Ephesians 1: 3-14 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen,[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Now I've kind of introduced my family and they've been an important part of my journey. My dad surprised me and he showed up here and he's back in the back, so I don't have to be very, very nervous at all about that.
But I thought about this scripture this morning and one of the things that we as an integral part of our life nowadays in one way or another is a GPS. We have GPS in our cars, we have GPS on our phones. Now if you're from way back, you might remember you might have had a little compass.
Several years ago when I was in seminary. I lived over in Georgia and I was out I can't even remember where, what state park it was in, but I was walking along the trail. I got there late in the afternoon and I mean I sometimes just love to just go out and just hike and walk. And I started walking along the trail and I kept saying, well, I'll go a little bit further and a little bit further and a little bit further. And I finally got to a place where I noticed it was starting to get a little bit dark and so I said I better turn around and come back. And I had a phone, but I didn't have one with any kind of compass or direction on it.
So I started walking back and then I started hearing things running around in the woods around me. Have you ever been in a place like that, where you're not quite sure? And I remember I got on my phone and I called, and I called home because I was hundreds of miles away from anybody, especially from my family. And I called and my mom picked up and I said I just want you to know in case anything happens. And so I'm sure that settled her heart greatly.
But whenever we get lost, we need a direction, we need to know where we're headed.
All kinds of people of all different kinds of occupations, they use GPS, they use compasses. If you're a pilot, or if you're an archeologist, certainly if you're working for a moving company, if you're a civil engineer, a surveyor, a geologist, any number of things they use a compass as a part of their work.
Now again, maybe you had one of those that you held when you were younger and you just felt like, well, I can go anywhere now. Maybe it's part of your scouting background, you found your way with one of those little compasses. Maybe you even had the opportunity to even make one on your own. Now I haven't done this, but I'm told that with a magnetic compass you can build one on your own with a bowl of water and a needle and a cork. That'd be interesting to see if that works.
So we have all these different types of compasses. One is that magnetic compass, another is a gyro compass and that works in conjunction with the spinning of the Earth's axis and it rotates you toward a true north. A solar compass, we might can pretty easily figure out how that works. It works according to how the sun is directing us.
And then there's another kind of compass that's a little bit different, and that is our moral compass. And this one uses the son, except it's a different kind of son. It's the son of God, as he directs us in the way that he wants us to go, to guide us on a path that we need to go.
So what does a compass essentially do? It guides us on a path that we need to go, so that we may go in a good and right direction. And if your compass is not guiding you in the right direction, what might you do? You might need to find a new compass.
So we're starting a new adventure together, we’re starting a new year together. And generally when we start a new year, we're optimistic and we're hopeful about what the next year has got to hold. Did anybody here make any new year's resolutions? Maybe, maybe some. Nobody's raising hands, but I see a few heads shaking here and there, but maybe one of the things we want to do as we begin a new year is maybe we want to have better relationships with our friends and family. Maybe we have some goals for our family. Maybe we have some goals for our job. Maybe we just have some general things that we say I want to do better. I want to be better this year.
Now, if you look at statistics, oftentimes when we make these goals, how long do they usually last? Oftentimes it may be a day, but one week. Is that statistically? Yes, but we have big dreams for ourselves and big hopes for ourselves. But we need a good direction. We need a good path that we can walk, and so we need to look at what are the navigational tools, what are the things that we're using to move forward.
If you look at a compass again, what are the main directions that you get? They're called the cardinal points. What are those four things? The primary ones, you see, absolutely North, south, east and west. That those are our principal points on our compass.
And if you want to divide it up just a little bit more, there's what's called the intercardinal points and that's like northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, and those can be divided more and more and more depending on how specific you want to be.
So this morning I want us to look at our Scripture as kind of looking for the cardinal points of what God is trying to speak to us this morning, and when we look at these things we see that they are a direction for our relationship with God. What we need to be sure of when we come here this morning is who are we following? Whose path are we following after? The Apostle Paul, as he looked at these points, he might say the north-south points of that compass is that we are chosen people and that we are God's children. If we think about that in terms of that axis that the earth rotates on, this is like the north and the south poles.
It's not a stretch to say that being chosen, knowing that we are chosen, knowing that we are the children of God, are two principal things that we need to understand as we move into a new year.
In verse 4 it says in Christ, before the foundation of the world, we were chosen, and what he's trying to say here is it's not that anybody was chosen any better or more specifically than anyone else. He was trying to get across the message that you know originally, the Jewish people were known to be just they were God's chosen people. He was wanting people to know everyone. Everyone is open, everyone is invited into this new relationship with God.
The circle is bigger, the boat is widened, the tent has been expanded. So, you and me, we are all chosen as people of God.
Have you ever noticed that often God has a different plan for your life than you do?
There's times in my life when I've thought that I could give God some really good advice, but you know, I know that's I always wind up knowing that God's direction was better than mine, and Paul wants to remind us that he's got a bigger plan than we could have ever imagined and that you and me, as the people of God, we occupy a part of that plan.
So where do we stand at the beginning of this year? We stand as people who face an unknown future, but we have a known God. God is the one who we, on whom we stand, no matter what, what stands against us, no matter what beats against us, the God that created the heavens and the earth, the stars and the sky. I'm always in awe of that. That the very God who loves and knows us intimately is the one who created everything that is.
To further the direction that God calls us into: We were chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him in love. And those might sound like the same kind of the same words, but to be holy means to be morally pure, to be without blemish or fault. In the middle of that you might think of the word separation.
You know, when people worshiped in the temple and ancient times they were separated. They separated things apart for worship, from ordinary things. The sanctuary, like where we come in today, is a place where we set this place apart to give thanks to God for who he is, for what he's doing in our life, and God sets us apart for His glory. God sets us apart to be His instruments.
What he calls us to do is to designate our life, to set our life on a new path to be with Him. So we're called to be holy. We're called to be blameless. When we're blameless, we want to find a way to invite others, live our lives in such a way that we don't push others away. That we live our lives in such a way that others will look at us and they'll say that's the kind of person I want to be. I don't want to be the kind of person who hurts or injures anyone along the path. So we're called to be chosen people of God, but we're also called to be children of God.
This is a very personal thing. We all are, or at one time were children, and some of us were children by nature and some were children by adoption. There's something very special about children who are adopted because, again, what does that come back to? They were chosen. They were chosen.
So look at, as you begin this year, and you look at what path God might have you take, what you are a child of God, and why is that important?
Now, if you are a child and you have parents who love you, do you worry about the future? I know when I was growing up, I had two parents who loved me and I didn't worry about if there was gonna be, if I was gonna be taken care of. I might not have gotten everything that I wanted, and I certainly didn't need everything that I wanted. But when you know you have a loving parent who has your best interest in mind, that you're gonna have everything that you need.
And Jesus even says that in the sermon on the Mount what does he say? Do not worry. Do not worry about saying what will we eat or what will we drink or what will we wear. Your heavenly Father knows what you need, that you need all these things. If we wanna look at further directions, we're chosen. We're children of God. We're also redeemed. The scripture says and we are forgiven.
No matter how much we've messed up, we're not beyond the grace of God that Jesus continues to bestow grace upon grace. What is it? Why do we need to be redeemed?
One of the things that was mentioned in our earlier service today is we are one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith and of the church is that we were born with original sin. You know what does that mean? It means that when we're born, If you've ever seen a baby, what is one of the primary words when they start to talk? What's one of the first words that they have: Mine, this is mine. And there's probably several others that we can think about.
You know, we are born and we're broken and we're dysfunctional, and what Christ wants to do is to make us new and to make us usable again. And we're forgiven.
Now, sometimes, when we've messed up, one of the hardest things to do can be even just to forgive ourselves. And God, He says to us, through Jesus Christ, that you are forgiven, and when you like, at the beginning of a new year, it's like a fresh start. The slate has been made clean, and God wants to do that for us through His Son, Jesus.
And why does he want to do that? To give us a purpose.
And our main purpose is this is to bring praise and glory to God. So we are chosen, and we are children of God. We have redemption, we have forgiveness.
If we want to follow God's plan for our life, now, what is one of the things we have to do? We have to find our direction, we have to find our plan.
One of the things I never liked when I was in school was math. I'm sorry if we have any math teachers that are here this morning. But you know, I probably never learned it really well because I never wanted to take my book out. I never really enjoyed it. I never really wanted to study it, and what happens if you keep it in your backpack? You're not gonna learn anything.
And the truth is, when we wanna find our way with God, that we need to trust our direction and trust the direction that he wants to take us on, even when we think we might know better.
You know God, he desires us. You know, as we say quite often, that he wants to guide us eventually to the joy of our eternal home. And in our world we need something that is stable. So, as we think about that image of the compass, we need to trust where he's taking us. We need to consult it frequently in case we get off the path, because we know in our world there's all sorts of voices, there's all sorts of things that are trying to point us in different directions.
We need to be aware that there will be times when there will be people trying to take us off the path that God has called us into. And even we as Christians, as we've seen in these past few years even we as Christians sometimes think that there are different paths we have to take. Even we as Christians have to know that it's easy to be judgmental of others who think or do things differently than we do. But what God calls us to do is to be mindful of our own steps. Take your next step faithfully.
The final note I want us to talk about with our compass is to always be aware of our true north. That compass is always to point us in the right direction, but our true north is in Jesus Christ. If you look in the Scripture no more than 16 times, you would find him either directly or indirectly referred to.
Jesus is the one who is our true north. He is the one who that we follow. He is the one. This morning I've heard a lot of talk from different people about my grandfather and kind of standing in his shadow. But truly the shadow of the one in whom we want to stand is the shadow of Jesus. He needs to be the one who is at the center of all we say and do.
For Paul sharing and helping others come to know Jesus was his passion. He wanted to be obedient to God's will. That was what he wanted more than anything else.
Now will we face troubles, will we face difficulties, will we have times that, even as faithful Christians, that we'll feel utterly lost? Yeah, there will be those days, and sometimes we'll be looking around and we'll just have to feel our way through the fog.
But the thing is, when we have a relationship with Christ, that's something that nobody can ever take away from us. He is our hope, he is our life, he is our redeemer, he is our compass that points us in the right way.
And it's our faith that we know he has our best interest at heart and we know he's brought many of our forefathers and foremothers safely into his home and one day, one day, he'll guide us into that same place. So this day, let us, as we begin a new year, let us seek Jesus above all other things. Let us remember when we are hurt, when we are confused. Jesus, as the old song says that we sang as children. Jesus loves me, this I know, and we can be called and live all of our lives in His grace.