Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Unity is vital to the health of a church

Ephesians 4:1-6

The church is called to be unified in purpose and passion. Paul writes, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

We share the same faith, the same baptism, and the same God yet, disunity and division is common among our churches. When church members don’t work well together, the church is weak. Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25)

Furthermore, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. The world will know if we are Christians or not by the way those who are believers act toward one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Considering this, Paul urges us “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2) 

Humility is the cornerstone of unity. It represents an attitude that recognizes the worth and value of other people. Pride, on the other hand, tends to create conflict. When we put others’ needs ahead of ours, we foster harmony.

Gentleness is another characteristic that promotes unity. Easily misunderstood as weakness, it embodies the quality of moderation. It manifests strength under control, enabling perseverance.

Patience is the third trait mentioned by Paul. The word used here is synonymous with longsuffering, which is showing patience despite difficulties, particularly those caused by other people. Without patience, no group can be at peace. 

To live a life worthy of our calling in Christ necessitates that we treat one another with humility, gentleness, and patience. That requires the effort of the entire body of Christ for “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it...” (1 Corinthians 12:26). This is why Paul wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Jesus in your heart

Ephesians 3:16-19

Paul prays "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The word dwell means to move in and settle down. This much more than a visit and certainly more than a mailing address. This is a permanent change of address.

In the beginning, God dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They sinned and God could no longer dwell in their presence. Once the nation of Israel was formed, God dwelt with his people. First, in the tabernacle and then in the temple. But they continued to sin, and God’s presence left the temple.

However, through the prophets, God promised a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). He would put his Spirit inside his people (Ezek. 36:27). To fulfill that promise, Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory (John 1:14). If you are a follower of Christ, your body is a temple.

He dwells in your heart. This is beyond your blood pumping organ; and more than the place where you keep your feelings. It is the very center of your personality. Your mind. Your will. Your soul.

Jesus paid it all and He wants your all. He wants to be the very center of your universe.

As a follower of Christ, you live by faith. The works you do for Christ are according to faith, or they have no eternal value. Furthermore, faith is itself the gift God.

Faith is the conviction that it is no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you. And the life that you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself for you. (Gal. 2:20)

I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you,
you will bear much fruit;
apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

A secret worth sharing

Ephesians 3:1-13

In Paul’s day, there were mystery religions that claimed to have secrets that could unlock the keys to life and happiness, but Paul understood that Jesus’ followers were the ones who truly understood this sacred knowledge. All one need do is open the Word of God, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us, and put our faith in Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews we read that, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb 1:1-3)

From the beginning, Israel was the means through which God revealed Himself. God kept His promise of the Savior alive through His chosen people. They were carried from Egypt to the Promised Land to Babylon and back to the Promised Land. Surviving so that Jesus would come to earth as revealed by the prophets.

This caused the Jews to think that their relationship with God was exclusive, and that God had no interest in other people groups. But the prophet Isaiah tells us,
    The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord...
    Even those I will bring to My holy mountain,
    And make them joyful in My house of prayer.
    Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar.
    For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.
(Is 56:7)

Paul called this a mystery, revealed to him and to us, that is meant to be shared. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Cor 4:2-3)

Are we being faithful? Just as God intended Israel to be the means by which the Savior came into the world, he intends the church to be the way the gospel is made known to everyone. However, our world grows dark with sin and evil. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14)

Are you being faithful? God has put you in a particular place with a unique story so that you can bring good news to hurting people. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet 3:15)

Prepare yourself. Study the Bible. Pray for opportunities.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Getting along

Ephesians 2:11-22

Paul reminds us, "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:12)

Gentiles (non-Jews) were excluded from the community of God's people. They were not allowed to enter the Jerusalem Temple's inner court on the pain of death. They could worship from afar, in a special area called the Court of Gentiles, but their presence in the Temple would render it unclean.

Jesus, however, reached out to those who were excluded. Paul says we are “brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13.) He reached out to the Samaritans and included them in the Gospel. The Pharisees called him a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 7:34.) He preached to rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, insiders and outsiders.

Even those outside Jesus’ own group were included. His disciples once brought a report that one not of their group casting out demons in Jesus’ name. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:38-40)

Jesus’ purpose was to create in himself one new humanity. Through the miracle of new birth Jesus makes it possible for diverse peoples to be reconciled “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation...” (2 Cor 5:17)

Paul writes, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners & aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people & members of God’s household." (Eph 2:19)

Jesus broke down the barriers and removed the hostility. Our differences should no longer divide us. Through the blood of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit the church has a ministry of reconciliation between Jew and Gentile. Between Black and White. Between Anglo and Hispanic. Between Democrat and Republican.

Because we have made peace with God, we can begin to live at peace with one another as brothers & sisters in the family of God.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Look Alive!

Ephesians 2:1-10

Most of us want to fondly remember the past. After all, they were the good old days! Nostalgia, however, can cloud our memory and we forget the painful parts. And, so, the greatness of the past continues to grow in our memory.

But Paul remembers it differently. “You were dead in your transgressions and sins,” he wrote. The good old days were not good because we were disobedient. Instead of a Christian walk, we walked in the ways of the world. It was a death march. We were the walking dead. Rather than being children of God, we were children of wrath on the road to judgment. (Eph 2:2-3)

That’s all in the past. Paul says that God made us alive in Christ. All because of God’s mercy and his great, unmerited love for us. We have done nothing to earn our salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

Paul tells us that we are saved for a purpose. “We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” he writes. (Eph 2:10)

The prophet Isaiah tells us about good works. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Is 1:17)

The prophet Micah also provides us with some insight. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8)

In the past, we walked in sin; today we walk in the light. In the past we were dead in sin, today we are alive in Christ. By God’s grace, today we are ready to do the good works God prepared in advance for us.