GIFTS, 21-07-2000 version
Gifts From God
Make sure to spend the day getting to know kids.
Greeting and introductions.
For the next week, each time we meet, I want to examine with you a portion of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. I hope that as we study it together, we will come to understand God’s blessings, our place in the world and how we should live. I hope that we will be both challenged and encouraged in these things.
I have never considered myself rich. When my pay cheque comes each month it is welcome and I need it to pay the bills. But one day when I had time to day dream, I was adding up the value of all the various things we have accumulated and when I added up house, car, savings, pension plan and so on, I realized that although I need my cheque every month, I really have a lot.
Of course, when I add all the things which are really important like my family and my relationships with people, I know that I am rich. Once in a while, it is interesting to realize our net worth.
As Christians, that net worth cannot be calculated without reference to the most precious thing of all and that is our relationship with God. Think about what God has given us and we realize that we are better off than most billionaires.
Today, we will examine Ephesians 1:1-14. The key statement of this passage is verse 3, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
Although most people of this world desire the blessings of material possessions, God blesses us not with things which wear down and rust nor with things which become boring and don't satisfy. He blesses us with every spiritual blessing.
Throughout the text, we also notice that it is the pleasure of God to give these gifts to us. He blesses us as verse 5 says, ..."in accordance with his pleasure and will." God does not bless us out of some obligation or in an attempt at bribery. It is not for his sake, but for our sake that we have been blessed by him.
In verses 6-8, we read, "to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us....in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."
A lot of people like chocolate pie. Now imagine if you will a chocolate pie not merely with a dollop of whipped cream on it, but with whipped cream slathered over the whole top and flowing over the sides. That is what lavished means and what verses 6-8 tell us is that God has lavished his grace gifts on us.
When we were at my mom and step-dad's place for Christmas many years ago, my step-dad was having a great time giving each of us all kinds of gifts and getting great pleasure out of giving. God has great pleasure in giving us 6 precious gifts. Let us open them and examine them this morning. I need six volunteers to open the gifts.
I. Chosen To Be Holy 1:4
Do you remember how it felt to get picked for the team or to be the one applicant out of many who got the job? It gives us a good feeling to be chosen. In Eph 1:4 we read, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
What a thrill to know that God has chosen me.
2.Before the foundation of the world
One summer I was chosen to play on a baseball team at a tournament because not enough players showed up. I was happy to play and enjoyed myself, but I was not their first choice.
God's choosing us is not as a last minute fill in. He has chosen us before the foundation of the world.
3.To Be Holy And blameless in his sight
And He has chosen us for a very specific purpose and that is "to be holy and blameless in his sight." We were chosen to be acceptable to God. The implications of that are that He had to cleanse us and make us good enough to be able to stand up under His scrutiny. What a tremendous gift we have received.
II. Predestined To Be Adopted As Sons Eph. 1:5-6
Have you ever seen the movie "Angels in the Outfield." It is the story of two foster boys who are looking for adoption and are finally adopted by the manager of the California Angels. The end of the story is touching when we realize, with joy, that they are going to be adopted.
A second gift we have from God is found in verses 5,6. There we read, "In love...he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."
1. Not a Last minute sub.
Once again we notice that this gift is not a last minute choosing, but something God thought about in advance and has given us because he dearly wanted to give it to us.
What does it mean to be adopted? Adoption implies being wanted, it signifies belonging, it gives security and it assures one of the future.
What a great privilege to be adopted by God, what a great gift!
III. Redeemed 1:7,8
Tie someone up and then set them free. Refer to concept of jubilee. In the Old Testament, there was a way in which a person could be set free from such slavery. It was if a near relative would pay the purchase price to redeem them from slavery.
The third gift we have is the gift of redemption. We read in 7,8, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."
God is our near relative who has set us free from bondage, He has purchased us from slavery and we have been returned to our rightful owner, who is God himself.
With this redemption, we now have the forgiveness of our sins. All the wilful acts of disobedience against God have been forgiven, we are not under obligation for them anymore.
Once again, we see that God did this not for his own benefit, but that it was lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.
IV. Knowledge Of His Will 1:9-10
In the stock market, one of the ideas you sometimes hear about is "insider trading." People who know what is going to happen in a certain industry try to make some money on the events. It is illegal to do this.
There was a baseball player, Pete Rose, who was a great baseball player in his day. He had to quit baseball because he had been betting on games and playing in such a way as to determine the outcome of the game.
In business and in sports, it is illegal to use inside information.
I want to let you in on a little secret. As believers, we have the privilege of inside information. One of the great blessings we have is given to us in verses 9,10, "And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."
This information is available to everyone and it is not illegal to have it. Indeed it is a great privilege to possess this knowledge.
We know the answer to the greatest question which people are asking in the world. "What are we here for and what is it all about?"
The answer is that God is working things out so that all things will be put under the headship of Christ.
In God's time all things in heaven and on earth will be gathered together and placed under subjection to Christ.
Now that is significant information. We know the end of the story and knowing that, we are privileged people and people who can find meaning and purpose in life because of this knowledge. What a gift!
V. Guaranteed Inheritance 1:11-12
When you purchase a house, the deposit you make guarantees that the house will not be sold to anyone else while you make arrangements to complete the transaction.
The final gift we have from God is the guarantee of our inheritance. We read in 1:14, "who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory."
The Spirit is like a deposit who guarantees that we will receive the final inheritance. What a tremendous assurance that all that God has for us is being kept for us and will be given to us. God's Spirit guarantees the possession of our inheritance.
Great are the gifts which God has given to us!
VI. Sealed With The Holy Spirit 1:13-14
A fifth blessing we have from God is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 says, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit."
A seal on a document guarantees ownership, assures authenticity and secures a document from being tampered with.
God's Spirit is all these things to us. The indwelling Spirit clearly indicates that we belong to God. The spirit also helps distinguish those who belong to God and those who do not. It is only those who are Christians who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them and so we know those who are true and those who are false by the Spirit who indwells them. The Spirit is also the guarantee that Satan cannot take the person who belongs to God away from him.
What a blessing to have God's Spirit as a seal of our salvation.
Have you ever given a toast to the bride? All of us have probably heard a toast to the bride, and some of us may even have given one. Why is this done? Because we know and love her and desire to honor her on her wedding day.
All of us have probably heard a eulogy. The word eulogy means "good word." Why do we give a eulogy at a funeral? Because we appreciate the person and desire to honor them and recognize them as a statement of farewell. The Bible even has eulogies, one is given in Acts 9:39. A well loved woman named Dorcas had died and we read, "...All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them."
Once a year, new athletes are added to the various sports Halls of Fame. Why do people develop a Hall of Fame? Because they desire to recognize and honor those who have made major accomplishments in their sport.We are people who have tremendous blessings, do we realize it?
As we realize our great blessings in Christ, I want to invite us to give praise to God for all that he has done for us. Look what you have, God is the source and author of these blessings, give praise to Him.