Life in Christ (Ephesians 2)

The-book-of-Ephesians

For a long time, I had a belief that I feel most people have; my sin makes me a bad person. Why wouldn’t I believe that? I had people all over Christiandom telling me that. When I came to Christ, I still felt the same way. If sin was something that is bad, how can my sin not make me a bad person. Over the last year or two, I have heard a new take on what sin does. The crazy thing is that it falls more inline with Scripture than the previous belief, sin makes you dead. Paul writes at the beginning of this chapter, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,” (2:1, NASB). He’s saying that because of our sins we are actually dead. This has no moral standing like good or bad, it is simply your state. However we do not want to be dead, so we must seek out how to fix it. This is what the rest of the chapter is about. We can be made alive in Christ!

This belief is not meant strictly for the Church. We as believers are not the only ones that have the ability to be made alive in Christ, just the only ones who have accepted it. In truth, Christ died for all. That’s every single person, EVER. You know that bum that lives down the street? He is included. You know that couple you see holding hands at the park that look a little different than you? They are included. You know the politician on TV that you just can’t seem to understand? He/She is included right along with the rest of us. Christ died in order to bring everyone closer to himself. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (2:13, NASB). Since Christ brings us close, we cannot push people away because they do not conform.

The truth is that sin is everywhere and does not look the same on everyone. As the people of God, who have been made alive, it is our duty to help bring others to life as well. Think about it. When someone is lying unresponsive, who’s going to help them, a living person or a corpse? Our life in Christ gives us the power to make a real difference in the world. We cannot sit high and mighty and dictate how everyone is doing wrong. Jesus did not do that. Instead we should be speaking in love and guiding people to a right relationship with God. Sometimes that does lead to a confrontation, but it should not be how it starts. Let God work on their heart. He can fix their problems, you cannot.

To those who might just now be starting along this path, I want to offer some encouragement. God has rules and they seem pretty intimidating. We all live with sin in our lives, but through Christ we are working to get over that sin. It will never totally be gone, but it gets better. So you maybe sitting there thinking, “It’s too hard, I can’t do it. I can’t get that close to God. I’m unworthy…” I’m here to tell you that there was a day that I felt that same way. There are days now that I feel that way. But God offers us hope and peace in His Word. “And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,” (2:17-19, NASB).

 

Also in this Series:

Love Came Down (Isaiah 57-59)

Book of Isaiah

Sorry about my infrequency of blogging. I have had a pretty stressful last few weeks that ended with my worship ministry being shut down. It has been a hard process to go through, but it has made me realize my need to lean on God. If I had not had Him, things would be much worse for me today. My hope is to finally finish up this study we started in April!

Adultery is a strong word. I’m sure there are some that are shock that adultery was the (real) first word in this post. But God uses this word to describe what the people of Israel have done. They committed to being His people, and He would be there God. However, time-and-time again, these people follow there own wants and desires and often leave behind God altogether. God says to His people, “You have put pagan symbols on you doorposts and behind your doors. You have left me and climbed into bed with these detestable gods. You have committed yourselves to them. You love to look at their naked bodies.” (57:8, NLT). He goes on to push them to realize that their new idols are worthless in comparison of Him. Yet still God offers one thing that can save His people for His wrath. If they are truly repentant, He will spare them from such pain. “I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far” (57:18-19, NLT).

When we follow our own paths, one thing will always remain in our relationship with God: false worship. False worship could possibly be one of the worst things we can get into as worshipers, because mostly likely we don’t recognize that it has happened. God tells them, “You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do You really think this will please the Lord?” (58:5, NLT). The reason we are doing anything matters more than the act of worship we are participating in. If you do it, so you can get something out of it, it’s not true worship. You give everything to God expecting nothing in return. That’s how you please God the most. He goes on to say, “this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do no hide from relatives who need your help.” (58:6-7, NLT). God calls the Israelites to come back to Him, and cease their false worship. This comes with the promise that they will be able to come back to Him, and receive the inheritance they were promised.

Sin is very problematic. There is no way to truly convey what it is that sin does to us. I’ve become quite fond of a phrase I’ve heard, “sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead”. God have a very honest message for His people during this section of reading. “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hand are the hands of murderers and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.” (59:2-3, NLT).  That’s what sin has done, and the Israelites were feeling exactly that through the Exile. They were cut off from God geographically, and spiritually because of the choices they made. But all the people that were repentant still haven’t seen much salvation, but God promises to come to earth and rescue all that are repentant. “The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. He was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed. So he himself stepped in to save them with his strong arm, and his justice sustained him.” (59:15-16, NLT).

Friends, we have all had problems following God, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Sin causes us to do some crazy things. We could leave behind a God who has done far more than we deserve, when all He asks is that we seek Him. We can suddenly decide to hate Him, or His people. We could chose to leave Him altogether and change religions, or decide there is no God at all. We could decide that our faith in Him is based on a certain act, like saving a loved one from a sickness. We say things like, “God, if you could bring my wife out of this, I promise I will go to church every week and spend time in the Word everyday.” We could decide that we know better what makes a sin, so I will decide what is right. But is this really glorifying to God?

Time after time God offers salvation to the repentant, the truly repentant. All we have to do is recognize our sin, and that we cannot overcome it. God is the only one that can save us from the path we have set for ourselves, all we have to do is ask. I have heard countless people make the claim that they are too forgone for God to do anything with them. “Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.” (59:1, NLT). This means you could have run as far away as you can. You can be as dirty as you can get. But God will still come to you, if you are truly repentant. Sin doesn’t have to keep you dead, you can come to life through Jesus Christ.

 

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 115-118

 

Also in this Series

No Longer Need To Wait (Isaiah 9-10)

Book of Isaiah

In today’s reading, Isaiah gives the people of Judah hope in the coming Messiah. He describes, not only the current time, but a dark time to come. “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” (9:2, NLT). He tells them that the times may get hard, and God will be angry against those that have left Him, but here is still hope in the coming Messiah. Isaiah’s message then turns towards Assyria. God announces His anger with the king. He tells them that they have become too proud because He has used them as a punishing rod. The Assyrian king now thinks that he is greater than God. God offers hope to His people, showing that He will overcome Assyria. “But look! The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will chop down the mighty tree of Assyria with great power! He will cut down the proud. That lofty tree will be brought down.” (10:34, NLT).

What I love about these couple chapters is that it shows us how God offers us hope, even in the darkest of times. The people of Judah had strayed so far from God. The people of Assyria were a constant threat to them. No matter how they looked at it, they lived in a dark time that did see and end. God knew their fears and offered them hope.

He still does that for us today. We live in a world where sin runs wild (not that this is any different from any other time). But God wants to help. He promised the people of Judah a Messiah, today we can receive that Messiah. God said through Isaiah in the first chapter “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow;” (1:18, NASB). He made this happen through Jesus Christ. John writes about him, “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:8, NASB). We no longer have to wait on a Messiah, he’s already here. We simply need to trust him, and to be his followers.

Also in this series

Forgiveness of Sins (Mark 2)

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Today’s chapter is Mark chapter 2. Jesus has already began his public ministry. He has called 4 of his disciples and already began to heal people. Based on the same account in Luke, Jesus is most likely at Simon’s (Peter’s) house. A crowd had formed an no one else could get in to see Jesus. Four men decided to climb up on top of the house and lower their friend, who had been paralyzed, to see Jesus and be healed. The words that Jesus decides to use to announce this man’s healing were unexpected at the time, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (2:5 NASB) The people around him began to freak out! They said “Why does this man speak that way? His blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7 NASB) Jesus ultimately responds with “… so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (2:10 NASB)

This fits pretty nicely with my previous post, Repent and Believe. The progression is here that you have admitted your sin, and now Christ has the power to forgive you. Up to this point in the story, you sins could only be forgiven if you took and offering to the temple, and the priest performed the sacrifice on your behalf. However, Jesus teaches that we may go directly to Him. If you read the book of Hebrews, Jesus is constantly attributed the title of the High Priest.

This is why we pray, “in Jesus name”. This phrase puts our prayer and faith into context for us. Simply praying, we may come to think that we are mighty, but remembering that it is because of Christ’s death we have this ability to commune directly with God, we keep ourselves humble.

My prayer for you today is that you continue on with the idea from yesterday. Confess your sins, but also ask for forgiveness. Jesus says in Matthew “Ask, and it will be given to you;” (7:7 NASB). So ask your Father today to forgive you of your sins and continue on the path of repentance and work to rid yourself of your sinful ways. You will fail, but just as easy as it is to ask, its easy to ask again!

What We Need

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Today’s post took me awhile to read into, sorry its so late.

Any who, I finished reading 2 Samuel today. I was reading, trying to look for another trait of David’s to talk about. However nothing was coming up that I hadn’t already talked about. Then it came to me. A trait that brings it all together!

From where we left off in the story, a war breaks out between Israel and the Ammonites. During this war, David fell for a married woman, who became pregnant. He then had her husband killed in battle, after several attempts to hide what they had done. Their son dies as punishment for what David had done. Then David’s children start being all dramatic with each other (including a rape) which climaxes to Absalom rebelling against David. Absalom devised a secret plan to overthrow his father and become king. Once David hears of this, him and his family leave Jerusalem in order to survive the rebellion. The whole ordeal builds up to Absalom’s gruesome death (2 Samuel 18:14). David then begins to mourn the loss of his son, until he decides it is time to return to Jerusalem.

This is where we find the final trait of the Heart Man, forgiveness. In chapter 19, verses 18-43 are filled with instances of people asking David for forgiveness. But its not the same forgiveness when children accidentally spill you drink and they say “sorry”. Rather this is an example of God’s forgiveness. Everyone that asks David for forgiveness receives it, and is welcomed back to Israel.

True forgiveness is something that we don’t see anymore in today’s world. Most of the time we see “I’ll forgive you when you do ‘this’ for me.” That’s not the way God is, its not the way David was, and its not the way Jesus taught us to be. When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), Jesus told a parable about a master and his servant. The servant owed his master 10,000 talents (that’s roughly 750,000 pounds of gold or silver!) but the master chose to forgive him completely.

That’s how forgiveness works in God’s world, you ask for it and its yours! You will still have to face the consequences of your actions, but God is no longer holding it against you. So this is how we should be with each other. In the Lord’s Prayer is the phrase “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This means that God will forgive as we forgive, but also that we must forgive how He forgives. This is hard, because as broken, sinful creatures we want to hold on to grudges and hurt the people who hurt us. I think Matthew West summed it up very well in his song Forgiveness, “Show me how to do the impossible”.

A little bit of forgiveness can change you and the world. Most likely, you are the only one who remembers what has happened, so just forgive and be done with it. As a Heart Man, I know I have to work on forgiveness. I know its not easy, but I encourage you to work on it as well.

Another song about forgiveness