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Overcoming the obstacles to God's Plan

Ephesians: Fitting in to God's Plan  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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As we learn to fit in to God's plan we must overcome the obstacles of our past, our pride and our prejudices.

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We are in a series entitled: Ephesians: Fitting into God’s plan

Ephesians: Fitting into God’s plan

God has a plan to bring everything under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Last week we learned to find our place in that plan.
We talked about finding identity, purpose and power.
Here’s the problem: there are obstacles.
The enemy will remind you of your past.
When that doesn’t work he will try to get you into pride.
Then he tries to isolate you from other believers so that you end up separated from everyone including God.
So the obstacles that we are noting in this second chapter of Ephesians are--your past, pride and prejudices.
God’s plan is so amazing! But these traps are so subtle that most people fall into them at one time or another.
If you know what the obstacles are you can perhaps avoid them. Or at least you may recognize when you are running into them.

Overcoming your past

Ephesians 2:1–7 ESV
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
You were dead in your sin, Paul tells us, but is your sin now dead?
Think of three words that describe the person that you were before you came to Christ. How does it feel to remember that person? What motivated that person? What was your goal in life at that time? What were your feelings about God? What did you think God thought of you?
Was it difficult to answer these questions? Maybe it was a long time ago or maybe not so long? Is there still guilt or shame associated with the person that you were?
We don’t talk about sin much these days in the church. It’s too negative.
We all have a sinful nature - we just sin differently.
Some people say that once you come to Christ and get saved you should never talk about your past. Is that true?
It is helpful to talk about the past to the degree that it is still influencing you in the present.
Prayer ministry does no new work, it was all done at the cross, but we are applying that work continually.
Some people say that once you come to Christ and get saved you should never talk about your past. Is that true?
Does the sin nature ever go away? Yes and no.
You can live in victory over sin.
But to say that you are no longer capable of sin has often proved disastrous!
We are flesh and we are spirit. Whatever you feed will grow.
The sinful nature is still there, but we consider it dead because that’s not what we are living from or for.
Romans 6:8–11 ESV
8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
God makes us alive!
Paul uses Christ’s death and resurrection as an analogy of victory over sin.
We are still mortal, but we don’t go around think about death - we focus on living!
And we know that even though we may die, we will live!
We don’t go around thinking about sin and trying really hard not to sin.
Some Christians have the mentality of seeing what they can get away with, that’s not the Christian life!
Our focus is on knowing God and doing what pleases Him.
It’s like having the eyes of our heart opened. We have so much more to live for!
He raises us up!
If Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and you are “in Christ” then...
It not that we cease to be human, but we are made to live life from a higher place.
Why does God treat you with such favor? Because He’s GOD and He’s good!
We were “children of wrath” but not we are objects of God’s immeasurable grace.

Overcoming your pride

Ephesians 2:8–10 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
: 8-10
Pride is at the root of all sin.
The sinful nature is a prideful nature.
It tries to live independent of God.
If you think you no longer have sin in your life, you have pride.
There was a time in my life where I was out of control. I made myself accountable to one of my pastors who told me to cal him if I was struggling. So I called him the next time I had a problem to tell him that I had prayed about it and I was really OK. He told me that my attitude was not one of repentance, but of pride. He was right and I knew it! That is where I became broken before the Lord. As a result, I know that i am no better than anyone who comes to me with their problem.
What is grace?
The typical definition is “unmerited favor”
Which word is more important “unmerited” - an adjective, or “favor” - a noun?
Why do we pay more attention to the “unmerited” part than to God’s favor?
What does it mean to have God’s favor?
What is grace? - God likes me!
God likes you, not because of who you are, but because of who He is and you are made in his image.
What is pride?
Pride is an elevated sense of self. It can be a high opinion of one’s self or a sense of accomplishment.
Pride can be inflated or substantive. There’s real pride and false pride.
Most of what we think of as pride is really a cover for shame.
The person who doesn’t like himself has to prove himself comes across as arrogant.
Pride and performance go hand in hand. in performance, your worth comes from what you do.
The proud person has to do enough good to make up for their sin.
What is the gospel?
In Islam there is a teaching called Kiraman Katibin - “noble recorders” it refers to two angels that sit on a persons shoulders. One records their good deeds and the other their bad. Now God is the final judge, and it is only by his mercy that anyone get into heaven. But it is thought that if your good deeds outnumber your bad deeds that will surely influence God’s decision.
You can never do enough to make the good outweigh the bad because your deeds aren’t the problem, its in your very nature!
Jesus death was a divine exchange, his death for yours, his nature for yours.
You can’t earn it, you can only receive it.
Accept that nothing you can do will ever earn God’s favor, but you don’t have to earn what you already have!
The gospel is not a message of trying harder, it is the process of becoming who God says you are.
Psalm 139:16–17 ESV
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
psalm 139:16-17
So what do you do then?
So what do you do then?
You live your live out of gratitude to God.
You recognize that God who created you has a plan for your life.
You face each day in partnership with God instead of living your life independent of God.
You accept the people and the circumstances that are in your life as being an assignment from God.

Overcoming your prejudices

Ephesians 2:11–22 ESV
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11-22
“I don’t have a problem with God, but I don’t like God’s people.”
If you are “in Christ” then you are connected to every other person all over the world who is also “in Christ.”
The Jews once had a monopoly on religion (or at least monotheism). But now anyone can come to God through Christ!
Since the first Apostles were all Jewish, it was presumed that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians. It was the decision of the Jerusalem council () that God had revealed himself to the Gentiles apart from the Jewish law.
The Jew/ Gentile divide was a really big deal and almost all of Paul’s letters address this.
The important thing is not who you are. The important thing is that you know who He is!
Today we don’t think about the Jew/ Gentile divide so much (unless you happen to be a Messianic believer.) But a similar dynamic happens between those who grow up in the church and those who do not. Or those who go to the “right” church or come from the “right” family, etc.
Sure, racism is still a problem in America. But more and more, prejudice is not about color as much as it is about culture.
People who listen to secular music, go to movies, dance or drink alcohol might feel like second-class citizens in the church.
But the gospel is not about those things. It’s about coming under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
We say it’s not religion, but relationship:
Religion makes following Christ about what you allow or do not allow. Its about the rules.
Relationship has more to do with your motives. Why do you do what you do? Or not do?
y do you do what yudo?
We said that pride is often rooted in shame, we don’t know who we really are so we need to inflate ourselves.
Prejudice is rooted in performance.... and ultimately shame.
We put others down to lift ourselves up.... because we don’t know who we are.
What would happen if we really comprehended who we are in Christ?
What would happen if we really understood what grace means?
There would be no striving, because I can’t earn what I already have.
We would live our lives out of gratitude and awe for who God is and who He has made us to be.
No one would see themselves as better than anyone else.
We would each know our own hearts, confess our own sin and have empathy for those who are struggling.
The church would become a place of grace where people find unconditional love and acceptance.
We stop comparing ourselves to each other. Each person becomes who God made them to be.
We become agents of reconciliation in the community and in society because we listen and respond appropriately.
On observer once walked by a construction site where a worker was carrying stones. He asked the man, “what are you doing?” “I’m making a wall,” He said. Another man was working with wood timbers so he asked, “and what are you doing?” I’m constructing the roof,” he added. A third man was looking over plans so he thought he might ask him also, “and what are you doing?” “I’m building a cathedral!” he replied.
God is not building just a wall or a roof, but a cathedral.
Each of us has a part in God’s great plan, but the plan is not about the parts. It’s about the whole!
God wants to fit you together with other people and other parts of the body of Christ to make something that is much bigger and grander than you could ever imagine.
God wants to fit you together with other people and other parts of the body of Christ to make something that is much bigger and grander than you could ever imagine.

Questions for reflection

Have you let your past become an obstacle?
Are you still trying to be good enough?
Where is your focus? On your failure or on God’s grace?
What does it look like to do the work of dealing with you past from the position of knowing who God has made you to be?
But that’s irrelevant because God’s grace is so great that he like you just the way you are!
How you do the work of dealing with your past from the security of knowing that you are loved by God.
Has your pride become an obstacle?
Is your gospel a gospel of trying harder? Or is it the good news of God’s grace?
Do you live your life by comparing yourself to others?
What is the unique purpose that God has created you for?
Has prejudice become an obstacle?
Everyone has a story of God’s redemption and no one’s story is exactly like yours. What’s your story?
How does your story connect with that of other people you know? How can you use your story to reach others?
Will you allow God to fit and join you together with other believers, who may be different from you, to accomplish His great plan?
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