According to the riches of His grace

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

The thing about the gifts of God is that they’re free.  Completely and totally free.  Our Father wants us to know that there’s nothing we could ever do to earn His redemption, His forgiveness, His deliverance, or His love.  They’re free — for us.

There was a price for all of these blessings and we’d do well to remember that because it causes us to give thanks constantly. When we remember that our redemption was purchased by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross in our place, we can’t help but thank God for His grace.  It’s a natural response to being given so much.

The cost of our freedom was expensive for the Son of God. He had to suffer and even die in order for us to be reconciled back to God. But the beautiful thing about it all is that He wasn’t forced to do it. He willingly gave His life for all of us and He’d do it all over again if He had to. But he doesn’t.  It is finished, once and for all.  It’d done. Paid for in full.

We mustn’t pass over the phrase “according to the riches of His grace” as though ti was not an important part of this passage. It may seem like just an ending to the statement, but in this lies one of the most important things we can understand about God.  He’s not limited in how much He has to give.  He has all things under His control. He has every blessing to give. He has everything we could ever need.  And He offers to us from that abundance.  We can trust in Him to deliver on His promises because He lacks nothing.

What do you need right now that you’re trusting God for?  He’s able to deliver.

His glorious grace

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

You know what’s best about the blessings of God? We don’t have to earn them. In fact, we can’t earn them. We can be rewarded for good deeds, sure. But the spiritual blessings of God, with which He was blessed us through Jesus Christ, cannot be obtained by anything we do.

That’s good news!  That’s better than good news!  The truth is,we’re all sinners, regardless of how much good we’ve done in this life here on earth. To compare anything we’re capable of doing for the good of mankind to what God has done and will do yet, is like saying we’ve learned all there is to learn after reading one children’s book.  It’s absurd!

Our Father’s grace is so wonderful, so glorious, that we can’t even comprehend just how amazing it is. We ought to be thanking Him every moment of every day.  We ought to be thinking about all He’s done for us in Christ. Take a moment. Start by writing just one spiritual blessing you’ve received from God and focus on that today. Tomorrow, think about another. At the end of a week, look back on all of the blessings you’ve recorded and rejoice.

Measuring Greatness

Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

Luke 9:46-48 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

We live in a world that is “measured.” Most of us know our age, how many hours a week we work and how many miles it is to get there. Who doesn’t like to know how much they are getting for our money?

One of our favorite things to measure is how well we compare to the other people around us. Look at the average Facebook profile and you will see plenty of evidence that some people think very much about themselves. Their kids are great, their vacations are amazing and they have the most incredible time everywhere they go.

Jesus rewrote the book on how to measure greatness. Disciples of Jesus are supposed to be denying self and following a man that didn’t build himself up, or accumulate any wealth and he didn’t act like a big deal even though he was.

We seek to build up ourselves and please ourselves with the conveniences and toys that are available in this rich country we live in. It doesn’t take long to realize that it is difficult to carry all those things around and still have the strength to carry our cross as well.

Help me Lord to reject the urge to build up myself. I need to follow your example and serve others.

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Adopted for a purpose

Ephesians 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

What’s the foremost priority on God’s agenda? Honestly, you and I will probably never know the answer to that question, but consider the fact that before He created anything and brought a single thing into being, He predestined us to be adopted into His family.  That’s pretty big.

In fact, that’s unfathomable.  The Creator took you and me into consideration and decided that He’d like to adopt us before He even made time.  Does that seem a little bit amazing to you?  Now, people focus on the whole argument surrounding predestination, but I think they’re missing the real point.  God wanted you in His family.  He wanted me. He created a rescue plan for us and sent His Rescuer to redeem us and ransom us from this lost world so that we might be part of His kingdom.

Somehow, your adoption into God’s family as His own fits into His grand plan. It says so right in this letter to the Ephesians that God inspired Paul to write.  “According to the purpose of His will,” you have been grafted in as one of God’s people.  How does that change the way you live your life?

Chosen in Him

Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love

There are few doctrines within Christianity that are more controversial than that of predestination, which Paul speaks on a lot in his letter to the Ephesians. Many Christians shy away from talking about the subject, but we need not fear discussion about something that God spoke about in His Word. As John Calvin is quoted as saying, “No doctrine is more useful, as long as it is handled properly.”

As Christ followers, there are certain things we need to know about our identity. I’ve mentioned the importance of knowing that we’ve been adopted into the family of God as a result of Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross, but there’s more to it.  You did not just choose to follow Christ, you were chosen in Him.  That phrase “in Him” sometimes slips by us as we ready, but it’s vital to our understanding of who we are as God’s children.

Adoption, in earthly terms, implies that a family has chosen a child that will become one of them and take on their identity. The child does not choose the parents, the parents rather choose the child.  God has revealed in His Word that we have not chosen Him, He has chosen us. He chose us “in Christ,” which means we were only capable of ever being adopted because of Christ. Does this mean we didn’t have a choice in the matter?

Well, we have plenty of time to get into that as we study the rest of Ephesians, but here’s a quote to get you thinking more:

“Those who do not believe are responsible for the fact that they do not believe and will perish as a result. But those who believe, believe by the grace and mercy of God and walk in the fear of God, living holy and blameless in Christ by love.”

– Heinrich Bullinger

Beyond blessed

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

Fathers love to bless their kids, and God the Heavenly Father is no exception. In fact, He’s the example.  It’s because He’s such a loving and generous Father that we earthly parents even know what it means to bless our kids.

The Father has not only blessed us with salvation through His Son and adoption into His family as a result, but He has given us every spiritual blessing.  These are not the type of tangible things we think of when the word “blessing” leaves our lips, but they’re far greater than anything we can imagine. In fact, they’re so far from us being able to imagine them that we need the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us.

Along with the wonderful gifts He has showered on us, God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It’s the gift of himself to us. He’s Christ indwelling the believer, the hope of all glory (Colossians 1:27) and the revelation of every spiritual gift. God shows His grace to us through granting us our new identity as His own and allowing us access to everything that entails.

 

Who are you?

Ephesians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who were you created to be?  We’ve all been given a unique identity and a unique calling from God; so what is yours all about?  Before you answer, let’s look at the life of the Apostle Paul as an example of walking in the calling for which we’ve been set apart.

Though Paul started out as a persecutor of the saints, he went on to become one of the greatest evangelists for Christ who ever lived or ever will live.  He greets most in his letters by referring to himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus, in some cases a servant also.  Consider the fact that none can give themselves the title of apostle.  This is a title that can only be given to someone from God himself.  While you and I are not apostles in the same regard as Paul, we have been given unique ministries of our own, and the characteristics and qualifications to carry them out.  Our identities do not come from ourselves, but from Christ.

Consider next how Paul refers to those who are receiving his letter.  The “saints” are the recipients of his letter and this does not refer only to super-spiritual people.  All who follow Christ are saints.  As John Calvin has put it, “All believers are saints, and every saint is a believer.”  If you think it’s arrogant to refer to yourself as a saint, look at the opinion of Johannes Brenz, “but as names go, ‘saint’ is much less arrogant than ‘Christian.'”  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are a saint and you have a special purpose that He’s given you.

Lastly, Paul’s greeting to his audience is something we need to take as though it were meant for us.  He refers to God our Father, and He certainly is if we’ve put our trust in Him. He’s adopted us into His own family as His children (Romans 8:16).  So saint, you are a child of God, given a purpose and a unique set of personal traits.  What will you do now?