Kent Garborg is a successful designer and publisher of Christian devotional literature, serves as the Director of Cell Ministry, Bethany Missionary Church in Minneapolis area. He has traveled widely around the world on short term missions. Kent's passion is to win over the Twin Cities for Christ.
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MONTE CRISTO AND SALVATION FROM END TO BEGINNING
LET ME KNOW THE END FIRST!
Betty and I love to go to the movies. A fun date for us is dinner and a movie. But I have one habit that really irritates my wife. I enjoy a movie more if I can see how it ends before viewing the entire movie. These new multi-screen theaters are so great because while you are waiting for your movie to begin you can pop into another theater and see the end of a movie you would like to see in the future. Betty thinks that ruins everything.
A couple weeks ago she asked if I would like to see The Count of Monte Cristo. She and our son, Ryan had seen it and she thought it was the kind of movie I would enjoy and, she wanted to see it again. "I'd love to see it," I told her, "besides I have already seen the end of it." "What do you mean," she asked? "Well," I confessed, "while you were saving our seats the other week, I popped into the next theater and got lucky. I saw the end of The Count of Monte Cristo. So, I know the Count defeats his archenemy in a sword fight, is reunited with the woman he loves, and meets the son he didn't know he had. And I also know that the three of them, along with the Count's best friend live happily ever after on the Isle of Monte Cristo somewhere in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea." Betty was chagrinned. "I can't believe you did that! Why would you want to see the movie if you already know how it ends." Well," I added, "It's much more relaxing watching the Count be falsely accused and seeing his best friend steal the girl of his dreams and witness him unjustly suffer a horrible twelve-year imprisonment knowing that in the end he gets revenge." She couldn't believe her ears.
That's what I like about the Bible story too. We know we win in the end! We get revenge. We get back everything the Devil steals from us and then some. It makes some of the stuff that happens to us in this life much more bearable.
Jesus felt the same way. Hebrews 11 says, "Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne or God." He endured because He knew how it ended and it was going to be worth it.
MESSAGE OF SALVATION FROM BEGINNING TO END
In these two verses in Ephesians we have the entire message of salvation from beginning to end in these six simple phrases:
Let's look at them the way I like to watch a movie-start at the end, then go to the beginning and work our way back to the end.
TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY
The Westminster Catechism asks, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer given is, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." That's what Paul is talking about here. When man fell into sin and asserted his independence from God, he lost the glory of his union with God and the perfect reflection of his Creator's image. Isaiah 53 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all." We have all "fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) through our own willfulness and wandering. We have been separated from the life of God and are dead spiritually. But the story doesn't end there. In the end we will represent the highest praise there can be to the glory of God, perfectly restored to the image of the One who created us. How does that happen?
UNTIL THE REDEMPTION OF THE PURCHASED POSSESSION
We belong to God because of two things: creation and redemption. God made us. We are his possession. But we went our own way and separated ourselves from the One who owned us. The price our Creator paid to redeem us was the blood of His Son, Jesus. He bought us back and we can enjoy in this life to a large measure the benefits of that redemption. At the same time, we look forward to the full implications of being possessed by God. The end of the story is in Revelation 21:1-5,
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I saw the holy city coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.' And he who sat upon the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"
That's how the story ends. We are fully His and He is fully ours. Our arch enemy is defeated and we live eternally in this beautiful place called the new heaven.
I saw a great B. C. cartoon by Johnny Hart the other day in the paper. The two ants are standing on top of the anthill talking. Jake says, "How does life insurance work, Maude?" "Simple, Jake," Maude replies. "You bet you're going to croak, and the insurance company bets you aren't!" "Well, what if I do croak," Jake responds. To which Maude replies emphatically, "You win!"
Christians have a hope. We're not like the story of the two mourners at the funeral of their atheist friend. Standing together by the coffin one turned to the other and said, "Too bad. All dressed up and no place to go."
IF YOU CROAK, YOU WIN!
The message of Paul in this passage is - If you croak, you win! Our final enemy, death is defeated! When we receive the life of God in us, death no longer is the victor and the grave has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:54, 55). When the Christian dies, he doesn't really die, he just sheds his mortal body, which really isn't him anyway, and puts on immortality. "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven." (1 Cor 15:49) That's why Christian funerals are generally such times of celebration. 'Cause when you croak, you win! You enter into the full glory God has intended for you since He created you. That's God's ultimate purpose for all of us. That's how the story ends - with the full redemption of the purchased possession. And knowing that, puts meaning into life and makes the hard times much more tolerable. Paul put it this way, "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)
Now that we know how the story ends, let's go to the beginning. How do we get in on this incomparable "insurance" program that guarantees "if you croak, you win?"
YOU HEARD THE WORD OF TRUTH
Paul says in this passage, "You heard the word of truth." That's how it all begins. In Romans 10:17 he says, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." God's word generates faith in you. When you hear the word of God it is not the same as reading Tolstoy or Shakespeare or Homer. It is not simply great literature. It is much more than that. When you hear it or read it, faith comes with it. That is because "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… [and it discerns] the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) You don't read the word of God. The word of God reads you! And in addition, because it is living and active, it brings along with the hearing, faith. That is the starting place. But where do we go from there? What is the object of that faith? Paul tells us in the next phrase.
YOU BELIEVED THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION
To believe the gospel of your salvation means to place your trust in Christ. What does that mean? John Patten was a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the southwestern Pacific. The island was inhabited by cannibals, and his life was in constant danger. He decided to work on a translation of John's gospel, but found that there was no word in their language for "belief" or "trust" since nobody trusted anybody else. Eventually, Patten hit upon the way to find the word he was looking for. One day, when his native servant came in, Patten raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair, and asked, "What am I doing now?" In reply, the servant used a word which means, "to lean your whole weight upon." This was the expression Patten used to translate the word "belief." Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus and what He has done for us on the cross.
When we trust Christ we are made alive to God. Jesus, in his death on the cross did everything necessary to forgive us our sins, cleanse us from our past, and restore us to fellowship with our Creator. Sin has a devastating effect on us in at least four areas. Sin pollutes us, makes us feel dirty and guilty before a holy God. Sin has power over us - someone has said, "first we choose sin, then sin chooses us." Sin has a penalty - death - and we deserve death but for the sacrifice of Jesus. And finally, sin sets up a partition between us and God that makes it impossible for us to have fellowship with Him. When we place our faith in Christ the pollution of sin is erased, the power of sin is broken, the penalty of sin is paid and, the partition is torn down so that we can be restored to full fellowship with God.
That is what it means to believe the gospel of your salvation. You are saved or delivered from your sin and self-centeredness and given eternal life. But that is just the beginning. Paul says there is much more to being a Christian than just beginning. He brings this out in the next two phrases.
SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE
"The Holy Spirit of promise."
Let's look at the phrase 'the Holy Spirit of promise' first. That phrase in rooted in two Old Testament prophecies. Ezekiel 36:26, 27 says "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you… I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." Then in Joel 2:28, "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions, even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit."
The last recorded words of Jesus in Luke's gospel were, "I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (John 24:49) In Acts 1:8 we have His last words to the disciples before His ascension, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you." On the day of Pentecost believers experienced this "clothing with power" when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. In Acts 2, when Peter tries to explain this amazing phenomenon he declares, "this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel" and then quotes the above passage. In other words, this is the work of the Holy Spirit of promise.
The way John put it in his gospel was, "I baptize you with water… but one who is more powerful than I… will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 3:11) This experience at Pentecost was that baptism with the Holy Spirit of promise. This Holy Spirit who is pictured in the Old Testament, prophesied in Ezekiel, promised in Joel, is poured out at Pentecost. When He was poured out upon the disciples it transformed a disheartened and timid band of secret disciples instantly into army so bold and mighty that the Roman Empire was converted to Christianity within 300 years.
"Having believed… "
It's important to notice how Paul phrases this experience. He says first of all "having believed" you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. He makes it clear that this experience of the Spirit is an event that happened to people who already believed. But don't believers already have the Holy Spirit? Yes, of course. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." Before His ascension, Jesus "breathed on them (these same disciples) and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:22) So we know the disciples had received the Holy Spirit. Everyone who is a believer in Jesus Christ 'has' the Holy Spirit, but not everyone is 'filled' or 'baptized' with the Holy Spirit.
We have a gas fireplace in our living room. All year long there is a tiny pilot light that remains on. You can see it if you look hard, but it throws almost no heat or light. But if I flick a switch or press a button on the remote, there is a loud 'poof' and all of a sudden there are both heat and light. The fireplace is fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed. So, we could say the disciples had the pilot light on because they were definitely believers. However, when the Holy Spirit fell on them, there was a big 'poof' - in fact, it was so big and loud that people outside the building where they were gathered heard it and a crowd came near to find out what was going on (Acts 2:6). That is the nature of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for 'baptism' has in its meaning the idea of being immersed, overwhelmed, drenched by the Holy Spirit. It is a very different idea than simply 'having' the Holy Spirit.
Paul is writing here to the Ephesians. He is undoubtedly thinking of their experience with the Holy Spirit the first time he met them. It is recorded in Acts 19:2 & 6. Paul asked the Ephesians, "'Did you receive the Holy spirit when you became believers?' They replied, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied." Here you have the record of the very Ephesians Paul is writing to in our text. They had received the Holy Spirit otherwise they could not have been believers. Yet the Holy Spirit had not yet been 'poured out' upon them. They had not yet been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
You were sealed.
Now, what of the word 'sealed.' This is a word from commerce. An important person had his own seal, usually on a ring. The image on the seal was unique to its owner. When sending documents, sealing wax would be melted and dripped over the folds of the letter or document. While the wax was still warm on the paper, the owner would press his seal into the wax leaving the impression of his unique image in the wax. Sometimes, when a parcel was being sent, it would be bound with twine and the wax would be dripped over the twine and stamped to insure that the package was secure and no one had tampered with the contents. So, the idea of being sealed has to do with authenticity, ownership and security.
When we are sealed or baptized with the Holy Spirit there are three main evidences - assurance, love and joy. We are assured that the experience of God is authentic and real. No one can make us doubt it. There is a knowing that we are God's and that He is ours. Some translations read "you are marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit." God marks us or brands us and says, "He's mine. She's mine! They belong to Me!" There is a new warmth and vitality in our relationship with Him. Secondly, the love of God "is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit." (Romans 5:5) We have a love for God and for those around us. Often we will have such a revelation of God's love for us that we are undone. Thirdly, there is an unspeakable joy that comes from being sealed with the Holy Spirit.
I can remember my life so clearly before the Holy Spirit sealed me. Before the Holy Spirit was poured out on me (January 17, 1960), my prayer life was a routine. I read the Bible out of sheer discipline and routine. And I was terrified to tell anyone about my relationship with God. The morning after January 17th as I knelt beside my bed to read the Bible before going to school, it seemed as though God was actually speaking to me through the word. When I bowed my head to pray it was as though I was visiting with a real person. And when I went to school that day, the most natural thing for me to do was to share the gospel with my friends. I was the most surprised person in the world. You might say that the little pilot light of the Spirit burst into a full flame. I did feel that I was baptized with the Holy Spirit AND with fire.
Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? Is your prayer life dull? Is the word of God dry? Is it difficult for you to love others? Do you have no passion for the lost? Then ask yourself that question and be honest in answering.
The sealing or baptism with the Holy Spirit is not an end in itself. Just as water baptism is a symbol of initiation into the Christ-life, so, Spirit baptism is initiation into life in the Spirit. You don't need to be a carnal or fleshly Christian. You don't need to be defeated. You can walk according to the Spirit and not obey the desires of the flesh. But Paul says there's even more.
THE GUARANTEE OF OUR INHERITANCE
The Holy Spirit is the guarantee or down payment on our inheritance as God's children. If being sealed with the Holy Spirit tells me that "I belong to God," then, receiving the Holy Spirit as a down payment says that "He belongs to me."
When you buy a house you make a down payment. You don't really own the house, the bank owns most of it and holds the title. But you get to live in the house, enjoy all the benefits of ownership and you refer to it as 'my house.' God gave us the Holy Spirit as a pledge, guarantee, down payment of our inheritance. In other words we get to enjoy that inheritance even though it isn't fully ours yet.
There is what theologians call an "already but not yet" aspect to our salvation. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we can enjoy belonging to God and can enjoy God's belongings. We are not only heirs, but we have an inheritance - and it is ours for the taking. In this life He offers love, joy, peace, His presence, health, prosperity, friendship, comfort, rest - we could go on and on. Plus he offers the life to come. Not only are we His, but He is ours! And ultimately "God will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and God himself will be with us!"
And that's the story of salvation from end to beginning.
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