A Child of the Light

Ephesians 5:8-14. (NIV)

8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Here, Paul tells us to live as children of light and to expose the deeds of darkness. It is shameful to even mention the things that the disobedient do in secret, yet we are told to expose those shameful things to the light; that is, to goodness, to righteousness, and to the truth. This is the fruit of the light, while the darkness, in contrast, has no fruit (v. 11).

Light doesn’t specifically do anything to make objects visible; they are visible simply because the light exists in the place where those objects are. In the same way, if I live out God’s goodness, God’s righteousness, and God’s truth, the result will be to make the world around me visible.

And once again, as so often before in this letter, this comes out of my identity. Once I was darkness, but now I am light in the Lord (v. 8). If my life reflects the truth of who God says that I am, the exposure of the deeds of darkness will happen as a natural result.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Imitating God

Ephesians 5:1-7. (NIV)

1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7Therefore do not be partners with them.

Once again, this is coming out of who God has created and called me to be in Christ. In chapter 1, Paul says that we were chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (v. 4). Living the truth of who I am means living in righteousness. Sin is not a small matter! Sexual immorality, impurity, and greed are singled out here; the person who pursues these things is an idolater, and has no share in God’s inheritance. This is contrasted in v. 2 with living a life of love: an immoral, impure, or greedy person is not living in love.

God is making it very clear here that salvation is not just about going to Heaven after I die. It’s also about living out the truth of Christ here on Earth. It’s about imitating God – a concept that would sound blasphemous were it not found in the very words of Scripture. We must not only tell people what God has done, we must also show them who he is. Just as children grow to be like their parents in the way they speak and act, so must the children of God grow up to be like our Father.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Living My Identity

Ephesians 4:25-32. (NIV)

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Now that I know who I am, the Scripture goes into how I need to live. It’s not accidental that this passage comes after three chapters describing who I am in Christ, and half a chapter calling for unity in the church. This is not just a list of rules, but a call to let my identity be reflected in my behavior toward others, and especially toward my brothers and sisters in Christ.

There are a lot of individual points in this list, but I think it can be summed up as; live in love. If the Spirit of God lives in me, than living in love is nothing more than living the truth. This is who I am; who God intended before the world was created that I would be. How amazing that I do not automatically and unthinkingly behave this way, but that God wants me to actively choose it moment by moment! I’m not going to get into the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, but it’s certainly not debatable that I do not always live the way this passage commands. But when I don’t, I am living a lie. And when I do, I cooperate with the Holy Spirit; not as a machine, but rather a partner and coworker with God.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Attaining to the Whole Measure of the Fullness of Christ pt. 2

Ephesians 4:14-16. (NIV)

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Continuing from my last post, this is what the fullness of Christ looks like. It doesn’t sound at all like something to look forward to in Heaven, but rather a goal that God wants us to attain here. To be filled with all the fullness of Christ is to be mature; not unstable or vulnerable to being deceived by false teachings. It is to be truthful, but always speaking in love. It is to be united, with every member doing its part to build up the kingdom, again always in love.

What happens if I treat this not as an unreachable ideal, but my actual goal for myself, and for my brothers and sisters in Christ? If I take maturity seriously as something God wants to build in me, and will build in me if I earnestly seek it?

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Attaining to the Whole Measure of the Fullness of Christ pt. 1

Ephesians 4:7-13. (NIV)

7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says:

When he ascended on high,

he led captives in his train

and gave gifts to men.”

9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

One body, one faith, one baptism, one church, but many gifts of God’s grace. And once again, God’s desire is for us to attain the entire fullness of Christ. We are to be not merely God’s representatives on Earth, but his physical body on Earth, and yet without extinguishing our own selves. Looking at the actual lives of the apostles, it’s clear that Paul is not calling for the church to become a collection of remotely operated drones. The Spirit of God lives fully in me, but I am still me. I am more genuinely myself in Christ than I ever was without him, because I am no longer a slave to sin. I have more free will now than I did before I knew him. And yet at the same time, and without contradiction, I, along with my brothers and sisters, am God’s physical body.

According to this passage, the complete fullness of Christ is not given instantaneously. It’s something we attain as we become one in faith and in knowledge of Christ. Christ’s fullness in us comes out of our unity in him. The gifts and calling Christ gives us – the passage mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – are given for this very purpose. The end of unity in Christ is that all of his fullness will be manifest in us.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

The Fullness of God

Ephesians 3:14-21. (NIV)

14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church – not that they would have some of God’s Spirit, but that they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – how is that even possible? Back at the end of chapter 1 he describes the church as “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” God in all his fullness lives in me. Not a little bit of God, not a tiny bit of God’s power, but the fullness of God in his infinite power and infinite wisdom and infinite love. And not in me only, but in every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t ask what Christ would do if he were here in the flesh, he is here in the flesh. He’s here in my flesh, and in the flesh of every person who, by faith, belongs to Christ. We are his flesh. May we act in that knowledge and in the fullness of his Spirit!

This flows out of love. Not my love, but God’s love for me, and through me to others. To be filled with the fullness of God is to know the love that surpasses knowledge. As I am rooted in God’s love, I will have the power to understand how great his love is, and in knowing his love, I will be filled with his fullness.

I don’t get how I, a finite being, can grasp the infinite love of God. To know what surpasses knowledge. But maybe I don’t need to understand it; maybe I just need to ask for it, and to trust that God is able not only to give me what I ask for, but immeasurably more.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Quote of the Day

When puzzled, it never hurts to read the primary documents – a rather simple and self-evident principle that has, nonetheless, completely disappeared from large sectors of the American experience” – Stephen J. Gould.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Demonstration of Wisdom

Ephesians 3:7-13. (NIV)

7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

There is a focus in these verses on the wisdom of God. The church does not exist simply for the benefit of the world, but also to demonstrate God’s wisdom in the heavenly realms. Let’s make this more specific: God chose me for adoption as his son, in order to display his wisdom to the heavenly rulers. I, along with my brothers and sisters in Christ, am the fulfillment of God’s purpose. In me, and in my brothers and sisters, God displays not just his mercy, but also his wisdom. That seems counterintuitive – that it was wise of God to choose us as his sons and his heirs. And yet, that is what he is clearly saying here; through the church, the wisdom of God is displayed in the heavenly realms.

And, like Paul, I, by the grace and wisdom of God, am called to participate in the work of establishing the kingdom. Lord, may I be a faithful servant, to do all that you have given me to do!

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Remembering Who I Was

Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV):

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.

I was dead and an object of wrath when I followed the ways of the world and of the devil. God, in his mercy, brought me to life in Christ. This also is part of remembering who I am: I am a man who was dead in sin, and who is now alive in Christ, because of God’s grace to me.

The resurrection is not just about Jesus; it is also about me. I have been raised from death to life, not by any merit of mine, but solely by God’s infinite love and grace. No wonder Paul in Romans 8 says that we are more than conquerors! I have already been raised from the dead. What reason could I possibly have for fear? If God is for me, who cares who stands against me? It doesn’t even matter!

But because of his great love for us. God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (v. 4-5).

It’s not even that I’m destined to win, as DeGarmo and Key sang. No, I’ve already won. God will not take away what he sacrificed his son to give me, and there is no other power or authority, in Heaven or on Earth or under the Earth, that can take it away either.

If I had earned this, I would have to worry whether or not I am still worthy to keep what I earned. But I didn’t earn it! God has, in his grace, included me in the resurrection of Christ. Jesus is worthy, not me.

Jesus did not come into the world to make bad men good. He came into the world to make dead men live! – Leonard Ravenhill

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion

Remembering Who I Am

Ephesians 1:1-5 (NIV):

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…

I’m not rejected. I don’t have to earn my way back into God’s good graces (as if I could!). God has blessed me with every spiritual blessing. God chose me before the creation of the world – before I ever rejected him, before I was even born, or anybody else was born either – to be holy and blameless in his sight. Did he know when he chose me what I would do? Of course he did! He’s always known. And he still chose me. Me. To be holy and blameless in his sight. To be adopted as his son.

I spent years walking away; sometimes drifting, sometimes running full speed away from God. And at the end of it, I found that I didn’t have to walk back. All I had to do was turn around, and he was right there, where he’d been the whole time. Even when I abandoned God, he never left me. And he calls me holy and blameless in his sight.

I have sensed for a while now that God is saying to me, “remember who you are,” and now he has brought me to this passage. Who am I? I am an adopted son of God, chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

I don’t have to do anything to be holy and blameless in the sight of God. It’s his choice, not mine. No wonder the apostles turned the world upside down (really, right side up) in the first century! They knew who they were.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion