Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 Psalm 100 Matthew 25:31-46 Ephesians 1:15-23
All of those stories about people who have died, believed they saw heaven, and came back to life, they do not matter. Oh, and the idea that we become angels when we die, that also does not matter. Why do these two beliefs not matter? These beliefs do not matter insofar as we read about Jesus Christ and his power.
Let’s take the near-death experiences of various people. When people place this idea about seeing heaven before Jesus Christ, then something does not add up. First, Jesus is the only one who has died, has risen from the grave, and is still alive. There will be more people who die, rise again, and live forevermore. From reading the entire Bible we see that that day is in the future. And it has not happened yet. We also realize that Satan is the father of lies. He has and will continue to deceive people when it comes to seeing our dead loved ones. When we place our faith in our dead loved ones and do not place faith in Jesus Christ, then we have no hope for any future. It is not our dead loved ones who get us to be with God, in his kingdom. It is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power!
For the idea that we become angels when we die, we again are missing the point of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Angels, or messengers of God, were created to aid humanity. They neither are given in marriage or raise children. They are eternal beings created by God in order to help us. For us to become angels misses the purpose for which we were created. We are created to know God, to spend time with God, and to love as Jesus has loved us. Angels honor God, but they do not love Jesus. The hope our being raised with Christ is to know God’s power. We learn to bow to Jesus Christ during our lifetime. Angels, as they were created, naturally bow to Jesus. Except the fallen angels, they will learn, at their own expense, how painful it is to not bow to Jesus Christ.
Now that I have your attention, we want to be certain of the hope we place in Jesus. This idea of hope comes through here in Ephesians 1. To gain an understanding of hope, we first discover how we are known. Do we know how we are known in our community? Next, we find a reasonable need for God’s Spirit to educate us in God’s ways, including his immeasurable greatness. Do we know the hope to which we have been called by God? Finally, we gain an appreciation for what God’s power in Christ means for the church. We get to see Jesus above all, including any persuasive ideas that may distract us from Christ.
A. Are we known for our faith and love? (1:15-16)
1. Or are we known for a well-maintained building? Or apple butter, or meals?
2. Paul had heard about how the church in Ephesus had live their faith in Christ and their love for their neighbor
3. Paul gave thanks to God as he prayed for the church in Ephesus
4. During this season of Thanksgiving, we do well to thank God for what he is doing among us. He has given us faith. We live the faith that God gives us. In other words, God has given us a desire to know him, to trust him. As we know God in our life as a church, then we may be like the owner of the strip club that was next to that one church. It seems the community gained a new business, a strip club! The church people were not happy about this development. So, from the pastor to the janitor, they began to pray that God would close down the strip club. Within a few months the strip club burned down. The owner of the strip club took the church to court! The church denied any involvement in the tragedy that took their neighbor’s business. The strip club owner knew that because of the church’s prayers, his business was destroyed. The judge found it incredulous, the church did not own up to faith in God but the strip club owner did! But once we are known for our faith and love, then we have further to go.
B. We can be enlightened about the hope that we have (1:17-19)
1. We want more of God’s Spirit to be known in our lives – esp. his wisdom & revelation
2. Our hope is revealed to us in better ways, among & for the saints
3. We will recognize God’s immeasurable greatness of his power (Ezekiel)
a. Seeks & rescues his sheep
b. feeds & binds the injured
c. Strengthens the weak while destroying the fat & strong, yet seeks the lost
d. Sets a shepherd over the sheep
4. Not only do we have hope, but there will be a way for our hope to be realized. We do not make our way into God’s kingdom on our own power. It is by God working among & in the church that we realize the extent of our hope. God brings the people into the church and Jesus is our shepherd. How did Jesus gain this power?
C. God did this for Christ, and even more! (1:20-23)
1. God raised Jesus from the dead & now has Jesus at his right hand
2. Jesus is above all
a. Rule, authority, power, & dominion (angels, ideas, politics, spirit of the power of the air)
b. Every name, even in the age to come (saints, angels, new creation)
3. Jesus, the shepherd of the sheep, has brought us together to be the church
4. Jesus fills the church, plus he fills the universe
5. Jesus wants to bring you into his fold. He wants you to be part of the church. It seems the best for us to willingly follow him now. Or we could wait until we are placed under his feet. I am not trying to scare you, nor was Paul trying to scare his readers. Instead Paul was saying we can be the church because of God’s power that is pulling us together. It is Jesus who makes us into the church. This same Jesus fills all. And I mean all. So being in his body, the church, sounds much better than being under his feet!
Yes, it is through God’s immeasurable greatness that we gain hope. It is not through a near-death experience or becoming angels that we have hope. How then do we live in the church, in the body of Christ?
We live our hope by living the faith that God has given us. We live the love that we have towards all the saints. We, the body of Christ, live as Jesus is the one who fills all in all.
Let us discover how we are known in the community. This week, ask people you meet what they think about Gladeville/Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church. Whatever we find, even if we are known for our apple butter, tell me about it. Then let us live the hope we have in Jesus Christ by living our faith and loving our neighbors.