Ephesians 2:1-10 – Saved for a Reason

At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead because of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It is not something you possessed. It is not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives. (CEB)

Christians are not saved so that they can just sit in a worldly holding tank until Jesus comes back. Deliverance is only one side of the salvation coin. We are saved so that we will engage in good works for in the here-and-now.

Christians know they are saved from sin through the forgiving work of Jesus Christ. It is an act of sheer grace on God’s part. A believer is not born again through personal effort any more than a baby is birthed because of her own doing. Salvation is thoroughly the work of God. Even the faith needed to believe is a gift graciously provided by God.

There is more. The Lord also has some plans and purposes in mind for the people of God. Christians were birthed into a new spiritual community with new commitments to do all kinds of good deeds. It is as if sin were a weight or an obstacle that has been removed so that living a life full of goodness can now move ahead and do its work. To be saved is to be freed for a vigorous moral life.

The great problems of our world are, at their core, spiritual problems which are an opportunity for believers in Jesus to take the lead in agitating for change. Expecting human governments or corporate systems to take the lead in moral transformation is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Christians, churches, and faith communities can and ought to storm the gates of hell for the lives of women caught in sex trafficking; provide uplift and the tools to a better life for those in grinding poverty and hunger; challenge the idolatry of the American gun culture; speak up and step out for equality and an egalitarian culture; care for the sick and dying; reform morals; hold the world ethically accountable for its actions; and, hundreds of other realities of living in a fallen broken world.

In essence, when stripped to the center of the issue, these problems are not political, social, or cultural concerns – they are spiritual. Mass murder violates God’s command to not kill. Hunger and poverty too often result from greedy leaders in power who covet resources for themselves, violating God’s commands to provide for the poor and needy. Sexual slavery treats persons as chattel property and not as image-bearers of God. 

God has delivered us from the vice grip of sin so that we are free to tackle the immorality of the world around us. Perhaps you have a boss who is nothing more than a master of a small world and bullies and manipulates his employees. Maybe your local municipal authorities turn a blind eye to moral evil and cannot see they are public servants. It could be that within your own family there are problems of addiction which need to be graciously confronted and dealt with. 

Whatever the issues are in your sphere of influence, God has providentially placed us in the places we inhabit for just such a time as this so that we can do good works, both big and small, taking on immoral establishments as well as little acts of kindness. Doing good comes in all sizes, and all of us are to share our lives for the betterment of others.

Saving God, you have only good plans for your world and your people. Use me today and every day to be an agent of blessing and goodness, working for the benefit of others who need the freedom of Christ’s redemption and the power of his resurrection in their lives. Amen.

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Our Authority in Christ

Hello, friends! Welcome to Christ the King Sunday, a day which reminds us that in the coming Advent season, we look for both a baby and a king. Click the video below and let us acknowledge and worship King Jesus…

There is perhaps no better hymn for this day than Crown Him with Many Crowns:

For a contemporary song, it is appropriate today and every day to Sing to the King:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.
Amen.

Ephesians 5:1-6 – Follow the Way of Love

Love sculpture

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure, or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (NIV)

Humanity is loved and is therefore meant to love one another as the ultimate rule and guide of life. Just as God loves, so we are to do the same. We are to mimic divine love in our daily lives. The healthiest of relationships are characterized by a continual dynamic of giving love and receiving love. Failing to submit to this basic rule of life leaves one exposed to the gravity of God’s wrath – which exists as the extension of God’s love to put a stop to unloving words and actions in the world.

Unfortunately, as a hospital chaplain and church pastor, I daily see the sad effects of individuals who have experienced a paucity of love and, so, have taken on a false self to try and find love in all the wrong places – with damaging consequences.

Three inappropriate unloving ways of acting are mentioned in today’s New Testament lesson:

  • Sexual immorality is the illegitimate attempt to get the legitimate need for erotic love met without any strings attached. It is a misguided belief that one-night stands and clandestine trysts will protect against being too committed to another and getting hurt.
  • Impurity is any other illicit, illegal, or improper kind of behavior toward others which tries to do the same thing as immorality: Seeking to meet legitimate needs in an illegitimate way – to turn a trick for love, trying to avoid emotional, spiritual, or even physical pain.
  • Greed is an insatiable pursuit of addictive behavior meant to numb or stuff all the unwanted emotions which reside deep in the soul because of engaging in the immoral or impure actions.

Three inappropriate unloving words of speaking are mentioned:

  • Obscenity is filthy speech which is a cover for the agonizing unmet needs of love deep within the human heart. Obscene words are nothing more than verbal sexual immorality. They are a twisted attempt at trying to give and get loving words in an illicit manner.
  • Foolish talk, much like impurity, is any other illicit or improper words crafted to manipulate or cajole another. It is the hustle for love. The original Greek word means literally “to talk like a moron,” that is, a person who lacks sound judgment.
  • Coarse joking is crude and addictive speech, much like greed, envy, and coveting, which verbally trolls for love without unveiling any real feelings.

The antidote to all these baseless actions and distasteful words is to realize the true self, created by God, through receiving the love of God and of others with thanksgiving. Within genuine loving relationships, people can express their legitimate needs to each other and satisfy one another. Yet, with the false self, there is secrecy, hiding, and massive amounts of shame.

Love opens us to all that is good and beautiful. Love also opens us to the possibility of devastating hurt and loss. It is when we try to obtain the good and beautiful while trying to build walls of protection against potential pain that we get in trouble. The sinister tools we must use to try and get that impossible job done are manipulation and control with both verbal and physical immorality.

There is no true and authentic love apart from openness and vulnerability. Cheap imitations of love will only lead to hopeless despair. The late C.S. Lewis once wrote:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

The way of love is the way of Christ. Imitating his example of a holy life, compassionate service, helpful speech, and healing actions with a humble heart of gratitude is to be our guide, rule, and direction in life. It is to realize our true selves and nudge the world just a bit closer back to Eden.

O Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our God, give us the love which never ceases so that our hearts will be enlightened and always burning with holy passion for the common good of all. O Christ, our loving Savior, set our souls aflame so that they may shine brightly with the warmth and glow of unquenchable divine love, and lessen the darkness of the world. Lord Jesus, we pray, give us the light of your love so that we might always see you, desire you, look on you in love, and long after you. Blessed Holy Spirit, send the fire of your love and empower us for loving service so that we may emulate and follow the example of our loving Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Spiritual Warfare

Temptation in the Wilderness by Briton Riviere 1912
Temptation in the Wilderness by British artist Briton Rivière, 1912

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)

Today’s New Testament lesson has some densely packed verses concerning spiritual warfare. There are three major imperatives or commands for every believer and every church:

  1. Be strong in the Lord because we are in an invisible war.
  2. Put on the whole armor of God and prepare for spiritual battle.
  3. Take up your spiritual weapons and fight.

We are to be vigilant since Satan and his wicked spirits are highly organized for evil with devious schemes and stratagems designed to blunt our spiritual growth.  We are to put on the necessary armor of truth, righteousness, and peace to defend ourselves against the inevitable attacks.  We are to use our spiritual weapons of faith, salvation, and the word of God to advance against the darkness.

To do just that, the following is a focused and thoroughly Christian prayer I have used for many years both for myself and with others. I suggest praying it out loud in its entirety each day for the next two weeks to push back the dark forces:

Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You.  I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection.  I surrender myself completely in every area of my life to You.  I take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life.  I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.

Satan, I command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons.  I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us. 

Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise.  I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.  I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer.  I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute.  I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me; You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now justified.  I am thankful that in Christ You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength. 

Heavenly Father open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day.  I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  I take my place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet.  I declare that Satan and his demons are subject to me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am thankful for the armor You have provided.  I now put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  I lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and I take in my hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life.  I put on this armor and live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit. 

I am grateful, Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  I claim all victory for my life today.  I reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  I affirm that the Word of God is true, and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Heavenly Father, I choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You.  Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me.  I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life today. 

warfare praying

By faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  I put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin. 

Today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love.  I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage.  I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty. 

In every way I stand into the victory of Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every enemy of my soul. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word.  I, therefore, claim all the will of God for my life today.  I am thankful that You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  I am thankful that You have given me new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  I am thankful that You have made provision for me so that today I can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  I recognize and affirm that this is Your will for me and so I reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob me of the will of God.  I refuse today to believe my feelings of worthlessness and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations, distortions, and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind.  I claim the will of God for my life today. 

In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice.  I choose not to be conformed to this world.  I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I pray that You would show me Your will and help me to walk in Your ways today. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but have divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me.  I demolish the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Holy Spirit.  I affirm, Heavenly Father, that You have not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today.  I give my will to You.  I choose to make right decisions of faith.  I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today.  I give my body to You and recognize that I am Your temple.  I rejoice in Your mercy and grace. 

Heavenly Father, I pray now and through this day that You would strengthen and enlighten me.  Show me the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in my life.  Help me to be the kind of person who pleases You.  Help me to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help me to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help me to give You Your rightful place in my life. 

I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into my life today.  I deliberately surrender myself to You, God.  I refuse to be discouraged.  You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so I claim this victory over all satanic forces in my life.  I pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen. 

Soli Deo Gloria