Ephesians 5:3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. ” [followed by the rest of Paul’s long list].
Most of us know how to control our behavior so we “look” acceptable but we’ve all been tripped up by “stinkin’ thinkin’.” That’s the root of every thing on the list of things Paul says to avoid. That’s the darkness he’s talking about. Where in the world does that come from?
Good behavior can clean up the outside but it doesn’t wipe away the hidden and unbidden ideas that slip into our mind or show up in a dream. What if they are our personal moments of awakening when what is buried in our mind is revealed to us? “This is why it is said: Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
“…Ideas have consequences — consequences that bless or destroy. People’s behavior — good and bad — does not come out of nowhere. It comes from prevailing views of reality that take root in the mind and bring forth good or evil.” From John Piper in Solid Joys.
Don’t miss your opportunity to “wake up;” to pray and confess those hidden and unbidden thoughts so Christ can change and renew that which is beyond your control – the secret parts of your mind.
Ephesians 4:17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
This chapter read like it was the “should and don’t” chapter. I completely agreed with the “should and don’t” lists. Of course I would; I’m still repenting of being a “should and don’t” person. After looking at the whole chapter for a few days I’ve come to believe my first assessment of the chapter was “futility” thinking. I mistakenly got so caught up in the “should and don’t” list I missed the real point.
“Should and don’t” are like the back-door delivery system for renewal and transformation. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t believe God sends his servants to the back door.
This is the real point of the “should and don’t” list: to be captured by the Lord so our longing is more than to work the list. We long to let the Lord change our minds so we can be renewed and transformed right right out in plain sight.
“Every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” is our “one hope” to “live a life worthy of the calling” we “have received…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Insist on it!
Ephesians 2:3-5 NIV All of us also lived among them [our transgressions and sins] at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
I’m fascinated with the uniqueness of the Greek language to distinguish subtleties of words and meanings. In this scripture there is one word [hamartia] translated “sin” and another [paraptoma] the NIV translates as “transgressions.” What makes it interesting is not the way we might differentiate between those two words but how the Greeks did. These are my edited notes from William Barlclay’s study of Ephesians.
•Hamartia (Greek #266) is a shooting word that means to miss the target completely.
•Paraptoma (Greek #3900)…means taking the wrong road when we knew enough to take the right one.
Sin is a loaded word even for those of us who believe we are sinners saved by grace. The Greek definitions don’t impact the reality of the scripture but they do influence my courage to recognize and confess the truth of it.
What if I read this Scripture as:
I have also lived with missing the target completely and choosing the wrong road at one time, gratifying the cravings of flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like so many, I was by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for me, God, who is rich in mercy, made me alive with Christ when he saw the road I’d chosen was going nowhere—it is by grace I have been saved.
Ephesians 2:6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. 8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. NLT
Have you ever considered how important it is to God for you to live your life believing you’re his masterpiece? It’s true that makes us feel good. I think it’s also vital evidence of the grace we’ve been given: renewal through Christ and the desire to “do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God has made you his masterpiece that can attract others to come closer and see the reality of what he is able to create. “God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”
God’s plan is to reveal you as his masterpiece.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
*Sword of the Spirit”
I often start my devotional time by jotting key points of the scripture I’m reading. What came to mind first from these verses was a graphic image of a figure wearing this armor but my visual imagery struggled with two of the pieces of armor; “feet fitted with the readiness” and “the sword of the Spirit.” The rest of the armor was clearly for personal protection but these to pieces seemed different. That made them worth thinking more about.
Shoes that are that are “fitted” to your own feet are a big deal when it comes to readiness to go anywhere. You’re virtually lame if your shoes don’t fit; too small and they pinch…too big and they can trip you up. That makes your personal fit for these special shoes dependent on knowing the truth of the gospel of peace!
The Sword is an odd image. The Word of God often confronts, challenges and convicts the one who uses it. This is what makes it personal; the Sword is more like a surgical instrument meant to save a life rather than a weapon to slay an enemy. It’s like the “physician heal yourself” idea. A surgeon’s has to be skilled and well trained!
Those two short paragraphs are what I was meant to learn today. All the other pieces of armor are protection more readily picked up and put on but shoes and swords are unique. They require more personal attention to become part of what will protect you enough to be ready to reach out to a world of broken people. The shoes are custom “fitted” so you can step out in peace to share the gospel. Your hand picks up the sword that has surgically changed your own heart and mind to become the life-saving “sWord” that reaches beyond your hand to a broken world.
Ephesians 5:18b-20 Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Don’t be tempted to skip right over that seemingly insignificant word “Instead.” It may surprise you to consider how important just that one word is when it becomes stand-alone Scripture. “Instead” is a word of promise that God’s options and really good advice are available.
Here’s the key. “Instead” is a very simple “word of God” with the power to separate circumstances from outcome.
“Instead” is Scripture that’s easy to memorize too! It’s not a rule or an ultimatum. It’s God’s reminder when the right choice counts, he’s provided an “Instead.”
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.
I’ve mentioned before how words often spark thought for me and today was an interesting variation on that. I read verse 8 several times before I realized I’d been subconsciously reading an [in] before the word darkness. Dropping the [in] changed my whole perspective on what I had read. Darkness is not a place I was “in” but the far more personal “what” I was. It says it right there but I missed it.
That made me re-read this passage with far more attention to specific words like “were once…but now you are. They sounded like a very hopeful change to me. “WHAT I Was” changed to “What I WAS.” Three little words and a simple change of emphasis that made a world of difference on a personal level and then became my connection to Advent.
That’s exactly what God did. He changed the world’s emphasis with three little words. Many devout people watched and waited for Messiah long before Bethlehem. They believed “GOD was there.” It was the birth of Jesus that changed our emphasis to “God Was THERE.”