Eternity Daily Bible Study



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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ


Paul the Apostle (Rome) Ephesians


Ephesians 1:3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ;

This is both one of the most foundational verses in the New Testament and also one of the most misunderstood. It is interpreted as little more than God being benevolent or nice or “blessings us” when we sneeze! Actually it is the foundational verse that Paul uses the rest of Ephesians to explain. What is “blessing” and what are the “spiritual blessings in the heavenlies” that we have been given.

Blessing and cursing begins in Genesis and is the use of words of God to alter the very tone of Creation. Blessing makes Creation open and co-operative to us, cursing makes the heavens as brass, and the earth unproductive. Before the Fall, in Eden, Adam and Eve are blessed with three blessings – “be fruitful, multiply and have dominion.” These are not instructions to Adam and Eve, they are blessings, pronouncements of destiny, they are pronounced over Adam and Eve by God. It does not say “God told them to” but “God blessed them and said”. They are invocations, not instructions, a calling into being of a very desirable future. These pronouncements are like Jesus saying “Be opened” or “Lazarus come forth”. Lazarus did nothing, his resurrection was pronounced over him, called into existence by God dwelling in Christ.

Blessings call into being a desirable existence while curses call into being a miserable existence. At the Fall the first curses were uttered and they were the precise opposites of the blessings. Satan was humbled and lost dominion and was assured of ultimate defeat, the woman lost the ability to multiply with ease and the man lost fruitfulness and his toil became arduous and difficult. Instead of fruitfulness – frustration, instead of multiplication, difficulty and pain, instead of dominion, eating the dust. The curse then went on into the future and made life difficult for Adam’s descendants.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
Thus blessings and curses are God’s Words affecting the spiritual realm that undergirds the material realm. They are important because blessing is seen as destiny - Esau grieved over losing the blessing, the curse on Canaan resulted in the Canaanites being exterminated and the Abrahamic blessing is absolutely pivotal in understanding the Old Testament and the Jews and their land.

Blessings and curses are words of power that deeply affect reality.

So what are the

Christian’s blessings, how will they change things? and how can we appropriate them and walk in them by faith?

First of all we have the blessings of Abraham, this is stated at length in Galatians 3: Gal 3:7 Therefore know that those of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. Gal 3:9 So then those of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Gal 3:14 so that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Jesus Christ, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Gal 3:29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise.

The blessings of Abraham include the early Genesis themes of “be fruitful, multiply and have dominion” and also include the Promise of the Holy Spirit and of being a blessing to the nations. These blessings are ours in Christ - but there is also much more. We have been blessed in a special way, with a special providence. Our blessings are spiritual and eternal and are located in the heavenly realms. These means that they are the most powerful kind of blessings that cannot be revoked or blocked by wizards and witches or powers principalities. We are seated with Christ, in heavenly realms and such beings cannot touch us in our heavenly existence.

(1Pe 1:3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has regenerated us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you by the power of God, having been kept through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;

Since our blessings are kept in heaven for us and operate from heaven they are indestructible by earthly means. (See also Ephesians 2:6,7 Hebrews 12:22-24, and 1 John 5:18,19). These powerful blessings will affect the deepest fabric of our lives, not just now, but forever. Chief among them is justification and being at peace with God, with access to

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
the Throne. Because God has given us His Son, he also gives us , with Him, all things (Romans 8:32) – and for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). The Throne of Heaven delights to give us those things that will give us wise and meaningful enjoyment of life.

Another major blessing is being called a son of God, this causes the apostle John to marvel at the love of God (1John 3:1). This makes us part of the heavenly family so that Jesus is not ashamed to call us “brothers” (Hebrews 2). From this high position in the heavenly realms as sons of God and citizens of heaven we shall judge the world and angels (1 Corinthians 6:2,3) and be co-heirs and co-rulers with Christ. This is the blessing of authority and means that we have power to order creation and keep it within God’s design and purposes.

Finally today we have the blessing of transformation into Christ-likeness. God calls us into holiness and creates in us a new heart and a blessed disposition like His Son. This new nature will be our eternal glory.

God is constantly calling into being a new, eternal and wonderful future for us and building us to dwell in that future in all holiness. But these blessings are not all made manifest at once, they will unfold for millennia. We have all the blessings that matter because God has given us to them in Christ but God has His timing for releasing them. He has set a day when we shall receive our immortal bodies at the resurrection, and He has set a day for many other blessings as well. God is wise in what He bestows.

However some blessings need appropriating by prayer or by repentance or by pressing in to God. Spiritual gifts should be sought (1 Corinthians 14). Prayer is given for the supply of daily needs and deliverance from temptation (Matthew 6). Wisdom is given to those who ask for it in faith. (James 1:5-8). We need to unpack many blessings here and now. God is not stingy, He is abundant in blessing and those blessings can make all the difference.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 1:3-6
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, just as he chose us in him before the

foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his presence. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will, so that we would praise his glorious grace that he gave us in the Beloved One.

Life in Christ is life in the love of the Father. We are “in the beloved One”, we are chosen, adopted, and heirs with the Only-Begotten Son, we are treasured by God simply because we are in Christ. God’s love of us is constant and quite independent of our experiences of him. On our “down days” we are beloved and on our “up days” we are also in the beloved.

The verses above talk a lot about choosing and predestination so I will take a moment to tackle this question. Trains are pre-destined, their destination is programmed in advance and generally written on the front of the train. They run on railway tracks from A to B. And hopefully they run on time. But who gets on the train is a matter of choice. It has been predestined since before the foundation of the world that those who believe in Jesus Christ should be holy and blameless before God and inherit eternal life. The Heaven-bound train, so to speak, had its destination programmed well in advance.

But who gets on the Heaven-bound train? Is that fully pre-destined also? Or is it a totally free choice? Certainly some lives are predestined, John the Baptist, Jesus , Moses, Noah all had destinies mapped out in advance, John the Baptist was even filled with the Holy Spirit from birth! No choice there! And Judas, Pharaoh, and a few false teachers were predestined to perdition. That is God’s business. But in-between it seems there is a large number of people whose lives are not so well-programmed and who may have a great deal of choice regarding whether to follow Jesus or not. When a great man of God comes along these “in-between folk” believe in large numbers and there is a mighty revival. When church leadership is weak and ineffectual they fall away or never make the choice to follow Christ. If everyone was predestined then the quality of leadership would make no difference. So it seems to me that we “fall on the normal distribution curve” with most people in-between in regards to choice and a few highly pre-determined individuals at either end – predestined either for glory or for perdition.

From this side of salvation, as those who have decided to follow Christ and forsake the world we can say “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
in his presence”. We are chosen in Christ, if we re in Christ, then God has chosen us to be there. Chosen us by offering us an opportunity, which we have taken or chosen us one by one. It matters little; we are in Him now and have an eternal destiny. God’s purposes for us are long term and far-sighted. His plans for us began “before the foundation of the world” and continue for all eternity. God’s love is endless and His thinking of us is deep and full.

“In love he predestined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will”. “In love” These plans that God makes are loving, it is because he loves us that He plans good for us. “According to the pleasure of his will” And it is no chore for Him - our good is His pleasure. Our salvation is according to the pleasure of His will.

Adoption is not a thrilling word to many because it presupposes grief or rejection of some sort. The parents have died or the mother does not want the child or cannot care for the baby. The world casts out the saints and rejects the men and women of faith of whom it is not worthy (see Hebrews11). But God delights in them and adopts them as His own. God wants more children, many children as brothers and sisters for His beloved Son.

(Rom 8:29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be the First-born among many brothers.

God adopts us into His family because His love is inclusive. God loves to include others in His love. The whole idea of salvation is for an enormously wide range of people to be included in Heaven and to know the love of God. Jesus will happily include in His love all who can accept Him and who are not offended at Him. Prostitutes, soldiers, fishermen, all races, all tribes, all languages, lepers, rejects, rich and poor alike. God’s love includes, adopts and desires an extra person at the table.

“So that we would praise his glorious grace that he gave us in the Beloved One.” God wants us to know how much He loves us and to be excited about that. He delights when we say “Wow! I am loved by God, included among His favorite people, chosen and beloved, He is so good and gracious to me, I just don’t deserve it!”

And God’s love is permanent. When we blow it, He still loves us just as we love our children through tantrums and rebellions and disappointments. But his love is much deeper still. God wants us to know that He love us to the very depths of our beings and that he knows and loves even those parts of us that non-one sees or fully understands except Him.

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Life in Christ is a life of chosen and adopted sonship. God wants us in His family and includes us in His love. Life in Christ is a life of being loved in the deepest parts of who we are and being accepted fully as we are, with plans for improvement, for God loves us too much to leave us in our sin. We do not want to be left in our sin, we cry and groan for deliverance, and God will do it. He will fulfill our desire for righteousness and make us pure and blameless before him.

We are “in the Beloved One” as a bookmark is in a book. Where the book goes, we go, the reader carries the book, and also the bookmark. Where the book goes, the bookmark goes. When Christ died, we died with Him, when He rose we rose with Him (Romans 6:1-11), when He ascended we ascended with Him (Ephesians 2:6, 4:10) and when he returns the saints w ill return with him in glory (Jude) and when He is revealed we will be like Him (1 John 3:1-3). Like the bookmark, we are passive, it is done to us simply because we are in Christ, it is grace. And it is glory! We are in the beloved and what God does for His beloved Son, He will also do for us. (Romans 8:32-35)

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 1:7-12
(7) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, (8) which He caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and understanding; (9) having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, (10) for an administration of the fullness of times, to head up all things in Christ, both the things in Heaven, and the things on earth, even in Him, (11) in whom also we have been chosen to an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will, (12) for us to be to the praise of His glory, who previously had trusted in Christ;

The purpose of our redemption, and our life in Christ, is that Christ should be the head of all things, on heaven and on earth (verse 10 above) and that the will of God should be done in all Creation through Him (verse 11) to the praise of the glory of God (verse 12).

Being “in Christ” means part of this predestined divine plan. It means that we are participants in a future that God has planned in Christ. In order to participate in “God’s Grand Plan of the Ages” we need to be made pure and holy and forgiven of our sins, otherwise we will simply be utterly unworthy of such things.

Redemption and forgiveness of sins are thus precursors to living and reigning with Christ in the heavenly realms (verse 7). They make us fit for the future. Upon these redeemed and forgiven people God bestows His grace and His abundant wisdom (verses 7 & 8) thus developing us into mature saints of God able to understand the mystery of His will (verse 9) and act wisely in the inheritance that He has chosen for us (verse 11).

Now we did not invent this plan, we did not sketch it out before hand, in fact it did not enter into our heads while we were yet unsaved and lost in our lusts. This is God’s design, God’s determining and God’s will that has created these marvelous blessings for us. Predestined is the Greek “pro-or-id’-zo” and it means to sketch out before hand or to limit in advance. God sketched out His redemptive plan and sets its lines and limits before the world was formed and now we enter into it as those “who previously had trusted in Christ” (v. 12)

Once we choose Christ, and choose to be in Him and live in Him, we also choose to be part of His “Administration” (v.10) and part of God’s Grand Plan For The Ages. Once we get on

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the train, the journey is mapped out for us. Some may be in the dining car, others may look out the window, others may sleep the whole journey through, while yet others shovel coal but we all end up at the predetermined destination and share the same journey together.

We will reign with Christ, we will live in Heaven, we will be with Him when He puts an end to this wicked age – whether we like it or not. We don’t set the agenda, God does. And we believers will be there when the kingdoms of this world become as fine chaff and when all the human plans of kings and generals come to nothing and God’s plans take center stage forever – as it should be. And we will live and worship and exist to the praise of His glory. That is God’s plan and He will accomplish it.

Revelation 11:15 (15) And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become [the kingdoms] of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

1 Corinthians 15:24 (24) then is the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He makes to cease all rule and all authority and power.

Revelation 22:3-5 (3) And every curse will no longer be; but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will serve Him. (4) And they will see His face, and His name will be in their foreheads. (5) And there will be no night there. And they need no lamp, or light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light. And they will reign forever and ever.

In this plan of God’s all human authority, and all the curses of men and women and the power of thrones and the power of tongues and demons and false religions and political strongholds and commercial might will be finished. There will be a heavenly community of love and fellowship with God and with His Son Jesus Christ and we will take our place in God’s administration and “reign forever and ever” creating a glorious future unhindered by evil and untrammeled by tyranny.

So the present Christian life is a life-long preparation for a noble task. Being in Christ involves forgiveness of sins and redemption of body, soul and spirit but it stretches far beyond these things. We are destined for the Throne and redeemed to reign. Our pre-

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destination is far more than merely being predestined to believe, it also involves our resurrection life and our place in the heavenly realms. Pre-destination does not stop once we have prayed the sinner’s prayer. We are ultimately pre-destined to a place in God’s administration through the Ages, not just predestined to occupy a place on a pew in church.

A couple of Jesus’ sayings make this quite clear:

Matthew 19:28 (28) And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 20:23 (23) And He said to them, You shall indeed drink of My cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but to those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.

Thus the places in God’s administration are reserved beforehand for those whom God the Father appoints to the role. God has a plan, an eternal plan in which we shall play a part, and this life and all we do in church and work and home is but training, preparation and character formation for the Role that lies ahead.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 1:13-14
(13) in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit ofpromise, (14) who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Life in Christ is a life sealed with the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is an “earnest” a down payment a sign of things to come, so we are meant be aware of Him, the Christian should be conscious of the personal ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, in this aspect, is God indwelling human personality, with the power to change it. If God enters your life and dwells there you should know about such a momentous event. You should know the power of the anointing and sense the river of living water in your soul.

The Holy Spirit is holy, that is He is God resident in human personality - with the power to make us into saints. The Holy Spirit wants to work within us so that we can belong in Heaven and be a true son of God and be at home among holy things and happy around God.

Thus the Holy Spirit wants to rid you of your sins and impure lusts. He wants you to love God, and he wants you to love your neighbor. You cannot be full of the Holy Spirit and resent your neighbor. God the Holy Spirit wants you to obey all God’s commandments and to follow all the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Holy Spirit is holy and He wants you to be holy as God is holy. 1 Peter 1:14-16 (14) as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, (15) but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct, (16) because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

The Holy Spirit is part of God redeeming you (Ephesians 1:14 above). He

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enters into you to make you a redeemed person, He does not leave you alone, nor is He there just for comforts and experiences. The Holy Spirit has a redemptive agenda for your life and commands you to cooperate (He is God and He does give orders).

Lets go back a step – how do we receive the Holy Spirit? Verse 13 above says that being sealed with the Holy Spirit follows hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, and believing it. An example of this is the reception of the Holy Spirit by the twelve Ephesian disciples in Acts 19:2-7 (2) he said to them, Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him, We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit is. (3) And he said to them, Then to what were you baptized? And they said, To John's

baptism. (4) And Paul said, John truly baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe into Him coming after him, that is, into Jesus Christ. (5) And hearing, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (6) And as Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (7) And all of the men were about twelve.

The key verses are 5 & 6 – (5) And hearing, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (6) And as Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them…..

The Holy Spirit comes upon those who hear the gospel and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The laying on of hands is often part of the process in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is a Person and seems to be often best imparted by personal means.

The Holy Spirit is closely connected with the creative power of the Word of God. In Genesis the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters until the creative Word is spoken. In Ephesians the Word of Truth brings repentance and faith so the Holy Spirit can indwell the new born Christian. This connection between the Word and the Spirit is a frequent one as the following verses illustrate: John 3:34 For He whom God has sent speaks the Words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

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- The spirit enables Jesus to speak the very Words of God.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life. - The word of God is spirit and life – that is the Word itself is spiritual.

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,

- The Spirit uses the Word as a sword to win spiritual battles.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.

- A person filled with the Spirit will speak the Word of God boldly.

Act 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those hearing the Word.

- The preaching of the Word can result in the Spirit falling on people.

Thus life in the Holy Spirit is also life in the Word of God. The two cannot be separated. A love of Scripture is essential to the Spirit-filled life. If a person claims to be spiritual they must also be a student of the Word. If they say the Bible is unnecessary, then they are not truly spiritual. People who have the Holy Spirit will love the Word of God.

How then can we go deeper in the Holy Spirit? By prayerfully going deeper in the Word! The Holy Spirit will use the Word to change you and the Word believed will resonate with the Spirit received to make you a holy Christian.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 1:15-19
(15) Therefore I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints, (16) do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength

Spiritual growth happens in answer to prayer.

Paul prays an amazing prayer for insight, understanding and revelation to be granted to the Ephesians – presumably because he believed that such a prayer would work! Paul

obviously believed that men and women could be deeply changed, at a distance, by a Christian praying on his or her knees.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China called this “moving men through prayer”. So fundamental is this skill to Christian ministry that Hudson Taylor would not accept a missionary candidate unless they knew how to “move men through prayer”.

Consider your own life – when have you changed most? Has it not been when someone has prayed for you, in specific and earnest ways, for that change to take place?

This is why it is important to have a regular prayer partner who prays with you - for your life, spiritual walk and ministry. This can be a friend, your spouse or your pastor. Meetings should be face to face, if at all possible, and at least once a week. Praying for each other, in mutual love and edification, is a great way to grow.

When my wife and I were newly married, Minda (who is meticulously tidy), despaired of my untidiness, which no amount of “reminding” improved. Minda took advantage of the fact that I sleep deeply and prayed for me, laying hands on me as I slept and praying for the changes she desired, sometimes for hours. I did not know this was going on, but I began to change, and am now much tidier than before.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
Well what did Paul pray for? He prayed for the Ephesians to have a renewed mind. He prays for things such as wisdom, understanding, revelation and knowledge. He prays for increased spiritual perception “that the eyes of their heart may be opened” and for a deep grasp of what God had prepared for them.

He prays that they may know God (v.17), and may understand the hope of His calling, the riches of His glory and the surpassing greatness of His power on behalf of believers (v.1719). In other words Paul is asking for a complete reversal of the worldly mindset.

Prayer can make a person heavenly-minded and filled with God. Prayer opens up our mind to the true spiritual realities and enables us to know holy things and understand the spiritual realm. The knowledge of heavenly things is a powerful encouragement for godly living. The knowledge of God fills us with love, the hope of His calling fills us with joy, the riches of His glory makes us worship in adoration and His great power fills us with assurance, confidence and hope.

(Unfortunately such knowledge is lowly esteemed in today’s pragmatic world. Saints may not be successful in terms of “net worth” to a financial institution but they become holy and of “great worth” to God. Which value system you chose depends on whether you want your life evaluated by a banker in a three-piece suit - or rewarded by the Lord of Glory.)

If we pray for others, then we ought also pray for ourselves. None of us knows too much about God. We can all use more wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Pray for your daily needs - but also pray for your soul. Pray that you will come to really know God and hear Hs voice and know His ways.

This knowledge of God is personally imparted by the Holy Spirit in answer to believing prayer (James 1:5-8). When I was a young missionary the first place I was sent was right out in swamps of the Aramia River in Papua New Guinea among a tribe that only had about half the bible in their own language. Out there people did not know Greek or Hebrew or own commentaries or have computers – but they still knew God and were resonant with Him – because they were taught by the Holy Spirit in dreams and taught by one another with the few Scriptures they had. I arrived full of my theological education and quickly realized that the barely literate village elders knew a lot more about God than I did and were better Christians than I was. This “set me to thinking” that the knowledge of God comes through the Spirit in answer to the believing prayer of desiring saints - and not so much through books as I had thought (though there is still value in books).

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We grow through prayer, we grow through hearing the Word, we grow through speaking the truth to one another in love, and we grow as we obey the Word and put it into practice in our lives.

I sense that there is a terrible lack of praying virtue into one another in the church today. When was the last time you opened yourself up to having the grace of God prayed into your soul? And when was the last time you did that for someone else? Paul has some magnificent prayers that we can use to pray for others (see also Ephesians 3:14-21) so lets start laying hands on one another and praying for God to impart Himself to the souls of our brothers and sisters in Christ. A good place for this is in a home or cell group.

We need a touch of eternity in our spirits. We need our minds renewed to really understand God. And it is terribly difficult to do that on your own. We need prayer. I need your prayers and you need mine. Prayer unleashes God’s ”mighty strength”, which is available to transform us through the Holy Spirit, who is God resident with the human personality to change it and make us into saints. Prayer and the Word and the Spirit will make us holy. So start praying!

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 1:19-23
(19) and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength (20) which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, (21) far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age. (22) And He has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:5-7 (5) even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), (6) and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: (7) that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

Christ is seated, in the heavenlies, far above all principality and power, and, by the grace of God, we have been seated there with Him.

Just as we died with Christ and were raised with Christ to new life (Romans 8) so to we have ascended with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6). This is not by our own merit or good works, but rather is by God’s grace alone.

This radical change in spiritual status between the Old and New Testaments means that believers now have God’s “mighty power” lifting them to direct intimacy with God, a place beside the throne, the ability to approach that throne of grace in time of need, and are given the rank of “sons of God” a rank so high that Jesus is not ashamed to call us “brothers” (Hebrews 2:11).

This astonishes John the apostle who writes: 1 John 3:1 (1) See what kind of love the Father has given us in letting us be called God's children. And that is what we are! For this reason the world does not recognize us, because it did not recognize him either.

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We are “children of God”, no longer of this world, citizens of heaven, who have come to Mt. Zion and thousands of angels in festive array. Hebrews 12:22-24 (22) Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to tens of thousands of angels joyfully gathered together, (23) to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to a judge who is the God of all, to the spirits of righteous people who have been made perfect, (24) to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better message than Abel's.

Jesus taught about the transition between OT and NT by using John the Baptist as the “hinge” between the two ages. Matthew 11:11-14 (11) Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has appeared who is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least important person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (12) "From the days of John the Baptist until the present, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people have been attacking it. (13) For the Law and all the Prophets prophesied up to the time of John, (14) and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Of all the Old Testament saints, John was the greatest, but, by grace, the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist! For we are ‘born of God”, we are “bornagain”, of a new order of humanity, created after the cross, in Christ Jesus. John the Baptist was ‘born of women” but Christians are born of the Word and by the Spirit.

This new ascended status of believers affects the whole of creation, which waits for the sons of God to be fully revealed.Romans 8:18-21 (18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us. (19) For the creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal his children, (20) because the creation was subjected to frustration, though not by its own choice. The one who subjected it did so in the hope (21) that the creation itself would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom of God's children.

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This new status even makes us judges of angels and the world (1 Corinthians 6:2,3), in fact angels are here to serve the redeemed (Hebrews 1:14). Thus Christians are no longer under the powers, but above them.

The fact that Christians are no longer under the principalities and powers and the rule of angelic beings is pragmatically proven by the fact that we can cast out demons. In the Old Testament no-one cast out demons. Yet in the New Testament it is common-place, any believer can do it. Why the drastic change?

Because there has been an even greater change in the spiritual order of things. In the OT the law was mediated by angels (Acts 7:25) who punished every transgression of its taboos (Hebrews 2). In the NT we died to the Law (Romans 7) and ascended with Christ above the realm of taboos, above the rule of the angelic realm and into the realm of holiness and truth in love. We are not under the Law, or under religious taboos but have freedom as sons of God – and the authority that goes with that rank. We are above the powers.

Now I am aware that this is new teaching for many. The idea of judging angels and being above the spiritual powers and principalities is rather startling. A simplistic way of seeing it is that the Christian does not live in dread of ghosts and spirits or fear breaking taboos of demons and idols and “pagan gods”. We don’t have to dread the wrath of Zeus or Apollo if we fail to observe their festivals. But these were real fears for people in bible times, and still are in cultures controlled by idol worship. These fears controlled harvest times, and all the rituals of daily life were centered on appeasing these local deities. In Christ we have been removed from the realm of the spirits and ghosts and goblins and sacrifices and offerings and libations and shrines and temples and incantations and into the realm of freedom in Christ where no food is unclean, where no priests are needed and where no spirit is dreaded. We are above the powers, because we are in Christ, and He is far, far exalted above them.

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Ephesians 2:1-3
(1) And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins, (2) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience; (3) among whom we also had our way of life in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts, and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

The Prince of the Power of the Air is clearly Satan. But what does this term mean? The “air” is the lowest of the three “heavens” (heaven is a plural word “shamayim” Hb.) - which are “the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:9) where God’s holiness dwells, the mid-heaven where angels and spirit-animals (beasts) fly (Revelation 8:13, 14:6), and the air above us where the “birds of the heavens” fly and where Satan rules.

Satan seems to have started off in the Third Heaven as a covering cherub (Ezek 28;14), then was cast down to the second or mid-heaven at some point due to “trafficking” (Ezek 28:16). In Job is occasionally summoned to the Third Heaven but only by God’s permission. Satan seems to be able to freely roam on lower realms such as earth.

During the ministry of Jesus and the disciples Satan “fell from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18) and was further triumphed over in the cross, which also stripped Satan of many of his weapons (Colossians 2:13-15). By the time Paul writes Satan is confined to the first heaven or the “air”. (Ephesians 2:1-3 above).

Satan’s future is clearly marked out. In Revelation 12:1-11 a great battle takes place and Satan will be cast to earth (out of the heavens altogether) and then incarnate as a man in Revelation 13, and wage war, which after losing he is confined to the Pit, (Revelation 20:1-3) and eventually at the very end, to the Lake of Fire.

Satan’s trajectory of doom gives us a basic structure for the order of the heavenlies.

God, Jesus, the Church – above the heavens Third Heaven – Holy Things Mid-Heaven – Angels, Spiritual beings Air – Satan and demons (at present)

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Earth – unredeemed humanity, creation Pit – a place of temporary punishment of the wicked– 1000 years and released, demons chained for judgment. (2 Peter 2:4, Rev 9:1ff, Rev 20:1-3) Lake of Fire – final and complete judgment and unrelenting torment. Satan is ambitious and always trying to “go up a notch”, then being cast down even further. So in the Third Heaven he tried to set his throne above God, then in the second heaven he tried to intrude on holy things, when released from the Pit he tries to conquer Earth – and so on.

Satan seems to have freedom to visit levels lower than where he is at and still “roams” around on the Earth. The present spiritual battle is to cast down Satan from the air- to the Earth, through courageous witness of the saints (Revelation 12:10,11). This will unleash the final end-times (Revelation 13).

In Luke this casting down seems to have something to do with the proclamation of the gospel Luke 10:17-18 : (17) And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject unto us in thy name. (18) And he said unto them, I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.

Thus when the proclamation of the gospel is fully accomplished, and it has been preached as a witness to all the nations, Satan will be cast down, out of the air, to Earth, become the Anti-Christ, “and then the end shall come”. Matthew 24:14 (14) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then the end shall come.

Satan will be crushed by God (of course) but also by the Church and the Seed of the Woman – Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15). God puts Satan under OUR feet (Romans 16:20) and we shall judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:2,3) and it is the blood of the saints and courageous witness that finally overcomes the Devil (Revelation 12:10,11)

Thus the Christ-indwelt and Holy Spirit empowered Church acting in bold authority will ensure Satan’s downfall.

Ephesians 2:1-3 goes on to describe the effects of the prince of the power of the air on his subjects – disobedience, lusts, passions and universal rebellion against God. Satan causes

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us to walk in trespasses and sins and to follow “the course of this world” so we end up as spiritually dead “children of wrath”. Thus sin is, in part, due to demonic influence. This demonic influence is pervasive and strong and is over most of the world’s people. The apostle John says the “whole world” is under this demonic power (1 John 5:18,19) but Christians are not subject to it because of the blood of Christ. (1 John 5:18,19, Colossians 2:13-15).

As we will see in the rest of this chapter, Satan’s influence over our desires, minds and behavior is over-ruled by the grace of God and the power of salvation by faith. We become the redeemed, we are saved from wrath, seated with Christ and made new creatures and do good works prepared beforehand by God (Ephesians 2:4-10) The influence of Christ

stronger than that of Satan and moves us from rebellious and disobedient to saints who gladly do good deeds.

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Ephesians 2:4-5
(4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (5) (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),

God loved us, not when we were good, but even when we were dead in our sins. His love and mercy saves sinners and makes them sons of God. God takes spiritually dead people and makes them alive – in Christ. This is an act of grace – which is God’s unconditional love for us.

Romans 4:4-8 (4) Now to someone who works, wages are not considered a gift but an obligation. (5) However, to someone who does not work, but simply believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (6) Likewise, David also speaks of the blessedness of the person whom God regards as righteous apart from works: (7) "How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered! (8) How blessed is the person whose sins the Lord will never charge against him!"

Lets look at Romans 4:5 - “the One who justifies the ungodly” – God justifies sinners. God loves, saves, cherishes and transforms the ungodly. God does not bless us for being good – that would be a “wage”, an earned blessing, rather He blesses those who are ungodly – that God might be seen to be gracious! God is more of a Lover, than a Judge. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).

Romans 5:8-10 (8) But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (10) For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

While we were “yet sinners” Christ died for us. While we were a moral mess, Christ gave His life for us. If then, God loved us when we were a moral failure, how much more will He love us as believers? Christ’s blood covers us and turns away the wrath of God. Christians are

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not under the wrath of God. Rather they are in the love of God. If God blessed us and reconciled us when we were His enemies, how much more will He bless us now that we love Him and are His friends? God desires to bless us and His love is unconditional and unending.

[I was converted by grace while trying to disprove the existence of God. I certainly was not consciously searching for God. In fact I was fleeing from Him, denying Him and arguing with Christians at every opportunity. Yet, during an open day at a local Franciscan Friary, God appeared to me as a light and spoke to me and I believed. I was saved, not by my works, not by my searching and not by any religious mechanism, but totally by grace alone. I got saved against my own intentions. It was a glorious “accident of grace” orchestrated by a loving God.]

Sinners, wicked sinners, can be saved in a moment. But the “righteous” seem to take forever. In fact most of the Pharisees never got saved, even though they were disciplined, clean-living, bible-believing, and praying, fasting and tithing “religiously”.

Sinners know they need the mercy of God – so they receive it. The Pharisees tried to get to heaven on their own earned merit – and of course failed. God does not bless us based on how “good” we are or how religiously observant we are. Rather He blessed those who open their hearts to His love, mercy and grace.

This truth, of God’s unconditional love, is often lost somewhere along the Christian journey. We know we are saved by grace, but we add something like “but those who are more religious are more special as Christians”. We add works, ways of earning God’s favor as believers, accumulating crowns through Scripture memory and church attendance. Somehow we think that doing good things will make God think of us as a good person. (This is often because we do not think of ourselves as such)

The shocking thing is that God already thinks of us as a good person – that is what justification means! We were justified when we were saved, God loved us before we were saved and even loves us after we are saved too! If you are a born-again believer then God thinks you are a good person and loves you. Your good deeds do not make you a good person in the eyes of God, it is Jesus Christ who does that for you.

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Our good deeds are simply the outworking of our new good nature that is created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10). God calls us good because the new creation is good, because it is Christ in us, the hope of glory. We are saved for good works, not by good works.

We are created new to be good-works-doing-creatures. Christ in you wants to do Christ-like things. Jesus in you wants to do what he did on earth before. Your new nature is meant to live as Jesus lived. So we are meant to do good works, but they do not make us a good person and they do not make us superior or special, they are simply the natural outworking of a God-indwelt life.

Ephesians 2:10 (ISV) (10) For we are his masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.

God loved you when you were ungodly and He loves you now you are saved and His life in you is the power you live by, not by your own energy, but by His mighty resurrection power. We have been made alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5 above). If we were saved while we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-5) then now we are made alive we will know even more than that – we will also know Him dwelling in us and living through us in power.

Romans 5:10 (10) For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life!

God loves you just as you are. God loved you even when you were sinful. God does not expect you to earn His love. God does not even want you to try and do that. God wants you to believe that He loves you, is merciful and kind to you and that He will give you many good things in Christ. (Romans 8:32).

Romans 8:32 (32) God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won't he freely give us everything else?

God loves you with never-ending unconditional love, just as you are right now. You do not have to improve in order to make God happy. God is already happy with you. You are

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justified. You are loved. So stop striving. Just let the good works flow from grace received by faith.

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Ephesians 2:6-7 (ASV)
(6) and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: (7) that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

The grace of God has given us an elevated spiritual status so that we are seated with Jesus Christ in Heaven.

God has taken us “from the guttermost to the uttermost” so that His graciousness and kindness toward us might cause amazement during all the ages to come.

God has given us far, far more than we could earn, or deserve, or attain even by keeping the Law and following strenuous spiritual disciplines.

The Old Testaments saints, who trod that path, are less than “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 11:11-14) Christians, who have received grace upon grace. This change is so astonishing that it changed the whole way of doing religion. Now Christians have direct access to God and their bodies His personal temples - so that there is no longer any need for temples, priests and religious paraphernalia designed to achieve access to God.

We have access directly to God through the Holy Spirit are part of God’s household: Ephesians 2:18-19 (18) for through him we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father. (19) So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,

We have access to God through faith: Romans 5:2 (2) Through Him we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice on the hope of the glory of God.

We have direct access to the “throne of grace”: Hebrews 4:16 (16) Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Since we have direct, personal access to God as our Father, then we do not need “spiritual technology” such as magic, spells, priests, sacrifices, libations, offerings, trance states, special diets, self-humiliation, or festivals, special days or saints days or any other such thing.

Nor do we need to climb a spiritual ladder of self-perfection. God already counts us worthy, God already loves us and justifies us, and God has already given us a place in the heavenlies with his Son.

We are in Christ, like a drop of water in a bucket. Where the bucket goes, we go. And we are parts of Christ’s body, and where He goes, His body goes. We died with Christ and rose with Christ and we have ascended with Christ and we are now seated with Christ. The drop in the bucket does not earn its high place. It is simply there because the bucket itself has been exalted. So simply because we are in Christ we share His exaltation and glory and will even reign with Him. This is grace and kindness, not works and worthiness.

(Ephesians 2:7) that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus:

Whatever this means it means that God greatly desires to be kind and gracious to you.

Forget about the stern, grumpy God of movies and cartoons. The God of Jesus Christ, the God we call “our Father” is gracious and kind and loving and merciful.

God desires fellowship with us, so He has, spiritually speaking, put us in Heaven, with Himself. We don’t have to “go to heaven” we are already, seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, we have already come to Mt. Zion, though we are scarcely aware of it.

1 John 1:3 (3) that which we have seen and heard we declare unto you, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:22 (22) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

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God desires to be kind and gracious to you, He wants to have fellowship with you, and He is blessing you because you are in His beloved Son. In fact He has chosen to adopt you as a son of His own.Romans 8:15 (15) For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!

So we are beloved, adopted, sons and daughters of God. We have direct access to God. We do not need spiritual paraphernalia and rituals. We have been given the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ. We also have come to Mt. Zion and are seated in heavenly realms with Christ Jesus. We are in Christ Jesus and thus what God does for Christ, He also does for us.

God has been amazingly kind to us. And not just for a season. His kindness will still be displayed “in the ages to come” (Ephesians 2:7) as our eternal life unfolds in His presence, in His love.

So be bold in prayer, God hears you. You are much nearer Him than you think, for you are seated in heaven with Christ. So come boldly to the throne of grace in time of need! (Hebrews 4;12-16).

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Ephesians 2:8-10
(8) For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by good works, but we are saved in order to do good works.

Works are powerless to save us because we cannot deal with our sin nature by ourselves. No amount of good works can change our basic nature. We need the cross to deal with it and crucify it.

Works are also powerless because we cannot deal with our guilt by “doing good”. You cannot make up for a traffic fine by helping a old lady across the road – you still have to pay $50. Guilt is not erased by goodness; guilt is only erased by forgiveness.

So works cannot deal with either our sin or our guilt. So works cannot get us to Heaven.

There is nothing in us that can generate salvation. No amount of thinking, feeling, working, fasting, or learning will save us if it is done apart from God. People exhaust themselves on pilgrimages and religious exercises without ever finding God. A Japanese Buddhist just finished seven years of running around the mountains on a spiritual exercise that few survive because it is so arduous. He covered thousands of miles, sometimes running 80 or 100 miles a day, at the end of it all was he saved? No. This seems unfair that a sincere person can put in so much effort and not be born-again while a drunk can hear the gospel and be saved in an instant. But that is the way of grace.

The Jews, in Paul’s day were sincere, and they had the Scriptures and “the right God”, but they were not saved. Lets see what Paul says about this: Romans 10:1-10 (1) Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for it to be saved. (2) For I bear record to them that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.

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People who try to establish their own righteousness – through good works or earning merit, can never earn enough merit. They fail, because they ignore the true source of merit for us – Christ Jesus. They ignore God’s merit system and make up their own. But God does not validate their system. God wants them to submit to His system – faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul continues:

(4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes. (5) For Moses writes of the righteousness which is of the Law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." (6) But the righteousness of faith says this: "Do not say in your heart, Who shall ascend into Heaven?" that is, to bring Christ down; (7) or "Who shall descend into the deep?"; that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. (8) But what does it say? "The Word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart"; that is, the Word of Faith which we proclaim; (9) Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.

Christ is the end of “the law of righteousness”- that is the law that you have to be perfectly righteous to get into Heaven. That law is over and finished and done away with. Christians are under the law of grace.

We do not have to “ascend” through meditation or contemplation – because that would require Christ to come down to a level we could ascend to, And He is far above that. Not do we have to go into the deep and find Christ with “deep things” such as the Qabbalah – for Christ has passed through that realm and conquered it. He does not have to be brought up from the “deep things” for he has risen from the dead and we will not find Him there any more. He does not need to be raised again. Christ is not in the heights we can reach, or in the depths. Rather He is near us in the Word.

Salvation is by faith in the Word: Romans 10:8 “But what does it say? "The Word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart"; that is, the Word of Faith which we proclaim;”. Simple faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the means of salvation and this faith is not in us, but is a gift of God.

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Ephesians 2:8,9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is

the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

This is so no-one can stand before God’s throne boastfully and say “ I earned my eternal life, I earned the Holy Spirit, I earned salvation and all the gifts of God ”. Such a boast would be the worst kind of blasphemy.

But works are not the problem – rather human boastfulness is. God saves us by grace so that we will not boast, not so that we will not work. In fact we are made for good works. We are supposed to do them; they are the natural outflow of a God-indwelt life. They are evidence of a new creation and they are God’s plan for us from long ago. Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

The new creation is a loving incarnation of Christ in us, as His temple, and as His vessel. We are the way Christ is carried into the world. In fact we are God’s workmanship, His masterpiece, His good-works-performing creature. And from long ago He set out what we should do. Once we are saved a new being is formed in us, and that new being wants to do good. The doing good comes after grace, as its fruit, not before grace as a way of earning it. Freely given grace brings salvation, and salvation brings Christ in us and Christ in us does good deeds.

We are not saved by good works, but we are saved in order to do good works.

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Ephesians 2:11-18 (ISV)
(11) So then, remember that at one time you were gentiles by birth and were called "the uncircumcision" by what is called "the circumcision" made in the flesh by hands. (12) At that time you were without Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise. You had no hope and were in the world without God. (13) But now, in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (14) For it is he who is our peace. In his flesh he made both groups one by tearing down the wall of hostility that divided them. (15) He rendered the law inoperative, along with its commandments and regulations, so that he might create in himself one new humanity from the two, thus making peace, (16) and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, on which he killed the hostility. (17) He came and proclaimed peace for you who were far away and for you who were near. (18) For through him, both of us have access to the Father in one Spirit.

The cross is the end of the Jewish – Gentile distinction. Now Jews and Gentiles are united as part of one new humanity created by God.

Before the cross, you had no hope unless you were Jewish and Gentiles were “without God in the world” (ASV). (12) At that time you were without Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise. You had no hope and were in the world without God.

In fact the Gentile religious system was demonic: 1 Corinthians 10:20 (20) But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have communion with demons.

So the Gentiles, sacrificed to, worshipped and were controlled by demonic beings led by “the prince of the power of the air” mentioned earlier in this chapter of Ephesians. Ephesians 2:2 (2) in which you once lived according to the ways of this present world and according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now active in those who are disobedient.

Thus the Jews had the Law and the Prophets but the Gentiles were in bondage to demons. There was thus a vast difference, in spiritual terms, between a Jew and a Gentile. One had

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the God of Abraham the other had frenzied orgies and demonic sacrifices. But both were abolished by Christ.

Jesus did not just put an end to the Gentiles orgies and witchcraft; He also put an end to the Law and the Prophets. (Ephesians 2:15) He rendered the law inoperative, along with its commandments and regulations, so that he might create in himself one new humanity from the two, thus making peace,

Here is what Jesus said about the jurisdiction of the Law and the Prophets: Matthew 11:13 (13) For the Law and all the Prophets prophesied up to the time of John,

And Paul makes the matter perfectly clear in Romans 7: Romans 7:4-6 (4) In the same way, my brothers, through Christ's body you also died as far as the law is concerned, so that you may belong to another person, the one who was raised from the dead, and may bear fruit for God. (5) For while we were living in the flesh, sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies to bear fruit for death. (6) But now we have been released from the law by dying to what enslaved us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit, not under the old written code.

(see also Galatians chapters 3-5)

So the Law and the Prophets had jurisdiction up the time of John the Baptist. After this Jesus began introducing the Kingdom. On the cross the old order finally ended, the temple curtain was torn in two and the penalty of the Law was fully taken in the body of Christ who “became a curse for us” (Galatians 3:10-14). The Old Testament Law is finished. A new law has been introduced and has replaced it, the law of the Spirit - the law of life in Christ Jesus “so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit, not under the old written code.”

With the abolition of the Old Testament Law the Gentiles and the Jews were finally put on the same spiritual footing. Their religious systems were removed from the equation. Now it did not matter whether you were a Jew or a Greek or a Zoroastrian, your system could not get you to God. Your priests, laws, sacrifices and offerings were equally useless and were abolished. The only way anyone could get to God was to dump their religious system entirely and to personally have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

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Sure if you were a Jew you could still do Jewish cultural things such as washing your hands and not eating pork, but these acts no longer carried any genuine religious significance. They did not make you clean, only the blood of Jesus could do that. No-one (Jew or Gentile) could trust in a priest or a ritual or a good deed to put them right with God. All that was finished on the cross. You now had to face God and ask forgiveness, by yourself, on your own, trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ. The cross put an end to religious systems as the means of salvation. (But it has taken a rather long while to get the point).

Now it does not matter if your families religious heritage is Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or Baptist. You still need Christ and you still need to meet God face to face, personally, by faith. You can attend all the temples of all the religions in the world and do all their rituals if you like. You still won’t be saved. No single religious system, nor any combination of religious systems, however earnestly pursued, followed or committed to, can save you from sin and death. Only faith in Christ Jesus can do that. You can go to every Billy Graham Crusade for twenty years – but unless you personally believe in Jesus Christ, you will not go to Heaven. There is now no system, there is only faith.

(Ephesians2:16-18) and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, on which he killed the hostility. He came and proclaimed peace for you who were far away and for you who were near. For through him, both of us have access to the Father in one Spirit.

Access to God, for Jew or Gentile is not on the basis of race, nor on the basis of adherence to any particular religious system. Rather we both have access to the Father through the one Holy Spirit. The system is finished, the law is abolished, the commandments are emptied of their power, the sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ and now we serve in the Spirit, with our bodies as His Temple and Jesus Christ as the High Priest. Our access is by faith, through grace and is spiritual, not temporal, through the Holy Spirit, not through a shaman, a book or a ritual.

Before the cross there was a deep and very real spiritual hostility between the pagans and the Jews - between demonic festivals and the Law. There was no common ground. But God abolished the Law, in doing so He abolished that which condemned the pagans, and set up a new way of salvation they could easily join. And He asked the Jews to join the same Way.

Now both Jews who believe in Christ, and Gentiles who believe in Christ are sons of God, are both part of the one family, and are part of the one new humanity in Christ Jesus.

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Ephesians 2:19-22
(19) That is why you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, (20) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. (21) In him the whole building is joined together and rises into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. (22) You, too, are being built in Him along with the others into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The Church, which is composed of both Jews and Gentiles, is being built in Christ, to be the spiritual dwelling place of God.

When someone wonders, “Where is God located?” Scripture gives a number of answers:

1. In Heaven – or rather “above the heavens” (2 Chronicles 6:18, Timothy 6:16) 2. In Christ (Colossians 1:19, 2:9, John 1:14)

Isaiah 57:15, 1

3. In the hearts of contrite and repentant believers. (Isaiah 57:15, 66:2, Ephesians 3:17, 1 John 3:24) 4. In His Church. (Ephesians 2:22, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16)

The Bible also says, quite plainly that God does not dwell in buildings, in “temples made with human hands”: Acts 17:24-25 (24) The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, (25) nor is served with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life and breath and all things to all.

God dwells in the Church, but not in the building as some sort of “temple”, rather He dwells in His Church as an extension of His life, His body, and the persons He indwells at both an individual and a corporate level.

God dwells in us as individuals, and abides in us and with us, and each of us who are born again are given the Holy Spirit as a deposit of faith. And, as I have said before, the Holy Spirit is God resident in human personality with the power to change it.

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God also dwells in us as a community. The Jerusalem Church of Acts 1-6 was clearly such a Spirit-indwelt community. The Holy Spirit builds us TOGETHER into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit, He builds as a multi-individual, multi-racial, (Jew and Gentiles), multicultural (from every tribe and tongue) dwelling place of Almighty God.

Precisely how does God dwell in His Church and how can it be considered His dwelling place? A church is most completely God’s dwelling place when it takes on His nature and visibly demonstrates His powers. That is when a church demonstrates God’s love of sinners and care for the poor and healing of the sick and compassion for the downtrodden it is truly a place where God dwells.

Churches riddled with sin, or which nourish false prophets, or which condone immorality, or which have lost their love of God or are proud and worldly are clearly failing as dwelling places of God - and Jesus rebukes them for such failings in His seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation chapters 1-3).

So, one of the primary functions of the spiritual community we call “the Church” - is to allow itself to be built into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Lets go back to the verses we began with: Ephesians 2:19-22 (19) That is why you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, (20) having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. (21) In him the whole building is joined together and rises into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. (22) You, too, are being built in Him along with the others into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The Church, the dwelling place of God is a massive spiritual edifice, founded on the apostles and prophets, and which over the centuries has added layer upon layer and culture upon culture as missionary work has expanded. The new cultures, in this case Greek Gentiles, are not strangers, but are fully incorporated into the Church as “fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household”.

In the end this dwelling place, the New Jerusalem, will be radiant with glory: Revelation 21:1-3

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(1) And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And the sea no longer is. (2) And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her Husband. (3) And I heard a great voice out of Heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Before the New Jerusalem arrives we have to face life in its more “day to day” mode and the reality of local churches. Yet we must never lose the vision of even these local churches becoming dwelling places of God, not in the crude sense as in a temple or shrine, but in the spiritual sense above.

Is your church a place where God would want to dwell? God does not want to dwell among the divisive, the divided, the bitter, the immoral or the profane. But He does dwell where His Word is reverenced, the saints are humble, His Spirit is heard (and not grieved), and where His commandments obeyed.

I will finish this study with some verses in Colossians that are good instructions for preparing our churches to be true dwelling places of God:

Colossians 3:12-17 (12) Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. (13) Put up with one another and forgive each other if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, you also should forgive. (14) Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which ties everything together in unity. (15) Let the peace of Christ also rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and be thankful. (16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you with all richness and wisdom, teaching and

admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and singing to God with thankfulness in your hearts. (17) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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Ephesians 3:1-6 (Modern King James Version)
(1) For this cause, I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you nations, (2) if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me toward you, (3) that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in few words, (4) by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (5) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, (6) that the nations should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel.

Ephesians 3:1-6 (Analytical-Literal Translation) (1) For this reason, _I_, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles(2) if indeed you* heard of the stewardship of the grace of God, the one having been given to me for you*, (3) that by revelation He disclosed to me the secret, just as I wrote before briefly, (4) with reference to which you* are able, when reading [it], to understand my insight in the secret of Christ, (5) which in different generations was not disclosed to the sons [and daughters] of people, as it was now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, (6) [that] the Gentiles [are] to be joint-heirs and joint-members of the same body and jointpartakers of His promise in Christ by means of the Gospel,

Is everyone equal before God?

The salvation of the Gentiles, and their equal spiritual footing with the Jews, was a marvel and a mystery to Paul (though it now seems rather commonplace to us). In Paul’s day the thought that all races were equally acceptable to God in Christ was a shock, a revelation, an unheard of thing, a hidden revelation, which popped up out of the gospel like a Jack-In-TheBox.

The Jews felt much closer to God, they felt they had the right traditions, a superior culture a history of monotheism, they were moral, they wrote the Scriptures, they had the prophets and patriarchs - and Jesus and the Twelve and Paul were all Jews. Surely they had a right to feel superior to the Gentile converts, from pagan backgrounds, with often-messy lives?

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But spiritual superiority does not come from race or gender or tradition or bible knowledge or being related to the church leaders. Even if you were a physical brother or cousin or nephew of Jesus you do not have automatic standing before God. And yes, this also applies to Mary.

Jesus made this quite clear: Matthew 12:46-50 (46) While Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. (47) Someone told him, "Look! Your mother and your brothers are standing outside asking to speak to you." (48) He asked the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" (49) Then pointing with his hand at his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! (50) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

In fact the human factors are no longer of any account spiritually because we have “died” to them in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:14-16 (14) For the love of Christ constrains us, judging this, that if one died for all, then all died; (15) and He died for all, that the living ones may live no more to themselves, but to Him who died for them and having been raised. (16) So as we now know no one according to flesh, but even if we have known Christ according to flesh, yet now we no longer know Him so.

So “we now know no one according to flesh”. The outer man, the flesh, the racial characteristics, the degrees, the pomp, the material possessions, and the social persona are of no account in spiritual terms. According to Paul, even Christ’s human persona is no longer important! That may be part of the reason that we have so little record of it, no birthday, no physical description, mere fragments – because it is who He is in Heaven that maters to us now. The Jesus with “the beard and sandals” is gone, ascended and glorified. Now we know Him as the Lamb Who Was Slain, the Great High Priest and as the Soon Returning King.

Thus no-one can claim superior status before God because of the race they belong to, the family they were born into or because of their possessions, power, persona or position. Thus Jews and Gentiles are equal before God.

In many respects this inclusion of the Gentiles was a surprising move by God. The early church took forty years to come to fully terms with it – up until 70 AD and the destruction of

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the Temple. And many of the disputes in Acts and the epistles center around the problem of “how Jewish should Christianity be?”.

(Ephesians 3:5,6) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the nations should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel.

The inclusion of the Gentiles was “not made known” prior to Pentecost. It was hidden, hinted at, but never explicit. Gentiles were seen as unclean and it took a vision repeated three times to get the apostle Peter to agree to even visit one. (Acts chapters 10 & 11). Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, as far as the Jerusalem Church was concerned, not a universal Savior.

This transition, this realization that Jesus was the Savior of Gentiles, as well as Jews required a special work of the Holy Spirit “as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the nations should be fellow heirs, and of the same body”. The inclusion of the Gentiles was a revelation, an unfolding of a mystery, the revealing of a divine secret. God had to open the eyes of the Church to the salvation of the Gentiles – and it was Paul’s’ special job to do this, along with some early efforts by Peter.

(Ephesians 3:1-4) For this cause, I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you nations, if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me toward you, that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Part of Paul’s role as an apostle was to show that Gentiles could be saved, and to show that when they were saved they were equal before God and “of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” This was a revelation with profound implications for the culture and practice of the early Christians.

In missionary work there is the “problem” of the national converts and the missionaries. Are the missionaries closer to God? Is the local culture acceptable? Are the local Christians vastly superior? Should all the missionaries just go home? Is it Westerner bad – Asian good? Or is it Asian bad – Westerner good? Such distinctions are all false distinctions. Asians and Westerners are equal before God and all of us are “fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” We each have our calling and our role. Westerners need Asians and Asians need Westerners because we are all part

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of the interdependent body of Christ and we cannot be separated from each other or categorized by race.

So we recognize no-one “according to the flesh” but only “in Christ” and according to the Spirit.

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Ephesians 3:7-13
(7) Of this gospel I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power. (8) This grace is given to me (who am less than the least of all saints) to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations, (9) and to bring to light what is the fellowship of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; (10) so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (11) according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; (12) in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through His faith. (13) For this reason I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

The gospel starts out in the New Testament as “the gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14) in Mark it becomes the “gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) in Acts 5:42 it is “the gospel of Jesus the Christ” emphasizing the anointing on the early church, as the Gentiles become incorporated with Cornelius it becomes “the gospel of peace” (Acts 10:36), this term is also used in Ephesians to emphasize the peace between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 6:15).

In Acts 11 it is called the gospel of the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20), and towards the end of his ministry as he addresses the Ephesian elders Paul calls it “the gospel of the grace of God”. In Romans 1:1 the term “the gospel of God” is introduced – that is the good news that has God as its source. This becomes a frequent NT term (Romans 1:1, 15:16, 2 Corinthians 11:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:2,8,9 ; 1 Peter 4:17) along with the term “gospel of Christ” which tends to be used when anointing, authority or miracles and in view (Romans 1:16, 15:19,29; 1 Corinthians 9:12,18; 2 Corinthians 2:12, 9:13, 10:14, Galatians 1:7, Philippians 1:27, 1 Thessalonians 3:2).

In Romans 10:15 we have “the gospel of peace” and again in Romans 10:15 “the gospel of good things” and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 we have the “gospel of the glory of Christ” which emphasizes our transformation into the image of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1:13 it is called “the gospel of your salvation”. In 1Thessalonians 1:8 the gospel “of the Lord Jesus Christ” emphasizes His lordship and power and contains a stern proclamation of judgment in flaming fire for the enemies of God. And in 1 Timothy 1:11 it is called “the gospel of the

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glory of the blessed God” which brings out the blessedness of the gospel verses the Jewish Law.

But today we will look at “the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ”, which I must quickly add, is the same gospel as those mentioned above, because there is only one gospel (Galatians 1:6-8), though it has many aspects to it.

The Greek for preach the gospel is “euaggelisasthai” (the double g is pronounced “ng”) and means “to announce good news”. Many translations have “preach” which is slightly wrong as it does not imply good news and would be “kerussw” (w = long o or omega). This is announcing a wonder, proclaiming something very good. And what is the wonder? “The unsearchable riches of Christ”. The word for riches here is ploutos as in “ploutocrat” as in vast wealth. endowment. In normal usage it is a financial term for a the fullness of wealth or an

The gospel of grace, of peace and of salvation is also a gospel of spiritual wealth. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:3) and filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). The gospel gives us a great inner wealth, that is past finding out and which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the mind of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9). In eternity we will be immeasurably wealthy because of what Christ has done for us. We shall walk on streets of gold and enjoy the presence and fellowship of God.

We are not just rescued, we are blessed, we do not just go from negative to zero, we also become wealthy with the treasures of Heaven. God does this to demonstrate the depth an complexity of His “manifold wisdom” to the powers and principalities in the heavenly realms. God will prove that He is good, by the way He blesses us. Ephesians 3:10 “so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,”

The Church is God’s grand proving ground, in it He displays His grace, His forgiveness, His blessings and His wisdom. And the audience is the vast array of powers and principalities in the heavenly realms. You and I and the church you worship in is on display to the angels! Throughout the ages heavenly beings will marvel at what God has done for us (Ephesians 2;7, 3:10).

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The gospel is not just about being saved, and going to heaven when we die. In fact that is only 10% of it! It is our life beyond that – our life in the ages to come and the blessings we will know in God, which is uppermost. In ten thousand years time you will be a being of vast spiritual grandeur, thoroughly familiar with the courts of Heaven and reigning with Christ over a territory that he has given you. You will not stop growing as a person, but over the ages will become a God-like being resonant with glory, an immortal spiritual being of great holiness and authority. You will be a son of God.

The gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ is a gospel of hope in what God will do for us. It tells us that throwing away a million dollars, or a billion, to gain Christ - is a good bargain.

God is worth more than the things we cling to. As someone once said “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”. We cannot keep our life, our money, our power or our possessions. These are worth sacrificing to gain the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Is God calling you to something that seems a sacrifice? Then remember the unsearchable riches of Christ and move on. Treasure in heaven awaits you.

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Ephesians 3:14-17
(14) For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, (16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

Believing prayer can cause the Holy Spirit to strengthen us “in the inner man”.

Paul seems to have a very firm belief that spiritual growth can occur in response to believing prayer; because for the second time in Ephesians Paul prays for the believers that they may grow in Christ. And Paul prays earnestly – expecting that God will answer his intercession, and Paul prays boldly and asks for great things for them. (We will break this prayer into two parts as we study it today and tomorrow.)

The center point of today’s verses is that God the Father would grant the Ephesians grace so that the Holy Spirit would strengthen then “in the inner man” so that Christ would dwell in their hearts by faith and in love. Let’s unpack this theology for a moment.

The arena of action is “the inner man” – that is where the Holy Spirit will do His work and where Christ will dwell by faith. The inner man is the eternal part of us in contrast to the “outer man” which is wasting away. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (16) Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.

True Christian spirituality is based on inner spiritual and moral realities not on external factors. Romans 2:28-29 (28) For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: (29) but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

It matters not what color shirts you wear, or how much or little lipstick you put on or how many bumper stickers are on the back of your car. These things in themselves carry no weight and are only significant when they are true signs of an inner spiritual reality.

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By strengthening the inner man we strengthen that which is Christ-like, true and eternal within us and become spiritually and morally stronger, more able to resist temptation, more resilient under trials and are empowered to carry out Christ’s commands. And when that which is eternal is strengthened within us we become les inclined to cling to this world, which is passing away.

This inner man is a new creation: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (17) Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.

In Christ this new inner self is created, and by the Holy Spirit the inner self is strengthened and made sound and whole and deep and Christ-like and full of faith and love.

Prayer is the main means by which God’s grace is called upon to make us strong spiritually. If you do not pray, you will not be strong in God. And if no-one prays for you, in the way Paul prayed for the Ephesians, you may miss out on much spiritual growth. We need the prayers of others.

Also, if all your prayers are for finances and exams and career and life-partner issues –you will be wrapped up in self and weak in God. These issues are important – but grace is essential! Instead pray for a stronger spiritual life, for faith and confidence in God, for spiritual energy and enthusiasm, for a heart filled with hope and a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”. Christian living is not just about knowing or doing – but also about a change in our inner being. Christ is to dwell in us. We are to live as God-indwelt humans.

Christ dwelling in us is at the heart of New Testament Christianity. It is why Paul says “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. (Galatians 2:20). Eve if we were stuck in a desert without a church or a bible we would still have Christ in us the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

Now quite obviously Christ seems to dwell far more powerfully in some lives than in others. What is the secret to this? How can we be redolent with God and overflowing with the inner presence of Jesus Christ? First of all we must realize that Christ being formed in us is 100%

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a work of grace - we cannot build Him out of our concepts, deeds and words. Christ is not a notion, rather He is a spiritual Person and He is formed in us by God. In these verses Paul indicates that Christ being formed in us happens in community, in response to prayer as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, at the behest of the Father. Prevailing prayer precedes every revival. We must ask for grace, and we must ask to be strengthened in our inner man.

Paul prays that Christ may be formed in us through faith, through the living, believing personal connection we have with our Creator. It is through this connection, through our link with the very life of God, that we are transformed from glory to glory: 2 Corinthians 3:18 (18) But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.

As we are transformed through our relationship with God and the power of the Holy Spirit we adopt a certain lifestyle – the lifestyle of love. Ephesians 3:17-19 (17) and that Christ would make his home in your hearts through faith. Then, having been rooted and grounded in love, (18) you will be able to understand, along with all the saints, what is wide, long, high, and deep(19) that is, you will know the love of Christ, which goes far beyond knowledge, and will be filled with all the fullness of God.

To sum up – prayer strengthens us spiritually in the inner part of us that is eternal, so that we can live as God-indwelt people, in a close relationship with God, and in a lifestyle of love. So pray for yourself and others that together you may grow in God.

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Ephesians 3:17-19
(17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, (19) and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Love is God’s great transforming power; and one of the primary tasks of the Holy Spirit is to love us so deeply that we are transformed into the image of God.

The love of Christ that passes knowledge is the key to being “filled with all the fullness of God”. It is not theology, nor self-discipline, but love that takes us to the highest heights of spiritual experience – being filled with all the fullness of God.

God is more than can be known, but not more than can be loved. We can love that which we know only in part (as we soon find out in any deep human relationship) therefore we can love God and be loved by God.

Now God’s love for us is more than mere sentimentality. It is a life-filling power that is poured into us by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 (5) And hope does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us.

The Scriptures refer to Christians as vessels - as empty objects that are either filled with God’s love, or with God’s wrath (Romans 9:24-27). We cannot remain empty for long and either the demonic or the holy will fill the spiritual vacuum in the human heart. How then do we get filled with God? Love opens us up to receive God, in all His fullness and power. God is love (1 John 4:8), and therefore it should be no surprise that love is the key to His indwelling.

Firstly we should be “rooted and grounded in love”. The very foundation of our personality should not be in competitiveness or achievement or status seeking - but rather be in love. The true Christian does not find the ground of his being in the workplace or the ground of her being in many possessions – but rather the deep foundation of life, for the saint, is found in the love of God and fellow man

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It is very easy to serve something other than love, to serve lusts or greed or ambition instead. But such service will not create the fullness of God in us. The only way to ascend in the Christian life is through faith, hope and love, not through church politics or any other lesser spiritual foundation.

Love opens up our being and makes us both larger people and better people. God’s love improves us. Have you ever been changed by someone’s love for you, by someone who believes in you and truly cares for you and listens to you? God’s love is deeper even than that –and more transformational.

Once we have laid the foundation of a loving life, we need to explore how large the building will be, and know the extent of what God has done for us, or as Paul says: “To be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height.” In other words we need to map out the full extent of the grace of God, to explore His riches and know His kindness toward us.

As we explore the love of Christ, it is then that we begin to truly trust it. We start to realize that His love is unending, and eternal and will still be with us when this world, and all that is in it, has passed away.

Once we trust in God’s love, it is then that it begins to change us most profoundly. It is the love that we “let in” that makes the difference. God pours out His love on many people, but few choose to receive it, and to trust in it, and to let it change them from within.

Baron Von Heugel defined prayer as “letting Jesus into your heart”. We have to trustingly let God love us as He wishes to love us, to move in us and cause us to rejoice in hope and exult in glory.

Paul knew the difficulty of this, he knew that few Christians really sense the Holy Spirit pouring the love of God into their hearts and transforming them from within into the image of God. So Pal prayed earnestly for it, bending his knees before the Father, humbly beseeching God that we may know His love at depth.

In doing so Paul has left us an example and a prayer, and God has chosen to add it to His Scriptures. If you are a pastor or elder pray that your people know the love of Christ, if you are a parent, pray that your children know the love of Christ.

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We cannot change ourselves too much at all, but God can fill us with all the fullness of God, with astonishing personal transformation as we respond to His love, that is unleashed through believing prayer.

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Ephesians 3:20-21
(20) Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, forever. Amen.

God works in is with His mighty power and does in us more than we can ever ask or think.

As I keep saying: “The Holy Spirit, is God, resident in human personality, with the power to change it.” (A quote from Emil Brunner I think)

The power that works in us, to change us, to demonstrate the love of Christ that passes understanding to us, and which fills us with all the fullness of God, this mighty power is God the Holy Spirit.

We often underestimate His power. We say “such and so cannot change” or “this sin is abiding”. The debate over homosexuality is, to some extent, a debate over the power of God to change people’s sexual orientation. We know God can cure drunkards of alcoholism, thieves of dishonest tendencies and drug addicts of their cravings, but some do not think that homosexuality is “curable” – and maintain that it is therefore unjust and lacking in compassion, to condemn the incurable.

But God the Holy Spirit is more powerful that any sin, even one rooted deep in a person’s psyche and physical nature. The Corinthian church was filled with people who had been enslaved to various physical vices and even to criminal lifestyles – but God changed them!

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (9) Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such WERE some of you. But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

“And such were some of you” is PAST tense. Its over, God dealt with the sin and now they are washed, and sanctified and justified. This list of transformed people includes homosexuals. They can change, God can help them, and fine ministries such as Exodus

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attest to this; homosexuality is not a life-sentence but rather is an opportunity for grace. Homosexuals need love and support to change, and become holy. We need to believe in God, and in them, and in their redemption. Therefore we must insist on their repentance.

We must believe that grace is there not to offer us an excuse for sin, but to make us holy. We dare not let sin triumph and be victor over God.

Homosexuals, adulterers, sexual addicts, drunkards, drug addicts – in fact all the categories of sinners, should not despair, or resign themselves to the grip of sin, but rather ought to trust themselves to the power of a faithful God.

The love of God, which ministers grace to the penitent soul, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is capable of doing “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”. Lives can be profoundly changed through a personal, one-to-one encounter with Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul is convinced of this because God transformed him from an abusive, angry, persecutor of the Church into a man of love and grace “as an example” of what God could do with sinners.

1 Timothy 1:12-16 (12) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who gives me strength, that he has considered me faithful and has appointed me to his service. (13) In the past I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man. But I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in my unbelief, (14) and the grace of our Lord overflowed toward me, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (15) This saying is trustworthy and deserves complete acceptance: To this world Christ Jesus came, sinful people to reclaim. I am the worst of them. (16) But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the worst sinner, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all of his patience as an example for those who would believe in him for eternal life.

And throughout Church history some of the most profligate sinners have become the greatest saints. Augustine of Hippo was a sexually addicted cult member who was saved and became one of the greatest theologians of all time. John Newton the slave trader found

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Christ and became a man of the gospel. God is not finished with us, His transforming power is greater than any depths to which we may have sunk.

I have heard non-Christian experts on heroin addiction say “The only way people get off drugs for good is when they become a Christian.” Thousands of alcoholics testify to that fact that turning their lives over to God broke the power of the bottle to dominate them. People with raging tempers can testify that Christ has brought them under control and given them peace. Ministries such as Theophostics testify to lives changed through a single face to face encounter with Jesus.

What about the thousands of Christians who struggle with serious sin? Is there hope for them? Yes, I believe so! There needs to be a radical dealing with sin in the depths of the personality, by the grace of God. This can happen through prayer and intercession. But it requires great vulnerability to God and trust of His work. The following seven steps may prove helpful:

1. Admit you have a serious sin problem and list exactly how it is affecting you and those you love. 2. Admit that you do not have the power, strength, or intelligence to beat your sin. Admit that it has you thoroughly in its grip. 3. Turn your entire life over to God, including your sin. Put Him firmly in the driver’s seat and take your hands off the steering wheel. 4. Destroy the things associated with the sin, the idols, books, magazines, credit card, alcohol, drugs or instruments of violence or of witchcraft or magic. Unsubscribe from pornography. Stop giving room to the sin. 5. Invite God the Holy Spirit into the depths of your being to change it wherever it needs changing, however it needs changing. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and to come upon you in power. (Acts 1:8). 6. Persist in believing for a miracle. Do not give up. This is your life that is at stake. 7. Ask two or three other Christians to pray for you and support you. Specifically get them to pray for an outpouring of the grace and love of God into your heart to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. Ask them to hold you accountable.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, forever. Amen.

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Ephesians 4:1-3
Eph 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, Eph 4:2 with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, Eph 4:3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Our series on Ephesians moves from Life In Christ (chapters 1-3) to Living In Christ (chapters 4-6) - and from an emphasis on “being and being in” to an emphasis on “doing and working out”. Having established our place and privilege in Christ - we now find out what a God-indwelt life looks like in the Church, (chapter 4) in the family and society (chapter 5) and in the Heavenly realms (chapter 6).

The connecting verse is Ephesians 4:1 with its injunction to “walk worthy of the calling with which you are called,” We have a high calling – how then do we live it out? If God calls us saints and places us in the heavenly realms with Christ – how should we then live?

Paul does not answer this question in terms of material lifestyle. We are not told that as “God’s kids” we should live in luxury. Walking worthily of the high calling is not a matter of possessions and gracious living but of obedience and gracious attitudes.

Living worthily of our high calling means we will be humble and peaceful: “with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Lets play it in reverse: “With haughtiness and arrogance, with impatience, being easily offended, engaging in faction-fighting at every opportunity, and maintaining carnality and immaturity in an atmosphere of conflict.”

Put like this it is obvious what is of the Spirit, and what is of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16-23).

Life in the Spirit is NOT characterized by back-biting, gossip and conflict. Rather the life of the saint is patient and humble, loving and kind, and gives each person space to grow in Christ.

Many of the attitudes inculcated into us when we first learn social skills – are of the flesh. Young adults are often encouraged to be elitist, proud, and haughty. They are taught to

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jump on minor social infractions, to reject others and to separate from others and form cliques. Unfortunately some of this sub-standard socialization makes its way into the Church.

The Church should not be like the world, and should not be driven by the flesh and by human pride and factionalism. Rather the Church should be a place where saints can be grown.

The Church should be forbearing of new Christians, meek and gentle to the hurting, free of pecking orders and cliques and humble in a real and solid kind of way. Such people are saintly and saintly people are worthy of their calling.

Lets look at these spiritual virtues in a bit more depth:

Lowliness – the opposite of haughtiness. Without superiority or class distinctions, able to serve, delighting in lifting up another person, never putting someone down. The lowly person surrenders the best seat. Lowly people lift others up by getting underneath. This is why the Son of God called Himself “lowly”: Matthew 11:29 (29) Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.

Lowliness is commended throughout the Scriptures and is something that God regards and gives grace to - (Job 22:29, Ps 138:6, Prov. 3:34, 11:2, 16:19; Luke 1:52) and the true apostles were lowly of heart (2 Corinthians 7:6, 10:1) and it is an essential part of the Philippians 2 section on humility: Philippians 2:3 (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.

With lowliness there are no pecking orders.

Meekness: The opposite of arrogant abusiveness. Meek people are safe and gentle. They display true spiritual greatness, God defends the meek (Ps 76:9, 147:6) and they will inherit the earth (Psalm 37:11, Matthew 5:5). Moses was exceptionally meek (Numbers 12:3) and it is one of the characteristics of the triumphant Messiah (Psalm 45:4., Isaiah 11;4, Zech 9:9) and of course Jesus was meek (Matthew 11:29,) in fact it was one of His kingly virtues at His triumphal entry (Matthew 21:5). As the opposite of abusiveness and arrogance - meekness is to characterize NT church-discipline (1 Corinthians 4:21, 2

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Corinthians 10:1, Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 2:25) and especially the life of the Christian teacher, apologist and defender of the faith (2 Timothy 2:25, 1 Peter 3:15, Titus 3:2, James 3:13). It is also part of being a truly godly Christian woman (1 Peter 3:4) and an attentive disciple (James 1:21).

Long-suffering and forbearance: The opposite or irritability and swift judgmentalism. The ability to put up with others and give them room to grow – as we ourselves would like others to give us grace and understanding. These attributes are at the very heart of the glory of God (Exodus 34:6,7). Immature people lack them entirely. People who are forever fuming and fretting and being annoyed, need to grow up in Christ. While we can demand our rights now and then most of the time we should not be so fussy. Maturity involves “put-up-ability”.

Finally we should have a spirit of cooperation and unity, a good “team spirit”, that is from the Holy Spirit, so that we are “forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Thus walking worthily is thus not about spiritual elitism, fractious legalism, or divisive judging; neither is it about being a superior Christian – it is about being a lowly, meek , patient, loving and cooperative saint. If we are walking worthily we will not over-emphasize denominational differences or divide off from others but endure their faults, pray for them and be meek and lowly towards them.

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Ephesians 4:4-6
(4) There is one body and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling, (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all.

All born-again Christians share a basic existential unity in the Spirit. The foundations of our life in Christ are the same for all - and are invariant through time and culture.

Though we may belong to different churches, denominations and organizations we are a part of “one body” the body of Christ.

Even though we may express ourselves in a hundred different ways - we are indwelt by the one Holy Spirit.

Even though we may have different tasks - we all have one common hope in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and one common calling - to be like Christ.

Even though we may have diverse teachers and leaders we only have one Lord – Jesus Christ.

Even though we may believe differently about certain non-essential matters there is only one faith – in the crucified, risen, ascended and soon returning Lord Jesus Christ.

While our theology may vary, there is only one God that we are trying to describe and know, and He is the God and Father of us all.

And all born-again Christians relate to God in the same three basic ways – He is above us all, through us all and in us all - binding us together as one in Himself.

So outwardly and organizationally we are diverse, but in the Spirit and in Christ, we are one.

The spiritual unity manifests itself in times of persecution, then we do not care so much whether someone is a Baptist or a Pentecostal or an Anglican but only that they are a true believer in the Lord.

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Now we tend to sing the same songs and study the same theological text-books and visit the same Internet sites and work for the same inter-denominational missions. In fact I used to lecture at both a Baptist and an Assemblies of God seminary. I took similar teaching in both, taught out of the same texts and the Baptists thought I was a great Baptist and the Pentecostals thought I was one of them! But both thought each other’s seminary was plain wrong! While in fact they were getting much the same lessons!

We are much closer than we think! Both Baptists and Pentecostals believe in being Spiritfilled in the sense of Ephesians 5:18, both believe in spiritual warfare, both believe in the Trinity, the necessity of conversion, believer’s baptism - and so forth. There is much more that unites us than that which divides us.

Since this is so, then we ought to put differences aside and forbear one another in love.

Lets do some “maths”: If each of us has 85% of our theology “correct” that still leaves 15% each that is debatable or a maximum of 30% difference where two parties are involved. They can be 85% right and we can be 85% right and still there be substantial differences. Now we have to learn to live with those differences - as long as they do not affect the core doctrines about Christ.

No-one can deny fundamental doctrines such as the incarnation, the divinity of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the physical return of Christ without stepping outside of the Christian faith and fellowship.

There can be no spiritual unity with false teachers, cults or other religions.

But there can be great spiritual unity between born-again, bible-believing Christians whether they are Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Pentecostal or Charismatic. In fact there is more unity between born-again people of different denominations than between bornagain and unsaved people within a single denomination.

We all have unsaved people in our pews, and some of those have been there a long time, while they may be part of our local church, they are not part of the body of Christ.

The body of Christ is made up of those who have Christ in their hearts through faith and it transcends denominational and organizational boundaries.

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There are born-again, bible-believing Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant and Charismatic Christians. These are all part of the body of Christ. Thus no single church can claim ownership of the gospel or to be the sole dispenser of the grace of God.

Thus we should seek unity with and develop tolerance and acceptance of other born-again, bible-believing Christians - and enter into a gracious dialogue with them over areas of difference.

On the other hand heretics, liberal theologians, false teachers and other religions are not “brethren” and their rituals and teaching may in fact be demonic (1 Corinthians 10:20,21, 1 Timothy 4:1) in their teaching. They are to be firmly corrected in all meekness, once or twice, then left alone. (1 Timothy 6:5, 2 Timothy 2:25).

We should be in the unity that builds up the body of Christ and yet separated from all lies and wickedness so that we may walk in righteousness and truth.

This balance between unity and separation is captured in the epistle to the Hebrews: Hebrews 12:14 (14) Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord:

We are to pursue peace with all men, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, yet in this pursuit of peace and unity we are never to compromise our essential holiness, without which we cannot see God.

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Ephesians 4:7-10
Eph 4:7 But to every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Eph 4:8 Therefore He says, "When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts to men." Eph 4:9 (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? Eph 4:10 He who descended is the same also as He who ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.)

Yesterday we learned about Christian unity. Today we move into discussing Christian ministry based on the gifts of the Spirit.

Why discuss unity before we discuss gifts? Because our gifts differ from one another and are sometimes the stuff of comparisons and disputes. The lowliness, meekness, forbearance and unity of verses 1-6 are the necessary prelude to the discussion of gifts in verses 7 –16.

Paul starts his discussion of the gifts with a brief theological prelude in verses 7 to 10 above. It’s a bit confusing so please follow closely.

Spiritual gifts are grace, they are a gift from Jesus and are given as a result of His conquest of the spiritual realm. During Jesus’ crucifixion, descent into the grave, resurrection and ascension through the heavens to the right hand of the Father evil was conquered and a fundamental change took place in the way the spiritual powers were arranged.

The powers that held people captive, were themselves taken captive. That is why it says that Jesus “took captivity captive”.

In Colossians Paul puts it another way: Colossians 2:13-15 (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, (14) blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross. (15) Having stripped rulers and authorities, He made a show of them publicly, triumphing over them in it.

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The powers and principalities were disarmed at the cross, triumphed over in the resurrection and taken captive during the ascension into heaven. (Ephesians 1:20, 2:6,4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:22, Colossians 2:10,13-15)

The triumph of Christ has resulted in a time of gift-giving. The battle is won, now the Victor is distributing gifts. Now Jesus “gives gifts to men”. These gifts are not silver and gold, but eternal and spiritual, they are as Hebrews says “the powers of the age to come”. (Hebrews 6:5).

God has plundered the wicked spiritual beings and distributed spiritual power to His Church. This will be Satan’s defeat. The demonic enemy has been routed and the Devil’s prisoners are now freed and given weapons to fight back. These are spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle.

In verse 9 above it says that Jesus descended into “the lower parts of the earth” – that is into direct subterranean conflict with Satan and the forces of evil. We are told very little of the details of this conflict, just that it occurred, that it involved Jesus preaching to imprisoned spirits (1 Peter 3:19) and that He was victorious. Further speculation will probably only lead us astray.

After descending Jesus ascended into Heaven or more correctly He ascended through the heavenly realms to sit at the right hand of God.

Eph 4:10 He who descended is the same also as He who ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.

As I mentioned in an earlier devotional the word Heaven, is always plural in the original languages (Hebrew and Greek). In fact there are at least three different levels of Heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 Paul talks about the Third Heaven, which he also calls Paradise, a holy and wonderful place of inexpressible things. In Revelation 14:6-9 we hear about a midheaven where angels fly and proclaim the gospel and announce judgment. And in Psalm 104:12 we hear about the first heaven, which we call the sky or firmament, the place where the “birds of the heaven” fly. (This is covered in detail in the life in Christ series – especially in Eternity DBS numbers 228 and 229).

So Jesus ascended through these three levels of Heaven, through the firmament, the midheaven and Paradise, to be right there at the right hand of God. He did this so He could “fill

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all things”. To fill something with water you have to be above it. Jesus pours Himself out, into us and into His Church and into His world, and into the Universe He sustains by His powerful Word (Hebrews 1:1-3) - filling all things from His high position in the heavenly realms.

Earlier on in Ephesians Paul puts it like this: Ephesians 1:20-23 (20) which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, (21) far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age. (22) And He has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church, (23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Jesus uses His high position to fill us with the Holy Spirit, and He pours out his love that we might be filled with the fullness of God.

On the day of Pentecost Peter proclaims: Acts 2:33 (33) Therefore being exalted to the right of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this which you now see and hear.

And in Ephesians 3:19 we see Paul praying that the Ephesians: Ephesians 3:19 (19) and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Part of the reason that Jesus ascended into heaven was so that he could pour out the Holy Spirit into your life and fill you with Himself and with the loving fullness of God and give you spiritual gifts so that you could build up His Church.

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Ephesians 4:11-12 (MKJV)
(11) And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, (12) for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-12 (GNB) (11) It was he who "gave gifts to people"; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. (12) He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.

God’s best gifts are people who help us to become like Jesus.

This life is about becoming saved, then becoming holy and being made into the image of Jesus Christ. All our experiences are for our perfection in grace. Therefore the greatest gift we can be given is someone who helps us to become the person that God designed us to be.

The primary function of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors is to assist us in our journey towards Jesus.

Paul continues: Ephesians 4:13-15 (13) And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. (14) Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. (15) Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head.

Thus our spiritual gifts do not determine our place in a spiritual hierarchy or organization, rather they determine how we can best help others become like Jesus.

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Those who claim ministry gifts should do so not to domineer others, or to attain status, but rather they should speak the truth in love so that believers become saints.

Spiritual gifts must be exercised with great respect for God’s design and destiny for individual people. The teacher or prophet or pastor should minister in ways that help each person to fully be the person God has called them to be in Christ.

What Paul meant by these five roles is not at all clear. Little is known about what is meant by “evangelist” or “pastor” in the New Testament. Ephesians 4:11 is the only reference to the word “pastor” and it is not explained or defined, just mentioned. Evangelist is only mentioned three times (Acts 21:8, Ephesians 4:11, 2Timothy 4:5) and may just be a term for a catechist. By contrast “apostle” is mentioned 80 times in the NT, prophet 157 and teacher 42.

If the New Testament is any guide the best defined and most mentioned and expected ministry roles are apostle, prophet and teacher. These seem to move around a network of house churches in a given city, which in turn are led by a team of elders and deacons.

In fact there is almost no justification at all for the current practice of a having a “pastor” as a church officer. There are clear NT criteria for elders and deacons as church officers but none for “pastors” and outside this verse “pastors” are never mentioned again, nor is there any sign of them being appointed to church leadership. Timothy, who is frequently called a pastor in sermons – is in fact only described as an “evangelist”.

Do we need to return to the NT pattern or is the current system “just fine”? I think we are moving towards the NT pattern without knowing it! Cell groups, home groups and house churches are springing up everywhere, itinerant ministries and the Internet are networking people together, people like Ed Silvoso are popularizing “the church in the city” and helping to organize city-wide meetings of Christian leaders, and there is also a slow recognition of the apostolic and prophetic. We are “getting there” and it may be wise to move cautiously because quite a few of those claiming to be apostles and prophets need further evaluation.

We are also slowly but surely moving towards “every-member-ministry” and Christian leaders seeing their job as equipping the saints rather than doing everything for them. I think the trends are in the right direction. With loving debate and wise discernment we may soon rearrange the old less functional ministry patterns and reproduce some of the dynamism of

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the NT with its networked, plural leadership of equipped saints who do the work of the ministry.

Well then, what about the apostles and prophets? That is a tough question. I believe in Spirit-led, apostolic and prophetic leadership helping a network of churches to remain true to the gospel and extending the geographical boundaries of the Kingdom. However I have many reservations about some of those who loudly claim to be apostles and prophets. I think we need to accept the existence of these functions and to do our homework and come up with biblical criteria and ways of acting with discernment regarding apostles and prophets.

For more on apostles go to: For more on prophets go to: And for my ebook called Beyond Denominations: The Networked Church go to:

Finally, let me repeat that gifts are not about position in a hierarchy but service to the saints. Ministry gifts are to help people grow up in all aspects into Christ and apostles are “set forth as last of all”. ( 1 Corinthians 4:9-13)

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Ephesians 4:13-16
(13) And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. (14) Then we shall no longer be children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful people, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent. (15) Instead, by speaking the truth in a spirit of love, we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. (16) Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.

The Church is the body of Christ, a living diverse community, reaching up to Christ’s full stature, growing up in every way unto Christ, anchored firmly in the truth and functioning in love.

Community shapes us and matures us. Our first community is our family, then our school and our peers, then our college, our sports team, our friends, our professional colleagues, our culture, our nation. Each of these makes a contribution to our beliefs, our personality and our character and shapes us a person. Our church, our participation in the community centered on Christ, should also shape us.

In the verses above Paul places a great emphasis on the power of a Spirit-filled and functional community to help us to become like Jesus. Paul states that the result of an effectively functioning body of Christ will be profound: …..we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature. (V.13) ….. we must grow up in every way to Christ, who is the head. (verse 15) …… So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love. (v. 16)

A Christ-centered community that functions in love can make a huge difference in our lives, it can build us up until we are just like Jesus. On the other hand a dysfunctional community can destroy us.

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On CNN today I saw an account of a couple in New Jersey whose four adopted children were under 50lbs in weight – and no-one noticed despite their regular involvement in a local church. Their utilities had been off for five months, the children were found when a neighbor noticed them searching through garbage for food. This can only happen when community breaks down completely. Christians should “see” each other, notice each other, care for each other. No Christian family should have their electricity cut-off or be without food. My wife and I regularly pay other people’s bills despite being on a missionary salary. This is part of loving one another and not closing your heart to human need.

1 John 3:16-18 (16) This is how we know what love is: Christ gave his life for us. We too, then, ought to give our lives for others! (17) If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? (18) My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.

Of course discernment is needed when giving – and that is another issue. But today’s verses tell us that we need to be in community, seeing other people, caring for other people, praying with other Christians, hearing their stories, mowing their lawns, fixing their cars, baby-sitting their children, being friends and having fun together.

I am convinced that we will mature far more as person by living in love and participating in community than we will in five hundred seminars in a classroom. You learn more about love in baking a casserole for a tired friend than in a book defining all the Greek words –as useful as that is.

We become Christ-like by stretching ourselves, in love, in community. 1 Peter 1:22 (22) Now that by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves and have come to have a sincere love for other believers, love one another earnestly with all your heart.

What would it do for you if you loved other people earnestly with all your heart and kept on doing it?

What would it be like to be part of a bible-believing, Spirit-filled community that loved one another earnestly with all their heart?

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It would produce solid, mature people who gave up their negativity and selfishness and who knew Christ and lived in love. This is precisely what Paul is aiming at and precisely what the spiritual gifts are for.

The spiritual gifts are not only for producing a good performance for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings, or for life behind a pulpit or on a stage. They are also for life away from the pulpit, life in the neighborhood and workplace.

For instance we should pray for the sick at home, in church and in the workplace and in the schoolyard.

We can use gifts of encouragement, exhortation, administration, helps, and generosity – just about any place on Earth, but especially in community, among our brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we learn to function as we should in loving, open-hearted Christian community, then we will set in place spiritual processes that help us to grow up into Christ.

As we speak the truth in love, to one another, as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, we will grow up in every way into Christ who is the Head. For our community life comes not from a human leader but from Christ in our midst.

Two more things. 1. Valid Christian community must be anchored in the Truth if it is not to be blown hither and yon by every wind of doctrine. 2. A functional Christian community is self-edifying. That is it “builds itself up in love’. Once things are set in place, then, quite naturally, people will be built up and grow (verse 16).

For an article I wrote on the Church as a Learning Organization go to:

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Ephesians 4:17-19
(17) This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should not walk from now on as other nations (rest of the Gentiles) walk, in the vanity of their mind, (18) having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. (19) For they, being past feeling, have given themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

The lifestyle of the Christian is not to be like the lifestyle of the spiritually ignorant. We are not to indulge in greediness, uncleanness and lust. We cannot just “blend in” with college parties, office affairs, wife-swapping in the neighborhood or financial corruption in the business world. The Christian must be morally and spiritually distinct from those around.

Christ changes us, Christ gives us a new way of thinking and a new moral sensibility. This is completely incompatible from the past life of the Ephesians. A clean break is demanded. Paul introduces verse 17 with two serious exhortations “I say and I testify in the Lord”, thus invoking his personal apostolic authority and the authority of God. He then writes “you should not walk from now on”. From the time they receive this epistle on - they are to change, and they are never to go back to their old ways.

Christians must break with the world and its ways and they must never go back. We can still have non-Christian friends but we cannot join them in their excesses. We are to never go back to lust, greed and uncleanness.

Pagans behave like pagans because they are spiritually deficient. Paul uses five terms to describe this spiritual deficiency: (lit. = literal translation from the Greek) 1. the vanity of their mind – lit. inutility, futility, depravity of thinking. 2. having the understanding darkened – lit. the imagination and deep thinking is obscured. 3. being alienated from the life of God – lit a “non-participant” in true spiritual life. 4. through the ignorance that is in them – lit. indwelt by the quality of ignorance. 5. because of the blindness of their heart – lit. stupidity or callousness of heart.

This may seem an extreme view of the non-Christian, but in areas where there is little or no Christian influence I have found it to be very true. In some developing nations I have worked in corruption and moral incomprehension abound and a kind of callous stupidity settles over all life and activity.

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People without light - fall over in the dark. The stumbling, the moral accidents, and the moral chaos is simply the result of an almost complete lack of spiritual light and truth. Consistent morality is not normal in a non-Christian environment; rather moral confusion is the order of the day.

Christians are NOT to live a morally confused lifestyle or to unthinkingly accept the values of those without God. Rather we are to break with such values and to walk “in the light”. As we will see in the next devotional we are to ”put on the new man” and this new self is created in righteousness and holiness.

Two errors in teaching are causing Christians to accept unbiblical levels of worldliness.

Firstly we are being given a false view of grace, which teaches that we can sin all we like and God will forgive us. While I do not wish to minimize God’s forgiveness for those who truly need it and want it, grace is not a type of “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Grace is given to assist us in the task of becoming holy. Grace gives us the chance to start over in the task of being righteous and good and godly. Grace is not a dispensing with morality but an encouragement in being moral.

Secondly we are taught that we have to reach out to and accept non-Christians wherever they are and that we must not be “too overtly Christian”. Thus in a not-so-subtle way nonChristian values are given priority over Christian values. It is strongly implied that we should not offend non-Christians by living holy lives.

But accepting non-Christians does not mean accepting their values as our own or participating in their immorality. We should accept and love non-Christians without adopting their ways or becoming morally confused ourselves. And there is nothing wrong with being “overtly Christian” if that means being righteous, holy and morally courageous.

Paul goes on to characterize the Gentiles as “past feeling” or apathetic, morally insensate. That is they lack the proper moral sentiments and outrage over sin. Stealing is seen as trivial, creative bookkeeping is viewed as a joke, adultery is glamorized and abortion is viewed as just a means of contraception.

The Christian, on the other hand should have strong moral emotions that flow from deep spiritual values. Powerful moral emotions characterize the men and women of God. Jesus

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was outraged at cruel hard-hearted Pharisees, the prophets thundered forth at injustice; Paul was grieved at the idolatry in Athens. A quick inspection of the biographies of the great Christians will soon find that they felt very deeply and profoundly about moral and spiritual issues. The Spirit-filled, bible-believing, born-again Christian should never be apathetic. Rather we should be alive and passionate and filled with the very emotions of God when we view the world around us.

If we have the light of God in our souls, and the truth of God in our hearts we must live lives that are clearly distinct from that of the society around us. We must make a clean break with lust, greed and uncleanness. We should develop a Spirit-filled Christian lifestyle of righteousness and holiness and have the deep passions of the Spirit that raise us above the apathy and moral disinterest of the world.

For more on Christian emotions see:

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Ephesians 4:20-24
(20) But you have not so learned Christ, (21) if indeed you have heard Him and were taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus. (22) For you ought to put off the old man (according to your way of living before) who is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, (23) and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (24) And you should put on the new man, who according to God was created in

righteousness and true holiness.

Firstly, the convert to Christ is a person who learns from Christ, who is taught by Him, who hears Him, and knows His Master’s voice, and learns the truth that is in Jesus, from Jesus.

Secondly, the convert to Christ is a new man, with a new self created in righteousness and holiness and must put off the sinful ways of the person he was prior to conversion.

We are all disciples of Christ. According to Paul we learned Christ, heard Him, were taught by Him and have discovered the truth that is in Him. (V. 20,21 above).

Christ is our Teacher, our master and our discipler. “Matthew 23:10 (10) Nor be called teachers, for One is your Teacher, even Christ.”

God teaches us, through the Bible, through the renewed conscience, and through Christ who dwells in us. The new self, is teachable and hungry for truth and wisdom. And this new self is instructed by God.

1 John 2:27 (27) But the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true and no lie, and as He has taught you, abide in Him.

Our inner instructor, this anointing, that teaches us Christ, does not teach us “greed, lust and uncleanness” (Eph 4:19,20) rather it teaches us to be righteous and holy.

Learning Christ is much more than learning a gospel outline. Rather it is learning to “obey all that I commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20) including how to live out the Sermon On The Mount, how to love difficult people, how to pray and how to live a holy life in God.

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Thus putting on the new man means adopting a holy and righteous lifestyle that is consistent with the new self, the new creation, made in holiness and truth.

This new self is variously said to be “born of God” and “born from above”. It is a new order of being that is Christ in us. The deep inner core of a born-again Christian is a new being of great holiness and purity, that is created by God.

The concept of a truly holy new creation explains the following puzzling verses from 1 John: 1 John 3:9 (9) Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (see also 1 John 4:7; 5:1,4,18)

This new self, comes from an eternal and incorruptible origin, the seed of the Word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 (23) having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the living Word of God, and abiding forever.

Thus for a born-again Christian the new man, the inner man is already holy and righteous and all the Christian has to do is to put him on. The old self, the old nature and the flesh are far from holy and war against this new nature. (Galatians 5;16-18).

We have to put off this old nature, which is no longer “truly us” in an eternal sense and put on who we really are in Christ.

The key to this is “to be renewed in the spirit of your mind”. The spiritual alignment of the mind is critical. Where we set our mind makes all the difference.

Romans 8:5-6 (5) For they who are according to the flesh mind the things of flesh, but they who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit. (6) For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace

How does Satan get our mind on his side of the fence? By deceiving us through our lusts and our inappropriate desires. If Satan can get us thinking greedy, lustful, scheming thoughts then he has us.

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How do we get over to God’s side of the fence and life and peace? By prayerfully, carefully, deliberately setting our minds on the things of God.

Now this does not mean that you abandon reality and go off to a monastery. That may help some people but it is a drastic solution. Rather you think about ordinary life in holy ways. You think honest, good, pure and diligent thoughts.

Paul gives his instructions for inner peace and life in Philippians 4:6-9

Philippians 4:6-9 (6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things. (9) Do those things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me. And the God of peace shall be with you.

Put on a new mind, and a new man, and learn Christ in holiness and righteousness that you may dwell in life and peace.

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Ephesians 4:25-32
(25) Therefore putting away lying, let each man speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (26) Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, (27) neither give place to the Devil. (28) Let him who stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, so that he may have something to give to him who needs. (29) Let not any filthy word go out of your mouth, but if any is good to building up in respect of need, that it may give grace to the ones hearing. (30) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed until the day of redemption. (31) Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and tumult and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (32) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.

Since we are a new person in Christ, and since this new self is created by God, in righteousness and holiness – then unholy behavior is incompatible with who we really are and must not be engaged in.

Putting away lying (v.25) – Lying is incompatible with the new self that is formed in the truth. We cannot tell lies for God or fib for evangelistic purposes. While a few bible verses seem not to condemn lying in war-time or when life is in danger, on the whole, the Scripture condemns falsehood. I am very concerned about some “undercover” ministries that require Christians to live double lives. This is spiritually damaging. We need to live in the truth, openly, but wisely, and not practice deception – even for a so-called “good cause”.

In my opinion if an environment is so hostile that we cannot go there openly as a Christian then we should not go there. We either “wipe the dust off our feet” (which is the NT response to such hostility, since the workers are few) or go and suffer the consequences, or we find other means of evangelism such as radio, literature or the Internet.

But most lies are just plain selfish – and have little to do with good causes. Whether it is lying on a tax-return, or lying about sexual behavior, or lying about qualifications or padding a resume, or lying in order to impress someone – it is evil.

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Putting away wrath, malice and inappropriate anger (v. 26 & 31) - Verse 26 makes it clear that we can be angry for a short-while and in a controlled manner, without abusive language (v.29) or cursing (which may be the meaning of “giving place to the Devil”) (V.27). We are not to let anger put us into a state of turmoil, tumult, wrath or malice. This is evil and only works evil.

James 1:19-20 (19) Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. (20) For the wrath of man does not work out the righteousness of God.

Putting away stealing (v28.) – There are many ways that Christians can steal. Underpaying Christian employees is stealing from your workers (James 5:4). According to the US Center for World Missions Global Missions Statistics ( ) dishonest treasurers pilfer more from church coffers (18 billion) than is spent on world missions (17 billion). Pilfering and financial dishonesty cost Judas, Ananias and Sapphira very dearly and we need to realize that it is a common but very deadly sin. Instead of getting easy money through theft Christians are to be constructive contributors to others (v.28) working with their hands and earning their way.

Putting away filthy speech (v.29) and evil speaking with all malice (v. 31). We are never to speak words that are malicious, evil or filthy. They are not to “come out of our mouth”. It is not “cool” to swear, neither does it “make a point”. Abusiveness, swearing, filthy talk and crude jokes are never from the Holy Spirit. Rather we are to work at speaking graciously, to build others up, not to tear them down or to defile them.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” – base, vile and intemperate behavior grieves the Holy Spirit along with malice, ill-will, hatred and strife. The flesh and the Spirit are at war (Galatians 5;16-18) and God desires us for His own, so much so that the Spirit becomes jealous if we love the world and its ways (James 4:4,5) . This verse also tells us that God is personal and the Holy Spirit is more than a mere “force”, rather He is a divine Person, who is sensitive to our spiritual state and who is pained when we relish sin.

This Holy Spirit seals us until the day of redemption (v. 30). He is the mark upon our spirit that God recognizes, He is the seal upon the servants of God. God has put His mark on us, and that mark is a Spirit of holiness. Our distinctiveness is our purity, our righteousness our

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true identity. Therefore since we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and set aside for redemption by a holy God, then we should strive to live holy lives.

Finally the positives – we are “members of each other” (verse 25) – joined in a spiritual unity, so to tear down a Christian is to hurt ourselves. So we should tell the truth to each other as we would tell the truth to our own selves (verse 25) and to be tender-hearted, forgiving, kind, remembering that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us, so we also ought to forgive others. (see Matthew 18:21-35)

The Holy Spirit is gentle and gracious and the God-indwelt life will be kind and loving, not harsh and demanding.

We must live as forgiven folk, soft in God, and glorying in the gospel and free from all angry tumult of self and the clamor of ego. The new life beckons, let us part with the old.

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Ephesians 5:1-2
(1) Therefore be followers of God, as dear children. (2) And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.

Followers of God have a daily lifestyle of sacrificial love.

It is a high calling to be “follower of God”. To follow a philosopher is one thing, to follow a great leader another, but to follow God – that is the highest of all possible callings.

We are to walk in the footsteps of Christ – who is God. We are to live as He lived and do as He would do as the novel “In His Steps” made clear with its ethical question “What would Jesus do?”

We are to follow, not as slaves being dragged along, or as prisoners at gunpoint, or as hypnotized followers of a draconian tyrant, but as children – as those who love their heavenly Father and follow out of freedom, out of likeness of nature, and out of love and relationship.

By saying “be followers of God” Paul indirectly tells the Ephesian Christians that they cannot follow the world, or the pagan rituals, or the Greek philosophers, or even each other - but Christ alone and God alone.

When the Corinthians divided into factions over who they would follow “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos” they were rebuked with “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:12,13) We are to follow leaders “as they follow Christ”, and the role of a Christian leader is to get Christians to follow Christ alone – not the leader.

“And walk in love..” – In bible language “to walk” indicates a habitual lifestyle. It means to “travel through life”. In Exodus God tested Israel to see if they would ‘walk in My Law” (Exodus 16:4) the Israelites were not to walk in the ways of Egypt (Lev 18:3) or of Canaan (Lev 20:23) but were to walk in God’s ways (Deuteronomy 28:9). The cursed person “walked in the stubbornness of their heart” (Deuteronomy 29:19, Jeremiah 13:10) and Ahab “walked in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat” that is in traditional idolatry. (1 Kings 16:31). On the other hand the righteous walked in the fear of God (Nehemiah 5:9), truthfulness (Psalm

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26:11) in the light of Jehovah (Isaiah 2:5) and in the name of God (Micah 4:5) and thus gained prosperity which is described as “walking in a broad place” (Psalm 119:45)

Life can be tough though and some can “walk in the midst of trouble” (Psalm 138:7) or through the valley of death (Psalm 23:4) and even in darkness and affliction (Isaiah 59:9) but God is with the righteous in such times. Sound wisdom and judgment keep the Christian from stumbling as they walk (Proverbs 3:23) and guide them from walking in the paths of the wicked and in their counsel (Proverbs 1:15, Micah 6:16) and in the ways of darkness. (Proverbs 2:13). The Holy Spirit is the voice that helps us to know which way to go as we walk. (Isaiah 30:21, Ezek 36:27)

Isaiah 30:21 (21) And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left.

Walking after our own heart and thoughts has a certain integrity (Ecclesiastes 11:9) and is better than living a compromised life, but can lead to moral disaster and judgment (Eccl 11:9, Isaiah 65:2). We need to stick to the “old paths” and the good way not to the “by-paths” (Jeremiah 6:16, 18:15)

False prophets “walk in false-hood” (Jeremiah 23:14) while the Holy Spirit keeps us on the right track (Ezekiel 36:27). Those who “walk in pride” God is able to humble. (Daniel 4:37) and the Pharisees are described as “walking in long robes” indicating their pompousness. (Luke 20:46). Scoffers “walk after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3). Apostates turn back and do not walk with God. (Joh 6:66 From this time many of His disciples went back into the things behind, and walked no more with Him.) And lazy Christians “walk naked” for lack of spiritual attainment (Revelation 16;15). Jesus was criticized for “not walking in the traditions of the elders” and for abandoning man-made rules and regulations because He walked with God. (Mark 7:5)

In the New Testament the Christian does not “walk in darkness” but has the light of life (John 8:12) and is to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), in newness of life (Romans 6:4), in the rule of a new creation (Galatians 6:15,16) in the Spirit (Romans 8:1,4; Galatians 5:16, 25), in good works (Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 1:10), worthily of our high calling (Ephesians 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 2:12), in love (Ephesians 5:2), in the steps of the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:12), “becomingly” in attractive holiness (Romans 13:13), in the spiritual unity of a holy pattern (Philippians 3:16,17), in wisdom (Colossians 4:5) and circumspection (Ephesians

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5:15), in the day (John 11:9), in the light - not in the darkness (1 John 1:7), and as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), in the truth (3 John 1:3,4) in God’s commandments ( 2 John 1:6), in the manner that Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) and in Christ by faith (Colossians 2:6).

Romans 13:13 tells us that Christians are not to walk in – carousings and drinking, cohabitation and lustful acts, strife and envy. Romans 14:15 says that if we violate our

brothers conscience we are not walking in love. Neither are we to walk in carnality (1 Corinthians 3:3) or craftiness (2 Corinthians 4:2), nor by sight ( 2 Corinthians 5:7), nor as the pagans walk (Ephesians 4;17) nor as fools (Ephesians 5:15) or in a lazy and disorderly lifestyle (2 Thessalonians 3:6,11) or strange diets (Hebrews 13:9) or in darkness (1 John 1:6) or hatred (1 John 2:11) or after the flesh (Romans 8:1-6, 2Peter 2:10).

Thus to walk in love is to live a life governed by love as its main principle in the way we travel through life. Our example for this is Christ “as Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.” (Ephesians 5:2). Thus our lifestyle is to reflect the loving and sacrificial lifestyle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love is patient and sacrifices its right to punish. Love is kind and sacrifices legalistic harshness. Love is gentle and sacrifices the wrong use of power. Love is generous and sacrifices what we otherwise would keep. Love is not envious and sacrifices comparing and contrasting and walking in pride and boastfulness. Thus every act of love is also an act of sacrifice. To walk in love is to live as a “offering and sacrifice to God” putting self on the altar at every opportunity.

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Ephesians 5:3-7
(3) For let fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness not be once named among you, as becomes saints, (4) neither baseness, foolish talking, jesting, which are not becoming, but rather giving of thanks. (5) For you know this, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (who is an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (6) Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. (7) Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Sin brings the wrath of God, and deprives us of our inheritance in the Lord. Therefore sin is not proper or fitting for Christians and we should not participate in sinful activities such as fornication, coarse jesting or covetous scheming and corruption. Rather we should live as saints.

In Ephesians 4:19 Paul names three main categories of sin that were common among the unsaved pagan world of his time. Ephesians 4:19 (19) For they, being past feeling, have given themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Paul then revisits these same categories twice in these verses above: (3) For let fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness not be once named among you, ... (5) For you know this, that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous one (who is an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Lust, uncleanness and greediness are the sins of the unspiritual person, the person who is insensitive to spiritual realities and who is given to his or her appetites above all else. Uncleanness is akarthasia which means unclean, lewd, impure or demonic. The pornographer, the paedophile, the crude, the vulgar, the perverted fall in this category. The man with a stack of hard-core pornography is “akarthasisos” – an unclean person. Akarthasia appears in lists of sexual sins (Galatians 5:19, Colossians 3:5) and involves unnatural or degrading sexual passions. (Romans 1:24, 6:19). The condition is spiritual and may be driven by “unclean spirits” – demons that have this nature and impart it to those possessed by them such as the naked, violent Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:1-13). They are mentioned about 22 times in the New Testament (see Matthew 10:1, 12:43 etc). The

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deceptive spirits at the end times are “unclean spirits like frogs” (Rev 16:13) and the fallen Babylon of Revelation becomes a haunt for unclean spirits. (Revelation 18:2) Internet pornography is a wave of “uncleanness” and is, in all probability, a Satanic deception driven by unclean spirits, which can then set up strongholds in the lives of those who give in to it. This uncleanness is not harmless, says the apostle Paul. Rather uncleanness is unfitting for a Christian, prevents us having any inheritance in Heaven and brings the wrath of God on those who disobey Him in this way. If you are caught up in this, you need to repent, to remove all bookmarks and links to such sites, erase all images from your hard-drive and cancel any subscriptions you may have. Then it may help to find a mature Christian friend who can help you to be accountable. If you have been involved for a while you may need deliverance. (see ) Fornication is a general word for sex outside marriage including pre-marital sex (John 8:41) adultery (Matthew 5:32) visiting a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:18) and incest ( 1 Corinthians 5:1) and is literally “harlotry” and is one of the main characteristics of the Babylonian harlot (Revelation 17:2,4, 18:3, 19:2). Fornication (porneia) is condemned throughout the New Testament and there is no hint that Jesus or the apostles made Christianity a religion of sexual license. Grace does not allow or permit sexual sin, but instead helps us to overcome it. Greed or covetousness literally means “much more” (see Hebrews 9:14) but generally is a word for sweaty, avaricious financial scheming. It is a focus on materialism so great that it is idolatrous. Again it will be a characteristic of the end-times when the final choice will be between “buying and selling” and Christ. (Revelation 13) Financial greed results in many people going astray from the faith and brought about the doom of Judas, Demas, and Ananias and Sapphira.

1 Timothy 6:9-10 (9) But they who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts which plunge men into destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is a root of all evils, of which some having lusted after, they were seduced from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Covetousness is closely linked with “extortion” (1 Corinthians 5:10,11; 6:10), flattery especially that of false teachers who “make merchandise” of Christians (1 Thessalonians

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2:5, 2 Peter 2:3,14) and idolatry (Ephesians 5;5, Colossians 3:5). It is desire for quick, dishonest gain by dubious means.

The cure for covetousness is honest contentment and Christian simplicity. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 (6) But godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into the world, and it is clear that we can carry nothing out. (8) But having food and clothing, we will be content.

Simplicity of lifestyle is actually commanded by Jesus: Matthew 6:19-21 (19) Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. (20) But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. As John Stott says “do not lay up treasures on earth” is just as serious a prohibition as any other prohibition that the Lord commands! I will finish this study with some more word from the Lord: Luke 12:13-21 (13) And one of the company said to Him, Master, speak to my brother to divide the

inheritance with me. (14) And He said to him, Man, who made Me a judge or a divider over you? (15) And He said to them, Watch and keep yourselves from covetousness. For a man's life is not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. (16) And He spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. (17) And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room in which to store my fruits? (18) And he said, I will do this. I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and I will store all my fruits and my goods there. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat drink and be merry. (20) But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul shall be required of you, then whose shall be those things which you have prepared? (21) So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

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Ephesians 5:8-14
(8) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (9) (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), (10) proving what is acceptable to the Lord. (11) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (12) For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. (13) But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (14) Therefore he says, "Awake, sleeping ones! And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."

Christians are en-light-ened ones.

We are “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8), we are

“children of light” (Eph 5;8, 1 Thessalonians 5:5) our inheritance is “with the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12,13) and we are even the light of the world (Matthew 5:14,15). We are to put on an armor of light”. (Romans 13:12) and walk in the light (1 John 1:7).

In spiritual terms “light” is the pure, the positive and the good “for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth”.

God is all light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. This does not just mean that there is no evil in God, but also that there is nothing dark or negative, no grumbling, no pettiness, no fits of temper or petulance. God is completely positive and good throughout all His being. And He wants us also to be like that.

Light also exposes and reveals and makes manifest. This is the sense that it is used here in Ephesians. We are to expose dark deeds and rebuke them, uprooting evil from our midst, not brushing it under the carpet. (11) And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (12) For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. (13) But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.

Certain sins are often “covered up” in churches – financial dishonesty, sexual molestation, and clerical adultery. While these things do need to be handled sensitively and not broadcast to the media, they should be exposed, brought into the light, and handled fairly and appropriately through the correct channels.

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Light also denotes moral vigor. The light shines, the light bursts forth, the light is pure and strong and good. When we live in the light we do not live in the weak grey world of deceptions, moral compromises, fibs, and excuses, rather we live boldly in a straightforward and holy lifestyle.

Living in such a bold and straightforward and truthful way is not always appreciated by those around us. Jesus lived in the light and was rejected for it!

John 3:19-21 (19) And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. (20) For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (21) But he who practices truth comes to the Light so that his works may be revealed, that they exist, having been worked in God.

Paul picks up on this when he says that those who live in the light go around “proving (dokimazo – testing, discerning) what is acceptable to the Lord”. That is they live their lives out in the open before men and God that it may be obvious that their works have been “wrought in God”. They are holy and transparent people.

Living in the light does not mean being indiscreet. We are still to be wise about what we say and to whom we say it. But it does indicate a bias towards openness and away from secrecy. We especially to avoid those who do sinful things in secret, who hide under a cloak of respectability, and who live double lives and revel in shameful deeds. (verses 11,12 above)

Some Christians are asleep in the twilight zone of sin and compromise, lacking moral vigor, stumbling, unconscious of both themselves and God. To these Paul speaks a strong word: 14) Therefore he says, "Awake, sleeping ones! And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light."

Many Christians need to wake up - to themselves, to a holy God, to the glory of the spiritual life, and to their moral responsibilities. This verse strongly implies that we have a clear choice, we can wake up, we can decide to stop dozing away our lives and we can choose to open our eyes and take a good hard look at ourselves “in the light of day”.

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If we decide to take God, our spiritual lives and our moral responsibilities seriously “Christ will give you light”. God will give us more guidance, more love, more grace as we proceed down the path of living “awakened” lives.

To live a straightforward and holy life is both costly and unusual. But it is glorious and good and joyful. Those who live in the light can sleep well at night and look themselves in the mirror, and have no fear of the policeman or the taxman. Their life can stand inspection and their good works are obvious and bring glory to God. Such a person puts away dark passions, mutterings, murmurings, jealousies and hatred and lives in peace. In the end they are at rest, and know the light of eternity.

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Ephesians 5:15-17
(15) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, (16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Christians are to live wise and circumspect lives, using their time well, and doing good deeds, that flow from a deep knowledge of God’s will. This needs to be a conscious spiritual effort because the natural man naturally puts “idle time” to evil uses - “because the days are evil”.

Christians were to be circumspect and wise. In other words we are to think over our actions, to consider our ways and take careful thought about our choices, to live deliberately and intelligently in all things. We are not to live thoughtless, foolish and undisciplined lives; for there is nothing spiritual about folly. So lets look at how we are spending our time because, after-all our time is our life-time – and we will give account to the Lord. (Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:12, 1 Peter 4:1-6)

Holiness involves time management – but not the time management of the “efficiency experts’ but rather the time management of Christ where every moment is filled with the presence of God and with good deeds.

It is the quality of our time, not the quantity of our time that is important. In a fallen world “the days are evil” and in need of redemption, so we must sanctify our time and lift each moment up out of sin and lust and vanity and into the stream of redemption, faith and love.

1 Peter 4:2-3 (2) in order no longer to live in the lusts of men, but in the will of God the remaining time in the flesh. (3) For the time of life which is past is enough for us to have worked out the will of the nations, having gone on in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, parties, carousings, and abominable idolatries.

Instead of spending a day brooding about revenge, spend the time in prayer and forgiveness. Instead of spending an hour day-dreaming about an illicit romance – spend it in bible study or doing good. Program your life according to the will of God. Fill your diary with good things, loving things, and with worthwhile and beautiful things.

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Plan your life with God’s Kingdom interests in mind. Take a month on a short-term mission trip or a year to do some Bible College, or spend two years on the mission field, or a lifetime serving the poor.

Does your life have to be spent in the same selfish materialistic lifestyle as your peers? Can you redeem the future years and use them for the glory of God? I am not saying that you have to be a pastor or a missionary, but I am saying that your life should be lived positively and constructively for the will and purposes of God.

If you own a company –how is that corporation focused? Is the profit motive “the bottom line” or does it also exist for a higher purpose? Is it assisting with the betterment of mankind and the redemption of the community? It does not need to be a charity but it should be a kind, functional, happy and community-conscious workplace.

Do you consciously plan in family-time and time one-on-one with each child? Do you have a genuine day of rest?

Redeeming the time is different from efficiency in another important aspect – meetings and “busyness”. If you are so busy that you are no longer sanctified, and the fruit of the Spirit have begun to “fall off the tree” – then you are too busy. If you are grumpy, impatient, shorttempered and unkind because you are so busy – then you are not redeeming the time; rather you are using time efficiently to make people miserable.

Rest is not idleness - actually rest is obedience. Time of quiet, times of reflection, times in prayer and meditation, time to be part of God’s creation and see His hand in things, and time for just enjoying people and loving our neighbor. Even time for the refreshment of sleep – for God gives sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:2)

If you are in leadership consider disciplined scheduling of your time. That may sound onerous but there are some good reasons for it.

1. Scheduling in one's quite time and guarding that time can assist spiritual growth.

2, Scheduling in easily neglected ministry tasks such as visiting means you complete all that you are called to do.

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3. Scheduling helps you to guard family time and preserve top priorities from demanding people.

4. Scheduling stops "drifting" into just doing what you like doing and maintains integrity and discipline.

5. Scheduling is a guard against church politics because it gives everyone the clear impression that you are working, that you are fair, that you have no favorites and that you are not blown hither and yon by personal whims.

6. Scheduling presents a disciplined life to God - who can then make changes in that schedule whenever He wants.

How should we allocate our time according to the will of God? Firstly give no time for sin or for the flesh. Do not schedule a trip to a wild hotel-casino in Los Vegas. Also do not schedule in R-rated movies or dubious activities. Rather schedule in church, bible study, a visit to the lonely old lady in the neighborhood and a phone call to your parents.

Secondly have a clear set of godly priorities that help you to allocate “which wins” in a clash in your schedule. May I suggest a set of priorities I have used for some years: 1. Relationship with God 2. Health 3. Family 4. Close friends 5. Ministry

Thus while the bulk of my time is spent on my ministry if I gets so busy that my quiet time suffers or my health is wrecked, or my family and friends are alienated from me – then I am doing too much and need to cut back.

Thirdly develop a spiritual sense of God’s timing for events. “A time to live and a time to die, a time to weep and a time to dance etc” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11) God has His seasons and timings for all things and makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Look at the gospels and Acts and develop a sense of what the Spirit-led life looks like with prayer and teaching the Word as priorities. (Acts 6:1-3). Understand what the will of the Lord is – and then put it in your day planner!.

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Ephesians 5:18-21
(18) And do not be drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, (19) speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (20) always giving thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (21) submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of God.

This section on being filled with the Spirit follows the earlier verses on the constructive use of time. They say that the Christian is not to lead a wasted, dissipated drunken life but rather a Spirit-filled, joyful, worshipful and thankful and respectful life.

“And do not be drunk with wine” – why? Because in it is “excess” or “dissipation”. All pleasure should be pursued wisely and in moderation – whether it is alcohol, television or sport. Evangelicals may not often be alcoholics but they can sometimes be excessive daydreamers, TV watchers, and gossips or infatuated with “working out” hour after hour n the gym. When a legitimate pleasure becomes a huge waste of time, or even a destructive addiction (and you can even get addicted to running) then its time to put it away in the name of the Lord. Addiction to alcohol can ruin years of a person’s life, and Christians should avoid it at all costs.

“But be filled with the Spirit” – we are to be intoxicated with the presence of God, with His love being poured out in our lives and so affected by it that others mistakenly think that we have had too much sweet wine.

Acts 2:11-17 (11) Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking the great things of God in our own languages. (12) And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying to one another, What does this mean? (13) But others mocking said, These men are full of sweet wine. (14) But Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and said to them, Men, Jews, and all who dwell at Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to my words. (15) For these are not drunk as you suppose, for it is the third hour of the day. (16) But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel:

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(17) "And it shall be in the last days, says God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh. And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

The joy in the life of a Christian is not to be from God not from a substance and it is to result in glory being given to God.

This joy is to affect how we think, and the “self-talk” that goes on in our minds so that we speak to ourselves in “psalms and hymns and spirituals songs” and our heart is renewed as we sing and make melody in our hearts unto the Lord. The heart of the Christian is to be full of song, a happy place where God rejoices to dwell.

When we are filled with the Spirit a happy, God-centered, and melodious self replaces the gloomy, self-centered, addictive self. The darkness is banished and the soul is filled with light and joy.

Instead of railing against the world like a disappointed drunk the Spirit-filled Christian celebrates life and loves God and lives respectfully and is in right submission to those with whom he or she deals in life. The Christians submits to laws and governments and employers in a respectful bit not obsequious or craven manner. They submit not out of weakness or a docile nature but out of fear of God who orders our world with justice. And yet, when God directs, they can take a costly stand as well.

“always giving thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” this is a key to powerful praying for gratitude is at the very heart of true prayer. We can give thanks for the sunlight, the fresh air, the birds, the earth we dwell on and of course for God Himself and for our salvation. There is enough to be thankful for to keep us going even on the worst of days. We can even thank God for our trials for they help perfect our character (Romans 5:1-5)

Our life is from the hand of God and we need to thank Him for it. We also need to trust that no trial is too great or any night of the soul too long or too dark. To give thanks in the midst of injustice, illness, death or divorce is very difficult. At such times the world seems to be wrong-sided, fallen and awful. Yet misery is never a good solution. Find something to be thankful for, even something small and trivial. No matter how down I have been I have always been able to give thanks for my food! Cultivate thankfulness in the midst of trials and you will gain a soul-strength that is mighty and awesome.

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In our prayers we give thanks “to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. This is the proper order of prayer – to God the Father and in the name of Jesus.

Well then how do we become filled with the Spirit? It’s a command, it is something we must have a part in, something we must do. It is quite simple: 1. First come before God in thankful and faith-filled prayer. 2. Then confess any conscious sin and ask God to take charge of your life. 3. Ask to be filled with the Spirit that is - invite the Holy Spirit to fill you and control you.

Pray a prayer something like this: Heavenly Father I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ and thank you for saving me and loving me, please forgive my sins, take control of my life this day and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Amen

If you pray this each morning you will find your days quite different and much more joyful.

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Ephesians 5:22-33
(22) Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. (24) Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, (27) that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish. (28) So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord loves the church. (30) For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. (31) "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh." (32) This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (33) But also let everyone of you in particular so love his wife even as himself, and the wife that she defers to her husband.

Two sets of holy relationships are in view here. The relationship between Christ and the Church, and the relationship between a husband and his wife, and the two are seen as analogous.

Intimacy requires order. There can be little intimacy in the midst of anger, rebellion, selfishness and disorder. “You in your little corner and me in mine….” is not a recipe for deep love.

Intimacy also requires the mutual ministering of one to the other. The Church ministers to Christ in worship and Christ ministers to us through His Holy Spirit. Similarly the wife ministers to her husband through respect and the husband ministers to his wife through cherishing her in love.

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My wife has a Ph.D. in Biology and a well-established international career – yet she needs my love. I have a good ministry – yet I need her respect and submission. Minda is strong and independent and capable but in the marriage relationship she is willingly respectful and submissive. As two strong people in a good marriage we still have to be careful with one another. Minda loves it when I cherish her and honor her and I enjoy it when Minda shows respect and honor to me. I am proud of her achievements and Minda delights in mine. I feel no need to diminish her in order to be “head of the house”.

But it was hard for Minda to surrender her independence when we got married and just as hard for me to give up my untidy bachelor ways. Living by the biblical pattern is not at all easy – but it is worthwhile.

Submission does not mean that women are not “equal” to men. They are both part of the image of God. But a woman cannot delight in the strength of her man unless she lets him lead. A wife encourages and develops her husband’s leadership skills by letting him lead. Over time a respectful wife will produce a strong man that she can delight in. However if a wife rips her husband’s self-esteem to shreds, takes over, and decides to be in charge then she will experience the “absent Adam” syndrome.

Husbands are called to cherish and love their wives as Christ loves the Church. First of all this means faithfulness in marriage, and then a loving, caring, unselfish regard for one’s better half. This verse prohibits polygamy and adultery because Christ has only one Bride. It also prohibits narcissistic, vain and selfish male behavior. Christ does not cherish Himself, but rather pours Himself out for the Church and we should do the same for our wives.

Last Friday I was taking a bible study when a woman asked about who should give way in marriage and I replied that the husband should always be considerate and the one that reaches out to meet his wife’s needs. The response from the various women present was a sudden loud “ O that is the nicest thing..” It was obvious that they all wanted considerate and caring husbands who gallantly met their needs.

Husbands - if you want a happy wife – then be caring, kind and considerate. But that is not quite enough – you also need to take the lead as Christ leads His Church. Your strength and your consideration will work together to make a joyful marriage.

This is a very deep passage and as I cannot finish without making reference to the relationship between Christ and us. “For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of

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His bones.” Christ is no stranger to us and we are no stranger to Him, rather we are “bone of His bone”. We are members of the body of Christ, we pulse with His life and accomplish His will. And Christ cares for us as one would care for one’s own body.

This close relationship is outlined in F.J Heugels short book “Bone of his Bone” which you can read online at:

Here is a paragraph: MY purpose is to trace step by step the scope of this great principle of participation in Christ-to measure, as it were, the length and breadth, the depth and the height, of this marvelous identification of the believer with his Saviour. Christ, and all true believers, are one. They constitute His body. They are, in the language of Adam, "bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh." Just what the implications of this oneness with Christ arethe overwhelming glory of such a position most Christians have never had -so much as an inkling. May the Father of Lights enable us not only to understand, but to enter into this holy temple, and to realize our oneness with Christ. This is the only spring that can quench our thirst. There is no other way to the fulfillment of our deepest aspirations as Christians.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 6:1-4
(1) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (2) Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), (3) so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. (4) And fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Gentle, nurturing leadership by parents and obedience and honor from children is the biblical mandate.

Children are to obey their parents: 1. “in the Lord” - within the scope of Scripture, not following them into wrong areas such as crime or idolatry. 2. “for this is right” – it is God’s righteous order for families. 3. “so that it may be well with you” – relationships with parents affect the whole of life. 4. “and that you may live long on the earth” – respect brings stability and blessing.

In my counseling I find that dysfunctional relationships with parents underlie many problems that adults experience in later life. Getting the parent-child relationship right is essential and a key part of this is for the child to honor their father and mother.

Honor is more than respect - it also includes financial provision in their old age.

1 Timothy 5:8 (8) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.

These are strong words – to breach major a family responsibility makes us “worse than an unbeliever”. Right family relationships are thus part of the very core of biblical Christianity.

However - how can one honor a bad-tempered, violent drunken or abusive parent? With some caution – is the only answer. The relationship may be in tatters, the parent may be dangerous to us emotionally and physically, but we should still seek to honor them as much as possible within the bounds of common sense and good judgment. In such cases we should prayerfully bring that relationship to God for His healing touch.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
The relationship with one’s father is often the most awkward. Which is why Paul writes: “And fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Fathers can wreck their relationships with their children by abusive use of their headship. Parenting is not a power trip but a stewardship. We men are to bring up our children in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” - notice the word “nurture” men are to have a nurturing aspect to their life in Christ.

When the parent-child relationship works well then “you will live long in the land”. I think we see the fulfillment of this in cultures such as China and Japan, which greatly respect parents - and consequently have never been scattered or moved out of their lands. As Confucius said – peace begins with the family.

The “first commandment with a promise” is meant to bring us great blessing. If we give our best to our parents then God will give His best to us.

Let us not blame our parents for who we have become. Yes, they played a part, but we can also did our part as well, we made certain choices and as adults our life is our responsibility –not theirs.

When the relationships between parents and children break down across a whole society then that society quickly comes under a curse – and prophetic intervention may be needed to turn the country around.

Malachi 4:5-6 (5) Behold, I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of Jehovah. (6) And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, that I not come and strike the earth with utter destruction.

Thus parent-child relationships are under constant spiritual attack and many of the inexplicable arguments may even have a spiritual basis – for Satan accuses the parents to the children and the children to the parents. Therefore prayer, daily family times in the Word, forgiveness, keeping short accounts with God and each other, and alertness to each other’s needs are all ways the family can be protected from the breakdown in relationships.

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The biblical guidelines on communication and on relationship repair are vital to family life. Matthew 5:23-24 (23) Therefore if you offer your gift on the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Family relationships form a foundation to both society and true Christian spirituality. They will never be “perfect” in a fallen world but they can be rugged and strong and built on honor and consideration.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 6:5-9
(5) Slaves, obey your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as to Christ; (6) not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, (7) with good will doing service as to the Lord and not to men (8) (knowing that whatever good thing he does, he shall receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or a freeman). (9) And masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in Heaven. There is no respect of persons with Him.

Slaves and masters are equal before God who is “no respecter of persons”. Therefore slaves are to serve their masters as if they were doing the will of God and masters are to treat their slaves with equality and respect and not threaten them.

Firstly human employers are “masters according to the flesh”, they are not masters in the spiritual sense and have no abiding claim on the employee – their claim goes as far as the employment contract and no further.

Yet they are to be served with due respect, and given good single-hearted service. Not just to please them for a moment but high quality work, the sort you would do if you were serving Christ. This says a lot about Christian ministry as well where we claim to be serving Christ but which so often is done half-heartedly or to please men.

Servants/employees are to ”do the will of God from the heart”. In so far as their work is within God’s will they are to perform it well. Obviously they are not to be lazy, corrupt, dishonest or fraudulent in their dealings. Pilfering is not to be part of the life of the Christian employee.

Work is to be done “with good will” (v. 7 above). That is it is not to be performed resentfully or grumpily. There is a savage ill-will in some workplaces that makes the air miserable and sour. This should not come from Christians.

The good we do at work is noted by God and is part of our reward in Heaven. “knowing that whatever good thing he does, he shall receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or a freeman”. (V. 8 above) This is an interesting verse and seems to imply that we receive “in kind” from God the good that we have done for others.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Masters are to do the same for their slaves. No Christian is to treat another with superiority, disdain or contempt. Rather there is to be mutuality within the body of Christ.

Employers are to act “without threatening”. There is to be no abusiveness , no tirades, in a Christian workplace and security of employment should be present (within the limits of good work being done). If the staff is fearful, uncertain and insecure, walking on tip-toes, then the firm will not only be less productive – it will also be out of the will of God.

(I thoroughly commend “God In Work” by Christian Schumacher as a guide to good Christian work practices. The author served as s consultant to British government and industry and has thought deeply about work structuring in the light of Christian theology.)

Masters / employees have a Master in heaven who is no respecter of persons or of socioeconomic indicators or class structures. Heaven has no Hilton for rich Christians. We are all equal before God – and equally poor before God as “all our righteousness is as filthy rags”. (Isaiah 64:6)

Therefore whether we are rich and employ many – there is no ground for elitism; or whether we are a clerk in the basement – we have no ground for inferiority. God does not judge as man judges and many of the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

We are judged by the standard of Christ in our place. If Jesus was doing your job – how would he be doing it, if Jesus walked in your shoes, where would He be going? Jesus does dwell in you if you are born again and can do your job and does walk in your shoes. As you surrender to Him and walk in the Spirit you will discover how he would do your job.

Thus even at work we can be taught of God, as we listen to Christ in us, in the midst of the bustle of life. As we listen to our conscience, and to the prompts of the Holy Spirit we will hear a voice behind us saying “this is the way, walk ye in it”. (Isaiah 30:21) We can learn of God in the pressures and challenges of work if we determine to do that work as if it were for Christ.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 6:10-13
(10) Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against

powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (13) Therefore take to yourselves the whole armor of God, that you may be able to

withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Today my cell-phone was snatched for the second time in a few months, two weeks ago my wallet was stolen on a bus, just before that all our personal documents were stolen including birth and marriage certificates. What am I fighting? Just thieves - or something more than thieves?

Perhaps behind all the hassles of being a missionary lie malevolent spiritual powers that target servants of God to defeat, discourage and destroy them. Perhaps the one who comes to “Steal, kill and destroy” was in the mind or the heart of the person who snatched my cellphone as I stepped out of the taxi today. Maybe…

In the verses we are looking at today Paul emphasizes concepts such as: “be strong” , “be able to stand”, “be able to withstand”, “in the power of His might”, and “wrestle” - its warrior language, the language of conflict and combat where strength is the main virtue.

Strength is very much a Christian virtue and it underlies the sustainability of all other virtues. The strong Christian holds to God’s will longer than the weak Christian. The strong Christian is not easily overthrown by temptation, or by suffering – or be thieves and robbers. Neither is the strong Christian easily discouraged in the work of God.

How we react “in the evil day” is critical. How do we react when we face corruption or theft or delay or mindless criticism? How do we react to threats to our selves, our property, our ministry or our reputation? Evil will attack and sometimes will succeed – so how will we handle it? At the moment I feel discouraged but I am fighting back that discouragement because I know it will do me no good. How do you react when things go wrong?

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
Armor is the stuff that makes us tough. The swords and shields and boots are all there to make us tough to deal with in battle. Christians are to be spiritually tough and resolute. We should be able to take a few hits – and dish them out as well! When evil strikes we are to strike back – but spiritually, not physically!

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

In other words our main battle is in our spirit, in who we are as a person and for who we are as a person. The battle is also external to us in resistance to powers and principalities that dominate cities, districts and even entire nations. These spiritual beings create an atmosphere of entrenched evil and hopelessness and a feeling of defeat. The give the impression that nothing will ever change and that the evil will never lift and all that can be done is to accept it.

But Paul says we are to fight. We are to wrestle the demons into the dust and pulverize them like a mighty gladiator at war. We are not just to accept evil, but to wrestle it to earth, to pin its arms, to slam dunk it and leg-lock it and render it inoperative.

There is wickedness in high places – in some corporate boardrooms, in greedy, grasping finance houses, in the minds of dictators, in unjust economics, in the machinations of mullahs and the networks of terrorists, drug dealers, the sex trade, illegal arms trade, illegal wild-life trade and the like. The world is in the coils of a dragon and it is we the Church who must slay the beast.

Revelation 12:9-11 (9) And the great dragon was cast out, the old serpent called Devil, and Satan, who

deceives the whole world. He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (10) And I heard a great voice saying in Heaven, Now has come the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony. And they did not love their soul until death.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
The demonic ream is in layers from grubby little demons indwelling cell-phone snatchers to the cold deadly monsters behind the eyes of Osama Bin Laden. They inspire a whole agenda of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10) and especially work on the deception of leaders and the production of idolatry. (Revelation 13)

Demons resist God – (that’s what “devil” means) and His will and His kingdom. They tempt accuse, sicken and kill. They steal, harass and hinder, they pollute and defile and deny the good at every turn. There is even some justification for the belief that they are assigned against Christian workers if 2 Corinthians 12:7 is translated literally “an angel of Stan to torment me..”

Ephesus was loaded with the demonic (see Acts 19:1-41) so Paul told the Ephesians be strong and get tough and put on God’s fighting equipment to deal with the occult powers in your city. Paul did not just sympathize – he energized. The Christians are to be the resistance force in a world dominated by evil powers, and we have no option but to be strong in the power that God provides. Tomorrow we shall look at the armor of God –piece by piece.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 6:14-18
(14) Therefore stand, having your loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness (15) and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. (16) Above all, take the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. (17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, (18) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching to this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

The first injunction is “stand” and it’s a word that can also mean “abide” or “continue” so the idea is to stand firm, on a permanent basis, to take one’s stand and hold the fort.

Christians need to stand firm against evil. God has not called us to be passive observers of the decay of mankind, standing aside and cheering on the wrath of God. Rather we are to stand against the tide, we are to be transformers of society, to be salt and light and to do good deeds hat make a difference to the world. We are to stand in the truth, we are to stand for the teachings of Christ and we are to stand opposed to all forms of wickedness.

To stand in battle is to face the enemy head on and to never yield an inch of ground. We are not to yield the battle to the media, to the pornographers, to the violent, to the wicked or to the corrupt. We are not to let our honesty slip, our doctrine be pushed into error, or our standards be lowered. We are to stand in the face of criticism and persecution and

unpopularity because we are standing firm for Christ.

“Having your loins girded about with truth” – truth secures and limits the Christian’s walk with God. Christians walk in the truth that is in Christ and in factual truth - as truth as generally known in the world. Christianity never asks the believer to walk in delusion or in falsehood. You can be a good scientist and affine Christian; you do not have to deny the facts in order to believe. Inside the truth is inside God’s safe zone. We are protected spiritually when we become discerning of truth and error and stick with the truth.

“And having on the breastplate of righteousness” – Righteousness is the hardened plate steel of the Christian life. It is the “Kevlar”, the bulletproof jacket. This righteousness is the righteousness of faith, which is in Christ; it is the work of the blood of Christ, securing us in God. If we doubt our righteousness, if we think we must earn it in this way or that, we

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
become vulnerable to spiritual fraud and manipulation. If righteousness depends on

pleasing this leader or giving so much money, then we are trapped. But in Christ we are set free.

By having on the breastplate of righteousness we place ourselves within the righteousness that is by faith and end the righteousness that comes through works or the rule of law. We then live out a righteous life and have the additional protection of the clean and godly life that protects from much harm.

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Our task is to stand and we stand on the gospel and in Christ. We stand firm and solid because we know we are at peace with God and not in religious turmoil or under condemnation. We are established in God, at peace with God and able to stand firmly in the midst of life as stable people who are peace with themselves and the universe. The gospel protects us with inner stability and peace. When we grasp the glory of the gospel we are prepared to face life and its trials and tribulations with an equanimity born of a new nature, a pure conscience and a glorious destiny in Christ.

“Above all, take the shield of faith,” – Faith gives us the sure knowledge of God’s approval so that our heart is not smitten by accusation and condemnation. Faith takes all Satan’s accusations and extinguishes them with the knowledge of the sure love of God and His justification of us – even though we are sinners. Faith finds the truth in Scripture and believes it to the defeat of the Devil. Faith grasps the goodness and mercy of God and lays hold of God’s promises so that we can rejoice even in the midst of trials.

”And take the helmet of salvation” – Or more correctly the knowledge of their salvation. Paul is writing to Christians, to those already saved and asking them to understand their salvation, to get it “into their thick skulls” so to speak- that God loves them and is redeeming them and has wonderful plans for them and will make them like Christ. We need to deeply understand our salvation so that we are can rest in all that God has done for us. ( 1 Corinthians 2:9-16) Much of Ephesians is devoted to explaining that salvation –along with Romans and Galatians and Hebrews. This is not just theology – it is spiritual survival. Wrong ideas about salvation lie at the heart of many cults, sects and heresies.

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” – The cutting edge of Christianity is bible study and Scripture memory. Jesus used it against Satan in the wilderness and believers can use it still. The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edge

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ
sword (Hebrews 4:12) and is able to enter into human hearts and life situations and change them. It is when we take the Word to the world and apply it, and even smite it with it, that society changes. I do not mean crude bible-bashing but rather thinking biblically and commenting accurately from a Christian perspective.

The word can be powerfully used in intercessory prayer in the Spirit. We can claim Scripture, proclaim Scripture aloud and pray through scripture to defeat the enemy of souls. Thus Paul enjoins us to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching to this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” We are to watch over life like a hawk, bringing the Scriptures to bear on it, with prayer and supplication in the Spirit. We are to guard ourselves, our families, and all the saints through prayer. And not just casual prayer but prayer from an awake and watchful spirit, alert to spiritual motions and able to discern and pray according to God’s will.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Ephesians 6:19-24
(19) And pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, (20) for which I am an ambassador in bonds; so that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (21) But, so that you also may know my affairs and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things, (22) whom I have sent to you for the same purpose, that you might know our affairs and that he might comfort your hearts. (23) Peace to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (24) Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Paul is in prison and yet his only thought is for the advancement of the gospel. Paul does not say: “Please pray that I may be discrete, I am in big trouble and if anyone finds out I am a Christian then I am in for it.” Paul is no secret believer but rather is a bold testimony. The priority is not his own life and comfort but the knowledge of the gospel – even to prisoners, guards and officials of Rome. (It is generally agreed that Ephesians was written during the Roman captivity of Paul probably between 58 AD and 64 AD)

Studies on persecution show that the main aim of persecution is to silence the Church. But Paul will not be silenced by persecution! Paul says, “Pray that I may be given utterance”. Pray that Paul may be louder still! This is Christian courage at its best.

It is wise to be discrete about the names of believers and the existence of underground churches – but not about the gospel itself. There is no long list of greetings at the end of Ephesians, and only Tychicus, the actual bearer of the message is mentioned. This is doubly unusual because of his long stay at Ephesus and his dear friend Timothy’s location in that city. He must have known hundreds of people there but none are greeted - possibly out of concerns for security. His greeting is a simple “Peace to the brothers..and grace be with all”.

So Paul is silent about the local church but bold about the eternal Christ. Christ cannot be hurt by our proclaiming Him - only exalted!

Paul knew things were coming to an end for his ministry. He was not going to go out quietly. Rather he was going to go boldly, proclaiming, and testifying to the gospel.

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

Paul calls himself “an ambassador in chains”. This shows the contempt the world has for God. Ambassadors of worldly governments generally cannot be imprisoned and must be released and returned to their home country. Paul, an ambassador for Christ, is given less respect than an ambassador from the smallest principality would receive.

However over the centuries, Paul has received greater honor than many kings. Great men still study Paul’s writings but few read whatever Nero may have written. Paul’s words are in the Bible while the words of the dignitaries of Rome are on their tombstones.

What does an ambassador do? The ambassador communicates the will of the government and enters into offers and negotiations on behalf of the realm. Paul’s message, from God, to all the world was - “be reconciled to God”. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (20) Then we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as God exhorting through us, we

beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (21) For He has made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

As an ambassador Paul pleaded with fallen humanity “be reconciled to God” and his message was to be proclaimed even to Caesar and to the powers and principalities behind the political forces of the first century.

Today there is still a need for the gospel to be boldly proclaimed to the powerful, to those deeply entrenched in the world system, that even they may be reconciled to God. We need highly educated Christians who can take the gospel to politicians, investment bankers, the United Nations, the military and the influential institutes of higher learning.

Such people will not accept “canned” approaches but need to be influenced one by one, with intelligent persuasion and thoughtful reasoning. It is indeed necessary that people in these high-level ministries pray that “utterance may be given them” and that they be both bold and wise in presenting the gospel and telling the influential to be reconciled to God.

God’s will in areas as different as global economics, the use of force, the treatment of the poor, the enactment of just laws, the taking of bribes, and the use of information needs to be spelled out – not just as a “Christian” position or a Church position but as the will of the King of Kings and the Creator of All Things. The rulers of this age need to be told, by God’s

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ambassadors, that they will have to give an account to the King of Kings for all their decisions.

The rulers of this age need to be told that they have erred many times and need mercy and thus need to be reconciled to God in both their heart and mind and in the standards of their deeds.

Let us pray that God will raise up more ambassadors for Christ.


John Edmiston

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Ephesians: Life and Living in Christ

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