A Walk Through Ephesians

A Walk Through Ephesians

Last night, our small group finished up the study of Ephesians.  It was certainly an amazing study and I am grateful to have studied with such awesome women.  Typically, when I finish a book of the Bible or even a simple passage of Scripture, I take a min to pause and reflect on what I’ve studied.  I often ask myself, “What did you learn and how does this change you?”  Reading the Bible is great, but if we are walking away not fully/comprehensively understanding what the text says or if we fail to see how the Scriptures should be changing us, then we are missing the whole point of Bible Study.  Personally, I don’t want to just go through the motions.  I want to be transformed by the renewing of my mind through faithful and careful study of God’s Word.  I truly want to see myself be more submissive, less gossipy, less emotionally driven, more giving, more serving, etc.  At any rate, I thought I’d share a few takeaways from our study of Ephesians because it helps me to re-walk through what I’ve studied and perhaps it will be helpful to all of you in how you approach Bible study :)

  1. The major focus of Ephesians centers on two major points:

    • God’s work of reconciliation through Christ Jesus

    • How we are to live in response to God’s Work in Christ.

  2. God’s plan of reconciling man to Himself is soooo awesome and soooo beautiful!  In Christ, we finally have peace with God and it is all a work of GRACE.  God’s Grace.  We do not (nor could we ever) earn this restored relationship with God; instead, we receive it as a pure gift through Christ.  Furthermore, the implications of grace are certainly far reaching.  Because of grace we are: chosen, holy, and blameless (Ephesians 1: 4), adopted as sons through Christ (v. 5), redeemed and forgiven (v. 7), united with Christ and with others who are in Christ (v. 10), we believe and we are sealed (i.e. marked) with the Holy Spirit (v. 13), and we are guaranteed an inheritance through the Holy Spirit (v. 14).  Most importantly, all of this happens not merely by chance.  No, it’s intentional! God’s plan of reconciliation and redemption is done all “to the praise of His glory” (v. 14)! 

  3. Not only is God’s plan of reconciling man to Himself awesome, but God’s plan of unifying His people as ONE is just as great! Ephesians 2:14-16 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”  The bottom line here is simple:  all that has ever divided Jew and Gentile has been overcome through Christ.  To make this even more practical, think about all of the things that seemingly divide us today:  race, socioeconomic status, education, cultural background, etc.  However, as Christians we must remember that in Christ we are one.  In Christ, we should be unified in our understanding of who God is, God’s purpose for humanity, God’s purpose for the Church as well as the church’s mission, and lastly, we should be unified in our understanding of Christ’s authority over all who belong to Him.  We should understand that Christ’s unifying work does not in any way undermine our differences, but His work redefines our relationships between one another (for the better) in spite of our differences.  As followers of Christ, we are presented with a unique opportunity to transcend all that limits and divides us as humans.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in unity as ONE!  Do you truly believe that??? I most certainly do!

  4. After detailing God’s plan of reconciliation, Paul then gives us a practical look at how we are to live out our new lives as reconciled/regenerated/renewed people.  Once we were darkened in our understanding and ignorant due to the hardness of our hearts (v. 4:18); however, in Christ we are to do away with the former things of life and put on our “new self-created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v.24).   We should do away with lying, stealing, unforgiveness, anger and harsh words (v. 25-29).  We should let go of all bitterness and slander and malice and live in a kind, tenderhearted, forgiving manner (v. 31-32). Moreover, we should walk in love and live as light!  Paul makes things even more practical as he outlines our roles as Christian spouses, parents, servants (v. 5:22-6:9).  And finally, Paul concludes by instructing us how to persevere in this new life.  We are to suit-up in a special kind of armor; God’s Armor (6:10-20).  And what is God’s Armor??? His truth, His righteousness, His Gospel, His Word!  I think Gloria Furman (author of Alive in Him) states it beautifully when she calls it “Cruciform Armor.”   In Christ, we are fitted with an armor that matches our new self.   There’s no way we could have ever suited-up in God’s armor without being made new in Christ.  Therefore, as we fight through this spiritual battle as renewed people, we should take heart in knowing that our strength essentially comes from the Lord.  In Him, we are covered and can stand against all the schemes of the devil!

"Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible." (Ephesians 6:23-24 ESV)

Knowledge, Grace, Glory – How Right Theology Leads to Right Doxology

Knowledge, Grace, Glory – How Right Theology Leads to Right Doxology

"… but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18 NASB)

 The objective in studying God’s Word has become simple for me: To grow in the knowledge of God, which consequently produces growth in grace; thus, leading me to glorify God often and more authentically.  Recently, I’ve begun to see the connectedness between growing in the knowledge of the The Lord, growing in grace, and glorifying God and I realize that there is no separation between the three. Each one flows into the other! The more I learn about God, the more I understand grace; the more I understand grace, the more I want to glorify God. It’s a beautiful cycle that will continue into eternity!

I have read the Bible, and studied the Bible for years, but sadly I was not growing in the knowledge of The Lord. I was approaching the Bible in a "tell me about me" or "tell me what I need to do" manner. And while that approach is not all bad, I realize that it is certainly a very self-centered approach to Bible study. Ultimately, this self-centered approach caused me to miss the bigger picture: God!  When God finally opened my eyes to study with Him in mind, it was like a whole new illumination of Scripture!

I began to see the depth of God’s Grace with every flip of a page and to say that the revealing of His grace has consumed me, would be a complete understatement!  I realize now that every piece of my life is saturated in God’s Grace. There is nothing about my life that I can boast in or take credit for doing. God has become bigger and more majestic to me! The depth of His Grace humbles me daily. My sinfulness and depravity has become more visible to me, yet God’s sovereignty and grace has become precious to me. I am often left completely awestruck by God’s goodness. Even in bad times, I rest in knowing that He is still all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

Through these realizations, I am deeply moved to glorify God all the more! In fact, there is no better response that I can provide than to glorify Him!  Furthermore, I now understand why I glorify Him. It’s not merely because someone else told me to do it.  It’s not because I see other people doing it. It’s not because I believe that God is only good for providing me with materialistic and worldly things. I glorify God because I have beheld His majesty for myself! I have tasted of His grace personally, and I cannot help but to praise and glorify Him in all that I do.

Understand that there is a clear integration between our theology (the study of God) and our doxology (the expression of praise to God).  Right theology leads to right doxology.  As we grow in the knowledge of God, we also grow in grace, and we grow in how we glorify God. Our praise becomes more authentic, more meaningful, and certainly less shallow and superficial. We become worshipers in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24) through the connectivity of God’s truth (the Bible) that has illuminated our minds, and God’s Spirit that has renewed our hearts.

Prayer:  Father, thank you for being such a good Father. Thank you for your grace! Thank you for your love! Thank you for your mercy! We stand in awesome wonder of your majesty, God. Continue to help us come into the knowledge of who You are and grow us daily in grace so that we may glorify You in “spirit and truth.” Remove all pride from our hearts and let our thirst for knowledge be rooted in our quest to glorify you more and more. Remind us daily of the connectedness between our knowledge of You and our worship of You. Let nothing that we do be done in vain. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen!

 

The Damning Error of Rejecting Scripture

The Damning Error of Rejecting Scripture

There are many people in this world who will try to convince you that you are "safe" in identifying with Christianity (in name only), while rejecting all or even portions of Scripture. This is a frightening reality happening today and it grieves me to my core.  These people will try to diminish the authority of Scripture and convince you that its okay to re-define Christianity to suit your own tastes instead of submitting to Scripture. This is false, it is a lie, and is utter deception authored by Satan himself. With truth and compassion, I cannot lie to you and coddle you with statements that are most tickling to your ears. I must tell you the truth, and that is you cannot create your own version of Christianity, and in attempting to do so, you are in damning error.

Scripture asserts itself as ultimate spiritual authority in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Additionally, all throughout Scripture we see the interrelation between the person of God and Scripture (i.e. the Word of God). Essentially, what you think about the Word of God is what you think about God. If you are rejecting His Word (any part of it), you are ultimately rejecting Him.

I understand that there are areas of Scripture that are hard to grasp. And there are many areas in Scripture that seem to be juxtaposed. However, due to it's infallible and inerrant nature, Scripture does not and cannot contradict itself. When we struggle to see the correlation between passages of Scripture, this is simply our finite minds struggling to grasp the correlation; however, our struggles do not change the inerrant and infallible nature of Scripture. The bottomline is that if ANY person tries to convince you that it is okay to diminish the truth of the Bible, for any reason, then they are standing in direct rebellion to God.  

Recently, I read an article where the author made several erroneous statements while simultaneously claiming that one can remain Christian while believing these damning errors. Below, I have outlined a few heretical claims found in the article (Note: Scriptural rebuttals are found in parenthesis):

  • You can be a Christian and not believe that people born LGBTQ are inherently sinful because of that fact.  (After the fall of man in Genesis 3, all of mankind took on an inherently sinful nature. We are all "born in sin and shapen in iniquity"  and this fact is not exclusive to LGBTQ persons.  We are all sinful and in need of salvation that can only be provided through the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Other scriptures that define our depraved nature are: Gen. 6:5, Gen. 8:21, Isaiah 64:6-7, Jeremiah 17:9, John 3:19, Romans 3:10-18).

  • You can be a Christian and trust much of what Science has revealed about the world and how it works.  (The ultimate place where our trust should rest is with God-- Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 9:10, Psalm 37:5)

  • You can be a Christian and not believe in a talking snake.  (The Bible clearly speaks of a talking serpent in the book of Genesis.  To question the authenticity of this account, is to question God's inspiration of Scripture as well as the inerrant and infallible nature of Scripture--2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  • You can be a Christian and believe that Hell might not really exist.  (Scripture is clear in saying that there will be punishment for the wicked who die unrepentantly in sin. This particular punishment is often described in Scripture with an illustration of fire-- Matthew 25:41, Matthew 3:12, Mark 9:44-49, Luke 16:23-24, Revelation 20:10).

  • You can be a Christian and not believe you need a magic prayer to escape eternal torment.  (Scripture does not support the practice of magic.  In fact, coupling the words "magic" and "prayer" with one another is a gross misrepresentation of prayer.  Scripture affirms that it is God's desire that no one perishes but that all come to repentance--2 Peter 3:9. As opposed to resorting to magical tactics, we should pray, repent [having godly sorrow for sin and resolving to turn away from it], and have faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, forgiveness of sin and righteousness).

  • You can be a Christian and believe that there is true stuff not in the Bible, and stuff in the Bible that isn’t true. (To doubt that the Bible is complete is to question its infallible and inerrant nature. Nothing should to be added to or taken away from Scripture.  In the Revelation 22:18-19, we receive a stern warning as it pertains to the changing of that particular book. The seriousness of this warning further underscores the fact that nothing should be changed, added, or removed from Scripture).

  • You can be a Christian and not be completely sure who Jesus is but yet love him deeply and walk in his ways.  (If you are truly in Christ, there should be no separation between knowing, loving, and walking in the ways of Jesus Christ.  In John 17:3, Jesus speaks of eternal life saying, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.")  

Overall, the author of the aforementioned article attempted to re-define Christianity and ended his piece by saying, "Your Christianity is no other human being’s jurisdiction."  While this sounds pleasing to the ears, I cannot agree with this statement.  My Christianity is not merely MY Christianity. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2).  We are under Jesus Christ's authority (John 17:1-2).  To deny any of these things revealed through Scripture, is to deny and reject Christ; thus choosing to walk away from the Christian faith...and that's just something that you simply cannot redefine.


References: 

  1. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Biblical Truth by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
  2. www.gotquestions.org

Beware of the "Elder Brother Syndrome"

Beware of the "Elder Brother Syndrome"

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’"  (Luke 15:28-30 NASB)

In many instances, when we read the story of the Prodigal Son, we focus on everything relative to the younger, wayward son. But we often miss the message found in the elder brother's life. I won't recall the entire story (you can read that on your own), but I do want to take a little time to focus on the passage above. Here, we see the elder brother's anger toward his father. He is undoubtedly enraged with his father. And why? Because of his father's gracious actions toward the younger son. You would think that this would be a celebratory time for them all, but the elder brother was so caught up in his own self-righteousness that he failed to see and accept the concepts of grace, love and mercy exhibited by his father.

And is this not like many of us today??? We're so caught up in our own ill-perceived righteousness that we miss out on opportunities to extend and receive grace, love, and mercy. We're too busy making attempts to protect our own "assets" and we fail to realize that everything we have, God has entrusted us to have it. We're merely stewards. Perhaps, I could go on, but I'm sure you are beginning to see the picture here. So the message today is simple: Beware of the "Elder Brother Syndrome" and its damaging effects. Don't be Pharisaical in your ways. Don't forget how wonderfully kind, merciful and tolerant God has been with those He loves. Your perceived righteousness doesn't mean a thing and it is certainly not capable of saving you from eternal damnation. Only the righteousness of the Lord can save you. Therefore, let us all humble ourselves and repent from our sinful ways. Let us rejoice and glorify the Lord for all that He has done! These two brothers certainly had something in common: They both needed their father's love, grace, and mercy. Unfortunately, one came to that realization and the other did not.  

Prayer: Father, help us to understand and see the beauty in your unmerited grace and mercy.  Let us not be so consumed with attempting to establish our own righteousness that we fail to recognize and cherish Christ and the righteousness that He has secured for all who believe. Soften the hard hearts on today. Bring the wayward to repentance, Father. Grip our hearts with your grace and let us live in a way that brings glory to You and only You.  Thank You for salvation. Thank You for grace. Thank You for mercy! Please continue to turn our hearts toward you, In Jesus Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Why I Ditched My Journal

 

I’ve been a writer for most of my life. In fact, I’ve always had a knack for writing, so when it was suggested that I begin journaling, I figured that it would be an easy way to get my thoughts out and talk to God. Over the years I filled many pages with frank thoughts and questions to God. The good, the bad and the super ugly. My innermost secrets can be found in my journals, and for quite some time, journaling was sufficient. It provided me with the release that I thought I needed. But then one day, I got stuck. And I’m not talking about “speed bump” stuck, but rather, “Mt. Everest” stuck! It became very hard for me to journal, and I couldn’t figure out why I had reached this perceived roadblock. At times, I even felt guilty because I couldn’t journal with the same zeal and eagerness that I once had.

So I’m sure you’re asking, “What changed?”

Simple. I had outgrown the place where I merely wanted to tell God all about my issues. Instead, I wanted to hear from Him before an issue even arose and I certainly wanted hear from Him more clearly. I wanted to genuinely know Him. So, I grabbed my pen, and I traded in my little teal journal for a clunky 1 ½ inch 3-ring binder (a pink one to be exact). I sat down with my Bible and other study tools (Logos 6, Exegetical Guide) and I began to exegete scripture. “Exegete” is a term derived from the Greek word ἐξηγητής ‎ (exēgētḗs1; it means to expound or interpret (a text, particularly scripture). I’ll be the first to admit that I was initially intimidated by this process. I questioned my intelligence. I questioned my ability to stay consistent. I questioned everything! But even in my questioning, I knew that I’d remain stuck unless I got down to the true, unadulterated Word of God.

Truth be told, I had had enough of writing endless journal entries and then guesstimating what God was saying to me by relying on what I felt or thought. I needed clear-cut answers and the only way to get those answers is through diligent and intense study of God’s Word. I’m not saying that God can’t speak to an individual directly. If He has done it before, He is fully capable of doing it again. However, allow me to pose a simple question. How many times have you thought God “told” you to do something and later on you began to question yourself on whether you really heard God clearly? Perhaps it was your own heart deceiving you? Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV) says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The word “heart” (Hebrew לֵ֖ב / lēb) is translated to denote, “heart; one’s inner self; inclination, disposition, determination, courage, will, intention, consideration, and reason.”2 So essentially, this scripture is illustrating to us that our inclination (or any of the aforementioned words) is deceitful. In the following verse (Jer. 17:10), we learn that ONLY God can search our hearts and test our inmost being. And this can clearly be done through deeply studying God’s Word and seeking answers and truth through Him. His Word tests our thoughts, inclinations, dispositions, etc. His Word is clear, concise, infallible and much more reliable than any conjecture we could ever create.

All in all, I’d say that ditching my journal has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Although I do not believe that journaling is a completely invaluable thing, I do believe that it can become destructive and counterproductive for us because it often causes us to approach God with our own conception of Him, instead of deeply studying scripture to truly understand who He is. We cannot allow our worldview to thwart the character of God any longer. We should desire to see Him and know Him in His fullness through scripture (His Word). And, never will we know God more intimately and authentically than when we recklessly abandon ourselves in the pages of His Living Word. Sisters, if you truly want to get closer to God, then seek to know Him personally through His Word.

 

1 http://www.dictionary.com/browse/exegete

2 Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 522). Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Retrieved from Logos 6.13).