God’s Great Work Revealed!

It’s good to have a plan! Listen to Paul’s words from Ephesians 1:3-18 and see God for who he is – “The Man with the Plan.”  January 5, 2020.

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Having a plan is always better than not having a plan! Thinking through some scenarios on how a situation might turn out is better than the opposite, just going in blindly and seeing what happens! That’s why schools do fire drills! No one wants to even think about a school having a fire, but it sure is better to have kids who know what to do in that unlikely scenario than to just wait and see and hope for the best.  No one ever wants their car to break down, but those that plan ahead for such an occurrence are usually a lot calmer when it does.

When a young woman is looking for a young man to date, it’s usually true that a man with a plan is significantly more attractive to her than a boy with his toys or a guy who just sighs.   

It’s good to have a plan!

God has a plan! We see it and celebrate it anew each Christmas. We remember it as we consider the Christmas prophecies fulfilled! God had a plan! He knew what he was going to do and how he was going to do it! He dropped hints and gave clues and then in the land of Israel, in the town of Bethlehem he put the plan in motion.  That’s the truth that we recall as we remember Paul’s words to the Galatians, words that we often hear at Christmas time: But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5).  

God most certainly was the Man with the Plan! And his plan to send Jesus, his plan to save the world – was fulfilled – no surprise – to perfection! 

But God’s plan was bigger! …bigger than Bethlehem, bigger than a Child King, bigger than his Hebrew hero!   God’s plan involves you!

That’s why Paul prays this prayer for you! I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

And why does Paul pray this?  Why does he pray this about you…about me? It must be because he knows people. He knew himself and knew people like you and me. Every day we are tempted to downplay God’s plan for us! When we live life like we are in control we are writing God and his plan out of our lives. When we choose earthly things over the spiritual, are we not calling God and his plan unimportant? We chase after earthly riches and allow ourselves to be consumed by them, and it’s always at the expense of our Christian calling… the hope that we’ve been called to…the riches of his glorious inheritance.  We far too often treat those things like they are common and not worth thinking about or doing anything about!! Our sinful nature darkens our hearts and our eyes so that we see so many other things as more important, so many other “life goals as worth pursuing. We find hope in ourselves, our surroundings, our self-earned stability!  We take more stock in the inheritance that we are receiving from a relative or the one that we hope someday to pass along to the next generation and think little and do even less to secure for ourselves and the next generations the glorious inheritance that is ours in Christ.

And yet God is The Man with the Plan! He wrote us into his plan! He wasn’t ignorant to our failings or blind to our shortcomings. In fact, it was because of them that he planned to have us! It was because of them that he needed to plan a way to save us from ourselves and the death that we deserve because of our sins!!

Listen to Paul’s words and see God for who he is – The Man with the Plan. 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.

Do you want to know how much God loves you? Look at when he started loving you! It was not after you were old enough and mature enough to prove that you could be productive member of his Church! It was not after you confessed your love for him! It was not after you declared your desire to be on his team! It was not after you were born to Christian parents or began growing into a good little boy or girl! (God) chose us in (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

 Before Adam and Eve fell in the garden, God chose them and loved them! Before you and I were born in sin and then made things far worse with a lifetime of selfishness and pride, before any of that, God chose us! He chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight! His love for you has nothing to do with your life. It has everything to do with who he is! He is The Man with the Plan.

Before the Creation of the world, he chose you. Before the first “Let there be” fell off his lips, he knew you and he loved you. He knew everything about you, including the things you don’t share, including the things you don’t write in a Christmas Card or share in a Facebook post! He knew all about you, and what life you’d live, but none of it mattered to him. None of the warts or blemishes or the failings or the horror of your sinful heart or the wretched deeds that you’d commit, none of them were a secret to God and none of them deterred his love! He knew that you and I are anything but holy and blameless, but that’s what he called us to be and that’s what his call makes us, through merits of his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ!! 

In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons 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.

God predestined our place in his family! No earthly parent can do that! Ask the couple that is struggling to conceive a child! Ask the parents who await news of a child being placed for an adoption. We can try and we can pray, but we can’t just will a family into existence.

But God can, and he has! He adopted us quite simply because he wanted to! “I wanted to!” is not a good enough excuse for a 7-year-old to offer his parents as an explanation as to why he took his sister’s toy! But it is all the reason needed for God to welcome us into his family! “I wanted to!” is all the reason we need from the one that we can now rightfully and joyful call Father! God can and will do as he pleases and what a joy to be the recipients of his pleasure and will. God adopted us because he loved us too much to even think about the family and the future that would be ours

Can you hear the grace of God just dripping from this sentence? This is one that should be on a picture, or a screensaver or be etched in your mind! Listen and catch the grace that drips from every word: In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in (Jesus) the One he loves.

The Man with the Plan – with the plan to have you with him forever – continues to bring us comforting grace. Listen as God reveals more of his gracious plan! In (Christ) 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. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,

God’s plan is a mystery to those who don’t have faith! The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing Paul says in a different place (1 Corinthians 1). But to us who know the man and his plan, his grace is the sweetest sound these sinful ears could hear!! God gives us wisdom and understanding that we might know and believe and rejoice in his love! We see in Jesus our Savior from sin! We see in Christmas the love story of God to his people being revealed! The baby was born to bear our sins! He lived that his life might purchase ours. He died so that death would be destroyed. He rose so that we too would rise. Foolishness to some. A Master Plan that shows the Master’s love to us who have been called by grace.

The price that Jesus paid was sufficient. The blood that he shed was enough to purify you and me and to the world from their sins. It was the riches of God’s grace, grace that was lavished on us, generously give to unworthy sinners like us. His grace overflows in our hearts and lives!! 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,

God works out all things according to his purpose and will. Nothing can thwart his will, or compromise his desires. In other words, God is The Man with the Plan. And knowing that God’s plan is to have us gives us a certainty that this world cannot give. It gives us a hope that we can’t find elsewhere. It’s a foundation that we can build our lives and our eternities upon.

Did someone in your family have a sneaky plan to surprise you with a gift this Christmas? Did anyone play the little gift in a big box trick? In an effort to maintain a surprise, a loved one might be coy about their plans for your gift. But that’s not God with his plan for you.

God doesn’t want us to wonder about his plan. He’s not trying to keep it from us, so he shares it with us in his word of truth. He uses his Means of Grace to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify us (see Luther’s Explanation to the 3rd Article)! He sends us his Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament. He creates and strengthens our faith in him so we can know him and to know his plan! Our baptism is a mark and guarantee that proves that God has adopted us, that he’s called us and chosen us to live with him forever.     

 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having 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.

The Holy Spirit is our deposit, our guarantee that God’s plan has a big pay-off for us in eternity! The love and joy that is ours today is only the deposit! It’s just the proof that an even greater inheritance is ours and even greater joy awaits us in heavenly glory.

And that inheritance is one that God wants us to share. His plan is to use people like us to share his love and spread his promise. His plan is to use his people to reveal his grace to those who need to hear it. His plan is that many more might come to know his plan and his grace. His plan is to empower us with his gospel so that others might come to a knowledge of God’s Christmas love and see in Jesus the great plans that the Father has.

In life, it’s good to have a plan! BUT it’s even better - in fact it’s the best it can possibly be - to have The Man with the Plan and to be able to call him Father! It’s the best it can possibly be to be a part of that plan to have that Man want us to be with him forever!  That’s our reality and that our everlasting joy in our Savior – in our Brother - Jesus Christ! Amen. 

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on January 5, 2020