APC 19th May 2021 Pandemic Praise – ‘United to Christ’.
Welcome and Introduction
Good morning everyone and welcome to our Wednesday morning worship. Today we continue with our series ‘Pandemic Praise’ as we reflect on some of the spiritual blessings that God has given us in Christ. We discover many of these blessings in the opening part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
So far we have thought about the amazing truths that we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed and forgiven by God. Today we are going to be reflecting on the fact that we have been united to Christ. But as always let’s begin by stilling our hearts and talking to God, let’s pray…
Almighty and all loving God, we would bring you our praise; we would offer you our worship; we would open to you our hearts; we would tell of all you mean to us; we would proclaim your name in a way that dies justice to your greatness. Hear our prayer.
Eternal and all-powerful God, we hunger to meet you, to hear your voice, to know your will, to learn more of you and to offer you a commitment that does justice to your love. Hear our prayer.
Gracious and all forgiving God, help us then to acknowledge our faults, to confess our sins, to recognise our many weaknesses, to see all that is wrong in our lives and to be a people that do justice tom your mercy. Hear our prayer.
Great and all transforming God, enable us to serve you more faithfully, love you more deeply, know you more fully, obey you more completely and live in a way that does justice to your renewing power. Hear our prayer.
Everlasting God, you know what we are and you know what we want to be. Hear our prayer, receive our worship and so help us to become the people you would have us be to the glory of your name.
Join with me as we say the Lord’s Prayer together…
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name,
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread, And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us,
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory,
For ever and ever, AMEN.
Introduction to Bible Reading
Let’s read again that wonderful introduction to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Despite being imprisoned as Paul reflects on all that God has done for Him in Christ He puts pen to paper and pours out His praise. He writes…
Ephesians Chapter 1 v 1-14
”Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”
Reflection Pandemic Praise – ‘United to Christ’
As I reflect back over nearly half a century of life, one of the things that concerns me most is that for almost 20 years I went faithfully to church every week, but in all that time I was blissfully unaware of the fact that I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Thankfully that all changed one night when I came home from a cricket match. For some time leading up to that night I’d been thinking about my life and in particular reflecting on the things that I had said and done that I knew were wrong. This wasn’t a new insight particularly, but I think for the first time I realised that these things were deeply significant because they were causing a barrier that was stopping me from having a true and living friendship with God. At that time I was also reflecting a lot on the stories I’d been taught many times about Jesus and in particular the idea that He had died on the cross to forgive my sins and clear the way for God and I to be friends.
In twenty years, I had achieved so much- looking from the outside I should have been deeply happy and content, but the truth was, inside I was miserable. I knew there was something missing. So almost as soon as I got home that night I knelt at the side of my bed and I prayed. I can’t remember exactly what I said but I can recall being utterly sincere and desperately crying out to God to forgive me and to come into my life.
When I got up from that prayer, I didn’t necessarily feel any different except to say that I knew that something had happened, something had changed. I knew that whatever blockage there had been between me and God was gone and he and I were now friends.
You, know, this is perhaps the greatest spiritual blessing of all. Paul describes it as being ‘included in Christ’, elsewhere he talks about being ‘united with Christ’ or more often just being, ‘in Christ’.
What’s true for me is true for you too if you are genuinely sorry for your sins and you believe that Christ died for you and if you’ve received His Spirit into your life. Whether your experience was like mine or whether it’s just something you’ve always known, it is the most amazing thing in the world to know that you are a Christian, that you are ‘in Christ’, mysteriously united to Him in ways that you can’t easily explain but you know is definitely true.
For me, I knew that I was joined to Christ, because for the first time in my life I started talking to God like I’m talking to you now. I wasn’t worried that I was going mad. Quite the opposite. I was so happy and so excited to know that somehow Jesus and I were friends.
I knew something had changed because I wanted to read the bible. I hadn’t a clue where to start but I just knew I was hungry to find out as much as I could about God, about jesus and how I could understand Him better.
I knew something had changed because I suddenly wanted to go to church. I’d always gone but now I really, really wanted to go and I actually wanted to join in with the prayers that were being said and the songs that were being sung. I used those words as mine because I actually wanted to talk to God and say sorry or thanks or ask Him for something or to help someone else.
I also found myself becoming less interested in things about myself and more interested in how I could be kind or helpful towards other people.
There are so many other things I could include, but all I’m trying to say is that I knew I was now ‘in Christ’. I knew that my life was different and 30 years later I know that I am still ‘in Christ.’
This union with Christ is pictured in many ways within the bible. Paul says it is like the relationship between a husband and a wife. He compares it to being part of a body where Christ is the Head. He describes it as being a brick in an arch where Christ is the keystone making sure that everything holds together. But the image that I love best of all and that I want us to reflect on for just a few more minutes is the vine and the branches. Listen to how Jesus explains it recorded in John Chapter 15.
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
There is so much I could say about this passage but for today I simply want to remind us that being in Christ, is like being a bunch of grapes growing from a vine. It’s like being one of the branches on your favourite tree or one of the green shoots sprouting from the side of your favourite flower in the garden. That’s you, that’s me. Christ is the main trunk, the main stem with His roots going deeply down into the source of the Godhead. The moment we received His Holy Spirit, we were mysteriously and spiritually joined to Him. If we are to grow spiritually and produce the fruit of His character, then we must stay connected to Him. We do that as we make time each day to pray, to read the scriptures and as we try our best to live in the way God wants. You see being In Christ is such a privilege. God is our best friend. We can tell him anything, we can receive His help in so many ways and we can bring the needs of others to Him and he can help them too. But let’s be honest. Its also easy to forget about him, to neglect our friendship, to grow cold and fo9rmal and even to ignore God altogether. But when we do that our lives shrivel up. We stop being full of love and joy and peace and patience kindness goodness gentleness and self control. We stop caring more about other people. So let me ask you, honestly, how is it between you and Jesus? Have you forgotten that without Him you can do nothing. Without the help of His Spirit you wont be able to be the person you want or to enjoy deep happiness. If you’re relationship with God is good right now, don’t take it for granted. Thank Jesus that you are in Him. And if you’ve drifted, remember He’s sitting waiting for you to pick up the phone and give Him a call. He’ll be so delighted to hear from you and you’ll simply pick up off where you left off, no strings attached.
Let us pray…
Prayer for others
All these prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
It’s been a joy and privilege to share with you again today. Thanks again for logging on.
The exciting news is that we are back to church again and this Sunday we will be celebrating Pentecost. So if you would like to book a place at church this Sunday then please do text Aleida as soon as possible. You will shortly be receiving a reminder text about reopening this Sunday which will include the essential safety procedures to ensure we all stay safe and well as we worship.
But to close, let me share the benediction, after which I invite you to say the grace together…
The grace of God thrill your hearts, the mercy of God transform your minds, the peace of God flood your souls and the love iof God flow through your lives to the honour of is name. And
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and for evermore, Amen.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.