God's gifts - Ephesians 1:1-14
Now I wonder if anyone can tell me the connection between these three items that I have here? I have a bunch of flowers, a lovely gift wrapped present and a nice box of chocolates? What's the link? The link is that these are all presents or gifts that we might give away to other people. And because I'm a generous chap, I'm going to give these gifts to three lucky people this morning. (Give away gifts). Now of course when you receive a gift it is very important to do something in response? Can anyone tell what it is? Say thankyou! And I'm happy to say that all three of those people said thankyou tome when I gave them their gift. Saying thankyou is very important isn't it? Because if we don't say thankyou, then it means that we don't think much of the gift, and more importantly, we don't think much of the person who gave us the gift.
So imagine that it is Christmas Day, and I receive these lovely pair of socks from my Mum. But I say to her when she gives them to me: 'Oh, Mum you needn't have bothered. I mean, look at them, they're horrible.' How would my Mum feel if I didn't thank her and said that instead? She'd feel very hurt. So it's vital whenever we receive a gift to say thankyou to the person who kindly gave it to us. They love us and we must show our thanks for their kindness.
Now this morning, we're looking at a passage from the Bible which is all about receiving gifts and saying thankyou. But we're not talking about chocolates or flowers. We're talking about gifts that God has given to us through his Son Jesus Christ. Have a look at what the apostle Paul writes in the passage that Mike read to us: (Acetate 1- Verse) 'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus.' Now what Paul means is that God has given us everything we need as Christians through Jesus. He has blessed us. He's given us wonderful gifts to enjoy through Jesus. But often it is easy to forget what God has given us, and like me with my Mum's Christmas present, we forget to thank God for what he's done for us. But it's very important that we keep remembering what God has done for us, and keep on thanking him for all his great gifts to us. So let's see what God has given to us. And I want to remind us this morning of three gifts in particular that God has given us:
1) God has Chosen us
2) God has Rescued us
3) God has Marked us
1) God has Chosen us
(Acetate 2- Titles- Reveal first one) So the first gift God has given us is that he has chosen us. Let's look together at verse 4: 'For God chose us in Jesus before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.' Now I guess all of us like to be chosen don't we. We love it if someone picks us for something. For instance, I received this notice recently which read: 'Dear Mr Buttery, This is to advise you that in the latest Reader's Digest Prize Draw your name has come through the first two stages..... The computer has chosen certain people to (wait for it!) receive VIP status- and you, Mr Buttery, were among them....In the whole of North Humberside only 3 out of every hundred households have been selected as VIP's to receive our book offer and the other SPECIAL BENEFITS that you'll be getting..... PS Remember, not everyone is getting all the special benefits that are on their way to you. Make the most of your VIP status and be sure to claim all your opportunities.' Well I love to be chosen, but I can also spot a con a mile off. However, when God chooses us there is no con involved. And he chooses us to be adopted into his family. (Acetate 3- Family). Have a look at verse 5: 'In love, he chose us to be adopted as sons [which means boys and girls, men and women] through Jesus Christ
So why does God do that? Why does God choose people to be part of his family, or part of his team? Well normally, when you get asked to be on someone's team, it is because you are good at something, like football or cricket or whatever it is. And for those who are not very good at games, that can be a difficult experience. (Acetate 4- Football). I remember that horrible experience at school where everyone lines up for games, and two captains choose who they want to be on their team, and then there are two people left at the end who no-one wants, and sometimes that person was me. No-one wanted me on their team because I wasn't every good at games.
So is God's team like that? Do you have to be really good to be on God's team? Do you have to go to church lots to be on God's team? Well no. In fact, none of us deserve to be on God's team anyway. None of us are good enough. Actually Paul tells us the real reason, and that is at the end of verse 4. He loves us. (Acetate 5- God's Love). That's the reason God's chooses people like you and me to be on His team, to be children in his family. Because he loves us. And that is great news for people like you and me who are not good enough for the team. God chooses us for his team because he loves us, not based on what you and I can do. Simply because he loves us. And to be quite honest, I can think of better family, no better team to be part of than God's team. Because you know you're on the winning side. So that's the first wonderful gift that God gives us. He chooses us for his team, he adopts us into his family. And to help us remember that, I need one volunteer to kindly wear this shirt as a sign we're on God's team. (Volunteer wears football shirt).
2) God has rescued us
(Acetate 2- Titles again- Reveal second point). But as we go on in the passage we find something else that God has done for us, another gift that God has given us, and that is that he has rescued us. Let's have a look at verse 7: 'In Jesus we have redemption [which means rescue] through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.' Now we might ask why do we need rescuing? After all, if someone needs rescuing, they have got to be in difficulty. So what is our need, why do we need rescuing? Well Paul tells us why we need rescuing, and the answer is because of our sins, which are all the ways in which we live our lives doing what we want instead of what God wants. And the problem is that it leads to a break down in our friendship with God. (Acetate 6a- Chasm) It's as if there is a huge gap and there is nothing we can do to get across. We might try all sorts of things to get across (Acetate 6b- Lines across chasm) -praying lots, going to church, being as good as we can, but none of it helps. The only way for you and me to be friends with God again is if God himself builds a bridge across the gap to allow us to cross. And the way he does that is through Jesus dying in our place on the cross (Acetate 6c- cross over the gap). And that is the only way you and I can be friends with God again. So we need to be rescued because we are on the wrong side of the chasm and we are facing a future without God. And only Jesus can save us.
And rescues are always brilliant aren't they? In fact, a few summers ago, I witnessed a real life air sea rescue. (Acetate 7- Yacht). I was with some friends on a beach when we spotted that two people who were in a little boat way out to sea were in trouble. It was very windy that day and the sea was quite rough. The clouds came overhead and the rain started to fall and the wind got up. In fact, the wind became so strong that the little yacht started to get out of control. It started swaying violently from side to side and then suddenly the two sailors were thrown from their boat in the water. Luckily they had life jackets on, but all they could do was wait, as their boat disappeared down the coast. Fortunately for them, we had spotted them and we phoned up the coastguard to come and rescue them. (Acetate 8- Helicopter). And about five minutes later this huge helicopter swooped overhead and circled around the two people. Then a rope was let down from the helicopter and picked them up. The helicopter then landed on the beach and the sailors were taken to hospital, safe and very relieved to be out of that cold sea.
Now that was a dramatic rescue, but nothing quite as dramatic as God's rescue of you and me when God's own son Jesus Christ died in our place on the cross. It's an incredible gift that we don't deserve, and he only did it because he loves us so much. So that's God's second gift to you and me. He has rescued us through Jesus. And to help us remember that, I need another volunteer to hold this fire engine as sign of the rescue. Volunteer holds fire engine.
3) God has Marked us
So, so far we have seen two gifts that God has given us, two wonderful presents which we cannot get ourselves. God has chosen us to be on his team or in his family, and God has rescued us through Jesus. (Acetate 2- titles again- all three). But there is one final gift that Paul talks about and that is that God has marked us. Now that may sound like a strange thing to say, but let's look at verse 13: 'Having believed you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.' So Paul says that God has marked us with the Holy Spirit. It's a bit like when you write your name on something to show that it is yours. Now here I have a coat which looks very worn and battered. And inside there is a little label which says 'Debbie Templeman'. It actually belongs to my wife Debbie. Everyone knows exactly who this coat belongs to. And Paul says that God has marked us with the Holy Spirit. It's not a physical mark. But rather the Christian has God's Spirit living in his heart and we know we are God's.
But Paul says something else about this mark of the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit who lives in our hearts. He says that he is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. If you like, God gives us his Spirit inside us in order to guarantee that we are going to heaven. (Acetate 9- Car) Now just imagine for one moment that I wanted to buy Tim's car. And Tim told me that his car was worth which is a lot of money. But I decide that I want to buy it, so I give Tim a deposit of And I have here a cheque for Now because I have given Tim this deposit for it guarantees that I will give him the rest of the money. I have promised to pay the rest, and the deposit of is a sign that I will keep my promise. There is no doubt the rest will follow.
Now when God gives us his Spirit, there is no doubt that we will one day meet God face to face in heaven. God has made a promise to us that he will bring us to heaven, and his Spirit inside us is a sign of that promise. God will bring us to heaven. And that gives us great confidence that God will keep his promise to the end and will bring us to know him. He has marked us with his Spirit and we can be sure we're heading for heaven. And I just need one final volunteer to wear the marked coat as a sign of this final gift that God gives us, his Holy Spirit inside us.
So we have looked at three wonderful gifts that God gives to us. But like all gifts we need to receive them. It's one thing for God to gives us gifts, its another to accept them. So who do we do that? How can we have these three wonderful gifts? Well Paul tells us in verse 13. He says about these people he is writing to that they were 'included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in him with a seal.' So Paul says that in order to receive these three wonderful gifts God gives we need to hear the truth about Jesus, which we have all heard today, and then believe it and trust in it. In other words all of us can receive these gifts when we trust in what Jesus has done for us. So that's how we accept these gifts. God offers them to us, and he invites us to take them. So have you received these gifts? There is nothing better than to know God has chosen you to be on his team, and rescued you and marked you with his Spirit. And if you have accepted the gifts, then rejoice today in what God has done for you and say thankyou again to God for what he has done.
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