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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Knowing Hope - January 5, 2014 - Second Sunday after Christmas - Text: Ephesians 1:3-14

Today is the twelfth and last day of Christmas. This morning we continue to celebrate the birth of the Christ-child, the one who came as our Savior, the one who came as King of kings and Lord of lords. In the Old Testament reading for today we hear young King Solomon asking not for riches or fame, but for an understanding and discerning heart to be better able to lead the children of Israel. In the Gospel lesson we met up with young Jesus who is in the temple at the age of twelve talking with the priests and we are told that He is growing “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” And in our text we hear of God’s plan of salvation.
 
Our text is the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we pick up at verse three, “3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (v. 3-6). Paul begins this letter as he begins most of his letters, with words of blessing. Paul begins by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” or literally, “‘Good words’ be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God is blessed, or using not so good English, He is “good worded” in connection with Jesus. God is blessed because Jesus has accomplished His work of salvation and is seated in the heavenly realms. God is blessed because He has accomplished what He said He would accomplish. His Word, spoken and written, have been fulfilled in Jesus, God in flesh, who gave His life for all people.
 
Paul continues by telling us that God is blessed because He chose us, before creation, to make us holy and blameless. We did not choose God, He chose us. He chose us, not because of anything deserving within us, not because He knew we would do anything to deserve His choosing. He chose us by the death of His Son which He told us would happen.
 
Paul goes on to tell us that in love, that is in agape, Christlike love, God adopted us and made us a part of His kingdom. He did this according to His good will and pleasure. It is God’s will that all people come to faith and are saved. And He works that salvation out according to His plan of salvation.
 
God’s plan of salvation is that according to His grace, His undeserved love, a love that is freely given, He gave us His Son, the Word made flesh to give His life for ours. It is through the death of the One He loves, His only Son, that He works His plan of salvation.
 
Picking up at verse seven Paul lays out God’s plan. We read, “7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  10as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (v. 7-10). In Christ we have redemption. Last week we talked about this word redeem, how it means to trade something and we talked about S & H Green Stamps. However, Jesus did not save up and trade stamps for us and our sins. No, He traded His life, He shed His blood for our sins. Remember, the price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, the price for sin is death, eternal spiritual death and even physical death. The price for sin was that blood had to be shed. Jesus shed His blood for us.
 
Jesus shed His blood for all people. That the riches of grace are lavished on us means that there is no end to His grace. His grace is for all people. His grace exceeds our sins.
 
He has made know the mystery of His will. The mystery of His will is how God could love us so much. The mystery of God’s will is how a Creator could love His creation, especially His sinful creation, His creation run amuck, so much that He would do what needed to be done for His creation, that He would give His life, that He would shed His blood for us.
 
Thanks be to God that we have Paul’s words of hope as we continue reading at verse eleven, “11In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (v. 11-14). We have hope, that is a certainty in Him. In Him, that is, in Christ, in faith in Him we have the certainty of an eternal inheritance in heaven.
 
This did not happen by accident. This did not happen according to our good will or pleasure. This did not happen for any reason for which we might be accountable. No, this was all according to God’s foreknowledge, plan and purpose. Even before the creation of the world God knew what was going to happen and so even before the creation of the world He knew He would be sending His Son to shed His blood for us. That fact in and of itself should tell us how much He loves us and how He created us in order to love us and to lavish us with all His good gifts and blessings.
 
And now, the Holy Spirit seals the deal. We have hope, that is we have the certainty of heaven, not because of anything on our part, but because the Holy Spirit brings us to faith, gives us faith, strengthens and keeps us in faith. It is the Holy Spirit who does the work of giving us the hope and certainty of eternal life.
 
As I read these words from our Epistle lesson today I realized how relevant and how fitting Paul’s words are for us today. And so I come before you to tell you that as Paul told the Ephesians, so I am tell you the same thing.
 
First, I want to remind you that God has chosen you. He has not chosen you because of something you have done, or will do. In the same way He does not disown us because of something we do or do not do. In other words, He has not disowned us because of our sins; our sins of thought, word and deed; our sins of omission and commission. He has chosen you because He has given the life of His Son, whose birth we just celebrated, for you.
 
Next, I want you to know that you are saved by God’s grace alone. Again, this is not something we can accomplish in and of ourselves. This is not something we can earn, deserve or work for. We are saved by God’s grace, by His undeserved love for us. We are saved by the blood of Jesus poured out for us on the cross. But we are not saved for no reason. We are saved for a purpose. First and foremost we are saved so that we may be loved by God and lavished with His good gifts and blessings. We are saved so that we might do good works. Yes, we are to do good works. We are saved so that the faith which is given to us at our baptism, at our conversion, is reflected in our love for each other.
 
My prayer, then, is that you will continue to make use of the means of grace so that you might be strengthened in your faith. In the same way the you were brought to faith by God’s good Word, I pray that you will continue to make regular and diligent use of that good Word to be made stronger in your faith. Remember, the mystery of why some are saved and some are not saved is because some refuse God’s gifts. We refuse God’s gifts by not making use of the gifts that He gives, the gifts of His means of grace, the gifts of His Word, Confession and absolution and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. My prayer is that you will make good use of that good Word, written and given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
 
And my prayer for you is that you will have the hope, that is the certainty, of heaven. Too often I hear a person say, “I hope when I die I will go to heaven.” I pray that you can say, “I know that when I die I will go to heaven.” I pray that you will have that certainty because that certainty comes from the good word of the Lord. That certainty comes from knowing the Good Word of Jesus. That certainty comes from faith given by the Holy Spirit and strengthened by Him through His Word and sacraments.
 
I read a shirt once that read, “So many books, so little time.” If you like to read you know how true that is. There is a plethora of reading material available in our country today. Unfortunately, not all of it speaks favorably or even speaks of the most important Word, the good Word, the Word made flesh, the Word given to us to eat and drink at His holy Supper. I will continue to pray for you, that the Lord will continue to give you a real desire and hunger for His Word, that you may be weaned off the milk of the Word and hunger for the meat and potatoes of God’s Word through which the Holy Spirit will strengthen and deepen your faith in the Lord and your love for each other. May it be done to the glory of the Lord, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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