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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.

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Walking as Christians

Ephesians 4:1-6 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.

Have you ever heard a statement like this? – “Jesus and the ideas he talked about sound great, I’m just not so sure about all these Christians.” Ours is a world desperately seeking Truth. Take any social context or issue (marriage, family, crime rates, teenagers being prescribed drugs so they can feel “normal”) and the broken human condition is clear. Any honest search for Truth can only lead to the reality of Jesus, but those who search are often confused by their experience with Christians.

My purpose is not to lay guilt on anyone, but to illustrate the depth of our position, and the purpose of Paul’s writing in Ephesians. He starts by saying, “therefore,” a reference to his earlier point, namely, that Gentiles are equal heirs in the promise of Christ. From this radical statement that surely shocked his audience, Paul then says in 4:1 that the Church is supposed to be a picture of this all-encompassing love.

We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” and act with “all humility and gentleness.” When people enter our sphere as co-workers, friends, or neighbors, this is the picture we ought to project. And it’s not a matter of performance, either. Down to the deepest fiber of our being, we need to understand that Jesus chose his Church to represent Him. There is no plan B. Furthermore, the picture we are painting with our lives is one that the world longs to see!

This is not a spectator sport, ladies and gentlemen. Be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit” is no light statement. With diligence, we much each master our impulses , tempers, and die to our Selves a thousand times in order that when others see us interact in congregations, in our homes, and in our different social circles, the cumulative thing they take away is Jesus. And it will require everything we have to give.

———-  After paying close attention to what Paul is calling us to do as Christians, is there anything you need to change about the way you present yourself in front of others as you represent Christ?

 

*This devotion by Jeremy Bunge first appeared in January of 2011

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One new Man

Ephesians 2:15-16 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, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

One of the amazing effects of Christ’s work on the cross to save us is the unity that comes through reconciliation. He didn’t just die for me and He didn’t just die for you, He died for us and He prayed before His work was completed that we would be united (John 17:21). He accomplished what He set out to do, and that included bringing us all under the banner of Christ.

The initial work was to unite Jews and Gentiles, but today there are continued effects in that people of different backgrounds and denominations can still be intimately united by the gospel as we’ve all been reconciled to God and to each other.  Jesus didn’t just earn us peace with God, but also peace with our fellow believers.

We don’t always see this in practice, but it grieves the heart of God to see His people fighting amongst each other. He didn’t reconcile us to himself and adopt us all into His family so we could fight like we’re enemies instead of brothers and sisters. It’s ok to disagree, but it’s not ok to disregard what God intended to unite us.

 

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He is our peace

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

Jesus Christ not only brings peace into our lives through ending our hostility toward God, our separation from Him, and our bondage to sin, He himself is our peace. He bring us peace because there is no other way.

When we read things in God’s Word such as “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), or “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), and other such reminders, it’s hard not to have peace.

Next time you find yourself anxious, fearful, feeling condemned, or without peace, just think about what’s been done for you. Think about the victory that’s been won by Jesus to reconcile you to the Father. Think about your adoption into His own family.  There you’ll find peace. In Him you’ll find peace.

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Walk in new life

Philippians 3:10 “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”

Our life in the flesh ended the moment we made Jesus the Lord and Savior of our lives, knowing that His death on a cross washed away our sins. Our life in the Spirit began the moment we started walking with Him in a new life, through the power of His resurrection. We share in Christ’s sufferings when we become His disciples, broken for a lost and dying world. We become like Him in death when we humble ourselves, investing our time and resources into lost people, encouraging and discipling the next generation.

The problem with most believers is they never get past being buried with Christ. They let their old selves die with Him on the cross, but never start their new walk with Him. They never truly know Christ, let alone take hold of the power of His resurrection. The gospel is not a one time miraculous event in our lives, but Jesus doing the miraculous through our lives as we walk with Him daily.

We are all going to fall down from time to time when we start following the path Jesus has called us to. What breaks my heart is when I see so many people who have never even taken their first step. If this feels like you, let me encourage you today to start walking because you can’t go with Jesus and stay where you are. Jesus wants to unleash the power of His resurrection in and through your life, but only as you draw close to Him, share in His sufferings, become like Him in death, and walk with Him in new life.

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Who’s In Charge

1 Peter 2:13-14 For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan has tempted us by questioning authority, he lied about God and Adam and Eve began to wonder about God’s intentions and whether the rules that he gave them were fair.

God’s commandments have been questioned every moment of every day ever since that day and we can see the consequences all around us but we still want to live life our way.

Accepting authority and being submissive is required of every child of God, it is necessary in our relationship with God and in every other relationship that we have. From family to the work place and in government, there is an order that God designed to help us live together in harmony.

We see the idea of submission demonstrated in the Trinity, all of them working together in unison, each of them fulfilling a role and each of them bringing glory to the other and doing what is beneficial to the whole.

✔ Jesus sought to bring glory to God the Father. (John 15:10)
✔ Jesus willingly died for us. (John 10:17-18)
✔ The Holy Spirit gives Jesus glory. (John 16:13-15)
✔ God the Father gave glory back to Jesus. (John 8:54, 17:24)

Too bad we do not get to enjoy this oneness and cooperative spirit from the people that we relate to but that doesn’t get us off the hook. We need to be submissive and give ourselves to helping others and building them up. (Philippians 2:3-8)

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Nothing but the blood of Jesus

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Christian, what did you do to get into God’s family? Did you earn your way in? Buy your way in? How were you able to go from being dead and in sin to being alive and free from sin? No, you didn’t raise yourself from spiritual death. You didn’t earn your way to God. Your reconciliation to Him was purchased by one thing only. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

What a beautiful thought that we’ve been brought into the family of God as His adopted children by no work of our own. Generally, we tend to reject the notion that we can get something for free. The saying “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is a popular one. We’re skeptical that anything in this world can be free of charge.

But our acceptance into God’s family? That’s not something we could earn even if we tried our very hardest. The only way to get that is to through the blood of Christ. It’s not for sale. The choice is take it for free or don’t take it at all.  It’s bought and paid for, earned by the One sinless person who ever lived becoming sin in our place.

We’re no longer strangers to God, no longer enemies. We’re now His children, loved by Him, protected by Him, and cared for by Him, not because we did anything to earn His love, but because He first loved us and chose us to be His. We were lost, not Him. We didn’t find God, He found us, and rescued us.

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Once separated

Ephesians 2:11-12 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— 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.

We all have a story to tell and in every one of our stories there is a part where we were separated from God. The one thing that can ever separate us from Him is sin and since we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23), we can all be guaranteed a time of isolation from the Lord.

That time of being apart from Him, when we weren’t His but the world’s, we were captive to our own sinful natures and without hope. God loves us too much to leave us in our sin and that’s why He sent a Rescuer, a Savior to reconcile us with himself. Even while we were dead in our sin, God did this for us. He chose to save us when we had no hope. He could have left us to our own devices, but He didn’t.

As we think back on our stories, it’s important not to forget the time we spent apart from God. It causes us to more fully appreciate what it’s like on the other side, as His children who have been adopted into His own family. It also helps us to appreciate that there are still lost people out there who have yet to hear the good news that a Rescuer was sent for them. It causes us to take action for their sake.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known