I’m going to share some stories about where we’ve been and the transformation in our lives. I can tell you I had never opened the Bible until I was eighteen years old.
And when I began to deal with, and my wife and I began to deal with, the lies that we believed about my performance is who I am, or you have to look a certain way… One, is in this life I don’t think you ever fully get over it - but when you renew your mind with God’s Word, and you begin to see yourself the way God sees you, and you first think it, and then you believe it, and then you feel it, amazing things happen. Transformation occurs.
A lot of the pull, a lot of the temptation, a lot of the addiction, a lot of the stuff that you deal with all of a sudden it loses its hold because you break it. “You’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
So, here’s the truth we want to talk about. Where do you get an accurate view of yourself? The first six verses of Ephesians give us an amazingly accurate view of ourselves.
This was a circular letter. He’s writing to the church and if you’re familiar with the book he takes chapters 1, 2, and 3 to say, “This is who you are. This is the work of Christ. When Christ died in your place for your sin, and rose from the dead, and the moment that you trusted in Christ you’re united with Him,” the apostle Paul would say, “You died with Him, you were resurrected with Him,” and Ephesians will say, you are actually seated with Him in the heavenly places.
There is this bond, whatever is true of Him is now true of you. And so he’s going to say in the first three chapters, “This is true of you.” These are not verses about ought, or should, or try. He’s saying, “This is true of you.” Chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4: “Therefore, I urge you, my brothers, in view of this, walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.”
He’s saying, “Here’s three chapters of truth. All of this is true of you. Now, the Christian life is not trying hard to be a good person. The Christian life is, by faith, in community, through God’s Word believing and trusting that what He said is true, so let your behavior and your beliefs start telling the same story.”
And then when he opens up chapter 4 He says, “Well it starts with attitudes. It starts with humility, it happens in community, it’s rooted in the cross, the role of the church, renewing your mind.” And then he goes through and says, “Let me show you what this looks like,” right?
In a world with, you’re bombarded, early of chapter 5 he talks about how to be sexually pure, then how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and then what it looks like when you’re living out this new truth in a marriage relationship, and then as parents, and then in work, and then in a context of spiritual warfare. And that’s the whole book.
But he’s going to start by telling you who you really are. This is the mirror he wants you to hear. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God to the saints,” just that word means those that are set apart, believers, “who are at Ephesus who are faithful in Christ Jesus,” and we skip over this but listen, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s the, yes, it’s an introduction, yes, it’s a preamble. But the very first words out of his mouth are, “Grace to you.” Grace. What you don’t deserve, acceptance, love, concern. Grace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. And peace!
And this word is, it’s the shalom of God. It isn’t just peace like the absence of conflict, it’s not just an emotional peace. This is the well-being, the wholeness of God. He says, “God’s unmerited, the One who spoke and billions of galaxies came into existence, and out of His mouth spoke life and truth, out of His mouth comes to you grace, blessing, and love and acceptance, and the shalom and the wholeness and the peace of God.”
And then the thesis of this entire first chapter is in verse 3. He said, “Blessed be,” it’s a prayer, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And it’s, think, “Blessed, thank you, wow!” And then he says why, “Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
And then what he’s going to do actually the next thirteen, fourteen verses the apostle Paul goes nuts. It’s one long sentence. And he just starts talking about, “Oh Father, I want to bless You for all the spiritual blessings that we already possess,” and then it’s like a machine gun going off. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, you know, “You did this, You did this, You did this, You did this, You did this.” And we’re going to walk all the way through it.
And you’re going to see who you are. You are not who your mother said you were, you are not who the media says you were, you’re not even who your conscience says you are. You are not what the workplace says you are, you aren’t what people, or Forbes, or Seventeen, or reality shows say you are. You’re not what your pastor says you are, you’re not what your kids think you are, you’re not what your best friends think you are.
You are, if you’re in Christ, you are who God says you are. And you get that it’ll change every one of those relationships.
Because if you don’t you will spend your life trying to please, approve, dodge, denial, and compensate because all those people I just named, they all have a different mirror of you, don’t they?
They all have different expectations of you, don’t they? And you want them all to like you, don’t you? Have you come to the realization, it’s impossible! Isn’t it? So how about this? What if you understood who God says you are and you lived out of God and His identity and then your only job would be just to be you.
Who you are and where you’re at right now the real you showing up would be the absolute most freeing and attractive person to your friends, your kids, your mate, your pastor, your boss, and your neighbors.
And a lot of us, we don’t have a clue of who we are. We really don’t. And that’s why later in this same chapter he will say, “Let love be without a mask.
See, you never have real community, you never have intimacy, you never get tight with people, until the real you shows up. When someone gets to know the real you and they really accept the real you is it awesome? You know what that is? That’s called love.
Because, see, they’re not loving you for what you do. They’re not loving you for who you know. They’re not loving you for what you have. And they’re not loving you for what you look like. They’re loving you.
So he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
There is this amazing thing that God wants for us in community. But if I go into that with this warped self-image, I will just manipulate and work all those things in my Christian small group to get people to accept me. And even when they do, here’s the sad part, what you know down deep is, “Oh, they like you but, you know, it ain’t you.”
Is that sick, or what? I’ve now figured out how to get these Christians in my small group, my church to like this person I’m pretending to be. And you know what? In those really quiet moments when you finally move away from the refrigerator and put down the remote and you’re just with you it’s a lonely, scary place.
Because what you realize is all those people in your small group, they don’t really know you and they don’t really love you. Of course, you haven’t let them. So this is the journey where we’re going to talk about how God thinks about you, and then we’re going to start a journey of the hard work of getting that from an intellectual stage into your heart, into your life. And you’ll sit with friends or even with your mate and you’ll experience acceptance because the real you is showing up.
And he says, “So what are these spiritual blessings?” He gives three. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him,” number one. Circle the words, “He chose us.” So, that’s a spiritual blessing.
Second, “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons, through Jesus Christ Himself according to the kind intention of His will,” or, “for His good pleasure.”
And third, it’s a purpose clause, “…to the praise,” or, “for the purpose of praising the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved,” speaking of Christ.
And so there are three very clear things he’s saying and here’s something that’s maybe a little new moment for you is these verses actually were not put in Scripture for people to argue about. This comes as a shock.
So, I want you to circle, “He chose us,” and then I want you to circle, “He predestines us.” And the word “chose” here, it means, “to pick out,” it means, “to elect.” It’s like in the Old Testament God says, “I chose Israel.”
Well, He chose Israel not because He didn’t care about the other nations. He chose Israel to make them an example so all could hear and all would respond. But notice He chose us, before the foundations of the earth. That we would be holy, that we would be set apart. He chose us for Himself.
So often, you know, we’ll get to the issues that are controversial and I’m going to touch on but for those of you and maybe this is more boys than girls, I don’t know. But if you have ever been in a gym class, or a neighborhood and they’re choosing sides, and if you were real athletic, good for you.
Or if you were bigger than most of us, I always ended up playing with guys three, four, five years older and so, they’re choosing up teams, it’s out in the front yard, you know, three driveways, first down here, you know? And I just so wanted to get to play and the two captains get out there and they start what? Choosing.
And the big, fast, strong guys, “I want you, I want you, I want you.” Have you ever been where it gets down to two people? And you’re just thinking, “I sure hope I get chosen.” And then they don’t. “Ah, you’re too small, you’re too young, go sit down on the curb.”
You know a lot of you, a lot of us have spent our life feeling like that’s what we’ve received. You know the real meaning of this text? The real meaning of this text is not, “Well, is God completely sovereign or do we have a free will?” Answer is yes, both.
You know why this is written? This is written so you would know that when all people are lined up for the game of life God wants you to know, “I chose you. I want you. I want you. I care about you. I died for you. I want to have a relationship with you. I want to hold you, I want to hug you, I want to heal you, I want to love you. I chose you, and I chose you for a purpose that you would reveal my glory so that you would be holy, you’d be set apart, you’d be pure, you’d be blameless.”
The word is used of sacrifices in the Old Testament that had to be without defect. He chose you for Himself because He has a purpose for your life but God chose you. You are wanted.
You may have had parents that haven’t wanted you, you may have had a mate who walked out on you, you may have kids who have rejected you, you may have had people in church that have talked about you, you may have had all kind of experience of rejection.
But here’s what God says, “You can live with those warped, little mirror-y messages forever and let them define you or you can start saying, ‘I’m wanted! I’m wanted by the person who created everything, who knows everything, and He wants me because He chose me.’”
The second thing he says is the word “predestined” just means He preordered. It literally has the idea of understanding clearly. He predestined or prearranged, knowing… to adopt you.
There are two words in the New Testament for, one is for a child that is young and one is for a son. And he says, “He predestined to adopt you as His son or His daughter.” How? “Through Christ.” Why? His pleasure.
You’re not only wanted, you’re accepted. You’re a daughter, you’re a son. Everything that’s available to Jesus is available to you.
The way Jesus talked to people, the way He loved people, the way He accepted people and whether you’re the religious person who didn’t get it like Nicodemus, or whether you’re the person that’s been through all the pains and the five husbands like the woman at the well, Jesus says, “I adopted you into My family the moment you put your faith in Christ and I’m going to do for you what I did for her.
“You’re accepted. I don’t look at your past, I don’t look at what you’ve been through, I look at you through the shed blood of the forgiveness and the redemption. You matter to Me. I don’t care who has rejected you ever. I accept you. I don’t accept you if, I don’t accept you because, I don’t accept you because how you look, I don’t accept you because of what you’ve done. I don’t care how many businesses you’ve started, I don’t care if you won a beauty contest, I accept the real you. Before the foundations of the earth, before you did anything, I wanted you, and I adopted you to be in My family, and I purposed that you would have significance because your joy would be to, by your life and your words, to declare who I really am, what’s it like to be loved, the praises of the glory of God.” That’s who you are.
I want to give you some real practical ways about moving this truth from ideas to reality. As I do if you are in Christ, this is what God’s mirror says about you: You are, write the word, “wanted.” Chosen. Every minute, of every day, by One who knows every aspect of your life – past, present, and future.
Second, you’re accepted because you’re adopted eternally into God’s family with all the rights and privileges and blessings given to His children.
And so I would just ask you, who makes you feel unaccepted? What situations make you feel rejected? What family relationships, or in-laws, or traumatic experiences have seared your soul with, “You’re not accepted, you’re not worthy, you’re not lovable.” The truth is everyone in this room, you’ve had them. Some a lot more than others.
The final thing we learn here is significance, and since you’re called to reflect His eternal holy and blamelessness in a fallen world and declare and speak well of the grace freely available to all in Jesus, you are significant. You matter.
My wife and I understood these, we were two years, three years out of seminary, we were, had a first church run and I, my workaholism kicked in and she didn’t want to tell anybody about where she’d been and the struggle, and my friend Bill walked my wife and I through a journey - the seminary where I went to has a leadership evaluation and development.
Now, what I will tell you is for two or three years, I don’t want to exaggerate so I’ll say two years, my wife realized all these things we’re talking about were lies and there was a little book by William Backus called Telling Yourself the Truth.
And then in our counseling, we learned multiple lies that we believed, and so she would write down all the lies that she believed on a card, and at the bottom write the word, “stop.” And then flip it over, and we had a verse, and so before I went to work for two years we would sit on the couch together and she would read it out loud, say, “Stop,” flip it over and read the truth.
And she renewed her mind. “I am worthy. I am worthy outside of my physical appearance. I am accepted and loved, I’m beloved in Christ.” And, you know, every aspect, and she read over those cards.
And I was being the good husband because I thought, you know, “My wife has these deep issues and I need to help her.” But I was reading over the cards with her to help her. And what I realized was, I just had more acceptable dysfunctional sins that produced this driven, workaholic pastor who got rewarded for trying to gain people’s love and approval for what I did.
And it was in that journey of renewing my mind, I mean, every morning. But by the grace of God I got free. And I got where I could say, “You know, it’s okay to be insecure. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t like me. God does. It’s okay if I don’t please everyone. You know what? I’m going to be honest. I want to. But it’s okay if they don’t.”
I don’t have to measure my performance by how big the church is or how small it is or whether I do this or whether I do that. I don’t have to cow down to powerful people. You know what? Beneath all that stuff that they’re showing, they got struggles just like me. I need to love them.
And I want to tell you that you can go on a journey and say, “God, I want to declare war on my warped self-image and I want to begin to renew my mind and believe that I am wanted, accepted, and significant in Jesus Christ.”