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Living in the Reality of the Supernatural (2)

Living Within the Glorious Will of God

Ephesians 1:1-14

Jim Davis

Three military recruiters showed up to address some high school seniors. Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious—to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options that military service would provide them. The meeting was to last forty-five minutes. Each recruiter representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps—was to have fifteen minutes.

Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away. When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes. So he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch. He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds—half of his time. Then he said this:

"I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps. I want to see those two or three immediately in the dinning hall when we are dismissed." He turned smartly and sat down. When he arrived in the dining hall, those students interested in the Marines were a mob. They acted without delay. He appealed to the heroic dimension in every heart.

The gospel is not a heroic call—but it is a divine call to live within the will of God. An understanding of this divine call should be even more compelling than a heroic call.

Blinded By Our Own Will

As a Christian do you see your life as a divine calling? It is. As a non-Christian do you see your greatest possibilities lie within the call of God? Calvin Miller said, "The world is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of the earth." (Calvin Miller, "The Finale." Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4.) That’s just another way of saying the world has lost the sense of its divine calling. Joan Winmill Brown writes, "Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our calling that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in thy glory." (My Heart sings, Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 10.)

How often has the Bible, in the minds of many, become nothing more than an earthly roadmap to health, wealth and prosperity? The Christian life becomes largely an earthly pursuit. How many follow God’s plan to discover earthly treasures. Many today may be following some church plan that blinds them to the spiritual treasure God has laid up for them. It leaves them poor, blind and wretched.

Sadly, a worldly view of the church often blinds us to the spiritual treasures we have in Christ. The trouble with the church today is that it has become egocentric—so interested in itself. We have become so subjective that we can see nothing outside our personal interest.

Sadly the church has lost sight of its calling. It is little wonder that Christians have lost sight of their divine call—the church’s view of its mission has blinded us to God’s call.

Glen W. Harrell writes, "It’s hard to imagine:

"-Paul having the gift of entertainment.
"-Barnabas being the minister of entertainment, rather than the minister of encouragement.
"-Jesus selling tickets to the feeding of the 5,000.
"-James begging money for "tickle the ear and promotional programs" of people in his church who developed wrong expectations.
"-Peter peddling his ‘Feed My Sheep’ seminars.
"Far too often, we’ve tried to bring ministry, music and entertainment together, and in so doing, we’ve lost the integrity and true meaning of the music of the church. No one can honestly say they’ve been "called by God to entertain."

The true music of the church is discovered as our hearts and minds respond to the blessings given to us by the will of God. This type of realization results in a heart felt response to God as we are filled and led by his Spirit to live within the will of God. Then our lives will become sweet music to others and to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18-19).

Our Salvation Is God’s Choosing

The purest way to understand and respond to the salvation offered in Jesus Christ is to see it from heaven’s point of view. No epistle of the apostle Paul gives a clearer perspective of salvation from heaven’s vantage than the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:1-2
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

"To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (NIV).

Salvation begins and ends with the will of God. Paul saw himself serving as an apostle by the will of God (Ephesians 1:1). In one sense it wasn’t something of his own choosing—it was a position God had chosen for him. Numerous times throughout Paul’s epistles he refers to his apostleship as a divine calling. It was a position that the sovereign will of God had placed him in.

The key to Paul’s happiness and contentment was that he had a thoroughly satisfying understanding that his life was directed by the will of God. He understood God’s specific and special will for his life. That same realization can be ours. It is that same God that extends his grace and peace to us through Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
"But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (NIV).

Our salvation is a matter of God’s choosing—i.e., it is a matter of God’s will. There is a satisfying beauty to living within God’s will that no cheap imitation of first century Christianity can reproduce. Watchman Nee writes, "I have never met a soul who has set out to satisfy the Lord and has not been satisfied himself."

Ephesians 1:3-8
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding" (NIV).

As you read these verses it is as if Paul burst out in praise as he contemplates his life and our lives in light of the will of God. He writes, "Praise to be to God." The only way you will ever understand the blessedness of living within the will of God is to understand the blessings of God.

The idea of predestined simply has to do with God’s predetermined will. Paul wants us to see that the church is more than an earthbound institution. It is a plan that was devised by the will of God. God chose to save the whole world through Christ. We can see how determined God’s will is as we trace his salvation plan through the Bible. He chose to make a sacrifice that would make us holy and acceptable. Those provisions were made before he created the world.

In all of Paul’s writings he stresses the origin of the gospel. It is important for you to understand that the message of the gospel is straight from the will of God. It is not some earthbound plan that changes with the times. It is an eternal plan.

Galatians 1:11-12
"I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ" (NIV)

To be a part of God’s predetermined plan you must chose to live within the will of God. The choice is totally yours to make. God has a plan—you must decide to be a part of it.

It is hard for us to understand the joy and blessing of living within the will of God because we see God’s will as something restricting our lives. This attitude blinds us to the spiritual blessing in Christ. We think of living within the will of God in terms of what we have to give up—which is mainly ourselves.

Matthew 16:24-28
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’" (NIV).

Satan makes denying self look so restrictive that we lose sight of the reality of gaining every spiritual blessing in Christ. We lose sight of the rewards because all we can think about is the cost.

In Ephesians Paul sees salvation from the standpoint---of how much heaven has invested in us. Salvation is not about how much it will cost us, but it is about what it has cost God. This is the very basis of our salvation. Our salvation is by faith through grace—not of works—it is not about our works—i.e., it is not about how much it cost us (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The price of our salvation is seen as you see God extending every spiritual blessing through the death, burial and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:17-21
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (NIV).

Peter reminds us of what our redemption cost God. Understanding the price of our redemption should motivate us to live within God’s will. Peter closes these verses saying, " . . . so your faith and hope are in God." Do you know why our faith and hope reside in God? It is because of the price he has paid for our salvation teaches us about the value of redemption. The riches of God’s grace bestow upon us redemption and forgiveness through the blood of his Son. However, Paul says redemption is " . . . freely given us in the One he loves" (Ephesians 1:6 NIV).

Galatians 1:3-5
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (NIV).

Our faith and hope are in God because if he gave us the life of his Son for our redemption, surely "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32 NIV).

First century Christians were overwhelmed with the priceless blessings of redemption. They were so overwhelmed they gave up their material possessions.

Acts 4:32-35
"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need" (NIV)

A life directed by the will of God enjoys the blessings of God. When we understand that God calls us through the gospel to share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:14), it will not be difficult for us to respond to God.

We can’t fathom the fact that we are God’s glory. He has chosen us in Christ; therefore we share the glory of Christ. Christ’s church is a glorious church (Ephesians 5:25-27). Sadly, the church has become an earthbound institution. It has lost a sense of its divine calling.

True spiritual blessings are found in the heavenly realms, not on earth. There is not some earthly roadmap that will reveal these blessings to us. Only Christ can reveal them to each of us as we respond to his Father’s will. The grace and peace of salvation comes from God and Christ. Salvation is a matter of God’s choosing, God’s forgiveness, God’s redemption and God’s grace. Each of these blessings originates in heaven—not on earth.

The call of the will of God is as real for us through the gospel as it was for Paul as he was on his way to Damascus. It may not seem as heavenly and as miraculous, but it is. The church is founded upon the miracle of God becoming flesh as he took upon himself the sins of the world. It is founded upon the miracle of the resurrection. This is where our calling originates.

If you are honest, you know your calling—to serve God—to obey his will. Kenneth Boa in Leadership writes, "Our calling and purpose as followers of Christ is to love God completely, to love self correctly, and to love others compassionately."

We Must Believe In Sin

The reason Paul had such a clear view of God’s call to salvation from heaven’s perspective was because he fully understood the gravity of his own sin.

1 Timothy 1:15-17
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (NIV).

Paul fully understood the consequences of following his own will—that’s why he was so appreciative of being called by the will of God. Paul cries out "O wretched man that I am, who shall save me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24) Satan had a private demon assigned to Paul to make his life miserable (2 Corinthians 12:7).

To understand the price of our redemption we must believe in sin. It would not be difficult to believe in hell if we truly believed in sin. Think of the darkness that permeated our world on 9-11-01. Then there was the anthrax onslaught followed by those trying to board planes with bombs. We spoke of a changing world order. We could only see the darkness of those who wished to plunge our world into utter turmoil. It speaks of the possibility of the world creating a hell of its own making.

Hell is the pre-drawn conclusion of our selfish ways. One single sin that I commit has the same far-reaching consequences as Eve’s first sin.  It is hard for me to understand why there are those who do not believe in hell. The world is busy telling us that we are in a rut that we can’t get out of. It seeks to tell us that it is not a rut of own making, but rather the result of psychological affliction we have suffered at the hands of others.

Four congregation members with concerned faces met in the minister’s office. With earnest and imploring eyes, they presented him with a clipboard filled with sheets of signatures.

"This petition," said the spokesperson of the group, "requests changing the term ‘sinner’ to ‘person who is morally challenged.’" (Dan Pegoda, The Best Cartoons from Leadership Journal, Volume 1 (Broadman and Homan, 1999).

There is no way you can understand the graciousness of God’s will and the price of your redemption until you understand the cost of your sin. We will never avail ourselves of the priceless redemption in Christ until we understand that sin is our responsibility.

Sin tells us that our hope lies in this world. Grace tells us that our hope lies in God’s will. Sin tells us that we have the whole world to gain. God tells us that we must be willing to let go of this world to enjoy his eternal blessings.

The greatest knowledge in the world is to know that it is God’s will to save your soul despite your inability to overcome the sin in your life. That is truly good news.

Ephesians 1:11-14
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory" (NIV).

As God conforms this world to the purposes of his good will it is good news indeed to understand that he has included each us in his plans. In a very real sense God included every person in his plans—for God so loved the world that he gave his Son. Sadly, not everyone wishes to be included in God’s plan. We can choose to be left out of God’s plan. In doing so we will plunge ourselves to a world of darkness.

Conclusion:

Many are anxious to leave a memorial behind when they die. It is as if we are seeking to leave an earthly roadmap so that others can trace our earthly steps. Perhaps this reveals how truly earthbound our lives truly are.

There is a cemetery next to Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA, named Hollywood Forever. They have produced videocassette or computer multimedia narratives that are placed on the burial sights. The narratives feature still-photographs of the deceased, interviews with friends, and film clips. A visitor can see the mini-biographies of Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and 1,500 others buried there.

It is as if we are trying to discover life by looking back at our worldly existence. In Ephesians Paul endeavors to persuade us to discover life by looking into heaven. In the book of Revelation we see those martyred for Christ standing before God’s throne. John’s vision points to our future as we seek to live within the will of God in the here and now.

To enjoy a life in the will of God we must:

Hear the word of truth that reveals God’s will for us.
We must believe that truth and be guided by it.
We must be willing to die to self to be resurrected with Christ.
This, of course is the very symbol of baptism.
Then God moves in and seals our destiny by the seal of his Spirit.

Living within God’s will is only way we can be assured a heavenly inheritance.

 

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