“So Where Is Your God?”
15 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?”3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Where is God? That is a question that has been asked throughout the ages. Anytime there is a great tragedy people will ask...Where is God? Where is God in times of famine? Where is God in times of war? Where is God in when earthquakes and Tsunamis kill hundreds of thousands of people? Every summer there seems to be fire everywhere, homes are being evacuated, “So where is your God?” People ask... Where was God when millions Jews were killed during the Holocaust? Where was God when 20 children were killed at Sandy Hook elementary school? Where was God during the Paris terror attacks? Where was God on 9/11? I find it strange that often those who claim to not believe in God are the first to blame Him when tragedy strikes.
As we consider our selected text David asks the Lord a question. He says "why should the heathen say, where is their God?". Apparently, Israel had endured some difficult times. Now their enemies were taunting them for their hope in God.
If you profess to be a follower of Christ and you find yourself in troublesome times, it is almost a guarantee that you will encounter someone... perhaps a friend, co-worker and YES, even a family member will ask the question "So Where is your God?” Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus cannot comprehend the peace that we possess even in times of great difficulty.
Whenever I am speaking with people in regards to what they are going through…the challenges that they are facing. I ask them the same question, “So Where Is your God?” Where is God in all of this? Sadly, the answer I commonly get is, “I don’t know?” These are the ones who carry the name of Christian. Its different when I am speaking to an unbeliever or one of a different faith, its an open opportunity to tell them the Truth about Jesus. But coming from a Christian… “I don’t know where God is?”
Maybe there is someone here today who does not know the Savior. Maybe you can't grasp the hope that others have when they are enduring great trials. By the help of the Holy Spirit lets let Him guide us through scripture where our hope comes from. Lets take a quick journey through the Bible and answer the question "So Where Is Your God"?
Lets begin with a very familiar story, I have preached on this story before simply because it’s a good reminder of where we can find the Lord in our times of trouble…
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
“Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Does this sound familiar, have you asked the Lord these same words before? “do You not care that we are perishing?” Of course God cares, in this story God put them in that storm, so that they will believe in the Son that was with them in that boat! Look at the response that Jesus made… “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Now…what was their response… “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” That’s your God!!! He was with you all along!
Those men learned a lesson that we need to learn today. Jesus is with us during the storm. When He sees fit, Jesus has the power to calm the storm. Maybe you are in the midst of a great storm today. Perhaps the doctor has given you some bad news. Maybe you have a marriage that seems to be headed for divorce. Things at work aren't going well. Even worse, some of you don't even have job at the moment. Maybe you are dealing with a rebellious child. There are bills that you can't pay. Your life is filled with uncertainty. So…Jesus is telling you the same thing today, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Has Jesus, not been with you all this time, that you have forgotten where He is?
With all that is wrong in life, we must have the proper perspective. We need to remember that no matter what this world throws our way that we are a child of God. Know that you belong to Jesus. And though the winds are blowing and the waves are crashing in, you are focused on the Lord. Know that your hope and trust is in Him. You know that there is a reason for the storm. You know that you have a refuge in the storm. Jesus was in the eye of the storm, when the disciples were in fear, and panic!
Moving on we will see that God is in the mountain top. Another familiar story…
11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So, he said, “Here I am.” 12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
In Genesis 22 God tested Abraham's faith. The Lord told Abraham to go to a specific mountain. When he arrived, he was to sacrifice his son Isaac to the Lord. Obviously, this was not an easy task. But Abraham's faith was strong, and he obeyed. When he arrived, he set things in order and pulled out the knife to sacrifice his precious son. Then the Angel of the Lord called out to him and said - v12… “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Don't you know that Abraham was glad that The Lord was on the top of the mountain. In order for this to take place Abraham had to be obedient and go to the top of that mountain in the first place. God was already there waiting for him! Did God not plan that event from happening? YES, HE DID!
Maybe God is testing your faith as we speak. Maybe God is asking you the same question he asked His disciples… “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Did not God give Abraham a command to go that mountain? Yes, He did! God planned the whole thing. Abraham just obeyed! God gave him a command and he obeyed. Until this day, throughout scripture, Abraham is a man of great faith, simply because he obeyed.
Whatever the specific task, God is calling some of you to step out of your comfort zone. He is testing your faith. He is telling you what to do and encouraging you to trust Him to make a way. When you take that step of obedience there will be some people who will think that you are crazy! They will tell you that you, that you can't do it. They will tell you that you shouldn't do it. They will tell you that it is not worth the risk. You just remember that He (God) Who called you will supply you with what you need. God supplied for Abraham. And God will do the same for you!
Just keep looking up, stop looking down…you have stared down far too long. Remember where your help comes from….
I will lift up my eyes to the hills- From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
As we continue our journey to “So Where Is Your God”, let's look to Daniel Chapter 3 and consider that, God is in the heart of the fire, another familiar story.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
King Nebuchadnezzar erected an idol of gold and commanded all of the people to bow down and worship it. There were 3 Hebrew men who were devoted to the Lord and refused to bow. They were given the opportunity to compromise but they would not. So, the King commanded that the furnace be heated 7 times hotter than ever before. He then commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be bound and cast into the fire. After this, Nebuchadnezzar looked in the furnace and was amazed at what he saw. The Lord was with them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came out of the fire unharmed, because the Lord was with them!
More and more we are seeing Christians persecuted here in America. We still have it pretty good compared to some places in the world, but things are rapidly getting worse. Society is spiraling out of control. They call what is wrong right and what is right wrong. We are finding ourselves in more situations where we have to take stands that are unpopular.
If we live by the Bible and are obedient to God's Word, we are going to have to say no to the things of this world. When we do this… we will be called insensitive and politically incorrect. As a result, we may face difficulty and oppression. When this happens there will be some who ask " So Where is Your God?" If and when this takes place we can tell them, "He's In The Heart Of The Fire!"
Let us continue, in Psalm 23 we can see that, God is in the deepest valleys…
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
David speaks of the fact that the Lord is our Shepherd... and we are His sheep. A shepherd often has to lead his sheep through some frightening and dangerous places. David realized that even when traveling through the valley of the shadow of death he had no reason to fear. He trusted the Shepherd to lead him and protect him.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. This Good Shepherd loves His sheep enough that He gave His life for them. Though we face dark times and difficult circumstances He is in control. Because of this we can pass through the valleys of this life with assurance and peace!
Perhaps the most difficult valley that we will walk through in this life is losing a loved one. Yes, we are Christians and we "do not sorrow as those with no hope". But it is hard to say goodbye to those that we love. We still hurt, we still mourn and grieve over the loss.
As Christians we are not immune to death. You can go to Children's hospital or St. Jude's and find Christian parents who are kneeling and praying by the bedside of their child who is dying from an illness. You can go to the local hospital and find a Christian wife who is holding the hand of her husband who only has hours left to live. You can go to the local nursing home and find a Christian husband who refused to leave the side of his bride of 50 years because he knows that soon she will take her last breath.
You can step inside the home of a Christian woman who has spent years caring for her ailing mother and you can see the sorrow in her eyes as each day she realizes that soon she will have to say goodbye. The world looks at us as we cling to the hope we have in Jesus to get us through these valleys and they may be quick to say " So Where Is Your God?" When they do, we can tell them "He Is In The Deepest Of Valley's!”
“So Where Is Our God?” He’s In The Eye Of The Strom, He’s On The Top Of The Mountain, He’s In The Heart Of The Fire, He Is In The Deepest Of Valleys.
God is all powerful and he can do great and mighty things. Sometimes He moves in grand, visible, & outward ways. But often His greatest works are done in the secret places of the heart. God reaches us with that still small voice. Maybe you are enduring difficult circumstances today. You are discouraged and facing great uncertainty. In these times, if you will begin to study the Word of God ...He will speak to you in that still small voice. He can reach you with a whisper! Open your Bibles and hear God speak. You’ll be surprised of what He will say to you.
Maybe in your time of trouble you look to the Word and it is there that God whispers to you the truth of…
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Maybe there are times when you feel alone and you hear Jesus whisper…
For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Maybe you need to be comforted and you hear Jesus whisper…
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
The world may see your struggles, but they don't hear Gods voice. And because of this they will ask you "SO WHERE IS YOUR GOD?" When they do you just tell them... "He Is In Here” (In your heart, Living inside you)
In this life there are times when we feel all alone. When we face troubles we may encounter those who question the benefit of our faith. They don't believe in God and they can't comprehend the peace, joy & hope that we possess in Him. There may be times when they look at you and ask " So Where Is Your God?" In these times just keep looking to Him and remember that He is everywhere you go!
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
I Surrender All
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
In your Bibles, this part of scripture will a heading of “The Cost Of Discipleship, or The Cost Of Following Jesus.” Whatever it may be, you will see that it all means the same thing. Your life will cost you by following Jesus.
Last Sunday’s meeting, Bro Vili asked me, “how am I doing?” and my response was “I’m barely hanging on”. You see…at one point we will reach rock bottom in our emotions. At times we may think that we can face all things, and we will be ok. Then the truth comes out and the burden is to hard to bear. (You all get that feeling sometimes?)
If I am being honest with you all today, I must confess that there are times when I feel like quitting. Please don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I love that fact that I am serving the Lord. Serving Him, is when I feel His presence the most. But, YES…there are times when my emotions get the best of me.
After feeling the way I felt in the past month, and opening up to all of you last Sunday of how I felt, then the Lord Jesus by His power gave this message as I reminder of where I stand by belonging to Him. Have I surrendered all?
Let me tell you…when God speaks, He really speaks to the heart. He will… by His power makes sure that the hearer will listen. God reminded me of the cost of following Him. And hopefully today, we will all be reminded of who we belong too.
So… this afternoon, lets look into…let us let our Lord Jesus teach us the cost of being His disciple. Being His follower….
The captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message" "Alter your course 10 degrees south." Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north." The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am the captain!" Soon another message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am seaman third class Jones." Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south--I am a battleship." Then the reply came "Alter your course 10 degrees north--I am a lighthouse."
- Paul Aiello, Jr.
There are many people who want full control of their life. Many refuse to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. When we don’t listen to God’s instruction in our lives …WE CRASH! If that ship’s Captain refused to alter his course, he would have crashed right into the rocks below the lighthouse. If we refuse to surrender to the Gospel & the Spirit we will crash! Today the lost man refuses to surrender to Jesus for salvation. And many who are saved, refuse to surrender to Jesus’ direction in their lives as well. A common phrase in the church today is “I am going to commit my life to Jesus”. You have heard it, and many have said it! But when you really look at the word you will find that the word doesn’t go far enough.
This part of scripture has taught me three things, hopefully by the power of the Holy Spirit, it will open our eyes to truth…
First lesson is, We Must submit our lives to Jesus:
57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
In Matthew’s account (Matt 8:16) of this event we are told that this man was a Scribe. A scribe was a religious teacher of the law. This event takes place shortly after Peter’s Mother in Law was healed. After this we read that “That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and He healed all the sick”.
It is possible that this “scribe” was among the great crowd that was with Jesus as He healed many. He comes to Jesus and says “Lord, I will follow You wherever You Go”. Notice Jesus' reply - “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Jesus wasn’t turning this man away, He was explaining to him the “cost of being a disciple” He makes it clear to the scribe that there was more to following Jesus than meets the eye. Many time’s we will find people who get caught up in the excitement of others. They see God moving and great things are happening and they want in on it! They need help and they think that Jesus is the answer. And we know that Jesus is the answer, but the problem is that these people want to make a commitment instead of surrendering to Jesus.
Webster’s defines “Surrender” as - the action of yielding one's person or giving up the possession of something especially into the power of another.
Surrender is illustrated in the actions of James & John after Jesus called them to be His disciples…
19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
No questions asked. Jesus called James and John and they submitted their lives to Him. They left their home, their family, their job, their life as they knew it to follow Christ. When Jesus calls your name, you must SUBMIT to Him! You are to live a life of “I Surrender All” to the Savior! James, John, Peter, Andrew, Matthew and the others did not begin following Jesus and then go back. They didn’t go back to fishing or collecting taxes… they followed Jesus until the day they died for Jesus!!!
On a side note: Since I had mentioned Peter, did you know that after the resurrection, Peter was about to go back to his former ways of being a fisherman? Here let me show you…
John 21:3-8 (ESV)
3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So, they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
Peter was about to go back to his regular routine. He was going back to his old profession. He was in his work clothes when the Lord called him. It was as if Peter forgot why he was called, and Jesus reminded Peter of his “I Surrender All”.
Of course, after this fishing event was the greatest three questions ever asked of Peter.
“Do you love Me? Feed My Lambs”
“Do You love Me? Tend My sheep”
“Do You love Me? Feed My Sheep”
Jesus reminded Peter that he was not to go back to his old ways. Jesus called him for something better. “I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:19) We cant look down on Peter for feeling the way that he did. He lost his focus on Jesus for a while, we all have been there right! Then Jesus, by His Spirit brings us back to course. Puts us back on the narrow path.
Anyway, lets go back to our text.
What about you and i? Have we fully surrendered our life to Christ or was it a half-hearted commitment? Have we given our all to Jesus and followed Him faithfully Or did we walk His way for a while and then return to what we were before?
The biggest problem for many people when it comes to “I Surrender All” to Jesus is that they are too concerned with the things of this world. But in verses 59-60 we will see that if you are going to “Surrender All” then you must deny this world.
Second Lesson: Deny The World.
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
Jesus now offers a man the opportunity to “Follow Him”. What a great privilege this man received. The same words Jesus said to the Peter, James, John, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, and others. And Jesus is still calling men and women to “follow Him” today.
Jesus gave this man an invitation and the man wanted to accept it, but he had something that was important to him that he wanted to attend to. He said “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” This man’s Father was either dead or at the point of death. There was a custom for the Jew that if he had duty to perform concerning the dead he was exempt from any other responsibility or duty. This may sound like an honorable request, but the greater point is found in Jesus’ response to this man’s request.
Jesus is telling this man to let the spiritually dead bury the natural dead. What would hinder you from surrendering all to Jesus today? There are a few things that may be hindering someone from “I Surrender All”
Personal Aspirations: There are some things in this life that we just want to accomplish. This applies to the saved and the lost. The problem is we will never “Surrender All” if we let our personal aspirations get between us and God. There are places you want to go, things you want to see... goals you want to reach, And… because of these things many refuse to surrender ALL to Christ! Many like the idea of peace and joy and eternal life, but you want to live this life for yourself… THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS!!! As we saw in Peters story, we cannot go back to the way we were.
Another issue maybe…
Family Obligations: Now we can understand where this man is coming from. His father has passed away and he wanted to go and bury him. The problem is not that he wanted to bury his father. The problem is that he was giving Jesus a postponed commitment instead of complete surrender!!! So many put their family in front of Jesus. They can’t serve or honor their responsibilities in the church because their children have so much going on. They can’t do Kingdom work because they put their relationship to their spouse before their relationship with Jesus! Jesus makes it clear that if you are going to be His disciple our family CANNOT COME BETWEEN YOU AND HIM.
Jesus makes this clear in….
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
Another one may be…
Social Expectation: I wonder if this man thought to himself “what will my friends and neighbors think if I don’t bury my father?” Too many people are concerned with what the world is going to think about them if they get saved. Too many Christians are worried about what the world will think if they “Surrender All” to the Lord. If you seek to SURRENDER ALL to Jesus …This world, your family, your aspirations and desires cannot come before Jesus.
Listen to what the Apostle John had to say in…
1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
If one desires to, “I Surrender All” then, one must deny the things of this world. Regardless of the cost!
In verses 61-62 we find the third thing that must be done in order to, “I Surrender All”.
Third: Kingdom Focus:
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”.
This involves the correct priority. The man had a demand, “but let me first”, we all have done that at one point or another right! This man gives Jesus a promise that came with some conditions. He says, “Jesus I will follow you after I tell everyone goodbye” He wanted to set his affairs in order.
This is a common issue in the lives of many today… MISPLACED PRIORITIES!! Our priorities must be in order or we will never be where God wants us to be. Our marriages will be a mess. Our children will be lost. Our household a total mess! Like I had mentioned last Sunday, if your relationship above is not right, nothing down here will be right!
This involves a clear perception, v62 reminds us all… “But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” When ploughing a farmer had to keep his eye on the work at hand. If he were to turn his eyes away from the field, the field would be ruined instantly. This “looking back” that Jesus is speaking of refers to a reluctance to break with the world’ Those who would look back do not have their mind properly directed towards the Kingdom of God. This type of person is also not fit to show the way to others. We must have a clear perception of the goals that God has given to us. So many have put their hand to the plow and then turned and looked back. Peter almost made that mistake…Peter one of the original twelve!
Notice Jesus didn’t say went back, “he says looking back”. When we look back we WILL face the temptation to go back to what we know, to go back to what is comfortable. What is the answer…. FOCUS ON THE KINGDOM!!!!
Three things we can all learn from our text that we can learn to “Surrender All”
First lesson is: We Must submit our lives to Jesus:
Second Lesson: Deny The World.
Third Lesson: Kingdom Focus:
All of these would be hard… even impossible without the help, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just like the story of Peter, and the men in our text, Jesus is quick to remind us of who we belong too, and what it will cost you and I, by following Him!
Let us Pray:
A Heavenly Blessing
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
If you look at your Bibles, you will see that this part of the letter to the Ephesians, has the title that would be, “A Heavenly Blessing, Spiritual Blessing in Christ, Or Redemption In Christ”. Whatever heading you may have it gives the believer the confidence of his or her salvation.
God is not stingy when it comes to bestowing His blessings on His much-loved children. He has already given us every spiritual blessing’s, securing them for us in heaven, where none can be stolen, damaged or kept back.
The Apostle Paul wrote this six-chapter letter to the church in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome. Most scholars believe it was meant to be a form letter, something that the churches circulated around all of Asia Minor. It makes sense, because Paul doesn’t address any specific problems in this book like he does elsewhere.
In many of Paul’s letters, he spends the first half talking about who we are in Christ, and then the second half talking about how that identity should affect our lives. That layout is certainly evident in Ephesians. The first three chapters talk about who we are and the last three about how we should live.
Chapter 1 is all about blessings God sends from heaven…
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.
Many tend to think of blessings in terms of money, material, or things we get to do. Paul instead talks about blessings like salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life. Today let us focus in on three things that God does for you and I, the believer, that are absolutely mind-boggling when you really give them some thought. You’ll see them on your outline. First, consider that God chooses you...
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Do you know how long you’ve been on God’s mind? Listen to verse 4: “For he chose us in Him before the foundation/creation of the world.” That’s a long time! God has had you on his radar since even before creation! And think about the word “chose.” Verse 4 says he chose you “to be holy and without blame before Him in love.” God is holy and blameless, and he chose us to be the same. He chose us to be in relationship with Him. Doesn’t that just blow your mind!!!
A Holy God choosing a sinner, you and I, before creation…and the plan was to be saved, to be made holy and without blame!
Another word that’s used here to talk about God choosing us is “adoption.” Verse 5 says… “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”. Ladies, don’t be offended by the word “sons” It includes the idea of “daughtership” as well. The phrase, “adoption as sons” was a legal term in the Roman Empire. If you chose to “adopt to sonship,” you made your adopted child your legal heir in all senses of the word. In the eyes of the government, it was as if the adopted child had always been your biological child.
Paul also writes about this in his letter to the Romans. He says, in Romans 8:15…
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
Abba is not the rock band here…it is the Aramaic word for "daddy." We don’t live in fear as God’s slaves. We live in joy as God’s children. He has adopted us into His family, and in a way as if we were always in his family, adoption to sonship. We just didn’t know it until we got saved. Until it was revealed in Gods words. The Holy Spirit that is in you has confirmed…gave you the understanding of what it means to belong to God.
From a devotional: I heard a story about a child who was bummed to learn that he had been adopted. His father called him aside, apart from the other kids, and said, “Son, do you really know what adoption means? It means we didn’t just have you; we chose you!”
Adoption is another word signifying that God chose us to be in His family. Sometimes people get upset about the word “predestined,” which means to set the boundaries in advance. God knew from the very start of creation who would be in His family. Scripture carries a holy tension between God choosing us, God always takes the initiative and our responding freely to God. We may not fully understand how, but that doesn’t make them any less true. Just know that God chose you…That’s a good thing. That’s something worth responding to by being chosen by God! And then, God forgives you…
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.
Even though God chose us from before the beginning of creation, and even though we responded to His call and entered His family, we still tend to sin. Adam and Eve sinned, and God was not taken by surprise. God knows everything. God knows we will sin, like our first parents. We fail our Father, who longs for relationship with us above all. It’s a sad story. But one that He wrote.
Paul explains that God has solved our sin problem. Listen to verse 7: “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Who is the “Him” here? It’s Jesus Christ. Jesus has redeemed us. He bought us back. That’s what “redeemed” means. He redeemed us through his blood. When Jesus died on that cross, he became the one perfect sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
From our last Bible study, (Hebrews) Never would the high priest have to offer up a sacrifice again. That’s why the Temple curtain tore in two during the crucifixion. The Holy of Holies was open to all. Jesus paid the price. His blood purchased our forgiveness, for all time. Never to be revoked or taken away! Its finished, God made a Way. That’s through Jesus!
When did God come up with this plan? A long time ago. Revelation 13:8 describes Jesus as…
“The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Doesn’t that just blow your mind!!!
Just as God chose you and I before creation, God at the same time set up a plan to deal with our sin. That’s advanced planning, right!!! Only a Sovereign God can plan such a great salvation.
Now apply the idea of forgiveness personally. God...forgives...you! Whatever weight of guilt and shame you have been carrying, give it to Jesus…Let it go. Accept His forgiveness. Believe
1 John 1:9 which tells us…
1 John 1:9
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hear Him set you free as He says, “Go and sin no more.”
God chose you, God forgives you…
And lastly, God seals you (vv. 13-14)
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Verse 13, “after you have heard the word of truth” in another translation, “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... Another rich word here, the moment you believed, you were marked, you were marked with a seal. The seal was used to stamp important documents of the king that could not be opened by anyone except the recipient. The Holy Spirit is our seal.
In Texas terms, God is the rancher who puts his brand on us. The brand, the Holy Spirit himself, identifies us as one of God’s children. We belong to God, so the Holy Spirit brands us “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.”
Another image here… The Holy Spirit is our deposit, our earnest money, our down payment, which guarantees our inheritance until the final redemption takes place. We are kingdom citizens now, with all the heavenly blessings already given to us. God has pledged all these things that will be fully realized someday, and God’s guarantee is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does lots of things in our lives. He convicts us, he warms us to God’s presence. He guides us. He protects us. And here we see that He seals us. The Holy Spirit whispers to your soul, “Yes, you’re a child of God”. Don’t listen to the evil one. Your salvation is real. It’s promised. It’s coming… it’s already here. God will take care of you. You are never alone. “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Ephesians 1:3-14. It’s a grand entry into this precious book of Ephesians. A little Bible trivia. Did you know that these 12 verses in the original Greek are one long single sentence? It’s like Paul got so excited writing that he couldn’t stop, not even for punctuation. One long sentence, with lots and lots of blessings in it. And to summarize them, “You are chosen, You are forgiven, and You are sealed”. When God puts you on His team, God will keep you on His team, from now through eternity.
Let us pray…
To Love God And To Love What Is Evil
1 John 5:1-5
5 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Whenever we think of the word “Love”, we will always have a positive reaction towards the meaning of the word. To non-believers, I would not think that they will find anything negative
About the word “Love”. To them the word “Love” will always be a positive thing, and a good thing. There is nothing negative or bad with the word “Love”.
As Christians…children of God, can we find anything wrong or negative with the word “Love”?
Can we always look at the word “Love” in a positive way, and never in a fearful, negative way?
The truth is, when it comes to word “Love”, to the believer…there is a line we cannot cross.
Believe it or not, it’s true!
1 John 2:15
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Now that is one scary warning isn’t it! God is giving you and I choice, a warning. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” So, the believer has a choice to make here. “Love the things of the world, and the love of the Father is not in him”.
From our opening verse, we can see that, loving God has more to do with obeying Him than anything else. Our text (1 John 5:3) says, "THIS IS LOVE FOR GOD: TO OBEY HIS COMMANDS."
1 John 5:3
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
Obedience is the sign of our love for God. Jesus made this truth very clear when in John 14:15 He said to His disciples, "IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL OBEY WHAT I COMMAND." It is very clear, our love for God is expressed through obedience.
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Obedience is what God is looking for from you and I. Loving God has more to do with obeying Him than anything else. This obedience is exhibited in three areas of our lives and they are our concern this afternoon.
First is Believing:
We love God when we take Him at His Word, believing it and acting upon it. "When He says we are forgiven, we believe Him and unload the guilt. When He says we’re valuable, we believe Him. When He says we have eternal life, we believe Him and bury our fear. When He says He will meet our needs, we believe Him and stop worrying.
We express genuine love to God when we believe Him and act on His Word. God has made it abundantly clear in His Word that we are all lost sinners in desperate need of forgiveness and reconciliation. He has said that our sin is an enormous problem that separates us from Him.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God, because of His love for His children, made a Way. And that is through His Son.
Second, Holy Living:
Holy living is another way we profess love to God. Verse 3 of our text says, "THIS IS LOVE FOR GOD: TO OBEY HIS COMMANDS." "This leads us to one place, the Word of God. We must know His commandments and then obey them." This is the secret to loving God on a daily basis.
Our love of God is expressed by living the way He commands. Living the way God commands is what the Scriptures mean by holiness. Holy living is loving God.
1 Peter 1:16
16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Of course this can only be possible if the One who is truly holy, is living in you. Without the work of the Holy Spirit… being obedience would be an impossible task. We are expected to live according to God’s ways and standards.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We must not live by the sinful ways and standards that the world finds acceptable. We are to please God by living in the light of His ways. Living the way God commands is a matter of obedience.
Living a holy life does not mean, instant perfection. We go through the process of what is called, sanctification. For as long as we are in the flesh, that is the process that we will go through. There will be days of failure and stumbling, but through all of those comes a great lesson to repent.
Holiness really is Christ-likeness. As such it is every believer’s calling, it is not an option. Now, listen carefully, you can hear messages, preaching, all day long for the rest of your life. Pastors, preachers, CANNOT!!! Teach you how to love God. I stand up here every Sunday and tell you to, “love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” And it would not matter. I can have our media post every verse there is, every word of God on our powerpoint, and would not matter, if you don’t believe and obey what is written in front of you.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”. God, in His power has ordained, predestined those who are His to be conformed in the likeness of His Son. Not the other way around. As we mature in the faith we are to become more and more like Christ. It is an ever-expanding openness to God. It is a growing, maturing, freely given conformity to the will of God. It is obedience and it enables us to become the people we were created to be. That is why He said, “And His commandments are not burdensome”.
We also love God by serving Him. Love serves. Now I am not just talking about joining a ministry, you and I serve God each day in the way we live our lives. Our we living selfishly, or are we living for God and for others.
In Luke 7 I know everyone here is familiar with this story. Jesus was at a dinner party. It was customary to wash the dusty feet of the guests upon their arrival.
Simon, the host, failed to do this, it was a breach of etiquette. He also neglected to offer the traditional kiss of greeting. Furthermore, he didn’t offer to anoint his guest with oil, a special amenity of the day. If you and I were living then and found ourselves in such a situation we would have concluded, and rightly so, that we were really not welcome guests.
But what Simon failed to provide someone else did in a most unusual and unexpected manner. A woman, hearing Jesus was there, entered, came to the table where Jesus was eating and showed her love for the Lord. She was weeping and with her tears she washed the Lord’s feet. And when she had finished washing she wiped His feet with her hair. Then, as Luke records, she began to kiss His feet and she anointed the feet of Jesus with an expensive ointment. What an example of love.
Jesus used this incident to teach an important biblical truth. He said that two debtors each owed the same creditor. One debtor owed 500 pence, almost ½ a year’s wages. Other debtor owed 50 pence. Neither were able to pay, so the creditor graciously forgave both debts. Jesus then asked Simon, the host, a question: “Which of them will love him most?”
Easy question, Simon answered immediately: “I suppose that he who was forgiven the most.” “You’re right,” said Jesus. Jesus then turned to the woman and said “What she did she did because she loves Me very much.”(7:47) The one who has been forgiven much loves much.
Jesus was saying that if we love God we will do what He asks, willingly, joyously and freely. We will obey the command to serve Him. If no love exists then there will be little or no service or it will be rendered grudgingly, complainingly and unwillingly. The fact of the matter is that love serves. Those who love God demonstrate their love through acts and deeds of service. It is first and foremost a matter of love. If we love God we will serve Him. And not the fesh.
Loving God is our greatest responsibility and privilege. We must, however, always remember that our love for God is the consequence of His great, unconditional love for us. 1 John 4:19 says, "WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.
1 John 4:19
We love Him because He first loved us.
Loving us He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay the just penalty of our sins. Through His love for us in Christ, we are offered forgiveness and reconciliation. We can live our lives of a higher, more fulfilling and satisfying life. We become, as Scripture says, “A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST”.
“We love Him because He first loved us”. Maybe that is the real challenge to some, how much do we love God? If we have not felt His love, how can we really love Him? How can we love the Lord our God with all our heart, if we have not felt His love?
Let me ask you this, how much have you been forgiven because of Gods Love? A little, a lot?
Past, present & future sins forgiven, washed by His blood, I say that’s a lot! No longer chained to sin, no eternity in hell! I say that’s a lot, right! So, now…measure the amount of forgiveness you have received, because of Gods love. And compare it to how much you love your God!
What I just said, was not a means to condemn you. it was meant to hopefully open your eyes, open your to God truth. In the beginning of this message, I had mentioned that, when it comes to “Love”. “there is a line we cannot cross. Believe it or not, it’s true!”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
This is a command, its non-negotiable! It’s a contract signed in blood. By His blood! There should be nothing in this world that can come between you and your love for the Lord.
If there is, there lies the problem.
1 John 2:15
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
So…what is in the world that can divide our love for our Lord. Remember, because of Gods love, we have been forgiven, and promised eternity with Him in heaven. So, what is in the world that can divide our love for our Lord? Well… lets have the Lord answer that…
2 Timothy 3:1-5
3 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
“Lovers of self”. The selfish type of love. Where its my will be done, instead of God’s. My focus is me alone, my money, my property, my happiness, im only looking out for me! The word love is there. Scary right!
“lovers of money”.
1 Timothy 6:10
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
The love of money, the love to want more of it, rather than more of God. The focus has become the career, overtime, no more time for worship. Now listen, there is nothing wrong with getting ahead of things, saving up for a rainy day, or in an emergency. But money, the love for money should never compete with your love for God.
25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
When is it enough? According to scriptures, we have just read them. Money will be your god. You will want all that you can have, and you will have them, but you will loose your soul. All the money in the world will be yours, but you will never be with the Lord in heaven. You cannot take that money with you, you cannot buy your ticket to heaven, with all the money in the world. You will keep chasing it and chasing, like a drug, it will be your death. Your downfall.
“boaster, proud, blasphemers”
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Same area as loving self. My accomplishments are all mine. Everything I have is by my blood and sweat. Im a self-made man. I don’t need anyone, not even God. Jesus was talking about the religious leaders here, in this verse. No different than from our time now. Popularity has become a god.
“disobedient to parents”
That’s no surprise. If our children are not influenced by the parents to love the Lord. Our children will grow to love the world.
That still falls under self love. Never been changed, no new life, no born again experience. Still chained in sin.
“unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”
All of that is the product of loving self, the things of this world, rather than loving God.
The scary part about all of this is…we will witness all of it. In the church, amongst our brothers and sisters. Our own family member, our parents our children, everyone around us.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but how much do you love your God?
Do love your God because you have felt His love and forgiveness?
These questions fall on me also, remember, it hits me first.
I do hope and pray that this message did open hearts, our minds to Gods truth. Satan tempted Jesus with the things of this world.
Jesus was hungry, satan tempted with food.
If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.
Satan offers you and I the same thing simply because we need food to survive.
(work, money, career, and so on)
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
The devil took Jesus to the highest point of the temple and said….
“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’
The devil tempted Jesus for His well being, will God really protect Him. Will God really protect you and i?
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’
Gods promises are true. There is no need to test God when it comes to His promises. Because He is not a liar. If you are His, you are valuable.
“ Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Satan offers the same thing, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” He offers the same thing to you and i. the whole world is yours, fall down and worship me” that’s the devil!
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’
So… “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
Or take satans offer and love the things of the world and lose your soul!
To Love God And To Love What Is Evil, the truth is, we cannot have both.
The choice is yours, but to some of us here, God made the choice and the response is through obedience!
Pastor Richard Santos
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