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 He did this when he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. He did this in accordance with the good purpose of his will, 6 and for the praise of his glorious grace, which he has graciously given us in the one he loves.
7 In him we also have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in keeping with the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. 9 He made known to us the mystery of his will in keeping with his good purpose, which he planned in Christ. 10 This was to be carried out when the time had fully come, in order to bring all things together in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have also obtained an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in keeping with the purpose of his will. 12 He did this so that his glory would be praised as a result of us, who were the first to hope in Christ.
13 In him, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and in him, when you also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance until the redemption of God’s own possession, so that his glory would be praised.Ephesians 1:3-14
The New Year has begun. What things will happen to you this year? Family changes, job changes, health changes? I’m guessing none of you have thought, “I wonder if this will be the year I go to jail?” No, I’m not suggesting that you’ll go to jail for a crime. I’m thinking about how long it will be before our freedom of worship gets us in trouble? For instance, a WELS pastor was preaching on the sins of homosexuality and he was posting his sermons on YouTube and they dropped his channel. Or what would happen if our camp would refuse to rent its facilities to someone who was homosexual? The politically minded LBGT lobby has already succeeded in convincing many Americans that this is a social issue which deserves political protection rather than a moral issue which deserves condemnation. How long will it be if you refuse to participate in your work sponsored fund drive—for a group that funnels money toward abortions—earns you not only a demotion but gets you fired? How long will it be if these sad examples gain more traction and you get arrested for them? So, if you did end up in jail, what emotional thoughts would you have to deal with? Shock! (What’s going on!) Denial (I can’t believe this is happening to me!) Anger (This is what I get for being a Christian!) Depression (Here I sit without hope). It doesn’t seem possible that anyone jailed for their Christian convictions could burst into a hymn of joy!
But, that’s what Paul did. He was in Rome under house arrest because he proclaimed the truth about Jesus Christ. Under these circumstances Paul wrote several letters, one of them being his letter to the Ephesians. It is a Christmas hymn worth singing because it portrays God’s mercy even during the low points of life. 2020 might be the year when you hit a low spot. If so, then open Ephesians and
Praise God For His Mercy!
Mercy That Singles Us Out
“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.” Sound familiar? We use this verse as part of our Communion Liturgy. Everything we could ever hope for in our relationship with God is already ours. This news is enough to fill our hearts with joy to spring out of bed and greet the day by saying, “Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful day of your grace!” But, truth be told all too often we roll out of bed with complaints. It’s too cold. Oh, my aching feet. Is today going to be another day of bad political news? If it’s not the government then it’s school, or the economy, or unfair demands at work, or too busy a schedule. We could find something wrong with just about every aspect of life. And no surprise! It’s all stained with sin! Sin causes our hearts to cling to our existence in this life. I’m not saying God doesn’t want us to enjoy our earthly blessings, but he doesn’t want these things to dominate our thinking so we lose sight of what God has in store for us in heaven. Therefore, let all the imperfections of this world remind us of our permanent home of perfection in Paradise!
Want some help? Paul shares it with us. “4 He did this when he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, so that we would be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” You are God’s people. He did this for you in Christ Jesus. He didn’t wait until you were born to see what kind of person you’d turn out to be. Did you hear? Even before he created the world God chose you to be his own! Why? For Jesus’ sake! God saw you through Christ to be the people to receive his mercy. Why? “He did this in accordance with the good purpose of his will, 6 and for the praise of his glorious grace, which he has graciously given us in the one he loves.”
The application of this Word of God will blow your mind! Here is just one example of God’s love and mercy for you. Listen carefully for this might be hard for you to imagine. The whole course of history—Creation, The Flood, The Exodus, The Exile to Babylon, the return to Jerusalem, the disciples cleaning their fishing nets, The raising of Lazarus from the dead, the anger of the Jewish leaders to crucify Jesus—all these events in history were shaped by God so that you might be with him in heaven. Compare that to someone that says, “God happened to choose me because I was pretty good.” No, God singled you out as heir of heaven because of what all God did for you! And you don’t have to wait until you’re in heaven to thank God. You can sing for joy today and thank God for his rich mercy who singled you out to be his own. It is this fact of God’s mercy
Mercy That Sets Us Free
What prompted God to call you to be his own and set your free from the curse of sin and the power of death? The answer occurs 10 times in the verses before us today and 150 times in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians—“in Christ.” God chose to set you free because of Jesus. “7 In him we also have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in keeping with the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.” How did God set us free? Paul was inspired to use the word “redemption” not because it is some dusty old doctrinal word, but because of its rich meaning. Redemption is the only way out for people in prison and involves two things. First, a payment is made and second, a person is set free. Imagine! Paul was in prison and had no idea if someone would pay the ransom to set him free. But, he did know that whether under house arrest or walking the streets of Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, or Colossae, Jesus had already made the ransom prince with his blood that paid the penalty of all the sins of all the people in the whole world. Paul had praise on his lips because he knew and believed in Jesus who set him free!
I certainly hope that you are not going to jail this year, however I would imagine that you will have those bad days when your own thoughts of being worthy before God because of your sin, or relationships that have gone south, or circumstances that burden your days and cause you grief. When those days drag you down, then lift your eyes to the cross of Jesus and see the price that set you free! Dear friends, this is the key to joyful living. Joyful living in this sinful world means that things will not always add up and we might think we’re going around in circles. But, Jesus makes sense of it all. “9 He made known to us the mystery of his will in keeping with his good purpose, which he planned in Christ. 10 This was to be carried out when the time had fully come, in order to bring all things together in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is going to happen to me when I die? These are great mysteries to so many people, but God has given you the answers in Jesus. Jesus brings it all together, sorts it all out, and presents his perfect life as your perfect solution that touches your hearts, feeds your soul and sets you free!
We all heard it again this Christmas—about the miracle of Christmas. To many this means being nice to people, or telling stories about the “miracle” of Santa and his reindeer on the roof, or how the kindness of others even converted Mr. Grinch! That’s not the miracle of Christmas. The miracle of Christmas is the Christ-child lying in a manger to save the world! Praise God for his mercy! Then rejoice that God has set you free!
Some might wonder what this looks like—that Jesus has set us free. Paul shares it with us. “13 In him, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and in him, when you also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is the down payment of our inheritance until the redemption of God’s own possession, so that his glory would be praised.” You know that certain documents need to have a seal on them to show that they are genuine. God says he put his seal on you when you were baptized and were sealed by the Holy Spirit to be set free. Then the day will come when you will receive your inheritance in heaven, redeemed by Jesus, so that you can sing glory to God!
The New Year has begun. Remember, to “praise God” means to tell someone about how awesome our God is. Think of it like this. Many people say, “I believe in Jesus.” But, how many people make Jesus their Lord? That is, how many people put the worship and praise of Jesus above all else? That might mean putting Jesus above politics, society or your own selfish desires. It might mean that you’ll go to jail for Praising God for his Mercy! When those sad days come burst into songs of joy and remember God’s mercy. No matter how bad things might get, God’s mercy in Jesus Christ is always the answer. He singled you out. He set you free. Praise God for His Mercy! Amen!