Saturday, January 03, 2009
Text - Ephesians 1:7-10,13a In him (Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace (8) that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (9) And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (10) to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (13a) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.
Sermon Now that the rush of the holidays is beginning to settle down we might have cause to stop and reflect on our lives and what has happened over the last twelve months. What were your plans and desires for 2008? Did they succeed?
In the stillness of your reflections, perhaps a time of deeper reflection is necessary? What were the plans and desires of your will? What is your will; the hidden human desires that mould who you are and what you naturally do as a result of your human nature?
Maybe your deeper plans and desires didn't come into completion because God protected you from yourself in 2008.
And what of your plans and desires today, tomorrow, and for the rest of 2009? Is your will, the same as that of God's will? Probably not, if we're honest about the secrets of our being! So then will God let these hidden plans and desires succeed this year? As we rest in God's peace, and Jesus himself dwells in us, let the Spirit of Wisdom and Truth examine you in accordance with the riches of Christ's grace.
Perhaps at this point you crash headlong into turmoil. The silence is stirred by a disturbance within! The peace of God opens the doors of your heart and reveals the commotion of a sinful human will. Maybe some of you prefer to shut these doors and keep hidden what God seeks to reveal and repair.
If God didn't let the sinful desires and plans of your human will succeed, then you do best to consider if God's will succeeded in you in 2008? What's on God's wish list for you in 2009? What is the good and gracious will of God? You might ask yourself, "What is God's will for me!"
When the Holy Spirit opens your lips with the Lord's Prayer, Jesus prays to our Heavenly Father, "your will be done". And where is this will of God done? "On earth as it is in heaven!" And so we hear in Ephesians 1:9-10...
(God) 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 fulfilment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
God's will is to bring everything together under Christ, even your troubled heart as you sit stirred in the presence of his grace and glory. And from the third petition in the Lord's Prayer we hear his will is done... when he hinders and defeats every evil scheme and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful self, which would prevent us from keeping his name holy and would oppose the coming of his kingdom.
So in 2008 Jesus Christ has been working in you to keep his and his Father's name holy, confronting the hidden un-holiness, to grant you his will which is to eternally have you in his kingdom.
If it was left up to us to decide we needed his kingdom, we would never get there. Too many things would stand in the way and desire our attention. Even if God's kingdom was placed in front of us and it was left to our human will to decide to enter into it, the same would happen.
We would decide on something else, probably a quasi-kingdom that looked and sounded a bit like God's kingdom, but instead of Christ at the head would be us. We all know this to be true! You only have to look at the kingdom you desired and decided to build for yourself in 2008; the short-lived kingdom which collapses every time from the will and desires of the haunty human heart.
But God's will is done... when he strengthens our faith and keeps us firm in his Word as long as we live. This is his gracious and good will.
The great mystery of God's will for us is given in his Word; the written Word, the Word made flesh! In Christ you have redemption through his blood at the cross, the forgiveness of sins, and are promised by God himself that no matter what turmoil happens in the heart, or around us in the world, in Christ, we are united with all of heaven and earth.
You know you were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Even today you can be confident that on hearing his word you are included in his unseen kingdom that comes to us through his Word. This is because the Holy Spirit comes through the Word, and through the Word the Holy Spirit gives faith. Faith that hangs on the hope of God's kingdom coming!
...to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:12-14)
The faith the Holy Spirit gives us in hearing the Word helps us to see hidden in us, why we had such a conflict in the heart last year, and further back. We also understand that we will continue to have turmoil in the future as God the Son comes with his kingdom to dwell in our heart and bear the Heavenly Father's forgiveness that Christ won on the cross.
The will of God, the glory of the One and Only, crashes headlong into the human will and calls it to turn from glorifying itself, together with the temptation to believe God�s kingdom is not for you unless you earn it!
So God's will is done in us, when Christ is allowed to remain and temple in us and us in him. We trust the Word made flesh is in effect in us when we hear the Word of salvation. God's will is done in us, the devil, the world, and our sinful self are defeated when we freely receive the forgiveness of sins that comes through the Word of salvation.
God's will is a mystery! But it's the mystery of heaven given to you, whenever you hear the Word and receive the sacraments.
The good and gracious will of God for you for 2009 is for you to bear and believe the forgiveness of all your sins, the very sins which caused your turmoil in 2008 as a result of the human will.
God's will is done in heaven when he forgives us our sin. But it doesn't stop there! His will is done on earth when we forgive those who sin against us. And in doing this we allow Christ to further strengthen his holy Christian Church on earth as he unites us all under himself in the presence our Heavenly Father.
Surely, in his wisdom and understanding, God wants to lavish you with his will!
So in Jesus Christ, live under the freedom of God's forgiveness and the freedom to forgive one another in 2009. Amen.