Thank you for being here and joining us for worship today. At Christ Lutheran Church, we gather in the name of Jesus, our King. Everyone is welcome to worship and to celebrate Him!
This weekend Pastor John gets the wonderful blessing of fellowship at the Tres Dias Men’s Weekend Retreat, and so he asked me to fill in for him.
Becoming part of this family at Christ Lutheran has been such a privilege, as you all have welcomed and embraced us with love. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll briefly introduce myself…
My wife and I have been worshiping here at Christ Lutheran for the past year and a half, since not long after we moved to Whitefish from the Seattle area. While we lived in Seattle for over 18 years, we always intended to move back to our native home of Montana, the Lord willing.
After eventually putting me through seminary training, where I studied both counseling and theology, God was willing to move us back to Montana, and so in 2016 we packed up our lives in Seattle and came here to Whitefish. I’m currently practicing as a clinical professional counselor locally, and also getting more and more involved in the life of our body here at CLC.
It’s an immense privilege to be with you today as we continue our study in Ephesians. Let us pray:
Father in Heaven, our Mighty God and King, thank You for loving us and for revealing Yourself to us. Help us now as we study Your word together. Open our hearts to You and let us hear Your voice and take action. Speak through me, O God. And Protect us from the evil one and his schemes. But you have already won the victory, and we ask that now You would renew us in the likeness of Your son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus. For it’s in His name we ask and pray. Amen.
Jesus was always preaching and teaching about the kingdom of heaven. Of the thirty some odd times the phrase is used in Matthew’s Gospel alone, like thirty of them are Jesus talking about the place. There’s no doubt that in His mind, it’s a real place with an intact order.
The heavenly realms are real, and without question, the Kingdom of Heaven exists, regardless of what we might think about it. It’s one of those things like aerodynamics – the laws are there, at work, and we even fly airplanes continuously by them, yet we never actually see them, and they function regardless of our belief in them. God upholds them by the power of His word as the Scriptures declare.
Yes the kingdom is real, and Jesus had so much to say about it, not only what it is, but also what life in the kingdom is like, both in the age to come as well as right now
. When Jesus began preaching, in fact, He said “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven IS AT HAND.” “Its right here, in your midst,” he taught the people.
And Paul likewise instructs that another realm exists, and one which interacts presently with our experience as humans, one which is actually “at hand.”
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world, and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Ephesians 2:1-2
As many questions that we might have about the heavenly realms, the Scriptures are clear about the way God set things up. The time-space continuum and the heavenly realms co-exist somehow, and the devil – this ruler of the kingdom of the air – he strives tirelessly against God’s agenda.
He tries to cast doubt and skepticism regarding Jesus and His Kingdom, and about the way things are in general. ????? He prowls and searches for ways to bring chaos to our lives and to make fools of God’s people. And here, in this letter, it says, in fact, that everyone
, "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." Ephesians 2:3
You know, the Scriptures never ever make light of sin. It’s so easy for us to do, though, isn’t it.
We justify ourselves naturally, as humans, and make comparisons such as “Well at least I’m not like that, or like him, or like her!” Or our anger gets the best of us, or fear grips us and paralyzes us, or that in-the-moment indifference causes us to chose our own convenience over reaching out to another person with the love of Christ. The devil is crafty and he gets to us all.
In 1 John 1:8 the Bible says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5
Even if it’s just trying to get to that parking spot first, we naturally give deference to ourselves in life. Apart from some intervention, we are doomed. It tells the truth in the Bible that we all fall short. Here Paul uses the language that we “were by nature deserving of wrath.” In other words, we were citizens of the world, under the authority of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, in a state of deadness, unable to help ourselves in any way.
But God, in His amazing love and kindness, opens our eyes to the truth, to our need for Him, and all we do is acknowledge the situation for what it is, and confess Him for who He is – effectively, we repent – and He comes rushing to our aid, and He transfers us from the world into His kingdom and under His authority.
At the heartfelt confession of turning to Him, not just in some lip-service appeal for peace mind you, and God knows the difference, He promises “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace.
“ That’s what we learned last week in chapter one (v 7), check it out.
Apart from God doing something, yes, apart from Jesus conquering and saving, we would all be doomed to the devil’s power. But God offers us life in the kingdom for free!!
"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:6
Look at verse six, look at the language, it says God raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…as if its already happened! That’s one to wrap our minds around…we are raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly realms and yet we are right here right now.
"in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:7
Again, look at the language, here. It sounds remarkably like we are being selected, set apart in some special way – indeed, raised up and seated with Him!! And we ARE chosen, loved ones. Hand picked by the Creator of the Universe, the Mighty King, to represent His kingdom."But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1 Peter 2:9-10
And the truth is that we are going to be together in a coming age, in God’s Kingdom, a real place that Jesus said he was preparing, and I believe Him – do you? – we are going to be together there, get this, so that God might show us the incomparable riches of His grace.
In fact, it is by this grace that we’ve all been saved, as verse eight states."For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 8-10
We become His work, with His power, for His purpose, and to His glory, in all that we do, whatever it may be.
God, who is not bound by time, and who has adopted us as children and made us coheirs of His kingdom with Jesus, just as the bible teaches, He also calls us to be citizens of His Kingdom in the world right now.
We are to represent Him by following the example He provided in Jesus! This means that we become disciples of Jesus and learn to be like him. To what end? To do good works
, which God prepared
specifically for us, both as individuals as well as a corporate body.
This means that we give up rule of our little kingdoms, which is so hard, right? But we learn to give it up and place it completely in the domain of God’s kingdom and authority. As a result, God will make us alive in Christ, and together with Him and His power, we will take off that old self, that part which deserves wrath, and put on the new self, which is being made more and more like Jesus.
The change is a process, one that God enables and empowers, and Paul talks more about that process in this letter to the church at Ephesus, so I encourage you to come hear about that in the upcoming weeks.
And while we never arrive in this lifetime, we are nevertheless the body of Christ, disciples of Jesus, the hands and feet of His love in this world – we bring His kingdom into each moment!
But here’s the takeaway for us from this text:
For some of you here, you’ve resisted God’s kingdom. You’ve decidedly resisted accepting its reality, and frankly, your still dead in your trespasses, waiting to be made alive in Christ Jesus. May I encourage you, take part of your resistance and set it aside this morning.
For other’s, you’ve held back, believing that you’ve obtained citizenship in God’s Kingdom while living for your own. Or you may be wondering if you are a part of God’s kingdom as a result of doubt or questions, or shame and guilt.
Make no mistake. Just like with aerodynamics, even if we can’t see it, God exists and His kingdom is real, regardless of our belief in it. He is merciful and loves us – He loves you and He knows all your habits and tendencies and motives - and still He is ready to give grace and to forgive, but He won’t force it. IF you know that you are in God’s kingdom, but you have held back, stay hopeful and strong.
You can easily live a life which represents God’s kingdom, indeed one which brings His kingdom into the present moment, just by learning to love and serve other people, in any setting. In a different letter, to the Colossians, Paul described kingdom living as “putting to death the earthly nature along with its practices” – things like anger, rage, malice, lust, deception, racism, and the like, and as the earthly nature dies, we display the robes of the kingdom, “compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, and patients.”
Our king knows you and your heart, and will provide the change and power for a full life in Christ Jesus, and for serving the kingdom, the good works He prepared for us to do.