Ephesians 2 Part 2–God Wants Our Hearts

 When you have been saved by grace and become part of God’s workmanship and family, the old distinctions that separate folks fade and disappear. In Ephesus, the Judaizer community wanted to hold on to their distinction of circumcision and keeping traditions and rules. But, as Paul clearly stated, those distinctions were unimportant when the people accepted and followed Christ.  As God said throughout His word, “Men look at the outside, but, God Looks at the heart!” I Samuel 16:7  God called folks to give their hearts to Him; from there, God would do the transformation.  God comes into people’s lives and through His spirit prepares them for an eternity with Him. The Lord wants his chosen’s devotion and attention, he is not interested in their checking off religious boxes to prove how “Good” they have become.

The same holds true with us. God simply does not concern himself with our rituals and achievements. He looks at our hearts. He loved David even after David did some heinous things–because David loved God with his whole heart. God Loved Paul, the church’s biggest persecutor because Paul’s heart was completely devoted to the Lord. God also wants that from us. Nothing fancy, just our complete devotion to Him. If we will simply trust and follow the Lord, He will do the rest. No lists, no formulas–we simply need to trust and follow Christ with a singular devotion!

God Bless You 

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in 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 Fatherby one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2 Part 1–The Gift of Salvation

Paul was clear; if one was to take a measure of their lives, their actions, attitudes, and focus–the result would be that each of us is deserving of death and separation from God. All have followed the ways of the world, desired the things of the world, believed the lies of the world and ultimately resembled the godlessness of the world.  The great news is that Jesus death and resurrection was the ultimate gift and allowed and still allows men the grace to have a relationship with God.
 
It is by grace we are saved. It is our faith, not our works that save us. Ironically, that gift does affect our works.  We want to honor God, we want to live a life worthy of the Gospel.  We desire to follow him and complete the mission He has for our lives. The most wonderful part, however, is that the desire we have to please God is not a compulsion born out of fear, but, it is instead a longing based in love and devotion.  We simply want to please God because He first loved us.  We do not retire each night checking a scorecard of achievement. Instead, we rest in the faith that we are saved by His grace and are free to follow the Lord and complete the plan set out for us, through our faith in Christ Jesus. It is still a gift, and we are still “works in progress” but, His grace is sufficient to save us and complete the work.
 
God Bless You
 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 1 Part 2–We Have Come to the Right Place

Paul loved the folks in Ephesus. He was a large part of that Church and taught them for 3 years. In the letter, Paul wanted the people to have a correct picture of the God that they served.  His first prayer for them was that they be wise and have a true picture of the God that they served.  This is a God that is powerful. The creator of the universe and the master of all. The God that raised Jesus from the dead and placed him in authority over all things. Paul wanted them to understand that coming to Christ was, in fact, starting at the top. There is no other name in heaven or on earth more powerful than the name of Jesus.
 
In our lives and in this culture, that truth still remains.  No matter how bad the news is, God is still large and in charge.  Jesus is still the name above all names. God has granted Him the ultimate authority to rule the earth.  When we, as His chosen people, come to the Lord in prayer; we have come to the source. There is no name greater; nor, is their anyone with more authority than Christ Jesus our Lord! We need not fear to ask for Christ’s assistance nor doubt His power or plan.  We simply need to trust God and follow the Lord with faith and patience!
 
God Bless You
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1 Part 1–God’s Spirit Our Hope of Glory and Unity

The Book of Ephesians was Paul’s guide to the churches of the significant truths that come with being part of the family of God.  One overriding truth was the idea that from before creation God knew His chosen and wanted to be in a relationship with them.  God wanted to adopt those willing to receive Him. He did not form acquaintances or friendships–He adopted them as full heirs to the kingdom. While there is great diversity among those that came to know Christ, God has called for unity among them.

In addition, God left His Spirit as a mark, a deposit, and a guarantee that those who receive the Lord are forgiven and predestined to spend eternity with Him. His spirit is our hope of glory.  If we trust the Lord, the Spirit will guide and comfort us through good times and bad. It is the Spirit of  God that drives us forward and carries us through the most challenging of days.  We can rest assured that the Lord is with us and draws us to Himself and to each other as a community and a family. Thank You, Lord, for your promise and the Holy Spirit our reminder and guarantee of your covenant with us!
 
God Bless You

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you 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.

Galatians 6 Part 1–Living a God Honoring Life

Paul begins to wrap up the book of Galatians by giving some direct instruction about selfless living. Be gentle in restoration–As a family, Christians need not be the ones that judge others or say, “I told you so!” Christians do not ignore sin, but, they prayerfully and lovingly draw people back to the Lord. Still, while being gentle, there is no need to give license to sin or to forsake the truth. 

Carry each other’s burdens. As a body, we always arrive first to pitch in and we never judge or keep score. Have a healthy and real view of your life and your actions.  Work hard, carry your load and be gracious to all. The reality is that we do reap what we sow. Paul calls us to sow a life that honors God and feeds our spirit.  Not one that honors ourselves and feeds our flesh. If we will, no matter how difficult life becomes, at the proper time–we will receive a harvest. In the meanwhile, just be selfless and do good to all people! Especially do good to believers!

This is the picture of living like Christ– it’s not about checking boxes, it is about loving and serving God and others.  It is about dying to yourself and taking up your cross every day as you follow Christ!

God Bless You

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 5 Part 2–Living in Freedom Produces Spiritual Fruit

Next, Paul helped the Galatians to understand what freedom really looked like.  In the world view, freedom was the absence of rules. So to live free one could throw caution to the wind and commit any act they chose. No matter how evil, no matter how perverse–if one was free, they should have at it.  Paul was helping the people see that that freedom did not allow the benefits of freedom to work. Instead, it would simply install a new set of chains and enslavement.  
 
Instead, Paul says one becomes free to think, act and live selflessly. The freedom in Christ is the only freedom that is real.  When one walks freely in Christ, that person desires the joy of selflessness. they receive great joy in serving others. They see and feel a life that does not seem like a treadmill in a hamster cage. That life produces fruit–Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.
 
As we examine our own lives, Our first question needs to be who is in charge. If the answer is ourselves, then we have not obtained the freedom we long for.  We may be able to act horribly without consequence, but, it will become obvious that that life is ultimately slavery to sin and our own selfish desire.  If conversely, we follow Christ and His leadership, we see glimpses of the fruit of the Spirit, and we see how selflessness is critical to living a fulfilled and happy life.  Take time today to spot Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. These should be common themes in our lives. If not, then we need to examine our lives to determine who is the master. Unless it is God, we will remain imprisoned in our own sin and selfishness.
 
God Bless You

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions21, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 4 Part 2-Living as an Heir, Not as a Slave

Paul was trying to explain one of the most basic truths of salvation by grace. When one is freed from sin and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice, that person is no longer a slave to sin. What’s more, they are no longer a slave to the law.  As a child of God, one need only accept His salvation and follow His lead. Trying to go back and live a life subject to checklists and scorecards is the same as an heir going back and living in the slave quarters. In that life, one neither is welcome or finds peace. If they could have gained salvation by doing things or keeping rules, they would not need Christ. 
 
To set salvation by grace aside, both then and now is like living as a slave. One can never do enough and one can never experience peace trying to live up to a standard of perfection. We become enslaved to the idea that we have almost made it. Just a little bit better or just a little bit more and we will have arrived. That thought process is an illusion and a lie. The truth is simple–When we ask Christ into our lives, He comes in and forgives us and restores the relationship with God. As we follow Him, He transforms our lives into lives of purpose and selflessness. We become new creations; free from the chains of the law and the chains of sin.  We continue to move forward trusting God to do what is necessary to make our lives complete. It is never about us, our actions or our holiness. It is about trusting and following God’s lead and letting Him do the rest.
 
God Bless You

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the freewoman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”[e]

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f] 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

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