“Collect The Inheritance” Ephesians 1:3-14
– God’s will is the same as Jesus’s “will” That is to leave us an eternal inheritance that we can be thankful for!
Praise God for bringing us into a new year! Blessed be our God for all the blessings God gives us! I hope you all had a great new year’s day. As we move into a new year, now is the time to live the life God has planned for you.
We talked briefly last week about setting new year’s resolutions to train for our part in God’s mission through our spiritual disciplines. We discussed worshipping regularly, studying scripture, and serving others were some of the disciplines we could cultivate in order to get closer to our God, and to grow into the women and men that God wants us to be.
Yes, last week we talked about how to grow closer to God, but this week we read in our passage from Ephesians, some of the many reasons why we would actually WANT to grow closer to God. We know why we should exercise and eat right. We should take care of our bodies so that we can have more energy, and strength, and health. The benefits are clear to see. But why should we exercise our spiritual muscles and feed ourselves on the word of God? Why should we care what God wants us to be like?
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians gives us the reason why. In the opening of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, Paul’s blessing spells it out. God wants to give us an awesome inheritance. This inheritance isn’t just a bunch of currency and property to boost our lifestyle, God’s inheritance is a spiritual deed to eternal life that actually changes our lifestyle into an ideal lifestyle. Living out the inheritance God has given us begins with understanding exactly what God has left to us.
Paul’s writing in Ephesians can be a bit hard to de-code. So I am going to try an experiment with you. I am going to attempt to explain the text with a pretend example. Let’s imagine we are in a room with the original disciples. Jesus has ascended into heaven, and now, the executor is reading off Jesus’s last will and testament. We are about to find out what inheritance Jesus left for us, now that his mortal life is over.
If Jesus left a will for us, it might read like this:
I Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph and Mary, son of God, being of sound mind, declare this to be my last will and testament.
I appoint my disciples and all those who follow after them in my name to serve as my personal representatives. I ask that he/she be permitted to serve without Court supervision and without posting bond.
I direct my Personal Representative to pay out of my residuary estate all of the expenses and legally enforceable creditor claims. If any spiritual blessings are due to any person, I hereby direct my Personal Representative to convey any spiritual gift for any spiritual need out of my account in the heavenly places, without the necessity of an order of court approving said expenses.
I devise, bequeath, and give my holiness and blamelessness before God to anyone male or female who loves me. God directed me to do this before the foundations of the world were set.
I devise, bequeath, and give my God given right to become an adopted child of God to my disciples and their heirs, because it pleases my father, God, to do so. I hereby do this freely with no expectation except that those who get adopted praise God for this free gift.
I devise, bequeath, and give a writ of forgiveness of all trespasses to my disciples and their heirs. I direct my Personal Representative to pay all expenses for said writs from my accounts. The writs are to be given freely and liberally to all who need one.
I devise, bequeath, and give a copy of God’s master plan book to my disciples and their heirs. Make sure each plan book is complete, including the comprehensive chapters on gathering up all earthly and heavenly things to God when the time is right. I do this because God, my father, said it would make him happy.
I direct and destine all those who hope to receive inheritance by this will to live their lives in a way that will cause others, who have not yet received any inheritance from this will, to praise God for all God has given me to leave to my beneficiaries.
I devise, bequeath and give all of the rest and remainder of my residuary estate as follows: 100% to all those who confess that I am Lord and believe in their heart that God raised me from the dead.
I the undersigned Testator, execute the above as my will and instrument. Ask all who benefit from this instrument to sign below in the presence of witnesses, be baptized in water in my name, and the name of the Father and Holy Spirit, and receive the seal of the Holy Spirit as a pledge, until his or her redemption as God’s own child is fully redeemed after their period of witnessing has concluded.
Signed, Testator, Jesus Christ.
I hope you can get a feel from this will, for why Paul is blessing God in the beginning of Ephesians. Paul is praising God for the inheritance God left us through Jesus. Jesus left us everything. Our inheritance is awesome, but at the same time it requires us to participate.
Because of all this information, there are three practical motivators for us this new year to want to work spiritually on preparing to participate in our part of God’s plans.
The first motivator for us to train in spiritual disciplines this year is because God loves us dearly. After all, what kind of person would write you into a will like this? Only someone who loved you dearly. Think of all the benefits given from the will at no cost to you! All taxes and fees are paid out of the estate.
It is easy for us to focus on the negative things about ourselves when we think about God. A lot of people I know tend to focus on how much they sin, how they mess up. These people often feel they have little worth, feel abandoned, and feel ashamed. These people are greatly influenced by one of the lies of the world, that anyone can be successful if they work hard enough. So they feel responsible for all of their “failures.” Paul’s letter, doesn’t focus on the negative. Paul uses the words blessed, chosen, adopted, and graced to describe us, who inherit Christ’s family connection with God.
God really loves us to allow Jesus to be born into the world to die so that we can inherit His relationship with God. If you need a reason to want to get onboard and train with team Jesus this year, here is one that you can believe: God loves you and thinks you are great.
The second motivator for you to train for God’s mission this year is because God has hope for our community’s future. It is so easy to think the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Especially for us in southwest Pennsylvania. The population continues to decline. We hear more bad news reports than ever before. In our congregations, we are losing many members as the younger generations move away, or opt to go to one of the more “hip” competing churches in the area. It is easy to give up hope for this church, this city, and even this world. But, we can never lose hope for our community because God is hoping that we will be Jesus personal representatives in this town. God wants us to work toward preparing people to be gathered up in Christ. Verse 10 explicitly states that God’s plan is to gather ALL things to God through Christ. And Verse 10 says that we are included in God’s plans to gather! That is one of the reasons that God gave us our wonderful inheritance… so that we can work toward the redemption of God’s people. We can be motivated to train because God chose us ahead of time to participate in God’s master plan. God has so much hope for this community that God already set us up to play a part in its redemption.
Third, we can be motivated to train for our part in God’s plan because part of our inheritance can only be fully collected when we are living to the praise of God’s glory. Much like we are motivated to physically exercise so that we can have energy to live life and have less physical pain, we can be motivated to spiritually exercise so we can have the energy to collect our full inheritance. Verse 14 of our text explains that part of our inheritance is pledged to us and collected as we work our part in God’s plan toward redemption. Helping others to praise God gives us blessings in eternity.
So we see that God’s inheritance is ready to be collected. It is available to us as we live the lifestyle of people who inherited God’s love and blessings. If we live for God, others will see God in us and praise God. We are to show others that we live as people who already have one foot in eternity, people who are going home to God the father. If we sit around and do not live the lifestyle of God’s heirs, it would be like inheriting a million dollars, and never going to the bank to collect the inheritance.
God loves us, God has hope for the future of our community, and part of our inheritance that Jesus left for us can only be collected as we participate in God’s plan. These three reasons are great motivational reasons why we want to spend time this new year training for our part in God’s plan.
One of the ways that we train ourselves for our part in God’s plan is to worship God together and celebrate the Lord’s supper. In a few minutes, we will do this together. Like Baptism in water, the Lord’s supper is a visible sign of the seal of the Holy Spirit upon us. We are the redeemed people of God. It is our job and our joy to be a part of reconciling and improving this community. Starting at James street and going out from here. After all, there are many shares in the rich inheritance of Jesus Christ that have yet to be collected.