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Take up the whole armor of God

Ephesians 6:12-13 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Who are your enemies? Do you have people that always seem to stand in your way? People who just don’t like you? They’re not the real enemy.

There’s a whole lot going on in this world that we don’t see with our eyes. The spiritual forces at work are the ones to be concerned about. The enemy of your soul, Satan, has his evil set against you and against God’s will being carried out. He’ll stop at nothing to win. But in the end, he can’t win.

Satan, even with his armies of darkness, is no match for the King of Kings. The omnipresent, omniscient, all-powerful Creator wins. That doesn’t stop the evil one from trying though. He’s after you and anyone else who professes to follow Christ. We’re soldiers in a war and it’s important that we are armed properly.

We stand firm in this war because we know the Lord is on our side. We know that we’re armed and ready to take on the spiritual forces that oppose us because we’ve been equipped by God himself. We can walk bravely into battle, knowing that He has already won the war. His victory on the cross is our victory. Stand firm.

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This is war

Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Life is not always what it seems to be. There are battles going on that we don’t see, schemes being put into play, and even protection we’re not aware of.

We’re in the middle of a war and it’s to be taken seriously. There’s no getting around the fact that God’s enemy, our enemy, Satan, is at work to destroy the plans of our Creator. We can’t stand by idly and allow him to take out families, marriages, ministries, and ultimately souls. We need to open our eyes.

The thing is, this isn’t an evenly matched war. Satan is not the evil version of God. He doesn’t have the might of God, the knowledge or the abilities of God. He’s incapable of victory. The strength of the Lord is our strength. If we take up the armor He’s provided for us, we have victory. We will prevail against all attacks.

We’ll talk more about the armor we’ve been given over the next few days. In the meantime, consider what it means to be on God’s side during this war.

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Serve everyone

Ephesians 6:9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Just as with the preceding verses to this one, people have often used this to justify the notion that the Bible upholds slavery. No! Read it again.

This passage isn’t saying “own slaves.” The fact is that many people during the time period in which this letter was written by Paul found themselves slaves for whatever reasons. It could have been because they had a debt that they couldn’t pay or that they couldn’t afford to take of their child so they sold them into slavery. No matter what the reason, there were people who were the servants of other people.

That’s not the point of Paul’s message, though. He’s not speaking on the right to own a slave or on the reasons for being one. He’s talking about loving and respecting everyone, regardless of your standing of your position. If you’re under someone’s authority (and we all are), obey them and respect them. If you’re over someone in a position of authority, show them respect and care for them, don’t mistreat them.

In the eyes of God, there is no distinction between the master and the servant. He is the Master over all. That means no one is in a position to treat others badly, especially if they call themselves a child of God. Most people don’t have servants or slaves today, but we do have bosses and subordinates. Regardless of which of those we’re dealing with, the command is the same: treat them with the love of God and with respect.

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Contending the faith

Jude 1:3 “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.”

The devil loves nothing more, he has no better trick up his sleeve, than to take the truth and twist it into a lie. The devil tried this with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus didn’t try to argue with the devil. He didn’t plead his case with reasons why the devil was wrong. He didn’t even insult the devil. He simply answered his twisting of the truth, with the absolute Word of God.

The devil roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour, and many times he hides himself in sheep’s clothing. This is why it’s so important for us to shepherd the sheep that God has entrusted us with. Especially with those who waiver in their faith, who still have one foot in the world, who’s lives are still contaminated with sin.

This is why it’s absolutely ok to defend the faith when we hear something that doesn’t line up with scripture. No matter if it’s someone in your church, or a a prominent figure leading a mega- church. If what they are saying doesn’t line up with scripture, it’s our duty to rebuke that teaching and protect those who are susceptible to believing the lie.

Notice I said rebuke. I didn’t say condemn, judge, or insult. Just like we hate the sin not the sinner, we don’t attack the person but the lie. It says in Jude 1:9 “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” We have no place to accuse (which is what the devil does best) but to simply correct a lie with the truth.

I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us would say that no matter what the repercussions might be. So why is it when we hear a popular figure say something that is unbiblical we become so fearful of what people might say if we rebuke it? Listen, this is a plank in the eye moment for me. I’m as guilty and convicted as you might be right now.

Will you do something with me this week? Jesus has commissioned us with spreading the Good News, but he has also given us the duty of guarding the flock (Acts 20:28). Would you contend the faith this week?

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Slave or free, obey

Ephesians 6:5-8  Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

As with so many things in the Bible, people tend to focus on the wrong area of this passage and pull it out of context. It’s been used as an example to make the case that the Bible upholds the notion of slavery, or at least doesn’t speak against it, thus showing that God is not loving. That’s not the truth, and it’s not the point either.

Paul is not pointing out that people should own other people as slaves here, but rather he’s making the point that those who are slaves to others should obey them as a way of pointing to God. One could just as easily say, “employees, obey your employers that they may see God and worship Him.”

Everyone has someone in authority over them. Those who belong to Christ are to obey whomever that may be, as a way of obeying God himself. Children obey their parents, workers obey their boss, government officials obey the voters who elected them (Just kidding, that last one doesn’t happen).

Whether you’re slave or free, you’re called to work as though working for the Lord, as though He himself instilled the power and authority held by others over you. Obey God. He says to honor those over you.

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A father’s instruction

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

What is the primary responsibility of a parent? How about of a father? What about a Christian father? If you said to raise kids who obey the law and treat others kindly, that’s just part of the equation.

Raising moral kids isn’t enough to sustain them through the circumstances of life. Only a strong foundation in the Word of God, in the gospel, can carry them through. It’s the job of a father (and a mother) to parent in light of the gospel.

If our kids comply to everything we instruct them to do, but have no understanding of God’s grace and mercy, have no idea about the sacrifice He was willing to go through for our reconciliation, then it’s wasted effort in parenting. Compliance to rules does not mean a transformed heart.

Fathers, don’t just expect your kids to do what you say. Don’t use your authority to bend their will to yours. Utilize the authority you’ve been given by the Father to raise them up to know Him. They’ll know Him because you show His nature and character to them by the way you treat them.

If you’re not a parent, this notion still applies for you.  There’s someone, somewhere who’s under your authority, however little it may be. The way in which you use that authority, the way in which you instruct and lead will either draw them closer to God or push them away from Him. Lead wisely and be a follower of the Holy Spirit as He guides you.

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Honor your father and mother

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Marriage isn’t the only relationship the Bible speaks of, though it may seem that way in books like Ephesians where so much is said to husbands and wives. The relationship between children and their parents is an even more obvious depiction of the relationship between God and His people than marriage is.

Obedience, be it our obedience to God or the obedience of children to parents, is never just about compliance for the sake of compliance. God didn’t give us rules to follow just because He likes having His rules followed any more than our parents did that. There are reasons for the rules of the house; right? I’m always telling my kids that i don’t give them rules because I’m mean; I do it because I care about them and don’t want to see them get hurt. When they don’t obey, the result is often a negative experience. So it is in our disobedience to God.

The Law cannot be fully obeyed perfectly and we’ll never earn our way into heaven by keeping it. That’s not its purpose, though. We can thrive better, and live much more fulfilling lives if we stick to what the Lord has laid before us as right, avoiding what He says is wrong. It’s not about a dictator forcing anything on us. It’s about a loving Father who cares about His kids and wants to see them live well. His plan for us is better than our own plans.

How are you doing at obeying? Do you even see the need to do so?

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Love and respect

Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

A lot of people read through Ephesians 5 (or choose to ignore Ephesians 5) without really considering the context in which it was meant. It’s not just about commands for husbands and wives. To see it as that makes marriage cold and it makes it seem like God doesn’t intend for us to be happy in marriage.

In reality, asking men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands is going to result in happiness for both. Marriage is about a mutual benefit, not just that of one or another. In depicting the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the Church, there is no authoritarian role, no slave role, just love and respect.

A man loves his wife by caring for her, protecting her, providing for her, and forever being a student of her. Likewise, a woman shows respect to her husband by tending to his needs, and helping him to be the man God has called him to be. When both a husband and a wife fulfill their God-given purposes, they’re both happy and godly. Both can enjoy the marriage and the spiritual growth that comes as a result.

How do you look at marriage? Do you see it as a gift from God to benefit both man and wife and to illustrate the relationship between bride and Christ? Or do you see marriage as constraining and unhealthy? Do you see it as God meant it or as how it has come to be viewed in society?

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Godless: Part 4

Romans 1:28-32 “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”

I can’t imagine the pain Christ endured on the cross for my sin, let alone the entire world. When I read the scripture above, it’s like I’m looking out my front window at the world we live in, and Paul is describing it. There’s nothing new under the sun. Man has had the same sinful heart since Adam, and there is nothing we can do to change it, no matter how hard we try. No amount of self-help, therapy, or inward meditation will ever heal the brokenness. Nothing we can do.
But there is something He has done. As awful as the above scripture makes me feel, I rejoice in what Christ has done. Christ has made all of the above statements not apply to me or anyone who believes in His name. And through His grace, through the power of the Holy Spirit, every day as we submit ourselves to Him, He molds us more and more to His likeness. Christ is patient with us and wishes none of us to perish, but all of us to be saved. Why? Because He loves us.
Some of us who call ourselves Christian would read the above scripture and think of the world with judgement. With a smugness we would say the people of this world deserve what’s coming to them. I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood and all the westerns he starred in. One of my favorite quotes of his was from the movie The Unforgiven. He’s waiting under a tree to collect a bounty on some men he and his partner just killed. The young man who is with him is struggling with what they have done. Trying to comfort himself he says “Well, I guess that he had it coming” to which Clint replies “We all have it coming kid”.
We all have it coming. There’s not one of us that hasn’t fit the above scripture at one point in our life or who wouldn’t slip back into our sinfulness without the power of Christ living in us. What we should feel when we read the above scripture is pity. We should feel pity and our hearts should be broken. As broken as the world that surrounds us.
The focus of this devotion series is to bring attention to one thing. This world is broken and there is no fixing it. There is no saving this country, or the world for that matter. The world will keep going through this cycle of sin until the day the Lord returns to put an end to it all. The only hope the people of this world have is in the Gospel and it’s power to redeem those who don’t deserve redeeming. This world may be godless, but thankfully we serve a God who love’s it anyway. So much so that He sent his only Son, that whosoever shall believe in His name, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
I’m just a weak man and I’m not sure how He’s going to do it, but would you join me today and pray this prayer. “Lord Jesus, use me as you may. Use me to show the world your mercy, your love and your glory. Use me to show a godless world, that a godless man such as myself could call on your Holy name and become a child of God. Amen.”

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The two shall become one

Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

How important does something have to be for the Bible to quote it multiple times? It’s obvious that something mentioned so frequently is worthy of our attention. The picture of Jesus and His bride, the Church, that we see exemplified by marriage is not to be overlooked.

The fact that a man and a woman become one flesh upon marrying is mentioned no less than four times in Scripture (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7, 8; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). The call to leave behind the parents and become joined together as a new family is emphasized through this. Two individuals who were once separate, had their own rights and freedoms, their own preferences, and looked after their own needs and desires, become one unit, no longer separate. They now look to each others’ needs and desires, give up some of their own rights for the sake of the other, and bind themselves to their spouse.

It’s often said at weddings, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6) and the imagery is apparent. A couple is more than just two people who live together and have affectionate feelings for one another. They are an imperfect reflection of the perfect Bridegroom and His bride.

The breaking apart of a marriage is no simple thing. It’s not uncomplicated, mostly because two souls have joined together through a union that’s not supposed to be dissolved. Christ and His bride are joined together for eternity, inseparable, and that is the meaning of marriage. If you’re married, ask yourself if you’re reflecting the Bridegroom and His bride well. Even if you’re not married, consider how this earthly example of a heavenly concept is evident.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known