The Mysteries and Majesty of God

Mark Buckley
Series: Ephesians

Good morning, Living Streams. Good to see you today. David is up at Lost Canyon with over 100 of our men with 450 other guys from around the Valley. They’re having a great time. He’ll be back preaching next week. We’re doing a sermon series on Ephesians. If you want to open your Bible to Ephesians, that would be great.

I want to say thank you to those of you who have been praying for Kristina and myself. My wife, Kristina, is a candidate for a heart transplant. She’s twelve sessions into a thirty-six session cardio rehab prep, so that the surgery itself is something she will survive, Lord willing. It is a big battle. But at the same time, with so many people praying for us, we’re experiencing a lot of grace. We’re enjoying life. So it’s one of those mixtures. It’s the best of times and also dark clouds on the horizon. So, thank you again for praying for her.

The title of this message is The Mysteries of God in Ephesians. When I was a kid, I went to church every week. I went to confession and communion and catechism classes. When I was a teenager, I asked in a catechism class one time something about God. It was a profound question on my heart. The teacher said, “Well, that’s a mystery.” Sort of like, if it’s a mystery then you’re out of it. You don’t have an answer. We’ll never know.

I began to think in my mind, “Well, if it’s a mystery to you and it’s a mystery to me, what am I doing here? I’m going to go somewhere where I can get some answers.” And I began a search that took me through all kinds of Eastern religions and occult practices and, ultimately back to Jesus. Ultimately, I saw in people who really loved Jesus, who believed that he’s alive, a life of vitality, something in the Spirit that drew me. I was drawn to him because of healing and miracles and a need that I felt in my own life to really connect to God—even thought the message itself seemed too simple. And the people seemed pretty simple. They didn’t seem like my people. For a while, that was a big struggle for me. 

So, today we’re going to talk about mysteries of God from the book of Ephesians. We’re going to talk about three things: The Mystery of God’s Will. The Mystery of Christ uniting Jews and Gentiles, and The Mystery of Christ and the Church.

First: The Mystery of God’s Will. Ephesians 1:9

he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 

Let’s pray together.

Father God, I ask that you, who are the revealer of mysteries, that you would speak to our hearts this morning; that you would touch us where we need to be touched; that you would show us life is not an accident. It’s not chance. We’re here for a divine purpose. And that you would reveal those divine purposes to each one of us. In Jesus’ name. 

So, Paul says, hitting the big mystery on the head, he’s like, “God has revealed to us the master of his will.” The first spiritual truth anybody understands is life is not an accident. It’s not just luck. It’s not just chance. 

I listen to a podcast that I love called How I Built This, by Guy Raz. He interviews the founders of Instagram, Airbnb, SnapChat and all these different companies. And he’s talking to them about how they got from zero—when they first started, when they first had an idea—to the fulfillment of this vision, in many cases which is far beyond what they had originally anticipated. And, at the end of the interview, he always asks them the same question, every person he interviews. He says, “How much of your success do you attribute to luck, and how much is just hard work?” And they all have various answers.

If, per chance, I ever was interviewed by somebody like that, I would not say it was luck. I would say there is a lot of hard work to get from where we are to the fulfillment of the dreams and visions in our heart. But there’s a lot of something else called the grace of God. And the grace of God is an impartation that allows us to fulfill a destiny far beyond our capacity, if it was just up to us and our hard work or chance. 

So Paul says the mystery of his will has been revealed to us. And here’s what it is in verse 10:

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.

This is the will of God. To bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Now, if Genghis Khan had known that, he might have killed far fewer people in his attempt to conquer the world. If Alexander the Great had known that, he might not have died as a young man. If Hitler had known that, he would never have invaded Poland, Russia, Austria, Czechoslovakia. Because the destiny of the Germans wasn’t to rule the world and to bring a better order according to their understanding of how life should function. 

If the ruler of Isis had known that, he wouldn’t have had to flee Syria and Iraq and leave devastation in his wake. The destiny of the world is not to be united under an Islamic caliphate. 

America needs to know that. Our destiny is not to be all Republicans or all Democrats. Even though some of us push. I had dinner with a friend the other night. We got in a big political fight because, every now and then friends like to do that. Get rid of what’s in their heart—a little frustration. Nevertheless, we’re not destined to all be Catholics, or all be Baptists, or all be at Living Streams. We are destined to all bow our knee to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who was sent by the Father to not only bring salvation, but to rule and to reign and to establish a kingdom that will last forever. 

The second mystery: The Mystery of Christ uniting Jews and Gentiles. Ephesians 3:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.

He says, “I wrote about this mystery that came through revelation.” And it’s in chapter 2 and we’ll go back there in a minute.  

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

Now, somebody might ask the question, when we talk about the mystery of Jews and Gentiles being united, the mystery of Christ and the Church and Israel. Somebody might say, “What’s the big deal? Why is that important? Who even cares?”

Well, let me say this. You will care a lot if you take the time to read the Old Testament and you see the covenant promises that God made to his people to bless them. Not just them as individuals, but to bless them for generations and generations, when they keep his promises. They have promises. They have prophecies. They have the law and the patriarchs. Everything that was first given to Abraham and then to his son Isaac, and then to Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob who became the nation Israel. All those promises become our through Christ. We become inheritors of something through a mysterious union that allows Jews and Gentiles to become one. We’ll talk about that in just a minute.

The other day I was looking at Kristina. She was sitting at the kitchen table and there was a big, thousand-piece puzzle that she was putting together. And I walked by. It looked a little strange to me. I said, “How’s it going with the puzzle?” And she said, “Well, I like to do it upside down without looking at the picture on the box.” And I thought, “Yeah, that’s my wife. It’s really strange.” She said, “It’s good for my brain.” It would drive my brain crazy trying to do a thousand-piece puzzle, but to do it upside down without looking at the picture, that’s tough.

I’m trying to give you a picture today of what God wants to do. As much as anything, if you have a picture of his will and his purpose, then even though different events don’t always make sense, you can save the understanding of how that fits into your life for a time when there’s another piece that produces clarity, if you know what I mean. Are you following me? Because we all have certain events that don’t seem to fit. And some of those are very painful events. Some of those seem like scars. By faith we have to resist the temptation to be angry and to say, “That person has messed up my life.” Because nobody has the power to mess up your life. The only thing that will mess up your life is if you will let that pain fester through unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness. That will cause you some trouble. 

Now we’re going to go back into Ephesians and see how we become united with the Jews to fulfill God’s purpose. Ephesians 2 (RSV):

1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 

He’s talking about the demonic realm, and how, at one time we cooperated with the demonic realm. We were just going for whatever felt good, whatever was going to make us happy and gratify us at the time. 

Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 

The secret sauce that transforms us is called grace. It’s a divine energy that we didn’t earn, we don’t deserve, but we get to receive. Jesus received it from the Father. He lived a sinless life, and in his sinless life there was a grace that he was able to transmute—or to impart—to his disciples. And when he imparted that grace to them, they were able to heal sick people, cast out demons, and do amazing things that they were never able to do before. And he said, “After I’m gone, you guys are going to be even better off. Because I’m going to the Father and the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you.” 

This grace saves us. It makes us whole. I know that I’m not worthy in terms of being a good person for God to answer my prayers. I’m just sort of an average guy. Most people, if you do an intelligence test, they’re all just a little bit above average. Right? Nobody says, “I’m actually a little big below average, a little bit meaner, a little nastier than the norm.” But I know that I don’t drive real nice. I know there’s no impulse in me that says, when I’m at the grocery store, “Oh, let somebody else go ahead of me in line because they only have a few things.” No. I’m in a hurry. I’ve got people to see and things to do. You know what I mean? I need grace. 

And it says: We’ve been….

…raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 

We have received this impartation of grace that lifts us up. Instead of being people that are bombarded because of the participation we’ve had in the demonic realm that leaves us vulnerable to all kinds of thoughts and impulses that leave people empty and defiled—now we have this grace. And grace, for the first time in my life when I was twenty years old, when I said, “God, I want to give my life to Jesus. I’m a little afraid to say the prayer, because I was afraid all my life that you’d make me wear a black suit and stay celibate and liven Iowa or something like that.” Every time I say that, somebody comes forward from Iowa, deeply offended. Nothing personal. It was my own fear. I’m sure it’s a lovely place. 

However, we have one sense of what our destiny is and then God gives us grace. We discover when we have grace, that we can overcome. That we can actually be the person that we really would like to be in our hearts. Now, do we do it all the time? No, not all the time and in every situation. But we have the power to do what’s right because we’ve been lifted up out of the mire—the Slough of Despondency that David was talking about last week. And we are seated now in the heavenly realms with Christ. That is a realm that has actually come to the earth. That’s another whole mystery. But Jesus brought the kingdom to earth. We live in a fallen world, but we live in the kingdom of God in the midst of a fallen world. 

That’s why my wife and I, in the midst of the fact that her heart is failing—she’s going to need a new heart—we can actually still enjoy life because we would be dishonest if we said we weren’t experiencing blessing right now. We are being blessed right now. If you’re living your life like you are waiting until the weekend to have fun, you are waiting until your vacation to relax, you are waiting until you retire to travel, if you are waiting and waiting and waiting, you’ll be waiting until it’s too late. You’re either going to experience God’s kingdom now, or you’re missing out. 

So, the second part, in terms of being united with the Jews, he deals with Ephesians 2:11

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, 

The Jews were the circumcision. The Gentiles were the uncircumcision.

which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 

The dividing wall of hostility. Why was there hostility between the Jews and at the Gentiles. It’s because God told the Jews to stay away from their corrupt practices. He didn’t mean for them to judge and despise the Gentiles. But you know, if you’re like me, that if you quit eating meat, or tried it for a while, you have a tendency to despise meat eaters. If you sit in first class, then you sort of look down on people in coach, you know? If you live in a nice house, then you’re not as impressed with somebody who lives in a lesser house, or whatever. That’s human nature. 

So the Jews who were very religious in keeping all of the law of God sort of despised the people who were eating anything, partying all the time. They despised the unhealthy lifestyle of the Gentiles. And when somebody despises you, you despise them back. When somebody judges you, you judge them back. It’s a natural self-defense mechanism. 

So there was a hostility. And now, Jesus comes. The Son of God is manifest. And before him, all men are sinners. All of us have a big need. And he sheds his blood. He dies on the cross for the Jew and the Gentile. We all need forgiveness of sins. The religious people couldn’t really connect with God, and the irreligious people couldn’t really connect with God. We’re all equal before God as sinners. We all can receive forgiveness. And when we do, the hostility goes away. We become brothers. 

17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

That’s a lot of words. Here’s what he’s saying. He’s saying you have a place in the family of God. You are a member of the family. You are now a chosen person. And when you believe that, there’s something that changes in your life. 

My daughter Kelly, has a foster child. This little girl has been bounced from her dad to her mom. There’s drug addictions. There’s irresponsible behavior. She has appointments with family members who never bother to show up and take her. She has been a heart-broken person. But when my daughter invited her into her family, this little girl hit the jackpot, when it comes to foster care. Because she is loved and she is prayed for. Before she goes to bed, she wants me to pray for her when she’s at our house. And she gets all kinds of good food. And when we go to a restaurant, we don’t say, “The family eats one thing and you eat something else.” It’s like, “Go ahead and order whatever you want. When you are in this family, you are welcome. You are welcome here. Whatever blessing God puts on us extends to you, too.” 

That’s how we do life. That’s how God does life with his children. When he says you are a member of the family of God, he says, “I’m not holding anything back from my kids. I am giving them everything they need for life, everything they need to overcome. All the grace that will transform them and make them fruitful, and allow them to fulfill their destiny. That is the gift that I have for all my children.”

It’s not just for the Jews. The Gentiles are not excluded. They become one in Christ. Through the blood that was shed, we can all draw near. It says we can all approach the Father with freedom and confidence. The Church is a family. That’s what our theme is.

Our last mystery, I just want to touch on. We’re going to skip all the way to the third point. The Mystery of Christ in the Church. Ephesians 5. In Ephesians 5 he’s talking a lot about husbands and wives. And how husbands relate to their wives, how they should love their wives as they love their own body. When your body aches, you stop. You don’t just power through the pain. You make sure you get a massage or physical therapy or you rest, or whatever. Husbands love your wife like your own body. 

And wives, submit to your husbands. That’s a fearful command unless you realize that your submission to your husband is similar to our submission to Christ. Christ is the one who covers us. When you’re doing what he wants you to do, there’s a special blessing that is imparted to you.

He goes into this whole teaching on marriage. Then he says something that seems really strange at the end of verse 31. 

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 

The two become one flesh through the sexual union and the union of marriage. 

This is a great mystery. And I mean in reference to Christ and the church. 

He talks about mysteries. Now he says this is a great mystery. In some translations, this is a profound mystery. What’s the mystery? The mystery is that, just as a husband and wife become one, Christ and the Church become one. So, let’s back it up. What does it mean for a husband and a wife to become one? 

Kristina and I have been married forty-six years as of a week ago Monday. We’re one. But I’m not Kristina and she’s not Mark. We’re distinct in that. We have distinct personalities. We have different tastes when it comes to certain things. But when it comes to our standing before God, when it comes to our equality before God, when it comes to God’s love for us, we’re one. When we pray together in unity, we have power. When we have disagreements, if I’m too harsh, if she’s too whatever, and we’re battling each other, it hinders our prayers. That’s why Peter said in 1 Peter 3, “Husbands live with your wives in an understanding way so your prayers aren’t hindered.”

What he’s saying is there’s something really powerful that God wants to do when you’re in unity that doesn’t happen when you’re in disunity. So you’ve got to figure each other out. And husbands, it’s especially incumbent on you to figure out your wife. And I’ll give you a little clue that God gave you a gift and that gift is in the package of a female version of yourself, that you’re often out of touch with. She sees life different. She wants to drive through the city different. She wants to spend money a little bit different. But in all those ways, if you can understand where she’s coming from, you’re going to be enriched. You’re going to have a better chance of being in unity. And when you’re enjoying your unity, then things are good. Things are as good as it’s going to get in a lot of ways.

So now he’s saying, “I’m not just talking about husbands and wives.” That’s what he says at the end of this. “I’m not just talking about learning to figure out how you do life in a unique way; and the way you do life”—who manages the money, who does the cooking, who does the shopping, who cleans this and who fixes that. The way you do it should be unique to the gifts and skill set of your family, of your husband and your wife. He says, “I’m not just talking about that. I’m talking about Christ and the Church are one.”

I’ve had the privilege over this last year of preaching in California, Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona, in this Valley from Sun City to the San Tan Valley. I’ve had the opportunity to worship with congregations of people who were in retirement communities and also worship at ASU with Hope Church, where they have rap worship. I’m not a big rap fan, but their rap worship is awesome. I’m not a big old hymns fan. But you go to Glencroft Retirement Community and we’re enjoying one of their worship services. And I’m telling you the Holy Spirit moves in the midst of some really old, beautiful hymns. You know why? Because those people worship with all of their hearts.

What am I getting at? What I’m getting at is this. Whether you’re in a retirement community or a college campus, when you’re whole heartedly committed to Christ, then the church becomes one with Christ. The presence of God is there. And when the presence of God is there, the blessing of God is there. And when the blessing of God is there, people’s lives are transformed. It’s pretty cool.

Now, if you know me, you know I believe in speaking in tongues and prophecy and healing. I believe it’s all for today. But every now and then I’ll preach in a church where they don’t necessarily believe in some of those things. Or they definitely, even if they were to accept it, they don’t emphasize it any way, shape or form. But here’s what I’ve discovered. The people that are really committed to Christ, the people that are really involved in the church, have become one with Christ and over the years, they reach a place of maturity that makes them indistinguishable from anybody in this congregation. You know why? Because the life that transforms us, the grace that transforms us comes from Jesus himself.

In the midst of the Church, when the Church is one with Christ, is Christ himself. Not just at Living Streams or at Life Point or at Streams in the West Valley, but at New City, and Church for the Nations, and the Catholic parishes around. In spite of the fact that we actually have a few things and a few people that do life a little weird and don’t always believe the same way. And they have a few people that believe some things, and sometimes even leaders that do things they should have never done and they pay a price for that. And so do we. Because there aren’t any perfect congregations. It’s all a mixture of people that start in spiritual infancy and, hopefully, grow into a place of spiritual maturity as we are connected together.

Because it says here in Ephesians that, if we are built together, that he makes us into a dwelling in which he inhabits by his Spirit. We become stones—Peter says it—stones that form a building that Christ fills. So the real life-giving element in every church is Christ himself. And when we gather in his name, we’re together in his presence. 

So when somebody says, “Oh, I just can’t find a church.” That’s a little bit like when I hear somebody say (which you never hear), “I can’t find a restaurant that I like to eat at in this city. I can’t find one.” Really? It’s just food, you know. It’s just food in a restaurant. Church is just people. But a church is people gathered to meet Jesus.

As we close this service this morning, we want to meet with Jesus, right? We want to have some of the mysteries of our lives solved. We want to have the puzzle pieces of life fit together. Daniel, who interpreted the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar, when he did so, he said, “God is the revealer of mysteries. God himself.” 

Let’s pray together.

Father God, you are the one who reveals mysteries. You are the one who unites us with your people. You have brought us into your family. You have called us to love one another. We want to bear fruit together, to make known your marvelous grace on the earth, to reveal your plans and purposes. In Jesus’ name.

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