Life In Christ: Unified & Forward Together

Sundays are my favorite day of the week. It is a day when people from all different walks of life come together under the banner of Christ to worship Him. There is something amazing about this unified gathering that only happens because of Jesus.  It is a unique portion of our Life In Christ. Continue reading

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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