Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
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
I want to suggest that there are some lies that we believe and I’m going to identify the lie and then I want to show you in each section how Jesus is the answer to overcoming your rejection and mine.
Lie number one is, “I don’t measure up because of what I’ve done in the past.” And Jesus says, “I will put your past behind you. I will put your past behind you.” Notice, “In Him,” there is that phrase. This is Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and victory connected to you.
In Him, we have redemption. How? Through His blood. What exactly is redemption? The forgiveness of our trespasses. Where do you get it, how do you get it? It’s according to the riches of His grace, not your performance, which He lavished on you.
Now what you’re going to understand is then in each of these, this is all one sentence. And so one of the assignments I had in seminary, which was a very good one is when I studied this is remember when you had to diagram a sentence and you had to put the subject, the verb, and the object and then all those little lines that go off of them?
In bold, I put the subject, the verb, and the object because this first one is not too bad, but the next one is, he’s got a run on sentence problem. Okay? And so you can sort of lose… “Okay, Paul. And what were you really talking about?”
The subject of this is us. We have redemption. How? Through His blood. And the picture He gives us is redemption. He’s taking this picture out of the New Testament time. If you would go into a city there was called the agora, and there was a slave market in the agora. It was sort of a market place. And they would have a little platform and you could buy a slave. You could buy a man, a woman, buy a couple, buy a daughter, whatever you want.
And so the people would be there in chains and they would be here and you could redeem them. The word that Paul uses, you could redeem them out of slavery, and make them your own.
And that’s the word he uses here. He says, “You and I were in the slave market of sin and we were bound.” And he says, “Jesus came and He paid the purchase price for your sin, that forgave you.” And the word means literally “to release you.” It was a financial term that if someone owed a lot of money, a debt was canceled.
And so He says, “I’m going to put your past behind you. I’m going to forgive you.” It’s the riches of His grace. The debt is canceled.” And here’s the deal: You have value.
Now let me, hypothetical situation. Remember, this might date me but maybe it’s still on. Let’s Make a Deal. Do you remember that show Let’s Make a Deal? So I want you to imagine that I have two boxes. These boxes are small, little white boxes. They look exactly the same. On the front of one box I have the number, box number one. I have another box exactly identical on the outside and on the outside of it I have, are you ready? Box number two.
Box number one we brought to you - and you can have whichever one you choose - it cost us one thousand dollars. I can’t tell you what’s inside of it but it cost one thousand dollars. Box number two cost one million dollars. I cannot tell you what’s inside of it.
Now you have the opportunity, let’s make a deal. Do you want box number one or box number two?
Two! Two? Do I have a two? How many twos do I have? You say, how many ones? Okay. Okay why would you choose the box that cost a million dollars? It’s more valuable. So you’re telling me that you place value on that which cost the most?
Can I tell you what you’re worth? You’re worth the blood of the Son of God. You say, “Oh, I don’t feel like God loves me.” Well, I don’t know what you feel but let me tell you this: You have been redeemed.
You know how much it cost to get you and me out of the slave market of sin? It cost: the fully man-fully God, in space-time history, leaving the glory of heaven, living a perfect life, dying a death for doing nothing wrong but loving people, and when He died and stretched out His arms (and no one killed him) He gave His life. “It is finished.” And through the portal of time and history and eternity, He said, “You were worth that blood.” All so He could have relationship with you. And when He did that He released your debt of sin.
So I don’t know where you’ve been, what you’ve been through, who has abused you, who has hurt you, what rejection but I will tell you: The God of the universe says, “I’ll put your past behind you and you’re valuable and you are free.”
You can let those messages sink into your head, you can be a victim of them the rest of your life but you are free. You can be like the little boy who went after he was adopted and keep thinking you have to sleep on the floor instead of the bed. You can believe those lies.
You can believe that you’re unworthy, you can believe you can’t go to the refrigerator, you can believe you can’t play with the toys, you can believe that life really isn’t fair and there is no future for you or you can believe the truth.
And the truth is that you are free and you’ve been redeemed and that’s the message. And see, you know what happens when you start renewing your mind, and you start believing that you’re free and that you’re that valuable? You start living like you’re loved.
And when you start living like you’re loved this weird thing happens. You start loving other people. And some of those issues you have of pleasing people and perfectionism, when you really feel loved then you don’t have to earn it and perform it.
The second thing he says is, not only the lie that I don’t measure up because of what I’ve done, but many people think, “I don’t measure up because I don’t have anything to offer.
You know, I’m just, I’m a nobody. I, you know, there are smart people, I was never first in my class, I was always told I was dumb. I was told I didn’t measure up, I feel like I don’t measure up. I don’t feel like I’m a very good wife, I don’t feel like I’m a very good husband. I wasn’t all that good of a student. I’m not super gifted at… I’m a Christian but I guess there are C-minus Christians. That’s what I think I am. I try hard but…”
And here’s what he says: Jesus has a purpose for your life today. He has a purpose for your life today. He says, “In all wisdom and insight.” The word “wisdom” here is knowledge that sees into the heart of how things really work and “insight” is the practical application of what to do.
In all wisdom and insight after redeeming you He has made known to us the mystery of His will. Literally, the secret of His will. Well what is the secret of His will? Was it according to His kind intention, which He purposed again, what? In Him with a view to an administration. Literally, it’s just a household economy suitable to the fullness of times. That is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things upon the earth.
And you just want to say, “Paul, could you just simplify that for me just a little bit? I mean, there are some, literally, when you diagram this one, here’s, very simply it is: “We,” is the subject, “have obtained,” is the verb, or “We, He made known His will to us,” I put it in bold. And everything else is how He did it, why He did it, and what for. But what he wants you to know: He has a purpose for your life.
And he says that in God’s divine wisdom - the classical definition of wisdom is God brings about the best possible results, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time, for the greatest possible good: that’s God’s wisdom… and He orchestrates everything in a fallen world, in your life and my life, he says so in God’s wisdom to bring about the best and with insight, knowing who you are, and what His purposes are in history and all eternity - here’s what He did. He made known to you - and the word “mystery” here doesn’t mean mysterious, it just means it was a secret before, it wasn’t known before, and now it’s known - the secret of His will. He’s made known His will to you, he’s saying to these Ephesian Christians.
And then he says that His will was made known according to the kind intention, which He purposed in Him. That’s a nice way of saying: His will was made known through what Jesus came to do, and what He accomplished.
And then he says it’s with a view of administration, it’s this idea of a dispensation, or an administration, suitable to the fullness. In other words, times were pregnant. In Galatians it talks about, in the fullness of time when the world was pregnant, when there were Roman roads, and one language, and there was this dispersion of all these Jews everywhere – Jesus came at just the right time, in order to bring the truth of the gospel to the known world.
And the truth that he’s talking about, is this new thing called the Church, this new thing of Jew and Gentile coming together in one body, and this message of this glorious secret, the gospel of Jesus Christ where people can be forgiven, where people will have a new covenant, where the Spirit of God will take up residence in our mortal body, and I will teach My people, and everyone will be taught of the Lord.
And what he’s talking about is the summing up of all things in Christ and all of time and eternity and history.
But the basic message… those were all the things that Paul gets excited about. As He says the basic message is: He made known His will to you, and His will has to do with this thing called the Church, of which Jesus is over, and this program of what God’s going to do in the Church, and here’s the message: The message, put simply, is that you are needed. You are needed.
A lot of us feel like, “I don’t have much of a purpose.” He’s going to talk later in this book and throughout the New Testament about what? The body of Christ. You have certain gifts, you have a certain personality, in a certain time of history and he’s saying, “You’re like a piece of the puzzle.”
And you can say, “Well I’ve blown it,” or, “I don’t have much to offer.” Why do you think Jesus chose the people that He chose? See, I didn’t grow up in the church. And there is a huge deficit in not knowing the Bible growing up. There was a huge deficit of a lot of things.
But there was one real benefit. When I read the Bible for the first time because I’d never read it until I was eighteen. And I have read the short part about three or four times before I even tackled the big part.
But, so, I don’t know this stuff. But when you read the Bible for the first time with fresh eyes and you feel like you don’t measure up and, you know, four As aren’t enough and, you know, if you go two for four you’re a failure and no matter what you do it’s not quite enough.
And then, you know, Rahab: prostitute. Moses: murderer. David: adulterer. James and John: anger management issues. Peter: a big mouth. Matthew: crook. I mean you talk, this is a great book! I mean it was like, whoa! These are my kind of people. Peter: betrayer!
And all of a sudden you realize Jesus didn’t choose guys in stained glass. That’s what I grew up with. Oh, they’re holier than thou and they’re better than and they’re way over here and we’re over…
You know what? You’re needed! You’re needed! God’s got a plan! It’s an eternal plan. You’re a piece of His divine puzzle. Don’t you believe that stuff that you’re not needed. You don’t have to be famous, you don’t have to have a public role.
But you need to discover what God made you to do, where He wants you to do it, what gifts that you have, and say, “You know what? According to Jesus, it’s the working of each individual part that causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
I don’t know about you but that gives me hope. That gives me direction. It gives me purpose. But you can’t, you can’t, you can’t listen to those lies anymore. You’re needed! When you don’t do what God called you to do in His body, the Church is not the Church, therefore the Church isn’t doing what God wants it to do.
The third thing that Jesus said - not only will He put your past behind you, not only does He have a purpose for your life today - Jesus promises you a positive future. Because some of us you know what rejection has done? “What’s the use?”
“My future is going to be like my past. You know what? I was a loser as a kid, the first marriage didn’t work, I tried this, I tried that, I’ve been through a couple jobs or I got to the pinnacle of my career and people I trusted betrayed me. What’s the use?”
And so you know what? You play it safe, you play it passive, you don’t take risk. You just plan out your time and, it’s sort of the twenty-six year old version of playing video games.
You know we’ve created a whole world where people actually think they’re living when what we’ve done is created pseudo realities where they do nothing. I want you to know that when you sit in front of a TV for four hours nothing happens in those four hours.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you need to watch a good show, get refreshed, praise the Lord. Enjoy it. Watch a good ball game, watch a good movie, enjoy a great show. That’s not how people are watching TV, that’s not how they’re surfing the net.
I mean we are living in a world where, “Let’s see, let me get my phone out. ‘Hey, going into Starbucks for coffee.’ The whole world needs to know that. Post that on Facebook.”
“Me and my homeboys are hanging out – we are, we read a verse.” And I’m thinking, “What are we doing?” You know what Facebook is? “I’m the star of my own movie. I create the scripts, I’m my own producer, and I just want everyone to know since I don’t feel really wonderful about myself I will make my own movie and I am the star.”
Now don’t get me wrong, isn’t it wonderful that you can post something and all your friends can know this and you can invite people? Again, I’m not against the technology. But we’ve got a world of people who are, “Hey, what’s really cool is now I can play this game for hours and hours in the dark, back bedroom and now I can do it with other people worldwide and we can waste our lives together! Wow!” And then it’s, “Mom! Dad! I got carpal tunnel in my thumbs!”
And we laugh as the world slides into oblivion. And a lot of that is nothing more than denial. For others it’s a trip to the refrigerator. For others it’s a little bit more drastic and you click onto a site. For other people you just keep buying stuff you don’t need. You got stuff hanging in your closet that still have tags on it. But there is some kind of little rush that you get when you buy that something.
For others, it’s a short-term thing, when we can remodel that. And I got news for you. When you finally get that kitchen and bathroom remodeled, after your house has been a mess, having been there and done that, the whole world will be different. You’ll be cleaner than ever before.
And you know what? We’ve remodeled ours. We needed it. Please don’t hear. But you know something? What I’m trying to say is there are so many substitutes that we live in these mini worlds thinking, “When that happens…” And I got news for you. It happens and about a year later it feels like a bathroom. You get just about as clean.
And, praise God, thank Him that it’s nicer and it’s cleaner and probably helped the value of your house. There are lots of good reasons to do all these things. But if the reason is you’re actually on the sidelines, because you don’t want to take any more risks because you think, “What’s the use?,” that’s not good.
Jesus promises a positive future. Notice we’re back to, “In Him,” this is the piece of wood, Jesus, and the bolt that’s you. And the rubber band of your new identity in Christ wrapping you, “in Him,” … also, we have obtained an inheritance. This is a real simple one.
“In Him we,” is the subject, “have obtained,” is the verb, “an inheritance.” Well, how did we get that inheritance? Was it just a last minute thought? No.
“Having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will to the end or the purpose that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.”
So, this was God’s plan. He wanted to give you an inheritance. He wanted you to know that there is a future, there is something that you receive now that is bought or purchased by someone else that has blessing and impact. And the message here is that you’re worthy. You’re worthy. You get an inheritance based on relationship.
It’s very interesting, there are two words here He uses, two different words for, where he says, “After the counsel of His will,” the word “counsel” is a word for intelligent, deliberate calculation.
So you get an inheritance because God is deliberately, counsel, thinking; and the word “His will” is the desire that springs forth from emotion.
So God has an inheritance in Christ for you, after the counsel of His will for you, fitting into His plan, to fulfill all that He wants, to the praise of the glory of His grace. Now, I don’t know about you but I don’t come from a wealthy family. Both my parents were schoolteachers.
And so I was not expecting, nor did I have, any experiences with inheritances. And my mom died very young at sixty-three, of a rare disease, and my dad remarried and actually, we’d joke, I said, “Dad, you had two good marriages.” He actually was eighteen, nineteen years with the second one. And then my dad died about four years ago. And then Evelyn just died here, my stepmother, about four, five, six months ago.
And I got something I never got, I got a form from some, something attorney, attorney: “You are an heir.” So Dad and Evelyn had put everything together and she had three kids, and we had three kids, and after about ten years they decided, “You know I think this is pretty permanent. Why don’t we just throw all of our stuff together and split it six ways, whatever it’s going to be.” And obviously neither of them were wealthy or in any big, big significant way but it mattered, and there was a home and they had some things.
And so, I get these papers that I’m supposed to fill out, and I send them back in and then later on a check came in the mail and it wasn’t like I’m going to buy a new car, or this or that, but it was like, “Well, wow this is, I had no idea.”
And then I realized, so why did I get that check and why did I get that inheritance? And then I just came back from visiting my sisters and they had some pictures that they had, and apparently there was an artist in one of our families and my sister said, “These are two and Dad wanted you to have this. And by the way, this was part of your inheritance. This is his Purple Heart, Chip. And he wanted you to have this. And here’s a letter where he talked about his life.”
And you know what? I didn’t get that because of what I did as a son. I didn’t get that because I was good, I didn’t get that because I never failed, I got that for one reason. My last name is Ingram. I-N-G-R-A-M.
I got that because I was related to Ralph who is my dad. And because Ralph and Evelyn became one new unity it was this family connection that I received an inheritance totally, completely apart from anything I’ve ever done.
I’m worthy because of my relationship. I’m not worthy because of my performance. You are worthy because of your relationship. You are not worthy because of your performance.
Now, what I can tell you is when you understand that you are worthy, you may find yourself reading the Bible more, praying longer, enjoying it. You may also find the alarm doesn’t go off and you don’t have time to read your Bible and you might find yourself saying, “Oh God, thank You that You love me. I missed a wonderful time with You but I don’t think I’m going to have a flat tire, I don’t think I’m going to have a bad day, I don’t think the thing is going to go bad because I didn’t have my quiet time. I’m related to my heavenly Father who loves me, who understands all, and I’m going to walk with You in the power of Your Spirit today.”
And I’m not going to try and figure out, “Okay, I guess I have to read four chapters tomorrow because I missed my two this morning.” That’s legalism.
And God’s heart, more than anything else, when you read the Bible He wants you to hear His voice. He wants you to hear His love. He wants you to hear His reproof. He would far more you read three verses and apply them because when you respond to the truth you get more light.
And if you don’t respond to the truth even the light you have gets taken away. It’s not a performance orientation and, boy, this is, you are looking at one performance oriented, driven, former workaholic, blech.
I know of what I speak, unfortunately. And I just have to tell you one of the most glorious, I’m making progress, one of the most glorious things that happens in your life is when you begin to believe that you’re free, that you’re needed, and you’re worthy apart from your performance. You know what it does? It frees you to receive love but it frees you to love people.
You know, my boys are a little older than my daughter. I worked a little harder with her, to do a little bit better. But my boys would say, “Well, Dad, I’m really glad you’re preaching this stuff really clearly now because we grew up in a home where probably the performance was pretty important. Now, not that you didn’t say all these things and preach all these things but, man, we watched you and you were a pretty driven guy. I mean you were home for dinner and we had a good family, but there was always this underlying, ‘Gotta get with the program.’” And they would be right.
And so now I’ve got adult children with three kids and I’m saying, “Guys, you gotta be disciplined but your discipline has got to flow from grace.” A lot of mine was flowing from fear. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be a good dad. I was so afraid I would blow it. I had those messages in the back of my mind thinking that you don’t measure up unless so, you know…
Isn’t it the picture of what Jesus had of the two houses? And on the outside they both look exactly the same. And on the outside the activities look exactly the same. And one is built on sand and the other is built on rock.
One can be built on grace and the work of Christ in your union with Him and one can be built on this fearful, rejection, self-oriented performance and that one, when the adversity comes and the storms and the crisis, doesn’t hold up.
Paul was enamored with God’s grace. He was overwhelmed. In fact, if you really want to be humble, you catch glimpses of the overwhelming, unconditional, unmerited grace and favor of God. What you say is, “I am worthy but I feel so unworthy but You declared that I am, therefore I receive it.”
His final word to us, to overcome our rejection, is a word to those who feel like, “You know, I hear what you’re saying,” but here’s the lie. “I don’t want to get hurt again, I don’t want to risk again, I don’t want to step out like you’re saying.”
And so Jesus makes this promise: “I will never, ever reject you.” Jesus makes a promise to you. He says, “I will never, ever reject you.” Notice how this section opens. He’s still in this one, long sentence. Are you ready for it? “In Him you also,” here’s our part, there was a part, “after listening to the message of truth,” right?
You heard the gospel taught. “…the gospel of your salvation,” and then here’s something you did, “having also believed,” it’s in the perfect tense. That means that something happened in the past with ongoing implications into the future.
So he’s speaking to this group of Christians in Ephesus and he says to them, “In Him after you heard the message, the gospel of salvation, having believed,” in the past, “you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.”
And then he describes, in verse 14, what was this Holy Spirit of promise and why? “Who was given as a pledge,” literally, we get our idea for a deposit or earnest money, “who was given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.”
The subject here is “you,” the verb is “having believed,” and then there is this phrase that you’re sealed. It’s what was accomplished.
The word “sealed” here in the Roman world meant to finish a transaction, it was a sign of ownership, a sign of security, a document would be laid out, and they would close the document, and then they would use some wax and then stamp it, often with a ring, and it couldn’t be opened by anyone else. The seal is the authority, it’s finished, it’s done.
And what God is saying is that, “I will never, ever reject you because you are secure.” That’s the message. You are secure. The moment you turned from your sin in faith, and received Jesus as your Savior, the Spirit of God came into your mortal body and you were sealed, and that’s the down payment. That’s the down payment, the earnest money that all the inheritance, all of heaven, all the promises, all the things that God’s going to do in all eternity for you. He says, “I’m going to give you a taste of it now. You’re sealed. You’re my child.”
With a view toward what? What’s it say? “With a view toward redemption.” You have been redeemed but we will be fully redeemed. And the earth will redeemed. And there will be a new heaven, and a new earth, and Jesus, and no sun, and no moon. And there will be no need, because He will be the light and we will be with Him. And no sorrow, and no tears, and no rejection.
And I will never, ever leave you or forsake you and you have greater opportunity than Peter, or John, or James, or any of those early disciples because when they wanted to talk to Jesus they had to wait in line. “Yeah, He’s talking to Pete right now. I wish Pete would shut up. Jesus! Okay, okay, Baskin - Robbins, number seven, I’m waiting.”
He lives inside of you. He lives inside of you. You’re a New Testament believer. The very person and presence and power of Jesus in the person of the Holy Spirit who, like the Son and the Father, is fully God dwells in you. You talk about precious. You are His temple. You matter. You are worthy. You are free. You are needed.
We talk about these realities, and this is truth. I don’t know about you but these are the kinds of things I need to review, review, review, review.
It was a special anniversary, a number of years ago, so maybe it was our fifteenth, I’m not sure. And my wife and I got to go to Hawaii, which was really fun. And there was a thin, little book, I put it in your notes called Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeffrey VanVonderen.
And we read that book out loud together… just sat down, and I read some and she read some, we read it out loud together.
Because here’s what I want to tell you… and your body language, and my sense of what God’s doing in this room is so wonderful is, we’re getting it but isn’t this the kind of thing you go, “Oh yeah, I’m worthy, I’m needed, this is so true, this is so wonderful, God, thank You so much.”
And in two hours it’ll be like, “I don’t feel very worthy.” Right? You know? And in two days it’s like, “Yes, I get it, I get it, I get it” And then you get an email that says, “You really are a jerk. You don’t measure up.” Ahhhhhh! Right? Right? And, you know, we’re just hours away from this slipping through our fingers. And that’s been my experience.
And so I remember reading that book out loud and we did it for three, or four, or five days. All I can tell you, I don’t know this guy, but I just had to buy a bunch of his books. And that book goes through what we’re talking about like in little practical ways that was probably the turning point of going from “I understand that I’m needed, that I’m worthy, that I’m free, that I’m secure,” into “Oh. This is how it plays out.”
And so, if that would be a help to you that was part of where we got some of those ideas of how to renew our minds. And that’s just been a very valuable tool. And what you can learn from me is, I think God gives us truth and then all the commands have to do with us trusting and there are conduits of grace and that we don’t earn this by performance, but you gotta be in His Word, and you gotta talk to Him honestly, and you got to be around other people in the community, because those are the conduits of His grace.
When you take the Lord’s Supper for the right reason in the right way, when you see someone baptized, when you’re in a small group and people are really honest, and you really pray for one another, and someone is vulnerable and gets accepted, and you read the Word, and you’ve read it a million times, and somehow it pops off the page and just jumps into your heart, and you think, “Ah. I really am worthy.”
We can hear other people say it, but when God says it to us that’s how transformation occurs. “We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed from glory to glory, just as from the Lord the Spirit.” And that’s what Paul says in II Corinthians 3.