At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a new series called God Likes You.
Do you feel worthy, worthless, loved, or maybe even discarded? We live in a world where we are measured by our worth, our worthiness. We can find ourselves running on the treadmill of life, constantly attempting to prove our worth and to feel wanted, needed, loved, and worthy. Often we scrutinize ourselves by what we have to offer to others or by what we believe they value in us. We even bring this into how we see God. But that’s not what God wants for us. Our worth is not measured by others or even by Him. It is freely given by Him; not earned nor attained. Are you ready to step off the treadmill of life and stand in the worth that God has freely given you?
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes from John Burke:
That’s the world we live in—keep running!
Keep running to prove your worth, keep running to know you’re loved, keep running to be valued, keep running to one day have something worth keeping. But what if we didn’t have to run to feel loved, valued, secure, worth something?
What if we could feel so loved—it gave us confidence to love better?
What if we felt so valued, that we could freely use our gifts and abilities—not to prove ourselves, but to make a difference for others?
What if we didn’t have to fear being worthless, or even “worth—less”, no envy or jealousy or running to keep up with the Joneses because our worth was secure, overflowing, abundant?
What if I told you God says you can Stop Running and just Stand? Secure, Loved, of infinite Worth?
That’s actually what God wants for you. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
- It wouldn’t mean you don’t work hard, or take responsibility for your life, or want to succeed and do well.
- But it would mean, you’re able to do all these things for a different reason—out of love rather than fear–out of security rather than insecurity–out of abundance rather than scarcity.
That’s what we’re diving into today as we start this 5 weeks series through the book of Ephesians, called God Likes You.
God sees you, and He likes what He sees genuinely.
He doesn’t always like what you do (just to be clear), but He really likes what He sees in you.
Do you see what God sees in You?
Seeing that changes everything.
Ephesians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a church full of people just like those in Austin—but in Ephesus. Read Ephesians in New Testament as we go through it. Ephesus was in modern day Turkey, the most important city in Asia Minor, they had a motto “What starts here, changes the world” (not exactly), but like Austin is now a Gateway city and cultural hub, so was Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis (or Diana) was located there, it was a wealthy, prosperous, party city. And Paul is writing to those who had come to faith in Jesus when he was staying there over a 2-3 year period. If you don’t know, Paul had been a Christian killer—he hated Christians. As a Jewish Pharisee, Paul was on the Religious treadmill of proving his goodness, his righteousness, but then on the Damascus road, Paul encountered the Blinding Light of God who turned out to be the risen Jesus—Paul came to faith, and found a new liberating way “in Christ” – key word as we will see. Years later he started the church in Ephesus, now Paul is in prison in Rome for his faith, and he’s writing to teach these new Christ-followers how to stand “in Christ.” It’s what we need to learn too. He’s going to show them how God feels about them and how to Stand in God’s Truth.
So how does God feel about you? That question really matters.
We live our lives running for an Identity that will never last. Jesus invites us to get off the treadmill and stand “in Christ”—it’s the question of where you get your sense of approval and worth—if it’s “In people,” people pleasing, proving yourself—you’ll forever be running on this treadmill going nowhere.
When we hear messages over and over, it influences thinking and behavior—those messages, true of false, influenced your sense of Identity.
The problem with all the wrong identities—is that none last or fulfill us in the end.
Jesus put it this way:
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
– Matthew 10:39
It’s an identity issue—you will not find your life in any of these things.
- You have to die to treadmill running to prove yourself.
- You can’t live for that Identity because that identity won’t last and changes with changing opinion.
- You must stop and STAND, and decide “My Identity is in who God says I am–My Identity is “in Christ.”
God’s opinion and God’s truth about you—that doesn’t change. It’s solid. It’s dependable.
All other identities go away. Most of the Identities we’re running for are fickle, fleeting, unpredictable.
So this phrase “in Christ” comes up again and again in this letter to the Ephesian church. It means when you put your faith, or trust in Christ, God changes your positional standing with him forever. God sees you differently—not because of anything you’ve done or haven’t done—not because of the treadmill.
God created you for relationship, so you STAND related to God through Christ.
“In Christ” means that when you trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, a union is established between Christ and you in such a way that everything in Christ that can be shared will be shared with you.
Everything that [God] is, and everything that [God] has that can be shared will be shared with you. And there is only one thing that can’t be shared—his [full] deity. But everything else that God has is yours in Christ.
Do you realize what that means?!
It’s like living your whole life worried you’re not going to have enough when you retire—your 20s, 30’s you worry, worry, worry—and then on your 40th Birthday, you find out your great aunt died with no survivors, and she left 10 million in trust to you—all available upon retirement at age 62. Wouldn’t that change how you live today and the next 22 years—take away that worry about the future?
What God has given us is far better than that.
Let’s look at what God has blessed you with and says is true about you—and imagine if you really lived as if this were true…
What Is True of Us In Christ:
You Are Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing
“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.” Ephesians 1:3
God sees you as someone so special, so important, that He would pour out to you every spiritual blessing available—for all who are “in Christ.” God can’t force you to identify with Christ, but He wants you to because He wants to bless you.
Now, what does that mean in real life though? Notice it says “every spiritual blessing” and we unfortunately we tend to think of spiritual blessings as less real or tangible than physical/material blessings.
So God’s promising us that EVERY spiritual blessing—everything we really are trying to get running on the treadmill—is ours to take hold of.
As we learn to live “in Christ” we experience those spiritual blessings on earth
as in heaven more and more.
Paul is so excited, in the original Greek verses 3-14, what we’ll look at today is one run-on sentence. It’s just a continuous pouring out of these blessings.
So what are some of them?
You Are Chosen and Blameless
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. – Ephesians 1:4.
In Christ, God says you are Chosen and Blameless in his sight. Chosen by God!
God Chose You in Christ. You are wanted, a valuable team member, a chosen person—why?
- Before time began, God created you.
- God thought you up.
- There’s no one else like you, and He knows the valuable spiritual being He created in all your potential.
- That’s why Jesus paid the price to purchase you back—so that In Christ—you could feel chosen and become all God intended.
- But first, Jesus had to pay for all your sins—all of them—past, present, even future. It was not a small deal—it cost him everything. Yet when you came to realize you need God’s forgiveness, God was right ready to forgive and wipe all your debts clean, so that now In Christ you stand Blameless in his sight. Do you realize how crazy that spiritual blessing is?
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done—when you stand before God—He looks at you with love and declares you “blameless.”
Now, are you blameless in the things you’ve done? No—you’re guilty.
Yet God’s mercy covers all.
“In Christ”God sees all those things through Jesus on the cross, paid for in full, so that you now stand before him blameless. No matter what you’ve done.
Why would He do such a thing? Doesn’t even seem right. Here’s why—because you are also “Holy” in his sight “in Christ.” That’s what it says “Holy and Blameless.”
Holy literally means “set apart.” You’re now set apart for God. God has plans for you, not to keep doing those things you once did against His will—hurting you and others—but the only way we truly grow into loving, mature, spiritual adults is when we get off the treadmill of running from God, or running to please people, and we learn to stand in His Truth. So He decided before the world began, to not only forgive you in Christ, but to see you as Blameless.
Why does this matter? Because the evil lies you have heard over and over try to convince you God’s mad at you. So Run From God, or Run to make up for all your wrongs—run to balance your bad Karma—but it doesn’t work. The treadmill doesn’t change us from the inside into more loving, kind, patient, self-controlled people—what does that is when you learn to STAND in God’s Truth. That changes you.
You Are His Dearly Loved Child
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. – Ephesians 1:5-6
God is love. There is no love you’ve ever experienced that didn’t have it’s Source in God. It flows from God to his creation (even if you deny it). God can’t stop loving us—no matter what—it’s just not in His nature. Even when God let’s us go our own way, hurting ourselves and each other, He allows it in love and for love—in hope that it will be a wake up call to turn us back to His love.
We were created for God’s love.
Before the world began, he decided in advance (which is what predestined means) that through Jesus Christ all who freely accept His love and forgiveness will be adopted as His own sons and daughters.
That term “adopted to sonship” doesn’t exclude women but just the opposite. In Roman/Greek culture, where Ephesus was, the term “adoption to sonship” was a legal term that in that male dominate culture only applied to the first son—it meant this adopted child is the heir who gets it all.
Paul is writing to women and men in the church, saying God adopts each of you with the highest standing and place of full inheritance. And it says God did this for his own pleasure—and that’s important.God doesn’t just love you—He likes you. He finds pleasure in you. It’s what He wants—to be with you.
Could it be that the way we feel toward our kids…God feels toward you, even more? That’s how God wants you to Stand in Christ—realizing that he’s just crazy about you. When life is hard, He hasn’t left you—he promises…
In Christ It’s All Good
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. – Ephesians 1:7-10
Here’s what it means: This world is confusing!
Something’s out of whack, it’s not all good on this planet earth. And yet, in Christ, all those who want forgiveness are redeemed—they are bought back for a price. God’s doing this all over the world for every willing person who wants his forgiveness. That’s what the bible calls Grace—it’s lavished on us. God’s not stingy—he lavishes his mercy and Grace on all people who want it. But there’s a mystery to all of it too.
That mystery is captured in the atheists complaints about God “If God is real and good, then why such pain and hurt and war and division and suffering?” And this is the mystery of His will Paul talks about—that God’s not unaware of all of this—and God does have a plan to make it all right. To bring unity to all things in heaven and earth when the times reach their fulfillment. He is doing something about it—He’s taking every willing person, and helping them learn to get off the treadmill of living for self (playing god) or living for people (people-pleasing) and instead Stand in Christ in all the spiritual blessings He gives. Learn to live as if what God says is more true than what people think or say about us. When we do that, we are living in the way of Goodness—that God can use all this for our good—even the bad things, the trials, the suffering—He can use to bless us forever.
And in the meantime, we can work for His will—that we can bring unity—bring people to stop fighting and dividing over political ideologies, money, race, differences of opinion, whose done more for the marriage—God’s desire is that we learn to Stand in Christ—you don’t have to fear or prove anything “in Christ.” Just STAND “In him.” Then, you can work to unite people under God’s will for them. And finally, you’re not doing any of this by your own power…
In Christ You are Rich and Powerful Already
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, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14
So many people run the treadmill of life trying to get rich or famous or be powerful—But God’s already given all this to you, in Christ. This says that when you believed—if you prayed “I want what Christ did to count for me—I want your forgiveness and your leadership—come be God in my life.” That heart motivation is all God needs for all this and more to be true for you.
But even more than that—God’s Spirt, the Holy Spirit, comes to live in and through you as much as you’re willing to let him (we talked about this last week). This is the very power of God in you. Notice a couple of things this passage says. First, you don’t have to have some second baptism of the Holy Spirit, it’s
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…
– Ephesians 1:13
In Jesus’ times, a Roman seal was a mark of ownership of the Kingdom of Rome. The Holy Spirit is God’s mark of ownership—you belong to God—no one can take you from Him.
When you buy an expensive, valuable house, you put your deposit down to claim it—so no one else can get it from you legally. God did this too—You are His, and His Spirit is in you, guaranteeing your inheritance. What does that mean? You’re Rich! In Christ, you will inherit EVERYTHING God has—again—crazy if you really think about it. That’s what you have to look forward to after this life. EVERYTHING you’ve ever loved about earth life—it’s nothing—it’s a little appetizer to the true meal of adventure, culture, work, play, relationship, intimacy—all of God’s good gifts and more—You inherit it all. And the Holy Spirit is God’s power to help you live all these things more and more as you let him lead and guide your life.
Can you believe who you are “in Christ?” You’re awesome! You have a lot going for you. Why? Because God’s awesome and He says so. Stand in it.