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With all the fullness of God

Ephesians 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We’re blessed, as children of God, with knowledge of the love that Jesus Christ embodied in His self-sacrificial work on the cross. It’s unlike any other love that we can know here on this earth, in this life where everything is so limited. The love of a parent, a spouse, or a child can never even compare to the love of God

His love is beyond our knowledge, yet the desire Paul had for the Ephesians was that they could appreciate this love that surpasses human understanding. He wanted this that they might be filled with all the fullness of God. The same can be said for us today. Were we to fully know the love of Jesus Christ, we would be filled with all of the fullness of God.

Many attributes are discussed when it comes to God. He is mighty, He is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present. The list goes on and on. But to really know God is to know His love. To know Him is to be known (and loved) by Him.

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Can you even comprehend?

Ephesians 3:17-18 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

What gives us the ability to really connect with God in a deep way? No matter how hard we try to build a tower up to heaven or how many good deeds we try to accomplish, we’ll never get close to Him on our own. It’s only through the work of Christ that we get reconciliation and relationship.

But you know that; don’t you?  You know that only through faith in Jesus Christ can you have fellowship with God. You know that your own good works don’t get you any position with the Father, but only through the completed work of the Son do you have any standing.

You know that, but do you really understand just how broad, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is for you? Can you even begin to comprehend just how vast that love is? The only way we can even begin to understand is to have Christ dwelling in us. That’s the key to unlock spiritual understanding. But to imagine how far the Father’s love stretches…that will take until we’re with Him, beyond this life, to even grasp it.

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His gifts are given according to His riches

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

What comes to your mind when you think of gifts from God? Is it health? Wealth? Something else entirely? Sometimes we really limit God by not realizing just how much He has to give. This isn’t about money or possessions, this is about riches beyond compare.

There are two very important things to remember about God: First, He is a Father who loves His children and wants to give to them. Second, He has ALL things to give. There is nothing that you could need that God does not possess. Everything is His to give.

What’s more, He doesn’t give from His riches (that would mean He would be depleting His stash). He gives according to His riches. He’ll never run out, He doesn’t give to each of His children in percentages, He isn’t stingy. He has all things to give and He freely gives.

But most of the Lord’s blessings are not material, but rather spiritual blessings.  His greatest blessing of all is himself. He has given, according to the riches of His glory, His own Spirit to dwell in those whom He calls His children. With that gift comes all the power that is included with having God dwelling inside you. Now, how thankful does this make you for the Father’s blessings?

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Learn to pray as part of a family

Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

When we pray, we don’t do it as a chore that’s required of us to please a deity that doesn’t care about us personally. When we pray we approach our loving Father, who cares about us. He’s not distant from us, He’s only a prayer away.

All too often we neglect to pray in the context of a family. If you’re a child of God who has been adopted into His family, then every other one of His children is your sibling. Families think about what’s best for every member, and Christians ought to do the same. We’re called to be part of God’s family, to project His image into the world, and to carry out His purposes — together.

That means when we pray, we should be thinking about the greater context of God’s family. What’s best for the overall purposes of God? What will best benefit all of His people? Who can we pray for right now that’s
-weak and needs strength
-lonely and needs comfort
-sick and needs healing?

What does the Father want for me in the context of everyone He’s called to be His own? Does He want me to pursue something that makes me uncomfortable? I should pray for His guidance. Does He want me to reach out to someone? I should pray for boldness?

When you bow your knees before the Father, do so in a way that keeps in mind your place in His family, among many other children.

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The race is on

Philippians 3: 12-14 “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

There will never be a point, while we are still living and breathing, where our mission on earth will be finished. Jesus didn’t set up a retirement plan for us once we hit a certain age or put how ever many years in. Our lives as Christians shouldn’t be treated as some kind of career but instead we should treat it as a race, which Paul compares it to here. And in a race you never let up, you never stop pressing forward until you reach that finish line.

Paul could have easily said, “Well that’s enough for me boys. Going to hang it up until The Lord calls me home.” Paul had accomplished a lot and suffered much, for and through The Lord. Paul, though, didn’t dwell on his current achievements, but what he had yet to achieve. His heart’s desire was to become more in the likeness of Christ and to share in his sufferings in a deeper, greater way. He was excited for what The Lord was going to do next, not what He had already done. That’s not to say he didn’t appreciate how far The Lord had taken him, but his eyes were set to what lay ahead.

On the flip side, Paul didn’t wallow in the sinner he use to be. He didn’t focus on all the mistakes he made in his ministry along the way. He forgot what was behind, good or bad, and pressed forward towards the perfection of Christ. Remember, there are many laps in a race. It’s not where you start at, but where you finish.

Let us celebrate what God has done through the work of Jesus in our lives and let us always be thankful for the grace that was afforded us on the cross. But, above all else, let us be excited and eager for what God is going to do next. Let’s strap in, put the pedal to the floor, and focus our eyes on the course Jesus is laying out before us.

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Grace to the least of all the saints

Ephesians 3:7-13 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, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

We’ve all been given a ministry and the Lord has equipped us specifically for the role He’s given us. What’s your ministry? If you’re not sure, take an inventory of your circumstances, talents, abilities, resources, and even what burdens you.

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church with his own specific burden. No one else quite cared the way Paul did about certain people or certain issues they faced. He had his own ministry that was no one else’s. You and I also have to live out our own calling, not one that belongs to someone else.

Just when you may object to the idea that you are a minister of any sort, look at Paul as an example. He not only calls himself the least of all the saints, but if you know anything about his history, you know he’s not exactly who one might have expected to be used in such a huge way to see people converted for Christ. If Paul’s the least of all the saints, the chief of sinners in his own eyes, how can you be any worse? You’ve received no less grace than Paul. Isn’t it time you had “boldness and access with confidence through [y]our faith in him?”

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Christ Following

Matthew 4:19 “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!”

There are a lot of distractions in the world but for the Christ follower that wants to be obedient, the number one focus should be on making disciples, it’s what Jesus spent his time doing everyday. He started his ministry with the call to the first disciples and he ended his ministry by telling his disciples to go make some more disciples.

Jesus told his potential disciples up front what we was going to do with them but I don’t think that they really understood and I am pretty sure that they didn’t realize the process as it was going on. Jesus subtly brought them along one tiny step at a time, just the same as he has done with me, he knew that there would be a process and that I wouldn’t suddenly become a mature, faithful follower right away.

Jesus spent three years in close daily contact with this group of men, showing them the new way of life and the new way of thinking, he did so through his teaching but most important he did it through his lifestyle.

Disciples don’t get made by themselves, I need to be intentional and make it a part of my lifestyle, I need to be about building relationships that God can use.

Help me Lord to step out and intentionally work at making disciples, I want to live so that my walk is consistent with my talk, so that you will get the glory.

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The mystery of the gospel revealed

Ephesians 3:1-6 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for 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.

There’s so much about God that we’ll never be able to understand in this life and much of that won’t even be revealed to us until such a time as we can better accept it. The Father does, however, from time to time, choose to reveal mysteries about himself.

When Paul wrote his letter to the church in Ephesus, he wrote to a people that had long heard of the coming of the Christ, of the Messiah. The Jews in that time were quite aware of the prophesies about the Sent One, but some of them missed Him when He came in the flesh. The invisible God dwelled in a physical body (Colossians 1:15), revealing all of His nature (Hebrews 1:3), but He went unnoticed by many.

Then God chose to do something unexpected. He revealed himself to those outside the “chosen people.” He made it possible for the so-called Gentiles to join into His family. For most of us today, this has personal significance. If you are not of Jewish lineage and you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and received His salvation and adoption as one of God’s own children, this means everything.

We’ve been brought in on a promise made to a people long ago. We’re now coheirs under that promise, able to receive all that is due to God’s people, to His children. We are now His family.

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Member’s of God’s household

Ephesians 2:17-22 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The startling truth about God’s work to reconcile us to himself through Jesus Christ is that it comes with full acceptance. It’s not just that God forgives us and then forgets about us. He doesn’t forgive in a way that is passive. He fully forgives, so much so that He brings us on in to His own family and His own household.

Stop, think about that for a minute. You’re part of God’s own household. Does that seem a little crazy? It’s right there in His Word. It says it plain as day. He joined us together with Him and welcomed us into His household. We’re not strangers, not even just acquaintances. We’re His children and we belong in His home.

You know what you do with people who are truly welcome in your home? You invite them to make themselves comfortable, to eat of your food, to use your facilities. “My home is your home,” as the saying goes. But God is the one calling us to His home, allowing us to partake of everything that is His. This passage rightly points us that we are being built together as a dwelling place for God, with Jesus as the cornerstone. What a picture. What a home!

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A Genuine Man

Ephesians 4:25-32  Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Nobody likes a phony. We can often accept imperfections as long as people are genuine. Paul speaks to that in verse 25, saying to get rid of all the falsehood and smoke screens in our lives, and be real with each other. This comes directly after encouraging us to “put on our new self” in Christ. I believe that the vulnerability and honesty Paul mentions is critical to the overall goal here – we have to break down all the walls and barriers that human nature puts in the way of true relationship.

A major component of that effort is found in verse 29 – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” Rather, we ought to lift each other up and be Givers of Life. When people walk away after interacting with us they should feel encouraged and touched, whether they are fellow believers or not. Go back to the “salt of the earth” idea. What is the aroma surrounding your personality? Is it pleasant to those whom in reaches? Taking it one step further, nobody ever said, “This is the best salt I have ever tasted!” While we are supposed to flavor and enlighten, this is not about us as all. Unless our efforts point to Christ, we are wasting our time and making it about us.

In verse 31, Paul describes the inner chaos and turmoil that marks a lost soul, much like the smoke-filled room from yesterday. In contrast, we are to be “tender hearted.” Tendons in the body connect, reach out, and enable. However, they are not weak and malleable. Tendons are among the toughest fibers in the human body – they do not break easily. I think we ought to be the same. Connecting hearts, forgiving one another, engaging someone else’s life with thoughtfulness and care…these are crucial tasks, and it says nothing about weakness.

Forget the stereotypes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, but at the same time, strongly reject the soft male idea that was projected in the 1970’s – one of passivity and lack of direction. (Ladies, please don’t feel left out. Becoming and raising tender, Godly men is a job for both sexes.) Jesus was tender hearted and understood the feelings of others, yet was the strongest man that ever lived. This is our calling.

———-  Take an honest, prayerful look within yourself and ask, “How am I doing at being the kind of Christian Paul describes in Ephesians? Where can I improve?” Seek God’s guidance in making you more into the image of Christ.

*This devotion by Jeremy Bunge first appeared in February of 2011.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known