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All posts for the month July, 2014

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Question: In an increasing secular society, how do you stand as a Christ follower for truth?

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭14‬ NLT)

There are waves crashing into Christianity at this very moment. Since the 1960’s there has been a focused attack on what the church believes. It’s subtle, sounds right to our ears, but it breeds confusion and instability and ultimately divides and does not unify.

These waves are waves of culture shifts that tell us abortion is ok, nothing is wrong with divorce, it’s ok to have sex before marriage, that homosexuality is the way God made some, pornography doesn’t really damage the mind, marijuana is actually good for you.

We are being stooped. We are being tossed back and forth and we don’t know what to believe anymore. We have been blown here and there by teachings that simply do not line up with what God tells us in the Bible and so we work really hard to try and slant what He says through the lens of culture rather than doing the hard, often unpopular work, of translating (not changing), what He says so culture understands it.

I read one preacher’s commentary on this verse recently and he wrote:

The point rather is simply to show you how tremendously relevant this passage is today. Everywhere you turn your discernment is being tested—are you a babe being carried along by politicians who manipulate Scripture? Are you a babe being shaped by posters that subtly endorse an immoral agenda? Are you a babe being formed and guided by TV advertisers that plant assumptions and desires in your mind? Or are you growing up with the body of Christ into the maturity and discernment and stability of Christ in the truth?

And the end result is that our lives carry no weight.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭15‬ NLT)

The way to stand worthy in the midst of an increased secular society is to speak truth in love and to be truth with love. This is why it is so important that there be no dichotomy in what you believe and how you live. That you walk worthy. That your life carries weight. That your life is described in terms like the fruit of the Spirit.

We won’t always get it right, but let us strive to walk worthy of the high calling of being a Christ follower because of all that God has done for us and as we do that our lives will carry weight.

Question: In an increasing secular society, how do you stand as a Christ follower for truth?

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Question: What areas of your life are not as mature as you would want them to be? What ways could you add weight to your life by serving someone else?

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭2‬ NLT)

This list reminds me of another list that Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Galatia: But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23 NLT)

First step towards walking worthy is take inventory on your maturity level. Where are you weak and where are you strong? If you’re really brave ask someone close to you to rate you on the fruit of the Spirit.

Second step towards walking worthy is live at peace with others.

Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭3‬ NLT)

This doesn’t mean you become a wall flower or a door mat, but you do what you can do, through the fruit of the Spirit, to be at peace with others. Spiritual unity is at the very heart of the Christian faith and the life of Christ’s church.

Third step towards walking worthy is build others up.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ…Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭7, 12‬ NLT)

Sometimes I think we underestimate the power to help others by our giftings. Paul is saying that we are gifts from God to others. God sends people into our lives and He sends us into other people’s lives to equip. That word equip simply means to mend and to restore. He sees brokenness and so He sends you and me to help heal.

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬ NLT)

We keep doing this until we reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ and become mature. Maturity is important because it’s in our maturity that the fullness of Christ is evident. It’s maturity that adds weight to our lives.

Every time you use your gifts to serve someone else, you increase the presence of Christ in that relationship and every time you tear someone else down you decrease the presence of Christ, the fullness of Christ, in that relationship.

Question: What areas of your life are not as mature as you would want them to be? What ways could you add weight to your life by serving someone else?

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Question: Do you always feel worthy to be called a Christian? What keeps you from living a life worthy of Christ?

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭1‬ NLT)

Paul introduces this powerful phrase, “live a life worthy of your calling” or in some translations “walk worthy of your calling”. He’s talking about how we carry ourselves. The greek word used here for worthy literally means “of sufficient weight”. It means that there is a quality about one’s life that matches what they believe – your life carries weight.

Think of it in terms of a scale. On one side is our calling and on the other is how we live it out. Our calling is what we’ve been talking about for the past four weeks – that we are adopted, we are chosen, we are sons and daughters, we were dead but now we are alive, he has set us free – that’s the weight of our calling – it’s loaded down on one side.

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Paul is saying that we should, by the way we live and love, add weight on the other side of the scale to match our calling. Here’s a couple dangers:

One, you try to LIVE right before BEING made right. It’s the kind of thinking that if I just pray enough, give enough, do enough, THEN God will bless me and accept me. But in reality that doesn’t work. It leads to frustration & disappointment, because we consistently fail.

Here’s a second danger: knowing who you are in Christ, knowing your calling, knowing you are adopted, but never living worthy of that calling – there’s no change in your life. Your behavior doesn’t match your beliefs and your walk doesn’t match your words.

Imagine a corrupt police officer. We would say he is not worthy of wearing the shield or imagine going to your dentist and he’s missing several teeth and the ones he has are all in decay. I don’t think he’s worthy of being your dentist.

Here’s an important distinction: I’m not saying that the police officer or the dentist have no worth, just that they are not living up to the worth of their position. As a Christ follower, are you and I living up to the calling of being a Christian?

Now Paul says to “walk worthy” which is presupposes that we are on a journey. We don’t get there overnight. It is a lifelong process. One step at a time.

Question: Do you always feel worthy to be called a Christian? What keeps you from living a life worthy of Christ?

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Question: Is being a Christian all that risky in the United States? If not, why not? If so, how?

Ephesians is all about how to stand as a Christ follower in an increasingly secular world. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, Ephesians will help you know what this Christianity thing is all about.

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at God’s part in our spiritual journey: that He adopted us as sons and daughters, that He poured out His riches of grace and mercy and power to those who believe in Him, that He brought us back from the dead and made us alive in Christ, that while we were sinners He died for us, and that His love is unconditional and there is nowhere you can go to hide from His love.

Paul, in chapter 4, begins talking about our part. What it means to follow Jesus, especially when it’s not popular, not easy, and not everybody is into it. We have to remember that Paul is writing to a group of Christians who came out of a very secular lifestyle and were still living in Ephesus, a city where idol worship and sexual immorality were commonplace. So Paul takes time to talk about how our lives should change as a result of following Jesus; that what we do and how we live are important.

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving The Lord…”(‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭1‬ NLT)

Paul is under house arrest in Rome and I think there are three reasons this is important for us:
1. You can pay attention to what Paul has to say because he’s lived this Christian life and is even in prison for it.
2. That what he’s about to write is potentially dangerous. It’s not a nice, middle class way of solving your problems and being comfortable. This Christianity thing can be risky, unpopular, and even dangerous.
3. What Paul is writing is worth being in prison for.

Question: Is being a Christian all that risky in the United States? If not, why not? If so, how?

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Third Reading: Pray
As you read this passage of scripture for the third time through, begin by spending a few moments in prayer thanking and praising God for His Holy Word. As you read, be prayerfully interacting with God about the text.

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭3‬:‭12‬ NLT)

How confidently do we go into God’s presence? I don’t know about you, but I often go in with fear and trembling, if I go in at all. What stops us? For me, it’s shame and guilt. Or feeling like I’m not living up to His standard.

But it’s because of Christ that we have access and can go in confidently, without worry. He is standing in whatever gap exists between me and God. He’s not happy with the way I live my life sometimes, but that doesn’t mean He shuns me.

I have this character flaw (I have several), that when someone hurts me or I get upset at someone, I close off, I stop talking. Eventually I come out of it and I’m fine, but it’s the in between time that my family and friends feel like I am so disgusted with them because of my silence.

You see through Christ that never happens. He keeps talking to us, even in our sin, and continues to walk with us through our pain. Sometimes it’s hard to hear him because of the noise in our lives, but when I get quiet, really quiet, and it’s just me, His word, and Him, I hear His voice every time whispering that He loves me. Because I know that I can come confidently and boldly.

How do you respond when you get upset? Do you think how you treat others or how others treat you is the way God treats you?

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First Reading: Enter
As you read this passage of scripture for the first time you are simply “entering in” or familiarizing yourself with what God is saying here. Notice the circumstances, people, places, etc.

Paul talks about being a prisoner. He wrote this book while under house arrest in Rome as he awaits trial for sharing his faith (probably a two year time period). House arrest generally meant he had a 24 hour guard in the home and was allowed visitors. He wrote four books while in Rome: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon (called the “Prison Epistles”).

He mentions that his purpose is to preach to the Gentiles, but he also mentions the Jews. He again brings up all three persons of the Trinity: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (3 chapters now in a row). He mentions the church.

Enjoy reading Ephesians chapter 3 this week! I’m enjoying reading your comments and learning from you all.

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Fourth Reading: Live
In this final reading of the passage ask God to show you how He wants you to live based on this scripture. Is there something He would have you start doing, stop doing or continue doing?

There is an actual spiritual battle taking place. Satan, the god of this age and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, is blinding the minds of people in our world so they cannot see the good news of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us. He is hell bent on clouding our minds and hearts from receiving the saving grace of Jesus.

With this in mind, we must put on spiritual armor to protect us from the plans of the devil. I will talk, in the last message in our Ephesians series, on what this looks like and means for our daily lives.

If we fail to put on the spiritual armor and if we continue in our sin, it is possible that the work of the devil could harm us. 1 John 5 talks about this. But if we stay close to Jesus, under His protection, we will not open up ourselves to being affected by Satan. I think one of the most damaging thoughts in the body of Christ today is the thought that once I am saved, I am safe. That is naive. We must consistently clothe ourselves with Christ (the armor of God) so that when the day of evil comes, we will be able to stand against any attack the devil brings. Do not be afraid. The love, grace and power of Christ covers you and you are secure in His presence.

Pray this prayer right now from Ephesians 6 and begin to live according to God’s word:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18 NIV)

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Third Reading: Pray
As you read this passage of scripture for the third time through, begin by spending a few moments in prayer thanking and praising God for His Holy Word. As you read, be prayerfully interacting with God about the text.

As I’ve contemplated this idea of Satan being the ruler of the kingdom of the air, other scriptures have come to mind. Review these scriptures prayerfully and ask The Lord what they mean and how it might impact your life and your relationship with God.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11, 12 NIV)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13, 14 NIV)

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:18, 19 NIV)

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Second Reading: Impress
As you read the same passage of scripture for the second time, notice what word, phrase, sentence or verse makes an “impression” upon you.

In reading Ephesians 2 this week and preaching it this past weekend, I realized that there is a lot of questions surrounding the idea that Paul raises of who Satan is and his role in this world. As a result, I’m going to use this forum to dig deeper into what Paul writes specifically about the devil and what the Bible says, in general, about him.

Here are the two phrases in the entire book of Ephesians that Paul uses to describe Satan:
– in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:2 NIV)
– Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11, 12 NIV)

As you think about the work of Satan in this world, do you, as many do, struggle with the idea that he exists and is active in our world? If so, why? If not, why not?