October 10, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 4:1-6

On a scratch sheet of paper or on your computer, take a moment and, in your own words, define the following terms:

“Humility”

“Gentleness”

“Patience”

“Bearing in love”

“Unity in the Spirit”

“Peace”

Most of us have grown up our whole lives hearing these words, but we are unable to define them—to think so clearly about what these words mean. This is an important practice, especially for this passage, as it is the lynchpin for the whole book of Ephesians.

Although most books cannot be summed up by a single verse, Ephesians 4:3 gets to the heart of the issue—preserving unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As stated in previous Jumpstarts, Paul was writing because of conflict between Jews and Gentiles in God’s Church. He has spent three chapters correcting their theology, now it’s time to correct their actions.

Paul begins chapter 4 verse 1 with “I urge you…” (parakaleō in the Greek). Most English translations put this verb later for readability, but we get a sense of the importance of what comes next. Three times in this single sentence Paul uses a “kaleō” rooted word—“I call you to live consistently with your calling with which God called you.” This is a forceful reminder. Paul, by his own “calling/urging,” is reiterating God’s salvation call as it relates to the present quarrel. So how do they/we overcome conflict?

I once heard a good definition for humility—a right perspective of who I am in light of who God is. Humility is not worthlessness (“I’m just terrible”), that devalues the fact that we are created in God’s Image. Instead, humility recognizes God’s created order and our place in it. Paul said in chapter 2 that all people are united in sin and only saved by Christ. How can any of us be prideful when we bring nothing to the table? “Jews, you cannot save yourselves by your good works (Eph 2:8–9)—walk in humility.” “Gentiles, you aren’t more special than the Jews because you are now included (Eph 2:12–13)—walk in humility.”

Gentleness reminds me of Provers 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Like approaching a skittish animal, conflict is best handled with soft voices and slow movements.

Like several of these attributes, patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). I think its definition is found right in the passage, “bearing with one another in love.” Patience is the practice of forbearance—it does not dismiss sin, but it chooses the appropriate time to address it. Or, if it cannot be addressed, it simply lays the transgression at the feet of the Father knowing that one day the Righteous Judge will right every wrong.

Peace is not the absence of conflict. In a world where sin still reigns conflict is unavoidable. In fact, the more trust you place in a person, the more opportunity you give them to hurt you deeply. And because all people are sinners, they will. Conflict will happen. Peace is dealing with conflict in a God-honoring way.

All of this, is the work of maintaining unity. It requires you to die to yourself over and over. The only way we can do this is by God’s Spirit as He reminds us of God’s truth and our place in God’s game plan. Quarreling has no place in God’s Church or among God’s People. It often starts with a bad perspective; the perspective Paul has spent three chapters trying to correct. But when conflict arises, Ephesians 4 is the answer.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

October 9, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 3:20-21

What a passage for today! Yesterday we read Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:18-19, ESV). It was Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians would be “filled with all the fullness of God” (v.19).

After Paul prays these things, he adds a few sentences on the greatness of God! Read it again:

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

Our God deserves all glory and praise because he is able to accomplish more for his Kingdom than we could ever imagine. He is able by his power that is at work within us.

Isn’t that amazing? Paul has just finished praying that we would understand God’s mighty love for us (because we can’t comprehend it) and gives praise to God because he is able to do more than we could ever imagine through his power. That same power is at work within us.

That power is Gospel power. It is the “power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16, ESV). It is the same power of God that rose Jesus from the grave. It is the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus.

Glory to God! So what are we supposed to do after reading this?

First, we are to pray big prayers. God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or think, so he’s certainly able to the things that come to our thoughts! Especially during our Missions Impact Month, pray for God to do amazing things for which only he could get the credit.

Second, look ahead to Ephesians 4:1: “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” In the Bible, when you read “Therefore,” figure out what it is there for. Because God’s power is at work within us, we are to live worthy of our calling. In other words, we are to be a holy people.

What are you asking God to do that seems impossible?

How are you growing in holiness?

By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

October 8, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 3:14-19

Our passage today offers a beautiful picture into the heart of Paul for the Ephesian church. For three chapters he has been discussing the gospel: what it is and what it means for us. Chapter four begins looking at how the gospel actually plays out in the church, the family, and other arenas. But before he starts unpacking that, he articulates a prayer that many will find encouraging today.

What does Paul pray for this church? You might think that he would pray that this church would reach more people for Christ, for protection against persecution, or for doctrinal purity (and those are all good things to pray for!) But what Paul prays for is that this church would be strengthened as they dwell on Jesus through the power of the Spirit. What Paul wants more than anything is that they would know Christ; that they would have a full understanding of the treasure they have in Him. He wants them to be filled with all the fullness of God (v. 19).

Even though this letter was written thousands of years ago, it is still relevant for us today. We need this same prayer prayed for us! We need this same prayer to be true of us! If you’re like me, you need the continual encouragement to pursue God like that. What is the biggest thing that gets in your way of Christ dwelling in your heart? Is it a lack of focus? A desire for something lesser than God? Something you’ve been not willing to deal with for a long period of time? Whatever it might be, know that because of Jesus, your sin is not too much, and you haven’t gone too far. It might even be as simple as you confessing that you’ve been operating out of your own power instead of the power of the Spirit.

I spent time while writing this, praying for each one of you who will be reading, that you would know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, and that you may be filled with all the fullness of God today. Can you imagine a church that is filled with people who want nothing more than that? There’s no telling what God could do with us if He is our greatest desire. May God do that in us today!

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

October 6, 2018

Today you should read: Ephesians 3:1-13

Who doesn’t like a good mystery? Many of the greatest novels, movies and TV shows revolve around a plot that builds up some type of mystery that leaves the reader or viewer yearning for a solution or answer to the mystery. The apostle Paul has briefly written about the most important mystery in other letters and a few times before this chapter in Ephesians (1:9, 17). This mystery is that the upcoming Messiah and Savior that God’s chosen people, Israel were not only anticipating, but had saving faith in, was not just for the Jews but for all peoples of all nations. The Spirit would be poured out through the New Covenant and Gentiles would be fellow heirs in the kingdom when and if they have the same saving faith in Jesus.

Another often repeated word in these verses outside of the mystery and revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for everyone is the word “wisdom.” God in His wisdom fulfilled the prophecies made about the Messiah in Jesus Christ to come, die and be resurrected in the perfect timing for this message to not only spread but bring new life to both Gentiles and Jews. And as it says in verse 11, in His manifold wisdom He will now use the church, the people of God, not temples and sacrifices and prophets, priests and kings, to reveal Himself as their specific revelation in the Gospel message. Again, a mystery to many, but God in His wisdom was using people like the apostle Paul who persecuted Christians and many other amazing stories of true life change for people to see and hear the truth of the Gospel and come to the only true solution and answer to this mystery we have in life of sin that separates us from a Holy, Loving God who wants a relationship with us.

Can you share a time in which God who was once a mystery but then revealed Himself to you in the Gospel (whether it’s the moment you became a Christian or through another circumstance)?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor