Monday, November 30, 2020

Focus (Ephesians 5:15-21)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 5:15-21

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 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, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

COMMENT

Watch yourself! This is not telling us to look at others, monitor their behavior, and report to the authorities when warranted. It is telling us to watch our own walk. Be smart. Make good use of your time and effort. Why? Because we live in an evil time. Don't be stupid! Understand what God's will is, and it is to do exactly what Paul just wrote, check your own behavior, motivations, and lifestyle. 

Don't get drunk with wine. Don't try to escape the issues that surround you, but do it in a manner that is spirit led. Focus on God at all times, and in all manner of communication. Give thanks in all circumstance, remembering what Christ did on your behalf!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Batteries Not Included (Ephesians 5:3-14)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 5:3-14

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. 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; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

COMMENT 

In verses 1 and 2, Paul tells us that we should be imitators of God, and why we should do that. Now he turns his attention to what that should look like. He is dealing with a specific audience, so he is going to talk about what misconceptions they might have. This is not the the conversion of your neighborhood garden club. This is the conversion of people whose religion involved temple prostitutes and other vile behaviors. It was their RELIGION, so might not they think it appropriate to transfer some of these actions to their new faith? Paul wants to nip this in the bud! (Makes me wonder what Paul would say to those who have been converted to faith today from a stale, bland, life-draining religion that could not and would not save them.)

So make no mistake, this is not a list of "to-dos" or a legalistic behavioral approach to belief in Christ. It is a description of what this new life entails, and one that is without apology. It should and likely did cut these people to the heart. It also likely weeded some of those who we not ready or able to make such a commitment. Like the rich young ruler before Jesus, Paul seems to be willing to let some walk away. (Oh, that we would have such strength of faith today!)

I think my favorite part of this section is this: try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

It is not about me, what I think faith should look like, my comfort, ease, prosperity, etc. It is about God. To live is Christ, to die is gain.




Friday, November 20, 2020

Worthy of Imitation (Ephesians 5:1-2)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 5:1-2

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.

COMMENT

First, let me begin by saying that I do not believe it is possible to imitate God, however, it is a great goal for those who love Him.

I still admire my dad. He was not perfect, but was an incredible human being, at least for what I know about him. And that is a lot, having had the opportunity to work with him for a year, as an apprentice mechanic, before changing paths and going to college. I got to see first hand, what he had to put up with to bring a decent paycheck home to care for his family. I often feel that I fall so short of the example that he set. But that doesn't mean that I do not attempt to imitate him. 

Growing up, I didn't always understand why my dad made some of the choices he did. But because I knew him, and I could see his heart, I trusted him. I think about my own children. They don't always know why I make the decisions that I do, but my hope is that they trust me. That deep down, they know I have their best interests at heart.

Just as I know that God loves me. He is worthy of being idolized. He is worthy of being imitated. He is my Abba Father.





Saturday, November 14, 2020

Impact of Anger (Ephesians 4:25-32)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:25-32

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And 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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

COMMENT

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another

The lie has been put away, the lie that we can live as we once did, in darkness. The lie that God does not exist or that worship is some kind of carnal game. Now we speak truth. We speak Jesus. Not a list of rules or commandments, but a life that results in change. We speak this truth not just for ourselves, but within a community of believers. As part of a body, and as part of a body, we seek the good of the whole rather than just the individual.

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil

Yes, there will be times we disagree. But do not let your anger or bitterness get the best of you. Holding on to anger only increases the fact that you will not act in accordance with the gospel.

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear

Change. Repent. That is the summary of how we should behave. Don't take this as a list of to-dos, but rather as examples of what repentance might look like.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption

Do not allow your actions to be outside of what repentance demands of you.

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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you

Forgive. Whether 70 times 7 or 77 times, the idea is do not keep track. God did not give up on you!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Real Change (Ephesians 4:17-24)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:17-24

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

COMMENT

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

We must no longer walk in ignorance. To do so indicates an alienation from God. Paul talks about the darkness that they live in, and of their understanding. Yes, this makes sense. When we think of talking to someone who does not have all the facts, or who has skewed facts or been lied to, yet they believe in their heart what they know to be true, it is almost if not completely impossible to convince them of the truth. Their beliefs constrain them to living in a way that is does not conform with reality, because they are living in a reality of their own. Even when presented with proof, these folks are hard to convince because this new truth conflicts with their perceived truth, and they do not want to entertain the reality that they might be wrong. So, in a sense, they surrender themselves to what they believe to be true. As the gentiles of Paul's time did this meant belief in idols and worshipping with temple prostitutes.

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

But Jesus is more that just a means to salvation, He is our Savior in the here and now. The truth demands a response. Christians call it repentance. Not just turning your back on sin, but putting off your old self. Not one foot in heaven an one on earth, but two feet planted firmly in the gospel's life changing message, now and from this day forward.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Jesus Loves Me (Ephesians 4:9-16)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:9-16

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

COMMENT

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

I believe that Paul, being led by the Spirit, is making a clarifying statement here. There were those who did not believe in the humanity of Jesus, or the fact that Jesus came from heaven to earth. But how could Jesus return to heaven, unless He had first came down to earth, and how could He return, unless He was here?

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

Jesus did not leave us alone once He returned to heaven. He gave us the equipment needed to be able to mature. Apostles, evangelists, shepherds, teachers all helped fulfill that need. Eventually the New Testament would be added to that list. 

But not all prophets, evangelists, etc. are genuine. I believe that is where Scripture comes in. It is the measure against deception and the deceptive practices of Satan. Problem is, how many people really know enough about the Scriptures to use them as a basis for deception prevention? Scripture even speaks of those who only hear what their itching ears want to hear. Therefore, the blame lies with both the speaker and the audience. 

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, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes

See, there is the element of "human cunning" that we must be aware of. The immature will not only believe such people, they will pursue them. 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love

Love, the L word. I think that many have misinterpreted this word. Some think it means giving only good things. But parents who only give good things, and never discipline their children, those children do not grow up to be the kind of people that others want to be with. No one likes to hang around with spoiled, selfish people. Speaking the truth in love sometimes means saying things that others might not want to hear. But if it is done in love, it is not done to harm them, but rather for their good. Telling someone that they are saved when they are not is probably one of the cruelest things a person could do. Just look at how the body grows and develops. If all you ever did was feed a body, and did not ever let that body experience exercise or work of any kind, it would not be a very strong body. If we want to grow into Christ, we need food, but also exercise. We need the love of a parent who awakens their child and sends them off to school, not the false love of one who lets the child go back to bed because they don't like school. We need to teach and be aware of that kind of love.


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Same, Yet Different (Ephesians 4:1-8)

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:1-8

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

COMMENT

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord

Literally a prisoner and figuratively as well. A prisoner by force, and a prisoner by choice.

urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called

Paul's calling is not your calling. But whatever you have been called to do, do it in a worthy manner, fitting for a prisoner of God.

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

Bearing with one another. Understanding that there are different callings, different manifestations of the Spirit, different understandings of God and His plans.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all

But with all of the differences we have, God is one. His plans call for different gifts, different callings, different personalities, etc., but one God so one purpose. One faith, faith in Christ. One baptism, immersion into His Son, one Father, God Himself.

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

The grace by which you stand did not come through your effort, but the work of Christ. It is finished. The measure of that grace comes from the riches of God's grace. Gifts vary according to God's purposes. As does calling.