Monthly Archives: August 2014

Ephesians – Prayer and Praise

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Prayer and Praise

August 24, 2014

Ephesians 1:15-22For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Once again we are confronted with one of those passages that we could literally park on for several weeks. There is so much contained in these few verses. It is noteworthy that in the original Greek language, this is the second longest verse in the book. It contains 169 words. But as Paul often does, he packs the text with great theological truths and encouragement for the body of Christ.

Paul commends the church at Ephesus because of their faith in Christ and their love toward all the saints. We must remember that Paul was in prison in Rome so this news had been brought to him by those who had been directly effected by their testimony. The key to this testimony is that the church at Ephesus not only had their vertical relationship with God right, but they also had their horizontal relationship right. Notice that Paul’s commendation was two-fold. He commended them for their faith in Christ that was being worked out by way of how they interacted with others. 

The problem too often is that we believe that all that matters is that our vertical relationship is in tact. Some people believe that all they need to have is a good relationship with God. But that does not jive with Scripture as we find throughout the Bible that our horizontal relationship is just as critical. Biblically our relationship with others is the defining factor of our Christian experience. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). Throughout Scripture, God instructs us on how we are to deal with those with whom we have a relationship.

Let me ask you a question this morning. It is a relevant question. If you had someone write a letter to you or they were to write a commendation, what would they say about you? How about our church? Could they commend us on our faith? Would they have evidence that we love one another? Notice that Paul did not say that they loved some of the saints but they loved all of the saints. I have to be honest with you there have been times in the church that I have witnessed some things that would cause me to struggle that this is evidenced all of the time. But the Ephesian church was know for their faith and their love.

After his commendation of the church, Paul turns now to pray for the church. If you look closely at his prayer, you will find that Paul combines both praise and petition. While Paul is grateful for the church in Ephesus, he also makes certain petitions on their behalf. He does this, I believe, because while the Ephesians had a positive testimony, Paul did not want them to become complacent and/or apathetic in their view of God or their place in the kingdom. They were not to rest on their laurels or accomplishments of the past but were to ever be in a mode of growth and a deeper revelation of truth. Throughout scripture and life for that matter, we are constantly challenged to guard ourselves against complacency and a spirit of settling.

Paul opens his prayer by asking that two things would be accomplished in them. Paul prayed that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, God. There are two parts to this section of the prayer. First, Paul prayed they would receive the spirit of wisdom. The Greek word for wisdom is the word “sophia.” In this context, the word means to apply the knowledge of God’s will to life’s situations. It is the right application of truth. You see wisdom is more than head knowledge, it is knowledge that is transferred from the brain to the heart and in so doing it begins to affect one’s daily life and actions. This reminds me of my closing remarks from last week’s service. God is not just interested in us knowing the truth but He desires that we make application of truth. Truth alone does not make us wise. It is the application of truth that creates a heart or mind of wisdom. Wisdom can also be defined as the ability to judge correctly and follow the best course of action based on knowledge and understanding.

The second thing Paul prayers for is that they would have a revelation of the knowledge of Him, God. The Greek word “revelation” means to uncover something that is hidden. It is the idea of taking the lid off of something to reveal what is inside. In Scripture, this revealing of truth adds to our knowledge and understanding of a subject. Paul’s prayer was that they would have the truth revealed to them. What was the truth to be revealed? It was an understanding and deeper knowledge of God. This is a critical need for us. Sometimes we focus on knowledge and that is important. I do not want to minimize that but knowledge for the sake of knowledge is futile. And as Solomon says it can make one mad. The knowledge we seek is a greater understanding of God and His workings in us. 

The problem is that when it comes to the concept of revelation, there are some who believe they have been empowered with some new revelation that is not contained in God’s word already. This is a dangerous path to venture down as we already have all of the Word we will ever need. The word is complete so we do not need a new word. What we need is a revelation of God who is the Word. As we get to know His word better and we are given wisdom to discern who He is, we will grow. I am also concerned that too many today are attempting to get some corner on a specific doctrine that will define their specific ministry but I am convinced that I do not want a specific doctrinal nuisance to define me as much I want to be known as a man of God’s word. May that be true for our church as well.

Now lets tie the two elements of wisdom and revelation together. As God reveals spiritual truth by way of revelation we are to apply this truth to our lives so that we are positively effected. Here in this text we also apply wisdom and revelation to understanding who God is and what He has done in us. This is how it works. We uncover a truth about God or His word, through revelation. We take that idea or truth and we apply it to our lives. We make a change. That is wisdom. We see that lying is wrong so we change our habits so we do not lie any more. We see that all we possess belongs to God, so we give freely and graciously to God. We see that devouring the word of God is food for our soul and is a protection for us, so we have a daily and consistent Bible reading and Bible study time. The revelation of truth changes our lives and results in wisdom. That is the prayer of Paul here in this passage.

In the second part of this prayer we find that Paul prays that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened. The purpose of this prayer was motivated by his desire to see their hearts enlightened so they would know that He is all they need. It is interesting to note that Paul uses the term the eyes of the heart. Eyes are often used as measure of a person’s inward character and life. It has been said that the eyes are a window to the soul. The eyes can betray us or they can bring testimony to the purity of our walk. It is possible that Paul is reminded of the writings of Solomon who stated Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). 

In essence, Paul recognizes that what we choose defines the world we will inhabit. The eyes follow the heart and therefore seeing is a matter of inner attitude. Perception is a matter of the heart and so Paul here is praying that the Church of Ephesus will have a new perspective on who God is and what He has promised. The truth is Paul wanted them to see that.

Paul focuses here on three reasons for the eyes of the heart to be enlightened. First, his desire was that they may know what is the hope to which he has called them. Secondly, his desire was that would know what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. And, thirdly he wanted them to know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. 

Paul wanted the Church at Ephesus to know that they had been called to a great hope. They needed a perspective of hope rather than of fear or desperation. This hope was found in the person of Christ who came to give His life for all.  Listen to the words of Peter in I Peter 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Paul wanted the church to know the hope they had been given but he also wanted them to understand the inheritance that awaited them and the power that God had available for them. With these words there is no reason for any believer to live in discouragement and fear. We have a hope. We have an inheritance and we have power in and through Christ. Paul in essence is saying look guys I am praying that your perspective about life will change and that you will have an eternal perspective about what you do or what you seek to accomplish. 

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – We Are Sealed

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – We Are Sealed

August 17, 2014

Ephesians 1:11-14 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

So far in our study we have learned that God has bestowed upon us all of the spiritual blessings we need. This is in keeping with Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:3 where he states that we have been given all we need for life and godliness. In our previous text we found that God set in motion the plan of salvation before the foundation of the world. God knew that man would need a Savior and He set in motion His plan long before we existed or in fact before the world existed. In His plan, we were predestined to be children of God by way of Christ’s work of adoption satisfied by His sacrifice on the cross. Through the cross, He made a way for us. Because of the cross, Christ secured both our redemption and our forgiveness. On the cross, Christ paid the ransom payment for our freedom and thus we are released from all past sin.

While we spoke about forgiveness a couple of weeks ago, it is to be noted that the spiritual blessing of forgiveness is not some new idea suddenly revealed in the New Testament but the act of forgiveness was revealed throughout the Old Testament. One of the most poignant examples of this is the story of David as captured in David’s own writings of Psalm 51. David’s prayer was “blot out my transgressions, wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse my soul from sin.” David had a grievous sin that had to be spoken to by Nathan. Once he encountered this directness from Nathan, David immediately responded and asked God for restoration and forgiveness.

Today, we want to look at another blessing bestowed upon us by God. The inheritance promised to us by God has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul states that our redemption has been sealed by the Holy Spirit which is the guarantee of future blessing. In 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Paul states, And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. The Scripture before us states that we have obtained an inheritance and that inheritance has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. Some theologians would also say that this passage could carry the meaning that we are His inheritance and therefore we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.

This word sealed in the Greek is an interesting word. The seal in Biblical times served as a legal protection and guarantee in many ways especially in relationship to one’s property. Any object suitable for sealing could be marked as the property of the owner. The idea of sealing was a part of everyday life. Everything in one’s house was marked with a seal to assert the true owners identity. The marking of slaves by notching, slitting, or branding was a common practice in those days. 

The seal belonged to its owner and its owner alone. No one else had the right to it. The seal not only marked one’s property but it was also a proof of one’s identity. The seal was a means of accreditation as well. Measures and weights were sealed to show that they were accurate and correct. And finally, to ensure the identity of transferred prisoners their fetters were sealed. In Greek times it is important to note that the holder of the seal is the holder of power and has his place in the a duly constituted order.

Think about what that means for us in terms of our being sealed by the Holy Spirit. We have been possessed by God. He redeemed us. He forgave us. And then He put his mark upon us to establish His ownership of our life. The Holy Spirit as the pledge of one’s inheritance is now the seal with which the believer is marked, appointed, and kept for redemption. 

We are sealed by way of a guarantee. The seal of the Holy Spirit guarantees us access to God, the Father, and our eternal salvation now and into the future. By being sealed with the Holy Spirit, we are guaranteed access to God the Father, and we are guaranteed eternal salvation. What we experience here on this earth in terms of the blessing of God is just a down payment for what is yet to come. It is noteworthy that the idea of a guarantee is that it implies an act that engages something bigger. We put a deposit on a new house, a new car and so forth. 

This guarantee has a now and a yet to come aspect to it. We enjoy the blessings of God now but there is more to come. The Bible says that eye has not seen what is in store for us. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Corinthians 2:9). We now look through a glass dimly but then we shall see clearly. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12). The point made is that our inheritance is beyond description and it is beyond comparison. 

The down payment we receive now is only temporary compared to the eternalness of heaven’s reward. Think about here on earth we receive a healing and yet we will still die one day unless Christ returns. But in heaven, there is no sickness and there is no death. Our healing here is but a down payment on future blessing. Here on earth God dries the tears of the one in sorrow. But in heaven there will be no more tears. He will forever dry up the tears of sorrow. We could continue but I think you understand the point I am making.

At the point of salvation the work of the Holy Spirit is initiated in our lives. The fact is we are filled with the Spirit at Salvation. For that reason, we must live our lives as one filled with the spirit. Because we are sealed, we are blessed to be able take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s work in us and for us. This idea of the work of the Spirit is presented in the writings of John. Let us look at these things together.

The Holy Spirit is a Helper to guide our steps. As a helper He does two things. First, He teaches us all things and secondly, He brings to remembrance the things we have learned. We find this in John 14:25-26. Look at what Jesus says. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit bears witness of the Son who bears witness to the Father. But, because of being sealed by the Holy Spirit we will bear witness of Christ and the Father. John 15:26-27 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. This is a huge benefit because we don’t have to struggle to cause people to turn to Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit’s role and task to convict. We simply speak the truth. Listen to John 16:4-15“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going? ’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, 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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit leads us to truth. It is of note that the Holy Spirit not only teaches all things but He always leads us to truth. It is the Holy Spirit that assisted in the writing of Scripture so he is most directly available to teach the truth of the gospel. Jesus had this say, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

I don’t know what kind of inheritance you have here on earth but God’s inheritance is worth more than all of the riches of earth. It is emotion, mental and spiritual. We get to live with God forever. We live whole and complete. We will live without the carnal nature knocking at our door. We will live without sorrow and pain. It’s worth it all. It’s worth the momentary trails we face here. What is it going to look like. I don’t know for sure but I know this it will be bigger, better and more exciting than anything we have experienced on this earth. How is this inheritance guaranteed? It is guaranteed through the acceptance of Christ into our hearts. In so doing we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. To God be the Glory.

Copyright © All rights reserved Robert W. Odom 2014

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Ephesians – Redeemed and Forgiven

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians- Redeemed and Forgiven

August 3, 2014

Ephesians 1:3-10Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of  his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The last time we were together we began looking at the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. We saw that God chose us before the foundation of the world and that He has predestined us to be adopted as sons. Because of this, God has set in motion His plan for redemption long before we could even consider the prospects of salvation. We were reminded that the Bible is in essence God’s plan of redemption that is laid out for us. In our discussion, we also looked at the balance between the sovereignty of God and man’s free will. This is not an either/or but both. God is sovereign but He created us with free will.

This morning we will continue to look at the blessings that God has given us and what He has bestowed upon us by way of redemption and forgiveness. It is noteworthy that as we look at this portion of scripture that there are a couple of notable things. First, there is a Godly design in all of this. He chose to create and form man with the ability to choose right from wrong. Just because God created man with the ability to choose right from wrong does not mean that God created sin. This is because it is beyond His ability to do so. A holy God could not and would provide the mechanism of sin. God cannot sin, not because He lacks the free will to do so, but because it would be inconsistent with His character and His Divine nature. 

Then why do we sin? To understand this we must realize that a large part of sin is the rejection of all that is holy and good in God. It is the opposite of God’s intent. It is like light and darkness. The absence of light is darkness and so the absence of good is evil. God created man with free moral agency with a desire that he would choose right from wrong. God wanted a people who would freely choose Him for their own and not be forced to accept His will. That is grace and mercy. God is not a control freak because He in fact allows you to make the mistakes you make because of free will. As everything created by God, free will was pure but once man sinned free will was distorted and convoluted at best. 

The second aspect of this is that in God’s ability to foreknow all things, he also knew that man would reject His plan and would fall into sin and disobedience. This concept of the foreknowledge of God is one of those Biblical principles that can blow our minds as we try to wrap our minds and intellect around the fact that God has no beginning or end. Because of this truth, God does not view time as we do. He has no watch to measure time as there is no need for a timeline. The fact is, God is in the ever-present moment of time. David understood this when he stated that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

We see this concept as well when Moses asked God about who Moses was to say was sending him to the Israelites. God’s reply was that he was to say that “I AM” has sent you. In that “I am” statement is this concept of an ever-present existence of God. Norman Geisler, Theologian and apologist, has said that since God created time, He sees all events in time equally vividly. Think about the implications of that for a moment. God who is all knowing, sees all things, and knows everything about you. He knows the beginning of your life, He knows the end of your life, and He knows everything that is in between. He knows what is best for us even though we may choose other avenues.

This brings us to a third point here. Too often we blame the wrong person for our sin and our faults. Too often, we blame God for our choices. It is true that God guides us and He speaks to our hearts about the issues of our life but in the end it is the choices we make that cause us to sin. Secondly, we can blame the devil and his demons for our faults and wrongs. A number of years ago Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine popularized the saying “The Devil Made Me Do It.” When Geraldine would do anything wrong she would blame the devil and would proclaim “The devil made me do it.” Now certainly the enemy of our souls can tempt us, distort truth, discourage, and distract us but he cannot force us to sin, that is our choice.

We are to blame for our decisions and thus we come to the second set of blessings; redemption and forgiveness. Listen again to what Paul said in this passage. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of  his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Let’s define these words.The first word here is the word “redemption.” The word redemption is one of those words that must be interpreted in light of its usage in the original Greek language. In particular, the term was used of the setting free of slaves after a payment was made. The literal meaning of the word is “to release on the payment of a ransom.” It carries a two-fold sense of “payment’ and “freedom.” Notice in this verse we see how the payment was transacted for those who follow Christ. It was transacted through the blood of Christ. By way of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross the payment for our slavery to sin was made. In so doing we were set free.

The second blessing established here is that we have forgiveness. Forgiveness is the result of redemption. It is the immediate response to accepting the payment of sin upon the cross. Forgiveness comes by way of the payment for sin being made. Forgiveness is a legal term which means one is released from a legal charge or one is released from prison. The word for sin here is the word “misstep” or “a failure to rich a goal.” It is the term “trespass.” It is the idea of crossing over a boundary established by God.

As we look at this, we must understand three aspects of forgiveness. There is a past, present, and future to forgiveness. In the past by way of the cross, we have been given forgiveness. The provision of forgiveness has already been accomplished. We are already forgiven because of what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. We do not have to debate or discuss the work of the cross. We are forgiven.

There is also a future sense to the work of forgiveness. There will be a day that all sin will be dealt with and we will no longer battle with the sin nature or sin any more. The sin nature will be forever destroyed once and for all. We will be set free eternally.

But then we reside in this world where the sin nature has not been eradicated. The flesh is real and therefore we need to understand present forgiveness. There is the initial act of forgiveness obtained through repentance upon accepting Christ. And then there is the daily act of forgiveness as we are aware of the sin or sins we may commit. This is in keeping with Christ’s model prayer where He stated that we should request that God forgive our debts as we forgive the debts of others. It is also in keeping with I John 1:9, when John by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit stated that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

It is critical to note how these blessings come to us. Our redemption is a legal work that is taken care of by His blood. His blood, his death has brought our redemption. On the other hand our forgiveness comes as a work of grace. This grace is the unmerited and undeserved favor of God. Notice Paul does not just say grace but we have forgiveness because of the riches of His grace. The idea here is that there is no end to his riches therefore there is no end to His grace. The visual here is that his wealth is full or filled to overflowing. What Paul is saying is that it took the wealth of God’s grace to pay for the sin of humankind. He did so gladly. He did so freely. The good thing is there is no end to the riches he has to pay the debt of sin. 

One of my favorite movies is one called “the Ultimate Gift”. It is a story of a rich tycoon who died and wanted to leave his money and assets to his grandson who had been spoiled by the riches of his family. His was angry at the world and at both his dad and his grandfather. After preserving through several tests of character and endurance he met one last time with the grandfathers lawyer who announced that he just inherited the grandfathers estate worth over 2billion. The idea here is that his wealth was limitless. So it is with God, his grace is available to all without fear of running out.

If these are the blessings of God, then we must live as one that is redeemed and one that is forgiven. Life is too short to hold onto personal unconfessed sin and unresolved issues with people. To refuse to do so is to reject the work of God fulfilled on our behalf. These blessings are freely given and they are to be freely received. The purpose is to unite us as one body to accomplish the work of the kingdom. As we get deeper into Ephesians, we will find that God’s desire is for us to walk in unity. This act and lifestyle cannot be accomplished without God’s act of redemption and forgiveness.

So as we close have you accepted his payment of redemption. Do you live as one redeemed or one still under slavery? How about forgiveness? Are walking in the forgiveness given to us by Christ? Notice something here. The grace that provided forgiveness is still available for today. Every sin committed is covered but we must walk in forgiveness. 

 

Copyright © All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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