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About this series
Overcoming the Pain of Your Past
Pain. It is part of the human experience, and one of the things that helps us grow to maturity. But for some of us the pain we have experienced feels crippling. Broken promises, dysfunctional families, damaged relationships and rejection keep us from experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. Sometimes it's a challenge just to get through the day, let alone to extend love and strength to those around us. The Bible, however, offers great hope for pressing on. From the book of Ephesians, learn who you really are and why the pain of your past doesn't have to obscure God's plan for your future.More from this series
So, here’s the truth we want to talk about. Where do you get an accurate view of yourself? The first six verses of Ephesians give us an amazingly accurate view of ourselves.
The apostle Paul is going to start by telling you who you really are. This is the mirror he wants you to hear. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God to the saints,” just that word means those that are set apart, believers, “who are at Ephesus who are faithful in Christ Jesus,” and we skip over this but listen, “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
It’s the, yes, it’s an introduction, yes, it’s a preamble. But the very first words out of his mouth are, “Grace to you.” Grace. What you don’t deserve, acceptance, love, concern. Grace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. And peace! And this word is, it’s the shalom of God. It isn’t just peace like the absence of conflict, it’s not just an emotional peace. This is the well-being, the wholeness of God.
He says, “God’s unmerited, the One who spoke and billions of galaxies came into existence, and out of His mouth spoke life and truth, out of His mouth comes to you grace, blessing, and love and acceptance, and the shalom and the wholeness and the peace of God.”
And then the thesis of this entire first chapter is in verse 3. He said, “Blessed be,” it’s a prayer, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And it’s, think, “Blessed, thank you, wow!” And then he says why, “Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
And then what he’s going to do actually the next thirteen, fourteen verses the apostle Paul goes nuts. It’s one long sentence. And he just starts talking about, “Oh Father, I want to bless You for all the spiritual blessings that we already possess. You did this, You did this, You did this, You did this, You did this.” And we’re going to walk all the way through it. And you’re going to see who you are.
Here’s what’s weird. If, in fact, your DNA, and we all learned this from CSI, if it really is unique and God gave it only to you, I think we could go on record by mere logical deduction that the most attractive thing that you could ever be would be just you. That looks like you. Not like her. And not like him.
That how you process information, that what your gifts are, and in His sovereignty, since we know He works all things together for the good, even in a fallen world, that who you are and where you’re at right now the real you showing up would be the absolute most freeing and attractive person to your friends, your kids, your mate, your pastor, your boss, and your neighbors.
And a lot of us, we don’t have a clue of who we are. We really don’t. And that’s why later in this same chapter he will say, “Let love be,” NIV says, “sincere.” New American Standard says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” And the Greek word there is, literally it’s, “Let love be without a mask. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.”
See, you never have real community, you never have intimacy, you never get tight with people, until the real you shows up.
So, he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
There is this amazing thing that God wants for us in community. But if I go into that with this warped self-image, I will just manipulate and work all those things in my Christian small group to get people to accept me.
So, this is the journey where we’re going to talk about how God thinks about you, and then we’re going to start a journey of the hard work of getting that from an intellectual stage into your heart, into your life.
And you’ll sit with friends or even with your mate and you’ll experience acceptance because the real you is showing up.
And he says, “So what are these spiritual blessings?” He gives three. “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him,” number one. Circle the words, “He chose us.” So, that’s a spiritual blessing.
Second, “In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons, through Jesus Christ Himself according to the kind intention of His will,” or, “for His good pleasure.”
And third, it’s a purpose clause, “…to the praise,” or, “for the purpose of praising the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved,” speaking of Christ.
And so, there are three very clear things he’s saying and here’s something that’s maybe a little new moment for you is these verses actually were not put in Scripture for people to argue about. This comes as a shock.
So, I want you to circle, “He chose us,” and then I want you to circle, “He predestines us.” And the word “chose” here, it means, “to pick out,” it means, “to elect.” It’s like in the Old Testament God says, “I chose Israel.”
Well, He chose Israel not because He didn’t care about the other nations. He chose Israel to make them an example so all could hear and all would respond. But notice He chose us, before the foundations of the earth. That we would be holy, that we would be set apart. He chose us for Himself.
You know the real meaning of this text? The real meaning of this text is not, “Well, is God completely sovereign or do we have a free will?” Answer is yes, both. Here, you know why this is written? God wants you to know, “I chose you. I want you. I want you. I care about you. I died for you. I want to have a relationship with you. I want to hold you, I want to hug you, I want to heal you, I want to love you. I chose you, and I chose you for a purpose that you would reveal my glory so that you would be holy, you’d be set apart, you’d be pure, you’d be blameless.” The word is used of sacrifices in the Old Testament that had to be without defect. He chose you for Himself because He has a purpose for your life but God chose you. You are wanted.
You may have had parents that haven’t wanted you, you may have had a mate who walked out on you, you may have kids who have rejected you, you may have had people in church that have talked about you, you may have had all kind of experience of rejection.
But here’s what God says, “You can live with those warped, little mirror-y messages forever and let them define you or you can start saying, ‘I’m wanted! I’m wanted by the person who created everything, who knows everything, and He wants me because He chose me.’”
The second thing he says is the word “predestined” just means, it literally has the idea of understanding clearly. He predestined or prearranged, knowing… that He wanted to adopt you. There are two words in the New Testament for, one is for a child that is young and one is for a son. And he says, “He predestined to adopt you as His son or His daughter.” How? “Through Christ.” Why? His pleasure.
You’re a daughter, you’re a son. Everything that’s available to Jesus is available to you.
The way Jesus talked to people, the way He loved people, the way He accepted people and whether you’re the religious person who didn’t get it like Nicodemus, or whether you’re the person that’s been through all the pains and the five husbands like the woman at the well, Jesus says, “I adopted you into My family the moment you put your faith in Christ and I’m going to do for you what I did for her.
“You’re accepted. I don’t look at your past, I don’t look at what you’ve been through, I look at you through the shed blood of the forgiveness and the redemption. You matter to Me. I don’t care who has rejected you ever. I accept you. I don’t accept you if, I don’t accept you because, I don’t accept you because how you look, I don’t accept you because of what you’ve done. I don’t care how many businesses you’ve started, I don’t care if you won a beauty contest, I accept the real you. Before the foundations of the earth, before you did anything, I wanted you, and I adopted you to be in My family, and I purposed that you would have significance because your joy would be to, by your life and your words, to declare who I really am, what’s it like to be loved, the praises of the glory of God.” That’s who you are.
Now, if you’ve never put your faith in Christ this is not true of you. But just, I just want you to notice what it says: Blessed be the God and Father who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, in Christ.” So, you have to be in Christ.
The moment a person understands that you’ve sinned and violated the truth of God’s holy character and you turn from your sin, the Bible calls that repentance, and in the empty hands of faith trust and believe that when Jesus died upon the cross He died for you, in your place. And when He rose from the dead He proved that it was true and there are new life and resurrection and opportunity and you can receive that as a gift.
And literally, the Scripture says you’re taken out of the kingdom of darkness and you’re placed in the kingdom of light. And then, actually, the Spirit of God enters your body, you’re sealed with the Holy Spirit, He deposits spiritual gifts, you’re adopted into His family, you have an inheritance, you have assurance of heaven, He lives inside of you, and He’s going to live out His life through you. And so, if you’re in Christ He says, “I want you because I chose you. If you’re in Christ, I accept you. And if you’re in Christ you are significant because I have a plan for you.”
I want to give you some real practical ways about moving this truth from ideas to reality. As I do if you are in Christ, this is what God’s mirror says about you: You are, write the word, “wanted.” Chosen. Every minute, of every day, by One who knows every aspect of your life – past, present, and future.
Now, what I know is getting that from here to here is the real test. You are wanted. Could I ask you before we go on, where do you feel unwanted? Who makes you feel unwanted? What situations or environments make you feel unwanted? What people in your past have wounded you and made you feel like you weren’t worthy of being wanted?
See, those are deeply planted in your psyche and in your soul, and you unconsciously respond to those trying to get people to want you. And it’s frustrating. And it doesn’t work. Or if it does work it’s almost worse because then they like this person you’re pretending to be.
But every single minute, of every day, when the thought comes to you that, “I’m unworthy,” or, “I’m not wanted,” you could begin to say, “Jesus wants me. God wants me.
His thoughts are more important than anyone’s thoughts. And He knows everything about me. He knows what I did in high school, He knows what I did on that business trip, He knows attitudes I’ve had, He knows bitterness I’ve had, He knows the secret aspects and in, He wants me. He wants me. He chose me.”He chose me because of something in Him. He loves me and He chooses whosoever would believe.
Second, you’re accepted because you’re adopted eternally into God’s family with all the rights and privileges and blessings given to His children.
And so, I would just ask you, who makes you feel unaccepted? What situations make you feel rejected? What family relationships, or in-laws, or traumatic experiences have seared your soul with, “You’re not accepted, you’re not worthy, you’re not lovable.” The truth is everyone in this room, you’ve had them. Some a lot more than others.
Or for some of you - there are two extreme groups in this room and I don’t say this like I have some prophetic gift. It’s just life - I would say, there are some of you that have been super successful, and you got to the end of the big rainbow and you have the house, and you got the money, you’ve been successful, you’ve done this, you’ve done that, you got the extra house, this, your kids got in good schools. And there is just something desperately empty when you’re very quiet and very alone. It didn’t deliver, even as a Christian.
And there are other people here that you’ve been sexually abused, you’ve been through horrendous things, you’ve been through a marriage or two, you’ve had an abortion or two, and your life has just hit the skids in the most painful ways and you’re trying to hold it together.
And out of those two groups what I will tell you is, these people find it’s empty and they realize that in brokenness there is healing, and these people get broken not because they choose it but because it just happens. And because they don’t have any other choice they come, because there is nowhere else to go. And what they learn, that in brokenness there is healing.
And God just takes regular people like us and says, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, I’ll give you rest.”
The final thing we learn here is significance, and since you’re called to reflect His eternal holy and blamelessness in a fallen world and declare and speak well of the grace freely available to all in Jesus, you are significant. You matter.
My wife and I understood these, we were two years, three years out of seminary, we were, had a first church run and I, my workaholism kicked in and she didn’t want to tell anybody about where she’d been and the struggle, and so she kept her past and her hurts over here, and I just figured out how you could work eighty or ninety hours and some people had mega churches, this was a mini church.
Now, what I will tell you is for two or three years, I don’t want to exaggerate so I’ll say two years, my wife realized all these things we’re talking about were lies and there was a little book by William Backus called Telling Yourself the Truth. And then in our counseling, we learned multiple lies that we believed, and so she would write down all the lies that she believed on a card, and at the bottom write the word, “stop.” And then flip it over, and we had a verse, and so before I went to work for two years we would sit on the couch together and she would read it out loud, say, “Stop,” flip it over and read the truth.
And she renewed her mind. “I am worthy. I am worthy outside of my physical appearance. I am accepted and loved, I’m beloved in Christ.” And, you know, every aspect, and she read over those cards. And I was being the good husband because I thought, you know, “My wife has these deep issues and I need to help her.”
And what I realized was, I just had more acceptable dysfunctional sins that produced this driven, workaholic pastor who got rewarded for trying to gain people’s love and approval for what I did. And it was in that journey of renewing my mind, I mean, every morning, that by the grace of God I got free. And I got where I could say, “You know, it’s okay to be insecure. It’s okay if everyone doesn’t like me. God does. It’s okay if I don’t please everyone. You know what? I’m going to be honest. I want to. But it’s okay if they don’t.”
I don’t have to measure my performance by how big the church is or how small it is or whether I do this or whether I do that. I don’t have to cow down to powerful people. You know what? Beneath all that stuff that they’re showing, they got struggles just like me. I need to love them.
And I want to tell you that you can go on a journey and say, “God, I want to declare war on my warped self-image and I want to begin to renew my mind and believe that I am wanted, accepted, and significant in Jesus Christ.”