God’s Plan To Unite
We are almost overwhelmed by all that we’ve learned so far in Ephesians 1. God blesses us and blesses us and when we try to bless Him back He just blesses us more. We’ve learned that even before the foundation of the world God chose us! He didn’t just choose us for any old thing but that we should be useful for His work as holy and blameless. He didn’t just choose us for any relationship, but chose us to be adopted as His very most loved children. We discovered last week that God redeems us - buys us back - from the slavery of sin, even at the high price of the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Wow!
Today we find out that God has a purpose and a plan and He wants us to know what it is! It’s like God our Heavenly Father calls us into His private office, tells us to pull up a chair, and says to us, “Let Me tell you what I have in mind!” Talk about being an insider! Wow!
#1 - God wants us TO KNOW.
“He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will.” Ephesians 1:8-9a
Frankly this theological tidbit goes way beyond all expectations. Just like God adopting us as children goes way beyond what any of us have any right to expect. Just being a slave in the household would be more than enough. Just being on the inside with God and not on the outside. God goes beyond our expectations. He doesn’t just want us to be on the inside, He wants us to be an insider! He made us His children at the price of His Son’s blood and then lavishes (that’s the word Paul uses) His intimacy toward us. He doesn’t just want to love us and have us love Him… He wants to know us and have us know Him… and that means knowing His will, knowing His purpose, and knowing His plan.
Before our salvation we were foreigners, outsiders to God and He was foreign and outside and unknowable to us. His will was a mystery to us. Who could understand the mind of God? Who could fathom it? Who could make sense of it? God says here, ignorance is not My desire for you all! You are my children! You are my family! I grant you the wisdom and the insight to know Me and know My will!
Wisdom is more than just knowledge. Some of the most knowledgeable people I have met are also some of the dumbest! No street smarts at all! They have book smarts but not street smarts. Wisdom is street smarts. Wisdom is more than knowledge… it’s knowing what to do with what you know. God says, “I want to give you WISDOM so you’ll be able to do my will in any and every situation you face.
Insightis also more than knowledge. Insight is knowing how the pieces of knowledge fit together. Have you ever had a sudden flash of insight: “Oh I see what You did there!” That’s what God is talking about here. The more you know God, the more you begin to understand what’s going on. You look back at your life, your challenges, your failures, your true life education and say, I see now how God is using all this!
#2 - God wants us to know His PURPOSE.
“… according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ.” Ephesians 1:9b
God has a purpose for me. God has a purpose for you. And God is not secretive about it. He lets us in on it. He tells us what His purpose is. Here He gives us our greatest Heavenly Hint. His purpose for us was set forth in Christ! So to know our purpose, we need to know about Christ. To know how we fit in with God’s purpose, we have to know how Christ fits in with God’s purpose. To know Jesus Christ and His purpose is to know us and our purpose from God!
Scripture is filled with these answers. Scripture is filled with God’s purpose for us. But if we had to pick out just one verse that says it best, it probably would be 1 Peter 2:9 -
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
The first thing we note here is the collective “we”. It’s not just about me or you… it’s about us. God has a purpose for us, His children together. We are chosen, we are made royal, we are set apart as holy, we are a people of God’s possession. And why? What does God have in mind for us together? “That you (all) may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light!” Who is the Him? Isn’t it God? Isn’t it God the Father Who sends the Son? Isn’t it God the Son, Who comes and teaches us about God the Father and dies and is raised on the third day so that we may have this same “sons and daughters” relationship with God the Father. Isn’t it God the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us and reminds us daily of all that Jesus taught us?
And what is it that we are to do? What is our purpose? Isn’t it worship? What else does “proclaim the excellencies of Him” mean? That’s our purpose! That’s why God created us! And God wants us to know it! I have created you… My purpose for you… is worship. This is what you do. I have given you agency. I have given you choice. I have given you a mind to decide. I want you to choose - of your own free will…
…to worship Me. And remember, worship is so much more than singing or praying or coming to church. Worship is living each moment in love and obedience to Christ as our Lord and Savior. Each task, each relationship, each decision is made with Jesus in mind, to honor Him!
#3 - God wants us to know His PLAN.
“… as a plan for the fullness of time…” Ephesians 1:10a
God wants us not only to know His purpose for us, but He wants us to know His plan… and again to know His plan is to know Christ. God sets forth His plan in Christ. If we know the plan for Jesus, we know His plan for the fullness of time. So don’t we know the plan for Jesus?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17
If there is one Bible verse that we memorize, isn’t it this one? God loved. God gave. His Son Jesus. If we believe in Him… if we put our full faith and confidence in Him… we don’t perish. We have eternal life! That’s the plan. That the world might be saved through Jesus! The world is not just people - but the entirety of creation!
“Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption abstain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:21
This is the plan. This is where things are heading. This is what happens in the fullness of time. You can read all about it in Romans 8. To be set free from the bondage of corruption. And you - if you are one of the children of God - you have a part in God’s plan. God will use you to advance the kingdom of Heaven. So that the whole world would know the freedom of the glory that you know as a child of God.
#4 - The End Game: TO UNITE ALL THINGS IN HIM.
“… as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Ephesians 1:10
One of the first things I purchased when I got my first full-time job, one of my first extravagances - a want and definitely not a need - was a Franklin Library collector’s edition chess set. It took several years for me to collect all the pieces and I know it cost me lots of money. Every other month Franklin would send me two pieces - each one a work of art. I still own the collection today! I wanted to be a chess player. I read books. I practiced. I learned about the opening moves. I learned about the middle game. I learned about the end game. But no matter that I owned an expensive set, no matter that I studied, whenever I would play my brother Todd, he would beat me. Every single time! Ultimately I figured out why, though it never helped me to win. Todd always always always knew the end game. And it didn’t matter if we were in the opening moves. It didn’t matter that we (in my mind) were still in the middle game. If he saw a way to trap my king - that was the end. He always kept the end game in mind.
The same thing is true for us as Christians. We need to know the end game of God’s purpose and God’s plan. God gives it to us right here in Ephesians 1:10: to unite all things in Him. That’s it.
“So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11
This is where all time is taking us. In the fullness of time Jesus is Lord and everyone knows it. Everyone acknowledges it. Everyone is united together in proclaiming it. And this unity in worship to Christ as Lord brings glory (worship) to God the Father. This is the end game!
So to wrap up our time together this morning, we ask ourselves two questions every day of our lives. (A) -Am I living in a way that brings unity and not division? (B) - Am I focused most on bringing unity in Christ? Both questions are important.
(A) - Am I living in a way that brings unity and not division? Our world has never been more divided. About everything! It seems like we can’t agree on anything. Even when it comes to a world pandemic that is killing our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our brothers and sisters, our wives and husbands, even in some cases harming our little children, we are divided about everything. The cause. The remedy. The politics. Instead of seeing the virus as the enemy, we’ve made an enemy out of one another. And it’s not just Covid. It’s every issue. Even within the church we divide over theology and practice, over words spoken and unspoken. We can divide over every little thing.
We know this is true. Yet we also know that God’s end game is to unite. So the question I and you must ask each day is this: Am I bringing unity and not division? Am I a uniter or am I a divider? Are my words healing or are my words hurtful? Are my actions creating love or creating chaos?
(B) - Am I focused most on bringing unity in Christ? We must never forget that God’s end game is not just about unity, but about unity in Him. It’s not just about the unity but also about the Unifier! It could be really easy for us to get caught up in doing good for its own sake rather than for Christ’s sake. Do we regularly acknowledge that it is Christ in us that makes the difference? One of the things that creates great division is the attitude that some people act like they are better than other people. This should never be true for a Christ follower, because we know that we are all bottom of the barrel humans. When we see other people we know they’re probably better than us, more talented, better spoken, smarter, more capable. The only thing that sets us apart, the only thing that makes us holy is Christ in us! And that decision, that choice was all Christ and His work on the cross. We can’t take credit for us and anything we do or say or thing apart from Jesus Christ! So do I pray for Christ’s Holy Spirit within me to give me wisdom? To give me insight? To know what to say to diffuse division and bring harmony? To help me to do that which brings His healing to a divisive situation?
God wants us (1) to know (2) His plan and (3) His purpose (4) to unite all things in Him. Is this our daily prayer? Oh God, help me to live out what I know about You and Your love. Allow me to be a part of Your plan. May Your purpose find fulfillment in me, your son (your daughter). Grant me wisdom and insight to be a uniter in You! I pray in Jesus name! Amen!