Ephesians 1: 7-12
There have been people who will spend hours digging for precious stones.
They will spend hours on their hands and knees sifting through the dirt and rocks and rubble.
They will do this, not because they love rock and rubble,
but because they want to find a diamond or some other precious stone.
When they find that precious stone, they will break off all the deposits
that are foreign to that precious stone.
Then they will cut and polish that precious stone
until it becomes a beautiful and valuable jewel.
We are somewhat like a precious stone.
Embedded in the dirt and rock and rubble of sin, we look at ourselves and ask,
"What does God see in me? How could He love me?"
God looks at us and sees the potential.
God looks at us and sees the potential in us that He can create.
He will break away the clay and earth suit in which we are housed.
He will polish our redeemed soul into a beautiful gem.
If we wish to enjoy the freedom and joy that God is providing for us in the salvation
that He has also given us, we must understand the nature and intent of that redemption.
In the Roman Empire, of which Paul was a citizen, slavery was an accepted institution.
Slaves were bought and sold like horses and cattle.
At the height of that civilization, some estimates put the number of slaves over 6 million.
However, slaves could be set free.
Anyone who wanted to do this could buy a slave – pay the purchase price – then set him or her free.
It was called apolutrosis, "to buy back for the purpose of setting free."
Apolutrosis is the word Paul used here for "redemption".
Slavery is where we were.
We were all enslaved to sin (John 8: 34; Romans 7: 14).
Sin was our master.
To be released from its bondage, someone must pay the price and the price is death (Romans 6: 23).
The only person who could pay that price was Jesus, the Son of God.
We have all sinned.
We deserve to die.
No human could die for us, because every human being deserves to die.
Someone who did not deserve to die had to die in our place.
That was Christ!
That is why it is so important that He was both God and man.
If He were not man, He could not die for our sins.
If He were not God, it would not have mattered that He died for us.
It was essential that He was both God and man.
The price of our redemption was His blood, shed on the cross. (1 Peter 1: 18-19)
Thanks to the Son of God, we have been redeemed, bought back for the purpose of setting free.
The result of that redemption is the forgiveness of sin.
But why would God love us enough to send His Son to die for us?
How could He see anything in us worth dying for?
God looks past the outer person (the flesh) that we are,
to the inner person (the spirit) and what we can be in Christ.
We have been born once physically.
We must be born again spiritually.
In Romans 7, Paul refers to the flesh as the outer man and the spirit as the inner man.
The outer man is the rubble, the inner man in Christ is the precious stone.
Now, God looks at us and is pleased with us in Christ.
Not because He overlooks our sin.
Not because He doesn't see it.
Not because He doesn't care if we sin.
He is pleased with us in Christ because the spiritual part of us has been born again
and is fit for heaven now and that is who God is looking at.
Of course, we can't look at things the way God does.
Left to our own perception, we get confused.
Thinking that what we experience, which includes sin, is the only "us" there is,
we don't feel redeemed.
And sometimes because of that we don't act redeemed.
But going beyond our natural perception to the revealed Word of God,
we can begin to see the difference and accept, by faith, that we are redeemed.
That is why, though we are not wild about going through it, we must die.
We must die, because that is how we shed our bodies.
Dying is merely having the redeemed spirit leave behind the fallen body.
The redeemed spirit is joined with a holy body in heaven and our redemption is completed.
(1 John 3: 2)
So, when we say that God is pleased with us because we are in Christ,
it refers to the spiritual part of us that is totally and fully redeemed
when we believe in and receive Jesus as our personal Saviour.
God is not playing mind games with us when He says He is pleased with us
and that we meet His standards in Christ.
We do not have to fool or trick ourselves into believing that we are holy and righteous.
While it is true that we are a walking civil war, and we will be until we die or the Lord returns,
the spiritual part of us – the inner man – stands before God today as holy and righteous
and acceptable in Christ.
That is what it means to be redeemed.
Our sins are gone! Completely! Forever!
Right now – we are acceptable to God, because we are in Christ, and Christ is acceptable to God.
According to a U.S. News and World Report, 78 percent of all Americans believe in heaven
and 60 percent believe in hell.
Yet, there are several misconceptions about both places,
and all of them are linked to how good we are.
The most common misconception is that when we die,
God puts all our good works on one side of a scale and all our bad works on the other side.
If our good works outweigh our bad works, we get into heaven.
The fact is, how good we are on earth has absolutely nothing to do
with whether we get to heaven.
Goodness is not the issue. Perfection is!
Goodness isn't enough! God demands perfection!
Other than Christ, the best person who has ever lived was not perfect.
A broken window cannot be unbroken.
And a person who sins can not un-sin.
Regardless of how good we are in the eyes of other people, we are unacceptable for heaven.
We cannot make ourselves acceptable.
In Old Testament times, once each year the Israelites celebrated
a Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), a day of fasting and sacrifices
when the priests and people were cleansed for their sins.
On that day the priests killed a goat, its shed blood symbolizing a sacrificial covering for sin.
Then, they laid hands on another goat,
symbolically transferring all the sins of the people to that goat.
The goat was then taken far out into the wilderness so that it could never find its way back.
This vividly portrayed to the Israelites that the sins covered by the blood
and placed on the scapegoat were gone – never to return.
The Son of God became the ultimate scapegoat – our scapegoat.
He was sacrificed – His blood shed – and upon Him were laid all of our sins forever.
(Psalm 103:1-2, 12; Isaiah 44: 22; Micah 7: 18; Romans 8: 1)
He redeemed us – bought us back – set us free – and made us acceptable to God.
Some people say, "I know that when I became a Christian, He wiped my slate clean.
But now I have to help keep the slate clean."
That is a noble aspiration, but you can not do it!
The issue is forgiveness.
If we are not forgiven of every single sin, we die.
That means being eternally separated from God.
If we have any hope whatsoever of making it to heaven,
it will only be because God forgives every one of our sins.
Period! Past, present, and future!
All! Not a few, but all.
All! Not some, but all.
All! Not most, but all.
When God created the world, all your sins were in the future. He created the world anyway.
When Jesus died on the cross, all your sins were in the future. Jesus died for you anyway.
When you were in the womb, all your sins were in the future. God gave you life anyway.
There is nothing you have ever done or can ever do that will surprise an omniscient God.
There is nothing you have ever done or can ever do that will earn your acceptance with God.
That acceptance comes only through Christ.
There is nothing you can do to enhance it.
There is nothing you can do to detract from it.
Because it depends on Christ, not on us.
When we grasp that fact – that salvation is totally free – that we can do nothing to earn it,
and nothing to lose it!
What an exhilarating and freeing truth it is!
Our redemption, our acceptance, our forgiveness – past, present, future – are totally in Him.
Write it on your mind – in your heart – on your tombstone – "Forgiven"!
Imagine that the year is 1875.
You are prospecting for diamonds in the remote mountains of South Africa,
far from the nearest civilization.
Somehow, a courier finds you and tells you that your rich uncle died in Kansas City
and left you a vast fortune.
To collect it, however, you must present yourself to his estate attorney in that city.
At that moment you discover you are fabulously wealthy.
You now own a mansion in the city and a summer home in the country.
Fine clothes, concerts, travel, and powerful connections –
all these and more are suddenly and wonderfully yours.
There is only one problem.
You are not in Kansas City to collect it and to enjoy it.
You are in the middle of nowhere.
Oh, there is some joy now in the anticipation of just knowing it is true.
The courier has brought you a good sum of money to pay for your trip to New York.
But it will take three weeks of hard travel just to get to Cape Town.
It will take three months over rough seas just to get to New York.
It will take another four months of bone-jarring travel on wagons
across the United States to Kansas City.
Wealthy? Beyond measure!
But you have to endure at least 10 months of hard traveling
before you get to experience your wealth.
Now, look at the Christian.
The Bible presents a picture we can barely imagine!
Wealth, purpose, love, and power await us in heaven.
For now, the limitations of earth are very much with us.
Yet, we are no longer just earthlings.
We have been chosen and adopted into a royal family.
We are children of God and citizens of heaven.
We must learn what is expected of us, and begin to act like it.
We have been chosen and adopted by the Lord and King, who has, through His Son,
bestowed on us redemption, forgiveness, and a rich inheritance.
Someday, we will understand things that are now incomprehensible. (John 16: 23)
Our minds, now darkened by the presence of sin, will be free to function clearly.
Our true desires will be fulfilled for God alone can perfectly complete us.
"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in Thee."
– Augustine in the First Chapter of Confessions.
It is heaven we long for!
It is God we seek!
Emotionally, our passions will be pure and sinless.
Our fellowship and love for God will be reflected in that intimate love
and complete unity with other believers.
Physically, all of our troubles caused by the constant demands
of weak and dying bodies will disappear.
We will not get tired or diseased.
We will not have to worry about bills, food, etc.
We will never have to fear dying.
There is no more death!
Throughout the Scriptures the doctrine of the resurrection provides real hope for the future.
Now we know God by faith, but then we will know Him face to face.
Now we suffer, but then we will realize that "the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8: 18)
Now we are surrounded by death, but then death will be swallowed up in victory.
By faith, believers can say with Paul,
"O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15: 55)
This is our inheritance! Great, glorious, and good!
It takes us beyond our wildest imaginations to the full knowledge, glory, and enjoyment of God.
It is true that many of us, as Christians, struggle with our feelings about this.
We may not feel holy and righteous.
We may not feel valuable.
We wonder why God would love us.
We look at our performance, rather than God's perfection.
We look at our circumstances, rather than God's promises.
Let me ask a question: "Why would you love a baby?"
A baby causes a mother more physical pain
than most women experience at any other time in their lives.
A baby screams demandingly – sometimes for hours on end
and soils its clothes at random but persistent intervals.
Then that baby, who is part of you and carries your image, begins to grow.
It starts to recognize you and respond to your love.
It begins to express love and obey love.
Suddenly, all the pain and sleepless nights and work and worry and love are worth it.
This finite parent-child relationship is merely a reflection
of our relationship with our heavenly Father.
We are made in His image.
God sees us and knows us. He knows everything about us.
He sees what we will become when we are conformed to the image of Christ.
He knows that someday we will be able to love and obey and worship Him perfectly.
A newborn baby does not have to earn a mother's or a father's love,
and we do not have to earn God's love.
In fact, we cannot.
God gives His love to us because we are in His image.
We are redeemed, not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus has done.
We are forgiven, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.
We have inherent and infinite value, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.
We are royalty!
We are children of the King of Kings!
We must recognize and rejoice in this.
If we do not see ourselves as children of the King, we will not act like children of the King.
If you want to see how much God loves us – look at the cross!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White