Before you open your mouth

If you could ask God for anything right now, what would you ask? If you had one prayer to pray, what would you pray? Here is a request for prayer that hit me hard this week,

“Pray for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” – Ephesians 6:19-20

These are not my words. These words are from the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus (6:19-20). He said them following his teaching on spiritual warfare. The apostle gave more time and space to talk about prayer than any other weapon. He gives us three powerful truths to think about before opening your mouth.

Pray for opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Ephesians 6:19a).

Everyday you proclaim many things. You talk about the news or weather, the football match from the night before, how your work or health is going, how you are having trouble with your neighbors, or how the preacher went really long on Sunday at church.

On average women say 20,000 words a day and men 7,000 words a day. That’s a lot of words! No, this is not a message encouraging women to speak less and men to speak more. Rather it is to encourage you to consider the opportunities you have each day to speak. Isn’t it important to pause and pray. Pray that God would give you a good word.

What should we pray? Paul says pray for opportunities to proclaim the good news. In other letters he says to pray for open doors for the good news. Pray for readiness and a response for the hope that is in you.

I’d like to say that before I visit my neighbors house I pray. Or before I chat with a group of men at the market I pray. Or before work with others I pray. Sometimes I neglect to pray.

There is a story in Acts 4:24-31 when Peter and John healed a blind the beggar in Jesus name. It caused a lot of attention and they were invited to speak before the the leaders. After they were released they gathered with believers and told them what happened. They asked them pray. Here is what they prayed,

“Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’—for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” – Acts 4:24-31

It is interesting how the believers start that prayer by appealing to the sovereignty of the Lord. They quote David speaking about how the nations gather together against the Lord, and how Herod and Pontius Pilot conspired against the Lord, but at the end of the day God is in control. When there is resistance to the name of Christ, a recognition of the sovereignty of God and His plan is of utmost importance.

Prayer isn’t passive, it’s active. Prayer is really doing something. Prayer isn’t the least you can do, it’s the most. Prayer is never secondary, it’s always primary. It’s not the last thing you do when there is no other option; it’s the first and best thing to do. If there is no prayer, there is no power. Prayer is trusting God that He can accomplish more when you are on your knees than you can accomplish on your feet.

Prayer warriors with no real grasp of what the gospel is all about, may be spirited, but they are no more useful on the field than a soldier without weapons. That leads us to the second truth before opening your mouth.

Proclaim the Gospel (6:19b).

What is the gospel?  The gospel is good news. There are many things that are good. A house that doesn’t leak when it rains is good. Fried chicken is good. A faithful friend is good. Marriage is good. Healthy children are good.

What is the good news? Before we zero in on what the good news is let’s begin by talking about what the good news is not.

The good news is not about having a good character. Some people think a Christian is someone who don’t drink, smoke or chew or go with girls that do. Yes, it is true Christians are different. Christians aren’t to be like the world. They are to be more like Christ. On the other hand, some Christians only talk about the good they do. They brag about how much they pray, go to church, or even fast. Being good is good, but it is not the good news.

The good news is not talking good about God or religious things. Maybe when talking with friend or stranger you bless them in God’s name. They think you are religious because you have religious talk. That is good, but it ’s not the good news.

The good news is not doing good things for God or people. I work with an organization that does good things everyday to help poor and needy people. Other like-minded organizations fight hard for social issues and justice. Christians all over the world have done good—building hospitals, building wells, and freeing slaves. These are good things, but this is not the gospel.

These are all good things. We should be good people, who say good things and do good things, but that is not the good news. There are a lot of people who do and say good things, but ‘good’ people go to hell too.

The Scripture talks a lot about good news. What is the good news and why is it so good? In order for there to be good news there has to be bad news. Do you want to hear the good news or bad news first? Good. Let’s hear the good news first.

The good news first starts with God. God is good. He is more than good. He is great. He is holy. He is wise. He is unlike no other. He is powerful. He created the world by his word. He created it good. He created man from the dust and breathed life into his. He created man very good. He cares for his creation. That is really good news. Could you imagine what this life would be like if God wasn’t like God. Not good.

That leads us to the bad news. Yes, there is bad news. When God created man he gave them one rule. One. What was that rule? Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Did man listen? No. What happened? Man did not listen. When God came to the garden. Man hid. Why did he hide? He was ashamed. Can anyone hide from God? No. Who did God call first? Adam. Why Adam? God created Adam first. Adam was made responsible. When asked if he ate the fruit how did Adam respond? He said, “The woman made ma eat it.” Is that true? Yes and No. Yes, Adam ate, BUT he was there when she ate too and he did nothing. Not good. When God asked Eve if she ate the fruit what did she say? She said the serpent made her eat it. Both Adam and Eve took no responsibility for their disobedience. Therefore, they were cursed. They were created eternal beings, but they would now die. All their children and children’s children would inherit their desire to sin. Not good. The bad news is that no one is born good.

Thankfully there is even better news. God did not start over. He didn’t leave his plan or forget man. He did not utterly wipe humans from the face of the earth. Before creation he had a plan to send a redeemer—a Savior. He himself came to earth. Jesus was his name. God with skin on. We celebrated this on Christmas. Jesus lived the only sinless life. He became the only sacrifice for mankind sin.  The really good news is that Jesus saves people born bad.

Why is the gospel so important and good? Without it bad news remains. You remain dead in sin. Yet there is no hope for you. The good news. Do you believe it? Only the gospel has power to make something dead become alive. Those that repent of their sin and believe on Jesus will inherit eternal life.  That is good news! It is the greatest news on earth! Do you believe it? Then will you proclaim it? That brings me to the third and final truth before opening your mouth.

Proclaim the gospel boldly without excuse (6:19-20).

Why did Paul ask for prayer for assurance or courage? Did he fear man. Yes. He was human. Fear is a real thing for everyone. Even apostles.

Did you know there are some Muslims who are coming to faith in Christ? It is truth. It is exciting. Right now there are a small group of men who are reading the Bible from Genesis to Jesus. God is giving them faith to believe. One of those men recently came to faith in Christ two months ago. His name is Mark. He grew up the firstborn son in a strict Muslim family. His teacher at secondary school was a Christian from southern Chad. After class that teacher would read his Bible under a tree. Mark was interested and would ask his teacher what he was reading. His teacher would explain that he was reading the Bible and share many stories. Mark wanted to read more of the Bible so the teacher gave him a copy, but his dad took it and burned it.

A few years later, another believer from a Muslim background was passing through his town. They met by a miracle of God and this believer invited Mark to come learn about the Bible at a workshop. He went. There he began hearing the stories of Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and more. He asked for his own Bible and was eating it up. When he went back to his village his uncle found his Bible and ripped it up. That didn’t stop his interest.

A few months ago, while talking to my colleague and a member of this church he said, “I believe who Jesus says he is.” He repented of his sin and committed to following Jesus. Immediately, he had some fear. He knew if he were to tell his father he would likely be beaten, imprisoned, or disowned. He hid. Yet the Bible and the Spirit of God kept reminding him that the good news is not something to hide. After much prayer he decided to call his father and tell him he had become a Christian. His father did not take it well. He threatened to catch him and put him on house arrest. He threatened to disown his mother and siblings. He treated to cut off his inheritance. Mark risked a lot. Yet his faith is growing. Pray for Mark to be bold. May his example encourage us to be bold.

Paul says, “I am an ambassador in chains.” Why is he in prison? He proclaimed the good news. People don’t like the good news. Yet in prison, Paul has an opportunity. He has a captive audience. He asks for prayer to be bold to share where he is, even in prison.

You are an ambassador of the King of kings, the Commander of the armies of heaven. Speak as His representative with boldness. Do not be ashamed. Remember the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who do not know the gospel. The good news offends people, especially good people who say good things and do good things.

If everyone likes you and likes your message likely you aren’t sharing the good news. Jesus said to his followers. If you follow me you will be persecuted. Expect persecution. It is the way of a Jesus follower.

Have you heard of the Back to Jerusalem Movement? There are Christians in Chinese. Some 100,000,000 Christians. These Christians are praying to send 100,000 Chinese missionaries from China back to Jerusalem. Along the way they are praying to break the walls of Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. Wow! Let’s pray for the Chinese believers. That is bold! May the church be that bold. May I be that bold.

What is your excuse for not being bold? What are you afraid of? What prevents you from sharing the good news? It is good news to you? Do you believe it? Will you begin by praying for an opportunity to share it? Will you pray for your boldness?

Will you pause for a moment, right now, and consider these questions and ask the Spirit of God how you should pray. Then pray. And act.

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walking like Christ

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The game Simon Says is a game we play as children. But it is a game that we are never too old to play. The idea of following a leader is ingrained in our core being. We are hardwired to imitate from the womb.

Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Ephesians 5:1) What can we learn about imitating from children? Children are natural born imitators. They are masters at mimicking their parent’s. Often children imitate quickly, enthusiastically, and without embarrassment. God loves children, especially His children. Therefore, Paul is challenging adult followers, as a child adopted into the family of God, imitate your Father.

Let’s look at what God says to imitate and copy. This text is especially important for ministry partners, church members, and doing life with other Christians. Read Ephesians 5:1-2. Within these two verses I have three questions and two application:

Q1: What about God are we called to imitate?

We are called to “walk in love” (cf. 3:17-19). That’s our goal. What does it look like to walk in love? “When He had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples (you smell like Christ), if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35)

Q2: Who is my model for walking in love?

Jesus. Ephesians 5:2 is God’s list of values. #1 on God’s list of personal values is Jesus. He values Himself. Since He values Himself, He desires His children to walk like Him. The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.”

Q3: How is the example of Christ a good enough motivation to walk in love?

I asked this question to a group of children this week. Without hesitation a six-year old Eden raised her hand and said with a sweet smile, “God’s love.” In the simple words of a child she was so on target. God’s love is enough. The love God gives His children is demonstrated in the sacrificial love of His Son. Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.1 He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. You and I have received that love as beloved children. Being receivers of His love is motivation enough to continue living in His love, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Bind on your heart this truth: God is my Father and I am His child.

Since it is clear that God values His Son and desires His community of followers to walk like His Son, I have two applications for us as ministry partners:

1. Remember, the way we walk models the gospel.

How we deal with our difference speaks loudly (cf. Ephesians 4:25-32; 5:3-5). Sooner or later what you think about someone in your heart will come out of your mouth. It might be a small jab, behind the back slander, the silent treatment, or an outburst of rage, Usually it starts with a small personality or preferential issue that builds over time until it becomes big and ugly and out of control. Deal with it before before the rash spreads.

4 years I got the the worst case of poison ivy. The problem was, I did not know what it was at first. I thought it was a small bug bite. Within 48-hours a rash covered my body and I was a miserable itchy pussy mess. It was so bad that I wore pajama pants to work for 2-weeks. If I only caught it early, it would not have been bad at all. So it is with differences between ministry partners: deal with it quickly and biblical.

Last year Sarah and I were talking to long time missionaries to Brazil. They openly shared about a season of conflict on their team. They were part of a multicultural team and misunderstanding between one another were common. At one point the differences were so great they considered leaving the team, but were torn because they loved the people to whom they were ministering and did not want to abandon the work. Sadly, their differences were also known by the people. The testimony of the gospel was tarnished by the missionaries conflict.

The team decided rather than splitting ways to deal with the heart of the issue. They gathered together for a meeting. Outside the locals had also gathered around to see what would happen expecting tempers to flare and machetes to fly. The meeting began with prayer, then they read Scripture, confessed their sin to one another, had communion, and in tears embraced one another. The community watched dumbfounded.

Fast forward 20 years. The missionaries stayed the course and a church is planted. The church has hundreds of members and strong leadership. Time comes the new church an issue between its own leaders. A certain sect of the church is committed to leave the church. Tempers are flared and machetes are ready to fly. Until one leader stepped in and said, “Do you remember that evening 20-years ago, when we gathered around the missionaries meeting and we saw the pray, read Scripture, have communion, weep and reconcile?” So God desires to use our differences for unity and the glory of the gospel.

2. Let us encourage one another to value Christ supremely more than anything.

He is the treasure of our church. He is the One we adore. He is our goal for missions. It is His fame we desire to spread. Together let us make Him great. Even greater than ourselves and the things we value that are lesser than Him. He is supreme. He is the value we hold high.

watch the way you walk [study of Ephesians]

INTRO: THE JOURNEY BEGINS
1 – Entering Ephesus [1.1-2]
2 – Blessed [1.3-14]
3 – Prayer and the Power of God [1.15-23]

WALKING WITH CHRIST
4 – Rags to Riches Reality [2.1-10]
5 – Reconciliation by the Way of the Cross [2.11-22]
6 – The Mystery of God Revealed [3.1-13]

WALKING AS A CHURCH
7 – How to Pray for Your Church [3.14-21]
8 – Unity: Walking as One [4.1-6]
9 – Unity: Sharing is Caring [4.7-16]

WALKING IN YOUR SALVATION
10 – Walking in New Life [4.17-24]
11 – Walking in Forgiveness [4.25-32]
12 – Walking in True Love [5.1-5]
13 – Walking in the Light [5.6-14]
14 – Walking in Wisdom [5.14-21]

WALKING RIGHT IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
15 – Extreme Makeover Marriage Edition [5.22-33]
16 – Extreme Makeover Home Edition [6.1-4]
17 – Extreme Makeover Work Edition [6.5-9]

CONCLUSION: WALK ON
18 – Are You Ready for Spiritual Warfare [6.10-20]
19 – Leaving Ephesus (Marks of a Servant) [6.21-24]

leaving Ephesus (marks of a servant)

When you write a letter how do you usually end it? What is your customary salutation? I suppose it depends on the kind of letter you are writing. If you are writing a love letter you’ll probably end with something mushy like, “As the sunrises or sunsets you are forever my love.” If you are writing to a friend separated by a long distance you might express how much you miss them. If you are writing an apology you might conclude with one last, “I’m sorry.” How does the Apostle Paul conclude such magnificent epistle following exhortations about the work of Christ and walking in Him?

At the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he mentions a man named Tychicus who is also referred to elsewhere in the New Testament.[1] Tychicus is not a name that would come to mind when people are asked to identify key people of the Bible. His name sounds like a guy who had a stuttering problem. His name is not a significant name of the Bible, but he has a significant purpose in the gospel. Sometimes I feel quite small spiritually next to the spiritual giants of the Scripture. I don’t feel like I quite measure up with Paul, John, Joseph, Moses, Abraham or David.

Likewise, you may feel as if they are “little” in relation to the “big” people of the Bible, “I just play video games, listen to my iPod, and eat Cheetos for breakfast.” However, Paul clearly states in Ephesians and throughout his letters that the work of the gospel is contingent upon a lot of people who are faithful to God and are equally “big”. For the sake of the gospel, you have something to offer. What do you have to offer? Being a servant of the gospel. How do you do that, you ask? Let’s look at Tychicus:

Key Marks of a Servant of the Gospel [Ephesians 6:21-22]

The first mark of a servant of the gospel is SELFLESSNESS [v.21] Tychicus is given the intimate title of a “beloved brother” He is as close as a brother to Paul because they have labored together for Christ, which has bonded them together like superglue. Selfless people care more for the concerns of other than their own.

The second mark of a servant of the gospel is STEADFASTNESS [v.21] Tychicus was a “faithful minister.” He did what he was told. Paul gave him a simple task, ‘take this note and walk it to Ephesus’. Don’t you think as he walked he was thinking, “I wish I could do bigger things for God? Do I have to be a lousy mailman my entire life? I suppose I only matter to the dogs.” All the while he is carrying the Word of God in his hands. You can still reading his mail to this day and be transformed by it through the power of God.

The third mark of a servant of the gospel is SERIOUSNESS [v.22]. The gospel is serious enough that it needs to be sent out. Paul’s sends out Tychicus with the scroll filled with encouragements for the followers of Christ in Ephesus. Tychicus ministry was walking. He could walk. He walked seriously. His name made the Bible as a professional walker. You might think that your ministry is small and insignificant, but God can use you as a mighty deliveryman of the gospel.

The fourth mark of a servant of the gospel is SENSITIVENESS [v.22]. You know Tychicus is an encouraging servant because he is commissioned to “comfort your hearts.” This Paul’s reason for sending him to Ephesus: he serves others with sensitivity. He is the kind of guy who sits with one sitting alone and talks to him in a way that shows he cares. He does not manipulate, unrelated, or castrate to get a convert. He genuinely cares and believes the gospel changes lives.

In Romans 16, there is a casting call of dozens of ordinary servants [men, women, young, old, rich, poor, married, single, etc.] who are doing big things for God: Phoebe helps people. If your car is broken down and need a ride, call Phoebe. Need a baby sitter? Call Phoebe. Priscilla & Aquila, a husband and wife team, are both great Bible teachers. They used their house as a center for gospel ministry. ­­­­Rufus’ mom is the kind of mom who gives out kisses and cookies. This reminds me of my adopted mothers who I have blessed by since being a pastor. I love these prayer warrior women. They are often forgotten servants. And the list of little-big servants of the gospel goes on and on.[2]

Someday, I will meet Tychicus. I look forward to shaking his hand and hugging his neck, and thanking his service for the gospel of Christ. If I approach him in this manner I should not come empty handed with shallow words, but readily share of my own opportunities of delivering the message of the gospel through my words and walk.

Key Words of a Walk in the Gospel [Ephesians 6:23-24]

Why should servanthood be my middle name? May these gospel-centered words of Paul in the closing statements be motivation for you to serve humbly and boldly: peace, love, faith and grace.

PEACE. If you are not a follower of God you do not know peace because you are an enemy of God and rebel against His cause. Unbelievers are lazy, lack listening ears, and lift their middle finger to God. They would rather be god than let God be God. You are not a good god. When you sin you are fighting and warring against God. This will cause your life to be chaos rather than peace. Only friends of God know peace.

God pursues peace in His people. Paul calls you to armor yourself with shoes with readiness to engage the wicked enemies in the world with the gospel of peace [6:15]. The gospel is the only means of real and permanent peace. The Middle East peace process, African tribalism, or your family’s conflict will never be resolved completely unless the gospel of peace rules your heart.

LOVE. God does not love you because you are good looking, talented, or loveable. You are not cute and loveable. Your sin is disgusting and gross. You are like a dirty chalice pouring out dirty water. No matter how much you polish and shine your chalice is still a cesspool of sickness and sin. The only way to change the chalice is to tap into the Living Water. He will overflow your cup with new life. You are really bad, but Jesus is really good!

He loves you because He made you. He even loves His enemies. He loves those who killed Him. If you were in the crowd you too would have cried out, “Crucify Him!” Yet Jesus responded lovingly, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are saying.” His love is unparalleled. He is the only being able to love the entire world. You cannot love anything but yourself and a few things immediately around you. He loves you passionately, sacrificially, unconditionally and actively. He demonstrates His love for you practically through His Son. He stood, suffered and died in your shoes.

FAITH. There is an inherent desire in every man to gain merit with God by good deeds, karma, or morality. 7 billion people walking this planet have faith in the 3 pound piece of meat in their melon: a scientist has faith in his theories, a philosophers has faith in his mind, a religious church-goer has faith in his systems. You feel guilty because you want God to smile upon you but don’t think you quite make the cut. Many around Jesus did not believe because they could not see, hear or touch Him. They trusted in their hands, eyes and ears, rather than trusting God. The problem is you are the problem. You need God. All you need is to trust God. He smiles upon His Son. True believers have faith not in their work, but in the finished work of Christ on the cross. That is the essence of the gospel.

GRACE. This is the most marvelous word. Paul saves the best word for last. You do not deserve God. In fact, you deserve the sewer soaking in the stink of your sin. Peace, love, and faith are all gifts of God’s grace. God is a giver. He is not passively sitting in a castle ruling from a distance, He got off His throne and pursues His people with peacemaking, love-sharing, and faith-building grace. By Grace, He has showered you with riches in His Son. Don’t reject the gift of God. The ultimate folly of man is to not receive the free gift God openly extends to you. Walk in the gospel of peace and love through faith by His grace.

35 Years Later [Revelation 2:1-7]

Paul wrote the letter to the church at Ephesus approximately 60 A.D. A generation later, approximately 95 A.D, the apostle John wrote Jesus’ words to this church. They were doing some things exceptionally well. They are enduring patiently under trials and hardships for the sake of the gospel. However, Christ had one contention with them. Do you see it? “They have abandoned the love they had at first.” What does He mean by this? They were not walking as servants of Christ like they were a generation before. In response, Christ charges them to turn back to Him and walk as conquistadors for the King until they reach Paradise.

How quickly it is to forget the gospel and walk in it daily. Let our leaving of Ephesus be a reminder to you and me to rehearse the gospel daily and commit to know, speak and live the gospel everyday. Leaving your mark on this planet for eternity is by a willingness to serve of the Most High King and be His messenger, keeper, and ambassador of the Gospel. The gospel transforms.


[1] Cf. Acts 20:4; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12; Titus 3:12

[2] Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:5-22, Philippians 3:19-30

are you ready for warfare?

Do you go out with your armor on? There are many careers that wear armor, but none more common than the armed forces. It is not uncommon to see a soldier dressed in battle gear on the news. In Jesus day it was not uncommon to see a Roman soldier or centurion. Paul uses this as an illustration to teach followers of Christ a valuable spiritual truth.[1]

You are at War [Ephesians 6:10-12]

Paul makes it clear. Christians are living in a war zone. Here is how your spiritual war is described: First, the war is intensely ferocious [v.12]. It is intensely ferocious because your enemy has one purpose in mind—to destroy your heart and distract you from following God. Your enemy might seem like a friendly foe that offers opulent peace treaties and enticing bribes. He is no friend; he is a ferocious foe in camouflage seeking to ransack your heart with baits and traps.

The spiritual war in which you are engaged is against the “principalities, powers and rulers of darkness.” [v.12] These evil rulers are lead by sergeant Satan the sly strategist and his band of menacing minions. Satan is so sly that he uses your strengths against you. Just as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness he can even distort the Word of God to get his way with you [cf. John 4]. Evil is a Weapon of Mass Destruction and the enemy is as nasty as an Al-Qaeda terrorist. The spiritual war is staged on the battlefield of “heavenly places.” It is waged in a spiritual realm in your midst, but unseen to your naked eye.

This is not the kind of war where you lob grenades, shoot semi-automatic guns, send computer-guided missiles, or have sea and air arsenals. This battle is fought as a wrestling match [i.e. hand-to-hand combat or guerrilla warfare]. Wave after wave of evil savages struggle against you in a continual onslaught seeking to sidetrack and devastate you spiritually. They do not take prisoners of war; instead they look to execute their captives.

Second, the enemy is scheming to take you down hard and fast [v.11]. Satan is not the red-horned, tail-wagging, pitchfork-carrying goofball you commonly see depicted in modern cartoons. He is dark, but is referred to as the Angel of Light. He is incredibly beautiful and intelligent, but is known for being a deceiver and father of lies. He is cunning, tricky, deceptive, and like a predator waiting to devour you like a juicy prey.

What kind of schemes does Satan slyly strategize against you? [cf. 4:22-29] Satan’s weapons of trade are taking little things and making them look big and taking big things and making them look little. He gets you to carry tomorrow and yesterday around today. He makes sin look fun, refreshing, and freeing, but in reality it is guilt-ridden, old as dirt, and bondage. Most importantly he gets you to live contrary to the Word of God and the cause of Christ.

Third, the only way you can win this war is with God’s power [v.10]. “Be strong in the Lord,” is like a war charge towards the troops. This phrase did not originate here, but in the OT.[2] God used this charge towards His nation and its commanders reminding them He will fight right along side them even go before them [cf. 5:8, 11]. Often God fights for His people who are against insurmountable odds. God is a warrior and spiritual warfare champion, which is a source of courage and comfort in the heat of an intensely ferocious war.

Arm Yourself for Battle [Ephesians 6:13-17]

Soldiers of Christ are charged to stand. [vs.11-14] Three times in this passage Paul tells you to stand so you do not fall [vs.11, 13-14]. The enemy—Satan and his cronies—are powerful forces that cannot be faced alone in the power of your own might. Armor might seem clunky, bulky and difficult to wear. However, if you were in danger you would not think twice about putting on thick armor. God has supplied you with a complete storage shed of weapons to wield for this war:

Weapon Physical Purpose Spiritual Purpose
Belt of Truth Keeps your armor up. Keeps arms and feet useful for action. Be prepared. Protection against hypocrisy and false gospels (1:13; 4:15, 21, 24, 25; 5:9; cf. Luke 12:35-37)
Breast of Righteousness Protects your heart and vital organs Protection against condemnation (4:24; 5:9)
 

Shoes of Readiness

Helps you to run well and stand strong. Durable for long distances. Firm footing. Protection against fear. Bearing the message of the gospel of peace (1:2; esp. 2:14–18; 4:3; cf. 6:23; Romans 3:21-26).
 

Shield of Faith

Protects you from a variety of attacks. Dodging and distinguish fiery arrows. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 5:12; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; Proverbs 30:5; 1 Peter 5:8-9) Protection against dangerous temptation: doubt, disobedience, discouragement, and despair (1:1, 13, 15, 19; 2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:5, 13; Romans 10:15)
Helmet of Salvation Protects your head and your precious noggin Promise of ultimate victory (1:13; 2:5, 8; 5:23)
Sword of the Spirit

[Only offensive weapon mentioned]

Offensive weapon to wound and kill enemy. (Revelation 19:15) Battle is won with the Word of God. Truth defeats deception (1:13; 5:26; cf. Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Bible describes you as a soldier and you are called to wear special armor. You are in a spiritual battle. It is a fight for your life. Armor is not an option it is required to even have a chance to face your foe. Why must I take my armor seriously? You are able to withstand the intense battle and stand firm under immense pressure because you have God’s armor. Only He is able to keep you from falling, therefore, stand tall [cf. 1:20-23]. Each of the pieces of armor is a call to arms that deal with the character of God within you. The armor must be “put on.” Therefore, spiritual warfare is an external counterpart to Paul’s emphasis on inward growth and the edification of the church [cf. 4:12, 16].

Don’t Forget to Watch and Pray [Ephesians 6:18]

Be on guard. One of your greatest weapons is prayer. In the midst of the battle you can call on your commander-in-chief without using the red-phone. God is a unique commander. He is not oblivious to your warfare, He is right there with you. Therefore, when you pray to God you are not surprising God with your needs or trying to change God’s mind; rather you are acknowledging His presence and asking how He wants to change you through the battle.

How should you pray? Be committed to a lifestyle of persistent prayer in the Spirit. This brings your prayers in line with God’s will; making prayer about God’s agendas not yours. If you want to know how to pray look at Jesus [cf. Matthew 6:9-13] who praises God’s greatness and glory [v.9], agrees with His will [v.1], and acknowledges dependence upon God for daily survival [vs.11-13]. Prayer is powerful weapon because it is direct communication with the battles Conqueror and King.

Ground Yourself in the Gospel [Ephesians 6:19-20]

Why is the gospel such a big deal? Why can’t you win the spiritual war without being grounded in the gospel? The gospel is where you choose sides. The gospel chooses the winning side of the battle. In the gospel, Christ defeats death, sin, and the powers of evil, partnering you with the power of Christ to be able to fight against your foes.[3]

How can I ground myself in the gospel? First, pray for opportunities for the gospel [v.19a]. Second, proclaim the gospel [v.19b].[4] Rather than proclaiming your personalities, talents, influence, and spiritual affluence, proclaim Christ. Don’t get hung up on side issues like: politics, culture, end times, or Christian patriotism. Each of these issues is not wrong to discuss, but they can be distractions derailing you from getting to the Gospel. Stick with the gospel; it’s the power of God unto salvation.

Third, proclaim the gospel with boldness and without excuse [vs.19c-20]. You are an ambassador of the King of kings and Commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven. Speak as His representative with boldness, eagerness and unashamed passion making known the mystery of the gospel [Romans 1:16]. Remember the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who do not know the gospel. Be prepared to offend people with the gospel. Sometimes the gospel brings on more foes and persecution.

In conclusion, Christian, you are at war with a ferocious enemy in a hostile world. Have a wartime mentality. This war is a difficult fight with evil foes. Ephesians 6:10-20 is a clarion call to arm yourself for battle with the weapons God makes readily available to you. Don’t forget to pray agreeing with God concerning your need of His presence, power, and utter dependence upon Him for victory. Finally, ground yourself in the glorious refuge of the gospel. In the gospel, you will find rest and safety in the secure arms of your Savior and Warrior King Jesus Christ who has fought the battle in your stead, defeated the foe, and claimed eternal victory. The battle truly belongs to the Lord. Have you put your armor on today?


[1] Throughout Ephesians 6:10-20on spiritual warfare Paul’s sustained imagery is drawn from the prophecy of Isaiah, which describes the armor of Yahweh and his Messiah (11:4–5; 59:17; cf. 49:2; 52:7).

[2] Cf. Joshua 1:6-9; Deuteronomy 31:6-7, 23; Zechariah 10:12

[3] Paul often asks for prayer for himself and his colleagues, particularly in relation to their ministry of the gospel (Rom. 15:30–32; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3, 4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1, 2; cf. Phil. 1:19).

[4] Great passages to proclaim the gospel of Christ: John 1:12; 3:16; Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:13; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:27.

extreme makeover: work edition

The Seven Dwarfs vs. The Office

Millions of viewers enjoy watching the popular television show The Office. Could it be the show is much like a real life office? How does Dunder Mifflin make any money when so many people are not doing any work? The Office is full of characters that do not take their work Monday through Friday seriously. Sadly, TGIF is the norm for many workers who are gravely dissatisfied with work. With hopes of summer vacations, relaxing weekends, 401K’s, and early retirement.

Then there is the American workaholic who thinks their hard work will some how bring them happiness, identity, or merit with God. Like one of the Seven Dwarfs [except Grumpy] whistling joyfully while working, “Hi, ho, hi, ho it’s off to work we go.” The average American works 40 hours a week, which means they will work over 100,000 hours in their lifetime. Work is not a savior, status symbol, or a means to gain acceptance with God. If you stand before God one day He will not let you in because you were on Forbes 500 list, nor will He keep you out of heaven because you lived below the poverty line.

God does care about your work, primarily the way you work and who you work for. In Ephesians 6:5-9, Paul gives our workplace an extreme makeover. He challenges both the employee and the employer [i.e. student and teacher] with a new motivation for our work. God cares about your work and rewards your faithful service. Here is how Jesus can transform the way you work:

Jesus gives your work a greater purpose [Ephesians 6:5-6]

What do these verses have to do with work? A current application of the slave and master relationship is the work environment of worker and boss [or student and teacher]. It is interesting the Bible never denounces slavery, but it does give a new look at the slave and master relationship. According to many estimates over half of the people in the Roman Empire in Jesus’ day was a slave. Slavery then was not about cracking whips, trading ships, and inhumane treatment; rather slavery was a means of work to pay off debt and it did not last longer than 7-years. There was a level of respect and care within the relationship of a slave and his master.

How does Christ give you are greater purpose for your work? First, obeying your earthly authorities reflects of upon your obedience of God’s authority. Jesus obeyed His Father because He had a holy sense of awe and respect for His authority. He had fear, not out of potential punishment, but God’s provision. In this passage is a deliberate word plan between master and Lord [Grk: kurios]. Biblically, every man and woman born into the world is a slave [cf. Romans 6]. In Christ, you are a slave to righteousness and a steward of your God-give life.

Second, Jesus helps you to work with wholehearted sincerity, integrity, purity, humility, and loyalty. To be wholehearted means you work well even when your authority is not looking. That is what is meant when Paul goes on to say, “obey your bosses not only to win their favor when their eye is upon you.” What is eye service? It is to fear the opinion of man rather than God. Fearing God is always more important because His authority trumps any man’s authority.

Be careful how you walk around and talk about your boss [or teachers]. I often counsel with parents who have children that do not respect their parent’s authority. I often ask the parents how they talk about their boss, parents, President, and authorities from the dinner table. Often disrespectful parents breed disrespectful children by the way they communicate about their authorities behind their backs.

Third, Jesus encourages you when you are tempted to view your work as futile and meaningless. He gives you the courage to keep on and persevere. Many would rather quit, drop out, or give up. Some think of work as a curse [Genesis 3] and vanity [Ecclesiastes], which is true to some extent, but Christ gives you a greater purposes for your work. Do not get your theology of work from the Fall, rather get it from Creation.

Fourth, Jesus encourages when you are tempted to view work as self-center quest for success rather than a sacrifice or service towards others and God. God gets the glory for any gracious success you happen to accumulate. Treasures of earth are miniscule compared to those of heaven. Seek first the kingdom of God, rather than building your own kingdom or corporate castle.

Jesus gives your work a greater purpose. This is the will of God for your work. You please your boss and God by doing your work and doing it well. A great question to ask when you work is: how would Jesus do your same job?

Commit to work for God as your first boss [Ephesians 6:7]

Work is an act of worship. It is not just a job. The way you work reflects on the one you worship. As you serve your boss you also serve God. How is work an act of worship? If you work with humility and integrity you are reflecting the character of Christ and therefore shining the gospel through the way you serve. Your work is an opportunity to shine the gospel.

How you know if you love your work more than God? Is your work an idol? Do you treasure the Lord more than your money, power or success? Have you lost your passion for work or ministry because you think it is work? People say, “Pastor, it is easy for you to love your work and honor your boss because you work for God. You don’t know my boss. He is not God!” It is as if they think there is a distinction between secular and sacred work. However, there is no separation between secular and sacred work—all work is sacred. All work is for God.

Working for God has great rewards [Ephesians 6:8]

The reward in work is not earning a sweet home with fancy car, summer vacations to the beach, golfing on the weekends, socializing with the big-shots, building a huge pension to retire on, patting the portfolio, living it up with a life of leisure or luxury. If this is the reward you desire for your work you will be sorely dissatisfied.

What is your reward for working with God as your primary authority? The reward has now and later benefits. In the future, your reward is related to your inheritance in Christ according to your faithfulness to Him [cf.5:5-6].[1] Today, your reward is Christlikeness, which blesses those working around you.[2] Both slave and free will face the same strict judgment.[3]

I am certainly grateful that people work to serve others. Think of all the farmers, bakers, deliverer, and retailers that help get your food to your table. Think of all the nurses, doctors, surgeons, and pharmacists who help keep you healthy. Think of all the servicemen, policemen, firemen, judges, attorneys, and government officials who help protect your rights and freedoms. Every person plays a role in serving one another. Your work is a blessing to another person. Work is a fulfillment of Christ command to love your neighbor and love your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Work is a gift from God, and it keeps on giving as you faithful follow Him.

For Bosses: reflect God in the way you care for your workers [Ephesians 6:9]

God is impartial [Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:25], therefore bosses must not be impartial with their employees [James 2:1-13]. What “same things” should masters do for their servants? [All the above] Employees are to be treated with respect and honor because they are servants of God. Bosses are to serve those who serve them for this can influence those they serve them for good—modeling Christlikeness.

In summary, work is a great place to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Jesus wants to redeem your work. Remember your work is an act of worship that shines the glory of God and His gospel through the way you work. Jesus can transform the way you work by giving you a greater purpose. Make God your first boss for the rewards of working for God are great. The way you work reflects upon God. Therefore, don’t waste your work. Instead of feeling guilty that you are not “doing more for God” view all your work, studies, and ministry as a means to do more for God.

For more resources on the gospel and your work:

1. Check out Bill Streger’s blog who gives additional insight from Colossians 3:22-25: The Gospel and your work. Jesus gives our work new expectancy, new passion, and new character.

2. Answer: What two reasons does Proverbs 10:4-5 give for working hard at your job? What does 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 say are the effects of a good work ethic? What does 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 say about doing your work with diligence? What does 1 Timothy 6:1-2 say imply about the relationship between a believing employee and believing employer? What does James 5:1-6 say about the dangers of success?


[1] Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6; Colossians 3:24-25

[2] Cf. Matthew 10:41-42, 16:27; Colossians 3:24; Revelation 22:12

[3] Cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 12:13

extreme makeover: home edition

Most parents agree that they desire to have a happy house with children who are successful, financially responsible, skillful, educated, athletic and active. These are not wrong desires, but they could also distract you from God’s agenda for your home. What is God’s agenda for the home? God desires for parents to raise their children in such a way that they will lovingly, joyfully, passionately, and freely follow Jesus Christ. This is the greatest agenda for parents. God’s agenda for children is also similar: to obey their God-given authority and make Jesus Christ the passion of their life.

In Ephesians 6:1-4, God sets a clear agenda for the home, which is a wonderful picture of His gospel. Let’s look at the basis, goal and technique for living as God’s kind of home.

The Basis of a Godly Home is Obedience [Ephesians 6:1]

I did not grow up singing the famous children’s Sunday School songs, but one I do know is, “Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe: Doing exactly what the Lord commands, doing it happily. Action is the key–do it immediately, the joy you will receive! Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe. O-B-E-D-I-E-N-C-E (Yes, sir!) Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.” I am sure that was a fun song to sing as a kid and there is a lot of truth to this song, but as a child grows older that some might mean something entirely different. Obedience is a willingness to submit to ones authority without challenge, excuse or delay.

How should I discipline children of different ages?

For many children, following God’s agenda is difficult because they want what they want, when they want it, in the way they want it. Therefore, children test boundaries, push limits, and stress the consistency of their parents. Is this really the agenda of cute innocent children? Surely I just have a pessimistic view of children? No. I just believe what the Bible says, everyone child is born a sinner into a sinful world and sinning comes natural.

Why is it important for children to obey their parents? Obedience teaches children how to live under authority, especially God’s authority [5:21]. Authority is like an umbrella of protection for our good and God’s glory. In ancient days, the father could maintain authority in the home until death. When do you cease being a child? You never cease being a child to your parents. “Child” does not denote age, but relationship. Even as an adult you are still your parents children. However, as you grow older your relationship with your parents may morph [cf. 2:24] because biblically parenting is a temporary stewardship preparing you for your own permanent relationship of marriage.

The Goal of a Godly Home is Honor [Ephesians 6:2-3]

What does it mean to honor? Honor means you have an attitude of godly fear towards your parents because you know they have been give to you by a higher authority—God [cf. Leviticus 19:3, 14; Deuteronomy 4:10]. When you obey your parents it is a way of honoring them. Can you obey without honoring? Yes, this is called legalism. Follow rules, but not following lovingly and joyfully isn’t honor. This might run in tandem with our culture that says that ‘honor is earned’; rather God says honor no matter what because God particularly places your parents as your authority.

Paul begins this verse by quoting the 5th Commandment. [Exodus 21:12] He also notes that this is the first commandment with a promise in relation to other humans. What is the promise? The promise is that if you honor your parents you are also honoring God; therefore, God will bless you with an enjoyable life.

Exodus 20:12 Deuteronomy 5:16 Ephesians 6:1-3 Colossians 3:20
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you. 1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 20Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

Should you honor your parents if they are not believers or spiritually mature? Even if your parents do not have a biblical perspective of life you are still called to honor and obey them. Now if your parents specifically ask you to do something sinful you are called obey God who is your higher authority. If your parents abuse their authority it is proper to remove yourself from their authority until they makeover their home to match God kind of parent.

What are there benefits or drawbacks to obeying your parents? There are times when obedience might prevent you from doing something you really would like to do. This is not always a bad thing. I remember asking my parents if I could spend the night at a friend’s house from school. They denied the request because they knew that this friend was not a good influence on me. I was upset, but after the fact I was appreciative my parents were protecting me. In the future, my honor for my parents grew and it was easier to obey.

Here are some practical ways you can honor your parents: Do not talk back to your parents privately or publicly. Do not complain about your parents to others. Protect the integrity of your family. Listen to their wise counsel. Seek their wise counsel for decisions. Do not repeat their sinful habits. If you disagree do not argue in defense.

The Technique for have a Godly Home is Training in Truth [Ephesians 6:4]

In verse 4, fathers are singled out. Why are father’s singles out? As children obey, fathers are not to neglect their responsibility of point their children to Christ. Every father is accountable to God for the spiritual climate of his home [1 Timothy 3:4-5].[1] This climate can be controlled as the father teaches and consistently models Christlikeness to his children.

How does a parent provoke his children to wrath?

Training children is like giving them spiritual nourishment that will help them grow spiritually strong so that when they are on their own Satan will not have an influence on them. The greatest device the devil uses to cause division in the home is prolonged anger of the children towards their parents. Parents can feed this anger by not following Christ [cf. Colossians 3:20-21].

Training in Truth focuses on the gospel: the child’s need of a Savior [Romans 6:23] because they are accountable to God [Dt.4:9; 6:6-7]. This child must be taught about their sinful heart [Rom.5:12; Prov. 22:15]. Following salvation, parents have an enormous task of teaching their children to follow God’s Word [Ps.1:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:15-17], repent, restore and mature in Christlikeness [Ephesians 4:22-32]. This is how the child comes face-to-face with the gospel.

If you desire to have a happy house, with children who are successful, financial fiscal, skillful, educated and active above God’s agenda for your home you might be raising children who worship these agendas because they have a  distorted understanding of the gospel. Unless the gospel is central in the child all other agendas can become idols. God’s desire for parents is to raise their children in such a way that they will lovingly, joyfully, passionately, and freely follow Jesus Christ. This is the greatest agenda for parents. And God’s desire for children is to obey their God-given authority and make Jesus Christ the passion of their life. The gospel means God is always at the center of the family, not the child or parent.

Great Resources for Parents:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart [Tedd Tripp]

Gospel-Powered Parenting [William P. Farley]

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens [Paul David Tripp]

Angry Children—Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control [Mike Emlet]

Addressing the Problems of Rebellious Children [Mary Somerville]


[1] Fathers responsibility: Psalm 103:13; Matthew 7:9-11; Proverbs 3:11-12; Psalm 72:2-8; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Hebrews 12:7-11

extreme makeover: marriage edition

Most people have seen the show Extreme Makeover. On the reality show a family in desperate need of home renovation is surprised with the opportunity it receive the needed renovations. The show usually destroys the old home and rebuilds a new one. We love the show because in the end the family has a wonderful new home.

When it comes to our real homes—marriage. There are times when an extreme makeover is needed. For whatever reason the home has become rundown over time, bad habits, or weak foundation, and you do not have the resources or know-how to fix it. Building a solid marriage can be difficult. It takes hard work to build or renovate a marriage into God’s kind of marriage. The Church in Ephesians is compared to a: body [1:22, 23], building [2:20-22], and now a bride [5:31-32]. Let’s begin by looking at the foundations of a solid marriage through the roles of each partner within the marriage relationship.

The Role of the Wife [Ephesians 5:22-24]

The primary role of the wife is submission [v.22]. Submission sounds like a dirty word. Submission is a willingness to lovingly, joyfully, and freely follow authority. Submission is not an option, but a command to lovingly, joyfully and freely follow her husband as she would follow Christ.

Is submission for wives only? No. Submission is a concept for all believers [5:21]. Everyone is summoned to submit to some kind of authority. You submit to your spouses [Ephesians 5:22], parents [6:1-4], government [Romans 13:1], church [Hebrews 13:17; 1 Peter 5:5], and ultimately God. Submission is a spiritual matter because all submission is obedience to God’s authority. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:15]

Why is submission a difficult command for people to obey? It is an authority issue. Your natural reaction is buck against any authority that tells you how to live. It started when Satan rebelled against God’s authority and continued in the hearts of men from the Garden of Eden until now [Romans 3:10-18]. A lack of submission originates from a desire to be king of your domain rather than letting God be King of His domain.

Headship is the motivation for submission [v.23a]. In Ephesians, headship refers to Christ [1:22; 4:15], but here it is being implied on the husband. Headship has the biblical idea of ruler or leader. Without the headship of Christ over the church the building would not have a cornerstone, and without a cornerstone would crumble. Have you heard it said, “There are too many chiefs and no Indians?” This is a common phrase to say that there are too many people demanding control, but too few willing to follow another persons lead. In Genesis 3:16, woman is cursed with the desire to rule over their husbands [cf. 4:7]. Two chiefs in a marriage can become a two-headed monster. It is a monster that needs to be slain. The church submits to Christ because she knows the benefits of being united with Him. Likewise the wife submits to the headship of her husband.

Submission to authority, especially within marriage, sometimes becomes abused. Submission does not mean the wife becomes a slave or inferior to the husband [Proverbs 31:10-31]. The Bible never commands a husband to force his wife to submit; rather the wife is commanded to make herself submissive as her husband’s helper [cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Genesis 2:18]. Since Christ is the example of headship, the husband is to be as loving and life-giving in their marriage relationship as Christ is over the church. God created men and women equally within the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27; 2:23; Galatians 3:28], but He has given them distinct roles to fulfill that are for their good and God’s glory.

Christ is the model for submission [v.23b-24]. How can a wife submit to her husband? Simply by following the example of the church’s submission to Christ: speak the truth in love [cf. 4:15; 4:25; Proverbs 9:3], point him to Christ with your actions [1 Peter 3:1-6], extend the forgiveness of Christ when he sins, and affirm his leadership.

The Role of the Husband [Ephesians 5:25-30]

The husband’s primary role is a commitment to love his wife like Christ loves His church [v.25; cf. Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20]. He is to be a lover, leader [Matthew 20] and learner [1 Peter 3:7]. He loves her enough to lead her to walk with God as He models it himself for her. As the husband seeks to humbly serve God, it is reflected in the way he loves, leads, and learns to his wife.

Why is it important for a husband to follow the example of Christ? Christ was a servant leader [Matthew 20]. He came not to be served, but to serve. He was a king that gave Himself sacrificially for His Bride. It is not that the church deserves to be given His love, but His love is an expression of His grace. He did not give 50/50 waiting for the church to love Him back. He gave it all, 100%. Husbands do not hold back from loving sacrificially to your wife.

The Bible gives many words for love: The first word is erao, which is a physical or sexual love. Erao is where you get the word erotic. It is a pleasurable love to be saved for the marriage bed only. The second word is phileo, which is an emotional love. This is the love you share with a brother or close friend. Phileo will see objects as worthy of love. Peter used this word of Jesus [John 21:20ff]. The third word for love in the Bible is agapao, which is an intellectual and volitional love. Agapao is a committed, God-like love. Jesus used this word of Peter and God uses it toward sinful mankind [John 3:16].

In relationships, these words for love have a proper order. If you start with sexual love it will be almost impossible to have true committed love because the relationship is built on physicality rather than friendship and commitment. If you begin with committed and brotherly love, it will create the best atmosphere for sexual love and additional loves grow. A husband’s Christlike love has a sanctifying effect on marriage [vs.26-27].

Why is important for a husband to view his wife’s body as part of his own? [vs.28-30] No man treats his own body in an unloving way, therefore a husband who views his wife’s body as his own will treat his wife lovingly as well. A loving husband will protect and provide for his wife as his most prized possession. A husband protects and provides for his wife is with his time, careful ear, encouragement, and appreciation for her inner and outer beauty.

Reviewing the Biblical Basis for Marriage [Ephesians 5:31-33]

Marriage is a picture of oneness [v.31]. Oneness is the miracle of marriage—when two people become one flesh [cf. Genesis 2:24]. Oneness in marriage means your spouse becomes priority above my career, friends, sinful habits, and hobby’s.

Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church [v.32]. What does Paul mean by mystery? [cf.3:9] The symbol of marriage was hidden, but is now revealed. Why is marriage a mystery? Marriage is a picture of salvation through Christ’s sacrificial relationship with the church, which is made up of both Jew and Gentile. Marriage is a typology of marriage that shows the unity of Christ [Bridegroom] with His church [Bride]. This gives marriage a divine significance.

Marriage glorifies God when the husband and wife are fulfilling their roles [v.33]. The purpose of marriage is not my happiness, fulfillment, or love, although these can be fruits of a godly marriage. Marriage is bigger than just my spouse and me, but it is about a display of Christ-like love and obedience to the world.

walking in wisdom

A few years ago my father picked up a new hobby—making walking sticks. Since starting Trail Tamer he has sold hundreds of sticks. Many of his sticks are a work of art in which he carves beautiful images and meaningful phrases. I own three sticks. Upon each of my sticks my father engraved verses from all over the Bible that talk about walking.

Ephesians talks a lot about walking: walking in new life [4:17-18], walking in forgiveness [4:32], walking in true love [5:2], walking in the light [5:8], and walking in wisdom [5:15]. Walking according to Paul is not about physical exercise, but about the spiritual life’s journey with Christ. Walking flexes your spiritual joints to become fit for the difficult road ahead. As you walk with Christ you become more and more like Him [cf. 4:1].

In Ephesians 5:15-21, the theme of walking continues with an encouragement to walk in wisdom. Walking in wisdom is more than knowledge of random facts about life or God. It is not about being able to win at spiritual Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit. Wisdom is learning to live in a way that pleases God by putting on the character of Christ from inside out.

What does it mean to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:15-17]

First, wisdom looks carefully at how you walk [v.15]. A wise person does not ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Instead they ask, “Is this helpful for me and my walk with God?” I have freedom to do as I please, but that does not mean it is profitable for me. Paul elsewhere encourages the Corinthian church, which struggled with relationships and unwise habits, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.” [1 Corinthians 6:12]

A wise person watches they way they walk because they are saved to new life. An unwise person is not careful how they walk, therefore, they are easily influenced by poor entertainment choices [i.e. TV, movies, games, internet], by addictive consumption [i.e. alcohol, media], and by corruptive people they mingling around. Although these things are not sinful in themselves they are things that can easily lead to sin.

Second, wisdom makes the best use of your time [v.16]. A wise person is disciplined and discerning with their time. As followers of Christ you are aware that time is limited and every opportunity matters because “you are buying time.” 

People waste a lot of time on things that do not matter. When you stand before God one day will your labor in Farmville matter? Will racing your kids to sports practices and club activities matter? Will your endless hours of texting and gossiping about silliness matter? Time is but a vapor; it is here one moment, and the next “poof” it is gone. Everything you do everyday has eternal significance. Unwise people do not consider their time as God’s time.  Wise people are a steward of the life God has given you. Do not be a slave to time; let time be a slave to you. Glorify God with the time you have remaining because that is what matters.

You can commit to making a wise use of your time at any age. Before the age of 20, Jonathan Edwards committed about 70 resolutions to God. It was his desire from a young age to walk with God. One of these resolutions was, “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.” You are never too busy, too young or too old not to give your time to God. Imagine if God said that to you?

Third, wisdom understands what the will of God is [v.17]. Only a fool does not think about God. A fool thinks, “How much can I get away with?” This is kindergarten Christianity. A wise follower of Christ moves beyond elementary foolishness and considers God’s purposes and plans, and seeks to follow after Him in them.

What is the will of God? I often have people ask me, “Pastor, what is the will of God?” Most are shocked that as you unpack a biblical view of God’s will it is much simpler and wide-ranging than you may realize. God’s will is less about whom you will marry, what job you will have, what your future will be like, and more about the kind of person you are to become. “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” [1 Thessalonians 4:3] In other words, it is God’s will that you are growing up to be more like Christ. It really is that simple. Therefore, it is easy to know if you are out of God’s will—if you are not living like Christ.

How am I supposed to walk in wisdom? [Ephesians 5:18-21]

If you are walking in wisdom you are filled with the Spirit [vs.18]. Paul contrasts be filled with the Spirit to being drunk. Why would Paul use drunkenness in contrast with being filled with the Spirit? Paul knows that alcohol is a common substance that can control you if you have too much to drink. It is all a matter of what you allow to control you.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the same thing as: being saved, being more saved, or having a mystical experience. The Holy Spirit is not a force or influence, He is God. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon salvation and does not need more of Him after salvation [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Being filled with the Spirit is simply being under the control of the Holy Spirit. Being filled is allowing the Holy Spirit to head the command-center of your life and giving Him the ability to do with you as He pleases. You become the passenger and He becomes the pilot. If you do not submit yourself to the Holy Spirits control you are like a man wearing beer goggles driving a fully loaded box-truck down a Los Angeles interstate during rush hour.

Followers of Christ are commonly called the temple of God [cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20]. In the OT the temple was the place where God dwells, and where His people offered sacrifices of worship God. However, since Christ’ death on the cross the structural temple is no longer needed because Jesus opened the access to God. Today His followers are the physical temple of God offering their lives as an offering and sacrifice to God [Romans 12:1-2].

Those who are filled with the Spirit use worshipful words [vs.19-20]. The result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is letting “the Word of God dwell within you richly.” [Colossians 3:16] In other words, the words and songs that flow from your lips match the Word of God. Words not of God can “grieve the Holy Spirit” [cf. 4:30].

What brings people together more than the words of the music? Arenas are packed with people singing the anthems of their favorite bands. Churches every Sunday gather together singing songs to their great God. Music has a powerful way of communicating and teaching truth in a unique way that speech or sermons cannot.

Worshipful words include, “giving thanks for everything.” [cf. 5:4] Does giving thanks for everything include evil done towards me, personal tragedy, problems related to sin and temptations, or periods of physical and spiritual suffering? Yes. Gratitude is an attitude that gives you a godly outlook on life and the greatness of God [Colossians 3:17]. God uses evil, tragedy, sin, and suffering for His glory. I have seen numerous times how God has used my moments of failure and struggle to teach me about His presence and provisions.

Those who are filled with the Spirit also submit to one another [v.21]. Everybody submits to someone or something. Employers submit to their companies, soldiers submit to their superiors, citizens submit to their authorities, and Christians submit to God and others over them. Followers of Christ are committed to each other like living stones of the temple of God encouraging and helping one another to worship God. We live in a society that bucks against authority therefore submission is look down upon. However, submission is for our good, the good of our community and for the glory of God.

In Ephesians 5:15-21, walking in wisdom is less about knowing facts, and more about living with God and one another. Walking in wisdom walks carefully, makes a good use of time, understands the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit, uses worshipful words, and is submissive to other followers of Christ. Walking in wisdom will take you down a beautiful road. When the paths of hardship come, as they will, godly wisdom will be like a loyal walking stick carrying you through the tight passes, rugged terrains, and steep slopes. Walking in wisdom is not easy, but it brings God glory.

walking in the light

There are innumerable benefits of light. The sun causes the earth to grow and keeps our body healthy. Flashes of lightning in a storm or glittering stars in the night sky bring delight to our awestruck eyes. A flashlight or nightlight in a dark place brings comfort to your fears and insecurities. Light is good.

Have you ever tried to walk around in a strange new place in the dark trying to find a light source? It can be difficult dodging objects trying to avoid knocking things over or stubbing your toes. Walking in the light is not only safe, but it is a theme for your spiritual life too.[1]

walking in the light avoids darkness [Ephesians 5:6-8a]

In the Bible, the theme of light and dark appears a lot.[2] Light usually refers to living in a way that pleases God, while darkness refers to living recklessly and selfishly. Throughout Ephesians it is clear that Paul is communicating with Christ followers. And followers of Christ are expected to walk in the light and avoid darkness [vs.6-8a].

The things that Paul was referring to are the “empty words” of physical and verbal immorality [cf. vs.3-5].[3] They are empty because they lack eternal substance and do not help a follower to walk in the light. It is uncertain who these people were. However, we do know they were trying to justify doing “these things.”

Immorality must be avoided because the wrath of God is upon sin. Since God is holy, He has righteous anger against sin. Disobedience deserves just consequence. A person characterized as a “son of disobedience” walks in a way that is characterized by habitual disobedience [cf. 2:2]. Only a fool would walk into a dark cave without a map and light. With each step you put yourself into further danger and your next step just might kill you. So it is if you do not submit to God’s authority. Removing yourself from His protection opens you up to the adversary’s attacks and ultimately divine destruction [cf. v.5; Romans 1:18-32].

Since, the consequence for an immoral life is so serious you are urged to not even partner with the practices of those who do not follow Christ. So am I supposed to be a monk that hides in a monastery away from the world my entire life? Of course not! It is impossible to step out of the world and avoid unbelievers completely, thus you are encouraged to be a light that shines Christ to the world. Walking in this manner is worthy of your calling and pleasing to God [cf. 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:9; Romans 12:2; 14:18].

walking in the light is fruitful [Ephesians 5:8b-10]

The symbolic contrast between darkness and light is likened to that of death and life, poor and rich, old and new. Light and dark are polar opposites. Before Christ, unbelievers made their home in darkness [cf. Colossians 1:13], but Paul is speaking to believers saved by the Light of the World. Since they have the light they need to behave like they have the light.

When you shine the light of Christ the response is fruitful. What is the fruit of walking in the light? Christlikeness—goodness, righteousness, and truthfulness. God gets the glory for shining and fruit bearing. It is rare to see a person who is radiates selflessness, righteousness and truthfulness through and through. If you walk in the light you stick out in the crowd as if you are glowing in the dark because the light of Christ is shining supernaturally through you [cf. 4:24; Galatians 5;22; Philippians 1:11].

walking in the light is exposes secret sin [Ephesians 5:11-14]

Light and darkness are incompatible with one another. You cannot have both co-existing. Have you ever been in a dark room with a small candle? Or have you stood outside on a clear night with the stars above and a sliver of a moon? It is amazing the amount can be put out by a flickering flame or starry sky. A little light can pierce darkness.

It is no mistake that mischief happens during the dark for most burglaries and kidnappings happen in the middle of the night. Why? It is easier to hide and keep secret. Sin loves to hide secret crevasses and closets where there is no light. Sin can quickly slip into the shadows undisturbed for years. Sin is a nocturnal beast that thrives on living in darkness.

So shameful is secret immorality that it must not even be spoken [v.12; cf. 5:3]. Not that it is taboo, but evil must not be promoted or tolerated. Work that happens in darkness is not fruitful; rather it is destructive, unproductive, and does not please God.[4] Believers are to have nothing to do with darkness for a child of the light must look and live like the light.

Light has many benefits, but one of the greatest benefits is that light exposes darkness [cf. John 3:20]. If you walk in the light you are like a lighthouse to the world in distress seeking to find some sort of safe refuge from the storm. You will be a beacon that points people to Christ—the Rock and Strong Tower.

How should we go about exposing darkness? Exposing darkness is hard for most Christ followers because it makes them vulnerable. Therefore, walking in the light must be done humbly and helpfully as to restore a sinner to God through the life-transforming gospel of Christ. I saw this in a powerful way this week as one of our young people in FUEL Student Ministries posted some encouraging, but straightforward words on another young person Facebook wall who was sharing things that were vulgar and inappropriate. This young person was shining the light of Christ in darkness exposing sin and pointing the sinner to Christ.

Sometimes words shine, but moreover what shines the most is a consistent, genuine, everyday walk with God. I have hope that this young person will change because the light of Christ has the power to expose darkness and transform you in the light [cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 3:19-21]. God can awaken anyone towards the light because living in darkness is frightening and miserable. As J.B. Phillip’s said, “It is even possible [after all, it happened to you!] for light to turn the thing it shines upon into light also”[5]


[1] Ephesians has a theme describing the negative and positive ways you are to “walk”: 2:2, 10; 4:17; 5:8; 5:2, 15

[2] Cf. Genesis 1:2-18; John 8:12; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5-7; 2:9.

[3] Justifying immorality is not a new thing; 1 Corinthians 6:13; Galatians 1:6

[4] Cf. Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19; Titus 3:14; 2 Peter 1:8; Jude 12.

[5] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 373.

walking in true love

Have you ever seen a blueprint? In college, I worked in the corporate office of a West Virginia coal mine. Part of my job was delivering blueprints from the engineers to the contractors. A skilled engineer draws a blueprint or builds a prototype, which shows in great detail what the design is to look like. In order for the building to look like it is intended the builders must follow the pattern laid out in the blueprint.

The prototype of walking in love is Jesus Christ [Ephesians 5:1-2]

When it comes to walking with God, Jesus is the blueprint and prototype for how you are to walk. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” A faithful follower of Christ will imitate Christ, like a carbon copy of the original blueprint.[1]

The illustration given for imitating God is a child. Paul commands followers to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” What can we learn from children about imitating? Children are natural imitators. Children mimic their parent’s words [what they hear] and actions [what they see]. God knows you are wired to imitate from the womb. Therefore, as a child adopted into the family of God imitate your Father [cf. 1:5; Romans 5:5].

The goal of imitating God is Christlike love, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us.” What is your definition of God’s love? What do you learn about love from the example of Christ? Christ’s love—true love—is built on sacrifice.[2] He loves sinful people because He has a perfect, sacrificial, and unconditional love [cf. 4:32]. He became the substitute sacrifice for your sins, which is the ultimate demonstration of love. He did not do this because you deserved it; rather sin deserves is death. He loves sacrificially and freely because that is who He is.

It is impossible to imitate God in everything, but you can imitate God by walking in Christlike love. Continual conformity to Christ is the journey of a Christ follower and love is your chief mark of Christlikeness. Christlike love motivates you to live holy, which means your thinking, attitude and behavior is characterized by Christlikeness [cf. Galatians 2:20].[3]

Paul will now contrast walking in the love of Christ with walking in the way of the world [vs.3-4]. We live in a world so willing to share their love with things that do not satisfy. What do people love other than God?

The antitype of walking in love is sexual immorality [Ephesians 5:3-4]

How is walking sexual sin the opposite of walking in Christlike love? Sexual sin loves secret self-indulgence, while Christlike love is openly self-sacrificing. Sexual sin seeks to share the altar with God, but in most cases it dethrones Him from His high place. In the Ephesians 5:3-4, Paul shares how love of sexual sin takes many forms.

3 forms of physical immorality [v.3] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement
Fornication, 

Sexual Immorality

Any kind of sexually related sin [pornea]—pornography, masturbation, adultery, etc. [1 Corinthians 6:18; Jude 7; 1 Thessalonians 4:3]. Wait for sex until marriage [1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 7:2]; run from any sexual immorality [1 Corinthians 6:18]
Uncleanness, Impurity Moral impurity; sexual thinking; lust [Leviticus 11-12; Matthew 23:25-26; Hebrews 1:3; James 1:27; 4:8]. Purity of Heart; holiness [1 Thessalonians 4:3-8]
Covetousness Greed; inward desire to acquire what you cannot have [Luke 12:15; Matthew 6:24; 2 Peter 2:3; Colossians 3:5] Contentment [Philippians 4:12-13]; do not covet another man’s wife [Exodus 20]

All forms of physical immorality are a serious cancer to your soul. So serious they “must not even be named” among God’s people [cf. 5:12].[4] It is not that you should not talk about these sins, but you must be careful to not create an atmosphere that tolerates these sins. You cannot avoid living in a world where these sorts of sins are become less shameful and less secretive. Although they are common that does not give you an excuse to indulge. Sexual immorality is not only in a physical form, but it also can be in a verbal form:

3 forms of verbal immorality [v.4] Biblical Definition Biblical Replacement
Filthy language, obscenity Sexually degrading; obscene talk; shameless; disgraceful; dirty talk Build up and encourage one another to follow Christ [4:29; Colossians 3:5-17]. Put on thankfulness. “What comes out of your mouth or what you laugh at reveals your heart” [Matthew 15:18].
Foolish talk Stupid words; silliness; childish; moronic
Crude joking, 

course joking

Verbal immorality; vulgar; perverse; buffoonery; sexual innuendo

Verbal immorality is not just for dirty old men. Turn on your TV or listening to the Billboard Top 25 songs and you will see that dirty sexy talk sells. Dirty language is common and cheap, but it must not be the talk of followers of Christ. Sure Jesus hung out with dirty rotten sins, but He never stooped to their potty mouth language or laughed at their dirty jokes.

The remedy for immorality is thanksgiving.  How can thankfulness help remedy immorality? While immorality is self-centeredness [cf. Romans 1:21], thanksgiving is Christ-centeredness. Thanksgiving is rooted in a radically different heart, which understands it is does not deserve God’s grace. Thanksgiving—being content in Christlikeness—is the antidote for all immorality. What happens if a person continues to walk in sexual immorality?

The consequence of walking in sexual immorality is hell [Ephesians 5:5]

A person who walks in sexual immorality often describes it as living hell. Sexual sin is like working under the whip of a ruthless slave master. Walking in immorality not only feels like hell, but also it will pave your road to hell, “Everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” [v.5]

Drinking from the well of sexual sin never satisfies. The hurt and hopelessness left in the wake of sexual sin can be horrendous and handicapping. Sexual sin is like poison ivy with an all-consuming itch. The more you scratch the infected area the more you itch and the more it spreads. Sexual sin will poison you to death.

The consequences of continuing a life of immorality are serious and sobering, now [in this life] and later [in eternity]. First, those who are steeped in these sins are habitually involved as a pattern of life [cf. Hebrews 12:14]. A follower of Christ cannot walk this way for long without the Holy Spirit bringing about conviction sin and change of life. Second, immorality, impurity and greed are summed up as “Idolatry”.

How is immorality the same as worshipping a false god? Idolatry is when you love something more than God. An idol is more than a carved image; it is a God-substitute. Are you grasping onto an immoral idol? The Bible is clear—idols must be demolished.

Follower of Christ, you are called to be alive to Christ and actively loving Him. Know everyday is a battle for the mind. Your battle is between active love for the world and passive love God will come to a head—choose whom you will love. If you love the world more than Christ you have allowed the world to rob, rape and exploit your love. Think of loving the world like sleeping with the enemy. Immorality is always risky; therefore, pursue purity because it is always safe. A.W. Tozer said,

“Men think of the world not as a battleground but as a playground. We are not here to fight, we are here to frolic. We are not in a foreign land, we are at home. We are not getting ready to live, we are already living, and the best we can do is rid ourselves of our inhibitions and our frustrations and live this life to the full.”

How can I fight the temptations of sexual immorality? First, draw a line in the sand. Commit to God, “I will never put myself in situation where I will be tempted to fall into sin.” Second, put off old sinful ways and put on walking in Christlikeness. Make this your biblical battle plan. Third, maintain accountability. Keep clear guardrails and safety nets that together help you avoid your temptations. Fourth, consider the cost of your commitment to Christ. Reputation takes a lifetime to build, but a moment to destroy.


[1] Imitation is a theme in Paul’s letters: 1 Corinthians 4:16; 10:31-11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9.

[2] cf. Leviticus 1:17; Isaiah 53:10; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16; Philippians 4:18.

[3] A thread about living a life of love appears a lot in Ephesians: 4:2; 15-16; 5:2. 25, 28, 33; 6:24

[4] Saints = believers, holy ones.

walking in forgiveness

By 5th Grade, I had enough of the loud-mouthed short-statured classmate who sat behind me on the school bus. Year after year, he hurled hateful words at me that half the time I had never heard before. The other kids would snicker, mostly because they didn’t want to be his next verbal target. This Smurf-sized bully knew how to push buttons. I thought to myself, “Isn’t anyone going to do anything about this kid?” I did not have any soap or earplugs, but I did have a plan.

Now being as skinny-as-a-toothpick didn’t help me much, but I was taller than him by a mere foot, which in 5th Grade says a lot. I decided to stand up and stare him down. I could beat a blind man in a staring contest. My plan was not working, it was time for a quick plan: either I could turn my other cheek by sitting down in so-called defeat or wipe the smirk off his cheek. I chose the later. I charged to the back of the bus and started wailing on him. It did not take long before the bus driver took notice and slammed on the breaks. I flew forward. The bus driver marched to the back, grabbed us both by our shirts, and ushered us up to the front of the bus. We didn’t make it to our homes that day; instead, we both pouted as we waited for our parents at the bus barn.

Have you felt the cut of a sharp word, been scalded by a heated exchange, or battered by an abuser? The hurt from such situations should not be belittled since they can be so handicapping because the pain can be paralyzing. People do not like pain. There are two sinful responses when dealing with offenses: First, hiding the hurt by stuffing it into secret places. This person keeps their relationships under serious surveillance and is cautious to not get burned again.

Second, heaving the hurt back in hell-fury. This person pursues payback by inflicting more punishment fit for the crime, which in the mind of the offended will cause the offender feel their pain with hopes they will come begging for mercy. Have you ever played the board game Battleship? Doesn’t it feel good to get a hit, especially if your opponent got a hit on you? This is the reason why you are glued to your favorite reality TV show, which is built on the premise of backstabbing, one-upping, reckoning, and revenge seeking. Now, I am a fan of some reality TV shows too. However, retribution on our terms is always sinful, and sin never leaves you completely at peace. Only God can best play the part of God. It is not our prerogative to take out vengeance

Within both of the sinful responses to offenses above forgiveness was not a viable option, even if it was it may have been misused or misunderstood to manipulate the situation. Unforgiveness is controlling. Unforgiveness in a sense makes you like a dog on chain and your master is the one who has offended you. Forgiveness does not have strings attached, rather it is a willingness to treat the offense as if it never happened. A mark of new life in Christ is walking in forgiveness [v.24], and Christ is our example [v.32]. Here are four practical truths about walking in forgiveness:

1. Speak the Truth [4:25]. Unforgiving people love to latch onto lies, especially if they have been offended. There are three root reasons why people why—to get something they want, to enhance who they are, or to protect themselves. We would rather risk covering our tracks with a well-choreographed lie, than humbly speak the truth. Putting away falsehoods would make our offenses far less painful and more loving, since those who walk in new life speak the truth in love and do not follow the father of lies anymore [cf. 4:15; Genesis 3:1-4; John 8:44].

2. Solve Today’s Situations Today [4:26-28]. When you let the sun go down on your anger you do not deal with anger quickly. Not dealing with anger is not a way of dealing with it. Adding time to anger multiplies the problem. Sin loves to multiply itself with more sin. How does anger lead to sin? Unresolved anger leads to the sin of bitterness, rage, and wrath, which can continue the sinful snowball barreling down the mountain until the angry avalanche has left mass devastation.

Now is there such a thing as righteous anger? Yes, anger is not sin, “be angry and do not sin.” [cf. Psalm 4:4, Why would this psalm here be so important?] God created anger and the right use of anger. To have righteous anger is to have a deep seeded conviction about evil [v.27]. In other words, righteous anger doesn’t add to the situation, it seeks to solve as soon as possible after the offense before unrighteousness sets into the place anger. Those who walk in new life are timely problem solvers.

3. Slay the Problem not the Person [4:29-30]. Words can pierce people to their core. Words have caused wars and killed million [Proverbs 18:21, cf. Matthew 5:21-26]. “Corrupting talk” is when we use words to disintegrate others [v.29]. Like Goliath we have a big mouth that gets us into trouble, but the David championed over Goliath by letting God fight for him. David attacks the problem by trusting in the strength of his God, and God comes through with vengeance upon Goliaths injustice. 

Hurtful, harmful and hateful words do not only grieve you [Matthew 15:11], but also God [v.30]. Why? Each person is made in the image of God. When you murder another persons character it tarnishes the God who created them [cf. Isaiah 63]. You will have to stand before the throne of God and give an account of how you treat one another. Those who walk in new life in Christ build up, rather than tear down what Christ came to redeem.

In the book/movie, How to Train a Dragon, the Vikings made a living slaying the dragons and the dragons lived to slay Viking villages. As the movie progresses, Hiccup, a boy Viking, wounds a dragon, but does not have the heart to slay it. Thereafter a friendship between the boy and Toothless the dragon begins. What they both come to learn through their friendship is that the slaying between the Vikings and dragons was a big not as it appeared. This is also true in the arena of anger—the issue is not the one attacking you, but your self-controlled response to the attack. A gentle answer does turn away wrath, and an attitude of understanding can keep you far away from messy misunderstandings.

4. Stay Proactive, not Reactive [4:31-32]. In other words, act—don’t react. People have a tendency to justify our primary sin with a secondary sin [i.e. Genesis 3:8-13]. Fire does not put out fire, it just makes a bigger fire. When someone offends you firing back in anger declares the offender as the winner. Do not throw in the towel that easy.

Years later after the school bus brawl I had a similar situation occur, but this time it was on a larger scale within the church. Someone raised false accusations against me, which slandered my character. Instead of heading over to their house and letting them have it, I quietly confronted them in love and grace. In time, God did the fighting for me and I did not have to prove myself. I extended forgiveness to the offender as if the offense never happened. This is certainly something I could not do in my own power. The kindness of the God and the forgiveness that God had given me was used as an instrument of brokenness in this person’s life. Forgiveness is a mighty weapon of restoration in the hands of our powerful God [Romans 12:21].

Walking in forgiveness follows the example of Christ [v.32] by speaking the truth, solving today’s situations today, slaying the problem not the person, and staying proactive not reactive. Walking in forgiveness shines the light of the gospel to an unforgiving world [Luke 6:45].

What is a Christian’s motivation to forgive one another? Can someone be too sinful to not be forgiven? In Christ, you have the only pure motive to forgive one another and His death paves the way saying, “Forgiveness is available to all!” When Jesus was ushered to His death sentence as an innocent man He never defended Himself. It is not that He was a weenie or wimp, or that He was too cowardly to stand up to His accusers. He was, in fact, more courageous because He did not retaliate. He let God fight for Him. In the midst of unfair and unforgettable circumstances He remained kind, compassionate and forgiving [i.e. Isaiah 53:4-12]. He has forgiven your sins as far as the East is from the West.

Resources on Forgiveness:

walking in new life

Change is a part of life. Changes happen around you all the time. The seasons are constantly changing, your body changes with age, styles of hair, clothing, and home decor change, and technology changes so fast that it is difficult to keep up-to-date. Change is part of the world that God has created. Though you live in a world that is changing it does not mean you like it. Most do not like change.

Now there is a part of change that we do appreciate and enjoy—newness. We enjoy spring when all things become new. We enjoy babies being born. We enjoy having a fresh clean new look. We like getting new cars, home, or toys. Most people dream about what it would be like to live a new life. If you can have a new life what would you do?

If you are in Christ you have a new life. Now when it comes to this new life in Christ, God does not just want to save you, He wants to change you.[1] Paul compares the new life in Christ as a walk—or way of life. When Paul talks about “walking in a manner worthy of the calling you have been called” [4:1-3] he talks about more than a temporary fix [or new habit for a new year]; rather walking in new life is changing into a whole new way of living.

do not walk as you once did [Ephesians 4:17-21]

Paul shares the truth of walking in new life with urgency and divine authority, “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do.” [v.17a] He is not throwing out suggestions or casual comments, rather it is as if he were saying, “I share this with you, and insist on it in Christ.” Paul calls believers not to walk as they once did before Christ, so he contrasts the way an unbeliever with the new life in Christ. Can you identify 7 characteristics of the Gentiles lifestyle? [vs.17-19] They can be summed up by three marks of an unbeliever.[2] The picture you get of our plight without Christ is not pretty.

First, you were futile in your thinking [v.17b]. Futile in thinking means before Christ your thinking failed to produce the results or failed to achieve the goals. Your mind was always searching, but never finding satisfaction. You were left feeling empty, falling prey to foolish idolatries, and fumbling for answers because you are not in touch with true reality, rather restless with trivialities. Most thinking of an unbeliever is rooted in self, which asks, “How can I change things?” When a follower of Christ asks, “How does Christ change things?”

Second, you had a Godless outlook on life [v.18]. You were estranged from God. You were like foreigners in an unfamiliar land without a compass or sense direction. You were walking, but getting nowhere. You did not know your way because you have no understanding of God because you were visually impaired spiritually. You were ignorant to His purposes and plans. Your knowledge of Him does not translate into a relationship with Him. It is not so much what you know, but what you do with what you know. Before Christ you deliberately refused and rejected a Godward life leaving you hardhearted toward the way of God.

Third, you were controlled by your moral callousness and consuming passions [v.19]. You had spiritual leprosy that dulled your sensitivity to sin. You are unable to exercise self-control because you had no power over your cravings. You had no shame. Your life was like a spiritual episode of the Jerry Springer Show. You were morally depraved and consumed to please only yourself. You were in a vicious cycle of wanting to stop sinning, but not knowing how nor having the right motivation.

I told you, the picture of our plight was not pretty. As I read down through this list I am sickened by my former spiritual state. I think that is the point. You should have a bad taste in your mouth over your former way of life. This is not the way a believer has learned Christ [vs.20-21]. Now the prerequisite for a changed life starts with godly desire to change [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Your thinking changes the way you act; God-centered thinking leads to God-centered action. How can you change your thinking you ask? Hold tight.

how to walk in new life in Christ [Ephesians 4:22-24]

A changed life and God-centered thinking are the fruit of your salvation in Christ. Jesus is more than just the Savior of sin; He is the change agent for all spiritual growth. When you begin a relationship with Christ you can expect a lifelong journey with Him. Paul shifts his attention from your former way of walking to walking in the new life. He gives three ways to walk away from your former way of life. This is how the gospel affects your thinking:

First, kill your old self [v.22]. Why does the old self need to be put off? It is corrupt through and through with deceitful desires.[3] Think of an old building that is no longer safe and without hope of being fixed. Instead, it needs to be demolished. Likewise, the old man full of sinful decay needs to be trashed. Do not hold on to the remnants of your former way of living. It destroyed you then and will seek to destroy you now.

Second, renew your mind [v.23]. Once the old self is destroyed it needs to be replaced with a new structure. At this point we allow God to remodel our mind from the foundation to the structure to the interior décor. God is not concerned about a beautiful looking building on the outward; He is challenging us to consider the inward. He wants to renew our control-center—the mind [cf. Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:10]. Before our relationship with Christ our mind was motivated by self, but in Christ He moves in to be at the center.

Third, replace the old by putting on righteousness and holiness [v.24; cf. Col.3:12]. God not only author salvation, He wrote the manual on how to live following salvation. Remember, Christ came not just to save you, but to change you form the inside out. As Timothy Keller says, “the gospel is not just the ABC’s of your faith it is the A-Z’s” of your spiritual growth. You created in the likeness God, but in Christ you have the power and motivation to become like Him [2:10; Galatians 6:15]. What is God like and what are you to strive to be like? He is righteousness and holiness [v.24].

How can you know if you are really changing in Christ? As changed follower of Christ walking in the way you will have a godly response to trials, know the sins you struggle with a growing desire to walk away [Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:5-9], you humbly allow others to confront you in love, you enjoy accountable from others for change, and you involve God in the change process giving Him all the glory. Have you experienced the new life in Christ like this?

Do you know why railroad tracks are 4ft. 8 ½ inches apart? These measurements are rooted from the English who set train tracks into motion, but their width apart has a long history. 4ft 8 ½ inches is the width wagon wheels are apart, the width of ruts in the road, the width of Roman chariots, which all come from the width of two horses butts put together. We are people who do not like change.

If you are like me, there are many areas in your life that you would still like to change. Walking in the way of Christ is a life long journey of growth and changes; the new life is just the beginning. What changes do you need to make in your thinking? Are you ready to allow the work of Christ to help you walk in His ways?


[1] Cf. 1:6,12,14; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12

[2] Cf. Romans 1:20-23; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

[3] Cf. Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 15:33; 2 Corinthians 11:3

unity: sharing is caring

As a kid, I was reminded often “sharing is caring.” I was a selfish kid who did not share my stuff with other kids.

When it comes to the church sharing is caring too. In the church, it is more than a childish jingle—it is a unity that leads to maturity in Christ. In Ephesians 4:1-6, we learned the church is called to walk as one in Christ with humility, gentleness, patience and love, but this can come with its challenges. We quickly discover that diversity and immaturity within the church can cause conflicts between one another.

What is the cause of disunity in the church? There are many causes, but the primary challenge to unity we will look at today is when you use your God-given gifts for your own agenda. God did not give you spiritual gifts to make you happy, to have others in the church stare at your sweet spiritual skills in awesome wonder, nor did He give them for the praise of your glory. If this is how you view spiritual gifts it is a challenge to the unity of the church and your own spiritual maturity.

Spiritual Gifts bring diversity to the church [Ephesians 4:7-10]

When it comes to spiritual gifts there are many gifts, as we will see, but only one Giver. For Ephesians 4:7 declares, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” What is grace referring to in this verse? Grace refers to the ministry of spiritual gifts that come from Christ. Grace is expressed through the gifts of the Spirit, which He has shared with the church to resemble the ministry of Christ. Who are the recipients of Christ’s grace-gifts? According to the verse, “each one of us.” In other words: all followers of Christ share grace-gifts [cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11]. No one in the church misses out on these spiritual Christmas gifts.

How are these grace-gifts made possible? In Christ, the Conqueror of sin and death. Who by His grace died, buried, resurrected and ascended victorious. Christ is like the conquering king who showers His subject with spiritual gifts. Note the interesting quotation from Psalm 68:18, “When He ascended on high He led a host of captives and He gave gifts to men,” which was a praise song that explains how kings brought gifts to the people of Israel. The reason for these gifts was to praise God. Paul links the idea of triumph and applies it to the Son of David—Jesus Christ—whose ascent to the Father declares victory over sin and death [vs.8-10; cf. 1:19-22].

Christ is supreme ruler over all things and shares with His people diverse gifts for His praise. Diversity would seem to at odds with unity, but this is not the case within the church. That is the beauty of the church and the grace-gifts of Christ. The diversity of gifts is given for the purpose of the church’s unity and Christ’s glory.

Spiritual Gifts bring maturity to the church [Ephesians 4:11-16]

What is the diversity of gifts God gives to His people? In this text there are only four gifts [who are persons] presented, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teacher.” [v.11] Are there more than these given? Yes,[1] but these four are mentioned specifically in context in relation to building Christ’s church. Within these gifts you will see how unity is brought together through diversity, maturity and ministry.

First, the diversity of gifts is for ministry [vs.11-12]. Christ gifts people within the church, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ.” Each gift has an important role, as described in Ephesians, in declaring the mystery of Christ to all people [cf. 2:20; 3:5].

GIFT GOD’S PURPOSE FOR THE GIFT
Apostle Directly chosen by Christ for a foundational role in unveiling the mystery of Christ [1 Cor. 12:28].
Prophet Directly called by God for a foundational role in proclaiming the mystery of Christ [2 Peter 1:19].
Evangelist Directly called to share with message of the Gospel [2 Timothy 4:5; Acts 21:8]
Pastor-Teacher Directly called to [shepherd] care for the followers of Christ [Acts 20:28; Colossians 1:7-8; 4:12-13]

Many look at this verse and think, “Is ministry just for professionals? Or people in leadership?” It might look that way, but as you read on gifted leaders are not to do the ministry for you they equip you to do ministry, so that the body of Christ might be built up. If not, then the church will be ill equipped to continue to spread the message of Christ. Think of a school whose teachers did not train students, a business whose employees did not build a product, or a parent that did not feed their child. So the church is gifted with leaders to equip, train and feed their members. Now the church is different than a school, business or family in the stability, longevity, and authority. Christ will build His church and schemes of man or Satan will not stop what Christ has started.

Second, ministry is for unity and maturity [v.13]. The goal of ministry is that the church would be built up in unity and maturity. As we minister for Christ and to one another the result with be continued growth of the church. Some churches look more like ratty childlike tree house made from scrap lumber and metal sheeting that need constant attention because no one is doing any work of ministry to maintain unity. Other churches are like colossal monuments of stone built with strong engineering and careful precision to stand the test of time with little to no maintenance because they understand the unifying and maturing work of ministry. In either the case, the load is not entirely on the leaders, for the entire church is in the cause together becoming more like the fullness of Christ.

Third, maturity is for spiritual security [vs.14-16]. Spiritual security is important for the church. How does spiritual maturity keep the church secure? The church will be secure from false teaching [14]. No church is ever at a point when it is mature enough to be not be deceived by false teaching. Like naïve children we need to be aware of the deceptive lies that are stirring that seek to sweep away the unity of the church. Therefore, the church must be secure in love being able to share with one another how to grow in Christ [15]. Mature followers are not ashamed to share hard things to help one another, and mature followers are willing to accept biblical counsel in order to be more like Christ.

Also, the church will be secure in working together to keep each other strengthened [16]. Every part of our body is important from the head [Christ] down to the toes. Anyone who has ever had a sprain knows how important our joints are to strength. Mark it down; you will not mature as a follower of Christ unless you are involved in ministry. If you go to church just to fill your mind with knowledge, but do not do anything with what you know you will not grow. Your growth will be stunted and you will become spiritually stagnant.

Our pastor often uses use the illustration of the Dead Sea to describe spiritual growth. Why is the Dead Sea called dead? The Jordan River goes into the sea, but no river goes out. The Dead Sea is all input, but no output. It just gets saltier and more stagnant. Nothing can live or grow in it. Likewise, followers of Christ who do not use their spiritual gifts will become just like the Dead Sea if they just input knowledge and do not output service.

How can you prevent yourself from being stagnant and dead in your walk with Christ and your involvement at church? It begins by using your diverse gifts for the unity and the maturity of the church and your relationship with Christ. Diversity of gifts does bring unity to the church and glory to Christ. A church that walks in unity shares their gifts, which have been graciously given to them for the care of one another and the glory of church. Sharing is caring when it comes to the unity of the church.

What is your spiritual gift[s]? The best way to discover your gift is through prayer to God, counsel with your leaders, and implementation. How are your gifts being used? Are they being used for your glory, or for the glory of your church and Christ? If ministry is a chore rather than something you cherish, then you have a pretty good idea you are serving for the wrong reasons and you are a challenge to the churches unity. How would the work of ministry be different if you looked it as “get to” rather than “have to”?


[1] Cf. I Peter 4:11; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12

unity: walking as one

When you think of church what comes to your mind? There are numerous opinions. Some think the church is building, or it is nothing more than a social club, or it is a place where you go to get a religious experience or hear pious ramblings. It is easy to see how someone could come to this conclusion with the state of many churches today. However, we learned last week that the church is the beautiful display of God’s rich glory in Christ shining to the world [Ephesians 3:20-21].

Paul is fired up about the church and the work of Christ, and he wants you to be too. That is why he again brings up the fact that he is in prison [4:1 cf. 3:1]. Why? He wants us to know that walking with Christ is worth it. Since Paul is writing from prison it is proof of the danger of the gospel [cf. Luke 21:12-13]. To live out the gospel for real is risky, unpopular and radically dangerous. That is why at this moment more than 100 million Christians worldwide are suffering interrogations, arrest, and even death for there faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation [Open Doors USA].

Walk this Way [Ephesians 4:2-3]

Since Christ is worth it, Paul pleads with the church to so walk in Him. What does it mean to “walk in a manner worthy of your calling”? Walk is to do as live is to breathe. Walking is doing what I have been called to do.[1] Paul desires that their calling in Christ affect their conduct. In other words, their understanding of the doctrine of Christ [beliefs; Ch.1-3] forms their duty to live for Christ [behavior; Ch.4-6]. Therefore Paul gives the first command to the Ephesians in this letter calling them how to walk in Christ:

First, you are to walk in humility. To be humble is to give up my personal preferences for God’s. Humility is walking in a way that seeing and meeting the needs of others [Micah 6:8]. Walking humbly is living in a manner that is worthy of submission to God’s wisdom, truth, will and authority [Philippians 2:6-11]. Humility is serving the King as willing subjects for our good and His glory.

Second, you are to walk in gentleness. Gentleness [aka: meekness] is courage under control. This is a mark of Jesus’ ministry [Matthew 11:29; 21:5; 2 Corinthians 10:1]. Gentleness is not to be confused with weakness, rather it is strength that accommodates others weakness. Gentleness diffuses conflict, especially as you speak the truth in love. To be gentle is to give up your rights or comforts so that others might be blessed by pointing them to Christ because you have passion for God and compassion for people.

Third, you are to walk in patience. To be patient [aka: forbear or long-suffering] means that you give up trying to have your way with others. Patience makes room for others short comings and endures the wrongs done to you. Rather than blowing a gasket you have self-control. This is closely connected with the final way you are to walk, bearing with one another in love.

Now as you hear this you might be thinking of someone who is hard to live with. Maybe they have been unfair to you or said unkind things about you. Maybe your personalities just clash. Have you ever though that the person who is irritating you the most is being used by God to develop your character?

When you walk this way it is the tastiest recipe for unity and peace within the church and in your relationships. Do you see how these characteristics mix together? If you are humble you will be gentle. If you are patient you will be bearing with one another in love. If you are gentle and patient in love towards others you will be a peacemaker and a unity preserver. Unity and peace are incredibly important within the church. Paul knows this is a struggle for the church [cf. Colossians 3:12-15]. Unity is not something you are to put off or think about, Paul urges you to walk this way because it’s your calling in Christ [v.1]. Are you willing to walk this way so that peace and unity rule in your relationships?

One is not a Lonely Number [Ephesians 4:4-6]

To show that unity is absolutely possible, Paul lays down the hand of seven trump cards all reflecting the oneness of God, “There is one body [2:16; 1:23], Spirit [2:18], hope [Colossians 1:23, 27; 3:4], Lord [1 Corinthians 8:6; 12:3; Romans 10:9], faith [4:13], baptism [cf.1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9], and One God and Father of all [1 Corinthians 8:8; Deuteronomy 6:4].”  These are basic truth on which the gospel is based and which we believe. Followers of Christ are all part of one Spirit [cf. 2:18] and will always have the common theme of Christ that brings them together and keeps them together.

Unity and peace in the church and our relationships is possible. God is sovereign. He is enthroned as the One who rules over all things. Therefore, you have a means to walk in unity and peace in your relationships. As Peter O’Brien says in his commentary concerning verse 6,

“God’s universal sovereignty and presence are set forth as the climactic ground for the unity of the Spirit that believers are to maintain. His universal rule is being exercised to fulfil His ultimate purpose of unifying all things in Christ. The unity of the church is the means by which the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed to the universe. The church is the eschatological outpost, the pilot project of God’s purposes, and His people are the expression of this unity that displays to the universe His final goal.”[2]

So what if your fellow churchgoer or Christian buddies agree with you on the main 7 unifiers, but disagree about something minor or preferential? What if you cannot get along with other persons personality? How can we walk as one? Answer is to simply walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with them in love because Christ is worthy [vs.1-3]. Do you see how Christ is the focal point of Ephesians? If He is the focal point to the Ephesians walking in unity, what do you think that means for you, your church, and your relationships?


[1] cf. 2:10; 1 Thess. 2:12; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31; Phil. 1:27; Col. 1:10; 3:17

[2] Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 285-86.

how to pray for your church

As a pastor, I can relate to Pastor Paul as he writes to the Ephesians. I love the church. I love the church God has called me to pastor. I am so encouraged by the people’s faithfulness and hunger for truth. I think about them often in my prayers. How should we pray for our church? In Ephesians 3:14-21, we are given a peek into the heart of Paul’s prayer for the church.

Paul begins his prayer on his knees [v.14]. There are many different ways to pray—you can pray standing up, arms raised high, flat on your face, or on your knees. Praying on your knees is the most common way we often think of praying. What is the significance of praying on your knees? Bowing to our knees is a symbol of humility to God’s authority. It is a sign of reverence [cf. Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10]. Kneeling is the outward appearance of the inward affection. Paul in essence is bowing before his Father the Creator and name Giver.[1]

When we think about our churches it is easy to complain about what is not happening according to our expectations, but praying wish lists to God for your church are not helpful for you or your church. As Paul prays for the church he mentions three things: He prays that the power of God over that goes beyond what they can think, that the love of God for that goes beyond what they can think, and that they give God glory that He can go beyond what we can think.

1. Supernatural Strength [Ephesians 3:16-17a]

The first request for the church is for the power of God. How great is the power of God? God’s power is unfathomable. It is glorious [cf. Romans 6:4; Colossians 1:11]. Now if God were to pour all of His power into you, do you think you could stand the strain? Those who come face-to-face with the power of God are never the same.

God’s power doesn’t want to co-dwell with anyone or anything in our hearts. He wants Christ only to fit in the temple He has established within His believers. The believer’s life is like a house, through which God goes from room to room. In the library [mind], He catalogs the useless and worthless images and knowledge. In the dining room, He replaces our worldly appetite with spiritual hunger and thirst. In the living room, He challenges our worldly companions and activities. In the garage, He rummages through all the clutter. In the closet, He sheds light on the hidden sins. He desires to dwell in the entire house. Only when He had cleaned every room, closet, and corner of sin can He be at home.[2] Are there rooms you would rather God not see? What room needs the most renovation?

Prayer for the power of God is important so that the church does not waver from its commitment to Christ. If Christ has taken up residence in our hearts He has the authority to establish His rule over all that we are and do.[3] At times He will renovate the dwelling place for the purpose of cleanliness and Christlikeness.

2. Limitless Love [vs.17b-19]

The second request Paul pray’s for the church is that they know the immensity and incomprehensibility of God’s love. God’s love secures and anchors the believer in Christ. Love is the soil in which believers are rooted and will grow [rf. agriculture], the foundation upon which they are established [rf. Architecture; Colossians 1:23].[4]

Why is love so important? Without love the church has no real motivation to serve God and one another [cf. 1 Corinthians 13]. Without love you cannot grasp the greatness of God [cf. Romans 8:35-39]. What does ‘width, length, depth, and height’ indicate about God’s love? When I think about knowing the love of Christ I think of explorers charting new lands or a pioneer divers plumbing the depths of the sea. However, when I chart and plumb the love of God I do not reach an end or run out of discoveries. I will spend an eternity discovering the vast territory of Christ’s limitless love. His love surpasses knowledge. That does not give me an excuse for not trying to understand God, it just cannot be understood over a cup of coffee.

It seems strange to pray for knowledge of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Equally as strange is that Paul pray’s that the church be filled with the fullness of God. What we know is that they are already share in the fullness of God at salvation [cf. 1:23; Colossians 1:19; 2:9-10]. The believers in the church simply grow in the fullness of God. They are to become what they already are—that they may become all that God wants them to be in Christ.[5]

3. Give Glory to God [vs.20-21]

As Paul meditates upon the greatness of Gods power and limitless love he is moved to give God praise.[6] Praise is often the result of meditating upon what we know about God. This is called doxology—a study of glory—praise based on doctrine. Paul is moved to praise God because He is able to do more than we can think, ask or imagine [v.20]. In other words, you cannot ask from God too much because Gods gifts exceed our capacity. Paul cannot help but give praise to God.

When you shout out the words, “Glory to God,” it’s like a football team carrying their coach off the field on their shoulders or a standing ovation to a beautiful performance. There is in the heart of every person a longing to give glory. We are wired to worship. We worship anything from rockstars to athletes to hot wheels. The main reason people do not worship God is that He is not as real to them as other things they admire. Is God real to you? Do you admire Him? Do you give Him glory?

Think of the most popular and powerful people you know. Google says Lebron James, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, the Kardasian’s, or Obama. Historically, Google says Obama,  Julius Cesar, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander the Great or Martin Luther King. As John Piper says, “The most admirable of men are only meteors on the sky of history—they last about a third of a second and then are gone. But God is like the sun. And generation after generation He rises and never fades in His glory.”

The arena of glory to God today is in the church. The church is the stadium and amphitheater of the God’s glory and the main character and hero of the divine drama is Jesus Christ. The mystery hidden for ages in God is “that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” [3:10] The church reflects Gods glory to the world.

In conclusion, as you pray for your church pray for the power and love of God by giving God glory that He can go beyond what you can think. God can do more in and through your church than you can think or imagine. The church of Christ is a beautiful anthem praising the greatness of God. He is using your church even with its personal flaws to display His perfect glory.

Here are some practical ways to pray for your church:

  1. Call your pastor and ask how you can pray for the church.
  2. Get with other members of your church and pray for your church.
  3. Write a prayer for your church.

[1] God gave people names [Gen.35:26; 1 Sam.25:25] and He gives His creation names [Ps.147:4; Is.40:26].

[2] Adapted from Robert Munger’s, My Heart Christ’s Home, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1954.

[3] L. Morris, Expository Thoughts on the Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 104.

[4] Stott, 135; and Lincoln, 207. (Cf. REB: ‘With deep roots and firm foundations’)

[5] D.A. Carson, Spiritual Reformation, 195.

[6] Cf. Phil.1:19; 4:19; Col.1:9-14; 1 Thess.3:12; 1 Cor.1:5