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Below is my Easter message. He is risen!
Something to Believe In (Luke 24) | 03.27.16 | Kevin P. Larson | KarisChurch.org
Natural disasters. Sex trafficking. What do those two have to do with each other? A lot, actually. A CNN.com article recently explained the connection between the two. Think about it. Something catastrophic hits. What do you have? Kids dazed and walking around. Schools no longer in session. Relatives dead or missing. Homes damaged or destroyed. Disaster comes upon people already in poverty. Those who survive are even more eager to hear a pitch for a better life.
So the vile roam around picking on the vulnerable. They impersonate relief workers or missionaries. They recruit unsuspecting children for the sex trade. This was observed recently in Nepal. Last year a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed over 8000 people. A 7.3 two weeks later killed even more. But as a result, sex-trafficking surged. Even without earthquakes, experts estimate that as many as 20,000 children are trafficked out of Nepal annually, most of them to India. And that’s just one country.
This is a tough world! That’s so hard to hear. What are you going to believe in? What are you going to do with that? We hear of more airport bombings. More beheadings from ISIS. People are starving all over the world. They’re trapped in nations with corrupt, inept governments.
In our nation, poverty is everywhere. Racism no longer can be denied. Crime makes us live too much in fear. And we look to our leaders to help us, and we’re even more discouraged.
Most of us know someone with cancer. Car accidents take out entire families. And who knows? Maybe a natural disaster will come our way. There’s so much sin. So much suffering. Where can we go? What can we believe in? What are you gonna believe in?
There’s something here, something worth hooking our lives onto. It’s here in Luke chapter 24.
The Tomb Is Empty
In Luke 23, Jesus is crucified between two thieves. As people surround and mock, He breathes His last. He’s buried in a tomb by a kind man. Some women prepare spices for His body.
In chapter 24, they return on the first day of the week. They’re hoping to embalm his body. But they’re shocked. The stone covering the tomb has been rolled away. They body’s not there. Verse 3 says, “When they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” They’re perplexed.
At that moment, two angels appear. Look at verses 5-6. They ask, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” They say, “He is not here, but has risen.” The women should have known this, they remind them. Jesus told you this!
They run out as fast as they can and tell the disciples. But the text says they get laughed out of the room by them. Verse 11 - “but these words seems to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Peter, though, checks things out. He goes to the tomb. He sees Christ’s burial clothes, but not Christ. He runs home, blown away.
Here’s the first fact we see here today: THE TOMB IS EMPTY, BUT THE DISCIPLES STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE.
Jesus is Seen Alive
That same day, two men are walking from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. Jesus comes up alongside them. He hears them talking and asks what’s going on. They explain the whole thing to the Lord. He ends up giving them a Bible lesson. They should have seen this coming. That’s what He tells them.
At the end of their journey, the men beg Jesus to stay with them and eat with them. They realize who He is just as Jesus disappears. They run to tell the disciples. They tell them, verse 34, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” They begin to recount what just happened.
That’s when Jesus walks in. The men can’t believe it’s real. Verse 37 says, “They were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” Verse 41 says “they disbelieved.”
But Jesus is kind to them. He eats some fish with them. He shows them His scars, inviting those disciples to touch him.
He spends time with those disciples. He teaches them from the Bible. He reminds them that He had told them this was coming. He then commissions them. They will go share this news now for Him. He ascends into heaven.
Here’s the second fact we see here in this passage: JESUS IS SEEN ALIVE, BUT THE DISCIPLES HAVE DIFFICULTY TRUSTING.
Let’s pause there for a second. Don’t we have doubts, too? I know I do. Is this all true? Their doubts should encourage us. They’re doubting. And they’re right there in front of Him! Jesus understands. He’s patient with us.
One quick side point: this is another reason why we can trust this account here. If you’re making something up, you don’t show yourself in such a bad light. You don’t make yourself look like an idiot, like a doubter. Right?
Foretold In Scripture
Jesus is patient with these disciples. He spends time with them. He points them to the truth. He says, “Have you guys forgotten your Bibles?” He reminds them that the Scriptures foretold all of this.
Listen to what Jesus says to those men on that road:
Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Hear again what He tells those disciples.
Luke 24:44 “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
Jesus says, “All your Bible points to me! It’s all about my life, death, and resurrection! How can you guys not see this?”
He’s probably reading to them from the book of Isaiah. Look at chapter 53 with me:
Is. 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Is. 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Is. 53:12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Do you see His cross in those words? What about His resurrection? It’s all there. THE TOMB WAS EMPTY. JESUS WAS SEEN ALIVE. AND THIS WAS FORETOLD IN SCRIPTURE.
Fulfilled in History
BUT IT WAS ALSO FULFILLED IN HISTORY - BECAUSE THE TOMB WAS EMPTY, AND JESUS WAS SEEN ALIVE. Both of those things actually happened. Those prophecies came true. 1 Corinthians 15 says he appeared to Peter, to the twelve, and then to 500 others. The tomb was empty. Jesus was witnessed alive.
But you might be thinking, “Of course, the Bible says that. But how do we know it really happened?” Well, the Bible itself is by far the most well-attested ancient book we have. And sources from outside the Bible clearly state that all of this happened.
But you also might ask, “Maybe they made it up to make themselves feel better. Or maybe they came up with it to trick people. Maybe they even convinced themselves. There’s two things I’ll say about that.
That assumes that they actually desired that or thought it would have been believable. N.T. Wright and others have pointed out that the Gentiles would have been repulsed by the idea of a bodily resurrection. They wanted to escape the body. And Jews would have found it simply unbelievable. They looked forward to a future resurrection. But the thought of one guy being resurrected far in advance? They had no categories for that.
But here’s the main way we know this isn’t made up. They gave their lives for it. This new worldview exploded all over that part of the world. And the guys who took that message ended up dying. Somehow they shed their doubts. Why? It gave them hope. Deep, deep hope.
The Resurrection Brings Hope
The tomb was empty. Jesus was seen alive. There are three blessings of that resurrection I want to share with you now. First, the resurrection brings hope.
Do you struggle with hope, as you look at yourself and this fallen world? There is great hope here. As Tim Keller likes to say, even if you struggle to believe this, you want it to be true. It gives us hope for the body. Verse 37 says the disciples think they see a spirit. But they’re wrong. He has a real body. This is a bodily resurrection. He eats with them. He lets them touch him. But there’s something else going on. Verse 36 says Jesus just appears suddenly in the room with them. This is right after he just disappears from the other guys. This is a body, but it’s perfect. It’s in some way, different.
This is our hope, too. Our hope is not a disembodied soul. Not at all. It’s a perfect, glorified body. No more breast cancer. No more back pain. No more heart infections. Someday, we’ll be changed.
This also gives us hope for the creation. Jesus here is a picture of what’s to come. He’s the firstfruits of a creation that will one day be renewed. Romans 8 says that the whole creation groans with us, like a mom in childbirth, for its curse to be lifted. For it all to be renewed. Christ’s resurrection points to that day when He’ll return and raise everything.
That gives us hope, doesn’t it? No more earthquakes. No more tornadoes. Things won’t wear out, break, be polluted. Animals will surely be a part of it, too. Won’t that be awesome? Our hope isn’t to escape the material, to get out of this world, to get to some kind of heaven. The Christian vision is for a renewed creation. Our hope is that one day Christ will bring heaven down to earth.
We’re about to celebrate a Decade of Grace as a church, and it was Easter, ten years ago, when we started worshipping publicly. Why have I and Amy and others kept going? Through all the trials? The message is worth it.
But I haven’t died for it. Many of you have heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He’s known as the pastor who tried to take out Hitler. Listen to what author Eric Metaxas says about this man.
Bonhoeffer believed the Easter story. He actually believed the extraordinary story of God's coming to Earth and dying and then rising from the dead to defeat death forever. He believed that because this was true, he need never fear death. All he needed to worry about was doing the right thing and trusting God with the results. And that he did.
Because Bonhoeffer believed these things he had the courage to do what almost no one else around him could do. He stood up for the Jews of Europe and today he is celebrated and cherished, while Hitler, who condemned him to death and who only believed in himself, is reviled as a monster.
For Bonhoeffer, and for the disciples, this message of Jesus gave them hope. And it was a message they were dying to share. That gave their lives purpose.
The Resurrection Gives Purpose
That’s another blessing I want you to see flowing from this resurrection. Second, the resurrection gives purpose. Maybe you feel like your life is meaningless. Maybe you feel like you’re going nowhere. You have nothing to live for. Or, maybe when you’re honest, what you live for doesn’t amount to much. The resurrection gives us something greater.
It gives the purpose of relieving suffering and fighting sin. Right now, we have a group from our church getting ready to serve in some of the hardest places. They’ll do ministry in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. They’ll visit a place called Crackland that will put all of them into tears. We have two former members, Eric Papp and Jessica Fleshman, who have given their lives to love the people there. This winter, Anna Hulbert traveled to Gabon to give needy people medical care. We have medical professionals right here loving people, healing people.
We’ve always had members helping unwed mothers, trying to get them to keep their babies. We have a number of families here adopting needy children. We have people fighting to end racism in our city.
These are things that Jesus did. So did the disciples, the early church. They met needs. They fought injustice. Why? Those things wouldn’t be there at the resurrection. Those believers knew they couldn’t eradicate sin and suffering, but they were fighting it all they could. That’s our purpose, as well.
It also gives the purpose of displaying and declaring what’s ahead. Take displaying first. Every hour we put into hard, excellent work, we give a glimpse of that new world. Every work of art that’s true, beautiful, and good, shows that renewed planet that’s ahead. Hear N.T. Wright on this:
“Every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity – doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom – is an earthly event in a long history of things that implement Jesus’s own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation and act as signposts of hope, pointing back to the first and on to the second.” (N.T. Wright)
Every time we worship. Every act of love. It all points to that day. But take declaring. We still have to talk about this. We don’t just point to it with our lives. We declare it with our mouths. We’ve also got two families heading over to Japan. There isn’t much poverty in Tokyo. But the Japanese are just as desperate for the resurrection. Our purpose is to tell people of this world without sin and suffering. We give this hope of bodies liberated from both. That’s our purpose.
Jesus commissions His disciples and us in verses 46 through 49. Listen to his words.
Luke 24:46 “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
We are to declare His death and resurrection. We’re to call people to respond to those truths. We’re to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit. What a purpose!
The Resurrection Provides Joy
The resurrection blesses us: with hope and with purpose. Here’s a third thing: the resurrection provides joy. Check the words following those we just read:
Luke 24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Look at the transition of these men. From doubting and scoffing to rejoicing and blessing. Why? What are they so happy about? Where is there joy for us? One of my biggest personal battles over the last ten years is looking around and seeing things I want to fix, seeing things I think are wrong, and not finding joy in all I have. And there is so much.
Is that your struggle, too? The resurrection provides joy. It provides joy in a victorious king. Why are these guys so joyful? The King is alive! He has been vindicated by the empty tomb! He has defeated death - once for all! He will reign over His kingdom - forever!
Shouldn’t that give us joy? We get excited when “our guy” gets in office, but that will never give us joy. We see chaos all over the world. But still we know He’s ruling. That should give us joy.
He has ascended. He is ruling at the Father’s right hand. As a man. With a body. He will one day return, when His final resurrection will come. On that day, He’ll fully reign. Where He is right now. Where He’ll one day be. That vision should give us joy.
But the people of that day were hung up. They couldn’t understand Jesus. They had been waiting for a king. They just expected Him to reign through conquest. And they wanted His kingdom right then and there. They wanted Jesus to smash their enemies and put them in power.
That’s not to far from us, right? We want a ruler who will bring us back to the good ol’ days. Where we’re in charge. Right here, right now.
But slowly the disciples realized Jesus was a different sort of King. He would reign over a bigger kingdom. And one that would take some time to grow. A kingdom that would need them as ambassadors. One that would come about through the word and through prayer. And, first and foremost, through His cross.
The resurrection gives joy in another way. It provides joy in a suffering servant. The Book of Isaiah gives a picture of a king. But it also gives one of a servant. That’s what the disciples missed as they read their Bibles. This King would come and reign. But first, He would die.
Is. 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Is. 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Is. 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Is. 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Did you catch that? “Pierced for our transgressions.” “Crushed for OUR iniquities.” All because of God’s plan. He was “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” For that reason, we have peace, it says. We are healed, it says. And, through all of that, we have joy.
In verse 41 of Luke 24, the writer says this of the disciples as they were standing before the risen Jesus: “They disbelieved for joy.” Joy was right in front of their eyes. And they just couldn’t believe. It’s right in front of ours.
Why do we call it Good Friday? The servant King took our place. He bore our punishment. He brought us to God. That’s good. Joy!
What about Easter? Why such joy in the resurrection? The payment was received by the Father. It went through. It paid our debt. The Father is satisfied. We’re forgiven.
In verse 26, Jesus tells this to the guys on that road: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and then enter into His glory?” It was. Suffering and glory. And we take joy in both. In His. And ours. The disciples were so enamored with this joy, that they gave it all. They held nothing back.
Friends, Jesus is alive. He is risen! That blesses us with hope, purpose, and joy.
Give Me Something to Believe In
But let’s not forget about where I began. It’s a cruel world. There are three ways we can turn. We can’t look inward. Jesus suffered for us. We’re a part of the problem in this world. We sin against others. We cause suffering ourselves. We can’t possibly do enough in our power to change the world. We certainly can’t do enough to impress God. That just makes things worse.
We can’t look outward. Not to condemn. What good does that accomplish? It just turns us more inward. Certainly not for some kind of solace. Reading online news will depress you really fast. So much sin and suffering. And no earthly king or kingdom will really help.
Looking inward and outward usually lead to one place. Self-medicating. Maybe substances. More likely, entertainment. We divert our minds. We amuse ourselves to death while death is all around us.
We have to look upward. And trust what He has done, as well what He’ll do. Jesus has risen from the dead. He is King. His kingdom has come in part. One day, He’ll return and it’ll come in full. He has dealt with sin and death on the cross. One day He’ll reverse it all at His return through His resurrection.
The tomb is empty! He is alive! What was prophesied has been fulfilled. We now have this great hope, purpose, and joy.
Now there is something you and I can believe in. But it’s so easy to doubt. The disciples eventually got it. Will we? But our Lord understands. He compassionately says these words to us in verse 38: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Fight off those doubts, friends. Beg Him for help. Believe.
He says, in verse 39, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Look on Him in faith, church. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Despite how it may seem, He is making all things new.
Karis Church elder Derek Zimmermann proclaimed the joy we should have in our adoption this Sunday. So thankful for Derek's heart for God and His people!
A couple of weeks ago – Bobby preached on blessedness. What does it mean to be blessed in Christ? Bobby did a great job mining out the blessings we have in Christ. The pinnacle or chief blessing in Christ lies in our salvation. Our blessedness and our salvation are intimately intertwined. Further, as Kevin taught last week, our blessedness is something planned and purposed by God for eternity past. We are predestined to be blessed in salvation through Christ. Now, we are going to dig deeper yet into the mystery of the blessing granted us as we continue to sort through the spiritual inception presented by Paul here in the opening verses of Ephesians.
This may seem like we are crawling through this section, but we really aren’t. If we made Kevin teach what it meant to be blessed through forgiveness through redemption pictured in adoption as purposed and predestined according to the lavish grace of God through Christ in 45 minutes he would probably quit. And you would be missing out. There is much here to be made much of. So bear with us. This is a worthy journey.
Today, we are going to zoom way in to verse 5. We are going to ponder the truth that as part of our blessing in salvation, we are adopted through Jesus Christ. Pray with me as we get going.
Look again with me at Eph 1:3.
 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,  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – Eph 1:3-6
God predestined us not just for salvation, but for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Now, adoption is not a widely covered topic, and sadly there is just not enough written on this doctrine. It is not popular. And this is incredibly unfortunate. And I would venture to say this reality is reflected in the values of our culture/society. I hope today that we can dip our toes into the ocean of grace present for us in embracing and rejoicing in our adoption.
We have called this sermon series The Beautiful Mystery. One of the main themes/ideas that we are going to keep coming back to and connecting with every text is the idea of our union with Christ. Specifically how this gives us a new identity. And we will consider what adoption says about our identity shortly, but first, let’s step back and consider what adoption is and what it says about God.
1) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are blessed w/a Father
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I fear the doctrine of adoption is rarely given due time in our study of our faith, despite being a pivotal piece in our understanding of our relationship with God, specifically as our Father.
Theologian J.I. Packer claims that a fitting summary of the entire NT would be ‘Adoption through propitiation’. In fact, he describes adoption as ‘the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification.’ Now, before anybody throws any bibles or coffee mugs at me, let me help unpack this a bit.
There are some tremendous resources out there for those of you who would like to scratch that theological itch and study the doctrine of salvation, specifically the order of salvation (Grudem, Sproul, Stott, esp. – come ask us). Without clumsily, abruptly and inadequately covering it all, I want to briefly help us identify and differentiate two distinct aspects of our salvation – justification and adoption.
Justification is the idea of a legal declaration by God as Judge in which a) our sins are forgiven and b) Christ’s righteousness is ours. We are seen as righteous. The sinlessness of Christ is attributed to us, as he received the punishment for our sin. This is the Great Exchange dubbed by Luther. We get what Christ earned (righteousness) as Christ gets what we deserved (punishment).
Adoption, on the other hand is an act of God in which he makes us members of His family. By his grace, God welcomes us as sons, becoming God the loving Father in addition to God the righteous Judge.
Justification says we are righteous. Adoption says we are family. So, again, Packer says adoption is ‘the highest privilege that the gospel offers’. This is not to say the adoption is more important than justification, as that is as ridiculous of a statement as it is untrue. In a way the two are inseparable - in that they are both part of our salvation as worked out by God in His sovereignty according to his design…yet justification paves the way for our adoption. Justification enables us to reap the benefits of adoption.
What I am getting at here, is that in adoption, we find a richer, higher, more satisfying reality than we do in justification. Think of this in terms of relationship. Imagine with me a teenage orphan. Ran away from his foster home. Caught shoplifting and called to court. Someway, somehow the judge declares him innocent. Free. He will pay no penalty for his crime. Later, the judge approaches the teenager and tells him he wants the child to live with him, as he himself is a foster parent, and further yet the man wants to adopt the child. The kid is elated. Relieved. Full of joy. Why? Because of the man’s actions as judge or as father? Which moreso conveys the idea of a never-ending commitment of love and pursuit? A home? Gifts? Family? Someone to call Dad.
Our understanding of our adoption and the Fatherhood of God is essential in our pursuit of joy in God, which is what Packer is getting at.
Adoption provides a key perspective in embracing our identity through Christ. A perspective that can’t be found in justification. Hear this quote from Packer’s Knowing God (should be on screen):
‘You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father… To those who are Christ’s, the holy God is a loving Father, they belong to his family; they may approach him without fear and always be sure of his fatherly concern and care. This is the heart of the New Testament message…To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater.’
To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is a greater. A greater and higher joy is to be found in embracing God as Father. What does adoption say about the Fatherhood of God?
Adoption displays God’s fatherly Love. We struggle knowing how to view a loving father. Now we are all sinners, and I don’t want to minimize that, but often we struggle to see God as our Father because of our own experience with our earthly fathers. We struggle because…
Some of us don’t have an earthly father. Maybe you were raised by a single mom, or grandparents, or other family, and never had the experience of having a father. Simply don’t know. Feels awkward.
Some of us had absent fathers. They were there, but they really weren’t there. The work-hard do-gooders that provided financially (or tried to) as a means of love (or maybe they didn’t try to), and emotionally were on another planet. They never told you they loved you. They didn’t really even talk to you. The idea of a father to you is not appealing.
Some of us had works-righteousness fathers. They sort of morphed in and out of existence based on your grades, performance in sports and other activities, behavior, etc. Their love seemed exclusively conditioned on your output. To you, a father is a boss, a superior, who you are constantly trying to impress. The idea of a father is off-putting.
Some of us had good earthly fathers. Believers even. They loved us – and showed us with their provision and their words. They were there when we needed them. But, at times, we invoked their anger. Or uncovered their frustrations. Or felt their own spiritual struggles as they sought to lead us. We witnessed their doubts. They were by and large faithful men, but sinners nonetheless. To you, a father is mostly good and dependable, but at the end of the day you fend for yourself. They let you down.
Friends, through Christ, we have a new Father. A Holy Father who is unlike any we have ever known. And He is always there for us, with open arms. He never lashes out, withholds love or disappears. He is faithful. Too many of us let our personal experience with our earthly father paint our expectation of our heavenly father. Karis, what would happen if we let Scripture tell us about our Father in heaven? Read again with me in Eph 1.
‘In love  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.’ – Eph 1:4b-5
OK – here is how this went down. The Trinitarian God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) of Eternity past, the creator of all that you see, feel, touch and hear, in His wisdom, has planned from before the beginning of the creation of everything we have ever known to be real that He would adopt you as His own, calling you a son of God.
He did this in spite of your unworthiness. He did this for the praise of His name and to showcase His glory. He did this by sending His son, Jesus Christ, with whom the Father has had eternal, perfect love and fellowship with, to die a cruel death on a cross so that you may know what it means to have a Father. He did this to justify you, and further adopt you into this eternal, perfect love and fellowship. He did this to reconcile you to himself – the long lost son to His father, to spend eternity with Him. He did this in love. For you. For me. At the expense of His only Son.
Hear the opening verses of this song we often worship with here at Karis:
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory - How Deep The Father's Love For Us
Friends, God’s Fatherly, adoptive love knows no bounds. At least none that I can fathom. God the Father is a God of love. He treasures you. The unworthy sinner is made a son forever and granted a seat the Father’s table. This is the scandal of adoption. The scandal of the gospel. And He accomplished this by sending his firstborn, Jesus Christ, to bring many sons to glory. God is a relentless, jealous Father, who desperately wants our affections.
What early Christians claimed as their adoption would have been unheard of in biblical times as a fatherly act. It would have transcended their idea of fatherhood. In adoption, we are granted the privilege and right to be deemed a son of God, as God displays His Fatherly love, which surpasses any other we have ever known. As God is our Father, we are in turn sons and daughters. We are given a new identity. Next, I want to look at how adoption shapes our identity, mainly in a vertical sense, but also a horizontal one.
2) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are declared sons
Now, first off, some of you may be waiting for me to clarify that sons actually should mean sons and daughters, right? You surely aren’t saying that gender is unimportant, right? Well, of course gender is important. And to answer the question, I will say yes and no.
In one sense, we are sons and daughters through Christ. We are made brothers and sisters. Our gender remains uniquely important to our relationship to God and one another.
In another sense, though, we are to embrace the concept that we are sons of God through Jesus Christ. This is incredibly important as it relates to our inheritance.
Billy will be preaching more on inheritance in a few weeks, so more then. But in summary, in biblical times, inheritance was typically passed down to sons. Us being deemed sons is important, as it speaks to our inheritance as co-heirs with Christ.
Lets look at another writing of Paul about the idea of sonship. Read with me from Galatians 4:
‘ But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.’ – Gal 4:4-7
Our identity as sons conveys a level of intimacy that is otherwise missing. Here Paul is saying that as sons we are given the Holy Spirit that causes our hearts to cry out Abba! Father! We are to approach God in with a child-like faith. This is how we are to act. Who we are. Children.
It’s not just that we just live under his rule as our king or president. In fact, He is our king. But adoption takes this a step further. Adoption says more.
We live under His rule in his kingdom, but moreso we live in His house. That room at the end of the hall. It’s yours. He kept it for you. God is our Judge, Savior, Redeemer, Ruler, King, Protector, and Defender.But, God is our Father. We are His children. Embracing our sonship is key to understanding our relationship with God.
We have unbridled access to Him. No bodyguards. No secret service. No walls. No more curtains. God is more than a distant ruler.
Think of President Obama and think of your Father. Hug Obama and you will end up in an orange jumpsuit. Not your father though. He is there waiting, with open arms. We have unbridled access to know and be known. As the author of Hebrews puts it - the curtain has been torn in two.
Karis, you are dying to be ‘known’ as Kevin preached about last week when he referenced the book of Revelation. An intimate knowledge. We want that intimacy with God. Deep down we do. We want to be fully known, and fully loved. To be vulnerable, yet comfortable. That feeling is human, because it is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. To long for that openness and vulnerability Adam and Eve shared with God. It is part of what it means to be a son. I know this is difficult for many of us, myself included. I see it in our faith. Part of being human is craving a fatherly affection. It is good and right.
Our twins are 2 ½ now. And discipline has been non-stop for some time. Often times, what seems like to no avail. One issue is that the girls get so upset at the idea of us correcting them. In fact Zoe will panic – she freaks out and simply becomes impossible to even talk to. We have learned to pick her up, simply ask her if she needs some love, and embrace her once she asks for it.
Friends, this affection, this intimacy is there for us from the Father. Do we embrace it? Do we trust him? Do we cry out to him? Do we pray to our Father, or to the Holy One? Also, our sonship sheds some much-needed light on our discipline. Hear this from Hebrews 12:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.’ - Heb 12:5-8
Be encouraged that discipline from the Lord signifies your sonship. It evidences His love for you and your identity as a son. How often do we read the psalmist crying for mercy towards his wrongdoers? God never promises that in this life. This is the concept of God’s passive wrath. Alternatively, as sons, we are blessed with God’s active discipline. Be encouraged by this, as it signifies something great. We are legitimate children of the Father.
Now, If I am a son of God, and so are the rest of us in this room, we are family. As adoption speaks to our vertical reality as sons, it also speaks to the horizontal reality of us being family. In adoption, we are welcomed into God’s family. Later on in Ephesians (Ch. 2-5 esp.) we are going to more deeply consider how we are united as a family through Christ. As we are called to faith, we are united with brothers and sisters as family. Paul goes as far to say later on in chapter 4 that we are ‘we are members one of another’, expounding on the idea that separately we are parts of the body that collectively form a whole. We are to care for one another as part of the same body.
Similarly, in 1 John we are told about a unique call to fellowship with one another through the blood of Christ. There is something unique about family through the blood of Christ. We have a bond of being loved from eternity past as family. And we will spend eternity with one another as brothers and sisters.
So, look around you. Think about the people in your MC. Are you loving them as you would love your own? Are you loving them as family? If not, heaven might be tough for you. As you look around, do you realize you don’t really know anyone? This is your family. Lets live like it.
That is a steep call, but a right one. Wrestle with that. Think of ways in which you can display your brotherly love and affection for one another. In a way that celebrates and pictures the fatherly love we receive daily. Now, this is happening here. Meals following new babies. Love for the Ballous. Hosting for church family during hard times. Karis – keep at this. This is us living out our identity as family.
Finally, lets ask where this all take us.
3) Adopted through Jesus Christ, we are called to respond
What do we do with this? What now? Well, I have 2 things I want to finish with today. Ways that we are called to respond. First: Our response to the truth laid before us in our adoption should be a fairly simple one: worship.
Adoption should lead us to worship
Embedded right smack in the middle of the text read this morning we find the ultimate purpose of God in redemption and adoption.
‘In love  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.’ – Eph 1:4b-5
’To the praise of his glorious grace.’ (v. 6). This idea is at the center of this gospel inception from Paul, and is later echoed later in verse 12. As always – God’s ultimate concern is that He is glorified. Bobby really did a stellar job 2 weeks ago of unpacking why this is not only OK and right, but how anything else would be insufficient.
In short, God alone is worthy of glory and praise, thus everything that happens on this earth and for eternity will happen to in some way, shape or form glorify Him. Our adoption is no different. But, this does not cheapen God’s grace or negate the riches we have spent outlining this morning, rather it enhances them.
As we worship we find deeper satisfaction through Christ. Worship should lead to joy which leads to worship. So on and so forth.
Christian – revel in your adoption. Worship isn’t an obligation – it is a privilege. Revel in the fact that you get to worship God and praise the Father for your sonship.
Now, one of the most challenging questions I have wrestled with during my walk is this: How do I worship when it doesn’t feel like worship? If you are asking this question – you’re not alone.
Read this excerpt from Grudem’s Systematic Theology with me, were Grudem has us consider the meaning of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:
‘This prayer for daily forgiveness of sins is not a prayer that God would give us justification again and again throughout our lives. Rather, the prayer for forgiveness of sins each day is a prayer that God’s fatherly relationship with us, which has been disrupted by sin that displeased him, be restored.... The prayer, “Forgive us our sins”, therefore is one in which we are relating not to God as eternal judge of the universe, but to God as a Father. It is a prayer in which we wish to restore the open fellowship with our Father that has been broken because of sin.’
In short, our sin acts as a blockade of sorts that muddles up our relationship with our Father. This idea is seen elsewhere in 1 Pet 3:7 where Peter warns husbands to honor their wives so that their prayers are not hindered.
So, as a follow up question: If worship doesn’t feel like worship, is there perhaps sin in your life, which is marring the Father/son relationship granted through adoption?
Parents out there: disobedience from our kids helps picture this. How hard is discipline? Our kids are at the age now where when we go to discipline them – they run into the other room and shut the door, yelling ‘Go Away!’ That was incredibly hard to hear for the first time. That level of hardness. Stubbornness. But friends, isn’t that us to our Father? That is so often how we act. Even if we don’t shut a physical door, we are shutting him out and yelling at Him just the same.
Unsurprisingly, I often find that in times where worship seems to be tough treading, so does my time in the word and prayer. This isn’t rocket science and leads me back to what I mentioned earlier: our worship is cyclical in nature. As we worship, as we pray, as we sing praise, as we feast upon God’s word, both a) our desire for Him and b) satisfaction in Him will increase. If you are struggling, ‘Taste and see’.
I don’t want you to hear me say that this is easy. Repentance is hard work. But it is the work we are called to through Christ. And it is a worthy pursuit.
Karis, join with me in worship of the God we are privileged to call Father.
II) Adoption should lead us to adoption
Adoption is a privilege. A blessing as Paul puts it. And with that privilege comes responsibility. We are sons of God – and we are to look like it. A general call to holiness aside, I think this means that as we are Adopted, big ‘A’, we are to be a people that are pro-adoption. Little ‘a’. As in, real kids. What better way to reflect God’s grace through Adoption than by being a part of showcasing the very act of adoption in the flesh.
Russell Moore has an incredibly helpful text on Adoption titled Adopted for Life. It is a helpful read, and I really encourage you to check it out, even if you don’t see yourself considering adoption. Which, by the way, is not wrong. Actual adoption isn’t for everyone, though I would argue (with help from Moore) that being pro-adoption is for everyone in Christ, even if you don’t adopt.
Moore challenges us to inseparably link the two in our head. Meaning we shouldn’t have a category for pondering our Adoption without thinking of adoption, and vice versa. Friends, this is true because in Scripture we see a God who is incredibly pro-adoption. The psalmist refers to God as ‘Father of the fatherless’ in Psalm 68. We see a theme and priority of God’s love directed towards orphans and widows.
Moreover, adoption has been a theme woven throughout Scripture, from the onset of Exodus as we see pharaoh’s daughter adopt Moses as ‘he became her son’ (Ex. 2:10) through Joseph agreeing to wed a mysteriously pregnant Mary after direction from the Holy Spirit, eventually adopting Jesus. In fact, the lineage of Jesus as heir of David even comes through Joseph via adoption. So, it’s a good thing Joseph was pro-adoption. We should care about adoption because God cares about adoption.
Also, a deeper appreciation for adoption will lead to a deeper appreciation of what it means to be family. Here this from Moore:
‘But if people in our churches learn not to grumble at the blessing of minivans filled with children – some of whom don’t look anything alike – they’re going to learn not to grumble at the blessing of a congregation filling with new people, some of whom don’t look anything alike. If our churches learn to rejoice in newness of life in the church nursery, they’ll more easily rejoice at newness of life in the church baptistery, and vice versa.’
Being pro-adoption in return helps us be pro-Adoption. Meaning as we adopt, as those around us adopt, we are bestowed with a greater understanding and appreciation for what it means to be Adopted into a God’s family. What does that mean for you specifically? What am I calling you to consider? I want to leave us with 3 things.
First: value procreation. Now, I want to preface the rest of this with wholeheartedly affirming the biblically founded notion of singleness. Some are called to singleness. We, as a family, want to help you wrestle with that call. For the rest of us, though, if we are called to marriage, we are called to be fruitful and multiply. While this isn’t limited to biological family, it does start there. The very idea of a family, being a father/mother or child are existing concepts from a natural family.
Some of you are convinced kids aren’t for you. Or that you are meant to adopt only and aren’t even considering having your own children. I would encourage you to pump the breaks and wrestle with that a bit more. God values family, and God values procreation. He calls us to it.
Second: consider adoption. All of you who are married or soon to be married: have this conversation. Even if you are convinced you don’t need to. Be softened by the reality of your Adoption in Christ and ask yourself what that means to you. It would be wrong of me and I have no desire to force or coerce you into adoption. But I am convinced it is right of me to call you to consider it. Because of my Adoption. Yours.
Talk to those closest to you. Spend time with this. You don’t need an answer this week, this year even. But to avoid the question entirely is a slap in the face to our Father in heaven. Wrestle with this, and do so with family. There are gobs of resources out there for you – books, articles, conferences, agencies, seminars, and especially people who have adopted. We want to be a part of wrestling through this with you.
In fact, we are hosting an Adoption seminar. Saturday March 19th @ 4pm @ Westside. Includes time discussing foster parenting. Time of prayer.
Last: support adoption. You may not be called to adopt. And that isn’t necessarily wrong. But it would be a serious misunderstanding to stop there.
Ask yourself – what are ways I can support adoption while not actually adopting?
We have families here that have adopted. Praise God for them. Seek to encourage them, as it is hard work. Pray for them.
We have families here that are actively pursuing adoption. Likewise, praise God. Pray for them and the process. Consider serving them during this time, with food, hospitality even funds. It is expensive.
Educate yourself. Read Moore’s book. If I can get you that far, victory.
Realize that being pro-life includes being pro-adoption. We care about all people as they are made in the image of God. That includes the unborn. That includes orphans. That includes the family down the street. That includes all of us.
Barna group research has shown there are 150 mil orphans, 18 mil having no parents at all worldwide. 18 million children w/o a home. Let that forever sting the hearts of the Adopted in Christ. Karis, I leave us with a simple question: Who is to care for the orphans of this world if not us, orphans adopted as sons to an eternal loving Father?
God is at work here. We are seeing his transformative work shaping us, making us a people who embrace our Adoption, as well as the outward call to adoption. Keep at it. Consider your Adoption as the highest privilege granted through Christ. May our response honor that privilege.
We had a few technical difficulties this week, but here is this past Sunday's sermon, one on election. The audio and manuscript are both found below. Although this is a very challenging topic, I did feel pretty good about this one. However, one point of clarification I wanted to make about something I say: if you doubt you're chosen and, after inspection, don't see the work of God in your life, call out to Him. Don't consign yourself to hell. Run hard toward heaven.
Have you ever felt unwanted? Were you the last kid picked on the playground? I sure was most of the time - regardless of how well I played. Maybe you’re single and see no prospects in sight. I was single until 29. Maybe you have gotten passed over for job after job. I’ve felt that, too.
Or maybe you just feel aimless. Like you have no purpose. As if you’re going nowhere. I definitely felt that way the first half of my twenties, at least. Well, I have hope for you today. I have some encouragement for you. God has chosen a people. That people has a glorious destiny before them. And that includes you, if you believe.
Now that shouldn’t surprise us, if we think about it. The Lord rescued this man Abraham and promised to bless Him in big ways. He made his children, the nation of Israel, His chosen people. His plan was to bless the world through them. Take a look at Exodus 19 with me.
Ex. 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
Ex. 19:2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain,
Ex. 19:3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel:
Ex. 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Ex. 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;
Ex. 19:6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”
The Lord made Israel His treasured people for His special purposes. They didn’t get there on their own. God did it. He destroyed their enemies. He carried them to Himself. The Lord chose a people.
We see that reality in the Old Testament, but we also see it applied to the church in the New - and especially here in Ephesians. We’ll focus on verses 4 through 6 of chapter one today - along with a few quick looks at verse 11. We’ll see that we’re chosen. And that’s a key aspect of our identity. We’re blessed. This is the first way we see we are. I’m going to walk us through these verses word-by-word this morning. And it’s my hope that you’ll be encouraged by them.
Verse 4: “He chose us in Him.” HE chose us. Who’s that? It’s the Father. As Bobby said last week, we see Trinitarian glory - in this really long, Greek sentence here. The Trinity refers to one God in three persons, each who is equally God. But it doesn’t mean that the persons don’t have different roles. And that’s what we see here. The Holy Spirit applies salvation to us - that’s in verses 13-14. The Son accomplishes salvation for us - that’s in verses 7-10. The Father plans salvation for us. That’s what we see right here.
Now maybe you grew up with a Father who rejected you. Maybe your family told you that you were headed nowhere. If you’re a believer, you have a Father in heaven, and He treasures you.
It says, He CHOSE us. He picked you. He singled you out. He didn’t have to, but He did. He elected us. Piper points out that this word in verse 4 emphasizes God’s freedom. “He chose us.” The word used in verses 5 and 11 emphasizes God’s goal. “He predestined us for adoption as sons.” That’s verse 5. We’ve been “predestined according” His purpose. That’s verse 11. The Lord has picked us. He’s given us a destiny. And it’s a pre-destiny. More on that in a bit. But let that soak in for a bit. The Lord wants you. He has a plan for you.
He chose US. He picked you and me and the rest who believe. Out of all the people in the world, He chose you and me. Let that sink in for a bit. He didn’t have to choose us. He could have chosen others. And that would have been His divine prerogative. He would have been totally just.
He chose us as individuals. But this also reminds us of something: He meant for us to be a part of a community. We’re not meant to be alone. Again - listen to the intro sermon if you missed it - the mystery isn’t just that we’re united with Christ. It’s that we’re united with one another in Christ. And that’s an awesome thing.
Maybe you’ve been rejected. Maybe you feel like you’re going nowhere. Here is a family where you can be accepted - not because you have everything in common with them. Because they’re determined to love as the Father has loved. And this is a family that has a purpose. We’re going somewhere. We live for the greatest purpose the world has known.
He chose us IN HIM. We’re still in verse 4. We’ve themed his series, “The Beautiful Mystery.” Again, that mystery is that we’re in union with Christ Jesus. As awesome of a mystery that marriage is, it pales in comparison to this union we have with Jesus. The Father chose us to experience this union with Jesus. It comes through the work of Jesus on the cross for us. Jesus is the “him” here.
Now some have tried to say that God’s election goes something like this. Sometimes they point to this verse. They say God chooses Jesus and everyone who’s in Him gets saved. It’s like Jesus is driving this bus, and everyone who jumps on gets to come along. And we determine if we’re on the bus. Now I don’t think that works. It doesn’t say God chooses Jesus here. It says He chooses us. And I don’t know how the words “in Him” can carry all of that freight. But there’s another problem. Look at 1 Corinthians 1 with me, beginning in verse 27:
1 Cor. 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Did you catch that? Verse 30: “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” And why is that the case? It’s so “the one who boasts” will “boast in the Lord.”
Now we’ll come back to that idea, but here’s the main point. It’s only because of the Father that we’re in Jesus. And that comes through the work Jesus. And it’s for a relationship with Jesus. Maybe you feel like much isn’t going right for you. You are in Him. Thank you, Father!
He chose us in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD. Let’s go back to what I said about the Trinity earlier. The Spirit applies salvation to us in time. Jesus died on the cross in time. But the Father’s plan happened before time began. In eternity past, the Father devised a plan where the Son and the Spirit would do these things for us. Where we would be one with Christ.
Many of us in Karis are having kids now - even second and third kids. You get everything ready for their coming. The baby room. The clothes and supplies. And you have all these hopes and dreams for their future. Can you believe that the Father had things in mind about you? Even before creation? Revelation 13:8 speaks of “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” If you’re a believer, you were in that book. His Son had died in His mind. In His mind, we were already His. So marvelous and mind-blowing and hard to comprehend!
We’ve seen WHO does this - the Father. We’ve seen WHAT He’s done. He’s chosen us. We’ve seen WHO He’s chosen. That’s us. We’ve seen HOW he’s done it. In Jesus. We’ve seen WHEN He’s done it. Before the foundation of the world. Here’s at least one reason WHY He’s chosen to do this.
He’s done it IN LOVE. See the end of verse 4 and the start of verse 5? “In love he predestined us.” Why? “In love.” He didn’t do it because He had to. No. The Father has been in loving community with the Son and the Spirit forever. He did it because He wanted to. He desired to let that love overflow into His creation, and especially toward the pinnacle of His creation, human beings, us.
He chose to let us share in His trinitarian love. And it certainly wasn’t because we were lovely. The best definition of love I’ve heard is from Paul Tripp. He defines it this way:
“Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.” (Paul Tripp)
God chose a plan where He would sacrifice Himself for us. For our good. Out of love. Not expecting us to pay Him back. In no way because we had earned it. And He did it before time began. “In love, he predestined us.” As 1 John 4:19 puts it, “We love because he first loved us.” His affection was directed your way before time began. And it’s flowing in your way still.
Notice that He predestined us FOR ADOPTION AS SONS. Here’s the purpose, the “what for” of God’s plan. VERSE 5. He wanted to make us a part of His family. It was for adoption. Now Derek is going to talk about adoption next, so I’m not going to steal his thunder this week. But before time began, the Father didn’t just want to save us. His plan wasn’t just for us to stand before Him innocent and forgiven. Although, that’s awesome. He wanted us to run into His arms. He wanted us as a part of His family. And as a part of His family, to give us an inheritance. See the beginning of verse 11: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined.” He’s now our good, loving Dad. He did this “through Jesus Christ.” More on that next week.
There’s another purpose here. It’s in verse 4. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be HOLY AND BLAMELESS. He didn’t pick us because we were holy and blameless. But that’s His purpose for us. Yes, in the new heavens and new earth. 1 John 3:2 says, “We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” That’s His purpose for us.
But He also wants to see that progressively in us now. “Holy” is put more positively. He wants us to more and more look different, more and more like Him. “Blameless” describes it more negatively. He wants to trim all the stuff that doesn’t look like Him away from us.
Not just later, but now. One direction our mind goes when we think about these things is: “Am I chosen?” Do you have a longing for Christ in your heart? And do you see Him transforming your life? If you have neither of those things - even in the tiniest measure, you have to question things. God’s agenda for His children is to overwhelm them with His love and have that seen overflowing in their lives.
If you’ve ever spent much time with kids, they ask a lot of questions. Every question leads to another “why.” Right? Why is the grass green? It’s spring. Why? Chlorophyl. “Why?” It has to do with the sun. Why? It rotates on an axis. Why? Finally, I usually say, “Go ask your Mother.” Or I just say, “Because.” But whys lead to more whys, right? That’s what we see here. Why does the Lord do all of this? We’ve seen, “in love.” But why?
There’s a deeper “why” here. Look at verse 5. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus ACCORDING TO THE PURPOSE OF HIS WILL. Why did God do this? It was according to His purpose. He wanted to. That’s really all we get. Look at verse 11. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” God works everything in the world according to His will. That’s His providence. He governs over all His creation. Things happen the way He wants. But it’s also the same with salvation, with His election. Those who are in Christ are there because of His purposes, because of His will.
That means it’s not ultimately because of our will. You may say, “Well, I chose Him.” That may be true, but something happened before that choice. What’s true of Christ’s disciples is true also of us.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
You may say, “Well, I made the decision.” But long before you did that in time, the Lord had already decided. Hear this, also in John:
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
You’re in Christ according to HIS will. That’s why. Now, as you know, many have said, that God just has foreknowledge of who is going to choose Christ, and He chooses them. Now I don’t know how that isn’t post-destination. But I just don’t see it in Scripture. Foreknowledge is mentioned, but it’s talked about in terms of foreknowledge of persons, NOT decisions. Yes, 1 Peter 1, verses 1 and 2 talk about believers being elect “according to the foreknowledge of God,” but there’s no mention of our choices there. Of our choosing of Jesus.
Also, if you ever pick up an old King James Bible, you might read about so and so “knowing” so and so. And then a kid results. This is intimate knowledge. That’s the background of the knowledge the New Testament talks about - this knowledge that’s in advance. This is knowledge that is extremely intimate. It’s the kind of knowledge the Lord applies to His people in Amos 3:2. God says, “You only have I know of all the families of the earth.” This is a deep, rich covenantal knowledge of love. As 1 Corinthians 8:3 puts it, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God.” The Lord has this knowledge of us. And He had it long ago. And that’s why we chose Christ, why we decided to follow Him. This is foreknowledge of persons, not facts.
We have a number of families in our church that have adopted. They looked at profiles of the children. They gazed at their pictures. They prayed for those kids, long before they ever entered their homes. They knew them. They picked them. That’s what we’re talking about here. Sure, some day, down the road, they’ll likely say, “I’m sure glad you picked me. I choose you back.” But they’re not there due to their will. And neither are we. Isn’t it amazing that the Lord would set His affection on us?
The whys keep going deeper, but so do the “what fors.” What’s the purpose for which God chose us? We looked at this. So we would be adopted as sons. So that we would be holy and blameless. But there’s a deeper one here, one that Bobby mentioned last week. Verse 6. He predestined us for adoption through Jesus, according to His will, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORIOUS GRACE. We see something similar down in verse 11. He predestined us, according to His sovereign will again, “so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might also be TO THE PRAISE HIS GLORY.”
Friends, what was God’s ultimate purpose in choosing us? That we would praise His grace. That it would bring Him much glory. That’s the real “what for.” Now this reminds us that it had nothing to do with our works. One day, these kids that have been adopted are going to walk through high school graduation. Many of us are going to be there cheering. They’re going to look at their moms and dads and say, “I owe it all to you. I didn’t deserve this. I thank you.”
That’s us. And, again, it’s not like the Lord looks through the corridors of time and sees our good works and then elect us. Listen to Romans 9:
Rom. 9:10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”
Hear verse 16, also. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” It’s not our works. It’s by His grace. It’s not even our work to walk an aisle or pray a prayer or get in the baptismal.
He rescues us by His grace. He works good in us by His grace. If we’re at all holy and blameless, it’s by His grace. And that’s so we can’t take a shred of the credit and steal a bit of the glory for ourselves. It all goes to Him. All of it. That means our lives from start to finish are this picture of the amazing grace of God. That the world would look at us and give God glory. That we would look at Him and give Him glory. What a privilege!
Let me review where we’ve come from. Our God and Father chose us out of all the people in the world to be one together, to be one with Christ and rescued through Christ. He chose us way before time began, purely out of His amazing love. He did this that we would be changed and would be made to look like Him. He did it so that we could be in His family, that He could be our Dad. He did it just because He wanted to. He did it irrespective of what we would ever do. He did it by grace so that He would get all the glory.
Hear these words from Deuteronomy 7:6-8. Hear them applied to you, applied to us:
Deut. 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Wow! Are you encouraged? I hope so. That’s how the Lord wants us to feel. But maybe these words don’t leave you encouraged at all. But rather, frustrated or sad. Maybe it doesn’t sound like good news to you. I want to take on a few objections you might have right now.
I know the first thing you might be asking is, “What about free will?” That’s a good question. But to get anywhere, I think we need to think more deeply and more biblically about the subject.
Some of you may think it’s like this. Amy and I go out on a date night, and I can get either sushi or Seoul Taco on our dinner together. Yeah, you’d say, “Free will is like that. You can pick either.” Here’s the problem with that. I hate sushi. I’ve been to Japan four times. It goes down slimy and disgusting to me. I’m not remotely interested in it. But I could eat a Bulgogi bowl three times a day.
If we define free will as what we can choose without any kind of disposition of any sort, we’re left with some problems. It’s absurd. How do we make any choices at all? We’d all just stand there. It doesn’t fit with reality. Every choice we make is motivated in some way. But beyond that, it’s just not biblical.
We like to think of it this way: God votes for us. Satan votes against us. We cast the deciding vote. But we’re not morally neutral. Listen to this picture Paul paints of people apart from Jesus, in Romans 8:7. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot.” On the next page here, in Ephesians 2, God’s word says we’re dead in sin. We’re following Satan. We’re living for the passions of our flesh. The reality is that we’d vote for that candidate every single time. We may technically have the ability to mouth “Jesus is Lord,” but we don’t want to. We may have the natural ability, but not the moral ability. It takes something HUGE to change things.
Free will is the ability to choose what we want. We always choose what we want. We always choose according to our strongest inclination in the moment - whether we’re talking sushi or spirituality. And we don’t want God apart from a work of God. We need Him to melt our wills and bend our wills.
Maybe you say you don’t want that. You don’t want your will or anyone’s being manipulated by God. Well, that’s dangerous, as we’re heading the wrong way without Him. But hear me: this isn’t a dictator ordering someone to worship Him. It’s more like a woman blowing a man away with her presence. He wants to be with her. He can’t NOT be with her. He’s been won over by her love. And God’s is so much greater.
If I tell my kids we’re going to Six Flags, I don’t force them to get in the car. They’re in there. They can’t even sleep the night before due to excitement. Right? I don’t have to force them. Some people picture God’s election like this: some people will be dragged into God’s kingdom kicking and screaming. Others will be beating on the car trying to get in. But that’s not the biblical picture at all. God graciously overcomes the resistance in the hearts of His people. They hear the shepherd’s voice. They want to follow him. They want to go on the trip. The rest of the world doesn’t want to come close to the car. More on that when we get to chapter two.
Some of you also might ask, “How is this fair?” Kids sure like to say that, right? “Why does he get this, and I get that? It’s not fair.” Usually when we’re saying this, we’re talking about equality. We want everyone to get the same thing.
Is that what we really want? An angry Hitler in the new world? Do we really want everyone to be chosen? That leaves us with an unjust God who doesn’t take sin seriously, who doesn’t defend His children’s good or care about His honor. It also leaves us with a heaven we don’t want, with all kinds of “bad people” there. But that misses the point. We’re all dark and dirty and in need of grace.
We might just want everyone to get a fair shot. But think about another trip with me for a second. I win a free cruise to the Carribean. I can take 30 people. I’m taking my family. I’m taking the elders. I’m taking Bobby and Laura. My sister and her family. I’d take people I like. People who look and think like me. But that’s not what the Lord does. He is choosing a people from every nation. Think back to what we read in 1 Corinthians 1. He picks the foolish, the weak, the low. Again, He doesn’t want anyone to boast. Maybe the Lord is far more fair than we would ever be.
Often what we really mean, “Is this right? Is this just?” Back to the adoption illustration. When Aarik and Brooke were in that orphanage in South Africa, they could have technically brought home more children. But the people running the place weren’t going to look at them and say, “Why won’t you pick more? Why won’t you be fair?” They were under no obligation to take any at all. In fact, they were being gracious and kind just to bring home one.
But, then again, the Bible doesn’t picture us as smiling, cute children, looking at prospective parents, longing for a home. We’re rebels, angry at everyone, living in the streets. R.C. Sproul explains it this way. Think of two categories: justice and non-justice. Everyone gets one of the two. In the category of non-justice, there are two realms: injustice and mercy. We all deserve death, judgment, and hell - justice. Some graciously receive life, salvation, and heaven - mercy. But nobody is stuck with something they haven’t earned, something they don’t deserve. No one gets injustice.
Two more quick things I’ll say about fairness and justice. The Lord wants us to trust Him and not fight Him. In Romans 9:20, Paul says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” We’re talking about the beautiful mystery of the gospel in Ephesians - this hope that we now can understand. This is a different kind of mystery - one we’ll never completely fathrom. We have to trust Him.
But here’s another thing I have to throw in there. Let’s say you buy into that idea that God chooses who will choose Him. That it’s tied to foreknowledge in some way. You still don’t really fix the problem. You still have a God who could have saved more, but doesn’t. Yes, He wants all people to be saved. But not all are. You just accent man’s will. I just accent God’s - something I think is clearly more biblical. You still have to answer all the same questions.
Here’s another reasonable question: “Why even bother? Why do ministry?” Why should we share the gospel? Why should we pray if everything’s already been decided?
Well, first of all, we’re not teaching fatalism here. Our choices do matter. We’re making them all the time. We’re not machines. Yes, God’s in control over His creation and our salvation. But He’s working in and through all our choices. And they’re real.
Second, then, our prayers our means to God’s ends. When someone is saved by Jesus, it isn’t just their decision that’s part of God’s plan. It’s the people praying for them. It’s the people sharing with them. God doesn’t just ordain the last chapter, but the chapters along the way. Not just the climax, but the scenes that come before. So we can’t just sit there. People still have to call out to Jesus. People still have to preach the name of Jesus.
Let me throw this one back the other way again. If you don’t think God is in control, why do you pray? What exactly are you asking God to do? Why do you think He’s going to do something? And, as you share, what’s your hope? Is it all up to you? Isn’t that ton of weight on your shoulders? I’d so much rather rest in the sovereignty of God.
Here’s another thought: if you say it’s all God’s foreknowledge, what do we really gain from that? If something is in God’s mind, if He can see it, from eternity past, aren’t things just as fixed? Don’t we have the exact same problem? Why pray? Why share?
But back to the question: why bother? Here’s the reason. We’ve been chosen. We’ve been given a destiny in advance. We’ve been given a purpose. Look at 1 Peter 2:9 with me.
1Pet. 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Sound familiar? It’s Exodus 19 - the passage we began with - applied to us. This is who we are. It’s key to our identity. And just as with ancient Israel, it comes with a mission. They were to bless the earth, to stand as a light to the world, and they failed. And now we have the same calling. But we have a different power. We have the Holy Spirit. We’ve been given the Spirit to empower us as we proclaim His grace. As we sing of His excellencies, of His great glory.
It’s like we’re in the military, and we’ve been chosen. But we’re not just picked to go sit in the barracks and play cards - to kill ourselves watching Netflix. We’ve been chosen for a mission. The chosen can’t be frozen. To sit around and say that God will save people anyone just doesn’t make sense.
I want to wrap up by giving two points of application. If you didn’t catch it, I’ve already given you a few in dealing with those objections. We should revel in this new freedom we have in Christ. We should have confidence that God is doing everything right. We should have zeal for the mission He’s given us. But here are two more very important ones.
It should give us humility. Isn’t it crazy that this doctrine of predestination can have the perplexing effect of making some people arrogant? We’re the chosen ones. We’re the ones that understand this doctrine. That’s nuts! It should humble us. We didn’t deserve this. It wasn’t by our choice. Pride is crazy. It shouldn’t puff up our heads. It should melt our hearts.
But let me challenge those of you who may not agree. And let me say, if you’re not quite with me on this doctrine and don’t even think you ever will be, there’s still room for you here. But consider this. Maybe your objections about whether or not people are treated fairly or justly aren’t really the issue. Maybe it’s that you want to maintain control. You want to say that you chose Him. You want some of the credit.
But here’s what I’d say about that. The New York Giants football team hasn’t been known for their off-the-field behavior. This past year, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul blew off most of his hand, setting off fireworks. A few years back, wide receiver Plaxico Burress somehow discharged a firearm in his pants, shooting himself in the groin. Not too smart. When we question God on these things, we’re doing two things. We’re playing with fireworks. Our God is a consuming fire. And we’re shooting ourselves in the groin. These truths are meant to encourage us.
This should also give us joy. Isn’t it nuts that this is often seen just as a philosophical truth to be debated? It’s meant for far more than that. It’s meant to be an encouragement. It’s meant to give us joy. Again, that the Lord of the universe is our Dad. That He has had His mind on us before time began. That He picked us - not for anything we had done. In fact, we deserved the opposite. But He picked us. He’s brought us into His family. He’s making us new. He did this out of love. He did it all because He wanted to. This should give us overwhelming joy. And that joy in His amazing grace gives Him the glory He deserves.
Someday, Brooke and Aarik are going to look in Sibu’s eyes and say, “Buddy, do you know how long we waited for you? It seemed like the call would never come. But what a happy day!” Matt and Alison are going to say, “Me-me, you won’t believe what went into getting you here. People bought all this art. We got all these grants. It was worth it.” Aaron and Maureen are going to say, “God put adoption on our hearts, and we picked you. You were in a rough place. But we loved you. We brought you into our home. What a blessing it has been!”
Karis, who knows where those kids that we now know and love would have been? But they were chosen. Now they have a destiny. What humility that should bring, but what joy, as well.
That’s us, church. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord for His glorious grace. He overcame our enemies. He carried us on eagles wings. We are blessed. Not because of any thing we’ve done. We have no reason to boast. We are His. We are chosen. Simply because He wanted us. Let’s pray.