The Spotlight, the Gospel and the Glory of God
You know how it goes.
‘The Academy Award for Best Actress goes to…’
Then the orchestra strikes up, the dreamy montage is projected on the fifty foot high screen. The Best Actress stands up, her just-on-the-right-side-of-vulgar sequinned dress glistening in the twinkling spotlight, handkerchief clutched in hand; yes, she is already choking back the tears. Around her, grin the would-be Best Actors and Actresses, we can read their pursed lips: ‘Well done, darling,’ ‘No, no, really, you were wonderful’…
And then comes the acceptance speech. You know how it goes. She thanks her mother, her father, her agent, the producer, her co-star, the director, the costume designer, her wardrobe supervisor, her public, her trainer, her darling Pomeranian, the trainer for her darling Pomeranian…
Then, somewhere, yes, somewhere among the endless list of meaningless names and titles… ‘And I want to thank God…’
Now, I don’t want to question this hypothetical Oscar winner’s sincerity in thanking God. Certainly, there are actors and actresses who truly love and seek to serve the Lord. My point is this, no one cares about the mother, agent, Uncle Louie and, quite frankly, should the Pomeranian choke on its teeny tiny Pomeranian chew-chew, no one, save said actress, will shed the slightest tear. Amidst this procession of effusive inconsequence we find the Creator of the universe casually name-checked.
The Apostle Paul, in unfolding God’s glorious plan of salvation, begins with God.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)
As we read through this glorious passage of Scripture, we find that Paul sees that, similarly, God’s purposes for salvation end with God.
[God’s] plan for the fullness of time, [is] to unite all things in [Christ Jesus], things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:10)
Paul unpacks the truth of salvation in incredible detail and, as he does so, we behold the astonishing extent to which we have been blessed in Christ; we are chosen (v. 4), adopted (v. 5), redeemed, forgiven (v. 6), guaranteed a glorious inheritance (v. 11 and 14) and sealed with the Holy Spirit (v. 13).
The result of this is that blind people are given sight (Ephesians 1:18), dead people are made alive (Ephesians 2:4) and radically depraved enemies of the living God are now, through Christ, given access to the very throne room of God (Ephesians 2:17).
We receive every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus and yet Paul begins and ends with God.
There is an urgent corrective in all of this.
The temptation is to place ourselves at the centre of the story. We taste his blessings and we take this as an affirmation of our own worth. We receive his good gifts as if they were a reward. A well-earned gift from our Father Christmas. Our Santa-God… He knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.
This is anti-grace and this, most certainly, is anti-gospel.
The gospel is this: we are without a hope, hostile towards God and the things of God and, while we are lost in this state of spiritual death, he reaches out in mercy.
This is why the gospel begins and ends with God. John Piper wrote an incredibly insightful book entitled, God is the Gospel. God is the Gospel and Paul calls us to remember and, more than this, he calls us to worship.
Paul begins his great celebration of salvation and we find that this is all a hymn of praise to our God who pours out outrageous grace through Jesus Christ and his cross, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
My salvation is bigger than me. Our salvation is bigger than Firwood Church. Our salvation is bigger than the Church. Salvation is about the glory of God. We were saved ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
As we remember who we were and all he has done for us, we should be led to worship. As we look around us and see lives transformed, we should be led to worship.
This is why we were saved: that transformed lives might testify to his glory. That in us and through us he might receive maximum glory.