Ephesians 6

Vs. 7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” In our previous chapter, Paul had brought up the importance of submission and now continues that thought (vs. 1-9). Question: Why? Remember one of the major themes in his letter to the Ephesians is unity. By submitting to each other in Christ, this will help bring unity in the body. After husbands and wives, Paul addresses the bond between parents and children (vs. 1-4). Children were to obey parents, even when those parents might not be believers. Paul is drawing from the Old Testament commandment to honor parents (Exodus 20:12). I appreciate Paul’s reminder to the father’s to not be too harsh on their children (vs. 4). Paul ends the submission exhortation with slaves and masters (vs. 5-9). It’s hard for our culture to grasp this idea of slavery, especially in light of the negative connotation. Slavery in Paul’s time was quite common and part of life. While we don’t have this in our culture today, we do have employer/employee relationships that we can apply these truths to. The latter half of our chapter (vs. 10-24) is a beloved one as we are reminded of the full armor of God. A couple of years ago, I preached a sermon series on this passage called Armor Up; it is in the audio sermon section. It is a poignant reminder that we must be ready to battle against an enemy that is often unseen.

Regarding application…The Enabler. Vs. 18, “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.” Question: When should we pray? On all occasions! It is prayer that enables the believer to prevail in the spiritual battle. I’ve never been in a battle before, but I have played paintball! The Apostle Paul was right when he exhorts us to be alert. When you are in the heat of a paintball battle, all your senses are working in overdrive. If you want to win, you have to be super alert to all the situational circumstances around you. You have shout out to your teammates where the enemy is. You have encourage each other. You have to provide cover fire for them to advance. You have to defend each other. It is prayer that keeps us alert and primed for battle. Let us not neglect prayer as we realize we can’t do this on our own.

Ephesians 5

Vs. 1, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” We often hear, “imitation is the biggest form of flattery.” Paul is reminding us that following the Lord’s example is of the utmost importance. If we follow the Lord, we must love others (vs. 1-2). But we can’t just claim the Beatles lyrics, “All you need is love.” There must be a response to the love by not living like the world (vs. 3-4). We should be careful with who we align ourselves to (vs. 5-14). We must be careful to exercise wisdom in every opportunity (vs. 15-18). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit (rather than filled with alcohol) we will be influenced in godly ways (vs. 19-20). The latter half of our chapter (vs. 21-33) involve Paul teaching us to submit; he uses marriage as an illustration. A quick cursory read may get some people jumping to conclusions. Paul is not saying women are to be slaves to their husbands, rather both submit to the Lord. Being a leader and example in the church doesn’t make us more powerful. We are all under the submission to the Lord, it’s just that each of us have a role to play. If husbands love their wives as the Christ loved the church, than very few issues would arise.

Regarding application…Living in Light. Vs. 8, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” Light and darkness are easy metaphors for us to understand. As simple as it is, there is profound truth to this. Darkness describes the type of life we once lived. Notice the past tense in that previous sentence. Many Christians today feel like it’s not truly possible to live in the light. We misunderstand our true identity as new creations (II Corinthians 5:17). We may have a old muscle twitch from our sinful nature, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot live in the light when we sin. Jesus delivered us from the darkness to be in the light. May we live in the light and feel the warmth of God’s love. Last week was a difficult week for me, but I’m looking forward to the light of hope as the new week begins!

Ephesians 4

Vs. 1, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Paul now transitions the rest of his letter to teaching the Ephesian believers to their duty and responsibility in the Lord. Because faith needs to have a response, one of the overarching themes Paul now shares is this idea of walking as evidence of our practice. Question: How do we begin to do this? Be humble, gentle, patient in love (vs. 1-3). To the world system this looks like weakness, but for who are being saved it is the secrets to unity in the church! That unity comes with a strong foundation in our doctrine and belief (vs. 4-6). Just in case we thought that unity is being the same, Paul outlines that there is diversity in unity (vs. 7-11). Each of us have been called to use our gifts within the body of Christ (vs. 12-16). The latter half of our chapter (vs. 17-32) Paul exhorts the believers to not live the old way of the corrupted sinful nature.

Regarding application…Godly Kindness. Vs. 32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Question: You know what? Being kind is not easy! When you think about it, being kind requires hard work and sacrifice. I believe the real test of kindness is showing it to two groups of people: your family and complete strangers. I’ve found my general inclination is to take for granted my family when it comes to showing kindness. It’s something that God is continuing to convict me of in my heart. People who just pass by us everyday without a single thought is another challenge we face. I’m an introverted person, so I tend to just go about my day not wanting to be noticed when I go out. However, smiling and greeting people is something that I see is really a kind act to do. Question: Do you face any challenges in showing kindness? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide and challenge us to show Godly kindness.

Ephesians 3

Vs. 6, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”  You may recall that Paul was in chains in Rome while writing this letter to the Ephesians.  Paul believed so much in this mystery of God’s revealed plan that he would be willing to be in prison and even die (vs. 1-13).  It was his hope and prayer that both Jew and Gentile would join together as one.  Jesus’ sacrifice would bridge the great gap between the two and finally bring reconciliation.  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 14-21), Paul kneels before the Lord and is compelled to pray.  His intercessory prayer is that the Ephesian church would be empowered to fully grasp and be enabled to live for the Lord.  It’s quite a big prayer, but we have a bigger God!

Regarding application…Rooted in Christ.  Vs. 17, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love.”  The ministry I serve in is called Roots.  Their former name was Dunamis which is the Greek word for power and this is also in our chapter today (vs. 10, 16).  God has given us the Dunamis to be Rooted in His one and only Son.  Question: How deep is your roots?  The more we know about the Lord, the more our roots will go down deep.  This week has been challenging for me in many ways.  Yet, I have found great encouragement from the scriptures as I consider Paul’s predicament.  He would not allow outward circumstances (prison, division in Epehsus) to keep the right Godly perspective.  Question: How was he able to do this?  He was rooted in Christ!

Ephesians 2

Vs. 4-5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Paul eloquently contrasts the vast difference between our former way of life and the new life we have in Christ (vs. 1-10). It is important for all believers to have such a perspective to appreciate what Christ has done for us. Though we were sinners, it is the work on the cross that enables us to be able to do good works. The latter section of our chapter (vs. 11-22) involves Paul striving to keep the unity in the church at Ephesus. Because a good majority of believers were Gentiles, Paul appeals to them. The sign of circumcision was never given to the Jews for pride, but to be a blessing to the Gentiles. Circumcision did not save them, for God looks at the circumcision of our hearts. Now that Jesus has finished the work on the cross, we can now bridge both Jews and Gentiles together.

Regarding application…Break Dividing Walls. Vs. 14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” This wall that Paul speaks of was the wall of the Law (vs. 14) that separated the two. Question: Are their walls up in our cultures, our church, our family, our personal lives? Remember, that the church in Ephesus needed to remember the unity they had together. Many of us have heard, “Don’t be a part of the problem, but be a part of the solution.” I suppose there will always be a reason to put up dividing walls in our lives. Culture has always been a delicate issue in the church. The world’s population is exploding and this is causing cultures to mix together now more than ever. Let’s not allow our differences to outweigh the biggest common denominator that we have in Christ.

Ephesians 1

Vs. 1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, d the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, Paul was writing this letter to those who believed and were set apart for the Lord. Paul follows up his greeting (vs. 1-2) with a wonderful blessing (vs. 3-14) and prayer for the church (vs. 15-23). In the blessings section (vs. 3-14) we are reminded of the multiple rich blessings we have in Christ; being chosen predestined, elected, adopted, redeemed, forgiveness of sins, grace, marked with a seal, and the Holy Spirit! The latter half of our chapter (vs. 15-23) consists of one of the most beautiful prayers of Paul. All of Paul’s letters (except for Galatians) include an opening prayer. He hoped and prayed that the believers in Ephesus would desire and know more about the Lord (vs. 15-18). And ultimately, Paul prayed that they would know the supremacy of Christ (vs. 19-23).

Regarding application…Guaranteed! Vs. 13, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Question: How do we know if something will be binding? How do we know if something will last? We seal it with a guarantee! When I worked at the bank, we had a “signature guarantee” stamp that only officers of the bank could use. The stamp’s purpose was to seal (guarantee) a document was signed by the authentic person selling said investments.   The Holy Spirit is our guarantee that the investment that Jesus made for us is real! Unlike product fresh guarantees don’t last forever, our guarantee is for eternity! Brothers and sisters let this reminder be a confident boost for you as you go about this week.

Introduction to Ephesians

Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians while in prison in Rome (60 AD). The city of Ephesus was one of the most important cities of the ancient world. It is located in western Asia Minor and was likely the fourth largest city in the world during this time (250,000 inhabitants). It housed one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world; the temple of Artemis. Paul had visited Ephesus for about a week on his second missionary journey. On his third missionary journey, Paul stayed there for nearly three years ministering to them. Question: What was the purpose? There were many other religious influences that would vie for their attention. Paul wrote this letter to encourage the Ephesian believers to stay united as one body.

Ephesus

Numbers 1

Vs. 2, “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.”  The command for a census gives the reason why this book is called Numbers.  We are given insight as to where Moses and the Israelites are (vs. 1), they are still at Mount Sinai where they have been for the last eleven months.  To give you perspective, it has been about fourteen months since they left Egypt.  During this time, God had given the Law to them through Moses and we now see God preparing His people to be able to be victorious and prepared as they face possible opposition to the Promised Land (Canaan).  Question: Why a census?  This census was used to determine how many fighting men would be ready to battle; it was a military census.  Certainly, this probably brought a sense of heightened realization that this was serious business!  I find it interesting that the fighting age God set was twenty, yet our own country enlists men and women at the age of eighteen.  Seems too young for us to be sending teenagers into battle.  The census is done surprisingly fast (Numbers 10:11 – twenty days) and the grand total is 603,5500 soldiers!  This gives us some perspective as to the total population of the Israelites.  The number did not include Levite priests, women, children, and the elderly men.  It is estimated conservatively that they must have totaled at least 2 million if not more in number!

Regarding application…Holy War.  Certainly, we are not unfamiliar with the understanding of war.  The enemies of God will always look to destroy His people and for our case; His church.  I wanted to point out something that we may gloss over from our text today.  Question: Every solider was organized according to what?  His tribe.  In other words, they were not only counted together, they also fought together.  We have our church families that God has brought together.  The Apostle Paul aptly reminded us (Ephesians 6) about understanding that we are in a spiritual battle.  We are also called to stand and fight together as Christian soldiers for the Lord.  Question: How can we prepare?  Remember you are a soldier and we fight not against flesh or blood, but against the evil powers of this world.  Pray and bear the sword (God’s word) today!  Pray for your brothers and sisters both blood and church.  Pray for the lost people in your life you can be a beacon of hope to.  God counted the soldiers and He is not counting on us!

Titus 1

Vs. 10, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.”  As the church grew on Crete, they needed more Godly people to step up.  Paul once again lays out some attributes that a leader/elder must possess to set the example and be effective (vs. 5-9).  Question: Why?  Because where God is working, the enemy is also working hard to bring division and false doctrine.  Paul does not pull any punches when it came to addressing these people who were contributing towards these false ways (vs. 10-16).  Titus was not to tread lightly, but rebuke them harshly for the error of their ways (vs. 13).  While this may seem harsh, there is a difference between rebuking those who know the error of their ways vs. those who ignorantly believe the false teaching.

Regarding application…Why Doctrine?  Vs. 9, “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”  There is a tendency these days not to pay much attention to good biblical doctrine.  I believe this, they believe that, my church believes this, etc.  There are huge ramifications if we do not know sound doctrine.  When the enemy comes to plant his seeds of lies, if we don’t know the truth, we may fall into the trap.  When we try to encourage others and they think that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross but lived out his life to old age, how then can they think they can overcome if God’s son did not overcome death?  We need sound doctrine in our lives to be able to encourage others and have an answer for our faith.

II Timothy 4

Vs. 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  Paul writes quite an intense appeal to Timothy in the wake of his impending death.  Timothy was to preach the word (vs. 2) and be a messenger of the Gospel to others!  Question: Why was this so important?  Because in the last days, people will turn from sound doctrine and truth (vs. 3-5).  Paul knew his time was coming to an end and would reflect upon his life (vs. 6-8).  Paul urged Timothy to come quickly to Rome and bring Mark before winter (vs. 9-18).  We see the value of the relationships God blesses us with.  But we also see another sad reality of the Christian life is that some will forsake us.  However, Paul knew ultimately that the Lord was always with him (vs. 17-18).  Even with Paul facing death, he still thought of others as he closes his last letter (vs. 19-22)

Regarding application…Be Prepared.  Vs. 2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”  Question: Be prepared for what?  To preach the Word of God!  It may be easy to dismiss this personal exhortation and think it doesn’t apply to us.  Because we too live in the last days, there will be many false doctrines.  Paul and Timothy were not the only ones as we were reminded in this letter that were being prepared to stand up for the truth.  The very fact that we are here today is evidence that throughout the centuries, people have been prepared to speak the truth and even die for it.  Brothers and sisters, unlike athletes who prepare for a season of time in the year to compete, we must be ready in season and out of season.  We are always “on call” when it comes to our duty as a soldier for Christ.