Faithlife Sermons

His Good Pleasure

Christmas 20-21  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:45
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Ephesians 1:3–14 NRSV
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 just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5 He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on 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 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

False Hope

Many people live their lives seeming to always trust in the wrong stories and the wrong people. When you set your hope on celebrities and sports heroes they almost always let you down. People thrive on attention often get consumed by it… People who trust in worldly success can never have enough. With every conquest the need more or it’s all meaningless. Just when you achieve a financial or career goal, here comes someone else nipping at your heels who is more of a careerist or more talented than you. People who put their trust too much in family may end up feeling let down or betrayed by family. Family is one of the most important things in life but you can’t control how it goes. You can’t make people love you. Don’t set your hopes on your retirement either. The best laid plans of mice and men can get steamrolled by a pandemic or a single bad investment or illness or loss.
Part of why this passage was written was because human adults know what it’s like to set their hopes on people and things that can’t deliver. Paul writes to us about a larger story we can trust as the ages roll on...


To be an orphan is to lose your parents. To be cut off from the support of family. Maybe we all feel a little separated, like temporary orphans cut off from the kind of closeness we want to share with each other. I’m sure we all have stories of the pain of being separated so much more than we want it right now. Hopefully that’s temporary.
For some people it’s unique and more permanent. If your parents died when you were young you know what it’s like to feel suddenly cut off from the full support and love of family. Sadly some little children do get completely abandoned by parents who can’t take care of them or simply stop caring.
I was an adult of 38 when my mother died and still there was a sting. I can’t tell you how hard it was not to be able to pick up the phone and call my mom. Sometimes just to hear her voice. Sometimes to help me as a young pastor figure out the human beings I was trying to serve. Her experience and wisdom were so helpful. And she didn’t always support my perspective. Sometimes she challenged me directly and I welcomed the challenge. But always she was praying for me and I could feel it in my life. It was like a gaping hole. I wasn’t quite ready for her to be gone, but that’s what happened and I had to move forward. But there was a window there, would I lean in and trust God even more to guide me or remain in a sense of loss that she was not there to advise?
Well, good thing God had a plan and God always has a plan. I don’t think God is the author of evil. I think God allows free will but goes to work in surprising ways to bring good out of tragedy. His plan was not to let human suffering, injustice and death go unanswered.

God had a plan

This passage and others tells us that God’s plan for redemption and deliverance is from ancient times and probably coincides with the moments of creation.
God was not isolating himself but he was at work in the unfolding of all creation and eventually human beings. I think we see every sign that this was a long and gradual unfolding. It may have taken billions of years if we are reading the finger prints God left behind accurately. But however long it took, the created order took shape and eventually became a sanctuary in which all God’s creatures could live and offer worship. As it happened this is a fallen world where we share space with disease and unfortunately with sin and evil. God has challenged us human beings with caring for creation and protecting the vulnerable.
So it’s a beautiful world. I love to take pictures of the view in my back yard through the few trees that are left up to the ridge along the state line. Sunsets can be breathtaking. I have a near perfect view of the night sky. Nobody can tell me God has not created amazing beauty and predictable order of landscapes and night skies.
So in the midst of this fallen world with many false hopes we can find the light if we look for it.
Paul is reminding us that finding hope in Jesus is unlocking the key to the meaning of where it’s all headed...

Setting your hope on Christ

Out of all the possible options, Jesus’ original followers and the Apostles he called out from among them were the first to set their hope on Christ. They were making an incredible choice. Some of them were orphaned by their families immediately after making that choice.
They made this choice in the grace God gave them. They made this choice as Jesus called them into a whole new life. And God’s long range plan laid out before the eons of time unfolded and long ago planned for what would follow for those who choose to put themselves at the mercy of God and trust in what God has provided in Jesus who is called Christ or the Messiah. His plan outlined the incredible blessings that would flow for all who believe...

Destiny of Spiritual Blessings

So many have misinterpreted this passage in my opinion. You see words here like destined and beforehand. Many have picked up on this to suggest that the game is rigged and some people are insiders who have no choice but will be saved and others are outsiders who have no choice but will be damned. But I think that’s bad theology and bad grammar.
I believe and have been taught that God has foreknowledge of us all in that he created us, designed us for a purpose and set us into our times. This passage is speaking to that in a general sense. But Paul is very excited here. This one was probably captured down by an amenuensis as Paul seems to be in preaching mode here. So the grammar is giving way to the onslaught of content about the amazing things God has done for us all. I remember the day I received a special greek new testament with margins on the side and I set out to translate this passage in the margin. I kept looking for punctuation but didn’t find much. The beautiful language just cascades, flowing out of the heart of the blessed apostle. But sorting through it all it becomes clear to me that what was destined is this:
Ephesians 1:12–13 NRSV
12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;
That Paul and the other apostles who were the first to set their hope on Christ might live for the praise of his glory. This is what I find in nearly all the similar passages. What is destined is what will happen for those who do set their hope on Christ. It’s not that they will set their hope on Christ or that they had no choice. It’s that once you have set your hope on Christ many things are mapped out for us: to live to the praise of his glory, not for our own glory. And yes then to experience amazing blessings in Christ. It seems quite clear when you read it carefully. Salvation isn’t automatic for anyone. Nobody is excluded on a whim. Whosoever will may come and all who come are blessed immeasurably and destined to live for God’s glory.
The flip side of this: if we don’t make any effort to live for God’s glory we should not assume that all is well.
God’s love is not conditional but many of God’s blessings are based on our response and taking him up on his offer.
So this morning, have you taken him up on his offer?
Have you lost that sense of wonder at the amazing grace of God? Or are you like three kings who looked up and saw a sign of something so much more?
Let’s be wise men and women of God this morning. Let’s live in the endless spiritual blessings, the unshakable inheritance of all who truly follow Jesus...
Let’s pray...
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