October 15, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 5:1-21

The first two verses in this passage sound awesome, don’t they!? At first glance, if you are like me, you’re inspired and moved to action. “Yes! I will imitate Jesus! That’s the world needs, and I can do it.” Where God stopped me in my tracks when I wanted to write in that vein was the end of verse 2: “(He) offered himself as a sacrifice for us”… It’s not the nice bumper sticker anymore when you consider what you are called to imitate.

Hear what I am saying and not what I am not saying: I don’t think all of us will die for our faith (though hopefully we all die with our faith). But the example that we are told to imitate in this passage is not the pseudo-committed, pretentious Christianity that is rampant today. We are called to real sacrifice because of the real example of our sacrificial Savior. I saw this meme a while back via the popular hashtag #ThingsJesusNeverSaid, and it struck my heart about what I often see my faith as:

JesusMEME

Look, I know you get this already, but that meme hit at the heart of our comfortable, low-devotion “faith”. Real Christianity isn’t about just GOING to church, it’s about BEING the church. It’s about imitating Christ on a very sacrificial level.

We get our focus blurry when the end-all is attending a service on the weekend. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “I am Christian because I gave up two hours of my time at a worship service.” Actually, it says something much bolder (GREAT COMMANDMENT & COMMISSION).

If you’ve experienced the love of God through the cross of Jesus, it affects everything about you. There is no stone of your life unturned when Jesus is your King. And when you consider all He has done for you, the call to imitate Him and live for Him doesn’t really seem like an option anymore. It’s the least you could do.

How can you imitate Him today? Serve a neighbor. Call and encourage a friend. Give generously to missions. Find a place to serve the down-and-out. Tell someone the timeless message of the Gospel. And keep this in the forefront of your day: “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” (Ephesians 5:8 ESV).

By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor

October 13, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 4:25-32

We just finished reading how we should “Put on [our] new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24). When we become Christians, we are called “new creations.”

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV

Our passage today highlights what being a new creation practically looks like.

First, those of us who are new creations with a new nature are honest people. Paul reasons that since we are created to be like God, “truly righteous and holy,” then we should “stop telling lies” and even extends this to “quit stealing” for those who are dishonest thieves. If you have been transformed through the power of the Gospel, then you should be honest. Lies are of the devil. He is called the “father of lies.”

Second, people with a new nature are not sinfully angry. Paul exhorts the Ephesians to not “sin by letting anger control you” (Ephesians 4:26). I love how the NLT puts this passage. We can see how we are not to let anger control us and to not hold grudges because this “gives a foothold to the devil.” Holding grudges keeps us in captivity when we are called to live freely.

Lastly, new creation people are to be kind and compassionate in speech and action. Paul tells the Ephesians to not “use foul or abusive language” and to “get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” We are to be a people who are “kind to each other” and speak words that are “good and helpful.” In fact, when our words and thoughts are full of bitterness, we grieve the Holy Spirit. I always think about this passage when someone cuts me off in traffic (talk about conviction!).

We are to be a people marked by our honesty, compassion, and level-headedness in frustrating situations because “God through Christ has forgiven” us.

When you examine your life, are you someone that loves his neighbor as himself?

(Be honest before you answer that one!)

Who is one person in your life that you may need to call and apologize to after reading this passage?

Take some time in prayer today to ask God to help you to be compassionate and honest with others.

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

October 12, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 4:17-24

Sometimes I get confused when I see a proclaimed Christian go back to their old way’s before they knew Christ. However, according to Ephesians 4:17 I shouldn’t be. The apostle Paul reminds the church he spent years with and is now affectionately writing that they must “no longer” go back to their sinful lifestyles assuming that some of them have already done so. He then describes what a gentile looks like and how it’s the opposite of how a Christian should look like (v. 18-22). In verse 23 Paul then says something extremely helpful to prevent us from backsliding into sin.

He says “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

Sometimes we separate the heart and the head in our Christian lives as we ride emotional roller coasters attached to our heart but don’t do anything with our minds. Don’t get me wrong because the heart and emotions are important to God and your spiritual life, but thinking, learning and studying needs to be attached to your sanctification. As John Piper says in his book “Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God”…

“Loving God with all our mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.”

This means that our mind needs to be attached to our affections for God in order to treasure Him before all things in which so won’t go back to the idols we lived for before Christ. So be renewed in the spirit of your minds to help you think about temptation before it creeps into your life, Scripture as you memorize, meditate and study, game plans on how to be a better missionary and disciple toward others because all of these things take the pursuit of Christ with your mind alongside your heart.

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

October 11, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 4:7-16

I know what you’re thinking today – what on earth does this mean – He led captivity captive?  Paul is referencing Psalm 68 – but who are the captives?

Harold Hoehner in his commentary says:

“Who, then, are the captives?  From Ps 68 it is clear that they were the enemies of Israel who were defeated when Jerusalem was captured.  In Ephesians some have interpreted the captives:  (1) as the enemies of Christ, namely, Satan, sin, and death; or (2) as the people who have been the captives of Satan, sin and death, and who are now taken captive by Christ in redemption.  The first interpretation seems to be more fitting.  Christ had victory over Satan, sin and death and gives gifts of the Spirit to those who have been identified with him.”  Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 529-530.

I don’t know if I (or anyone else for that matter) completely understands this passage.  In light of verse 7 – He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ – v.8 That is why the Scriptures say…  I like Spurgeon’s commentary on it:

As great conquerors of old led whole nations into captivity, so Jesus leads forth from the territory of his foe a vast company as the trophies of his mighty grace. From the gracious character of his reign it comes to pass that to be led into captivity by him is for our captivity to cease. The Lord Jesus puts death to death.

One thing we know for sure – Jesus is the Victor – over sin, over death, over Satan, over the grave – over everything!

Now for the good part – the purpose statement for the church – v. 11-16

God calls people into full-time ministry to lead the church (v.11) – look at the list.  Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  All called by God to guide and govern His church.

God gives us their job description (v.12) – ever wonder what your pastors should be doing with their time?  It’s not what the average church expects – but it IS what God expects – EQUIPPING God’s people to do His Work.  Not doing the work for them – equipping others to do it. That’s how the church is to function.

God gives the standard (v.13) – how will we know if we did it?  God’s people will act like Jesus – measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

God tells us the result (v. 14-16) – what will happen if we do His work His way?  People will grow up – no longer acting like children.  They will know what they believe and will stand firm on God’s Word.  The church will grow and serve and be full of love.

Sound like a church you want to attend?  Things always work better when you do them God’s way.

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor