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Have I got some good news for you! God has predestined you for adoption through Jesus Christ. God has made up his mind about you. He has set his heart on you. And there is no better time to hear the good news that God has predestined us than now—at the start of a new year. Three times our reading from Ephesians says that we’ve been predestined or that God has chosen us before the foundation of the world. And if there’s ever a time to hear the good news that God has chosen us to belong to Christ from before the foundation of the world, the beginning of the new year is it!
On the one hand, the beginning of the new year holds out so much possibility, opportunity, potential. It feels like a blank slate, a chance to start over, to get things right and finally live the life that we really want to live. This is why we make new year’s resolutions. This is the year that we’re finally going to lose weight, or spend more time with our families, or drink less, or travel more. We all know that 2020 wasn’t the easiest or best of years. And 2021 seems like an opportunity for a new start. Maybe we can get back to normal at last. Or maybe we’ve been struggling with our health, or our finances, or our relationships. Whatever the case may be, the beginning of a new year seems to hold out promise that things are going to be different.
At the same time that the beginning of the new year holds out so much possibility and potential, though, it also brings dark uncertainty and the potential for disappointment and tragedy. For one, there’s our past. We make new year’s resolutions because we want to put our past behind us. We resolve to lose weight or spend more time with our families, or drink less, or travel more because we’ve had trouble doing those things up until this point. But what makes us think that this year will be any different? If 2020 was a year where we struggled with our health, what makes us think 2021 will be any different? We still live in the same bodies. And now those bodies are another year older!
And then there’s this time thing. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to believe it’s 2021. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and the year 2000 was the stuff of the future—flying cars, robots, colonies in space. And yet, here we are and it’s 2021! In the blink of an eye I’ve lived half a lifetime. Where did the time go? And the humbling part is that I may have plans and things I want to get done, but time doesn’t stop for anyone. Time doesn’t wait for me to get my stuff in order. Time just keeps going. Time swallows us up and sweeps us downstream like we’ve fallen into a raging river.
At the same time that the beginning of the new year holds out so much possibility and opportunity, it also brings dark uncertainty and the potential for disappointment and tragedy. That’s why it’s such good news to hear that God has predestined us and chosen us before the foundation of the world to belong to Christ.
You see, time is finally in God’s hands, and he’s already made up his mind about you. That’s what it means to say that we’re predestined. Time is finally in God’s hands. Ephesians puts it this way. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the council of his will.”
As Abram put it when he was two or three years old: God is the boss of everything. God isn’t another thing within creation. God is the reason there’s anything at all. The only reason the sun rises and sets giving us day and night, the only reason the earth orbits around the sun every 365 days giving us seasons and years, the only reason time ticks is because God commands it. And that means that God isn’t pushed to and fro by the powers of this world. God doesn’t have to adjust and adapt for the seasons; He doesn’t have to get his work done before a deadline. God determines the forces of this world. The only reason time ticks in the first place is because God wants it to. As Psalm 90 says, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood.” God is the one who works all things according to the council of his will.
And God has made up his mind about you! As Ephesians says, “He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” Just think about that for a moment. God chose you in Christ before the foundation of the world. Before the rushing stream of time ever started, God made up his mind, and He is bound and determined that you should belong to Christ. Before you were born, before your parents were born, before the sun was made or the earth formed, before anything began, there was one thing that was certain and sure—you would belong to Jesus Christ. The steadfast love of God would track you down and the good news of Jesus Christ would be poured over your head, put into your ears, and given into your mouth to eat and to drink, so that you would know Christ and belong to him.
Think about all the things that happen to us in life that seem to make us or break us, things that seem so beyond our control and determinative. There’s who we were born to, where we grew up, where we went to school, our grades in school, who our friends were, what job we work, who we marry, where we decide to live, who our kids are, who our kids get married to. Those things seem to carry us away. Once we’ve started down the path of time, it doesn’t stop, we can’t reverse it, and it seems to sweep us away. But before any of that started, before we were born, before our parents were born, before the first flicker of light in the universe, God made up his mind that his steadfast love would seek you out and you would belong to Christ.
And so, what is it in the torrent of time’s stream— past, present, or future—that will make us or break us? Who we were born to? Where we grew up? Where we went to school? What grades we got? Who we married, where we decided to live? None of those things finally stand in the way of God’s plans for us in Jesus Christ. As Paul says in Romans chapter 8, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels or rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The beginning of the new year is a time of great possibility and also great uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen in 2021. It might be the year that we finally get our act together and live the life we want. It might not. It might be better than 2020, or it might be harder than 2020. We don’t know. But the beginning of a new year is also a time to bless God, because what we do know is that whether it’s 2020,2021, or 2055, our times are finally in God’s hands. And in his love for us, he’s bound and determined to gather up our lives into Jesus Christ, who will raise us from the dead and make all things new.
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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
3 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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 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, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.