Not Reluctant: With Every Blessing

“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.” (Ephesians 1:3)

My wife and I were married for a long time before our son was born. My love for her started as infatuation then grew deeper and then I made a commitment to love her for life. The feelings that come with that are strong, complicated, romantic, exciting, and sometimes confusing.

leaf_350But on the night our son was born, I fell in love in a completely different way. It wasn’t complicated or fluttery. I didn’t have to make any decisions about it. I just knew immediately that I would do anything for him, give anything to him, suffer anything for him. I felt strong and happy beyond what I knew was possible.

This week, we’re going to try to believe what the Bible says is true – that God loved – loves us – in that exact same way (only God-sized). That’s why he has given his kids everything there is to have in eternity forever, as today’s verse says. But that’s just the beginning of the story.

Think: I did not understand what a dad’s love was like until I became one. How would you describe God’s love for you if someone wanted you to explain it to them?

Pray: If you are in Christ, thank God that he has blessed you in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Do: If you’re not one, ask a dad to describe some of the things he felt on the day his child was born.

Not Reluctant: Making Us Blameless

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (Ephesians 1:4)

We’re rediscovering this week that God is not a reluctant Father. He is a joyful dad who made a plan to include us in his family because he wanted to. Because it made him happy.

leaf_350_bAnd to make it possible for him to be with us, he even made a plan for the barrier between us to be torn down. He is God, after all. He can’t, he won’t live with the stench of sin and death, even our sin.

So long before he assembled us in the womb, he gave us the gift of making a way for us to be “holy and blameless.” He would sacrifice his sinless birth Son as the payment for the sins of all his to-be-adopted children.

Bottom line: He always wanted you for his child, and he did what it took to make it happen through Jesus.

Think: How does the idea that God was planning for your future before time began make you feel about your place in the universe? Does it change how you think of yourself? How you think of Him?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God that he chose you in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Do: Look up definitions for “holy” and “blameless.”

Not Reluctant: What He Wanted

“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.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Here’s a weird thing to think about: If the story of God’s rescuing you from your sin and your future in hell were made into a movie, how would you imagine your character? Would you be the damsel in distress – or her obnoxious friend that gets rescued just because the hero came for the other girl?

leaf_350_bYou know what I mean. It’s a standard action movie plot. The hero risks everything to save the woman he loves, but that means he’s obligated to try to save whoever is with her at the time. He wouldn’t have made the effort just for them, but he can’t in good conscience leave them behind.

I think sometimes we think of ourselves as the lucky supporting character in the story of God’s great love for . . . other people. “Well, I guess I’d better save you, too. Just to be fair. Even though you’re annoying.”

That’s ugly wrong. As his children in Christ, God made the plan to adopt us – you – in love and “in accordance with his pleasure and will” – because it made him happy and he wanted us. God is no reluctant Father. Ever.

Think: How do you think of yourself as fitting into God’s story of love and grace? Why would we ever discount God’s love for ourselves or others?

Pray: If you are in Christ – a Christian – thank God that he made a plan to adopt you into his family because he loves you, because he wanted to, and because it made him happy.

Do: In whatever stories you read or watch this week, think about why the hero risks him- or herself to help others. Compare that to why God rescued us through Jesus.

Not Reluctant: Lavished

“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.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

We continue listening this week to Paul tell us that our God is no reluctant Father – he really wants us – and we trip over the word “lavished.” It’s not a word we’re used to hearing in the Bible. (A quick search of brings it up six times in the NIV.)

leaf_350_bWe usually think of lavish as either “luxurious” (lots of gold, leather, intricate stitching, etc.) or as a way of heaping an obnoxious amount of good stuff on someone (as grandparents, rich boyfriends, and sports team owners do). In other words, we think of lavishing as being excessively generous to the object of your affection.

Exactly. That’s exactly what God has done for us – like a doting first-time dad filling up the baby’s room with giant stuffed animals and video gaming systems and a baseball glove – more cool stuff than a baby would know what to do with, yet.

God has lavished on us (because of our redemption in Christ) the riches of his grace, along with his wisdom and understanding. We don’t know what to do with it all, yet, but we know he’s given us way beyond what we need. We’ll never lack for any good thing that really matters with him as our Dad.

Think: Do you usually think of God as a Father who has lavished you with good gifts because he’s so excited to have you in his family? Why or why not?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God that because of Christ’s blood, he has redeemed you, forgiven your sins, and lavished on you the riches of his grace with all wisdom and understanding.

Do: Think about memorizing 1 John 3:1: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (Be sure to memorize the exclamation points, too.)

Not Reluctant: Showing His Plans

“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-10)

Again today we hear more about God’s pleasure, his delight, what makes him happy. Part of the reason he is not a reluctant Father is because including us in his family – adopting us as his kids – is for his pleasure. It makes him happy.

leaf_350_bBut in today’s verse, his pleasure (or desire or intention) seems to have motivated him to include us in the “mystery” of Christ and/or to bring to pass his long-hidden plan to rescue us, to forgive our sins through the blood of Jesus, to redeem us as his own children – and eventually to restore peace and order on the earth under Jesus’ rule.

He wants us to understand what’s going on because he loves us, because he seems to be excited about it, because he has engineered the day when everything will finally be as it should. And then we will be with him forever.

Think: Why do you think it’s easier for people to think of God as having strong negative emotions instead of strong positive ones? Do you usually think of God as an emotional being? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for making known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure. And thank him, too, that all of his plans will succeed at exactly the right time.

Do: Think about a few of the things that please you most. Then make a quick list of the things Ephesians 1 has shown us that please God.

Not Reluctant: Works Out Everything

“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.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)

I realize not every Christian agrees, exactly, about all of the implications of God’s predestination and election of his children. And some people really seem to enjoy debating the issues surrounding human free will and God’s control over everything in the universe. We’re not going to crack that nut here.

leaf_350_bHaving said that, we have heard this week about how much God wanted us – making plans ahead of time to include us in his family because he wanted to and it made him happy – and about all the grace and knowledge he has lavished on us as his children. That makes it miles easier for me to trust him however he chooses to work in the world.

I believe God can do whatever God wants to do, and I want him to do that. I may never get all of my questions about freewill and predestination answered before I get to heaven, but I trust my Father’s heart. How could I not after everything he has done for me?

Think: Are you able to trust God’s character and love for you even when it’s hard to understand exactly how he works in the world? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God that he works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

Do: Make a quick list of three reasons you believe God to be trustworthy.

Not Reluctant: Included

“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.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Today’s verses are the story of how a person comes to be in the family of God and how you can know for sure that you’re still in God’s family.

leaf_350_bRemember from the 12 verses before this: God did all the work. He made the plan to adopt you (because he wanted to and because it made him happy). He executed the plan by sending his Son to be executed in your place, for your sin. Then he published the good news that you were welcome through faith in Jesus.

Then A) you heard the truth and B) you believed and C) you were given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that your place in God’s family is secure (even though you’re not home, yet).

Of course, there is no C) without B). That is, there is no place for anyone in the family of God who has not trusted in Jesus for their salvation.

Think: Have you believed the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”? How have your expressed your faith in Jesus? Are you convinced that God is strong enough to forgive and to guarantee you a place in His family?

Pray: As a Christian, thank God for including you in Christ when you heard and believed. Thank him for marking you with the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of your place in his family.

Do: Read the rest of Ephesians 1 (or the whole book) to see how Paul builds on these huge ideas.