Posts Tagged ‘Epistle to the Ephesians’

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:16 )

Heaven

We live here, we walk here, we eat and drink here, but may we never call it home. The ground beneath our feet and sky above our heads are the scenery we enjoy momentarily, but they will pass away (Matthew 24:35). Our family is more than people with the same last name (Mark 3:35), as believers we are united by blood, literally the shed blood of Jesus the risen Savior. We, the family, walk as sojourners (1 Peter 2:11), as travelers, loving and serving the people around us, all the while remembering we will one day be home. A home that has been prepared for us (John 14:3), where we will live in ever increasing joy.

Our lips will never again say, “It was fun while it lasted”, as the smile fades from our face. In our home there is no sorrow, there is no disease, there is no end to joy (Revelation 21:4). In our home our treasure does not fail, there is no thief to steal, no moneybag to grow old (Luke 12:33). In your heart, and in your head, where is your treasure and your home? For “there will your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).

Where is your home?

indexHave you ever thought about how limited your knowledge is? Think of all of the books in your school or local library and guess how many of them you have read. Probably not even a shelves worth. There are so many things that go on in science, literature, politics, or mechanics that we can never know a small fraction of what they all do or mean.

Now think about God and his knowledge. He knows everything because he created everything. He is the God who split the Red Sea and brought Lazarus back to life. He is the God who brought the ten plagues on Egypt and healed the paralytic. Not only is he knowledgable, he is powerful. So, why do we come to him in prayer with what we only know in our little box of knowledge or how things should work in our little universe?

Paul tells the church in Ephesus that they can pray big prayers. God can do more than we can even ask or think. He also does it through us and it all brings glory to Jesus. You see, we can pray big prayers because they will point to Jesus and not ourselves. We won’t get the credit, but He will.

As you are praying for this New Year, ask God to help you step out of your comfort zone and to direct you to the big prayers he wants you to pray. Should you be praying for the person who would “never” change their ways and follow Jesus? Should you be praying for God to change a community and that wants nothing to do with him? You get the idea, right?

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)

In one sermon, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, took out a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.”

He used this simple demonstration to explain that living a victorious life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Later, he said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled.”

Let’s begin emptying ourselves today! We need to be filled with God’s Spirit so that we can be empowered to do great things! There’s no way around it and there’s so much work to be done!

Ephesians 3:16-19 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

To be insecure is to lack confidence or trust, whether in ourselves or someone else. There are many causes of insecurity, but chief among them is our failure to fully trust God (Jeremiah 17:7-8). As believers, we have this assurance: “And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10; also see Deuteronomy 31:8; Lamentations 3:57). If we know God is with us, why do we still experience feelings of insecurity, doubts, and fears? Why does God seem so far away?

In Satan’s arsenal, one of his biggest weapons is doubt. Satan loves for us to question who we are and how we measure up to others (Ephesians 2:1-2; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Samuel 16:7). He wants us to feel insecure over the meaning and purpose of our lives, where we’re going, and how we’ll get there.

Another cause of feelings of insecurity is reliance on wealth and possessions instead of God. The world encourages us to strive to be “number one” and promotes the adage “he with the most toys wins.” If we don’t have the latest iPhone, fastest car, biggest house, or largest paycheck, we are failures. Yet the Bible teaches us not to set our hopes on earthly riches but on God: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, emphasis added; see also Mark 10:23-25; Luke 12:16-21). Riches, being uncertain, will certainly bring insecurity to those who trust in them.

Many times, insecurity takes the form of worry about the future. Jesus was empathic when He said, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow. . . .” (Matthew 6:31-34). Worrisome fears about the future are rooted in a doubt of God’s provision. This breeds strong feelings of insecurity and a lack of peace, resulting in fear and depression. When we doubt God, Satan wins (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:8).

Insecurity may also result from being preoccupied with the things of the world: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Security is not to be found in this world’s people, things, or institutions, including government institutions. Some people become obsessed with having the right leaders in government, the right laws, and the right policies. When the government is in the wrong hands, they contend, the nation is doomed. However, the Bible teaches us that God is in control and His sovereignty extends to governmental leaders (Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 2:21). While we should practice good citizenship and vote our conscience, we must also recognize that government policy cannot save us. Only God can do that (Isaiah 33:22; Psalm 143:6; Jeremiah 17:5-6).

Others place their trust in their pastor or other church leaders. However, men can and will let us down. Only Christ is the sure foundation. “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic’” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus is the solid rock and our only hope of security (Matthew 7:24).

Often, the reason for our insecurities is an undue preoccupation with our own selves, an “it’s all about me” mentality. The Bible warns us about self-absorption and pride (Romans 12:3). God’s work will be done “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

True security comes when you recognize that “God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When struggling with feelings of insecurity, never forget God’s promise: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Difficult circumstances can bring about many emotions in the hurting heart. One of those emotions is anger. When you are suffering, or facing difficult challenges, there may be many feelings at the root of your anger. You may be feeling betrayed by God, wondering why He allowed such a disaster to hit your home … and your life. You may wonder, “If God loves me, why did He allow this to happen? Why won’t He take the pain away?” These and other questions (which we’ll discuss tomorrow) can evoke anger toward God. Your anger may also stem from feelings of insecurity as a result of loss; or from uncertainty as you face major, unexpected life-changes and an unclear future.

Though anger is a natural, human emotion, and a normal part of the journey toward healing, left unchecked, anger can be a dangerous emotion that may lead to sin, such as unforgiveness. If not resolved, it can give the enemy an opportunity to destroy your hope, steal your peace, poison your heart with bitterness, damage relationships, and keep you from moving forward.

You can face and resolve your anger by first being honest with yourself and with God about what you are feeling. He is big enough to handle your anger and to help you resolve it. Talk to Him about your doubts and fears, and what is causing rage in your heart. Tell Him, “God, I am so angry!” He will not turn His back on you. So, give your angry feelings to the Lord, and trust Him to replace those feelings with peace, forgiveness, and strength. Freedom from unchecked anger is freedom to heal. (5)

Taking back your life …

1. Talk with someone who would be comfortable listening to you vent your anger. Discuss the feelings that may be at the root of this emotion. Identifying these feelings and expressing them verbally will help you to work through your anger.

2. Hebrews 10:30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will Repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.'” How can you apply this Scripture to how you are feeling about those who hurt you or let you down during this tragedy?

3. If you have harbored anger in your heart, confess this anger to God, and if applicable, or possible, to the one who has hurt or offended you. Then release your anger by forgiving them. Not only is forgiveness a requirement to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14), resolving your anger and forgiving those who have hurt you will free your heart to truly heal. Have you, in anger, hurt or offended your spouse, child, or someone else during this difficult time? If so, repent by confessing this to God and to that person, and ask for forgiveness. Make sure the wounded relationship is healed. Then prove your repentance and sincerity by controlling your anger (see Acts 26:20).

Additional Scripture reading:

Psalm 37:8
Ephesians 4:32
Colossians 3:8

Handling anger is an important life skill. Christian counselors report that 50 percent of people who come in for counseling have problems dealing with anger. Anger can shatter communication and tear apart relationships, and it ruins both the joy and health of many. Sadly, people tend to justify their anger instead of accepting responsibility for it. Everyone struggles, to varying degrees, with anger. Thankfully, God’s Word contains principles regarding how to handle anger in a godly manner, and how to overcome sinful anger.

Anger is not always sin. There is a type of anger of which the Bible approves, often called “righteous indignation.” God is angry (Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5), and believers are commanded to be angry (Ephesians 4:26). Two Greek words in the New Testament are translated as “anger.” One means “passion, energy” and the other means “agitated, boiling.” Biblically, anger is God-given energy intended to help us solve problems. Examples of biblical anger include David’s being upset over hearing Nathan the prophet sharing an injustice (2 Samuel 12) and Jesus’ anger over how some of the Jews had defiled worship at God’s temple in Jerusalem (John 2:13-18). Notice that neither of these examples of anger involved self-defense, but a defense of others or of a principle.

That being said, it is important to recognize that anger at an injustice inflicted against oneself is also appropriate. Anger has been said to be a warning flag—it alerts us to those times when others are attempting to or have violated our boundaries. God cares for each individual. Sadly, we do not always stand up for one another, meaning that sometimes we must stand up for ourselves. This is especially important when considering the anger that victims often feel. Victims of abuse, violent crime, or the like have been violated in some way. Often while experiencing the trauma, they do not experience anger. Later, in working through the trauma, anger will emerge. For a victim to reach a place of true health and forgiveness, he or she must first accept the trauma for what it was. In order to fully accept that an act was unjust, one must sometimes experience anger. Because of the complexities of trauma recovery, this anger is often not short-lived, particularly for victims of abuse. Victims should process through their anger and come to a place of acceptance, even forgiveness. This is often a long journey. As God heals the victim, the victim’s emotions, including anger, will follow. Allowing the process to occur does not mean the person is living in sin.

Anger can become sinful when it is motivated by pride (James 1:20), when it is unproductive and thus distorts God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 10:31), or when anger is allowed to linger (Ephesians 4:26-27). One obvious sign that anger has turned to sin is when, instead of attacking the problem at hand, we attack the wrongdoer. Ephesians 4:15-19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips. Unfortunately, this poisonous speech is a common characteristic of fallen man (Romans 3:13-14). Anger becomes sin when it is allowed to boil over without restraint, resulting in a scenario in which hurt is multiplied (Proverbs 29:11), leaving devastation in its wake. Often, the consequences of out-of-control anger are irreparable. Anger also becomes sin when the angry one refuses to be pacified, holds a grudge, or keeps it all inside (Ephesians 4:26-27). This can cause depression and irritability over little things, which are often unrelated to the underlying problem.

We can handle anger biblically by recognizing and admitting our prideful anger and/or our wrong handling of anger as sin (Proverbs 28:13; 1 John 1:9). This confession should be both to God and to those who have been hurt by our anger. We should not minimize the sin by excusing it or blame-shifting.

We can handle anger biblically by seeing God in the trial. This is especially important when people have done something to offend us. James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28-29, and Genesis 50:20 all point to the fact that God is sovereign over every circumstance and person that crosses our path. Nothing happens to us that He does not cause or allow. Though God does allow bad things to happen, He is always faithful to redeem them for the good of His people. God is a good God (Psalm 145:8, 9, 17). Reflecting on this truth until it moves from our heads to our hearts will alter how we react to those who hurt us.

We can handle anger biblically by making room for God’s wrath. This is especially important in cases of injustice, when “evil” men abuse “innocent” people. Genesis 50:19 and Romans 12:19 both tell us to not play God. God is righteous and just, and we can trust Him who knows all and sees all to act justly (Genesis 18:25).

We can handle anger biblically by returning good for evil (Genesis 50:21; Romans 12:21). This is key to converting our anger into love. As our actions flow from our hearts, so also our hearts can be altered by our actions (Matthew 5:43-48). That is, we can change our feelings toward another by changing how we choose to act toward that person.

We can handle anger biblically by communicating to solve the problem. There are four basic rules of communication shared in Ephesians 4:15, 25-32:

1) Be honest and speak (Ephesians 4:15, 25). People cannot read our minds. We must speak the truth in love.

2) Stay current (Ephesians 4:26-27). We must not allow what is bothering us to build up until we lose control. It is important to deal with what is bothering us before it reaches critical mass.

3) Attack the problem, not the person (Ephesians 4:29, 31). Along this line, we must remember the importance of keeping the volume of our voices low (Proverbs 15:1).

4) Act, don’t react (Ephesians 4:31-32). Because of our fallen nature, our first impulse is often a sinful one (v. 31). The time spent in “counting to ten” should be used to reflect upon the godly way to respond (v. 32) and to remind ourselves how the energy anger provides should be used to solve problems and not create bigger ones.

At times we can handle anger preemptively by putting up stricter boundaries. We are told to be discerning (1 Corinthians 2:15-16; Matthew 10:16). We need not “cast our pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Sometimes our anger leads us to recognize that certain people are unsafe for us. We can still forgive them, but we may choose not to re-enter the relationship.

Finally, we must act to solve our part of the problem (Romans 12:18). We cannot control how others act or respond, but we can make the changes that need to be made on our part. Overcoming a temper is not accomplished overnight. But through prayer, Bible study, and reliance upon God’s Holy Spirit, ungodly anger can be overcome. We may have allowed anger to become entrenched in our lives by habitual practice, but we can also practice responding correctly until that, too, becomes a habit and God is glorified in our response.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV)

Have you ever met someone who lives without hope in their life? They feel as though they will always have an addiction, never get out of a dead beat relationship, have a low paying job, or everything in their life will go against them. That person might be you, a friend, a family member, or random person on the street begging for money. What a horrible way to live!

As Christians, we have a greater hope than we could ever think of. That hope is Christ dwelling in us (Ephesians 3:17-19). The power of Christ that is working in us is able to do more than we could ever think of when it comes to our circumstances. Christians are not immune from hopelessness though. It can manifest itself in sins we are continually struggling with or the idea that we will never be able to have regular time with Jesus. The good news is that Christ is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

Take a minute to think about this: What do you feel as though will never change in your walk with Jesus? Now imagine what it would look like if it changed to how it should be. Go ahead and read today’s verse again. God will provide even more than you could have imagined just now. There is no reason to live without hope in your Christian walk anymore. Christ wants to and will bring it beyond your wildest expectations!

What “hopeless” things in your Christian walk do you need to give to Christ?