Inheritance: God’s and Ours Eph 1:3-22
In places the content of this sermon could be experienced as distressing, but its purpose is to relieve trauma.
The future of the Anglican Church in WA will be decided by our response to one of the weightiest matters in scripture, inheritance. There are two possible directions to look in understanding inheritance, past or future. Whilst grateful for the legacies of the past, anyone who tries to go forward whilst focussed on the rear vision mirror will not go progress too far. The opposite of a backward looking faith is one filled with resurrection hope, for hope is faith with a future look (Heb 11:1). The New Testament reading I requested for today takes a Trinitarian approach to inheritance; the church’s inheritance in the Son, the Father’s inheritance in us and the gift of the Holy Spirit as the assurance of our inheritance.
Heirs in Christ
Speaking of our inheritance in Christ Paul writes: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV).
Our heritage in Christ is grounded on God’s eternal choice that we should hope in Christ for a future inheritance (cf. Eph 1:4). To correct the small minded competitive Corinthians Paul outlines the dimensions of our inheritance , “all things are yours…the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 3:21-23 ESV). In Christ the whole universe is our future legacy (Heb 1:2). Many Anglicans seem to have no sense of this future inheritance. I met a lady at Energise conference yesterday and she shared openly that she had no interest at all in eternal life. I counselled her to pray and ask God to reveal Jesus to her, if she has an experience of Jesus being in heaven with him forever will be both real and desirable.
The Father’s overwhelming generosity in sharing Christ’s inheritance is intended to move us to live for the praise of his glory. To live for the praise of God’s glory means that instead of being dominated by our present felt needs we can rise daily thanking God for the glorious inheritance laid up in heaven for us (1 Pet 1:4). You can begin the day with, “Good morning Lord”, or “Good Lord, morning”. Our inheritance is in Christ but God the Father has an inheritance in us.
The Inheritance of the Father
Paul is praying for the Ephesians, “that, with the eyes of your hearts enlightened…you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” (Eph 1:18). The Father’s inheritance in us is glorious (1 Pet 2:9) . “Glory” means light and brilliance and conveys a sense of weightiness (kabod). When Solomon’s temple was opened “the priests could not stand to minister …for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” (1 Ki 8:11). God’s presence was so intense/heavy that they could not stand upright.
The first church I belonged to after my conversion was in a state of revival; people were being saved, healed and delivered from demonic powers, the presence of God was tangible and life transforming in many of those gatherings. As the people of God assembled here today we need spiritual discernment about the mind-sets holding back the manifestation of the Father’s glorious inheritance amongst us.
Idols Spoil the Inheritance
For my parents the primary inheritance they wanted to pass on was a material one. Having lived through the Great Depression and WW II they wanted their kinds to be better off than them. Tragically this focus on a material inheritance meant the Baby Boomer generation grew up greedy and selfish (Gal 6:7). God himself expresses the pain ingratitude brings; ““‘I said….I would…give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Instead …you have been faithless to me…” (Jer 3:19-20). If the inheritance is more than material it is also beyond the moral. Jesus’ preaching did not centre on the Ten Commandments but on the presence of the power of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15; Matt 12:28). Finally, inheritance is not religious. Anglicans have long depended on beautiful buildings and liturgies to pass on the faith but people are seeking something different today. Inheritance is spiritual; the inheritance God himself gives us is his own Holy Spirit.
The Guarantee of the Spirit
“In him you also, when you heard…the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). Personal piety cannot give us a spiritual certainty of our inheritance; only heaven’s gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to live for the future rather than the present (1 Pet 1:12). Everyone who has had a powerful experience of the Spirit communicates freely about Jesus, not “God” or “Church” but Jesus (Luke 6:45; John 15:26)! The future of Anglicanism as we have known it depends upon a more dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit. The powerful presence of the Spirit is an absolute necessity because we are in an intense spiritual battle with evil forces resisting the advance of the kingdom of God.
Paul tells us, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore….take…the sword of the Spirit…the word of God” (Eph 6:12, 17 ESV). I believe there are demonic powers associated with Indigenous spirituality that have been strangling the Father’s blessings upon St Matthew’s for some time (Eph 1:3). This is an area which requires the power of the Holy Spirit. E.g. Alice Springs two drunken aboriginal men disrupting a meeting, when I laid hands on them they both collapsed under the power of God. The pain and resentment of many Noongars in the Swan Valley is reflected in this quote; “Nothing has changed since the white man stepped upon the foreshores of this continent with his Flag in one hand, the Gun in the other hand and his Bible in his back pocket.” (Robert Bropho).
Conflict with Aboriginal people has stirred up a spiritual dimension that resists the kingdom of God. Indigenous spirituality is dominated by a drive to maintain the inheritance of past generations and preserve sacred sites; such a spiritual presence has infected God’s church in this locality and powerfully resists the Holy Spirit. Despite prevailing mind-sets Christianity has no sacred sites (John 4:21-24; 2 Cor 10:4-5)! These spiritual powers are not new for such a backward looking spirit threatened the Church at its beginnings. When Peter tried to stop Jesus going forward in his mission to die on the cross Christ’s response was very forthright, ““Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me…you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”” (Matt 16:18, 21-23).
In the End the only heritage listing that has significance is the names of those people which are listed in heaven. Are you sure that your name is written in heaven (Luke 10:20)? Only a radical shift in spiritual priorities can release the power of the kingdom of God and renew the Church. Only in letting go of the dominance of the past and looking forward together can the Holy Spirit release the grand vision the Father and the Son have for this congregation. Jesus said, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:35). What is St Matthew’s willing to lose for the kingdom of God to go forward? Let me use a provocative but relevant illustration:
A press report from the U.S. begins with; “One city congregation is putting the Christian principle of giving into practice in a big way”. Then it outlines how First St. John United Church of Christ has given its historic 170-year-old building to Princeton Pike Church of God free of charge. A traditional church handing over its plant to a Pentecostal church for more effective ministry is the stuff of the kingdom of God and an action that will be fully blessed by the power of the Spirit. Any diocese or parish which is not willing to let go of everything for Christ’s sake will never know the power of the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead and can never enter into the fullness of their divine inheritance; the loss of hope is a sign of the absence of this resurrection power.
Satan has long been squeezing the neck of St Matthew’s attempting to strangle this one virtue through which inheritance is enjoyed. Back in Ephesians 1 Paul is praying “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18 ESV). My prayer, and I believe it is also St Mark’s prayer for you, is that you might know the Holy Spirit’s gift of hope (Rom 5:5; 15:13; Gal 5:5; Eph 4:4). And hope is faith with a future look (Heb 11:1).
 The O.T. calls Israel the special treasured possession of the LORD (Ex 19:5-6; 34:9; Deut 4:20; Mal 3:17 etc.).