HAVE YOU BEEN CHOSEN, BLESSED & EMPOWERED?
Bible reading: Ephesians 1: 1-23
NOTE: It’s a familiar passage but, like a journey we make regularly, it’s possible to ‘fail to see’ important things on the way
- By contrast, when I go somewhere unknown, I follow directions closely and take careful note of every detail
- Let’s adopt that principle with this (apparently) familiar passage
It’s nice to be CHOSEN for something
- New Year’s Honours List…imagine refusing the honour
It’s good to be BLESSED by someone
- The delight on children’s faces when they receive a present
We can give thanks for blessings…or fail to acknowledge the giver…
- The Bible is full on instances when a person was grateful…the Psalms…the leper who came back to thank Jesus…the Gadarene who was determined to follow Jesus anywhere
And instances when people did not acknowledge the Giver…for instance, Herod died when he would not give the glory to God
- And then there was Ananias and Sapphira, who died as a result of being selfish and greedy
It’s wonderful to be EMPOWERED and fitted for the job
Sir Winston Churchill once said: ‘Give us the tools and we will finish the job’
- Imagine flying off to the Moon only to find that you ran out of fuel halfway there!
The Bible has many examples of people who were empowered by God and used their abilities well…
- And others who failed to rely on God and tried to do things in their own strength…and failed!
- People like Samson…some of the kings…even a few early churches
- And we can easily fall into the same trap…individually and as a church
My question is: Have you been chosen, blessed and empowered?
HAVE YOU BEEN CHOSEN (by God)?
You might answer: “Chosen for what?”
There are at least 3 things in the passage to help us answer that question…
Chosen to be holy and blameless before God (v4)
Holiness is not something reserved for monks and heavenly beings!
- We are told that GOD is holy…but also that we should be His imitators!
- Fancy trying to be like God…it’s impossible!
And so it is…we can only be holy and blameless when we accept the offer of the holy and blameless Jesus Christ to cover us with His perfection…as the Bible says, ‘with His blood
- So that the Father doesn’t look at our failings but only Christ’s holiness
We may know this to be true but there is a TENSION between letting God have his way in our lives and going our own way
- Even the Apostle Paul admitted that the good he should do he is inclined not to do…and the things that he knows he shouldn’t do he is inclined to do!
Someone has described this ‘tension’ like the string of a kite…the kite stays in the air because of the tension in the taut string…if cut free it will soar for a moment and then plunge to the ground
If you are chosen, you will allow God to hold the kite string of your life… even when a dark voice tells you to ‘cut free’ and soar into the sky
Yes, YOU hold the scissors in your hand
- It’s a paradox…the more we surrender to God, the freer we become and the more like Him we become
- But we need to be wise because the devil whispers in our ears! “Cut the string”, he says
BUT IF YOU ARE CHOSEN by God and want to receive his holiness, you must ‘abide in Him’ …and be connected to Him like branches are to the stem and roots
So we can be chosen to be holy and blameless
Chosen to be Sons of God (v 5)
In the ancient world the word ‘son’ was significant…
- The son was the inheritor of all the father possessed
- Ishmael’s famous song: “But now I am your son I am adopted in your family…” and not ‘child’
And if we are God’s sons (male and female) He longs to bless us with every spiritual blessing…Wow!
- We are joint-heirs with Christ…and He invites us to receive what God has chosen us to receive
Of course we can always refuse to be adopted into His family…but remember that the inheritance won’t be divided when God the Father dies but when you and I do!
So we can be chosen to be sons of God
Chosen according to the purpose of His will (v 5b)
God will have His way eventually! We are not dealing with a Santa Claus look alike!
- So if we are chosen, we will want to know His will
- His will for me, for the church and for the world
But there is yet another paradox: God chooses you but YOU then have to choose to conform to His will…
- If you allow God to have part of your life it’s like blowing just a little air into a balloon…feeble results
- It’s only when we are completely filled that we become fully effective for Him [Take a balloon and partly/then fully inflate]
In the end we are chosen to conform to the likeness of Jesus Christ
- His priorities…His desires…His love…And that love can be costly
CS Lewis once wrote in his book, The 4 Loves…
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…Wrap it up carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket (or coffin) of your selfishness… The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love…is hell!”
God’s love for us cost Him everything… It’s wonderful to be chosen…but there’s a price to pay! Are you and I willing to pay it?
So we can be chosen according to the purpose of His will
HAVE YOU BEEN BLESSED?
We used to sing: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the LORD has done”
There are 4 blessings mentioned in the passage:
1. The freely bestowed grace of God found in Christ (v 6)
Not a stingy, half-hearted grace
- In verse 8 we reads that His grace is LAVISHED on us
- Just as grandparents lavish gifts on a grandchild…or a young man on his sweetheart
The grace of God is not something we can earn or deserve to have…it is freely offered
And it is not some ‘legal’ requirement, it is all of grace…
If you are being blessed by God today, you will know within your heart when you are going away from the right path
Because an important part of the blessing is CORRECTION
- Often you feel uneasy…you have no peace…it’s more than a mere feeling, it’s a deep, constant irritation of the soul
Like being chosen by God, we can resist God’s blessing…
- We can PRETEND that we are enjoying all the fullness of his love and grace when all the time we are crying inwardly
- We can attend church, sing the hymns, chat informally with friends etc
- But lack the inner peace that comes with FULL SURRENDER and ACCEPTING the blessing
Some people think they are too far gone…or have slipped back once too often…but God will LAVISH His grace upon us if we turn to Christ
So we can receive the freely bestowed grace of God found in Christ
2. Blessed by being redeemed through the blood of Christ on Calvary
The word ‘redemption’ comes from the root word, redeem…to be bought back…But who will buy you and me back from the consequences of sin?
- We have nothing of our own to offer…Only Christ can pay the bill
In the bad old days of slavery, Christians would go down to the slave markets and buy slaves…then set them free…but often the slave chose to stay with the one who had redeemed him…his or her ‘saviour’
But when Christ redeemed us, he not only bought us with his blood and freed us from sin…but HE BECAME THE SLAVE IN OUR PLACE
- Amazing love…how can it be that you, my God, should die for me?
Jesus the Christ lay down his life freely and willingly for us…to redeem us from the prison of sin…taking our place
AND WE HAVE TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THIS BLESSING TO BEAT ALL BLESSINGS!
- You can remain a slave to sin…or accept the free gift of redemption that Christ offers
You might say: “Of course everyone will accept the gift!” But there is a cost to us, too…
- We have to actively take it…seize it…not just stare at it longingly…or assume that everything will be okay…and allow God to be boss!
So we can be blessed by being redeemed through the blood of Christ on Calvary
3. Blessed through the forgiveness of sins
We are not only offered the blessing of redemption but also the forgiveness of sins
Forgiveness is a precious thing…and very important
- Have you ever experienced someone’s unforgiveness?
It is so easy to harbour resentment and bitterness… and perhaps it’s justified in human terms…but we walk in step with the Spirit
- Yet God offers to forgive us for the things that we have done that displease Him and separate us from a close walk with Him
The Pollards were a couple helping Romanian refugees in the 1990s….then Mr Pollard was brutally murdered by 3 men…Mrs Pollard stated publicly that she not only forgave them but visited them in prison.
Gordon Wilson held his daughter’s hand as she died after the Innerskillen bombing…but used the remainder of his life to bring reconciliation.
Forgiveness is costly but it brings blessing
- It was costly for Jesus Christ…but offers hope and release to those who receive it
- We can face anything that life throws at us if we know that we are forgiven by God and that our sins won’t count against us
HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE FORGIVENESS that Christ offers…or not?
- Don’t say that you don’t deserve it…none of us do!
- Don’t say you haven’t done anything terrible that merits being forgiven … we ALL fall short of God’s perfect standard
IS THERE ONE PERSON who can honestly claim to love the LORD God with everything…holding nothing back?
And so we can be blessed through the forgiveness of our sins
4. Blessed because we can know the mystery of His will (v 9 and on)
God wants us to know His purpose for our lives…but He wants us to trust Him even more than know the details of His plan for us!
- Tomorrow’s a mystery…we do not know what lies ahead
- God usually only lets us see as far as the next bend in the road
But this ‘mystery’ concerns Christ…God’s ultimate blessing to “bring all things in heaven and earth together under the one head, even Christ”
There are many things we don’t and won’t understand…we see through a glass dimly
- But THIS ONE THING I KNOW…God in great mercy pardoned me; snapped my chains and set me free
- Have you been set free?
Have you been blessed by knowing the mystery of His will in Christ?
Are you chosen? Are you blessed? Are you empowered?
If you believe that you are chosen and want to be blessed, you can also be empowered…but not just for your own benefit
- The Holy Spirit of God will empower us to live for Him and give us gifts and the fruit of the spirit
- He also provides us with what we need to serve Him effectively to extend His kingdom on earth
And it’s guaranteed…see verse 13, “sealed with the Holy Spirit”
And verse 14, “a guarantee of our inheritance”… “and his incomparably great power for us who believe”
LISTEN TO WHAT IS AT OUR DISPOSAL…”That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
So the Holy Spirit is like the air that holds up the kite mentioned earlier
BUT…If we are chosen and blessed, why are we often so WEAK when it comes to spiritual matters?
I Thess 1: 4-5: For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
Ultimately, it is the EMPOWERING by the Spirit of God that is the acid test of whether we have been chosen and blessed by Him
- Because the CHANGED LIFE is all the evidence that people around us need to see…at home/ at work and in the everyday things of life
“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart”
Someone said: “Don’t ask me if I’m a Christian… Ask those who know me best!”
HAVE YOU BEEN CHOSEN…BLESSED…EMPOWERED?
Do you WANT to be chosen, blessed and empowered?
- Are you willing to pay the price?
- If any person wants to be a disciple of Jesus, he or she must take up His cross daily and follow Him
WHY NOT MAKE THAT DECISION RIGHT NOW?