Life At War, pt. 1 – Truth

Life At War

Last week, I wrote about the reality of spiritual warfare.  We showed that the presentation of this reality according to the Scriptures is not some antiquated, ridiculous, or even fanatical idea…but a clear proclamation of the activity in this cosmic realm that surrounds us.

We have been using the biblical letter to the Ephesians as the basis of our study together.  When reviewing the work of the apostle Paul, we can behold three over-arching commands to the church at Ephesus and passed on to us today…

1:  Be aware of this life at war.

2:  Be prepared for this life at war.

3:  Be in prayer through this life at war.

We see that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about the presence of and preparedness for spiritual warfare during our the disciple’s Life in Christ.  This life in Him is a gracious identity that comes from God and leads to a glorious outcome through God.

As such a precious gift of grace comes from the Father above (James 1:17), we also have a great adversary and Enemy who seeks the prevention of our understanding such a gift…much less embracing it for life transformation.  This means that our life in Christ is a life at war.  That is why we have such a great admonition from the apostle to…

  • Be strengthened in the Lord.
  • Be supplied by the Lord.
  • Have sight from the Lord.
  • Stand with the Lord.

Last week, the focus of our text was on the awareness for life at war.  In light of this awareness, the wise apostle then shares about the believer’s preparedness that comes from the provision of Jesus Christ alone.  Disciples must grasp the presence of and preparedness for spiritual warfare.  This is how the Scriptures present this powerful declaration in the closing text of Ephesians.

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest,

15 and your feet sandaled with readiness

for the gospel of peace.

16 In every situation take the shield of faith,

and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

17 Take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word.

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Ephesians 6:10-20 [hcsb]

The Scriptures were given to mankind as a gift.  They were received by the grace of God so that we might know the grace of God.  This revelation helps to answer the big questions of life…such as:

  • Origin – Where do we come from?
  • Identity – Who are we?
  • Meaning – What are we here for?
  • Morality – How shall we live?
  • Destiny – What happens when we die?

As we wish to grow in our understanding of the Scriptures and grasp the answers to these life/worldview questions, we must continue to…

  • Study the Scriptures systematically.
  • Interpret the Scriptures properly.
  • Scripture:  What does it say?
  • Observation:  What can be learned?
    • Who is God?
    • What does God do?
    • What does God say?
    • How are we to trust & follow this God in a holy, truthful, loving, and grace-filled way?
  • Application:  What can be transferred so that my life is transformed by His grace, through His gospel, and for His glory?
  • Prayer:  How will I respond?  How will I trust God?  How will I seek His strength to live according to His word, way, and will?
  • Apply the Scriptures daily.

We must do this if we are to face the reality of spiritual warfare that is very much present where we live, move, and breathe.  Those who have placed their faith in Christ have been given a new position for life in Him.  Such a position calls for the practice of our life to reflect the new identity we have been given.  But this will not be easy.  The enemy seeks to distract those that belong to Christ and destroy those who do no yet know Christ.

In response to such a threat, we must be reminded of how to live this life effectively in the midst of battle.

  • We are to wear the full armor of God.
  • The armor that we wear is God’s armor.
  • Putting on this armor is nothing magical as it is more about spiritual disciplines than “praying on” a garment.
  • Wearing this armor cannot be separated from what we believe and how we live.  Our beliefs system (theology) influences our behavior because both are important and work together.
  • Putting on the armor is about being equipped and deployed for spiritual battles.  Wearing the armor isn’t just preparation for the battle; it’s also part of the battle itself as the Enemy fights to keep us from wearing the armor.
  • The support of other believers helps us put on the armor.  The letter to the Ephesians was written to the whole church as the “saints”.  There is an expectation for them to stand together in battle.
  • Learning about the full armor of God can only take place through preparation from God’s word.

When we think upon the reality of spiritual warfare, how are we to be prepared?  The only responsible choice is to be prepared through the provision Christ has entrusted to us.

Today, we will focus on this process and the expectation to be prepared.  The first spiritual discipline that must gird (hold-up) our lives is the disciple of examining, embracing, embodying, and explaining the truth.  This is illustrated by the image of truth girding the believer as a belt which has been entrusted to us.

Let us…

  1. Examine the Truth as we notice the Source.  We first see that the Scriptures declare that they reveal the truth to those who seek to understand them.  They are God’s special revelation and promise to mankind.

7 The instruction of the Lord is perfect,

renewing one’s life;

the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,

making the inexperienced wise.

8 The precepts of the Lord are right,

making the heart glad;

the command of the Lord is radiant,

making the eyes light up.

9 The fear of the Lord is pure,

enduring forever;

the ordinances of the Lord are reliable

and altogether righteous.

10 They are more desirable than gold —

than an abundance of pure gold;

and sweeter than honey,

which comes from the honeycomb.

11 In addition, Your servant is warned by them;

there is great reward in keeping them.

Psalm 19:7-11 [hcsb]

The Scripture reveals the truth because the Scripture is the truth.  Reading & knowing God’s word—the Bible—equips us to wear the piece of amor known as truth.

The Enemy of God, however, is a liar.  The truth is not in him.  In his scheme and tactic as a deceiver and slanderer of God, he attacks the truth with lies that seek to undermine the truthfulness of God’s word, God’s character, and God’s authority.  This was the pattern of attack in the garden of Eden with mankind’s original parents and this pattern of attack has not changed since.

The written Word is the provision of truth that reveals the person who is truth.  Jesus said “you pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me” (John 5:39).

Jesus is the Truth!

One scholar put it this way.

Jesus is the very embodiment of truth.  He is the truth in person.

-William Hendrickson

When Jesus walked this earth, did the things that He did, and said the things that He said… He wasn’t acting.  He wasn’t a phony.  He was the genuine truth revealed to us.  In fact, some of Jesus harshest denouncements went to those considered hypocrites.  The enemy would try to distract both believers and unbelievers from the genuine truth of the Christ.  These lies are sometimes not so subtle as they speak words like…

  • Jesus is only one way among many routes to God.
  • Jesus couldn’t possibly have been born by a virgin.
  • Jesus must have committed at least some sins during His lifetime on earth.
  • Jesus was a great prophet and teacher, but no more than that.
  • Jesus did die as a martyr, but He did not and could not die for the sins of the world.
  • Jesus bodily resurrection was only a myth that was circulated by the disciples and the early church.

Why is discerning the truth from these lies so important?

Apart from the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of the perfect Son of God, we have no hope; so the Enemy aims his arrows at our understanding of Jesus.

-Chuck Lawless

Jesus not only is the truth… Jesus Knows The Truth!

When Jesus walked the earth, His knowledge of the deepest truth was revealed in many accounts.

  • He knew past sins. – John 4:7-19
  • He knew current thoughts. – John 6:14-15
  • He knew future actions. – John 6:60-64

Mankind, including those among the church, has somehow become convinced that hidden sin is acceptable sin.  What we must remember is that no though we think, no word we speak, and no action we take is hidden from the One who knows all truth.

When it comes to the truth… Jesus Spoke The Truth!

The measure of a prophet in the Old Testament was to see if what they foretold came to happen.  This measure was on full display in the foretelling spoken by Jesus.

  • the call to the disciples to be fishers of men
  • the comfort that would come to the grieving
  • the foretelling of his betrayal, death, and resurrection.

Jesus is the truth who knows truth and who speaks truth.  What He says can be trusted because what He promises to do will happen.

Jesus Lived The Truth!

The Scripture gives us a clear reminder of Jesus life of truth when it tells us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

We must understand that only Jesus—who faced the full brunt of temptation without ever sinning—can really understand its force.  Still, He never failed (Lawless).

While we may falter and fail at fully living the truth, Jesus never does and never will.  He is our confidence, hope, and help in our time of need…and we desperately live in a time of need.

II.  Embrace the Truth by trusting the source of truth.

Jesus is our model for embracing the truth…especially in the moments of our darkest battles and adversity from the enemy.  When you read the account of Jesus experience with temptation from the enemy in Matthew 4:1—11, you can see that Jesus Himself is the model for trusting the Father and responding with the Word of God.

The One Who is the Word of God used to Word of God to make the right choices to fulfill the will of God.

1:  He made the right choices because His desire to please the Father was more important than anything the Enemy offered.

2:  Jesus knew the Word sufficiently to respond to the Devil’s attacks.

3:  Jesus experienced the Father’s blessings when He overcame temptation.

Jesus enables us to battle both the temptation for sins of commission and omission.  We need help battling both.  Many people can view the Christians life as one meant to keep a list of things to avoid.  While our life in Christ is partly about fleeing temptation, but it is also about doing the good we are called to complete.

What we do is just as important as what we don’t do.

Jesus took the stand against the enemy not only by rejecting temptation, by by also accomplishing good in such a way that the promises of God were provided and fulfilled, and the stronghold of the enemy was loosened.

III.  Embody The Truth by reflecting the source of truth.  The call of the Scripture is to “put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24).

How do we embody this?  How is it that the truth is put on in our life?

  • By listening to the message of truth – 1:13
  • By speaking the truth in love – 4:15
  • By seeing the truth is in Jesus – 4:21
  • By putting away lying, deceit, and falsehood – 4:25
  • By producing the fruit of light which results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth – 5:9
  • By discerning what is pleasing to the Lord – 5:10

The Truth found in Jesus is on display in the message of the GOSPEL.

What is this GOSPEL?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is commonly understood in Christianity to consist of five key elements and one powerful result that brings mankind good news.  These are the Gospel “essentials” in any culture.

· the message of God’s Character:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”Ephesians 2:4

God is the Holy & Righteous One.  He is the loving & merciful God that created mankind to be in relationship with Him. At the same time, He is a just judge Who will not let the guilty go unpunished.  Habakkuk 1:13; Jeremiah 31:3

· the message of the Offense of Sin:  “…even when we were dead in our transgression…”Ephesians 2:5

The good news of the gospel addresses the critical issue of mans sinfulness.  Man’s rebellion, beginning in the Garden of Eden and passed down to every human in history, separates us from this Holy, merciful God.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23

Our sins cannot be overcome by our attempt at righteousness by doing good works and they place us on the path toward punishment & destruction eternally.  Without our understanding of sin, there is no realization of our need for a Savior. Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3

· the message of the Sufficiency of Christ:  “…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 2:5-6.

Christ is either sufficient to forgive us of sin through His act on the cross, or He is not.  The Gospel clearly states that Christ is not simply “an answer” but “the only answer” to the sin of mankind and resulting separation from God.  Because Christ is sufficient, nothing needs to be added to the Gospel to complete the promise of redemption.  Isaiah 53:6,11; John 14:6; Acts 4:12 

· the message of Personal Response:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:5, 8-9

Although God clearly acted in eternity past with a divine plan to redeem mankind, He has also placed on us a responsibility to hear and believe the Gospel.  This belief in Christ and the Gospel will result in a person turning to God from sin to worship and serve Him.  Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Romans 1:16; 2:4; 10:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

· the message of Eternal Urgency:“…so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”Ephesians 2:7

The Scripture teaches that eternity presses on us.  Those who do not place their trust in Jesus Christ will perish into eternal hell, separated from God.  Those who trust the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will spend eternity with God in heaven.  This urgency drives disciples to share the Gospel.  Exodus 34:7; John 3:16; Romans 2:4-11; 6:23

Whoever calls on Christ Jesus for salvation, repents and places their faith in Him as the Lord God will be saved.

· the message of Life Transformation:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

When one hears the Gospel and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, the result is a changed life.  Life is transformed by the power of the Gospel, not the efforts of man-and the change is dramatic. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:2-10

This Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in Christ’s family, our sanctification as disciples, and our future of a heavenly inheritance.

To further embody the truth, we must find support in the church through authentic accountability.

What is accountability?  

“It is a willingness to be honest about, and to accept responsibility for, my actions as one means to strive for Christlike holiness.”

– Chuck Lawless

  • It is voluntary
  • It requires honesty
  • It accepts responsibility
  • It is not a shortcut
  • It seeks growth in personal holiness & a Christlike reflection

IV.  Explain The Truth by proclaiming the Source of truth.  We will be able to look around and see those not equipped yet with the belt of truth.  It is our job to share the belt for others to put on.  The truth is not just for the church.  It is for the church to make known to the unchurched.

This is the mission and target of our Life at War.  The church must be a people who are about both going and telling as we also invite others to come and see.  But we must know this…

“God did not command the world to go to church but for the church to go to the world.”

-Greg Laurie

As we are reminded of this principle…we must remember that each day could be someone’s one day.  You and I could be that person’s one breakthrough person.

Let us be people that breakthrough with the truth in a world that needs to hear it.

#FollowJesus 

By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. 

*Notes taken from Putting On The Armor by Dr. Chuck Lawless, Christ-Centered Commentary on Ephesians by Dr. Tony Merida, NT Expositional Commentary from Dr. Warren Wiersbe, & sermon notes from Charles Spurgeon. 

How Skipping Church Affects Our Children…

There is a concern to consider for Christian parents that are hoping to influence their children in a positive manner for Christ. It is an issue that might not seem like a big deal to many in our culture today.  I mean…what could possibly be wrong with missing out on church?  It couldn’t possibly be that big of a deal…right?

But when you really consider it…what exactly is the message that we sharing with our children about Jesus in our attitudes & actions toward his church?

This article is a repost that I thought worth reading and considering.  My prayer and hope in reposting this article…is not to draw attention to myself or to justify my position as a pastor…but to really think through what we are communicating to the mission field closest to us all…our home. Continue reading

Life In Christ: the Strength to Stand

Strength to Stand

It has been a while since I have last posted…but here goes.

*Q:  What comes to mind then you hear the words “spiritual warfare”?

  • Maybe you are the type that has visions of powerful war movies like “Gladiator” or “Braveheart”.
  • Or maybe the imagery of prizing fighting competitions with mixed martial arts like UFC™ comes into mind.
  • Maybe you are the person that the idea of battle games like paintball and airsoft geeks you out.
  • Or maybe you are the geek that thinks about strategy games like “Risk” or “Stratego”.

Perhaps you don’t fall into those types.  Perhaps, when you hear these words…

  • You think about the metaphors of spiritual armor as being antiquated compared to the machinery of modern warfare.
  • Maybe you think about this presentation in a somewhat childish or cartoonish view because of something from your younger years.
  • Maybe you think “Oy Vey” because even the topic of spiritual warfare or spiritual armor sounds brutish, fanatical, or unintelligible.
  • Maybe it draws to mind the superstitious and ancient explanations for how the world is instead of the modern psychological and/or physiological explanations.

But before you make any snap judgments because of past circumstances or pre-conceived notions… let’s think for a moment about what we are really talking about and what the Scripture declares on such a topic. This subject as presented by the Scriptures is…

Not antiquated, but ageless

…because we see that humanity has still not really changed.

…because there is still an evil an active enemy.

…because there is always the need for Christ & His mighty power.


Not ridiculous, but rooted in the totality of Scriptures

…because Paul is not only relating to his prison experience or the Roman warriors of his time but also bringing to light the OT writings of the Messiah King and His work among His people!

  • the LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is His name. – Exodus 15:3
  • You have clothed me with strength for battle; You subdue my adversaries beneath me. – Psalm 18:39
  • The LORD advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier.  He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies. – Isaiah 42:17

Not bizarre, but truly brilliant

…because the apostle is taking the time to reiterate what has been emphasized previously throughout this letter.

  • God’s divine power
  • the “already & not yet” plan
  • Christlike virtues
  • the power & practice of prayer
  • putting on the new self

Not uninformed, but informed

…because it is the revelation of the cosmic & the spiritual alongside the ethical & relational.

…because it is the revelation of something more than what meets the eye.

  • We cannot simply say that our relational challenges in the church, our behavioral challenges in the home, or our ethical challenges in society are the results of everything except spiritual problems.
  • They may certainly involve physical and psychological challenges, but we must realize that we are complex beings (physical, mental, emotional, behavioral, cultural, spiritual).  Many of our problems/issues are indeed spiritual ones.
  • We live in a culture where everyone want to talk about the problems of life without actually talking about the problem of life.
  • to speak of evil, or sin, or the enemy is to sound silly, fanatical, naive, or uninformed.
  • we may think we are so advanced today…yet our streets still run with blood from hate, lust, greed, etc. as people are treated as less than human through oppression and violence.*

So let’s take a look at the Scriptures to gain the understanding we need on Spiritual warfare and armor.

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on  the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand…

Ephesians 6:10-14 [hcsb]

So let’s try to understand what we have just read together.  It is important to learn the context of a written work in order to better understand what was written.  To do so with the Scriptures, we must ask 4 major questions.

  • What does it say?
  • What can be learned from it?
  • Who God is
  • What God does
  • What God says
  • How we are to trust this God
  • What can be transferred so that I may be transformed?
  • How will I respond to God & how will I trust Him in this process?

What we can gather from the build-up of this letter is that…

If we are to fully live our Life in Christ…it will be a life at war.

And so we are given three major over-arching commands in the latter part of Ephesians.

  1. Be aware for this life at war.
  2. Be prepared for this life at war.
  3. Be in prayer for this life at war.

Today, we will attempt to tackle the over-arching command to be aware and begin to wrestle with the subject of being prepared.

Q:  How are we to be aware & be prepared for the darkest of all adversities to our Life in Christ?

  1. We must be strengthened in the Lord. – v. 6:10

As we take notice of the Scripture, we see that Paul wrote for the church to “…be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.”

This letter is very pointed when it comes to being aware of the Source and Sustainer of our strength.

Now this is somewhat counter-cultural but it something we all need to hear.  Those of us raised in church have probably come to expect such a statement from our teachings…but what we hear and what we practice can very well be two different spheres in our lives.

Notice that Paul doesn’t say…

  • be strengthened by your vast numbers
  • be strengthened by your economic security
  • be strengthened by your healthy family
  • be strengthened by your physical fitness
  • be strengthened by your obedient practices
  • be strengthened by your biblical knowledge
  • be strengthened by your overflowing influence
  • be strengthened by your uplifting character
  • be strengthened by your “being in the know”
  • be strengthened by your “political leanings”

No!  The very direct emphasis is to be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  In doing so…

  1. We must be strengthened by the mighty power of the Lord if we don’t wish to crumble under the adversity & weight of the evil one.
  1. We must be strengthened by God as we are reminded of “whose we are”.  Remember who you belong to.  This means we must not have a view of Jesus that is less than who He really is and what He is able to accomplish.  We can’t always overcome…He can.  He does.  He will.
  1. We must be strengthened by God by being rooted deeply in the relationship provided through His grace.

II.  We must be supplied by the Lord. – v. 6:11

Once again, as we look to the Scriptures for our source of direction, we see that the apostle writes…

“put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.”

The full armor is to be embraced and not a partial armor.  God did not give us a partial armor so why would we ever consider only partially embracing that which God has gifted. The scriptures following detail this marvelous gift of grace.

  • the belt of truth
  • the breastplate of righteousness
  • the sandals of Gospel peace
  • the shield of faith
  • the helmet of salvation
  • the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word)

Just think on this.  There is almost nothing more pestering than to know you left home and you forgot something…especially if it pertains to your daily wear.

We must consider the grace of God that both clothed the nakedness of Adam and Eve…has also clothed us with Himself and with His armor.

We have all we need in Him to live with all we have for Him.

We must not doubt the supply of God because when we do, this harms our trust in the sovereignty of God.

Remember the harm done in Eden through a lack of trust in the authority, provision, and love of God.

The greatest reminder of God’s supply is the GOSPEL.

What is this GOSPEL?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is commonly understood in Christianity to consist of five key elements and one powerful result that brings mankind good news.  These are the Gospel “essentials” in any culture.

· the message of God’s Character:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”Ephesians 2:4

God is the Holy & Righteous One.  He is the loving & merciful God that created mankind to be in relationship with Him. At the same time, He is a just judge Who will not let the guilty go unpunished.  Habakkuk 1:13; Jeremiah 31:3

· the message of the Offense of Sin:  “…even when we were dead in our transgression…”Ephesians 2:5

The good news of the gospel addresses the critical issue of mans sinfulness.  Man’s rebellion, beginning in the Garden of Eden and passed down to every human in history, separates us from this Holy, merciful God.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23 Our sins cannot be overcome by our attempt at righteousness by doing good works and they place us on the path toward punishment & destruction eternally.  Without our understanding of sin, there is no realization of our need for a Savior. Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3

· the message of the Sufficiency of Christ:  “…made us alive together with Christ…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”Ephesians 2:5-6.

Christ is either sufficient to forgive us of sin through His act on the cross, or He is not.  The Gospel clearly states that Christ is not simply “an answer” but “the only answer” to the sin of mankind and resulting separation from God.  Because Christ is sufficient, nothing needs to be added to the Gospel to complete the promise of redemption.  Isaiah 53:6,11; John 14:6; Acts 4:12 

· the message of Personal Response:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”Ephesians 2:5, 8-9

Although God clearly acted in eternity past with a divine plan to redeem mankind, He has also placed on us a responsibility to hear and believe the Gospel.  This belief in Christ and the Gospel will result in a person turning to God from sin to worship and serve Him.  Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Romans 1:16; 2:4; 10:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9

· the message of Eternal Urgency:“…so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”Ephesians 2:7

The Scripture teaches that eternity presses on us.  Those who do not place their trust in Jesus Christ will perish into eternal hell, separated from God.  Those who trust the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross will spend eternity with God in heaven.  This urgency drives disciples to share the Gospel.  Exodus 34:7; John 3:16; Romans 2:4-11; 6:23

calls on Christ Jesus for salvation, repents and places their faith in Him as the Lord God will be saved.

· the message of Life Transformation:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”Ephesians 2:10

When one hears the Gospel and accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, the result is a changed life.  Life is transformed by the power of the Gospel, not the efforts of man-and the change is dramatic. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:2-10

This Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in Christ’s family, our sanctification as disciples, and our future of a heavenly inheritance.

III.  We must have our Sight from the Lord. – v. 6:10-12

As we look at the Scripture, we gain clarity as we behold…

  • the strength of the Lord
  • the supply of the Lord
  • the supreme picture from the Lord
  • the strategic target from the Lord
  • the sinister enemy of the Lord

If we are going to be aware of this life at war in our life with Christ, we must not lose sight of these things.

And while it is not healthy to dwell on the enemy, it is also not healthy to pretend that he is not real or a real threat.

As we look scripturally at this very real sinister enemy…we see that his schemes are rooted in who he is.

  • the Devil or the slanderer
  • Satan or the accuser
  • the authority of evil & the demonic forces
  • the serpent, dragon, or crafty one
  • Beelzebub or lord of the flies (chaos and fear)
  • the ruler of this world
  • the god of this age (both the idol and the idolater)
  • the evil one
  • the father of lies or the deceiver
  • the thief
  • the roaring & devouring lion
  • the disguised one

We see that this real enemy is…

  • evil
  • strategic
  • a wrestler
  • defeated

We must receive sight from the Lord so that we don’t lose sight of…

  • the real picture
  • the real target
  • the real enemy

Do not lose sight by distraction or by decisions.

IV.  We must stand with the Lord. – v. 6:13

In light of all these admonitions addressed by the apostle, we see it is continued by his encouragement by writing…

This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand…Stand!…”

In other words… now that we have been made aware of life at war and understand the expectations of being aware…the choice is set before us.

  • Will we be prepared?
  • Will we embrace what has been provided?
  • Will we take this stand?

If we do so… we do so

  • By His Grace
  • Through His Gospel
  • For His Glory

The Full Armor of God is given to us so that we will be able to resist in the evil day.  A day that is coming and is not a matter of if it comes…but when.

This reminds us of our urgency.

We must be aware so that we may be prepared in everything that has been entrusted to us.

I encourage you to…

  • Stand in His strength
  • Stand by His supply
  • Stand with His sight
  • Stand by His side

I’m not asking you to stand by me…but by Him and to know that is here I aim to be. Continue reading

Where the Fire is Hottest

Johnblackmon's Blog

watergiftLast week at the Together for the Gospel conference, I had a new experience. For the first time, I heard Dr. David Platt sound his usual resounding call to the nations with me knowing I had to some extent answered. Don’t let me misrepresent myself. A little over a week, strange food, and jet leg are no sacrifice. However, I did get to look through the open 10/40 window and see at least, in part, what is before us. Due to a  life-long friendship, I have a direct connection to a part of the world where one of the five largest unreached people groups still are lost in darkness, superstition, idol worship, and daily dissatisfaction with life. I’ve walked the streets, I’ve smelled the smells, I’ve seen the people. I’ll never forget my first impression of smells: incense, cigarette smoke, and human feces – in that order. I’ve heard the…

View original post 1,377 more words

Life In Christ: Rooted In Love

Last week I wrote about “difference makers.”  These persons take on the challenge that is life and the challenges of life in a way that makes a significant difference on a select few or on the multitudes.  There is something about how these special contributors share their words and deeds that leaves an impression on others about the meaning, the message, the motions, and the methods of living life well.

The ultimate example of a difference maker is Jesus of Nazareth who is called the Christ (Messiah) according to the biblical Scriptures and His followers over the generations since His historical time on this earth.  This Jesus lived in such a way that He has influenced multitudes with His meaning, His message, His motions, and His methods.  The mysterious and majestic gift of the Gospel (good news) of salvation for the person that places their faith (trust) in Him changes everything (an authentic biblical faith* does that sort of thing).

*Authentic biblical faith is a trust that Jesus is really all the He says He is, that Jesus did all that He said He did, and that Jesus will do all that He says He will do.  Such faith leads us to follow all that Jesus calls us to follow (obedience).

Today, I would like to invite you to join me as we examine again the Scriptures and see why we should trust this Jesus.  Hopefully, by taking seriously the words of the Bible we will be able to also behold the incredible love that is found and rooted in Christ.

Rooted In Love

When we hear people speak about the Bible and about Jesus, the familiar phrase “Jesus Loves You” often comes to light.  This phrase can be found on the lips of believers and delivered by the proclamation of pastors, but it is also found printed on t-shirts, displayed on billboards, written in paper tracts, and graffiti-ed on walls.  These are simple words but powerful words with profound implications.

But what does it mean when you hear someone say, “Jesus loves you”?  For those of us who are Christians, what does it mean when we utter these words?  Are we sharing it in a pointless and uncaring manner or are wanting to truly shed light on the profound meaning behind the words.  When disciples of Jesus are learning about what it means to have life in Christ, knowing the love of God is an indispensable and incomparable treasure.

Before we move forward on this topic… I hope to assure you of some things related to these words:  Jesus loves you.

  1. When someone says “Jesus Loves You” this is absolutely true.
  2. When someone trusts that Jesus loves them this truth changes everything.
  3. When someone speaks of the love of Jesus they speak of the never-changing yet ever changing love of God Himself.

The love of Jesus Christ is mysterious, meaningful, majestic, and mighty as it reveals…

  • His Power
  • His Promise
  • His Provision
  • His Power

The love of Jesus Christ is mysterious, meaningful, majestic, and mighty as it also reveals and transforms…

  • Our Purchase
  • Our Position
  • Our Pursuit
  • Our Practices

It is this mysterious, meaningful, majestic, and mighty love of Christ that causes Paul to express His prayer to God for the church.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 
20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
-Ephesians 3:14-21 [New American Standard Bible]
So, why does Paul pray for the church to be rooted in Christ’s love?  Let’s pause a bit more to reflect on the picture of Christ’s love revealed in this prayer so we may understand the meaning for those who believe.
I.  The Invitation For The Prayer
Paul had confidence in the prayer that he lifted up to God for the church because He had confidence first in who God was.  Paul knew that God was able to deal with the prayers of the people that call on His name because…He is God.  He also knew that although God is holy, that God has done what is necessary to draw believers into His grace, mercy, love, and truth.  He not only has paved the way for persons to come to Him, but He has spoken the invitation for us to come to Him.
II.  The Identification In The Prayer
Paul declared the identity of this God on whom He called upon for provision.  This helps us to understand that prayer is not about self-will or calling on anything… but prayer is about speaking to God the Father.  God the Father of Jesus Christ is not so much about declaring the paternity of Jesus but about declaring the relation of fatherhood that is made within mystery of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit).  Jesus was not a demigod but in all equality…God Himself.  The Father ID also reveals the access that we have to God as the good, good father that welcomes His children to Himself.
But lest we forget… The Father is gloriously God and holy.  He is never to be taken lightly or looked at as less than He truly is.  God the Father is all the father of all nations.  He created each and every one so that no one people have the claim over God alone.  And these nations have an invitation of grace from the Father.  God has displayed His unmerited favor to the lost in the plan for and provision of salvation to those who might place their trust in Him.  We have a good, good father that has created fatherhood.  The very origins of this title and provision are found in God and the ultimate example is seen in God.
III.  The Indications Of The Prayer
Paul had specific petitions in His prayer to the Father.  These petitions to the Father indicate His hope for the church.  Paul indicated in His prayers that He desired for the church collectively and for disciples individually to be strengthened with power.  This power was not through achievement or earned merit, but a provision that could only find its source in the Spirit of God Himself.  This means that our power for holy living and for accomplishing the tasks laid before us is not dependent on our own resources and strength but on those that originate from God.
The Spirit brings this strengthening by the working of His power for the “inner man”.  In the Greek culture, the inner man referred to the reason of a man to understand truth from fiction, the conscience of man to know right from wrong, and the will of man to put to task this knowledge.  From the Scriptures we can see that the inner man in Christ is made alive (Ephesians 2:1), seeing (Psalm 119:18), hearing (Matthew 13:9), tasting (Psalm 34:8), and feeling (Acts 17:27).  As such, the inner man must also be exercised (1 Timothy 4:7-8), cleansed (Psalm 51:7), and fed (Matthew 4:4) for health to be preserved and the person to be faithfully active.
Paul also prayed for the inner man to be deepened in the position the believer has with Christ Jesus.  In the way that depth is needed, the prayer is that we would have Christ dwell with us.  We must understand that we are God’s holy temple that need for our temples to be prepared for this dwelling of His holy presence.  Only God can make this place holy, and only by submission to Him, does this holiness reign over our lives.  We must be rooted in Christ meaning that we find the source of our nourishment in Him as we journey deeply with Him.  We must also be grounded by Christ as we grow and find our balance by His shaping and direction.
IV.  The Implications From The Prayer
Paul indicates that His prayer for God’s provision for the church would have implications on the church.  By taking in God’s provision we can further know, comprehend, and grasp the love of Christ.  Think about that… we can embrace and have a greater understanding of the love of God because of the provisions from God.  The love of Christ infinitely covers all dimensions.
“if we wish to work this out we might say that in the breadth of its sweep, the love of Christ includes every man of every kind in every age in every world; in the length to which it would go, the love of Christ was obedient to death and accepted even the Cross; in its depth it descended to experience even death; in its height, He still loves us in heaven, where He still ever liveth to make intercession for us.
There is no man who is outside the love of Christ; there is no place which is outwit the reach of Christ; there is no experience which the love of Christ will refuse in order to gain one man.  It is a love which surpasses knowledge, and which, if he accepts it, will fill a man with nothing less that the life of God Himself.”
-William Barclay, 1956
V.  The Intensification Filling The Prayer
Paul ends this prayer with a declaration of worship to this God who is, who speaks, who loves, and who acts abounding in infinite holiness and incredible grace.  Paul’s praise is clear yet bountiful.
“To Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
The intensity of God’s amazing love drives us to praise Him and to take seriously our response to who He is, what He does, and what He says.  The intensity of God’s amazing love should also lead us to be intensely passionate about our purpose to make Him known to this generation and toward the generations to come.
And this we will do as we #FollowJesus for our #LifeInChrist.
By His Grace.  Through His Gospel.  For His Glory.

Continue reading

Life In Christ: Unraveling the Mystery

Sometimes I am amazed and astounded by the difference makers in our history. These difference makers alter the course our lives and sometimes impact the trajectory of history itself. Their lives, their message, their meaning, their motions, and their methods make a difference on those around them.

When we look upon the Scriptures, we see that Jesus Christ and His gift of the Gospel is the ultimate difference maker. This extraordinary gift of grace is the mystery of God unraveled before our eyes that changes everything.

mystery_unraveled-title-2-still-16x9

What is this Gospel (meaning “good news”)?

  • God created mankind to be in relationship with Him.
  • Our sins, however, have separated the relationship we have with God that was meant to be holy and righteous relationship.
  • Sins cannot be overcome by our attempt at righteousness by doing good works.
  • Paying the price for sin, Jesus came to do what we couldn’t do by living a holy, sinless life and dying in our place.
  • Everyone who calls on Christ Jesus for salvation and places their trust in Him as Lord will be saved.
  • Life that is eternal in Christ is not something we have to wait for. It begins and grows from the moment we trust Jesus.

This Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about our forgiveness of sins, our adoption in Christ’s family, and our future of a heavenly inheritance.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ also answers the questions we have about life and that shape our worldview…

  • Origin – Where do I come from?
  • Identity – Who am I?
  • Meaning – What am I here for?
  • Morality – How should I live?
  • Destiny – Where am I going in the future or when I die?

And yet, this is not the only thing that the Gospel does. The Gospel does more.

The gospel is the mysterious gift of grace that transforms our life’s meaning, our life’s message, our life’s motions, and our life’s methods.

Today, we are going to look upon the Scriptures of Ephesians once again to see the bold and bountiful provision of the Gospel and how it transforms our Life in Christ.

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles- 2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3 that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.

4 By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.

11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

Life in Christ means something special. It means doing something when we follow Jesus. To belong to Christ means being someone. 

Life in Christ is a gracious identity from God which leads to a glorious outcome through God.

To have the Gospel is to possess a gracious, glorious gift that transforms the root of who we are and alters the route of where we are going.

Let’s look at these impacts and implications according to the Scriptures… 

I.  The Gospel Impact On The Apostle [3:1-5]

The Gospel of Jesus Christ had a profound and lasting impact of the life of the Apostle Paul. The Bible details the historical transformation that took place in the life of Paul. He was once a zealous persecutor of the church and devout practitioner as a Pharisee. After an extraordinary encounter with the resurrected Jesus… he became a humble follower of Jesus and founded many churches as He proclaimed the grace-filled gloriously life-changing gospel to a world in need.

In this letter to the Ephesian church Paul describes the impact that the Gospel had on the meaning, the message, the motions, and the methods of his life and how his life was transformed deeply by the gospel. Because Paul’s life was transformed by the gospel, he also impacted unfathomable scores of others in his service to God.

Another telling sign from out text of Scripture today is how Paul considers Himself both a prisoner of and minister for Christ Jesus.

It was precisely of Paul’s calling from Christ and his obedience to Christ’s calling of proclaiming this Jesus to the Gentiles that he was imprisoned.

Paul also knew that he was called to be a minister (servant & steward). He knew that as a result of the Gospel being unraveled and revealed to him…he was now entrusted with a great responsibility. For this follower of Christ, it was not enough to simply “win” people to Jesus and to build crowds at new churches..

He understood that just as it was an act of glorious grace that God had unraveled the mystery of His marvelous grace to him… He was entrusted to do the same and reveal this mystery in an active way.

Regardless of the fact that Paul was now in chains and imprisoned because of this gospel… He did not lessen the value of the difference that was made by the Gospel and the direction it provided for his life…even a life now in chains.

The Gospel had transformed the root of who Paul was and altered the route of where he was going.

II.  The Gospel Impact On The Agnostic [3:6-8]

Agnostic – (n.) a person who hold the existence of an ultimate cause, as being God or some divine & intelligent being, and sees the essential nature of things to be presently unknown or unknowable. This is a person who asserts an uncertainty to their beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, and doctrines.

The Gentiles who did not know God and saw Him as “unknown” would certainly fall into the category of agnostic (not yet knowing).

But God was working to make Himself known, not just to the Jewish people…but to the Gentiles.

In the previous chapter of Ephesians, we discover that Christ’s work on the cross, accomplished much more that just the salvation of individual sinners.

This gracious work also brought about reconciliation between the Jews and the Gentiles. While these two parties had once been divided from one another, they were now being brought together by God Himself and with God Himself.

These new believers were being taught how to come to terms with their relationship in Christ. Paul revealed to them the awesome grace that transforms life and the new meaning, message, motions, and methods of their new life.

In revealing this knowledge to these Gentiles. Paul informed them that they were…

  • Fellow-heirs – sharing in the riches, blessing, and provision of God. Verse 8 states that these riches are unfathomable (unsearchable). At the end of chapter 3 we are told that we are connected with the God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (immeasurably) more than all we can ask or even imagine.  To live as a believer that is without resources is to lessen the provision of God’s grace and character of God Himself.
  • Fellow-members – these Gentiles were now joined to the one body spiritually that is the church. We may have been born physically with differing racial or medical distinctions but we are one body spiritually in Christ Jesus. We as believers may have been born socially, culturally, or generationally distinct from others but we are now fellow-members united together as one body spiritually in Christ. To live as a believer that is disjointed and disconnected is to live disobediently to that which God has united together by His grace and providence.
  • Fellow-partakers – These once distant Gentiles now had the ability to consider themselves fellow citizens of God’s covenant kingdom. They were not a separate entity from God’s chosen people and chosen purposes. Because of the spiritual grafting of the Gentiles in to the promises of God’s covenant… they (we) too could now be partakers as God’s people.  “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” – 1 Peter 2:9 [nkjv]  To live as if we are not engaged together with the peoples of God and within the plans of God is to live independently of His gracious will and direction.

This is the mystery of the gospel that has been unraveled before the eyes of believers who were once distant from God and He was unknown to them. This mystery presents a new relationship between man and God all because of Jesus (God Himself).

But that’s not all folks… we see not only the presentation of a new relationship but the revelation of new power that is available only through Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus.

This power has a purpose that also reveals something unique about our lives. It is a life with an entrusted stewardship that has been empowered by Jesus to reveal Jesus to others. This power and entrusted stewardship is not just for so-called “super Christians” or what we may think of as the “spiritually elite.” It is made available for all who will call upon the name of the Lord for salvation.

Paul even said it was entrusted to him who he considered to be the very least of the saints and a chief of sinners. Don’t sell short what God has graciously and gloriously provided for you.

This Gospel revealed to us transforms the root of every believer and alters the course of every believer.

But it must be made known to every person so they can make an informed decision of faith.

III.  The Gospel Impact On The Angelic [3:9-10]

There is something truly extraordinary and incredibly astounding about this mystery that is now revealed for generations. But we must not forget that this mystery was not always known. God is doing something distinctive in revealing this mystery to and through the church. It was once a hidden mystery shrouded away from sight.

The Scriptures tell us that there were persons for which this “great secret” and “mystery” was hidden. Even the angelic being in the heavenly places were kept from knowing this secret until God chose to reveal the mystery of the Gospel through His church.

Peter tells us that the angels (created heavenly beings) were among those that were curious about how God’s plan of salvation would be revealed upon the earth.

Jesus said that these angels also rejoice when a lost soul turns Christ in repentance and surrenders their life to Him.

Paul wrote that angels watch the activities of the local assemblies of believers in wonder.

But here in Ephesians, Paul writes that these angels are actually learning from the church as they are seeing the manifold wisdom of God coming to light.

But these heavenly beings that are learning of God’s mystery as all of this is unfolding are not just the “good angels.” The enemies of God are seeing the folly of their leader and his doomed rebellion.

God may have hid this mystery for the ages, but now He has chosen to make his message known by the church in a way that teaches the heavenly rulers. These angels get to observe with great astonishment as the glorious & gracious gospel of Christ transforms the root of every believer and alters the route of every believer.

IV.  The Gospel Impact On The Church [3:11-13]

When God saved Paul, He entrusted within Him the glorious truth of the Gospel. Paul in turn shared this truth to others, telling them to commit this truth to other faithful men who would guard and share them.

In the early days of the church, the truth of the Gospel and “the mystery” of Christ’s glorious grace were guarded, preached, and handed down to and through faithful men. But it hasn’t always been simple or easy and it should never be taken lightly… This responsibility to know God’s Word, correctly handle it, and passionately share it with others is of utmost importance.

If this is neglected…there are serious repercussions. Think about the Reformation and Martin Luther. The church had slowly negated their role of faithfully revealing the mystery of God’s glorious grace to the next generation. It took the boldness of a German priest among other reformation leaders to once again discover the incredible nature of God’s provision and pass this on to others.

We must remember that God’s plan for the church collectively and for disciples individually is not just some “divine afterthought.” This plan of God is in line with the eternal purposes of God. When we understand and embrace this truth, it brings a renewed confidence in our faith and it also gives us greater courage during the difficult circumstances of life.

This mystery of the Gospel transforms the root of the church and alters the route of the church.

Warren Wiersbe tells the story of trying to navigate to a particular location with no avail. After stopping for directions after a frustrating journey in which he was not able to find the right road…he learned that his map was out of date which led to the confusion. He needed a new map that showed the new accessibility to his destination. Once he possessed the new information… the journey was completed as intended.

We must ask God to examine our lives. Are we trying to live off of an old map… or are we allowing God to unravel to mystery of His gospel to us?   This mystery unraveled transforms the root of who we are and the route of where we are going.

Let us Follow Jesus to grace of Life in Christ. Continue reading