“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayer” (Ephesians 1:15-16)
It is not unusual for the Apostle Paul to open each of his letter with a prayer for the people he’s writing to. However, Ephesians is unique because he stops twice to pray (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). Both prayers are similar in that he is praying that they (and by extension us) will grasp the fullness of the mystery he’s writing about in this letter. The mystery is about Christ and the Church.
Paul opens by giving thanks for them because he’s heard about their faith in Christ Jesus and of their love for the saints of God, but also because of what he shared in the previous verses: “…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” (Eph. 1:13-14).
"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)
Last summer, we tried canning for the first time. We had an abundant tomato harvest so naturally we wanted to preserve as much as we could. The process was simple enough—sterilizing the jars, blanching the tomatoes, and boiling the jars to remove air and seal them. Now we have a shelf full of canned tomatoes that will last a very long time.
Something similar happens when we receive the gospel message. We are marked, sealed, and preserved by God. He puts both His mark of ownership on us and “seals” us through the promised Holy Spirit to preserve us for the day of redemption.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24
Seven years ago, I was in a terrible bicycle accident that left my face ruined by road rash. My chin was split open, I had a black eye, and the skin on my shoulder was shaved off. I was black and blue from head to toe but fortunate that I had no broken bones in my face.
I was laid up that following week and couldn’t work. I remember each time I looked in the mirror, I would thank God for healing my face even though at the time it was in bad shape. I was trusting God to heal me because there was nothing anyone could do for the damaged skin.
This took a lot of faith to trust and speak those words over myself in the midst of the situation, because I looked opposite of what I was thanking God for.
Watch this video teaching by Juli entitled 'Help For The Brokenhearted.'
In brokenness, in situations where we are crushed, our spirit is at risk and our hope is wavering… wholeness can come through the Lord’s tenderness. God's faithfulness will give us the grace and perspective needed to navigate, survive and even flourish in suffering. In this teaching, Juli shares a very personal story of heartbreak highlighting God's faithfulness in midst of the situation. This message will encourage you to lean into the Lord's promises so as to make room for God's healing work to begin in your own heart.
*Juli taught this sermon at Orchard Hill Church on March 29, 2014.
What happens when you are faced with the reality of your faith?
You have a choice. To walk it out, scary as it may seem or to turn a deaf ear to prompting in your heart.
Today I’m facing such a dilemma… and yet what will I choose?
I’ve been in Chicago for a few days. I love this city. It is like a second home to me. Even on a work trip, I find the time to do the things I enjoy. I frequent my favorite restaurants, I run the lakeshore trails breathing in the beautiful skyline. I do touristy stuff like visit the Art Museum or Shedd’s Aquarium. And I’ve even taken a selfie under the Bean in Millenium Park. For me, it is a fun escape… even in the cold windy month of March.
Yet this time, I am faced with the issue of homelessness. I’ve seen it before, it’s part of big city life, but this time it is like a vice gripping and squeezing my heart. A man stopped me the other day asking me to buy him a sandwich, to which I refused because I was scared to interact with him as he was clearly intoxicated and I was alone.
But what kills me, is that I spent $40 on my own dinner that night and didn’t think twice.
“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12 NASB)
When God created the world, man was the crowning jewel in all creation (Gen. 1:26-27). He made male and female in His image to reflect and display His glory. Mankind’s fall merely put this plan on hold it did not thwart it.
When Jesus came to redeem through His death and resurrection all that was stolen in the garden, He gave birth to the Church (Col. 2:18). The Church is the crowning jewel in redemption. In Ephesians 1 alone, Paul reminds us that the inevitable result of all of God’s actions is that He will be praised and glorified (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). The Church brings glory to God, and this was part of His master plan. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11).
“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)
What if our redemption was meant only for this world? Don’t we live this way? Don’t we have a narrow view of what was accomplished on the cross? I know I do. I get so wrapped up in day-to-day living that I lose track of the bigger picture.
In the previous verses, we are told that we have been redeemed and forgiven in accordance with God’s grace (Eph. 1:7). Then Paul mentions that this has been lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:8). I truly believe he says this so we will understand the next statement, “…and he made known to us the mystery of his will” (Eph. 1:9a).
“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)
I drove the same car for over 12 years. Not only was it a great car, but it was paid off, so I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of not having a car payment for many, many years. In fact, near the end of the car’s life, I had to bum rides for almost two weeks before deciding the car was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. I had enjoyed owning it free and clear!
Owning the title to the car meant that the debt was satisfied. This has legal ramifications, meaning that no other entity had a claim on this property. While this example in no way compares to what Christ did for us, the same principle can be applied relating to our redemption in Christ. It was done legally, fully, and completely in every way imaginable. “The entire universe is governed by law. Redemption from beginning to end is based upon a system of divine jurisprudence. It has a legal foundation” Paul E. Billheimer.
"“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. 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)
Do you remember a time when toys came in cereal boxes? In my family, we all raced to see who could get the toys first. I remember one prize—a special pair of glasses used to read the “secret” message on the box. To the naked eye, the message looked like only patterns and colors, but after I put on the glasses, I saw the true message.
To the casual observer, this is probably how believers also look—just like everybody else. But God sees us as holy and blameless because He looks at us through the lens of Christ Jesus and that colors everything!
“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)
This morning, I spent an hour studying this verse, looking up the meaning of every word and piecing them together to grasp what it means to be “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
After spending time consumed by this passage, I stopped and grabbed a journal written 10 years ago. The rest of my journals are in boxes, but this particular one has a permanent place on my desk. I leafed through it, reading my thoughts from so many years ago. It contained page after page of me wrestling with scripture, my calling, and the desire to feel God’s presence. It was a crucial time in my life as this is when the Lord started revealing Himself and His purpose for me.