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For the past two weeks we have been looking at the blessings of God that have come to us in and through our relationship with Jesus. We identified in Ephesians one that we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, that we have been chosen to belong to God and have been adopted as His children, we have been redeemed, forgiven and made righteous. In chapter two we discovered that because of Jesus we have been made spiritually alive, we have spiritual authority as we are seated in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, that we are being re-made each day, being re-purposed for God’s purposes and that we have been brought near to God through the blood of Jesus. I want to close this series by looking at some of our realities in Christ from chapters three, four and five.

Ephesians 3:6 says, This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

What this verse tells me is that:

Because of Christ, I am a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of His promise. Allow me to explain what I mean. Some of the zealous Jews in these early days of the church were caught by surprise that Gentiles would be considered to be full members of the Family of God and full heirs of all that Jesus promised. It’s not that they couldn’t consider that Gentiles could join the Family of God, but as they considered it, they felt strongly that in order to join the Family of God they had to become Jews in their practice, otherwise, they would be viewed as “less than”. The expectation was that these Gentile converts would have to adopt the Mosaic Law. They would need to subscribe to circumcision. They would have to begin to observe the Jewish feast days and much, much more. The emphasis wasn’t on becoming like Jesus, but it was on becoming like the Jews of the day and to those who didn’t want to sign up, there was a second class status given.

What Paul wanted folks to understand is that our status in the church has nothing to do with our ethnicity or traditional religious practices as they would be evaluated by some earthly standard, but our status in the church has everything to do with the fact that we are welcomed into God’s family in and through the blood of Christ.

What is more, something we cannot overlook, something that is beautiful and is holy at its core is this: Jesus’ work on the cross not only united us with God, but it also united us with each other. Paul wanted the Jews and Gentiles to know that through Jesus Christ, they had become one. He gave an entire discourage on this idea in chapter two. Listen to these verses from chapter 2 beginning with verse 11:

Ephesians 2:11-22 11  Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12  remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15  by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16  and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

God is in the business of bringing people together, and when He does, it doesn’t matter what your previous experience, tradition or history is, you become part of the story of redemption and are equally entitled to share in the promises of God that were for His chosen people, the nation of Israel. Jew and Gentile (which means non-Jew) have an equal share in the riches of God in Christ Jesus. There isn’t a special group and a next-best group in God’s family. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Three times in these opening verse in chapter three, Paul talks about a mystery. This whole idea of how anyone outside of the Jewish nation could be a recipient of the same grace and same promises of God that the Jewish people had clung to for years, was a mystery to the Jews. The Jewish people who were born before Jesus could never have comprehended the full meaning of God’s promise to Abraham Genesis 12:3 which declared that through Abraham, ALL the families of the earth would be blessed. Paul re-stated that passage in Galatians 3:8 through the lens of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. It had never been clear to the Jewish people. Paul was trying to explain it. They didn’t understand the full meaning of the Prophet Isaiah’s words in Isa. 49:6 which said of the nation of Israel, “I will also make You a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isa. 49:6

When Paul’s eyes were personally opened to the truth of Jesus for the whole world on the Damascus Road, this incredible plan of God was revealed to him. He was appointed to go preach to those outside of Judaism, to the Gentiles with the good news that they were invited into God’s family. This revelation of Jesus gave him a passion for people who needed to know Him, and it also gave him a passion for the Jewish people to see Jesus for who He was, the Messiah. Paul was a great pick by God to bring Jews and Gentiles together. It’s awesome news that God has covenanted Himself with the Gentiles just as He had previously done with the Jewish nation.

Let’s look at a broader application. Maybe you have struggled to feel “worthy” or “good enough” to be a member of God’s family. Maybe you don’t think you have the religious pedigree to qualify because you didn’t grow up in the church or because you don’t know much about the Bible. You just feel like you are too far behind. You think you should be able to have a certain number of Scriptures memorized or that you should be able to teach a Bible lesson to someone else before you could actually feel part of the church. Maybe you have been oppressed by religious people who have told you that you had to jump through certain hoops to gain God’s approval or that you have to follow some man-made traditions in order to be accepted in the Body of Christ. Listen to me, you only have to live to please an audience of One! He has extended Himself in a covenant relationship with you, and if you have accepted Jesus as Savior, you’re in. You’re in. You aren’t part of the way in. You aren’t almost in. You aren’t working your way in. You’re in.

The second thing I would highlight this morning comes from Ephesians 3. It is this:
Because of Christ, I have bold and confident access to the throne of God.

This is the truth of Ephesians 3:12 which says, “In Him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Eph. 3:12

I like these words, “freedom” and “confidence.” You have freedom to come to God with any need, with any hurt and with any question. You can tell Him anything. You can ask Him anything, and you don’t have to fear His reaction. Guilt and shame have been removed from the equation through the blood of Jesus. Isn’t this kind of freedom something we all long for? Don’t we appreciate someone we can truly be ourselves with? Someone who won’t be shocked and run away after they hear what we have to say? Someone that won’t abandon us because the load we are carrying is heavy or the questions we have are many?

The particular Greek work that is translated “freedom” in the NIV is also translated to mean “boldness” in other translations. It has this element of boldness to it; this idea that nothing will be held back in God’s presence. It is the same word that Paul would use when he would talk about his own bold preaching and teaching (Romans 15:15) and it is also the same word used to describe the early church being bold. (Acts 4:13; 13:46)

So this is part of our attitude and approach when we come to God. We are free to share whatever, to ask whatever, and we do it with boldness.

The second point that Paul makes in Ephesians 3:12 is that we can approach God with confidence. The way that Christ has opened for us to God the Father will always be open. We will always gain the grace and help we need. God will always be waiting for us. There won’t be a sticky note on His throne that says, “Out to lunch. Will return at 1:30.” When you go sincerely and boldly to God for help, you can have confidence that you are going to get it.

Hebrews 4:14-16 says this: 14  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
16  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Can I show you something that is easier to see from the NKJV? Here is Hebrews 4:16 again with a slightly different feel: Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Check this out. The Greek word for “obtain” is “lambano.” It could mean “to seize or to lay hold of something in order to make it your very own.”

Have you ever been to a wedding when it is time for the bride to throw the bouquet and all the single ladies line up to try to catch it? I’ve been at some receptions where there was nearly bloodshed as some women tried to “lambano,” tried to obtain the bridal bouquet. They were determined to catch it, determined to possess it, determined to seize it and make it their very own. They were going home with those flowers and hopefully would soon be going home with a husband of their own. Do you get the picture of “lambano” that means to obtain something forcefully?

Then at other times, the word, “lambano” refers to someone who is more passive and who is simply receiving something that is being distributed to them. It is sort of just being placed in their lap.

Listen, how you obtain what you need from God might be based on the circumstance you are in. There might be times when you have to “lambano”/go after something in order to lay hold of it in faith, when you are travailing in prayer, when you are crying out to God, when you are rebuking the enemy, when you are reciting the promises of God out loud because you can’t take “no” for an answer, and there might be other times when you are just soaking in all God offers when you are in His presence and able to freely receive because you don’t have the distraction of some personal trial that is making it difficult for you to get what you need from Him. Lambano. Obtain mercy.

Look at the verse again from the NKJV: Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV) 16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We obtain mercy AND we find grace.

Let’s take a deeper look at the word, “find.” It is a translation of the Greek word, “eurisko.”

This word refers to finding something because you are searching diligently for it. You are actively investigating it. You are committed to doing the research. You are expending effort to find a resolution. You know that your search will be worth it all in the end. You will be so glad for the end result. Did you know that “Eureka!” which means, “I found it,” actually comes from this word, “eurisko.” Erueka is a word that accompanies great gladness that something has been found. There is great gladness, great satisfaction, great thrill when we come to God’s throne boldly and with confidence because grace will be found.

The third thing I think Paul highlights for our hearing today comes from Ephesians 4:22-24. It is this:

Because of Christ, my new self is righteous and holy, and I am learning a better way to live.

Ephesians 4:22-24 22  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Would you agree that if you are a Christian, you are a work in progress? God is working on you, right? You are being taught some things. You are learning to re-think some things, to re-prioritize some things, to pursue some different things and to pursue some things differently. Most people would say if they are working on something that it isn’t finished, it isn’t ready to be seen, that more time would have to pass in order for it to be usable. but hear me, WHILE YOU ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS, God looks at you and says, “What a masterpiece! Isn’t he awesome? Isn’t she amazing? Look how spotless they are. Look how righteous and holy they are.” It’s not because we are all finished, but it is because we are all washed in the blood of the righteous Lamb of God! While we are in progress, while we are learning what pleases God, while we are being made new in the attitude of our minds, we are wearing the righteousness and holiness of Jesus.

Theologians call this “imputed righteousness.” It is Jesus’ righteousness that has been gifted to us. And the very fact that we have been given the righteousness of Christ becomes a motivation to become like Him. I remember when I was in elementary school, when we were supposed to take a field trip, our parents were asked to send us to school a little dressed up. The idea was that we would act better, that we would be on our best behavior, when we were dressed in nicer or more formal clothes. I think there is something to that psychology which is why many schools have uniforms or dress codes. When we are dressed a certain way, we tend to act the part. Listen, when we are faced with temptation to sin, we can remember we are dressed in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and it could serve as a reminder that we ought not compromise.

Do you know how it happened that you were able to become righteous? Maybe you get that Jesus was involved somehow, that it is a gift in some regard, but let’s just talk about exactly HOW it is even possible that you and I get to stand in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus.

I told you that the righteousness of Christ is gifted to us, it is imputed to us through our faith in Jesus. II Corinthians 5:21 tells us God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We love the part about becoming righteous. It is great to think about. It makes us feel good. What isn’t always at the forefront of our minds is the fact that in order for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed to us, our sin had to be imputed to Christ. Take that in for a moment. Though He was faultless, Jesus took on our sin. That is how Christ paid our sin debt to God. He had no sin in Himself, but our sin was imputed to Him so, as He suffered on the cross, He was suffering the just penalty that our sin deserves.

Shouldn’t that motivate us to want to do what Ephesians 4:22 talks about? Shouldn’t we want to to put off our old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires? Shouldn’t we want to be made new in the attitude of our minds? Shouldn’t we want to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, so that our attitudes and lifestyle actually match our righteous status? Shouldn’t we want to live to honor the One who purchased our righteousness by taking on our filthiness?

Because of Christ I am righteous, and because God loves me and can empower me to live for Him, I am thankful for the opportunity to be transformed by His Spirit and to live a holy life.

And that awareness leads perfectly to the last point. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

This verse tells me:

Because of Christ, I can live truly as I am in Him.

Notice the before and after transformation in Ephesians 5:8. Ephesians 5:8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

You were darkness. Not just you walked in darkness. Not just you had some darkness in you. No, you were darkness. Total darkness. You were the absence of light. You were evil. You were unholy. You were filthy before God. Before Jesus, You. Were. Darkness.

But now, because of Jesus you are light. Not just you have seen the light. Not just you are walking towards the light. Not just you are a mixture of dark and light, but you are light. There has been a complete change from darkness to light. It has been a total transformation.

Paul says, because of these realities, we can be who we are. We can live as children of light. This is amazing news. You can be who you are. I don’t mean that you can just be what you are right now, but that you can be who God says you are. God helping, you can.

Let me close with Paul’s stunning prayer from Ephesians 3:16-2116  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18  may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Paul doesn’t just want us to experience the “warm fuzzy” of the love of God through Christ. That is nice, but there is so much more to being in a relationship with God than just knowing you are loved. Paul wants us to know the power of God, the fullness of God, the immeasurably more than all we could dream is possible, and the transformation that can take place within us because God is committed to us in love.

Because of Christ, I am a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of His promise.

Because of Christ, I have bold and confident access to the throne of God.

Because of Christ, my new self is righteous and holy, and I am learning a better way to live.

Because of Christ, I can live truly as I am in Him.

Allow these realities to inform your everyday lives as you seek to “lambano” and “eurisko” all God has for you!

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