Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ephesians – We Are His Workmanship

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – “We Are His Workmanship!”

September 28, 2014

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We continue this morning to move through the Book of Ephesians as we learn more about our identity in Christ. So far, we have discovered the precious gifts God has given us through Christ. We have eternal life. We have an inheritance. We have great power through Christ. We have a new identity. We have discovered what was once a void in our lives is now filled with Christ. How awesome is that?

I love people who are craftsmen in their field of expertise. Michelle’s dad is one of those craftsmen. I have watched as he has remodeled a home that once stood empty and worthy of being destroyed. Rich would work his magic and remodel the house to make it livable again. I am also amazed at those who can take a blank canvas and produce a magnificent painting. A relative cheap canvas is now worth so much more because of the craftsman’s touch. But there is no greater canvas than the canvas of our lives where God is writing His story and weaving His will into our lives.

In the passage before us, we discover more about our identity. Today, we discover that we are His workmanship which literally means “a thing of His making.” We are His handiwork. The order of the Greek words here is critical. In the Greek, the word says “His workmanship we are.” We are His masterpiece, a creation of His own doing. It is God’s work in us and God’s work through us that reveals His workmanship.

David recognized the workmanship of God when he penned the following words. Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). Notice again in Psalm 139:13-16 that David states, For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Jeremiah understood this idea of being created and formed in His mother’s womb for a reason. He knew that his gifts and talents were given to him before he was born. This is evidenced in Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 1:4. Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. What is being said here. God knew Jeremiah before he was born. He knew what was to become of him. He was formed and fashioned for a purpose.

The idea of workmanship suggests that there is a craftsman. God is the craftsman and you are the result of His creation. Regardless of how you feel about yourself, no matter your current circumstances, no matter what kind of mistakes you have made, no matter what family you are from; you are God’s creation. You were designed by a perfect master craftsman. You are an original. You are a masterpiece. You are the image and likeness of God the Creator. There is no one like you.

Stop and think about this for a moment, we have been crafted and designed by the greatest craftsman of all time. He formed you and shaped you. We must therefore come to an understanding of who we are in God. Too often, we struggle with self-esteem and self-worth issues. We strive to be what someone else desires for us to be and we are miserable and fruitless. Or, we have either been directly or subtly taught that we will never amount to anything, we are not worth anything, and we will never be fully acceptable. We believed we were flawed beyond repair. This in essence is a form of bondage and will severely limit our work and service for God.

A second problem revealed to us is that as God’s creation, we have been marred by sin. The creation of God has become defective because of the fall of man. That is why Paul emphasizes the emptiness of a life without Christ in Ephesians 2:1-3. But God has restored man to his rightful place and to his rightful purpose. The point Paul is making is that while you were lost and you were marred by sin, while you were empty and void; God rescued you because you are His workmanship.

You see in so many ways when we were saved we were in essence repurposed, recreated, and restored to God’s original intent. Not long ago, we had the opportunity to tour Linda Esham’s son’s car restoration center in Bridgeville. In his garage, he had several cars at all levels of the restoration process. Some cars had been stripped down to the frame. Others were at the end of the process and looked awesome. At one point they had been a broken down heap of parts and rust, but Brian had a vision for what they could be. As a master craftsman, he knew what had to be removed and replaced. He knew the areas that had to be welded and changed to restore the car to its original design and purpose.

The same is true of the workmanship of Christ, he knows us and has a vision for of what could be. God’s desire is to repurpose us, and redirect us toward His calling and His will. How do we know this? We know this from Paul’s writings in Ephesians 4:20-24 and Colossians 3:5-10 But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Earlier we learned that we are saved by grace and not by works. This is absolutely true but as a creation of God we have also been created for good works. Think about this if you will. Before you were born, God had a plan for your life. He knew what family you would be born into. He knew what your hobbies would be. He knew what would give you the most joy. He knew how your experiences and friendships would form who you are. He knew what gifts and talents you would possess. He knew which gifts and talents you would develop through life.

God has given us all of the gifts he has given us so that we will be effective ambassadors for Christ. He has called us to serve Him and to operate out of the gifts and talents he has given us. Note that we are not to do these things apart from God but with God. The beauty of the body of Christ is that we are most effective when we are doing what we have been created to do in Christ and when we join with others who know what they have been created to do.

Believers who catch a glimpse of the Lord’s love for them—His plans for their lives, and His desire to be with them, will find confidence and inner assurance that can’t be matched. Your self-esteem must be based on His opinion, not your analysis or someone else’s. Remember, it’s what God thinks that truly matters.

Paul also notes that our good works should be a way of life for us. As we close today, we must recognize that God calls us to use our gifts and talents according to his purpose and his will. The greatest testament to God we can have is using our gifts and our lives to glorify God. Paul says that we are to walk in these things. This word walk in the Hebrew language is significant. It speaks of our manner of life, e.g. how we live. This paragraph begins with man walking in trespasses and sin but ends with man walking in the will of God. Man was lost without hope but God came and now he is living from a different perspective. He has a different way of life. The contrast is complete. It is a contrast between two lifestyles: evil and good. It is a contrast between two masters: God and the devil. What could have effected such a change? It was that God made us a new creation. But God by grace brought the change.

Copyright © 2014 Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved

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Ephesians – But God

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – “But God”

September 21, 2014

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them

As we begin this study this morning, I am faced once again with an awesome problem. There is so much contained in this portion of Scripture that it not possible in one single message to relate to all that it has to offer us as believers. This one passage is filled with such great hope and promise.

Last week, we saw that Paul painted a dismal picture for the one who was without Christ. They were dead in their sin and their were in bondage to cultural demands and lusts that controlled the outcomes of their lives. As John Stott; pastor, teacher, and theologian has said; “Paul plumbs the depth of pessimism associated with man’s sin but then he arises to the heights of optimism about God.” As I read this passage, I can’t help but believe that God could have put a period at the end of verse three and then closed the book on mankind. In fact, God could have chosen to close the book after Adam, the representative of all mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden. He could have washed his hands of man but he did not close the books. He did not give up on man. How do we know this? We know this because the very next phrase is “But God.”

But God… This is perhaps the greatest single phrase in all of Scripture. Contained in this two word phrase is a new identity for man. Contained in this little phrase is the most powerful change that could ever come. What a turning point. We were objects of wrath but God out of love showed us mercy. We were dead but God made us alive. We were slaves, in a position of dishonor and powerlessness but God raised us up and set us at His own right hand, a place of honor and of authority. We were desperate and lost on the road toward destruction but God took aggressive action to reverse the condition and the conditioning of sin in our lives.

In verse 1-3, the sinner could only anticipate the wrath of God but God showed mercy and everything changed. Paul immediately turns to describing God’s motivation for the work He does in us. He begins by reminding us that the work of God is resourced through the endless riches in Christ. One of His greatest assets is His mercy, and mercy is defined as the act of not receiving what we deserve. This is a poignant point, especially, since the preceding verses detail the demise and the faulty condition of mankind.

We have talked about this word mercy before. It is a common word in Paul’s writings. Paul uses it often because Paul understood the level of mercy that had been given to him, personally. Think about it for a moment. Do you remember the story of Paul before his conversion experience? Paul was not only a nonbeliever but he sought to destroy those who professed Christ. Remember the story of Stephen? Paul stood at his side while he was being stoned and worse yet, Paul was not a passive player in this event. In fact, it was Paul who ordered that he be stoned. He rejected God and he rejected the people of God. In some people’s mind, this would be the worse kind of sinner. But God met Paul and changed his life, changed his focus, his destiny, and his purpose (Acts 8:1).

You see God could have given him a death sentence which he deserved but because of His mercy, God did not give him what he deserved. Neither does he give those who come to Christ what they deserve. We deserved the wrath of God, but God gave us mercy. We deserved death, but God does not measure out His gifts by what one deserves but what He desires to give. And it is amazing that God is rich in mercy. His bank account of mercy never runs dry. This word mercy is an interesting word. In most cases, mercy means to show concern or compassion toward those who have suffered some undeserved calamity. But here in this passage, Paul lets us know how much greater God’s mercy is for us. While mercy most often points to some undeserved calamity, in this case, mankind deserved the calamity they were in. Even though they deserved it, God showed them mercy. Why, does He do this? It is because He is compelled by love.

The love described here is the kind of love that seeks the highest good for the one being loved. Once again, notice that the measure and depth of the love being given is not based on the one being loved but on the one giving the love. Notice how this is evidenced, God extended His love and mercy to us while we were dead in our trespasses and sin. He did not wait for us to be alive and then love us. His love is unconditional and far reaching. The intensity of God’s love is defined by the adjective “great.” He is rich in mercy but He is great in love.

Paul then defines how God’s mercy and love have been showed to us. He uses three verbs to do so. Paul says that we have been made alive, we have been raised, and we have been seated. The first of these three verbs points to the fact that we have been made alive. This provides a stark contrast between those individuals discussed in verse 1-3 and those in verse 4-10. In verses 1-3 they are categorized as being dead while we now see those who are in Christ as being alive. You were dead. This is true. But now you are alive.

But how are we alive. The Bible tells us that we are all appointed to die. This body, this flesh will die but our spirit will live on. That part of us that has been touched by the power of God will live forever. You see, Christ died physically so we could be made alive spiritually. While the resurrection of our bodies is yet to come, we are made alive in our spirit now. God has once again breathed His breath into. We are alive.

The second thing that God does is that He raises us up. Not only are we alive, but we are living through the power that God has bestowed upon us. Christ rose and ascended to heaven in order to conquer death and the grave. He ascended to show His power over every force, authority, or power ever raised up against God or man. You see our position in Christ has changed. We are no longer enemies of God (Romans 5:1-11). We are no longer powerless against the claims of sin but we can now resist the temptation that is at our door (James 4:7). We can take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? We are alive and we have been raised with Christ.

And then finally, we are seated together with Christ. Now once again that is not a physical positioning but a spiritual one. In the spirit we are seated with Christ and in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 says that From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Notice that in essence that all that God did for Christ, He did for us as well. He raised Christ. He raised us. He made us alive together by grace and he seated us with Christ. We are in Christ.

The essence of these three actions on the part of God relate to the fact that we have a new identity spiritually. Notice in the first three verses of Ephesians 2. Unbelievers are identified as being dead, controlled by forces more powerful than they, and they are guilty of sin and should receive the penalty of God’s wrath. But God changed that by sending His Son to die for all mankind. And if they would confess their sin and surrender their life to Christ, they would have a new identity, in Christ. They would no longer be dead but alive. They would not just be an empty shell but would have a purpose and a reason for living. And lastly, they would spiritually be seated next to the Son where they would be given honor and power to overcome every force that would come against them.

How is all of this accomplished? It is by grace, a gift we did not deserve. You did not deserve the gift of God because you were dead in your sins and not capable of making a decision for life, but God came and gave Himself so you could have life. Though undeserved and unmerited, God extended His mercy and His love to mankind. It was by grace we are saved and not by works. This means that we do nothing to achieve our own salvation.

If these things are true, and they are. Then we are called as believers to exhibit these things in our lives. How do we live this out. John Piper made the following observation concerning mercy and how we ought to live. So we say, “Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore, I do this and not that. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I speak this way and not that way. Because of God’s mercy revealed in Christ, therefore I cultivate this kind of emotion and put that kind to death. Because I exist to glorify the mercy of God in Christ, I live this way and not that way.” Christian living is built on something! It is built on the mercy and grace of God!

Copyright © Robert W. Odom All rights Reserved

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Ephesians – And You Were Dead

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – And You Were Dead

September 14, 2014

Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

How many of you love a good rescue story? If you are like me, I know you love a good movie or book where the hero arrives on the scene to rescue the damsel in distress or the soldier behind enemy lines. Or the hero could be the last one standing against the enemy. We love movies like Spiderman who rescues his MJ, Superman who rescues his Lois Lane, or Captain Miller played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan who does not give up until they find and rescue private Ryan. Who could forget Gladiator or William Wallace in “Braveheart.”

Just this week, we were reminded of one of the greatest stories of heroism is in our lifetime or at least my lifetime. The brave first responders who were on their way into the trade towers when every one else was one their way out were truly heroes. They offered their lives so others could live. That is the mark of a true hero. It was a true hero who spent days pouring through the massive amount of rubble in hopes of finding one more person alive. Michelle and I knew many of these brave men who risked themselves on behalf of others. They are our heroes. As we turn our attention to this passage before us what unfolds is the story of such a hero. Mankind entrapped by the power of sin and the curse of an evil nature is rescued by a powerful hero, Christ.

As we begin this morning, it is noteworthy that there is no separation from the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter 2. These breaks are placed here by the translators so that the text is easier to read and it is easier to reference. Because there is no break between chapter one and two, Paul is in essence continuing his discussion on the immeasurable greatness of God’s power. Paul enters a discussion here that evidences the greatness of His power by comparing the depth of man’s sin to the power of Christ to save. John Stott suggests that “Paul plumbs the death of pessimism about man and then arises to the heights of optimism about God.” The immeasurable greatness of God’s power is evidenced in His ability to make a dead man live.

Paul begins the discussion with the emphatic statement “and you were dead…” The word used here in the Greek is the word “NEKRO.” It is a word that denotes a body without life. This term refers figuratively to the spiritual condition of those who are unable to attain the life of faith. They have no power to bring life in and of themselves. Lost men are spiritually and eternally dead. They are not merely weakened, incapacitated, disabled or sick, they are dead without any life. And most of all, this death is a separation from God and all that God has given as spiritual blessings. Sadly, there are two other components to a dead man. For one, dead men do not grow, in fact they are being corrupted and are in a state of deterioration. They are dead and yet are in the process of continuing to die. Secondly, dead men are impotent. They are powerless to accomplish anything of eternal value. Notice I said eternal value.

You might wonder why one could be dead and yet still seem to have such success in life. We look at athletes who run fast and accomplish great feats. We see those who have great intellectual ability to achieve greatness. These people are capable of great discoveries and yet they do not know Christ. The appearance is that they are alive and successful but outward success is not a measure of inward life. One can be successful and achieve great things but still be dead inwardly.  Jesus referred to these people as whitewashed tombs. They are clean on the outside but dead on the inside.

How are these people dead? They are dead in their trespasses and sin. Paul uses two words here for sin. The first is the word trespasses. The word trespass in the Greek is the word “PARAPIPTO” and means to fall aside or to stumble on something by chance. It is the idea of being led astray. It carries the idea of a sin that was unintentional. For example, in the Old Testament economy, when God established the law it is noteworthy that one of the elements of the law was a provision to offer a sacrifice in the case one who happens upon a dead body. For the Jew, this was a sin even though he did not plan it or execute the sin on his own. It was unintentional.

On the other hand, the word here for sins is the word HAMARTIA which means to miss the mark or to fall short. It is the idea of missing the bullseye. You know the target, you know the goal, but you miss it. Sin is therefore a violation of God’s righteous character and of His law.

Paul continues this discussion by using a familiar Hebrew phrase in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked. The idea presented in this phrase is that it is a former habitual lifestyle or behavior but there is also a sense of past bondage that relates to this phrase. With that in mind Paul continues by listing three influences that controlled the way we lived before Christ.

First, they followed the course of this world. The phrase of this world represents a whole social value system that is alien to God. This worldview permeates and dominates non-Christian society and it holds people in captivity. When human beings have a worldview that is foreign to God they are dehumanized by political oppression or bureaucratic tyranny by an outlook that is secular. They repudiate God, They are amoral. They repudiate absolutes. They are materialistic. They glorify the consumer market. When this occurs the tendency is that people do not have a mind of their own but they are slaves to the pop-culture of television and glossy magazines. This becomes a cultural bondage.

Secondly, they were held captive to the works and schemes of the devil. Here Paul describes the devil as the prince of the power of the air. You see the devil prefers darkness to light. At times he is not interested in total darkness but in establishing a foggy atmosphere of confusion and disruption. Earlier Paul discusses the powers that Christ is over. The fact is, we must know that these are the same powers and authorities which Christ has exerted power over. Remember from last week’s lesson that God through Christ has exerted absolute power over every authority, ruler or spirit. Certainly, the devil must be in subjection to God. Once again we must understand that the rule of satan was disrupted by the death and resurrection of Christ. We also know that there will come a day that satan and his minions will be cast into the lake of fire. That will be his ultimate judgement. But in this current world he is that roaring lion that seeks to devour. He seeks to rob, kill, and destroy all he can.

The third influence that holds us in captivity is the lust of the flesh. These passions are the desires of the mind, body and emotions. To lust is to desire what one cannot have. If not brought under control, one will act on the desire and bring greater consequences upon their life. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that they were to live as holy and not be driven by the lust that was pervasive in their life before Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:5). In 2 Peter 2, we are warned that judgement will come to those who continue to live after the flesh.

When we began this message this morning we talked about how we all love to have a rescuer come save the day. The greatness of the redemption story is that God sent His son to save the day but not just the day but to rescue all of mankind. He did not ride a white horse or bring a army with him, but his rescue mission was not any less important or powerful.

It is for that reason that Paul transitions this part of His letter with “But God.” This is one of the most awesome phrases in all of the New Testament. What a powerful thought. Listen to Paul’s words. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Do you hear what Paul is saying? While we were dead. While we were hopelessly living in captivity and bondage to a mixed up way of living, Christ died for our trespasses. Notice here that there is no caveat that when we got better or did the right thing Christ did what he did. No, before we could, He did. Not only did he provide forgiveness of both our trespasses and our sin, He also made us alive. So think about that. We could be forgiven but dead but He breathed life into our spiritual being and has spiritually set us in heavenly places. How exciting is that.

Copyright © Robert W. Odom 2014 All rights Reserved

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Ephesians – The Exaltation of Christ

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – the Exaltation of Christ

September 7, 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.

Today, we move to the final verses of chapter one. This section of scripture focuses on the power of Christ that is at work in our lives. We saw last week that the power of Christ is revealed through the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is the hallmark of Christ’s work here on earth. It is the resurrection that sets Christianity apart from all other all religions in the world. By way of the resurrection we have power over sin. We have power over death. We are assured eternal life, as Christ is the example of what is to come on our behalf.

As we look at the last few verses, we find the focus turns to the exaltation of Christ. In this section, we find three key aspects of Christ’s exaltation. He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He has authority over every power on earth and in heaven. He is the head of the church and the fullness of what the church needs.. It has been noted that without the exaltation of Christ none of the blessings that Paul outlines for us in the earlier verses would be possible. It is exactly because He is at the right hand of the Father that we are blessed the way we are. 

The first aspect of Christ’s exaltation is that the power of Christ is revealed through the position of Christ at the right hand of the Father. The wording here is significant because to sit on one’s right side was always a sign of honor in Biblical times, as it is today in many circles. If you were to read the Book of Hebrews, you will find several references to Christ being seated at the right hand of the Father. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:4). Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man (Hebrews 8:1). But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 110:12-13). These verses remind us of the purpose of Christ’s position with God and for us which is to establish His authority on earth and in heaven. Paul in Romans 8 reminds us that He, Christ is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. He is praying for us. He is standing in the gap on our behalf.

It is notable that Christ was not only positioned next to the Father; but the power of Christ is revealed through the authority that Christ has over every known and unknown power.  There is nothing more frustrating than to be given a position without any authority to accomplish what is necessary to finish the task given. We find here that God not only positioned Christ in the place of honor but He also gave Him the authority He needed to accomplish His goal and His purposes in light of redemption.

As I prepared this message, I was reminded of a story involving General Robert E. Lee who is one of my favorite historical characters. I admire him because throughout his life he presented himself as a man of character and integrity, even in the midst of difficult times. One of the stories I found interesting, and in many ways connected to this lesson, was in Charles Flood’s book “Lee, the Last Years.” Flood details a time that, after the war, an insurance company offered General Lee a job where he would make more than $10,000 a year. This salary would be three times his current salary at Washington College, where he was president. But Lee, being a man of integrity and vision, stated that he did not wish to leave the post at the school he had just started. The agent for the insurance company responded to him by saying “Sir, we do not want you to discharge any duties. We simply wish the use of your name; that will abundantly compensate us.” Lee’s response without hesitation was “Excuse me sir, I cannot consent to receive pay for services I do not render.” In essence, Lee did not desire to receive a salary without some authority and being tasked with some responsibility that would make him worthy of His pay. He did not want to be a figure-head. Neither did Christ. He wanted His position next to God to mean something and so did God.

Imagine, if you will, any power or force that is out there. No matter the power or the force, Christ is positional and authoritatively over that power and every other power that has been or ever will be created. Let me ask you, this morning, what holds you back from the freedom in Christ that you desire? Is it fear? Is it past failures? Is it people who have let you down? What about your mistakes? The group that went with us to see Moses heard a clear message that God overcomes all of these things to bring us to the place He desires for us to be.

This verse is a direct fulfillment of Psalm 110:1 where David proclaims The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Christ is seated next to God 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. Notice that his ottoman is all evil and every power in the world. 

What are these powers as listed by Paul? It would be easy for us to define each of these powers but rather than doing that I will simply say that if there is a force or a power that impacts us, Christ has been empowered through the resurrection, ascension, and authority of God to deal with that power or force. Not only has he been given power to do so, but we are also empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit to have power over the works of darkness. These powers could be defined as anything that is at work against God and anything godly. These powers were released in full force at the time of Adam’s sin. 

But in Christ, these things are powerless to effect us unless we allow them to or we live a life punctuated by sin, evil, or the rejection of God’s will and His ways. To work against us, we must give ourselves over to the evil domain for them to effect us spiritually. Paul had a glimpse of this reality when he wrote these words to the church at Rome. Romans 8:31-39. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Notice here in this language that we would not be immune from the issues of life but that they were powerless to diminish the love Christ has for us.

Paul clearly states For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

And finally, the power of Christ is revealed through the relationship Christ has with the church as He is the head of The Church. A couple of things stand out here in this regard. Notice the verbiage that is used. Christ is the head and the church is the body. Without Christ the church is like a body without a head. It is walking aimlessly and hopeless in darkness. It is moved by emotion but does not have much wisdom and direction. This idea of Christ being the Head of the Church has a two-fold implication; His dominion over every power on earth and our union with Christ. Christ is also all that the church needs to accomplish its task. Through Christ, the church is filled with everything it needs. This view of the church is two fold. 

I can remember growing up that my dad was the head of our home. In that headship came protection, safety, wisdom, and direction. I did not see it when I was growing up but as I have matured I release the power of headship in the home. The problem today too often is that we do not want to have an authority over us. We want to run our own game. We want to do what is right in our eyes and not what is being projected onto us by God. 

Sometimes we tend to think that it is our faith that is the problem but it is not our faith as much as it is our view of God. We think that the problem is that our faith is not big enough or used enough but it is that our understanding of God is too small. When we have a small view of God and an expansive view of ourselves we are destined to failure. God wants us to have a right view of who He is and what he has done and for that matter continues to do for us.

The question for us this morning is do we recognize what God has done on our behalf, do we know that Christ is at the right of the Father intervening on our behalf? Do we know that he has authority and power over everything? Do you know that is the head of the church? Understanding these ideas are critical to our success as believers. 

Copyright © 2014 Robert W. Odom All Rights Reserved

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Ephesians – An Enlightened Heart

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Enlightened Heart

August 31, 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.

Today, we will pick up where we left off last week where we reviewed the prayer Paul prayed as it related to the eyes of the church at Ephesus being opened to a greater understanding of God. Once again it seems that Paul’s purpose here is to encourage the church toward a continued, growing understanding of who God is. That is not to diminish the value of their current testimony but to encourage ongoing depth and growth. Remember, we talked about the difference between being “nominal” and “phenomenal.” This does not mean that we become world renown as individuals but that we do great exploits for God right where we are and where we have been called. 

Last week we also discovered that Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus to have the Spirit of Wisdom and revelation. In the second part of this prayer, Paul prays that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened. It is interesting to note that Paul uses the term the eyes of the heart. As we noted last week, the 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 provide a testimony to the purity of our walk. In writing these words, 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). Think about it for a moment. How many sins do we deal with that involve the eyes and our emotions which are seated in our hearts? I can think of a few off hand: lust, covetousness, pride, anger, hatred, and others.

The focus of the prayer was to know God better and to get to know Him better by understanding what He has accomplished on our behalf. You see Paul understood a key reaction to knowing God better and that is that they would be motivated toward godly living by way of the application of truth. The fact is, throughout Paul’s writings there is a tone of encouraging the body to do more than just know facts about God. While facts are good and facts can be good discussion starters, we need the facts to bring change and new direction into our lives.

For Paul this was not a do as I say but Paul was actively involved in growing in His knowledge of God. Listen to the words Paul wrote to the Philippians: I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:2-11). What is Paul saying here? He is saying I have all the head knowledge I need, and I have all of the degrees and pedigrees I need, but the greatest desire and need I have is to know Christ by way of His resurrection and by sharing in His suffering. Paul understood that there was more to life than personal or social status. There was more to life than a grand list of accomplishments. Paul needed and he desired a deeper understanding of the work of God in His life. That is what he is praying here for the Ephesians. 

The heart is one subject that is dealt with through Scripture. Our hearts can be open to the workings of God or they can be hardened so that the word of God cannot penetrate. Listen again to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:18-24. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Paul seems to insinuate that there are some in the body of Christ who have allowed their hearts to become calloused and hardened by the events and issues of life. We sometimes believe that only unbelievers can have calloused hearts but Christians can succumb to calloused hearts as well. I love his phraseology here. He says, “but that is not the way you learned Christ.” You see Paul did not want a hardened and callous heart to be their testimony. Instead he wanted them to visualize and understand the work that God had done on their behalf. For that reason he focuses on three outcomes of an enlightened heart. First, the enlightened heart will know the hope to which you have been called to. Secondly, they will know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. And, thirdly they will know the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe as evidenced by the resurrection

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 one of fear or desperation. How many would agree there is already too much in the world that brings discouragement and desperation into our hearts. But Christ gave us hope. 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 he wanted them to understand the power that God had given them. 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. I pray you are shaken from the doldrums of life to one that has a hope. When we know His hope, His inheritance, and His power we have a new outlook on life. 

Notice that the greatness of His power is immeasurable. Notice here that Paul piles up words to attempt to define the God’s power that is at work in us and for that matter for us. Paul says that His power is immeasurably great. There is no way to measure how great it is because we have not fully experienced all of His power to date. There is no way to calculate the value or depth of His power which is revealed by way of the resurrection of Christ. This is the testimony of His great power…the resurrection and God and as we see the positioning of Christ at God’s right hand. Paul’s goal here was not to impress the Ephesians with a just sense of Divine grace as much as it was to give them an exalted views of the glory of Christ’s kingdom.

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Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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