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 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 2–Closing Thoughts

Paul closes the letter to the Galatians with 2 final thoughts. First, never grow weary of doing good.  It is the character of being a new creation in Christ to want to honor Him.  The easiest way to honor Him is to set aside ones personal needs and desires and focus on the needs of others.  If one pours their lives into the needs of others, they begin to see God’s work in all aspects of life. While the effort seems tiring, the results are amazing. God will in the proper time reward such focus.
 
Finally, Paul reminds the Galatians–It simply is not about keeping Jewish law or tradition. The ones pushing that agenda fail to keep the laws and traditions themselves. Salvation and relationship with God come from the grace and gift of salvation–through Christ. It is our faith, not our actions that redeem us. If we will simply walk by faith, God will honor our faith and redeem, transform and bless us beyond our wildest imagination.  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

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.

Not Circumcision but the New Creation

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to[b] the Israel of God.

17 From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

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.

I Corinthians 15 Part 2–The Ressurection

As in the Jewish community, there were factions among the church regarding the resurrection.  Paul was not going to let that faction remain.  Paul was quick to remind the Corinthians that without the resurrection, the entire idea of Christ and salvation was a useless one.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was a sacrifice to restore the relationship between God and men.  To simply have died and not risen would have done nothing to restore the relationship between God and men.  It would have been a beautiful act of martyrdom, but of little use for restoration of a fallen world. 
 
So Paul made clear that not only did Christ pay the ultimate price for our sin, but He beat death, rose again and lives to intercede on our behalf.  We cannot forget the sacrifice Christ made for us, but we have to cling to the resurrection as our means to be in relationship with God. We must live lives that are eternal in perspective, not lives that indicate that this life is all we have.  We look forward to the day of Christ’s return where we will be new creations in a new kingdom forgiven, restored and living eternally with our Lord!
 
God Bless You

 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.