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The Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit – Ephesians 6:17


Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17  )

I don’t remember where it was, but I was about to go down a stairway that had a low entrance. Above it was a sign that read, “Mind Thy Head!” It meant, “Look out or you will hit your head!”

I’m also amazed at how many Christians do not mind their heads. They swim in the currents of worldly ideas and entertainment without developing a Christian mind. They’re oblivious to the godless philosophic assumptions that underlie worldly thinking.

They buy into the postmodern idea that there is no such thing as knowable, absolute truth in the spiritual or moral realms. These careless Christians ignore, or sometimes even ridicule, the need for sound doctrine. They want experience, not doctrine. They want good feelings, not careful thinking. Because they do not mind their heads, they are not transformed by the renewing of their minds. Rather, they are conformed to this evil world (Rom. 12:1-2). God gives us the helmet of salvation so that we will mind our heads:

Just before going into battle, the Roman soldier would put on a helmet, either made of bronze or of leather with pieces of metal covering it. It also had cheek pieces to protect part of his face.

1. The helmet protects your head from the enemy’s attacks.

Your head is a very important part of your body, because it contains your brain, which controls everything. Your head determines how you think about all of life.

How you think in large part determines how you feel and how you act.

How you think determines your worldview, which also affects how you feel and act. A person with a postmodern worldview does not believe in moral absolutes. They do not think anything is absolutely evil. They do not believe in judging the behavior of others as wrong. That would be intolerant and judgmental.

B. Your head determines how you function in all of life.

If your brain is not working properly, it affects how other parts of your body work. A brain injury can affect motor skills or the ability to speak or think clearly. If a soldier got knocked unconscious by a blow to the head, he was probably doomed. He had to guard his head by having his helmet securely in place.

Spiritually, salvation determines how we live in this sinful world. We live as pilgrims who have been rescued from this present evil kingdom of Satan. We live in subjection to Jesus Christ as Lord and King. We view everything—values, money, entertainment, the arts, or politics—from the perspective of being saved people.

C. Your head determines how you relate to others.

Once you put on the helmet of salvation, you realize that all people are in one of two (and only two) camps: either they are saved and going to heaven; or, they are lost and going to hell.

If a person is not saved, then he cannot understand the things of God. They are foolishness to him (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). He is blind to much of his own sin. He is living for himself and his own futile goals. He has false views about death and eternity, thinking that if there is a heaven, he’s probably good enough to go there.

But because you have put on the helmet of salvation, you relate to people differently than you did before. You now love the people of God, whom you avoided before. You now view lost people with compassion and understanding, yearning that they would come to know God through Jesus Christ.

You do not view lost people as the enemy, but as victims of the enemy. While you can no longer join with them in their course of sinful behavior (1 Pet. 4:3-4), you pray for their salvation and look for opportunities to talk with them about the Savior. Putting on the helmet of salvation means that you relate differently to the world.

Believers Stand Firm by Taking Up the Sword of the Spirit

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

The sword Paul refers to is the dagger (machaira), which varied in length from six to eighteen inches. It was the common sword used by Roman soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, and was carried in a sheath attached to the belt.[1]

A skillful soldier used it to deflect the blows of his enemy, and the Word of God must be used in this fashion. We get a picture of this when Satan attacked Christ in the wilderness (Matt 4). To each of Satan’s temptations, Christ responded with Scripture. Therefore, the Christian who does not know the Word of God well will have problems defending against the attacks of the devil.

A Proper View of Scripture 2 Peter 1:19-21

Most people know they need guidance for their lives. Just over a thousand randomly selected persons were surveyed recently on behalf of a life insurance/financial services company. 75% said they believed they were created by God for a purpose, but only 45% of those said they understood what that purpose was.

The questions more people in that survey said they would like to ask God than any other?

  1. “What is my purpose on Earth?”
  2. “Will I have life after death?”
  3. “Why do bad things happen?”

To some of us, it would seem strange that anybody would want to ask such things of God. We’d likely reply that he has already answered them.

Christians believe that God does communicate with the men and women he has created in his image and that the primary vehicle through which he does so is the Bible.

The Barna Research Group discovered a few years back that 10 % of the 1,000 people in one of its polls thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, 16% were sure the New Testament contained a book written by Thomas the apostle, and 38% thought the Old and New Testaments were written a few years after the death of Jesus.

While it may be impractical and impossible for every Christian to be a genuine biblical scholar. It’s not unreasonable to expect that every Christian should be a regular reader and prayerful student of Scripture.

(2 Peter 1:19-21)  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. {20} Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Paul had words of praise for the Christians at Thessalonica in that they received the gospel message, not as the word of men, “but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thes. 2: 13).

This parallels Paul’s text about the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
2  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort (encourage), with complete patience and teaching.

God enabled certain specially chosen individuals to know the otherwise unknowable or interpret the otherwise merely puzzling and communicate those insights correctly.  We believe the Bible in inerrant (without error) and authoritative.

Four propositions which I feel must govern our thinking as we approach the subject of the authority of the Scriptures in this 21th century

  1. We have no right to hold a different view of Scripture than that held by Jesus himself.

The authority of the Bible rests squarely upon the authority of Jesus Christ himself.

To be a Christian at all means that we have fully accepted the authority of Jesus. It is an utter inconsistency to say that we accept what the Bible says about Christ and reject what he says about Scripture.

  1. We have no right to views of Scripture which are different from the apostles’ view of Scripture.

The apostles, like our Lord, are our teachers. We are not theirs. It is Karl Barth who says, “We cannot stand and look over the apostles’ shoulders, correcting their work. It is they who stand looking over our shoulders, correcting our work.”

The apostles, in writing the New Testament, everywhere declare that their authority is simply the Lord’s authority. They, too, rest the authority of their words squarely upon the authority of the Lord Jesus.

These men who lived in the 1st century and associated with the Lord Jesus, who heard his words, and who so ministered in power throughout the world of their day as to transform the generation in which they lived, knew far more about what God thought and said than any man studying theology today.

  1. Scripture does not need to be defended, but simply declared.

No one today has access to divine truth by means of any personal interview with deity. God does not speak in dreams, visions, or by a supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Objective revelation has been made known through the completed Bible, and men will only be exposed to the message of the Scriptures as we distribute the sacred volume and proclaim its saving message.

Every single Christian must take seriously his obligation to teach the Bible consistent with his divinely appointed role, ability, and opportunity.

The whole testimony of this church is to the fact that it is the preaching and the exposition of the Bible that establishes its authority. We do not need to defend it, just declare it, proclaim it.

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (pp. 367–368). Chicago: Moody Press.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Shield of Faith – Ephesians 6:16




I once heard a Christian psychologist on the radio say that to tell hurting people to “trust God” is useless advice. Giving him the benefit of a doubt, perhaps he meant that just to repeat that phrase without explaining how to trust God, is useless advice. But that’s obvious.

I rather think that he meant that trusting God wouldn’t help the hurting person work through the deeper struggles in his life. For that, he needs a psychotherapist!

If he was right, I wonder how the many generations of saints through the centuries before the advent of modern psychotherapy managed to deal with life’s overwhelming problems? They faced the sudden death of loved ones. They had disappointments and discouraging setbacks.

They struggled with friends and family who betrayed them. They had to cope with failing health, the loss of income, and the fears of armies that threatened to invade their homelands. Life wasn’t any different then than it is now. How did they cope without psychotherapy?

Answer: they trusted in the living God. Listen to how David described his grim situation (Ps. 31:13): “For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.” Then he added (31:14-15a), “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.”

Trusting in the living God is not useless advice! It is the secure stronghold of saints in dire circumstances down through the centuries. And it is Paul’s counsel to us here: To stand firm against the enemy’s attacks, take up the shield of faith.

Paul pictures the believer in the heat of battle. The air is thick with flaming arrows that had been dipped in pitch and set on fire. It’s a life and death situation. How will he survive? Paul’s answer is (Eph. 6:16), “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

When the enemy attacks, believers are to trust in God and His sure promises to block and quench the flaming arrows.

The Bible is full of stories of believers who were in overwhelming circumstances, where they despaired of life itself. What did they do? They couldn’t get an appointment with their psychotherapist. He didn’t do battlefront calls. So they cried out to God and trusted in Him.

In many cases, He delivered them from death. In other cases, He sustained them as they died in faith. You can read a summary of these stories in Hebrews 11.

1. There is an evil enemy that is seeking to destroy you.

Satan is the evil one, a hideously malevolent power who is relentlessly opposed to God and to God’s people. As we saw, this is not just an impersonal force for evil in the world, but rather an intelligent, cunning personal evil spirit who commands an army of evil spirits at war against God, His holy angels, and His saints.

What are these flaming arrows of the evil one? They include all forms of temptation that are common to us all:

· It may be the temptation to pride and selfishness that we all battle every day.

· It can be the slanderous things that others say about us.

· It may be the temptation to fear world events or to fear our own difficult circumstances, including health problems or death itself.

· There are the flaming arrows of discouragement, despair, and doubting God.

· Many of our brethren around the world face the arrows of persecution.

· They have lost loved ones and all of their personal possessions because of their faith in Christ. They are under intense pressure to renounce their faith in order to escape with their lives.

The enemy will follow up the arrows with the accusation, “Ha! You call yourself a Christian, but look at how you’re thinking! You’re just fooling yourself! You aren’t following Christ or you wouldn’t have thoughts like that!” How do you deal with this attack? You take up the shield of faith! But, what does that mean?

2. To take up the shield of faith means actively trusting in the living God and His Word.

Paul to use the shield of faith to refer to actively trusting in God. It is applying what God is and what He says to the particular problem or temptation that the enemy has shot at us. Note three things:

A. The shield protects us as we take refuge behind it.

Roman soldiers had two kinds of shields. They had a smaller shield that fit on one arm. It could be easily maneuvered to ward off the enemy’s sword in close combat. But they also had larger shields (referred to here), about four feet high by two and a half feet wide, that they hid behind while advancing against the enemy.

They were made of wood, covered with leather, and bound with iron. The soldiers would stand shield to shield, forming a wall of protection against the enemy’s flaming arrows. As long as they were behind their shields, they were protected.

If they moved out from behind the shield, they could suffer painful or fatal wounds. One soldier reported having over 200 enemy arrows in his shield after an intense battle! So the shield was essential for survival!

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Christian Soldier [Baker], p. 305) says, “Faith here means the ability to apply quickly what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.”

B. The shield is our faith in the living God and His Word.

The Bible often refers to God Himself as our shield. The Lord appeared to Abraham in a vision and said (Gen. 15:1), “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.”

David knew God in the same way. Ps. 18:2-3: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

There is a difference between knowing intellectually that God is a shield to all that take refuge in Him and actually taking refuge in Him by faith.

C. To take up this shield, we must actively trust in God.

Looking at your circumstances and at God’s promises and deciding to rely on God.

Carl Brecheen gave me the idea many years ago to read the Psalms often. The Psalms are experiential examples of men in desperate circumstances that trusted in the Lord for deliverance. Often, the psalmist’s life is in danger. He rehearses his circumstances and then cries out to God for help. By the end of the psalm, even though his circumstances have not yet changed at all, he rejoices in God’s promised salvation.

That’s how you actively trust God. You analyze your situation:

· “God, I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer.”

· “God, my teenager is rebelling against you and being sucked into this evil world.”

· “God, I need a job to provide for my family.”

     You tell the Lord your desperate situation. Then, you rehearse who God is and what He has promised and you make a decision to rely on Him. You may have to say with Job (13:15), “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him,” because you know that beyond the grave you have eternal life with Him.

   Implicit in this process is the next step: Actively trusting in God requires knowing your weakness and God’s strength and His promises.

We all tend to trust in ourselves and in our own ability to get ourselves out of the difficulties we face. So the Lord has to bring us to see our weakness.

Faith by definition looks away from oneself and to God alone for help.

But to trust in God we must also know God’s strength and His promises. We learn of these qualities and promises in God’s Word. 

Sometimes Christians complain that they don’t have enough faith. They see a Christian with strong faith and they say, “I wish I could have faith like you have!” But that puts the focus on faith itself, rather than on God.

Faith is only as good as its object. Your faith will grow stronger as you read God’s Word and see how He has sustained believers in every imaginable kind of difficulty.

3. Taking up the shield of faith implies that we are not in the fight alone.

As I said, the Roman army moved ahead by the soldiers putting their shields side by side, forming a wall of defense. While each soldier had to hold his own shield, the strength came by doing it with all the others.

So while each believer must take up the shield of faith individually, we do it together with others who are trusting God in the battle. You’ll be stronger in the battle if you know that your brothers and sisters down the line are fending off the enemy’s arrows by their shields. We must stand together and pray for one another, so that we can encourage one another in the fight of faith. Finally,

4. When we take up the shield of faith in our trials and temptations, we learn in a deeper way to savor the sweetness and all-sufficiency of Christ for our souls.

A main reason God allows the enemy to shoot his fiery arrows at us is that it drives us to a deeper experience with Christ. We all tend to trust Him only to the degree that we are forced to trust Him.

When the arrows are flying and we take refuge behind our shield, we come to know aspects of His glory and beauty that we did not know before the battle. As He delivers us, we know by experience, as David did, that He is “my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).

Conclusion

Maybe you’re thinking, “But I struggle with having faith in God in my trials. How do I get the faith that I need to make Christ the shield for my soul in times of trouble?”

First, recognize that your lack of faith in God constitutes a relational problem with God. If someone is completely trustworthy and you tell him, “I don’t trust you,” you’re calling him a liar and creating distance in your relationship with him. Not to trust God is to say, “Your promises are not true. You’re a liar.” That’s a terrible sin!

Second, confess your unbelief as sin and ask God’s forgiveness. He will forgive if we acknowledge our sin and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

Third, ask God to give you faith to trust Him fully.

Fourth, don’t try to work up faith; rather, look to the Lord Himself. He is trustworthy. He has never failed anyone, including the martyrs. Read your Bible to see who He is.

Fifth, do not trust in how you feel, but trust in the sure Word of God. Faith must often stand against feelings. God’s Word is the compass to guide you when you’re lost in the fog of trials.

The world’s counsel may seem right, but the counsel of God’s Word is always faithful and true. Follow Him, not your feelings!



 
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Posted by on August 27, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by the Footwear of Peace – Ephesians 6:15


When we became Christians, we gained an enemy. Satan and his demons desire to steal our peace and joy, kill our physical bodies, and destroy our witness.

We stand firm in the strength and power of the Lord—apart from this, we will be destroyed (Eph 6:10). But we also stand firm by putting on the full armor of God (Eph 6:11).

Each piece must be firmly put in place. The armor of God refers to righteous character traits (cf. Col 3:12). Therefore, sin in the life of believers gives the devil a foothold to destroy us and others.

The belt of truth reminds us that Satan is a liar and that he constantly uses deception. The breastplate of righteousness reminds us that Satan attacks our vital organs representing our mind and emotions and also that sin in general opens a door for him.

In Ephesians 6:15, we will consider the footwear of peace, as well as its implications about Satan’s schemes.

6:15 …and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.NIV Proper footwear can make a huge difference, whether you’re hiking or playing a sport or fighting in a war. In Paul’s day, soldiers did not have land mines. Instead, they put sharpened spikes just beneath the surface of the ground, camouflaged with leaves or soft dirt around them.

An advancing soldier needed sturdy boots to stop the spikes from penetrating or he would suffer a debilitating injury. He could be outfitted in the most invincible armor from his head down to his ankles, but it wouldn’t do him a bit of good if he couldn’t walk.

When your feet hurt badly, you can’t even stand up, much less fight or march. So it was essential for soldiers to wear rugged boots designed for battle.

Roman soldiers wore boots that had small nails protruding from the bottom to give them firm footing in combat.

The Word of God is the gospel, or Good News, that brings peace. In other words, believers are ready for battle because “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 nkjv).

They can stand firm, with peace, even in hand-to-hand combat, because they know that they are doing right and that they are on the winning side. Christians are in the battle both with the inner peace Christ has already given and the desire to produce that peace in the hearts of others.

When the enemy, the deceiver (Revelation 12:9), offers false ways to peace or tries to get us to focus on our concerns and fears, we Christian soldiers can stand up to him. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 nkjv).

There is deliberate irony, in that the gospel of peace enables us to wage war successfully. The gospel of peace is our firm footing in the battle against Satan. Let’s see how that applies to us.

1. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must clearly understand the gospel so that we can defend it against attack.

There is one sense in which the gospel is easy to understand. Little children can grasp it. Illiterate primitive people can get it. In fact, Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, it is often those who are wise in this world that scoff at the gospel, whereas God reveals it to the simple, so that no one may boast before Him.

The good news (that’s what gospel means) is that although we all have sinned against God and deserve His eternal judgment, because of His great love and mercy He sent His own Son to bear the penalty that we deserve.

We receive God’s gift of salvation by faith alone, apart from any merit or good works on our part.

Satan hates the gospel and is always attacking it from various angles. We see this repeatedly within the pages of the New Testament, where false teachers quickly perverted the essentials of the gospel.

Paul wrote Galatians to defend the gospel against those that claimed to believe it, but they added the Jewish rite of circumcision to faith as necessary for salvation. Paul rails against them in the strongest possible language (Gal. 1:6-9).

Even Peter and Barnabas for a short while had compromised the gospel by currying the favor of these false teachers, until Paul confronted them (Gal. 2:11-14).

The apostle John wrote much of his first epistle to warn his readers against those who were trying to deceive them (1 John 2:26).

2. To be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace, we must have appropriated that message personally.

A. Appropriating the gospel personally begins with repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone for salvation.

In order to appropriate the good news about Jesus Christ, you must also accept the bad news about your sin. The Bible confronts and indicts us all with the plain truth (Rom. 3:23), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Further (Rom. 6:23a), “For the wages of sin is death….” If you take sin and judgment out of the gospel in order to make the message more acceptable to modern thinking, you just took away the need for a Savior.

Christ did not die to save us from poor self-esteem! He does not save us from a bad marriage to a good marriage! He does not save us from financial failure to success. Christ died to save us from sin and God’s eternal judgment, which we deserve because we have sinned.

To appropriate the gospel, we must repent of sin as you believe in Jesus Christ, and as you are a sinner in need of a Savior, the Biblical and logical step is to die to sin and be immersed in water in order to have your sins forgiven, and the guilt removed.

B. Appropriating the gospel personally continues with preaching the gospel often to your own soul.

Jerry Bridges’ book, The Discipline of Grace [NavPress, 1994] challenges us to preach the gospel to himself every day. Vincent writes (p. 7), “God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness.” He adds (p. 8), “Over the course of time, preaching the gospel to myself every day has made more of a difference in my life than any other discipline I have ever practiced.” I can’t give you all of the benefits that he lists, but here are three:

(1). Preaching the gospel to your own soul increases your love for God, for others, and for the lost.

These three loves represent the two greatest commandments and the Great Commission. The gospel focuses us on God’s great love for us and of the infinite price that He paid to redeem us from our sins.

The gospel also increases our love for others. Many verses could be cited, but note Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us….”

And, the gospel increases our love for those who need to know Christ. After Paul goes through the gospel in Romans 3-8, reaching the crescendo of God’s unfailing love that enables us to endure all trials (Rom. 8:35-39), Paul’s next words tell of his great sorrow and unceasing grief because his fellow Jews are not, for the most part, saved (Rom. 9:1-3). Rehearsing the gospel to your own soul burdens you with the condition of those who need to hear about Jesus Christ.

(2). Preaching the gospel to your own soul humbles your pride.

Pride is at the root of every sin. Pride leads me to think that I know better than God does what is good for me. Pride leads me to be selfish and disregard the feelings of others. “Nothing suffocates my pride more than daily reminders regarding the glory of my God, the gravity of my sins, and the crucifixion of God’s own Son in my place.”

(3). Preaching the gospel to your own soul causes you to glorify God in all things, including your trials.

In Ephesians 1, the fact that God chose us before the foundation of the world and saved us through Christ’s blood is all “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6).

Paul shows repeatedly, reveling in the gospel of God’s grace towards us while we were yet sinners causes us to rejoice even in our trials, knowing that He is using them to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 5:1-8; 8:28-39).

C. Appropriating the gospel personally brings the peace of Christ practically into your daily life.

Paul tells us to stand firm by putting on the boots of “the gospel of peace.” We saw in Ephesians 2 the two-fold peace which the gospel brings to us.

First, it brings us peace with God. Formerly, we were alienated from God because of our sins, separate from Christ, “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12). But as Paul goes on to say, the cross of Christ preached peace to us and reconciled us to God, so that now we have access to Him. You cannot fight the evil one unless you have God’s peace in your heart because you are reconciled to Him through the blood of Christ.

Second, the gospel brings us peace with one another. As Ephesians 2 shows, Christ Himself is our peace (2:14). He brought together into one the formerly hostile Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “them both in one body to God through the cross” (2:16). The battle against Satan is not just individual; it also is corporate. He is trying to destroy the church and one way he does it is by creating division and strife over personality clashes or over non-essential doctrinal fights.

Be alert to Satan’s schemes here! He often gets a church fighting over non-essentials. Then some in the church react to the sinful fighting by saying, “We shouldn’t fight at all!” So the church ends up tolerating those who promote destructive heresies regarding the gospel.

Paul has emphasized the need for tolerance with one another on the non-essentials (4:1-3). But he also has warned about the dangers of destructive false doctrines (4:13-16). We should be at peace with all that love the true gospel. We are at war with those that pervert the gospel.

3. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents having the peace of God.

Not only has God given each of us peace with himself, but we also have the peace of God. In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace Christ had while asleep in the boat during the storm, the peace that enabled him to go to the cross, he has given to us. It is not God’s will for us to live in anxiety, fear, and worry. Scripture says, “Do not be afraid,” “Do not worry,” and “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil 4:6). Christ has given us the promise of his peace.

If you are worried, anxious, and fearful, you have the wrong footwear for this battle. Our enemy is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). The lion roars to incite fear in his prey. Some believers are fearful about their future; others are fearful about what others think or say. Others are afraid of failure. These fears undermine the footing of Christians—our readiness for battle comes from God’s peace.

Therefore, God commands us to put on his peace. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Paul also refers to the peace of Christ as clothing to be worn (cf. Col 3:12). As believers, we must let God’s peace rule in our hearts—not fear of failure, losing our jobs, or rejection. Satan wants to lead us as slaves through fear, but God guides us as children through his peace (cf. Rom 8:15).

Philippians 4:6-7 says,  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must reject anxiety and fear. They are not God’s will for us, and they are sinful. They say, “God, you are not to be trusted,” or “You are not in control.”

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to pray about everything. Prayer must become the atmosphere we live in. When we are not living in prayer (i.e. God’s presence), the storms of life will constantly frighten and overwhelm us.

If we are going to have God’s peace, we must learn to give thanks in everything. When we complain, murmur, and criticize, we lose the peace of God.

4. The readiness that comes from the gospel of peace represents peace in our relationships with others.

Animosity between Jew and Gentile was a major issue for the early church. In Acts 6, the Jews neglected the Greek widows in the daily distribution while providing for the Hebrew widows. However, Paul said Christ is our peace—he has made us one.

Surely disunity is one of the major weapons the enemy uses against our churches. Sometimes he brings disunity through racism, as seen with the Jews and Gentiles in the early church.

Sometimes he uses doctrine. What God means to equip and strengthen us, the enemy uses to bring division and discord.

Most times, he just uses pride. Pride says, “My way is the only way, and it can’t be done any other way.” Churches divide over changing the color of the carpet, the music, the flow of worship services, and any other thing. The root of this is pride—”my way is the only way.”

Ways the Gospel is under attack

A. The gospel is under attack from the radical non-lordship salvation heresy.

Jesus warned of many who would claim to believe in Him, but they are not genuinely saved (Matt. 7:21-23). As James and First John clearly emphasize, saving faith necessarily leads to a life of obedience to Christ. Those who claim to believe in Jesus but do not obey Him are deceived (1 John 3:4-10).

B. The gospel is under attack from “Christian” psychology, which denies the sufficiency of Christ and the gospel.

This popular movement that has flooded into the church claims that while you must believe in Christ for salvation, in order to deal with your psychological and relational problems, you need the insights of psychology. So the gospel is nice “spiritual truth,” that is fine for your devotional life, but it doesn’t really have much to say to the real life problems that you face. To deal with these problems, you need more than Christ, more than the Holy Spirit, and more than the Bible. You need a professional therapist.

But that view assaults the transforming power of the gospel. It subtly, but surely, attacks the person and work of Christ. Did His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection end the tyranny of sin in the lives of believers or not? Is the gospel promise of new life in Christ just a nice, but useless, platitude or does it really give us a new heart, new desires, and the power to overcome sin?

C. The gospel is under attack from the “seeker church” movement.

The seeker church movement has softened the offense of the cross to make the gospel more palatable and user-friendly. It seeks to apply American marketing principles to the church. They have asked potential “customers,” “What would it take to get you to come to church?” The customers answered, “We’d like an upbeat, short service that relates to our felt needs. Tell us how to succeed in our families and at work. Tell us how to cope with our problems. Give us contemporary music that makes us feel good (keep it light on content!). Throw in some entertaining drama to keep the program moving. Keep the sermon short and humorous. By all means, get rid of that hellfire and damnation stuff! That’s depressing!”

So, the church marketing folks went back to the drawing board and designed a church around these felt needs. Throw in a Starbucks Coffee bar, a workout room to keep those bodies in shape, some great multi-media effects, and you’ve got a program that the seekers will flock to. But in the process, the gospel gets changed into some variation of, “Try Jesus, He’ll help you with your problems.”

But that’s not the gospel! It’s really another form of idolatry, where you “use” your “Jesus idol” to get what you want out of life.

D. The gospel is under attack from the postmodern views of the emerging church.

Buying into the view that truth is relative and ultimately unknowable in any certain way, the emerging church has also attacked the atonement of Christ. It proclaims a tolerant, all-inclusive universalism that does not confront sinners with their need to repent and believe the gospel.

If I had time, I could deal with other modern attacks on the gospel.

The “new perspective on Paul” undermines justification by faith alone, which is at the heart of the gospel.

“Open theism” attacks God’s sovereignty and omniscience.

Some in the charismatic movement preach a false gospel that promises health and wealth to everyone.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church lure frustrated evangelicals through a message of salvation by ritualism and good works.

The cults all have a works-based offer of salvation.

Native religion and eastern religions promise salvation through mysticism and works. The list goes on and on!

The point is, if we are going to be prepared for battle by being shod with the gospel of peace, we need to understand the gospel clearly so that we can spot Satan’s relentless, but often subtle attacks and defend the gospel against these soul-destroying errors.

Conclusion

Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.

Do you have your boots on? Without them you are not prepared to stand firm against the enemy of the gospel.

Be prepared with the boots of the gospel of peace by understanding the gospel message so that you can defend it against error. Appropriate the gospel of peace personally and preach it often to your own soul, as well as to those who are lost. In so doing, you will enjoy God’s peace in your soul.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2020 in ephesians

 

Protected by Truth and Righteousness – Ephesians 6:14


Ephesians 6:14 (ESV)  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…,

Many college students cannot bring themselves to say that the Holocaust was evil (see Bloom, p. 67). One student said (in Reader’s Digest  [Feb., 1998], p. 75), “Of course I dislike the Nazis, but who is to say they are morally wrong?” While these students deplore what Hitler did, they express their disapproval as a matter of personal preference, not as a moral judgment.

I wish that our cultural tolerance of sin and rejection of moral absolutes were only outside the church. But a study by George Barna showed that while only 28 percent of the general population expressed strong belief in absolute truth, among those who identified themselves as born-again evangelicals, the number dropped to 23 percent! (Cited by James Dobson, newsletter, Dec., 1991.)

If you have ever worked through one of the many personality tests, you will find some that have the strong response that they “know what they know, and they know what they do not know.”

It’s my hope that many Christians are able to ‘check off that box.’

When the apostle Paul tells us how to stand firm against these evil spiritual forces, he lists six pieces of spiritual armor to put on. Today we will examine the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness, which stand firmly opposed to the philosophical and moral relativism of our day.

  1. To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the belt of truth.

For the Roman soldier, the girdle or belt was a leather apron-like piece that extended down to the thighs, protecting the lower abdomen and other private areas. The soldier tucked his robe or tunic into it so that he could move quickly and without encumbrance in the battle.

The main idea of a soldier girding his loins was that he was ready for vigorous action. Paul’s point in telling us to gird our loins with truth is that we cannot be ready to fight the enemy if we are not strong and ready with God’s truth.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, He used the same weapon that we have today: the word of God.

As the belt formed the foundation of the soldier’s armor, the truth is the foundation of the Christian life. This “truth” refers to the believer’s character as a person who can be relied on for the truth. It certainly also refers to the truth of God’s Word and his message in the gospel.

If we could not be absolutely sure of our faith, if we were not sure that Jesus is “the truth” (John 14:6), then there would be little use for the armor or in attempting to fight any battle.

God’s truth, as revealed to us through Jesus Christ, forms the foundation of victorious Christian living.

When the enemy, the father of lies (John 8:44), attacks with his lies, half-truths, and distortions, we believers can stand on the truth we believe.

The foundation for truth is the gospel, which centers in Jesus who is the embodiment of truth. As a result of our being new creatures in Jesus Christ through the gospel, we are to be truthful people.

But first, we need to answer the question:

Since God is the only essential reality in the universe, He is truth and the standard for all truth. Jesus referred to Him as “the only true God” (John 17:3).

If He is the only eternal, self-existent Being, then He is the truth, the only unchanging reality in the universe. He cannot lie.

The Hebrew word was often used of things that had proved to be reliable. Thus it often refers to God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises.

John 1:14 states of Jesus, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus said (John 14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

God’s Word is His revelation of truth.

Jesus prayed (John 17:17), “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

Paul referred to the Bible and its central message, the gospel, as “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Therefore, any deviation from God’s Word is error or falsehood.

How do we put on the belt of truth so that we can stand firm against the enemy?

To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with the core truths of the gospel.

Paul writes (2 Cor. 4:4), “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

While sincere believers differ over non-essential teachings, on the core truths of the gospel, we must agree.

If the enemy assails you with doubts, go back to the bedrock of the gospel: Who is Jesus Christ? Are His claims true?

Did He die for my sins according to the Scriptures? Was He raised from the dead as the many New Testament witnesses testify? Have I experienced the change from blindness to sight?

To stand firm against the enemy, gird yourself with truthful behavior. Paul applies it by commanding (4:25), “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

2. To stand firm against the enemy, put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The breastplate covered the soldier from his neck to his waist, front and back. Thus it protected his heart and other vital organs.

In Hebrew thought, the heart represented the mind and will, and the bowels were the seat of the emotions. Thus the breastplate of righteousness protects the believer’s mind, will, and emotions, areas where Satan often attacks.

What is righteousness? I define it as “being right with God.”

“Righteousness” provides a significant defense; it gives the evidence that we have been made right with God and that this righteousness has been given us by the Holy Spirit. Believers have been made righteous through the blood of Christ.

We first learned of this concept when we were told that Abrahan “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Satan is ready for battle at every turn, willing to hit us unfairly from behind if given the chance.

Righteousness is the opposite of Satan’s complete wickedness. Satan seeks to thwart righteous living.

When the enemy, the accuser (Revelation 12:10), tries to convince us that we are not really saved, that we just keep on disappointing God, and that we’re “poor excuses” for Christians, we can stand up to him because of the righteousness we have been promised through our faith in Jesus Christ.

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22 niv).

How do we put on the breastplate of righteousness so that we can stand firm against the enemy?

(1). To stand firm against the enemy, put on the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Paul made the astounding statement (2 Cor. 5:21) that God made Christ, “who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

He wrote (Rom. 4:5), “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

The glorious truth is that we stand before God clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. That is our only hope for eternal life.

But Satan comes and gets us to focus on our sinful behavior. “Look at how you just exploded in anger! Look at how you lied to cover your tracks! Look at how you lusted after that girl! Some Christian you are!” How do you answer him if his charges are true?

You answer by applying Christ’s imputed righteousness: “You are right, Satan, I did just sin. But my eternal life does not depend on my sinless behavior or perfect track record. I am trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ and His righteousness credited to my account. Take it up with Him!”

As we walk as God’s children in this world, as new creatures in Christ, we will be growing in conformity to God’s holy standards as revealed in His Word.

Fruit takes time, but there should be evident progress in holiness and obedience. If there is a gap between our profession of Christ and our practice, the enemy will use it to attack us.

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It almost never fails, that when someone comes in for counsel, a certain verse almost always comes up.

Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As Christians, we must learn to give our thoughts and emotions to God, and we must steer our thinking through verses like this one.

We are surrounded with gossip, innuendoes, lies, distortions, what we ‘think’ is true compared to what is actually true.

My dad taught me that when talking with children, to use a phrase “tell me the truth” is often difficult to interpret.

His advise? Tell me what ‘really happened.’

It almost always works.

We need us allow truth to change our mind and heart. It puts us in the correct ‘frame of mind’ to then tell God ‘what really happens’ in our life in order to get the cleansing and renewed ‘clean conscience.’

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2020 in ephesians

 

Standing Strong, Standing Firm Ephesians 6:10-13


General Dwight D. Eisenhower said “War is a terrible thing. But if you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to get into it all the way.”

I sense that many Christians are defeated in their Christian lives because they are not seriously engaged in the warfare to which we are called.  What keeps them from using God’s power?

  1. We don’t sense danger or recognize the power of the enemy.
  2. We don’t have all the weapons. We have never been taught the significance and importance of those weapons.
  3. We are untrained in the use of those weapons. Without practice, no soldier can be ready for battle.
  4. We may be in a comfort zone. Perhaps We are nowhere near the battle or We are somehow compromising with the enemy.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (ESV)  10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

The word “finally” signals the beginning of Paul’s conclusion to his letter. At the beginning of this letter, Paul prayed for believers to know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (1:19-20 niv).

The power that raised Christ from the dead empowers God’s people as they prepare for the spiritual battle they must face on this earth. The struggle occurs in the spiritual realm and must be won with spiritual weapons.

What might keep one from acknowledging this battle? Perhaps they came to Christ under a false “sales pitch.”

  • They were told, “Jesus will solve all your problems.
  • He will give you peace and joy.
  • He will give you a happy family life.
  • Come to Jesus and enjoy all of these blessings and more. He promises you abundant life.”

And so they signed up for what they thought would be a wonderful life of peace and happiness.

  • All of those claims are true, but they’re only half of the picture. Jesus promised to give us abundant life (John 10:10), but He also said that He was sending us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16). That picture might not fit your idea of an abundant life!
  • Jesus promised peace, but in the same breath He said that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33).
  • He assured us of His love, but He went on to say that the world would hate and persecute us.

John 15:12-13 (ESV) 12  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 18  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

It is vital for our survival as a Christian that we realize that when we became a Christian, we were drafted into God’s army. Daily we are engaged in a battle with an unseen spiritual enemy that seeks to destroy us. Otherwise, when trials hit, you will think that something is wrong. You will wonder why God has allowed this. You won’t understand the reality of your situation.

When a man’s ministry is effective, the enemy will work overtime to bring him down. It may be through internal problems in the church or through key leaders who turn against him or through discouragement or through temptation to moral failure.

To be strong in the Lord, you must be in the Lord. I won’t belabor the point, but I need to say that Paul’s command to be strong in the Lord rests on his first two chapters, where he makes it clear what it means to be in the Lord. To sum up his treatment, he wrote (2:8-9), “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

To be strong in the Lord, you must know your own weakness.

This is a continual, lifelong process that begins at salvation. We cannot trust completely in Christ to save us until we come to some awareness that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost and unable to save ourselves by our own good works.

Our pride blinds us to our true condition. It makes us think that we have some measure of strength in ourselves. In reality, the strong Christian is one who has come to see more and more of his own weakness and propensity towards sin. That awareness drives him to depend all the more on the Lord’s strength.

To be strong in the Lord, you must know the Lord’s strength.

Satan is a powerful foe, but he is only a created being, whereas God is the eternal, almighty Creator of the universe. Christ has already defeated him at the cross and resurrection of Jesus (Col. 2:15).

(Genesis 18:14 (ESV) 14  Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Jeremiah 32:17 (ESV) 17  ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.

Standing firm against the enemy is the result of putting on God’s full armor.

It’s not a matter of “letting go and letting God,” where you are passive and God does it all. Nor is it a matter of gritting your teeth and doing it yourself, with occasional assistance from God. Rather, it is a blending of His power and our striving.

Putting on God’s armor means that in every trial and temptation by faith you appropriate Christ’s strength in place of your weakness.

By faith you cry out to Him for deliverance and strength to persevere. By faith you rely on His promises.

Stand firm against the enemy by growing in biblical understanding. Paul wrote the first three chapters of this letter to set forth the necessary doctrinal foundation of all that God has provided for us in Christ.

Strong Christians are doctrinally grounded in the truth of Scripture. Unless you know the Word well, as Jesus did when He defeated Satan, you will not stand firm in the evil day.

We fight a spiritual battle, but we might well ask, who is the enemy? It’s not the nonbeliever, although occasionally you will meet a person so full of evil and rebellion against God that he or she actually declares himself or herself the enemy of Christianity.

The secular media or world systems work relentlessly to undermine God’s truth, but they are not the enemy either, although they are often tools in his hands.

Our enemy is Satan and the spiritual “forces of evil.” Satan, the deceiver (Genesis 3), the accuser (Zechariah 3), the destroyer (1 Peter 5), is the adversary of our souls and of the souls of our friends and loved ones.

Our enemy is powerful, but he is also a defeated foe.

Paul states (2 Cor. 2:11), “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

Satan launches repeated attacks on the credibility of Scripture, whether through evolution or by attacking the person of Christ. Satan lures us into sin by portraying it as pleasurable and by hiding its consequences. He uses discouragement, pride, selfishness, the love of money, lust, and many other traps to lure us away from the Lord.

Standing firm against the schemes of the devil means that we stand firm on the core doctrines of the faith. We cannot budge on the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, biblical salvation, or the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

Conclusion

John MacArthur observes (ibid., p. 378), “Ephesians begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees.”

I read about a missionary years ago in the jungles of New Guinea who wrote the following letter to his friends back home: “Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil’s heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn’t waste time on a lukewarm bunch.

“He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you’re on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don’t bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No sir. That’s the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah!

“The old fellow’s getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. “Will he stick with it?” As they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We’re not going to run away. We’re going to stand!”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a best selling book (Outliers) that showed us that we have to do something 10,000 times to fully reach the place where we are an “competent or an expert.”

If you want to complete a marathon, you have to run hundreds of training miles. If you want to learn a foreign language, you have to spend some hours memorizing declensions and conjugations. If you want to play the piano, you have to learn the scales and how to read music.

And if you want to accomplish anything for God, you have to spend time with the spiritual disciplines: Bible study, prayer, church involvement, fasting, serving.

Being a Christian is a living relationship with our living Lord Jesus. But like any other relationship, if you want it to be deep and meaningful—beyond the superficial and empty formalities—it takes time and commitment.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2020 in ephesians

 

Beliefs Matter: One Faith: A Call To Arms! – Philippians 1:27; Jude 1


A note posted on a religious website, discussing sexuality as a spiritual experience…says “it is OK be monogamist OK to be Gay,  Bi, Straight; OK to be different; OK to follow our own path; OK to make our own choices without being judged, particularly in this community.”

The truth tells us that while people may indulge their sinful desires in that way, we don’t please God like that.

How do we know? Where do we go for direction? We believe there is One Lord, and today we see there is one place where we can go to find the written directions. The “one faith” does not refer to the act of believing, but to the body of doctrines which we believe. The one faith is the Gospel.

(Philippians 1:27 NIV)  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel

(Jude 1:3 NIV)  Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

It is not scriptural to speak of “many faiths” or “interfaith activities” as many do. There are not two faiths nor several faiths. There is only one faith that leads into God’s presence and that is the faith founded by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Contrary to what Oprah and others are teaching, there is no other approach to God. If a person wishes to live with God—to be approved and accepted by Him—that person has to approach God through the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 NIV)  But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. {14} He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The point is this: every believer has come to God in the very same way—by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Him is the only way, the only true faith. Therefore, standing before God and having come to Him through the same faith, there is no room for any differences. We all stand on the same ground, on the same level: the ground and level of faith.

If you want to be a member of this congregation, realize that we believe there is One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, and One Faith.

Jude 1:1-4 (ESV)
1  Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
3  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
4  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Why did Jude write this letter?

To warn his readers that the apostates were already on the scene! Peter had prophesied that they would come, and his prophecy had been fulfilled.

He wrote to “exhort” them (Jude 3). In the Greek language, this word was used to describe a general giving orders to the army; hence the atmosphere of this letter is “military.” Jude had started to write a quiet devotional letter about salvation, but the Spirit led him to put down his harp and sound the trumpet! The Epistle of Jude is a call to arms.

The Army (Jude 1-2)

The Captain of the army is Jesus Christ, and the soldiers He commands are people who share a “common salvation” through faith in Him. Jude called them saints and addressed them as sanctified.

Not only are God’s saints set apart, but they are also preserved. This means “carefully watched and guarded.” The believer is secure in Jesus Christ. This same word is used in Jude 6 and 13 (“reserved”) and also in Jude 21 (“keep yourselves”).

The Enemy (Jude 3-4)

I must confess that I sympathize with Jude. I would much rather encourage the saints than declare war on the apostates. But when the enemy is in the field, the watchmen dare not go to sleep. The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground. Jude wasted no time in identifying the enemy.

They were ungodly (v. 4b).

This is one of Jude’s favorite words. While these men claimed to belong to God, they were, in fact, ungodly in their thinking and their living.

They were deceitful (v. 4c).

They “crept in unawares.” The Greek word means “to slip in secretly, to steal in undercover.” How could false brethren get into true assemblies of the saints? The soldiers had gone to sleep at the post! The spiritual leaders in the churches had grown complacent and careless. This explains why Jude had to “blow the trumpet” to wake them up.

They were enemies of God’s grace (v. 4d).

Why did they enter the churches? To attempt to change the doctrine and “turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4). The word lasciviousness simply means “wantonness, absence of moral restraint, indecency.” A person who is lascivious thinks only of satisfying his lusts, and whatever he touches is stained by his base appetites.

Many scriptures warn us that the apostates would argue, “You have been saved by grace, so you are free to live as you please!” The apostates, like the cultists today, use the Word of God to promote and defend their false doctrines.

They seduce young, immature Christians who have not yet been grounded in the Scriptures. Every soldier of the Cross needs to go through “basic training” in a local church so that he knows how to use the weapons of spiritual warfare.

They denied God’s truth (v. 4e).

Jude was affirming strongly the deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God! But the apostates would deny this. They would agree that Jesus Christ was a good man and a great teacher, but not that He was eternal God come in human flesh. The first test of any religious teacher, as we have seen, is, “What do you think of Jesus Christ? Is He God come in the flesh?”

Anyone who denies this cardinal doctrine is a false teacher no matter how correct he may be in other matters. If he denies the deity of Christ, something will always be missing in whatever he affirms.

They were ordained to judgment (v. 4a).

Jude did not write that these men were ordained to become apostates, as though God were responsible for their sin. They became apostates because they willfully turned away from the truth. But God did ordain that such people would be judged and condemned. The Old Testament prophets denounced the false prophets of their day, and both Jesus Christ and His Apostles pronounced judgment on them.

Why should these men be judged by God? To begin with, they had denied His Son! That is reason enough for their condemnation! But they had also defiled God’s people by teaching them that God’s grace permitted them to practice sin.

How, then, should the church respond to the presence of this insidious enemy? By earnestly contending for the faith.

“The faith” refers to that body of doctrine that was given by God through the Apostles to the church. The word doctrine is found at least sixteen times in the Pastoral Epistles alone.

What does it mean to “contend for the faith”? The Greek word is an athletic term that gives us our English word agonize. It is the picture of a devoted athlete, competing in the Greek games and stretching his nerves and muscles to do his very best to win.

You never fight the Lord’s battles from a rocking chair or a soft bed! Both the soldier and the athlete must concentrate on doing their best and giving their all. There must also be teamwork, believers working together to attack and defeat the enemy.

Sometimes you hear well-meaning people say, “Well, it’s fine to contend for the faith, but don’t be so contentious!” While it is true that some of God’s soldiers have been the cause of quarrels and divisions, it is also true that some of them have paid a great price to defend the faith.

As Christian soldiers, we must not fight each other or go around looking for trouble. But when the banner of Christ is in danger of being taken by the enemy, we cannot sit idly by, nor can we ever hope to win the victory by wearing kid gloves.

Paul admonished both Timothy and Titus to make sure the believers were being taught “sound doctrine,” which means “healthy doctrine,” doctrine that promotes the spiritual health of the local church.

While individual teachers and preachers may disagree on the fine points of theology, there is a basic body of truth to which all true Christians are committed.

He exhorted Timothy to entrust the Word to other faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). You and I would not have the Word today were it not for faithful believers down through the ages who guarded this precious deposit and invested it in others.

The church is always one generation short of extinction. If our generation fails to guard the truth and entrust it to our children, then that will be the end! When you think of the saints and martyrs who suffered and died so that we might have God’s truth, it makes you want to take your place in God’s army and be faithful unto death.

False doctrine is a deadly poison that must be identified, labeled, and avoided. We must always speak the truth in love, and the weapons we use must be spiritual. At the same time, we must dare to take our stand for “the faith” even if our stand offends some and upsets others. We are not fighting personal enemies, but the enemies of the Lord.

It is the honor and glory of Jesus Christ that is at stake. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).

The Victory (Jude 5-7)

Jude 1:5-7 (ESV)
5  Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
6  And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
7  just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Jude reached back into Old Testament history and gave examples of God’s victory over those who had resisted his authority and turned from the truth. The point Jude was making is that God judges apostates. Therefore, the false teachers who had crept into the church would also one day be judged. Their seeming success would not last; God would have the last word. 

The sin of Israel was rebellious unbelief (Heb. 3:12). The sin of the angels was rebellion against the throne of God. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was indulging in unnatural lust. Unbelief, rebellion against authority, and sensual indulgence were sins characteristic of the false teachers.

The conclusion is obvious: the apostates will be judged. But, meanwhile, God’s soldiers must stay on duty and see to it that these false teachers do not creep into the ranks and start to lead people astray.

Jude 1:17-25 (ESV)
17  But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
18  They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
19  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
20  But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
21  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
22  And have mercy on those who doubt;
23  save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
24  Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
25  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

What can we do practically to oppose the enemy and maintain the purity and unity of the church?

For one thing, we must know the Word of God and have the courage to defend it. Every local church ought to be a Bible institute, and every Christian ought to be a Bible student.  The pulpit needs to declare positive truth as well as denounce error.

Second, we must “watch and pray.”

The Christian life must never stand still; if it does, it will go backward. The enemy is already here and we dare not go to sleep! Spiritual leaders in local congregations need to be alert as they interview candidates for baptism and church membership. Congregations must exercise discernment as they select spiritual leaders.

Finally, we must have the courage to maintain a position of biblical separation from those who deny Christ and the fundamental doctrines of the Word. This does not mean that we separate from fellow believers over minor doctrinal differences, or that we practice “guilt by association.” God’s true army needs to stand together in the battle for truth.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2020 in ephesians

 

Righteous Anger – Ephesians 4:26-27


Ephesians 4:26 (ESV) Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger

“Be Angry!” (4:26a)

The words, “Be angry!” just doesn’t sound right, does it? We are uncomfortable with a command like this. We find ourselves trying to avoid or explain this away, because anger does not sound godly.

The words, “be ye angry,” are a present imperative in the Greek text, commanding a continuous action. This orgē, this abiding, settled attitude of righteous indignation against sin and sinful things, is commanded, together with the appropriate actions when conditions make them necessary.

We must remember that there are two kinds of anger.

There is the “anger of man” which “does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20), and the anger which is an expression of God’s righteousness. We are commanded in our text to be angry in a way that is righteous, that is a reflection of God.

Þ  God was angry at the unbelief of Moses, which caused him to resist obeying the command of God to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, insisting that he let God’s people go (Exodus 4:14).

Þ  God is angered by the mistreatment of those who are helpless, the strangers, the widows, and the orphans (Exodus 22:21-24).

Þ  God was also angered by men turning from trusting and worshipping Him, to the worship of idols (Exodus 32:10; Deuteronomy 6:14-15; Judges 2:13-14; Ezra 8:22).

Þ  God is angered by the grumbling and complaining of His people (Numbers 11:1, 10).

All of these offenses which arouse God to anger seem reasonable enough, but there are times when men may commit offenses which seem minor to us, and yet which provoke God to anger.

One such case is described in 2 Samuel chapter 6. The ark of the covenant had been captured by the Philistines, and was kept for a short time as a trophy in the house of their god, Dagon.

The problem with this was that God shamed their “god” and caused a plague to fall on those in whose city the ark was being kept. Eventually, the ark was returned by the Philistines, transported on an ox cart.

One could expect the Philistines to transport the ark this way. They did not know any better. But God had stipulated in the Law that the ark must be carried by the Levites, by means of poles that were place through rings in the ark.

The Israelites forgot this and began to transport the ark on an ox cart, like the Philistines. When the ox stumbled and the ark seemed in danger of falling off the cart, Uzzah reached out to stabilize the ark and was struck dead by God.

This angered David, who could not understand this outburst of anger at first. Only later, upon reflection, did he realize how important obedience to God’s instructions was. And then, when the ark was transported, it was done as God had instructed (see 2 Samuel 6:1-19).

Our Lord Jesus was also angry.

There were times when Jesus was terribly and majestically angry. He was angry when the scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if he would heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath day (Mk 3:5).

It was not their criticism of himself at which he was angry; he was angry that their rigid orthodoxy desired to impose unnecessary suffering on a fellow creature.

He was angry when he made a whip and drove the changers of money and the sellers of victims from the Temple courts (Jn 2:13-17). Because were cheating the worshippers in the exchange of money/sacrifices, they were getting between “the worshipper and God.”

Godly men were also angered by unrighteousness.

Moses, who was initially unshaken by Israel’s worship of the golden calf, became angry when he finally came down from the mountain and saw the extent of Israel’s sin (see Exodus 32:1-20).

Earlier, Moses was angered by Pharaoh’s hardened heart, and his refusal to listen to God and to let the Israelites go (Exodus 11:8).

It would appear that David was angered by Goliath’s blasphemy (1 Samuel 17).

David was later angry when Nathan told him the story of the rich man who stole a poor man’s little lamb, not knowing that he was the villain (2 Samuel 13:21).

The anger which is selfish and uncontrolled is a sinful and hurtful thing, which must be banished from the Christian life.

“Be Angry, But Do Not Sin” (4:26)

If feelings of anger are sometimes unavoidable, there are two things the Christian can do to avoid letting his emotions get him into trouble. The first is “do not sin.” An action taken in the heat of anger is almost always the wrong action.

Only God can properly execute wrath and vengeance (Rom 12:19).

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

The second action the Christian must take is to get rid of anger within the day.

Few things have higher priority than seeking reconciliation with a brother: Matthew 5:24 (ESV) ..leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. ). Animosity must not be harbored as a growing resentment.

One definition of agape (love) is that “it does keep a record of wrong.” Another way of saying something similar: it does not bring up the past.

My standard: IF I do not take of an issue that brings anger which could lead me to sin, on that day, then I forfeit the right to bring it up the next day.

DON’T GET BURNED! If vented thoughtlessly, anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If kept inside, it can cause us to become bitter and destroy us from within.

Paul tells us to deal with our anger immediately in a way that builds relationships rather than destroys them. If we nurse our anger, we will give Satan an opportunity to divide us.

Anger must be dealt with as quickly as possible. Used correctly, anger can motivate us to right a wrong, redress a grievance, correct an injustice.

Used improperly, it can burn us and everyone else around us.

Are you angry with someone right now? What can you do to resolve your differences? Don’t let the day end before you begin working on mending your relationship.

If anger is not always evil, it can easily turn one to evil. Anger, like greed, is often the root of various evils. Ungodly anger may become the root of some of the evils addressed in Ephesians 4 and 5. Anger may prompt one to speak to a brother in a way that is destructive.

Just as our speech may edify or build up others, it can also tear down and destroy. Anger which is not properly resolved may lead to slander or false testimony. Anger has prompted people to steal. Anger has caused some to be unfaithful to their mate.

Even anger that begins as righteous indignation can turn sour, becoming ungodly wrath. This is why immediately after Paul commands us to be angry, he warns us to be angry, but not to sin.

As you can see from the text, Paul’s words, “Be angry, and do not sin,” are cited from a psalm of David, Psalm 4:4.

David composes this psalm out of his own distress. Unrighteous men have scoffed at David’s honor, making it a reproach. They have loved what is worthless and deceptive. David agonizes over the wickedness of such men, and calls upon God to deal with them.

Paul adds a dimension which David does not mention in his psalm. It should provide the Christian with strong motivation for heeding Paul’s admonition to avoid sinful anger.

He warns us that we are not to “give the devil an opportunity” with respect to anger. How can this be?

Several opportunities are apparent. First, Satan may take advantage of unresolved anger to promote some other sin, such as slander, strife, or even physical violence.

Satan would surely seek to use our anger to create divisions within the body of Christ. Many churches have been split over petty differences.

Satan, as the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) will surely use our sin, spawned by anger, as an occasion to accuse us before God, and perhaps may use us to accuse our brethren. Satan recognizes anger as a fertile field, capable of producing all kinds of sin, and sin is his specialty.

Paul gives but one method here, by which we may avoid letting righteous anger turn to sin. He instructs us not to “let the sun go down on our anger.”

While righteous anger is to be slow to originate, it is to be quickly dispelled. Anger has a kind of corrosive effect. Anger is designed to prompt us to act, to get us “off the dime” of passivity.

Paul does not tell us what we should do here. I believe that other Scriptures do spell out what is usually required of us.

In short, the process of “church discipline” is the course of action we should take. This process for dealing with our anger toward a brother is Christ is outlined in several texts, and is illustrated in others.

The first step in the process is confrontation. The one who has offended us, or who has acted in a way that dishonors God is to be confronted with his sin. This is to be done as privately and on as small a scale as possible. If the wayward one repents, the matter is settled. If not, then the matter must become more and more public, until it is resolved.

If the sinning saint persists in sin, he must finally be put out of the church, and deprived of the benefits of its fellowship. In the case of the brother who accepts correction, our anger should be converted to forgiveness.

If the brother is disciplined, our anger should turn to grief. In any case, our anger should not be allowed to linger on, turning to bitterness.

In those cases in which our brother is angry with us, we also have a responsibility to bring matters to a conclusion that dispels anger and which reflects the righteousness of God.

We are to go to that brother who has an offense against us, and seek to bring about a reconciliation as quickly as possible (see Matthew 5:23-26).

4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

When emotions are out of control, the devil steps in to exploit the situation. Whether in an action taken in the heat of passion, or in a smoldering resentment, the devil is given room to operate.

Characteristics of Righteous Indignation

 (1) Godly anger is God-like anger, it is an expression of the anger which has toward the actions of men. Godly people are angry when God is angry. It is anger which is consistent with the holy and righteous character of God.

(2) Godly anger is legal anger. It is wrath based upon men’s violation of God’s law, and it is anger which is lawfully expressed.

(3) Godly anger is not explosive, and is only slowly provoked. God’s anger does not have a hair trigger.

 (4) God does not take pleasure in expressing His anger in the judgment of men.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

 (5) Godly anger is always under control. Godly anger does not lose its temper. Ungodly anger is excessive and abusive; godly anger never is.

But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger, And did not arouse all His wrath (Psalm 78:38).

Conclusion

We ought to reserve our anger for when we see God dishonored or people wronged.

If we are to take this text seriously, we must also say that we should see more righteous anger than we do. If God is angered by sin, then we should be angered by it as well.

We need to confront the sinner, and without minimizing the sin, to seek its solution in genuine repentance.

In many marriages that end up on the rocks of divorce, the root problem is anger that has not been righteously expressed and dispelled.

In many families, the division and discord stems from a failure to obey Paul’s instructions concerning anger.

In many churches, the unity of the body of Christ has been hindered by the lack of righteous anger.

Let us seek to be both good and mad to the glory of God and for the health and unity of His body, the church

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2020 in ephesians

 

Biblical Christian Marriage – Ephesians 5:21-32


I have decided at every place I have ministered…to spend time each year on lessons related to marriage, parenting, and the home in general. The home is God’s creation, the first divine institution, and marriage was God’s idea.

Genesis 2:7 (ESV) then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:18-24 (ESV) Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
19  Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
20  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
21  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
22  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
23  Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
24  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The sanctity of marriage (vv. 23-24). Paul’s instructions create a head-on collision with the beliefs and practices of our culture. God’s pattern for marriage wasn’t devised by Adam. “Marriage was born in the loving heart of God for the blessing and benefit of mankind.”

No matter what the courts may decree, or society may permit, when it comes to marriage, God had the first word and He will have the last word. His original plan was that one man and one woman be one flesh for one lifetime. To say the same thing in a different way: God plan was for Adam and Eve, NOT Adam and Steve.

God had at least two main purposes in mind when He performed the first marriage in the Garden of Eden.

First, He wanted suitable companionship for Adam, so He gave him a wife. He gave Adam someone who was his equal and therefore could understand him and help him. As two people live together in holy matrimony, the experience either brings out the best in them or the worst in them. It’s an opportunity to exercise faith, hope, and love and to mature in sacrifice and service to one another for God’s glory.

Second, marriage provides the God-given right to enjoy sex and have children. The Lord commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). The sexual act is a gift from God to a married couple.

Who is in charge? A fair question, that deserves a Biblical answer.

5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.NIV This is the last participial phrase flowing out of being filled with the Spirit and functions to introduce verses 22-33.

In 5:21, Paul says that the one who is filled with the Spirit not only reflects God’s goodness in speech and attitudes but also manifests it in willingness to submit to others out of reverence for Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Submission or headship often has unpleasant implications for modern Christians, perhaps because this principle has been abused and has been used to justify overbearing and self-serving behavior. The chain of authority is God, Christ, man, and woman.

People often misunderstand the concept of submitting to another person. It does not mean becoming totally passive. Christ submitted his will to the Father, and we honor Christ by following his example. When we submit to God, we become more willing to obey his command to submit to others, that is, to subordinate our rights to theirs.

In the church, the believers are willing to learn from, serve, give to, or be corrected by others in the fellowship. Such submission can allow growth both individually and corporately as the believers seek to follow Christ.

Our motives should be “reverence” (literally, “fear”) for Christ. We should not treat one another rightly just because it is expected or because we will be well regarded but because one day we must give account to Christ of how we have lived.

Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23  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. 24  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Guys, get ready for this and realize that 3 1/2 verses are addressed to Christian wives, while 8 1/2 verses are written to Christian husbands.

Submission in the church should follow from submission in the home. The home, the foundation for relationships and personal growth, must be an example of peaceful submission.

In a marriage relationship, both husband and wife are called to submit. The relationships between husbands and wives are a microcosm of the larger picture of church relationships.

Paul spoke first to the wives, explaining that they were to submit voluntarily to their husbands as to the Lord. The words “as to the Lord” mean “as is fitting to the Lord.” Our concept of submission must come from that which exists between Christ and the church: Christ loves the church, and she submits to him.

We must not base it on either a feminist or chauvinist view. Christian marriage involves mutual submission, subordinating our personal desires for the good of the loved one and submitting ourselves to Christ as Lord. The wife’s submission to her husband is one way that she can demonstrate her submission to Christ. She does this voluntarily out of love for her husband and for Christ.

The best thing a woman can do for her husband is to make it easy for him to do the will of God. – Elisabeth Elliot Green

Paul explained that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. In other words, the husband is the spiritual head of the family, and his wife should acknowledge his leadership.

Real spiritual leadership involves service and sacrifice. Christ as head of the church is also its Savior. Christ gave his life for the church. So, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

A wise and Christ-honoring husband will not take advantage of his leadership role, and a wise and Christ-honoring wife will not try to undermine her husband’s leadership. Either approach causes disunity and friction in marriage.

For the wife, submission means willingly following her husband’s leadership in Christ. For the husband, it means putting aside his own interests in order to care for his wife.

Submission is rarely a problem in homes where both partners have a strong relationship with Christ and where each is concerned for the happiness of the other. It takes both.

What if the wife is married to a man with little or no spiritual interest? What is she to do? (Of course, it is best if she marries a faithful, devoted Christian). We told our 1,200 students and over a dozen teachers that “the worse thing in the world is to be married to the wrong person.” It is often the female who fears being alone that is compelled to ‘marry the wrong person.’ Being single allows you more time to serve the Lord and those around you.

1 Peter 3:1-7 (ESV) Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
2  when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
3  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—
4  but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
5  For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,
6  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7  Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
     These verses are important for what they do NOT say as for what the DO say.

They do not tell her to leave, to nag, or to lead! They tell the believing wife to act like a faithful Christian and her example is strong enough (without words) to “win him over” if he has a mind to move in that direction.

5:25-26 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.NRSV

I would have expected Paul to reason in this way: Husbands are to manifest the headship of Jesus Christ over His church, and thus they are to be the spiritual leaders of their wives. If the wives are commanded to submit, then the husbands surely must be instructed to lead. But they are not. Instead of commanding husbands to lead their wives, Paul instructs them to love their wives.

These verses show a high view of marriage. Here marriage is not a practical necessity or a cure for lust but a picture of the relationship between Christ and his church! Husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

That role is nothing less than overwhelming: to love their wives as Christ loved his church. If the task of submitting to male headship seems burdensome to wives, the obligation to love as Christ did will seem out of reach to husbands.

Christ sacrificed himself for the church because of his love for it. Husbands, then, should be ready to make whatever sacrifices are necessary for their wives. Marriage is a holy union, a living symbol, a precious relationship that needs tender, self-sacrificing care.

How are men to do that? The same way Christ loves the church: sacrificially, compassionately, gently, and lovingly. Jesus laid down his life for the church; husbands are called to give themselves unreservedly for their wives and children.

John Stott summed it up well when he wrote of Jesus, “His headship expresses care rather than control, responsibility rather than rule.” Healthy, Spirit-led relationships are not concerned with power, with who’s in control. They are concerned with Christlikeness, with honoring him in their relationship with one another.

How should a man love his wife? (1) He should be willing to sacrifice everything for her. (2) He should make her well-being of primary importance. (3) He should care for her as he cares for his own body. No wife needs to fear submitting to a man who treats her in this way.

Ephesians 5:27-28 (ESV) so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

In the same way means that there exists between the husband and the wife the same union as between Christ and the church. Following from 5:27, husbands should be as concerned for their wife’s spiritual growth and closeness to the Lord as Christ is for the church.

The Greek word for “love” is agapao, referring to that giving love that seeks the highest good for the other. When a husband loves his wife with this kind of love, they both will benefit. A wife need not worry about submitting to a husband who treats her this way.

5:29-30 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body.NRSV This refers not to self-centeredness but to self-preservation, the natural self-concern that causes people to feed and care for themselves. As a man nourishes and tenderly cares for his own body, he should also do the same for his wife, who is one with him.

Why? Again Paul draws on of the example given by Christ, who nourishes and cares for his body, the church. As Christ nourishes and cares for believers, so husbands must imitate Christ in their loving concern and care for their wives.

5:31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”NKJV The union of husband and wife merges two persons in such a way that little can affect one without also affecting the other. Oneness in marriage does not mean one person’s losing his or her personality in the personality of the other. Instead, it means that each person cares for the other as though caring for himself or herself, learning to anticipate the other’s needs, helping the other person reach his or her potential.

In a natural marriage, the husband and wife complement one another. So Christ and the church must function together; Christ needed the church in order to assume his position as its Head. Christ is the Head of the church as the husband is the head of the wife.

5:32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.NRSV The union of husband and wife, although sometimes imperfect, provides the best picture to describe the union of Christ with his church.

Why get married? Because you simply cannot see yourself living your life without that one, special person.

What does it mean? It means you totally give yourself to that spouse, helping them get to heaven as you commit your life to God, Christ, and His church.

What will happen in that home? You will treat that person as the most important person in the world and in your life. Pure and simple.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in ephesians, Marriage

 

Forgiveness


Ephesians 4:32 (ESV)
32  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Two Christians appeared before the court on charges of assault and a breach of the peace.

When the magistrate had listened to all the evidence, he called them to the bench and whispered to them, “Being Christians, the two of you, couldn’t you have settled this matter out of court?”

One of the men, who still had a black eye, said to the judge, “SURE we could have settled this out of court, your Honor! And that’s exactly what we were TRYING to do when the POLICE arrived!”

When missionaries first came to Labrador, they found no word for forgiveness in the Eskimo language.  So they had to make one which meant, “not being able to think about it anymore.”

Some Pictures of Forgiveness

Removing offense far, far away from us (Ps 103:12)

(Psalm 103:12 NIV)  “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

 Putting offenses behind our backs (Isa. 38:17)

(Isa 38:17 NIV)  “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.”

Blotting out what was done  (Isa. 43:25; Psalm 51:1, 9)

(Isa 43:25 NIV)  “”I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

(Psa 51:1 NIV)  ” Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”

Casting the offense in the depths of the sea (Mic. 7:19)

(Micah 7:19 NIV)  “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

It means releasing the resentment, hatred, bitterness, ill-will & desire for revenge.  It means you don’t hold a grudge, or cherish bitterness or harbor any desire to harm them. It means dropping the case we have against them.

Does have to be from the heart (Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””). We can’t just say the words. This is difficult to determine sometimes because we can’t necessarily keep ourselves from having primary feelings like anger. But we can make choices, including the choice to let go of the things that anger often leads to, like resentment, hatred, bitterness, & ill will.

It also means we stop trying to make them pay (we cancelled the debt so we can’t demand any more payments). We stop exacting psychological payment. If we forgive, we don’t bring it up anymore—to that person or anyone else, & we stop trying to make them pay. Both are wrong!

Does mean we stop dwelling on what was done to us. We may not be able to forget what happened and our mind may go there once in a while, but forgiveness does mean we don’t dwell on it anymore. It is taking the arrows out of our gut instead of continuing to twist them around inside of us.

Whereas before we may have nurtured that hurt to keep it active & alive. We remove the band aid and “rub it” to “keep the hurt alive.”

But now we refused to do that. That may take some prayer to keep releasing it to God, but we don’t let our mind stay there.

Does mean treat them with love, even if we don’t feel it. Feelings are important, but they are not what we base our decisions on. We forgive because it is the right and healthy thing to do, and then we treat the person with love.

When God forgives us, he doesn’t wait to see how it’s going to go before he starts to bless us again.

It does mean we are opening a door for reconciliation. That’s one of the purposes. God’s people are supposed to be reconciled to each other. We can’t say ok I forgive you but I never want to see you again.

Doesn’t mean you have to be the best of friends, but it does mean you tear down the walls. And remember, reconciliation takes two people—they have to be open to it as well.

Does mean we’ll have to take responsibility for our own happiness & we’ll have to change. As long as we’re resentful we give ourselves an excuse not to do the hard work of looking at ourselves and changing our own lives.

One of the real keys is for us to see clearly how important it is to do so.

Let me share several reasons why we need to forgive.  1. God said to.

(Col 3:13 NIV)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

  1. Our own forgiveness depends on it.

(Mat 18:21-22 NIV)  “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

(Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””

If you receive grace, you’ll pass it on. If you harden your heart, you either forfeit his grace or never had it to begin with. You cannot take a grudge to heaven.

  1. To restore relationships.

We need relationships; we were made for relationships. And those of us in the body of Christ “belong to each other.”

And we need to try to make all our relationships good. The trouble is none of the humans who are available to have a relationship with is perfect.

Since we are not perfect, we couldn’t have a relationship with God—but he forgave us so we could have a relationship with him. That’s exactly why we need to forgive—so we can have relationships. It will be possible without them.

Some years ago, after a vigorous brotherly and sisterly disagreement, three children retired only to be aroused at two o’clock in the morning by a terrific thunderstorm. Hearing an unusual noise upstairs, the father called in to find out what was going on. A little voice answered, “We are all in the closet forgiving each other.”

  1. For our own spiritual, emotional, & physical health.

This is huge. Researchers have discovered direct links between forgiveness and physical & emotional health.

Not forgiving almost inevitably leads to chronic anger & stress, both of which are toxic. It leads to higher rates of stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, lower immune system function, & higher divorce rates.

Some evidence it also decreases neurological function & decreases memory.

  • There might be marriages in our congregations that are going to disintegrate unless someone finds a way to forgive.
  • There might be families that will collapse, unless someone finds a way to forgive.
  • There might be friendships that will unravel, unless someone decides to forgive.
  • There might be groups that will split, unless someone forgives.

The bitterness & resentment we feel will also alienate us & cut us off from others. It will make us suspicious & fearful of relationships. It will isolate us. Unforgiveness destroys community. Churches ought to be a no-debt zone, but it’s not always so.

(Heb 12:14-15 NIV)  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

 

 

Luke 7:36-50 (ESV)
36  One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
37  And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,
38  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
39  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
40  And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41  “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
44  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
46  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
47  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
48  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
50  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jewish rabbis did not speak to women in public, nor did they eat with them in public. A woman of this type would not be welcomed in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Her sins are not named, but we get the impression she was a woman of the streets with a bad reputation.

The woman admitted she was a sinner and gave evidence that she was a repentant sinner. If you check a harmony of the Gospels, you will discover that just before this event, Jesus had given the gracious invitation, “Come unto Me … and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28-30).

It was thus a triple insult that Simon had directed against the Lord of life; not merely the basin and the towel, but the customary greeting of a guest with a kiss, and the anointing of the head with oil had also been withheld.

Simon’s real problem was blindness: he could not see himself, the woman, or the Lord Jesus. It was easy for him to say, “She is a sinner!” but impossible for him to say, “I am also a sinner!”

The one thing which shuts a man off from God is self-sufficiency.

 
 

Beliefs Matter: “It Does Really Matter…What One Believes About One Hope” – Ephesians 4:4; John 14:1-3


Hope is something that God gives to help us keep our lives together until the very end

Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV)  4  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Halford E. Luccock, in Unfinished Business, tells the story of a man who fascinated his dinner companions one night by telling of his experiences in the little town of Flagstaff, Maine, in Somerset County.

The town was to be abandoned and flooded and become a part of a large lake. A dam was being built which would submerge the little town. In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months?

Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more unprofitable, more miserable. Then he added: “Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.” And I wonder if that’s not a good parable for many people’s lives today.

Hope is something that God has offered us to help us keep our lives together until the very end.

Our hope, in short, is that Jesus is coming back to take us home.  John 14:1-3 (ESV) 1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

More broadly, based on several texts, our hope is that Christ will return, raise us from the dead or meet us in the air, transform us so that our bodies are like his glorious body, take us to heaven so we can see God face to face & live with him there forever.  Salvation will be complete & we’ll enter into eternal life in heaven.

Our hope is solid. It is not wishful thinking or an outside chance.  

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV)
13  For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,
14  saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”
15  And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
16  For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.
17  So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,
18  so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
19  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
20  where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

The reason it is secure is the basis it has. Our hope does have a foundation: (1 Peter 1:3 NIV)  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

(1 Peter 1:21 NIV)  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Our hope is based on God raising Jesus from the dead.  So, because God raised Jesus from the dead, we have a solid hope that he will return and take us home.

The question isn’t whether we have a thorough understanding of hope but whether our hope is transforming the way we live. Are our lives noticeably different because of our hope that Jesus is coming back to take us home?

A woman diagnosed with a terminal illness called on her minister to plan her funeral. She had some ideas about what she hoped would happen, but she was insistent about one thing: “I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.

Her incredulous minister demanded an explanation. “Oh, it’s quite simple,” the woman said. “In all my years of attending church socials and potlucks, I always remember that, when they clear the dishes, someone will say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It’s my favorite part, because I know something better is coming. So I want people to see me there in that coffin with a fork in my hand and know: ‘Her best is still to come.’ ”

Here are some of the ways the Bible says our hope should affect us:

Give us Joy — (Romans 5:2 NIV)  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

(Romans 12:12 NIV)  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Lead to Praise: (1 Peter 1:3 NIV) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 

Give us Endurance: (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV)  We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Cause us to Purify ourselves: (1 John 3:2-3 NIV)  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. {3} Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Speak openly even courageously to others: (2 Corinthians 3:12 NIV)  Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.

The Bible teaches that our hope should have a noticeable effect on how we actually live our lives.  The one hope of the Christian has always rested upon the return of Christ and the blessings of the- future life” (Titus 2:13 ; I Peter 1 :13).

“Set your hope perfectly on the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” ( I Corinthians 15 :19).

Strengthening our Hope (Bible gives several, I’ll mention 3).

Make sure our hope really is in God (not government or my own abilities; not here & now; not health & wealth gospel)

(Hebrews 13:14 NIV)  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

(1 Timothy 6:17 NIV)  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

 (1 Peter 1:21 NIV)  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

 Choose to trust God.

(Romans 15:4 NIV)  For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

(Romans 15:13 NIV)  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Hebrews 10:23 NIV)  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Be willing to learn from our suffering (Rom. 5:3-4).

(Romans 5:3-4 NIV)  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Ironically, one of the things that often robs me of hope is intended to be a means of increasing our hope.  When we suffer, whether it is for our faith or not, it is a God-given opportunity for us to develop perseverance.  If we persevere, that affects our character.

If our character becomes more like God’s, then we have all the more reason to hope. So, suffering gives us an opportunity to develop hope, but it isn’t automatic—we have to be willing to learn from it.

Be diligent in doing good

(Hebrews 6:10-12 NIV)  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. {11} We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. {12} We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Summary: we have a hope that Jesus is coming back to take us home, our hope has a solid basis: the resurrection of Jesus, & we can strengthen our hope by making sure it really is

In the 1800s, when he was just a small boy, John Todd lost both of his parents.  A kind-hearted aunt raised him until he left home to study for the ministry.  Later on, this aunt became seriously ill, and in distress wrote Todd a letter.  She asked whether death would mean the end of everything, or could she hope for something beyond?

Here is the letter John Todd wrote in reply:

“It is now 35 years since I, as a boy of six, was left quite alone in the world.  You sent me word you would give me a home and be a kind mother to me.  I have never forgotten the day I made the long journey to your house.  I can still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me.

“I remember my tears and anxiety as, perched high on your horse and clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home.  Night fell before we finished the journey, and I became lonely and afraid.  “Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?” I asked Caesar.

“Oh no!” he said reassuringly, “She’ll stay up for you.  When we get out of these woods, you’ll see her candle shining in the window.”

“Presently we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle.  I remember you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms close about me—a tired and bewildered little boy.  You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove.  After supper you took me to my new room, heard me say my prayers, and then sat beside me till I fell asleep.

“Some day soon God will send for you, to take you to your new home.  Don’t fear the summons, the strange journey, or the messenger of death.  God can be trusted to do as much for you as you were kind enough to do for me so many years ago.

“At the end of the road you will find love and a welcome awaiting, and you will be safe in God’s care. “

 It’s the wise individual who can hope for the best, get ready for the worst, and take what God chooses to send.

I like the example of the hospice nurse, who had ministered to many as they faced death, trying to ease the transition. A minister asked her, “Do Christians die differently from others?” “Most definitely, yes,” she replied, “Christians really do die better.” Why do Christians die better? “They know it isn’t over.”

I am told the catacombs in Rome, those tunnels under the ancient city, where many of the early Christians were buried, reveal symbols of faith.

Three common symbols appear: the dove, the fish, and the anchor. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The letters of the Greek word for “fish,” ichthus, stand for the words Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. The anchor came from the idea that as Christians were going through difficult, insecure times, their hope anchored their souls.

I must insist that we take a few steps alongside the men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35) to make certain we see the other side of this difficult coin. The whole situation seemed to these two men to have no explanation. Their hopes and dreams were shattered.  There is all the poignant, wistful, bewildered regret in the world in their sorrowing words, “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to rescue Israel.”

They were the words of men whose hopes were dead and buried.  Then Jesus came and talked with them, and the meaning of life became clear and the darkness became light.

Life with Christ is an endless hope, without him a hopeless end

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2020 in Church, ephesians

 
 
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