“You Are … in Jesus Christ”

Ephesians 1:3-14Colossians 3:14

There are many times in life in which your standing in life, affects what you feel or say. For example, {A} if someone who is better than you, at – let’s say bowling, really beats you and then tells you that “you are actually really good”, (even though you had several gutter balls) you can feel insulted. {B} Or, when a single person hears from a married person or someone in a relationship, the words, “don’t worry, you’ll find someone”, their words can feel like salt in a wound. {C} Or, when the healthy person tells the sick person, “You’ll get better”, you can feel aggravated because the healthy person not in the same situation!

However, one is standing in life does not have to have a negative effect.  {A} If investors from the show Shark Tank, like Kevin O’ Leary, Mark Cuban, or Lori Greenier, give you – business or financial advice, you listen. {B} If someone like Vincent Van Gogh were to give you a pointer on your painting, {C} or if Mark Twain gave you a writing tip, you would again, listen. In these instances, their standing and credentials lend weight to what they say. You listen because of who they are.

In the book of Ephesians, we hear who we are, and we are many things. This letter is written by Paul the Apostle, and his standing carries much weight. As he writes the letter to the Ephesians however, he is sitting in jail. Things could not be any worse for him. He is locked up, alone, abandoned, and waiting for his trial. He is not writing this book when things are good and grand. Keep that in mind.

On the other hand, Paul has personally experienced what he is writing about. Paul has been a Christian for over 25 years now as he writes this book in 60 A. D. When Paul says who you are, it carries much weight. More than that, he tells us who God says you are in Jesus Christ. And who you are in God’s eyes is much more than anything our siblings, significant other, child, friends, or bullies may say about us. What God says about you is what ultimately matters. This morning, God tells us four things that we are in Jesus Christ through the Apostle Paul.

Paul begins his letter by saying (1st) “in Jesus Christ, you are blessed!” And again, remember Paul’s circumstances. He is not sitting on a beach or riding high, but is locked up in a cold, dark, and damp prison. He writes these words with shackles on his hands and feet.

But that might be a strange thought for us. It can be challenging to see or realize that. Perhaps you are struggling with a sickness, or maybe nothing in life is going according to plan. It could be one thing after another coming your way. But maybe things are fine, and “normal.” Wherever you find yourself, Paul says that in Jesus Christ, you are blessed. Let me explain.

In the 1800s there was a woman named Hetty Green, and she is famous for being the richest woman of that period. She was worth 4.5 billion dollars. She was a great investor, and always wore a black dress that she would change when it would wear out. This earned her the nickname, “The Witch of Wall Street.” But Hetty Green is not just famous for being rich, she is famous for being incredibly cheap and stingy. Although she was rich, (A) she never washed her hands because that would use soap and water, which cost money. (B) She ate cold oatmeal, and drank cold coffee, because it cost money to heat them. (C) She kept her work in briefcases and suitcases so she would not have to rent an office that was even in a building that she owned. Point being, she had it all. She had more than enough, but literally, was not willing to spend even a penny!

Paul says that this is not like God at all. God has it all and He gives it all. He says, “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”. Paul says that you are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. This is real! These blessings through the Holy Spirit are not imaginary or illusions. They are in the heavenly places, for you! God does not hold them back or in. He does not say, “I have over 2 billion Christian. I cannot just give these blessings out. You can have some, but not all. I have got to spread them out.” He is not like Hetty Green at all. He gives them out.

Paul says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight”. Do you know what the word lavish means? It means to “bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities on”. God lavishes the riches of His grace upon us. He lavishes that redemption, that forgiveness. You are rich in Jesus Christ. You are blessed in God’s Son.

As Paul continues, (2nd) he says that you are chosen in Jesus. Before we continue, I want you to think back to your childhood for just a moment. Remember recess and getting picked to play games? It would be exciting to be picked early or first. When that would happen, you would quite naturally feel special, wanted, valued, and liked. There is something about you that got you this honor and privilege. But do you remember not being chosen, or picked last? When that happened, you could not help but feel disheartened, hurt, or embarrassed. No one likes those feelings.

Listen to the words of Paul. “He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him” God chose you. He picked you out. He selected you. He set you aside for Himself. He did it before the creation of the world. This was all intentional and part of His plan. (A) It was not your own doing or influenced by you. (B) It is not based on anything in you that you could lose or live up to.  (C) You do not have to justify His decision, earn it, or pay Him back. What is more is that then in God’s eyes, through Jesus, He sees you as holy and blameless before Him. God’s choosing us, our election, is a wonderful thing, and it carries many blessings.

Our election leads us to praising God for that salvation He has won and given to us. How can we not praise and thank Him for that? This choosing points us to Jesus and His Word. We are pointed to the One Who achieved our salvation and to the mean that He gives it through. This truth comforts us in trials and temptations since our salvation in Jesus is sure and certain. It is finished and final through Jesus’ blood and merit. There is nothing I need to do, I just receive! There is no way I can mess it up or not do it right. He has done…it…. ALL! This blessing then also encourages us for holy living. We want to live in response to this choosing, calling, and salvation. Paul says you are chosen in Jesus. God has chosen us in Jesus Christ.

Paul then moves on to another wonderful truth. (3rd) He says that you are adopted. Almost everyone in this room was born into a family (not a profound thought, but true). I am part of a family of. (Pastor Robert and Lillian Heimgartner, 1 of 11 siblings, where we were raised in rural communities, frequently with livestock to take care of and butcher, and always having a HUGE garden.) But this family, and this type of family, is not the one that Paul is talking about here. He is talking about another family that we were born into, Adam’s family. This is a broken, bad, and bickering family. It is not one that you want to be a part of.

And like in all families, we inherit things from our parents. (1) We have inherited spiritual blindness from these parents, Adam and Eve. (2) We inherited death, both spiritual and physical. (3) We inherited our sinful nature. (4) We inherited a feud that predates us. This is a family feud worse than Medieval fights between monarchs, the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, the gangs in big cities, or the Cardinals and the Cubs. We continue in our parents’ conflict against God. We are His enemies!

But in Jesus Christ, God has taken us out of that family. Our adoption day was our baptism day, where we were buried and raised with Christ to new life, and to a new family! We are no longer blind, dead, and God’s enemies. We are no longer children of wrath, but are children whom God cares for, whom He loves, and whom He forgives and claims as His own. As part of this family, like all children, we are given an inheritance, eternal life, and have a place in God’s Kingdom because of Jesus.

And He did it all out of love. He wanted to do it and did it gladly. He paid our adoption price with the blood and life of His Son, Jesus. Rest assured, you are part of this family, through Jesus. Paul says that you are adopted through Jesus Christ.

Paul then finishes our time today by telling us that (4th) you are sealed in Jesus Christ. In the ancient world, everyone had their own unique seal. It was like a social security number. It was unique and your own. (1) These seals could be wax ones. (2) For animals, they could be a brand. (3) For soldiers and slaves, it could be a tattoo. In the ancient world, seals showed ownership.

Paul says that God has placed His seal on you! He has placed His name on you! When did that happen? For many of us, it happened long ago. We probably do not even remember it! God placed His name, His seal on us, in baptism, as a pastor poured water on our heads and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” From that moment on, we belonged to Him!

When I was growing up, we hunted a lot to help put food on the table. My Dad and older brother would use a shotgun or rifle, and my next younger brother and I would use a pellet or BB gun. I wanted to get my own rifle, but my dad said I would have to wait till I was in High School and pay for the gun myself. When that time came, I used money I had earned from farming for neighbors, went to Sears, and ordered my 22 caliber, Remington semi-automatic rifle. I treasured that receipt as it was the seal of getting the gun.

Not only has our God sealed us, but He has also given us His Holy Spirit in baptism, who is the down payment for that inheritance that we so long for. The gift of the Holy Spirit says there is more coming! The best is yet to come! The Holy Spirit is the guarantee, for He sustains and makes us faithful until the end. God the Father has chosen and adopted you, He has sealed you in the blood of Jesus Christ, placed His name on you, and given you the Holy Spirit. Through all of this we have PEACE that surpasses all understanding. AMEN.

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