Friday, March 30, 2012

Ephesians 6:9

Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Masters are to do the “same thing”, so we return to the previous verses to see what is meant. Verse 6 instructs servants to do the will of God from the heart, so likewise masters are to do God’s will. The employer is to have a heart of service as well, as if working for Jesus. No matter how high your status you are to follow the principles of God – honesty, integrity, and compassion for your fellow man. Your employees know they are valued, and you have the reputation of valuing honesty over profit margins. You lead through example and gentleness, not through threatening. You reflect the leadership style of your Master – Jesus Christ. You show no partiality with your employees, seeking their best interests rather than your own power. The Spirit controls every aspect of your life rather than compartmentalizing your life into secular and sacred.

Although I am far removed from the corporate world, I am a master of sorts in my home. I lead my children and decide how the household runs. Do I lead with kindness or threatening? Do I have the purpose of serving my children and meeting their needs or am I more focused on checking tasks off my list. Do I reflect the forgiveness and patient teaching exhibited by Christ as He walked the earth? Do I make sure that my children feel no partiality from me? We can all take these concepts and see areas of needed improvement in our own lives.

Make it a rule, and pray to God to help you to keep it, never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say: "I have made one human being at least a little wiser, or a little happier, or at least a little better this day."   - Charles Kingsley

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ephesians 6:7-8

Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Human tendency is to want to get rich quick, work less, and make more. People buy lottery tickets and gamble, sure that the next time will bring the long awaited windfall. We feel we deserve more money for our work and demand higher wages and benefits through our unions. We feel that certain jobs are beneath us and then complain that foreign workers come in and “steal” our jobs. We demand more services from our government, and they print more money and borrow from other governments, devaluing the dollar, inflating prices, and causing us to demand higher wages and more government services. We buy now/pay later and just throw everything on our credit cards.

Even though some of these things may seem good in certain circumstances, is it God’s plan for Christians? Following the example of Christ we will be in submission to our employers, even if the boss is creep and the wages are low. 1 Peter 2:18 says, "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.” That’s tough! Our desire would be to get out of that job as quickly as possible and gripe and complain for whatever time we had to suffer through the job. If you are a believer then every day of your life is a living testimony. Whether you have a job you enjoy or a mundane job you have only to pay the bills, you are to work to glorify God that men will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Christian laborers should have such a reputation of honesty, hard work, and integrity that we would be in demand by every level of employer.

God has created me to do him some definite service; he has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission - I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. - John Henry Newman

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ephesians 6:5-6

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.

These verses once saved my marriage. Okay, that may be an overstatement, but they certainly brought me to a new understanding of my role as a Christian wife. Maybe the following fairy tale will ring familiar to some of you!

Long, long ago and not so far away, there lived a man and wife with two small children. The husband worked and paid the majority of the bills. The wife stayed home and homeschooled her preschoolers, tried unsuccessfully to keep a spotless house, cook meals from scratch, care for the yard, and juggle the family schedule. She began to feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. No form of communication, nagging, or cajoling could convince the husband to do what the wife felt was his share of the housework. One evening the topic resulted in an argument that culminated in the husband jumping in his Honda Odyssey on a quest to put some space between the spouses. While he was gone the wife cooled down and prayed, asking God to give her guidance. This scripture came to her along with the realization that if slaves were to obey their masters with sincerity, how much more should she do things for her loving husband with a kind heart. Whatever work was done around the house should be done as if for Christ, not as a list of chores or even as an attempt to please people, including my, I mean her, husband.

The word for slave or bondservant is doulous. It can also mean one who is devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests. Working from previous verses, Paul has built quite the case for submission to others, regarding the interests of others above our own needs. In our society we are conditioned to want the latest things, feel that we deserve a big house and new car, and fight for as much recognition as possible. It is natural to feel this way. But as believers we live in the realm of the supernatural. Through the power of Christ we do good works without even the left hand know what the right is doing. We desire to build the kingdom of God rather than our own earthly kingdoms. We strive for humility over praise. We see others through the eyes of God rather than what they can do for us physically or emotionally. A wise person once said, “If you serve others for the reward of gaining their admiration and gratitude, then your reward will be fleeting and ultimately dissatisfying. If you serve others for the reward of bringing pleasure to your Father God's heart as you work side by side with him, then you will gain eternal rewards.”

The supreme test of service is this: For whom am I doing this? Much that we call service to Christ is not such at all....If we are doing this for Christ, we shall not care for human reward or even recognition. Our work must again be tested by three propositions: Is it work from God, as given us to do from Him; for God, as finding in Him its secret of power; and with God, as only a part of His work in which we engage as co-workers with Him.   - A. T. Pierson

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Anytime I feel that my husband is “bugging” my children with I teasingly say, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children!” Even though this verse is addressed to fathers, the underlying principle can easily be applied to mothers, teachers, and anyone else in charge of disciplining children. Since children are required to "obey" in the previous verses it is only fair that the commands of the parent should be doable and not exasperating.

There are innumerable websites and books about how to best to instruct children, but here are a few principles that work in our family (or that we are working on… ahem).
  1. Don’t be angry when you discipline. This one is hardest for me. When I discipline in anger I fly off the handle, am more likely to be physical instead of thinking through the most logical consequence, and usually end up apologizing later for something I have said or done. It is better to take time for everyone to cool down if necessary before deciding on consequences.
  2. Try to make the punishment fit the crime. We do often use standard techniques such as my 5yo daughter losing pennies or my 2yo going to time out, but we try to make consequences logical. If my 2yo throws things, he has to pick them up (unless there is shattered glass everywhere… sigh). My 5yo may lose out on going somewhere fun or doing a fun activity if she misbehaves.
  3. Bring them up in nurture and admonition (discipline and instruction). As often as possible we praise our children highly for doing things the right way. This morning as I was making my children’s breakfast, my daughter instructed her brother, “Let’s unload the dishwasher while Mommy makes our pancakes!” Believe me, that one received some exuberant praise from my lips! I also try to explain the reasoning when I say “no” to their requests.
  4. Bring them up in instruction of the Lord. I need to do a better job at this, but using Scripture to back up why you expect certain behaviors helps enforce that they are both honoring you and God when they obey. A favorite for us is “Do everything for the glory of God” (my Col. 3:27 paraphrase). Sometimes I substitute the task and ask a question such as, “How can we play this board game for the glory of God?” My heart’s desire is that we begin to see how every action, thought, and word in our day can contribute to the building of God’s kingdom. I hope the faith of our family saturates every aspect of our life rather than lingering on the periphery.

One of the most important factors in how our children view God is in how the Christian adults in their life behave and whether our actions match our professed beliefs. We must walk with integrity in even the smallest aspects of our lives, especially when little eyes are watching. Christian adults have a responsibility to teach today’s children and youth how to live out faith in a way that is relevant and real. We must take more seriously how we are training our children instead of assuming that they will turn out okay since we bring them to church, do a devotion here and there, or even have them in a Christian school. It is a serious matter, and if we don’t put the time in then they will be sucked into the winds of the prevailing worldview and blown far off the straight and narrow path of redemption.

An old Chinese proverb says, "One generation plants the trees, and another gets the shade." We in this generation are still living in a little bit of shade. Our grandparents and perhaps even our parents, if we're old enough, planted some trees in the past and we are still enjoying some of the shade. But this generation is not planting any trees for the next. And they're going to find themselves in a blistering world with nowhere to hide. 
- John MacArthur

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Continuing the theme of submission, Paul instructs children to obey their parents. Assuming that the parents are believers who are actually teaching them “in the Lord,” the children will grow to be not only spiritually sound, but contributing members of society who are more likely to live long in the land. I’ve said it over and over to my daughter, when she obeys us she is obeying the Lord; when she chooses to disobey she is not doing what she wants to do but what Satan wants her to do.

You see, I am the proud parent of a five year old who thrives on arguing with the skill of a trial lawyer. I expect obedience and have tried everything from timeouts to a penny system to losing my temper completely when she won’t do what I say. Recently I have required her and her 2 year old brother to nicely say “yes ma’am” immediately upon hearing a request from me. Then I expect to immediately obey. Miraculously those two little words have made a huge impact. Somehow verbalizing their respect for me has made them more prone to actually obey my requests.

No one has to teach children to misbehave, to hit, to be selfish, or to throw tantrums. Parents and others in a position to mentor children must continually teach things that go against the nature of our flesh – self-control, kindness, patience, love, forgiveness, etc. All Christian adults must model Biblical wisdom and teach the next generation through word and deed. Modern television shows and movies glorify sassy self-centered children and mock clueless parents. We must be very intentional with children and youth in the church in providing them with a biblical worldview and teaching them to live counterculturally for Christ. Teach them to not be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2). Follow the command of Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ephesians 5:33

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

From Dr. Emerson Eggrich:

"Note that this verse does not say that you must love or respect only if you receive the same. What it does say is that a husband is to love, and a wife is to respect.

Now we all need love AND respect. I am not saying that a husband does not need love and a wife does not need respect. However, because Ephesians 5:33 reveals that a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband, we see a distinction that is full of significance. Maybe we can answer this way: though we all need love and respect equally, like we all need water and food equally, a wife has a felt need for love and a husband has a felt need for respect. God knew this in advance so He commands the husband to really work at loving his wife and commands the wife to work hard at respecting her husband…

Ephesians 5:33 is saying… A husband is to obey the command to love even if his wife does not obey this command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey this command to love…

“A husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband. There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me’ or for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me.

When a husband feels disrespected, he has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife. (Perhaps the command to love was given to him precisely for this reason!)

When a wife feels unloved, she has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband. (Perhaps the command to respect was given to her precisely for this reason!)

Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love—ad nauseam. Thus was born the Crazy Cycle!

When I put this all together, everything points back towards Ephesians 5:33: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).” This is God’s design for marriage – He gives us this command because it works!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ephesians 5:31-32

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Verse 31 is a quote from Genesis 2:24 and the first marriage between Adam and Eve. Husband and wife would become one flesh – as if two souls inhabiting one body. This ancient thought was firmly planted in the Jewish mind of the time, and even Jesus quoted it in His teaching. One man, one woman, for life was the concept, and anyone who stepped outside these bounds was severely punished (especially the women).

But as with many concepts in the Old Testament, the New Testament believers through Christ and the Spirit came to understand that marriage actually referred to a deeper meaning which was previously concealed. The true meaning is that marriage is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church being joined in one body with Him as the head.

As humans we need metaphors and concrete examples to understand abstract concepts. That’s one reason Jesus taught so often in parables. One man, willing to do anything possible to protect and show his love for his wife, a living image of Christ’s sacrifice and love for the church, is joined to one woman, willing to submit and put her husband first, a living image of the church’s relationship to Christ. Both are constantly thinking of the other and living with the other’s best interest at heart. That's the deepest meaning of marriage. It's meant to be a living drama of how Christ and the church relate to each other. "As God made man in His own image, so He made earthly marriage in the image of His own eternal marriage with His people" (Geoffrey Bromiley).

“According to the Bible, the marriage act is more than a physical act. It is an act of sharing. It is an act of communion. It is an act of total self-giving wherein the husband gives himself completely to the wife, and the wife gives herself to the husband in such a way that the two actually become one flesh.” ~ Wayne Mack

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ephesians 5:28-30

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

Marriage is two becoming one flesh. So the husband who shows love to his wife also loves himself. (And if her needs are unmet you can believe that his probably will be, too!) Christian marriage should be a living image to a watching world of the union of Christ and the church.

Christ loves the church because we are the body of Christ! As Eve was created from the flesh of Adam, so the flesh of Christ was given to make us into new creations through his blood. Instinct tells us to protect and care for our own bodies, and Christ always protects and cares for the members of His body.

Even when we sin and face consequences, He loves and cares for us. Like a runner bringing the deficient parts of her body into submission and working them into shape, when we need spiritual growth we will be put in situations that allow us to exercise and mature spiritually. Our patience and love will grow through testing. Our knowledge of God will grow through the spiritual disciplines of reading Scripture and prayer. Christ doesn’t punish – he disciplines. There is a big difference. He nourishes and cherishes us and wants us to be all that we can be through the power of the Spirit!

God intends for Christian marriage to be a school of growth in grace, and it’s not until we realize that this is about something bigger than us that we’re set free to begin that journey. And the irony is when we start giving ourselves away to a bigger project than just our own happiness, guess what? It’s then and only then that we start experiencing the happiness that God has intended us to enjoy in the first place, because God has so ordered this world that it is only when we first seek His kingdom and His righteousness that we find all things. And when we seek ourselves first and our own happiness, we never find it, because God has made this world God-centered. And when we pursue Him, what we find is we find all the happiness that He has stored up for those and those only who pursue Him. - Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ephesians 5:25-27

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

After instructing wives to be subject to their husbands, Paul instructs husbands to love their wives in so completely and self-sacrificially that their wives never need worry about being dominated or suffering in their submissiveness. They are to love their wives as Christ loved the church – not to control or command but to serve and give himself up for her. Husbands lay down their lives in a model of Christ’s servant leadership. In most culture at the time Ephesians was written a man had complete control of his wives and daughters and could even take their lives. As a rule women had few rights. So this statement by Paul would be revolutionary. Men do not need to be taught to domineer, but through the example of Christ they learn gentleness, humility, and true unselfish love.

Today many men look at their marriages with the idea that as long as they are happy or having their needs met then they will stay married to their wives. But when they no longer feel happy or fulfilled they will look for someone else. It’s counterculture to love as Christ loved the church – to love whether or not you receive the same level of love in return. If you no longer love your wife then the problem isn’t that you aren’t being fulfilled – the problem is that you are sinning. According to these verses a husband is to love his wife even if she treats him as poorly as Christ was treated by those who hated and despised him. That’s tough stuff!

Christ’s purpose in His sacrifice was to sanctify the church so that we could be presented with no spot or wrinkle. John Chrysostom, the great preacher, said, "Hear the measure of love, if it be needful that thou shouldest give thy life for her or be cut to pieces a thousand times, or endure anything whatever, refuse it not. Christ brought His church to His feet by His great care, not by threats or any such thing. So do thou conduct thyself toward thy wife.” If a husband loves his wife in such a manner this will have a sanctifying influence on his wife and help bring her closer to Christ.

Biblical love is not an emotion… it is an act of self-sacrificing giving. –John MacArthur

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ephesians 5:21-24

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have touched this passage with a ten foot pole, preferring to focus on the fact that all Christians are called in v. 21 to submit to one another and glossing over the fact that wives are called to submit to their husbands. It is a beautiful idea for all believers to submit to one another and seek the welfare of other brethren above our own. But submission to a husband called up the idea of subservience and being of lower value. It was a much better idea to always have the upper hand in a relationship of any kind, making sure that you most often got your own way. I would have rather dismissed these other verses as more of a cultural phenomenon not transferrable to society today.

But a wife is called to submit to her own husband (not every man that comes across her path by the way mind you, just her husband). She is called to follow his leadership inasmuch as it is patterned after a Christian life. This doesn’t mean wives give up our opinions or voices. In love he should value your thoughts, and there is a mutual dependence on one another. And honestly, doesn’t giving up some of the control take some of the weight off our shoulders? Feminists have fought for our right to work and have equal rights, but it seems we have ended up only with our share of the work outside the home as well as more than our share at home. I know few who keep up well with the demands of both spheres; usually one suffers for the sake of the other.

Yesterday my husband and I went on a date to the US Whitewater Center in Charlotte. It was a dream come true for him to be able to go, and a nightmare for me when he bought me a ticket. The afternoon started out rainy and chilly. Thoughts of how freezing I would be when I inevitably ended up in the water were only barley edged out by my determination to fulfill my husband’s dream day and repeating 1 Corinthians 13 in my head. But oddly enough I was great in the kayak, didn’t hit the water, and actually enjoyed the trip down the river - even beating Jamie's speed much of the time!

I was NOT as calm as this lady!
The day warmed up, but I had to face my petrifying fear of heights as we conquered several zip lines and ropes courses. I didn’t fully trust the ropes or the workers, but I trusted my husband. There were several times that I was fairly certain I was going to plunge to my death, and only a look in his eyes and the sound of his encouragement could force me to take a leap of faith onto a swinging log two stories above the ground. That trust was an image of my trust in God. Where I am weak, He is strong. Jamie would give his life to protect me, God sent His son to redeem me eternally. No one loves me like my God and my husband; they have my best interests at heart. When I follow their leadership it shows my trust and reliance on them to a watching world.

To be right inside, to be right with God, and to be right with everybody else is the way to live. And when I am right with me I sing. And when I am right with God I pour out thanks. And I am right with you, I submit. – John MacArthur on Ephesians 5:19-21

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ephesians 5:18-20

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I waited tables in high school, college, and seminary. I saw my share of “regulars” who came in to sit at the bar several nights a week. Many seemed to be looking for escape, friendship, joy, and comfort. But peace can’t be found at the bottom of a bottle of Southern Comfort; it is found when you are filled with the Comforter!

The Greek here implies uncontrolled drunkenness (dissipation). At the time drunkenness would have been associated with pagan religion in Ephesus. Alcoholic beverages would not be as strong as today’s drinks, and pagan worshippers would drink heavily in order to reach an ecstatic phase of frenzied communication with the gods. Drunkenness can be defined as any point in which the alcohol takes over any part of your faculties. Whether Christians should completely abstain from alcohol can be debated, but drunkenness is clearly prohibited if for no other reason than keeping a clear head and focus on God. The word Paul used for drinking in excess is asotia, which originally meant to be hopelessly or incurably sick. Rather than escaping pain through numbing beverages or drugs, we should face our problems and see what God is teaching us through them.

Instead we should find our joy, comfort, and meaning in the Spirit. From the moment we believe we are indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit. Not only are we indwelt by Him, but “filled” can indicate being filled to the top, abouning in, or being directed by – as a sail filled with wind and directed in the right direction. Living as a man on earth, Jesus lived a life fully directed by the Spirit. He was never at a loss of where to go, what person to visit or heal, the right words to speak, or what to do. As believers we empty ourselves and are filled by the Holy Spirit. Only then do we have peace and direction in our lives.

As the daughter of a Music Minister I grew up surrounded by the songs of the faith. My children carry on the tradition and regularly break into song and dance. When we begin our day with songs like “This is the Day” or “Rejoice in the Lord Always” it is amazing how our day is flavored and started on the right foot. When joy fills our hearts it is natural to sing a song to the Lord! The melody need not be on pitch as long as it is in tune with the Father’s heart.

Paul’s life as an apostle was fraught with trials and difficulties. You too may not have a life of ease. But no matter what the day brings we are instructed to give thanks always and for everything. Not “in” every circumstance like in 1 Thess. 5:18, but “for” everything. All things can work for our good, and we are called to be thankful for the bad times as well as the good!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ephesians 5:15-17

Therefore walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

To walk circumspectly is to "live your days cautiously; with watchfulness every way; with attention to guard against surprise or danger". Trouble can sneak up on us when we get stuck in a routine, going through the motions without consciously thinking about our days. Our world is filled with subtle danger and deception, and like frogs in a pot we rarely notice the heat until we are boiling. Be vigilant! People can trip us up in our faith or ambush us without warning – an apropos thought for the ides of March!

The Bible defines a fool as one “says in his heart that there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). A fool exists apart from God’s divine principles and inevitably becomes his own god. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes" (Prov. 12:15). He believes he can define right and wrong, truth and falsehoods – a common thought in our postmodern society with no absolute truth. He will "make a mock of sin" (Prov. 14:9). He spreads his opinion around as truth and leaves a legacy of foolishness to all who follow his influence. In contrast James wrote, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (3:17).

The word for “time” here is kairos, not chronos. It refers to opportunities rather than minutes and hours. We are called to redeem the daily encounters that can be used for the glory of God. In my own life I have both frittered away time and wasted opportunities. It can weigh down my heart, and I often fail to comprehend the forgiveness of God for these past situations. But rather than dwelling on my forgiven sin, I must seek out opportunities to be a part of God’s kingdom on earth, shining his light into the darkness.

I spend much of my time on the urgent. For me it might be a diaper change, getting a meal on the table, or getting everyone to our next calendar event. For you it may be meetings, deadlines, and so forth. I start a million things during the day, finishing little and often missing what the Father is really telling me to do. Jesus lived his life calmly, never in a rush. He sought to do only the will of the Father, even though there were so many other things he could have “accomplished.” Our days would be sweeter and in fellowship with the Lord if we took time to understand the will of the Lord for each day.

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away. - Charles Caleb Colton

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ephesians 5:8-14

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth — discerning what is pleasing to the Lord. Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret.  Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said:
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

My five year old insists on sleeping in the light – not just a nightlight but full on run-up-the-electric bill light. No amount of logic or spiritual assurance can sway her from this. Turn out the light and thoughts of evil things hiding in the darkness switches on a panic attack. She feels safe in the light, knowing that it would expose any wolves lurking in her room or perhaps even banish evil in the first place.

Once you were darkness – not just in darkness, but a part of darkness itself. Now you are a light in the Lord. We are the ones who shine a light on the darkness in our culture. Not only should we refuse to participate, but we must activity dissent when evil exists and support what is good in the world. We cannot shut ourselves off away from society in some protective shell but must clearly expose evil through the light of Christ. The fruit of the light results in goodness, righteousness, and truth. All who walk in the light produce fruit, but some produce watermelons while others only generate shriveled up raisins.

Our culture teaches that there is no absolute truth and that faith is something separate from “real life.” This could not be further from the truth. Ignoring the cancer of sin permeating our world does not manifest God’s love – quite the opposite! We are called to walk as children of the light in every aspect of the world. Redeem the culture; change the world; build the kingdom of God with your light! “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

The last line is probably from an Easter hymn sung by the early church. If you are not a believer then wake up from the dead! Step into the light! The best day lived in darkness cannot compare to the toughest day lived in the light.

dc Talk - In the Light from josiahtwitch1990 on GodTube.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ephesians 5:5-7

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them;

It would be easy to lift these verses from the context of the Scriptures and conclude that if Christians engaged in the listed activities they would lose their salvation. Instead the point is that if we are indeed members of the kingdom of God we will no longer engage in the activities of disobedience. We are no longer a part of them, so we shouldn’t partner with them. Such people do not share the inheritance of the kingdom, no matter how the sin is spun. Jesus said the same thing in John 3:3, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

It can alternatively be easy to pat yourself on the back if you read these verses. After all, you may not be in illicit sexual sin or spend time craving your neighbor’s possession. But beware of seemingly small sins that fall into these categories. Do you think longingly about someone who is not your spouse? Do you escape into movies and books seeking to fill a romantic longing in your heart? Do you want the latest gadget, a newer car, a bigger house, better clothes, and a nicer body? Or are you satisfied and grateful for the blessings God has bestowed upon you? You may not have a small shrine in the corner of your living room, but if things of this earth pull your eyes from the things of God then you are nonetheless an idolater.

As John Piper put it, “So you can see how thanksgiving is the alternative to a life driven by cravings for what you don't have (whether sex or money). Thanksgiving says, in God I have all that is good for me, and I will not be driven to dishonor the worth of his name just to get a few sexual sensations or a few new toys… The root problem about being driven by the domination of earthly desires is that it dethrones God... Covetousness says that God is not adequate as a satisfying treasure, I must have money or I must have sex -- God will not suffice!”

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ephesians 5: 1-4

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Imagine a Freaky Friday scenario in which you and God traded places for a day. Putting aside the fact that you might smite quite a few people and muck up the world pretty badly, would people notice a difference in the person walking around in your shoes? Is your life an imitation of God? Do you walk in love as Christ loved us? My children would experience true joy at a day of being taught by God in his gentleness and patience. I can only imagine the delight throughout the day as he revealed truth to them – a much different picture than the chaos that so often surrounds me.

But we would not be called to imitate God if it were an impossible task. Daily our lives should more closely mirror God’s image within us and exhibit the love of Christ. As earthly children naturally observe and mimic their parents so should we spiritual children imitate our heavenly Father. As Jesus regarded his earthly life as a pleasing offering, so in view of God’s mercy we become living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God as an act of worship (Rom 12:1). Christ’s love for us was so strong as to die for us when we did not deserve it – likewise we are to give our love, time, forgiveness, and even our lives for one another.

The opposite of imitating God and walking in Christ’s love is walking in sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness. Not naming these sins does not mean that we ignore them when they are present – especially if they occur within the body of Christ. But when they are frequently named we grow desensitized to them. When our music, television, movie, and literature is peppered with sexual innuendo, coarse language, and greed for material possession we become desensitized and are no longer shocked by the things that grieve the heart of God. Filthy, obscene talk should never cross our lips or our outbox, no matter how funny the joke may be. Rather our hearts and tongues should pour out thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ephesians 4:30-32

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

When we speak words that hurt rather than building up, our behavior grieves the Holy Spirit. This doesn't mean that we should be completely Pollyanna or ignore negative situations. But when negative things need to be discussed or confronted we should do it without bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. We should directly confront people in a loving manner rather than talking behind their backs and stirring up trouble. When we do confront sin we should avoid bitterness and bringing up past situations that do not relate to the current problem. Clamoring refers to a loud and confused noise or a vehement protest or demand. We often clamor and cry to have our own needs met without considering the needs of others.

After putting away these five vices we should put on three positive behaviors - being kind, tender-hearted, and forgive each other. As we have received grace beyond measure we are called to be kind to one another, speaking words of affirmation and lending a shoulder when the tears begin to flow. Because God has lavished His love on us we are called to be tenderhearted to others, seeing their pain and circumstances through His eyes rather than seeking our own gain. Because Christ gave His life to forgive us when we deserved it not we are called to forgive people who do not deserve it, whether or not they seek the forgiveness themselves. Although we do not have to fall for the same things over and over, we must forgive over and over. Through these behaviors the body of Christ will be built up and become one, and we will be conformed to His image.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ephesians 4:28-29

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

In its most basic form, stealing is taking something that does not belong to us by deception or force. No one likes to have their things taken – just come watch my children play with their toys one morning and see what happens when both want the same knick knack!

When I was about eight, the big trend was to wear your sunglasses with three neck cords braided together. My mom took me to Peebles and bought me a new pair of sunglasses, but they only came with one pair. The woman wouldn’t even sell us two others! Well, I slipped two cords into my pocket and headed out the door. When my mother discovered my shoplifting I was compelled to return the hot goods and confess my crime. It made an impression, and I never got my braided cords!

During the refuse workers' strike in New York City a few years ago, one desperate householder gift wrapped his garbage and left it on the seat of his unlocked car. By evening it was gone. Maybe most of us wouldn’t steal as in these two examples, but some people who would never steal a neighbor’s hammer will steal from corporations and institutions without pause. Excessive corporate profits and professional fees become theft when they take more than is fair of another person's goods then justify obscene profits with the “trickle-down" theory. Giving 35 hours of pay for 40 hours of work is stealing, and taking 40 hours of pay for 35 hours of work is as well. Americans run up their credit on non-necessities then take bankruptcy or make deals to pay less than what we owe. There is a sense of entitlement in America – we are owed an education, a nicer house than our parents, a car, and a better life.

We are not only told not steal but to have a purpose of working so that we may share with others. A hardworking Christian who does not share the fruits of her labor with others builds only her own kingdom, not the kingdom of God. Our time and treasure should contribute to society’s good as well as caring for our own families.

Your mama said it best, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Rid yourselves of unwholesome words and corrupting talk. Think before you speak, then speak words that heal, help, and build up all within the sound your voice. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can hurt forever. It would make such a difference in my family if I would put this into practice. When I speak words of encouragement to my five year old, her face lights up and she dances around. But when I speak harshly in anger her countenance instantly falls.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ephesians 4:25-27

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

If these verses don’t step on your toes then you just aren’t thinking hard enough! Paul is solidly into the application part of his letter, instructing us exactly how we are to live in Christ. We are to lay aside every form of falsehood, including not only bald-faced lies but “little white lies” - exaggerating, breaking promises, betrayal of a confidence (gossip), and so forth. We tell the small half-truth, “Oh, I wasn’t feeling well” when we just felt slightly bad but truly just didn’t want to meet an obligation. Since becoming a stay at home mom I tell telemarketers that I can’t give or am not interested because I am currently unemployed – which is really implying something that is untrue. I used to tell them I wasn’t there to take their call! We say, “Oh your new haircut is just beautiful!” Now it is tricky to always tell the truth without unnecessarily hurting others, but it can be done! We stretch a story a bit to make ourselves look better or to make it funnier. We fall into the silent lie and allow people to believe things about us that are not true.

Our yes should be yes and our no should be no. Our word should be totally trustworthy. John Eadie wrote, “Christians are to speak the whole truth, without distortion, diminution, or exaggeration. No promise is to be falsified—no mutual understanding violated. The word of a Christian ought to be as his bond, every syllable being but the expression of ‘truth in the inward parts.’” Paul is not suggesting we speak truth whenever possible but commanding it (present imperative), calling for truth to be our habitual way of speaking day in and day out.

“Laying aside” literally means  to put or take something away from its normal location and put it aside out of the way. It was used of runners who participated in the Olympic Games who cast off their clothes and ran naked in the stadium. Now, don’t start running around nude and use your jailhouse call on me! But we should fling away the nasty filthy garment of sin that once clung to us and put on Christ and his armor instead – gird your loins with truth! Pollster George Gallup indicts us when he says, “church attendance makes little difference in people’s ethical views and behavior with respect to lying, cheating, pilferage, and not re-porting theft.” That absolutely breaks my heart. As a body Christians should be seen as the most truthful group in the world, even to our own detriment. But statistically we are just like everyone else.

What makes you angry? Sometimes it’s the people we love most – I tend to lose my temper most often with my children and husband. But this is not righteous anger, even when I am angry at my children for some sinful behavior. I get angry most often because I lose it! We get angry when someone cuts us off in traffic, when we feel betrayed, when we feel someone at work has mistreated us, and when we feel life has been unfair to us. But we see sin destroying people and feel no righteous anger, even laughing at sins on sitcoms or in movies. We should be righteously angry at the sin and injustice in the world. We should grieve for the hungry, the poor, the homeless, the lost, the abused, the enslaved – but we shake our heads and move on. Righteous anger should propel us into changing the world!

When we do have conflicts it is best to deal with them right away. The longer we postpone working things out, the less likely we are to ever mend the relationship. We give Satan an opportunity as we stew things in our minds, “I can’t believe she said that to me. She is such a jerk! I can’t stand to be around her!” Satan gains a foothold in our hearts when sin is not addressed right away.
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, Col. 3:8-9

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ephesians 4:20-24

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

“But” refers us back to the previous verse – the Gentiles walked in callousness, practicing every kind of impurity. We can no longer live this way because in Christ we learned a different walk. I was raised in a Christian home and came to faith at an early age, but there have been many times in my life when I picked the stinky, rotten “old self” off the floor and willingly put it on. Even today when I desire nothing more than holiness I often find myself engaging in some sin (usually of the tongue) and in great need of mind renewal.

In verse 21 Paul seems to insinuate that some of his readers have not truly been taught in Jesus. Even today some in fellowship with the body of Christ may even have vast knowledge but no true life change and salvation.

The old self is separated from God, capable of doing good in the eyes of man but incapable of doing anything but evil in the sight of God. When you are born again you enter into God's kingdom and become a totally different individual. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). "I am crucified with Christ: but yet I live; not I, but Christ that lives within in me…” (Gal. 2:20). We don't receive some new set of instructions, we ourselves are made new. There is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

Although at the moment of salvation we become completely new creations, the corrupt deceitful desires promising one thing but delivering another do not instantly evaporate. Paul wrote, “So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in… my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Rom. 7:17-18). This side of heaven we endure the sin which dwells in our humanness. We must strip away the desires of the flesh and replace them with holy garments (1 Peter 2). But instead of changing their clothes some merely tuck in their shirts or thrown on some lovely accessories. They want the hope of heaven without dressing for heaven. We must daily examine ourselves for any trace of flesh within us. As we grow in Christ we will sin less often, but the sins we commit should grieve us more deeply.

You are what you think. We are renewed in the spirit of our minds, not given some list of legalistic rules to follow. We must become a new person, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. We seek things above, considering our earthly bodies dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Col. 3:1,5). "We do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). So “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2-3).

“Our society is hostile to godliness because it is dominated by carnal ambition, pride, selfishness, greed, lust, and a desire for evil. Its opinions are wrong, its aims are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is destructive, its politics are corrupt, its honors are empty, its smiles are phony, and its love is fickle” (MacArthur).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ephesians 4:17-19

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

To say the Gentiles in Ephesus were sinful is an understatement. Temple prostitution, bribery, greed, idolatry, and immorality abounded. Paul called believers to walk in a totally opposite manner. The word for “walk” indicates daily conduct, not just good behavior most of the time. Futility is defined as “pointlessness or uselessness.” Unregenerate people live their lives acquiescing to their own vain, empty minds - leading to a pointless life. Life is tough enough that I never want my days described as leading to nothing.

You are called to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). In Christ we have a new lifestyle led by a different thought process. When we live our lives through the filter of Scripture our thoughts will be on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable… anything excellent or praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8).

This behavior reflects a darkened understanding, with hardened hearts as are result of turning their backs on God. Their minds are ignorant of the Truth. They may believe that they control their own destiny, but in fact they are following the evil one. No man truly controls his own destiny. “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Prov. 16:9).

Sin begets sin. As you cut yourself off from the life of God your hardened heart becomes calloused and your conscience is seared, no longer sensitive to shame and conviction. There is no basis for morality. Each man does what is right in his own eyes. You seek to fulfill your ever increasing sinful desires at any cost. The word for greedy is pleoneciĆ°a – the desire to have more and more with no thought to consequences. It's the madness of drunken debauchery, sexual brawling licentious indecency, and impurity equivalent to a rotting corpse. And it takes more and more sin to try to satisfy that void that will never be filled.

Sin is something you can't blame on anybody but yourself. You make repeated wrong choices, a choice makes a habit and a habit makes a personality and a personality makes a character and a character determines a destiny. – John MacArthur

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ephesians 4:14-16

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

As a result of the foundation laid be the four groups mentioned in the previous verses believers will not be like children, easily persuaded and confused, jumping from one opinion to the next, hopping on the newest spiritual bandwagon, and driven by gusting winds of false doctrine. Rather we will know the truth and speak it in love. Immature people often speak the truth without love, pounding people with what we see as their errors, or love without speaking the truth, thinking that we are sparing people pain when we are contributing to it by our silence. Christ fits the boy together with the gifts needed to benefit the other members of the body and lead us all into maturity. We belong together, and each person’s contribution is significant.

When the whole body is building itself up in corporate likeness to the maturity of Christ, the effect is that the members of the body in that process become discerning and perceptive and stable. They have their faculties trained to see through the subtle, manipulative use of language that tricks people into affirming things that are not true or right.
-John Piper

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ephesians 4:11-13

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The first group mentioned is the apostles. The word apostles means “sent ones”. In the sense used here apostles refers strictly to the apostles of Christ – the 12 chosen, Matthias chosen to replace Judas, and Paul who was personally called by Christ on the Damascus road. The word “apostle” is used in a more general sense elsewhere in the New Testament in referring to “sent ones” from the churches, for example Barnabus, Silas, and Timothy. Anyone titled “apostle” today would fit into the latter category. The apostles were instrumental in the spread of the early church, establishing church doctrine, and writing Scripture through the revelation of Christ. The office as it existed in them cannot exist today.
The prophets do not refer to the Old Testament prophets but the New Testament ones. (This differs from those with the gift of prophecy mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:10.) As the apostles moved from town to town to establish a church, the prophets would stay behind to continue to preach to those churches. They would continue to teach the apostolic doctrines and fight against false prophets. Sometimes, like Agabus in Acts, they would receive a revelation from God. This office also does not exist today.

“Evangelists” are technically those who proclaim the good news. These evangelists traveled to places where the gospel was unknown, taught believers the Word, built them up, established church leadership, and moved on to another area. They would have much in common with today’s missionaries.

“Shepherd-teacher” likely refers to the same person because the Greek sentence uses a different word for “and” between these words. The shepherd-teacher ministered to the local congregation, teaching God’s word and leading in the ministry. The Ephesian church had several pastors. This office can be seen in the pastors of today. As they teach the Word of God to their local body the believers are built up and enabled to serve with their spiritual gifts. A wise person once told me that the job of a minister is to work himself out of a job, meaning that the main purpose should be to equip members to do the work of the church, not to do it all or try to control it all. Christ does not purpose to build up religious superstars but instead that each member of the body reach maturity to show the world all the attributes and qualities of Christ.

In verse 3 we were told to maintain unity as if it were a reality, but in verse 13 we are told to attain unity as if it were a goal. There are not two kinds of Christian unity, but Christian unity has in one sense already been accomplished and in another sense has not. The blood of Jesus has united us into one body and has broken down dividing walls through his atonement (Eph. 2:13-16). But the unity he purchased with his blood must now be brought to fruition through the work of the Spirit in the church. We should have common conviction in the primary truths of Christianity as well as exhibiting a supernatural love for one other.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4.