20190707 Sunday Worship Sermon
"The Gospel of Salvation for All” (Ephesians 1:10-14)
There once was a woman who missed her chance of marriage.
She thought she would marry when the right time comes.
She started praying, “Dear Lord, please send me a good man.”
She would continuously repeat this prayer.
She believed that her persistent prayer would bring a good result.
However, nothing happened and time kept passing by.
One day, while listening to a sermon, she realized what the problem was.
The pastor preached that the reason for no response about prayers is that we only ask for our own benefits.
So she changed her prayers from that day on.
“Dear Lord, I pray for mercy on my parents. Please send a good son-in-law for them.”
This joke shows us how self-centered our prayers are.
When we pray, it can be more important what we actually pray for, rather than how long or how fervently we pray.
What do you ask from God when you a praying?
Among those who pray long, often have many worries.
Their personal problems drive them to a lengthy session of prayers; no matter how long they pray, their anxiety would not be lifted.
Those people would not be relieved even after all their prayers.
For they only meditate their own concerns through the prayers.
Brothers and sisters, prayers must be the process of being freed from personal problems and embracing God’s concerns.
When we free ourselves from our own matters, prayers seem different.
Even though the circumstances have not changed at all, the peaceful and joyful mind, calmly becomes us.
It is because by just changing how we perceive our own problems and focusing on God and our neighbors, will bring about a calmness within our prayer.
True prayers are to meet God.
If we meet God truthfully in our prayer, God’s concerns would be in our prayers.
Singing to praise God is the same.
In the praise songs, it is a general trend asking God to solve my problems.
We pray to solve our personal problems; likewise, our praise songs are all focused on “me.”
Such hymns, dealing with my own problems and making me feel comfortable, are appealing to everybody.
So, it is reasonable that such hymns are loved.
However, we have to come to God and meet God, while singing such hymns.
Though we started singing with personal concerns at first, soon the praise songs should make changes in us to think of God’s kingdom and this world.
We have to reflect on ourselves if we are concerned only for our own problems when we pray and sing only such praise songs for our own comfort.
If we are truly Christians who follow Jesus, our prayer and praise songs must be different.
We have to pray and sing praise songs to seek God’s kingdom and to embrace the world and neighbors.
When it comes to sermons, the situation is similar.
When you say a sermon was “full of grace,” or “no grace at all,” what determines your judgment?
In most cases, you say you are blessed with grace when you are touched.
We usually tend to say we are blessed with grace when we are emotionally aroused.
But spiritual change doesn’t always arouse emotional movements.
Even if we don’t feel anything with all our emotions, ‘Grace’ can overpower us and change us.
It is good to be moved.
Emotion lets us feel the happiness of being alive.
It is a wonderful thing.
But, it doesn’t have an ability to discern.
Hence, sometimes we are overjoyed by little things, and sometimes we don’t respond to an immense event.
At times, we are moved by false images.
Yes, “emotional touch” is what the preacher and the audience have to be most cautious about.
We have to distinguish that emotional touch given by the Holy Spirit from just a simple swindle of the heart.
A mature Christian is more careful when they are moved, because they want to discern whether it is a simple trick of emotions or grace from God.
As we tend to pray and be absorbed into praises for our individual problems and needs, people are easily invited to listen to the words that suggest solutions for their personal problems.
They are easily moved and say they are blessed with grace for such sermons.
If the sermon is not directly related to their personal issues, they close their ears fast.
Then, they say, there was no grace.
Preachers want to bless the congregation with grace.
It is their biggest joy and consolation to see their congregation being moved.
But, there is a pitfall right there.
To bless the congregation, the preacher only deals with personal problems.
At times, the preacher prepares and gives a message which the congregation may want to hear.
It makes the congregation focus more on their personal interests.
This actually happens to many churches, especially to mega churches.
It has become a trend for quite a long time.
God has disappeared more and more in the sermons preached on the altar.
Interests for our neighbors and social issues have disappeared.
There is only ‘I’ in the sermons.
God only exists to satisfy ‘my’ needs.
For both the preacher and the listener, the interest lies only in how I can succeed in the world and enjoy the good fortune.
As a result, the gospel of Jesus became a means to receive individual happiness and blessing.
All about our spiritual journey has become focused around how to resolve personal problems.
The gospel is becoming increasingly self-centered.
But, brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not such a privatized matter.
The gospel of salvation that embraces the entire universe is huge and eternal.
Of course, salvation starts from the personal relationship with God.
Yes, faith springs up by accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
From there, we enter into a personal relationship with God.
However, a personal relationship and a private relationship are different.
A personal relationship is open to all people, but a private relationship is a closed relationship.
If a person accepts Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, he or she becomes God’s child.
That is the salvation in the individual level.
However, God’s salvation does not end in the individual level.
God’s salvation is meant to spread to other people from the person who became the child of God.
For those who became God’s children, their relationship with other people will be changed first.
Those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ want to have such a relationship with other people as well.
In fact, we feel more comfortable and are accustomed to an individual or privatized relationship.
However, those who stay ‘in Christ’ fully open themselves and seek personal relationships with everyone.
The power of gospel spreads to other people through such a relationship.
A community is established where a personal relationship arises.
That is a church.
The essence of church is in the intimate relationship.
If there is a true personal relationship, it is a church, no matter how few have gathered.
On the other hand, if there is no personal relationship regardless of how many people have gathered, it is just a group.
It is not qualified to be called a church.
Brothers and sisters, the salvation that started from the personal relationship with the Lord affects our relationship, and it does not only affect when forming a community, but it also affects socially.
When we stay ‘in Christ,’ we open our eyes to the fact that God created everything in the world as one unity and we strive to live as part of this unity.
We open to the fact that every creature is created to be dependent on each other and to love each other, and we pay attention to the world created by God.
We pour our hearts to our neighbors.
We also realize that our neighbors and I are interconnected with each other on a profound level.
Yes, God cares for the entire world as God cares me.
A long time ago, God called Abraham to save all humankind by blessing him.
Likewise, God gave us the gospel and changed us into believers because God wants to save the world by blessing each of us.
Therefore, we should not indulge ourselves in our own salvation and blessing only.
We must always remember the deep and wide dimension of the gospel in our lives.
Yes, the problem is “self-centeredness.”
It prevents us from seeing God’s providence of creation.
It makes us forget that each and every one of us is a member of the entire universe God created.
Brothers and sisters, faith is to realize by residing in Christ that God created the whole world as one body and that we are a part of the one body.
The goal of our faith is not just our being saved and blessed, but devoting ourselves to the world which God created for it to reach a more mature and blessed world.
In today’s text, Paul clearly says this fact, God’s plan.
“God’s plan is, when the times reach their fulfillment, to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Verse 10)
Because of sin the whole world that God created as one body was broken.
God and humans became enemies because of sin.
Human beings have conflict and struggles with others.
To heal these breaks and conflicts and to recover them to one body is God’s plan.
God sent Jesus Christ to accomplish that plan, and He called upon all believers through the gospel.
Paul continues to say in verse 11,
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…”
Here, what kind of inheritance will this be?
This inheritance is the new heavens and the new earth, restored in Christ.
God continues to carry out through us what He intends to realize through Jesus Christ.
God called upon us for this task.
The salvation that we have received begins from us, but it is to be spread all over the world.
Yes, I would like to say again, the gospel of Jesus is not exclusively for us to believe, to get blessed from, and to go to heaven by.
Believing in Jesus means opening our eyes to a new world in Christ and opening ourselves to God, our neighbors, and the whole world.
It also means giving ourselves to God and the world rather than using God and the world for our own sake.
Brothers and sister, do you want to have peace in your mind?
Do you want to solve the problem of sin?
Do you want to have answers to the unsolvable problems in life?
The answer to all these problems is in Christ.
You will surely be contented in Jesus.
However, do not forget that’s not all.
The reason why Jesus let us hear the gospel of salvation was not only for our happiness’ sake.
God called on us first for the sake of God’s will, which is to restore all things in heaven and on earth in one in Christ.
That’s why Paul says in verse 12,
“In order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory…” (Verse 12)
When we are influenced by self-centeredness, we tend to use God as an instrument for our own needs.
However, instead, we must be offered as an instrument for God’s will.
When we are consumed by self-centeredness, we tend to use church as an instrument for our own needs.
However, instead, we must devote ourselves for the sake of our church.
When we are ingrained by self-centeredness, we tend to consider other people as an instrument for our own benefits.
However, instead, we must serve other people.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let’s rely on the Holy Spirit for the cure of self-centeredness.
In verse 13 Paul says that those who believe will receive the promised Holy Spirit.
Yes, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can defeat self-centeredness.
Brothers and sisters, I would like to say again.
The salvation that we have received is not exclusively for us but for all, for the world.
God has called us and saved us to fulfill God's will to restore the whole world and to save all the people through us.
I pray that we all realize this fact and devote ourselves to fulfil God’s will and His kingdom. Amen.