This is an adaptation of a sermon delivered at Garden Park church on August 11, 2013.
I’m convinced of a couple of things the more I study scripture and pastor. I’ve shared some of these before that have all combined into a sermon as our church begins diving into Ephesians, this week with chapter one.
I’ve spent the last several weeks studying Ephesians for this study. I let it sit with me, as it’s been simmering for awhile now, and last week I had a thought explode into my mind. Reading Ephesians 1 (as with all other biblical passages for some reason) is done in monotone. I’m not sure why we do it, but we read scripture a bit like our boring high school science teacher.
But listen to the way Paul writes about the church (from God’s perspective):
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 in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship 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 on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 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 reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you 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. (emphasis mine)
That sounds a bit like God’s love letter for us. He is passionate for us. He chooses us. He desires us. We bring him pleasure. He is delighted in us. When we wake up each morning he is excited to see us.
David, when confronted by Nathan the prophet of his sin, writes his lament and confession in psalm 51. He talks about being known by God in his ‘inmost parts’, something that is more literally ‘secret places.’ That deep dark place that no one knows about, God does.
Those places that we try hard to hide.
The masks we put on.
The walls we build to keep others from truly knowing us.
The spot that has been hurting for a month, a year, a decade, our entire adult life.
God knows about that spot. And yet still stops to tell us how much he loves us, accepts us, forgives us, redeems us, desires to be with us.
So the church, a bunch of hurting, gathered people of God; join together not to do a duty, not to check something off of their list for the week, but to most fundamentally remind themselves about their status in Christ.
“God chooses you church to be his agent and visible witness to the world.
A world hurting, lost, broken, and in need of redemption.
The work of the church is to speak life into those secret places professing the love, hope, grace, and salvation of Jesus Christ.
The church’s fundamental identity is that of a redeemed and called people on mission.
But most Christians forget that. And to be honest, it’s hard. The world continues to press in on us and we can ache for the brokenness that is around us. We lose sight of God’s relentless passion pursuing us, calling us, wooing us towards him. We know it in our head, but refuse it to work in those hidden places.
So I find it absolutely enthralling that Paul not only begins his letter that way, but will spend much of the first three chapters of this book reminding us of this. Not until chapter four does Paul get to the part of us joining on mission.
The truth is all calling comes with a mission. But too quickly we jump into mission before adequately being shaped by the grace of God. Paul’s opening verses remind us of that calling, shaping us to be people that allows God to touch all parts of our lives, shaping us as God’s redeemed people to join together reveling in our status before God: beloved, cherished, special, desired, adopted, redeemed, and sealed.