Study Notes:

Ephesians 1:11-12

We begin the New Year where we left off before Christmas: in Ephesians chapter One, looking at Paul’s burst of praise to the God who has taken such drastic action to save us from our sin and redeem us in Christ.

There are many parts of the Bible that are easy to read. This is not one of them. It takes some effort to follow and understand what Paul is saying here and our culture has conditioned us to expect things that are quick and easy, things that ‘flow.’ We don’t like to go slowly and process what we’re reading, we want to skim and nod. But for those who are willing to listen, and work their way through what is written here, we’ve discovered there is a wealth of information about who God is, what He has done, and how we benefit.

So, let’s look at this passage together and see what we can learn. We jump right in at verse 11 as Paul is telling us about Jesus:

Eph 1:11 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.

Now, that’s a lot of syllables, a lot of words. I know. And if you’re in a hurry, or distracted, it can sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher: “Whantwa, whantwa, whantwa.” But let’s work together to understand it, because when you leave here this morning, my greatest hope is that you will know even more about God and what He has given to us because these verses say “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.”

And that little word ‘also’ is important – if you’re reading in the ESV it’s not there, but everyone else has it. It reminds us that this verse is connected to everything that has gone before it, the things we have already examined in previous weeks.

And if you’ve been keeping track, you know the list of things God has given us in Christ is pretty impressive. Just from these first verses in Ephesians we know that God gives Christians grace and peace as well as every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He has made us holy and blameless and adopted us because He wanted to. He makes us accepted in the Beloved, redeems us, forgives us, and gives us knowledge of His plans so we know what the world is about, why it’s so broken and full of pain, and where it’s all headed.

It’s quite a list of benefits we receive from God, and we’re going to keep adding to the list as we go further into the book. Including what we find this morning:

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance,

Peter, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples says it is

1 Pe 1:4 an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you

Think about that, God says you have something incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.

It’s such a big deal that later on in Ephesians, Paul is going to tell them he actually prays that God would open their eyes so they would know ‘what are the riches of their inheritance in the saints.’ (Eph 1:18) He doesn’t think it’s the kind of thing we’ll accidently discover on our own. We need to God to help us understand everything He is doing for us!

Hopefully God has been doing that, as we have been studying these passages together, hopefully He is opening our eyes to see and our minds to understand that He is pouring out blessings to every single one of us who are in Christ. He’s going over the top. He’s bursting us at the seams. He’s practically spoiling us.

And He’s placed all the goodies in one basket. They’re all in Christ.

So far we’ve seen that:

– God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

– God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world and made us accepted in the Beloved.

– In Him we have redemption through His blood. And now,

– In Him also we have obtained an inheritance.

And that means something very simple, but incredibly important.

If you can believe and receive it, it means everything you’re looking for in life: all the acceptance, all the approval, all the affirmation and attention, all the accomplishments and accolades, all the friendship and family and belonging, all the forgiveness and healing and rest, all the strength and comfort and counsel and endurance, everything you need for life and the afterlife are being offered to you in Christ … or the Bible is wrong.

It has to be one or the other because the statements are so plain and so bold, everything you need for life and godliness is found in Christ or it’s out there somewhere else and it’s up to you to find it on your own and maybe you get to pray a little along the way to make you feel good spiritually as you make your own way in the world.

Let me see if I can help us understand this a little more.

In my family we try to live off a spending plan. Some people call it a budget, but I prefer the term spending plan – it captures the intentionality of what you’re doing. Budget sounds like a tracking tool, spending plan says – this is how much we have, this how we’re going to spend it.

And, of course, one of the important ways you spend money is on food because we all have to eat. And in order to make the money stretch as far as possible we shop at several stores because some better have prices than others. So, in any given month we’re going to be making at least one trip to the commissary – the grocery store on base where you get pretty good deals on a lot of things. But we’re also going to be going to Costco where you get a better deals on other things, or things the commissary doesn’t stock.

And then we’re going to be stopping at Aldi for some items that are worth the trip if you remember to bring your quarter for the cart and your bags for checkout. Every now and then we also hit Wegmans because they’re the only place we can find cinnamon chips for making scones and a few other specialty items. And we stop at Trader Joes of course, because they have the best prices on nuts and they carry these big 500 gram chocolate bars that Madeleine and I need. And as a bonus, you can usually say Hi to Drew Wieser while you’re there – his dad Phill plays piano and leads worship for us. Occasionally you have to track something down at Whole Foods, and we’re in either H-Mart or Lotte Mart every week to pick up fresh produce.

That’s a lot of running around, but Madeleine does a fantastic job of taking care of us, we eat in far more than we eat out, we eat healthy food, and I’ll put her up against anyone when it comes to finding and working a deal. You’ve got guys and gals on Wall Street that know the past, present, and future values on all sorts of commodities, those are her peers. If she wasn’t so busy trying to care of me and the kids, she could be off making millions tracking and trading prices for some investment firm.

Instead she figures out to fit in a trip to Costco after dropping off the kids at school, or how to fit a quick trip to Trader Joes in between soccer games so we have what we need for dinner tonight. Parenting isn’t for wimps, is it?

Now, some of you are sitting there saying, “that’s crazy, that’s a lot of running around. Wouldn’t it be better to just pay a little more and buy it all in one place, or find it on Amazon and have it shipped to your door.” Well, I challenge you: see if you can do it better than she does for less money than she does. She’s not out for a joy ride or wandering around with time to kill, she’s doing things the way she has found works best.

And actually, I told you that story to help us understand this: we all do the same thing in order to build and keep our identity and self-image and find what we need to make it through life. Oh, we’re not shopping for groceries, but don’t we all have multiple stops to make in order to pick up what we need to keep our ego well-fed and wounds so well tended?

We get a bit of our identity from the school we attend or attended, or the team we are on. Then we hit the gym in order to pick up a little bit more because we feel good about ourselves when our waist or thighs or biceps are a certain size. We do a lot of our shopping for identity at work, especially in this city. And we add to all of that with what we pick up from our possessions: our car, home, clothes – maybe you even got some things for Christmas that you’re really excited about wearing or using because they’re going to add to how you feel about yourself, how you think you’re doing in the game of life.

If you think my family’s grocery shopping sounds exhausting, what about all the searching we do from so many sources to feel good about ourselves or to feel affirmed or whatever you want to call it? How much time and effort do we put into propping up our egos and identities? Honestly, some people even shop for groceries as a part of propping of their identity, proving what an ethical or trendy consumer they are. We cultivate and care for our self more than we realize.

Meanwhile, here in Ephesians we’re told

Eph 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance,

Wouldn’t my wife love to make just one or two trips each month for all the groceries we need? Of course she would. And wouldn’t you like to turn to Jesus for all that you need and all you’re searching so desperately for? Of course you would. And so would I.

But we all tend to forget what we have in Christ. The world is trying to sell us stuff, and maybe you’ve already formed your shopping list for this week – New Year’s resolutions you might be calling them. Things you’re going to do or stop doing so you can be a better you. But take another look at your list, consider the motivations behind those things, and ask yourself – is this something I already have, in Christ? Am I chasing approval, acceptance, belonging from others that I already have, in Christ?

Friend, don’t exhaust yourself running after promises of happiness when you already have so much in Christ. Open up your Bible, read it, take it in, listen to it instead of listening to yourself or the countless voices that are trying to reach you with their message of what you need – of what color or style is cool now – and listen to God, listen to Him tell you what He has already given to you, what He has given for you, and what He has in store for you, as an inheritance, in Christ.

And understand that He has gone to great lengths to bring us into this relationship with Himself.

Eph 1:11 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,

In other words, when it comes to our relationship with Him, He desired it, thought it about, and then made it happen. This passage in Ephesians One is telling us repeatedly – what we’re experiencing now in Christ has been part of God’s plan since the beginning of time. The message of the whole Bible is that God wanted to reach out to you and did what was necessary to make that possible.

I want you to think about that for a minute, to really think about it: God’s whole attention and all of His time and energy were centered on bringing you into a relationship with Himself. It was His will – He wanted it to happen, He counseled or thought about how to make it happen, and then He worked all things together in order to make it happen.

That’s actually a leadership mantra some of you have been taught, right? Determine your goals, then plan the work, and work the plan. That’s what God did. But the goal was you!

I can’t emphasize this enough, God was entirely focused on a single mission: bringing sinful, selfish, self-interested you and me back into a relationship with Him in all of His holiness. He put forth all the effort, did it all at His own personal expense, and we get all the benefits: grace and peace to you, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, redemption, forgiveness, acceptance in the Beloved, awareness of God and His plans, an inheritance…

It’s mind-blowing and yet we spend so much of our time running around to this store and that trying to pick up all the ingredients we need in order to make a better me, to feel good about our selves, to hear people say nice things about us and the whole time everything we’re frantically searching for is offered to us in Christ.

We’re trapped inside the tiny confines of our own egos, trying to live by our own strength and cunning, while God is opening the door to free us and give us another way to live, a life full of His gifts and blessings, forgiveness and healing, reassurances and comforts, and spiritual and physical gifts.

He’s trying to lead us to trust in Him and live “to the praise of His glory.”

Eph 1:11 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.

Let me take a moment here to show you an interesting pattern. We’ve already noted that this is the longest sentence in the original Greek copy of the New Testament, it’s a complex tangle of grammar, but it has an important flow: it actually addresses each of the members of the Trinity showing us how they are active in our salvation and spiritual experience.

We already saw that verses 3-6 begin by telling us what God the Father has done and that section wraps up in verse 6 by telling us that it’s all “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Underline that in your Bible. Then remember that we’ve been considering what verses 7-12 tell us about Jesus Christ, the Son, and they also end in “the praise of His glory” in verse 12. So, would you underline that? And then next week we will begin to see what role the Holy Spirit has in all of this and notice in verse 14 that His actions are also “to the praise of His glory” so would you underline that too?

There’s a bit of a pattern there, don’t you think? And what does that pattern tell us? It reminds us that all this information we’re gathering from this passage which is, admittedly, harder to read than most things we pick up each day, all this information is actually trying to tell us about the glory of God and if we can understand it, it should compel us to respond to Him with trust and praise.

When we see God making beauty out of the ashes of someone’s life, when we see Him giving a new chance, when we see Him rescuing people from stupid selfish choices, when we see Him protecting them from what could have happened, when we see a life that should have been a disaster totally redeemed and completely transformed, and it’s all because of His intervention, we get excited about the God who would do things like that, and it makes us want to trust Him even more. It provokes us to praise His glory.

When we are finding our complete satisfaction in Christ, when we are living off of the riches we have in Him, it should have a tremendous effect on the things we do with our time and energy. It should free us to live lives that glorify God and bless others and hopefully, in the process compel them to praise God’s glory too as they see what He’s doing in us.

But what does that look like in the real world? What does that look like Monday-Friday while you’re at work? Let me give you two quick examples of men who worked out their faith in the workplace – living to the praise of his glory while earning a living.

The first is Truett Cathy the owner and founder of Chick-Fil-A, a store that is both famously and at times frustratingly closed on Sundays because even when he was working six days a week he felt it was more important to be in church on Sunday than behind the grill making a few extra bucks. He was a member of the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, GA and taught Sunday School there for 50 years. And yet, his decision to rest in the inheritance he had in Christ instead of keeping the store open on Sunday doesn’t seem to have done the company any harm, does it?

The second man is Ole Kirk Christiansen. That name probably doesn’t mean anything to you, why would you know the name of a Christian carpenter who lived in Denmark in the early 1930’s? Well, you probably don’t know his name, but you know what he invented: Legos.

And do you know one of the things he did with the money he made from his invention? He gave the money that built the church that still stands in his hometown, the tiny city of Billund, Denmark where Lego’s corporate headquarters remain today. Ole Kirk Christiansen was serious about his relationship with Christ, in good times and bad.

According to an article that you can find linked in the sermon notes:

He led morning prayer sessions at the factory. And he spoke of turning to God in the midst of personal and financial troubles, which included his factory and home burning down and becoming a widower with four young sons to take care of.

One of those sons said during an interview, “I am convinced that Father’s faith in God, which was evident in everything he did, helped carry him through his grief and the difficulties that followed. His faith made him [an] active man. It gave him the courage and solace that enabled him to take on new responsibilities—and the strength to see a job through despite hardship.”[1]

Ole Kirk Christiansen and Cathy Truett are just two examples of people who found their identity in Christ, and gained the freedom to be who God really made them to be. To stop running around all over looking for their identity in a dozen more places. They rested in Christ, trusted Him, in good times and bad, and made much of His name – they did not hide their faith in Him, but lived to the praise of His glory and in the process they praised God personally, led others to do the same, and were a practical blessing to the people around them.

But here’s the thing, that’s what God wanted to do with them, that’s what He had predestined them for.

He may have something similar for you, one day, maybe we’ll all look back on the early days when we knew you and say “I knew them before they were a big deal.”

But for most of us, we’ll probably live our lives in relative obscurity, we’ll just go about each day running errands, writing emails, working proposals and projects, grading papers, and making dinner.

And that’s OK, we can do all of those things to the glory of God too. God knows who we are and what He is doing with us and He has given us all a sufficient identity and inheritance in Christ. All God’s sons and daughters receive the same benefits package.

Think about this as we enter the New Year, as you think about what needs to be ‘improved’ or transformed in your life – it doesn’t matter if you are a General or a private, a CEO or a clerk, a division head or a intern, a public school teacher or a domestic ninja, a missionary or a nursery worker – we all have the same access to the same blessings in Christ and we’re all waiting to receive the same inheritance because we’ve all been adopted by the same Father.

So stop shopping all over town for your approval and identity, and just love Him, study Him, learn about Him, listen to Him, and trust Him. He has good plans and lavish gifts for you to explore this year, so praise Him in all His grace and glory.

Let’s pray.

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/behemoth/2015/issue-22/real-lego-church.html

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