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Jack Graham - Beyond Blessed

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    Jack Graham - Beyond Blessed
TOPICS: Much More, Blessing

We’re calling this series MUCH MORE. I thought about just calling it MORE. But then I realized in the Christian life it’s not just more; it is MUCH MORE; it is super more! Because we have been given in Jesus Christ an identity and a security with a super blessing; super blessings that come from God. Abundant blessing. Now it's important for you to hear that today because unfortunately so many believers live beneath their blessings. They do not live up to the privileges and the possessions that they have in Christ. They don't know their true identity in Christ. They don't realize the security that we all have in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, God gave us Ephesians in the New Testament... again, my favorite New Testament letter is Ephesians. And every time I look at this great New Testament letter written by the Apostle Paul from prison. This isn't Paul in the pulpit, but Paul in the prison, ready to give his life in service to Christ, giving his life in service to Christ. He would be executed as a martyr for Jesus. So, he's not in the best of conditions. Those Roman prisons, those ancient world prisons were just indescribably bad. So, yet while he's in prison, he elevates into eternity by praising God. The Bible says "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, there is freedom". And the Spirit of the Lord is in that place. God inhabits the praises of His people.

So, in that dark dungeon where Paul was imprisoned, he experiences the blessings of God, all of the blessings of God. And he begins to pour out praise to God. He raises a hallelujah. He's fighting spiritual battles against the enemy and he's giving us a shout of victory. And there's coming a day when you will stand before God forever, celebrating the victory. But until then, you are to live this life that you've been given, and that includes an abundant life. Jesus said, "I've come that you might have life and have it more abundantly".

Now, listen. For me, I want more... no, I want much more! I want much more love, much more peace, much more joy, much more generosity, much more opportunity, much more enthusiasm, much more faithfulness to God, much more godliness in my life! I want much more! I don't want to settle for scarcity; I don't want to settle for a little bit in my walk with Christ, in my experience of Christ. I want, how about you? I want all that there is in Christ! All of it and much, much more! That's what I want.

Now here's the thing, key verse that unlocks the meaning really of the letter to the Ephesians, the book of Ephesians, two verses actually, Ephesians 3:20 and 21, and those of us who have been around Prestonwood a while, these are important verses to us because it describes so much of what God has done for this church over these years. But the Scripture says in Ephesians 3:20 and 21 that: "God is able". Do you believe that? "God is able to do exceedingly abundantly", much more, "exceedingly abundantly above", and beyond, "all that we could think", or hope or dream or pray much more. "God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we think (or hope or dream) according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church... through all ages forever and ever". To Him be the glory!

When I came to be the pastor of this church 30 years ago, God put a vision and a passion in my heart to believe God and to trust God to do great and mighty things. Much more things. And we have seen God do that over these years and these decades and we look back and we look now, and I see this today, when I see so many young people again filling this room, I’m saying, "God, thank You for the ‘much more’, what You have done so extremely and extraordinarily beyond what we could have imagined, dreamed, prayed or worked to do. You have done this, God! To You be the glory in Your church! This is all You! But, Lord, it’s not enough! We want more; we want much more! We want to see more of our friends come to Christ"! Amen?

We want to know more of God’s love and God’s grace! We want to experience more of His power in our lives, to overcome temptation and to live in the victory of our life in Christ! More, more and much more! That’s what Ephesians is all about. So, when you open up the very first chapter, you read a typical introduction by the Apostle Paul, who said: "Paul, an apostle", he is one who was sent, "of Jesus Christ by the will of God: To the saints who are in Ephesus". You probably don't know much about Ephesus. It was a great city in the ancient world. I've actually traveled along with members of our church to Ephesus to see the ruins at Ephesus. There are about 350,000 people that lived in Ephesus in the day of Paul, the day of Jesus. It was where the East met the West. So, we're not going to do a lot of travelogue about Ephesus. You can google it. But the fact is it was a very powerful city, but it was filled with idolatry and immorality.

And so, these saints, living faithfully in God, were living in a very dark time in a very dark place, surrounded by idolatry and immorality and the worship of false deities, and all the rest. And so, this band of believers, God raises up a colony of heaven and they are Christians; they are followers and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, "Grace and peace be to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". And then watch what happens next. Remember, Paul’s in prison and he’s about to get fired up because as he’s praying and praising God, he begins to pour out praise to God, word after word in one long sentence. Two hundred and two words in the English language: one sentence.

Some even believe it’s the longest sentence in the antiquity books of the ancient world, of all the books in the ancient world, this is the longest singular sentence in history. And for what that’s worth, it simply means that Paul gets so excited about who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, he begins to worship the great God, three in one, Holy Spirit, God the Son, God the Father, and he begins just to exalt and to worship and wonder and praise at the salvation that we have in Christ; what Christ has done, who we are in Christ. He just goes on and on. So, watch this, and go with me and stay with me: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ".

You know what it means to bless the blessed? What does that mean "Bless God"? Well it means to praise God. It's a eulogy; it's the word. If you go to a funeral service and someone speaks well of the deceased, that's a eulogy. So, this is the same word. It's eulogy and it means to bless God; it means, so just insert "praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places". The heavenly places have to do with the invisible world all around us. Not talking about just out there in heaven somewhere, but really it means the heavenlies, just one word here. It’s the invisible world that is all around us. So, he’s saying here you are blessed in these heavenlies. You are blessed in the heavenly places. Not just when you die and go to heaven, but you are blessed beyond right now.

We’re calling this message "Blessed Beyond". Blessed in the heavenly places. So watch. All right, I’m not going to stop; you got to go! "Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth".

I’ve just got to stop and say that’s talking about the day when Jesus comes again and unites us with Him and our loved ones who’ve gone before. And He will unite heaven and earth, and the heavens and the earth will become one kingdom under the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s going to happen. Jesus Christ is coming again! And then he says: "In him we have obtained", keep going, "an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were in the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory".

That's why you're here, to live for the praise of His glory! "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation", that's what you're hearing right now, "and believed in him, were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory". Now that's what I call raising a hallelujah! Can't stop, couldn't stop! Just kept rolling with praise to God the Father, with praise to God the Son, with praise to God the Holy Spirit.

There's really three stanzas to this great song of praise. One, praise to God: He has chosen us, chosen by God the Father. We are chosen by God the Father. You are a wanted child. Look at verse 4. It says, "Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world". We are saved because we have been sovereignly, listen up, sovereignly selected by God the Father. It's the mystery of His will talked about in this passage, things that we can't understand regarding the sovereignty of God and human responsibility. But it is a fact that you love Him because He first loved you. He set His heart and affection upon you. You are not here this weekend, you're not watching online, you're not in this room right now by chance, but by divine appointment!

God the Father, listen to me, before time began in eternity past, before the world was made, before Adam and Eve were created, before skin ever came into the world, before Jesus went to the cross and rose again on the third day, before you were born, when you were still in your mother's womb, God chose you to be a part of His eternal family!

Now the Bible teaches parallel, both human responsibility and divine sovereignty. We're not here to discuss that big, big, big topic today. But simply to say, God chose us but He does not choose for us. Does that make sense? God chose you to be saved, to come to Christ, but He will not choose for you. God enables you to believe by the work of His Spirit, but He will not force you to believe, or He will not believe for you. That's your side, that's the human side. I know this: "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance". I know this: The Bible tells us that Jesus died for all, that He loves every person on the earth, that there are none that cannot be saved. All can be saved!

The last invitation in the Bible is Revelation chapter 22, verse 17, and in that verse, it says, "Whosoever will let him come and drink of the water of life freely". This is why, you know, we are told to go and share Christ with all of our friends, because there's a human accountability and human responsibility. Yes, God will choose, God will pick us, God will bring us into His family, but He uses human instruments like you and me to share the Gospel, to invite people in. It's all a part of His divine plan. He talks here about, so, don't get hung-up, you know, here today about who's the elect, who's the non-elect.

The great evangelist D. L. Moody used to say, "The elect are 'the whosoever wills' and non-elect are the 'whosoever won'ts'". When I was taught this in seminary, I had a professor who said, "Think of it this way: There's a door that goes into heaven and on this side of the door it says 'Whosoever will may come' and so you walk by faith into that door. You turn around, the door is shut and you look up back on the other side, it says, 'You didn't choose Me; I chose you.'"

So, we live with that resistance, that tension, if you will, between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. But it is a fact that you are chosen by God. How long has it been since you've thanked God and praised Him, saying, Lord, thank You for choosing me. He says that we're adopted into the family of God, verse 5. That really speaks of the legal standing before God of an adult-child but just in speaking of our own adoption procedures here, I know this about an adoption and some of you who adopted into your family. I know this about a good, healthy adoption: You were chosen. You were selected, you were hand-picked, you were brought into a family, through no choice of your own most likely, and no involvement of your own. But some parents loved you and brought you into the family.

And so, when you think about this adoption of God the Father who has chosen us, He selected us, He wanted us, He willed us to come into His family. And I love down in verse 6; look at it. It says: "to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved". There's that word blessed. That's why we're calling this sermon "Blessed Beyond" because the blessing just keeps happening, more blessing. So, we're blessed in the blood. Isn't that a beautiful name for Jesus, the Beloved? Jesus is the Beloved. God the Father at His baptism said, "You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased".

The forerunner, John the Baptist said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". This is the Savior, the Beloved of God. And we are blessed; we are accepted in the Beloved. Now acceptance in life is the thing we all deal with, isn't it? You think, you know, in your teenage years, your student years, high school and middle school, you know, all that acceptance issue. "Will I be accepted with the crowd? Will I be accepted in this group? Will I be accepted?" Etcetera.

That's a big thing. Well guess what? It's true for adults as well. All of us battle this issue of acceptance in our lives. But here's the greatest news. You are accepted in the beloved Jesus Christ. You are beloved as He is beloved. And because He's beloved and you are beloved, you are loved by God with the same love that He loves His own darling Son! You say, that sounds like blasphemy. No! It's Bible! God, the Father sees you in Christ; you are the beloved of God! You are adopted into the family of God! You are chosen by God! That would be a great place to say praise the Lord! All right.

Now secondly, we are redeemed by the Son. The word redeem means to be bought out of captivity; it's to pay a ransom. And we were in captivity because of our sin. We were in debt. And someone must pay us out. So someone paid the ransom; that someone is Jesus. It says, verse 7: "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace". Love that phrase, "the riches of his grace". Again, abundant, abundant, abundant, blessed beyond, much more! "The riches of his grace".

Redemption means that we have been bought back out of the slave market of sin. We were all in chains; now we are free! In Christ we are free! And we are forgiven! To be forgiven literally means that He lets it go. And the reason that He can let it go is because Jesus didn't let it go. Jesus took the sin, the shame; He died, and therefore, we are forgiven because of His blood! The precious blood! "Oh, precious is the flow that makes us white as snow, the blood of Jesus".

And there's power in the blood of Jesus Christ. So, we're praising God today for God the Father who has chosen us. We're praising God, we're raising a hallelujah today for God the Son who has redeemed us and forgiven us. You are forgiven. Every sin: past, present and future is under the blood of Jesus Christ if you're saved. Isn't that wonderful? We praise God the Holy Spirit who has sealed us. See that word there in your Bible when it says in verse 13: "In him also, when you heard the word of truth, and gospel of your salvation, believed in him, you were sealed with the promise of the Spirit".

A seal is a stamp or a seal signifies ownership. A king would put his seal upon his property, and so on. So, a seal is a stamp of authenticity. A seal describes ownership; it describes approval and it describes closure. If you're wrapping a box; you put something in it airtight, and you seal it down airtight. That's the idea here. So, what you have in the seal of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the seal, and He provides this promise for us. We are sealed and secured in Jesus Christ. That means when you are a bonified believer, when you are a Christian, when Christ is in you, you are forever sealed and saved. You forever belong to God.

You are His forever and "Nothing", the Scripture says, "will separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ". We are kept, we are sealed, we are secured. All of God's sheep who are saved. The sheep of God are saved. All of God's sheep are secure in God's hand. "No man shall pluck them from My Father's hand". You belong to Jesus. I without question believe in the eternal security of the believer in Jesus Christ because of what God the Father has done in choosing us, the Spirit, the Savior, Jesus in saving us, and the Holy Spirit sealing us forever in Christ. So, the fact is if you are saved you are then sealed, the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are the temple now of the Holy Spirit. You have the authenticity stamped by God, "This is mine".

And one last thing, we're finished. He speaks of this guarantee, verse 14: "who is the guarantee of our inheritance". It's a word which actually means a guarantee. If you go buy a house, you put a down payment down most likely on that house. And if you put a big enough down payment on that house when the money goes hard, you're going to find the rest of the money when you get the house.

So, the Holy Spirit puts a down payment on your life and it is an engagement, it is a promise that now that you know Christ, that you will one day be with Christ. And it's sure and it's certain and you are as sure for heaven as if you were already there. You are signed, sealed and delivered already. And one day when the heavenly Bridegroom comes, because you are sealed unto the day of redemption, you have a guarantee of your inheritance! You may not have much on this earth, but you have a heavenly inheritance that is beyond your imagination! Once Christ comes, we will be united with Christ forever and celebrate like it's the super bowl every minute in heaven from now throughout all eternity. That is beyond blessed!
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