Barneys Sermons

God's plan for planet earth

Sun, Nov 15, 2015
Teacher: Joe Wiltshire
This sermon was not recorded, however the full text is included below.

Message text

The Perfect Plan

Perfect Planning

This morning we’re asking the question ‘Is such a thing as a perfect plan’? And in particular whether or

not God has one.

For if you look at the world, as most people do, you’d say it certainly doesn’t look like it. Wars, trouble,

famine, persecution - if there’s a plan of God, it doesn’t seem all that perfect or he seems to be dragging

the chain bringing it about.

If you searched your Bible for the phrase ‘the perfect plan’ you’d discover it occurs only once and that’s in

Psalm 64 where wicked men in their scheming plot evil.

5  They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they

say, “Who will see them?”  6  They plot injustice and say, “We have devised a perfect

plan!”

Has there ever been such a perfect plan? A plan that let the plotters, the conspirators, get away with their

scheme? From the human point of view you’d have to say, “yes”. Lots of people seem to get away with

their crimes: Con men, robbers, deceivers, adulterers. You may have been ripped off at home or in

business by one of them. Some are never found out. Many are. But even then some who are found out,

still get away with it - they run off too Mallorca.

But it’s the possibility they’ll get away with it that makes the crime so attractive in the first place. Adam

and Eve never would have eaten the fruit if the devil hadn’t whispered in their ears, ‘You will not die.’

And its that sneaking suspicion we’ll get away with it that means that we go on sinning.

And yet this capacity to think and coordinate and plan and organize, which so often is used to plot evil, is

actually a good gift of God. It’s that capacity, at least in part, that makes humans human - we’re not like

the other creatures God made - we reason and coordinate and plan for the future beyond today’s hunger.

But it’s this good gift, which is so dangerous when it is controlled by the sinful mind.

And so as a society we need greater and greater protections against ourselves. Engine immobilers,

security keys, phone tapping, fire walls. All because this great gift of God, this awesome capacity for

planning is so often used for evil.

And in the end the Psalmist’s indictment is not just against those others, them out there. He sees what his

enemies do, what the wicked do, what the schemers do is something which is natural or inherent to

everyone. Second half of verse 6.

Psalm 64:6 “Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.”

We plan and plot and scheme against each other to get ahead and put others down, we pursue our own

agendas. And the Psalmist says no-one will get away with it. His enemies won’t verse 7. And neither will

anyone else. There will be a day when the Lord is revealed in all his glory and everyone will see God,

everyone will bow before him, when there will be no excuse for wickedness. All our perfect plans will be

shown for the feeble attempts to prove our own superiority and intelligence that they really are.

You see, to create the perfect plan requires three things. Absolute knowledge, absolute power and the

desire to use them to make such a plan - and people only have the last one.

And yet for many the question is up in the air whether God has and uses them. They’re unsure about a

God who has a perfect plan which will come off no matter what anyone does or says or even thinks. Yet

such a being is no God.

For God has perfect knowledge: he made everything and sees all. And certainly God has the power to do

anything he likes: that’s what makes him God and not us. He’s the creator and sustainer of this world and

universe. He’s in charge.

But here’s the thing: Does God have the motivation, the desire, the will, to put a perfect plan together and

execute it?

And as we return to Ephesians chapter 1 and come this morning to verse 10 - the answer is a resounding

yes. This astonishing chapter tell us there not just that God has the plan - but what that plan is, when

God’s going to execute it and we see if anyone can stand in its way.

God’s perfect plan

Well what is his plan? We saw the first part last week in verse 9 when we read that God has lavished on us

his grace through all wisdom and understanding because he has revealed to us the mystery of his will. I

suggested that was a key term, a technical term for Paul - the mystery of God’s will. It’s not mysterious.

It’s a secret. God’s secret plan hidden for centuries but now revealed to us - his plan that Gentiles would

be part of God’s kingdom too. God’s plan was to save people, redeem them, adopt them as his children not

only for Israel, his Old Testament people, but people of all backgrounds and cultures. That was God’s

secret which he has now been made known to us.

But that secret plan is not the ultimate goal, it is not God’s ultimate plan. There’s something greater. And

it comes in verse 10 - let’s pick it up from verse 9:

9 And 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 will have

reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under

one head, even Christ.

God’s plan and purpose is this: to unite all things. To bring all things together. And that might sounds

nice - but he’s not just talking about making cosmic harmony - a state of mystical spiritual oneness. God’s

plan is to unite all things and all peoples under one head - Jesus Christ - so Jesus is king, the Lord of all.

That’s God’s plan - to bring all things under the headship of Christ.

The word head there is interesting. It comes from maths. In particular adding up numbers. You know

when we do sums, we write all the numbers in a column. And we put a line underneath. And we go down

the columns adding them and writing the answer down the bottom, carrying numbers as we go.

The Greeks added the numbers and wrote the answer at the top. They literally added things up. And they

wrote it at the top for a good symbolic reason - you see the answer there: it’s the figure which gives order

to all the figures under it. It is the head, the one that sums up all the rest. Its the thing that makes sense of

the everything beneath it and controls it all.

And so the Bible speaks of Jesus as the Lord of Lords and king of kings - he is the supreme ruler. He is the

one head who will rule over all and sums everything up. And when he says all he means all: Things in

heaven, things on earth, the living and the dead, his friends and his enemies all will bow before the throne

of this king, this Christ. They will bow the knee and they will confess that he is Lord - Ala. Philippians 2.

Or in the language of Psalm 64 - Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought

about and ponder what he has done.

Well that’s the what, but when is it going to happen? When will God execute his plan: And Ephesians

tells us. Verse 10

9 And 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 will have

reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under

one head, even Christ.

When is God’s plan for? When’s the right time? When the times will have reached their fulfilment. When

is that? Well, its already started. God’s plan started to come into effect when Jesus came the first time.

And so we read in Galatians 4

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman,

born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might

receive adoption as sons.

It was in the fullness of time - the exact right time that Jesus came to save us. Or in 1 Corinthians 10 in

talking about Moses and the Israelites in the dessert Paul says, “11 Now these things happened to

them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the

end of the ages has come.

At Pentecost in Acts 2 - Peter says Joel’s prohecy was being fulfilled at that very moment that, “in the last

days your young men shall prophecy and dream dreams.”

That is to say we are now in the end of the ages - we are in the times of fulfilment. We don't have to wait

for the last days to come that the Bible speaks of - Jesus came to earth and in his life, death and

resurrection he has brought in the last great age of history - hence our dating system. We date everything

as either BC - before Christ, or AD - Anno Domini - in the year of the Lord. We are now in the 2015th

year of our Lord.

This is the time when God’s plan is now being put into effect. People from all over the world are coming

by the preaching of the gospel under the headship, under the lordship, under the control and salvation of

Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He is being declared to be Lord all over the world.

And then when he returns and wraps up this age - those who have remained rebellious to God will be put

down and brought under Jesus. Even those who hate him now and ignore him will come under his

lordship at that time - for his glory and for their shame. They will come under his lordship in judgement -

whereas now people are being brought under his lordship in salvation. It’s already started and one day

soon will be wrapped up.

But the question is can anyone thwart it? Is it possible that it won’t come off, or least not come off in the

way God has thought it might? No, verse 11

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,

You can’t get a much stronger statement of God’s control than that can you? Its all according to the plan of

him who works out every single detail in conformity with the purpose of his will. That’s absolute

knowledge, it’s absolute power, that’s perfect planning. Nothing can stop the plan of someone who

controls everything - the security cameras, the police, the combinations of the safe, the enemies, the

friends, the employees - you can’t stop the plans of that person can you?

And I think its at that point that most of us have the greatest difficulty. For when you start to tease that

apart and see its implications - its massive. Joy, suffering, good events, bad ones, the gospel going out,

Christians meeting persecution, cyclones, family drama - everything is happening in accordance with

God’s plan being directed by his sovereign will as his works out every single detail in conformity with the

purpose of that will. Or in Westie terms: Nothing happens without God’s say so. God’s plan influences,

maybe that's a bit weak, determines everything in history as he drives it forward.

We’ll come back to the implications of that in a moment - but notice right at the end that he explains why

he does it this way - why he has a plan and why he is so determined and so in control that it will happen

that way: Verse 12 - he does it for his glory

He does all this 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for

the praise of his glory.

God arranges life and arranges history and is doing this great thing that we might sing his praises - that we

might know who truly is God and we might rejoice in him, love him, trust him.

And if you’ve been following the last few weeks that chorus echoes right through this whole long Greek

sentence - verse 4 - for the praise of his glorious grace, verse 6 to the praise of his glory and here in verse

12.

God works out everything according to this plan and he works out everything in conformity with the

purpose of his will so in the end he will be seen to be and will be glorified as God.

4. Implications

So I want to just spend the last few minutes teasing out some implications of this understanding of God

and the world and history and the future.

1. There are two different things meant by the phrase ‘the will of God.’

You read verses like 1 Timothy 2:3-4. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who

wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, Paul uses the word

‘will’ - God wills that all men be saved - he wishes it, he wants it. That’s the same kind of thing as when

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4 verse 3 ‘This is the will of God: your sanctification: that you abstain from

sexual immorality.

God’s desire is that we live godly lives, particularly in that passage in the area of sexual activity. Same

again in chapter 5 when he says ‘give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus

for you.’

And yet we’ve just discovered nothing happens without God intentionally saying so. He wills things to

happen as they do.

That is to say there are some things that happen in God’s will that are against his will. Get it? It’s very

important. Two different wills. You might term them his desire and what he does and sometimes those are

in conflict.

How is it that God can act against what he wants? Because he has conflicting desires. Big call, but let me

ask you - did God want to crucify his Son, the Lord Jesus? Did he want to turn his face from him, did he

want him to suffer under his punishment and wrath - things that he patently didn’t deserve? No, of course

not.

Did God make that happen? - you betcha. For if it wasn’t God, then God himself is the victim of

circumstance, he is cast about by the fortunes and misfortunes of this world. We could push him around.

And he wouldn’t be God.

Its much the same as with us - do you ever decide to do things that you would much rather not do - like

disciplining your children - no-one likes doing it. If you enjoy it - you need help and so do your children.

Must you do it? Absolutely - because if you don’t they will not grow up learning respect, kindness,

patience, love - instead they will grow up selfish brats.

Same with God: There are two wills of God. What he wants and what he does.

2. Suffering and evil:

We have to say from all of this that God is in some way behind all of the troubles of this world.

And yet when he brings about those things he is not evil - rather he is doing it for good, to achieve his

perfect plan. And passages like Isaiah 45:6-7 make that absolutely explicit and clear. I am the Lord,

and there is no other;  apart from me there is no God.

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the

Lord, do all these things.

Romans 8: We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love - to

make them like Jesus.

Its not like there’s two gods - one good and one evil and they are war and we’ll have to wait and see which

one gets the upper hand in the next battle. Its not ying and yang. The Devil is real - but he is a piece not a

player. He is creation not creator. And there is an end to all suffering in God’s plan - but the sufferings of

this world are part of it for now because God has decided.

We can’t always know why this particular suffering happens or that particularly suffering - but its not at

all unclear why suffering is here - sin &, judgement - nor is it unclear what the good effects of suffering are

for us - to keep us humble (2 Cor 12), to discipline us (Heb 12), keep us calling to him (Rom 8) and keep

us looking for the future he has promised - to keep our minds on the prize - the kingdom of his Son.

3. Prayer.

Prayer is entrusting things to our heavenly Father who we know loves and cares for us. But when we ask

God to do something or change some situation, we have to accept his answer. God is all about bringing

glory to himself and making you holy, perfecting you. And so

a) the things that we bring to God in prayer should come more and more into line with his thinking; and

b) prayer has always got to be accompanied with thanksgiving. Always. No matter what answer that we

get from him. “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

How can you do that when terrible things have happened? When churches fight? When your grandfather

dies unrepentant without Christ? When business is failing, marriage is difficult or you’re facing other

tough times? How? By realizing that God is at work, he is bringing about his good plans and purposes.

He’s achieving his ends. He’s bringing glory to himself and good to us to make us more like Jesus. And

many of us have found as you look back through the tough times there is much to rejoice in and it has

worked for good - to make us more patient, kind, holy. But it’s a matter of having a thankful heart and a

right perspective on things, knowing that God is in control.

4. Immortality

It is tempting not to think about life after death - certainly the world doesn’t: Heaven and hell are the last

thing on the minds of people around us. They’re not things you discuss in the cafeteria or over coffee.

Families don’t normally ask each other if they think they’re going to heaven or hell over dinner. There’s

no uni course on the afterlife - except maybe crygenics.

But that’s the very thing that God would have us consider - that everyone will spend eternity either with

him or without him.

And especially since we are going to bow before him, like it or not, at the judgment. Far better to do it

now voluntarily knowing he’ll be kind and he’ll accept us back, rather than be forced to then and face his

anger. Jesus died that people might escape the wrath and judgment of God. And so:

5. Make sure as men and women, business men and women, students, that you get your priorities

worked out.

No one on their death bed wishes they’d spent more hours at work. No, they wish they had spend more

time with the kids, with their wife or husband, doing things that matter. And things you’re boss thinks are a

waste of time and effort may be of the greatest importance, even eternal importance: Teaching kids in

Scripture, making sure you are not working the night that you’re home group at church is on, getting to

church, having your quiet time. They don’t boost the company profits, they they don’t drive the economy,

or give you better marks, but they are of huge importance to God. They’re on the money when it comes to

his perfect plan. Graham Brown has a great question which he asks himself from time to time, “Is this

thing you’re doing now the best use of your time in God’s economy?”

Conclusion: What’s it all about?

In conclusion: What’s it all about? God’s perfect plan is to bring glory to himself by bringing everything

and everyone under the lordship of Christ. And that plan is at work even now in our lives, in our church, in

our homes, in our community and throughout our world as God uses people like us to win those who are

lost to himself through the preaching of the gospel. AMEN

 

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