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Sep 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 28, 2014 – Ephesians 1:11-12

Maturing Into Childhood

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:11-12

Intro: The theme we’re exploring in Ephesians is Christian spirituality

What I have in mind is not something extraordinary
– a special or rare form of Christian experience
• it is not a way of being with God that is unique to saints
• Paul assumes that God meets all of his people in this way
◦ it doesn’t require a special temperament or talent
– we are not given options from which to choose
• “I think I’ll be an ethical Christian,” or a theological Christian, or a sociological Christian
◦ we are all of this, our faith built on a theological foundation, our will undergoes ethical formation, etc.
• it is simple–we all share a life with God through Jesus Christ
◦ spirituality is one dimension of its experience
◦ and all that matters is whether or not we wake up to it

Historically, Christian mystics worked out a discipline to develop ones spiritual life
– the classic pattern has been:

  1. purgation (purifying oneself from worldliness and sin)
  2. illumination (one is still far from perfect, but God’s presence and will begins to come into focus)
    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
  3. unification (union with God, an intimate and unbreakable bond is formed)

• as far as Paul’s teaching goes, this process is the reverse of the one God uses
• the outline in these verses: we are not working our way to God, but he has been and is working his way into us

So we come to . . .

The next spiritual blessing in Paul’s list

We have “obtained an inheritance”
– something has been allotted to us (the way the twelve tribes of Israel were alloted an inheritance (Jos. 18:1-6)
• notice the past tense – God has already done this
◦ we already have our inheritance “in Him”–i.e., Jesus Christ
• Paul then quickly links this with the word “predestined”
◦ we live in a present that is shaped by the future (our inheritance) and the past (what God predestined long ago)
– we do not yet have our full Christian inheritance in our hands
• there’s no question but that heaven will be infinitely more wonderful than our lives here
• but even now, there is a richer experience of life now than we knew before we were “in Him”

God’s development of our lives in Christ has been in the works for millennia
• once you become a Christian you can see how your life’s road brought you to Jesus
◦ in some ways, God was already making you a Christian before you became one
• God was thinking of you a long time ago
◦ it is no accident or mistake that you’re in Christ

Paul piles up words to explain inner mechanics of this blessing — “according to”

I want to move through this quickly and then consider specific implications of it

  1. It begins with a “purpose” – God’s intention of who we are to become and what we are to do (Ep. 2:10)
    – much of the time, life events in the world seem random
    • but God’s intention runs through all that happens around us and with us
    • it is not that every event has a purpose, but God’s purpose can make use of every event
  2. Next, his purpose “works all things”
    – the good and the bad, the pleasant and the unpleasant
  3. This work is directed by “counsel” or advice
    – counsel is wise and valuable when it comes from an educated and experienced source
    • does God need advice?
    – it is not God who is counsel, but his work is informed by wise counsel
  4. This brings us to the hinge of the whole process — “His will”
    – a person’s will consists of desire plus determination
    • the will emerges when the heart and mind are set on a particular goal, object, or endeavor
    – God’s actions are the outward expression of his will
  5. All this brings us to God’s objective (end or goal)
    – that when all is said and done, God is praised
    • praised for what he will have accomplished with each one of us
    My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (Jn. 15:8)

A question hangs over verse 12
– who does Paul mean by “we who were the first to hope in the Christ”?
• the Jews? – they were the people who first received the promise of a Messiah
• the apostles? The followers and servants of Jesus to whom he revealed himself
• the first generation of believers?
– rather than get stuck on this question or haggle over possible answers, let’s stay with Paul’s point
• everything in these two verses represent a hope
◦ even the most slender ray of hope can change a person’s life
• I lived with despair for too many years
◦ I don’t have to hope in myself–in fact I cannot find hope within myself
◦ my hope is in someone else — the One who proved his superiority over death and life, time and eternity

Now we will consider implications of having an inheritance

Of course, we’re rich – and we’ll come to that (v. 18)
– but if we have an inheritance, that means we have a Father
• two weeks ago we found out we were adopted (v. 5)
• take a glance back at verse 2, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father
– if we have a Father, then we are children
• Jesus taught that the requirement that must be met to enter the kingdom of heaven is that we become as children
• not childish, but child-like (Ep. 4:14)

I have a few thoughts about what that could mean
allow themselves to be consoled
• when hurt or frightened, they allow us to soothe them in our arms and with our voices
• I’ve had reason to ponder that this week, having endured a few sleepless nights
◦ lying awake, I would breathe slowly and ask that God’s Spirit would calm my nervous system with his peace
are naturally curious
• they are quick to go off road to explore items not on the itinerary
– always carry their potential within them
• we cannot give this up — your best work may still be in you, up until now you may not have hit your stride
lives from moment to moment–not in past or future
have clear vision
• I discovered this few days ago during the post-op from my cataract surgery
◦ I mentioned that vision in the corrected eye was bright white and clear,
but everything through the other eye had a sepia tinge
◦ my doctor explained, “With the new lens, your vision in that eye is like when you were ten years old”
◦ the eye’s lens is affected by aging, but so gradually we do not notice the change
• perhaps the child’s clarity of vision is what helps them get caught up in wonder more easily

A lesson I have learned from my grandchildren
– if you want to become like a child, then the next time you have to sit and wait your turn,
• or you find yourself doing a chore because it has to be done and not because you want to do it,
◦ SING – even Calum, our two year old grandson has learned this simple method of creating and prolonging joy

If we have an inheritance, we have a Father, we are children, and we may have siblings
– in this instance, one very important sibling–a brother
• but we don’t call him brother – again we return to verse 2, “the Lord Jesus Christ”
– this word “Lord” sinks deep into our soul
• it is not an entertaining word and it does not serve to make surface adjustments
◦ it recalibrates our inner compass
◦ it changes everything
• Lord tells us Jesus is more than a guide, a teacher, a friend
◦ that his will is the will of the Father
◦ and he has called us to something more than the mediocre life we might otherwise settle into

We find that in becoming as a child, we find wonder not only in nature, but in other people
– so we may find that our siblings are more interesting than we thought
– two of my siblings have set in motion an action that, if I think about it, causes me heartache and outrage
• but with a slightly different perspective, I’m fascinated
◦ amazed at how their minds work – our personalities can be so complex and surprising
– the difference I experience takes me from, “How can a person do such things?” to “How unexpected and intriguing is the human mind!”
• it is the difference between a question mark and an exclamation point

Conc: We know the story of the Prodigal Son

He didn’t want to wait for his inheritance – didn’t want to wait until he was too old to enjoy it
– but what did he do with his inheritance? he “squandered . . . with loose living”
• is that why we want to cash out as soon as possible? So we can spend more time in front of the TV?
– our Father tells us, “I predestined you. I have invested in you and you have been prepared for more”

You know, after we have returned to the Father’s home, a day comes that we ask Jesus,
“How did You know I went to far country? The whole reason I went there was to get away from everyone. I didn’t want anyone knowing where I was or what I was doing. So how did You know where I was and where I had been?”

Perhaps with a smile, he answers, “Because I’m the brother our Father sent to bring you home”

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