Let us pray: Dear Savior, how amazing it is that of all the people in the world, You have chosen us, individually, to be Your children and to bask in the blessings of Your grace! We don’t deserve it. We could never earn it. And yet, in pure love You have ordained that faith be worked in our hearts and that heaven would become our reality. For all this, we thank and praise You! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE ONLY SOURCE OF OUR SALVATION!
TEXT: Ephesians 1: 3-14
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
A few months ago I was listening to a Christian friend bemoan the economy, specifically the depths to which his retirement account had sunk. That 401K wasn’t just a 201K, but a 101K—or so he said. He wondered aloud if he’d ever be able to retire. The whole idea of becoming rich someday, had faded into a cruel mirage.
Suddenly, I turned the tables on him. To pull him out of his morose mindset, I said: “But, you are rich!” He sort of snorted a response. Then I went on to remind him that as a Christian, God had given him riches beyond compare and all he had to do was open his eyes and see them.—Wisdom, patience, appreciation of blessings, humility to admit mistakes—which makes all of us much more civil.—These are some of the earthly riches we have in Christ along with a clean conscience and the certainty of heaven. Moreover, in eternity God predestined us for these blessings. He has made it so in Jesus Christ.
As I looked at this lesson, earlier this past week, I was reminded of that conversation. For you see, this little lesson brings home the ageless truth that:
WE ARE PREDESTINED TO BE RICH
I know, when you hear any preacher talking about Christians being rich, immediately you imagine some sleazy TV evangelist trying to prey on equal parts of his listener’s greed and good will. That’s because almost everyone on planet earth defines “rich” as being wealthy in monetary terms. What a crock! If that is the case, then Jesus is a liar, the apostles are fools, and almost every Christian saint who ever lived was deluded. For you see, the majority of them were financially poor, and yet they lived fulfilled lives and died contented deaths. They lived and died happier than their unbelieving neighbors. For they knew that the true meaning of a rich, blessed life has nothing to do with money!
That little word: predestined, is a loaded word. More goofy views about its Biblical meaning have been given than probably any other expression used in the Bible. The common, goofy view is that because God knows all things, He causes all things—including bad things to occur. Wrong! God never causes evil. The second goofy view, based in part on the first one I just outlined, is that God chose some people for salvation and the rest for damnation. Wrong again! If that were true, passages such as: “God so loved the world” or: “God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” would be lies. It would mean that Jesus didn’t pay for all sins on the cross.—That He only paid for the sins of the elect. It would mean I could never say to any of you: “God loves you in Christ.”—For since I cannot read your hearts, how do I know if you truly believe and are one of the predestined?
Obviously, that word “predestined” has caused a lot of anxiety on the part of well-meaning people. In fact, our synod was founded on the very principle of upholding the Scriptural truth of what it actually means without adding or subtracting from it. You see, way back at the turn of the last century some Lutherans decided that God must have predestined certain people to be saved because in eternity He saw something in them that attracted Him. That something was either that they were less sinful than others, or that they would listen better than others, or that they would act more moral than others.—And they concluded that because of this, God predestined them to become His children and gave them the gift of faith. Wrong! For if that was true, grace, or God’s undeserved love for us in Christ, really wouldn’t be grace, or undeserved, at all. It would mean that we could take credit, pat ourselves on the back a bit, and feel slightly superior to others.—Sounds like the Pharisee in the temple to me. Remember how he bragged in his prayer how wonderful he was because of all the supposedly good things he did? And yet, Christ commends the publican instead who simply said: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The point is: God has predestined us to be rich in Christ, not in ourselves. He has done so out of pure mercy and kindness. And instead of trying to play God and figure out every aspect of what predestined means based on our limited human wisdom, instead we should simply accept the fact that God knows more than we do, that He’s good and gracious, and that we cannot figure everything out. In fact, we don’t need to figure it all out. For to be truly rich, humble acceptance of Christ is all that is needed.
Listen to Paul’s words: “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. For he chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 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. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished upon us with all wisdom and understanding.”
What an amazing section of God’s Word! God chose you, individually, before the world was even born, to be His child through the work of Jesus Christ. Because of this act of pure love, undeserved love, when you were born you were baptized, brought to faith, and to this day retain that saving faith. Moreover, because of your predestination you are rich in wisdom, holiness, and the forgiveness of sins. These and countless other blessings God has “lavished” upon you.—Note well that we don’t have a stingy God! And God has done all this for you for this purpose: “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.” In other words, you and I as believers are at the very center of the universe! The entire universe revolves around how we fit into God’s plan and the heavenly future He has in store for us. Christians are not the “little, insignificant people” that the cultural elites mock, no we’re actually the giants whom the Lord has chosen to carry out His will—saving souls one at a time.
Just to make sure that we really do take our riches seriously and not waver when hit by the world’s razzle-dazzle, Paul concludes by reminding us: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
You and I may not be well-known around the globe. We may not be “movers and shakers” upon whom the media descend. We don’t have cushy lives. We struggle and grind and try to live up to God’s standards in spite of our failings. To the world we’re nothings. But no matter. To God we’re eternally rich because He has made us so in Christ. In fact, the Holy Spirit, Himself, resides in our hearts via faith and guarantees our status of heavenly VIP’s! My friends, this is what you are. This is what God has made you to be. Christ Jesus has made it so. Rejoice. Be glad. And always take comfort in the reality of your richness! Amen