimistically declared that history is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
How unlike what Paul says here, for…
2. We all come together in Jesus.
For before Jesus came, the Old Testament saints hoped for the messiah.
Then Jesus the Messiah came, and we look back to Him, understanding that He is our Savior.
And when this world ends, at the end of the age, everything will be seen to add up in Jesus.
But in the meanwhile, there is…
IV. The fourth blessing is a NEW POWER (13-14).
Understand this, that God works out what He plans.
As it says in Philippians 1.6:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
God energizes each believer with all the power necessary for their spiritual completion.
1. The promise is a person.
We know from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that the person of the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside of us.
He does so to empower us, equip us, and to give us spiritual gifts to use in the community of believers He has placed us.
ILL Holy Spirit: Unused Spiritual Resources
During Superbowl XXXVII (37), FedEx ran a commercial that spoofed the movie Castaway, in which Tom Hanks played a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a desert island for years. Looking like the bedraggled Hanks in the movie, the FedEx employee in the commercial goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand.
When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time he kept this package in order to deliver it to her. She gives a simple, "Thank you."
But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, "If I may ask, what was in that package after all?"
She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, "Oh, nothing really. Just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds."
Like the contents in this package, the resources for growth and strength are available for every Christian who will take advantage of them.
Paul further describes this blessing of the Holy Spirit by comparing it to the ancient Roman seal, which was affixed to a document to guarantee its genuineness.
It indicated ownership.
It ensured protection for the receiver about whom they were receiving a message.
For the Christian, the Holy Spirit is the final proof of God.
He is the demonstration of the genuineness of what is believed, providing an inward assurance of belonging to God.
2. We have a guarantee.
Paul further describes the Holy Spirit as a payment in part, guaranteeing the rest of the payment, what we would call today a “down payment.”
He is the guarantee that when it is all said and done, we are His forever.
The greatness and the blessing of God’s grace will never be overtaken by sin, no matter how wicked we might have been.
It is guaranteed.
We are His.
There is good news for us today.
1. God’s goodness to us just does not end.
It is His nature to be good.
He never fails to be good.
And He has been working for our good, since the beginning of time.
You and I have been on His mind before there was a beginning.
Though we may struggle at times because we are frustrated, or there is opposition, or adversity has come our way – regardless – God is good in the midst of it all.
He wants us to experience His goodness.
But listen to this…
2. God wants us to experience His goodness in the context of community.
As we noted in the beginning of the message this morning, we are “A Called Community.”
We are called out of the world, to be separate, different, to live according to God’s loving standards, designed for our good.
It is a calling we have answered.
And, as a result, we are formed into a universal body called the Church.
Practically speaking, that larger body breaks down into smaller bodies, communities upon which God extends His blessings – His goodness.
Here at Randall, we are one of those communities.
Our purpose statement calls us “a fellowship of believers.”
We are a community of faith.
But there is a question for us…
3. What kind of community will we determine to be?
I am concerned that we are not experiencing all the goodness and blessing God has for us here at Randall.
I cringe at the thought that perhaps God is holding back.
But it may very well be true, as He is waiting for us to move toward being the community He is calling us to be now.
Not what we were before, but what we are to be now.
Will we be a community that will receive God’s blessings and then offer appropriate praise and service?
Or will we compromise, deceiving ourselves into thinking materially over the spiritual?
Will we give in to our middle-class mentality of safety and security, and keeping fellow-believers at arm’s length?
Will we be a community that desires to fulfill our purpose of making disciples?
Or will we choose our own purposes of comfort and stability?
Will we choose our way over God’s ways?
It is my prayer this morning that, as individuals, and then as a community, we will offer to our Lord appropriate praise.
He is deserving.
And as a result, we will be determined to serve Him according to His purposes.
He has so much good in mind for us that He wants us to experience together.
Let’s not miss it.
For Further Study: Proverbs 14.12; Jeremiah 29.11-12; Romans 8.1-2; Hebrews 9.22
It was almost 1:00 in the morning when the phone rang. Dr. Leo Winters, the highly acclaimed Chicago surgeon, was abruptly awakened. There had been an accident and his skilled hands were needed for immediate surgery.
The quickest route happened to be through a rather tough area, but with time being a critical factor, it was worth the risk.
At one of the stoplights his door was yanked open by a man with a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt. “I got to have your car!” the man screamed, pulling him from his seat. Winters tried to explain the gravity of the situation but the man did not care to listen.
When the doctor was finally able to get a taxi to the hospital, over an hour had elapsed and it was too late as the patient had passed away.
The nurse told him that the father of the victim had gone to the chapel wondering why the doctor never came.
Dr. Winters walked hurriedly to the chapel and when he entered he saw the father… he was wearing a gray hat and dirty flannel shirt.
Tragically, he had pushed from his life the one who could save his son.
Every day, people push from their lives the very One who can save them from the penalty and the power of their sin.
Countless numbers turn away from the One who can save them from their emptiness, confusion, hopelessness, and enslavement to sinful ways.
They are too busy for the One who can deliver them from a meaningless life.
They can’t seem to find time for the One who can redeem their lives.
It is so sad, so tragic because things could be different for so many if they could only find time for the Lord Jesus Christ who came to earth to save us.
Christ is the Savior we all desperately need.
Have you been pushing Jesus away?
Have you been pushing away the One who can save you?
Or perhaps you are believer this morning, but you recognize that you have been pushing away the One who has saved you?
It is ironic, isn’t it?
That we would push away the One that has it in His power, and is willing to use that power, to be good to us.
As we prepare for the Lord’s table this morning, let us have a time of silence in which we can use for a time of prayer.
And if you are pushing the Lord away from your life today, confess it and repent of it.
Be determined that you will not go that way again, but rather, you will receive the gifts of goodness that He has created for you – most importantly, a life of value and purpose.
[time of silent prayer]
With heads still bowed, if you recognize you are person that has pushed Jesus away, pushed away His goodness, you are essentially not a follower of Jesus, and you want to change that today by trusting in Him and becoming a follower of Him, I want you to know that you can today, right now, right where you are sitting.
If it is on your heart to do so, pray this prayer after me…
I confess I have been pushing you away.
I know I must stop this and I will with Your help.
Acknowledging you always have my good in mind, I place my life in Your hands to lead and control as You see best.
Today, Jesus, I receive You as my Savior and Lord.
In His name, Amen.
With heads still bowed, if you prayed that prayer will you look up at me, as a first act of demonstrating your new found faith in the Lord Jesus.
I want to encourage you, if you made that decision for Jesus today, to see me afterwards.
It would bring me great joy if we could get together and discuss the first steps involved in being a new believer in Jesus.
Lord, with hearts prepared for what is before us, let us share in this time of communion with glad hearts for the community You have formed us to be. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Those of us that know Jesus are invited to share in the elements of the table.
If you do not know Jesus, that is, you have not received Him as your Savior and Lord, you do not trust Him with your life, that is, you have not been changed by the message, just let the elements pass by.
Please wait until the time comes when you do have that personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
We practice “communion” because we are to remember the death of the Lord Jesus.
We take the bread to remind us that it was by the body of our Savior that our salvation came.
He died in our place.
He became our substitute.
Being led in prayer by … let us take a moment and thank Him for favoring us with his mercy, love and goodness.
The apostle Paul writes, "The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
Let’s partake together.
We take the cup to remind us that it was by the blood of our Savior that our salvation came.
He died for our sins.
He became our sacrifice.
…l will now come and lead us in prayer.
Again, the apostle Paul writes, "In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
Let’s partake together.
Celebrate God’s goodness today…for in Jesus, you have been given the greatest gift of all, your name written in the book of life, and as a result, you possess a new identity, a new freedom, a new purpose and a new power – so go out there and live it for the praise of His glory!
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace."
Black, Jim The Reason
Creasong, Johnny Do You Know How Rich You Are?
Field, Wayne The Big Picture of God’s Plan for You
Fritz, Paul Appropriating Our Identity in Christ
Swensen, David Redemption
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 11. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.
Foulkes, Francis. The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. 20 vols. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, ed. R. V. G. Tasker, vol. 10. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978.
MacArthur, John, Jr. Ephesians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.