Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ephesians 2:4-5

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

You know you’re in for something when you read the phrase “But God” in Scripture. The previous verses pounded us with the knowledge that we were once slaves to Satan, dead in our trespasses, corrupt, and deserving of God’s anger.

But God loved the world so much that He sent His son, even when our best deeds were like filthy rags in His presence.

But God, even when we were dead – deservedly so as we walked in transgression – made us alive in Christ through unmerited grace.

But God, even though He is omnipotent – controlling the entire universe – is working all things together for your personal good.

What “but God” is at work in your life today? Maybe you are weary, worn, and beat down by the world, but God is your refuge and strength – your ever present help in time of trouble. Maybe you are at a crossroads with no clue which way to go, but God is directing your path and making your way straight. Maybe your life is filled with trials and tribulation but God is using your life to shine a light in the midst of darkness. Maybe things are perfect in your life, but God is using your joy for His glory and not your own.

No matter what, He is working your life according to His purpose. Praise his name for His rich mercy, great love, and grace which saves us to a greater purpose now as well as eternal life with Him in the future.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

I have a sweet 5 year old daughter who has been strong willed since birth. One day in the car she laid it out for me, “Mom, I’m going to do whatever I want to do.” In an amazing moment of clarity I told her, “Sweetie, no one can really do what they want to do. Everything you do is a choice to follow God or follow Satan. Usually when people think they are doing what they want to do they are really doing what Satan wants them to do. If you choose to be disobedient to me you are choosing to obey Satan.”

Paul has just described how God physically raised Jesus from the dead; now he describes how believers are spiritually resurrected. Most unbelievers would be shocked to hear themselves describe as the “walking dead,” but that is what we were prior to our conversion. We walked as the world walks, following the “prince of the power of the air.” “Trespasses” may refer to any slight deviation from God’s law while “sins” may refer to habitually and knowingly sinning. Even those who hadn’t committed what would be considered “big sins” by many were walking in selfishness and trying to “do whatever they wanted to do”. Thankfully God can raise the dead, physically and spiritually. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (John 5:21). How we grieve the physical death of loved ones. If only we were so moved by the spiritual dead around us that we were moved to share the truth of God’s love and Word with them!

So many times we are sucked into “walking according to the course of this world,” becoming desensitized to sin and taking on secular worldviews without realizing it. We allow postmodern thought to convince us that faith is separate from other parts of life. Common thought is “what’s true for you may not be true for me - to each his own.” But Jesus was clear when he said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Despite our differences, each of us deals with a sin nature tempted by many desires of the flesh and mind. Whatever our race, wealth, or country of origin we are children of wrath until covered by the blood of Christ.

Romans 6:11-14 (ESV) - So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ephesians 1:22-23

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Biblical submission is a hard concept for many to understand. I remember at my wedding a non-Christian friend negatively pointed out the verses about submission in the service. I’m sure to her it brought up thoughts of a domineering husband bossing me around while I stood sweating, barefoot, and pregnant in the kitchen. She had no concept of mutual submission in Christ, with two believers truly concerned more for the welfare of the other than themselves. What could make for a better marriage or relationship of any kind? We are all in submission and subjection to someone, and having Jesus as Lord is beyond anything I could ever merit!

All mankind is under his subjection whether aware or unaware. But we who are his body have a privilege to be his hands and feet on earth, especially in caring for one another. But we often know his will and do not do it, or we fail to see his will through the busyness and clutter of our daily lives. Do we feed the poor, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned or do we toss our unwanted clothing into a bin and take the occasional mission trip to soothe our conscience (Mt 25). The body of Christ has the unfettered power of God at its disposal. Why are we not radically changing the world? We are more shocked by vulgarities than pictures of worldwide need.

Another component of being his body is that when we sin, we bring him with us. If we are his body then he is right with us as we gossip, lose our tempers, speak ill of one another, and so on. As Paul wrote about the sin of fornication, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!” (1 Cor 6:15).

When the people of God suffer, Christ suffers as well. John Piper said, “The suffering which Christ began to experience in his earthly body he continues to experience in some sense in his body called the church… This is the link between suffering and the body of Christ. When Christ was on the earth Christ had one kind of body, a physical body like ours. And with it he suffered and died that we might live. Now he is raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God; but on the earth he has another kind of body, namely, the church. Christ was united to his body then, and felt the blows of his enemies. And he is united to his body now, the church, and he feels the blows of his enemies still.”

May God make us worthy members of Christ's body and bring glory to Christ through our lives!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ephesians 1:20-21

which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Paul continues his passionate description of the power of God. Through this power Christ was raised from the dead and stands in authority over all angels, demons, and humans ever to exist – whether they acknowledge his Lordship now or only in the age to come. “Right hand” denotes power, not so much that God has hands and the two beings sit on physical thrones ruling over us but that he was raised to a position of honor and power above all other powers. To think that this same power that plucked Christ from Hell and exalted him to the highest heaven is available to work in our lives!

When I read this description of Christ’s power and how awesome he is, it astonishes me that the Father would be conforming me into the Son’s image. Jesus modeled this in part on earth by training fishermen and tax collectors as well as more “religious” men to be his disciples who would turn the world upside down through the power of God. This same power is available today to raise us from our old lives dead to sin and equip us for all good works. At times we feel inadequate and choose not to do things we are called to do. We choose the easy path rather than the narrow road. How amazing would our days be if we sought the power and will of God each day! We’ve been buried with Him in baptism and raised with him from the dead. We have the power to witness, the power to daily live the fruit of the Spirit, and the power to bring him glory in our suffering. We don’t need Self Help books or any new dispensing of God’s power; we received it all when we first believed! Now go out and live like you believe it!

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 - But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ephesians 1:18-19

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might

Paul continues by praying that his readers will know the hope of God’s calling, our riches in His inheritance, and his power toward believers. Our hope is built on a spiritual future which gives us strength to live as we grow in Christ through the joys and trials of life. Our inheritance is the ability to live free from sin and live sanctified lives as we look forward to our final inheritance in heaven. The greatness of God’s power is revealed both in raising Christ from the dead and from raising us from our former lives in which we were walking in darkness.

A quick note about the Greek word for heart (καρδία, kardia) – in our culture we think of emotions when we think of the “eyes of our heart.” But the Greeks thought of the intestines as the seat of emotions. The heart was considered the seat of understanding, thought, and the core of one’s life. Many today see religion as an emotional thing, personal to each person without containing absolute truth. But as enlightened Christians we know through thought, not mere emotion, that we are called to a higher purpose both in this life and the next. We are being transformed to display his glory and should see ourselves and fellow believers in this light.

Paul uses four words for power in verse 19: power (dunamis - strength, ability), working (energeia - energy, operative or supernatural power), strength (kratos - force, dominion), and might (ischus – ability, power, strength). Using four synonyms for power magnifies the idea of God’s power made available to us. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength! His strength is made perfect in our weakness! We can triumph over sin, we can trust him in our trials, we can know he hears our prayers, and we can depend on Him to work all things to our good.