Bethany and I recently watched the first season of The Chosen with our children. It is Biblically faithful to the Gospel accounts and conveys the person of Jesus in a striking and powerful way. My favorite scene in the series occurs in the first episode when Mary Magdalene, tormented by demon-possession, encounters Jesus. As a child, Mary reciting an adaptation of Isaiah 43:1 with her father. “But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, he who formed you: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” In The Chosen’s storyline, her promising and loving upbringing goes sideways, and she suffers abuse, depression, and demon possession. But then Mary sees Jesus approach her and asks him who He is. Jesus responds by paraphrasing Isaiah 43:1, “Thus says the Lord who created you and formed you. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” Jesus, the great I AM appears as one of us. He heals Mary, and her world instantly changes. Freed from spiritual, physical, and emotional slavery, she begins trusting and following Jesus. It is such a moving scene, and it’s a forceful reminder of the amazing love and awesome power of God.
As we read Ephesians 1, we see parallels to Isaiah 43 specifically in that we are chosen and redeemed thru the blood of Jesus Christ. This letter is written to Christians, and what God wants to do thru the book of Ephesians is help us understand we are at WAR. We face spiritual battles day in and day out that test us emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Our adversary wants nothing less than to destroy us. In Ephesians 1, we see three ways God instructs us to become battle-ready.
1. We become Battle-Ready… by Perceiving Our Father King’s Love Toward Us
Paul begins his letter by immediately reminding Christians of who we are and how we have received blessing after blessing because of God’s extravagant love toward us. Let’s go thru all the incredible blessings we receive from God. Verse number 4, He chose us before the foundation of the world. Now, this is a mind-blowing reality, and I’m going to return to this in a moment to flesh this out. For now, let’s keep going. He chose us to be holy (dedicated or consecrated to God) and blameless before God. Think about this for a moment: we know we are not blameless. We all feel guilt and shame from our sin. Our struggle with sin is real. Sin is entirely destructive and leads to death. But God’s work in us removes our sin and makes us blameless. How and why does this happen? Because Jesus took our sin and blame on the cross. Jesus is love made visible and the only person who could be the wrath of God appeaser, because he is perfectly righteous and sinless.
Continuing with the blessings of God, we see in verse 5, we are adopted as sons and daughters thru Jesus, because as we see in verse 7 we were purchased by His blood. We are forgiven because of the blood of Jesus, and we are grace recipients. He lavishes His grace upon us.
In verse 9, Paul writes that we are enlightened. When we become believers and followers of Jesus, we recognize that one day King Jesus is returning to earth to make everything right. He will take complete control of all things, destroy sin and death forever (we read this in the books of Isaiah and Revelation) and His righteous reign will endure forever. The blessings go on. We read in verse 11 that are enriched with an inheritance from our Heavenly Father King. One day when we stand before God in Heaven we will gain the riches of His Kingdom, because we are sons and daughters of the King.
Now we arrive at the most important blessing we receive. We get God. The Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, seals us and dwells within us when we confess our sin, surrender, and follow Jesus. Once you’re sealed, you can’t be unsealed. Salvation is transforming and eternal. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
The work being done in us is being done by God Himself thru the Holy Spirit. God himself is the down payment of our inheritance. The relationship with God and the presence of God in our lives is all we need, but God says I am going to give you SO MUCH MORE!
Now I want to return to the truth that Christians are chosen by God. You might say, “Pastor Justin, how does this verse square with Romans 10:13, which says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” or John 3:16 “whoever believes in Him will have eternal life”?
The truth is that the Bible teaches both the divine sovereignty (supreme power or authority) of God and the moral responsibility of man. J.I. Packer explains the study of light in modern physics offers a useful analogy here. Convincing evidence exists that light consists of waves. Yet there is an equally persuasive case that light consists of particles. It’s unclear how light can be both waves and particles, but evidence for both strongly exist, so neither can be dismissed in favor of the other. Packer writes, “The two seemingly incompatible positions must be held together, and both must be treated as true. Such a necessity scandalizes our tidy minds, no doubt, but there is no help for it if we are to be loyal to the facts.”
I could say so much more about this topic, but I’ll close the loop with a comment from Charles Spurgeon. He was once asked how to reconcile the truth of human responsibility with the truth of divine sovereignty, and Spurgeon responded, “I would never try. I never reconcile friends.” What we need to grasp in our study of God’s Word is that human responsibility and divine sovereignty are both realities in Scripture and work together as friends.
So Paul opens his letter with a bang by rattling off blessing after blessing. I counted 10 massive blessings in 7 verses – chosen, holy and blameless, adopted as sons and daughters, grace recipients, redeemed, forgiven, enriched with a heavenly inheritance, enlightened to the reality of God’s Lordship and sovereign power, sealed by the Spirit, and given the gift of the God Himself thru the Holy Spirit
Why does Paul open his letter in this fashion? He’s preparing Christians for battles and storms of life. Jesus said, “You will have tribulation” (John 16:33). If we’re going to endure and persevere thru these trials, we must first know who we are.
If I asked you who are you, what would you say? You might say a Soldier, you might say a wife or mom, a teacher. But what happens when you’re not a Soldier anymore. Who are you? What happens if you’re not a husband anymore? If you put your identity in your career or relationship with a person, then you’re putting it in the wrong thing. You and I need to put our identity in our relationship with God as sons and daughters. We must remember who we are—how God sees us. We are sons and daughters, dearly loved, forgiven, and treasured by our Father in Heaven. He’s held nothing back from us.
We become battle-ready by perceiving our Father King’s love toward us.
2. We Become Battle-Ready… by Petitioning Our Father King for Help
Now in verse 15, Paul transitions his prayers for the Ephesian Christians. So often we underestimate the power of prayer. But prayer is the voice of faith, and when we pray, we’re humbly acknowledging to God that we need help. Paul prays that the Christians at Ephesus have wisdom and revelation, hope, and enlightened hearts.
What does Paul mean by wisdom and revelation? For Christians, wisdom is the journey of knowing God and gaining His divine insight in our lives, so we make good decisions that lead to good outcomes. The revelation Paul refers to is the riches of Heaven that await every follower of King Jesus. We must live our lives in a way that is Kingdom focused or we will be enslaved by the worries of this world. We must invest our lives for eternity in the Kingdom that never ends. Jesus instructs us to, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21
What are enlightened hearts? It means that our hearts and lives are penetrated by the light of the Gospel, and our hearts began to treasure what really matters in life. The Gospel helps us treasure the relationship we have with God, and we begin living life the way God designed us. The result is that we honor God and show gratitude for His abundant blessings.
What happens if our hearts are not enlightened?
For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
This is the fate of all who rebel against God and reject His mercy and grace. But Christians can fall prey to this danger too because of the sin that resides within our hearts. When we will fail to honor God and disobey him, we become ungrateful for his blessings. When we as Christians know God but fail to obey Him, our hearts grow cold and our thinking becomes distorted and defective.
Paul David Tripp writes, “the DNA of sin is selfishness. Sin is self-focused, self-absorbed, self-defensive, and self-aggrandizing—selfish in the purest sense of what that word means…there are artifacts of sin still resident in our hearts, [so] we will be vulnerable to the temptation to make life about us—what we want, what we think we need, and what makes us content and comfortable.”
By refusing to obey God, we dishonor Him. We fail to do what we were designed to do. We start worshipping idols like power, control, comfort, and approval. We end up with relationship strife, pride, envy, bitterness, because we refuse to forgive and pursue reconciliation. Repentance, turning away from our sin, and serving the King by serving others is how we defeat our self-centeredness, course correct, and honor God.
Ephesians 4:31-32, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We choose to be obedient, to stop scheming ways to get even and to forgive because the Spirit of God reminds us we are forgiven. We have the incredible blessings of God that have been showered on us.
Where do we get the strength to let it go? How do we be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving? We request help from Our King thru prayer, and He provides help thru His Word, other believers thru Biblical teaching and preaching and Christian community. At Agape Humphreys we live life side by side thru missional communities and by worshipping together corporately. No war was ever won by an individual. We’re in this battle—together.
We become battle-ready by perceiving our Father King’s love toward us, petitioning our Father King for help and…
3. We Become Battle-Ready… by Putting Our Strength in Our Father King’s Immeasurable Power
In verse 19, Paul prays that Christians realize God’s immeasurable greatness of His power working in us and thru us by His strength. Paul discusses the nature of this divine power in verse 20. It’s power that overcomes our greatest enemies: sin and death. It’s supernatural power that enables us to forgive after being hurt and damaged. It’s power that humbles us, drives us to repentance, to turn away from our sin—to release the bitterness and anger that takes root inside of us and leads to relationship strife. Now just think about that for a moment: there is no greater power than divine power—and it’s available to us when we put our strength, our hope, and our faith in God.
This statement foreshadows how Paul is going to conclude his letter to the Ephesians. As he wraps up, he instructs Christians to put on the body armor of God. But before we put on any of our spiritual gear, before we mount up and move out, he says in Ephesians 6:10, “Put your strength in the Lord.” Rely on His power.
I want to take you back to Jesus’ earthly ministry when he was baptized and immediately went into the wilderness. First off, why did Jesus get baptized with a bunch of sinners? Jesus never sinned, so why bother? Jesus was identifying with Israel and with us—sinners. Greg Gilbert points out Jesus was stepping into the role of being our Substitute and our Champion. After His baptism, Jesus immediately withdraws into the wilderness. He fasts for 40 days—each day symbolically represents one year the Israelites wandered in the wilderness because of their sin and unbelief in God’s power. Jesus, the Great I AM is taking up the fight for us to face the great enemy of man, the accuser and deceiver Satan. As the true King of Israel, Jesus stands in and represents the nation of Israel when He faces temptation.
The first temptation is instant gratification where we humans have failed repeatedly. We wanna take shortcuts instead of trusting God to provide. An example of how we fail this temptation in our culture is cohabitation. We want to be with someone physically, emotionally, and spiritually but without the commitment and covenant of marriage. Instead of trusting God’s plan, we disobey and choose immediate gratification. But Jesus resisted this temptation by trusting God to provide for Him physically.
The second temptation was to entice Jesus to exalt Himself over the Father. We fall prey to this temptation when we live like God owes us. We treat God like a cosmic bellhop who should cater to our every demand. If God is helping me climb the ladder at work, I’ll throw him a bone and show up to church. If God is blessing me, well maybe I’ll drop some coin in the offering plate. Jesus resists this attack by again countering with the Scripture that we are not to put God to the test. We live by faith. We patiently wait on the Lord. We rest in our Heavenly Father and follow in faithful obedience trusting Him to provide in His own way and time.
The third temptation is to tempt the Creator to worship the creation and offer Him everything the Father already promised him minus the path of humility and suffering the Father had planned for Him to endure. Here again the nation of Israel failed this test over and over by creating alliances with powerful neighbors—relying on safety, security, and power for themselves from sources other than God. We succumb to this temptation in our lives by worshiping relationships, education, and careers to provide safety, security, and power instead of God. Israel fell prey to this temptation again and again, but Israel’s rightful and most powerful King Jesus did not. He responded to this temptation by quoting Scripture that we should worship and serve only God.
Do you see what Jesus accomplished for us in the wilderness? As our Champion and Substitute, he confronted our Adversary and soundly defeated Him by perfectly trusting and obeying the Father.
We falter and fail. He doesn’t. You and I don’t have what it takes to overcome sin. But He does. And we have access to the One who crushed the enemy, defeated sin and death. His power working thru us enables us to resist evil, overcome sin, and follow God by keeping His commands. Some of you listening have experienced real hurt and real pain, and you can’t forgive. But He can. And His power and grace working thru you will empower you to forgive. When we forgive, the bitterness in our hearts dissolves.
How do we put our hope and strength in God? By abandoning our self-centeredness and daily going to God, our “Living Water.” God establishes rhythms of grace for us thru daily Bible reading, prayer, living in community thru missional communities and weekly corporate worship. Sometimes we read God’s Word, and truth hits us like a lightning bolt. We feel God pressing into us. Other times, we don’t feel we gained anything extraordinary for the day.
But here’s a powerful truth: When we obey God and break bread with Him thru daily Bible reading and prayer, we’re still coming to the table and being nourished by Him day in and day out. He is sustaining us thru His rhythms of grace. Practicing ordinary habits over time lead to extraordinary growth and change.
And through our daily obedience, God creates an undercurrent of humility and servanthood in our lives that begins to transform us into becoming more like Jesus.
Closing questions: Are you battle ready?
Are you conscious of how loved and abundantly blessed by our Heavenly Father King you are?
Are you petitioning our Father King for help to stay focused on the mission and on advancing His Kingdom?
Are you putting your strength in the power of our Father King to resist temptation and destroy strongholds of sins in your life?