Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

Ephesians 1:3-6
September 23, 2018
Abraham Hong

 

Praise is everywhere. And everybody is doing it. Foodies rave about favorite restaurants. Sports fans gush over their favorite teams and players. Parents tell their children how great they are and how proud they are of them. You can find praise at award ceremonies and on YouTube videos titled “10 Reasons Why I Love _____.” You can find praise in a glowing recommendation letter or in the roaring applause of a concert hall. You can know it in a marriage when a husband and wife love and compliment and speak highly of each other. People love to give praise.

And we love to give praise to God.

In the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul counts our blessings and praises our God. We have so many spiritual blessings in Christ. And we have so many reasons to praise our God. As we go through verses 3-6 today, may we continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and may our praise to the God of our salvation increase as we look forward to the return of the King.

First, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ. To be “in Christ” means that we have the Lord Jesus Christ and we are united with him. This tiny two-letter word “in” is really gigantic in meaning. It means that union with Christ is the chief blessing that makes all other blessings possible. This is of first importance. Notice how we have all of our spiritual blessings in Christ. We are blessed in Christ (3 and 6). We were chosen in Christ (4). We have redemption in Christ (7). We have obtained an inheritance in Christ (11). We hope in Christ (12). We believed in Christ (13). We were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit in Christ (13). Here’s the point. Union with Christ is the ground and the root and the foundation and the basis of all the spiritual blessings we have from God. But more than that, union with Christ means that we have a relationship with Jesus. We are one with him. We are united with Christ. Praise be to our God! We are blessed in Christ.

Second, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. This means that we have everything we need for Christian life. It is not as if we have yet to gain any more blessings in Christ. It is not as if we need to level up because we lack certain blessings in Christ. There are no hidden secrets to discover. There are no additional steps to figure out. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. We have it all in Christ. Praise be to our God! We are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. 

Third, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Our Lord Jesus Christ is right now located in the heavenly places. He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is resting in a place of cosmic glory. And we are there with him. Just think of the Lord’s Supper but in reverse. Just as Christ is spiritually with us in the administration of the bread and the cup, so are we spiritual with him in the heavenly places. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when we worship God, we are not really at 820 South Milwaukee Avenue in Vernon Hills, Illinois. We are really at Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, where innumerable angels are in festal gathering, where Jesus is. We died with Christ. We were raised with Christ. And now we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). This means then that the center of our Christian life is not here. It is there. We walk by faith, not sight. We leave our hearts in heaven, not here on earth. Paul was indeed in prison. But he was not really in prison. He was physically there. But he was spiritually elsewhere. Praise be to our God! We are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Fourth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. This is huge. God chose us. We did not choose God. The only reason why we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is because God picked us, period. That’s it. God did not show you grace because he looked into the future and knew that you would repent and believe in Jesus. God did not love you because you love him first. I’m sorry to disappoint you or offend you, but you were never a part of God’s equation of salvation. Your salvation is not dependent on who you are or what you do. Your salvation is unconditional. Before the foundation of the world, you were chosen to be saved. This is truly humbling and comforting and mind-blowing. God chose Noah and his family to enter the ark and escape the flood. God chose Abraham to become a great nation. God chose Joseph to be sold into slavery for the sake of good. God chose to harden Pharaoh’s heart and save Israel from Egypt. God chose David over Saul. God chose twelve men to be his disciples. God chose you. And God’s choice of you is unchangeable, unbreakable, inevitable, irrevocable. God loved you always. There was never a time when he did not love you. Praise be to our God! We were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Fifth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless. God has a goal for us. And his goal will be realized. God will sanctify us. He will cleanse us and wash us in holiness. He will change us and grow us in blamelessness. This is definitely going to happen. Praise be to our God! We were chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless.

Sixth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ for adoption. God is our Father. We are his children. His name has been put on us. We have access to his throne room. We are enabled to cry out “Abba, Father!” And he hears us and provides for us and protects us. When we sin, God chastens us for our good. He disciplines us because he loves us. God has adopted us. We are part of his family. And he will never forsake us or disown us. Praise be to our God! We were chosen in Christ for adoption.

Seventh and finally, let us praise our God because he did all of this according to the purpose of his will and to the praise of his glorious grace. Everything in today’s Scripture text is for us. But nothing in today’s Scripture text is about us. It’s about God. It’s about his glory. Our salvation is not about us. It is easy to think that way because we are the ones who are saved. But this is a mind-blowing thought. The goal of our salvation is the praise of God’s glorious grace. This is the answer to the perennial youth group student question. Why did God “let” Adam sin? Why did everything happen the way that it did? The answer is simple: It was all his will, and it was all for the praise of his glorious grace. Soli deo gloria. Glory to God alone. We are the ones who are saved. But the attention should not fall on us. Instead, we ought to praise the Lord. It is simple as that. What is the purpose of salvation? The glory to God. Why did God bless us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? For the glory of God. What is the meaning of life and everything else? The glory of God. Salvation is awesome. But salvation is a means to a greater end. That end is the glory of God. Salvation is awesome. But the end goal is not to love and enjoy salvation. The end goal is to love and enjoy God. Your salvation is for you. But your salvation is not about you. Your salvation is about God. This truth works as a supreme theme that ties everything together. Everything is for us. And yet nothing is about us. Praise be to our God! We were saved for his glory.

Brothers and sisters, Christian life is not easy. But it is plain and simple. We are to praise our Triune God. So let us do just that. Let us praise the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Perhaps you want to praise God, but you just can’t. If this is true of you, then I encourage you to humble yourself and remember the big picture. I invite you to go back to the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I urge you to let go of the joys of this world. The joy of money. The joy of friends. The joy of winning. The joy of marriage. Praise is everywhere in this world. Everybody in this world is doing it. People in this world love to give praise about worldly things. But our praise is about something else. Our praise is given to someone else. So ask yourself, what really makes me happy? Who really deserves my praise? At the end of the day, may your greatest joy be simply your salvation in Christ.

Perhaps you want to praise God, but you find it a struggle to do so. If this is true of you, then I encourage you to think carefully about the words that are coming into your life. What words do you let enter into your ears? What kind of people do you listen to? Are the words of the world drowning out the words of Scripture in your life? Words are powerful. Words shape your heart and mind. And if you find it a struggle to praise God, perhaps you have too much of the wrong words and not enough of the right words. If the words that are coming into your life are unrelated to or contrary to the words of praise to God, then I encourage you to decrease your intake of those kind of words in your life, and I encourage you to increase your intake of words like Ephesians 1:3-14. I encourage you to practice this and keep at it throughout your whole life. It will take time, but God will change the way you talk and the words that come out of your mouth.

Perhaps you want to praise God, but you don’t know how. You don’t know what to say or how to say it. If this is true of you, then I encourage you to go with God’s word. Read the Bible and see how the saints of old praised God. Psalms is a great place to find the words to say to God. And consider the language of Paul here in today’s text. Go ahead, pray to God and speak about God with the vocabulary and the expressions found in Scripture. God is okay with this kind of plagiarism. It is good to learn to say things like: “Father, this wasn’t a great year. But thank you for blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” It is good to learn to say things like: “Father, please help our work of evangelism. May we go boldly, knowing that you have already chosen your people before the foundation of the world.” It is good to learn to say things like: “Father, you have loved me and adopted me and blessed me in the Beloved. Help me to love and forgive others.” It is good to learn to say things like: “Father, your grace is glorious. You are the best.”

Brothers and sisters, as I said before, Christian life is not easy. But it is plain and simple. We are to praise our Triune God. So let us do just that. Let us praise God when we have food to eat. Let us praise God regardless of what is going on in the world of sports. Let us praise God in front of our children. Let us praise God as we recommend the gospel to family members and friends who have not yet repented and believed in Jesus. Let us praise God and not worry about the applause of men for ourselves. Let us praise God and speak highly of Christ in our marriages. This is the Christian life. Counting our blessings and praising our God.

End


Summary of Sermon

In the beginning of Ephesians, Paul counts our blessings and praises our God. We have so many spiritual blessings in Christ. And we have so many reasons to praise our Triune God.

First, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ. We have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and we are united with him.

Second, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. We have everything we need for Christian life. There are no more blessings to gain. There are no other blessings we lack.

Third, let us praise our God because we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. The center of our Christian life is not here. It is where Christ is.

Fourth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. God chose us. We did not choose God. Our salvation is unconditional. It does not depend on who we are or what we do. God loved us from eternity.

Fifth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless. God will sanctify us. He will cleanse us and wash us in holiness. He will change us and grow us in blamelessness. Nothing can stop God from achieving this goal for us.

Sixth, let us praise our God because he chose us in Christ for adoption. God is our Father. We are his children. And we have a new family.

Seventh, let us praise our God because he did all of this according to the purpose of his will and to the praise of his glorious grace. Everything is for us. But nothing is about us. Our salvation is ultimately a means to a greater end: the glory of God.

Christian life is not easy, but it is simple. We are to praise God. If it is hard for you to praise God, then remember the big picture and the joy of salvation. If it is a struggle to praise God, then consider what words make up your life. If you don’t know what to say when you praise God, then use the words of Scripture itself.

This is the Christian life. Counting our blessings. And praising our God.

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

In your own words, what are the reasons why we should praise our God? What reasons personally move your heart the most? What reasons would your like to explore and consider more deeply?

How might this Scripture text change the way that you live on this earth and wait for the Lord? How might it help you get through the trials and temptations that you are facing right now?

We don’t praise God enough. Why is it hard for us to praise God?

Take time to count your blessings and praise God together with your small group members.