“Our Inheritance in Christ”


All Saints

November 6, 2016

 

Text:  Ephesians 1:11-23

 

    Today as we observe All Saints we are here to give thanks for those who have gone before us in faith and now rest from their labors.  We are also here to consider who we are as people of faith in the present moment.  The Apostle Paul wrote that those who belong to Christ have received an inheritance in him.  

    Now when we receive an inheritance in this world, it means someone has died.  Our inheritance in Christ is given to us because he died.  Yet it is not taken from us because he rose again; if anything, it is enhanced.

    Paul tells us that the down payment on our inheritance is the Holy Spirit.  Now we know what a down payment is.  When we make a large purchase, such as a home or an automobile, we often make a down payment as our first installment toward the total price, and then take out a loan to cover the remaining balance, which we then repay over time with interest.

    God’s Holy Spirit is the first installment of what those who belong to Jesus stand to receive from God as an inheritance.  Of course, God doesn’t actually owe us anything.  Instead, saying the Holy Spirit is the first installment is simply a way of saying that God promises us yet more.

    Of course, the Holy Spirit is a very good first installment.  After all, the Holy Spirit is God’s continuing presence with us, sent to us by Jesus to continue to be there for us after Jesus ascended into heaven to take his place at the right side of God, the place of power and authority.  The Holy Spirit guides us, teaches us, encourages us, strengthens us, and helps us as we live this life and seek to carry out God’s mission in the world in the face of difficulty, danger, and opposition.

    But if the Holy Spirit is only the first installment, it means that God has more for us.  In our lesson today from Ephesians, Paul prayed for the Christians of Ephesus that they might be enlightened to see “what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers.”  This prayer tells me that what God yet has in store for us--God’s call on our lives, the inheritance we have yet to receive, and the power of God to work in and through us--is often beyond our comprehension or imagination.  Because of that, I believe we often sell God short.  I know I do.  I underestimate what God is capable of doing in my life, in the lives of others, and in the life of the church.  When that happens, I find it easy to become discouraged, because I know we humans can be a contentious, difficult lot.  Far too often we try to solve problems ourselves by striving to get our way rather than seeking God’s way.  We need to remember that the Risen Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the seat of power and authority in the heavens, far above any other ruler, authority, or power that has existed or ever will exist.  He is also head of everything for the church, and we are his body.  Our inheritance is thus in part the responsibility of living as Christ’s body in the world.

    One song that gets played a lot on Christian radio is a song by Casting Crowns called “If We Are the Body”, a song that speaks to our responsibility in this regard.  Listen to the words of the song’s chorus:  “But if we are the body Why aren't His arms reaching?  Why aren't His hands healing?  Why aren't His words teaching?  And if we are the body Why aren't His feet going?  Why is His love not showing them there is a way?”

    For the body to be effective, it needs to be under control of the head.  The head of this body called the church is Jesus Christ.  We need to be under his guidance and direction, obedient to his mission, faithful in doing the work he has set out for us to do.

    Part of that inheritance is also the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ who died and rose again.  This is also beyond comprehension.  We mere mortals have little idea of what it must really be like to live in God’s presence forever.  I am sure, given the greatness of God, that whatever it is like is far, far beyond anything I can wrap my brain around.  We know pieces of it, to be sure:  no more crying, no more pain, no more suffering, eternal peace and bliss, being in the presence of God forever.  But I believe that in fact eternal life is far more wonderful than even all that.  And until by the grace of God I get there, I won’t know how wonderful it really is.

    Today we give thanks for the lives of those who have gone before us in faith.  We trust that by God’s grace they have received the gift of eternal life through Christ who died and rose again.  We trust that by God’s grace we someday will join them on that eternal shore.  And we pray that in the meantime, we will be found faithful in living the way of Jesus in our world.  May this be our commitment.  Amen.

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