Saturday, May 19, 2012

Touching Base! Part 163

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 2
The Applause of Heaven – Ephesians 1:1-14

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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Imagine changing the order of applause. From now on, before the performance you will applaud, stand to your feet, and with every ounce of energy you have you will cheer, clap and stomp your feet. People around you might think you are crazy. Our culture dictates that no one gets the applause until the performance is done, and even then, the applause meter might not spike, unless the performance was excellent!

The good news and wonderful news of heaven is that God applauds us before we ever take the stage of life. His angelic choirs are bursting forth with songs of delight in who we are before we even take our first breath. Much like Jesus, in Matthew 3, where God the Father says, at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased!” Pretty outstanding words considering the fact that Jesus had not “performed” yet.

Today our big idea is, The wonder of our praise is rooted in when we heard the applause of heaven. Our text is Ephesians 1:1-14 and we are asking the question, “What is the wonder of our praise?” You will note that Paul says “Praise be to God…” and you will also note that our praise of God is rooted in the God of the universe doing for us and in us deep and unfathomable truths before we even take the stage of life. It is important to remember that Paul wrote this from prison. His physical circumstances were less than ideal, but his heart was full of praise.

What is the wonder of our praise?
If you are in a group discussing this take a moment and come up with a group definition of the word “wonder”.

1. The wonder of being chosen (v.4)

A seminary professor once said, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind. But try to explain it away and you may lose your soul!” (“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” - John 15:16). The lost sinner, left to his own ways, does not seek God (Rom. 3:10–11); God in His love seeks the sinner (Luke 19:10). The mystery of divine sovereignty and human responsibility will never be resolved in this life. Both are taught in the Bible (John 6:37). Both are true, and both are essential.

Notice the “when” of being chosen. V.4- Try getting your head around this… some of us have a hard time just planning for the week ahead.

Notice the objective of being chosen in v.4 “Holy” and “blameless” are two words that speak of God’s desire to bless our lives. The emphasis in this context seems to be on the practical outworking of living a holy and blameless life. How is being holy and blameless good for a person?
Discuss the following.

That which invokes wonder in our heart, at the same time, can provoke questions in our minds. The key is to be able to wrestle with the questions but not lose the sense of wonder! True? Has wrestling with great theological truths ever robbed you of the joy of basking in the wonder of God’s love for us?

One writer said that of all the religions in the world, there is none with the wealth of music that the Christian faith offers. We sing, because His name is wonderful.

2. The wonder of being predestined (v.5,6)

Notice that love is a key element of our next wonder. The word predestined literally means to be determined beforehand. In other words the applause of heaven happened before the “performance”. Notice the difference between predestination and being chosen in this context. What was predetermined?

Once you have answered that, ask yourself what other motives are seen in this text for God to adopt us? Was it our performance, how well we played our part, or accomplished our task? No, the reason given, in addition to love, is pleasure, will and in praise of his glorious grace. Pleasure is that which brings him satisfaction. It brings God utmost pleasure to adopt you! And this act of God brings him praise.

Imagine telling someone that the reason you are a follower of Christ is because it brings God great pleasure and praise. How is that different than what you often hear?

How much pain and struggle could have been avoided in life or more quickly remedied if just these first two truths on the canvass of God’s word had been woven into our hearts? Think of a child that never experiences the love of a father, but can grasp the love of God in these verses. Think of an adult who is told by culture, “you are of no value”, but whose heart is full of the wonder of God’s love for him or her.

3. The wonder of being redeemed (v7,8)

Now this is what we are more used to talking about. Often being chosen and predestined are theologies we leave to the heavyweights to figure out. But notice that being chosen and predestined are very much connected to our next wonder - redemption.

To redeem means “to purchase and set free by paying a price.” There were 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire, and often they were bought and sold like pieces of furniture. But a man could purchase a slave and set him free, and this is what Jesus did for us. The price was His own blood (1 Peter 1:18ff). Forgiveness means to be carried away. It is reference to the OT image of the scapegoat (look it up if you want) where Jesus carries our sin away from us. But what I want you to notice is that this great wonder is all rooted in the wisdom and understanding of God. These are two Greek words that get at the idea that what may boggle our minds does not boggle the mind of God. What may raise our intellectual eyebrows, does not raise the eyebrows of God. His justice and love are in perfect balance as He administers His actions.

Paul’s admonition is “Praise be to God”. Yes it’s true we may not have the knowledge and wisdom we need to fully comprehend all of God’s actions but nonetheless, we are to praise Him! What are some of your big questions at this point about these three wonders?

4. The wonder of His revelation (v9,10)

What is the mystery? Check out Ephesians 3:2-16 and Romans 16:25

Notice the reference to time. In v.4 we read that he chose us before the creation of the world. In v.10 it says what? Note the panoramic view of time and history referred to here. What does this text say happened between the creation of the world and the fulfillment of all time? See v.9, “he made known to us the mystery”. Our lives are just a speck on a speck on a speck but the biggest guy on the block chose us to be holy and blameless, and predestined us to be adopted which set up our redemption that would be attained at the cross. This is part of his pleasure, good pleasure, which is a reflection of his wisdom and understanding, which is an extension of his love, which is an example of his glorious grace - freely given. No wonder Paul says, “Praise be to God”!

5. The wonder of being marked (v13,14)

Three key words to highlight:

Believed - You may have a question about whether or not you have been chosen, and elected. I think the real question is, having believed, have you responded to his love? We are never told not to believe because we have not been chosen. We are told in Scripture that God chooses and predestines and we are invited to believe. The emphasis is not on trying to figure it out (am I, or am I not, chosen?) but choosing to believe. Welcome to the deep end of the pool.

Marked - In the original context a wax seal would have a mark of ownership or identification stamped in it, identifying who was attesting what was inside the container that had been sealed.

Deposit – This is referencing of the first installment, that there is more to come, a bit like an engagement ring that says the big day is approaching. Notice the progressive idea of redemption. We were redeemed the moment we believed, we are being redeemed and we will be fully redeemed.

Someone said that we should live like each day as if it is your last. One day you will be right!- For the Christ follower our last day is in many ways the first day…… what wonder, hope and praise!
One last observation: Notice how many times in these fourteen verses the praise of God is referenced? V.3, 6, 12, 14. Is God egotistical? Discuss the following:

God is the greatest of all goods, thus to be self promoting is to be putting forth the greatest good that human kind could ever encounter. It is not an egotistical thing but the most loving thing to do. To do otherwise would be to mislead and be an immoral act by God Eternal. His love for us demands that God be self promoting.

The wonder of our praise is rooted in when we heard the applause of heaven! Praise be to God!

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