Sunday, November 1, 2015

Understanding God's Redemption Plan

Scripture Reference:
Ephesians 1:7-12
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

Paul continues to talk about God's great blessings for humanity. He focuses on God's redemption plan through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and how knowing this will affect the way we live and continue walking towards maturity in Christ.

According to the riches of His grace lavished upon us, we have redemption through the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of our trespasses. (1:7-8)
Redemption would be a relatable concept to the Ephesians of that day since some worked as slaves. (cf. 6:5-8) Redemption would mean freedom from their master, gaining release from their captive condition. In order to be released from slavery, there needs to be a payment of ransom.

According to the riches of God's grace abounding in our lives, we become released from our captive condition as slaves of sin and the god of the age. We become forgiven and are set free from the bondage of sin through Jesus's death on the cross. He did it in our place because we can never save ourselves and cut away the dreadful influence of sin. We can never attain holiness or stand before God justified through strict abidance and striving to keep the Law. (Romans 3:20) Jesus Christ is the answer to our forgiveness, freedom from being slaves of sin, right standing with God and holy living.

The mystery of God's will, with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, is to sum up all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on earth. (1:9-10)
The mystery of God's will is to unite us in Christ as sons and daughters of His Kingdom. God's plan of salvation is never through one particular church or by being a Jew. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, salvation is found in Christ alone. In God's wisdom and insight, He has seen it fitting that all things in the heavens and on earth are to be summed up in Christ's glorious return.

We have been predestined according to His purpose to be the praise of His glory. (1:11-12)
Having believed Jesus, God has destined that we are to be the praise of His glory. As we believe and hope in Christ, desiring to bring praise to God in our lifestyles, our lives will reflect God's glory and greatness extensively so much that people will see God through us and can't help but acknowledge God's existence and praise Him!

1) Knowing the price Jesus has paid for our sins should change our way of living.
Jesus gave up His divine privileges, humbling Himself in obedience to God. He came to earth in human form, experiencing excruciating pain while dying a criminal's death on the cross. He subjected Himself to sufferings and humiliation, just so that we who believe by faith in what He has done for us will be saved. By His blood, we are reconciled to God.

It is a privilege and honor to come in relationship with God, the King of Kings. We will never be able to talk with God personally - even as a Friend - if not for the obedience of Jesus. Knowing the price Jesus has paid for our sins should change our way of living. We will forsake our former and sinful ways of living, counting that lifestyle as garbage and nonsense. We will pursue holiness, righteousness and a deeper relationship with God.

2) If we desire unity, we have to seek oneness with Jesus.
God has destined that everything be summed up under the authority of Christ. In this retrospect, if we desire unity in our family, school, workplace, church, etc., we have to seek oneness with Jesus. When we are in Christ, being moulded to become more and more like Him, we can affect culture and influence others. People will notice the way we exhibit Christ-like virtues and resolve to keep peace and unity because we promote these values strongly through our words and deeds.

Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21) We are saved by the same price, the blood of Christ, and we have to be united in Christ as well.

3) No matter where you are and what you are doing, your life can bring praise to God.
God has placed us as salt and light of the world - like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:13-16) If we will purpose to live bringing praises to God, no matter what job position, academic stream or life stage we are at, we can reveal Christ. Even if you do not have a leadership position, high paying job, or brillant grades to get into a good school, you will still be successful because you seek to obey God and bring glory to Him. God's favour will be upon your life, and your lifestyle will count as a pleasing worship to Him.

1) Take time to pray and give thanks to God for what He has done for you. It is because of the blood of Jesus that you are saved, redeemed, brought into His family and a relationship with God and have your life entirely transformed!

2) Are there disharmonious situations in areas of family, work, school, etc.? Pray, asking God how you can bring unity and peace in those areas.

3) Think about the school / family / job position God has placed you at right now. Why do you think you are placed in this position? How does God want you to glorify Him in the way you live? List them down, and if there are some corrections God want to bring into your life, submit to His Lordship. You have a great purpose for being here on earth. Don't ever doubt that!

Father, I thank You for this relationship I can share with You because of the price Your Son paid for me on the Cross. It is a privilege to worship and talk with You. I really don't deserve this. I ask that You will use me to bring Your culture of unity and peace to my family and workplace. I pray that You make me more and more like You each day, and may my life bring praise to You, leading others to know Your great Love for them. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Destined To Be Blessed

Scripture Reference:
Ephesians 1:1-6 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Paul writes a letter to the church in Ephesus in about AD 60 while being in prison. He worked the ground for 3 years, working tirelessly to bring the Gospel and raise up faithful followers of Christ. (Acts 19-20) Having been established as a fairly new church, Paul desires that every Ephesian Christian be growing mature in the faith. He makes known to every Christian the insights of what God has done for humanity, what it means to be in Christ, and how knowing what God has done should transform one's faith and lifestyle to become mature.

God has chosen to bless us in Christ.
According to the kind intention of His will and great grace, He has chosen to bless us. (1:3) These are spiritual blessings in the heavenly places - blessings that are beyond our physical nature world, conprising of our intended calling as holy and blameless (1:4), adoption as sons through Jesus (1:5), and perfect acceptance in the Beloved [the finished work of Jesus]. (1:6) It is in God's nature to bless us because He wants us to live our lives to the fullest.

Before the foundation of the world, we were chosen to be holy and blameless before Him.
Before the world was ever created, God has chosen us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him. (1:4) Even after the Fall of man - when we have all gone astray, walking our own destructive, sinful paths - His decision has never changed. Just like how Jesus has lived in this world being holy and blameless, God sees that we will be like Him as well. He will pursue us relentlessly so that we will realize who we have been called to be.

We are predestined to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.
Having lived in a time when we did not recognize God's plans for our lives, we have subjected our souls to our carnal nature and the god of this age. (2 Corinthians 4:4) We belonged to the family of this world, and the end goal for all it's members is slavery to sin and destruction. God has predestined that we will be adopted as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (1:5), crossing over from destruction to life.

1) God will never withold His desire to bless us. However, we can only be truly blessed when we are in Christ.
I have seen people accumulating riches, nice houses, obtained good positions and pays in their jobs, and yet feeling empty. Just 2 weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was way senior in age. She just got her dream home, money for retirement, a man who loves her, etc. But, I saw emptiness in her eyes. I saw her finding comfort in the things she had, and yet clearly not feeling happy. She told me, "You know, Joy, I have settled down and gained everything I need. I know it's hard, but I try to be happy..."

My heart was saddened because she has lived for so long, and yet she is still searching to be happy. To me, she wasn't living life; she was just trying to fulfill her wishes and needs for the sake of survival. That was when I realized this: God loves to bless His children. However, we will only become truly blessed when we are in Christ.

Most would settle for a stable life, trying to fulfill the physical things they think they need. They searched for temporal things to make them feel blessed in their definition, but that is not the true blessed life. The true test of feeling blessed is when we are down and out, suffering and in pain, and yet we feel genuinely blessed because we are living abundantly with God's Presence as our hope, strength, and source of favor.

The blessings of God will flourish in an even greater measure, affecting not just us, but the people around us, when we are in Christ.

2) Holinessness and blamelessness should be our identity.
God has called us to be holy and blameless before Him, adopting His likeness and attributes. Holiness and blamelessness should be our identity, and we can truly live that out when we are in Christ and have our lives yielded to the Holy Spirit.

Living as holy and blameless may seem quite far fetched to any individual who is struggling hard to overcome sin. Know that God, who has chosen us to live out this identity, is faithful to see and aid us through with His grace to be more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

3) God yearns for everyone to be His sons and daughters.
God may have predestined us to be adopted as sons and daughters in his family, but He also gives everyone a choice to choose if they would like to be in His family. He has given freewill as a gift to mankind, and He will not bypass that freewill. In His will, He yearns for everyone to be adopted His family and live the blessed life, because this adoption is not exclusive to any individual; it is meant for all.

1) Do you feel that life is meaningless even though you have everything? Or, do you feel life is meaningless because you have nothing in this world to live for? I will encourage you to forsake your old pursuits, dedicate your life to God, discover the good path He has for you, and start walking in it.

2) Do you find it hard to believe God for provision and finance? Do you fall into a perpetual cycle of worry and insecurity about your future? It is time to stop worrying and start believing that God will bless you abundantly. Bring your needs before God in prayer. 

3) Do you struggle with condemnation, always having thoughts that you are a downright sinner, and that you will never be able to become holy? You do not need to keep striving in your own strength, beating yourself so that you might attain holiness. Depend on the Holy Spirit's power, and live from the identity He has called you to be - a son and a daughter, holy and blameless. Dedicate time to pray and read His Word.

Dear God, I thank You for the blessings You have bestowed upon my life. It has always been in Your gracious and loving nature to bless me with everything You have. I know that You are my Good Father who holds me in the palm of Your Hands, and I am secured in You. I dedicate my life to You once again, and I pray my heart will always remain open and teachable to Your Spirit in every season. Make me like You to be holy and blameless. Use my life as a blessing for others to see Your good intentions for them so that they may turn to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.