Welcome To The Family – A Father’s Dream
A Lot of Water Under The Bridge
A lot can happen in 10 years, folks. A lot can go wrong but a lot can go right as well. 10 years is a lot of water under the bridge. A lot of things change in 10 years.
We saw it coming back to Niagara after years away. People who have gotten older, kids who have grown up, friends who have moved on and even places that look different from back then.
When you are up front and personal you don’t always see the changes but step aside long enough and you will have noticed how things change.
Paul had been gone for 10 years when he stepped back into the picture, which inspired him to write what we call “The Letter to the Ephesians”.
He barely knew the old place. So many new faces, so many folks he didn’t know. The place had changed dramatically from when he was last there 10 years earlier.
Seeing the hustle and bustle of a growing community and perhaps sensing some of the growing pains of having to shove over a bit to make room for newcomers inspired Paul to write The Letter to the Ephesians.
Against the backdrop of the inevitable tension of a growing family he puts his thoughts to pen and the first thing he acknowledges is the legitimacy of the growth and additions to the family that he has now seen first-hand.
You know what; legitimacy may actually be the wrong word. He doesn’t need to defend the legitimacy of what he is seeing as though some didn’t belong.
Rather he begins by highlighting the enormity and the miraculous of what actually happened there.
This was an incredible thing. People were becoming Christians and followers of Jesus against all odds. Not just by one’s or two’s but by the dozens if not more.
To get a sense of the scope of this you will actually have to look into the historical book called The Acts of the Apostles to see what was going on there:
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” Acts 19:8, 10-12, 20
This became known as the Revival of Ephesus as all sorts of people were coming into the family of God.
Every one of them was an incredible miracle of God.
Every time someone becomes a child of God you need to realize how great a miracle that was and still is. It is as though heaven and earth were moved when someone comes into the family of God.
A Father’s Wish!
That’s what Paul starts out with in his letter and in doing so he reaches way back into their past and talks about this ancient desire of God to see them brought into God’s family.
He says: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world” Eph. 1:4
All these people coming into God’s family was God’s plan. You coming into God’s family are totally God’s greatest wish for you.
Long before this world came into being God thought of you!
God singled you out long before you were ever born so that someday you would become acquainted with his Son in order that he would bring you into God’s family.
“God put us and Jesus together in his mind. He determined to make us (who did not yet exist) his own children through the redeeming work of Jesus (which had not yet taken place)”
Talk about matchmaking! Ever try to put two people together in your mind? Well, that’s what God did with you!
In fact, “matchmaking” is too weak a word to describe this. Paul uses a far stronger word, predestination.
“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” Eph. 1:5
While matchmaking is wishful thinking with maybe a little bit of tinkering or setting up, predestination takes this to a whole new level.
The idea behind predestined is something that is sketched out long before it appears.
You know, when they built a new road it is staked out before the pavement ever goes down or when a new building is to be built markers are put into the ground.
Sketching something out before it actually happens. That’s predestination. That takes matchmaking to a whole new level!
That’s what God did for us. In his mind since he matched us up as his children to come into the family of God, he put markers all along the journey.
It’s like dropping hints of what could be. God has repeatedly put markers along the path of our lives so that we would bump into him until one day we get that we are to be in his family.
Whether someone realizes this or not, the reality is that everyone has bumped into the divine markers at some point along the path of life.
The hope is that people bump into God enough times until they realize that God actually wants to bring them out of their current life and into his beautiful family of God.
Notice who that is done: “He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” vs. 5
He wants us into his family. Not only to be in his family but to be family; to be sons and daughters of God.
"Adopted into the family of God", that’s the Father’s heart for us; that we would be children of God.
And as his sons and daughters his dream is for us to look like him, to have our Father’s eyes. To look like him, act like him and to behave like him.
Saw it last week with my uncle. He is the younger brother to his older brother, my uncle Fritz. It was uncanny as I saw him walk away how much he walked like his brother and looked like him from behind. I thought I was looking at Uncle Fritz.
You know what I mean; how many of you look like someone in the family – your dad, mom or some other relative.
The same thing with our Heavenly Father. Of course, he wants us to look and acts like him. Nothing would give him greater pleasure than for his children to be a chip of the old block and in his spitting image.
And that’s what it means when Paul wrote in verse 4: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”
Becoming holy and blameless is what it means to look like our Heavenly Father.
An impossible feat and a tall order. I can never be that. Oh really? It’s not as impossible as you think.
Notice how God goes about bringing you into his family: “In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will” vs. 5
This is how the Father sees us coming into his family. Not only is it his will but also his great pleasure! He does it with great gusto and enormous excitement.
No reluctance whatsoever. No doubt in his heart. No second thoughts.
God never says: “oh no, there is too much work with him”. He will never say: “how someone like that will ever become like me”. You will never: “she is just too far gone for any change to happen”
There is no restraint, resentment or uncertainty. With great “pleasure” does God express his desire and will for you to be in the family of God. With great delight and anticipation does he welcome you into his family.
In case you are wondering where such confidence comes from, notice where it’s rooted: “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.”
“To the praise of his glorious grace”! It has nothing to do with your ability or potential but everything to do with his amazing grace.
He chose you not because you have what it takes. Honestly, you don’t have it; none of us do it!
It wasn’t because you were the cream of the crop or because of some great hidden inclination in you to be like Him.
He chose you because he wanted to showcase his amazing grace so that when we become like Him in our thoughts and actions our Father would say, “That’s what my grace did”.
That we among the first to applaud God’s amazing grace as we say, “Look at what you’ve done in my life. Just look at me now. I once was dead but now am alive”
So, in many ways, the worse someone is the greater God’s grace can be displayed. That is why God looks for the least likely among us of which I am chief!
Made Possible By The Son
Added into this idea of bringing us into God’s family is not only the pleasure of a Father who wills it but also the work of a Son who makes it possible.
God’s amazing grace may be free but it’s not cheap! The grace of God may have turned your life around but to do so much blood had to be shed.
“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.” Vss. 7,8
Again you will notice how the riches and the power of God’s grace have been richly lavished on us willing us as children of God to take on his nature and characteristics.
But notice that for us to be that way meant being released from that old way of being was made possible only through the blood of Jesus.
“In him we have redemption through his blood”
Redemption speaks of having been released from chains. When we came into God’s family the chains of the old way of life fell off. Jesus set us free! His blood made it possible for the old to fall away.
So we are not coming in shackled to an old nature. We are literally born new into God’s family. Even though it’s called adoption, it’s so much more than that.
Because when you adopt, as great as that is, you know that it’s neither your daddy’s blood in your veins nor your mom’s DNA in your bones. Try as much as you like, you will never have your father’s eyes or your mother’s temperament.
In your veins runs the blood of another. That’s the limitation of adoption.
When it says that you have redemption through Jesus’ blood it means that you were released from that old nature.
When you become a child of God you are not just adopted in but you receive a blood transfusion.
His blood will come into your veins. It’s like being born again. You become a rightful child of God and thus you have your Father’s eyes to proof it.
Notice what else: “In him we have the forgiveness of sins”
The forgiveness of sins is like saying that any character flaws and blemishes from the old life are continuously washed away!
I love how both “redemption” or being released from the old life and “the forgiveness of sins” or having the character flaws from that old life washed away is “through his blood”!
His blood redeems you and forgives you.
All of this is “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”!
The Father’s grace makes his son’s blood available for our redemption and forgiveness of sins. Who does that sort of thing?
For that to click in and for us to get that takes incredible grace. We didn’t just wake up one day all smart and figured it out.
We were so stooped in our old family and in our old way of living that we never could have seen that. In fact, God could have hit us over the head with this offer to come into his family and we still would not have gotten it.
Not because we were stupid but because we were blind. Our old way of living kept us in darkness. That is all we knew until God’s grace broke open over us!
I love what it says next: “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will” Vss 8-9
So God’s grace gave us wisdom and understanding so that his dream of us being born into his family would no longer be a mystery to us.
As Karl Barth said: “So long and intensively does he shower grace on them that finally they cannot help but sing paeans to his splendid grace”
He just keeps showering and showering his grace on us until the hard soil of our heart is moist enough that we get it!
Applied By The Spirit
Who is it that does the showering of God’s grace but the Holy Spirit.
“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” vss. 13-14
“When you believed” refers to you believing that Jesus brought you into God’s family through his blood.
When you believed that and thus were brought into God’s family, at that moment the Holy Spirit moved into your life and you were marked with the seal of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit helps you figure out life in the new family. He will help you become more and more like the Father and the Son.
Even though you start out with his blood in your veins and his new nature in your DNA, it’s going to be a lifelong quest to have everything about you become more and more like Jesus.
Helping you in this will be the Holy Spirit. He will give you the spiritual strength, he will point out character flaws, and he will cause you to feel bad when you mess up and a host of other things.
He becomes the seal on your heart that says you belong to God.
No matter how long the road ahead might be, no matter how deep the shadows of your former life may linger on and no matter how much work still needs to be done to live up to your calling as a child of God, the Holy Spirit is that seal on your heart that says you belong to God.
A seal speaks of ownership and reminds those who question legitimacy that you really belong. Because sometimes there is going to be doubts and moments when you question whether you really belong.
Sometimes it will be your old family whispering you don’t belong.
Sometimes it will be a religious Pharisee who will claim you don’t belong because you don’t have the right name or the right connections.
Sometimes it might even be your own failures that will make you want to run away.
But it’s not about name nor connections nor how far you have come but about the will of the Father for you to be destined as one of his children.
It will be the Holy Spirit who will not only help you believe that you have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and thus a legitimate child of God but also empower you to live out that new life.
He is your seal and he is your deposit: “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” vss. 13-14
The Holy Spirit is the down payment that guarantees ultimate ownership by God.
I may not be perfect yet. It may look like three steps forward and two steps back. And I may have my doubts sometimes. But in my heart is the Holy Spirit who is the deposit guaranteeing my inheritance!
Let me wrap it up this morning.
Long before you were ever born it was God’s intention to have you be in his family.
When you said yes everything about you changed. Whatever you were was cancelled. Whatever sins you had were washed away and however great this great mystery might have been, it was demystified.
With his blood in your veins and his DNA in your bones you are slowly being transformed into the likeness of our Father and his Son. You have our Father’s eyes and thus legitimate.
None of this was because of you. All of it because of God’s amazing grace. So that we would be among the first to rise up and applaud the amazing grace of God!
That’s why this whole section ends with six words: “to the praise of his glory” (repeat it with me).
In the words of Karl Barth: “The praise God’s people are to give is the enthusiastic applause and cheers of captives who have been given freedom”
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.