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Beliefs Matter: It Does Really Matter What One Believes About the One Lord  — Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Cor. 8:4-6


Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV) 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.

(1 Corinthians 8:4-6 NIV)  So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. {5} For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), {6} yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

A man was out on a practice golf course one day when the club pro brought another man out for a golf lesson. The pro watched the man swing several times and then started making suggestions for improvement. Each time the pro spoke, however, the student interrupted with his own version of what was wrong and how to correct it. After a few minutes of these repeated objections, the pro began to respond to the student by merely nodding his head in agreement. At the end of the lesson, the student paid the pro, congratulated him on his expertise as a teacher, and then left in an obviously pleased frame of mind.

The man who was watching all this was so astonished by it that he asked the pro why he went along with him. The pro responded, “I learned a long time ago that it’s a waste of time to try to sell answers to a man who wants to buy “echoes” of his own voice.”

Honestly, all of us need someone to guide us in our attempts to live well.

Sometimes we aren’t aware that we cheat ourselves out of much needed good guidance because we’re enamored with “echoes of our own voice” or other voices instead of the One voice that can help us most.

I think we need direction in this life. We need a map. We need a compass! The primary person we turn to in our life is Jesus Christ!

The one Lord is Jesus Christ. “He is Lord of all.”

 (Acts 2:38 NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

(Acts 10:36 NIV)  You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

(Romans 10:12 NIV)  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,

I think all of us here today believe these verses. But do we really believe them? No pope, prophet, teacher, editor, elder, preacher, reformer, president, or any other man has authority to act as Lord of the church.

  • Jesus wants to be that voice.
  • He offers to lead us, and most of us probably think he’s qualified to lead us, but still sometimes we don’t let him lead.
  • Maybe we don’t believe it deeply enough or maybe we’re not be thoughtful enough about our lives to realize how often we listen to our own advice or others who say things we want to hear, instead of listening to him.
  • Somehow we need to more consciously recognize that he’s qualified to do so.

The way Jesus seeks to convince us of his worthiness to lead us, is not by frightening us or by listing logical reasons why, but by demonstrating his authority.

At the end of his life, another event even more powerfully demonstrated his worthiness to lead us: According to God’s plan he was executed but then God raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not only extraordinarily remarkable, it is significant: it tells us who he is.

(Romans 1:4 NIV)  and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

As His subjects, believers are unequivocally instructed…

 (John 20:28 NIV)  Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

(Acts 2:22-36 NIV)  “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. {23} This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. {24} But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

{32} God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand {35} until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ {36} “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

What we need to recognize in our hearts is Jesus is Lord.

  • to live as He said: holy and righteous and pure, bearing the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:19-21).
  • to carry out His orders as one body (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Cor. 12:5; Phil. 2:9-11).

But we also need to notice that, even though he is Lord of all, he didn’t conduct himself as an authoritarian. He told people the truth and called people to follow and obey, but he wasn’t harsh and demanding. He had credibility with people because of the quality & character of his own life, because the wisdom and truthfulness of his words, and because of his love for people.

So the question is: Do you believe it? Do you believe Jesus is Lord.

Not just understand it or agree w/ it but believe it. Understanding of Jesus as One Lord could be measured by taking a doctrinal test but believing Jesus is the One Lord is measured by whether we let him lead our lives.

(Matthew 7:21-23 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. {22} Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ {23} Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

   (Luke 6:46-49 NIV)  “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? {47} I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. {48} He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. {49} But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

   Some of the key “other god,” rivals to Jesus as the One Lord, though they may not seem religious, are our feelings, our desires, our friends, our society.

We need to identify things like this that influence us and make sure we don’t allow them to be our leader (2 Cor. 8:4-6).  Are you ready for a test? It is going to be tough, I assure you.

  1. Is Jesus lord of our attitude? Setting ourselves up as the standard and arbiter for most everything. I don’t like this or that, we shouldn’t do this or that. It’s so embedded in society that it’s difficult to see. Did we learn to take on this role from Jesus or from a rival lord? We often made these evaluations after our morning worship: “I didn’t like that or I liked that” etc.” Where did  we get that? Did it come from Jesus?
  2. Is Jesus lord of our relationships? Or are feelings allowed to reign. Bless those who persecute us, forgive those who do us wrong, work out matters between the 2 of us, not grumble against each other, have equal concern for all the parts of the body, confess our faults, work out your problems; serve one another in love.
  3. Is Jesus lord of our sexuality? Or are the norms in our society. According to the word of God, sexual relations are a gift from God, a wedding present, if you will, and are to be enjoyed exclusively with a person of the opposite gender that we are married to, our husband or our wife. Now that I’ve mentioned this, do you want to look around for a version of Christianity that doesn’t comment on our sexuality? Society wants to tell us how we should act in this matter…..in that case Jesus wouldn’t be lord.

Stanley Jones tells of a missionary who got lost in an African jungle. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but bush and a few clearings. He finally managed to find a native hut and the man who lived it said he could get him out.

   “All right,” said the missionary. “Show me the way.” The native said, “Walk.” So they walked and hacked their way through unmarked jungle for more than an hour. The missionary finally got worried. “Are you sure this is the way? Where is the path?” His native guide answered, “Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path.”

   In the midst of the conflicting desires of our hearts, the confusing advice of our age, and the sometimes overwhelming perplexity about the direction of our lives, one credible voice still quietly pleads, “follow me.” If we believe Jesus is the One Lord, we will do so.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in Jesus Christ

 

Anniversary of ‘Stepping out of the Boat”


On May 13, 1979, Terry and I ‘stepped out of the boat” and entered full-time ministry. I had been a sports writer since graduating from MTSU for over seven years, but took the opportunity to return to our alma-mater to be the campus minister at the Middle Tennessee Christian Center.

Even though there have been many ‘ups and downs,’ it is a decision I have never regretted, and I now enter my 42nd year.

Certainly the blessings of ministry far outweigh the realities below, yet ministry is definitely not easy. That is why ministry must be a calling and not simply a “job”. If you can’t reconcile with these 10 difficult realities and challenges concerning ministry, then perhaps you should avoid it all together.

My dad told me plenty of things as we discussed this crucial decision, but both he and Mom were full of encouragement, though Mom acknowledged after a few years that she felt I should have followed my dad’s example and kept my “full-time job” and been a part-time minister/teacher.

He did say one thing that I have always laughed about: “Gary, Sundays come around really fast when you are preparing two lessons and two Bible class studies per week.”

I find these timely reminders to be useful when one decides to enter ministry…wishing I had learned some of these sooner in my life:

  1. You will probably begin by ministering to a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen ministers come and go, doesn’t respect the position as Biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a minister’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).
  2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far between. Because of the ”super-Christian” myth accredited to ministers literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.
  3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).
  4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily.
  5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and shepherds and Christians that barely know you.
  6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).
  7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jere. 17:9).
  8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations.
  9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.
  10. Not everyone will like you.

I have discovered all of the 10 items to be absolutely correct.

Do not get me wrong. I find great joy in this life effort! My nature is to be an optimistic realist, thus the ability to see things as they are but to find joy and a sense of accomplishment. I have long said that I have the benefit of doing something I enjoy and can still be a big sports fan without the late nights and early hours…and stress to make a deadline.

I also find great satisfaction in mowing a yard…getting to start and finish something in a single moment of time.

I have learned much from some special people in my life, Lately, one of those dear friends asked me “why would you accept criticism from someone you would never go to for advise?” Amen!

And often people find it ‘convenient’ to agree with you only when you follow their advise, when, in actuality, they are accepting you only for what they see in you that duplicates/mirrors them. Impossible!

A most recent lesson? I try daily not to micro-manage someone else’s personality…wishing that others would follow that idea in regard to me.

I was both a preacher’s kid (PK) and an elder’s kid (EK), so I’ve felt ‘eyes on me’ throughout most of my life. I also was concerned that my three children must have ‘felt those eyes on them’ as well. It is a shame that has to be the case, and I understand some of the reasoning…but others should have no right to expect a higher standard for me or Terry and my children/grandchildren than the one they have for themselves. Jesus Christ puts a high standard on ALL of us.

On my desk are two statements: (1) To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human. And, (2) thank you for not minding my business.

I am still negotiating this thing we call ‘ministry.’

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Article, Encouragement

 

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: One Baptism  Ephesians 4:4-5; Galatians 1:6-9; 3:26-28


Ever made a bad first impression? Have you ever felt like you’ve messed it up enough that you wish you could start all over? That’s one way of describing what baptism is all about, a new beginning, a brand new life.

Ephesians 4:4-5: There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– {5} one Lord, one faith, one baptism; Belief Matters—Eph 4:7 beliefs that really matter, we’ve covered …today One Baptism

When speaking of the one Baptism Paul could not have had in mind the question or debate of where it was of pouring, or sprinkling, or immersion. Only immersion was practiced in the time of the apostles. The earliest case of sprinkling for baptism on record is that of Novation in 251 A. D., who was “baptized” upon his bed while sick by pouring a large quantity of water over him.

According to the historians, immersion was nearly the universal practice until the Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic church declared at the Council of Constance that immersion and sprinkling were of equal validity.

Paul was certainly not referring to Holy Spirit baptism as the one baptism that was the common experience of the church. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was an exceptional experience. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:4). About ten years later, at the house of Cornelius, Peter saw the Holy Spirit fall of Cornelius and his household.

In telling about this, Peter said that the Holy Spirit fell on them, “as at the beginning. Then remembered the word of the Lord how that he had said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 11:15-16).

These are the only cases of Holy Spirit baptism recorded in the Bible. The experiences of those who claim to have received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in modern times are so contradictory that no confidence can be placed in them. If there is only one baptism, surely there ought not be any disagreement as to how it is to be performed, or in what it is done.

(Acts 2:38-39 NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

The difficulty comes in the simple definition —  or redefining – of the word eis. Is it saying that baptism is to receive the forgiveness of sins or baptism is because my sins have  already been forgiven? To say the same thing in another way: is baptism necessary in order to have your sins forgiven?

If the word eis in Acts 2:38 means their sins were already forgiven before baptism, it has to be interpreted the same way in Matthew 26:28: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Does anyone here believe that forgiveness of sins was possible for the masses BEFORE the death and the “shedding of blood” by Jesus?

The One Baptism is an immersion in water of a person who understands and believes the good news about Jesus and who is willing to follow Jesus as his One Lord.

  1. Is an immersion – Word means immerse or dip (ship sinking, man drowning), parallel w/ DBR; some vv. refer to “much water” or “going down into the water” and indicate that immersion is what was going on (Matt. 3:16; John 3:23; Acts 8:38-39). Some may wonder if sprinkling is okay. Wrong Q—don’t need to be trying to figure out whether what we may have done is good enough but figuring out what God wants.
  2. Understands & believes the good news— (vv. Acts 2:24-38; Col. 2:11-12) not a ritual, must be understanding & faith, not for babies or others who don’t understand or believe.
  3. Willing to follow Jesus as their one lord—(vv. Acts 2:36, 41) not magical & not the end of the journey, rather the beginning.

The purpose and meaning of baptism is broad:

  • It is associated with being a part of the church, being clothed with Christ, repentance, death, the Holy Spirit
  • It is associated w/ forgiveness of sins and salvation. I believe a proper understanding of it fits with the clear biblical teaching that we are saved by grace through faith. The best simple way I know to say it is that baptism is one of the responses to God’s grace in order to be forgiven and saved.
  1. Salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Grace is the basis for salvation, no way we can save ourselves. When we get baptized, we are not saving ourselves (but cf. Acts 2:40-41).
  2. Baptism is a response to grace. Grace is primary; grace is the basis; baptism is a response to it. Without the grace, baptism would be meaningless.
  3. Baptism is not a work (Titus 3:4-5). Rather, it is a response to Christ’s work.
  4. Baptism is a matter of faith (Gal. 3:26-27; Col. 2:11-12).
  5. Baptism is one of several responses to God’s grace (faith, repentance, confession).
  6. Baptism is a necessary response (vv. Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Pet. 3:21; John 3:3-5).
  7. Baptism is the beginning point for new life (Rom. 6:4), I don’t know of any other point in time that the NT says we die to our old life.

Every “religious group” teaches some response to God’s grace is necessary for salvation, to believe in Jesus or accept Jesus or pray to Jesus etc. The idea of responding to God’s grace is biblical (“those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace,” Rom. 5:17). I believe the NT teaches baptism is a part of receiving it, one of the necessary responses, in view of the clear statements that connect w/ salvation.

If you are familiar with “the sinner’s prayer” I encourage you to think carefully about that. I can’t find that in the Bible, Rev. 3:20 is talking to Christians.

People feel a need for a tangible beginning point, and baptism is that beginning point…a particular event at a particular point in time and an actual act which is deliberate and able to be witnessed. I believe the sinner’s prayer is a way of filling the void left when people remove baptism.

So baptism is an immersion in water of a person who understands and believes the good news about Jesus and who is willing to follow Jesus as his One Lord.

  • This is the One baptism shared by all God’s people. It holds us together as God’s people.
  • This is what we believe & teach at Parkway & something you need to do if you want to be a member of Parkway.
  • If you’re not quite there yet in your thinking, that’s okay. Our walk w/ God is a journey. But I encourage you to be thinking, praying, & studying about this.
  • It is a vital part. I’d love to talk with you about it if you wish. Or if you think I’m wrong about this, I’d be glad to dialog with you.

(Galatians 1:6-9 NIV)  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel– {7} which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. {8} But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

(Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Why is this so important? Because the religious world is good at giving “false confidence” in this area. We’ve got to spend some time today in Acts 19:1-5

Paul found some disciples who had been immersed in water: “in the right way” for the wrong reason. Why was it such a big deal? What was the recourse? How does it affect us today? 

Throughout this series of messages on Belief Matters we’ve been saying it’s not enough merely to understand what the Bible teachers or merely to concur with it. It needs to change our lives.

If we believe in the One Baptism, we’ll do two things: Get baptized, w/ understanding, w/ faith, w/ the intent to follow Jesus. If you haven’t done that, I urge you to do so. If it’s associated with being saved, it’s really, really important. Wouldn’t want you to do it just to do it; need to understand. Glad to discuss it with you further.  Live like you’ve been baptized (not “follow the rules”). Parallel <> baptism and death, burial, & resurrection of Jesus.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2020 in Baptism

 

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

 

Guidelines for parents in developing your child’s self-esteem


  1. low-self-esteem1. Try to improve your own mental health. In dealing with your children, you teach more by      what you are than by what you say. Ask yourself such questions: Since God  accepts me, why can’t I accept myself? Who am I to question God? Since I  forgive others, why can’t I forgive myself? Am I easy to be around? Perhaps there is something in me that is worthwhile.
  2. If you are married, establish a healthy marriage. Unhealthy marriages develop unhealthy patterns of interaction in your home which affect your children. If your family ‘health’ us not the very best, get some help in making it so. It isn’t a sign of weakness to see your own faults and to try to overcome them…rather, it’s a sign of maturity and strength! Weak people try to      avoid such reality.
  3. Provide for your family’s needs: physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual.
  4. Spend much time with your family. You as a parent are often not only busy but tired and need rest yourself. Your children must be a priority, especially while they are young. Eat as many meals as possible (that means sitting down together at one place and talking, sharing, caring). No distractions should normally be allowed.
  5. Teach them proper values. Children will pick up your values; if they see your emphasis for money and prestige, they will value those things, too. If they see you laying up treasures in heaven, they will usually value heaven (Matt. 6:19-21). God, Jesus Christ, church, family, responsibility, and Christian character: what could possibly rate above those things?!
  6. Let your children be children.
  7. Focus upon strengths rather than weaknesses. Be realistic, but recognize strengths. Morris      Rosenberg in Society and the Adolescent Self-Image found that high self-esteem children tend to have mothers who are satisfied with average or below average performance. This mayselfesteem appear to go against the grain, but pushing our children to hard is more harmful. The key: don’t create      unrealistic expectations for them. We should help them overcome setbacks and compete in honest ways. We should provide encouragement and support in all efforts they choose…but keep God, Jesus, and the church first in all things!
  8. Discipline your children with love. Set certain limits and enforce them but don’t over-do it. Be HIGH in love and standards (the model used toward us by God).
  9. Encourage achievement in school: motivate, help, maximize his/her potential, yet accept them for that they are and not for what you wish them to be.
  10. Try to avoid over-protection and dependence.
  11. Explain changes that will occur at puberty.
  12. Forgive them.
  13. Don’t be partial to one child over another. Realize they are different!
  14. Learn to show affection.
  15. Help them to belong.
  16. Help them to develop a strong faith in God, the source of our true value.

Adolescents need attention and they will find a way to get it. It IS easier to get negative attention than positive attention: the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Teens often ask “why not” to get you as a parent to change your mind. They really are not wanting to know. They are just wanting you to acquience. You as a parent have a right to say “no” because you are “uncomfortable saying yes.”

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2020 in Encouragement, Family

 

Accepting authority…greatness does not consist in commanding others to do things for you, it consists in doing things for others…and the greater the service, the greater the honor!


Our world is fast becoming a madhouse, and the inmates are trying to run the asylum. It is a strange time when the patients are writing the prescriptions, the students are threatening to run the schools, the children to manage the homes, and church members—not the Holy Spirit—to direct the churches

The descriptive phrase has long caught my attention: Sons of Thunder. It is the signature title given to James and John, the sons of Zebedee, two of Jesus’ apostles.

They were in the fishing business so they knew what it meant to work long hours. They were able to stay up late, concentrate on a given task, and certainly usually had dirty hands.

But they longed for something more grandeur.

They were quick to follow our Lord when He called them. They were among the inner three (along with Peter), And they were faithful to their calling, dying for the cause of Christ after denying self and living for him in their life.

They revealed their ambition and were taught a valuable lesson following a request likely presented on their behalf by their loving and devoted mother (Matthew 20:17-28): “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

The incident recorded in this section happened while Jesus and His disciples were going up to Jerusalem for the last time, journeying via Jericho, from Ephraim in the wilderness.

The ambitious request for the chief places of honor in the kingdom was therefore made little more than a week before their Lord was crucified. How little must they have dreamed what was coming!

Jesus spoke about a cross, but they were interested in a crown. They wanted reserved seats on special thrones! There were several things wrong with their request. To begin with, it was born in ignorance. “Ye know not what ye ask,” Jesus replied. Little did Salome realize that the path to the throne is a difficult one. James was the first of the disciples to be martyred, and John had to endure hard days on the Isle of Patmos. These three believers wanted their will, not God’s will, and they wanted it their way.

Another factor was their lack of heavenly direction. They were thinking like the world: James and John wanted to “lord it over” the other disciples the way the unsaved Gentile rulers lorded it over their subjects. Their request was fleshly (sensual), because they were selfishly asking for glory for themselves, not for the Lord. No doubt they felt relieved that they had gotten to Jesus with this request before Peter did!

Finally, the request was not only of the world and the flesh, but it was of the devil. It was motivated by pride. Satan had sought a throne (Isa. 14:12-15) and had been cast down. Satan had offered Jesus a throne and had been refused (Matt. 4:8-11).

Satan magnifies the end (a throne) but not the means to that end. Jesus warned Salome and her sons that the special thrones were available to those who were worthy of them. There are no shortcuts in the kingdom of God.

The result of this request was “indignation” on the part of the other disciples—probably because they had not thought of it first! The wisdom from above always leads to peace; the wisdom of this world leads to war (James 3:13-4:3). Selfishness will only result in dissension and division.

This disagreement gave Jesus the opportunity to teach a practical lesson on leadership. In His kingdom, we must not follow the examples of the world. Our example is Jesus, not some corporation president or wealthy celebrity. Jesus came as a servant; therefore, we should serve one another. He came to give His life; therefore, we should give our lives in service to Him and others.[1]

William Barclay offers a three-fold observation. It sheds light in three directions. First, it sheds a light on the disciples. It tells us three things about them. It tells us of their ambition. They were still thinking in terms of personal reward and personal distinction; and they were thinking of personal success without personal sacrifice. They wanted Jesus with a royal command to ensure for them a princely life. Every man has to learn that true greatness lies, not in dominance, but in service; and that in every sphere the price of greatness must be paid.

That is on the debit side of the account of the disciples; but there is much on the credit side. There is no incident which so demonstrates their invincible faith in Jesus. Think of when this request was made. It was made after a series of announcements by Jesus that ahead of him lay an inescapable Cross; it was made at a moment when the air was heavy with the atmosphere of tragedy and the sense of foreboding. And yet in spite of that the disciples are thinking of a Kingdom.

It is of immense significance to see that, even in a world in which the dark was coming down, the disciples would not abandon the conviction that the victory belonged to Jesus. In Christianity there must always be this invincible optimism in the moment when things are conspiring to drive a man to despair.

Still further, here is demonstrated the unshakable loyalty of the disciples. Even when they were bluntly told that there lay ahead a bitter cup, it never struck them to turn back; they were determined to drink it. If to conquer with Christ meant to suffer with Christ, they were perfectly willing to face that suffering.

It is easy to condemn the disciples, but the faith and the loyalty which lay behind the ambition must never be forgotten.

Out in the world, said Jesus, it is quite true that the great man is the man who controls others; the man to whose word of command others must leap; the man who with a wave of his hand can have his slightest need supplied. Out in the world there was the Roman governor with his retinue and the eastern potentate with his slaves. The world counts them great. But among my followers service alone is the badge of greatness.

Greatness does not consist in commanding others to do things for you; it consists in doing things for others; and the greater the service, the greater the honor. Jesus uses a kind of gradation. “If you wish to be great,” he says, “be a servant; if you wish to be first of all be a slave.” Here is the Christian revolution; here is the complete reversal of all the world’s standards. A complete new set of values has been brought into life.

The strange thing is that instinctively the world itself has accepted these standards. The world knows quite well that a good man is a man who serves his fellow-men. The world will respect, and admire, and sometimes fear, the man of power; but it will love the man of love. The doctor who will come out at any time of the day or night to serve and save his patients; the parson who is always on the road amongst his people; the employer who takes an active interest in the lives and troubles of his employees; the person to whom we can go and never be made to feel a nuisance-these are the people whom all men love, and in whom instinctively they see Jesus Christ.

John Fletcher recounted a situation worthy of our consideration, teaching an obvious lesson: One day having offended his father who threatened to correct him, he did not dare to come into his presence but retired into the garden. When he saw him coming toward him, he ran away with all speed. But he was presently struck with deep remorse, and said to himself: “What! Do I run away from my father? Perhaps I shall live to have a son that will run away from me!” And it was several years before the impression which he then received was worn off.

You may have read about the Ohio college graduate who placed a contraceptive on his mortar board as he went forward to get his degree – and had a stuffed parrot on his shoulder.

Now I know a lot of people get a kick out of graduation. But the following Monday this graduate was to report to the Great American Insurance Company in Cincinnati for a $35,000-a-year job as an internal auditor. The following Monday he was summoned to the office and fired for showing “a total disrespect for authority.” Out of control. [2]

When Toyohiko Kagawa first came into contact with Christ-ianity, he felt its fascination, until one day the cry burst from him: “O God, make me like Christ.” To be like Christ he went to live in the slums, even though he himself was suffering from tuberculosis. It seemed the last place on earth to which a man in his condition should have gone.

Cecil Northcott in Famous Life Decisions tells of what Kagawa did. He went to live in a six foot by six hut in a Tokyo slum. “On his first night he was asked to share his bed with a man suffering from contagious itch. That was a test of his faith. Would he go back on his point of no return? No. He welcomed his bed-fellow. Then a beggar asked for his shirt and got it. Next day he was back for Kagawa’s coat and trousers, and got them too. Kagawa was left standing in a ragged old kimono. The slum dwellers of Tokyo laughed at him, but they came to respect him. He stood in the driving rain to preach, coughing all the time. ‘God is love,’ he shouted. ‘God is love. Where love is, there is God.’ He often fell down exhausted, and the rough men of the slums carried him gently back to his hut.”

Kagawa himself wrote: “God dwells among the lowliest of men. He sits on the dust heap among the prison convicts. He stands with the juvenile delinquents. He is there with the beggars. He is among the sick, he stands with the unemployed. Therefore let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to Church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads his Bible let him help the beggar.”

Therein is greatness. The world may assess a man’s greatness by the number of people whom he controls and who are at his beck and call; or by his intellectual standing and his academic eminence; or by the number of committees of which he is a member; or by the size of his bank balance and the material possessions which he has amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant. His assessment is quite simply-how many people has he helped? [3]

Colin Urquhart understood that if you accept the authority of Jesus in your life, then you accept the authority of his words.

Self-chosen authority is an impertinence. Jesus said that the great ones in this world exercise authority but that in his kingdom it is not so; no one exercises authority over another because in his kingdom the king is servant of all. If a saint tries to exercise authority, it is a proof that he is not rightly related to Jesus Christ. [4]

[1] Warren Wiersbe, Be Series…Matthew.

[2] Ben Haden, Changed Lives

[3] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew.

[4] Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2020 in Encouragement

 

What is our greatest need?


If you’re sick, you may think, “My greatest need is to be healed of this illness.” If you’re unemployed, you may think, “My greatest need is to get a good job to provide for my needs.”

If you’re single, you may think, “My greatest need is for a mate.” If you’re in a difficult marriage, you may think, “My greatest need is for harmony in my marriage.” If you have a child who has become ensnared by drug abuse, you may think that your greatest need is for your child to be free from this addiction.

While all of these are important needs, none of them are your greatest need. The greatest need of every person, whether he recognizes it or not, is to have God forgive his sins before he dies and faces God’s eternal punishment.

        Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark encourages us to notice the crowd in this house, or the four men who cared enough about this man to go to a lot of trouble.

What did Jesus see? NOT a man with physical ailments, BUT someone who needed his sins forgiven!

Don’t miss this point! Our greatest need? Forgiveness of sins.

Health, adequate money, and a happy family are wonderful blessings, but if you die without God’s forgiveness, these blessings will be useless. Your greatest need is to know that God has forgiven your sins and that you are reconciled to the holy Judge of the universe.

The subject of knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins is so important that the enemy of our souls has worked overtime to sow seeds of confusion and error. Our modern pagan society often deals with the problem of guilt by telling us that we don’t need to worry about it.

In other words, since guilt doesn’t make me feel good about myself (which is my aim in life), when my conscience condemns me, tell it to take a hike. Rather than being ashamed about our sins, we now celebrate them under the guise of being “true” to ourselves.

Another ploy of the devil is to get us to invent a god who is not perfectly holy and to view ourselves as basically good people. This god is tolerant and loving. He couldn’t possibly condemn a nice person like me!

Of course, I’m not perfect, but compared to terrorists who blow up innocent women and children and perverts who abuse little children, I’m not so bad. So I can excuse my relatively “minor faults” and dismiss my need for God’s forgiveness.

Satan also sows confusion about God’s forgiveness under the guise of religion. All of the world’s non-Christian religions, some branches of Christianity, and all of the cults that claim to be Christian teach that we must do something—fasting, prayer, penance, self-denial, good works—to help pay for our sins and to earn God’s favor. Often religious people base their hope of forgiveness on the fact that they have faithfully performed certain religious rituals for many years.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul is saying, In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the abundant forgiveness of all our sins.

re·demp·tion   [ri- demp-sh uhn] NOUN

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  1. repurchase, as of something sold.

Before we consider the meaning of Paul’s words here, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these truths for your life. If you try to seek God’s forgiveness in any way other than what Paul here states, you will waste your time and endanger your soul.

If your hope of heaven rests on anything that you must do to earn it, you will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me” on that great day. If, as a Christian, you do not understand and live daily in light of the truths that Paul here sets forth, you will not grow in godliness. You will be defeated by sin and guilt. So these truths are vital for a healthy Christian walk.

In Christ we can have redemption.

So, if you lack redemption or forgiveness of your sins, you will not find it anywhere except in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

REDEMPTION MEANS THAT CHRIST PAID THE PRICE TO FREE US FROM THE PENALTY AND POWER OF SIN.

We use words such as “redeemer” or “redemption” as religious terms. But when the man of the first century heard them he immediately thought in non-religious terms.” It brought to mind the common picture of a slave being purchased and then set free. Redemption meant release from bondage by the payment of a price. Every Gentile in the Roman world would have thought of this when he heard the word, “redemption.”

The word also has roots in the Old Testament, which refers to a “kinsman-redeemer.” For example, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s family property, due to debt, had fallen into other hands. Because she had lost her husband, she could not afford to recover it. Boaz was a near relative who had the right to redeem the property by paying the price, which he did.

In other Old Testament contexts, God is seen as the one who redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 6:6). As you know, the Jews had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. It was a picture of our redemption through the blood of Christ.

Paul uses the word in a spiritual sense to refer to Christ’s paying the price of our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. We were helplessly, hopelessly enslaved to sin and under God’s just condemnation. But with His own blood Christ paid the penalty to release us from bondage. We now belong to Him.

Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.

If someone offered you a gift that was worth thousands of dollars and you reached in your pocket to give him a penny to pay for it, you would insult him. Jesus graciously paid it all. We can do nothing except to receive His gift and then live every day in light of what He so graciously and generously did for us.

WE CAN KNOW AND ENJOY OUR REDEMPTION RIGHT NOW.

Paul does not say, “In Him, someday we hope to be redeemed.” Nor does he say, “We’re working at obtaining redemption, but we don’t know yet if we’ll get it until we see whether our good works tip the scale.” Rather, he says, “In Him, we have redemption.” It is our current possession and experience.

Knowing that should fill us with joy and gratitude and love for Christ. It should remove any fear of judgment and fill us with hope beyond the grave. It should motivate us to be holy. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, God wants you to know and enjoy the fact that He has redeemed you from bondage to sin.

So the issue is, either you trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross as the full payment for your sins, or when you stand before God at the judgment, you must pay for your sins through eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

There will be no second chance (Heb. 9:27). That is why making sure that you have redemption through the blood of Jesus is your greatest need! Paul goes on to elaborate on what such redemption means:

Redemption through Christ’s blood is according to the riches of God’s grace, which He lavished on us.

The word “lavished” may be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God’s forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. If you have trusted Christ as your sin-bearer, and responded to Him through faith that culminates with an immersion in water in order to have sins forgiven, Paul wants you to experience the extravagant, lavish undeserved favor of God in forgiving all of your sins.

We sometimes sing the old hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Either that’s true or it’s not. If the blood of Jesus does not wash away all of our sins completely, then we’re all in a lot of trouble, because we all have a lot of sins to deal with.

If it only atones for minor sins, what good is that? “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.” Thank God that is true! Cling to it and live it each and every day!

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
6  GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—
7  loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”

We read and quote John 3:16 (ESV) all the time: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But we also need to take to heart verse 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.

———————————–

When A. J. Gordon was minister of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”

The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”

Gordon offered to buy them, and the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”

Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”

“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”

The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”

 

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2020 in Sermon

 

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

 
 
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