Freedom In Christ

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…

 

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…

“The Power of Right Believing” -

 

This morning Pastor Larry wanted me to share with you the book that I have been reading called “The Power of Right Believing” by Joseph Prince.  In this book I learned some truths that have revolutionized my walk with the Lord.  These truths I want to share with you because God is not into behavior modification.  He is into HEART TRANSFORMATION.  And the way to the heart is through the mind. 

Romans 12:2 in the Living translation says: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (and then believe).  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The first truth that I want to share with you is that JESUS LOVES YOU! 

Romans 8:35, 37-39   Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?   Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, not height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ  Jesus our Lord. 

The key to this is: for I am persuaded.  This morning I would like to persuade you about the truths that God has shown me.

There is a disciple in the bible who believed that Jesus loved him.  It says in John 13:23   Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.   

Now Jesus loved all the disciples but it was John who believed that Jesus loved him.  He is the only one of all the disciples who BELIEVED that Jesus loved him.  You won’t find that in any of the other gospels. 

For Peter he declared his love for the Lord.  Matthew 26:31-35   Then Jesus said to them.  “All of you will be made to stumble because of me this night, for it is written:  I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”  But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”  Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  And so, said all the disciples.

Jesus was about to tell them while they were all sitting around the supper table who was going to betray Him.  Peter asked John to ask Jesus who it was.  Then John asked Jesus.  It seems that Peter had a distant relationship with Jesus.  He asked John to ask Jesus who was to betray Him instead of asking Jesus himself.  Where was Peter when Jesus was hanging on the cross?  Gone!  He had denied Jesus three times with cursing.  Where was John when Jesus was hanging on the cross?  John 19:25-27   Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdelene.  When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!  Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”  And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

 Jesus had given John spiritual employment.  When you believe that Jesus loves you things change on the inside of you and in your circumstances. 

There is a story of a minister from Oregon who was assigned to provide counselling in a state mental institution.  His first assignment was to a padded cell that housed deranged, barely clothed patients.  The stench of human excrement filled the room.  He couldn’t even talk to the inmates, let alone counsel them – the only responses he got were groans, moans, and demonic laughter. 

Then the Holy Spirit prompted him to sit in the middle of the room and for a full hour sing the famous children’s hymn that goes, Jesus loves me!  This I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.”  Nothing happened at the end of that first day, but he persisted.  For weeks he would sit and sing the same melody with greater conviction each time:  “Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so.”

As the days passed, the patients began singing with him one by one.  Amazingly, by the end of the first month, thirty-six of the severely ill patients were transferred from the high-dependency ward to a self-care ward.  Within a year, all but two were discharged from the mental institution. 

When you believe that Jesus loves you good things happen and you can face any challenge thrown at you because you have a brother and a Heavenly Father backing you up.  If God is for you who can be against you. 

Every day I thank my heavenly Father that He loves me.  I make it very personal.   My ABBA DADDY loves me.  At first it felt uncomfortable but now it’s what I believe with all that is in me.  Because He loves me I can now love Him back. 

 

The next truth I want to share with you is the gift of righteousness.   2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ Jesus). 

Righteousness is a legal term.  It means to have right standing before God.  Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words defines righteousness as “that gracious gift of God to men whereby all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are brought into right relationship with God. “  In other words, your right standing before God is based upon Jesus’ right standing before God.

When you asked Jesus into your heart you automatically became righteous.  You are not a sinner.  You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  You are in right standing with the Father.  You are saved and made righteous by grace through faith.  As a believer, you will still make mistakes, you will still fail, and you will still be tempted.  From time to time you will fall into sin.  But having sinned doesn’t turn you back into a sinner.  You have been purchased and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and in Christ, you are still the righteousness of God even when you fail.  Why?  Because your righteousness is not a result of your right doing – it is a result of your right believing.  It is a gift of God, not something you can earn through your obedience, right doing, and sinless perfection.  That is why you can have eternal security, knowing that you are saved by Jesus and not by your own works! 

Romans 5:17  For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 

Today, instead of seeing ourselves reigning in life, we see more evidence of death reigning in the world.  The Bible tells us that is was because of “one man’s offense” – Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden – that death began to reign.  It is important that you realize that our lives are wrapped up in those of our ancestors.  You wouldn’t exist if there hadn’t been your grandpa.  So we are sinners not because we sin, but because of Adam’s sin.  Many believers still think that they become sinners by committing sin, but that is not what the Word of God says.  What it says is that we are sinners because of Adam’s sin.  By the same token, we are made righteous in the new covenant not because we do righteous deeds, but because of one Man’s (Jesus) obedience on the cross. 

The next truth I want to share with you is the gift of forgiveness:  Isaiah 53:5   But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 

There is another reason we can rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus has borne the punishment that was due us: forgiveness and healing go hand in hand.  The Bible says that He who never broke a single law of God”… was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed”.  Do you see how healing and the price for our forgiveness are so closely intertwined in God’s Word?

Many today are struggling to heal themselves from their sicknesses, diseases, mental dysfunctions, and addictions.  I want to announce to you today that our part is to receive forgiveness from Jesus and to believe that we are forgiven every single day.  The more forgiveness-conscious we are, the more easily we will experience healing and liberty from every bodily ailment, mental oppression, and destructive habits.

One of my favourite psalms goes like this: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:  Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” Psalm 103:1-3.  Now which comes first?  The consciousness that all your sins are forgiven precedes the healing of all your diseases!

And the operative word here is ALL.  Some of us are comfortable with receiving partial forgiveness in certain areas of our lives.  But we refuse to allow Jesus’ forgiveness to touch some dark areas – areas that we can’t let go of and that we can’t forgive ourselves for.  Whatever those mistakes may be, I encourage you to allow Jesus to forgive you of all your sins and receive healing for ALL your diseases.

My friends, let the past go.  Let the mistakes go.  Allow yourself to be free, and learn to forgive yourself by receiving with an open heart Jesus' total and complete forgiveness today.

 

The next truth I want to share with you is the gift of no condemnation – John 8:2 – 11   Jesus demonstrated something very important in the account of the woman caught in adultery.  What enables someone to have the power to overcome sin?  The threat of the law obviously didn’t stop the woman from committing adultery.  But receiving Jesus’ acceptance – knowing that even though she deserved to be stoned to death, He did not condemn her – that gave her the power to “go and sin no more.”

Let’s take a step back to examine what Jesus did.  Jesus saved the woman righteously.  He didn’t say, “Don’t stone her.  Show mercy to her.”  What He said was, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  And on their own accord, the Pharisees and religious mob all left one by one.

Notice how, after that, Jesus did not ask the woman, “Why did you sin?”  No, what He asked was, “Where are those who accuse you?  Has no one condemned you?”  It seems as if Jesus was more preoccupied with the condemnation of the sin than the sin itself.  He made sure that she walked away not feeling the condemnation and shame.  Let’s not reverse God’s order.  When God says something comes first, it must come first.  What God puts first, man cannot put last.  God says “no condemnation” comes first, and then you can “go and sin no more.”

Christian religion has it in reverse.  We say, “Go and sin no more first, then we won’t condemn you.”  What we need to understand is that when there is no condemnation, people are empowered to live victorious lives, lives that glorify Jesus.  This is where our empowerment comes from.  Grace produces an effortless empowerment through the revelation of no condemnation.  It is unmerited and completely undeserved.   But we can receive it – this gift of no condemnation – because Jesus paid for it at the cross.

Truth be told none of us could have cast the first stone at this woman.  We have all sinned and fallen short.  Our confidence today is not in our ability to keep God’s laws perfectly, but in the only one, Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law itself.  In Christ, we are all on equal ground.  If a brother or a sister gets tangled in sin, our place is not to judge them, but to restore them by pointing them to the forgiveness and gift of no condemnation that is found in Jesus.

The only person who is without sin and could have exercised judicial punishment on the woman was Jesus.  Only He was qualified to cast the first stone, and He did not.  Jesus was in the flesh to represent what was in God’s heart.  It wasn’t judgement.  His heart is unveiled in His grace and forgiveness.  Let’s put it this way when describing what happened as the Pharisees waited to stone the woman:  The Pharisees would if they could, but they could not.  Jesus could if He would, but He would not.  That’s our Jesus.

In God’s kingdom if you want to see His glory in your life you need to believe in order to see.

The most humble thing you can do is take your place as a child of God.  When the enemy comes at you like a roaring lion seeking to devour you that’s when you stand firm in your faith and declare that I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, I am forgiven of all my sins, past, present and future and there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. There is only one true lion and that is the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ (Rev 5:5)

My friends I want to highlight one more verse in Matthew 3:16 – 17    When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like dove and alighting upon Him.  And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Do you know that Jesus had not yet performed one miracle.  God loved Jesus for Jesus. 

He is saying the same thing to you today.  You are His beloved son or daughter in whom He is well pleased. 

Preached by Sue Weiler

8. Freedom in Christ – Live a Life Worthy

 

Introduction

The Apostle Paul has laid a foundation for the believers in the church of Ephesus to stand upon.  These truths relating to all the spiritual blessings that are ours IN CHRIST bring together both Jews and Gentiles.  We are now a part of the Body of Christ and seek to be like Jesus on earth.  We are the church and the family of God where we learn to relate as one to each other.  We are the temple of God where holiness is to abound making followers of Jesus as distinct from the world in which we live. 

All of Paul’s letters contain a beautiful balance between doctrine and duty, and Ephesians is the perfect example.  In Ephesians 4-6, Paul begins to emphasize how believers should live.  He urges Christians to fulfill their responsibilities while resting on our Christian grace and blessings.  The exhortations of this part of Paul’s letter (Eph 4-6) are built on the spiritual blessings mentioned in the former part (Eph 1-3).  There are numerous points connecting both sections…

 

Eph 1:5

Adopted as children

Eph 5:1

Eph 1:7

Forgiveness

Eph 4:32

Eph 1:8

Wisdom

Eph 5:15

Eph 1:13

Holy Spirit

Eph 4:30

This morning we will look at Eph 4:1-16, where Paul calls believers to live a life worthy of the calling they have received. 

Eph 4:1-6 – Let’s Live Well

On the basis of chapters 1-3, Paul urges the believers in Ephesus to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph 4:1).  The concept of their “calling” speaks not only to their salvation but also the unity of Jews and Gentiles together.  As a result of this, they are to live or walk out their faith IN CHRIST in a worthy manner.  Worthy is an interesting word to consider; in means to be proper, fitting or to have equal weight, in other words, one’s calling and conduct must correspond appropriately and be in balance. 

Paul then begins to list a few opening aspects of living well before God and each other.  Humility and gentleness and patience are the expected results of being filled with the Holy Spirit.  Both the Jews and Gentiles faced challenges of being humble towards one another; they both thought they were right in regard to their cultural faith but Paul confronted their misunderstandings and brought their faith together IN CHRIST.  They were at times hostile therefore they needed gentleness and patience and love.  As these are practiced the result will be preserving of the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:2-3).

The church of Ephesus was steeped in false mystery religions with many gods.  To confront this Paul reminds the believers that there in ONE – body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism and God and Father of all (Eph 4:5-6).  As Paul begins to describe how we should live, he strongly underscores the importance of unity; unity of what we believe and the unity of how we should live as one body.  It has been said that unity can make or break a church; not only what we believe theologically but also how we live out what we believe.  Therefore, Paul begins with a strong emphasis on unity.

Eph 4:7-13 – Let’s Live in Unity

Paul begins this passage by reminding the believers of their individual grace as given by Jesus Christ.  It is interesting to note that the grace comes by measure through Christ.  This is similar in thought when Paul speaks to the believers in Rome about their “measure of faith God has given you” (Ro 12:3).  This begs the question, what measure of grace and faith do we have as individual members of the Body of Christ?  Or can we increase grace and faith in our lives?  The answer is yes:

·      The disciples asked the Lord to increase their faith (Luke 17:5).  

·      We increase God’s grace and faith in our lives when we read God’s word (Rom 10:17).

·      We increase in grace and faith when we obey God’s word (James 1:22-24).

 

The verses found in Eph 4:8-10 – This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  speak of grace and gifts in the context of the religious climate of Ephesus.  In mystery religions their gods ascended and descended in the spiritual realms.  Here Paul clarifies what Jesus accomplished when he descended through his incarnation (Son of God born in human flesh), descended into death only to ascend to the highest place.  Phil 2:6-11 - Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!  9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father

It is my belief that unity and freedom in Christ cannot be fully realized without understanding authority.  Paul tells us the gifts God gave brought leadership and authority to the Body of Christ – “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…” (Eph 4:11).  These “Gift-People” are not to Lord it over, but to lead by example; “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Eph 4:12); prepare means to equip, train, to make adequate, to furnish completely and to make full.  All this preparation is to help the church of Ephesus to be strengthened and built up (construction term in the Greek). 

The goal of living a life worthy of the Lord is that of reaching “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).  When the Body of Christ comes to unity in the faith and in the Spirit and becomes mature, then believers have the opportunity to experience the fullness of freedom in Christ.  Maturity speaks to me of being free from sin and Satan and being full of Jesus Christ.  Our minds are clean and clear.  Our emotions are in order and our actions are loving and righteous.  

Eph 4:14-16 – Let’s Grow up

This passage speaks to the need of growth in the Body of Christ at Ephesus.  There were pagan temples of worship as well as Jewish religious influence that the believers were confronted by.  This challenged the Ephesian believers with “every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14).  It is Paul’s desire that they no longer think or act like infants but grow up IN CHRIST.  Charles H. Spurgeon tells us, “Many Christians remain stunted and dwarfed in spiritual things, so as to present the same appearance year after year. No up-springing of advanced and refined feeling is manifest in them. They exist but do not grow up into him in all things.”  He uses the analogy of a seed planted in the ground which grows and becomes a full ear of corn.  Growing up is something that is inherent in creation.  Paul uses the analogy of a body “joined and held together by every supporting ligament, (which) grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16). 

In Conclusion

Chapter 4 introduces the living or walking out our faith.  It is founded upon our right thinking about God from the previous chapters.  However, freedom is to be more than just mental believing of truth, but an active expression of one’s faith.  We must learn to overcome hostility as the church in Ephesus did by living in humility, gentleness and patience.  In other words, our minds and emotions and actions are not to be plagued by anger, or any other sin for that matter. 

We are to live well, in a manner worthy of Christ by being united with each other.  This involves the leaders and laity within the Body of Christ.  Leaders leading by example and equipping the saints to serve God.  The relationships within the body are to promote growth and maturity as we speak to one another in love. 

However, sometimes we look at the lost world and are burdened by the need for evangelism.  Or we look at the poor and injustices and try to fix the problems.  We may see those who are suffering and attempt to care for them.  Then as a local church we program one or more of these tasks, whether evangelism or social welfare involvement.  While these activities can make us feel better, like we are doing God’s work, we must remember the first function of the body is to build itself.  In other words, the church is not a bunch of programs, it is a living organism, made up of people who need to grow IN CHRIST and in freedom.

In Application

Healthy things grow – that was the message of Paul to the ekklesia in Ephesus; Live well, Live in unity and Live and grow and mature IN CHRIST.

 

Let’s pray together…

 

7. Freedom in Christ – Prayer of Freedom

Introduction

There were new converts to Christianity in the church at Ephesus.  They came with character flaws and various experiences within their relationships, good and bad.  They had spiritual questions about gods and mysteries.  They needed a spiritual theological framework from which they could live in a manner worthy of the gospel.  With this in mind Paul leads the believers in one of my favourite prayers in the Scriptures.  

Many of these issues of spirituality are very true in our day and age.  We have spiritual questions about God.  What is he like?  What is his character like?  What about the afterlife?  Angels and Demons…  Do you remember the movie “Aladdin”?  What would you ask for if you found a genie-in-a-bottle and were granted three wishes that were bound to come true?  As Christians, we know that there are no genies in a bottle.  However, we have the awesome privilege to kneel before our Heavenly Father in prayer to ask him for what we need.

I believe that Eph 3:14-21 is one of the most beautiful transitions in the Scriptures.  In the Greek text, Eph 3:14-21 is another of Paul’s long sentences (1:3–14, 15–23; 2:1–7; 3:1–13, 14–19; 4:1–7, 11–16; 6:14–20).  Paul has laid a foundation for us IN CHRIST.  As followers of Jesus we are spiritually blessed.  There are amazing riches of God’s grace made available to those who call upon Jesus; this grace is revealed in our being chosen, adopted, redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and revelation.  Having preached to the church in Ephesus about grace and mystery, and that Gentile are now recipients of God’s grace IN CHRIST, Paul now prays that they may be united experientially. He desired that they might genuinely know and experience Christ’s love and show Christ’s love toward each other.

Eph 3:14-15 – Personal Prayer

We must remember that our study is one of “Freedom” as followers of Jesus Christ.  As a result of the foundation of that Paul has laid – “For this reason”… Paul now gives the Ephesian believers a model of prayer that is key for their circumstances.  He begins by stating – “I kneel before the Father (Eph 3:14).  There is a personal aspect to our pursuit of Jesus.  Paul states I kneel or bow or worship before our Father in heaven; this reminds me of Matt 6:9“Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name”.  Paul’s bowing was not aimless but directional as described in Greek; it was a kneeling and facing towards the Father…  In the various pagan temples of Ephesus, the believers would bow and face their god.  He is using the very aspects of pagan worship to draw these new believers into a personal prayer encounter with the true God of Christianity.

The second point Paul is highlighting here follows on his thinking of Christian unity; God’s “whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph 3:15).  Paul has been affirming the unity between the Jews and Gentiles in the previous verses.  In other words, by prayer he reminds them that they are of God’s household; it is a safe and peaceful family that they belong to and freedom is their daily experience. 

Eph 3:16-19 – Power Prayer

In the previous chapters Paul has given us the “theology of freedom” and now he is praying for the believers in Ephesus to experience “Holy Spirit freedom”.  There were rich people in Ephesus who would parade their fame and wealth for others to see.  Now he petitions the Father “out of his glorious riches”, in other words, there is an abundance of material wealth and resources that is glorious, heavenly, and exceeds the norm of a particular group and which can have a negative connotation.  Paul does not want these riches, which has both spiritual and natural applications to possess the church of Ephesus but to “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”.  Paul is praying for an empowering of the Spirit on the inside because there will be resistance to gaining true freedom, which begins inwardly then expresses itself outwardly.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives is absolutely essential to Christian living and freedom.  It is the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers that continues the ministry of Jesus on earth.  He uses these beautiful word couplets, riches and glory, strength and power, to inspire these new converts to faith in Christ – “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”; this dwelling speaks of to settle down and be a home. 

Now Paul’s prayer highlights one of foundations of true freedom – love.  Just as he desires Christ to live and dwell in our hearts, he now speaks of “being rooted and established in love”.  Again, Paul uses two words in the Greek language to emphasize the importance of love – rooted deeply like a tree and established firmly like a building.  Even though the church in Ephesus could experience glorious riches and strength and power, without the foundation of love their freedom would be tarnished.  Paul speaks of the significance of power and understanding, Biblical freedom requires both as seen in verse 18.  The power of right believing is essential, and he speaks of this in chapters 1-2; Paul want them to think rightly about the concepts of God.  Now he is praying for them to “have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”.  I find it interesting he uses dimensions to describe Christ’s love.  Why?  Because the Temple of Artemis was the temple with the biggest dimensions in all of Asia Minor.  Now is Eph 3:19 he speaks of knowing – “to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” 

Why is this verse so important?  The knowledge of Christ’s love was not to be an intellectual fact only but an experience in life.  The apprehension of verse 18 is conceptual knowledge. In verse 19, this conceptual knowledge passes into experiential knowledge as the saint experiences in his life that comprehension of the love of Christ for him in the sphere of his earthly life. 

Word Picture: surpass, to throw beyond, excel, exceed. 

Eph 3:20-12 – Praise Prayer

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  When we consider these few points that Paul speaks of to the church in Ephesus we should be inspired to know God and fulfill his dreams.  Paul wants us to experience the personal and powerful aspects of prayer.  But he does not stop there. 

Paul states that GOD IS ABLE, God is powerful and competent, to do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine”; beyond the furthest degree…  Word Picture: overflowing…  This is so true, especially to the believers in Ephesus who were hostile towards one another; now they are at peace with each other experiencing freedom as brothers and sisters IN CHRIST.  The importance of praise towards God cannot be overstated.  Praise takes our eyes off of our troubles and places them on Jesus Christ.  This results in freedom in ways that are beyond what we can ask or imagine.  This is good news. 

In Conclusion

This prayer holds the Book of Ephesians together.  On the one hand Paul gives great instruction to the foundations of our faith in Jesus Christ.  He helps the believers to understand all the spiritual blessings available.  But he wants our theological understanding to lead us to the experience of God’s love.  Therefore, Paul prays…  A preacher was once asked, “do you think we should pray for even the little things in our lives, or just the big things?”  The preacher, G. Campbell Morgan replied, “can you think of anything in your life that is big to God?”  In other words, we should be in prayer all the time, big or little, God is interested in our lives.  Paul leads by example in personal prayer, power prayer and then praise that is due to God. 

 

Application

This is a great prayer to pray one for another.  Our freedom comes from the power of right believing about God, but this knowledge is experienced as we pray.  All of us need to know our Father personally, and to know that we are part of his family, therefore we pray.  The depth of God’s love in our hearts determines our encounter with freedom, therefore we pray.  Because God is able to accomplish his will in our lives we pray. 

 

Here are three prayer points for us this morning:

1.  Pray that we find our place in God’s family.

2.  Pray that we know and experience the Love of Jesus.

3.. Pray that we encounter our God who is able to accomplish great things for our lives. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Freedom in Christ – Grace and Mystery

Freedom in Christ – Grace and Mystery

Introduction

In our pursuit of Jesus, we have discovered that freedom is one of the spiritual blessings that is ours.  Ephesians 1 -2 gives us a solid foundation for our study of God and now in Ephesians 3 we begin our transition from the theology of Jesus to the practical expression of our faith in Christ found in Ephesians 4-6.  This chapter is pivotal for several reasons.  First, Paul tells us of his complete devotion to the person of Jesus Christ and to his calling.  And secondly, he ends the chapter with a beautiful prayer of freedom that is ours to know and experience. 

Paul’s Ministry

The encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed Paul’s life forever.  It was more than Paul coming into intellectual understanding of the Scriptures as related to the Messiah.  It was not just passing emotion or a supernatural experience.  He tells us it was a vision of heaven to which he was not disobedient.  Now in Eph 3:1, Paul introduces himself as a “prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles”.  Paul was once a persecutor of the church and had thrown many people in prison and now he is a prisoner.  Paul gave up everything for Jesus Christ; in other words, he was a prisoner.  That is where he found he freedom.  Not in ministry, relationships, visions, but in the person of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s prison is not one of bars but total surrender to his Master.  This leads Paul to describe his “administration of God’s grace” – the teaching and preaching of the gospel.

Grace

In essence, Paul is summing up what he has stated in the two previous chapters by using the word “grace”.  There are different definitions of grace that have been given over the years.  Biblically speaking grace refers to the favour of God freely given to mankind and is realized in one’s salvation.  Grace cannot be earned.  Grace allows for second chances and more.  And grace is our means to salvation, which Paul describes in Eph 1:3-14; we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, and filled with the Holy Spirit. 

 

The is a powerful record of God's grace touching the life of Abram in Gen 15.  God comes to him in a vision to make covenant; Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward” (Ge 15:1); this is the extension of God’s favour and grace.  Abram enters into conversation with God in the vision and bemoans the fact that he is still childless.  God tells him that his descendants will be a numerous as the stars.  Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6); this is grace in action.  And then we have an incredible picture of grace in action.  Abram prepares a sacrifice but then falls into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, resting, doing nothing, God spoke covenant grace over him and passed between the sacrifice as fire.  In other words, it was the favour of God freely given to Abram thereby confirming covenant.  God wants us to rest in grace just like Abram did. 

 

This is the stewardship of grace that Paul is speaking to the Church in Ephesus about.

Mystery

Paul also uses the word – “Mystery” seven times to the church of Ephesus in describing Jesus and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Why is this important?  In Greek and Roman spirituality, there were “mystery religions” that gave new converts secrets, special knowledge, wisdom or revelation.  One would have to advance through different levels in the spirit realm to gain more insight into their mysteries.  This is often true of the cults of our day where one has to advance to new stages of spirituality.  Paul uses the word mystery which had significant spiritual meaning in his day and gives it new meaning.  This [mystery] is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph 3:6).  The mystery of Christ is made known by revelation and grace, not by the fanaticism of the mystery religions.

 

The mystery religions of Paul’s day saw the spiritual realm as truly significant.  They believed that in order to get to their “gods”, little g, you had to pass through the various levels of lessor gods in the heavenly realms.  Paul desires to preach the gospel of grace to them by again using a catch-phrase that the Gentiles would understand – “In heavenly places”.  I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this [mystery], which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 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, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:7–11).  Here is what I believe Paul is saying.  Paul is committed to his task of preaching the gospel of grace and now he is telling the believers it is their turn.  The ekklesia in Ephesus was to make known, (declare, pray, worship, and live as we will see in Eph 4-6) to ruler and authorities, which refers to the spiritual enemies of God (Eph 1:21, 6:12).  

In Conclusion

We have looked at grace and mystery and in heavenly places and we may have forgotten that the theme is Freedom IN CHRIST.  The next verse again captures freedom for us…  “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12).  Paul has laid out before us systematic theology, right thinking about God and our relationship with him.  We must know God by grace through the Faith of CHRIST – the mystery of revelation – and be with God in freedom and confidence.  True freedom in Christ is bold and confidant in the Presence of God.  We know that we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed and filled by the Holy Spirit and have purpose in life. 

 

As he leads us into Eph 4-6, Paul uses prayer as a bridge between these two sections.  Theology and practice are often wrestled out in prayer where our head knowledge becomes heart knowledge and something that we experience in our relationships in life. That’s next week’s message.  Let’s pray…

 

5. Freedom in Christ – Peace in God’s House

Freedom in Christ – Peace in God’s House

Review

Here is a quick review since our last message on Freedom in Christ was last year.  There are many spiritual blessings made available to believers, we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, and given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee in life here and in eternity.  Each of these truths must come to us personally through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; there is a big difference between head knowledge and the heart of a believer.  One of the by-products of having a relationship with God “IN CHRIST” is freedom.  Freedom in Christ involves liberty from our sins and Satan’s influence.  Jesus is the answer and we have been “made alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph 2:5).  Salvation has come to us by grace through faith, not by efforts on our part, so that the glory goes to the Lamb of God who was crucified and bled and died for us.  With these thoughts in mind, Paul tells us “we are God’s workmanship” (Eph 2:10), God’s story or poem, so that in life we can reveal God’s love through good deeds. 

Introduction

Ephesus was established by the Greeks in the 10th Century BC, and around 550 BC the Temple of Artemis was completed which brought in 100’s of worshippers daily.  As well, there was an established Jewish community.  Around 129 BC, the Roman Empire took over Ephesus building the Library of Clesus and a 25,000-seat theatre.  Ephesus was a port city engaged in lots of trade and was also a rich banking city that drew in money from both individuals and surrounding nations. It is in this backdrop that Paul uses words such as citizenship, body, family, household, and ONE to confront the institutions of his day.  In other words, the family of God, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, men and women and children, is the true temple for God in Ephesus; the church is a living organism in contrast to Ephesus being the religious center for the province of Asia.

One in Christ

In Eph 2:11-18 the Apostle Paul highlights another important aspect of our freedom “IN CHRIST” – unity.  Paul speaks to the oneness that both the Gentiles and Jews can now experience which was unheard in their day.  There were things that separated the Gentiles from God, there were non-citizens and foreigners to God’s promises.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13).

In New Testament times, there was great hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  The Jewish people saw the Gentiles as uncircumcised heathen with all kinds of ungodly practices.  And the Gentiles saw the people of God as proud and arrogant in their faith and righteousness.  Kind of sounds like the world in which we live today. 

 

Paul’s answer was simple – Jesus Christ, not an expression of the religious institutions of his day, but a person to be followed, loved and obeyed.  Peace is a wonderful companion of freedom.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph 2:14-18).

Unity, peace and freedom

The trinity of unity and peace and freedom is wonderful to experience.  Believers “IN CHRIST” know the Presence of God as one.  This unity with God touches our thoughts and emotions and brings about great peace because we know by revelation that we are chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven and filled by the Spirit of God.  What a joy it is to walk in this experience of freedom.  However, more often than not, when we are struggling in life with temptations, sinful habits or the attacks of the enemy, believers isolate themselves for various reasons.  Maybe like Adam and Eve we hid ourselves away from God hoping he won’t see us or we cover ourselves hoping to avoid any shame.  Maybe we separate ourselves from our Christian friends because we fear rejection.  Maybe we think we can fix the problem ourselves which is really just our pride in action.  Whatever the reason, we find ourselves out of unity with God and the family of God, lacking peace within our hearts which results in a lack of true freedom… 

 

The challenge is too stay in relationship with God and the family of God.  We must learn to change our ways, ask God for forgiveness, allow the Holy Spirit to deliver us from evil.  We need to learn three important words when struggling in relationship with others, “I am sorry”.  After all we are part of the family of God…

The Family of God

Family is at the core of God’s design for mankind.  A healthy and caring family is a joy to be a part of; unity, peace and freedom abound.  Being born or adopted into a loving and caring family is the desire of God for you and me.  The “one body” truth that Paul highlights is foundational for our freedom “IN CHRIST.”  As a result of Jesus’ death on the cross, You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home” (Eph 2:19–22 The Message).  It is interesting to note that the Temple of Artemis has its own cornerstone, a meteor that fell from heaven; “The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: "Fellow Ephesians, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?” (Acts 19:35).  In contrast, Paul uses Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone of the Temple of God.

 

And so, as part of God’s family, we inherit much: the kingdom of God (Matt 25:34), and the spiritual blessings highlighted in Eph 1:3-14 – chosen, adopted, redeemed, filled by the Spirit of God).  As earthly children, we eventually inherit what our parents leave behind for us after their death. But in God’s case believers are already reaping the rewards of our salvation – unity and peace and freedom “IN CHRIST”. 

In Conclusion

The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians is important for Christians to study today.  It helps us to discover our unity “IN CHRIST,” and to understand the peace and freedom that can be ours in the family of God. We are not to think of our churches in religious or institutional terms; such as buildings or programs, policies and procedures.  We are a part of Jesus’ Body and are being built into a family and dwelling that can be inhabited by God.  It is in this Temple of God that we can discover, experience and enjoy our freedom.

 

Here are a couple of questions to ponder?

 

What is keeping me from giving my life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour?

 

What is hindering unity with God in our lives today? 

 

Where peace is lacking in my heart?

 

By answering these questions honestly, we can then begin to discover for the first-time true freedom or rediscover freedom once again. 

In Application

Let’s contemplate these questions and listen to “No Longer Strangers” …

4. Freedom in Christ – Made Alive

 

Review

One of the greatest spiritual blessings is the experience of freedom and liberty IN CHRIST from the guilt of sin and the power of the enemy.  We saw in Ephesians 1:3-14 that we are chosen and adopted and redeemed IN CHRIST.  The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a guarantee of our inheritance in this life and the next.  Paul makes sure we understand the importance of thanksgiving and prayer as seen in Eph 1:15-17.  The foundation for our freedom is based upon the spirit of wisdom and revelation not information.  Spiritual enlightenment is essential when it comes to our freedom.  We must see all that God has blessed us with – hope, inheritance and the power of God.  However, with all the spiritual blessings at our disposal we have also discovered that we are still less than perfect in following Jesus.  We are saints who sin, not sinners trying to be righteous before God.  Sometimes our walk with Jesus lacks holiness or stained by failure and yet we long to follow Jesus in love and obedience.  This is one of the greatest battles facing believers today.  This leads us to consider today’s message on “freedom IN CHRIST”.

Introduction

Paul is speaking to the church in Ephesus, filled with new believers from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.  He has laid a foundation for them with regards to all the spiritual blessings that are theirs IN CHRIST.  Now he begins Ephesians 2 with thoughts describing something old and something new, which he later speaks of in Ephesians 4:22-24.  The Apostle Paul highlights the struggle between the old nature and the new nature, flesh verses sin, spiritually speaking (Romans 6:6, 7:20, 8:13; Col 3:5-10; 2 Cor 5:17).  The question is – what do these terms really mean?  Is there a tug of war that I am sometimes winning but sometimes losing?  Are God and Satan engaged in a back and forth cosmic battle?  How about the First Nations proverb about two dogs in every heart of man, representing good and evil; the one you feed the most wins. 

Ephesians 2:1-5 – Old verses New…

Let’s read Eph 2:1-5 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 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. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  I would like to help us understand several points here that relate to our freedom IN CHRIST.  Once again, these verses are one long sentence that can be difficult to understand but contains one big idea.

1.  Firstly, Paul speaks to them of their past.  They were spiritually dead in sin.  This is how they lived.  Later in Ephesians 4 Paul will speak to some of their sinful struggles. 

2.  Secondly, they were under the influence of the world and the power of the devil and his demons. 

 

These first two points are key to consider in light of freedom.  If we are habitually struggling with transgressions and sins we are not free.  The same is true of demonic influence in our lives.  We need to be set free from both sin and Satan in order to follow Jesus fully. 

 

3.  Then the Apostle Paul switches this thought process to include himself in the struggle for freedom.  Basically, Paul says, “I am in the same spiritual predicament, indulging sinful lusts and thoughts.  Consequently, they too were children of wrath—just like all other sinners. 

4.  Now Paul turns our attention from mankind’s dilemma to God’s perspective.  In Ephesians 2:4, Paul tells us God’s love is great and he is rich in mercy and even when we were dead in our sins.  What the big idea here?  The main point in this section becomes clear at the end of Ephesians 2:5 - “we were made alive with Christ”

Made Alive IN CHRIST

Once again, our freedom as believers is centered on being made alive IN CHRIST.  This is only clearly understood when we accept just how lost we were in our sin.  We weren’t just spiritually dead in sin.  We were also completely under Satan’s power and the influence of a fallen world.  When we realize that our end in eternity was wrath it makes God’s love even more amazing.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6–7).  We must remember that our freedom is only possible when we are raised IN CHRIST; raised to life from the death associated with sin and Satan. 

 

Then Paul makes one of the most significant statements related to our freedom IN CHRIST – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8–9).  This powerful declaration tells us our salvation and freedom is totally by grace and faith, both gifts of God and not by our own work or religious effort.  In the context of the church of Ephesus, both the religious Jews or the rich Romans, there was boasting as to their accomplishments.  Paul tells us the foundation of our freedom is a gift. 

In Conclusion

Hopefully by this point you understand that you are no longer part saint and part sinner; we are not in a tug of war between good and evil.  Because of Jesus Christ we have exchanged our old way of living in spiritual death and wrath, for a new life full of freedom from sin and Satan.  In other words, when we accept by faith the grace offered to us IN CHRIST, our old nature is completely dead.  Sin and Satan can still affect us and can be tempting to us, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our old life has also been crucified and is fully dead.  We need to learn to live in the freedom that God has given to us. 

We are saints, children of God, with every spiritual blessing made available to us IN CHRIST.  We are chosen, adopted and redeemed and because of these blessings, we are a thankful and prayerful people.  This is our identity and we discover this by revelation. 

 

Now “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).  Paul is laying a theological foundation for our freedom IN CHRIST.  He wants to remove all doubt from our minds.

 

We will see in Eph 4-6 how we are to live out of our identity IN CHRIST.  We are to live in holiness and freedom as followers of Jesus. 

 

Let’s pray…

 

 

 

 

3. Freedom in Christ – The Importance of Revelation

 

Introduction

Over the last few weeks we have looked at the Book of Ephesians in relation to discovering and enjoying our freedom in Christ.  In light of last week’s message, we remind ourselves these foundations truths of our freedom – we are chosen, adopted and redeemed IN CHRIST.  We are now saints who have an inheritance now and in eternity.  We are saints who sometimes sin but we are no longer sinners help captive; we are free because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Being IN CHRIST we have been forgiven and declared righteous and acceptable to God.  We must accept by faith the finished work of Jesus as the starting point for our freedom.  This also means we have our personal responsibility to “do our homework” by agreeing with who I am IN CHRIST; this came in the form of a handout last Sunday “Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST” by Joyce Meyer.  This brings us to our next point in discovering our “Freedom IN CHRIST” found in Ephesians 1:15-23. 

Thanksgiving and Prayer

In light of the previous passage Paul highlighted our “spiritual blessings IN CHRIST, in heavenly places and now he moves towards thanksgiving and prayer.  I must confess that some of the most “free” people in know are thankful and prayerful.  There is something about positive confession and thanksgiving that is essential to enjoying freedom in Christ.  Thankful people are prayerful people as they realize that their blessings come from God.  Paul states, For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Eph 1:15–16).  Here are two important things Paul speaks of to the church in Ephesus, a highly religious city with many gods and spiritual rulers and authorities in heavenly places (i.e. demons).  Firstly, faith in Jesus is essential.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).  Jesus himself stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Secondly, faith in God must express itself in love towards the saints (and everybody else).  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8).

 

One my experiences in search of my personal freedom IN CHRIST, was people praying for me.  There were moments of time when I knew that freedom was just out of my reach and I needed to confess my sins and ask for help and prayer.  This is exactly what Paul does on behalf of the saints in Ephesus.  He never stops praying for their growth, maturity and freedom… 

The Importance of Wisdom and Revelation

We live in an age of information.  When I began pastoring I had books, lots of books, and they were my resource for gathering my thoughts for sermons, for counselling and my personal devotions.  The amount of information available to mankind has exploded in the last thirty years.  Now we have the internet and Mr. Google at our finger tips.  If we want some news about politics, sports or what’s playing at the theatre, we have instant access.  And yet with all this information so readily available mankind seems to have slipped backward in common sense.  Why is this downward spiral taking place?  Why do so many continue to struggle with addictions, guilt and shame?  Information does not bring us closer to God, but revelation does.

 

Remember that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church regularly.  One of the things he prayed is that they would have “wisdom and revelation knowledge” about God and His love for them.  In other words, information or head knowledge has its limitations.  In the context of Freedom IN CHRIST, information matters little.  However, Paul tells the saints – “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).  In the context of Freedom IN CHRIST, wisdom and revelation are indispensable.  Wisdom and revelation are special attributes of the Spirit’s operation.  Wisdom can be seen as a divine but general illumination while revelation is more specific or special divine mysteries.  I see wisdom as practical application to spiritual revelation.  There's nothing more important than knowing God has chosen you, adopted you, redeemed you, loves you and that he desires an intimate relationship with you.

 

You see, there is a distinction between information and revelation.  No matter how much information you get in life, it must turn into revelation or it's not going to do you a whole lot of good.  When I was a new believer I colour coded, underlined, wrote notes on the edges of the page of my Bible.  I was gaining information but out of all the 1000’s of things I’ve highlighted I can say I have far less revelation.  Why is that? Because I have to do my homework.  Do you remember the acronym for SOAP, Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer?  I can gain some observations of Scripture, but until I “apply what I’ve learned” and prayed, all I have is information.  In other words, until I’ve actually applying what I’ve learned, and prayed for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, all I’ve really done is decorate my Bible.  Another difference between information and revelation is this – information can be lost or forgotten, but when God gives us the gift of revelation, we've learned something that can't ever be taken away.

Enlightened Knowledge

You are given a measure of revelation when you receive Christ.  You know that God is real and that you have to grow and mature into the joy and freedom you first experienced.  Paul carries on his prayer in Eph 1:18-23.  Paul prays for enlightenment - “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…” (Eph 1:18).  This is a beautiful word describing revelation; to be illuminated, to remove dimness or blindness, to see spiritual light…  This enlightenment is to know God better in three specific ways in order to secure our foundation of freedom IN CHRIST as believers. 

 

1.     Firstly, “the hope to which he has called you”.  For believers to experience the fullness of freedom IN CHRIST, we must be full of light and hope.  For someone stuck in addictions, guilt and shame, hope is a powerful motivator for personal freedom.  We know that “hope deferred makes the heart sick”, by contrast hope realized is freedom. 

2.     Secondly, we are to know by revelation and enlightenment “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.  Our inheritance is in God and in turn we are his inheritance.  While hope speaks to the light at the end of the tunnel, inheritance becomes far more intentional.  When one receives an inheritance, it brings with is specific blessings such as land, property, riches and wealth.  The same is true spiritually speaking, for the saints in this life and the next.  We know that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance when Christ returns.  However, freedom is also the byproduct of the deposits of that inheritance IN CHRIST and in the Holy Spirit now. 

3.     Lastly, Paul says “and his incomparably great power for us who believe”.  One aspect of freedom IN CHRIST, is power.  Jesus Christ overcame sin and death and the devil as a result of the Holy Spirit’s incomparable great power…  This same power is available to us for the very same reasons, to overcome sin, the devil and one day death.  We need to be enlightened to God’s power.  We are set free not only from the power of sin over our lives but also the power of the enemy.  You cannot cast out sin but you can confess it.  In the same way, you cannot confess or counsel something demonic but need to cast it out.  The power of God is able to do both, forgive sin and deliver us from the evil one. 

In Conclusion

Freedom IN CHRIST is one of the benefits of being a believer.  We are chosen and adopted and redeemed and have received the seal of the Holy Spirit upon our lives.  Paul wants us to know that spiritual wisdom and revelation are essential for the full experience of our freedom.  It's so wonderful to know God, not just with information but to be able to talk with him thereby being enlightened.  We have hope and even when we get disappointed we can ask God to restore our hope.  When we sin, we can receive forgiveness from God immediately, knowing that power of God IN CHRIST has set us free.  And when we find ourselves struggling under the schemes and strategies of the devil, God’s power is once again available to set us free.

In Application

One of the obvious applications from today’s passage of Scripture is to pray.  Paul prayed intentionally and persistently for the saints in Ephesus.  We can pray for each other today.  Here are a few areas of prayer in regard to freedom IN CHRIST­.  Pray we know by revelation that:

·      We are loved unconditionally…

·      We are chosen by God...

·      We are adopted as his children…

·      We are redeemed and forgiven and delivered from sin and all its effects…

·      We have God's hope to sustain us in trouble…

·      We are joint heirs with Christ having an inheritance now and in eternity…

·      We have God’s power working for us against the enemy…

 

When we look at this list for prayer I am not highlighting anything negative, but hoping that by revelation we see the spiritual blessings we have IN CHRIST.  LET’S PRAY…

2. Freedom “IN CHRIST”

 

Introduction

We are looking at the sermon series Freedom in Christ using the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians.  Freedom is something believers are to experience in life.  There is a journey of discovery that God the Father invites us to join “IN CHRIST”.  On this journey, we grow in understanding our Christian identity, we are set free from sin and satan; the effects of these can be seen in various forms of addiction, guilt, shame or blame.  And yet freedom in Christ is not only experiencing victory over bondage but also reaching the fullness of our potential as believers.  It is important to remember this key verse – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10)

 

The “IN CHRIST” theme is a main emphasis in Ephesians, where Paul stresses the importance of Christ as the foundation for our freedom.  Paul gives us a Big Picture view of God’s plan for the world, beginning and ending with Christ.  Because of Jesus’ death, Jews and Gentiles can now receive the gift of forgiveness for their sins against God and others.  The life of a believer is completely founded upon the theological truth of being found “IN CHRIST”.  Our liberty from sin, death and satan are empowered by our experience and understanding of this truth.  The first part of our study of Freedom in Christ has to do with right thinking about what God has accomplished for us. 

In the Beginning

The origin of mankind is both a wonder and mystery.  We know that God created Adam and Eve in light of several passages of Scripture, Gen 1:28-29, and Gen 2:18.  They highlight our significance and purpose in creation, all our needs were provided for us giving us a safe and secure home where we found our belonging.  There was unbroken fellowship between God and mankind and each other, our spirit and soul and body were in harmony and we only knew the perfection of freedom; nothing negative affected our thoughts or emotions or choices. 

 

And yet we know that mankind was deceived by Satan and disobeyed God with devastating results.  Spiritually we died and are unable to live in the full presence of God; no more Eden.  Mentally we struggle with a diminishing knowledge of God and damaging thoughts.  As well, we wrestle with all kinds of negative emotions.  And lastly, we are now plagued with too many competing choices for our attention.  Our beautiful experience of freedom is now filled with sin and shame and rejection from God and we have come under the influence of the schemes and strategies of Satan.  The unity we enjoyed with God and each other was lost the moment Adam and Eve engaged in disobedience. 

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

By way of introduction to our freedom, Paul writes one long sentence of praise to God, a most beautiful doxology, found in Ephesians 1:3-14.  In this passage, we have some of the most important doctrinal words relating to our spiritual blessings “IN CHRIST”, where this phrase occurs 11 times…  Our spiritual blessings “IN CHRIST” are in heavenly places.  For the most part, blessings in the Old Testament were seen in practical ways.  Whereas in the New Testament our blessings in Christ are often of a spiritual nature – “in heavenly places”.  What does this mean for believers?  The Christian’s freedom begins with that which is already DONE IN CHRIST, and through our faith in Jesus, are able to rest in the finished work of Jesus and our position “IN CHRIST in heavenly places”.  In other words, our freedom IN CHRIST - in heavenly places - is a fact of new life out of which we experience growth.  Our position “IN CHRIST in heavenly places” is complete; we don’t grow into sons and daughters of God – we are children of God when we come to faith in Jesus.   The foundation of our freedom is not based on something we do or don’t do, it is our spiritual blessing IN CHRIST in heavenly places. 

 

·      Our Christian freedom begins with the revelation of what God has done for us; We are CHOSEN IN CHRIST.  What does this mean?  Just as God chose the nation of Israel as his treasured possession (Deut 7:6-8) because of his love and faithfulness, he has now chosen us to be his children.  We are chosen before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4) which again reminds us that our freedom has been on God’s mind a long time.  We are chosen (Eph 1:11) IN CHRIST and Paul gives us some descriptive words related to our freedom in heavenly places; hope, the praise of his glory, salvation, the promised Holy Spirit, inheritance, redemption.  All of these phrases reveal aspects of our freedom IN CHRIST as believers. 

 

·      Paul uses another word picture to lay a foundation for our freedom as Christians – ADOPTION.  Adoption, makes more personal the idea of being chosen IN CHRIST (Eph 1:5). Adoption takes time and money, consideration, involves love and planning.  Once adopted the child has the full rights as any member of the family.  All the privileges and resources of the family come to bear upon the newly adopted one.  This is again a picture of great freedom.  God in his love thought about each one of us as his child.  It was to his pleasure and enjoyment that we were adopted. 

 

·      Next, we see Paul speaking of our REDEMPTION IN CHRIST. In Paul’s day to redeem meant to buy back a slave from captivity.  In doing so, it was an act of choosing, possibly adoption, but also paying the price for one’s freedom.  Redemption is a powerful word that describes our freedom from guilt, power and consequences of sin: it means to redeem, liberate, free, deliver, exchange, convert, to buy back.  Our redemption is only possible IN CHRIST, we cannot buy back our freedom and innocence from the effects of sin; it requires the blood of Jesus resulting in the forgiveness of our sins.  This is a spiritual blessing in heavenly places whether we feel like we are forgiven or not. 

In Conclusion

The plan of God has always been to restore the unity and oneness we possessed in the beginning, a perfection of freedom.  One of the main themes of Paul writing to the church in Ephesus was all about our unity “IN CHRIST” and the effects of this oneness upon the Body of Christ.  The foundation for our freedom is IN CHRIST IN HEAVENLY PLACES, therefore we must learn to live on earth, think and feel and make choices, with this understanding.  Ephesians 1:3-14 is full of our spiritual blessings.  Our freedom in Christ has already been given to us because of the riches of God’s grace IN CHRIST.  We must take time to meditate on them and understand how they relate to you personally.  Spiritual blessings will have different spiritual affects upon God’s children because we all have different stories and experiences of life.  I am here to tell you that freedom begins with what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. It is hard to understand but our freedom is first a spiritual thing, a heavenly blessing, that we must accept by faith in Jesus Christ. 

In Application

I believe all of us can relate to areas in our thoughts, emotions and or choices where we see ourselves not free, feeling guilty and powerless to change.  Maybe we try harder to change.  Maybe we just get depressed and give up.  Or maybe we seek counselling.  Maybe we engage in more spiritual activities.  All of these activities are not the beginning point of freedom.  Freedom as believers has to be applied from a place of agreement and understanding our spiritual blessings IN CHRIST. 

 

The question “who am I?” as a Christian is not based on my thoughts or emotions but on what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us.  I have included a list compiled by Joyce Meyer entitled – Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST. 

 

By means of application let’s read this together.

 

Let’s take these Scriptural truths home with us knowing that they form the foundation for our freedom IN CHRIST.

 

Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST - by Joyce Meyer

 

Not sure who you really are? Read this list of Biblical truths that reveal who God made you to be.

I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:41 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18Luke 10:17-19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).

I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11 Thessalonians 5:23).

I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).

I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and long suffering (Romans 8:33Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:82 Timothy 1:9).

I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:51 Peter 2:24).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6Colossians 2:12).

I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7Ephesians 2:4Colossians 3:121 Thessalonians 1:4).

I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).

1. Freedom in Christ - Introduction

Freedom in Christ

Introduction

One of the pursuits of those following Jesus Christ is freedom; freedom from negative thoughts and feelings, freedom from sinful habits and freedom from the devil.  In the pursuit of freedom such as healing or deliverance, a better marriage or home life with family, “freedom 55” and financial resource, we must remember that we must “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33).  We must not enter worry in our quest for freedom but must make sure it is our first intention to seek his kingdom.  In other words, we are to love and obey the Lord firstly, before we seek after any other goals in life no matter how significant, even freedom…  Sometimes I have seen new Christians who are hell bent in going after the devil.  Other times there are those who attempt to set themselves free from sin.  Others try to live such spiritual lives there is an unhealthy disconnect with the world around them.  All of these are seeking freedom but without a proper point of beginning.  I believe there is a scriptural order when it comes to experiencing freedom in Christ. 

Freedom in Christ

We are going to begin to study Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus with the underlying thought of “freedom in Christ”.  Ephesians is a book of discovery which I believe gives us some biblical direction with regards to freedom.  We will discover about our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  We will seek out proper personal sanctification which is like having a bath in a spiritual sense.  We will grow in our understanding of relating to each other, whether in family, friendships or the church.  And we will learn how to submit to God and stand firm against the enemy of our souls, the devil. 

 

Remember the Lord’s Prayer in Matt 6:9-13  This passage has a divine order with regards to freedom.  Our Father and Thy Kingdom comes before personal needs, the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the enemy.  Freedom in Christ is about a journey of growth and maturity for those who are willing to do the homework, so to speak.  We have a wonderful teacher in the Holy Spirit as he walks us through the Holy Bible.  Let’s take some time this morning to gather the overview of the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. 

Ephesians Background

The Apostle Paul was a missionary who spent considerable time in the city of Ephesus.  We see

for a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21), and then he spent more than two years discipling to the church at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41).  Ephesus was a very prosperous port city engaged in regional trade, it housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, it was a very spiritual and religious city, signs, wonders and conversions to Christ by Paul’s preaching in the synagogues and homes, and persecution by the silversmith Demetrius which caused a riot which led to Paul leaving the city.  Nero was emperor in Rome but this was before the persecution described in Apostle Peter’s letters.  Ephesians and Colossians are very similar in composition and by adding Philippians and Philemon we have Paul’s prison letters.  It is interesting to note the Apostle John wrote of Jesus addressing the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2; the believers were hard workers, they did not tolerate wickedness, they persevered, endured hardships, did not grown weary but they did forget their first love with Jesus.  This tells me the priority of God for all that we do is the pursuit of Jesus.

Ephesians – The Big Idea

The Apostle Paul is not addressing any theological or moral failure in the church of Ephesus.  He is giving well-defined truth both spiritual and practical, with regards to growing in one’s Christian faith.  This is why I believe Ephesians offers some clear guidance with regards to the freedom we can enjoy in Christ, again, both spiritually and practically. 

 

We see that the Ephesians begins with a formal greeting – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:1-2).  The letter carries on and is divided into two distinct segments; one theological and one practical.  The first three chapters highlight salvation, grace and forgiveness, one family all in relation to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The second segment has to do with the lifestyle of the followers of Christ with each other, in marriage, family, at work, the world in general and ending with awareness of spiritual warfare.  Paul ends with a closing benediction – “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).

 

Why is Ephesians so important?  Ephesians highlights significant topics with regards to what it means to be a Christian, in faith and lifestyle.  There are powerful key verses in Ephesians that help us with both the spiritual and practical experiences of life.  Over the months ahead we will begin to look at these verses and discover how they relate to our Freedom in Christ.

In Conclusion

As we consider Freedom in Christ it is important to give some definition to freedom.  We are not talking about political freedom or freedom of speech.  We cannot individually “climb out on a limb”, so to speak, and find freedom without remaining attached to the tree.  Biblically speaking I believe there are two aspects of freedom to consider.  Firstly, we are free from sin, self and satan.  Secondly, we are free to become all that God created us to be.  We cannot experience the second point fully until we have dealt with the guilt and shame of sin, selfishness and the schemes and strategies of the devil.  How does freedom happen?  God makes us spiritually alive by giving us a new heart in Christ. God transforms our heart by his Holy Spirit.  Our heart becomes loving towards God and our new family.  It sees Jesus Christ as our best friend and desires to love him as the Lord and Saviour of our life.  By faith, we give our life to Jesus and receive his forgiveness and freedom from sin.  We grow in our Freedom in Christ as we engage our free-will towards obedience and righteousness.  The end result is we become God’s workmanship.  We become all that God created us to be.  Let’s pray…