Characteristics of Revival History 

 

Introduction:

There are lessons from the Scriptures and church history where God’s wonderful works are told and retold which rekindle the expectations of faithful intercessors.  This awakening in the hearts of the saints prepares the way for another revival.  Over and over in the Scriptures the Israelites were told to remember what God had done in their lives and nation.  As we read the Scriptures we, too, are told to remember and be thankful, keeping our hearts and lives close to God.  However, just as the Israelites wandered from God’s Law, so do Christians wander from their first love with Jesus.  This is why revival is so important.  Revival brings a heightened Presence of God into our lives resulting in a spiritual awakening, rebirth, recovery, renewal, regeneration, realignment, restoration, and so on.  In recent years the idea of welcoming a visitation of God has matured into a habitation for God’s presence. 

 

Qualities of Discipleship:

Before we look at revival characteristics, let’s consider what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  We remember what Jesus said to his disciples after he rose from the dead.  Matt 28:17-20 - Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  This is a foundational verse of the Foursquare Gospel Church.  This practice of making disciples developed in the early church and can be seen in Acts 2:42-47 - They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Based on these two passages of Scripture, a follower of Jesus is captivated and committed to Jesus and his cause.  There is hunger and passion to abide in Jesus.  They engage with a community of faith, in small group and larger contexts, and grow in their spiritual character and capabilities.  A genuine and growing follower of Jesus develops an influential and invitational lifestyle in everyday relationships, contagiously attracting others to follow Jesus Christ.  They are being transformed into the spirit and character of Christ, and are able to interact with religious, political and societal systems with increasing discernment, giving primary allegiance to God’s Kingdom by being “in the world, but not of it.”  This kind of discipleship is a lifelong journey of increasing responsiveness to God, embracing the perspective that we are on a path toward maturity, that having a relationship with Jesus is our greatest treasure, and that heaven is our real home.  However, there are times when our journey of faith becomes routine or religious and we fall short of God’s glory and purposes.  This is why we need to be revived…

Classic Revival Qualities:

Just as there are qualities of a growing disciple, there are traits of revival that can be discerned in the context of the Old and New Testaments.  As well, Church history records various encounters between God and his people as related to the on-going advancement of the Kingdom of God.  These accounts teach us much of the moving of the Spirit of God and the responsive obedience of the church. 

1.     Deep Awareness of the Love and Mercy of God:

Revival most often begins with the revelation of God’s love and his mercy towards our sin.  The focus is not on sin first.  It is an unquestionable knowing that God loves me even though I am struggling with sin or just find myself distant from God.  This knowing of the love of God becomes experiential and visible.  David Brainerd, a revivalist to the First Nations People of America, tells of revival breaking out among Indians at Crossweeksung in August 1745 when the power of God seemed to come like a rushing mighty wind.  Mr. Brainerd was moved upon by the revelation that the Lord Jesus Christ was a kind and compassionate master. He would be moved upon with deep distress, pleading with his hearers, to accept the everlasting love and mercy of God, as tears would stream down his face.  Idolatry was abandoned, marriages repaired, drunkenness practically disappeared, honesty and repayments of debts prevailed. Money once wasted on excessive drinking was used for family and communal needs. Their communities were filled with love. 

2.     Revelation of God's Greatness and Holiness:

The Scriptures speak over and over of God’s greatness and holiness.  These two aspects of God bring great awe, joy and holy terror (good fear) into the hearts of believers.  I Peter 1:16 tells us, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  In other words, believers are to be examples of God’s greatness and holiness to the world around us.  The revivalist, Jonathan Edwards preached under this conviction in the 1700's.  Jonathan Edwards, the preacher and scholar who later became a President of Princeton University, was a prominent leader in a revival movement, which came to be called the Great Awakening as it spread through the communities of New England and the pioneering settlements in America.  Converts to Christianity reached 50,000 out of a total of 250,000 colonists.  He describes “an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, so as sometimes to overwhelm soul and body, a sense of the piercing, all seeing eye of God so as to sometimes take away bodily strength.”  Revival returns the church to a standard of holiness that is not based on legalistic laws or liberal tolerances.  Holiness revivals have the fire of sanctification touching people’s lives.  John 16: 6-8 states, “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.”  We all love the Holy Spirit but we must remember that Holiness and Holy Spirit go hand in hand.  Conviction and confession, repentance and weeping, are all aspects of God squeezing our hearts with his holiness.

3.     Increased Awareness of Eternity:

One of the significant realities of revival is that of knowing with certainty the truth about heaven and hell.  The Holy Spirit brings into men’s hearts the love and mercy of God, and his greatness and holiness.  One of the revelations of revival history is that of the beauty and awful understanding of eternity.  Heaven is a popular topic, whether you are a believer or not.  Movies are made about the beauty of life to come in eternity.  However, when hell is mentioned people become anxious and troubled.  Why would God send people to hell, is a common question?  In the midst of some historic revivals, there is an uncanny perception of heaven and hell that goes beyond one’s thinking or theology.  Rev 20:11-15 describes this reality as follows: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were it, and death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  The awareness of heaven and hell has ushered thousands and thousands into the Kingdom of God.  George Whitefield and John Wesley were two fiery revivalist preachers in the 1740’s.  They were accused of being too enthusiastic when they began to preach in the open air, outside the four walls of the church; their open air preaching continued for 50 years with many hearing the message of eternity.

4.     Demonstration of God’s Kingdom: 

Many revivals have been “marked” by the supernatural signs and wonders of God’s Kingdom.  The Scriptures reminds us that “these signs will accompany those who believe:  in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and the will get well” (Mark 16:17-18).   There are many reports of sinners and saints being overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and throughout church history.  The following are a few modern examples of revival:

·      Powerful revival touched America in 1800 with thousands being converted. Many strange reactions accompanied the move of the Spirit then, including strong shaking, falling down and unable to get up, tears of repentance and loud cries. 

·      William Seymour began a Mission at Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending, both blacks and whites. It grew out of a cottage prayer meeting. Revival there drew people from around the nation and overseas and launched Pentecostalism as a worldwide movement.  One of the accompanying signs was “speaking in tongues.”

·      The famous cricketer and missionary, C T Studd reported on revival in the Belgian Congo in 1914: “the whole place was charged as if with an electric current. Men were falling, jumping, laughing, crying, singing, confessing and some shaking terribly.  This particular one can best be described as a spiritual tornado. People were literally flung to the floor or over the chairs, yet no one was hurt. ... As I led in prayer the Spirit came down in mighty power sweeping the congregation. My whole body trembled with the power. We saw a marvellous sight, people literally filled and drunk with the Spirit”.

·      One of the signs and wonders often used by the Spirit of God is that of physical healing.  It is estimated the through the ministry of John G. Lake that thousands of people were healed and over 1,000,000 people were saved.  He organized “healing rooms” in Spokane Washington, his hometown, in the early 1900’s.  It was reported that Spokane was the healthiest city in the USA because of his healing ministry.  Aimee Semple McPherson saw thousands healed with crutches and wheelchairs being left behind at her revival meetings.  Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, and John Wimber saw the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation during revival times.  The heightened activity of the Holy Spirit during times of revival releases amazing graces for the church to enjoy, experience and employ in their ministry.  The demonstrations of God’s Kingdom are meant to excite faith in the hearts of those overcome by the Holy Spirit.  Such encounters are used by the Spirit of God to bring thousands to the awareness of the love and mercy of God, the holiness of God in light of eternity and the conviction of sin. 

5.     Restoring of Society:

One of the primary experiences a genuine revival of the Holy Spirit within the church is that the benefits begin to transform society.  Authentic and lasting revivals have affected both rich and poor.  As seen through church history, revival released amazing compassion for the poor and the needy.  Early Christians were known for rescuing abandoned babies, taking in widows and orphans and helping the poor and needy.  The pagan Roman Empire showed little or no compassion for the less fortunate.  James 1:27 – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  In the early centuries of the church monasteries were formed.  In these communities, believers gathered together for learning, hospice or medical work, care for the poor and evangelization.  Revival motivated the Quakers and the Wesley brothers, and the Methodists to oppose black slavery.  Revivalists confronted the British government  to the abolish child slavery.  John Howard reformed prisons.  Today, there are believers who are changing society, whether in government or on the streets, one person at a time.  We must understand that secular society will never be fully restored this side of eternity.  None-the-less, God is wanting a revived church to influence society with his love, mercy and righteousness.

 

Conclusion:

The lessons we learn from church and revival history are significant for us today.  We must learn to be more like Jesus, as well as, agree with the history of the Church as related to being salt and light in this world.  These distinctive qualities I spoke to this morning are not complete in and of themselves (love and mercy, greatness and holiness, eternity, supernatural signs, restored society).  God is always adding to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church.  The next revival may or may not have some or all of these qualities.  One of the dangers of revival thinking is this, many times, we are so focused on hitting the "grand slam” of revival, that we miss the call to genuine and growing discipleship.  We are to be faithful in the small things and not to despise the days of small beginnings (Luke 16:10; Zech 4:10).  God is looking for faithful and prayerful sons and daughters of God who are seeking his face for a new and greater outpouring of God.

 

Let’s pray…

 

Canada Day 2018

 

Introduction:

Canada Day is our celebration as Canadians of our great country.  This year we are 151 years old as a nation and lot has happened in those years.  Today this vast country spreads from Newfoundland and Labrador on the Atlantic Coast to the waves of the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia.  There is so much to enjoy in our country today and yet Canada is much more that its collective physical beauty.  Today, we are Canadians who are diverse in so many ways; languages, religions, cultures and climates.  Time does not permit us to consider the full extent of historical Canadian facts.  Here are just a few thoughts with Jesus in the picture.  Both Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain acknowledged God in prayer as they came to Canada.  From these explorers we have politicians, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, teachers and the church who sought to fulfill God’s purposes for the land.  Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick was one of the Fathers of Confederation.   He rose daily with prayer and Scripture reading.  As the 33 founding fathers gathered in Charlottetown to discuss the British North American Act, there are were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.” That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God that he presented the inspired “Dominion of Canada.”  The other Fathers responded with a hearty yes and in 1867 the Dominion of Canada was born - “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” and can be found engraved on the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa.  It is interesting to note that the first official use of this motto came in 1906 when it was engraved on the head of the mace of the Legislative Assembly of the new Province of Saskatchewan. 

Foundations

As with any country on earth, there are aspects of history that are very good and some note so good.  This is true of the nation of Israel as we look at the Scriptures.  The same is true for the many countries formed out of colonialization.  The were some positive aspects of modernization but also some very negative affects, especially to the First Nations people of North America.  The original desire to see God’s Kingdom established on earth as it is in heaven became perverted as politics, greed and religion joined together to distort true Biblical Christianity.  Great abuse and injustices were committed against First Nations peoples in the name of Jesus all the while being backed by the government.  We are still suffering the effects of this in Canada today, and there is much that needs to be made right. 

There are numerous verses in the Bible that speak of the importance of foundations.  These verses have both a spiritual and practical application.  “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11).  This is a solid spiritual reality for Christianity, Jesus Christ is our foundation upon which we ultimately stand, even as Christians in this country.  In other words, I am Christian before I am Canadian, American, Filipino, or Nigerian, and by my choice to follow Jesus Christ I accept a Kingdom Culture and Citizenship.  Practically speaking, this Judeo-Christian heritage is the foundation of Canadian values and vision and Law.  However, over the years, the vision that God shall have dominion from sea to sea has been lost.  What has happened?  “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).  We have seen the rise of greed in society and in the church.  We have seen absolute truths and the value of Scripture eroded into the idea of relative thinking and demanding one’s rights.  We have seen the voice of the church lessen as society states that Christianity is flawed.  We have liberal thinking and a powerless church.  Suffice it to say, there is a clash of kingdoms and values facing our society today.  We live in a day where revival in the Body of Christ is needed for the sake of souls and eternity. 

Revival – personal and corporate

One of my desires over the years has be to engage in a genuine and growing relationship with God.  There are highpoints at times and other times I feel like I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  In this journey of faith, I believe that God has a purpose and destiny for my life.  In the same way I know this to be true for each of us here today.  In the pursuit of my destiny there are key life verse that God has used to encourage me in my faith and recently Psalm 86 has been key.  My devotion and prayer has been filled with emotion and tears, prayers and praise.  I have recognized my need for mercy in my life as well as situations where I need to overcome fears.  I have been encouraged in that God hears and answers prayer, fills me with joy, and teaches me life lessons that I need to learn.  This has been my prayer – “Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me” (Psalm 86:17). 

One of the questions I have asked in pursuit of God is this, if an individual can a destiny, what about a nation?  In light of the Scriptures we see God calling and loving and discipling the nation of Israel.  As well, we understand that there are other nations that God has destiny and purpose for; Egypt, Assyria and Babylon are examples.  In the New Testament, we see further evidence of this unique relationship between God and nations.  “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth: and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26-27).  The Scriptures reveal that nations can change for better or worse.  They also reveal that when someone stands in the gap things can change for the better. 

History Makers -> Revivalists

Here is a quote by Pastor Francis Anfuso, a pastor in the United States entitled PRE-REVIVAL MALAISE- “Throughout the history of the Church, prior to a mighty move of God, the Church and (secular) culture were invariably at a low-tide moment.  Without exception, a seismic shift in spiritual temperature was desperately needed!  So too in our day!  Champions are needed to awaken God’s people to their true identity and purpose.  We need David’s to lead God’s people into battle;  Esther’s who’ll intercede before the King for the life of others; and Daniels to fearlessly face deception and intimidation.  Where are the men and women of conviction, who will stand alone in the gap by faith, and refuse to bow to the fear of man?  God, revive Your Church! Awaken the lost! Shake us out of our complacency!  We want more! We were made for more!”  In light of these champions there are a few lessons we can learn:

1.     Passion for God: Acts 13:22 tells us – “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”  What does this mean?  It does not mean that David was perfect but that he was humble, reverent, respectful, trusting, loving, devoted, obedient but also repentant when needed.  Which of these areas need your greatest attention for improvement?

2.     Resolve: Courage and determination and a heart attitude that says, “No matter how long it takes, or what it takes, I am in this until we see change.”  Queen Esther saved a nation when all odds were against her.  She did not give up…  “If you don’t quit you win.”

3.     Strategy: I love the book of Daniel as God’s strategy is given to Daniel and his friends.  God is committed to leading his people strategically as we genuinely inquire of him.  When the Kings inquired before going into battle not only did God give them assurance of victory but He gave them detailed instructions on how to secure the victory.

4.     Attendance: What do I mean by this?  I have said at times that God’s Presence changes everything.  I think God is saying the same to us, our presence matters too.  Ezek 22:30 - “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none”.  God is looking for people who show up, who are committed to God’s purpose.  It is not the most gifted or charismatic that have the most influence in nations over time. It is the faithful.  

5.     Prayer: The inquiring of the Lord is another way of identifying prayer.  “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).  Prayer and fasting are essential.  Eph 6:18 – “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

In Conclusion

            It is my prayer for us all to know God personally.  There are times in our walks with Jesus when there is a sense in the Spirit that God is doing something special.  Last Sunday Pastor Becky spoke from Psalm 24.  I came away encouraged in the Lord believing that God wants to touch our lives individually and our church corporately.  If we want to change and discover the Jesus in fresh ways, we need to press into the Lord passionately, be courageous, be intentional, be committed and prayer like your life depends on it.  We are exhorted in the Scriptures not to lean on our own understanding but to lean of God for his wisdom and understanding.  God loves to renew and restore and revive his children…

Is changing a nation for God possible?  Yes, we see this in the Scriptures and in church history.  What does this look like?  In the weeks ahead, we will look at the characteristics of revival and how people and nations were changed.  There are Biblical revivals that we can learn from as well as revivals from church history. 

 

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Psalm 24

Pastor Becky Thomas

 

Background

2 Samuel 5, David was 30 years old when he became king.  He looked at Jerusalem and wanted it, so he went up and fought against the Jebusites.  The Jebusites thought so little of David they said, “David cannot come in here” so they said to him, “you will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”.  So David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David and he built it up and the scripture says he became greater and greater for the God of hosts was with him. 

 

Then Hiram king of Tyre sends his friendship to David in the form of cedar trees, carpenters and masons who built him a house and it was in this city that he reigned over all Israel and Judah for 33 years.

 

Sometime  in there in 2 Samuel 6 David decides to go get the ark of the Covenant from Baal-Judah.  The ark was they symbol of the Presence of God, and the Presence did in fact stay with the ark.   In the ark there were objects that were a record of God’s dealings with Israel.   There were the 10 Commandments which spoke of the law of God.   There was the rod of Aaron which represented the shepherding of the Lord – the miracles etc.  And there was the jar that held the manna which represented God’s ability to provide without any help from them.   

 

So David and all of the chosen men of Israel, which was 30,000 of them marched over to get the ark, so excited to bring the most sacred objects to David’s city.  They tossed it into an ox cart but as they were coming the oxen stumbled so a poor unfortunate named Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the ark.  And God struck him dead because of his error which ended the welcome home party.  And David was both angry with the Lord and afraid, and so he took it over to Obed Edom the Gittite and left it there for 3 months.  In those 3 months Obed Edom and his household began to prosper in big ways, so much so that a report was made and given to David.  So David makes preparations to give it a second go with the ark and he and his men again went again, but this time they transported it in the way God had originally commanded with the priests carrying it on their shoulders. 

 

I think it’s worth it to pause here and ask ourselves, what was really going on here?  What were the things David, who had already gained the favour of the Lord, needed to learn?  What was God trying to communicate?

 

1.  The ark of the Covenant – symbolic for the Presence of God – was not meant to rest on the shoulders of the strong oxen or on a man-made cart, but upon the shoulders of people who were consecrated to the Lord.   The priests were different from all other men in these things:

·      they did not own land 

·      they had to be without blemish to handle the things of God 

·      they represented not the political kingdom but the spiritual kingdom of God to the people and

·      they made intercession for everyone else.

 

2.  God did not need their help in “steadying the ark”.  He is a living being, not an idol, He can take care of business.

 

3.  God disciplines with reconciliation as His heart’s desire and as an invitation to us.  In His mercy He only struck down Uzzah.   It was terrible and awful, but it could have been so much worse as they all erred together – He could have taken out all 30,000 of them and would not have been wrong to do so.  But He struck down only Uzzah to make a point – the point was not that He did not want to dwell with people, but the point was that as Creator and king, His instructions needed to be carried out.  Not lazily, half-hearted or half baked, but with attention to detail.     That said, the instructions were not hard.   David just didn’t ask, didn’t seek.   He sought the blessing of the ark, the honour of the ark, but not protocol, not the heart of God.

 

So David hears that God is blessing this Gittite and tries again, this time seeking God’s protocol.  Sometimes God’s protocols are so simple, sometimes they are more complicated but rarely undoable because God knows what we are made of.  And this time David prepares a place for the ark  and pitches a tent.   This reminds me of building a church…….we find a time and place.

And then David gets the Levites to carry the tent and they consecrate themselves to the Lord, and David and all the Levites wear linen ephods which speak of………

 

They anoint the singers and musicians and the commanders of the army and they all go up making sacrifice.  

 

And when they get it to its place David so overjoyed that he dances in his ephod to the distress of his wife Michal and so that relationship deteriorates – it’s like the nail on the coffin of a dead relationship, and she is childless. 

 

And people are left before the ark to minister day and night to the Presence, not to the object, but the Presence.  And sacrifices, great sacrifices are made.

 

And it is believed that as the Levites took the ark to Jerusalem this is the song that they sang:

 

Psalm 24……

 

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein

For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers

 

God is first revealed as the Creator and He holds the rights to everything and everyone

He brooded over the waters at creation and did something impossible, establishing the earth upon sea and bordering it with rivers.  

 

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

Who shall stand in His holy place?

 

David learned that it was not their “right” to ascend, because they fell short……and who could stand in the holy place?    Psalm 84 the psalmists say, “Blessed are they who have set their heart on pilgrimage”……on making the journey!   This was something Israel was asked to do every year in order to see atonement for their sins.    There is an effort put out  here.   It would have been the focus of saving money, of preparing the house to be gone for an extended period.  It was like the vacation destination but so much more.    Another translation says Blessed are those in whose hearts are the highway to Zion.      Do we love the Presence, and do we love the place where He dwells enough to make the pilgrimage?   We know that it means we will pass through the Valley of Baca (place of weeping or bitterness).   Will we make it a place of springs, treasure the journey?

 

Have you ever been with someone who carries the Presence of God in an almost tangible way?

The atmosphere changers?

 

He who has clean hands and a pure heart – external cleanliness – those who have observed the protocols of the law at that time.   For us it could be looked at as those who have received Communion and their purity of heart reflects what they have just taken in Communion. 

 

It’s interesting to note here that David himself was not allowed to build God a house.   Why?  Because he had bloodied hands.   The one who was called to rule Israel had a different calling, a different role to play than the one who would come after him and build the house.   When we are pastors or worship leaders, we are specifically called to represent the Kingdom of God above all other kingdoms.   And so we need to be careful with how we represent him.   God did not let David represent him in this way.   David was the political leader who was a warrior.  In the House of Prayer for all Nations, God needed that to be built by a man of peace.   It had to be a man of peace, for the House was not just meant for Israel, but for everyone. 

 

I want to challenge us here – those of you who want to be pastors and leaders in the House, are we men and women of peace first or are we warriors in the political kingdom?  They are different callings……know your calling.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.  – We do not give our souls to other things if we really want to see God.   We turn away from addictions of the heart, mind and body.  This turning away can be called a fast.   We get rid of the idols, the things that pull on us that distract us from the main focus of Jesus.  This is how we establish the highways in our hearts.  When we fast and pray and build history with God we are clearing away the obstacles, we are digging wells in the desert places of our hearts for the spring rains to come and nourish us, and we are removing the idols or obstacles.

 

What does this look like?   For me, right now, today, it looks like a purity fast.   Larry will be talking about fasting from food in the weeks to come, but for me it is entering into a purity fast of the eyes and ears and mouth.   This brings us to the next point……..

 

Who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully

Who does not lift up his soul to what is false.  This refers to idolatry.  We are to be a people of integrity.   We don’t say we are on fire for Jesus but give our souls to idols or what is false.  We are congruent, not hypocritical.  We do not follow our own impulses, but we love God.

I would suggest that this covers everything from sex to shopping, from eating to investing.

 

We do not swear deceitfully

This refers to one of the 10 commandments “do not bear false witness against your neighbour”.  We do not swear deceitfully against neighbour even when it costs us. 

 

He will receive blessing from the Lord

The blessing of being allowed in!   Or…..in David’s case, he was not allowed all he wanted from the Lord, to build God a house, but God blessed him with an everlasting kingdom because of his desire for God. 

 

And righteousness from the God of his salvation

God will provide the righteousness, but we have to make the journey to seek him.    God doesn’t always give us what we want but He does allow us to stand before Him and invites us to that.  God recognizes our need of salvation.  What He doesn’t like to tolerate is our disrespect and lethargy.  He deserves it as both our Creator, our Savior and Provider, our King.

 

Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

These are the earmarks of those who seek Him.  They are pure, and they are blessed!

  

What is it with the “God of Jacob”.   It’s interesting that would be the title here, not Abraham, Isaac but Jacob.      Jacob was the supplanter, the deceiver, who was not pure, who did not have clean hands.   But he encountered God at Bethel and wrestled with the angel until the angel finally dislocated his hip (we realize that would have been temporary right?).  And Jacob was changed.  God is still God of those who don’t have clean hands and pure hearts and who have sworn deceitfully and harboured idols.   This is incredibly encouraging.    But as we wrestle with the Lord “I want to be blessed” and He wrestles with us, “get rid of the idols” He may figuratively temporarily dislocate our hip (our ability to walk up that hill) until He has transformed us.

 

Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors,   Jerusalem had been the stronghold of the Jebusites, but now there is a new king coming thru the gates.   Recognize Him – don’t miss the day of His visitation.     The message to us is, “Wake up! Be alert!  God is coming in visitation, let’s not miss Him!”

 

That the King of glory may come in -

 

Who is this King of glory?    

The Lord strong and mighty

The Lord mighty in battle!  - who does not want the victorious God  fighting for them?  

Lift up your heads, O gates!

And lift them up, O ancient doors!

That the King of glory may come in.       

Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts, - who does not want the Commander of Angel Armies fighting for them?

He is the King of glory  - this is the One who is coming!   Let’s prepare Him our hearts

15. Freedom in Christ – Victory over the Devil

 

Review:

Over the past months we have been studying our way through Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.  We have learned the historical context of Ephesus surrounding the believers in the church.  Paul’s intention was to inform the saints of their position IN CHRIST and all their spiritual blessings (Eph 1-3).  But he was imparting more than just head knowledge, Paul wanted the church to learn how to live out their faith IN CHRIST in Roman society (Eph 4-6).  They were to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel, there were not to live like the Gentiles, there were to live a life of love, to live in the light and to live in wisdom (Eph 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15).  

Introduction

Paul spoke of the church living in wisdom because the days are evil, which often refers to bad men, a bad devil and bad behaviour (Eph 5:15).  The Apostle Paul now leads the Ephesians saints into battle over darkness.  In contrast to modern skepticism toward evil spirits, especially in first-world countries, Paul pictured the church’s battle for survival as a struggle against the devil, demons, and malign supernatural beings. 

 

Here is some of Paul’s theology behind the devil and his demons:  

·      in 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 (Eph 2:2).

·      His 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 (Eph 3:10).

Stand for God and against the devil

Now in Eph 6:10-20, Paul instructs believers to stand up for God and stand against the evil forces at work in the world.  “Finally,” Paul sums up the challenge of living appropriately before God and each other.  This last section discusses a believer’s use of God’s resources to help him stand against evil powers.  This passage is not a manual on deliverance from demons, but an exhortation to stand up for God and to resist the enemy.  Paul uses three distinct ideas to help us in our Freedom IN CHRIST:

1.     A description of the nature of the battle (Eph 6:10–13)

·      Our strength is in the Lord and his mighty power.  In other words, our victory over the devil is established when we focus on God, not the devil.  Remember your position IN CHRIST – Chapters 1-3…

·      We have the Armour OF God.  How could we ever go wrong with this?  Put it on!  Do not go into life unarmed.

·      Paul’s use of the Greek word methodeia (methods, schemes and strategies) tells us that the devil is cunning and uses deception to advance his evil purposes.  2 Cor 11:3 - But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  Stand against the devil’s schemes, strategies or methods; accusation, deception, lack of spiritual passion, confusion about your purpose in life, unrighteousness, unbelief, unforgiveness…  The struggle against the enemy is this – DO NOT BE DECEIVED INTO THINKING YOU ARE UNDER SATAN’S AUTHORITY!  Remember we are seated with Christ in heaven…

·      We don’t fight people we fight forces of wickedness in heavenly places.  Look at the world around us, the devil has us fighting each other; wars and rumors of wars… Just as the devil has his schemes he also has his demonic hierarchy. 

·      THEREFORE, because of who God is and the reality that the battle is real with the devil – PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD AND STAND!

 

2.     A call to resist evil powers by putting on the armor of God (Eph 6:14–17). 

Twice, the Apostle Paul tells the believers in Ephesus to put on the FULL Armour of God.  Paul uses the symbolism of Roman armour, but focuses more on the attributes of God than the armour itself.  Now he begins to describe the process…

·      Truth which stands against the lies of the enemy.

One of the first casualties in war is the truth.  Therefore, hold your ground against lies and untruth or half-truths.  Deception is one of the basic strategies of Satan.  One of the dangers of deception is this – you don’t know you are deceived.  Therefore, we must intentionally engage in the Truth of God’s Word and in Jesus, who is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). 

The belt of truth held the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God in place.  In Ephesians, Paul uses truth to direct us towards God and appropriate living. 

 

·      Righteousness which stands against all the unrighteousness of Satan and Society. 

The breastplate speaks of our righteousness found in Jesus Christ.  The breastplate also speaks of our call to integrity and moral behaviour.  In other words, we are righteous positionally IN CHRIST and need to display this practically and ethically. 

The enemy often uses guilt to shame or blame us, when we fall short of God’s glory.  We need understand the truth of our righteousness being as filthy rags, but IN CHRIST we are the righteousness of God.

 

·      Peace which stands against the fear and confusion of the enemy.

Fear is another choice weapon to get our eyes off of God Almighty.   Paul wanted the church to be ready with peace in the midst of a turbulent Roman Empire. 

This peace is found in the Gospel as well as peace of heart from knowing Jesus.

Isa 52:7 is a great Old Testament counterpart – “How beautiful on the mountains

are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

 

 

 

·      Faith to combat unbelief.

Unbelief is a weapon of the enemy used against God’s people.  Doubt and unbelief rob believers from the confidence that is ours in God.  We are to have faith in God for salvation, but also the hope and trust to live rightly and freely in God.  Faith is spoken of as a shield which is moveable.  In other words, we all have situations in life that are difficult and, in those moments, we need to move our shield of faith to resist confusions and doubts; Satan’s fiery darts.  In this sense then, the shield of faith is both defensive and offensive as part of God’s armour. 

 

·      The Helmet of Salvation

Righteousness and salvation are connected biblically as seen in Isa 59:7a - He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head…  Now he gives the believer the Helmet of Salvation.  The enemy often attacks our minds.  We are told to think right over and over in Ephesians in relation to God and each other.  What kind of helmet is it?  Salvation, new identity, and victory.   We must remember that God is victorious over the enemy. 

 

·      Sword of the Spirit which is God’s Word.

The last aspect of the armour of God is the sword which is an offensive weapon.  It is used to combat and kill one’s enemy.  We know that the battle is not against flesh and blood, so we are not killing anybody.  Paul tells us that the Sword is the Word and we are to use God’s Word to combat and resist the methods and schemes of Satan.  In other words, when in battle we are to read and speak God’s Word.  Rhema is the word Paul uses in the Greek language to speak of God’s Word in the context of Spiritual Warfare.  Rhema describes the living and knowledgeable combining of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  It is alive and active and produces freedom and victory for us in Christ. 

 

3.     A reminder to pray and be alert (Eph 6:18–20).

·      Prayerlessness is a grievous sin in the Body of Christ.  The enemy will do everything and anything to keep God’s people from praying…  As breath is required to live, so prayer is essential to the armour of God and spiritual warfare.  Paul knows this and therefore ends this section on Spiritual Warfare by commanding the church to pray and pray even more on all occasions and with all kinds of prayer.  This is not a study on prayer, but I can say that the full armour of God without prayer is inadequate.

·      There are times in life and spiritual warfare when praying in English does not bring us to breakthrough.  Therefore, Paul says, pray in the Spirit, pray in tongues.  

·      “I have never cursed God or man when praying in tongues” (Don Byrt).

·      Paul goes onto to ask for prayer so that he may fearlessly preach the gospel… Amen.

In Conclusion

            We are coming to the end of our study through Ephesians.  We are to think rightly about God (Eph 1-3) and live rightly before God and our fellowman (Eph 4-6).  In this life there will be great joys and intense battles.  Paul reminds us today that our God is strong and mighty and he wants us to be strong in him.  Spiritual warfare is real and if we don’t take up God’s armour and pray we are in danger of being wrestled down by the enemy and pinned to the mat. 

Spiritual warfare is of an eternal nature, and God has supplied us with everything we need to live in freedom over sin and Satan.  However, Satan does not fight fair.  Therefore, we need to be prepared and alert with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation.  And remember that God’s Word is an indispensable weapon that is life giving to us and deadly to Satan and his demons.  As well, prayer is 100 % essential if we are going to live in the Freedom of Christ. 

In closing Paul ends with some final greetings and this statement - Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love (Eph 6:23-24).

 

 

Abundant Living – Learning to Thrive

 

Introduction

Over the last few weeks we have had lots of spiritual activity at Courts of Praise.  I had the opportunity to be at the yearly Foursquare Convention in Canmore.  Sue Weiler preached an awesome message on Ruth for several Sundays.  And then over the past weekend, some of our ladies enjoyed the Weekend with Jesus retreat; thanks to all the volunteers that made it a great success.  Belma Vardy, Johanne Spencer, Nancy McPhee and Arnolda Bowes all shared various aspects of their journey with Jesus that brought inspiration and healing to many.  It was a great blessing for Becky to connect once again with Lecia Goerke as they led in worship of Jesus.  And then last Sunday, we were blessed with Belma sharing part of her testimony and then leading us in the River of Healing.  The feedback from many was very positive and there are thoughts and plans for future events. 

 

I have observed what God was doing at the Foursquare Convention and now the last few weeks here in Saskatoon.  There are several thoughts I want to share with us this morning and have your participation as well.  One of the most important messages I have taken away from the Spirit of God is this – we have to learn how to thrive in this abundant life provided to us through Jesus Christ. 

Thrive 2018 – The Foursquare National Convention

There were many opportunities to connect with fellow pastors and leaders as well as listening to various convention speakers.  I want to share with you some of the key thoughts I came away with from convention this year.

 

The idea of thriving is both positive and inspiring; it speaks of doing well, blooming and flourishing, developing and prospering, growing and succeeding.  There are both practical and spiritual applications; family, farming, finances, spiritual growth (personal and corporate), and health to name a few.  Jesus often asked questions to those he came in contact with.  These questions were meant to lead the person closer to a genuine and thriving relationship with God.  This requires change on our part as God’s Kingdom grows in our lives.  Steve Falkiner shared this verse – “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6).  Growth is good, requires work like planting and watering, and God will supply the growth. 

 

In order to Thrive we must understand some basic spiritual truths.  Firstly, fulfilling the Great Commission is the will of God (Matt 28:18-20).  This is the foundation of Kingdom growth.  Secondly, the church (ekklesia – people) is the will of God (Rom 12:1-8).  The church is to express the fullness of the life and love of Christ by allowing all the gifts to be manifested in the church.  Thirdly, faith is the will of God (Hebr 11:1).  In order to Thrive, believers must engage in faith; God blesses the faith-full.  Lastly, generosity is the will of God for believers.  Not just financially but in love, acceptance and forgiveness. 

 

Thriving is all about growing and sometimes growing is messy.  In Luke 5:17-26 we see Jesus teaching a group of Pharisees and teachers of the Law and we are told the power of the Lord was present to heal the sick.  Some men bring a paralytic and try to enter the house but are unable to, so they decide to make a mess but opening up the roof and lower the man down to Jesus.  When Jesus sees their faith he forgives the man’s sin.  Now things get even more messy.  The religious leaders begin thinking Jesus about blasphemy.  Jesus knowing their thoughts (this is messy in another way), questions them about which is easier, to forgive sins or to heal a paralyzed man. In the end, Jesus does both forgives and heals.

Thrive – The River of Life

Last weekend we were blessed with a messy service on Sunday that was the climax of the ladies Weekend With Jesus.  The weekend was a lot of hard work, but we were blessed in so many ways.  One of the verses I memorized several years ago is – Rev 22:1-3 – “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  On Sunday we were blessed with the opportunity to spiritually and symbolically walk through the river of life.  We were encouraged to wash in the river, to be anointed in the river, to forgive others, to confess our sins and confess our love for God.  It was a powerful time. 

 

Following on the theme of Abundant Living – Learning to Thrive, I want to take some time this morning and allow us to share our thoughts and experiences from the Weekend With Jesus and our Sunday morning service with Belma Vardy. 

In Conclusion

It is God’s desire for his people to enjoy an abundant life in Jesus.  This life is all about thriving and growing and becoming all that we are created to be.  The Bible tells us we are God’s workmanship and are created to display good works in life; this is all about thriving in abundance. 

In Application

Here are some of my applications from the last few weeks.

·       We have to be willing to grow.  This means we must accept change…

·       We have to be faith-full.  We must put our faith on display for Jesus…

·       Don’t worry about making mistakes.  We learn and grow in the midst of mess…

·       Confession is good for the soul and attractive to the Holy Spirit…

The Love Story of Ruth – Sue Weiler

So, this morning I am going to go through the book of Ruth.  It’s an actual love story of how God showed His love to a Moabite woman who came from a nation that He had cursed.  How the Moabite nation came about was from an incestuous relationship of Lot and his daughter.  Lot was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing and the daughter thought there were no more men in the land so she lay with her Father.  From that relationship came forth Moab and Ammon.   Moab is actually cursed by God.  Under the law God says no Moabite or Ammonite can enter in the congregation of the law to the tenth generation.  Yet you find that Ruth became the great grandmother of David the king of Israel.  She married a Jew by the name of Boaz.  

Ruth is at the end of the book of Judges.  Ruth took place during the time of judges.  Judges were presiding officers over the nation of Israel because there was no king at that time so the judges took over. 

Judges 21:25  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes

This is the background of the story of Ruth.  What a horrible time.  There was no king, there was no leader.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  If I think I want to kill you and take your property I would just do it.  There was rebellion on every hand.  In this dark scenario God planted a beautiful story, the story of Ruth full of the grace of God. 

Ruth 1:1a  Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.  And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.

It took place during the time when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land.  Every time when judges ruled it was full of rebellion.  It seemed the people never learned their lesson. The land would rebel against the murders and all the idolatry.  Man’s rebellion caused the famine.  But we are about to see God’s goodness.

V1b And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. (our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem means house of bread.  Judah means praise.  A time when the house of bread had no bread because of the people’s sins.  God always says whenever there is famine don’t run away from your troubles stay in the land I have given you and turn to me.

V2 The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion – Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah.  And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.

So, they left the land God had promised them because the famine was just beginning.  Whenever you find in the Bible famine in the land, God’s people who worship him, never suffer.  Joseph was in the land of Egypt when there was a famine and Joseph was well fed so was his family.  In fact, the people that were well fed because of Joseph’s presence. 

Now Elimelech means my God is king.  Mahlon means sickly and Chilion means dying or pining.  Naomi also means pleasant.  What did he do when the famine came?  He fled!  He didn’t live up to his name.  He dragged pleasant along with sickly and dying to a cursed country. God cursed this certain group of people because they are enemies of Israel, the Moabites throughout the Old Testament which is now the present day country of Jordan, east of Israel. 

V3  Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died and she was left with her two sons. 

V4 Now they took wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth.  And they dwelt there about ten years. 

The sons married Moabite women against God’s law for them at that time.  One was Ruth and the other Orpah.  Now Orpah means back of the neck and we are about to see the back of her neck very soon.  She left her mother-in-law.

V5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so, the woman survived her two sons and her husband. 

V6 Then Naomi arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread. 

So again, God is gracious.  Even though the land rebelled against the peoples’ rebellion God overrode the whole thing and gave the house of bread, bread.  So now Naomi heard in a foreign land how God is visiting her land again and she wanted to go back.  Just think of the prodigal son.  He didn’t go back when the money ran out.  He went somewhere else and worked until he came to the point he remembered the father’s house.  He remembered that there was more than enough bread in his father’s house.  It was the goodness of the father’s house that brought him home.  It was the goodness of the Lord in giving bread to his people in Bethlehem that caused Naomi heart to turn towards home.  It’s good news that brings us back to Him. 

 

Summarize this part

V7-11 Therefore she went out from the place where she was, and her two daughers-in-law with her, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah.  And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each to her mother’s house.  The Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.   The Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.”  So, she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept.  And they said her, “Surely we will return with you to your people.”  But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me?  Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?  Turn back my daughters, go – for I am too old to have a husband.  If I should say I have hope, if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons, would you wait for them till they were grown?  Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands?  No, my daughters, for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”

Deep down in Naomi’s heart she believed that God was against her.  All the while in her mind Naomi didn’t realize God was planning something very beautiful for her because later on she became the great grandmother of Jesus.  We know that God is working behind the scenes.  Here is a lesson to learn:  Don’t leave God’s presence, don’t leave God’s house when things appear bad.  God will always give you bread.  The reason why Naomi, her husband and their two sons fled from the house of God is because they thought the famine would destroy them.  The very thing they feared they received.  Just like the devil to say, “Why go to church.  There are things you can do on a Saturday night.”  But in here there is life.  In here God can give you fresh injections of life

v14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

 V15  And she said, “Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.”

True to her name we now see the back of Orpah’s neck who went back to her people and to her gods.  But Ruth clung to her mother-in-law because Naomi had probably been talking about the glories and the wonders of her God.  She probably told Ruth the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the story of Joseph, David and Goliath, the parting of the Red Sea.  Ruth hearing her mother-in-law fell in love with this God and was in no way going back to her people and her gods.

V16  But Ruth said, “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.  Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried.  The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”

This is an actual song for weddings which I have never heard before.  Not sure if any of you have.  But this is a mother-in-law and daughter –in-law but this song came from Ruth’s heart. Ruth says don’t tell me to leave you please.  Where you go I will go, where you lodge I will lodge, your people, the Jewish people will be my people.  Your God, Elohim, in the Hebrew, will be my Elohim.  

V18 – 20  When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she stopped speaking to her.  Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem.  And it happened when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?”  But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; (her name means pleasant) call me Mara, (which means bitter), don’t call me pleasant, call me bitter, for the Almighty (she uses the name Shaddai here) has dealt very bitterly with me.

This goes to show that Naomi does not know her God.  She uses the name El Shaddai for her God and El Shadda means that He blesses us with more than enough.  He does not deal bitterly with us.  This is a statement of ignorance on Naomi’s part not a statement of fact. 

V21a  I went out full, and the Lord had brought me home again empty.  Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

V22  So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab.  Now, they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.

Now barley harvest is during the May/ June period.  It is during this time that they read the book of Ruth the present day Jewish people. 

Chapter  2

V1  There was a relative of Naomi’s husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech.  His name was Boaz. 

Now Naomi is not the one talking here.  It is the Holy Spirit.  It is a statement of fact.  This is a statement of fact:  there was a relative of Naomi’s husband.  Naomi never mentioned this relative.  She lost sight, oh the Lord deal bitterly with me.  Don’t call me Naomi call me Mara.  Ohhh what to do.  She never mentioned one time this rich relative.  This man was a man of great wealth.  His name was Boaz.  He was a close relative of Naomi’s.  He was a kinsmen redeemer.  (If someone becomes poor or they owe money to a rich man and they can’t pay they have to sell off their land .  But after their land is sold they could still get back the land, two ways:  one way is to wait for the 50th year.  It’s called the Year of Jubilee.  A faster way is if you have a kinsmen redeemer or relative redeemer – kinsmen means relative, redeemer means buy back for you.  If you have someone that is close to you he must have two qualifications -   He must have the money and whether he wants to.  He must be willing.  The law says he must be your own family, from your own relative.  He must be rich and he must be willing to.  Do you understand why Christ had to become man?  He must become one of us. He must be related to a human family.  And then He must have the means to redeem us back.  Does He have it?  Oh boy does He have it.  Number two, He must be willing.  Is He willing?  Oh boy is He willing or what.

V2  So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favour.  And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”  

Gleaning – what is gleaning?  Gleaning is a law that God instituted in the book Deuteronomy where God said this, “In Israel when the time of harvest comes like their apple trees, their figs, pomegranates, wheat or barley harvest.  When you go to collect the harvest, the Bible says that you will leave behind some ripe fruits or ripe grains.  It’s impossible by hand to collect every ripe fruit or grain.   After you go through one time God says not to go through twice.  Whatever you leave behind is for the poor, the stranger.  Is Ruth a stranger?  Yes!  So, Ruth here somewhat knew the law, somehow someone must have told her, so she said to her mother–in-law we are poor why don’t I go to the field and I do gleaning not harvesting. She’s not qualified.   She’s a poor person so she can only do the gleaning.  Gleaning is only for those who come after the reapers and they collect whatever the reapers leave behind.  And God told the reapers don’t be a hard hearted person.  When your reapers comb once through your harvest fields leave behind whatever is left behind then for the poor, the stranger to glean.  Now Ruth availed herself of this provision of the law.  She didn’t know whose field she would glean from.  So, she went to a field and she said, “Well whosever field let me find favour in that person’s sight.  Her faith was in the grace of God.  She had nothing in herself to attract or to give herself a deserved positon.  When you realize you don’t deserve anything good, you depend on God’s grace that’s the time you become really attractive to God.  We have to learn to take our place. 

V3  Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers.  And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.

She happened to light on the field that belonged to her kinsmen redeemer.   

Of all the people that owned the field she happened to be there.  Who was guiding her steps?  The Holy Spirit!

She happened to be in the right field.  The very day she told her mother-in-law your God will be my God, God took down notes. God said because you say so I will be a God to you.  Ruth trusted Him! 

V4a  Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to his reapers, “the Lord be with you!”

V4b-7  And they answered him, “The Lord bless you!”  Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers.   “Whose young woman is this?”  So, the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, “It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  And she said, “Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’  So, she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house.”

She rested for only a little while.  She was worked from morning until  evening.  Ruth is no lazy person, she is a diligent person., 

V8  Then Boaz said to Ruth,   (this is the first time he spoke directly to her.  Most of the time the big boss they don’t even talk to their reapers.  They talk to the chief, the one in charge.  But here Boaz went beyond the chief, beyond the reapers and to the one who was doing the menial task of gleaning.  Ruth herself!  “You will listen, my daughter, will you not?  Do not go to glean in another field, not go from here, but stay close by my young women.   

Already he is offering her protection.  Don’t go in another field.  Stay here.  He realized that in the other fields she might get raped, she might be abused.  Stay in this field.  Stay by my young women.

V9  Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them.  Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you?  And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.    

Don’t you touch this woman!  Who is she?   She is just a servant.  But she put her trust in the grace of God and now the grace of God is operating full force for her.  There is no reason why this mighty man of wealth should show her favour.  She is nothing, not even a Jew.  Yet he is showing her so much undeserved favour.

V9b  And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn.    

You are thirsty go and drink.  Is he really, really loving her?  Yes!

V10  So she fell on her face bowed down to the ground and said to him, “Why have I found favour in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

A beautiful picture here.  Why would you show me so much grace?  I am a foreigner.  I’m a slave.  I’m a nobody.  Ruth did not understand the grace of God but again, when she said to Naomi, “Your God will be my God he she had captured His heart and He was about to bless her beyond anything she could ever imagine or even dream of.

V11-12  And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.  The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.”

So, because Ruth left her homeland and is now working in a field as a gleaner God is going to repay her and reward her for her works

V13  Then she said, “Let me find favour in your sight, my lord, for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants.” 

She knew she was not like any other.  She always remembered her place.  If you always remember where you came from you always remember the Lord’s goodness to you.  Never forget where you came from. 

v14  Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.”  So, she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back.

She was a gleaner sitting beside the reapers.  Unheard of!  She also kept some back for her mother-in-law.  She brought home the leftovers.  This is the table of the Lord.  You prepare a table before in the presence of mine enemies.  This is how Jesus prepares the table for the one he favours for the one he loves, which is you.  His table is so full that the bible says she ate, she was satisfied.  It is one thing to eat, it’s another thing to eat and be satisfied.  She ate till she was satisfied and then she kept back the leftovers. 

V15  And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves and do not reproach her. 

Reproach in the Hebrew – don’t make her blush.  Don’t disturb her.  Treat her with the same respect due to someone I care about.  What he is saying to his other men is this she might be a gleaner but because I care for her you better treat her with the same respect

V16  Also, let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”

What the reapers are supposed to do it is pick up what is left behind.  Now Boaz says to his reapers let your bundles fall purposely for her.  Leave it that she may glean and do not rebuke her. 

V17  So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out  what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley.

An ephah of barley is about a 10 day supply of bread. 

V18  Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned.  So, she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.

She gave to her mother in law after she had been satisfied.  Ruth remembered and she gave to Naomi what was left over after she was satisfied.  She brought back more than enough for Naomi.  You being blessed remember those who are less blessed.  So, Ruth brought the blessing back to her mother-in-law.

V19–20  And her mother-in-law said to her, “Where have you gleaned today?  And where did you work?  Blessed be the one who took notice of you.”  So, she told her mother-in-law with whom she had worked, and said, “The man’s name with whom I worked today is Boaz.”  Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!”  And Naomi said to her, “This man is a relation of ours, one of our close relatives.”

She just recognized Boaz.  How blind she had been but now she saw the goodness of God.   

V21  Ruth the Moabitess said, “He also said to me, ‘You shall stay close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’”

Stay by the young men.  We need to stay by those who give us the word of God.  To those who have oversight over our souls.  Stay close to the church. Stay close to the place where you get spiritual food. 

V22-23  And Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It is good, my daughter that you go out with his young women, and that people do not meet you in any other field.”  So, she stayed close by the young women of Boaz, to glean until the end or barley harvest and wheat harvest; and she dwelt with her mother-in-law.

Naomi is getting very smart.  She’s realizing that this guy is a close relative and the potential is there.  We don’t know if he wants to marry Ruth but Naomi says don’t go into any other field. 

 

Chapter 3

V1  Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?”

Naomi is seeking security.  Ruth had found grace and now Ruth is going to find security. 

V2a  Now Boaz, whose young women you were with, is he not our relative?

Is he not our kinsmen redeemer?  He’s in a position to be a redeemer.  That is what she meant when she said, “Is he not our relative?”  She is telling Ruth that she does not have to be alone the rest of her life.  They didn’t have to live poor.  They were living poor at this time. 

V2b  In fact, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor.

So, Boaz is with his men.  He is a very rich man and he is down there and his harvest has been finished.

V3  Therefore wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.

Naomi is advising Ruth.  The old woman is advising the young woman on how to catch this guy.  Naomi is being kind to Ruth.  Why?  She is concerned that Ruth also has a husband.  She knows that Ruth is a wonderful girl. 

Natural truth, very simple, if you go on a date, bathe. After you bathe, anoint, then put on your best clothes.  So, Naomi is telling Ruth to bathe, anoint herself, put on her best clothes and go down to the threshing floor.

Naomi said don’t go until he has finished eating and drinking.

V4  Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do.”

Naomi is telling Ruth to go, uncover his feet and stay at his feet, lie down at these feet. This is a very pure act that Ruth did to Boaz because it is a picture in those days of saying, “Can you please help us?  You are the only one who can help us.”  In some cases, most cases for a person to marry a non-Jew is to mar your inheritance.  So, He could look at her and say, “Go away!”  Most likely that happened.  She was taking a big risk.  What she did was very beautiful and she did what her mother-in-law said. 

V5-6  And she said to her, “All that you say to me I will do.”  So, she went down to the threshing floor and did according to all that her mother-in-law instructed her.

Notice that favour seems to come to those who are most submissive.  The best way to enjoy maximized feminine rights is to be a woman and to allow yourself to be loved.  There are some things men do for you and some things you do because you are a woman.   But there are some things you don’t do because there are places where women are subjugated.  Jesus never did that.  Christianity lifts women up.  Jesus talked to the woman at the well.  She didn’t realize that there was a well at the well to make all things well for her.  Jesus lifted women up to their place.  To become like men in everything is not to acknowledge your place in God.  God made you a woman and beautiful and God made you to be loved.  Ruth is in submission to her mother-in-law. 

V7-9  And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down.  Now it happened at midnight that the man was startled, and turned himself; and there, a woman was lying at these feet.  And he said, “Who are you?” So, she answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant.  Take our maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.”

She asked him to spread the border of his garment over her.  When you do that you are coming under God’s wings (Psalm 91) the psalm for protection.  Under His wings shall you trust.  When you come under this, back in those days, it meant all that you have and all that you are, all your nakedness is covered.  All that you have is redeemed.  That is what she said to Boaz.  Cover me!   What Ruth said was give me Jesus.  Let Jesus cover me.  Today we are clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Where was Ruth?  She was at the feet of Boaz.  So, she was telling Boaz cover me, redeem me and all that I have.  For you are my nearest kinsmen.

We can go to Jesus and say I blew it.  My family is suffering, my finances are suffering but I come to you, you are my kinsmen redeemer, cover me. Cover me!  Redeem me!  He can redeem your situations.  He is redeemer. If he can raise you spiritually from the dead what are other troubles to Him?  You must come to him, you must call upon Him.  Cover me.  Spread the hem of your garment over me. 

 

V10a  Then he said, “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! Thank God she didn’t hear, “Get lost.  Who do you think you are?”  No, she heard blessed.  She received an extra blessing at the feet of Boaz. 

Luke 10  There is a story of Mary and Martha.  Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus and heard his words while Martha was distracted after much serving.  The place at the feet of Jesus is a place of blessing.  It is a place of miracles.  But if you think all your running around is going to score points with God you are wrong.  True Christianity is sitting at Jesus’ feet but it does not mean spiritual laziness.  Once you are at Jesus’ feet you absorb His love for you, meditate on His loveliness there will be a time.  Mary anointed Jesus.  And the Lord said she has done a good work.  She did it at the right time, at the right place, doing the right thing.   How can you do the right thing at the right time at the right place?  When you spend time at his feet and hear his word.  Great things happen. 

Where is your heart?  Busy with life or at the feet of Jesus hearing his words.  The place of blessing is at his feet.  His heart is so compassionate towards you. To cry before him or just be in his presence.  It’s not the right prayers it’s the right person in your situation.

V10b  For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich.

V11  And now, my daughter, do not fear.  I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman.

First, she heard blessed, then a promise don’t be afraid.  Ruth is the only woman mentioned in the bible that she was a virtuous woman.  Who can find a virtuous woman?  Ruth, and she was not even a Jew.  This is called the power of redemption.    

V12- 15  Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is a relative closer than I.  Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you – good; let him do it.  But if he does not want to perform the duty for you then I will perform the duty for you, as the Lord lives!  Lie down until morning.”  So she lay at his feet until morning and she arose before one could recognize another.  Then he said, “Do not let it be known that the woman came to the threshing floor.”  Also he said, “Bring the shawl that is on you and hold it.”  And when she held it, he measured six ephahs of barley, and laid it on her.  Then she went into the city.

So there was a relative that was closer than Boaz.   

Boaz gave Ruth six ephahs of barley. Then she went into the city

 V2  Ruth worked for one ephah of barley.  When she was laboring, laboring, she got one measurement of barley or a 10 day supply of bread.  It was still a blessing but in her own efforts. 

V15  When she sought the blesser she got six ephahs of barley which is a 60 day supply of bread.  Boaz blessed her.  When she sought Boaz for himself he gave her six ephahs of barley.  God never ends on the sixth He ends on the seventh.  He’s not finished blessing you yet in case you think He’s finished.  Why only six measures of barley for Ruth at this time?  Because the seventh is the barley man himself.  She is going to marry the man who owns all the ephahs, all the barley.  Ruth got her man. 

V16-18 When she came to her mother-in-law, she said, “Is that you my daughter?”  Then she told her all that the man had done for her.  And she said, “These six ephahs of barley he gave me: for he said to me, ‘Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”  The she said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out: for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.”

When you sit still the man will not rest until he has finished the work. You rest, He will work.  Stand still and God fights. The same thing for your troubles.  Sit still.  If I don’t do something nothing will happen.  The voice of unbelief I bind you in Jesus name.  Tell that voice to go away from you.  You know why?  To do something means you think you are in this world all by yourself, loveless, no one cares for you, there’s no God here.  Sit still, rest in the Lord , trust the Lord and the Lord will fight for you. If you are in a situation that is beyond help then tell Him, Lord cover me, cover this whole situation. You only need His covering if you have blown it.  The trouble is your own causing your own making.  In Ruth’s case she couldn’t help it.  She was born a Moabitess.  Jesus has the power to redeem every situation.  He has the power to cover every situation.  So, this morning come to Jesus with your troubles your situations and let Him take care of it.  Let Him cover you with His love.  Allow yourself to be loved by Him today.  He knows what you need.  Amen!

 

 

14. Freedom in Christ – Obedience releases freedom

 

Review

One of the main messages of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus was to be found IN CHRIST.  This includes all the spiritual blessings that he highlights in the first three chapters.  In the practical outworking of Christian faith, Paul highlights another foundation for the believer, to live a life CONSTANTLY FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Being found In Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit is powerful for the believers in Ephesus, and for us today. 

 

With these truths in mind, Paul speaks to the church – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).  The was a culture smashing statement for the Roman Empire and those within the Jewish faith.  The Emperor was the Head of the Empire and this headship was pagan, abusive in its authority, and self-gratifying.  Unfortunately, this idea of headship was promoted in the relationship between husbands and wives.  The Jewish leaders also had twisted views in relation to home life.  A practicing Jewish male believer would recite 13 blessings every morning.  Here are three of those blessings:

·      Blessed are You that You did not make me a non-Jew.

·      Blessed are You that You did not make me a slave.

·      Blessed are You that You did not make me a woman. 

 

The idea of submission to one another was a huge shift in thinking.  A wife submitting to her husband was a big step up in status, both for the house-hold code book for the Roman family and for the Jewish faith.  A husband loving his wife as Christ loves the church puts headship into a Biblical mindset, challenging the culture of the day, whether pagan or Jewish.  And Paul ends this section with a great verse – “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph 5:33).

Children and Parents

The next topic of discussion for Paul and the church of Ephesus in parental – Eph 6:1-4 - “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 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”  4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.  The Spirit-filled life is foundational for parenting in a secular society like Ephesus and especially today. 

·      The idea of obedience being formed in the hearts of children is essential for growth and maturity and part of them experiencing the fullness of freedom at home and IN CHRIST.

·      In the same way as wives submitting as to the Lord, children are to obey their parents as in the Lord.  The whole idea of submitting one to another and children obeying their parents is summed up as Christ submitted to his Father in everything.  (Phil 2:5-11)

·      “Honour your father and mother” is actually the fifth commandment but the first commandment with a promise attached to it; the first four commands are directed towards one’s relationship with God.  Honouring your father and mother is being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position; parents are not perfect.  The Greek word for honour means “to revere, prize, and value.” Honour given towards parents comes with a promise of blessings received in life.

·      One of the challenges for fathers in Ephesus was that of parenting in anger.  Can any father relate? Do not exasperate means to make angry or provoke.  So how do father's make sure their children are at peace?  Father's need to be in a healthy relationship with the mother, to control their own attitudes and anger, grow in learning and loving as a father, admit mistakes, be secure in their fathering, insecurity breeds a controlling atmosphere in the home, be free from addictions whatever they may be, addictive behaviours produce fear in the home for the spouse and children.

·      Lastly, fathers need to be well-informed in the ways of God to instruct, train and warn their children.  The training isn’t simply head knowledge but a practical understanding of the ways of God in life; in other word, fathering is hands on. 

Slaves and Masters

Now Paul looks at the interaction between Slaves, Masters and Christ in Eph 6:5-9.  Slaves, in Roman times, were often prisoners of war and could earn their freedom within a decade.  At other times, people sold themselves into slavery to pay off debt or to increase one’s social or economic means.  In Jewish culture, there were slaves, male and female who served their masters under Jewish Law (Deut 15:12-15); in the seventh year slaves were set free. 

 

Slavery in biblical times was very different from the slavery that was practiced in the past few centuries in many parts of the world.  The slavery in the Bible was not based exclusively on race. People were not enslaved because of their nationality or the color of their skin. In Bible times, slavery was often the result of war and based on economics. People sold themselves as slaves when they could not pay their debts or provide for their families. In New Testament times, sometimes doctors, lawyers, and even politicians were slaves of someone else. Some people actually chose to be slaves so as to have all their needs provided for by their masters.  This is in stark contrast to the slavery under “colonialism” during British and American rule where slavery was forced upon people and was a lifetime sentence and (black) slaves were believed to be inferior human beings. The Bible does not condone race slavery, or man stealing.

 

With this understanding, Paul now speaks to slaves and masters who had faith in Jesus.  Obedience was required by slaves towards their masters, with the thought that they are ultimately under Christ’s authority – “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Eph 6:5).   Obedience has certain characteristics that Paul highlights; be respectful just as towards Christ, and fearful, not slavish terror, but an eagerness to do your duty.  Paul mentions the idea to be sincere and to serve wholeheartedly.  This kind of Spirit-filled slavery carried with it reward and freedom IN CHRIST, and possibly from slavery itself. 

 

Paul also addresses Masters – “treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him” (Eph 6:9).  In other words, masters were to handle their slaves with kindness and respect, as if submitting one to another and to Christ.  This was unheard of in Roman culture.  Sometimes Christian slaves had non-Christian masters, and this would be very challenging for the slaves.  Sometimes Christian masters had non-Christian slaves, and this was an opportunity to win them for Christ.  And Christian masters with Christian slaves were to treat each other just like they would treat Jesus Christ; brothers and sisters IN CHRIST.

In conclusion

One of the challenges we face today is this.  How do we display the culture of the Kingdom of God in a secular and pluralistic society?  How do we submit one to another?  How do Christian children obey their parents?  How do parents’ parent?  What about slavery?

 

We must understand that the Bible is the foundation upon which God evaluates our lives.  The Bible is the source of knowledge for wives, husbands, children and parents living in the home.  Our home life is to be saturated with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, in contrast to the all the stuff secular society offers… 

 

Slavery is something that needs to be addressed in our broken culture.  It is estimated that there are over 27 million people in the world who are subject to forced slavery: forced labour, child slaves, sex trade, etc.  We have been redeemed from the slavery of sin, as followers of Jesus Christ should be the foremost champions of ending human slavery in the world today.

 

Paul’s hope for the church of Ephesus is simple, he wants them to experience the fulness of their freedom in Christ.  He gives the church in Ephesus several keys to live by in contrast to Jewish and Roman culture of his day. 

·      First, they must come under the Headship of Jesus Christ. 

·      Secondly, them must be spirit-filled. 

·      Thirdly, they must be respectful and submissive to one another because of their love for Jesus.  Many of these verses underline love and selflessness, which results in harmony, and is evidence of the Spirit’s work in the home with wives, husband and children, as well as between slaves and masters.

 

Just as there are practical challenges to living out our faith IN CHRIST, there are spiritual forces that are in opposition to the body of Christ.  That is where Paul takes us next in Ephesians. 

 

Let’s pray…

13. Freedom in Christ – Submission releases freedom

 

Introduction

In our last few studies on Ephesians we have seen the importance of living appropriately before God; living in holiness, love, light and wisdom.  The Apostle Paul now brings it “home”, so to speak, and describes how freedom was designed to flourish in family life.  The last idea Paul presented was to be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.  The work of the Holy Spirit is essential to enjoy our freedom in Christ and with each other.  It is somewhat easy to live a Spirit-filled life for one or two hours a week on Sundays, but it is a different story in our everyday relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents and slaves and masters.  In each of these three relationships the first person mentioned is called to submit or be obedient in the case of children and slaves, whereas the second person is to show love and care for the other.  And all people involved are to live out their faith as service to the Lord.

 

It is important to understand the context of the culture of Paul’s day in Ephesus.  Women, children and slaves were seen as inferior and often uneducated.  Male authority was dominant in Graeco-Roman world; it was a patriarchal society.  There were household rules for conduct that the Roman Empire operated on that we not fully Biblical.  Submission in Paul’s day has a different practical outworking in present day culture.  We will look more at that are we carry on in our study.

Submit to one another

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 2:21) is the last thought of being filled with the Spirit and the first thought of the Christian household.  Submission needs to be understood in several ways as we look at the Scripture today.  Submission often carries with it the sense of authority, i.e. - “submit” is one-directional.  Submission speaks to coming under someone with greater power or authority.  In Paul’s time it was someone who is lower in age, position, or even gender needs to submit; wives and children were seen as the responsibility of the husband.  So, what does Paul mean when he says, “submit to one another”?  How can husband and wife both submit to the other?  Do husbands and wives each have authority in the home?  We seem to have an oxymoron.  In one sense, Paul adheres to social norms by requesting that wives be subject to their husbands, but at the same time he subverts social expectations by calling all believers, including husbands, to submit themselves to everyone—not just those in positions of leadership.  This is the Upside-Down Kingdom of God confronting the Greek and Roman leaders and philosophers of Paul’s day.  There are passages of Scripture that are less offensive but communicate similar characteristics of submission:

·      Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).

·      Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10).

·      Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up (Rom 15:2).

 

Paul is instructing the church of Ephesus in a new “household book of conduct”.  In it he elevates wives to come alongside of their loving husbands (not authoritative or dominant), children are not servants but sons and daughters of the household who learn freedom through obedience and both slaves and masters need to remember Christ in their dealings with each other.  Submit one to another because you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Wives and Husbands

Paul now speaks to wives and husbands and their relation to each other in Christ.  The cultural model for marriage in Ephesus and the Roman Empire was male patriarchal leadership.  The theology of Ephesians is all about being IN CHRIST, and now Paul makes this practical for wives and husbands.  So how do wives submit in the context of the church in Ephesus?  Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Eph 5:22-24).

·      The wife’s submission, which was expected by Graeco-Roman values, is placed in the context of spiritual submission to Christ – as to the Lord.  In other words, submission to Christ is a good thing bringing with it freedom, love and care. 

·      “Head” is an often misunderstood term.  In Roman culture the Emperors were the Head of the Empire and were often unrighteous and vile; they abused their authority and served themselves with selfish pleasures.  In contrast, Paul uses this term in Ephesians and it applies first to Christ as the head of the Church (Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23) and then to husbands as the head of the wife-husband relationship.  For sure Jesus has authority over the church but never used this authority to abuse or dominate his followers.  This is the context for Headship in the home; husbands are to be like Jesus to their wives, serving them as a Saviour not as an Emperor, not demanding their service and submission. 

·      A wife’s submission to her husband “in everything” refers back to as the church submits to Christ.  Jesus would never violate or be unfaithful to his church in any way, so the wife can have confidence in submitting to her husband with the same understanding and confidence. 

 

Now let us look at husbands in the home.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body” (Eph 5:25-30). 

·      In the Greco-Roman household codes, husbands were to make or force their wives to submit, but they never listed love as a duty of the husband.  Paul breaks the mold when he instructs husbands to love their wife.  This was a culture shock for husbands in the same way of submitting to one another. 

·      Paul then defines this crazy love.  Die for your wife.  Serve your wife in spiritual matters.  Serve your wife in practical matters.  In other words, love is totally unselfish, which would be a huge culture shock for the pampered Roman husband. 

 

Paul affirms this new model to the church in Ephesus by using an Old Testament passage; “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Eph 5:31; Gen 2:24).  One of the key passages that sum up the marriage relationship between a husband and wife is this – “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Eph 3:33).  This is the constantly being filled with the Spirit link between a husband and wife; love and respect. 

In conclusion

The entire teaching today on submission and love as related to wives and husbands is empowered by the constant filling of the Holy Spirit.  We must remember that Paul begins this entire section with this culture smashing statement – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21).  Lording it over someone was one of the problems of religious leaders in Jesus and Paul’s day.  The abuse of authority was rampant in the Roman Empire.  The rich and wealthy took advantage over the poor and needy.  Paul’s hope for the church of Ephesus is simple, he wants the marriages to experience the fulness of their freedom in Christ. 

In Application

Many of the verses studied today underline love and selflessness, which results in harmony, one evidence of the Spirit’s work.

 

Here are the key points that apply to every generation of Christian. 

“Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).

 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph 5:21)

 

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband (Eph 5:33).

 

Let’s pray…

 

 

12. Freedom in Christ – Living in Wisdom

Freedom in Christ – Living in Wisdom

Introduction

We have been looking at the theme of Freedom in Christ in the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians.  We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places; chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit.  These are our benefits of being IN CHRIST as believers who are a part of the family of God, Jews and Gentiles.  In the first few chapters Paul is teaching, instructing and giving knowledge to the saints in Ephesus; he is helping them to learn who they are IN CHRIST.  Then the Apostle Paul also exhorts the believers to walk or live out their faith in Jesus in Eph 4-6.  He states to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (Eph 4:1), to not live as the Gentiles live (Eph 4:17), to live a life of love (Eph 5:2), to live as children of light (Eph 5:8).  Now Paul speaks to live in wisdom (Eph 5:15).  

 

Biblically speaking, knowledge and wisdom often go hand in hand, but are not synonymous.  Knowledge is about gaining facts and ideas through life experience, research and study.  Whereas, wisdom in the ability to put knowledge into action with discernment and accuracy to your life.  Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but not the other way around.  One can be knowledgeable without being wise.  There are some in their pursuit of knowledge have become puffed up or proud (1 Cor 8:1) but Paul tells us the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:18-19). 

 

The Scriptures tell us that wisdom and knowledge and understanding have their origin in the Fear of God; awe, respect and reverence for God Almighty. 

·      Prov 1:7 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

·      Prov 9:10 - “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

·      Prov 15:33 - The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honour.

Living in Wisdom

Paul begins this teaching on wisdom by saying, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph 5:15-17).  The church of Ephesus was blessed IN CHRIST, and yet lived in a darkened society.  Therefore, they needed to be reminded to be careful, prudent, watchful so that they live rightly before God and each other.  Wisdom and folly are contrasted over and over in Proverbs.  Paul tells them not to be foolish, lacking wisdom or common sense, but to understand and comprehend God’s will. 

In one sense, Paul has in the previous verses highlighted God’s will; live well before God, and live in God’s love and light, avoiding the lifestyle of the Gentiles who were trapped in sexual sins and greed. 

Do not get drunk

Now Paul speaks to another area of life to be careful with – drinking alcohol.  The city of Ephesus was like many pagan cities, there was an abundance of alcohol to drink. The same is true today.  I am not here to debate whether or not Christians can drink alcohol.  But I am here to say that the Scripture clearly states “DO NOT GET DRUNK”; inebriated, stupefied, or excited by alcohol.  Drunkenness leads to debauchery which is reckless and foolish living that destroys life; angry drunk, immoral drunk, driving drunk etc…  A drunken person acts abnormally.  Rather than controlling himself (wisdom), the wine controls him (foolishness).  This kind of lifestyle does not glorify God.

Instead, be filled with the Spirit

In contrast, Paul speaks of being filled with something other than alcohol – the Holy Spirit.  There are two terms in the Scriptures that are similar and relate to the Holy Spirit, baptism and filling.  Although the terms are related there are real differences between the two.  There are passages of Scripture that affirm the truth of the Holy Spirit and baptism and salvation:

·      We are told in Mark 1:8 that “Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”; as well this language is used in Acts 1:5

·      For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (1 Cor 12:13).

·      for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27). 

·      Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

 

The Scripture teaches us that there is only one Spirit baptism - at salvation, but there are many fillings that keep us walking in the Spirit’s power to live a life pleasing to the Lord.  I believe that Paul highlights both these experiences in his letter to the Ephesians. 

·      (Baptism) - Eph 1:13-14 - And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

·      (Filling) - I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better (Eph 1:17).

·      (Filling) - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).

 

This leads us to Eph 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  The Greek language here speaks of “being continually filled”, moment by moment, with the Holy Spirit.  A foolish drunk always wants their drink topped up.  The wise Christian is to be topped up with the Spirit to the overflowing.  In other words, wisdom is found in constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit. 

How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit?

There are no shortcuts in the journey of faith with Jesus Christ, the same is true of Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ life and ministry were opposed by religious people who spoke of him being demon possessed.  Satan has waged the same kind of war against the Holy Spirit in relation to the church; he has confused it, opposed it, and surrounded it with abuses and extremes. 

 

Even though there is not step-by-step manual for the filling of the Holy Spirit, I would say that the Scriptures do give us some understanding as what to do in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  

·      One must be baptized with the Holy Spirit; in other words, you have to be a Christian.  Not a religious person or someone who goes to church.  Paul has described for us what genuine Christianity looks like.  Someone who thinks rightly about God and themselves and someone who lives well before God and his fellowman; they are surrendered and obedient to God.  This Spirit-filled life is not for superstar Christians, but it meant to be the way born-again believers live before God and each other.

·      In relation to the Holy Spirit, the Bible also tells us to ask our Father in heaven for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).  We must desire to be filled with Holy Spirit and let him take control of our life.

·      A key Scripture is Rom 12:1-2 – we must be ready to present our body (mind, emotions, your personality, your all. 

·      Faith is key…  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? (Gal 3:2).

In Conclusion

The Spirit-filled life is marked by “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:19-20).  Oftentimes, well-meaning believers are more affected by what is going on around them circumstantially.  Paul is teaching them to be “filled with the Spirit” and from the inside out bring joy and song into the world.  In other words, let’s sing spiritual songs not drinking songs.  The same way we are to be continually filled with the Spirit, we are to always be thankful… 

In Application

Today, I would like us to pray for each other to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Maybe there are areas where we are filled with doubt and unbelief.  Or maybe we are struggling with obeying God.  Maybe our spirit tank is half-full.  Or maybe we are full of hunger and desire for more of God.  Our lives vary from person to person; however, the good news is that we can be filled with Holy Spirit today.  We can be filled to the overflowing with the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. 

 

Let’s pray…

 

The Holy Communion – God’s Channel of Divine Health

 

Next to being saved from hell of eternal destruction, divine health is the greatest blessing we can have.

Some people might say, “No!  It would be great if I had lots of money.  Then, I can do so many things.”  I’m sure there are people who have lots of money but not able to do anything with it because of health issues. 

If someone is on his deathbed, I do not think he would say, “I wish I had made one more million.”  I believe he would be thinking, “if only I could have my health back.  There are so many things to do, so many people to say, ‘I love you’ to.”

You can also have a great family with wonderful children, but if you are sick, and cannot run around and play with your kids, that would be sheer misery.  That is why I believe that health is the greatest blessing we can have while we are still here on earth.  Without it, there is no way we can enjoy the blessings of God.

You will find that when Jesus walked on earth, most of His miracles were in the area of healing.  That is because His nature is to heal.

The Bible says that Jesus “…went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38)  He did not walk on water all the time, He did not calm storms all the time, but He healed all the time.

When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land, He made sure that none of them were sick.

Psalm 105:37 He brought them out with silver and gold, and there was none feeble among His tribes.

In Cecil De Mille’s production of the Ten Commandments, a blind old man shuffled out of Egypt with a walking stick.  That is how Hollywood dramatizes the Holy Word.  But it is incorrect.

God’s Word says that there were none feeble so that old man could not have been blind or bent over.  Bible scholars estimate that there were about 2.5 million Israelites who left Egypt healed, healthy and whole.  That was and still is God’s will for His people today – all healed, healthy and whole.

If it is God’s nature to heal, have you wondered why many Christians are sick?  I am not referring to minor ailments like a cough or cold.  I am referring to serious life-threatening illnesses.

Now, if the people of the world are sick, it should not surprise us.  They do not have Jesus Christ as their protection, so it is not wonder they are sick.

But when believers are sick, I want to know why.  And I do not want to draw my conclusions from human experience, I want an answer from God’s Word.

You might be surprised to know that the Bible gives one and only one reason why Christians are weak and sick, and die prematurely.

The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, said, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”  Sleep here means death, not bodily rest.  For Paul said, “For this reason…”  He did not say, “for these reasons”.  He was pointing us to one singular reason Christians become weak and sick, and die before their time.

And what is “this reason” that Paul was highlighting to us?  He said, “… not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason….”  So the reason the Corinthians became weak and sick was their failure to discern the Lord’s body.

If we discern the Lord’s body we will walk in His health and wholeness.

It means that they did not know why they were partaking of the body when they came to the Table.  They had no idea why there were eating the bread.  And this was the reason they were not receiving the divine life of their Saviour, causing them to be weak and sick, and to die prematurely.

Since truth is parallel, it means that if we do discern the Lord’s body, we will walk in His health and wholeness.

This is only logical.  The same can be said of, what is the opposite of short?  Tall.  Or what is the opposite of small?  Big.

So it follows that if Paul said, “…not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep”, then it must be that when we do discern the Lord’s body, we will be strong and healthy, and live long.

You would have thought that Christians would study this passage so that they can walk in divine health.  After all, Paul had singled out this one reason as the cause of sickness and, ultimately premature death for many Christians. 

Yet, it seems that most people in the body of Christ choose to focus on food and exercise as the key to living a healthy life. In fact, one of the best-selling themes in Christian bookstores is food.  There are all kinds of books on what to eat and what not to eat.

I am not knocking these books.  What I am saying is that God does not want us to focus on food or exercise as the key to divine health.  He does not want us to put our trust in natural means to stay healthy.  2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal…”

Some people think that they will walk in divine health if they are on a Mediterranean diet since that was Jesus’ diet.  But let me remind you that the majority of the people whom Jesus healed were on a Mediterranean diet.  They never had pork or prawns or any of that high-cholesterol stuff.  Yet, they were still sick because natural solutions can only go so far.

By all means eat well and exercise.  I watch what I eat by staying away from too much sugar.  I do like desserts and will have them when offered.  I also try to exercise but my trust in not in my own feeble human efforts.  My trust is in God to keep me healthy.  And God has ordained the Holy Communion as a key channel of health and wholeness for His people.

The early church believed this.  That is why “…they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)  They majored on the majors.  They made a big deal of those things that God made a big deal of.

They took God at His Word.  It is no wonder that they experienced God’s power.  In Acts 2:43, 46 we read that they broke bread from house to house, and many signs and wonders were done through the apostles.

Although the body of Christ today understands the importance of doctrine, fellowship and prayer, few in the church truly understand the significance of the breaking of bread (or the Holy Communion).  That is why many are weak and sick, and die before their time.

Down through history, powerful doctrines like “justification by faith” have come under severe attack by the devil.  This is what happened to the Holy Communion.  The devil has pushed the church to two erroneous and extreme interpretations of this truth.  On one side are the believers of transubstantiation and, on the other, are people who have reduced the Holy Communion to a mere ritual.

“Transubstantiation is the alleged process whereby the bread and wine offered up at Communion are changed to that of the real body and blood of Jesus Christ.

I believe that God wants to restore the true meaning and power of the Holy Communion to the church so that His people will rightly discern His body when they come to the Table.  This will cause them to become strong and healthy, and to live long.

The Holy Communion will add years to our lives and life to our years.

The Lord has made special provision for our health and this is all found in the death of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when we come to partake at His Table.

It is one of my greatest passions in life to see the body of Christ receive every single thing that our Saviour suffered and died to give us.  And I know that when God’s people are correctly taught about how healing is dispensed at the Lord’s Table, health and wholeness will follow.  It will add years to our lives and life to our years.

When we recognize that the Holy Communion is God’s channel of health and wholeness for His people and we teach the church to rightly discern the Lord’s body when they come to His Table, God’s people will be healthy and strong, and will live long.

Having established that the Holy Communion is God’s channel of health and wholeness for His people, it is time to find out how to experience that divine life that comes through discerning the Lord’s body.

Notice that Paul said that it was not a failure to discern the blood, but a failure to discern the body that caused the people to be weak and sick, and to die before their time.

1 Corinthians 11:29-30

For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgement to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

When I used to take communion I did not understand the importance of the two elements and the significance of them.  God has since shown me that the body and blood is a two-fold application in the Communion.  The wine, which is His blood, is for our forgiveness.  And the bread, which is His body, is for our healing.

The Corinthians, like most Christians today, had no problem discerning the blood.  Paul’s epistles make it very clear that the blood of Jesus brings forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:14

In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Ephesians 1:7

IN Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…

Because the Son of God paid the penalty for your sins with His spotless blood, you can go scot-free when you put your trust in His blood to save you.  When you partake of the wine, know that you are forgiven and have been made righteous.  The blood of Jesus has given you right standing before God, so that you can come boldly into His presence.  And when you pray, you can be sure He hears you.

That is how you discern the blood and most Christians understand that.  But not many know how to discern the Lord’s body.

To do that, we must first know what the bread represents.  Jesus established that the bread, which is His body, is for our healing.  How do we know that?  When he spoke to the Syro-Phoenician woman regarding her daughter’s healing, He called healing “the children’s bread”.

Mark 7:26-28

The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  But Jesus said to her, “let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”  And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

Notice that when she asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter, He said that is was not good to give the “children’s bread” to the “little dogs”.  What does “bread” refer to?  It refers to the healing that she was asking for.  And what do “dogs” refer to?  They refer to non-Jews or Gentiles like herself.

So Jesus was actually saying that healing was only for God’s covenant people and not for Gentiles who were not included in the covenant then.

Now that we know what Jesus meant it should also be noted that the bread is referred to healing and not deliverance.  The Bible treats disease and demon possession as the same thing since they both originate from the devil.

Acts 10:38 says that Jesus went about doing good and “…healing all who were oppressed by the devil”.  Notice that disease is due to the devil’s oppression.  This, disease and demon possession are both the results of oppression by the devil and we need God’s healing for these problems.

From this incident, it becomes clear that Jesus sees healing as the children’s bread.  The woman put her faith in that little crumb, and that act released power to drive the demon out of her daughter.

So the bread, even a small crumb, which is His body, is for our healing since we are now God’s children and fully entitled to the healing bread.

I believe that when Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26;26), the disciples did not need any explanation like the one I just gave.

They knew that He wanted to impart to them His life, health and wholeness.  These men were with Him every day and not once did they see Him sick.  Not once did they see Him come down with a flu, fever or stomachache.  He never had to say to them, “Can one of you preach the Sermon on the Mount for me?  I don’t feel up to it today.”  The Lord was never sick.

More than that, He was vibrant, full of life and full of health.  When those who were without hands and feet were brought to Him, they were made perfectly whole.  The body parts they needed were imparted to them from the heavenly store when they touched Him.

And his body was so filled with life that even His clothes were soaked with His health.  The Bible says that a woman with an issue of blood for 12 years came to Him knowing that He was her only hope. (Mark 5:25-34)

She had spent all her money and suffered many things from many physicians.  And what was the result?  She was not better, but instead, became worse!  Yet, with just one touch of the hem of His garment, she was immediately healed of the affliction.

If the hem of His garment could be soaked with His health, can you imagine His body?

No wonder Luke said, “And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (Luke 6:19)  When a doctor, and Luke was a doctor, says this, you know that it is for real.

There was no need to tell the disciples that when He said, “Take, eat; this is My body,” He was imparting His life, health and wholeness to their bodies.  They knew better than anyone else that taking the bread meant ingesting His health into their mortal bodies.

The matzah, a flat bread eaten during the Passover, is a good object lesson of what Jesus’ body symbolizes.  The Mishnah or Jewish oral laws gave instructions on the preparation of this bread. 

According to these laws, the bread was to be unleavened, baked, pierced with holes and striped.  No leaven was used because leaven in the Bible represents sin, and Jesus is the perfect, sinless Son of God.  That is why He is able to take our sins upon Himself.

His body was burnt because the full fury of God’s wrath against our sins fell on Him.  This fire was supposed to fall on us and our families, but it fell on Jesus instead.

His side was pierced and He bore those merciless stripes on His back so that our bodies might be made whole.

As you partake of His broken body, know that His body was broken so that yours can be whole. When you partake in this spirit of faith, something happens to your body.  You become strong, healthy and you will live long.

By now it should be clear that the blood and the body have two different applications.  This is consistent throughout the Bible.

The prophet Isaiah said, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”  (Isaiah 53:4)  Griefs and sorrows in the Young’s Literal Translation states that “Surely our sicknesses He hath borne, and our pains – He hath carried them…”

Matthew 8:17 says, “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses”. 

In the Greek, “infirmities” means bodily weaknesses.  So we can see very clearly that Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would take upon His own body, our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses, and pains.  In other words, Jesus bore not just our sins, but also our bodily weaknesses, sicknesses and pains.  This is what some hymn writers of old called the “double cure”. 

This double cure is evident in the Passover.  The Lord’s Supper was first celebrated on the same day as the Passover because it is the true Passover.

Luke 22:15-20

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup in the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

The Old Testament is the shadow, the New Testament is the real substance.  Jesus is the true, perfect, unblemished, holy Lamb of God.  So the Passover is a type of the Lord’s Supper.

During the first Passover, they killed the lamb and put the blood on the doorposts.  This caused the destroyer to pass over their families because God said, “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you…”  (Exodus 12:13)

The blood was for the people’s forgiveness.  The blood covered the people’s sins and appeased the righteous requirements of God.

But what did they do inside the house?

Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

They ate the roasted lamb and the unleavened bread.  This was to give them strength for the journey.  It was not natural strength that they received.  It was supernatural.

That is why there were “…none feeble”.  (Psalm 105:37)  It takes a supernatural work of God for 2.5 million people to all be healthy.

We know that this lamb was a mere shadow of the real substance.  So if the body of a “shadow lamb” could bring such supernatural results, how much more the body of the true “substance lamb” our Lord Jesus Christ!

Here again, the double cure was at work – the blood was for forgiveness, and the body and bread were for divine strength.  No wonder when they left Egypt, there were none feeble.

David described the double cure this way, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases”.   (Psalm 103:2-3)  Notice that His benefits include the forgiveness of our sins as well as the healing of our diseases.

Healing, like forgiveness, is not a promise.  It is the blood-bought right of Christians.

When Jesus took our punishment on the cross, it did not just bring us forgiveness, it also brought us healing.

Most people, when asked whether they are sure of their forgiveness, say they are.  They know that God has already forgiven them because of the cross.  But when asked if they are sure of their healing, they say they are not.

I want you to know that at the cross, Jesus bore our sins and our sicknesses.  And so healing, like forgiveness, is not a promise.  It is the blood-bought right of Christians.

Because of what He did at the cross, we do not just have forgiveness, we also have healing.  Forgiveness and healing go hand in hand.  The faith that you have for forgiveness is the same faith that will bring your healing.

Healing through the Holy Communion can also be gradual.  That is how it is working for me.  I have suffered so much over the years with sinus issues, eczema; (suffered for 3 months with severe itching day and night), headaches, sleeplessness. 

As I partake I am getting better and better over time.  I will even do it at work.  I believe that I am healed and I am realizing that it has nothing to do with me but putting my faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  When he said, “It is finished”!  I believe by faith that my healing is complete. I may have symptoms of it still being there but they are lying symptoms.  The devil wants me to believe that I will suffer with these things for the rest of my life but I know in my heart that that is not the truth.  The truth is I am healed of all my afflictions.

One other lesser known aspect of the Holy Communion is the power of proclaiming the Lord’s death.  Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”  (1 Corinthians 11;26)

You might ask, “What about the Lord’s death are we proclaiming and to whom are we proclaiming it?”  Paul said it another place, “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”  (Colossians 2:15)

So when we remember Jesus’ death, we are also proclaiming to the principalities and powers that they have been disarmed because He has triumphed over them.

Psalm 25:5   You prepare a Table before me in the presence of my enemies.

When you have Holy Communion you are proclaiming to demon spirits that Jesus reigns.

And when you release your faith in the finished, complete and perfect work of Jesus at the cross, every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  This means that every demon has to flee. 

HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!

Jesus told us to have Communion often.  So there must be something powerful about it.  Do you think that He would make us do something often without having our blessing in mind?

Those who believe in the power of that one perfect sacrifice on the cross know that His blessings of health, wholeness, and preservation abound at His Table.

Once you are a believer, you are a priest. (1Peter 2:9)  So you can partake of the Lord’s Supper and even minister it to others.  You do not need a pastor to do it.

In the church, pastors do it because they are the spiritual authority over the people, and there must be order in how things are conducted.

But outside the church, you, as a royal priest, are qualified to partake on your own.  Do as Jesus said – have it often.  “How often?”  you might ask.  As often as you need to.  It depends on how much you want His health and wholeness.  I’m not saying that you must partake every day.  But if you are sick, I would recommend that you have Holy Communion daily.  There are people who are so radical that they take it like medicine – three times a day.  And you know what?  They get radical results.  So partake because the Holy Communion is God’s channel of health and wholeness for you.

God has truly made it easy for His people to walk in divine health.  We just need to come to His Table, put our faith in His broken body for our healing and partake.  It is so simple, yet so powerful.  This is not the time to examine yourself to see if you have sin in your life.  When Jesus rose from the grave you automatically became the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  You have sin but God does not see it.  When He looks at you all He sees is Jesus because you are in Christ.  When you partake of communion know that you are forgiven of all your sins, past, present and future.  Know that you are healed because of the stripes that Jesus bore on His back.  Every stripe that He was given He saw you and those things that are afflicting you today.  This is a time to celebrate what Jesus did on the cross and what happened when He rose from the grave. 

11. Freedom in Christ – Live in the Light

 

Introduction

This is the fourth time Paul uses the idea of living or walking in the ways of God.  The practical fruit that he is calling the church of Ephesus to live by is rooted in the spiritual truths found in the first three chapters of Ephesians.  In essence Paul is wanting the believers in Ephesus to live out their faith IN CHRIST in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Eph 4:1), not as the Gentiles (Eph 4:17), but to live in love imitating God (Eph 5:1-2). 

Children of light

One of the problems believers faced in Ephesus is deception.  Even though they were spiritually blessed new creations IN CHRIST and seated in heavenly places, their old nature was still clinging to them.  That is why Paul spoke to them about learning to put-off sin and Satan and put-on Jesus Christ.  Paul encourages them by saying, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Eph 5:8)

In this verse Paul contrasts darkness and light to the church.  This would have specific meaning to those coming out of pagan temple worship.  There was spiritual darkness due to the practice of sin and the presence of Satan.  Paul already addressed those who were darkened in their understanding, separated from life and ignorant of heart (Eph 4:18-19).  There was also the practice of sexual sins done in darkened rooms of pagan temples.  Suffice it to say, darkness was not meant to be part of the believer’s life; that is why Paul prayed for the “eyes of your hearts to be enlightened” (Eph 1:18).   Now he reminds them that, “you were once darkness” but now you are light in the Lord. 

The spiritual blessing for the church in Ephesus and for us today is this – we are light in the Lord.  This is the truth of Chapter 1-3 of Ephesians.  We are full of God’s light (IN CHRIST) because of all that Jesus has accomplished for us.  Therefore, Paul’s exhortation is to “live as children of light.”  Paul gives us three words - goodness, righteousness and truth describing how to live in the light.  We bear fruit because we are rooted IN CHRIST and in his love.  In other words, as we stay in the light and love of Jesus bearing fruit is natural to his children. 

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian believers around 2,000 years ago, and even today, we understand the difference between the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.  The culture in which we live gets it.  The whole Star Wars epic was basically a story about the conflict between “the Darkside” and “the Force.”  The Lord of the Rings trilogy was based upon the same conflict — the forces of the Dark Lord Sauron and the hobbits, elves, and wizards who represented good.  These pop culture ideas tend to see as the struggle between darkness and light as equal.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, takes a more Biblical approach where the good King Aslan defeats the wicked witch. We know from Scripture that Jesus Christ, who is the light of the world (John 8:12) has completely defeated sin and the forces of Satan (Eph 1:19-23).  The so-called struggle is not between equal kingdoms (dark and light) but is the ongoing expansion of the Kingdom of God, full of life, light and love, even though there is ongoing resistance by mankind.  The key thought for us to understand is this – IN CHRIST we are on the winning team that is bearing fruit and expanding.  We are light in the Lord and choose to live in the light. 

Living in Freedom requires discernment

Another characteristic of being a child of light is to “find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph 5:10).  I love the simplicity of this verse.  This is a small verse with big implications.  Find out carries with it a meaning of seeking and discovery, testing and approving.  How is this possible – through discernment.  Discernment can be defined as

·       the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is hidden

·       it is an act of perceiving something

·       a power to see what is not evident to the average mind

·       the ability to accurately see the truth

·       spiritually it is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error, right and wrong and angels or demons

Paul doesn’t answer this statement for the believers but leaves it opened ended so that they can find the joy of bringing pleasure to God.  I am sure we can all remember going on a treasure hunt as children.  It was great fun to run here and there trying to find what was hidden followed by the joy of discovery.  In this case we are discovering what brings pleasure and satisfaction to God.  Paul is trying to help the church of Ephesus to grow in their desire and passion for God and what makes him glad.

We are to discern and discover what brings pleasure to God.  However, on the other hand, we must “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph 5:11).  Paul has concern for the believers in Ephesus because darkness often leads to deception.  Just as there is righteous fruit that brings pleasure to God there are fruitless and useless acts that bring harm.  We are told to have no participation, association or fellowship with individuals who choose to walk in darkness – the sphere dominated by evil, sinfulness, and ignorance of God and his ways; understood as the absence of light.   There is a shame associated with the sinful practices of people trapped in darkness. 

We must remember that we are not in a tug-of-war between the kingdom of darkness and light.  Jesus, Light of the World, has overcome the darkness.  Light influences darkness not the other way around.  Darkness is simply the absence of light, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible…” (Eph 5:13-14).  Even though we light in a world under the stimulus of the enemy, we are light in the Lord and shine our light everywhere we go.  Paul was wanting the church in Ephesus to be the influencers in their darkened society.  He wanted the church to wake up and let Christ shine on and through them.  The same is true for us today, we are children of light shining in the darkness. 

In Conclusion

Living in the light means continuously receiving the light.  In the natural we need our daily dose of vitamin D, spiritually speaking we all need to get our SON TAN in Jesus.  We are light in the Lord and now choose to live as children of light.  Throughout my Christian walk there are times when the Holy Spirit has said to me – “this or that needs to be put-off”.  There was something dark that was attached to my life and I needed to discern between right and wrong, I needed to find out what pleases God.  In those moments I chose to walk in the light.  This reminds me of 1 John 1:7-9 - But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

In application

Our theme over the last few months has been Freedom in Christ.  The last few messages have been about learning how to put-off those sinful issues, whatever they are, and to discover how to put-on Jesus Christ.  Today, Paul’s message it is all about putting off darkness and putting on light.  We must allow the light of Christ to shine into all areas of our thoughts and emotions and actions in order to live in the fullness of our freedom. 

One inspiring verse for me in today’s passage is this – “find out what pleases the Lord.”  All too often I can find myself focusing on what needs to be put-off in my life.  This verse changes my paradigm from putting-off to discovering what makes God happy and putting this into my daily living for God.  We are all individuals with various likes and dislikes so as we find out what pleases God our discoveries will vary.  It is a wonderful thing to bring pleasure to God and see joy on the faces of his people. 

            Take a moment and think about your walk with God and what you could do to please him? 

Let’s pray…

 

10. Freedom in Christ – Live in Love

Introduction

We are in the midst of our study on Christian freedom.  Paul has given the church in Ephesus a solid foundation of belief and now he is helping them to understand the little things of life that are worth living for.  He helps them to comprehend the difference between “becoming a Christian” (justification – Eph 1-3) and “becoming Christian” (sanctification – Eph 4-6).  In other words, since we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit, we ought to live in a manner worthy of the calling and grace we have received.  We are looking at several aspects of living in ways that honour God.  We should not live as the Gentiles live in darkened understanding and behaviour.  We should be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit by lying, being anger, stealing, unwholesome talk and bitterness.  As believers we practice right thinking and put this Christ thinking into action and freedom becomes our daily bread.  Today’s message highlights the importance of living in love. 

Imitators of God

            The Apostle Paul uses the idea of imitation as the premise for living in love.  Paul was not shy about exhorting believers to follow his example as a leader.  Paul tells the church of Corinth to imitate himself (1 Cor 4:16).  He states, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).  Now to the church in Ephesus he gives a strong command – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Eph 5:1).  In much the same way a child grows and learns by imitating their parents, Paul is saying we can do the same with God.  The word in the Greek language speaks of mimicking the words or behaviour of another.  This is the opposite of hypocrisy where we pretend to be someone we aren’t.  One of the safest ways of living in love is to imitate God, in all he says and does. 

Living in Love

            In applying his doctrines to the Ephesian believers, Paul now uses for the third time the word “live” in the NIV.  As God’s children we are to walk and live in unity with God and each other, in holiness, and now “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2).  We are all familiar with John 3:16 – “For God so loved…” God’s love is sacrificial in the giving of his only Son with the foresight of Jesus’ death on the cross.  The Apostle John clarifies this truth in 1 John 3:16 – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  I believe there are several key points Paul wants the believers to practice.

·      Living is all about loving behaviour.  So, what does love look like?  We are told that “Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.  Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.  Love never dies” (1 Cor 13:4-8).  In other words, love is something that can be measured and practiced to all to see. 

·      Secondly, Paul reminds us of Jesus’ example of love in that he “gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2).  True love is considerate of others often at the expense of one’s own wellbeing.  Just look at how Jesus lived; Phil 2:5-11 reminds us of Jesus’ live, death and resurrection.  Jesus was brought to the greatest state of freedom by loving others more than himself.  This was fragrance upon fragrance to his Father in heaven.  Love is in the air in Ephesians – 1:4-6, 15; 2:4-5; 3:17-19; 4:1-2, 15-16; 5:1-2; 25-33; 6:23-24.

Living in Love not lust

The Apostle Paul now addresses an area in the city of Ephesus that many were in bondage to – sexual sins.  Artemis (Greek) was the prominent pagan goddess of worship in Ephesus (Diana was the Roman counterpart) and was known as the goddess of fertility.  One of the aspects of her worship was rampant sexual sins; they worshipped their goddess through sex and prostitution and money.  The believers in Ephesus would have been confronted daily by ungodly sexual practices and their demonic influences.  Paul understands they need great freedom in this area.  “But 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. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (Eph 5:3-4)

·      Living in love means we should treat sex with purity and thankfulness.  We should not pull sex out of its proper setting of a loving marriage between and man and a woman. We should not treat sex as common or unholy or ugly or lustful.

·      So, should the Christians at Ephesus say sex is wrong?  Not at all.  In the midst of this struggle for freedom, Paul says to the believers to be thankful for sex the way God intended.  It is a wonderful gift, but not to be cheapened or abused.

 

Paul makes sure the church in Ephesus understands the seriousness of these temptations. 

“For 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” (Eph 5:5).  Living in idolatry disqualifies their inheritance in the kingdom of God; those are very somber words.  The challenge in Paul’s day is the same challenge in our day; sexual sins are rampant, pornography is at our fingertips, and greed permeates our society.  And in the midst of such blatant sin, there are those who want to tell us it is OK revealing their hardened hearts trapped in deception. 

In conclusion

In our pursuit of freedom, we must be enlightened IN CHRIST.  The love of God fills our hearts and minds as we become a Christian; we are chosen, adopted, redeemed and filled by the Spirit of Jesus.  However, becoming Christian doesn’t happen by accident.  The Christian life has to be learned from Christ and then lived out in a manner worthy of our calling.  It’s learning to live a life of love and purity in the midst of secular society.  The power of right believing IN CHRIST leads to a life of love and holiness.  Living in Love is essential to fully being free as followers of Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray with each other - Eph 3:14-21…

 

 

9. Freedom in Christ – Live NOT as Gentiles

 

Introduction

The Apostle Paul carries on with his practical discourse on how the believers in Ephesus should live and walk in Christ.  His letter to the church of Ephesus was not simply to be read but put into practice.  In other words, one of the reasons the Bible was written so that we could learn to obey God and not simply to study God.  Paul laid a wonderful foundation of study in Eph 1 – 3, but he is now interested in putting our faith into action.  How does he do this?  He uses the word to walk or live to emphasize we are not to practically put our faith into action.  Eight times in Eph 4 – 6, Paul uses “therefore” (NKJV – Eph 4:1, 17, 25; 5:1, 7, 14, 17, 25) to remind them what Christ has done for them.  Therefore… the believers ought to live in ways that honour God.  James tells us we are to be doers of the word not merely those who hear the word (James 1:22). 

Live not as Gentiles

            There are times in our Christian walk where we must NOT do certain things, the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit affirm this to us.  Paul’s second therefore starts with a negative attached to it, So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking” (Eph 4:17).  Christ had set the believers in Ephesus free from their past ways of sinful living (Eph 2:1-3).  Now Paul insists, implores and testifies to them there is a wrong way of living and a right way of living.  One of Paul’s emphasis here is thinking or understanding.  Christians are to live and think differently than unsaved people.  Their minds are to be controlled and directed by God and not to be futile or aimless.  Futile thinking carries with it darkened understanding, separation from God, ignorance, loss of shame and sensitivity, extreme immorality, and reckless sexual sins.  The pagan temples of worship were hot beds for this kind of empty thinking and immoral lifestyle.  Paul exhorts the church of Ephesus to no longer engage in the negative existence of the Gentile world.

Put off – Put on…

             Salvation begins grace and faith IN CHRIST, and moves forward with repentance, which is a change of mind and heart.  The whole outlook of a person changes when he trusts in Christ, including his values, goals, and understanding of life.  This is what Paul addresses next.  He reminds the church – “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. (speaking of Gentile thinking) 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus” (Eph 4:20-21).  Disciples or learners of Jesus are taught truth, both Biblical and historical, which affects their thinking.  In other words, we take on the mind of Christ and become like Jesus in our thoughts, emotions, and our actions.

Paul uses put-off and put-on to instruct the people with regards to repentance and renewal.  This reminds me of the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John 11; the grave clothes would have to be removed and new clothes given to Lazarus. 

“To put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” is a picture of grave clothes being set aside.  This putting off is our responsibility as believers, this is the work of repentance, intentionally setting aside our old way of thinking and living.  We must put off the corruption of our former life which is dead and decaying…  We are to be made new in the attitude of your minds; this is renewal, to be reestablished like-new in an improved way.  The word for attitude is “pneuma” or spirit in the Greek language.  It is the Spirit of God that transforms how we think in relation to the Word of God that is active in our life.  “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 12:5-6).  As the Spirit takes control of our minds, because we are willing, we put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 

This put-off and put-on has been described this way.  We put off our grave clothes and put on our grace clothes.  Putting off and putting on is a description of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as seen in Rom 5 – 8.  As Christians we have not only changed our minds but have new citizenship in heaven. 

Therefore, put off…

            This brings us to Paul’s third therefore.  In this passage of Scripture Paul brings the believers to an application.  He is not like some preachers who speak of God’s grace while missing the practical responsibility of the people.  He desires us to fully understand our salvation IN CHRIST as well as how to live it out.  To experience our freedom in Christ only in spirit and not in practice is heresy. 

            Paul begins with another put off message, but it is directed towards five areas of sin. 

1.     “Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour” (Eph 4:25) – do not lie to one another.  There are different ways to lie to people.  We tell half-truths or exaggerated truths.  We change the facts.  We intentionally deceive.  We must remember that Satan is called the father of lies (John 8:44).  The reason we are not to lie is that we are members of the same body.  In other words, lying to others damages my own relationship to the body of Christ.

2.     “In your anger do not sin” (Eph 4:26-27).  Anger is an emotion caused by something that upsets us.  In itself, anger is not a sin, because even God can be angry.  However, anger unchecked or unresolved leads to sin in various forms.  We explode in anger and hurt people.  We simmer in anger and scare people.  The key is to deal with anger in the moment and not let it carry over to another day.  Make amends with people.  Forgive one another.  If we don’t Satan robs us of our freedom or takes away our confidence.

3.     “He who has been stealing must steal no longer…”  Stealing is the 8th of the Ten Commandments; stealing is never to be a part of our Christian walk.  Stealing was a problem in Paul’s day among the slaves who were not always treated well.  They would steal to get ahead in life, so to speak.  Paul tells them to work and to work so that they can help those in need.  We must be careful not to steal in our modern society.  Steal from employees, from the government or even our neighbours.  We are not to be like Satan who was a sneaky and dirty thief (John 10:10).

4.     “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” …  Corrupt speech is a problem in the Body of Christ.  Have you ever encountered a person with bad breath?  That is the word used here in Greek – unwholesome, bad, worthless or rotten words have no place in the church; put them off.  “Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word a gift” (Message).  Our words must be graceful and help in building up others according to their needs.  We must remember that our words come out of our hearts.  So, let’s make sure our hearts of full of love and kindness and forgiveness.  Bad speech grieves the Holy Spirit.

5.     “Get rid of all bitterness” …  Bitterness refers to an established hostility that poisons the whole inner man; unresolved hostilities lead to bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander and every form of malice.  Remember that Jesus broke down the wall of hostility in order that we can live in peace with one another.  We must put off bitterness before it poisons the entire body.  We must put off bitterness because it saddens the Holy Spirit.  Holding onto grudges or unresolved issues robs us of our freedom in Christ.  We must empty our backpacks of bitterness and learn to forgive and enjoy freedom.

Therefore, put on…

Our Christian walk is more than repentance or putting off our old nature.  After the Apostle Paul clearly speaks of certain sins that the believers in Ephesus were to put off, he ends this section with several attributes to put on.  He speaks of being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:32).  True Christianity is not simply managing our sins and temptations, it is the putting on of the life of Jesus Christ, it is transformation that begins with on the inside because of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.  So, we must clothe ourselves with kindness and compassion and forgiveness towards each other as a result of being forgiven ourselves. 

This is the same idea as when Jesus speaks of a demon being expelled from a person.  If the demon comes back and finds the house swept, clean and in order but not filled they come back with even greater vengeance (Luke 11:24-26).  In other words, as we put off sinful behaviour we must put on righteousness; putting off must always be followed by putting on…

In conclusion

            Keeping in mind our theme of “freedom in Christ”, Paul reminds the church of Ephesus to not live in their old patterns of living, or not as Gentiles.  He exhorts them to be true to the foundations of faith as in Eph 1 – 3, by putting off the sin and putting on Jesus.  This is how their freedom would be experienced.  The putting off of sin is not performance-based Christianity, it is not to be done in their effort, but it is the result of what Jesus has done for them.  Because of the forgiveness of Jesus, the church of Ephesus could walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel and no longer live in their old Gentile ways but could live with their minds renewed and put on their new self.  They were no longer sinners but saints, who were “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

In application

Here are several key questions to answer with regards to this morning’s message?

·      What kind of thoughts come through my mind on a daily basis?

·      What are some areas of my life that I need to put off?

·      What should I be clothing myself with in relation to my thoughts, emotions and actions?

Let’s pray…