His Without Reserve

 Jack Mahon, president of the Tri-State Corporation, was growing more and more frustrated. Sales were down. Costs were up. Competitors were penetrating his specialty. He knew his products and services were above average, so why the downturn?

"Chuck," he said one day to his chief financial officer, "you haven't been with us very long, but maybe you can help me figure out what to do about our slumping profits."

After offering a few conventional suggestions, Chuck said, "Sir, when I came on board I received a history of the corporation and our mission statement. That was very helpful, of course, but I've wondered since then whether we have a business plan."

"Well, sure," Mr. Mahon said. "I've always had a plan in mind for what I want the company to become and what products we want to offer."

"Well, when I was studying for my MBA," Chuck explained, "I learned a lot about business plans. A business plan is a formal statement of a set of business goals, the reasons they are believed attainable, and a plan for reaching each of those goals. It includes descriptions of buyer habits, changing tastes, and known competitor activity. It may also contain background information about the capabilities of the organization or team attempting to reach those goals.

As it turned out, the Tri-State Corporation did not have a formal business plan. Within a few days the two men gathered the management team together to prepare a business plan and to discuss what was needed to return the corporation to profitability.

God Has Always Had a Business Plan

Even before Lucifer brought disobedience to this earth, our heavenly Father had a "business plan" for dealing with a possible rebellion. When Lucifer attempted to elevate himself to be like God, what issues were involved? He challenged God's authority. He maligned God's motives. He misrepresented God's very nature. These issues still exist today. The Apostle Paul warned against the "wiles of the devil" and said: "For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:11, 12).

And what was God's solution? "You know," wrote Peter, "that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake" (1 Peter 1:18-20).

God's plan has been to reunite heaven and earth in three ways: (a) by seeing that His character is vindicated, (b) by eliminating sin and the cause of sin, and (c) by reconciling sinners to Himself. (See Gen. 3:15; John 3:16; Eph.1; 2:1-7; 2 Cor. 5:14-21.) This work of restoration will bring the warfare of Satan against mankind and God to a righteous conclusion. Our Father has offered us the opportunity to join Heaven in carrying out His business plan by presenting our bodies and our minds to Him for His use.

We Are Not Left Alone

Scripture clearly reveals that there are many reasons why it is worth our while to make full devotion to Christ our life style and our thought style. We have discovered that developing personal holiness is valuable to us both now and in the hereafter. In this chapter we see more clearly that pursuing holiness not only rejoins us to the family of God but also floods our Lord Jesus Christ with glory.

Holiness provides the environment in which our Creator restores His image in us. The transformation of our character depends upon our choice to set ourselves apart unto Him and upon the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We are not left alone in this work. Our triumphs are "in Christ" and they come to God's attention in a very beautiful way: "Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing" (2 Cor 2:14, 15). Yes, our transformation into His likeness is a marvelous triumph for us. But we should not fail to rejoice greatly that the "sweet aroma" of our triumph reaches God not simply as a fragrance of us but as "a fragrance of Christ"!

Our holiness is not just for us. It's for Him.

We cannot imagine our Father's joy when the fragrance of our transformation reaches His throne room. But there's more. In Ephesians 1:3-14, in profound phrasing, Paul explains how those who have consecrated themselves to the Lord have an impact on His work of salvation because of their consecration. We find here in Ephesians 1 a view of holiness in the setting of God's plan of redemption. Let's notice what the "plan" is and how this plan offers us the way to be a special gift to our Father.

The Awesome Beauty of Ephesians 1:3-14

Bible scholars and everyday Christians recognize the Epistle to the Ephesians as the loftiest and most profound of all Paul's letters. Yet his syntax often leaves us puzzled. Perhaps we can bring his exalted language down to our level while still retaining the awesome beauty of his message.

Before the foundation of the world, our Father developed a plan. This plan grew out of His will and His good pleasure. Its purpose was to adopt us who believe in Jesus Christ. He chose us for adoption as His children and gave us His righteousness so that we might be for the praise of his glorious grace which he lavished upon us.

When we accepted Christ, God accepted us for redemption through the sacrifice of Christ's blood. He forgave us our trespasses so that we would be holy and blameless before him. He offered these gifts of salvation because they were part of His plan to unite all things to himself, things in heaven and things on earth.

Through long ages the full information about His plan has been hidden, but now it is revealed to us. Why? For the praise of His glory. Besides all this, when you heard the good news of your salvation and believed in Christ, you were marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised. This seal is the title to our inheritance as God's own people.

All that God has done-from before the foundation of the world until Jesus' death and resurrection-is not only for our benefit but also for the praise of His glory.

We Look in Amazement at Our Wonderful God

It's God's very nature to love. What is His love like? Is it a feeling of concern? Is it nostalgia based on shared experiences? Is it pity for our death-bound race that had no hope of life? No. All these definitions fit family love, but God's love grows out of a higher, nobler, fully selfless attitude. It is not an emotion, but a principle of action, a "genetic" quality. Because of who His is, He thinks and acts by this principle, offering to all-friend and enemy alike--what is in their best interest regardless of the cost. In the redemption of mankind God has offered us a way to be counted righteous, not because we deserve this reinstatement but because love drove God's mercy to offer it, even though the cost to Himself would be enormous. His motive is love, agape love. His emotion is mercy. His force of action is grace.

The plan of redemption grew out of the love-bathed nature of God.

God is generous: He "has blessed us . . . with every spiritual blessing."

God is large-hearted: He "chose us" before creation that we "should be holy."

God never gave up: He "destined us in love to be his sons" and daughters.

God gives to those who are undeserving "according to the riches of His grace."


All Heaven Swells With Praise

When we allow God to restore in us the image of our Maker, (a) we fulfill His plan, (b) we bring joy to His heart, and (c) we enlarge His domain until at last all things are brought together under Christ's kingship. Rejoicing angels sing high hosannas, and all heaven swells with praise because blemished human characters have been transformed "by the renewing of your minds." We vindicate His kingdom of love, a kingdom of the heart, "to the praise of His glory."