God’s Gifts That Keep on Giving

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Christmas 2A, January 5th, 2013

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“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the  heavenly places, even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before  him.”  Those are the Words St. Paul used to begin his pastoral letter to the church at Ephesus so that they would have certainty  and peace with God, knowing that He had done all things necessary to assure them that God would not abandon them.  And  now, for the very same reason I your pastor, declare these same words of comfort and peace to you.

Four phrases jump out at us and demand our attention through out our epistle reading (Ephesians 1:3-14).  They demand to be  considered and applied to our lives, as the precious gifts that keep on giving.  Precious indeed, and they are these: In Christ God  chose us; In Christ God loved us; In Christ God saved us from our sins; In Christ God adopted us as His Sons, that is as His  children.  So the theme and the very source of comfort for us this morning can be summed up in this way, “In Christ, all of God has chosen, loved, forgiven and saved, and adopted us as His very own child!  All of this He has done for His glory and praise!”

This morning God is speaking to you.  Don’t worry about what He is saying to anyone else, because this message is for you; it is between you and God.  So get rid of any and all distractions that are clouding your mind and hear Him speak.  God has saved the world, but more importantly, He has saved you.  By His death upon the cross He paid the ransom price for the sins of the world.  But by the power of His Word, through the washing of the water and the Word, He has saved you by giving you pardon for your many sins.  In your baptism, God has placed the seal of the Holy Spirit upon you and claimed you as His own child.  All that is left for you is to live out and trust this truth.  But this is a spiritual and eternal reality, one that is hard for our sinful flesh to actually receive.  So let me use an analogy that will illustrate your relationship with God.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind, that is you and I and all who have gone before us and will come after us have been born in bondage, that is we are condemned prisoners, even worse, we are slaves.  We are slaves to our sinful nature; that is, sin is our cage.  Our true enemy the devil, has installed himself as our master, and our punishment for our sin is life without the possibility of parole, ending in a death sentence.  There is nothing we can do to secure our release; it is eternal.  Locked away hopelessly lost from God our Creator is our eternal reality.  We are constantly being reprogrammed to believe that there is no God or that Satan himself is our master.  We cannot get to God, but He being God, He can come to us.  And come to us He has.  In the fullness of time, that is at just the right moment, God’s own Son came to us as a child, and He was named Jesus the Christ.  He came to be our Savior, Emmanuel.  This child Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God the Father; that is, in His humanity as the boy Jesus, God the Son grew as all humans do.  He grew mentally in the same way and attained more and more strength of mind, understanding, and reason.

At just the right time, this child became a man and announced to the world, first to His own people, the physical children of Abraham, and then to the gentiles, that He had come for them, to set them free.  And then at just the right time, this God-man fulfilled the mission that His Father sent Him on; He allowed sinful men to crucify Him upon a cross, so that His death would be a ransom payment for the sins of the world.  This ransoming work for the world includes all people from all times and generations; it includes you and your sins.

Now, the door to your cage has been torn open.  You are free from the bondage of your sin.  Death no longer has a claim over you, and the devil’s lie has been revealed.  He is not your master; your Master is Jesus Christ, the very Son of God.  Now ever so softly, the voice of the Holy Spirit speaks to you and says, “My Child, you are free.  Come out and enter the Kingdom of grace, which the Father has prepared for you.”

Most of us, when we first begin to really consider the gospel, the message of forgiveness of sins, have two main thoughts going on in our heads. Is this really true, and can it really be for me?! And to those questions, the Holy Spirit takes your empty hand of faith and fills it with the promises of the Word of God, and then points you to the waters of your baptism.  There in the washing of the water and the Word of God, He assures you that Jesus has taken you by the hand, sealed you with the Holy Spirit, and claimed you as His own dear child and His brother and friend.

The door of your cage is open.  The invitation to leave your bondage is real.  Will you allow Him to take you by the hand and lead you out or will you pull away?  God’s Word this morning makes it clear that it is His desire that you do not pull away.  He desires that for your entire life here on earth, you will allow His gift of faith to lead you away from sin and the devil, and then finally discover that your death is simply a departure from one place (here ), to another, in paradise.

This morning, God the Father wants you to know that He has loved you with an everlasting love and chosen you from the beginning of time, before the world was ever created.  He chose you to love you and for you to love Him.  In the Father’s love, that is, through His Word, He points your eyes and heart to the cross of Jesus Christ; through that cross He made you holy and blameless even though, as we know all to well we are neither!  But you must keep reminding yourself that it is only through the work of Christ upon the cross that God makes it possible for you to become adopted as His child.

So we can say that God chose us at the beginning of time; He saved us at just the right time; and He adopted us throughout time with an eye not on time but on eternity.  Everything that you have heard this morning is meant to open your eyes of faith so that you will see that it is God who does everything to save you and claim you as His own.  He isn’t bound to time or space, to influence or laws; He is the creator of all things.  Even if there are things that we can’t understand or figure out in our minds, our gift of faith can simply learn to trust God in all things, and believe that He has come to us.  He is the One who sees all things at all times as one fluid thought; from the beginning to the end He sees and knows, and He sees you and your life and what goes on as you live it.  And what He sees shouldn’t alarm you, but bring you comfort.  He has saved you and is saving you, because He has chosen you.  But He has not chosen you because of something He found in you; no, He has chosen you through Christ Jesus, His own dear Son.

God the Son has come to you to be your champion to set you free; every day, He continues to come to you.  Everyday, He reminds you that it was and is His sacrifice that does the choosing, the loving, the saving, and the adopting that the Father desires.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of God has come to free us from our pain and suffering; to tree us from our struggles; to free us from all fear and worry, and to free us from our sins and death itself.  I say that in God the Son all of God comes to us because He is our triune God in human flesh.  Wherever the work of the Son is, there also is the sending heart of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Through Jesus Christ, God shows Himself to be our only provision and our only source of hope and security in a hopeless and insecure world.  Through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has sealed us with His sign in the waters of our baptism, and marked us as God’s own by taking residence within us.  Now think about that for a moment… God lives within you.  You can’t get much more secure than that!  And as the Holy Spirit lives within us, He assures us that God will never leave nor forsake us; He comforts, guides, teaches, builds up, and equips us with gifts that give real strength and power.  But strength and power for what?  To trust the presence of God that comes to the door of your cage and says come out.  Allow me to take you by the hand of faith and lead you upon life’s way.

Dear friends, the door is open.  Your bondage to sin, death, and the devil is over.  As Jesus once called Lazarus who had been dead for four days to come out from the tomb with the Words, “Lazarus, come out,” He now calls you as well.  Would it not have been ridiculous if once made alive, Lazarus chose to remain in the tomb as a dead man?  Is it not as ridiculous for us to live as if we are still in bondage?  So let’s rise upon our feet together, as God continues to lead us and sing the first verse of LSB Hymn 722, “Lord, Take My Hand and Lead Me.”

“Lord take my hand and lead me upon life’s way.  Direct, protect, and feed me from day to day.  Without Your grace and favor I go astray.  So take my hand, O Savior, and lead the way.  AMEN!”

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