We are Loved! Ephesians 1:3-14 (4-6, 11-12) I) God __________ us Which means our ______________ isn’t about what we’ve done II) We were chosen ____________ the foundation of the world Which reveals that God is in _____________ of all things III) We were chosen for a _____________ We _________ be holy and blameless We ___________ be holy and blameless IV) Being ________________ shows that we are loved God decided ____________ that we would be saved through Jesus We are now _____________ into His family We have been given an _________________ It’s all because of his ________ V) We should respond with ______________ because of His blessings!
Why would you give the rich any special treatment, especially since they are the ones who often persecute believers? Showing prejudice of any kind is sin, and sin is offensive to God and affects our relationship with Him. But thankfully any judgment we experience is temporal instead of eternal because of the liberty we have in Christ (in fact, in Galatians 6:2 we see that we now serve the “law of Christ” rather than the law of Moses). However, we are still called to do what is right and to show mercy to others. In fact, we need to if we expect God to have mercy on us! And living for God and doing good works is a hallmark of those who have true faith. In fact, works show the reality of faith, as we see illustrated in the lives of Abraham and Rahab. Works are a natural outgrowth of faith:
Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his creative work, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”
James is writing to the 12 tribes scattered abroad. His words are generic so they can easily be applied to all believers, even those who don’t have a Jewish background!
(1-8) Bad stuff happens to everyone. We need to persevere, recognizing that God is allowing it to happen for a purpose. We mature in the midst of trials. And if we’re struggling in our understanding, maybe even wondering why it’s happening or confused about the good that’s coming out of it, we should ask God for wisdom. God has promised that He will give us guidance through His Spirit, and we shouldn’t doubt that He will help us.
(9-11) Worldly goods aren’t what is important. Our relationship with God is what is important. We should treasure that!
(12-18) Persevering through trials and troubles (even poverty from persecution) should bring us joy. And if we fail, if we allow the test to lead us into sin of one sort or another, we can’t blame God. We have allowed ourselves to be carried away by our own sinful desires, and sin ultimately destroys! It’s not God’s fault that he allowed us to be tested to help us to mature and we ended up failing miserably. God is the author of good and perfect gifts. He always has been and always will be!
(19-27) We live out the message by holding our beliefs and behaviors up to the Bible and allowing it to correct us when we are wrong. How should we live? We are taught to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We are reminded that we need to put away lusts and evil desires, and that there is a vital need for us to control our tongues. Finally, true religion is described as being kind and compassionate to the needy, and not allowing ourselves to be influenced by the world. In fact, we are the ones who are supposed to be influencing it!
There are some interesting tidbits in the final exhortations here:
- Brotherly love and care are important. Do good and share with others.
- Be hospitable to all. You never know who you might be entertaining.
- Remember those who are suffering for their faith.
- Sexual morality is very important to God. Marriage is very important to God.
- Greed is a way of saying you don’t believe God will take care of you.
- We should take care of and listen to the leaders in the church. They are not only our teachers, they are also our examples.
- Jesus Christ is the same always, so the truth of God is the same always! Beware false teaching, especially those trying to enforce Old Testament regulations for salvation. We “eat” from a better altar. It’s about grace!
- We can expect to be abused for following Jesus, but that’s ok. This is not our home! We seek the city that is to come.
- We should praise and acknowledge God because of all that we have been given through Jesus.
- We should pray that those who minister in/for the church will be holy and righteous.
- We should also pray that all believers will be equipped “with every good thing to do His will.”
(1-13) Not only did Jesus suffer and endure, He even experienced joy in the midst of His suffering because He knew it was for a purpose! We need to be like Him. The crowd of the faithful is watching us. Will we endure? Will we persevere? Will we experience joy in the midst of suffering? Even divine discipline has a purpose in our lives. God disciplines us because He is our Father and He wants to be righteous and produce peace in our lives. The quotes from Isaiah 35:3 and Proverbs 4:26-27 remind us that discipline helps to train, strengthen, and guide us.
(14-29) We are warned to continue in our faith journey and pursue peace, holiness, graciousness, morality, and godliness. What could happen if we don’t? Well, the old covenant is given as an example. When the law was given on the mountain the Israelites shuddered in fear. It was amazing. It was awe inspiring. It was scary! Well, the new covenant is even greater than the old:
“But you have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the assembly and congregation of the firstborn, who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous, who have been made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks of something better than Abel’s does.”
How should we respond in this new covenant?
“So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in devotion and awe. For our God is indeed a devouring fire.”
Sometimes we lose the awesomeness of God in this day and age. Don’t do it!
For worship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBnzAepXOE8
The examples of faith in chapter 11 are like a who’s who of the Old Testament. Abel. Enoch. Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Joshua. Rahab. Even more! And beyond that, those who didn’t conquer kingdoms, escape the sword, put armies to flight, or receive the dead back to life. Those who were poor, ill-treated, tortured, and murdered. You see, we don’t just exhibit faith because of what we get out of it. We are faithful because we trust and believe. We are faithful because of the promise of what is ahead. All of these Old Testament saints were looking ahead to a promise in the future. They were willing to give their all because they knew a heavenly home was waiting for them. They are our example, even though it’s a little different for us. We know Jesus, so we receive a portion of that promise when we believe! However, we are still waiting for the full realization of that promise in the future. We are citizens of the kingdom, but we haven’t fully entered that kingdom yet. That makes the words here in Hebrews 11 even more important. They show us that experiencing suffering in this life is still a reality. It’s not all roses and daffodils, blessing and victory. The full kingdom isn’t here yet! And if we do suffer for the kingdom, we should see it as an honor. Moses is our example here. He was looking forward to the promise, but still experienced suffering. And, in a real sense, all suffering experienced for being Godly can be seen as suffering for Christ: “He regarded abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the reward” (11:26). We need to keep our eyes on the reward as well!
Here is a succinct definition of faith based on our passage:
- Faith believes in God.
- Faith trusts in God.
- Faith hopes in God.
- Faith obeys God (which is one reason for the examples).
- Faith is rewarded by God.
I read an article by another blogger today that intersects with our passage. Tim Challies lost a college-aged son a little over a year ago I believe. People have asked him whether or not he thinks that his son sends him signs from beyond, a question that he gets from both Christians and non-Christians. Here is a part of his response:
I understand the impulse to look for a sign and I understand the comfort that can come when we believe we have received one. Death and all that comes beyond this life is a great mystery. Though we all go that way, none return to describe it, none make their way back to assure us that heaven is real and God’s promises are true. Our loved ones cross the river and are lost to our sight and our hearts burn to know that they have passed over safely. It is natural, then, to hope for some kind of information, to seek some kind of a sign, to know that they are okay.
But even in the absence of a sign, I am convinced that Nick is okay. In fact, I am convinced that he is better than okay—he is the best he has ever been. Though death has for a time separated him from this world, it has transported him to the presence of God. In the moment he left here, he entered there. In the instant he arrived in heaven all trace of sin and its effects were obliterated so that he no longer sins or even wants to and no longer suffers or even can. His faith has become sight. He is in the place we all want to be. And now he awaits the consummation of all things, the reunion of body and soul, the coming of the new heavens and the new earth.
I am convinced that Nick is okay, but not because he has in some way let me know and not because he has sent a sign. I am convinced of all of this because the Bible tells me so. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith allows me to believe even when I do not see, it allows me to have confidence in what I cannot gaze upon with my eyes or hear with my ears or touch with my hands. It allows me to have confidence apart from signs. It allows me to believe that what the Bible says is sure and steady and true.
But it’s important to affirm that such faith is not mere wishing upon a star. It is not hoping against hope or longing against reason. Such faith is not irrational or unrooted. It is ultimately grounded in the factual, historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is one who has died and returned to life, there is one who has been to heaven and come to earth. His resurrection is the “firstfruits,” the evidence and guarantee that those who are bound to him will rise like him. The faith that guarantees our salvation guarantees our resurrection. The faith that saves our souls from sin is the faith that soothes our souls in sorrow.
Psalm 24:3 “Who is allowed to ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may go up to his holy dwelling place?“
There are two possible answers to that question. Jesus obviously is the one who can ascend to God’s holy dwelling place! But we can now too, because we have been cleansed of our sin because of His sacrifice. We can now draw near with confidence because we have had our “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” So we need to hold fast to our hope, help each other live out our faith, and encourage each other by meeting together. As the day of Jesus’ return draws closer and closer, and persecution increases, we need each other more and more!
Verses 26-31 are sobering indeed. Is it possible to lose your salvation? What is the cost involved with apostasy? Is it total rejection, or just punishment? The passage continues and reminds the Hebrews about the suffering and persecution that they had already endured without wavering in their faith or throwing away their reward. The quote from Habakkuk 2:3-4 admonishes them to continue to persevere, even while encouraging them that “we are not among those who shrink back and thus perish.”
Most understandings of this passage will depend on your theology. Can you lose your salvation? Or perhaps you were never saved in the first place? Were you playing a role, and finally stopped pretending? You could even argue that the author of Hebrews offers the loss of salvation only as a theoretical possibility, since those reading the letter obviously wouldn’t be the ones falling away! Here’s the bottom line: at the very least this passage is a warning about the punishment believers will face if they backslide in their faith. Don’t do it!
Praise Him! Ephesians 1:3-14 (3) I) Paul _____________ God for what He has done for us A) He has blessed us with every _____________ blessing B) He __________ and predestined us C) He forgave our ________ and revealed His plan to us D) He sealed us with His ____________ II) Paul’s praise is a little _________________ A) Because of it’s _____________ B) Because of it’s _____________ 1) He only does this here and in _________________ 2) He normally has a _______________ 3) And a ________________ III) But this is not unusual in the _______________ Luke 1:67-79; Psalm 145 IV) What does this _____________ us? A) What God has done for us is ___________________! B) We show our appreciation through _____________ C) And it’s ok to go a little _______________!
This passage is a commentary on Paul’s words in Galatians: “Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith” (3:24). God desires obedience (Psalm 40:6), but we continually disobey. The law reveals what we do wrong, and we stand guilty before God. The sacrificial system was a way to temporarily cover sin, but we need a permanent solution. Jesus Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin (Psalm 40:7-8), ascended to heaven, and we are waiting for His glorious return (where all His enemies will be defeated). His perfect sacrifice makes it possible for us to be forgiven, holy, and righteous!
Psalm 110 “Here is the LORD’s proclamation to my lord: ‘Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool’ The LORD extends your dominion from Zion. Rule in the midst of your enemies. Your people willingly follow you when you go into battle. On the holy hills at sunrise the dew of your youth belongs to you. The LORD makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it: ‘You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.’ O LORD, at your right hand he strikes down kings in the day he unleashes his anger. He executes judgment against the nations. He fills the valleys with corpses; he shatters their heads over the vast battlefield. From the stream along the road he drinks; then he lifts up his head.“