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Category Archives: ephesians

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

 

Beliefs Matter: It Really Does Make A Difference What We Believe About the One Body – Ephesians 4:4; Romans 12:3-8


* Appreciation to Marvin Bryant

We receive from God’s Word much instruction on HOW we should live and WHAT we should believe.

An example of that is found in Ephesians 4:1-6. Verses 1-3 show us the how: I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
2  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
3  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Verses 4-6 show us the what: 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.

Sometimes we might tempted to think we’d like more of the HOW and less of the WHAT. I don’t know which way that may go in your life, but the fact is that God has given us both of them.

In order for us to be a genuine people of God there is a certain life we need to live and also certain belief matters we need to share. Our lifestyle is tremendously important, but in this series we are focusing on the belief matters.

God gives us 7 belief matters that we need to hold on to in order to be a part of God’s true people—these are beliefs that really matter. Today we are going to look at the first one he mentions, the one body, which is a reference to the church.

Every true believer is a part of God’s one church.

(Matthew 16:13-18 NIV)  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” {14} They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” {15} “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” {16} Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” {17} Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. {18} And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The One Body is the church that Jesus built in the 1st century.

Chrisian means “one who belongs to Christ,” and that should be our primary identity as individuals. The primary group identity is that we belong to the one body.

More than any other identity I may have as an individual, I see myself as “Christian.” Church refers to the group of all those who belong to Christ and that should be our primary group identity. More than anything else that gives me identity, I am a Christian, part of the body church.

Secondarily I may be right-handed, good-looking and funny or maybe not. Maybe I’m rich, liberal, democrat, Republican, Lithuanian, basketball player, from Montana or Tennessee, a guitar player, who loves quiche, but all that is secondary to my main identity as a Christian, a part of the church.

Because I am a believer and if you are a believer—we have a unique relationship to all others who are also part of this one body.

Let’s turn to Romans 12 for a few moments. There’s a little verse there that might “get next to you” a little. Some of the things we see in this series are going to “rub us wrong.” They have that tendency in my life, unless I take on a particular mindset. But it’s only fair that if it “bugs” me I ought to inflict some of that one you!

Being a part of God’s one church includes having a unique relationship and connection with everyone else who is a part of this group:

(Romans 12:4-5 NIV)  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, {5} so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Did you notice anything there at “rubs you wrong?”

You’ll notice that the phrase “belongs to all the others” differs from the independent spirit Americans value, but American is not my primary identity—that’s secondary to this.

We have this God-created connection even with people who are different from us and with whom we might not otherwise associate:

(Galatians 3:28 NIV)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Besides, those identities are secondary:

  •  But this does mean, like it or not, that we have that special connection with those Christians whose secondary identity is Democrat and those whose secondary identity is Republican.
  •  You & I belong to those believers whose secondary identity is liberal & to those whose secondary identity is conservative.
  •  You & I belong to those Christians who also, secondarily, could be described as poor, middle class, or rich.
  •  We are all one & we all belong to each other. Not all of these will meet together in the same worship assembly, due to distance certainly, sometimes due to differing languages & perhaps sometimes due to different cultural matters, but never due to barriers that are secular and fleshly.
  •  But even in circumstance when we don’t all meet together, we are all still a part of the one people of God.

As we continue to go through a list of our oneness with people of all kinds of secondary identities, at some point we may begin to wonder whether all those people are a part of God’s church….or if we can be comfortable in some associations.

It is true, according to Jesus, that not everyone who claims to belong to him really does :

(Matthew 7:21 NIV)  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

There will be times when we will have to come to some conclusions about who is part of the one body. How do we come to those decisions? We let God and His Word tell us! If we should begin a process to add shepherds to the leadership of this congregation, we would want to use God’s definition to make certain they are Christians, wouldn’t we?

While it will never be my place (or yours) to decide on the eternal fate of anyone, we will be called upon from time to time to let God’s word define and clear up some matters as they relate to our ministry here at Parkway or in the community.

According to Jesus, you know by their fruit, the way they live their lives. According to Eph 4, beliefs matter also, at least some certain core beliefs.

As we go about involving people in our various ministries and having fellowship with others, we will sometimes have to make some decisions about whether we think a person in fact is a part of God’s people, but we need to remember those decisions are not definitive. God knows who his people are; we too will often know, although not perfectly.

In this one group of God’s people, not only are we different in that we have a great variety of secondary identities, we are also different in gifts. In this way we are similar to a human body—many parts to our bodies, and each part has a different function. That’s how we are in the body of Christ.

So what? We are all a part of God’s one church, we all belong to each other, even with people who have a secondary identity that’s really different from us, and we all have different gifts/functions. So what? Well, what we really believe about these matters will affect the way we live. It’s easy to say we agree with these truths God has given us about the one body, but the test of whether we really do believe them is how we live our lives, especially how we live them in relation to the other parts of the one body

Some lifestyle matters that test whether we really believe in the One Body.

Attitude toward other members of the One body

(1 Corinthians 12:14-16 NIV)  Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. {15} If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. {16} And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (if you believe you are inferior to others in this one body, I am not so certain that you truly believe in the one body of Christ.)

(1 Corinthians 12:21 NIV)  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (if you believe you are superior than someone else in this one body, I am not so certain that you truly believe in the one body of Christ.)

(1 Corinthians 12:24-25 NIV)  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, {25} so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If you believe in the one body, you know we are equally special and important!

(Romans 12:15 NIV)  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

(1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV)  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

When someone is hurting, to say “don’t cry” or “get over it” contradicts the word of God. To rejoice at someone’s misfortune contradicts the word of God. To be disappointed when someone is blessed or rewarded contradicts the word of God. If we do such things, it calls into question whether we really believe we are all part of the One Body of Christ.

Attitude toward and use of our gift(s) in the One Body.

Respect the diversity of gifts. Don’t insist everyone be like you. Do you have the misshaped idea that everybody ought to be involved in the ministry you are involved in…rather than realizing that we have different interests and talents…and we need all of them!

Don’t seek to have a gift you don’t have for wrong reasons: the ones you may humanly perceive to be more prestigious or powerful or self-gratifying. That’s not what these are about.

Whatever gift or gifts we do have, we are to use them to serve & edify the One Body.

(Romans 12:6-8 NIV)  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. {7} If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; {8} if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

(1 Corinthians 12:7 NIV)  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

(1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV)  But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

What God has enable us to do is not about me & my gift & making a name for myself; it’s about using the gifts God has entrusted to me for the benefit of others.

Whether we respect the diversity of gifts & use ours for others, indicates whether we believe in the One Body.

If we think “this thing we do called church” is primarily about attendance, I question whether we believe in the One Body.

Love for other members of the One Body.

(1 Corinthians 12:31 NIV)  But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.

When it comes to my relationships w/ all the other members of the One Body, am I … (vv. 4-7)? Paul is painfully specific about what it means to be “lovers of the one body!” You don’t hear Paul saying “well you have to love them but you don’t have to like them.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)  Love is patient…kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. {5} It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. {6} Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. {7} It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Whether we love all the other members of the body indicates whether we believe in the One Body.

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2020 in Church, ephesians

 

A Turtle on the Fence Post Ephesians 2:1-10 


If someone handed you a couple of pills and said, “Swallow these,” would you do it? Not likely. However, if you were in a medical office and the person speaking was a doctor who had just told you that you would die unless you took the pills, you would be more likely to do so. 

Sometimes you have to know how bad the bad news is before you can appreciate the good news. Paul tells us how bad the bad news is: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”

This is God’s spiritual evaluation of one outside of Christ.

Dead. Not sick, not dying, not having an off day— dead. What can dead people do to help themselves? Not much . . . in fact, absolutely nothing. That is why God, in his mercy, had to reach out to us in his unfathomable love: a love that would sacrifice his only Son for us.

God has given us our diagnosis. Have you understood it? He has also given you the remedy.

The root meaning of “transgressions” suggests a fall or lapse, while the root meaning of “sins” implies an innate state of corruption. Both words reveal people’s inability to please God and live as they should. The plural of both words further emphasizes the natural tendency of humans to continue in sin. Unbelievers’ constant sin and rebellion against God portray their spiritual death.

2:2 You used to live just like the rest of the world, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. NLT

Paul described three marks of unbelievers:

  1. They lived like the rest of the world. This refers to the world’s accepted, but immoral, lifestyles and godless motives. Jesus warned his followers: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” ( John 15:18-19).
  1. They followed the mighty prince of the power of the air. This prince is Satan. The passage focuses on Satan’s reality as an evil power with a certain amount of control in the world. The Bible pictures Satan as ruling an evil spiritual kingdom—the demons and those who are against Christ.
  1. They were enslaved to “gratifying the cravings of [the] flesh” ( 2:3). This is the third mark of unbelievers, described in the following verse.

2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. NKJV

16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

Behind those two words lies a cosmic plan so huge in scope and so vast in love that the human mind cannot fully comprehend it—all we can do is humbly receive it. Instead of leaving sinful humanity to live worthless and hopeless lives ending only in death, God acted. How God acted and why He acted is explained in this verse and in 2:7.

God acted on behalf of humanity because he is rich in mercy.

What is “mercy”? The word has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed. Mercy was seen as a basic attribute of God, sometimes called “lovingkindness” or “compassion.” This word describes the outworking of God’s love toward people and is shown in his lovingkindness toward them even though they do not deserve it ( Psalm 51:1; Jeremiah 9:24; Hosea 2:19; Jonah 4:2).

God not giving us what we deserve. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

God also acted on behalf of humanity because of His great love. The Greek word for love, agape, is used. It means the selfless love that seeks the best for others. While God could have simply destroyed all people because of their sin, he chose instead to show mercy and love.

Sinful people cannot even approach the holy God, but God extended his love to them, knowing that only he could give salvation to them. Such love is “great” and beyond human understanding.

This love was directed toward us, meaning Jews and Gentiles alike. God’s riches of grace, mercy, and love were meant for all kinds of people from the beginning—Jews and Gentiles—and all people are offered salvation and life in Christ.

2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. NIV In addition to being “made alive” ( 2:5), believers are also raised . . . up with Christ. Christ was raised from death and left the tomb—an act accomplished by God’s power alone, as Paul explained in 1:20. Believers have also been “raised.”

We conduct this new life in obedience to God, and thus it is totally different from the life the world offers. As Christ was raised from physical death, believers too are raised from spiritual death to an entirely new kind of life. Believers will experience physical death, but we are assured of resurrection from that death and eternal life with God.

Finally, believers are seated . . . with him in the heavenly realms. Christ has taken his seat at the right hand of the Father, indicating his finished work and his victory over sin. Christ has been exalted by God’s great power ( 1:20). Christians have tended to see this seating with Christ as a future event, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30 as well as other verses that point to our future reign with Christ (such as 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:4; 22:5). Yet Ephesians teaches that we are seated with Christ now. We share with Christ in his victory now. This view of our present status should help us face our work and trials with greater hope! Believers, as heirs of the kingdom along with Christ, are spiritually exalted from the moment of salvation. We have a new citizenship—in heaven, no longer just on earth: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” ( Philippians 3:20 nkjv). The power that raised and exalted Christ also raised and exalted his people. That same power works daily in believers, helping us live and work for God during our time in the world.

Being made alive, being raised, and being seated in heaven occurs in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus was the forerunner—without his sacrifice for our sins, his resurrection, and his exaltation, humanity would still be without hope. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we know that our bodies will also be raised from the dead ( 1 Corinthians 15:12-23). Our eternal life with Christ is certain because we are united in his powerful victory. We have been given the power to live as Christians now ( 1:19), not in conformity to the world and its standards, but in obedience to God ( Romans 12:2). This metaphor pictures God sharing his glory and victory with his people, giving them the privilege and authority of shared kingship. Believers can claim their royal status now, for they are children of the King!

2:7 That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. NKJV Here is the final and definitive reason for God’s action on behalf of humanity, his reason for making us alive, raising us, and seating us along with his Son in the heavenly realms. God wants quite simply to show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us. The Greek word for “show” (or “show forth”) comes from legal terminology. God closes the case by presenting the astounding evidence of his church, his people. The church could only exist by God’s love; the fact of its existence, the fact that people have been offered salvation, reveals the abundance of God’s grace and kindness (see also 1:7; 2:4). Again, this was accomplished only in Christ Jesus. Without Christ’s sacrifice, there would be no hope for a relationship with God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” ( John 3:16 nkjv). The result? Eternal praise from those whom he has saved (see 1:6, 12, 14).

To whom does God “show” this? Obviously the believers are experiencing God’s grace and kindness. But the believers, the church, show God’s grace and kindness to an unbelieving world. The phrase “in the ages to come” refers to future ages on earth. Throughout history, God will continually demonstrate his work. As time goes by, his grace will be fully shown.

There is an expression: “When you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself.” It’s obvious that someone had to put the turtle up there. In a very real sense, Christians are turtles sitting atop fence posts, put there by the grace of God.

It’s as if someone asked God, “How can I be sure you’re as loving and gracious as you say you are?” His response is simply to display the church—flawed, sinful, capable of stupidity and faithlessness—as Exhibit A, demonstrating his infinite patience and mercy.

How else would a group of such obviously fallen men and women get together and do anything for the glory of God?

Who else but God would use people like us? You are a display case for the grace of God. Demonstrate his great kindness to you by sharing it with others. Use his patience with you to witness to others.

2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. NKJV Elaborating on the statement in 2:5, this verse repeats that it is by grace that anyone is saved. Salvation includes being made alive, raised, and seated with Christ as described in 2:5-6, and that occurs only because of God’s kindness toward undeserving people. “Grace” refers to the multifaceted gift that God makes available to us despite our unworthiness. Not only does God mercifully withhold the judgment and punishment that we so clearly deserve, he grants instead the almost unbelievable gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. God’s grace requires faith because the moral and legal case against us leads to an inevitable verdict—guilty. “Grace” means the forgiveness of our sins. It cannot be earned by works or by any goodness in us. It is free and undeserved favor on us by Christ’s faithful act of redemption.

Our salvation comes from God’s grace alone. “Through faith” could refer to: (1) God’s faithfulness to his promises, (2) Christ’s faithfulness in his obedience to God by dying on the cross, or (3) people’s faith in accepting salvation. In light of Paul’s references to the Ephesians’ faith in 1:1 and 15, he most likely meant “faith” to refer to people’s faith (#3 above). The way people obtain salvation is through faith—simple acceptance of God’s gift of salvation (see also Romans 3:22, 25; Galatians 2:16).

And that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. NKJV Lest anyone should think that “faith” is a necessary work that people must perform in order to receive salvation, Paul added this phrase. It is unclear whether that refers back to “saved,” “faith,” or to the previous section. It is most likely that Paul is referring back to his entire explanation of salvation in 2:4-8, thus including “saved” and “faith” in his one word “that.” Thus, “faith” is also a gift. In any case, Paul is firm that absolutely nothing is of our own doing (not of yourselves)—not salvation, not grace, not even the faith exercised to receive salvation—everything is the gift of God. Salvation does not come from our self-reliance or individualism but from God’s initiative. It is a gift to be thankfully accepted (see Romans 3:24-28; 1 Corinthians 1:29-31; Galatians 2:16).

William Temple: The only thing that a man can contribute to his redemption is the sin from which he needs to be redeemed.

2:9 Not of works, lest anyone should boast. NKJV Salvation is “not of yourselves” ( 2:8), and it is not of works. In other words, people can do nothing to earn salvation, and a person’s faith itself also is not to be considered a “work” or grounds that anyone should boast.

People find it difficult to accept something so free, so willingly given, so available to anyone. We want to feel as though we did something, that we somehow earned our salvation by our merit. That was how the Judaizers (false teachers who said Christians had to obey all the Jewish laws) regarded their laws and why they tried to impose them on the Gentiles—there had to be a certain amount of law keeping and goodness on people’s part in order for them to receive salvation. But Paul’s words are unmistakable—if salvation is by God’s grace and is accepted through faith, then it is “not of works.” If salvation could be earned by good works, then people would, by nature, “boast” about their good works, compare the goodness of their works to others’ good works, and do good only to boast about it. Then, what would be “good enough” for salvation?

But no one could ever be good enough to please a holy God. He casts aside all human effort and pride by offering salvation for free to all people by simple acceptance. People are given salvation on the grounds of God’s grace alone.

2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV But wait, there’s more. We are God’s workmanship (work of art, masterpiece, new creation). Salvation is something only God can do—it is his powerful, creative work in us. People are re-created into new people, and those new people form a new creation—the church.

Why would God do it? Why would he sacrifice his only Son for sinners like us?

Ephesians 2:10 gives one reason: so that we could be living, breathing pictures of his grace and mercy. Not only does he change us radically into new creatures, he also wants to use us as display cases for his artistry.

According to this verse, believers are his workmanship, his masterpieces. That would be an arrogant claim to make about ourselves if God hadn’t already said it.

This statement also carries some significant implications about how we ought to see ourselves and how we ought to treat one another. God’s masterpieces should not lower or degrade themselves with sinful attitudes, words, or behaviors. Nor should we devalue his other works of art: our brothers and sisters in Christ. Treat fellow Christians as God’s masterpieces.

Out of gratitude for this free gift, however, believers will seek “to do good works”—to help and serve others with kindness, love, and gentleness. While no action or work we do can help us obtain salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service.

We are saved not merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church ( 4:12). This solves the so-called conflict between faith and works. Works do not produce salvation but are the evidence of salvation.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2020 in Church, ephesians

 

“Does It Really Matter What One Believes” Ephesians 4:1-6


*Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many great thoughts…

A few years ago a man and woman in Long Beach, California stopped and bought some fried chicken for a picnic. When the clerk took their money she somehow, mindlessly, enclosed a large stack of the cash register’s money in with their food. When they arrived at the picnic spot and found the money, the man instantly said they had to return it, which they did.

The frantic manager was thrilled to meet someone of such honesty. He wanted to call the newspaper and have the man’s picture and story printed. The man refused, which is even more impressive as long as you think it was due to his humility. But the story turns sour when you find out the reason he didn’t want to call the newspaper is that the woman he was picnicking with wasn’t his wife but was in fact someone else’s.

That sick feeling you have right now is why we need to be genuine as God’s people…this “thing” we’re doing here is not about ritual or numbers, but we’re seeking to be a church that belongs to Christ…individuals who want a high moral standard that includes lifestyle, attitudes & beliefs.

From the front page of some website:

“…is part of a fellowship of independent congregations known as the churches of Christ, with roots in the Restoration Movement. We seek to shed our individual differences and unite on the simple truths of the New Testament. We are far from accomplishing this ideal, but we do seek to follow God’s word in an open and authentic way.
   “We are not a perfect church. We are a church where imperfect people can connect with a perfect God, where people can grow together, learn together, and serve together. We are each unique members of Christ’s body, using the gifts His Spirit provides to build each other up, lift up Jesus Christ in this community, and reach the world with the Good News! We’d love for you to join with us on this journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.”

 Beliefs matter.  Jesus confronted the Sadducees regarding their disbelief on the subject of the resurrection in  Matthew 22. He stopped their ‘trap’ but he also exposed the error of their belief.

When Apollos began to preach the word of God in Acts 18-19, he was “off” on the subject of baptism and it was corrected.

We are to use wisdom and grace in building people up and bringing people into the “way of the Lord more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-28; Col. 4:5-6; Eph. 4:29).

(Acts 18:24-28)  Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. {25} He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. {26} He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. {27} When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. {28} For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV) 5  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
6  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) 29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Which beliefs matter? Is it what the elders offer as “official church policy?” Do you have to follow lock-step with everything the preacher or favorite Bible class teacher presents? Of course not!

We will have our own ideas about many subjects, but on some subjects there can be no real discussion, if it fits in the area of God’s Word and it is clearly given by direct command, necessary inference, or is based upon the teaching in the 1st century of the apostles of Christ.

Right doctrine is essential to right living. It is impossible to live a faithful Christian life without knowing biblical doctrine. Doctrine simply means teaching, and there is no way that even the most sincere believer can live a life pleasing to God without knowing what God Himself is like and knowing the sort of life God wants him to live.

When people say, “Don’t talk to me about doctrine—just let me live my Christian life!” they are revealing their ignorance of the way the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer.

“It makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you live right” is a similar confession of ignorance. It does make a difference what you believe, because what you believe determines how you behave!

The main idea in these first sixteen verses is the unity of believers in Christ. This is simply the practical application of the doctrine taught in the first half of the letter: God is building a body, a temple. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles to Himself in Christ. The oneness of believers in Christ is already a spiritual reality. Our responsibility is to guard, protect, and preserve that unity.

Most denominational members would be surprised to discover that their chosen religious affiliation is less than 500 years old. Many people assume that the church of which they are members is ancient in origin, divinely ordained, and a part of the church revealed in the New Testament.

It doesn’t always occur to them that there were no denominations in New Testament days. When the church was established in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, there was one church with Christ as the head and the apostles as pillars of faith as they did exactly what Jesus had trained them to do.

That church was planned (Eph. 3:10-11), prophesied (Isaiah 2:2-3), prepared (Matt. 3:1-2), and promised (Matt. 16:18) before it existence. The kingdom came with power (Mark 9:1) when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8).

The gospel was preached, sinners responded to that resurrected Savior, they repented, they were immersed in water for remission of sins, and they began the Christian walk.

How simple! And how tragic today that so many have changed that simple beginning with their own ideas and teachings. How thrilling it is to find people in the Ukraine (for instance) who were given Bibles in years past and began reading it and with little or no help from outside teachers, became New Testament Christian and began worshipping in ways God approved through the apostles and first century Christians.

 At Pentecost, every person obeyed the same gospel, became members of the same body, and ultimately wore the same name.

Jesus prayed that His followers would be united (Jn. 17:21-23).

(John 17:20-23)  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, {21} that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. {22} I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: {23} I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 Those who cause factions are to be rejected

(Titus 3:10)  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

Men who cause dissensions are to be avoided

(Romans 16:17)  I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

Tim Stafford (OCC professor) tells of a minister who used a jar full of beans in teaching. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right.

He then turns to the list of their favorite songs. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” he asks. The students protest that there is no “right answer”; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste. And the teacher agrees.

But then he asks, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, and amazingly, he gets the same answer, from old as well as young: they say choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favorite song than knowing the # of beans in the jar.

IF that is true, then what we believe has more to do with what we like or what we will not accept. The issue of God’s authority is taken out of the equation!

One of the main reasons that cults in our day have had such an impact on the world is their unity. Disharmony is not tolerated. Though misguided, misused, and often totalitarian, such unity is attractive to many people who are tired of religious uncertainty, ambiguity, and confusion.

Few of us who have attended church for a number of years have not been in or known of a congregation where there was a split or at least serious quarreling. The problem has existed in the church from New Testament times. The Corinthian believers fell short of the Lord’s standards in many ways, and the first thing for which Paul called them to task was quarreling.

Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up in them and around them. Infants are quick to express displeasure when they are not given something they want or when something they like is taken away. Little children cry, fight, and throw tantrums because they cannot have their own ways.

(James 4:1-2)  What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? {2} You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.).

What the Lord laments and opposes, Satan applauds and fosters. Few things demoralize, discourage, and weaken a church as much as bickering, backbiting, and fighting among its members. And few things so effectively undermine its testimony before the world.

The church we see in the New Testament was planned (Eph. 3:10-11), prophesied (Isaiah 2:2-3), prepared (Matt. 3:1-2), and promised (Matt. 16:18) before it existence.

At Pentecost, every person obeyed the same gospel, became members of the same body, and ultimately wore the same name.

God is much more desirous of people being saved, than of their being condemned

(Ezekiel 18:23)  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

 (John 3:17)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2020 in Church, Doctrine, ephesians

 
 
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