I want to start off by asking a few questions…
Have you ever noticed that really great songs get played often on the radio? These are the “classics” that we remember the words to because we’ve heard them so many times and yet still enjoy them.
Have you ever wanted to see the same exhibit that others have seen and that you’ve seen in books before, but chosen to look at the familiar pieces preserved in history so that you too could enjoy the unique quality of this feature?
Has there been a favorite meal that you learned to cook and enjoy so much that you have made it so many times, you now remember the recipe without looking it up?
Has there been a movie that you have seen and still take delight it so much that the lines are remembered in detail and that you love sharing with others no matter how many times you have seen it yourself?
Has there been a story that you’ve heard or personally experienced that you seem to continue to share with others in a repetitive manner because it is personally fulfilling and also for the benefit of others?
These are the details and aspects of our normal day in and day out routines. They are not only relatable to us but truly relevant for us as we seek to grow in our lives… especially for those who are followers of Jesus that are maturing in their life with Christ.
For those of us who call ourselves “Christians”, we must understand the great need to remember and to be reminded. The Scriptures paint this clear picture again and again of this urgency for our lives. These reminders help us to remember that we must never lose site of:
- who God is
- what God says
- what God has done (and is doing).
Think about this…when we forget (or are not reminded) about what God does, we forget the value of what God says. This ultimately affects our worship of who God is.
Therein lies the greatest problem… When we forget the grace, the gospel, the glory, and the goodness of God our life begins drifting from reflecting the image of God that we were created to bear in our choices.
Today, we get the opportunity to spend some time again with the letter to the Ephesians where the Apostle Paul takes a moment to remind the church about what is of the utmost importance to us… and ultimately reminded of who is of the most importance to us.
We get the privilege of being reminded of the transformation that occurs all because of Jesus. We are invited to see who we were (and who we will continue to be) with Christ, but, we also get benefit of viewing the promises and provision of a Christ-filled life.
This brings us to the Letter to the Ephesians and the powerful declaration that comes from the words…
These two little words that have been translated to English from the Greek words “de Theos” in Ephesians 2:4. They may seem like a small phrase but where God inspires the Apostle Paul to place these words provides a startling and groundbreaking portrait of God.
These two little words contain so much power and transformation to a soul. They are a dynamic shift in the narrative of God working in the history of mankind.
These two little words speak of the grace, gospel, glory, and goodness of this Jesus Christ, the One True Living God.
These two little words are a catalyst for us as we encounter God that breaks the molded mindset we have about the person of God. And that’s something that we need to happen in our lives… it is something for those who are called disciples of Jesus that we should actually want to happen… even thought the results could alter our comfortable pattern of life.
The wonderful thing about this transformation that occurs is that it generally happens greatly when people gather together to gain a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. And through the revelation of God in the Scriptures we understand what it means to worship (respond appropriately & obediently) this true God. It is a “But God…” moment that alters who we are from that point forward.
You see, when the true worship of God happens… the molds of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength become broken and recreated as something better and for something better.
Over the last few weeks I have been writing about Life in Christ as our church has been studying the Letter to the Ephesians by the Apostle Paul. As we have examined the Scriptures on this Life in Christ we have been emphasizing a powerful principle found in them.
Life in Christ is this gracious identity that comes from God which leads to the glorious outcomes made through God.
The Apostle Paul expresses in this beautifully penned letter that reads as a powerful treatise and remembrance about the why and the how God does what He does to break the mold that once held our lives and the movement of God that now draws us into this new life with, in, and through Christ.
Ephesians 2:1-22* uncovers this glorious news. Let’s dive in and explore its depths.
*Holman Christian Standard Version
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!
6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — 9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh — called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands.
12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of 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 were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.
14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, 15 He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.
16 He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.
17 When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
21 The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord.
22 You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
Want to understand these Scriptures in a deep fashion? Go to my blog here as I addressed this earlier.
So, we just got through reading a whole chapter of Scripture together… and understanding it can be difficult… That’s why I want to be of help. So, what can we learn here in this letter to the Ephesians? We can take note of a few things here… some of these will be refreshers from what I’ve posted earlier this year from our series Life In Christ.
This letter was written most likely as a circuit letter between 60-63 A.D. while the Apostle Paul was in his 2nd (and ultimately final) imprisonment in Rome under the reign of the emperor, Nero. Paul was very devout man of faith that followed Jesus Christ as result of Christ’s gracious encounter with Him. This encounter transformed a zealous persecutor of the young church into a humble yet influential planter of churches, missionary to the ends of the earth, and defender of the faith.
He is writing to a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in the city of Ephesus. This was a church that Paul had planted on His 2nd missionary journey as recorded in the book of Acts. It was a church that existed in a city with the Temple of Artemis (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). This meant that the people there would have once been influenced by the idolatry of this background. The city was also very influential as a major center of trade in the Greco-Roman world. This would have brought many peoples from around the world into the backyard of this community of faith. They were called to live their lives as disciples and people on mission in this city.
As Paul is writing from his prison cell in Rome…He is trying to help the readers (listeners) understand their identity in Christ and the expected outcome of a disciple through Christ. It is a wonderful reminder of what disciples are a part of all because of the grace, gospel, glory, and goodness of God. A reminder that refreshes the mind and renews the actions of a follower of Christ.
We must remember letters (no any book of the Bible aside from Psalms and Proverbs) were not written in chapters and verses… the chapters and verses of the Bible were added in the 14th Century, so this chapter is just continuing what Paul has been declaring all along from the beginning of his letter to the church.
If one did want to break it down, we could say as Warren Weirsbe does, that the first chapter speaks of the spiritual possessions that come from God in our identity with Him. Along with this, the second chapter could be said that it speaks to the spiritual position of our identity in Christ.
Now Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews (2 Corinthians 11) and the church at Ephesus was a community of faith that would have been made up of mostly Gentiles. But these people of faith were taught from the Scriptures of the Old Testament about the Messiah (anointed one) that was promised to Israel and to bring about a blessing to all nations.
Sometimes, it is thought that Jesus was only a Hebrew/Jewish King…but Paul (himself of Jewish lineage) is sharing with these Gentile believers about the assurance that they too have in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Messiah).
He declares to these disciples that this provision of life and identity as “children of God” was not based on who they were or even what they could achieve…but it was based fully on who God is, what God has done, and what God has said.
So this leads us to our investigation of the Scriptures that brings us to some further questions.
- What does God to draw mankind to Himself?
- Why does He do this for mankind?
- Why are these acts of importance to mankind today?
We see that God works to give His life to mankind in order that we would be His living eternal declarations of His love.
Let’s look first at what God does…
I. God Works By His Grace. (2:1-4)
To see more on this, please visit this blog from two weeks ago.
II. God Works Through His Gospel. (2:4-9)
To see more on this subject, please view this blog from last week.
III. God Works For His Glory. (2:8-10)
- He works for His glory over us.
God has been at work throughout history to bring about the fulfillment of His promised provision of Jesus. Emmanuel didn’t just happen. The cross didn’t just happen. God brought about His glorious overarching plan in His time and in His way. The whole process of God’s glorious work done by Him orchestrating each detail with His glorious, omnipotence (almighty power), omniscience (almighty knowledge) , omnipresence (almighty presence), and omni-benevolence (almighty goodness).
God’s work through the nation of Israel was to present a people that would be the instruments of His glory. But humanity falls short of the standard that God has set and strays from the path that God has directed.
22 “Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went.
23 I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations—the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh”—the declaration of the Lord God— “when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.
-Ezekiel 36:22-23 [hcsb]
13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.
14You are My friends if you do what I command you.
15 I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain…
-John 15:13-16 [hcsb]
God was working through Israel, through history, and through His disciples so that His overarching glory would be known. Jesus Christ is God that is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is still at work to bring about the fulfillment of His plan for history.
He brought this provision for His glory to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. …But God’s overarching work is not finished. Paul knew this as he wrote of the fullness of God’s work being brought to completion and accomplished through the church collectively and in the disciple individually.
This work begins by God has bringing the covering of His grace through Christ over us so that we may come to dwell in His glorious presence and be united to His glorious plans..
All of this will be accomplished to declare His ultimate and amazing glory to the nations.
A perspective must be broken in the hearts and minds of the church. The knowledge of God’s overarching activity to draw the lost world to Himself must be shared through the church.
We have nothing to brag about and boast about on our won, but we have a God that we can and should boast in.
Let the redeemed of the Lord, act out and speak up in a way that makes a scene for the Lord.
Can we brag on our Lord? Absolutely!
- He works for His glory in us.
God is working for His glory in us by recreating us as His workmanship, masterpiece, story, song, poem. The Greek word used here for workmanship is “poema.” A work of art may be beautiful but its purpose is something deeper. It is meant draw us nearer into the mind and perspective of its artist.
The greatest stories that have been penned and repeated are not just about our enjoyment, enlightenment, or encouragement…but to bring about change and transformation in our lives and personal character. And when these stories are brought to their fullest potential, they not only stir us deep within to be different…but they reveal the creative quality and genius of the author.
Our surrender to God in faith is not the end of our journey with Him… it is just the beginning.
When we trust in Jesus Christ as the means of our salvation and sanctification, we become something new. This new creation by God’s work in us is meant to declare to the world, His glorious namesake. It is meant to display His mind, heart, and perspective.
This transformation comes only as the result of faith that hears the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and surrenders to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit takes His rightful throne within us to accomplish the will of God.
13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you to both desire and to work out His good pleasure.
-Philippians 2:13 [hcsb]
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit brings an incredible provision that is for God ultimate purpose. I want to quickly look at a few of the biblical characteristics of the Holy Spirit.
- So who is the Holy Spirit?
- The Holy Spirit is a Person
- The Holy Spirit is God
- The Holy Spirit is Eternal
- The Holy Spirit is Holy
- The Holy Spirit has His Own Mind & He Prays For Us
- The Holy Spirit has Emotions
- The Holy Spirit Glorifies The Trinitarian Will
- The Holy Spirit is Almighty (Omnipotent, Omnipresent, & Omniscient)
So what is it that God, the Holy Spirit does? What kind of work does He accomplish?
Imagine for a moment the disciples between the day of Ascension and the Day of Pentecost. Imagine the anxiety and the wonder about what Jesus had promised. He told them “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)
Just think about that…Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit coming to the believers was better than having the physical embodiment of Jesus Himself walking among them!
- The Holy Spirit will help us to know and discern the Word, the Will, and the Way of God. (2 Corinthians 2:14; John 16:13-15)
- The Holy Spirit promises to help us to speak and bear witness to Christ. He gives us the power to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; Acts 1:8)
- The Holy Spirit will teach us and remind us of what we need to know and remember. He is our counselor and the comforter that helps us. He guides us in the direction we are to go and gives us encouragement in these times. (Psalm 143:10; John 14:16-17; Acts 9:31; Acts 13:2; Acts 15:28; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10)
- The Holy Spirit gives us the perspective we need to know God and the strength we need to accomplish His purposes on this earth for His glory. The Holy Spirit not only initially draws people to God, He also draws believers closer to Christ. (John 16:7-11; Ephesians 3:16-19)
- The Holy Spirit gives us Himself as the guarantee that God is with us, in us, and will keep us His for enternity. God Himself is our pledge. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
- The Holy Spirit has the power to overcome sin and He gives believers the power to put to death the misdeeds of the flesh. It is the Spirit who sets us from the sins within our lives and the habitual sin we cannot break free from on our own. He not only works to bring freedom to our earthly problem of sin, but also the eternal consequences of sin. Where God brings His Spirit, He brings liberty & freedom. (Romans 8:1-2, 5-11; 2 Corinthians 3:17)
- The Holy Spirit brings us the identity of adopted children of God. This leads us to an intimate relationship with the Father instead of a relationship based on fear and slavery. The Spirit bears witness and gives assurance to disciples that we are His children. (Romans 8:14-16)
- The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin both before we respond to His grace and after we receive His grace. This personal conviction upon Christ’s disciples continues through our right relationship with Him. (John 16:7-11; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)
- The Holy Spirit gives hope to the children of God because God is the source of hope. He fills His children with joy and peace from the overflow of this hope. (Romans 15:13)
- The Holy Spirit places us into God’s kingdom community and He enables us to be productive citizens of this kingdom by giving each of His children a manifestation of the Spirit in our lives. This is all for the purpose of the common good of this kingdom community and for the outcome of His purposes. Each disciples has something to offer the others because of the Holy Spirt’s gift on and through their lives. (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 27-28; Ephesians 4:11-13)
- The Holy Spirit leads us to produce the fruit of His rooted indwelling (the evidence of Him within us). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are about the attitudes and the actions that characterize our lives and serve as the catalyst for helping others see God. These grow as we allow ourselves to be grown, and molded by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our sanctifier. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We must come to see that God is chipping away the self of who we were to to bring about the greater workmanship of who we are as His creation. As we see this, understand this, and gain a greater discernment of the glory of the Holy Spirit in us, who recreates us… our only appropriate cry of worship is one that echoes the psalmist…
1 Not to us, Yahweh, not to us,
but to Your name give glory
because of Your faithful love, because of Your truth.
-Psalm 115:1 [hcsb]
- He works for His glory through us.
God is still working for His glory through us by bringing a revolution to what we do, say, and think. We become the work of God that is used to accomplish the good works that God prepared beforehand. These were the things which we were always meant to do.
We become shaped by God’s presence in our life which results in God receiving glory through the actions of our life.
31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.
-1 Corinthians 10:31 [hcsb]
17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him…
23 Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
-Colossians 3:17, 23-24 [hcsb]
God is breaking down the perspectives of this life and the purposes of this life. In Christ we are transformed to pursue the purposes of the Savior over the purposes of the self.
Let us be reminded of His masterful work! Let us remember that we are His masterpiece! Let us remember that we are part of our master’s plan to bring His renown and glory to the nations!
This is what #LifeInChrist is about as we boldly #FollowJesus!
By His Grace. Through His Gospel. For His Glory. In His Goodness.
The topics discussed are taken from the sermons during the Worship Gathering at Eastgate Baptist.
To listen to this sermon or other past messages…please go to this link.