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 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 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 3 and 4 Part 1–The Power of Heirship

The “help” is always treated differently than family. Paul was explaining to the Galatians that when one comes to Christ they are adopted as God’s children. As one of God’s children, we are heirs to His Kingdom. Being an heir has so many implications that do not come with being a servant.  Still, as a child, heirs are often raised by nanny’s, tutors, coaches and other hired help that train and mold the heir into a productive and prepared adult.  Paul likens living under the law as the same process as being under the guardianship of a coach or nanny.  

The law helps to direct and guide Christians into the right life as God’s kids, but, like hired help, law and rules were never seen as our parent or real guardian. Christians are therefore free from the law and are subject only to the leading of God the Father.  There is no set of rules or checklists that will ever free men from the penalty of sin.  There is never a level of behavior that makes one good enough to restore one’s relationship with God.  

The freedom from sin and restoration as Christians come from our relationship with the Lord. We are heirs to His kingdom. As adopted children, we are completely accepted no matter our status, gender, race or level of behavior.  We are free because of who we are in Christ and whose we are as God’s adopted children.  Paul makes it clear–beyond that distinction, nothing matters.  We live as heirs to the kingdom of God and honor God with our daily lives. We do not live that way to attain something we already have; instead, we live that way because we are free from the hold the world had on us as slaves.  Help me, Lord to walk freely and to honor You!

God Bless You

Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

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 2–Crucified with Christ

When Christians realize that their justification comes simply by following Christ, then they begin to seek Christ and not ways to meet religious tenants.  In the early Church, the Jewish Christians were a bit resentful that the Gentile Christians did not honor Jewish laws including circumcision, dietary or festival and sabbath. It was a constant issue and even surfaced among the leadership. Paul, the rule follower of rule followers understood that for the Gentiles, those rules had no relevance.  So instead, Paul focused on the transformation of becoming like Christ.  When we join with Christ, we become a new person.  Paul likened it to joining Christ in the crucifixion.  The old us dies and the new us lives through Christ.
 
In our own lives, we have to learn that it is no longer us that lives, but, Christ lives within us. We are not called to meet a rigorous religious standard, but instead, we are called simply to follow His lead.  It is an amazing transformation where we become selfless and not selfish.  We walk humbly and with purpose seeking to honor God with our lives.  As we do that, the rules lose their power to control–they are replaced with a lifetime devoted to God.  Like Paul, we are crucified with Christ.  We are no longer in the lead–but, instead happily allowing God to lead and transform us into His image.  It is an eternal plan that is irreplaceable.
 
God Bless You

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.12 For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[d] Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[e]