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.

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.

Footnotes:

Galatians 3 Part 2–The Law will Never Yield Salvation

Paul was trying to help the Galatian people to understand that they needed only to follow Christ–not the Jewish Law. He was attempting to show the people that while the law certainly had value, it was never the value of forgiveness or restoration of relationship with God.  In effect, the Law helped people to see they could not do life on their own. The harder they tried, the farther they fell away. It was therefore critical that God offers an alternative–Jesus.  Jesus took on the curse of the Law so that men could have a relationship with God and be forgiven for their sin.
 
In our lives, we simply will never be good enough on our own to keep the entire law.  So, if we look to the law for our salvation, we are doomed.  So, as Paul told the Galatians, we are justified by our faith in Christ. We are not counting on a good scorecard for keeping the rules. If we were, we would all come up way short and not have any hope for the future.  But according to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”  We need not rely on our great behavior to win God’s favor–no, we simply need to rely on Christ and the promise of salvation in Him.
 
God Bless You

Clearly, no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Galatians 2 Part 1–Different Missions, Same Message!

Paul continued to recount to the Galatians his personal journey to serve God minister to the Gentile world.  He discussed meeting with Peter, James, and John.  God chose Peter to be the primary evangelist of the Jewish world. Peter, the man Jesus personally asked to feed His sheep.  After spending time with Peter, James and John all agreed that God had given the same charge to Paul, only Paul’s mission field was to the Gentile world. It became obvious to all that the missions were equally important but totally different.  So these men agreed that Paul should do what he had been doing with the blessing of the rest of the Church leaders.  Paul did not have the same mission and needed not to try to conform his mission to look like Peter’s.  The Gentile people need not become Jewish–they simply needed to come into relationship with God through Christ! 
 
As God’s chosen, we are all called to follow Him. But the journey for each of us is greatly different. The combination of life circumstance, spiritual gifting, and maturity in our walks leads us to different ministries and ministry styles.  In that, we can no more judge other’s missions than could the apostles could in the early church.  The message remains clear–God loves us! He wants to be in a relationship with us. Our sin prevents that. Christ’s death and resurrection made possible the opportunity to be in a relationship again with God. We simply must trust and follow Christ. We do so by asking him to forgive us and come into our lives. If we do–He will! Then it is His job to transform us. 
 
That is the message. How we deliver it, and to whom we deliver it–is completely a function of trusting God and not being ashamed of this gospel. He will lead, guide and direct us to opportunities to minister; we simply need to remain faithful in that charge! Thanks, Lord for allowing us the opportunity to minister in the manner best suited to us and to those you choose for us to encounter!
 
God Bless You

Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

As for those who were held in high esteem—whatever they made no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles and them to the circumcised. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along.

2 Corinthians 11–There is Still Only One Gospel

Paul next took on another difficult issue–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him.  They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws. 
 
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law.  So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher.  In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him.  It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth. 
 
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ.  Amazingly, that looks different to different people.  Some walk-in freedom to eat or drink in moderation; while others abstain from certain food or drink. Some folks dance and go to movies–while others completely refrain from those forms entertainment. Bottom line–salvation is still knowing Christ personally and following Him daily. If He leads you to live a structured and disciplined life, awesome! If he leads you to relax and enjoy socializing in the world–great. We are neither to judge or condemn. 
 
Jesus said it best, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness–and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33
 
God Bless You

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way and will continue to do so. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

2 Corinthians 8–Giving From The Heart

Paul was addressing another difficult subject–giving. The Church in Jerusalem was in dire straits. They had been persecuted by the Jewish community and by Rome and it left them decimated.  Paul was asked to collect an offering to support the Church. The Corinthians had assisted before, but now they hesitated in giving–(partly because of Paul’s disciplining of them).  So Paul confronted the issue directly–please give what you can not because of obligation, but for the simple ability to trust God and see him work.
 
Nothing has changed. God does not tax his kids. He asks us to give generously to support the church and His plan. Often we give out of wealth, but sometimes we are called to give from our poverty. It is that giving that defines our faith. He will provide and he will bless our generosity.   We take steps of faith in giving and we watch God use what we have given to touch lives. We have no expectation for a return but know that God will prepare, protect and provide for us! We simply have to trust him in all things, even in giving back.
 
God Bless You

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

2 Corinthians 6 Part 2–The Critical Nature of Being Aligned

It is difficult to do life. Everyday pressures, expectations, and circumstances wear us down and push us to the edge.  It was the same during Paul’s time. People were doing jobs, getting married, raising kids and dealing with life’s pressures and without technology.  In the midst of that, Paul tells the people do not be unequally yoked. As a married couple, it is critical to be aligned. in life, we need to be aligned with those we count on to walk through life with us.  If we are not, it adds a layer of complexity in an already complex situation.  Is it doable, sure! Is it difficult–you bet! Bottom line Paul told the Corinthians–get aligned.
 
In our time, it is equally important to be aligned. Believers should consider faith as a critical component for marriage. If a couple does not share the same faith, it will mean strife at every major event. Going through a crisis together and aligned is often the only thing that allows the family to pass through to the other side. There is little in the world that encourages such alignment. Yet, when we see families aligned in faith, there is so much more harmony and unity in good and bad times.  They operate with a purpose and a perspective that is bigger than themselves. In Paul’s time and now, folks must consider faith a critical component in choosing a life partner and in raising a family!
 
God Bless You

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[c]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[d]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]