The Mystery Of His Will Made Known

God’s will has been made known to us in and through Christ. He has redeemed all of creation to himself and his will is to “in the fullness of time, gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1.10). So why has God’s will seemed to remain such a mystery to us? A problem to solve. A code to decipher. As we have often done the message of the gospel has been hijacked and meshed together with the messages and slogans of our culture and led to confusion and misdirection on what exactly it is that God is up to. Our society is all about self and individualism thus the prevailing gospel message of God’s plan of salvation and redemption of all of creation has been replaced with a message of self-help, self-improvement, personal faith and relationship with God. Our gospel message has narrowed from a view of what God is doing in the entire cosmos to what God can do for you as an individual. It is the Jesus for me Jesus. Thus when we try to discern God’s will even the way we go about it is shaped by this subtle misunderstanding.

God has always made his will known to mankind. We are not left in the dark. We are insiders when it comes to what God is up to. The problem is we so often want the details of how it all works. And we want specific instructions on what we are to do the choices to make, the right decision to be made. The mystery has never been an issue of what. It has always been an issue of how. When God made Adam and Eve he made them in his likeness. They were content to figure out what that looked like until they were deceived into thinking that there was another way of how, by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be like God. Likewise we get distracted from the “what “ of God’s will, wisdom and understanding, and become obsessed with “how” we can get him to reveal it to us. When we do this we fail to realize that Jesus himself is the mystery revealed. When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us God’s will was no longer a mystery. His will for us is to abide in and know him. When the mystery of God’s will becomes a personal thing that involves predestined fixed plot points of our story that require moral adherence or practice of disciplines to be revealed then we fail to recognize that Jesus is the way the truth and life as opposed to specific life events, ‘divine’ appointments, choices, or life decisions.

Do You Believe God Gives in Excess Or Is A Scrooge?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. (Ephesians 1.7-8)

 

To say that the riches of God’s grace are lavished on us is to say that God is bestowing them on us profusely and in excess. The redemption bestowed on us in Christ due to his willful sacrifice on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins is more than enough. Personally I’ve always thought of Christ’s sacrifice cancelling out our sins as though to say they are in equal measure this balancing one another out. But here Paul is saying that Christ’s perfect life, the sacrifice of it, the resurrection of it, and presence of it in the ascension is in excess of our sin and corruption. The scales of justice of been tipped beyond our favor.

The irony of God providing redemption and forgiveness of sins in excess is that the original sin took root in mankind’s suspicion that God was not an excessive provider. Even today many people struggle to believe that God has given to them lavishly. Some believe their rebelliousness against God is too great to be completely overwhelmed and swallowed up by the riches of God’s grace. Some see what they perceive to be God’s lavishness in the life of others in the form of ease, comfort, and material riches, and suspect that God has not in fact given lavishly to them. Either way there is a struggle and sometimes a refusal to believe that God has been lavish.

In one sentence Paul has reminded followers of Christ to see that God, as he always has, gives in excess.  Jesus’ giving of his life for the sin’s of mankind and the redemption available in his resurrection is enough to cover the entire cosmos. Cosmos is the word we use when we want to talk about every particle and molecule that God has created, from the ends of the earth to the farthest and unexplored reaches of the universe. All of God’s creation was subject to sin and death and all of it has been redeemed through Jesus’ work on the cross.

Undoubtedly, this is something that we need to be in the habit of marinating on so that it sinks deep into us. As my mother would always say and now I’m accustomed to saying, “Life is not fair”. There is always going to be people to whom we can look at the fruit of their tree and be filled with the same longing as Adam and Eve when they gazed at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired.” When we consider the depth of our sin and depravity we may say with Cain, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” If we take an honest assessment of our life next to Christ’s we will undoubtedly recognize the chasm of unfairness. Whatever the case may be we need to be reminded of God’s lavish, abundant and excessive giving of riches that can’t be quantified in anything outside of his glorious presence, which is after all the climax of all he has given and provided.

Thoughts on Being Chosen Predestined And Adopted In Christ

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace… (Ephesians 1.4-6)

I love it when Isla repeats again and again with excitement and glee, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!”

Her mother and I chose her before she was conceived when we decided to adopt a child. Our love and our desire to be parents, to be a mommy and daddy drove us. We went through all of the necessary hoops to be able to adopt a child; prescreening and applying, writing bios, reading homework, references home study, background checks, submitting financial records, so that a child would be predestined to live with us, have our surname and an inheritance from us. By the time we had been approved and placed on a waiting list there was a yet to be born child out there who had been chosen by us. By the time we had been approved and placed on the waiting list there was a yet to be born child out there who was destined for our address.

Now when I read Ephesians 1.4-6 it doesn’t seem quite so far fetched or difficult to imagine, “… even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”      

Our choosing and predestining of Isla before she was even conceived by going through the process of being pre-approved to adopt a child is but a shadow of what God has done in choosing us before the foundation of the world and predestining us for adoption through Jesus Christ. Our will in adopting Isla is not all that different than God’s will in adopting us. I love it when Isla repeats again and again with excitement and glee, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” Of course Emma loves it when the refrain is mommy. In the same way God wants to be praised by those whom he has chosen and adopted.

I’m trying my best to tread lightly on a touchy subject. Predestination and election have long been contentious doctrines in the church for centuries and Ephesians 1 has been a mainstay text in the debate. I’m not writing this to argue for one side or another in that on going discussion. I would just like to point out that I now see the focus of this text being Jesus and what he’s done both before the foundation of the world and in flesh while he dwelt among us. Our life was laid bare before the adoption agency to decide whether or not we were approved to adopt a child, and thus a child would be destined to live with us and have our inheritance. The whole process of being scrutinized for approval to adopt a child is but a shadow of Jesus, “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…”(Philippians 2.6-7). Jesus laid himself bare in his life (pre-application process) death (application process and home study) and resurrection (approval) that approved God to adopt us as sons and daughters.

 

[Note From the Author: The middle school small groups have been and will be going through Ephesians 1.3-14 the next few weeks. These are some of the thoughts I’ve shared with them in helping this the text become more meaningful and rich for them.]