God’s Plan to Bring the Hope of Christ to the Earth Has Always Been the Church: Redeemed With a Purpose // Ephesians 1 – Acts 19:1-10

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First Baptist Church – Chickasha, OK – June 2015

All to often, when we speak of the salvation & the redemption of our souls through Christ’s blood on the cross, the conversation remains centered on us. Even when we discuss discipleship, the focus can be far too inward, striving towards our growth through the Holy Spirit individually and not giving time to the purpose for which God has called and redeemed us.

God has not only called us individually to a purpose, but He has also called us at the body of Christ, the Church, to a purpose: to bring the hope of Christ to the earth.

The Church is not just a gathering of believers to be like-minded – it is so much more. We gather to bring glory to God through our praise but also though the mission of being Jesus to the world.

Paul emphasizes this in his Letter to the Ephesians. Chapter 1 reminds the Ephesians that Christ has redeemed them but also that God has always had the plan to use His Church to share Jesus with the world.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory – Eph. 1:11-14 (ESV)

We get hung up on words like “predestined” and think Paul is only talking about doctrines of salvation. I’m not going into a theological debate here, but a main point that we miss is that Paul is emphasizing the purpose of the Church that God has always known, even from before the world was made.

The purpose that God gives us as the Church is incredible, and even Paul understood that we can miss the brilliance of it at times. In Ephesians 1:16-23, he prays that the church would have their eyes open to see the fullness of what God wanted to do in them and through them!

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. – Eph. 1:16-23 (ESV)

As a ministry leader, I have to ask myself, “Do we realize that mission? Are we leading people to realize the purpose that they have been called to, as well as the purpose of our church?”

Acts 19:1-10 tells the story of the beginnings of the church at Ephesus. Paul left the large crowds behind to spend daily time with 12 men for two years. During the time, the church in Ephesus began and their ministry helped the Gospel go out into all of Asia! That’s incredible!

And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Paul’s introductory section to the letter sent later to that same church reminds them of what God has called them to do, and he continues to focus on the church being a unified body to change the world through the Gospel.

For us today, that purpose and mission is ours as well! For a Christ-follower, being a part of a church is not just important – it’s essential. Jesus, the New Testament Authors, and God’s divine plan from before creation was always for the people of God to live as the body of Christ.

Churches are not perfect, neither are the people who are in them, but God’s plan is perfect. He has chosen us to be a part of changing the world! Isn’t that incredible? May we, as Paul prayed, have eyes and hearts that see the hope that God has called us to and the glory of what He is doing through and is us.

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My Message to the Oklahoma House of Representatives – May 25, 2012

Last week (May 21-25, 2012) I was asked by Oklahoma State Representative Todd Thomsen to serve as the Chaplain of the week for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It was a great honor, and I’m very glad Rep. Thomsen asked me to serve.

As the Chaplain, each morning I began the sessions with Scripture and Prayer, except for Friday, when I gave a short message to the House.

Each day I wanted to focus on the themes of wisdom, unity, respect, love, and being led by the Lord. The Scriptures I used were Numbers 6:24-26, Mark 12:28-31, Proverbs 16:2-3, and 1 Peter 3:8-9.

Here is my message from Friday, and you can also watch the archive by clicking here. I start about 18 minutes into the morning (they put a quick bill on the floor to get things going). I had a great response from many Reps, and it was also adopted that day in the official journal of the House! Such a blessing to be used by the Lord in this way.

Power Comes from God and the People
Acts 12:20-23, Romans 13:1, Matthew 23:11-12, Psalm 76:12

There are many similarities between Representatives and Ministers, which may strike some as funny. Both are selected by people to serve, both put in so many more hours than everyone knows or thinks, both receive compliments but probably more complaints, and most importantly both serve people. The Bible tells a story of a leader who made a critical mistake. Acts chapter 12 tells the story of King Herod.

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered a speech to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

Many of us will recognize the name Herod from the Christmas stories of Jesus, but this is actually one of Herod’s grandsons. He actually does some great things for the people in a time of need, but he makes a grave error: he forgot that power comes from the Lord and from the people.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” And Jesus said in Matthew 23:11-12, “11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

Now, we may not die from worms like Herod, but don’t we find ourselves in the same spot so often? It’s easy to forget the true reason of why we serve and whom we are serving. We get so driven by success and agendas that our serving becomes very self-centered. But the psalmist Asaph so aptly wrote in Psalm 76:12, “12 He [the LORD] humbles the spirit of leaders; He is feared by the kings of the earth.” No matter how “large and in-charge” we may think of ourselves, the LORD is the One who has placed us where we are, and we are here for a reason.

My friends, we must always remember as leaders of people, that we are servants of people. Jesus, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, bent down on his knees and washed His sinful disciples’ dirty feet. He also died on the Cross and rose from the grave to save us from our sins. Christ showed us that great leaders know where they came from and live to make others’ lives better. May we always remember our power comes from the LORD and from people.