The paradox of perfection and performance

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:17-24

We who have been told that we are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, chosen before the foundation of the world, holy and blameless, are also told to put off the old self and put on the new self. We who are “perfect in Christ” are still in process. These are paradoxical truths that apply to all of us who are in Christ. (more…)

A pipe dream or a Divine decree?

Until we all come to the unity of the faith

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:7-16

The equipping/mending/restoration of the saints is to enable us to serve and in that service build up the body of Christ. Paul puts a time limit on this service; it is to continue “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.”

This unity of the faith is either a pipe dream or a Divine decree that is humanly impossible but divinely decreed and will come to pass. (more…)

Mending what is broken

How God wants to heal your life

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
    and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

When Jesus ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection, he gave gifts to humanity. Specifically, he names them as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers often referred to as “ministry gifts.” It’s not my purpose today to delve into the many questions about these gifts, “Are there four or five?” “Are apostles and prophets extant in the church today?” etc. Rather, how do the bulk of us who do not see ourselves in the role of one of these ministry gifts view their function in our lives? (more…)

One truth about God that can change your life forever

Exodus 34 

The Lord said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 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, 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.”

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you…

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.

Steadfast love and faithfulness

We are more secure as believers in Jesus Christ than we know. At the core of that security is the core of God’s name, “steadfast love and faithfulness.” (more…)

Do we respect the one body of Christ?

Or, do we grieve the Holy Spirit?

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:1-7

As the country deacon was known to have said, “The preacher done gone and quit preachin’ and went to meddlin’.” Paul makes that leap here when he switches from doctrinal instruction to practical application. The point Paul is making in Chapter 4 of Ephesians is one of my pet peeves, the failure to recognize that there is only one body of Christ and we are all called to treat one another with respect as brothers and sisters in Christ. (more…)

How can we be filled with the fullness of God?

He is able to do more abundantly than we ask or think

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:14-21

In the previous section of Ephesians, Paul started off with the thoughts, “For this reason…” and then got caught up in a glorious rabbit trail sharing his mission statement. He now returns to his original thought, his prayer for the Ephesians and by extension for us. I believe we can take up Paul’s prayers and pray them for ourselves and our families to great effect.

There are three requests in Paul’s prayer each preceded by the word, “that.” (more…)

What is your source of boldness and confidence?

The practical effect of the gospel

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel, I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. – Ephesians 3:1-13

Today in Islamic nations like Iran and others along with Communist nations like China and North Korea, brothers and sisters in Christ are imprisoned for sharing the gospel with fellow citizens of these nations. It is no different than Paul’s experience. The gospel was, and is, a threat to the dominance of idolatry in whatever form it takes. It was during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome in A.D. 62 that he penned this glorious epistle to the Ephesian church.

Paul took a different perspective on his circumstance than would most, he considered himself a prisoner, not of the Roman government, but of Christ for the benefit of the Gentiles, these new believers at Ephesus. Paul’s suffering was evidence of God’s grace in Paul toward the Ephesian believers. (more…)

He made two into one dwelling place for God

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22

The Apostle Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles. He makes that clear in many passages in the New Testament. One of the issues that had to be often addressed in his ministry was the relationship between Jewish believers and Gentiles. The Ephesian church had this problem of a division among the believers over the distinction between Jews and Gentiles.

The previous section of Scripture ended with the marvelous truth that we are the workmanship of the Father, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which the Father prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Now Paul, as Peter did on occasion, makes a strong statement to remember something. (more…)

Discovering God’s unique will for you.

You are his workmanship

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:4-10

I know many people are disconcerted with the concept of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things which includes his providence. Personally, I have come to find great comfort in it. The sovereignty of God is one of those Scriptural topics that must be handled with great care. God’s sovereignty never diminishes our responsibility for our own decisions and actions. It is paradoxical but true.

Knowing and doing God’s will can be very stressful, especially for people new as Christ-followers. Those who have taken submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ with great seriousness are anxious to please the Lord. And we all should be. (more…)

From immeasurable greatness of power to immeasurable riches of grace

What the gospel means to us

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

A few posts back I wrote about the three points to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. After further consideration, I have concluded that there were actually four points to his prayer for the Ephesians. I missed the fourth point partially due to the chapter division between chapter one and chapter two. We psychologically assume that with a new chapter there is a new subject. In this case, I think that is wrong. Chapter two begins with, “and.” For all you grammarians, that is a conjunction that ties this sentence with what preceded it. I believe Chapter 2 verses 1-10 are point number four to Paul’s prayer. (more…)