Tattoos on the Heart

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Throughout the month of August, we’re taking a close look at 23 verses of the New Testament.  They comprise Ephesians chapter one, which paints one of the Bible’s most comprehensive pictures of what it means for ordinary people to be “in Christ.”  
Once when an American pastor was traveling in Hong Kong, he walked into a tattoo shop.
One of the tattoos for sale displayed three words: “Born to Lose.”  Astonished, the pastor asked the artist if anyone ever actually requested that such dark words be permanently etched onto his skin.  The artist replied, “Before tattoo on body, tattoo on mind.”
People display for the world what is already branded onto their hearts.
Even after reading Paul’s assurance in the opening verses of Ephesians that we are eternally loved and wanted by God, there may be something within us – a kind of ancient impulse – that screams, “Don’t be stupid; God wasn’t talking about you!”  That’s what we’re up against when we open the pages of Scripture.  Will we believe that we are actually one of God’s chosen ones, or default to the familiar assumption that our not-good-enoughness will always make that impossible?   
Note that Ephesians doesn’t begin by saying, “It’s time for you to come face to face with what you feel and what you fear.”  Paul’s words aren’t about us at all.
The good news is all about God.  We belong to God because of his character, his plans, and his actions – not because of our character, our plans, and our actions. 
The next component of this message comes in verse five: “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” 
Now, just in case your blood pressure shot up a few points when you read the word “predestined,” please know that we’ll come back to that semi-scary subject when we tackle verse 11.  That will happen on Monday, August 15.  It’s good to have something to look forward to on a hot summer day! 
In the meantime, let’s turn to the central promise of this verse – that we have been lovingly adopted into God’s own family.  Adoption is a wonderful reality in any culture in any generation.  But adoption at the height of the Roman Empire – the very time Paul was writing this letter – was something uniquely special.  When the male head of a Roman household adopted someone as a son, at least three things happened to that young man.
First, he got a new father.  He lost all the rights pertaining to his family of origin, but he gained all the rights of his new household. 
Second, he became heir to his new father’s estate.  Even if his adopted dad gained a dozen additional children by one means or another, nothing would ever affect the certainty of his new inheritance. 
Third, his old life was completely wiped out.  All of his debts were erased.  It was as if he had never had that former life.  He was now regarded as a completely new person. 
Paul is saying that this is what has happened to each of us.  Since you have been adopted as the child of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (and Paul makes it abundantly clear in Galatians 3:26-28 that this applies to men and women, Jews and Gentiles, servants and masters), it means you have begun an entirely new existence.  You have been granted the ultimate spiritual do-over. 
God doesn’t suffer identity crises, and he doesn’t want us to experience them, either.  We can actually know who we are in Christ – today, tomorrow, and the next day.
And as that reality sinks in, it will change us.   
Malcom Muggeridge was widely regarded as the most gifted British journalist, satirist, and social commentator of the past century.
By his own admission, he threw much of his life away.  He pursued toys.  He craved honors.  He drank, smoked, and womanized without boundaries.  During World War II he served Britain as a spy, even while contemplating the merits of communism.  He attempted suicide.
Something kept eating at Muggeridge.  He yearned for life to mean something. 
After personally encountering Mother Teresa’s ministry to the poor of Calcutta, he wrote a book about her life.  Something Beautiful for God clearly signaled a change in his sense of what mattered.  In his later years Muggeridge reflected: 
“I may, I suppose, regard myself or pass for being a relatively successful man.  People occasionally stare at me in the streets.  That’s fame. 
“I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue.  That’s success. 
“Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions.  That’s pleasure. 
“It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time.  That’s fulfillment.
“Yet, I say to you – and I beg you to believe me – multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing – less than nothing, a positive impediment – measured against one draft of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are.”
That’s transformation.
We may struggle with an old “tattoo” on the heart that says, “Stories like that happen to other people, but not to me.” 
But God’s Word can change your heart.
And that will change your life.