************ Funeral Sermon on Ephesians 1:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 26, 2012
"He Chose Us"
Barb Visser Funeral
As Barb went through life, she sure had to make a lot of choices. One of her biggest choices was her decision to marry Walt and to establish a Christian home that honored the Lord. Each time they moved she had to make choices about their new home – decorations, furnishings, sometimes the house itself. As the children grew, with Walt, she had to choose the type of school they attended. As someone who loved to cook she had to choose the food for each meal she prepared – whether it was for her family and friends, or for the monthly dinners at Sierra Village. She ran an exercise class and had to choose the kind and length of each exercise. The last couple of years, she had to make choices about surgery and treatment for brain tumors and seizures. I know she regretted some of those choices; I say that because I doubt if any of us will ever forget her stay in Porterville Hospital – where she begged one of us, anyone of us, to end her life; where she saw things that were not there; where she cried and groaned in agony.
I God's Choosing
As I said, Barb's life was full of choices. However, there was one choice she did not have to make. She did not have to choose salvation. She did not have to select whether or not to have faith in Christ. She did not have to make a decision on whether or not she was going to live for Jesus. She did not have to make this decision because God chose her. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose her. He chose her in Christ. He chose her for salvation and forgiveness and redemption and faith and Christian living. As our text puts it,
(Eph 1:4) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
God chose Barb. She did not choose God. This was not her choice to make.
I was talking to some parents the other day. One of them is Jewish. The other is Christian. They are raising the children in both faiths so they have a choice of what to believe.I know the doctrine of God's choosing or election flies in the face of popular culture. I know popular culture thinks God has to stand in line, hat in hand, begging for us to choose Him and Christ. I know popular culture goes so far as to pick and choose – a little bit from this religion, something else from that one, until each person has something and someone with which they can agree. People today act like God needs to apply for the job of deity in their life.
What nonsense – for a couple of reasons. First, no responsible parent lets a child choose the religion they will follow. Second, God and Christ and the Christian religion are not something we decide to choose. Because God chooses us rather than we choose God.
Barb did not have to choose salvation and faith and Christ. Because God chose her. As we read in the Gospel of John, "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (Jn 15:16).
II Spiritual Blessings
According to Paul, this matter of election or choosing is just one spiritual blessing, out of many, that are ours in Christ. God has blessed us, says Paul, in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In the following verses he lists some of those spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ: adoption as sons and daughters of God, grace, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, the revelation of the mystery of His will (Eph 1:4-10).
Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus. In the middle of Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World – the Temple of Artemis. Remember the story of this goddess and temple in the book of Acts? The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by Paul threatened the earthly "blessings" given to the craftsmen who made silver shrines of Artemis. So, a silversmith named Demetrius persuaded the craftsmen and workmen of Ephesus to riot against Paul and his Gospel to protect their trade and business (Acts 19). By way of contrast, the Christian's place of blessing is first of all in the heavenly realms and not the earthly realm as it is with Artemis.
Paul reminds us here, Paul reminds Walt and the Visser family, that the greatest blessings are spiritual not material, heavenly not earthly, eternal not temporal (2 Cor 4:18; Col 3:1-4). Barb knew this. I have noticed that as Christians die they become less and less interested in the things of this earth and more and more interested in spiritual blessings. Towards the end I did not talk with Barb about the weather or the Tour de France or what was going on in Sierra Village; rather, I talked with her about Christ and God and the promises of Scripture. That is what counted. That is what was important. That is what she clung to.
III In Christ
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4). Notice, everyone of the spiritual blessings are ours "in Christ." This includes the blessing of election. We are adopted "in Christ." We are redeemed "in Christ." We are forgiven "in Christ." We are elect or chosen "in Christ." Meaning what? Meaning the blessings are given to us because of the cross and grave of Christ. Meaning the blessings are given to us because Christ died and arose.
IV Before the Foundation of the World
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4). We are also told the "when" of the choosing or election. When did it happen? According to Paul, the choosing takes place "before the creation of the world." In other words, it is part of God's eternal plan. In other words, it has nothing to do with us; in fact, it cannot have anything to do with us because it happened in eternity.
There are those who want to believe that God picks only the smartest, or the best looking, or the hardest working, or the most deserving. No, No, No, a thousand times No.
Was Barb chosen because she was born into a covenant home? No! Was Barb chosen because she was raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church? No! Was Barb chosen because she learned her Sunday School lessons? No! Was Barb chosen because she knew her Catechism? No. Was Barb chosen because she married a man who shared her faith in God and Christ? No! Was Barb chosen because she made sure her children had the same blessings she had – of being raised in a covenant home? No. Was Barb chosen because she faithfully attended worship twice each Sunday? No! Was Barb chosen because she sang in the church choir? Was Barb chosen because of her work with Meals on Wheels? Was Barb chosen because she was a Coffee Break leader? No. No. No. No. She was chosen before the creation of the world. She was chosen out of grace. She was chosen because of Christ and His great work. Her choosing had nothing to do with her and everything to do with God and Christ.
V To Be Holy and Blameless
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4). Paul also tells us the purpose of the choosing: "to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4).
That's the problem, isn't it? That's the problem with mankind. That's why we need election. That's why Barb needed election in Christ. Because none of us are holy and blameless in His sight.
This means none of us deserve election. None of us are worthy of being chosen. Including Barb. Barb was a sinner, just like you and me. Barb was fallen, just like you and me.
God gave a simple command to Adam and Eve: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the center of the Garden. Or, to put it in the language of our text, be holy and blameless. But they took from the tree and ate. When they fell into sin, they lost their goodness and holiness and by their disobedience sin has spread through the whole human race.
God makes the same demand of us that He makes of Adam and Eve: "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2). Yet, like Adam and Eve, we fail in a thousand ways. Barb was the first to admit she failed too.
This doesn't mean that God gives up in what He wants. This doesn't mean that God changes or relaxes His standards. This doesn't mean that God shrugs His shoulders and settles for second best.
Instead, from eternity God elects His people in Christ. He purifies them in Christ. He washes them in Christ's blood. He covers their sin. He renews their spirit. And, because of Christ, they become brand new creatures who are holy and blameless in His sight.
He did this with Barb. He does this with you and me and everyone of His people.
VI Barb is Chosen
I cannot know the mind of God, and neither can you. I cannot know what God has decided from eternity, before the creation of the world. Yet, I have deliberately talked about Barb as one of God's chosen ones. How can I do that? In His Word, God points out the unmistakable fruits of election – such as true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for sin, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.
Some people like to talk about the "frozen chosen." I want you to notice there was nothing frozen about Barb's faith. It was lively and alive and expressed in concrete deeds of love for God and man.
You, too, can be sure of your election. In fact, we are told to do this. Peter says, "be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure" (2 Pet 1:10). How? By promoting the fruit of election in your life? How? By the power of Christ's Spirit, work at being holy and blameless.
VII The Comfort of Election
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4). Let me end with the comfort this teaching gives to Walt and the family and all of us who are in mourning. What comfort this teaching gave to Barb in her pain and suffering and struggle.
Listen, first of all, to how Jesus explains the comfort of election.
(Jn 10:27-28) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (28) I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.Do you hear the comfort of election? "They shall never perish." Yes, the body can and does die – as we saw with Barb. But that did not mean the end of Barb. Not at all. Because those God chooses to bless with salvation do not perish. Those God chooses to bless with salvation live forever. And, someday the body of those God chooses to bless with salvation will be raised from the grave and made immortal.
Here is another word of comfort: "No one can snatch them out of my hand." Not the Devil – though he never stops trying. Not the body of sin – though it never stops trying. Not the world – though it never quits its attacks. Barb had that awful time in Porterville Hospital – but we knew, and deep down she knew, that she was safe in the hands of the God Who chose her.
Paul gives us this same word of comfort when he tells us about the golden chain of salvation: foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified (Rom 8:29-30). Each link in this chain is forever secure. Each link in this chain is unbreakable. Each link is forged in the blood and power of Christ. Therefore, those who are chosen are safe and secure. Therefore, says Paul, "If God is for us, who can be against us" (Rom 8:31)? Therefore, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen" (Rom 8:33)? Therefore, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ" (Rom 8:35)?
"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight" (Eph 1:4).
Barb took this verse with her into eternity. I pray you will too.
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