This week for our blog post we have a guest blogger, John Stange sharing his thoughts about being apart of God's family.
John Stange is a pastor, husband, father, and a great leader! He is a friend of ours and he has also written a few books, and runs an online membership community that teaches people how to build their online platforms.
Here is the link to purchase his books:
Your Identity in Christ - amzn.to/3rJ6dnd
Dwell on these things - amzn.to/3CMITv6
Here is the link to check out his membership group:
Platform Launchers - bit.ly/3rMr3Co
In Christ, you are made part of a new family.
One of my favourite weeks on our family's yearly calendar typically falls on the last week of July. During that week, my family goes camping with our siblings and their families. There's even a couple other families that join us that we aren't technically related to, but at this point, we've been camping together long enough that we feel like we're family.
Most evenings, we end the day around a campfire. We make a big circle of chairs, and all the adults and children sit around, talk, and eat snacks. It's so nice having almost all of our family together in one place at the same time, but without fail, it occurs to me every year that the majority of people in that circle, including my wife, my children, my in-laws, and all my nieces and nephews, I didn't even know just a couple short decades ago. They are the people I call my closest family, but I've only known them for a segment of my life.
Paul's letter to the Ephesians begins by explaining to us that in Christ, we have been made part of a new family. It's a great way to begin this letter, and it's a helpful perspective to hold on to every day of our lives.
When Paul wrote this letter, he was under house arrest in Rome. It's very likely this imprisonment lasted at least two years, but he made great use of the time. Not only did Paul write the letter to the Ephesians during this incarceration, he also wrote his letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
This letter to the church in the city of Ephesus is a little different from some of his other letters. It's widely believe that this epistle was intended to be circulated all around to various cities where believers had gathered. It's a doctrinal book that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write in order to help the church understand many foundational doctrines of our faith, as well as how those concepts were to be applied to daily living.
We typically divide the letter into six chapters, and a simple way to outline the book in your mind is to think of the first three chapters as a summary of what God has done for us, and the second three chapters as a summary of how we should respond.
God's eternal purpose for the church is explained in this brief book, and as we already mentioned, this book begins by helping us to see that through Christ, we have been made part of a new, eternal family, that allows us to enjoy eternal blessings that are far greater than we may naturally realize.
I. THE BENEFITS OF BEING PART OF OUR NEW FAMILY
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 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.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)
— Ephesians 1:3-6
When I was a small child, I thought it was the coolest thing that my family owned a grocery store. I loved seeing our last name on the outside of the building, and I thought it was pretty special to be known as the owner's son when I worked or walked around that store. I also knew that, whenever I wanted, I could go behind the deli counter and make myself a delicious sandwich. I could slice the lunch meat paper thin, then pile it high with whatever toppings I liked. It was an obvious benefit of being part of our family, and it felt special to me. But being part of the family of God has even greater benefits.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are made part of the family of God forever. As members of His family, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing imaginable. These blessings aren't earthly in nature. They're beyond earthly and material things. In Christ, the Father has graced us with spiritual benefits and has lavished eternal blessings upon us that are quite significant.
Paul reveals some of those blessings in this passage. He tells us that we have been chosen in Christ to be part of the family of God, even before the world was formed. He tells us that we have been set apart as holy and blameless in God's sight. He also reveals that we have been adopted into God's eternal family through Jesus.
These are eternally significant blessings that outweigh the kind of material blessings many of the people living in the city of Ephesus would have naturally valued or desired. The culture of that city was very earthly minded. In that city, there was a massive temple to the goddess Artemis. The temple took 220 years to build, and people would travel from many places to visit it. Artemis was a fertility goddess, so people would typically worship her with the desire to prosper with earthly abundance.
Isn't it sad to consider how most people prefer earthly prosperity over heavenly blessings? Many people wrap their whole sense of identity around worldly titles, accolades, and wealth. And that's just as much of an issue today as it was during Paul's time.
But for those who have come to faith in Jesus, we don't need to tie our sense of identity to worldly and temporary things. In Christ, we have been chosen. In Christ, we have been adopted into God's family. In Christ, we are holy and blameless. And these blessings remain true of you regardless of how your present-day circumstances may change.
Don't wrap your sense of identity around anything that won't be true of you forever. Understand who you are in Christ, and let your new identity as a member of His family become the dominant way in which you understand and perceive yourself.
II. THE HIGHEST PRICE WAS PAID TO PURCHASE YOUR FREEDOM
“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 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
— Ephesians 1:7-10
This past month has been an expensive month for our family, more so than I anticipated. We paid our property taxes this month. We also paid for our upcoming vacation, car inspections, school shoes for the kids, airfare, tuition for our kids to attend summer camp, college fees, and insurance. Then, just a few days ago, our hot water heater called it quits and had to be replaced. I'm grateful we had the funds to pay for it all, but I'm also grateful that most months aren't anywhere near as expensive as this month was.
But then I look at the words Paul shared in this passage of Scripture and I realize that the price I paid during my most expensive month is nothing compared to the price God paid to redeem me from my sin and condemnation.
Scripture tells us that we have redemption through the blood of Christ. Jesus redeemed us from sin. He paid for our freedom with His own blood. Through Him, we are released or delivered from our slavery to sin, Satan, and death. That means God was willing to pay the highest price imaginable to secure our freedom.
Now, through Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins and no longer chained to our rebellion. We've been graced with a new life and a new way of thinking. The wisdom and insight of God has been lavished upon us. We've been made capable to see things from God's perspective and to operate with divinely empowered insight into God's perfect will.
And just as we have been brought under Christ's authority, so too will all creation. Heaven and earth will forever be brought under the headship of Jesus Christ. All things will be united under His leadership. The impact of sin and the division it has caused will be forever eradicated by Jesus.
III. OUR ETERNAL INHERITANCE WILL BRING GOD GLORY
"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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
— Ephesians 1:11-14
Have you ever been given something that you didn't know what to do with? I am not someone who prefers to have a lot of things. If I don't have a use for something, I typically give it away. That becomes particularly tricky when someone leaves you something in their will. What are you supposed to do with it if you don't need or want it? Admittedly, I may have bruised some feelings in my extended family by choosing not to take a few things that were given to me as an inheritance. Instead of accepting them and then allowing them to gather dust in an attic, I gave them to other family members who actually needed them.
But in Christ, we have an inheritance that we would never want to give up. We have a place in His eternal kingdom, and we have the internal presence of the Holy Spirit who seals us and guarantees that inheritance. I may not get very excited about furniture, dishes, or other items that are left to me on this earth, but I get very excited about the incorruptible inheritance that has been divinely promised to me.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but 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 6:19-21
But I have to say that as much as I'm looking forward to my heavenly inheritance, there's something about it that the Lord is teaching me to value even more. I love the fact that Scripture tells us that our inheritance, the way it was obtained, and the manner in which it is guaranteed, brings glory to God. Glorifying Him is the chief reason we were created, and I'm grateful to know that even the blessings He bestows upon us, right now and in eternity, have the capacity to bring Him the honor and the glory He deserves.
It isn't a trivial thing to become part of the family of God. Is that something you've developed a deep appreciation for, and are you living with the certainty that you're part of His family?
Accept His invitation to be part of His family through faith in Jesus Christ today.
© John Stange, 2021