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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

Month

May 2015

Purity & New Life in Christ. Ephesians 4:17-24.

By Luke & Rachel Watts.

How well do you know your best friend? Do you finish each others s….andwiches?

We like to think we are connected to someone else, or that one day there will be. Someone we truly know, and who really knows us.

How well do you know Christ?

Paul gives instructions about how believers should walk in Ephesians, he also gives examples of how they shouldn’t walk.

What’s so wrong with how unbelievers walk?

they are vain/empty/futile in their mind
their understanding is darkened
this ignorance leads to blindness, with leads them to be alienated from God, and hard hearted
this hardness makes them callous, totally given to any and every sensual thing, greedy for impure things

Paul has a warning to the Ephesians – don’t be like this!

There is a clear emphasis on the mind, you can see the parallel between 4:18 and 4:23. Why is the mind so important? Proverbs 23:7 gives us the principle that as a man thinks in his heart, that’s who he is. “You are what you think”.

When we let impure thoughts take control of our mind, impurity will eventually control our behaviour. When impure passions reign you set yourself up as sovereign over your own kingdom. Ignoring the needs of others, and most certainly ignoring the plan of God for your life. Paul is saying, ‘If you know Jesus, you should know better’.

What have your learned about Christ?

He has made you new
you are meant to put off your old self
you are meant to be renewed in your mind
you are meant to put on the new self
this new self is Who God meant for you to be, reflecting His holiness and righteousness

The Ephesians had been established in Who Jesus was, and the power He has to change lives.

To move from a callous, hard heart to one that is compliant with God’s Will takes the miracle of conversion, where God takes hearts of stone from us and gives us hearts of flesh.

This doesn’t happen by external tweaks to our behaviour, it needs a change of heart, a change of mind, a change of affections, and that’s what repentance is.

When we make the Gospel the central thing in our lives, we will soon see that it works inside-out, not outside-in.
……….
Growing up my ( Rachel’s) first impression of what it was like to be Christian was to be perfect. I was surrounded by ‘Christians’ who supposedly never made any mistakes.

The church that I grew up in taught me that mans teaching was Gods teaching. I was taught to have a relationship with God through the church not through Jesus.I was still taught the Gospel but because it was not practiced around me I didn’t have a good understanding of what it meant to know Jesus for who He really was and what He could do for me.

As a result of legalistic teaching the God I thought I knew, I obeyed out of fear and I didn’t ever want to get to close to Him as I believed He would punish me for not living up to the imposed standards.

Because of the environment I grew up in I actually thought I was a good Christian girl. I lived up to, well at least tried to, the standards I had to, but when people weren’t watching I lived what was a reflection of my heart, one that was damaged and angry at God.

I was sexually abused as a young child and the damage that caused combined with what I thought was Christianity set me on a path that was far from the truth.

I gave my heart to God at around the age of 13 but that was out of fear of Hell, not really having an understanding of Gods love or grace. The abuse had made me fearful, I was terrified that if people found out (including God) I would get into trouble.

So I kept my distance, built up walls around myself and didn’t allow myself to get too close to people, or God. This sent me down a path of destruction and if it wasn’t for Gods hand over my life, I don’t think I would be here tonight.

Through the rest of my teenage years I would struggle with my assurance of salvation, asking God into my heart every Sunday night, hoping that would make up for my sins during the week. I also developed an unhealthy appetite for exercise and struggled with bulimia for some time.

It was in my early 20s when God started drawing me closer to Himself. This came about as a result of reading Gods Word, and I had a desire to change I just didn’t how.

With much difficulty I finally gave my battle to God in the best way I knew back then and by His grace, I was able to break the mental struggle I had with self-destructive obsession with sex and my negative body image.

I then felt somewhat closer to God, but I still had some walls up which I wasn’t fully aware of, but a change to a healthier church environment saw God working in my heart even further. He was preparing me for the next step in my life that would bring me to more fully understand what was accomplished on the cross for me.

At age 26 I meant an amazing young man called Luke, and we developed a strong friendship – getting to know each other coming down Mt. Lofty. About 6 months after we had been friends, Luke asked me out and that triggered another chain of events.

I had never been in a relationship before and had many fears about it. I was very insecure. It was through my relationship with Luke that I realised I needed to get help and it was then that I sought out a Christian counsellor to help me deal with my past. Through some very tough and much needed counselling sessions I was able to find forgiveness for my anger to God and stop blaming Him for what I had been through and done and find healing at the cross of Jesus.


Ephesians 4:20 – 21 “But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus”

We are never too far gone. If we are believers, God says we can choose not to sin, but if we sin we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ. Because of the cross you can be forgiven and if you do not believe in Jesus – if He is not real to you, don’t be afraid to come to Him. He will forgive you if you ask Him to.

The truth is the Jesus’ death on the Cross and His resurrection has dealt with all those lies we believed or still believe about ourselves. It says in Isaiah 53:6 ‘by His stripes we are healed’. His sacrifice brings healing to our lives, giving us grace in facing the consequences of our sin and healing the wounds that have come from other people sinning against us.

All you need to do is come to Jesus and He will do the rest, He will give you new life

My heart’s desire is that He would continue to make me more like Him, not to be perfect, so I get the glory, but to Glorify God,my Saviour and healer.

………

As a teenager, I ( Luke) went to a special youth event and I remember after that meeting we were encouraged to write our name on a banner, pledging to God publicly that we would save sex for marriage. I signed without a second thought. It was a great thing to do, I believed sex truly was for marriage, and I had no intention of violating that command.

Signing a banner is easy easier compared to what you really have to do to remain pure.

My sexuality purity wasn’t compromised because I broke my promise I made as a teenager, it was compromised because my heart was hardened by selfish desires.
I bought into lies:
-“it’s just sex”
-“we love each other”
-“it just happened”
-“we’re going to get married anyway”

Sex is a sacred thing, and when we abuse it’s boundaries, all that is left is shame.

God’s love for me before I was born was the determining factor in my finding forgiveness and healing. ( Psalm 139:16) The Cross of Christ also brings redemption. He paid a price for me, flawed as I was, and He longs to use me for His glory. He also cleared my impure past and gave me His purity.I still bear scars from former poor life choices, but my Saviour bears scars also, and His cover mine.

God’s grace brings blessing, not only the righteousness of Christ, but in this life, there can be blessing found in new life, and God has blessed me with many things I don’t deserve. He gives Rachels.
…………..

Purity doesn’t begin and end with your sexuality. There are many other factors to purity than just that area of your life. Purity begins or ends with what you give your heart to.

Giving your heart to Jesus is not a cliche. It’s what you need to do in order to avoid an empty life with knowing God’s love.

Learn Who Christ really is. He the Saviour who was the pure lamb, who bore all our sins on Himself.

To Know The Love of Christ. Ephesians 3:14-21

I remember when Rachel and I were first getting to know each other, and I made the mistake of not knowing she was a coffee snob by ordering her a coffee somewhere that was from a ‘push-button’ machine. She was less than impressed, and I certainly knew from that time on what to order for her if we were ever out together!

How well do you have to know someone before you can ask for something on their behalf?

You obviously need to know they have a need, but how would you go about meeting it, or if you can’t how would you ask for help from God?

Praying for one another is one of the most practical acts of love and service we can do as believers, and Paul exhibits powerful prayers in his epistles, and this is one of his most well-known, which is a prayer for spiritual strength.

There are four things that Paul requests of the Father for the believers:
strength, depth, comprehension, and fulness.

1: Strength > the right power. v 16

We know we are weak and frail. Paul has told us that we were dead without Christ (2:1&5). But he also wants us to know the power we have access to.

His chief concern for his fellow believers is not their physical needs. He sees the need for their inner man to be strengthened as being far more important than any material comfort or prosperity.

Paul should know more than anyone else about prioritising inner strength of the soul – he is writing this from prison (4:1). If anyone had the right to ask for physical relief or material comforts, it was him. But these are not the most important in the spiritual life of a believer – the inner man, the heart of a person is the most important.

God is of course concerned with our whole being but He didn’t send His Son so we could be free of suffering and full of wealth in this world. He sent His Son to save our souls and sanctify us for His glory.

It’s our hearts that need strengthening. It’s our wills that need to be refined. This can only happen when we have the right power – the Spirit who strengthens us with His power.

“You and I weren’t created for independent living. We were created to be dependent on God. Add to this the fact that sin leaves us broken and weak. We all need strength beyond our own and power we’ll never independently possess. So God, in grace, grants us power in the person of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each of His children. We simply are no longer left to the resources of our own strength, wisdom or righteousness.” Paul Tripp

Any other power is sourced in our own abilities, and it will not last. Only the Spirit working upon our spirit can steel our faith, protect our heart, and enable us to walk after Himself.

2: Depth > the right love. v 17-19

This power can only come from placing your faith in the source of it, and how it’s possible to even have a relationship with God at all. The love of Christ.

Having our loves in the right order will put our lives in the right order. Too often our loves are ‘disordered’. We are fickle people.We love the world and the things of the world too easily. We love the temporal more than the eternal. We need to know the love of Christ in as many different applications as we can!

Paul prays for us to dwell in it. Put your roots into it. Ground yourself on it. Build on nothing else, know no other love but this love.

Considering Revelation 2:4, was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians answered? God certainly heard it, but did they heed it? They left their first love. It’s great condemnation, to put Jesus second to anything else in our spiritual life. If He isn’t first, He isn’t Lord.

Make sure His love goes down deep in your heart, and go down deep into it yourself. You’ll never exhaust it.

3: Comprehension > the right understanding. v 17-19

Paul is telling us that with the power of the Spirit, and the right love in the right place, we should make every effort to know what is unknowable (3:19).

What seems a contradiction is actually just highlighting the immensity of the love of Christ and the power of God through the Spirit, and our desperate need for both.

Believers CAN most certainly grow in their knowledge of God, and should be seeking to experience it more deeply, widely, broadly, highly.

There is no part of your life where God’s power cannot reach. There is no event in your life where the love of Christ in the Cross doesn’t apply.

God’s love for those who are in His family is a ‘total’ love. It reaches to every corner of our life.

It is long – it continues the length of our lives.
It is deep – it reaches to the depths of discouragement, despair, and even death.
It is wide – it covers the breadth of our own experience and reaches out to the whole world.
It is high – there is nothing greater, more satisfying, more pleasurable, more able to meet every expectation of glory in us and through us than God’s love.

Comprehending this starts with where you are at. Having an awareness of who God has made you to be is good start to getting to knowing more about Who God is.

He has made you to be part of His family, and that’s the best starting point you can have, you won’t run out of material from that!

This awareness leads you to reminding yourself and others always of God’s grace and the Gospel. That means we avoid complacency, but also challenges us to pass on what we have received. You can’t know this sort of information without it flowing over into your life, your conversations. You will have a joy in your life that extends past happiness, because it’s rooted in grace rather circumstance. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love ( Romans 8:31-39), you can truly know and grasp with the right understanding, all that God has done and is doing for you. His love can be experienced, not just known.

4: Fulness > the right glory & power. v 19-21

Most people who claim to have understood something completely are usually ‘full of themselves’, but Paul says those who truly understand and are aware of God’s love for them in Jesus can be filled with the fulness of God.

“The means of our fullness is the Holy Spirit ( 5:18), and the measure of our fulness is Christ (4:13). It is tragic when Christians use the wrong measurements in examining their own spiritual lives. We like to measure ourselves by the weakest Christians that we know…Paul tells us that the measure is Christ, and that we cannot boast about anything (2:9). When we have reached HIS fulness, then we have reached the limit.” Warren Wiersbe

We would do very well to stop and think about our fulness. What are we relying on? What are we judging others for? Do we see the neediness of others as a weakness? Neediness is never a weakness. It’s only neediness when we don’t utilise the resources we have freely available to us.

“ You do not have to fear or deny your weakness. You do not need to swindle yourself into thinking that you are strong. You can face your weakness with joy because you know that you have been given grace for that weakness; grace that is not a thing, but a person – the Holy Spirit, who make you the place where He dwells in power.” Paul Tripp

The closing doxology of Paul’s prayer reminds of Who it is we are asking help of, and why we ask.

This is The One Who can answer our prayers above and beyond what we could ever imagine.

This doesn’t mean that when I pray for a new car He’ll give me a Ferrari. It does mean that when I trust Him to provide all my needs, He will provide them in sometimes surprising ways.

This doesn’t mean that if I imagine a future of being a happy family, with healthy children and a long, stable and loving marriage that God won’t allow infertility, health issues, and hardship to be a part of my life. It will mean that through all those things, God’s grace will be sufficient, and His strength will be perfected when it is applied to my weakness.

Praying to God for His purposes to be accomplished in my life or the lives of those around me means I have to put aside my own pursuit of glory. My own ambition. We pray for Him to receive the glory (3:21) because there is nothing more powerful and life affirming than to understand that you have been made to bring glory to Him. His glory is far more important than my wish list. His glory is far more important than anything else we could ask for or imagine.
The greatest proof of this is that for those who love Him, we are told that we haven’t yet seen or imagined what He has prepared for us! ( 1 Cor 2:9)

The remaining question is one that reveals our love.

Whose love are we walking in?

Whose love do we know best?

The total, all-reaching love of God in Christ that surpasses understanding, or the fleeting love of this world that simply passes?

The sole vision of our heart should be to know the love of Christ more fully, deeply, widely, and highly so we can than love others with that same love.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art

Walk In Love, Wisdom & Light. Ephesians 5:1-21

I’m definitely not an athlete, but walking is achievable, or at least, conceivable!I can muster up the strength to go for a walk. If I’m running, it’s most likely not for fitness reasons!

Ephesians talks to us about the “walk of life”, and Paul knew what is was all about long before ‘Dire Straits’ ever did. He not only talks about the need to walk in love (5:2), light ( 5:8), and wisdom ( 5:15), he speaks about ‘walking’ several times, and not all of them are positive. ( 2:2, 2:10, 4:1, 4:17). Walking in relationship with God through faith in Jesus is paralleled in Ephesians with walking after the course of this world or the unbeliever’s walk which leads to destruction. There is a need, Paul says, to watch your step.

1 – Walk In Love…v1-5

We would do anything for a love that lasts.

The kind of love that lasts is a pure love, a love that is sacrificial and God-glorifying (5:2).

What love ISN’T is also outlined for us. Impure love is not actually love at all, it’s immorality (5:3a).Love without purity is only selfish premise to do whatever you want to do with no consideration for others or for God’s plan. Impure ‘love’ is only love of self, it’s lust.

Lust is the epitome of love of self.

Wanting impure things for yourself shouldn’t even be talked about Paul says ( 5:3b), and most certainly shouldn’t be joked about ( 5:4).

How often are we guilty of making light of sacred things, being entertained by crude and degrading humour?

It’s not just the movies you watch, the books you read, the websites you visit, the memes you tag your friends in, it’s anything that doesn’t belong in a heart that is being made new by God’s love. It’s out of place!

All these things have devastating consequences, eternally most of all ( 5:5b), but in all other areas of your life.

Lust and coveting have a remedy in being thankful to God( 5:4b). Praise of God of course can only come from a heart that has acknowledged His love first of all.

2 – Walk In Light…v6-14

There are many ways that we are deceived into doing things we never intended to do.

That first step of compromise can come in various ways, but it’s usually something shady. Something done in secret. Something we hide.

This starts with empty words ( 5:6). What lies are people telling you that appeal because you feel drawn to something that might meet a physical desire?

Peer pressure, culture and media on all sorts of levels are telling and selling us something that sounds intriguing, with a promise of fantasy, something to satisfy our curiosity.

We listen to gossip about the famous people we’re supposed to know. Nothing helpful will come from listening or reading what latest scandal they are involved in, but we are curious. “Maybe they need our prayer…”.

We are curious. That was the tagline for a recent unmentionable movie – ‘curious?’ .You bet we’re curious. Sex sells and we buy the lie. Sex has a very heavy price tag though. Immorality doesn’t come cheap. You’ll pay the price in some way or another.

What price would you be willing to pay for a lustful look, an adulterous affair, a dabble in drugs, a night or two getting drunk?

-Addiction to porn?
-Broken hearts and relationships because you don’t know how to interact with the opposite sex?
-Broken marriage?
-Pregnancy out of wedlock?
-Cycle of addiction with substance abuse?
-Criminal history?

It never stops with just listening to empty words of course. We get deceived by them, and then we take part in them, and then partner with those who do them. ( 5:7).

Partnering with darkness is not what we are called to. It’s who we used to be, not who we are (5:8).

Who are partnering with?

The fruit that comes from light can only be found in the light. (5:9). It begs the question, if what is good, right and true is only found in the light, why do we so often fall for empty promises of pleasure that are offered by shady merchants who want us to partner with them in a life of unfruitfulness and darkness ( 5:11)? Knowing what God wants of us (5:10) means addressing these people in our lives and these things that we have compromised on for what they are – unfruitful, dark, destructive. Choose your friends wisely, chose relationships that lead you to the light.

You will know something is dark when you hold it up against the light. Light exposes what was hidden ( 5:13).

“Obedience isn’t just an issue of what you do or don’t do with your body. It’s what you will surrender your heart to. What your heart is invested in, your body will follow.” – Paul Tripp

Don’t be complacent about things in your life that you know can damage your heart.

Don’t even talk about these things outside of appropriate contexts and boundaries! (5:12)
Talking about these things creates an atmosphere where these things become passé. Where they are ‘normal’, acceptable, tolerable.

“Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.” – Kevin DeYoung

“ A good man will be ashamed to speak of what many wicked men are not ashamed to do.” – Matthew Henry

What looks normal to you? Do the things of Christ look strange?

It started off with listening to empty promises of pleasure. It ends with you having a life where there is nothing good, right or true about what you are doing in secret. You may have another persona for your family, your church friends, but your secrets are affecting your family, friends. Deception is never good foundation to build any relationship on.

The way out of it is to take it to the light. Take it to Christ – wake up to what He can do for you, He can shine on you! He can give you freedom again, life. (5:14)

His light doesn’t just expose, it covers, redeems.
There is nothing that can be exposed about you that He hasn’t covered in the Cross.

3 – Walk In Wisdom…v15-21

Wake up and watch your step (5:15) “cicumspectly” = precision, accuracy. The opposite would be careless without guidance…

How are you using your time? The days are evil/short ( Job 14:1), you need to know what God’s Will for your life is (5:17), which is that you would be more like Jesus.

This means you wouldn’t give yourself to be under the influence of other things or people in your life including drunkenness (5:18). The false gods of alcohol, sex and drugs all promise pleasure when you indulge excessively, but all they lead to is debauchery – addiction – destruction. When you take anything that has biblical boundaries and use it outside of those boundaries and think you will be free of any consequences, you’ve bought the lie, your pleasure is your sole aim in life and you are a very dangerous person, not just to yourself, but to others. Getting what you want in life doesn’t make you a better person. It actually dehumanised you. Sin leads you to desires of power, just like in the garden, you think you can know better than God. But you don’t end up godlike at all, you end up demonising yourself.You were made to bring glory and pleasure to God, not yourself.

The alternative to the influence of darkness is the influence of the Spirit, which will lead you to praise of God, both in your own heart, but also corporately. (5:19-21).

Public praise should lead to genuine relationships with others in the family of God. If you do not have public worship as part of your life, you will miss out on one of God’s great blessings. It’s not a cover for all the other things you could be doing, it’s the alternate to what you would be otherwise doing.

You can’t praise God publicly when your heart can’t do it privately. You can’t thank God for Jesus publicly and privately live like He doesn’t exist.

Wisdom requires you to submit to God’s plan for your life, and to submit to others and place their needs before your own (5:21).

So much of our pursuit of love and relationships with others is geared from our desire to belong, to fit in.

Where we get this desire wrong is when we move away from God’s design for our love. He has made us pure in Christ, and He requires we follow His design of purity. Chasing love that isn’t His love will lead us on a path of self-destruction, where we are constantly after a form of intimacy and connection with another person that we can only get in a relationship with God.

Your pursuit of pleasure may bring seasons of it. You may experience pleasure in many forms, but the thing about the pleasures of this world, they last about as long as the climax, and then it’s over.

The road of God’s love in Jesus leads you to something far, far better. This isn’t just about marriage, couples, parents and children, it is for EVERYONE in EVERY relationship.

“To be loved but not known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to fully known and truly loved by God is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” – Tim Keller

“How many relationships have been ruined by two people trying to squeeze the ‘Jesus’ out of each other? There will always be an unfulfilled longing that no human being can fill. Our deepest longings and healing will only be completed in Jesus Christ…Christian faith tells me that the path to join souls in life-long love must of necessity, involve a crucifixion.” – Donald Miller

The only way for you to find a lasting love that completes and fulfils you is if you first have your relationship with God right.

Are you His child? (5:1) All other relationships will flow out of this one. The one that lead to the Son of God giving Himself for us, while we were sinners as a sacrifice and a perfect offering.

If Jesus could submit Himself to the plan and Will of His Father when that meant His death, why can’t you surrender your life to His plan also, imitate Him? Young children imitate in simple wonder. We need to recapture the wonder of who we are in Jesus.

Walk in the same love that He loved you with.Walk with Him.

Starting Ephesus. Acts 18:18 – 19:41

If you were to start a church, where would you go? Chances are you wouldn’t pick a place too far away, the closer the better. The people are always friendly, understanding and willing to listen. You would see just enough people saved to keep yourself busy, but not too busy. Those saved would have the same goals and ambitions you do so you’d all be on the same page…

Paul didn’t exactly have it that easy in his church planting days. He spent most of it on the run for his life, or contending for the faith, or explaining the same things over and over to the same people who never quite got it and who never get along with one another.

Ephesus is of one of the churches that Paul started and ministered to, and although we read Ephesians in awe of it’s practical doctrine and truths so clearly presented, we forget just how difficult it was at the start!

Ephesus was a massive, thriving harbour city. It’s biggest attraction, beside commerce, was the temple of Diana, which was one of the wonders of the ancient world. A massive structure that was not only a source of pride in architecture, but also a source of tourism.

It was bustling metropolis, full of culture, wealth, power, corruption, and depraved behaviours that go along with idolatry in all it’s forms.

Paul arrives, with Priscilla and Aquila (18:18-21) and sets a work in motion that transforms a city that was wholly given to idolatry to one that was thriving with Gospel power within three years. How?

1- The Right Teaching 18:24-28

Paul left Priscilla and Aquila to get started in Ephesus without him, and the first person they find is Apollos preaching up a storm.

He has passion, he has proper understanding of scripture and more importantly, what the scriptures testify about Jesus. He was ‘boiling’ in his spirit about these things, there was just one small problem, for all he knew about Jesus, he didn’t know him personally. That he only knew John’s baptism points to this. His understanding was incomplete because he didn’t have the full picture. He had zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:1-4).

He had missed the IOS update. He was still on Old Covenant 2.0.

His message was true, but incomplete. He knew about the Messiah, but didn’t know who John had prepared a way for had already come. Priscilla and Aquila were able to fill in the gaps so he could then go on with the full Gospel message, which made him even more effective, not only in Ephesus, but in Acahia, and of course Corinth.

All because of two other people being willing to speak encouragement while pointing out the truth with love to him. Priscilla didn’t go out and bad mouth Apollos at the next home group meeting. Aquila didn’t write a blog about how bad Apollos’ understanding of Jesus was. They both invested in him, taking him aside, privately, personally, and explained.
( Ephesians 4:11-16). When the body of Christ works the way it should, we win people over for Christ, not turn them away. Unity in faith doesn’t mean we agree on all of each other’s preferences, but we agree on the knowledge of Who the Son of God is. That is the only foundation you can build a church on.
2 – The Right Baptism 19: 1-7

Apollos wasn’t the only one who had this misunderstanding about Jesus and baptism.

When Paul returns to Ephesus, he finds twelve men who had not heard of the Holy Spirit and knew nothing about the need to be baptised in the name of Jesus.

There is much we could say about this encounter, and much that people do make of it, but Paul clearly saw something about them that lead him to believe they had not received the Holy Spirit, and I don’t think it was speaking in tongues he was worried about. There was something about their lives that made him say this. To Paul, these men may have been convinced of Jesus, but they were not converted.

Conversion and receiving the Holy Spirit are one and the same thing. They can’t be separated. ( Ephesians 1:13-14). There is only one baptism ( Ephesians 4:5).

When you emphasise any member of the Trinity to the exclusion of another, you will have an incomplete message and an inconsistent testimony.

It’s dangerous to use this passage as an example of how we should seek an ‘extra’ experience of the Holy Spirit in addition to salvation. When you pit a Holy Spirit experience against knowledge or assurance in Jesus, you will end up with disparity. When one outweighs the other your are left with your experience carrying more weight than Scripture, or Scripture being disconnected from your experience. They are not exclusive, they are not in opposition.

This encounter Paul has with these men shows us that only a true experience of conversion can equip people to lead other people. Speaking in tongues doesn’t qualify a person to lead, it doesn’t even qualify conversion. It just means that God will always use very ordinary men to do extraordinary things in order to get His Gospel out into the world.

Paul couldn’t build a church with people who had inadequate spiritual experience. We must be honest with God, confess that we need the Spirit’s power in our lives daily and ask for forgiveness for when we have tried to figure it out on our own.

We must show not only our intellectual acceptance of God’s Word being truth and Jesus being Saviour, but we must also make a public statement that says we belong to Him. We are His people. Baptism is how we do this.If Gospel truth resonates and convicts you, DO something! The men didn’t go away and think about it, they were moved to acknowledge Paul’s words as truth, which lead to clear action on their part in baptism.

3 – The Right Power 19:11-20

God did extraordinary things through Paul, and many since have tried to mimic, even down to the sending hankies in the mail to the sick, who pay a big sum of money for a ‘blessed’ handkerchief. Adds a whole new meaning to ‘bless you’ when people sneeze into their hankie, doesn’t it?

Wherever God is at work, the devil will also seek to set up shop and make merchandise available. The devil knows people are far more comfortable with a cheap imitation sometimes than a costly investment.

The seven sons of Sceva made many mistakes, and their biggest was thinking that they could use the name of Jesus for their own personal power and gain.

Using the name of Jesus as a pawn never works. He’s too powerful to be just tacked on like an accessory.

The sons of Sceva got far more than they bargained for, but so did the devil. It backfired massively on him.

Had the exorcism worked, it would’ve discredited the name of Jesus, and all the work that Paul had been doing in His name, because if anyone can use the name of Jesus, than Jesus isn’t really that exclusive after all.

God instead used this to defeat satan on an even larger scale. This knowledge of the power of the name of Jesus brought conviction to those involved in the magical arts, they came, they confessed, and repented of their evil ways.

These believers were making a clean break from sin, and although the financial cost seemed extraordinary ( yearly salary of 150 people), it wasn’t the costs of the books they were counting up. It was the cost of their sin, and what it had cost their Lord.

Because they were so open to God’s Word, that meant His work in them could prevail over all other works.

The books they burned were symbols of their former lives, burned up and no longer to be seen. All that was left were obedient followers of Jesus, which is great for a new church in a big city, but bad for business for those who sold all those books!

4 – The Right Response to Attack 19: 21-41

If we are all honest, we do not respond well to personal attack. We have a range of responses, some inwardly destructive, some outwardly so. Sinful people tend to respond sinfully when sinned against.

When false accusations came against Paul and his work from Demetrius and his fellow merchants, what was his response? He longed to reason with them, he longed to share the truth, but he didn’t resort to their tactics of scaremongering or intimidation, and the believers wisely held him back, knowing this wasn’t his battle this time around.

It seems as though the believers had willingly surrendered their books of magic. There hadn’t been a boycott called. No petitions floated around via email chains. No protest rallies were held. The Word of God was proclaimed clearly and without compromise, and it increased, and prevailed mightily, and lives were changed.

We’re better sometimes at signing petitions, organising public protests than simply standing on the Word of God and letting the power of the name of Jesus accomplish the work that God has for us to do for Him.

There is nothing wrong with passion and fervour for a good and right cause, but make sure the passion is channeled to the right object. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, Paul would later say, but this is a spiritual warfare.

We are not a mindless mob, running aimlessly, confused about what we’re doing and who we are attacking and why, chanting endlessly and pointlessly.Leave the confusion to the devil, he’s the author of such things. The world can riot, we can have peace that God’s Word is authoritative and Jesus’ name alone is powerful to change lives.
……

This was a church founded on the power of the name of Jesus, the authority of God’s Word, and the reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence in a believer’s life.

We too often think that the odds against us are greater than the power of the God Who is for us. With Him, the odds are ever in our favour.

His grace is on our side.

We need faith in the name of Jesus alone, and we can not only be saved from destruction, but we can also be lead to accomplish the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand, that we should walk in them. ( Ephesians 2:8-10).

What good works has God prepared for you to walk in? As you seek to find out what God has in store, be sure you know what He has already prepared in Christ for you. Immeasurable riches of grace. Inheritance. All through the Cross.

Grace, Faith & The Church at Ephesus. Ephesians 1:1-2:10

When Rachel and I were fist getting to know one another, I was living in Melbourne, and we kept in contact via various technology, but the most personal means of communication we had was letter-writing.

Letter-writing is a lost art form today.It was a common practice not many years ago, and of course, in Paul’s day, it was the means he utilised to keep in touch with many churches that he ministered to, we still use forms of letters to communicate with someone, get to know them, so they can know us and we can know how we can best relate to one another.

Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is a rich letter, but intensely personal. He prays for his fellow believers to know Who God is, what He has done, and who they are in light of that. The main purpose of this letter is ‘identity formation’.

“Ephesians is not just about practical theology, it IS practical theology. The distinction between ‘biblical truth’ and ‘practical application’ is artificial. In the Bible, truth arrives in action…We only reach Paul’s intended goal when we also DO practical theology, speaking truth in love to grow up into Christ, our head. Ephesians is written to change you and make you an instrument of change in the lives of your brothers and sisters.” – David Powlison

The Ephesian letter shows the great balance between Christian doctrine ( ch 1-3) and duty ( 4-6).

Relationships are a key theme. Marriage, parenting, workplace, church and world…But a relationship with God is the most important relationship any of us can have…we need salvation.

1 – What Is Salvation? ( 1:1-14)

salvation is from God ( 1:1-14)

The Trinity is the perfect example of relational perfection in action. The Father has blessed us by giving us His Son and all that sonship in the family of God entails ( 1:3). The guarantee we have of this is the sealing of the presence of the Holy Spirit ( 1:13-14).

God authored salvation and it’s a perfectly written story that we see unfold not only in Scripture and in Christ, but also in our own lives.

Everything else in all eternity points to God saving a people for Himself, and that the purpose ( 1:5b) mystery ( 1:9) and counsel ( 1:11b) of His Will all meet perfectly in Christ uniting all these things on earth as it is in Heaven ( 1:10, Matthew 6:10).

The Holy Spirit is the seal of our salvation – He is the evidence that God’s promise of salvation is true, and also the deposit of the inheritance to come.

Like farmers brand their livestock so people know who they belong to, like the priests wore a seal with the engraving ‘holy to the Lord’ ( Exodus 28:36), God has marked and chosen those who belong to Him with the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, conforms to image of Christ, and guides a believer is the indication that the person is possessed by God the Father.

salvation is by grace ( 1:2, 1:5, 1:6 1:7, 2:10)

There’s much contention in many Christian circles about the relationship between God’s Sovereign Grace and mankind’s freewill.

Whether or not you think God’s grace is irresistible is beside the point when we examine Ephesians. The point of God’s grace is that it is absolutely necessary. We cannot be saved without it. To say anything else about it either diminishes it’s capabilities, increases ours, or maligns the nature of God Himself and His Will from all eternity.

Paul is clear, salvation is by grace. There is no other way for us to be accepted by God than for God to condescend to us in offering salvation through His Son. His grace is the greatest evidence of His love for us (2:4-5). It is what He lavishes ( 1:8) on those who trust in Jesus, and what those who are outside of Jesus do not understand.

salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone, i.e. ‘in Him’ ( 1:13, 1:15, 2:10, 3:12) [26 times mentioned in Ephesians].

We shouldn’t think God’s grace and abundant love in giving His Son as facts alone are enough to save us. Knowing something is true isn’t enough to partake of it.

A call of grace needs a response, but not one motivated by what we will receive, but by what we have received.

Believing in Christ is the only way to be saved. This act of obedience is the most important step anyone could ever take in their lives. We must be found believing in Him, trusting in Him. Outside of Jesus there is no hope of anything meaningful in this life, because all that faces one who is outside is outer darkness for all eternity. In Him, there is a promise of a glorious inheritance, and a great power ( 1:18,19).

salvation is for God’s glory & greatness ( 1:6, 1:12, 1:14, 1:15-23)

Salvation certainly has great benefits for us, and although we are the undeserving objects of God’s love, the purpose of our salvation and sanctification is not so we can receive praise, but so that God receive what is rightly His.

2 -What is the Evidence of Salvation? ( 1:15ff)

The evidences that Paul points to in the church as to why he doesn’t cease to give thanks for them are that they:

have faith in the Lord Jesus
show love toward all the saints

If you do not have a loving relationship with God as your Heavenly Father, chances are high that the love you have for others is selfishly motivated, because you fail to realise God as the source of all real love so the loves you do have are ‘disordered’ .

Faith in Christ through God’s grace, correctly defines all other aspects of your life. Being a Christian is your identity before anything else is. That relationship precedes all others.

It’s not your ethnicity, culture, education, upbringing, gender, social or marital status that is the most important thing in your identity as a believer. Because all believers are called on the same basis, we are all the same in God’s eyes, sinners without hope of saving ourselves. God’s grace is the great leveller.

You can know you are saved and right with God not because you look at your specific context and guesstimate if you are more worthy or less worthy based on your standing in the world, but you can know for certain because salvation comes from God, that when you place your faith in Jesus Christ alone, God’s grace has saved you and redeemed you to a life that will be conformed to the image of His Son.

You can have absolute assurance of your salvation because God has raised Jesus from the dead ( 1:20).

3 – What Has Salvation Done For Us? ( 2:1-10)

Paul has just laid out the remarkable power of God, displayed by Christ’s ressurrection and ascension ( 1:20-23), and that he prays that believers would be able to understand and appreciate the magnitude of God’s power that was made manifest in Jesus, and made available to them through salvation. ( 1:19).

Now Paul shows specifically why God has done this, and what it has accomplished for us.

brought us from death to life
brought us out of bondage to sin to freedom in Christ

We were dead, slaves, children of wrath because they were forces at work that we followed instead of God.

We followed our own desires rather than the will of God. We were totally without life, only full of disobedience. Everything about us was ‘disordered’ and ‘depraved’. Our minds, our desires, our wills.

If you are dead you usually have no capacity to function, reason or make sense. The works are dead and the actions are dead. Everything in this context is in a state of decay and decomposition. Those who are dead in their sins are the ‘walking dead’. Zombies who spend their lives seeking whatever their appetite craves.This is a picture of mankind at it’s most vulnerable and needy…

But the greatest words in Scripture come when are at our worst, “But God”.

We have passed from death to life when we are seen by God as being ‘in Christ’, believing in Christ, accepting God’s grace, this perfect gift of salvation.

Accepting an extravagant gift usually cancels any chance of reciprocity. A extraordinary gift that comes at extraordinary cost demands a very ordinary response – acceptance. A child doesn’t need to be told twice which present is their’s, they accept it and revel in it. We must become more like children. After all, it is nearly impossible to question the giver of the gift when the Gift is the Giver.

Life before Christ was one of a walk in works of disobedience, living from one fleshly passion and desire to the next on the way to death, destined for wrath and judgement.

New life in Christ on the other hand is one of a walk in this world where we seek to do the things prepared for us to do. We have been made new in Christ, and our whole beings, minds, wills and passions are made new also. The craftsman that crafted us for good works hasn’t made us this way so we can brag about how good we are, but so we can praise the God of grace, and trust that His will is perfect, that He has saved us, and made us alive to walk after the all-powerful and eternal King of Kings.

We once walked one way ( 2:1). Now we are called to walk another (2:10).

How is your walk? Where are you headed? What are you following?

Only in Christ are there riches that are ‘immeasurable’, eternal.

God’s eternal plan and will for you is that you would accept His grace and believe in His Son.

Are you willing to ignore the eternal love that God offers for the passions of your flesh and desires of your body?

God wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to be your Father.

His Son has done all that is needed.

Walking in the way God has prepared for you is far better than any other plans you think you have for yourself.

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