This message looks at the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of worship (Part 2 will look at the How). Humans are incurably religious. We worship, no matter what, whether it’s money, sports, food, relationships, One Direction, or our bodies. The Bible shows us what true worship looks like, and why God is worthy of our “continuous outpouring” of praise and adoration.
There may be no clearer passage in the New Testament showing that salvation is a gift that we receive by faith. It cannot be earned by doing good deeds. From beginning to end salvation is a work of God on our behalf. All of this revolves around the cross of Christ and his taking the punishment for our sin.
Even dedicated believers need to be reminded of this fact because our hearts naturally veer off course, into a sort of legalism where we feel like we need to “do stuff” to earn God’s attention and love. Without this understanding of salvation sola fide (“by faith alone”), our entire Christian life will be affected–because this is the core of our understanding of the grace of God, the devastating effects of sin, and the inability of humans to merit salvation.[The end of this message got cut off. Yes, we’re still struggling to learn the fancy new recording equipment! So if you’re a techy and you’ve been looking to use your skills for God, we need you!]
If the Bible accurately addresses the human condition, then finding new life in Christ is the only solution. Ephesians 2:1 makes the problem stark: we were “dead in trespasses and sins.” And this wasn’t some sort of local problem. The world is following this destructive path of separation from, and rebellion against, the God who gives life.
The good news is God, whom we offended and fled from and became enemies with, went after us to rescue us and bring us to himself! We can be made alive by placing our trust in Christ for everlasting life.
If you want to know how to pray, the Bible helps a lot! It helps to read the prayers in New Testament–and Ephesians has two of the best! This is one of my favorite sections of the letter. In this prayer at the end of chapter 1, Paul requests something from God that we never request: that our eyes would be opened to the amazing hope and help God has for us.
This is the foundation of the Christian life: understanding who God is, what he has done for us, and who we are in Christ. This should take up more of our prayer time!
In this section of Ephesians God is telling us we are his. And since he runs the universe and nobody is stronger than he is, nobody can mess up our inheritance in Christ. Heaven is about God more than the streets of gold or pearly gates. Heaven is about the absence of sin and the visible presence of our God. The Apostle Paul ends this section by talking about how the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within believers and has sealed us, or marked us as his.
There is unbelievable comfort in knowing that if you belong to him, God’s Spirit will always be drawing you back to him, no matter how far you wander, no matter how much you blow it. The Spirit of God is our “guarantee” of salvation. (See also: Romans 8:16)05,05,13 Ephesians 1,9-14.
This passage is about forgiveness as much as it is about grace. Paul says that Jesus’ followers have been redeemed and forgiven through the cross of Christ, “…according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…” That word “lavish” jumps off the page at me. It reminds me of a Christmas tree wading in colorful gifts, or the tons of syrup my kids put on pancakes. It reminds me of a flood.
To lavish is to flood. And God has flooded us with his grace.
When we read the rest of Ephesians and see where we came from, we realize we needed a flood of grace to save us, forgive us, and enable us to follow Jesus.
PLEASE NOTE: We’re still learning all the new recording equipment, so unfortunately, the last few minutes of this sermon are cut off. The quote from the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, is that “it is pretty hard to hurt [a humble] person.” The point the author makes is that humble people are emptied of themselves, so they don’t focus on themselves and their importance. Therefore, they don’t get offended easily. My point in quoting the book is that if we are easily offended, we are too full of ourselves. We are prideful. And I would add, insecure. That is where knowing Christ is vital; to find our identity in him helps us be secure in his love. It takes away the need for a lot of praise and respect from other people. — Lance
The Apostle Paul turns the first chapter of Ephesians into a hymn of praise to the God who blessed us with “every spiritual blessing” in Christ. The first blessing he reviews is predestination. That makes no sense to some people! Predestination is normally a topic for late night debates among Christians. But that’s not how Paul sees it. For him it is a cause for celebration!
This should change the way we read passages like this one.
As Paul talks about being chosen by God before God even made the world, he moves us to worship God. All of God’s work to save us is “to the praise of his glorious grace.”
In Ephesians 1 Paul the Apostle recounts for us everything (almost) that God did to save us. It’s an overwhelming parade of blessings! We begin to see here that salvation is the work of God from beginning to end (we see later in the book why it has to be this way).
(NOTE: due to technical difficulties–we’re still learning the equipment!–the end of this message is cut off. We’ll do better next time.)
Since the Apostle Paul addressed this letter to the “saints” in Ephesus, this message explores the biblical teaching on saints. What is a saint according to the Bible? How can the New Testament refer to all believers as saints, when we sin so much? Is every Christian a saint? What does the Bible say about our new identity as followers of Christ–what change has God made in us and how does he continue to work in us?