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May 13, 2018

Union with Christ, Part #3 - Assurance Not Assignment

Passage: Ephesians 1:3-14

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: Union With Christ

Category: Union With Christ

Keywords: adopt, adopted, adoption, assurance, election, in christ, predestination, union with christ

Summary:

Part 3 in our series on Union with Christ. We’ve said that being ‘in Christ,’ or ‘Union with Christ,’ is the central teaching of the Christian faith, setting belief in Jesus part from any world religion. So far we’ve understood this reality by saying union with Christ is ‘Relationship Not Religion.’ This means life with God is not some external list of religious rites. Jesus is present with us, he is not a program we master. Jesus masters us by living within us until his life is ours and our his. We added to our understanding of union with Christ noting that this union is lived out by Faith Not Flesh. Flesh stands for human control and the temptation to turn everything into being about me and my own human flourishing. When we live this way we resort to keeping score on ourselves and others, preferring a life of bookkeeping to the joy of belonging. Faith instead joins Jesus at the cross, at all those places of loss and death and confession, and in that loving participation and companionship with Jesus finds life in the one who suffered for us and with us. In this third message we’ll read from Ephesians 1 and see that union with Christ is Assurance Not Assignment. Union with Christ is not something we achieve, we are adopted into Jesus. This gets at the heart of our identity. When Christ lives in us we don’t lose who we are, we find it. We realize just what God desires us to be and find the fullness of life for which we are created and redeemed.

Detail:

We’ve said that being ‘in Christ,’

or ‘Union with Christ,’

is the central teaching of the Christian faith,

setting belief in Jesus apart from any world religion.

This is so important for you to understand

because knowing this and living it out

changes for the better

the blessing that faith in Jesus really is.

So what is union with Christ?

What does it mean when the Bible

describes you and me as being

‘in Christ’

like in this passage

where that phrase – in Christ or in him –

is used 8 times?

So far we’ve understood this reality

by saying union with Christ is

‘Relationship Not Religion.’

This means life with God

is not some external list of religious rites.

Jesus is present with us,

he is not a program we master.

Put your heart and life into a faith-relationship

with Jesus: trusting, praying,

making his desires your desires.

We added to our understanding

of union with Christ

noting that this union is lived out

by Faith Not Flesh.

Flesh stands for human control

and the temptation to turn everything

into being about me and my own human flourishing.

When we live this way

we resort to keeping score on ourselves and others, preferring a life of bookkeeping

to the joy of belonging.

Faith instead joins Jesus at the cross,

at all those places of loss and death and confession, and in that loving participation

and companionship with Jesus

and those for whom he died,

finds life in the one who suffered for us and with us.

 

In this third message we’ll see

that union with Christ is

Assurance Not an Assignment.

Don’t’ reduce belief in Jesus to a task to complete.

Union with Christ is not something we achieve,

we are adopted into Jesus.

This gets at the heart of our identity.

When Christ lives in us

we don’t lose who we are,

we find it.

Our identity as those adopted into the family of God

is assured by his grace.

Nothing and no one can take that away.

No loss, no disappointment, no failure.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God

that is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

No wonder than that life’s purpose is praise.

That’s how the passage begins and ends –

for the praise of God’s glory.

Not praise me,

which is the temptation, right?

I want the credit.

I want people to see how good I am.

I want you to accept me and love me for who I am.

I want the glory.

Let me tell you what I’ve done

what I’ve achieved

how good I really am.

 

Of course, we have to live that way

if salvation comes only by achievement,

only by doing well on life’s assignments.

But union with Christ tells us

that our salvation doesn’t come that way.

Human beings are not perfect,

there is no one who is righteous says the Bible,

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

So don’t make Christianity

into being about getting it right

or proving you’re right.

Let Jesus make it right.

His righteousness, not ours.

 

So our life’s purpose is his praise.

Because salvation is all God’s doing,

and because each moment of each day

God’s grace protects our belonging

and identity as Christ’s own.

Yes, God is that active and involved in your life.

These twelve verses are one long sentence.

On the back of your worship handout

is the passage translated as close as one can

to its original grammar.

If your English teacher doesn’t like

the way you write sentences

and says keep it simple,

just show your teacher this and you’ll be fine.

This whole long sentence:

202 words in the original language

show how active God is in our lives and all creation.

What is God doing?

What is the grace of God

and how is the Triune God

providing and redeeming creation?

And it takes a twelve verse sentence

202 words long to begin to reveal the truth.

The verbs revealing our Creator and Redeemer

sovereign in providential care go on and on –

blessed

chose

predestined

given

lavished

made known

purposed

bring unity

 

Will you praise the LORD God today

for his great grace that completely saves his own?

Maybe today you don’t feel God is so active

in your life.

Because of circumstances

you wonder where God is

or what God is doing.

Or you confess that out of your own choices

you’ve been ignoring God

and so no wonder God seems distant.

Look again at these verses

and take to heart how committed,

how active,

how sovereign,

how providing and caring,

how gracious and loving God is

in your life right now.

 

If you still wonder how to take this all in,

focus on the word picture used here:

adoption.

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will . . .

We are children of God;

adopted into God’s family by grace thru Jesus Christ.

Some of us know adoption stories,

and we know the battles of adoption,

the joys of adoption,

the sufferings too.

If your life story includes adoption

or fostering, or safe homes,

blessings to you.

And if we listen to this verse we can say,

if you are involved in such things

you are acting a little like our Heavenly Father.

Each of us who believes in Jesus

has experienced a spiritual adoption.

It is a powerful understanding

of our union with Christ,

of what it means to be in Christ –

to be one of the family, adopted in,

to belong, to have a new name, a new identity.

 

What does it tell us

that our salvation is something like

a spiritual adoption?

Well, we’re not born into it automatically, right?

Someone Else had to make a choice

on our behalf for our well-being.

And it’s not something we can buy

or deserve or merit.

Adoption is a beautiful thing

a grace

done on behalf of the child, right?

At times there is some sort of rescue

or deliverance involved,

at the very least a great help,

and sacrifice to go along with blessing,

this opening of one’s family to another.

If we think of this spiritually

then we understand again that our life with God

is by the Lord’s grace alone,

all God’s work,

all the Lord’s doing,

a pure gift for us

to be included, welcomed.

We’re given a new name,

a new identity,

a new way to live.

Our adoption into the family of God

is God’s work alone:

from beginning to end.

This is not our achievement;

it is God’s loving grace.

 

Born at University of Tennessee Medical Center,

Alice was not what most people, even physicians,

would call lovable.

Her facial disfigurement was severe:

little slits for eye sockets,

 no nose, no real mouth, simply an opening.

“The doctors would not want to look at her,

but they would always ask how she was doing,”

her adopted mother, Thelma Perkins, recalls.

Thelma, whose Christian faith

extends love to all of God’s children,

saw Alice when she was only hours old

and loved her.

 

“They kept telling me,

‘She won’t live, she won’t live.’

“I just knew by looking at her

that all she needed

was for someone to wrap her in a blanket

and rock her.”

That started almost 38 years of love and caring.

Some of it was with tears,

some with patience, others with laughter.

“There’s a lot you can do with love,” Thelma said.

“I don’t regret a minute of it.”

By the time Alice was 6 years old,

she had already undergone 11 surgeries.

(Now that number is more than 40.)

Alice plainly adored Dr. Lynch.

He used one of Alice’s ribs to fashion a nose,

moved her eye sockets toward the center of her face,

constructed a palate, lips —

in general, gave Alice a face.

 

Another man she plainly adored

was her adopted father, Raymond.

A carpenter by trade,

Raymond first saw Alice

when she was 6 months old

and the couple was considering adopting Alice

after her biological mother realized

the immense difficulties involved

in her daughter’s care.

Raymond, or “Perk” as Thelma calls him,

died in March 2012.

Alice, who had withstood so much for 30 years,

now knew another pain — grief.

“Alice cried and cried,” Thelma recalls.

“She kept saying,

‘I’ve lost my daddy; I’ve lost my daddy.’”

As with all parents of special needs children,

the Perkinses had long worried

about their daughter’s life as they aged.

Thelma remembers them discussing that very subject

not long before Perk’s death.

Thelma’s son and daughter-in-law

will take care of Alice.

Thelma, who still mourns daily for Raymond,

is certain of their dedication

to her special daughter.

Adoption changed everything.

She is not the girl born without a face,

she is Alice:

loved and loving, cared for and caring,

assured of her belonging.

 

In the electing love of God

you have been adopted into Christ.

Apply this identity to your faith.

You have not achieved glory,

God’s saving love has made you beautiful,

worthy to praise the Lord,

blessed with every spiritual blessing

from forgiveness

to the living out of his holy will:

simply because the Triune God chose you

for such blessing.

How can we not praise the Lord

with all our heart every day,

how can thankfulness not be

the first response in all things,

how can making every effort

to bless this family and belonging

not be our first humble desire?

 

Does this describe you?

Do we see how union with Christ makes faith

a better and blessed experience?

These finer things like praise

and thanksgiving

and humble efforts to welcome others

into the belonging we share in Christ

make faith beautiful and full of purpose.

 

Our confidence to live this way

rests in what God has done.

To underscore God’s great grace

we are introduced

to the heady doctrine of election

in this passage:

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ . . .

11 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 . . .

 

There is great mystery here.

There are questions we have

surrounding God’s choosing for salvation

that we will never be able to answer

this side of heaven.

But we can apply the basics:

God is sovereign even over salvation.

The Lord won’t leave the redemption of humanity

up to chance or to human effort.

Because the Lord knows us,

he knows our broken hearts,

he knows that we are dust,

so it is the Lord who exercises his kingly authority

 over heaven and hell

and elects, chooses and appoints those

for eternal life.

Those who believe in Jesus

are not better people than others,

or smarter,

or more righteous,

or better connected,

or more likable,

or of a certain preferred race or gender,

they are chosen according to the love of God –

In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will . . .

Nothing about any achievement of yours, right?

We are like little spiritual Alices,

given no chance at life,

or God,

except that God is sovereign over salvation

and he picked you,

he chose you,

he appointed you,

he loved you,

and as a result of that love you believe.

And in that faith relationship,

assured of belonging and identity as a child of God,

you thrive:

like Alice,

knowing family love and blessing

belonging and being united together.

 

You can imagine the relief of these words

to those believers in Ephesus:

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit . . .

God did this.

The Lord saves.

In that confidence we share the gospel,

we show the love of Jesus.

 

You also . . .

can you receive that good news?

You also were included

included in Christ,

there’s that union with Christ language again –

you also in Christ, in the family,

your identity not in what you’ve done or not done,

not in your past or your potential,

not in regret or failure,

not up for grabs either,

you are assured of belonging,

you are not alone.

Life with God is not an assignment

you need to complete.

Outside of Christ you failed,

we all fail,

but in love he chose us . . .

 

Instead of focusing on all the questions

of this mysterious love,

focus on the assurance of it.

Assurance when you doubt,

when you assess your faith

and recognize that you fall short.

 

But more, assurance for those on your heart.

Friends and family who are caught up

as we all are

in this American culture

that strongly pressures us

toward individualism and doing our own thing

and trusting in ourselves above all

and having little compassion or openness

for the dynamic work of the Spirit.

 

Remember this active, loving,

sovereign choosing of God,

and if you think you love your friend,

or your family member,

imagine how much more God loves her.

Because God is sovereign

even over salvation

you can trust

the redemptive work of Christ.

You can believe even through your doubts.

You can give yourself in prayer

for those who don’t know Jesus.

You can generously support the work of missions.

You can love the church and serve together

with the family of God,

you can share and show Jesus

knowing the Spirit is active and at work.

In love he chose us . . .

 . . .  to be holy and blameless.

How does that look?

How can I exercise belief

that the Lord in his electing love

is making me holy and blameless?

Two words in the passage:

us

praise

 

We have been talking personally,

and if I didn’t stop to mention it

we might assume

that our salvation is merely a personal, private, individual undertaking.

But look again at our passage and tell me how many times you find the word me, or I, or myself.

We read the word ‘us’ a lot, and ‘we.’

You have to go all the way down to verse 13

to have any mention of an individual:

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,

and even this is all about being included,

brought into Christ’s family and into Christ.

 

So an overlooked, neglected way

for us to pursue holiness

is to give energy, time and self

to the unity of God’s people,

to extend our belonging in Christ

to a togetherness with one another.

Pray, but take the extra step to pray together –

as a couple, family, siblings together,

life group, Bible study, church.

Serve – but take the extra step

by serving together in a ministry

or even that next step into your community,

look to include more in serving together,

young and old,

male and female,

using the gifts of all.

Worship together.

Study together.

Learn from one another across generations,

share life together.

 

The other big word in this text is praise:

The passage begins with praise:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

then it highlights praise for the grace of belonging

in the middle of the passage:

6 to the praise of his glorious grace . . .

then teaches that salvation praises God:

12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

and then ends with praise:

14 . . . to the praise of his glory.

 

4 times – to praise his glory:

Our identity now is together unified in our praise.

God so delights in our salvation

that the Lord is praised

when we exercise our salvation together.

So will you open up your hearts in praise

to such a loving Heavenly Father,

to the powerful saving grace of Christ?

The comfort work of the Spirit?

 

Do we spend so much time trying to explain God

defend God

prove God

understand all things God related

doubt God

question God?

Most of that would be solved if we

focused on praising the Lord

and giving thanks.

Worship the Lord without reservation

and love the Lord with all your heart, soul,

mind and strength,

invite another to unite in praise

and accept their serving and offerings.

Your friend doesn’t need more arguments,

your loved one doesn’t need your opinions,

we’re all looking for hope, peace, joy and love.

And when we witness those things

most of the rest is solved

in assurance and blessings.

 

Adopted, you also belong,

and what will we do today

to accent that full and rich belonging together

in Christ,

sharing with others the grace

of being adopted into Christ also?