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Seeing The Glass Overflowing

The manuscript for the sermon preached 7/12/15 at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

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Seeing the Glass Overflowing 

Ephesians 1:1-14

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

 

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 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, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

You’ve heard the old saying.  “There are two kinds of people in the world– those who see the glass of life as half-full, and those who see it as half-empty.”   The one who sees the glass half full is an optimist.  The pessimist sees it half empty.

 

In truth, there are more than just two kinds of people .

 

The realist says, “Yep, that’s a glass!”

The idealist says, “One day that glass will provide energy to the world!”

 

The capitalist says, “If we could bottle this water and give it a New Age sounding name, we could make a fortune.” The communist says, “This glass belongs to every single one of us in equal proportions.”
The conspiracy theorist says, “The government has put chemicals in the glass to exercise mind control over all of us.” The psychologist asks, “How does this glass make you feel?”

 

The sexist says, “This glass isn’t going to fill itself, honey bun.”

 

If the Apostle Paul were to respond to the glass, he would see his life the way the Psalmist did, saying:  “My glass overflows.”

 

In today’s scripture lesson, Paul piles on phrase after phrase speaking about the blessing that belong to those who are in Christ.  The glass that represents our life is overflowing because God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

 

Paul says that we were “chosen us in Christ.” … “destined us for adoption as his children.”

… “we have redemption through his blood”

… that we have “forgiveness for our sins.”

… that “God lavishes the riches of his grace upon us.” …  that in “Christ we have also obtained an inheritance.”
Paul says that we were selected to be God’s children, treated as Jesus very own brothers and sisters, and that we have been delivered from death to life.

 

The glass that represents our life is overflowing with God’s goodness and grace.

 

Have you ever been to a buffet? Not the kind with cheap steaks and a chocolate waterfall. Not the kind where the six year old in front you puts her hands slimy hands all over the fresh chicken they have just brought out from the kitchen.

 

No, I am talking about a really luxurious buffet.  The kind where a chef stands ready at each station ready to serve you fresh fruits, perfectly cook vegetables, and slices of flawlessly prepared roast placed gently on your plate. Have you been to a buffet where the dessert tables were piled mile high with pies and cakes of every kind and variety.

 

Have you ever been to the kind of buffet that could only be described with words like luxurious, extravagant, excessive, and lavish?

 

That’s the picture Paul is painting when he speaks of what is ours in Christ Jesus. In Jesus we are blessed luxuriously, loved excessively, and grace extravagantly. He is telling us that we are beneficiaries of God’s lavish grace.

 

Edward Markquart writes:

 

The word, lavish, is never associated with poverty.  You never say, “A person is lavishing in poverty.”  Instead you say, “A person is languishing in poverty.”  Or, you never associate the word, lavish, with criticism.  You never say, “You lavish a person with criticism.”  No, that is not the way you do it.  Instead you say, “You censure a person with criticism.”  Lavish is a positive word and is not associated with criticism.  Nor do you associate the word, lavish, with frugality.  My mother was an immigrant, as were her sisters.  They grew up dirt poor with Grandpa who sold chickens and eggs.  My mother and her sisters hated the frugality imposed on them by life, and when they grew up, they wanted to lavish themselves in riches, rich coats and rich homes and rich foods.  The word, lavish, is never associated with the word frugality.
Paul intent in these opening words in Ephesians is not to teach us a practical lesson about how to live our live. He’s not trying to give us a lifestyle formula or five keys to obtaining God’s blessings. He’s telling us that we’ve already been blessed – blessed in Christ from “before the foundations of the world.” Paul wrote these words that we might share in his feelings of exhilaration, elation, excitement, and euphoria.

 

Sherry was an attractive girl – very attractive.  She dressed well, had a great smile, a warm personality, and an infectious giggle.  Her favorite word was WOW!  She could not speak three sentences without inserting that word somewhere in her conversation.

 

I met Sherry in the AGAPE Club – the Christian club that met before school hours at my high school.  I was President and Sherry was my Vice President.  I found myself praying for Sherry “without ceasing” – as the scripture tells us to pray.

 

I had a car.  It was a cool car.  I’ve told you about that car – a 1964 Plymouth Valiant with push button transmission.  Nobody else in the student lot at my high school had a car as cool as mine.  Poor Sherry did not have a car.  She had to ride the bus.  The bus was not the proper place for a good Christian girl, so I offered to give her a ride.

 

Sherry was really something.  Every time I saw her, my palms began to sweat, my heart skipped a beat, and I got butterflies in my stomach.  I had a feeling of euphoria.

 

“Why don’t you just ask the girl out on a date?” said Jerald Dunn, my youth minister.  “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

 

“The worst thing that could happen is that she might say ‘No!’  I hate rejection!”  I replied.

 

“Stop being an idiot!” he said.  “Just ask the girl out!”

 

So, I did.  Sherry and I went on a Saturday afternoon picnic.  Until they adequately knew and felt they could trust a boy, Sherry’s parents preferred that their daughter date during daylight hours in wide-open places.

 

By our third date, I had charmed her parents and Sherry and I were allowed to go out on an evening date.  We went to eat pizza and see a movie.  After the movie, I took her home and we sat on the porch in front of her house.

 

My palms were sweaty.  My heart was skipping every other beat.  I felt butterflies in my stomach.  Sherry leaned into my direction.  I leaned in her direction.  We kissed.

 

I know a fellow is not supposed to kiss and tell, but it has been more than 30 years, and none of you know Sherry, so I think I am safe here.  Without going into the mechanics just let me say that this was my first REAL kiss.  When the kiss was over, I just had to say something.  The only one word that came to my mind was “WOW!”

 

That’s the feeling that we should have when we read these opening words in the letter to the Ephesians.  We should feel the WOW factor.

 

Paul has experienced the riches of God’s grace. He’s encountered the lavish grace, abundant mercies, and immeasurable love of God. His mood is one of exhilaration. If you listen closely, you can almost hear him say: “WOW!”

We are talking about the nature of God, here. George MacDonald once wrote: “Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe about God.” At times we live with some of these horrible pictures of God. God the list-maker and list-keeper, God the warrior. God the dotting grand-father, absentee father, punishing judge, genie in the bottle, the celestial Santa. We live with these images, but they are not the picture of God we see revealed in Jesus Christ. We are talking about the nature of God.  Paul is telling us who God is and what God is like. He’s telling us that God is lavish in love, lavish in mercy, lavish in the richness of his goodness. God is not stingy or frugal.  God is generously gracious toward all people – and God has been that way since before the world was established.

Paul also wants us to be clear.  All of the blessing he was talking about are heaven sent and God provided.  There is nothing we can do to earn God’s gifts of grace.   God’s grace is a gift.

 

This is the central reasons so many people miss the reality of God’s overflowing goodness.  We spend so much time thinking we have to do something or confess something so that God will love us.  We keep looking for the religious formula or special prayer that will bring down God’s blessings from heaven.  Paul says that the blessing of grace belong to us from before the foundation of the world.  They are all ours in Christ Jesus.

Not, don’t hear me saying that faith is not necessary.  Faith is absolutely essential if we are to fully experience the reality of God’s grace.  But we do not express faith to get grace.  God gives us grace so that we might express faith.  Grace always comes first.

 

We think we need to prove ourselves to the Father.  We spend a great deal of time trying to earn God’s favor.  Then we spend even more time fearful that we have not done enough, or that we have done the wrong stuff.  When we live in this fashion, we miss out on the experience of God’s abundant grace.

 

We are already blessed.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than he does right now.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us any less.  God just loves us.  From before the foundations of the world we were chosen to be blessed by the Father in this fashion.

 

In Jesus Christ, God has already chosen and adopted us.

 

In Jesus Christ, God has given the world his mercy and forgiveness.

 

In Jesus Christ, God gathers “all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

 

God wants us to know that He has filled our glass to overflowing through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Now, because this is true, trust Jesus, give your life over to Him as your Lord, follow Him living  out of the abundant blessings of his grace and love.  Then you’ll want to join Paul in his wonderful doxology of praise.  Amen.

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