God works in mysterious ways. Through a small nation of chosen people, He provided a Savior and a Gospel that would allow all people to intimately know Him. Though perfect and powerful, God empowers imperfect people to spread that good news to others. And though believers may experience suffering, that suffering can be their greatest opportunity to trust Christ and display His truths to the world.
Romans 8:35 says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." As we sing that, I thought about the other day. I was with my daughter, Presley.
We went camping. I was delighting in her. She was having fun. I bent over and I grabbed her by the face and I said, "Hey, I've got to tell you a secret." She's like, "What?" I whispered in her ear. I said, "I am crazy about you." As we sing that psalm, that's what I want you to know. There is a God. He created everything. He knows everything that you've done. Frankly, he knew you would do it before you did it, before he created you, before he created the earth.
He bends down. He would grab your face and in your ear tell you, man and woman, whoever you are, wherever you are, "I am crazy about you. There is nothing in this life that is going to separate you from my love. No force, no experience. I am crazy about you." That gives us a message which we take to the world. It is, "He is crazy about you."
If he has told you that and you believe that, then don't believe it in vain. Take that message to the 20- and 30-somethings of this city and invest in them. Tell them, "Hey, there is a God. He is crazy about you! He is crazy about you. Come worship him with me." My name is JP. I'm so stoked that you're here. If you're here from The Village Church, we are glad you're here.
If you're here from IBC, we are glad you're here. If you're here from First Baptist Dallas or Park City's Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist or whatever. Wherever you're from… If you've never been to church before in your life, we're stoked to hang out with you for a minute and talk about the great God who we worship, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
That is what we're doing tonight in this Ephesians series, Life in Ephesus: Changing the World. There is this strategy and game plan in the book of Ephesians of God changing the world through his church, through the bride of Jesus (that's us, the believers). Paul talks about how this has evolved, how God did this, how he made for himself a people, and then how he puts those people to work and how we move throughout this place unveiling the mysteries of God.
Here is something kind of quirky about me. I love magic. I like to go to magic shows. My wife and I have done that deal. I like to watch David Blaine on TV. The dude levitates. I'm always trying to figure out, "How does he do that?" He throws cards up against the window. All of a sudden, mine is on the other side of the glass. "How did you do that, David? You're crazy!" He does all of these great and amazing things.
Not long ago, when I was in college, there was this show on TV that was Breaking the Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. Has anybody seen that show? Awesome. Just me. There was this show that I liked. It was Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. There was this guy. He was in a mask because he had betrayed the industry. He had revealed all of the magician's secrets.
He would show you how the tricks actually worked, which is really intriguing to me. Here's what would happen. When you found out how they worked, it was just kind of like, "Oh, it's just a mirror, man. Oh, it's just a string." There is something about us when we see something that does something that we can't fathom or fully understand. We really want to know how.
Then a lot of times when we actually find out how, we're a little bit disappointed. I'll give you a for instance. There was one particular trick that was on the show. Here was the trick. It was a guy with a crossbow, like a bow and arrow, but a crossbow. He shot the arrow through a woman into the bull's-eye. You could see it plain as day, right? There's the woman. There's the bull's-eye. There's the arrow.
Attached to the arrow was a streamer. There is this streamer attached to the arrow. The streamer flies through and threads the woman and drives right into the bull's-eye. You see it. You're watching this. There he is, plain as day. He has the crossbow. He points it directly at the woman's stomach. He pulls the trigger. The arrow goes straight through her, threading her with this streamer, and then sticks into the bull's-eye.
I'm watching this. I'm just like, "How do they do that?" They went to commercial break and then they explained how they did that. Here's how they did. Okay. You ready? There was a string you couldn't see attached to the streamer and to a counter weight on the other side of the bull's-eye. That weight would fall. The streamer would head toward the woman.
At the woman, there was a tube that would come here. It went around her and came out her back. The streamer, with the string attached to it, threaded through that tube and came right out her back. It looked like it went through her, but it actually went around her. Then it got to the bull's-eye. The arrow never actually moved in the crossbow.
What happened was hidden in the bull's-eye, another arrow pops out, and the streamer just goes straight through that arrow. It happened so fast, because of the counterweight… It happened so fast that it looks like the arrow flies through the woman, when the arrow never actually moved and another arrow pops up over there. You watch and you're like, "Oh! What?"
What was funny about that is that I don't know what I expected. Like, "Hey, it just so happens that he actually is a magician and a witch and he did some hocus pocus. It actually goes through there. She's going to need medical attention later." I don't know what I anticipated in that. I know it's a trick and I know there's an explanation, but when I get the explanation, I'm just like, "Oh."
When the mystery is revealed, I'm like, "Oh, man! That's disappointing." It's just basically a water hose. Like, if I went to Home Depot I could do the same trick with my daughter, but I won't. Here's the deal. The Scriptures talk a lot about the mysteries of God. What happens when God is unveiling the mysteries to us is we're not disappointed by what we find out about him.
We actually are drawn to him more. We actually love him more. You are in a process. We're really unable to identify where we're at in this process, but somewhere you are in the process of God unveiling his mysteries to you. As you seek him, what actually happens because God is so amazing, is you fall more and more in love with him because of his amazing ways.
Because there is a God who created the heavens and the earth, as we learn more about him, we learn more about what he has done. We learn about what he is doing. We learn about what he wants from us. So as I meet with young adults, it seems like young adults are like…it seems like we're like, "Hey, what does God want from me? Where does he want me to work?
Who am I going to marry? Am I going to get married? Will I have kids? How many? Where will I live? What does God want from me?" We process that like it is some lofty thing that we can't really grasp, but the reality is answers are much closer to you than you think. The reality is what God desires from you is in this book.
As you grow in your knowledge and understanding of his Word, now I'm not saying this book is about you, because it's not. It's all about God. It does say some things and explain some things and reveal some mysteries to you of what he desires for you in your life. That's why this is so important that we travel through his Word and we understand what he is teaching us through books of the Bible, that you would grow in your knowledge and understanding of the Bible. You'll be able to outline.
You'll say, "Hey, I know what Ephesians is. I know what's happening in the first three chapters of Ephesians." Tonight we're talking about themysteries of God revealed. We're going to talk about specifically the mysteries in our suffering, the mysteries in his saving or our salvation, and then before we leave here the mysteries in our sharing, the mysteries in our desires and abilities to reach out the 20- and 30-somethings in this city and inviting them, "Hey, come and see my great God. Come and see how he works. Come and see what he's done with us."
We're in Ephesians 3 if you have your Bibles. I hope you do. Turn with me to Ephesians 3. To recap, Paul has, through Ephesians 1 and 2, been showing us how God has made or created for himself a people group. Paul has been explaining this. I don't know if you knew this, but the first three chapters of Ephesians have no imperative commands.
It is very different from a book like James or a book like Proverbs or the Ten Commandments. The first three chapters in Ephesians don't ask you to do anything. It can be very difficult from a preacher's perspective because the application is limited. It is how you know who you are and who God is. You are his. He is amazing. You are his. He is enough.
Paul is saying this over and over and over. He is explaining to us. He is giving us a history lesson of how the gospel, the message of Jesus, has gone out to the Gentiles. That's you and me. That's really good news for us. This message has reached out to us to save us, to give us eternal life, life with God, heaven, eternity, all of these. Things that we want that we might have misconceptions of what they actually are. He would give us full and abundant life.
We're starting Ephesians 3. We'll wrap it up next week. Then we'll get to the part with the imperative commands. Paul says, "For this reason…" He is coming out of chapter 2 where he explains the Gentiles and the Jews being grouped together. Now the message of God has spread beyond this tiny people group who thought, "We're special. We're God's people."
Then all of a sudden his message blasts out. He claims for himself the ekklēsia of the church. He called out his people. That's us. Paul says, "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…" Dash. Ramble. Verse 1 through 13 is one unpunctuated sentence. There is no punctuation in the Greek. It is a rambling of Paul.
Paul begins this prayer talking about being in prison, but then he gets sidetracked and he starts talking about other stuff. He starts off, "…I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus…" My first point is the mystery in our suffering. It is the idea that Paul is in prison. It's really ironic how he got to prison.
In Acts 21, it talks about how he got to prison. We know that the Jews were extremely prejudiced, extremely racist in this time. They were this small, unique people group who didn't want anybody else in. The Gentiles were disgusting, and they hated them. (That's us.) The Jews tried to really keep their worship pure and to themselves. They built this wall in the temple.
They assume. They believe falsely, incorrectly that Paul has brought a Gentile past the wall into the temple where Gentiles can't be. This is something that he could've been killed for. The Roman government allowed the Jews capital punishment for this. They mobbed him. The Jews mobbed Paul. Keep in mind, Paul is God's boy. God is going to do some amazing stuff through Paul.
This is where his ministry goes sideways. You ready? He gets mobbed by God's chosen people. They mob him so much that the Romans there have to intervene. The Romans rescue him. Then he is caught in the Roman judicial system. He is held hostage by the Roman governor Felix. The reason that Felix holds him hostage in Caesarea is because he wants to get a bribe from some of Paul's people.
He is hoping that one of the churches that he has helped or one of his people is going to raise up and pad Felix's pocket, give him some money. I'm telling you all this for a reason. I want you to think about what it is like to be Paul. You've been mobbed by Jews. Romans come in and rescue you. You get caught in their judicial system. Now you have this governor holding you hostage, hoping to get a bribe.
Felix is replaced by a guy named Festus. Festus is the governor. Festus wants to earn political power with the Jews. He is going to have Paul sent to Jerusalem so that the Jews will have favor with Festus now. Paul uses the fact that he is a Roman citizen and appeals his case through the judicial system to the emperor Caesar. All of this is happening.
He wins that argument. He is actually transferred by ship to Rome. As a prisoner, he is going to Rome. He gets shipwrecked off the island of Malta. Can't catch a break, this Paul guy. He eventually… I'm telling you this stuff flippantly and quickly, but you can imagine. This is taking a long time. This isn't weeks here. This is a significant chunk of Paul's life, and it's all happening after he has trusted Christ, all this suffering.
Now he actually makes it to Rome. He is under house arrest in Rome for two years. There he has the freedom to write. Under house arrest in Rome, he actually writes a letter to the Colossians, to Philemon, to the Philippians, and to the Ephesians. He does that about AD 60. This is about 30 years after Christ's death.
Here is my question for you. Here is why I told you all that. If Paul is God's man, why did he suffer so much? We read about Paul and we're like, "Oh, Paul is this superhero." Dude, his life was… He was hemmed up in jail. He was shipwrecked. He is in jail here. He is in jail there. He was mobbed by God's chosen people. This dude can't catch a break, man. My guess is at the first reading of the Scriptures we are like, "Hey, I want to be Paul."
I don't want to be Paul, man. It almost looks like God doesn't like Paul. I think that if we saw that life, we'd be tempted to say that. "Man, God must not like Paul very much." I think a lot of times we define the path that we want to take by the path of least resistance, the path of least suffering, and the path of most comfort.
We look at paths and we're like, "I don't want to take that one. That looks uncomfortable. I'm going to take the comfortable path." As we read this book, it seems like sometimes God calls us down the uncomfortable path. Sometimes God even calls us to suffering, which is crazy to think about.
He writes, "…the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—" In this one verse, it's really rich. Who are the Gentiles? Everyone who is not a Jew. Why does Paul write, "I am a prisoner for the sake of you Gentiles?" The answer is in Acts 9. It is Paul's conversion. Paul is on the road to Damascus now. Paul is Saul. Paul is a Pharisee, a Roman citizen. Saul has it all going on.
He is probably wealthy. He has some credibility with whoever he stands before. He has pretty much everything that you want in life. He is walking on this road to Damascus, and Jesus shows up in the form of a bright light and talks to him. He is blinded. He can't see. Saul is like, "Who is that?"
God says, "Hey, it's me. The Christ you have been persecuting." Then he can't see. God goes to a guy named Ananias and says, "Hey, Ananias, I want you to go to Saul of Tarsus. I want you to reveal my truth to him because I have great plans." Ananias is like, "No way, God. I've heard about that dude. He has been killing us."
Saul had been persecuting the Way, the followers of Jesus. That has been his life mission. This is history. It actually happened. This is truth. Saul is working against the Way, those who follow Jesus. God shows up. God radically saves him. God goes to Ananias and says, "Hey, go save him." Ananias says, "Hey, I'm scared." God says this in Acts 9, verse 15.
"But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles, and their kings, and before the people of Israel.'" Saul/Paul is God's chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles. This is part of God's strategy. Check this out. Verse 16, "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
God uses Paul's suffering to reveal his mystery. Okay, guys. Sometimes your suffering is your greatest opportunity to actually have faith and to display your faith. Let me say it like this. Your suffering is your greatest opportunity to trust Christ and to display Christ. Some of you, that might even be your testimony.
"I watched how he endured that thing and it just seemed to be able to… I want to know more about his God." Or, "I watched how she went through that circumstance in life with grace and humility and authenticity, all while trusting this God who I wanted to know more about." Because in this world you will have trouble. If you don't have trouble, you're not living it right.
That trouble is sometimes often our greatest opportunity to trust Christ and display Jesus to the world. Verse 2. "Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known…" What is the mystery made known? God's grace that was given to me for you. God's grace, God's outreaching, God's saving of people. The act of God that is God calling people into relationship with him. "…the mystery made known to me by revelation…"
God made it known to Paul. It wasn't Paul's effort. Paul was just walking on the road persecuting Christians, and God makes it known to him "…as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ…" Paul says, "Hey, I want you to know about this mystery of Christ." "…which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets."
My second point tonight is the mystery of our saving or the mystery in our salvation. This is the actual mystery that this text is about. How God is claiming for himself or going out to make for himself a people. It is really important that we grasp this, because it is a really key message in the Scriptures, that we would be a part of his body and that we would be actively getting after it for the sake of God, that God has gone to great lengths to make for himself a people.
In verse 3, you see that the mystery is the grace that is mentioned in verse 2. In verse 2, that this mystery was revealed to Paul by God. So he writes about it here so that we have a better understanding. Then he defines the mystery in verse 6. He says this. "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus."
The mystery is not that Gentiles can be saved. They could have found that out through the Old Testament. If you would take your Bible and you'd rip it in half and you just read the Old Testament, you would believe that God's plan and strategy is that he is going to make this really, really tiny people group. He is going to preserve them.
They're going to be his worshippers. That people group who was preserved, they became entitled and struggled with elitism. They became what we call Pharisees, pharisaical legalists. They created all these rules to follow. Their hearts had drifted from God. God says, "Boom! My gospel is going to go out to the nations. I'm going to start saving people. It is not just you guys anymore."
This would've been absolutely scandalous to the most religious of person. To the person who thought they loved God the most. They'd have been like, "No way is this message for them!" He says, "Oh, yeah. Not only is it for them, but I'm going to claim them now as my people." That is you and me. This is good news for us.
He begins doing that. Gentiles, the Greek word is ethnos, where we get the word ethnicity or people groups. The Greek word for church is ekklēsia. It means called out. Now the Gentiles have been called out as God's church. Colossians 1 says it like this, to give you another perspective, which is really the same perspective in just another book of the Bible.
"Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
So what, Paul? So what? Verse 28: "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." Paul says if this is true, if God is going to save the people, if his message is going to go out to the nations, then there is work to be done. The good news is it is his work through you.
Let me just say this really quick. You came in tonight and you thought you had a life plan. You thought you had life figured out. Still do, some of you. You thought, "Hey, I just have to get a good job. I'm going to make a good living. Maybe get married. Maybe have some kids. Maybe retire in the suburbs. Maybe have a German Shepherd." God has bigger plans for you.
I don't know what your day looked like. Some of us wasted it. Some of us will go to sleep tonight and it won't matter a whole lot to the kingdom that we breathed today. It matters to God. Don't get me wrong. It does. Grace plays a tremendous element. Remember, God is grabbing you and saying, "Hey, I'm crazy about you." He is not loving you because of what you've done. He loves you because of what he has done.
Because of what he has done, he has some stuff he wants to do through you. All you need to do is surrender to him. Lose your life for his sake. I'm not saying this because I'm compensated to do so. I'm not saying this because I'm employed by the church. I'm saying this because I began to live it and I found life. All of a sudden I started studying this book, which was written by the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
I realized that he had something more for me. He wanted something more from me than seeing how rich I could get, how many girls I could sleep with, how much I could experience intoxication with minimal side effects, how much I could buy, how much of a kingdom I could get for myself, how much attention from the world I could grasp. He has something more for you. Don't waste your life, man. If you wasted today, don't waste tomorrow.
My second point is the mystery in our sharing. Verse 7: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power." It's his power. His power gives grace. What is grace? It is God at work. His power comes in us and it saves us. Then it works through us to save other people. That is a great life mission.
To get up to heaven and see a bunch of people who God saved through you that you can hang out with for the rest of the rest of the rest. That people would be in your downline. That you invested in someone who invested in someone who invested in someone. Now you're all up in eternity having a party for the rest of the rest. That is a life mission. It is God through you.
If you're here and you're this extreme introvert and you're like, "Man, that's really daunting," read this text. It is God working through you. You need only to yield to him. It is his power. Paul can share with anyone because he knows it is God. Let me tell you a story. This happened this week, two days ago, actually. We're driving down Coit, southbound on Coit where Coit is about to merge with 75. We're actually going over 635 on Coit. Sometimes when I drive, I daydream a little bit.
My whole family is in the car and I'm cruising. I'm going 20 miles an hour because I'm behind this other car. I don't even realize it. Cars are just flying past us. My loving wife says, "Hey, what are you doing? Pass this car." She says that in her more sanctified way. I'm like, "Oh. Man, what is this car doing?" I pass him. As we drive past him, we see that it is a guy and his head is in his hand like this.
He is shaking his head, just hating life. Monica and I had the same thought at the same time. We're like, "Oh, he's having a rough day." What happens then is we pull up to the light out here on Coit. There is a car in front of him and there is not a car in front of me. I stop a car short of the light and I roll down Monica's window. His window is down, by the way. I'm like, "Why don't you share the gospel with him? He needs some encouragement, and God put you on his side."
She is like, "Why don't you share the gospel with him?" The light turns green almost immediately. We pull up to the next light, except the car in front of him went through that light. Now he is directly in line with us. Her window is down. I roll down the back window, which has my two kids in it. Monica and I are debating over who is going to share the gospel with this guy, whose head is still in his hand.
My 3-year-old sitting right behind me says, "Hey, guy! Hey, guy!" She says it twice that loud. Then my 5-year-old, they're tag-teaming. My 5-year-old says, "Do you know the gospel?" Monica and I are just like, "Oh, man! Shame on us!" True story. The guy is like, "What just happened?" He's shaking his head, "No," but he's also laughing like, "What is the gospel?" We began to talk.
Let me just say, hypothetical world. One is our girls are fearless. That is not an every day activity. That is not what we do for fun, but it was fun if I'm honest. There we are. Let's just say this. Hypothetically, he wouldn't because she is 5, but what if he then starts throwing out objections? "Well, the gospel… What's so good about the good news? How did he come back to life? I don't know. What about dinosaurs and the Bible?" Whatever he is going to throw out. I'm right there.
Two things are happening. One, I'm an extremely proud papa. I'm like, "That's my girl!" The other thing is I'm like, "Hey, I'm here for you." What if he gets angry? I got you! We'll talk. If he asks you a question, I'll intervene. If you don't know what to say, just ask me and I'll tell you. How much more so…? Is God really in control? Is he really powerful? Does he really intervene in our lives?
Does he really care about us? Does he really want others to know him? Is he real? Is he active? Is he living? I'm wasting so much of my time in my life if the answer to any of those questions is no. I've invested a lot because I believe the answers to all of those questions are absolutely yes. If he is, whenever you say, try this method, "Hey guy, do you know the gospel?"
Maybe that works, right? "Hey ma'am, do you know the gospel?" If you don't know what to say, try that. Try Presley's evangelism methods. Then watch God work. He has you. He loves you. He loves that person so much more than you do or ever will. He desires them to be in his kingdom so much more than you do. Why wouldn't he give you the words to say?
Why wouldn't he help you? You can trust in that moment that it is all him. When you realize that, when that really becomes real, a couple of things happen. One is you don't have to get frustrated when someone doesn't know Christ. That family member or that person in your life or that boss or that coworker that doesn't know Christ. You're like, "Hey, what am I doing wrong? Why can't they just get it?" God hasn't unlocked their heart yet.
Plead with God to unlock their heart. It is not up to you. You can't save anybody. The Spirit of God has to move. You can't say the magic phrase or the magic illustration or the magic word, right? It is God. God has to intervene. Look to God and say, "Hey God, will you intervene here? Will you make yourself famous through this conversation? Will you save another one?"
Another thing happens when you realize it is all him. You don't have to be so angry or defensive. The second you draw a line in the sand and you step to a side, you have begun to separate the two of you, not bring you closer. Remember, you were lost once too. But for God. God intervened. When you look to them, don't be like, "Hey, you're crazy that you don't believe in God." No, you didn't believe in God too. It starts when they say, "Hey, I just don't think Jesus rose from the dead."
"I understand why you think that. It's a really difficult idea. Let's look at the Scriptures. I can get there."
"I just don't understand. Where are dinosaurs in the Bible?"
"That's a great question. I had that question once. Let me show you where I think we can find answers."
If you don't know, just try this. "I don't know. Let me try to find out for you. I hang out at this place on Tuesdays called The Porch. Every week he invites people forward and asks people for prayer. I'll just go in that room this week and I'll ask them. Maybe someone will help me find an answer. Why don't you come with me?"
If you don't want to share the gospel with them, we will. Just bring them here. We'll share the gospel with them. You don't have to be so argumentative or so ready to debate with them. Just love them. For some of you, you'll just say, "Hey, I don't know, but I was lost and now I'm found."
For others of you, you'll be like, "Hey, here's the deal. Cro-Magnon Man and evolution and microevolution and macroevolution. Then there is Jesus. This is how this fits. Seven day creation, old earth, young earth." That is great. Use whatever knowledge you have to reveal the mysteries of God to whoever is around you. Amen?
Paul says this in verse 8. "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…" I love that, the unsearchable riches. You can't even find it if you search for it. It finds you. Some of us are like, "Hey, I found Jesus." No you didn't. Jesus was never lost. Jesus has always been Jesus. God has always been everywhere. He found you.
"…and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things." I just love verse 8, "Although I am less than the least of all God's people…" Paul was this amazing man, but he really takes a position of humility. Try that sometimes in evangelism. We can learn so much from Paul.
"I don't think that I'm more than you. I just think that God saved me. Now my prayer is that God would save you. I know that he wants to. I don't know why he wouldn't. I'm just going to pray that he does." Share with humility. Second Timothy 2:24 says this. "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel…"
Wow, in this talking specifically about evangelism, specifically about sharing the truth. "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful." Able to teach is interesting too. You have this idea that you should be able to teach, like to be able to teach how to learn. My hope is that you're learning this book of Ephesians as we travel through it.
"…able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."
Some interesting adjectives there. Gentle. That we would gently instruct. That we would be kind. Not quarrel. That we would really seek to understand their objection. That we wouldn't be like, "Hey, it's just so clear." It's not. Let's be honest. There are all sorts of religions out there. Even under the sect that uses the Bible, they have all these different beliefs.
Understanding comes to us by spending time in community with the Word of God and with the Spirit of God who makes real to us the things of God. Without doing that, it probably isn't going to be that clear. If you're talking to someone who hasn't done that, it probably isn't that clear. Don't act like it is. Just explain the truth.
All of us like to explain things that we know about. Everybody here, I don't care who you are, you're an expert in something. Whether you're a nurse and it is medical, a doctor, an attorney, a teacher. Whether you're a barista and you know a lot about all the different upside down mocha latte venti whatever. All of us know something about something, and we love to explain things that we know about. That is all God asks of you.
"Explain to them my mysteries. Explain to them how I work. Explain to them what I love. Explain to them how I move." This is the call on your life. Verse 10: "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
The manifold wisdom of God… It's a beautiful verse, but it's one of those verses you read and you say, "That's beautiful. I'm going to get that tattooed on my back. What does it mean?" It's one of those you're like, "I don't really know what that… I'd better figure out what that means before I get it tatted on me."
In the Greek the manifold wisdom of God means it is the beauty of an embroidered pattern of many colors. It says the beautiful ways that God works all things out. Here is the interesting part. This is my favorite part about this passage. It is really beautiful. I want you to track with me. It says, "…the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms…"
What is it saying there? This is what it is saying. That God is at work through you, through his church. Literally, he is going to do stuff through you, through your life so that the angels and the saints, those in the heavenly realm, good and bad angels would grow in their understanding of his vast wisdom. What does that mean? I spent a lot of time with this.
This is literally what I think it means. It is beautiful. It means that they're watching us. It means that they're watching us. We know God stands outside of space and time but that the angels and the demons and those in the heavenly realms, the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms are watching you and they're learning more about God through your life. It looks like this.
They've been doing this from the beginning. They're like, "Oh, look!" It is just like watching a sitcom. "Look, Isaac is on the altar. Abraham is about to kill him! Look! What is God going to do now? Oh, there's a ram in the thicket. Oh, Michael, watch! Oh, look. Nobody likes Noah. It's just him and his family. Look, he's building a boat on land. What is he doing, this guy? God, what are you doing? Why would you have him do this? Do you hate him?"
All of a sudden, it starts flooding. "Oh, a flood. I didn't see that coming!" They're watching. "Oh, Daniel. Daniel is in the den with the lions. They're going to eat him! What, God? You want me to go in there and shut their mouth? Okay. Hey, Gideon, come with me. Oh man, that is cool. He sent Gideon and Michael in there to shut the mouths of the lions. Daniel is not going to get eaten.
Okay, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they're going in the fire? Okay, you're sending Jesus in for this one? Jesus has protected them! They're not getting burned!" They're watching. Can you imagine the demons? "Look, it is his Son on the cross! Ha! This is great! He is going to die! They're torturing him! Oh, he is dead! He is dead! Yeah! The tomb is empty? What? He came back to life? What? That's crazy."
Here is what it is saying literally in the text. That they're watching this tiny group of people that God says, "Hey, those are my people." They're like, "Look at those people. They don't even love God. They came up with all these 652 rules. They wear these funny hats. Pharisees, Sadducees, zealots, whatever. I don't even think they really like you, God. Those are your people? Really?"
They're watching it. Then all of a sudden, Jesus dies on the cross, raises from the dead. God saves Paul and says, "Now go out to the Gentiles, the ekklēsia. Call my ethnos, call ethnicities to know me." They're like this. "Oh! I didn't see that coming! Everyone? You want to save everyone? What? Your Word is going out to the people?
Like, in 2,000 years they're going to sit in a room on a Tuesday? Young adults who should hate you? Who should be drunk? You want to save them? They should be at a bar. They're at a church? What? That is what you're doing, God?" "Never saw that coming, Michael. Never saw that coming, Gideon. They're watching us."
They're like, "The manifold wisdom of God is being made known." How cool is that? It is happening right now. They're like, "God, why did you…? He yells a lot. Why did you save him? You should've left him. You should've left him drunk and passed out on Lower Greenville. Why did you bring him into the club?"
It's like The Sixth Sense. You see that he has been dead the whole time. You start playing the script back in your mind. The angels are like, "Oh, that whole time you were going to go out to the Gentiles. I didn't know that. Man, when Moses and Noah and Daniel and the prophets… I had no idea your Word was going to blast out to the Gentiles. God, you're good. You are good, God."
In that moment, it says that we can approach God freely. Verse 12. Now we can have a relationship with him. See before, there was this temple and this veil. Only one person could go behind the veil. Only one person could approach God a year. It says that in the moment Jesus cries out and his breath leaves him, that the veil was torn in two from top to bottom.
Matthew 27, verse 51: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split." Now we can have a relationship with the one who created all things. We can know him. Your life is one big testimony of the gospel. He says this about him. Remember where we started, the suffering piece.
Verse 13: "I ask you, therefore [people in Ephesus] , not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory." Because I am suffering, you know the gospel. What if Paul never suffered and he never wrote Ephesians or Colossians or Philippians or Philemon or 80 percent of the New Testament?
He says my suffering is for your glory, or is your glory. God is up to something. I don't care what your life circumstance is. If you got laid off today, if she broke your heart today, God is up to something. Romans 8:28 says this. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Some of you are going to leave this place and your gifts and talents are going to promote you up through an organization. You're going to love God all the way. People are going to be like, "She's just… She loves God, and she got promoted. Now she is CEO." Others of you, you're going to leave this place and you're going to love God and you're going to get fired and be unemployed.
The difference doesn't necessarily have anything to do with your performance but God making himself famous through the way you handle the situation. All of us want the promotion, but I told you that suffering is your greatest opportunity to trust God and display Christ. We all say, "I don't want to trust God or display Christ. God, I trust you. Don't make me prove it."
Isaac on the altar. Noah's persecution in the midst of the flood. Moses wandering through the desert. God is like, "I'm up to something." Joseph being in prison. God is like, "I got you, bro." Samson's death. Daniel in the den of the lions. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace. God is like, "Hey, I'm doing something." Jesus on the cross. God is like, "I'm doing something. Do you trust me? I stand outside space and time. I have a plan. I have it all together. Sit back and watch. I'm doing something. Angels, sit back and watch. Watch this. You have no idea."
Some of us, like the magician… Magic is really a simple equation. I'll end with this. Magic is this equation where there is a good situation. It becomes a very bad situation. The bad situation is resolved. You don't understand how it was resolved. It looks like this. There is a guy. He puts on a straight jacket. He is thrown into the water. Somehow he gets out of it.
There is a guy locked in a cage. The tank is filling up with water. Somehow he gets out of that. There is a woman. You've seen this? There is a woman. All of a sudden she is sawed in half. Now she is two halves of a woman. The magician, he knows it's just an illusion. He knows it's a trick. He knows that he can put it all back together. That he can make it okay.
There is never really any danger there. It's just the perception of danger. It's not dissimilar to our world. God is like, "Hey, do whatever you got. I can make it better like that! I may not. I may make it better on the other side of your life. I can like that. I'm up to something. You can trust me. Just use it for my name's sake. You can trust me." This is beautiful. In Hebrews 11, it says this in verse 32.
"And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were…" Now there's a turn. "Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground."
All the while, God was up to something. Sometimes the mouths of the lions were shut. Sometimes people were eaten. Sometimes people were sawed in two. Here is the deal that's crazy to think about. Here is the deal. Nobody up there who was sawed in two is sweating it today. "God, thanks for this kingdom. It is good to be with you forever and ever and ever. This is a really cool place. I like walking on gold. Things that were valuable down there are trash up here.
The pavement up here. Really cool place, God. Thanks for letting me in. That sawed-in-two thing? That momentary light affliction? You're the magician. You can put it all back together again." You can trust him. I promise. I promise you can trust him. Pray with me.
God, help us believe that at a heart and a mind level, that we can trust you, that we can believe you, that we can follow you even in the midst of persecution, Father. Would you take our lives? Help us not to waste tomorrow. Help us not to waste hours between now and when we rest. Help us to redeem the times. God, give us someone that we do life with that you want here.
Help us to be faithful. If not here, then our church home. Help us to be faithful in inviting them, in unveiling the mysteries, revealing your mysteries to them. God, you're an awesome God. I'm so glad that you're crazy about us. Help us to know that you're crazy about us. You are great, God.
If he is so great, talk about him. If he is so great, explain what you know. Whatever it is that you know. Whatever you know. Maybe you just know, "Hey, I was blind, but now I see. I was lost, but now I'm found. I know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. God raised him from the dead. I know that there is a God, that he created all things." Whatever you know, explain it to people. Tell it to people. Proclaim it to people. Live it in front of them.
I love you guys. Let's change the world together. There will be a group of us in this room. If we can pray for you toward that end, we'd love to. If we can talk with you about something, we'd love to do that. I hope that you feel like this is a place where you can hang out and talk and catch up with friends. You're welcome to do that now. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.