Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ephesians 1-3 pt. 1

Below is part 1 of 4 of a sermon I recently preached on Ephesians 1-3

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up, you pull yourself out of bed, and as you think about the coming day or week or months or years… all you feel is the emptiness or meaninglessness of it all? All you see before you is an endless string of more classes or projects or spreadsheets or chores. And as you think about all these things that you are so busy doing, you wonder, What is the point of all this? Does what I do really matter at all? Where is my life going? Sadly, this kind of thinking can often creep into many areas of our lives, from our work, to our families, to our ministries, to our spiritual disciplines, and even into our church life. Every once in awhile you might get a glimpse of something great in what you’re doing, but then you wake up, and everything once again seems so small and insignificant.

My brothers and sisters, we were not made to live this way. God intends for us to know that regardless of what situation we are in, our lives were meant to be part of something significant and that every step we take is one step closer to a glorious and wonderful future.

For the next two Sundays we are going to be studying the book of Ephesians and the truths contained in Ephesians are the remedy for our despair and fears. Paul’s goal in writing this letter is to help us take a step back from our daily activities and responsibilities, and see a big and glorious picture of all that God is doing. And when our hearts are captivated by this awesome picture, we’ll begin to see that the things that we once thought were so hopeless and meaningless, actually have incredible significance in God’s purposes, and we will be able to re-enter our everyday lives armed with these glorious truths.

This morning we’ll be looking at Ephesians 1-3. For my sermon today, I have four main points: First, I want us to look at God’s purpose for the Church. Second, I want us to look at what God has done for the Church in the past. Third, what God is doing through the Church in this present age. Fourth, what God promises to do for the Church in the future. And then, I want to wrap all this up by helping us think of what implications this might have for our lives.

The purpose of the Church

So first, I want us to begin w/ the big picture: What is God’s purpose for the Church? To find the answer to this, we’re going to have to go towards the end of chapter 3. Look with me at Ephesians 3, beginning in vs. 8:
Eph. 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
We’re very soon going to see in chapters 1 and 2, God has been actively involved in the creation and salvation of the His people, the Church, stretching from before the foundation of the world, going forward to all the ages to come. But what is the point of all this? What is His purpose for the church? Vs. 10: “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. The reason why God has gone through all the trouble of creating this world and redeeming a particular people called the Church, is because He desires to display the glory of His wisdom through the Church to the watching universe. Paul gives this same concept in chapter one, verse 5:
5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace,
We’re going to talk about this word “predestined” later, but for now, notice what “the purpose of His will” is, namely “the praise of his glorious grace”. The reason God has predestined us for adoption in Christ is so that through His dealings with us His glorious grace would be shown and praised. So I ask again, what is the purpose of the Church? For anyone who is a Christian here today, what is the meaning or the purpose of your life, both individually and as a corporate body? The answer: You exist to glorify God. If you have ever wondered, “What is the meaning of life?” This is your answer: God has created you ultimately so that through His relationship with you, His glory might be displayed.

Now, how are we to think about God creating us in order to glorify Himself? I mean, if any one of us to made it our ambition to show off our own greatness, we would quickly be accused of being conceited or shallow or foolish. So why is it any different with God? Well, it’s different for two reasons. First, it is right for God’s greatest purpose to be the exaltation of His own glory. There is no higher value, no greater perfection in this world than God Himself. So if God were to pursue anything besides His own glory, then He would not be pursuing that which is of the greatest value, but rather something imperfect and inferior. If He were to do so, He would not be a perfect God. In essence, He would be committing the sin of idolatry, namely pursuing that which is not of the highest worth. Therefore, it is only right and good for the God of the Universe to make the pursuit of His own glory His highest priority.

But not only is it right, but it is also extremely loving for God to do so. Because God is a perfectly good God, it is a wonderful thing that He would seek to display His glory in the world. For example, think about God’s wisdom… it is loving that God would seek to display the glory of His wisdom in this world. We don’t want to live in a world dominated by disorder or foolishness or chaos. Rather, we want to live in a world ordered by reason and laws and authority established by God’s wisdom. Or think about God’s justice… it is loving that God would seek to display the glory of His justice in the world. We don’t want to live in a world where evil and injustice prevails, but we want to live in a world where God will get the final word and He will see to it that injustice is ultimately defeated and His justice is displayed. I could go on and talk about all the other attributes of God (His power, His patience, His kindness, His holiness), how it is to our blessing that God would seek to display those attributes in this world. So brothers and sisters, rejoice that we have a God that loves to magnify His glory in this world. Everything good, everything that we love and enjoy that exists in this world is a result of God’s passion to display His glory in this world.

And here’s the amazing thing: Right in the middle of this great purpose of God to glorify Himself is the Church. God has chosen the Church, God has chosen us, specifically, to be the exhibition, the object-lesson, to the watching universe, of just how great He is. This is the purpose of the Church.

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