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Christ's Role in the Drama of Redemption - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 1:7-12

  • 2007-10-07 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Ephesians as we continue our study of this wonderful letter of the apostle Paul. This week I was reminded that there are many people in our country who embrace some theory of conspiracy. If you look on the internet, if you listen to the news, if you look at the tabloids, you'll see that there are those who are eager to embrace some theory of conspiracy. Sometimes, that takes the form of certain events, sort of the touchstone. It has to do with an event like the JFK assassination. If you've been to the sixth-floor museum you know that there are some eight or nine different conspiracy theories that people have raised as possibly explaining that event. If you look online or have read any of the books that you see in bookstores, you understand that there are many people who have a conspiracy theory about what happened on 9-11. That there's something more behind that than meets the eye, or that we've heard about in the media. So, when it comes to specific events like those, there's no shortage of people who will immediately cry "conspiracy".

But there are also some Americans who see lurking behind most of the major world events a massive and comprehensive conspiracy. You've heard some of the names involved, some of the names that are sometimes used for those who spin this conspiracy. They include names like the illuminati, the high cabal, and even the Fourth Reich. Most who embrace these ideas believe that the conspiracy is an attempt to install a new world order, to initiate some sort of one-world government. One encyclopedia reports that many believe the idea of the new world order originated in the early 1900s with a man by the name of Cecil Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes advocated that the British Empire join forces with America, and together, these two great powers would impose a world federal government. Cecil Rhodes' proposal was based on, at least ostensibly on, the purpose of installing a kind of lasting world peace.

According to the conspiracy theorists, there are many signs that this sort of unified conspiracy to establish a one-world government lies behind much of what happens today in our world. A powerful group of individuals and organizations are pulling the strings to manipulate, to drive forward toward this great consuming goal. For example, in their blogs, they point to various signs of this conspiracy, like the strange murals in the Denver International Airport. The illuminati symbol on the Great Seal of the United States, with Latin words meaning "new order of the ages". Masonic signs in buildings, particularly in Washington, DC, and pentagrams worked into the outline of city plans like that of DC. They believe that the most prominent and wealthy families in the world, families like the Rothschilds, and the Rockefellers, the Morgans, and the DuPonts, as well as many European monarchs, are important members of this conspiracy. International organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF, the European Union, the United Nations and NATO are considered to be core supporters by conspiracy theorists.

Now, when we read or hear about these conspiracies, most of us tend to sort of cast an askance view at them, and rightly so. But there is one very slight grain of truth behind all of these conspiracy theories. In Ephesians 1, Paul highlights that reality for us. In Ephesians 1 Paul tells us that there is in fact, a secret plan that lies behind everything that happens in our world. But it's not directed by the world's rich and powerful. Instead, it's directed by God Himself. There is a secret plan, but it has nothing to do with the people here in this world. It has to do with God Himself. In this first chapter, Paul tells us exactly what this secret plan of God's is. Although from the perspective of history that we have, history does often appear to be random. God wants us to know that there is in fact purpose to the universe. There is order to history. God has a plan. And everything that happens in this world is the outworking, the unfolding of that great eternal plan of God.

The Bible makes absolutely clear that God does have a plan, and that He's working out that plan. Turn back to Isaiah 46. Keep your finger there in Ephesians. We'll be back there in a moment. Isaiah 46. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture. Beginning in Isaiah 40 and really running through 55, God is lifted up in such a magnificent way. But in the heart of that passage, in Isaiah 46, the prophet Isaiah writes this in verse 8. He's just spoken in the verses before about idols, and now he's going to tell us about the true God. And he says in contrast to idols, verse 8

"Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors [Think about this, he says] Remember the former things [the things that happened long ago] For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me."

Now how does God, the true God, distinguish Himself from everything that isn't god, all the false gods that are out there. What is the distinguishing characteristic of the true God as opposed to the false gods. Look at what He says in verse 10. "Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'." I will accomplish what pleases Me. God says, I have a plan. I have a purpose, and it starts at the beginning, and it traces all the way to the end, and everything in between is part of my purpose. But He goes further than that. Look at verse 11. "Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country." Now, in context, this is a reference to Cyrus, about whom He's just spoken, a world warrior who was to come and accomplish His purposes for Israel, spoken several hundred years, a couple of hundred years before Cyrus's time, by Isaiah.

But notice how he ends verse 11. "Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it." God says, listen, I have a plan, and I am working out that plan truly and surely. You can take it to the bank, "I have planned it, surely I will do it." Nowhere in the Bible is God's plan laid out for us like it is in Paul's letter to the Ephesians. In fact, as we have discovered, we can argue that this is the theme of the entire letter. In this monumental book, Paul's letter to the Ephesians, the omniscient, omnipotent God makes it clear to us that He has a great eternal plan, and that He's working that plan out in time. He has a blueprint both for time and eternity. It's a plan that He determined in eternity past, a perfect plan, a plan from which He has never once wavered, and a plan that He is relentlessly moment by moment working out, that will, in time, in His time, come to perfect completion.

In chapters 1 - 3, Paul "explains" the plan. And then in chapters 4 - 6 Paul "applies" the plan. Chapters 1 - 3 are the "doctrine"; chapters 4 - 6 the "application". And when you look at Ephesians, while we could say that the entire book of Ephesians is the plan of God, nowhere is God's great eternal plan of redemption set forth with more beauty and grandeur than in Ephesians 1:3 - 14. In one of the most amazing passages in all of Scripture, God explains His own eternal purpose to us, and He does so in just twelve short verses. Just 202 Greek words and one very long sentence. But in this one sentence, God unfolds for us His eternal plan for His son and for His people. As Paul expresses His own praise to God, beginning in verse 3, he then defines for us the primary roles that the Father plays in verses 4 - 6, that the Son plays in verses 7 - 12, and the role that the Spirit plays in verses 13 and 14. If you've been with us over the last several weeks, you know that we are in the middle of verses 7 - 12, studying the role that Christ has in God's plan.

Now in verses 7 - 12, Paul outlines for us the blessings or benefits that Christ is to us. Because of Christ's part in the plan we received these blessings or these benefits. We've already studied the first great blessing that Christ has been made to us. It is redemption. Christ has been made to us redemption. He purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We saw this in verse 7.

Last week, we began to examine the second blessing that Christ has been made to us, or has become to us, not only redemption, but wisdom. Not only has Christ purchased the forgiveness of our sins, but Christ teaches us God's word and God's will and God's way. He is the wisdom of God to us. Listen to verses 8 - 10. He begins verse 8 by referencing the riches of grace, the riches of God's grace,

"which He lavished on us, In all wisdom and insight. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth."

Now the theme of those verses is that in Christ, God has given us His "wisdom". First Corinthians 1:30 says, Jesus Christ has become to us who are saved the wisdom from God. So, understand this. The role of Christ in God's great plan was not only to provide you with redemption, if you're a Christian, but also to teach you the wisdom of God.

Now, in verses 8 - 10 as we began to see last time, there are three assertions about this wisdom that Paul makes, this wisdom that Christ is to us, has become to us. Last time we looked at the first two assertions. Let me just briefly remind you of them.

First of all, we saw that wisdom is a gift of God's grace. Wisdom is a gift of grace. He begins verse 8 by referencing this grace. The grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight. I made argument last time, and I won't rehearse it again, that the phrase 'in all wisdom and insight' really belongs to what comes before it rather than what comes after, as the New American Standard has translated it here. So, He's lavished grace upon us in giving us wisdom and insight. Wisdom is a gift of grace. Now, notice, Paul uses two words to describe what Christ teaches us: "wisdom", and "insight".

"Wisdom" is the ability to understand the great ultimate truths of life and eternity, the ability to see things here as they really are. That's wisdom. "Insight" is a more practical word. It's the practical knowledge that helps us deal with life on a day to day basis. And in grace, Christ has provided us with both. Both the ability to see the great sweeping truths of life, as well as the practical knowledge of how to live daily in a way that pleases God. So, wisdom is a gift of God's grace.

Secondly, the second assertion that Paul makes about wisdom here that we looked at last week is that "wisdom is essential to our spiritual growth". Wisdom is essential to spiritual growth. We examined the point Paul makes here and throughout his writings, that Scripture places a great priority on the mind in the Christian life and experience. Many Christians in churches today have elevated other things in place of the mind. They've elevated emotion. If you "feel", then you're spiritual. Or "experience", some great experience, that's the essence of true spirituality. But Scripture, on the other hand, portrays the truly spiritual man or woman as the one whose mind is saturated by and directed by a deep knowledge of the word of God.

Today, we come to Paul's third assertion about the wisdom we have in Christ. Not only is wisdom "a gift of God's grace". Not only is wisdom "essential to our spiritual growth", but thirdly, wisdom is "the knowledge of God and His great eternal plan" Wisdom is the knowledge of God and His eternal plan…. Look at verse 9. Paul begins verse 9 with, "He made known to us the mystery of His will".

Literally, it says, having made known to us the mystery of His will. That is how God gave us wisdom and insight. He gave us wisdom and insight how? By making it known to us. In other words, He revealed it. Now, I wish I had time to stop here and emphasize this, but this is so important. Special revelation is crucial. Without special revelation, without God revealing something to us, we would never know anything. We would never know God, we would never know of forgiveness, we would never know God's plan. He has made it known. He has revealed it. Now notice what God revealed. He has revealed to us, or made known to us the mystery. All of us love a good mystery, don't we? He's made known to us the mystery. Unfortunately, the English word "mystery" clouds what Paul is really trying to say here. Because the Greek word "mystery" does not mean what we usually use it to mean.

Let me give you several things Paul doesn't mean by mystery here. He does not mean truth that is hidden. When we think of a mystery, we think of somebody investigating, someone with a magnifying glass chasing out the details, searching for something. That's not the idea here. It's not that the truth has to be searched out by us, we have to, like in an Easter egg hunt, find the truth somewhere. That's not what he means by mystery. Nor does he mean that it has been unrevealed. In other words, boy, that's a mystery to me. I don't know anything about it. No one knows anything about it. It's a mystery to us all. That's not what Paul means either. He's not saying this is something that's just not been revealed that we will never know, and don't know. Nor does he mean that it's incomprehensible. In other words, he's not saying, well God has revealed the truth, but we'll never get it, it's Greek to me.Or Greek to you, I suppose would be more appropriate, Gnostic. He doesn't mean this is some sort of "gnostic" understanding. In other words, it's not a mystery in the sense that it's a truth that only a few elite people can know. In Paul's day there were religious mystery cults, as they were called. They were these secret organizations that you could join, and only those who had joined and become a part, who had been initiated, were let in to the real secrets of what the organization stood for, and what was happening in those mystery cults. So, you had to be on the inside, you had to be one of the few elite ones to really know the mysteries of the mystery religions. That's not what Paul is saying either. None of those things are at all what Paul means by "mystery".

This is a very common New Testament word, used some twenty-six times. One clue to the meaning of this word is that the Greek word for "mystery" here was the ordinary Greek word for "secret". He said, I'm going to tell you the "secret of God's will". The best clue to the meaning of this New Testament term comes from the fact that when you find the word mystery in the New Testament, you almost always find in the same context a word for revelation. Something that has been revealed. Turn over to Ephesians 3, you'll see this. Ephesians 3:3. Paul says in verse 2,

"… you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you; that by revelation [something God-revealed] there was made known to me the mystery…."

And throughout the New Testament, when you find the word mystery, you'll often find connected to it the idea of something revealed, something that has been made known. So, in the New Testament, we could define a mystery like this. By mystery, Paul means "some truth that could never be discovered unless God reveals it". No amount of human study or reasoning could have ever led us to this knowledge, and there was a time when this secret was not fully known. But now, in New Testament times, it has been made known because God has chosen to reveal it through His messengers. That is the mystery. It has now been made known to us all. It is a secret of God, something we would never have known apart from His revealing it, but something we now know because it has been revealed by God through the apostles, and through Christ.

So, God has made Christ to be wisdom to us by revealing to us something that we would have never known on our own. Let me put it to you like this. Christ has told us God's greatest secret. That's what Paul is saying. Christ has told us God's secret. Notice, he further explains this mystery with the little phrase "of His will". He has made known to us the "mystery of His will." Now, by "will", here, Paul means God's ultimate purpose, or God's plan, what God has determined to do.

Now, friends, I wish you could be shocked by the truth. I wish you had never seen it before, and you were sitting here hearing this for the first time, because listen to what Paul is saying to us. He is saying that there has now come a time in which God has made known His secret to us, the secret of what He has determined to do, of His great eternal plan, His agenda. And notice in verse 9 that God has revealed this secret to us according to His kind intention. 'Kind intention' literally means good pleasure. In other words, it pleased God to do it. It describes God's attitude in revealing this secret. God didn't tell us this secret with some sort of hesitancy, like, well I'm not sure if I should do this or not, but here goes. Instead, He was telling us this secret and delighting in telling us. It's what pleased Him. It's what He desired to do.

Now, have you noticed that we still don't know what the secret is? Well, that's what Paul's doing to us here. We're just following his train of thought. He's building up to the secret. But the next phrase gives us our first clue. It doesn't give us the secret, but it gives us a clue. What, or better, who, is the focus of God's secret plan? Look at verse 9 again. He made known to us the secret of His plan according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Him.

So, the mystery that we're going to learn, the secret, was purposed in Him. Now, "in Him" that little phrase, that little prepositional phrase, throughout this passage, we've seen, has been consistently about Jesus Christ, and there's no reason to think otherwise here. So, here's what Paul is saying. It pleased God, it brought delight to God to make known to us His secret plan, and that plan, listen carefully, focused on, centered in, was wrapped up in Jesus Christ.

Now let me just stop here for a moment and say that everything that calls itself Christianity everything that calls itself Christianity, but does not focus on Jesus Christ, is in essence a denial of the Christian faith. Because God says, His great secret plan has to do entirely with Jesus Christ. It is centered in Jesus Christ.

So, when does this mysterious plan that God takes such delight in telling us about, that centers in Jesus Christ? When does this secret plan happen? When will God accomplish His plan? Look at the beginning of verse 10. "with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times."

That help? Is it clear now? That's a very awkward translation. Let me work you through it gradually. Literally, it reads there at the beginning of verse 10, "Into an administration …" Now the word administration literally is "house management" in the Greek text. The management of a household. It's also translated as stewardship or management in other contexts in the New Testament. Aristotle used this word in secular Greek to picture the administration or management of a country or of a state. And in the Greek world it came to be a frequent way to speak of God's management of the universe. So, the picture here is of the universe as God's great household, if you will, and God is the manager, and He's managing it.

So, the idea that Paul is making here, is that God will achieve this great secret plan, this divine purpose, through careful management. Management of what? What's He administrating? - the times. An administration of the fullness of the times, or the focus really is of the times. Now times here refers to epochs or seasons. In the mind of God, human history is broken down into seasons or epochs. We think of history that way too, don't we? We often describe seasons or epochs of history. That's how God thinks of human history. And He is ordering history; He is managing those epochs in such a way as that those epochs will eventually culminate in the fulfillment of His plan. So, the times here describe this series of seasons or epochs in human history. But what is the fullness of the times? What does He mean by that?

Well, like many promises of God in Scripture, there is here what theologians call "the already, but not yet principle". Have you ever heard of that? The already, but not yet principle. Don't be scared by it. Let me explain it to you, and it's really quite simple to understand. Part of the promise has already been fulfilled in the past. That's the already. But the complete and final fulfillment has not yet happened. That's the not yet. So, already part of it's been fulfilled, but not yet has all of it been fulfilled. So, this great secret plan, some of it has already occurred, it's been initiated, but it has not yet come to full completion. This plan of God was initiated with the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

You remember what Paul says in Galatians 4:4? When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son. So, in God's mind, the great fullness of the times began with the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ. You see the same thing in the passage we read this morning in Hebrews 1, that God spoke in lots of different ways in the Old Testament, but in these last days, remember Hebrews was written in the first century, in these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son. So, in the mind of God, the crowning epoch or season began with the coming of Jesus Christ. But that wasn't the completion of it. God's plan that was initiated then will only reach its fulfillment in the future. That's the "not yet".

The "already" was when Jesus was here. The "not yet" is still in the future. You remember Romans 8? What does Paul say there? He says the whole creation-what? - groans. Why? Because it's waiting for the plan to be fulfilled, for everything to be redone and renewed and redemption to break out everywhere in terms of even the earth itself. So, the final fulfillment of God's plan will only happen when Christ comes again, establishes His kingdom on this earth and begins His eternal reign, which will ultimately be fulfilled of course in a new heaven and a new earth.

You say, alright, what is the secret plan? What is the secret plan of God? Well, look at verse 10, the middle of the verse. "… that is, the summing up of all things in Christ…." This is the mystery. This is the secret. Here is the heart of God's secret plan. Now the key, of course, to understanding this secret is the word translated "sum up". In Greek, the word is a very complex word. It's used throughout secular Greek and one other place in the New Testament with three slightly different nuances. And most commentators, or I should say many commentators, and I agree with them, would say that all three nuances or senses of this word, Paul intends for us to see here. It's a full sweeping term.

Let me give them to you because you have to see all three to get a full picture of what Paul's describing here. The first nuance of this word is exactly how it's translated here in the NAS, "to sum up". In secular Greek it was used of summing up an argument in a speech. You made your argument, you laid out your speech, and at the very end, what would you do? You would pull everything you'd said together into a summary. It was a way to unite, to bring together everything you had said. The only other place in the New Testament where this word sum up occurs is Romans 13:9, and there it's used in this way. There it has the idea, you remember, of the final six commandments, the six commands that have to do with our relationship with other people? He says, those six commands are summed up, are brought together, are unified in one command, and that is the command to love your neighbor as yourself.

So, Paul is saying here, that in Christ, God will unite or bring all things together. Turn over to Colossians 1. In a passage written in a similar time in Paul's life and ministry, he puts this a little differently, which helps us fill it out a little bit, I think. Colossians 1:16, "For by Him, [that is Jesus Christ,] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him…." Now understand what's going on here. Paul is writing to the church in Colossae.

There was false teaching going on there. Part of the false teaching was that angels should be worshiped. And even a worst part of the false teaching was that Jesus Christ was Himself a created being, an angel, not equal to God. And here, Paul says, oh no, you've got it all wrong. Listen, all of those angelic beings, which is what this is really describing in verse 16 were created by Jesus Christ. And, notice the end of verse 16, "for Him". For His pleasure, for His benefit. What is Paul saying here? He's saying everything will find its meaning, its reason for existence in Christ. You know what Paul is saying back in Ephesians 1 when he says God's going to "sum up" everything in Christ? He's saying that God's secret plan is to insure that "Jesus Christ is the goal, the end of everything".

There's a second nuance of this word. Not only to sum up but to "head up". It has the idea of coming under the authority of another. Everything in the universe, Paul says, will come under Christ's authority. That's what lies behind this expression. In fact, look at Colossians 1:17. He says, He, that is Christ, was, existed, prior to all things, and in Him all things consist, or hold together. That is, He sustains everything. So, He existed before anything was created. He created everything, they were created for Him, and He holds it all together. Verse 18, "He is also the head of the body" [using the image of the church as we're all members of the body of Christ and He's the head directing us.] … "He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead," [that is the pre-eminent one who has been brought out of the dead] "so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."

To have supremacy in everything. He will head up everything. Everything will be under Him. That's what Paul says back in Ephesians 1. He makes this clear in Ephesians 1:20. He says that God used this incredible power to raise Jesus from the dead and to seat Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, and He set Him

"far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet,"

Paul says, listen, God has a secret plan, and in that secret plan, He not only intends to insure that Christ is the "goal" of everything, but He intends to see that Christ is the "Lord" of everything. Isn't that what Paul says in Philippians 2? After he speaks of Christ's condescension, he says in Philippians 2:9

"For this reason … God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name above every name." [What's the name above every name? It's not the name Jesus. It's the name Lord.] "so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." [God intends that Christ be the goal of everything, and that He be the Lord of everything.]

There's a third nuance of this phrase "to sum up". Not only to sum up, to head up, but thirdly, to "renew and restore", to renew and restore. In Christ the whole creation will be restored. Look one last time at Colossians 1. Colossians 1, and notice Paul makes this point in verse 19. "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness [that is the fullness of Deity is the idea here] to dwell in … [Jesus]".

This was an attack on the false teachers who were saying that God's fullness was sort of spread out across all these different created beings, these emanations from God. And he says, oh no, you've got it wrong. The fullness of Deity rested in Christ and Him alone. Verse 20, "and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself," and He does it by making peace through the blood of His cross. Through the death of Christ God intended for Christ to reconcile or restore all things, the whole creation. This means that God not only plans to make Christ the "goal" of everything, not only the "Lord" of everything, but the "restorer and reconciler" of everything.

So, God's secret plan, then, let's summarize it like this, is to make Jesus Christ the goal of everything, the Lord of everything, and the restorer of everything. And just in case you don't think it really means everything, look again at verse 10. All things. Here's the extent of the plan. All things, and then he defines it a little further, things in the heavens and things on the earth. There's a lot of debate about what that means, but essentially, it means this, all creation, animate and inanimate, every created thing, inanimate objects, intelligent beings, whether we're talking about redeemed humans on earth or angelic forces in heaven, or demonic forces in hell, and unredeemed humanity in hell, ultimately, God's plan will be enacted through them all. Not a single atom that God created will be excluded from this plan.

This is God's great secret that He has revealed to us. Let me paraphrase verses 9 and 10 for you with all we've learned. Listen carefully. We could paraphrase it like this: God has now revealed His secret plan to us. It is a plan designed long ago according to what pleases Him, and the plan centers on Jesus Christ. And this is the plan, that at the right time, God will cause Christ to sum up everything, to head up everything, and to restore and reconcile everything in heaven and on earth. So, in Christ, God has given us wisdom and insight, and He's given us that wisdom by revealing to us His great secret plan. The rest of Ephesians is the detailing of this plan and applying it to our lives.

Now, many Christians think that when they become Christians that God is going to take them into His confidence, and He's going to take them, as it were, into the control tower of the universe and allow them to see what He's doing. Wouldn't we love that? God, just let me see how you're, I know you're working everything together, but take me into the control tower and let me see how Your plan is working out in my life. Listen, God doesn't do that. You may never know why God is doing what He's doing in your life. But He's done something far better.

God has told us His great secret. Christ is to be the goal of all existence, the Lord of everyone, and the restorer of a redeemed humanity and of the universe itself. Now when you hear that, let's just be honest, when you hear that, you may be tempted to say, that's it? That's God's great secret? Why does God think it's so important for me to know that? I mean, Paul is obviously been building to this. This is the centerpoint of this first sentence. Why is this so important? Well, God's great plan is to make these things a reality for all of those who embrace His Son. God is administrating, managing all of human history to make these things a reality, so let me ask you pointedly. Is your life aligned with God's secret plan? You claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Is your life aligned with what God's trying to accomplish in the world? This is God's great secret. This is the plan that He's revealed to us.

Are you living like you believe this? Is Christ the goal of your life? Is He really what you're pursuing in life? Or is something else mattering more? Are you pursuing something else more than you're pursuing Jesus Christ? This is God's plan. This is what God is trying to accomplish in the world. Is Christ really sovereign and Lord in your life? Have you willingly and gladly bowed your knee to Him and said, Lord, whatever it is You tell me to do, that's what I'll do? Whatever's written in Your word, whatever You command me? I'm not going to make my own decisions about what's right and wrong in life, for me to do and not do. I'm going to follow Your word and Your direction.

This is what God is doing in the world. Are you living in line with that? Is Christ the restorer and reconciler of your life? Or are you still living in the marred and distorted image of God, a faint shadow of what God originally created man to be, enslaved to your own sin and living to pursue and satisfy your appetites? Listen, God has revealed His great eternal secret plan. You can be ignorant of it. But not anymore. You can ignore it and act like it doesn't exist, but you cannot change it. God has made it so, and He's promised He will fulfill it.

So why did He tell us? Well, there are a number of reasons. Let me give you two to consider. Why did God tell us this?

Number 1. For our encouragement and comfort. God's told us this for our encouragement and comfort. We don't know what's going to happen in our world. You may pick up the paper this week and another 9-11 has occurred. You may turn on the news this week and discover that we are on the slippery slope to a terrible economic depression, and our country will experience something like it's never experienced before. This week, we could be drawn into World War Three. It could happen. We don't know what's going to happen. But what Paul wanted the Ephesians to know, and what he wants us to know is that regardless of what happens in the world, it's okay, because God has a plan. And He's working that plan out. And nothing, no monarch, no terrorist, nobody can derail the plan of God.

The same thing is true in your own life. It's for your encouragement and comfort. I don't know what you're going through. I don't know what difficulties you're facing. In some cases, we're praying for you, we do know those needs. But I can tell you this, Paul wants you to know this great plan of God., because however difficult your life may be right now, whatever you're experiencing, your salvation, your sanctification (being made more like Jesus Christ), and your ultimate glorification, when you'll be perfectly like Him, are absolutely certain because they are all part of God's great eternal plan to exalt His Son. In the end, we're sure it's going to happen because it's not about us. It's about Jesus Christ and what God has designed to do with His Son, to exalt His Son by pulling around Him a redeemed humanity who'll give Him praise forever. You are part of a bigger plan, a plan that God has absolutely resolved to do.

There's a second reason I think God has revealed this to us. Not only for our comfort and encouragement, but so you and I can get with the program. Get in step with the plan. This is why you are here. This is why I'm here. We're not here to pursue our own lives and agenda. Listen, God doesn't exist to further our plans. We exist to further His. And this is His plan. And it's all about Jesus Christ. Is that what your life is really all about? Here's the secret. It's a secret that God only knew, but He chose to reveal it to us. It's summing up all things in Christ. He will be the goal of everything. He will be the Lord of everything, and ultimately, He will be the restorer and reconciler of everything.

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for this great passage. We thank You for teaching us about Yourself, for being willing to gladly and with great delight share Your secret plan with us.

Father, forgive us. Forgive us for being so self-absorbed. Forgive us for being so myopic, for looking at ourselves so constantly. Help us to lift our eyes and see Your great plan. And Father, more than seeing it, help us to find in its reality, comfort and encouragement with the trials and the troubles that we face, the difficulties in this life.

Lord help us to keep our head above it all, knowing that You have a plan and You're working that plan out, and You will accomplish it. There's no one like You, knowing the end and declaring the end from the beginning.

Father, forgive us for living as if You exist to fulfill our plans.

Father, help us instead, to always be asking what we can do to exalt Jesus Christ in our own hearts, in our marriages, in our families, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods and communities, in this church, and in the world at large. May He be all in all to us even as You have determined to make Him.

We pray in Jesus' name and for His glory, Amen.