For This Reason

Thursday, July 18, 2013, 6:30 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Believe Him” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 2-3 (NIV):;

You Used to Live (2:1-10)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

A whole sermon could be preached just from this short passage of scripture alone. There is so much here! Basically we have a picture here of the transformation of heart and mind (resulting in a change of behavior) which takes place in the life of the one who says “Yes” to following Jesus Christ with his or her life. This transformation, and even the desire to have this change, is the working of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer in Jesus Christ, as the believer surrenders his or her life and will over to Jesus Christ.

We can’t just do good things or even try to stop doing bad things and somehow earn merit with God. We will always fall short of meeting his standard of perfection. So, he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that “in Christ” we might be delivered from slavery to sin, from the ultimate punishment of sin in hell, and so we might be set free to love, honor, worship and obey our Lord Jesus in the power of his Spirit within us. For Christ did not save us just so we would escape hell, or so we could go to heaven, but he saved us and he called us with a holy calling, and he has “good works” which he has prepared in advance for us to do. All we have to do is to surrender our will to him and to let him work his will through our lives.

Via the working of the Spirit of God in our lives in setting us free from imprisonment to sin, we no longer should live the way we used to live when we followed the ways of this world and Satan. We died to sin. How can we live in it any longer? Satan is who is at work in the disobedient. Once we lived to gratify the cravings of our flesh and we followed its evil desires, but because of God’s great love for us, he who is rich in mercy set us free! Amen! So, I now choose to walk in his truth and in his love, and to no longer follow the ways of this world. We are to live in the world, but we should not be of the world, i.e. we should no longer conform our lives to its mold. We should come out from the world of sin and be separate. And, we should go out into the world of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Chief Cornerstone (2:19-22)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

In Christ we become members of his body along with other believers in Jesus Christ. We are not just independent followers of Christ, but together we form one body, and we are to work together as a body for the strengthening and encouragement of the body of Christ in their walk of faith in Jesus Christ. We are a family. And, we should work together as a family. Yet, it doesn’t always work that way, especially in today’s church culture here in America. The church is marketed just like a business. So many congregations have gone the way of the world and there is little distinction now between the church and the world. The church participates in the things of this world because it believes that somehow that participation in the world is going to help it to reach the world, but what then are we reaching the world for? – A cleaned up version of what the world is already offering? – Or are we teaching the cross of Christ, death to sin, and lives free in Christ from our enslavement to sin?

We need to make the distinction between what is of man and what is of God. Not every leader in today’s institutional church is a true follower of Jesus Christ. Many are followers of man, business marketing schemes, man-made religion and the ways of this world. And, they operate the church like a business, not like the body of Christ. We need to know what the word of God teaches with regard to the church, his body, and how it is scripturally to function. Yes, it is built upon the apostles and the prophets, and God still uses people with the spiritual gift of prophecy within his body today for their strengthening and encouragement, yet not everyone who claims to have this gift or who calls himself or herself a prophet is truly of God. We should not despise prophecies supposedly coming from God, i.e. we should not automatically just write off everything or everyone who doesn’t fit inside our institutional box called religion. Yet, we should test everything we hear against the word of God to make sure what is being said does not contradict God’s word or his character. And, we should make sure to always remember that Christ is the chief, not man.

Because He Obeyed (3:1, 7-13)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

…I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

Paul was literally a prisoner on house arrest because of his testimony for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was because he obeyed Jesus in sharing the true gospel of salvation that he was placed under house arrest. And, it was usually the religious leaders of his day, who claimed to serve the same God as him, who opposed him the strongest. And, that may be true of some of us today. Some of our fiercest opposition may be coming from institutional religion (man-made) which may be threatened by our testimony for Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation. Many churches today have gone to diluting the gospel in order to make it more agreeable to humans, and so they (the worldly) will feel more comfortable in church. Yet, the cross is supposed to be an offense, and Jesus said that because he was hated, if we are his true followers, we too will be hated for the sake of his name and for the sake of the truth of the gospel, and some of us may even be “arrested” because we bore testimony to that faith, even by leaders within our churches.

Immeasurably More (3:14-21)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Here is the encouragement, though. First of all, although we may have to suffer all kinds of rejections, persecutions and even imprisonments because we stand by the truth of God’s holy word, and for the true gospel of salvation, which frees us from slavery to sin, we should rejoice that we share in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, and we should be humbled that he would even choose us for such an awesome task as preaching the gospel. So, we should not be discouraged by our own sufferings or by the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are also standing firm in their faith.

Instead, we need to lift one another up in faith, and pray to God for our strengthening, courage and determination to keep on sharing the true gospel of salvation and the truth of God’s holy word despite all opposition, even coming from within institutional religion. Remember that Christ’s opponents were the religious leaders of his day who claimed to follow his God and his Father, but who did not like him because he operated outside their box of institutionalized religion, tradition and culture.

God has been reminding me much these past few days that he has it all under control. The encouragement here is that we grasp how wide and deep is his love toward us, and to believe that he can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. It may not be in a way that will bring immediate comfort to our lives, and we may not even see the results in our lifetime, yet hope that is seen is not hope. We must trust in Christ even when we don’t see what he’s doing. He just asks us to trust him. He will work it all out for good.

Believe Him / An Original Work / July 15, 2013

My heart cries: Lord, won’t You hear me
Seeking You for the answers
To my heartache and questions
I have concerning my life?
Speak, Lord, to me right now.

“Oh, dear one, why don’t you trust Me
With your life’s circumstances?
Give your all on the altar
In submission of your will
To My purpose for you.

“Surrender your life completely
To your Lord and your Savior.
He has all things planned for you
For His glory and honor.
He’ll work all things for good.

“Believe Him. He will fulfill all
Of His promises to you
For your life and your future.
Trust Him. Rest in His love.
He’ll give you peace from above.”