Walking as those who have a great inheritance
July 11th & 12th, 2009
The news is abuzz these days with celebrity deaths. In the past couple weeks Ed McMahan, Farah Fawcett, Steve McNair, and of course Michael Jackson have lost their earthly lives. Their lives have been examined, the good is assessed, and often the not so good is out there for everyone to see. Often it is assumed that they are in some sort of after life, and while that may be the case, I find that the reason and the way that has been obtained is rarely made clear or addressed in any detail. Contrast this, general everyone gets there anyway view of heaven, to Apostles Paul grand statements of something called an inheritance. In order for him to assure the Ephesians and us of our inheritance he takes us up into the heavenly realms, and then pulls us back to before the world existed. In this very text he then moves us to the cross, redemption, a guarantee by the Holy Spirit. If I counted correctly 19 times in these 11 verses from Ephesians Christ or his pronoun equivalent is mentioned. “Who has blessed us in Christ, chosen us in him, we are adopted through Jesus Christ, we receive redemption through his blood, and the list goes on and on. It is as if Paul cannot talk about eternal things, without also proclaiming and speaking of Christ and his work on our behalf. Heaven and Christ go hand in glove. Christ is the goal of heaven, and he is the only means by which we have any hope in this dying world.
Last week we began our summer sermon series on “walking”, under the theme Walking in strength/weakness. We heard “when I am weak then I am strong”. That is, in our individual and collective weaknesses, Christ has the opportunity to shine forth his strength in our lives. In times of weaknesses we are forced to look away from ourselves, and see more clearly our Savior who loves us and gave himself for us. This week, we will walk, live our faith, as those who have a great inheritance.
First a note on that word, inheritance, which is found twice in our text. Often our relationship to God is often thought of as a command/obedience situation. He commands and we either obey or don’t obey. While there is truth to this, a greater found throughout the New Testament is the giver, receiver relationship. It is that second theme which Paul brings out oh so clearly in our text. This inheritance means we are the receivers of blessings through Christ and in Christ that span the greatest of heavens. Blessings that were part of God’s plan before he said let there be light. Blessing which drench us with his mercy, literally though blood shed. On top of it all there is a guarantee, a seal, which comes to us through the Holy Spirit. If Paul is right, then you and I are not an afterthought to the almighty God, but rather the object of his eternal and expansive mercy which reaches its apex in Jesus Christ.
To walk as those who have a great inheritance is to know that God’s work for us through Jesus started before the creation of the world. Mathew 25:34 says “Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Rather, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” This is the scriptural teaching of predestination, that is, God has such a hold on you in Christ Jesus and this grip goes back before time began. Here we are in mysterious territory, because the Bible does not say that he chose some and not others. After all it is Jesus who said he desires all to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. We believe in predestination but not double presentation, and while you can lose your faith if you and I chose to separate ourselves from God and his Word, the dominate note here is jaw dropping awe, that God would do such a wondrous thing.
To walk as those who have a great inheritance means that we do not depend on our obedience (the law), but rather on his promises. A man was at the gate of heaven Peter told him that you need 100 points to get in, and so the man proceeded to tell him about his wife. I was faithfully married to the same woman for 50 years and never strayed from her, even in my heart. “That’s wonderful”, Peter said, “That’s worth three points”. The man was shocked, three points! But he goes on. Well, I attended church all my life and supported it with my tithes and service. “Terrific”, said Peter. “That’s worth a point”. One point?” the man complains, but continues. “I started a soup kitchen , and worked as a volunteer in a shelter for homseless men.” “Fantastic! Two points for that.” That man was getting desperate. “Two points? At this point I’ll never make except for the grace of God.” Peter rejoices, “Bingo—100 points. Come on in”. Galatians 3:18 says “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” Certainly our inheritance is dependent on God’s grace in Christ Jesus, but so is our daily connection to Jesus. He loves you and me, not because of what we promise , do or don’t do, but always completely due his work on our behalf.
To walk as those who have a great inheritance, is to know that this inheritance comes with a guarantee. “You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory”. There was a phrase I heard a while back, which said that the Holy Spirit is no skeptic. We worry about so much in our daily life, whether it has to do with finances, health concerns, or the like. We also are blessed with a myriad of choices, and this is good, but with that also comes some wonderings whether it was the right one or not. If we are honest with ourselves and others, our choices are not always the best. Yet, God’s choice of us, and his guarantee of our future through the seal of the Spirit is a sure deal. This is why the sacraments are so wonderful. They are physical signs which Jesus as given his church, that actually bring the reality of his death and resurrection into our lives. Why so we can be assured of this guarantee? We have the Holy Spirit. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you…..
The reality of death, even for the