Imitate Me – Sermon Manuscript

-‘Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building’

-“I want to be like Mike”

READ/PRAY (2 Tim. 3:10-17)

-Remember what we saw last week, the 4 Ps of discipleship.

-I got a great question this week from someone: “are we going to be changing our values now?” What’s the point of the 4 Ws? The 4 Ws honestly are communicating the same thing as the 4 Ps, just in a different way. One of the exercises the book gave us was to come up with different ways of communicating the 4 Ps, (4 Ss, SPUR) I chose 5 Ws!

-Proclamation of the Word of God (Word) Prayerful dependence (Worship –> prayer) People (We) Perseverance (Worship – continually)

-Nothing sacred about them, hold on to whichever one makes the most sense to you. It’s a way of trying to summarize the biblical message in a way that makes sense to us today, that’s all it is!

-Last week, we spent most of our time on the first one, today I want us to focus on the third one, and think of it in terms of imitation.

  1. People as God’s Fellow Workers

-God is always at work around us if we have the eyes to see it (One of the words we’ve been talking about recently in our staff meetings is: intentionality. What is it we’re prioritizing in our lives, in our families lives, and in the church? What are we intentional about?)

-Remember, we looked at God’s plan from eternity past, is to have a people gathered around His throne in worship and praise of Him.

-Lewis The Weight of Glory “There are no ordinary people, you have never talked to a mere mortal…All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”

-Do you view your interactions with people in that light? Pushing people one way or another. One of the markers of someone who is moving closer to Christ is that they’re more willing to look for people further down the arrow who they can proclaim the excellencies of Christ to! Humility means you look to other people and their interests over and above yourself

-So often we miss that part of Christian maturity. “I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm” So do I, and it’s a sin I’m trying to rid myself of! We assume that because someone has attended church a long time it makes them more mature, or we equate biblical knowledge with maturity, but if that’s true, the Devil is the most mature being in all of creation! Part of the reason we gather together every week is to remind each other what’s really true.

-If you’ve ever read The Chronicles of Narnia series, when you get to The Silver Chair it gets fairly depressing as Eustace and his friend Jill are whisked back into Narnia to save a Prince who is captured underground. The witch queen of the underworld captures our heroes and slowly convinces them that Narnia isn’t real. Yet Puddleglum (the Eeyore of the story) rouses himself and responds to this wicked witch saying “Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things-trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

-This is where we all come into play, we need the encouragement of each other, it takes all of us joining together as God’s fellow workers (1 Cor. 3:5-8), which is the amazing thing about being a part of what God has started since before the world was created. This is the story (HIS story) that we’re invited in to.

-A theologian I greatly respect refers to it as “the drama of doctrine.” We each have an integral part to play in God’s master plan for the world, a part that only we can play, but remember what we’ve seen the past couple weeks in 1 Cor. 3: we can plant and water, but who is that causes the growth?

-Ultimately God, God alone saves. We can point, we remind others, but we are not the savior. Think of John the Baptist, who regularly reminded people “I am not the Christ!” We have that same responsibility today, boldly proclaim the gospel message in word and deed, but remind people it’s only because of God’s grace that causes these things to be true.

-Reformation motto: “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” I am somewhat worried that our culture today has so ignored the second half of that statement that we don’t think beyond the line of faith. Brothers and sisters, that beautiful moment where a dead sinner is brought from death to life is just the beginning of a whole new way of living! That’s why the great commission doesn’t stop at “go and make disciples” it goes on to say “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.”
-We have a job to do! We now are meant to serve as a visible demonstration of what Jesus looks like to the world, and this happens the moment we’re brought from death to life. We’re caught up into an epic adventure of good vs. evil, we’re in the middle of the greatest story that has ever been written, and is currently being written! The end hasn’t come yet, which means we all need to be Puddleglum to each other (not the negativity part) We need to rouse each other out of the sleep the world lulls us into and remind each other the cosmic realities that we’re a part of every day!

-Really briefly, just because we covered this in Eph. 1, I want to look at the interplay between God’s job and our job

Eph. 1:11-14. Predestined, yet we’re the ones who believe

Acts 13:48 “as many as were appointed believed”

-This is 100% God’s job, and 100% our job. How does that work, don’t dwell on it too much on this side of eternity, because it’ll make your brain hurt!

-What is involved in being faithful disciple? What is required to make more disciples? Col. 3:17: word and deed. You may have heard a quote falsely attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: preach at all times, and if necessary use words. You can’t disciple without words! Words are the currency of relationship.

-Think about is, how do we know who our friends are? They tell us! How do people find out things about you? You tell them! It requires words to build relationships. Same with our discipleship, it requires speaking to others to build them up, to use your interactions, conversations, and anything else you do to build others up (in LOVE)

-Why don’t we easily share what God is doing in our lives with others? At work, share something that stood out to you from the sermon. After church, share a passage you’ve been memorizing with the people you talk to. At a restaurant, pray for your waiter/waitress and be kind. (Culver’s with the student ministry) What opportunities are we missing because we’re not paying attention? What things are we focusing on instead of being attuned to what God is doing around us?

-There was a video I was made aware of in Middle School that made this point really well! If you’ve seen it, don’t give it away! Video of a basketball pass

-How many passes did you count? If you counted 15, way to go! But did you notice the gorilla in the video?

-Unless we’re reminded of the bigger realities of what’s taking place around us, we will miss them. That’s part of the reason we need to tell our stories to other people, remind them of what we’re caught up in.

-Really briefly, have you thought about the way we today get to fulfill some of the OT prophecies?

Numbers 11 (you don’t need to turn there) Moses brings together 70 elders who will be tasked with sharing the leadership role of God’s people. God comes down to share his spirit with the leader, 2 of whom missed the memo and weren’t at the meeting, yet because they were supposed to be there they started prophesying. Joshua comes running up to Moses and says “STOP THEM!” And Moses replies Num. 11:29. Wouldn’t that be a day! When all God’s people were filled with the Holy Spirit speaking God’s Words to each other! Toward the end of the OT, God promises that exact thing to happen in Joel 2, and Acts 2, and 4:31 specifically talk about that idea being fulfilled then.

-If prophesy is speaking God’s Word to others, do you realize we can do that all the time now? The OT people literally dreamed of living in the time period we’re in today, and we forget or neglect it, or even get nervous of what someone would think of us if we start to share God’s Word with each other!

  • Two Pictures of Discipleship

-With all that in mind, of being more intentional to see where God is working and joining with Him in pursuing those realities I want to give us 2 pictures today of what that looks like in our day to day lives: following and imitation.

  1. Following

-When Jesus began his earthly ministry, as he was recruiting His disciples, do you remember the command He gave them? “Follow me.” (Matt. 4) What’s their response? Immediately they left their lives behind to follow Jesus. What is your response when Jesus asks you to do something? Or potentially another way looking at this is what changes has God asked of you to be a disciple of Him? You can’t follow Jesus as a disciple and keep anything else on the side, God will not allow that to be the case!

-There are entire books written on this idea! One by David Platt was called Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. (In our library) This book encourages people to think about those whom Jesus called to follow Him. They didn’t have wealth, didn’t have prestige, didn’t have notoriety, weren’t “influencers,” they were normal, everyday people whose lives intersected with Jesus and then had their entire life trajectory changed.

-But notice as well, what did these early disciples give up to follow Jesus? Everything! They left their vocation, their families, their communities to follow after this new teacher who would go on to teach them a new way to engage everything around them.

-On top of that, look at how Jesus reframed their lives. Where they once were fishermen, Jesus was going to teach them how to fish for men. (Even Jesus enjoyed a good dad joke, very punny!)

-This tells us a few things about discipleship:

-First, it’s a call to follow Jesus and only Jesus. You don’t need anything else, in fact most other things will get in the way of you pursuing Jesus alone!

-Second, God will take our natural talents, gifts, wirings, and reframe/refocus them in a new direction. I’ve said this before, but it is no accident that you’re in the job you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the family you’re in. It’s no accident you’re in the home you’re in. It’s no accident you have the hobbies and interests you have, God needs you to use them for His glory. He needs you to demonstrate Him in those contexts, so do it! Start praying about what it would look like for you to represent Jesus wherever you go!

-The next passage I want us to think about in relation to following Jesus is Mark 8:34-38. This passage doubles down on the idea that discipleship is a call to die to your old way of living in order to live for Christ.

-At times the things Jesus calls us to isn’t the easy way or the way we want to go, but it’s the right way. Jesus regularly tells people to count the cost of following Him. Have you ever done that? Or maybe a different way of asking it is what has it cost to follow after Jesus? Honestly, for most of us it hasn’t cost much, but it seems that the time is coming where it will (or is starting to) count a little more.

-I’ve talked to some of you about some of these things before, pronouns, rainbow pins, life altering surgeries. How do you engage these issues with the truth when the truth is liable to punishment in your jobs? Dear saints, that is counting the cost of discipleship! (Heard of a guy at Mayo yesterday wrestling through this very thing!) That is being willing to identify with Christ while here on earth, and I am at times worried that we’re not willing to do that, nor are we willing to do that together. I talked before about casting your cares on the Lord because He cares for you, but one way we can do that today is by casting our cares on each other, because we’re here to represent Christ to each other!

-The last passage I want to look at in connection with following is Luke 9:57-62

-One of the biggest problems I have with today’s Christian culture is the idea that Jesus just wants to take all your favorite desires and bless them and move them to the next level. Think of things you’ve seen with the #blessed on the socials. New car, new job, new house. But what happens when life doesn’t go the way you want, when you don’t get to just keep doing whatever you want? God wants us to realize that we live #blessed all the time, regardless of life’s circumstances because we have a new life in Christ! God wants to make us new people, not leave us to wallow in our tiny ideas of what constitute the best life!

-What we’ve seen abut following through these 3 passages is it requires dying to ourselves, it reorients our whole lives around a new person, and it requires sacrifice. It’s both the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do. Easiest because it doesn’t depend on you! Hardest because it requires you to die.

-Let’s now turn our attention to the second picture:

  • Imitation

-What does it mean to imitate someone else? To copy them, to model yourself after. I think we live in the most imitation heavy culture out there! Instagram influencers, how many followers someone has. Social contagion of tics because kids are watching Tik Tok videos from influencers who have facial tics that they’re emulating. Whether you realize it or not, you become like those you spend time with, you imitate them. There are 2 passages from Paul that I want us to think of in relation to imitation (even though the first one says follow!)

-Timothy was Paul’s protégé. Just as Jesus’ followers had other people follow them, so Paul continued the tradition with Timothy. There was imitation that was taking place, so much so that unlike the false teachers, Timothy was to follow Paul in his: (2 Tim. 3:10-11)

-Teaching: that which corresponds to the great tradition handed down from Jesus to the first disciples all the way down to today!

-conduct: the way Paul lived his day to day life

-aim in life: what is it we’re all aiming for? Maturity in Christ! (Eph. 4)

-faith: that moment where our lives radically change, we’re brought from death to life.

-patience: do you remain patient when things (bad or good!) are happening to you?

-love: the new Christian ethic where we love everyone!

-steadfastness: endurance, perseverance step by step, not giving up!

-persecutions: wait, even these?

-suffering: AND suffering? Paul goes on to say anyone who wants to live a godly life will face persecutions. All of us are guaranteed that in some capacity. Yet if even Jesus suffered, why would we expect anything different?

-Finally, the last passage we’ll look at today: 1 Cor. 10:31-11:1.

-Remember our definition of a disciple: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. So Paul starts with worship. Do everything to bring God glory, even something as mundane and trivial as eating or drinking! And use things as an opportunity to point others to Christ, not causing them to stumble (different topic for a different day!)

-But where does Paul land? Imitation. Friends, do you invite people to imitate you? If someone were to imitate you, what would that do to their spiritual development? Would it bring them closer to or further away from Christ?

-Notice that there are limits to this imitation, we imitate ONLY IN SO FAR AS the imitation is like Christ. What areas of your life are worthy of imitation? This week, today, take stock of your life, what areas should you be inviting others to come imitate you in? And as you do that, what areas of your life do you need to find someone you can imitate?

-I shared at the beginning of this message my desire when I was growing up was to be like Mike, but I’ll encourage you here at the end with that same message: Look at me, imitate me insofar as I imitate Christ. I’ll keep my eyes fixed on Him, I’ll keep striving after Him, and when and where you see me doing that, join with me in pursuing the same thing!

-This week, find 1 person that you can encourage (maybe it’s starting by praying for this) to imitate you, and then encourage them to find someone else who can imitate them, and pretty soon we have an entire church full of people who are disciples looking for every opportunity they have to make and mature more disciples. We plant, we water, and we trust the growth to God.

The Content of Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-God’s plan in human history is to redeem people, moving them from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Son. This looks like God’s people, in God’s place, serving under God’s rule and blessing. 

-A disciple is: a redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. Summarized by an arrow picture

-Today we’re going to look at the idea summarized in the movie Pay it Forward. Don’t recommend watching it, I haven’t even seen it myself, but the storyline is brilliant (feature a young Haley Joel Osment coming off his smash hit The Sixth Sense). His teacher challenges his class to come up with a way to make the world a better place. He says he’ll find 3 people to help, with something big that they can’t do for themselves, who are asked to do the same for 3 more people, and so on and so forth, until pretty soon you’ve helped a literal country’s worth of people.

-You may have seen or heard of this happening on a smaller scale in a drive through, but there always ends up being someone who stops the chain!

-This concept is a good summary of discipleship: each person reach 1 other person with the gospel message, who will reach 1 more person until it literally takes over the world! Paul summarizes this idea in 2 Tim. 2:2“what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful people, who will be able to teach others also.”

READ/PRAY – Col. 3:12-17 (573)

What is the Bible?

-Great place to look is a dictionary! Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms

-Really brief summary: God’s Word.

-Inspired: summarized as “God-breathed” These are God’s very words that are being spoken to us as we hear, read, think about them. That means it is authoritative, the final say in all our lives and the means by which we understand what holiness is. We wouldn’t know who God is apart from His revelation in His Word.

-Because it is God’s very Word, it is also truthful. Everything it says is true and corresponds to reality. The difficulty with this is sometimes we’ll get our interpretation or understanding wrong. The problem isn’t with the Bible, it’s with us! Our tendency is to look at the Bible as the problem instead of looking at ourselves. 

-Next, we see that the Bible is sufficient. If you want to know how to grow in holiness, what God is like, how we got here, the purpose of human existence, look to the Bible! Other things based on the Bible can be helpful, but the Bible is the only one that is completely true. 

-Because it is sufficient, that also means it’s necessary for us. If the Bible is the only place we can truthfully and perfectly know God, we need it like a fish needs water, or a human needs food. We can’t survive without it!

-We also praise God that His Word it clear. It is able to be understood, however, it can’t be understood completely, and it requires the proper tools (and the HS). 

-Finally, and most importantly for our topic today: the Bible is powerful! I have lost count of the number of testimonies I’ve heard where someone picked up the Bible and started reading, and suddenly were confronted with who Jesus is and put their faith in Him! 

-A few weeks ago I heard another story of someone who was intrigued enough to start reading the Gospel of John, only to get to John 8 and stop because they were scared of how Jesus would respond to the woman caught in adultery. Months later, their curiosity got the best of them and they returned to John 8 and seeing Jesus’ response was enough for them to believe in Him.

-But the Bible isn’t just powerful for salvation, notice the other effect: transformation. As disciples, we’re called to pursue transformational learning. It’s not enough to be a bunch of eggheads walking around with more biblical knowledge (trivia) than anyone else, we need to live it out.

-This is summarized by 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Do you want to know how to be complete? Know, live, breath God’s Word, and then live it out by your good works.

-Do you realize how powerful God’s Word is? We read it in a place like Rom. 1:16, but do we actually believe that? God’s Word has toppled tyrannical dictators, literally changed the course of western civilization, and was the tool used to save everyone in this room who believes in Jesus as their Savior.

-Many people miss heaven by 18”, the space between the head and the heart.

-How do we ensure that we’re not one of those people? What is it that we need to help others grow as a disciple, and ensure we’re growing as disciples?

-I gave it away last week: the proclamation of the Word of God, done by the people of God with prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, and this can only come about by persevering step by step, moment by moment and day by day. The 4 Ps, hold on to those, because those are the focus of our series! I even gave you blanks this week to fill out because they’re that important! (I don’t like giving you blanks because it causes your brain to listen for just those things instead of the whole message)

  1. Proclamation of the Word of God

-This is why we began with a question. If the Bible is God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to us then we need to make that the focus of our lives. Jesus summarizes this idea well when He’s being tempted by the devil: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” 

-Brothers and sisters, think about that reality. If we’re not spending time with God in His chosen means of revealing Himself to us we are killing ourselves, cutting ourselves off from the source of life He’s given to us.

-I’ve shared this example before, but it has stuck with me. We as Evangelicals claim to be people of the book, but how early in our worship services is God’s Word opened? Go look at some other churches, see when the Bible is finally opened! Usually it’s when it’s time for the sermon. If you just attend a RCC service every week for 3 years the whole Bible will be read to you, yet it’s not always applied, lived out, or trusted to be enough.

-Similarly, the fact that you’re sitting here tells me that over the course of your life, you’ve eaten food. Yet how many of those meals can you remember? A couple, but those are literally lifegiving to your body! Spiritually, you need to be ingesting God’s Word, even though it can at times feel completely plain, ordinary, and boring (like eating kale). It’s giving us life, it’s transforming our minds, and conforming us (SLOWLY) into God’s image.

-Think of a cup of tea (tried it, came back to coffee!). Tea is water that has been transformed. Takes on the smell, flavor, color of the tea literally transforming the water. We need to steep ourselves in God’s Word so that we are transformed, so that what comes off us is the small, the flavor, the color of God instead of us.

-Let’s look at 1 passage in connection with this idea. Col. 3:12-17

-Just as we saw in Eph. We see another reminder to put off the old sinful ways, and put on God’s characteristics/traits.

-Love is the new ethic and standard of living for believers. Peace is possible in and through Christ. “And be thankful” Good week to have that reminder! If we are “In Christ” than gratefulness should be our MO. No room for Eeyore’s in God’s house!

-How does this take place? By letting the word of Christ dwell in you richly. How can Christ’s word dwell in you unless you’re spending regular time in it? Richly, not just haphazardly or a little bit. A rich cup of coffee has a ton of flavor in it, our lives should be so steeped in God’s words that that’s all we know! I have heard it said that the gospel is a well that we need to keep come back to again and again and again. We’ll grow deeper and deeper, but it’s never a new well. Same place, same person, same methods, but we become changed.

-This dwelling in Christ’s words isn’t just for us, we’re to use it to “teach and admonish” each other. Do you let God’s Word teach and admonish each other? There is nothing more powerful and encouraging than speaking God’s Word to each other. We can even do that with singing!

-On top of all those things is “whatever you do.” Everything you do (word or deed, life encompassing) should be done as an act of worship to God. Are your words and actions representative of Him? Is your life matching your talk, and is your talk matching God’s Word?

-Think of how the book of Acts talks about the spreading of the early church.

-As God’s Word spreads, disciples are made or matured. It doesn’t happen apart from God’s Word going out!

-Think of what we saw over the past 3 months in Ephesians! (a brief overview of the entire book here:

-The book begins by praising God for his work before the dawn of time to call a people to Himself. A people who heard “the word of truth” and then believed, leading to the third person of the Godhead living in you.

-Then Paul gives thanks for the church’s “faith and love toward all the saints.” The Word is planting itself in people’s lives and being made visible through their actions. 

-These new actions leads to a new life that is completely dependent on God, because we were/are dead without Him, but now because of His grace in us, we can live transformed lives.

-This transformation is seen by 2 very different people becoming 1 new person under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, making us citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. 

-This proclamation continues in chapter 3 where Paul shares how he preached this message of God’s plan from eternity past for all people, leading to Paul praying for the church be strengthened in Christ so that He will dwell in them.

-As they’re strengthened, Paul urges them to “live worthily,” which is accomplished through God’s people using their gifts in service of each other so that everyone will become mature.

-This is the opposite of the way the world works, they have not “learned Christ,” they haven’t put off their old selves which means they have no hope of putting on the new self! The rest of the book is an explanation of how they show they’ve “learned Christ” in all the areas of their lives (marriage, children and parents, slaves and masters). 

-Paul ends this wonderful book by asking for prayer to boldly proclaim the gospel, just like we should be doing to the world and each other on a regular basis, in order to encourage each other to move 1 step closer to Christ.

-So what does it look like to proclaim the word of Christ to each other? Is it only singing? Is it only preaching? Do we have to walk around with the Bible app open on our phone to look for the best verse for every conversation we’re having? (that would be funny) 

-Think of all the examples the Bible gives us of how we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (taken from The Vine Project, 86):

-You could write a letter. Most of the NT is letters! Letters mean a lot more today than they did 15 years ago, much more encouraging than a text!

-You could invite a group of people to your house for a late night get together. Share stories, share a meal, and talk about what God has been doing in your life [Acts 20:7-9 Eutychus] 

-You could talk about the sermon from that day as you go out and grocery shop after church on a Sunday. I ran into a couple people at Sam’s Club at about 1 PM last week! [Acts 17:17-18] 

-You could look for opportunities to encourage the barista at Caribou when it’s so early you’re just grumpy (it worked for Paul in Acts 16:13-14)

-You could find the local meeting place (I think in MN that’s Target!) and look for opportunities to share with others about why God makes sense in this crazy world we live in [Acts 19:9] 

-You could read Scripture in here or in class or even if you think God has given you a gift to preach, to let me know and have you preach here! [1 Tim. 4:13] 

-Or you could talk about it during your commute, in an Uber, on the train, it worked for Philip when he was going about his daily life! [Acts 8:29-35]

-There is no area in your life that is left out of the need for God’s Word to speak truth into. But here’s the other part about it. You don’t even need to open the Bible to proclaim the Word of God to someone else.

-Imagine sitting down with a child who is afraid of beginning school for the first time. You can encourage them to trust in God, that God is always with them, that God will never leave them alone. You could open the Bible to Phil. 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” You could take the child to 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Or you could summarize those ideas for him. 

-But this assumes that you know enough of God’s Word to be able to proclaim it in any situation you find yourself in. This is how you demonstrate that you’re letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly! If you know God’s Word, love God’s Word, and are letting God’s Word soak into every pore of your being, that’s what will come out.

-But that’s only the first P! Don’t worry, we’ll walk through the next 3 much quicker, because we’ll be looking at them in more detail in future weeks!

  • Prayerful dependance on the Spirit of God

-We saw this verse last week, but it bears repeating this week 1 Thess. 4:17. We’re commanded to pray without ceasing. Pray for the people you come into contact with, pray that God will bring to mind the truths of His Word in every situation and circumstance. 

-Maybe you’ve had a situation where someone is sharing something going on in their life, and you’re reminded of a verse that you’d been meditating on the week before, and you share it. Isn’t that a wonderful way to let Christ’s Word dwell in you richly? 

-I have a friend who’s been praying for opportunities to share the gospel with his boss. They were meeting to talk about a big project that was due soon and he said “I hope we can get it done!” The boss said “hope isn’t real,” and my friend took the opening!

-Once again, this assumes you know it well enough to be able to bring it back to mind when those situations arise. And what better things to be praying back to God than the very Words He inspired! (Read the Bible and pray those truths!)

-“Prayerlessness, like Wordlessness, is a classic symptom of a sick disciple-making culture.” (TVP, 90)

  • People are God’s fellow workers

-I read a quote last from Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, but I only shared 1 line from it. I wanted to read the whole thing this week. 

-We cannot do this alone, we desperately need each other. Yet how often do we try to do it alone, in our own strength, in our own power? Jesus never meant for us to work on discipleship in isolation, but we often miss this until we’re at our breaking point, and then we start to open up to others! If we let others in at the front end, if we open up to others and both encourage and are encouraged by them, we’ll have people ready to speak truth to us when we’re weak.

-Is this God’s job, or ours? Yes! Paul calls us the body of Christ today. We’re supposed to represent Him to those we contact. Think of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:6-9. We can plant, we can water, but we can’t force anyone to grow. We plant and water indiscriminately! We spread God’s Word far and wide, anywhere we go and with anyone we come into contact with! We are God’s chosen means of spreading the gospel message today, in word and deed.

  • Perseverance, step by step

-One of my favorite verses of all time is Gal. 6:9.

-Notice the key to reaping: not giving up. Perseverance is expected in the Christian life! That doesn’t mean it’s easy, doesn’t mean it always comes naturally, but a verse like this gives us hope to NOT give up! No matter how hard it gets, keep doing good.

-Paul talks about this all over his letters! Think of all the putting off and putting on we studied in Ephesians! In between Christ’s 2 comings we positionally are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, but we still strain and groan and grow while we’re here on earth. Think of how Paul summarizes this in Phil. 3:12-14

-We continue pressing on! We continue straining forward! We keep our eyes on the prize: the upward call (discipleship)

-How do we put this all together? The 4 Ps: Proclamation, Prayerful, People, Perseverance. We, Word, Worship, Witness.

-None of us are in the same spot, none of us have the same temperament, none of us approach problems exactly the same. We need each other to speak God’s Word to each other and continually encourage us to take 1 step closer to Christ. But remember, the message for believers is the same message an unbeliever needs. Wherever anyone is on this arrow, what they need is encouragement from God’s Word. We’re not trying to make clones, we’re trying to become what God has uniquely created and wired us to be.

-Discipleship isn’t systematic or programmatic. That’s part of why there’s so much confusion about it! It’s the same tools, but leading to a different result. 

-No 2 snowflakes are the same, just as no 2 Christians are the same. God has chosen a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him, it requires a wide assortment of people to demonstrate Him to others.

-This week, who is 1 person you can intentionally “pay it forward” to, and find a way to encourage them to take 1 stop closer to Christ.

Defining Discipleship – Sermon Manuscript

-Humans are hardwired to want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. 

-I’ve been talking to a friend recently about what makes a story “epic.” (stirs the soul, captures the imagination, sense of longing) Think of the appeal of LOTR or Narnia.

-I think all of us long for this. Civilizations since the dawn of time have had stories to help us understand our place in the world. Beowolf, Epic of Gilgamesh. Jews had Noah and his ark, the crossing of the Red Sea. Rome had the raising of the twins by wolves. Americans have the midnight ride of Paul Revere. 

-This past week, I went to a conference in Denver where I ran into a friend from seminary who is planning to pursue PhD work in New Zealand, AKA Middle Earth. As soon as I heard that I said that to him, and he agreed that’s why he wanted to go there! We LONG to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. 

-Yet that’s exactly what God invites us into. But this invitation is to something even more epic than a fantasy story full of talking animals. God’s story is true, and allows us to get caught up in the most epic story that is taking place around us every moment of every day, yet we need to retune our minds so that we can better see and understand what is taking place around us all the time. We need a Gandalf to rouse us from our complacency, and jump off the couch and go on this wonderful adventure!

READ/PRAY (Titus 2:11-14, 579)

  1. God’s Purpose in Human History

-How do you summarize the story of the Bible? Creation, fall, redemption, consummation? The revealing of God’s eternal plan? The establishment of God’s people? 

-Establishment of the kingdom of God: God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing. We studied 1 Peter together, that book was a reminder of how to live as holy exiles, remembering that our kingdom is not of this world. We’re citizens of a new country where Jesus sits on his throne, and the best part is he can’t be outvoted!

-God’s people are those who seek to worship (obey) God in every facet of their lives, imaging Him and obeying His mandates to fill the earth and subdue it.

-God’s place is everything! Since God created everything there is nothing outside His realm. Kuyper: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

-God’s rule and blessing comes about as His people (the church) preach and practically live out the gospel in every area of their lives. God’s purpose, from eternity past, was to have a people who demonstrate Him by what they say and how they live, distinct from the world around them. 

-Let’s look at some passages that talk about what this looks like:

Titus 2:11-14 (579)

-“Grace of God appeared” that’s talking about Jesus. This brings about salvation, which is available to everyone. Then when we are saved, it leads to godly lives today, as we anxiously wait for God’s return.

-“Purify for himself” holiness/sanctification, means we are “zealous for good works.” Those who are saved are looking for opportunities to do good works. Do you look for those opportunities? Are you “zealous” working your hardest, to do these good works? 

Col. 1:13-14 (572)

-Delivered from the domain of darkness, in a new kingdom, gives us redemption. We can summarize this idea with a diagram.

-We are called to live out good works, to live out the truths of the gospel, and we are called to do that together, in community during “this present age.” But this isn’t just an NT idea, we see another picture of this in the OT

-Picture of this using an arrow.

-Jer. 29:5-7 life in exile for God’s people (382)

-Notice how normal this is! Live a holy life in the normal everyday life, we’ll look like we’re doing the same things as everyone else, but with a different focus, aim, and goal. We’re supposed to actively look for ways to be a blessing to our communities (don’t have time for this now, but I’ll talk about it some during Scraps tomorrow, how do we pursue the blessing of our community when the culture emphasizes the opposite of what we’ve been called to do/be, and calls our attempts at blessing intolerance. Separate issue than we have time for today, but I think it warrants conversation)

-Before we get to “discipleship” I think we need to understand what a disciple is, so let’s begin defining what a disciple is before we get to the activity of discipleship (or, spoiler alert, “discipling”)

  • What is a disciple?

Luke 6:40 (503)

-At it’s most basic level, it is a “learner” Saw this in Eph. 4:20 “learned Christ” All of us are supposed to be learning from Christ, remembering that we aren’t above our teacher (Jesus) but the aim, direction, purpose, is to “learn Christ” that is to be like Him, to follow after Him, to represent Him to others, to help teach others what He’s like.

-So we can take our arrow picture and add the idea of them becoming a “learner” by putting an “L” above those who are learning Christ.

-What are some pictures of this? Baptism & yoke

John 4:1 (518)

-What does baptism signify? Dying to your old ways of living, washing the old self off and putting on the new. We see in other places in the NT that baptism serves as a visible demonstration of our death to ourselves and the new life we’ve been given in Christ. In 1st Cent. Served as a physical, visible identification with a new teacher. John had quite the following, if Jesus comes and baptizes even more, his notoriety would have spread quickly! Therefore, baptism serves as the visible demonstration that you are publicly identifying with Christ and dying to your old ways of living. 

-Have you been baptized?

Matt 11:27-30 (476)

-This is where it becomes fun! Jesus invites us into the epic story of cosmic, universal renewal. It doesn’t make sense in our minds, because it’s both the easiest and the most difficult thing you’ll ever do.

-Yoke is easy and light (which is only true because Jesus is pulling with you, but it’s still a yoke, which means you need to put in all your effort. Is this God’s doing or ours? Yes! 100% our job, 100% God’s job. Our work is light and easy compared to trying to do it by ourselves, but we need to do the work if we want to join with God in this epic story we’re called into. 

-Another way of summarizing this idea is: “Transformative learning” Doesn’t just stay in the theoretical (it can’t) it must lead to transformation and conformation (conforming into the image of God)

-The last text I want us to look at is Jesus’ last recorded words in Matthew’s Gospel, the great commission 

Matt. 28:18-20 (487)

-Preached on this text before (when I candidated) but that was over 2 years ago now, and that was meant to serve as the starting point for this series now! What is the significance of this passage to being a disciple? It’s the last recorded words from Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, meant to be the final/lasting thought for us of the story of Jesus, and it’s significant because it’s how Jesus’ ministry is meant to continue. So really briefly, what does this look like: 

-Dependent on Jesus’ authority. If He’s not in control, why would we obey Him?

-“As you’re going,” This is not mean to be a completely different thing, nor is it supposed to be unique. Everyone lives a life somewhere (job, house, hobbies, favorite restaurant – Applebees) 

-Jesus answers HOW we make disciples: BY baptizing & teaching (baptizing is the entry point, teaching is the continual training) another way of saying this is making and maturing

-The way you know this is working is the outworking of this in “observe all that I have commanded you.” So let’s ask: how well are you obeying everything Jesus commanded? Let’s start with a basic one: do you love God completely with everything you have? That’s the first and most important commandment! The second most important is how are you loving your neighbor?

-With this big emphasis we’ve seen on making disciples, you’d think it would be prevalent throughout the rest of the NT, right? The funny this is, the last time the word “disciple” appears in the NT is Acts 21:16 “Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us…” and then it disappears. So am I just making a mountain out of a molehill, emphasizing something that should be ignored of forgotten? Do you think that maybe the disciples forgot about it, or moved on from making disciples to the REAL work of the ministry?

-Shift from “disciple” to “learner”

Rom. 16:17 “contrary to the doctrine you have been taught” (learned)

1 Cor. 14:31 “So that all may learn and be encouraged”

Phil. 4:9, Phil. 4:11 “what you have learned, practice them” “I have learned to be content.”

Col. 1:5-7 “You heard and understood…just as you learned from…”

Eph. 4:19-24 “learned Christ”

Titus 3:14 “learn to devote themselves to good works.”

-Using the previous diagram, we could summarize these ideas by adding an “L” to the top of those who have moved from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son.

-How, then do we define what a disciple is? 

            TVP: “A forgiven sinner who is learning Christ in repentance and faith” (74)

GW: “A disciple is someone who learns the way of Jesus, which is both cognitive and behavioral, knowing and doing.” (213)

Mine: A redeemed sinner learning Christ by increasing worship of God through every area of your life. (A good summary/litmus test of this is Gal. 5 the fruit of the Spirit) What’s left out of this? Nothing! Fruit of the Spirit is meant to be demonstrated in every circumstance/area of our lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

The key is someone who is learning. I onetime heard someone say that the road to Christian maturity is paved with Christian books, you can’t grow in learning of Christ unless you’re reading about Him! But it’s also not enough to do this individually, because as we’ll see next, transitioning from disciple to discipleship is a community endeavor. 

“whereas we often think of learning in terms of our own personal growth and advancement—of becoming a better me in some way—to learn Christ is to be increasingly focused on others rather than ourselves.” (TVP)

-James talks about this in James 1:22 the need to be hearers AND doers, not enough to just think right, you also need to live right, which is where this learning must be transformative. 

  • What is discipleship?

-Moving on to the next step of this, to be a disciple is to be a learner, so discipleship is helping people become better learners. Some potential definitions: 

-While listening to Dr Hendricks speak, I sensed that discipleship might be something I could do, unlike more public types of ministry because you didn’t have to preach or do anything public.[Dennis McCallum and Jessica Lowery, Organic Discipleship: Mentoring Others into Spiritual Maturity and Leadership]

-What would happen to the church of Jesus Christ if a majority of those who claim to follow Christ were nurtured to maturity through intimate, accountable relationships centered on the essentials of God’s word? Self-initiating, reproducing disciples of Jesus would be the result.[Greg Ogden, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ

-Discipleship is all about living life together rather than just one structured meeting per week.[Francis Chan with Mark Beuving, Multiply]

-Many churches have used various types of small groups as part of their discipleship strategy (home groups, life groups, fellowship groups, community groups, etc.).[Randy Pope with Kitti Murray, Insourcing: Bringing Discipleship Back to the Local Church]

-Mark calls the Church to abandon its imperialistic dreams on the one hand, and its passive noninvolvement on the other, and to become for the world what Jesus was for the world. That is what discipleship, following Jesus, really means. [NT Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship

-We need more of the engine that Jesus used to change the world, the engine he instructs us to use. This engine will not create perfect churches, but it will create effective churches. It’s relational discipleship. [Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington with Robert E Coleman, DiscipleShift]

-Anything that helps someone take 1 step closer to God in their life aka worship 

-This demands both making and maturing, as well as doing and being. I at times worry that we’ve segmented discipleship as a tack on for only the “mature” Christians, when the reality is that discipleship is inherent to the Christian faith! To practice discipleship is to be a Christian, however, there are both good and bad ways to do this, we’ll look more fully at this idea next week, as there’s something that needs to be the foundation of all our discipleship, spoiler alert: it’s God’s Word. This means discipleship can even take place with unbelievers, where we live in a unique way, ask unique questions, and encourage them to bring their lives closer to Christ. 

-Now remember, this cannot be done alone. It takes others to teach and demonstrate to you “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31)

-Anyone who is married can testify to this reality! Can’t hide your sin anymore! Don’t realize how selfish you are until someone else sees/calls you on your sinful tendencies. And then when you throw kids in, they both start to imitate and then call you on any negative traits! Our kids have learned about kind/unkindness, great thing to learn, not as great when they start to tell you your discipline is being unkind! That’s ok, it’s an opportunity to disciple them!

-Examples of this abound in the NT, but I want to take some time to look at 1, especially as it was reminded to me a couple months ago by a fellow pastor of mine in how we should engage each other.

1 Thess. 5:13-22 (574)

[13] Be at peace among yourselves. [14] And we urge you (y’all), brothers, admonish the idle,encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. [15] See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. [16] Rejoice always, [17] praywithout ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [19] Do not quench the Spirit. [20] Do not despise prophecies, [21] but test everything; hold fast what is good. [22] Abstain from every form of evil.

-Look at all these various commands: 

-Explain the text. This is all done in the context of community, discipleship cannot happen alone.

-Bonhoeffer in Life Together “The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”

-We need each other, we need God’s Word to be spoken to each other, and we need the church to hold us accountable, which is what we’ll be looking at together over the coming weeks. I love the way The Vine Project summarizes this idea.

TVP: “the persevering proclamation of the word of God by the people of God in prayerful dependence on the Spirit of God, otherwise known as the four Ps: 

  1. Proclamation of the word in multiple ways 
  2. Prayerful dependence on the Spirit 
  3. People are God’s fellow workers 
  4. Perseverance, step by step”

-So what does all this look like? A couple ideas as we wrap up:

  1. Take what you’re already doing, and refocus it toward growth/holiness. Matt 4:19 (472). Jesus took fisherman and refocused them to become fishers of men.
  2. We do this because we are sent & commissioned by God John 20:21 (529). Do you view your life as sent by God, to actively work at moving people 1 step closer to God with your interactions? Because that’s exactly what God has called us to do and be: a disciple who pursue discipleship by our daily interactions with each other. 

-Even this week! Take some time during Thanksgiving to think about how you can intentionally make and mature those you’re interacting with!

Ephesians 5:17-33 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-What’s the best piece of marriage advice you got before you got married? Start with me second best advice: “know your home team.” Best was “if you wake up every day and decide you’re going to die to yourself for the sake of your spouse, you’ll be just fine.”

-Same guy who gave me the best parenting advice: “never, never, never shake your baby.”

READ/PRAY (pg. 569)

  1. Be Filled with the Spirit (17-21)

-Seems to be an abrupt diversion into: being drunk. Where did that come from?

Drunkenness has been a problem for a really long time, and is always sinful. Remember back to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), people thought they were drunk! So what that means for us is: 

-We should be “under the influence” of the Spirit, not alcohol. The amazing thing is we, as believers, have the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, indwelling us as believers, leading us and guiding us in righteousness, reminding us of the things Christ taught, and conforming us more into the image of Jesus. We are in a unique era in human history, because once the Holy Spirit’s in us, He’s not leaving! That’s what it means to be new covenant believers.

-Another thing we see is that this isn’t something unique for those “super holy” Christians, this is descriptive of the normal, daily Christian life, daily filled by the Spirit.

-Keith really struggling, driving and singing his heart out, didn’t realize how fast he was going and got pulled over.

-“The result of the Spirit’s work in our lives is renewed worship and renewed relationships.” (Merida, 133)

-So how do we encourage each other to be filled with the Spirit? I’m glad you asked! Paul reminds of 3 things: Address each other, give thanks always, submit to each other

  1. Address one another (19)

-Notice the vertical and horizontal component to our singing: “addressing one another” and “to the Lord” 

-Think about it like a see-saw – in order to keep that see saw level we need BOTH components. 

-There’s an element to our singing that is teaching, which comes out in the parallel passage in Col. 3. We teach the truths of the gospel to each other when we sing, that’s why the content of our singing is important. 

-Notice that Paul encourages a variety of types of songs. Nowhere in the Bible is any particular style/genre of music listed as “better” than the others. 

-So Paul says, “Psalms, hymns, spiritual songs.” Psalms are Hebrew songs of praise to God, hymns are Greek songs of praise to their gods, spiritual songs encompasses everything else – Spirit inspired songs of praise. Paul is not referring to How Great Thou Art when he lists “hymns” 

-In fact, people mean different things when they talk about a “hymn” Augustine defined it: sung, praise, to God. 

-Google: a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god.

-Merriman Webster: a song of praise to God

-I’ve yet to find a definition of hymn that means: in the hymnal or old.

-Grant Osborne “Hymns in the early church were used to teach theology to believers. The lyrics were chosen not for their artistic value but for their truth and depth of content.” (182)

-THAT’S what matters! The content. So we work INCREDIBLY hard to ensure that what we’re singing is biblically true, Christ centered, God glorifying, and that can be done with a wide assortment of songs

-Paul is saying whatever your background musically, it’s welcome in the church. 

“with your heart” is not saying we sing silently, or internally, but instead with our whole being. The heart is the center/sum of who we are. So sing with ALL WE’VE GOT! This means singing is not optional! Paul COMMANDS us to sing! 

-Pliny, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Christians “met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”

-Tertullian, writing from North Africa during the end of the 1st Century, “Each is invited to sing to God in the presence of other from what he knows of the holy scripture or from his own heart.” How would you like to be invited to sing your own Scripture memory each week? 

And over all of this is:

  • Give thanks always (20)

-As Christians, we always have a reason to be thankful, because of the truth of the gospel message. We were once dead, alienated from life in God, but God who is rich in mercy saved us. Therefore, we give thanks!

-The opposite of this is sin. Richard Coekin in his commentary on this passage says, ““Sin is essentially rebellious and complaining ungratefulness; and holiness is essentially a life of gratitude for all that God has graciously given us in Christ.” (158)

-Even the fact that we’re here gathering together should be enough of a reminder for us to give thanks. COVID should have been enough of a reminder for all of us of the need for meeting with other believers for encouragement and edification. I know I look at this gathering much differently today than I did before COVID!

-I don’t always like what we do on Sundays “If the gathering is about building up and encouraging the church, then a song I don’t like presents an opportunity to love and encourage others whose tastes differ from mine.” (Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace, 88)

-“Are you known for ongoing thanksgiving or for complaining, murmuring, and pouting?” (Merida, 134)

  • Submit to one another (21)

-This is a daily dying to yourself. Dying to your preferences, desires, goals, everything for the sake of those around you. 

-This is most visibly made manifest through the process today known as church membership. Through that, we make a commitment to love each other unconditionally, support each other through anything, and be willing to do so until the Lord moves us or calls us home. Why do we do this? Because we see it modeled in our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

-This is the opposite of how we naturally orient our lives. Everything we do gives us the illusion that we’re the center of the world, which then affects the way we interact with each other in the family of God. We’ve got our iPhones, iPads, etc. 

-That’s part of the reason this gathering is vital to our lives. We need to be reminded that we’re not the center of the universe. We need a weekly reorientation, like calibrating your phone when you use the compass. 

-The next section seems to be an abrupt shift from talking about corporate worship to talking about marriage, but the reason Paul does this is because each family unit needs to be healthy for the whole church to be healthy, AND because marriage serves as a visible witness of the gospel message – that message that makes the church body unique. 

-On top of that, it struck me recently that for Paul, this wasn’t a disjointed idea. The church body is a family, which means everyone has a specific role to play. Because of the church/family connection, Paul just continues his thought from the church to the nuclear family. Those 2 ideas aren’t disjointed to Paul, instead they’re intimately connected (one requirement of an elder is managing his own household well, because the church is a bigger household!)

-Now anytime we talk about marriage in the church, I know there’s a temptation for singles to tap out and not listen, at least that was my temptation when I was single! But don’t tune out! Whether or not you ever get married you’re a part of the church, which means you need to know these things to encourage your brothers and sisters who are married, AND as a reminder of the realities of the gospel message, as we’ll soon see in verse 32. And the reality is, as Kent Hughes says, “Many of the problems in Christian marriages come from either an ignorance of or a cavalier disregard for the scriptural teaching on the roles of men and women in marriage.”

  • Wives: Submit to Your Husbands (22-24)

-This is one of the most hotly contested passages in the Bible. What does it mean to submit, and what does it look like?

-A large part of the reason this is contested is because none of us like the idea of submission, and in our culture there has been a flattening of any leadership, we love it when the underdog sticks it to “the man” Yet that’s not God’s way. In fact, submission is at the heart of the gospel message! 

-You see, Jesus is the king of everything, which requires everything else to submit to him. So becoming a believer means submitting ourselves to Jesus as the Lord of everything. Then, for our flourishing that means we need to correctly order our earthly relationships. So it begins with wives submitting to their husbands. 

-That word submit is someone who is completely equal being willing to trust and follow their leader’s guidance. So submission in the home does NOT mean women are inferior in any way. Both men and women are created in the image of God, equal in dignity, status and worth. 

-One way to think about this is in the military. The military cares greatly about correctly ordered relationships, which requires submission. If there is correct submission and accountability the military will flourish, if not you’re left with anarchy, so at the heart of what Paul is saying here is: submission is how we have correctly ordered relationships in the home. And why do wives submit? Let’s read verse 23 again:

  1. Why? (23)

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and his himself its Savior.

-What does Paul mean when he says head? Well think about your own head, what does your head do? It’s the command center, if you will, of the rest of the body! The head provides nourishment to the rest of the body, and also dictates where the rest of the body goes and does.

  • How? (24)

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

-Paul shares an example of how wives are to submit to their husbands: that is just like the church submits to Christ, who is the head of the church. 

-Notice as well that this isn’t ALL women submit to ALL men, this is just within the home, between a husband and wife. BUT:

-No qualifiers: IF he’s smart, IF he loves you, IF he helps around the house. It doesn’t even say IF he’s a Christian, it says, “in everything” This was one of the ways the early church grew, through women honoring their husbands well, thus leading them to the Lord by the way they lived.

-Just as I shared last week with slaves, this does NOT mean women are doormats who are expected to not think, talk or do anything but serve their husbands, we’ll see the husbands role in a minute. 

-It also does NOT mean following your husband in to sin. Here’s the thing, even though the husband is the head of the home, we, as husbands have an even higher authority: God.

-The key to remember here is this God has designed marriage, he decides the rules, he dictates the best way for families to flourish, which means wives submit to their husbands. This means a daily dying to yourself for the sake of your family. 

-Now husbands are not off the hook. And Paul dedicates the rest of the 9 remaining verses (women only get 3) in this chapter to addressing husbands, and it’s very simple: 

  • Husbands: Love Your Wives

-While wives are called to submit, husbands are called to love their wives, JUST LIKE CHRIST loved the church! Paul describes a number of ways that we are to love our wives, can be summarized with S: sacrificial, sanctifying, and self-love. 

And gave himself up for her

  1. Sacrificial Love (25)

-I am by no means an expert on marriage, as we’ve only been married for 7.5 years, so I’m going to be relying heavily on the thoughts of others for this section, as you’ll hear from the various quotes. My dad, who was a pastor, encouraged me to preach all my sermons on marriage BEFORE I got married, because you don’t realize how hard it is until after! BUT, I do know what the Bible says. 

-Have you ever thought about the way the gospel is made evident in marriage? Tim Keller in his book “The Meaning of Marriage,” which I HIGHLY recommend, says, 

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” (44)

-This notion of giving of yourself means you as the husband must daily die to your wants, desires and preferences. It means LITERALLY dying for your wife if you must! It’s this self-sacrificing love from a husband that makes it easy for a wife to submit to her husband when necessary. 

-I once heard a pastor sharing a wonderful example of this in his daily life that’s such a little thing it seems trivial, but speaks to the larger way we as men can sacrificially love his wife. When they drive in the car she picks the music. 

-Husbands: how are you sacrificing for your wives? 

-But that’s not the only kind of love Paul talks about, he goes on to talk about:

  • Sanctifying Love (26-27)

This process of sanctification is purifying or cleansing. Think of taking a shower after an exhausting day. Marriage is one of the primary means of sanctification because it’s in the daily grind that your sinful tendencies come out. And the best part of that is: because there’s a covenant, you know they’re not going anywhere! Your spouse is committed to loving you IN SPITE of your sinful tendencies! And here’s the deal: you BOTH have those sinful tendencies. 

When Sinners Say “I Do” 

-I one time heard a story of a really difficult season in a pastor’s marriage. The church on the verge of a church split, long-time members were calling for his firing, things at home weren’t easy, and there seemed to be no way out. He and his wife one night went on a walk and were talking about everything going on, and his wife asked “Why are you still with me?” The pastor replied, “Because I made a covenant with you.” 

-Not the most romantic moment for him! But the point is true, we can’t rely on feelings to get us through a lifetime together, we need a covenant.

-This idea of sanctifying and cleansing also carries with it the idea of being set apart for God, which means men have an immense responsibility to point their wives to the Lord.

“A Christian husband will want to support Christ’s will for his wife, not with an overly intense marriage, but with one that enables them to serve God together and so proclaim the triumph of Christ in the spiritual realm.” (Coekin, 171)

-A problem for many of us is we are selfish. We don’t think about pursuing holiness because we’re too worried about happiness, which will only come about as a byproduct of pursuing holiness. So for husbands, that means intentionally praying for your wife. Praying for the strength to lead well, to point her to Christ, and to die to yourself. I was listening to a pastor once state that husbands should go to bed EXHAUSTED every day, because you are pouring yourself out. And one of the ways you should be pouring yourself out is in prayer. 

 “If we are not praying for our wives in detail, we are not loving them as Christ loved the church and are, in fact, sinning. We should be praying for their spiritual life, obligations, pressures, friendships, and dreams daily and passionately, for that is how Christ prays for us!” (Hughes, 189)

So husbands: how are you doing with loving your wives in a sanctifying way? Kent Hughes summarizes this well:

“Is our wife more like Christ because she is married to us? Or is she like Christ in spite of us?” (Hughes, 191)

  • Self-love (28-30)

Here’s the crazy thing about a husband who doesn’t love his wife well: he’s only hurting himself! When you are married you go from 2 separate families to 1. The way this was described to Cara and I during our premarital counseling was: you’re on the same team! This is why communication is so important! We need to know what’s going on so we can ensure we’re staying on the same team and not drifting apart. 

Wayne Grudem leaving TEDS for his wife who suffers from fibromyalgia, which flares up in humidity. They took a trip to Phoenix. 

  • The mystery of marriage (31-33)

This is where we see why this applies to everyone, not just those who are married – marriage is an example of the gospel because Jesus is our bridegroom. Going back to music – one of the things people have complained about is “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs, and that’s right, because that’s not intimate enough! The church is preparing herself to meet God face to face where we will finally be united, like a husband and wife are united. 

-Notice now how Paul wraps up this section, it’s a little weird, because you’d expect it to repeat what he’s been talking about: wives submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives, but he changes what he tells the wives, instead it’s respect

Love & Respect

-The key to all of this: get over yourself. Decide every day when you wake up that you’re going to die to yourself so that you can faithfully serve your spouse, your family, your God, and your church. 

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 99) 

-We need to extend grace to each other. 

-“Gospel-driven forgiveness is the glue that sticks our imperfect marriages together – gradually overcoming bitterness and despair with real hope and joy.” (Coekin, 174)

So all of us: sing loudly! Proclaim the excellencies of the God who saved us! Husbands: love your wives with all you’ve got. Sacrificially, sanctifying, like you love yourself. Wives: respect your husbands and submit to them. Unmarried: encourage the married that you’re friends with to continue on, and for all of us: prepare for our future marriage to God! 

Ephesians 6:1-9 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Playing a game, gotta learn the rules! Frustrating playing with someone who keeps changing them or twisting them to their own advantage.

-Game of life is similar! Need to obey the rules to get it right. Who do you think made the rules for our lives? God! 

READ/PRAY

-“Household code” rules that we all obey. Because you are a Strand, you must ___ 

-Remember Paul has been explaining what it means to “walk worthily,” which means your whole life now is meant to look different. 

-We’ve found other “household codes” from the 1st century, Aritstotle: “almost all things rule and are ruled according to nature. But the kind of rule differs; the freeman rules over the slave after another manner from that in which the male rules over the female, or the man over the child; although the parts of the soul are present in an of them, they are present in different degrees. For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature.”

-Do you see the difference? Where in Eph. 6 do you see “ruling”? Paul is taking a commonly understood idea (house codes) and turning them on their head, and this is significant, because these house codes are what lead to the flourishing of society. Remember throughout the OT God’s people live in a theocracy, under the NT we no longer live that way, instead we attempt to be the best citizens we can possibly be, we do everything in love, we celebrate where our culture believes in (as Francis Schaeffer said) “true truth,” and we order our alien society differently than the country in which we find ourselves. There are some other great resources out there that will help you with ordering your house, but only in so far as they help you live out the biblical principles. 

-Spurgeon: “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”

-One of the most unique aspects of Paul’s rules for the household is who gets addressed. Generally limited to those in positions of power, those who weren’t were only mentioned for how the powerful person should engage with them. So kids would be mentioned only in reference to the Father, how he keeps them in line, etc. Paul begins with those why are “the least of these”

-Jesus in Matt. 25:40 “As you did to the one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Jesus takes what we think of as common knowledge and flips it on its’ head! So the fact that we see children, slaves, wives brought up as the focal point would have been radically counter-cultural! Don’t miss that looking at this text through 21st cent. Eyes. 

-We’ll see in this text some explicit commands for the people mentioned, let’s dig in!

  1. Children: Obey (1-3)

-Obedience isn’t limited here. Obey your parents when it makes sense, obey your parents when you want to, obey your parents when you feel like it, no, it’s an explicit command. That being said, we’ll see how parents are to live in a minute!

-So kids, when your parents are talking to you, what does the Bible say to do? Obey! This is meant to come in the context of a relationship, so you can ask clarifying questions, can try to better understand why your parents are telling you to do something, but at the end of the day, what does the Bible command? Obedience. Why do you think that is?

-Parents are meant to serve as a picture/illustration of God, so we demonstrate our obedience to God by obeying our earthly parents. Gen. 1-3 teaches us that God began creation by creating the family. Adam & Eve were commanded to image God to the rest of creation by ordering and bringing structure to what He had created. Part of what that means is creating the various civilizations we see around us! But the basic building block of every civilization is: the family! As the family goes, that’s where the rest of society will go, which is why families matter so greatly to God! 

-That being said, because we’re humans, we have a tendency to ask the next logical question: Is there any room to disobey? Yes, but that shouldn’t be a regular part of your life. If obedience is the expectation, there should only be rare exceptions where you disobey, and the only time & place to disobey is when your parents are telling you something that is contrary to the Bible. One example I’ve seen some parents do is lying about your kids age to get discount food or entrance admissions to parks! There was a video that went viral a few weeks ago about a family sneaking a child into Disney World in a stroller dressed like a baby, and then as soon as they walked in the child came out! God’s rule is even higher than your parents rules, so help your parents obey God’s rules! That’s what Paul says next anyway:

-“In the Lord”

-Isn’t limiting to only believing parents, instead a reminder that children are indwelled by the Holy Spirit too.

-Remember, this letter was meant to be read in the gathering on Sunday morning for the entire church, which means because children are addressed, Paul is assuming they’ll sitting next to their parents! We are meant to be a multi-generational gathering! 

-It’s also important that Paul is rooting this command in previous writings, not something he came up with, it’s in both OT and NT (quoting Ex. 20:12 & Deut. 5:16)

-Proverb, generally true, but unfortunately nothing is guaranteed. Some of this means families are meant to serve as a preserving function in society, if you want your society to function well, families must be given prominence and helped to flourish, how do you do that: connect to a local church.

-But kids: pay attention to what this says about your parents too! Paul isn’t singling you out, your parents also have a job to do, and they’re going to be held responsible by God for how they raised you!

  • Fathers: Teach (4)

-Fathers in the 1st cent. had complete control, could conduct infanticide, sell into slavery, beating was seen as the best form of training. Remember what we saw from Aristotle! There was a literal hierarchy in society, and men, specifically free men, were the pinnacle, everyone else served the men.

-This command is hard! Part of it means in order to discipline your kids correctly, you need to be discipling yourself, not respond in anger because then you’re setting a bad example. When we read of God being described as our Father, it should give us pause, because we need to ask how well we’re doing at representing God to our children. Father’s we serve an incredibly important role in our family, and it begins by not provoking, not belittling, not demeaning them.

-Read a story of an incredibly accomplished theologian who was asked how he was able to write as much as he did, his response was that he sacrificed his kids. Far too many kids bear the brunt of the parents’ insecurities and issues, which perpetuates family wounds and struggles through generations. So dads: be intentional about what kind life you’re building, as well as what example you’re setting.

-Paul uses “bring them up” ektrephete in Eph. 5:29 “nourishes” his wife. Dads, instead of antagonizing your kids, nourish them, feed them, help them understand who God is, what He’s like, and how we should live with Him as our Lord. Paul uses 2 words to describe this:

-Discipline and instruction

-Not just “because I said so” (As often as that turns out to be appropriate I’ve learned, much to the dismay of my 7 year old self!) Instead, this training is supposed to be “Of the Lord” If you limit your correction and training to what God has commanded you’ll be doing well! If you keep your training rooted in God’s Word, not only will you be setting them up for success, but you’ll give them a holistic way of approaching the world and life. Legalism won’t accomplish that, it only leads to either fear of being outside the lines, or rebellion for not being able to measure up.

-“Legalism will prove to be a bankrupt basis for behavior and ethics. Parents need to help their children transition to intrinsic motivations for good behavior.” (Arnold, 430) Another way of thinking about this is teaching them God’s Word, what it means, how to study it, and then taking God’s Word seriously yourself! Share with them how God’s teaching you, share with them about times you mess up, apologize when you’re leaning on legalism instead of God’s Word!

-Obviously this isn’t only for dads, moms play a huge role in raising children, but notice the ultimate responsibility and accountability God has given to Fathers. Take this job seriously! The kids you have are a beautiful gift from God that have been entrusted to you for this season of their lives!

-Practically, what does this look like? (Richard Coekin, pg. 184)

1. It takes a church to raise a kid – so show up! 

2. It takes the gospel to raise kids – so speak up!

3. It takes God to raise kids – so pray up! 

-If your relationship with your parents is strained, if they weren’t believers, thank God that you have a church! Get connected here, we’d love to walk alongside you! Paul in other cases encourages us to treat each other in the church like a family, and all that comes along with that!

  • Slaves: Obey (5-8)

-Need to talk about slavery. Often what comes to mind when we see slavery in the Bible is the chattel slavery that is an abominable reality of our nation’s history. Slavery was different at this time, I found this summary to be helpful:

1) Racial factors played no role. In the US that was the determining factor! How much melatonin in your skin served as the only factor for your role in society. In the 1st century, slaves could be any race, any background, and people even sold themselves into slavery as a payment for debts. 

2) Many slaves could expect emancipation in their lifetime. Slavery was for life here. No hope of freedom, no way to get out, suffer and bear it. Many people in the 1st century were worried about how many people were becoming freed, and started advocating that there should be an age minimum given so there weren’t too many former slaves in the world!

3) Slaves worked in a variety of specialized and responsible positions. Were far more than hired hands to pick the fields. Slaves could be household managers, doctors, and even:

4) Slaves received education and training this was seen as a way to get more value from the slaves. They would become better and better at their craft until they finally were freed.

5) Freed slaves often became Roman citizens and worked with their former masters Eventually given a privileged status and then a job to continue working in! Since they were trained, they became very valuable!

-While you won’t find a verse that says “slavery is sin” you have all the implications that land there. Jesus commands us to love our neighbor not own them, and treat others as we would want to be treated. 

-Paul in 1 Tim. 1:10 lists “enslavers” as living contrary to how God has commanded. As I’ve said before, remember that this text was read in the church, where both slave and free met in the same congregation, sitting right next to each other. 

Philemon is another example of this reality, this new way God wants us to live! Paul wrote the entire letter asking Philemon to free his former slave Onesimus, who ran away than was saved under Paul’s ministry! 

-Obey them like you obey Christ. Not as a lap dog, but as the position God had placed them in.

-Paul doesn’t ground slavery in either the OT or in a theological position. We’ll see next week husband & wives is grounded in both a theological truth and the OT, and so is the command for children. The reality that slavery isn’t grounded in God’s design for the world or with theological reason is significant! It’s demonstrating to us that there’s something different about slavery than there is wives and children.

-And this obedience should come about because of the transformed heard. It’s easy to work hard when you want recognition or attention, that’s normal! But what God has called us to is so far beyond our own power that it can only come about because of His Spirit at work in us! 

-Lorence’s berry farm throwing rotten berries.

-What would it mean to do your work in such a way that you behave like your boss is watching over your shoulder? (He is) That’s the point of vs. 8, God sees everything we do (and think) and wants complete obedience. Do you obey? Do you work hard? Do you view your work as an act of worship, obedience, and service to the Lord, or is it just a means to a paycheck? Remember God has wired you in a specific way, so even your vocation can be a ministry.

-Roots and fruit, doing and being, God cares about our internal motivations and wants to sanctify even our desires.

-Once again, unlike other household rules, Paul turns the idea upside down:

  • Masters: Honor (9)

-Same as slaves? This is radically counter-cultural! What is the same? Treat them as fellow image bearers. Don’t just worry about what other people think (people-pleasers) do good to them because God is watching.

-Threatening seen as the primary way to motivate slaves. We have a document from 61 AD (about the same time Ephesians was written) where someone talking about slavery writes “The only way to keep down this scum is by intimidation.” That’s not how Christians should serve as masters! Don’t threaten, we’re now commanded to do everything we do in love, according to how God has loved us. 

-And then to heap on the expectations, there’s an even higher master than the earthly master. Remember back to Aristotle’s idea, the master who is a male is the highest power, but for anyone in Christ that’s no longer true! Our true master is in heaven, and in his eyes we’re all the same. This last part is the final nail in the coffin for slavery.

-No partiality, we are all one in Christ. Col. 3. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, so live like it! Treat other people how you want to be treated, no matter your position, no matter your power, the way the world uses these things is corrupted, we’re to use them for good.

-Takeaways for us today, despite not living in the same culture. We no longer live in a culture where slavery is the norm (which should lead us to praise God for the common grace of that reality! So while we’re not slaves, all of us have some place we work. Some of us even have people who report to us in our jobs. So how should this passage change the way you approach your work?

-Whenever you work, do your best, work hard, and remember who you’re doing it for. I share regularly 1 Cor. 10:30 “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” which means you can add work in there! When you are at your job God is watching your interactions, He’s watching how you’re using your gifts, and He’s seeing if you’re representing Him well. I don’t say that to heap guilt (he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake) but instead to “make the best use of the time,” to live as Christ has called us to live.

-But this also cuts back the other way, if you have people reporting to you at work, are you honoring them as a human being creating in God’s image, or do you belittle, undermine, and use them to advance your own aims? Don’t threaten them (obviously there needs to be accountability), represent Christ to them.

-God has given us a pretty high bar to follow! Children are to obey, Father’s are to teach and train those children, servants are to obey like they obey Christ, and master’s are honor their slaves as fellow human beings. And all this is only possible through the same power at work in us that rose Jesus from the dead. As we pursue Christ-likeness, as we’re conformed into His image, He will give us the strength we need to be this faithful family.

Ephesians 5:1-17 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Imitation as the sincerest form of flattery, when my sisters would copy my it drove my nuts! Now that I have kids it’s adorable and terrifying! I also see my kids starting to compare themselves to other kids they spend time with (according to my kids, every other person we know has better toys than we do!) In our age, we see imitation taking place all the time! From FOMO to trying to keep up with a family in CA to nervous tics developing in high schoolers because they watch too many TikTok videos. What you take in matters greatly for how you end up living your life!

            -bad company ruins good morals 1 Cor. 15:33

            -who/what are you spending time with?

READ/PRAY

  1. Walk in Love (1-2)

-Once again, Paul builds off what he said in the previous section with “therefore”

-Gave some specific instructions about things to “put off” and other things we’re supposed to “put on.” Not enough to just remove something, has to be replaced with the right thing, otherwise it will remain broken.

-Remember the last verse from Eph 4 last week: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Christ serves as the model for the rest of us as to what putting on forgiveness looks like, but then he takes it a step further at the beginning here: “be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

-Whether they want to admit it or not (depends on their age) children in some form or fashion imitate their parents. There’s good and bad things about that, right? There are some cases where I see my kids doing something I always do and I’m thrilled! There’s other times where I see my kids doing something I do and I worry because I know exactly where it will end up! Another way of thinking about this is asking the question: who do you look like? You can’t help but look, act, think like your parents! So does the way you’re living look like God or not?

-This imitation is bracketed by 2 examples: forgiveness and love. The 2 most difficult traits (I think) for us as believers. Jesus forgave literally everything, yet I struggle forgiving my kids when they break something! And Jesus loved all of us when we were His enemies, I struggle to love people that are annoying!

-But let’s think briefly about what this love looks like. 1 John has a lot to say about love, but 1 passage ties into this verse perfectly 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.” How hard is that? We saw that a couple weeks ago “speak the truth in love” Our love must be visible in our lives, otherwise we’re not being obedient to God’s Word. And Paul goes on:

-This love is meant to be the same way that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. This fragrant offering is a reference back to the OT as a way of signifying the offering was acceptable. Lev. 1 repeats 3 times “It is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord.” Because of Jesus’ perfect and acceptable sacrifice, we can now offer our lives as a living sacrifice Rom. 12:1 “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Church, this is how we imitate God: by pursuing sacrifice. But Paul doesn’t stop there in Rom 12, but goes on to say:

-Similarly in Ephesians, Paul goes on to describe what this transformation looks like:

  • Walk in Light (3-14)

-“But” Paul begins by noting that this is a contrast to the previous section. Being imitators of God means some things must not be true of us. 3 groups of 3 overview: sexual sin, the way you speak, idolatry.

-First 3: sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness. All referring to some kind of sexual sin. 

-First is the general “porneia” in the Greek refers to any kind of sexual sin outside the bounds of marriage. Must be said, there is a sexual morality, faithfulness to how God designed/ordered human relationships to operate/flourish. Throughout history there has been all sorts of deviation from God’s intended purpose to sex, our culture isn’t even close to as morally depraved as the 1st century!

-Second is impurity. This generally refers to a moral brokenness, and often some kind of sexual sin. 

-Third is covetousness, which connects directly to the 10th Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”

-Paul is saying there shouldn’t be even a hint of sexual immorality among believers. “must not even be named” isn’t referring to talking about these issues, it’s saying that people on the outside looking in at believers shouldn’t have any reason to bring up these charges against a believer. Holiness, Christlikeness, demands that we fight against these sexual sins that have been issues since the fall.

-If you read much in the Christian news sphere, the time period I grew up in has been under intense scrutiny for what is now known as the purity movement. Good desires/motivations, terrible execution! The pinnacle was “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris, who went from there to serving as a pastor, and then just a couple years ago he announced that he was divorcing his wife and no longer following Christ. Again, good desires! The free love of the 60s led to a lot of hurt and pain in people, so in a desire to try to protect their children they did the best they thought they could! But when the only message given is: sex is bad, don’t have sex otherwise you’ll get pregnant and have a terrible marriage it leads to a whole host of difficulties! Add to that an unwillingness in the church to actually engage how we think about and pursue healthy sex, and it’s no wonder our world is confused about God’s point and purpose for sex.

-All that background to say, if you have sexual sin in your background, or if you’re currently wrestling through any kind of sexual sin (pornography, same sex attraction, lust) drag it into the light! Share your struggles with someone who loves you and cares about you, and if you don’t have anyone like that get more involved and invested here! This is literally why God has given us the church! We’ll be taking more about this issue when we get to marriage in a couple weeks, but don’t let today pass by without bringing your sin into the light so that we, as Christ’s holy bride, will not even have a hint of sexual sin in our midst.

-Similarly, Paul’s next 3 sins of how you talk: filthiness, foolish talk, and crude joking, some of these words also refer to sexual jokes again. 

-Why does language matter so much? Jesus said that if you want to measure how well you’re growing in your sanctification, look at the words that come out of your mouth (Luke 6:45: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”) 

-You may hear something like this and think “what place does humor have?” I love comedians, I love a good joke, I love funny stories, is that what Paul is talking about here? Thankfully no! Even the Bible has some pretty funny situations and stories (ask me about Ehud sometime, the Southpaw assassin!) Even Jesus told jokes! He called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” and then accuses them of straining out a gnat but then forgetting to filter out the camel, he also said it’s easier for a rich person to get to heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That’s a funny image! Yet jokes have a time and a place, and making a joke at the expense of another human is belittling and dehumanizing to them. This also tells us that there are some areas about which we shouldn’t joke. One of the ones I’ve been contemplating recently is using sex as a joke. It’s meant to be a beautiful picture of the union of the Godhead, but because we don’t like to talk about it, or it makes us uncomfortable, we turn it into a laugh. It’s easy to use a timely jab to alleviate tension or get a laugh, but it’s not how God has called us to live! Think of one of the verses Micah preached on last week:

Eph. 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Church, even in your joking, you should find ways to use it to give grace! And when, not if, you offend, be quick to apologize and seek reconciliation. 

-How is thanksgiving the antithesis of this? Corrupting talk comes about because we’re not grateful for all the ways God has provided for us. 

-CS. Lewis: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” 

-Instead of using your words to tear other people down or revel in sin, use your words to give praise and thanksgiving to God for the immeasurable ways He’s blessed you! 

-Last set of 3 are a repeat of before, but this time Paul connects these ideas to false worship, that is idolatry. 

-One note that I’ve shared before is Ephesus had many cultic influences, home of one of the ancient wonder of the world, the temple to Artemis, the fertility god. Our culture is not the first to turn sex into a god. People are tempted by the same sins today, it just takes different names!

-What do you think the connection between covetous and idolatry is? We covet when we either don’t like what we have or we want more than what we need. I was having a talk with some guys last week about how much is enough? Just a little more. Did you know that a survey demonstrated that happiness directly correlates to your annual salary, but only up to $75,000, from there on out there’s much less of a correlation. How much is 75K? Solidly middle-class. Enough to provide for your needs, set up an emergency fund, and not be stressed about your next meal. From there on out it’s diminishing returns.

-Those who don’t kill these sins have no inheritance in God’s kingdom.

-Remember the big deal Paul made in Eph. 1 about the fact that we are adopted, and since we’re adopted we have all the rights and privileges of being children of God? Those rights and privileges are dependent on us looking like our dad, representing Him to the rest of his creation. Yet all of us fall short of that standard, don’t we? What hope do we have of actually imitating God like we’re supposed to? Thankfully that’s where along with adoption comes the fact that we are now “In Christ.” So it’s no longer about us perfectly measuring up to God’s standard, because Jesus already did, and when God looks at us He now sees Jesus standing in our place! However, there are going to be people until Christ comes back that will either downplay the severity of what God’s saying here, or will add additional rules and stipulations onto what Christ has already accomplished.

-“Empty words.”

-Quite the phrase, isn’t it? A bag of hot air! In context, this is referring to someone who downplays the severity of sin, or lowers God’s perfect standard. Let’s think back to the first time someone questioned the validity of God’s standard? The serpent in the very beginning: “Did God really say?” That’s the epitome of “empty words.” And even looking at the way Eve was tempted is true of us today: she looks, she notices that it’s delightful, and then she desires it and takes it. That’s a summary of every sin you commit!

-There’s increasing pressure in our culture today to cave into these “empty words” I see people responding with anger, or saying it’s time to move on from a gentle answer, or pastors accused of being woke for tweeting a Bible verse. Or even to downplay the reality and effects of sin (remember what we just saw about how destructive sexual sin is!). If you want to live a life to the fullest, be obedient to God, because otherwise you’ll be under God’s wrath. Sometimes that means there will be ramifications for your sin on this side of heaven, but it is guaranteed to have implications for eternity, which is why God gives us each new day as an opportunity to rededicate our lives to Him, and why we have the reminder in the Bible that His mercies are new every morning! So even if you give into the empty words, don’t run away from God, His grace is still enough.

-“Do not become partners with them.” How do we obey this and still obey the great commission to go into all the world and make disciples?

-We need to remember that we are both in but not of the world. We don’t live the same way, we don’t have the same motivating force, we’re living as citizens of heaven! We live a normal, human life, but we don’t participate in sin the same way the unbelievers we spend time with will. 

-Now, in your evangelism, don’t sin either! If you’re an alcoholic, don’t go to the local brewery as an attempt to witness to others! If you’re materialistic, maybe don’t go to the mall with your unbelieving friends. However, don’t waste the unique ways God has equipped you to evangelize. Your house isn’t yours, God has placed you there to be a light shining in your neighborhood, so don’t hide your light, don’t extinguish your light, shine brightly, and look for opportunities to share the gospel in what you say and in how you live:

-“Were darkness, are light” BIG difference! 

-If we are light, we carry the light with us wherever we go, so go into the darkness and bring the light to it. 

-If we are light, the fruit that comes out of that is the opposite of the 9 descriptions Paul laid out at the beginning. Should make you think of another fruit of 9 Paul lists in Gal. 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These fruit will never fail, never rot, never go out of style, and if put into practice will be radically different than the way the world wants us to operate. As I’ve shared before, I can’t get over the gentleness piece. Where do you see gentleness in our world today? You SHOULD be seeing it in those who claim Christ! If you’re not gentle, are you walking in the light? 

-The fruit of the Spirit is how we can please the Lord. By living a fruit filled life, we will by our conduct expose the unfruitful works.

-One of the pieces we need to be aware of as children of the light is we need to live our lives in the light. That means we need to bring our sins and struggles into the light and share our struggles with other believers. James 5 commands us to confess our sins to each other, to shine the light into the darkness of our sins. One thing this means is that we must be willing to share every area of our lives with someone(s). Doesn’t need to be the same person, but if you have areas of your life that no one else knows about, you’re not truly known, not truly living in the light, and not trusting God’s forgiveness for your sins.

-It’s ok to no be ok, but open yourself up to not just stay there, wallowing in your not ok-ness. Be connected to other believers (the church) who will love you despite your sins! Expose those areas to the light, if you’re in Christ you don’t have anything to fear! What will the judgment of humans do to you? Remember, you’re seated with Christ in heaven!

Vs. 14 connects to Eph. 2:1 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.” 

-Now that we’ve been raised with Christ, Christ is shining on us, in us, and through us, therefore we:

  • Walk in Wisdom (15-17)

-God has given us wisdom through the indwelling of His Spirit who illuminates His Word to help us know how to live. That’s how we walk carefully. Word -> wise walking.

-My love for reading came about through paying attention to driving. “No parking” on a street we drove regularly. Need to know the rules in order to drive wisely, similarly we need to know God, who created and ordered everything we see around us, and the rules He has given that will lead to flourishing. This even ties into the next vs:

-How do we make the best use of the time?

-Extremism is workaholism, or guilt for having down times. Doing versus being. God has called us to be so that we can do, not the other way around.

-Jesus, when He was on earth, was limited by time and space. Do you know what He did really well? Sleep. Withdraw from the crowds. Pray. Spend time at the synagogue (church). Spend time with his closest friends. Partied. How do we make the best use of the time? We put God first, use everything we do as a tool to worship Him. Eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, nothing is off limits to worship Him! 

-This is how we’re not foolish, we’re not idolaters, and Paul lands with understanding the Lord’s will: 

1 Thess. 4:2 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” Holiness. 

1 Thess. 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

-This is difficult for us! To have not even a hint of sin, to rejoice always, to pray for everything, to be legitimately grateful people no matter what our circumstances are telling us. Yet that’s exactly what God allows us to be. It’s not work harder, it’s not clean up your act, it’s give up, die to yourself, and allow God to actually work in you. It’s be a perfectly normal human being, who has rightly ordered your life, who is shining as light (the fruit of the Spirit) and then day by day becoming better imitators of our perfectly heavenly Father.

Ephesians 4:1-16 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Played basketball in HS, remains my favorite sport (go Warriors!), yet there was something that still bothers me about the “team” aspect of it. All had to wear the same color shoes, couldn’t do headbands or arm bands, couldn’t grow facial hair, had to look as similar as we could, even wearing similar outfits on game day.

-All that disappeared as soon as practice started. 15 guys made the squad, only 5 guys play. For every 5 man drill, guess the breakup of the teams! The cherry on top was whoever won didn’t have to run suicides, so guess who just despised the starting 5 – everyone else! Anytime I’m with my basketball friends from high school and this comes up I can feel myself starting to get worked up again, I’ve mostly worked through it by now

-It’s one thing to have these external standards of conformity that we tend to view as unity. They look alike, they must therefore think and act alike. It’s a completely different ball game (pun intended) to actually be a unified people, despite the differences about us. Look around, we are not the same! Yet we’ve seen through the book of Ephesians these truths that we’re one people. So how can that work despite all our differences? 

READ/PRAY

  1. Unity Means We’re the Same (1-6)

-Paul continues all the thoughts he’s been building up until this point with “therefore” 

-One of the easiest ways to study the Bible is to trace the flow of thought. When you see a “therefore” in the text ask what it’s there for. It’s those silly little tricks like that that will help you better study the Bible!

-Paul’s been continually building on a single flow of thought through this book: apart from Christ Jew & Gentile (really everyone) are divided, once they’re brought from death into life now they’re a new people who can’t be divided. Last week I said the prayer served as the hinge point to transition from the theological exposition to the implementation of those beliefs (indicative to the imperative)

-A good way of summarizing what the implication of those beliefs are is vs. 1 “walk worthily” Remember, I shared back in Eph. 2, walk refers to your whole way of life. What do you think it means to walk worthily? Up until this point, what kinds of things has Paul said?

-“Love toward all the saints” (1:15) “Might reconcile us both to God in one body” (2:16) The church is where the manifold wisdom of God is seen (3:10)

-Unity in the church (explicit in vs. 3)

-It’s also important to note that this unity, this transformed way of living isn’t optional, because Paul goes on “of the calling to which you have been called.” God has called us to live our lives in such a way that it is worthy of Him. Paul has already said this earlier in 2:10 “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” How are you doing at this task of living out good works that are worthy of God? 

-Paul doesn’t just stop there though, and even my asking of that question should make you ask the next question: what does that look like, in practice? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a summary: 2-3

-Humility wasn’t held up as a virtue in the 1st century. It was seen as unbecoming of a man, unless it was a demonstration of someone’s lower class. It would be the same today as someone encouraging you to be prideful. How would you receive that? Then along comes Jesus who flips the world upside down. Matt. 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” When Paul tells us to be lowly/humble he’s telling us to be like Jesus! 

-Not just humility, gentleness too! What a counter-cultural idea today. I preached a whole sermon on this idea last fall from Phil. 4:5 “Let your gentleness be known to everyone.” Are you known as a gentle person in your responses, or are you known as an angry person? Have you ever felt yourself getting worked up in a conversation, only the have the temperature drop immediately by someone’s gentle response? Prov. 15:1 “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” If all of us pursued gentleness first in our responses to each other, we wouldn’t even need some of the other reminders in this text!

-But almost as if to remind us that this task really is impossible in our own efforts, he adds patience! I remember joking with people that you need to be careful when you ask for patience, because God will provide the training grounds in short order! There have been seasons in my life where this idea has been pressed on me (I tend to get busy and keep pushing). I had one of those seasons in seminary where I would intentionally get in the longest line in the grocery store (I prefer self-checkout), I was commuting to seminary straight through the heart of Denver (mountains means there’s only 1 way) and would intentionally stay in the right lane (anyone that’s commuted knows how painful that is!). As I’ve shared before, I’m still not a patient person, but I’ve seen God continuing to beat some of that impatience out of me!

-Then, once you’ve got those first 3 down perfectly, you can do the next one easily: bear with one another. If only he stopped there! IN LOVE! We saw this idea last week in 3:17 “rooted and grounded in love.” It starts back there as a prayer, but then finds it’s necessary implication here. There’s a tendency among all of us to look down at other people who aren’t gifted the same way as us. I remember as I was growing up being baffled by people who weren’t musical, because it came so easily to me! Or having conversations with people who view themselves are more mature than they actually are, and then looking down on other people for not being at their level. Dear friends, the more mature we get, the lower the level we’ll be willing to go to “bear with each other.” 

-And Paul continues: “eager to maintain”, others: “Making every effort” What are you willing to do for us to stay united together? The two most important words in the English language: I’m sorry. This unity isn’t optional, it’s not a nice tag on, it’s a command. Jesus says this when he prays for us in John 17“that they may be one.” Yet how quickly have you seen people leave a church for a perceived slight, instead of making every effort to keep unity and peace?

-There’s a lot more that could be said about these first 3 verses, but we need to keep going! Paul continues to ground these traits in the same idea that he had been emphasizing in the first 3 chapters, look at this long list of ones: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God. We don’t get to determine who is a part of this body, God does. Just like you don’t get to choose the family you’re born to, God does. 

-Despite the reality that we are now a part of the same body, this doesn’t mean we’re all clones. Think of the Star Wars prequels (which, let’s be honest, were still largely better than the ones Disney made where they just copied everything from the originals!) This is a bit of a spoiler alert, but it’s kind of given away in the title: The Clone Wars. Bad guys have created an army of clones to fight their battle, everyone is exactly the same. That’s not how it works with God! We saw a hint of this 2 weeks ago in 2:10 “through the church the manifold (multifaceted) wisdom of God might be made known” So the way we demonstrate our unity seems counterintuitive: by using our differences.

  • Unity Means We’re Different (7-12)

-Vs. 7 Paul is saying when we’re brought from death to life, the Spirit gives us grace (a gift) that comes from Christ.

-Paul uses a quote from Psalm 68 next, which I’ll talk about more in sermon scraps tomorrow since there’s some debate about what Paul means here, so consider this the preview! This quote comes up as a way for Paul to talk about how Jesus fills us with His gifts. The means by which He fills all things is by His body (the church) using these gifts together.

-In order to fill all things, God provides specific order and structure to his church. That’s where, in vs. 11 he describes the various church offices as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Let’s take a look at each of these offices.

-Apostles. Literally translated it means messenger, used by God to explain and bring God’s good news of salvation found in Christ (the gospel)

-prophets: at times predicted future things that would happen, usually would explain what the gospel meant and how to be obedient to God’s will

-Evangelist: share the gospel with any and everyone, some people are uniquely gifted at this! I knew someone who was unbelievably gifted at this, who onetime stopped by a shoe store between meetings and led the salesperson to Christ!

-Some debate on this last one, whether it’s 1 or 2 offices. There is a different conjunction between these two offices. All the previous are “the,” this one is “and.” Some have even translated this as “teaching shepherds.” Most people argue that this 2 separate offices (all pastors teach, not all teachers are pastors) Explain how “pastor” and “shepherd” connect 

-But these specific offices don’t exist for themselves. Instead, these specific offices are given from God for 1 purpose: vs. 12. So often we look to people with charismatic personalities, or leadership abilities when God tells us that unless they’re equipping the saints, they’re failing at their job. 

-Brothers and sisters let me be as explicit as I can be: if I as your pastor, if we as your staff fail at equipping this body, you need to call into question whether or not we’re doing our job. In a little bit, we’ll get to what equipping looks like, but I feel like there’s profound misunderstanding of what those who are called to ministry are supposed to do. 

-Story of Jake with small groups being asked to pray.

-Equipping the saints for the work of “service” 3:7 “I was made a minister/ servant” Friends, we are all called to serve one another. We don’t get the option to tap out of that service. Since we’re all part of the body, we all need to do our part! If we’re not doing our part, we won’t build up the body of Christ.

-One thing to talk about in relation to this is the competition game we all play. We get upset that we’re not gifted the same way as someone else, or even start to look down on someone else who is wired differently from you (like I did with music!). But that’s the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing here!

-AIO story of Mr Foot, Ms Lips

-“Since Christ is the giver of the spiritual gifts and spiritual functions, there is no place for human pride, as if the gifts were self-generated or in some way earned. Similarly there is no place for envy since Christ has gifted all and that in various and different ways.” (John Vooys)

-Yet even these various services have an expiration date to them:

  • Unity Means We Grow Up (13-16)

-The word “until” means there comes a time where the body of Christ won’t need to be built up anymore. However, as long as we’re on this side of eternity that moment won’t arrive! This also is meant to comfort us, because this means it will happen! 

-3 things about this maturity: communal, unity, the standard we’re aiming for

-Communal: “we all” We’re only as strong as our weakest link, which means we all need to be pouring into each other to grow into maturity. This is yet another reminder that we can’t just look down at other people who aren’t wired the same way, don’t have the same training or experiences, and instead we’re urged to bring them along with us (1 Cor. 11:1 “imitate me as I imitate Christ”) But this also should remind us that we all individually need to ensure we’re maturing, not for ourselves, but for the sake of those around us. Individually we all need to grow, so that communally our body can continue to grow. 

-Unity “unity of the faith” Our growth/ maturation is meant to lead us to unity, so why does it seem like those who claim to be the most mature are the most willing to separate? Or even a more intense question, if God has called us to unity, why are there so many denominations around the world? A really quick answer: unity does not mean uniformity. Since God is so great, He cannot be completely understood by 1 person or group of people, so each denomination emphasizes certain characteristics of God better than others. Second, don’t discount the work of sin, even in the lives of believers. It never fails to surprise me the reasons people will use as an excuse to leave a church, without being faithful to what Scripture has called and commanded in our lives. Friends, let me plead with you: don’t let sin have a hold in your life, don’t be easily offendable, and be quick to seek reconciliation. That’s a marker of maturity! Christians shouldn’t be a part of cancel culture, we’re called to be a part of reconciliation culture!

-One brief note on this unity, it comes through the knowledge of the Son of God. You’re not going to mature without growing in knowledge of Jesus, that’s impossible. And where/ how has Jesus revealed Himself to us? Through His Word. This means growing in maturity is growing in understanding of His Word, together.

-The standard we’re aiming for: “to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Scholar FF Bruce helpfully summarizes this idea: “The glorified Christ provides the standard at which his people are to aim: the corporate Christ cannot be content to fall short of the perfection of the personal Christ.” We’re supposed to represent Christ fully. No excuses, no other options. I had a prof. in seminary who asked why we often miss this idea. We have the same Spirit in us that raised Jesus Christ, we have access to the same power that Jesus did, why do we tend to be unaware of that reality, or forget to pray that that power would be demonstrated in our lives?

-I sometimes wonder if we’re too quick to jump to “that’s impossible.” Think of what Jesus commanded in Matt. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s the standard! That’s the definition of maturity, which means until Jesus comes back, we still have work to do. 

-This 3-fold aspect to maturity all combines together to land us in vs. 14 “so that” the maturity aims for…”no longer children” a natural byproduct of “mature manhood” in 13

-“Tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about” If or when we are not mature, we are susceptible to following false teaching. 

-Paul specifically mentions 3 things that lead people astray: doctrine (what about doctrine that doesn’t make sense or need emphasizes the wrong things “pisseth against the wall”), human cunning (People tend to be far too clever with their biblical studies, making weird connections that don’t need to be there. I had a member at one church who claimed to know the day Jesus was coming back from numerology and astrology), craftiness in deceitful schemes (good description of Mormons or JWs, or I would even argue people who are legalists). 

-Instead of being children who are repeatedly led astray, what does Paul say we should do? “speak the truth in love.” Friends, this is so hard to do! It’s easy to speak the truth, it’s nearly impossible to do it “in love,” especially over matters of doctrine, of beliefs that are essential to the faith. Yet how do we live in an understanding way with people who are at different stages of maturity in their walk with the Lord? John Stott understood this tension well: (long quote, but worthwhile)

-“Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth’, and his firstfruit is ‘love’. There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity.”

-Speaking the truth in love is the way God uses to help the church grow up into Him. He is the one who is joining and holding the various members together, but then all those individual members are called to work properly together. Do you see the interplay between the individual and the body here? Overemphasizing one at the expense of the other will lead to disfunction and unhealth. Another commentary helpful summarized this idea:

-“The church is not an assembly of self-sufficient individuals convening to discuss their similar experiences. Instead, it is an organism that grows as each part performs the task allotted to it.” (Mars Hill thing)

-As the organism called the church continues to grow/ mature, it is building itself up in, what’s the last phrase? “In love” Paul is reminding us that the single mark of maturity in the believer is love. Do you want to see how well you’re doing at maturing as a disciple? Take stock of how you’re growing in your love. Do you want to see how well we’re growing as a church? Looks at how we’re growing in our love. Again, not like the world defines it, love as God defines it in 1 Cor. 13

-Paul reminds us here that we must by united in Christ to grow in maturity. This unity is demonstrated in our diverse gifts, which all of us need to use to grow into maturity under the headship of Christ, which is all done under the ethic of love.

Ephesians 3:1-13 Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-magic tricks (penny, card) lose the awe and wonder when you know how they work

READ/PRAY

  1. The Mystery Revealed to Paul (1-5)

-This should start to feel like 1 long, continuous thought to you! Paul just keeps building on his previous sections/arguments here.

-For what reason? Because of the reality that both Jew and Gentile are now one in Christ. This section seems to be essentially a parenthesis, because take a quick peak at vs. 14, notice Paul starts the exact same way! However, something triggered Paul to remember to talk about some of the implications of what he had talked about in chpt. 2, namely that God has brought us from death into life if we put our faith in Him, then that is demonstrated in and through the local church where Jew and Gentile are now 1 body.

-We also learn something new about Paul’s current state of affairs: he’s a prisoner. Sometimes this “prisoner of Christ Jesus” can refer merely to the fact that we have no life on our own, but in this case, Paul is writing while he is imprisoned, and it is quite literally because of his calling to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles.

Acts 21:27-30 – in Jerusalem, notice the assuming that is going on! Because of God’s call on Paul’s life to preach that Jesus is the Christ, the long promised and awaited Messiah, this lead to Paul’s current imprisonment. The rest of the book of Acts recounts Paul’s various trips from being a prisoner and finally landing in Rome. Even the imprisonment isn’t enough to distract Paul or move him off his primary calling, he continues preaching the gospel everywhere he goes!

-By the time Paul writes this note to the church, it’s been a few years from when he visited, this also is one of the reasons many people believe this letter was meant to be distributed to a variety of churches. 

-But pay careful attention to what Paul is saying here, he’s given a stewardship. Paul didn’t make it up on his own, wasn’t trying to build a platform, he’s just a steward. This is another way Paul is describing God’s plan from eternity past, God knew that He would build His church, and Paul would be the messenger He would use, the steward to share the insights into this plan, which is what Paul says next:

-Mystery is the theme of this section, we’ll get to what he’s talking about in a minute, but first note that the mystery was revealed to Him. 

-When and how? Most likely referring to the Damascus Road encounter! Read a book this summer from a Pauline scholar that has tried to put together a biography about Paul’s life, taking what he’s learned and studied from a 1st century context, the evidence we have from the NT and put them together. His account of the Damascus Road was fascinating to me! 

-One of the common experiences to the Jewish scholars was meditating and asking God to speak again. God wasn’t meant to be silent, all these promises throughout the OT were going to be fulfilled somehow and someway! One of the passages they meditated over was Ezek. 1 where the prophet is given sight into the heavenly temple (which the earthly temple was meant to serve as a model of). Ezekiel’s description starts at the bottom, and slowly works its way up until he lands on someone seated on a throne, was “a likeness with human appearance.” Ezekiel is so overwhelmed by this glimpse that he falls on his face in worship! This passage served as a template for people like Paul to pray to similarly catch a glimpse of God’s throne. Imagine Paul, in his zeal for the one true God, is meditating and praying along the Damascus Road, when suddenly he catches a glimpse of the same things Ezekiel saw, the 4 living creatures, the wings, and as Paul’s eyes continue climbing, sitting in the throne is Jesus, the Nazarene, who asks Paul a simple question: why are you persecuting me? This was enough to change Paul’s zeal against the church to zeal for the church. Every good Jew would have been asking for a revelation to come, but God answered Paul’s prayer, and answered it in a way he hadn’t expected! And then God continues answering it all the way down through today in his Word (we’ll see that in vs. 5)

-I find it funny that Paul describes himself as “writing briefly” Some of his letters are brief, but not all of them! 

-Vs. 4 – these books that we read today were read in the early church gatherings, from front to back. By reading this together, and the Holy Spirit at work in us, Paul knows that is sufficient to understand what he means.

-But this is also gets to some of what we believe about the purpose of the Bible. I spent some time with some other pastors this past week and we spent some time talking about Isa. 55:10-11 “As the rain and snow come down from heaven…so shall my word be, it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

-The Word of God is living and active, yet so many people I talk to forget that. I forget that! I was sharing this week that I want to get a sign that sits on my desk that says “let the Word do the work.” Friends, it’s so tempting to not look to God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to us, isn’t it?

-Remember, the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us is through His Word. I’ve read some people say that conservative evangelicals (which is us) worship the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Scriptures, and I take offense at that! We recited it today, we believe in the Father, Son and HS, but what is God’s chosen means of revealing Himself to the world? Through His Word! I didn’t make this book up, no mere mortal could come up with the beauty of this story, or the way the gospel subversively fulfills every other competing way of trying to put the world together. I’ve been told to not limit God to His Word, and I don’t since God did, and He can’t and won’t contradict Himself!

-But this revelation is something that previous generations didn’t get to see. 

-Think of the “hall of faith” in Heb. 11. Noah, Abraham, Moses all these heroes of the faith didn’t get to see the reality of what they hoped for. Sometimes that’s a hard reality for me to believe, think of the things those guys saw. Noah saw humanity wiped out, water covering every mountain, rain coming for 40 days and 40 nights. Abraham saw his wife who was “well advanced in years” become pregnant because God promised it would happen. Moses was spared certain death from the Egyptians and walked across a dry ocean bed, he witnessed plagues strike the greatest nation on earth, and then got to talk to God on a mountain. And we’re in a more privileged position than any of them. Why? Because we live on this side of Jesus’ arrival. 

-I saw a friend recently post on FB that you can prove most of the events of Jesus’ life and the rest of the NT without using the Bible and just using other 1st century documents. Did you know that? There are historical reasons to believe in Jesus outside the NT, but what we have here has been proven time and time again to be true. And again, we’re not the first generation to see these things! Nor is Paul the only one God is revealing these truths to:

-God revealed it to “his holy apostles and prophets”

-Something similar to 2:20 last week, those specific offices in the early church that God used to begin the church. More on Scraps tomorrow

-“by the Spirit”

-The same Spirit alive in us today

  • The Mystery Is… (6-7)

-Paul is explicit! This mystery that he’s been talking about is…(drumroll please) Gentiles are now a part of God’s chosen family. 

-Those who were far off have been brought near, the promised Messiah came and changed everything.

-What is it Paul means when he talks about mystery? Many of the scholars make note of how frequently “mystery” is used throughout this book because in many of the other religions the “mystery” was some hidden secret that you could only achieve through their religion. 

-This chapter isn’t the first time using mystery in this book, 1:9 “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”

-Mystery is the revealing of God’s eternal plan that previous generations longed to see, that God gave glimpses of throughout history, and knew just the right time to send His Son to earth. 

Gal. 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

-This mystery was promised all the way back to Father Abraham in Gen. 12:3 “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

-Paul specifically mentions 3 things that are now true about the Gentiles: fellow heirs, same body, partakers. In the Greek he uses the class preacher move: alliteration to make his point 

-No Jew would have expected this to happen. Fellow heirs? In the same body? Partakers of the same promise? All those things they’d been waiting for are now available to their sworn enemies? Blasphemy!

-Through the gospel. What is the gospel? The good news that Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, who lived the perfect life we couldn’t live, then died in our place and rose on the third day validating everything He said, therefore we should respond in faith and trust in Him and spend the rest of our lives becoming more and more obedient to how He commanded us to live. God, man, Christ, response. 

-Paul then goes on to share one of the ways we should respond to the truths of the gospel. The mystery revealed through the gospel is evidenced by ministry, service. The word translated in your Bibles as “minister” is where we get the word for “deacon” or one translation put “servant” there. There’s a lot of cultural baggage associated with that term today: is it another name for pastor? Don’t have time to dig too far, but let me just note that all of us are called to minister, or serve each other. When Christ saves us, He equips us with a gift for the good of our body, and if you’re not actively using your gift for the good of others, our body will be dysfunctional and unhealthy. But it’s not just for kicks and giggles, not to build yourself up, this is:

-Only because of God’s grace. Anyone who is now “in Christ” has been given grace as a free gift, grace that overwhelms like a flood in our lives, bringing us from death into life, transferring us from being far away from God to near to Him, and co-heirs with Him, seated in the heavenly places! 

-Don’t be afraid to use your gifts! Everyone has one, God wouldn’t call you here if you didn’t! Don’t be afraid to try new things to figure out where and how God has uniquely wired you to steward your gifts for the good of the body, the building up of the church, and the glory of God. One pastor said it this way:

-“The mystery demands ministry.” (Kent Hughes) If God has saved you, you have a job to do! You have a ministry/service to pursue, and none of us are off the hook! This is part of the reason I play music on Sunday mornings, I’m not above using my gifts for our body, and neither are you!

-The power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20)

  • The Mystery Made Visible (8-13)

-“very least” he says something similar in 1 Cor. 15:9 “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. and 1 Tim. 1:15 “he saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

-Is Paul just a pessimist? Like Eeyore who sits around moping all day? Unless we understand and meditate on the reality that we are sinners, we’ll never truly understand just how amazing God’s grace is! Unless you wake up everyday marveling and praising God that He could save someone like you, you’ll have a tendency to become self-righteous and look down on other people. God doesn’t let us get away with that kind of thinking! When we know and understand our place in relation to God it frees us to no longer worry about ourselves, but instead this is the starting point of faithful ministry/service to God and others.

-“Unsearchable riches”

-Friends, we’ll never be able to plumb the depths of what God has done for us in Christ. The Marianna trench, the deepest point on Earth can’t contain it, millions of galaxies can’t contain it. “If we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made. To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.” We’ll have eternity to explore this idea, yet even eternity isn’t enough time for us to properly come to understand how God has worked this out! 

-Notice how this mystery is made visible today in vs 10

“It is through the old creation (the universe) that God reveals his glory to humans; it is through the new creation (the church) that he reveals his wisdom to angels.” (Stott, 124)

-This manifold wisdom is full of connotations. It means “many colored” think of a beautiful rug, flowers, or jewelry. It was also used in Gen. to describe Joseph’s “coat of many colors.” The church is meant to serve as a beautiful tapestry, weaving together people from every race, nation, tribe, and tongue together. What other community can accurately reflect this reality? People from different socio-economic backgrounds, different gifts, different interests, different ages, different vocations, but the same God. The church is God’s chosen means of demonstrating to the world (and the spiritual world) what this gospel message looks like. It means we have a huge burden to bear!

-I onetime heard a pastor/comedian share how he talks about his job on a place. He tells people he works for a global nonprofit that serves billions of people. His boss owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and provides everything he could ever need. The lady was amazed until the punchline: I’m a pastor. Now that we’re saved we need to use a different measuring stick than money and stuff. How effective are we at demonstrating the “manifold (many colored) wisdom of God”? 

-Eternal purpose – God has a plan. History is moving somewhere. Mark Twain “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” Those rhymes, allusions point to a Creator with a plan.

-This plan is centered around a person, who created a new group of people that are to be gathered under Him as the head, that he called “the church”

– Stott: The church is central to history (11) The church is central to the gospel, The church is central to Christian living (13) So become a member!

-It is in the church that we have boldness and access with confidence. The church brings us together, affirms our faith, and allows us to serve each other.

-Paul’s call to service means he’s even willing to suffer on their behalf. Similar to today, being imprisoned was a disgrace, people would start to question his call. Yet the reason he’s suffering is for their sake. Do we suffer for our brothers and sisters? That’s what we’re called to! In fact, suffering is the only guarantee we have while we’re on this earth.

-Suffering reveals our hearts (Matt. 13:20-21 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”)

-Comes with this side of heaven (John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”)

-The means by which we can comfort others (a ministry/service) (2 Cor. 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.) 

-What looks like magic to the world is common for God. God has shown us His hand, he’s revealed this mystery to us, now it’s up to us to continue sharing the peek behind that curtain to others, and live it out in a way that shows it to be true!

Ephesians 2:11-22 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-What is your earliest memory? Memories are a fascinating thing, aren’t they? Some moments we can remember as clear as if we were there each time we bring it to mind, others are just completely gone until you find a picture or an old friend reminds you of a shared experience. Maybe like me, you’ve been carelessly walking through a mall when a smell hits you, and brings back a flood of memories! When I moved back here, the first time we took our kids to MOA when I caught a whif of Cinnabon! I hadn’t eaten or smelled that delicious concoction since I left MN, but it brought back all the times I’d gone there with friends growing up, and the worst part is now that I have the money to buy it, I know I shouldn’t!

-Memories are significant in all of our lives, there can be negative memories we have that get triggered regularly, or positive memories that get triggered by other things, almost like riding a bike! No matter how long it’s been, they can come back.

-God has also given us collective memories that we’re supposed to call to mind on a regular basis, this is why it’s so important for us to gather together on the Lord’s day, this is why something like NCC is so important: God has designed our minds to remember certain things. I’ve started describing the purpose of our gathering as: remember and remind. Remember who God is and what He’s done, and then intentionally remind each other to live in light of that truth.

READ/PRAY

  1. Remember What You Were (11-12)

-“Therefore” connects us back to last week. That was a whole 7 days ago, so what did we study last week? Before Christ, we were dead, but God, who is rich in mercy, brought us to life and prepared good works for all of us to walk in. Because of this new life that is given by God, Paul begins by encouraging the Gentile readers to look back.

-Need to talk about an issue that I hadn’t made much mention of before: the different ethnicities Paul addresses in Ephesus, and the ethnocentrism that has been a problem since the Fall. 

-It’s important to remember Paul’s history in regards to ethnicities: he was a Jew. And not just any Jew, Acts 22:3 summarizes his life: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” In Phil. 3 he refers to himself as blameless according to the law, he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone who was a follower of Jesus.

-Paul demonstrated the way the Jewish people had been trained to think: there was Jew, and then then there was everyone else. And unless you were a Jew you were useless. (you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much) One Jewish author actually wrote that Gentiles were created to keep the fires of hell burning. Just to be fair, everyone else also looked down on the Jews as weirdos, so it was a mutual hatred! 

-But the crazy thing about this new faith called “The Way” or “Christianity” is it was meant to transcend all ethnic and cultural boundaries, and transform everyone from the inside out. But how difficult is it to overcome historical tension that goes back generations? We struggle with tensions that go back a week! So how do you think people from different ethnic backgrounds (who had been taught to hate each other their whole lives) would feel when they walk into church on Sunday and sitting next to them is that person? How would they be able to sit together, much less actively love each other? It’s only through a radical, life altering transformation. Thankfully, as we saw last week, that transformation has taken place! Dead people can’t get along, if you’ve seen any zombie movie you’ve seen that! But now, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, these 2 diverse groups can begin to get along.

-“Remember” doesn’t Paul contradict this in Phil. 3:13?

-Remember last week: we are sinners by nature and by choice, all of us need to be saved from our sin, whether you’re trying to be the best person you can, or you’re stuck in a cycle of addiction and sin that you can’t escape. God’s grace and mercy are still for you. We all need to remember what Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:11, after running through a list of sins “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” Even in our remembering, we recognize that we’re no longer that way! 

-“You Gentiles, in the flesh” flesh is repeated again.

-The differences are only skin deep. Circumcision was meant to be the sign of the covenant since the time of Father Abraham. Every law-abiding Jew was circumcised (even Paul). On the flip side, the Gentiles mocked the Jews for the practice of circumcision, so it was a contentious issue! But how effective is an external surgery at dealing with the problem of sin?

-This is a temptation for all of us! We all want to find something that will allow us to be measured righteous without having to die to ourselves. If only it was as easy as cleaning up our lives! It takes a death, and then daily dying again and again to our own made up standards so that we can actually follow Christ.

-Paul is not afraid here to call out what they’re adding to the faith when he says “by hands.” Remember, circumcision was the sign that someone was in right standing before God (righteous) but by using that phrase, he’s equating circumcision to idolatry. How would Jews feel about an accusation of idolatry? 

-We’re all tempted to do the same thing today: add external things to our faith on a regular basis, oftentimes without even realizing it! Music, clothes, schooling, books (Harry Potter), political party. We, as humans, are really good at creating ways that we’re supposed to follow God. Then we ostracize anyone who doesn’t agree with every detail of trappings we’ve added to the faith, which ironically enough is meant to be the marker of those who aren’t following after God.

-Once again, please pay attention to what I’m NOT saying: not saying there aren’t things we should divide over, but we need to be careful what it is that we’re putting up as markers of true orthodoxy, and what is an application point from true theology. (more in that in tomorrow’s Sermon Scraps!)

“Separated, alienated, strangers, no hope, without God”

-These are the markers of someone who isn’t in God, not meant to be dividers of those who are in Christ. 

-No hope is an interesting thing to contemplate. Paul talks about this in 1 Thess. 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” One of the primary markers of Christians is that we are a hope filled people. The world may fall down around us, but we still have hope, not in ourselves, not in the world, but we have hope in God! This hope is based on what Paul goes on to talk about:

  • Remember What Jesus Does (13-18)

-BUT NOW- once again, Paul starts with the bad news before talking about the shift that come: “IN Christ Jesus” all the blessings that we have come about ONLY because we’re in Christ. Blessings, children, seated with Him, now the emphasis is on relational distance that has now been amended.

“Far off” vs. “brought near” 

-Muppets made the best illustration of this with Grover

-For those who are not in Christ, we’re eternally separated from God, a chasm that we cannot cross. Think of the first time you saw the ocean (assuming you’ve seen it) I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at the distance between me and the next chunk of land “if I get sucked out, I’m not getting back” That distance pails in comparison to the eternal gulf separating us from God. There’s no way to bridge that by our own efforts, it only comes about because Jesus bought us with his blood. We saw this in Eph. 1:7 “In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”

-This idea of how we can be near to God is one of the major themes throughout Scripture. Talk with Micah – one way of putting the Bible together is the way we can be near God. Think of how Matthew structures his book, begins with Immanuel (God with us) last phrase of the great commission: behold I am with you always, to the end of the age. Genesis begins with God dwelling with His people, Revelation ends saying “The dwelling place of God is with man” this separation that we have today will no longer exist!

-He is our peace, because He is now alive in us (Gal. 2:20) Peace is the theme of this section, notice the end of vs. 15 repeats the peace idea, with 3 things this peace accomplishes: made us one, broken down the dividing wall, and abolishing the law of commandments.

-Made us one, beginning and end (14a16b). The things that we once used to divide are no longer allowed to divide those of us who are in Christ. Same as we saw at the beginning of this section, we’re no longer allowed to divide however we want, we need to divide where God divides: in Christ or not.

-Second: broken down the dividing wall. Some debate about what Paul means by this, as he goes on to talk about the means by which he has done this is “by abolishing the law of commandments” The law was what served as the distinction between the two groups, Jews obeyed, Gentiles didn’t! 

-But there was also a literal dividing wall in the temple where Gentiles were only allowed to a certain point before a sign would say “No foreigner is to enter within the forecourt and the balustrade around the sanctuary. Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” How do you think this would train the Jews to treat the Gentiles? But Paul goes even further:

-“abolishing the law of commandments” Abolishing has a wide range of interpretive options: “make powerless” “use up” “to be released from” one translation went with “nullify” When Jesus came, he came to fulfill the law. He obeyed everything God had commanded perfectly, because no one else could. One of the primary reasons God gave the law was to reveal how unable we are to achieve the level of holiness He expects. And then when Jesus came he double down: it’s no longer a matter of mere external obedience, now it’s internal obedience, so even your thought life is required to be holy. 

-And those standards are the same across ethnic lines:

-“One new man” 

-Think of all the genocidal fights that have happened throughout history, that try to create different people. As we read through the OT we see Israel against the Canaanites, NT Romans vs. Jews, Sunni vs Shiite, Germans vs Jews, Russians vs Ukrainians, blacks vs whites. The normal state of human affairs is conflict! Most of us have lived in this weird time of not much conflict, but that is not the norm. However, true and lasting peace, without hostility can only come about because of the cross.

-“preached peace”

-Same message to both! Both those who were/are “near” and “far” need the same message from God: peace is possible! But not through the ways humans want to pursue peace. It’s not through a complete turnover of society, it’s not about pursuing power, it only comes about by pursuing God. This idea is something Paul is picking up from:

Isa. 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.””

-Salvation creates a level playing field for all of us: same spirit, same Father, we’re now a family. Family doesn’t always get along, but you can’t escape them! 

-Think of your extended family! Every family I know has someone that’s the weird one/odd ball doesn’t really fit in with everyone else, but you can’t change the fact that the same blood flows in your veins, same for those “in Christ!”

-Scene from ‘Remember the Titans’ “Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.” There’s no longer any room for comparison, or belittling others, we’re now a part of the same family, which is where Paul goes next.

  • Remember What You Now Are (19-22)

-What you were, but no longer! Apart from Christ, we are strangers and aliens to God, then once we’re in Christ we move to being strangers and aliens to the world! We no longer have the same identity markers or judge using worldly standards, because God’s standards are radically different. Yet at the same time, we have some things to learn from this, because 

-How was Israel to treat a stranger and alien? Sabbath was commanded for everyone, including the alien. One note, not alien like outer space, alien as in not a citizen. Even Lev. And Deut. Talk regularly about how God’s people are to treat aliens and sojourners. For example, they’re commanded to not harvest their field all the way to the edge, they’re commanded to leave grapes that fall when you’re harvesting for the poor and the sojourner. Similarly for us today, how should we treat the stranger and the alien, those different from us?

-I was reminded this week of one of my favorite books: The Rise of Christianity because the author died over the summer. Stark was a sociologist, and in the book studied the early church through a sociological lens, concluding that the reason the early church spread was their care for the poor and marginalized. Friends, we should be known for those who care for everyone, but especially the poor and marginalized (poor materially, spiritually, emotionally). This has been the marker of the church since Jesus commissioned us! It’s no coincidence that so many hospitals used to be named after saints (until they all got bought out), because Christians took care seriously! Even the word “hospital” was taken from “hospitality” that Christians showed to aliens and strangers. 

-This is a high bar, but the best part is we don’t need to do it alone, nor are we the first generation to be wrestling with these ideas. Look what we’re built on. We aren’t the foundation! Christianity in the big scheme of human history, doesn’t depend on us, because even if we were wiped out today, God has people following Him faithfully across the globe.

-There is a tendency to get myopic and overly fixated on right here and now instead of remembering our past and the reasons for our hope. This forces us to ask the question: where are you building the foundation of your life on? Because if you’re in Christ, He’s the cornerstone, and literally nothing can shake that foundation, not even hell itself! 

-We also need to note that it is: “being joined together” it’s not done, and it won’t be until Christ comes back. That means that as long as we have breath in our lungs on this side of eternity, we need to continue pursuing peace with God, and preaching peace to those who are near and those who are far.

-By doing this, God’s people grow into a “holy temple”, AKA the place where God’s presence dwells. This is the craziest part of salvation! God is no longer mediated through a law or an intricate sacrificial system, He now lives in those of us who are believers. The reality that God’s dwelling place is with humans is already happening, but we are often completely oblivious to it. Why don’t we often believe enough to pray “your kingdom come and your will be done,” and instead try to pursue these things through purely human efforts? It will never work! Instead, we need to die to those worldly ways, submit ourselves to God’s work in us through His Spirit, and become one new people. 

-Friends: what do you remember? We remember who we were before God saved us, we need to remember what Jesus did and does, and finally remember and remind each other each week how God has transformed us and made us a new people.

Ephesians 2:1-10 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Which one do you prefer to hear first? 78% of people prefer to begin with the bad news. Studies has shown that starting with the bad news leaves people in a more positive mood than the reverse.

READ/PRAY

  1. You Were DEAD (1-3)

-Paul paints a stark picture here of our spiritual state. Our life before Christ was one of death. The problem was we didn’t even know it! We were able to walk, talk, carry on as if everything was completely fine, but spiritually we were dead.

-Scene in The Princess Bride where not as Miracle Max says in The Princess Bride “just mostly dead,” which according to him is “slightly alive. Unlike dear Westley, we were COMPLETELY dead. 

-I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about that implication, but what can dead people do? Well, they can lay there, decompose, take up space. But can a dead person will themselves to life? No! 

-I know this is a morbid picture, but imagine going to a mortuary, you walk through to the back room where the bodies are. What would your response be to one of those bodies sitting upright and talking to you? I’m pretty sure that’s the plot of some scary movie that I will never see! 

-Before Christ, all of us are like those bodies in the back of the mortuary, we are spiritually dead. There’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love, there’s nothing we can do to bring ourselves back to life. And not only were we dead, but we were dead in something: trespasses and sins. We are dead in and because of our sins: completely separated from the only one who gives life. 

-I think there’s a tendency to miss this reality. We don’t understand the depths of our sin and separation from God, so we don’t view ourselves as spiritually dead. We’re often too busy comparing ourselves to others (our strengths vs their weaknesses) to contemplate that reality that apart from God we’re dead!

-“In which you once walked”

-Not only did those trespasses and sins keep us dead, but they also were the only way of life we knew how to follow. Before Christ opened our eyes to the reality of our sin “in sin” was the only way we could walk. 

-This word “walked” is a life encompassing word. It’s not just the action of walking, it’s the entire way of being. Before Christ, our only way of living and orientation was toward our trespasses and sins. 

-In other places, Paul describes it as being a slave to our sin. Similar to being spiritually dead, being a slave means you can only do that which your master demands and expects of you. It’s not a very freeing way of living. Paul also goes on to explicitly state who the masters of those who are spiritually dead are, he mentions 3 things: 

-worldly influences, Satan, and our flesh. Let’s look at those one at a time.

“Following the course of this world”

Paul here is referring to the ungodly trends and directions the world will try to move us. And for those who are dead in their sins, they aren’t even aware of it. 

It becomes as much a part of us as a fish is a part of the water. Just as the fish doesn’t even realize they’re wet, so those who are not in Christ don’t even realize the problems with the world, the culture, around them. And this is not just a modern-day problem, because Paul is writing this 2,000 years ago! But let’s think about the 2 predominant ways cultures can influence and lead people away from where they should be going. 

-During Paul’s time, and in other parts of the world today, the group always trumps the individual. For simplicity sake, let’s call this “The Eastern Way of Thinking.” A person’s sense of identity was completely wrapped up in their genealogy, their family, their history. Think of how Thor describes himself: Son of Odin. That carries weight to it! That also leads to a great sense of responsibility, because your actions reflect not only on you, but on your family. Now: there are some things that are good and can be applauded in this Eastern thought: 

we didn’t just appear out of nowhere, we do have a history, and that does shape and inform us today. 

-The problem with this thinking is dealt with extensively all over the NT – just because of your family history, you are not saved! So when you read in various places about Abraham being someone’s father, this is what they’re referring to. The course of the world for Paul and all those who were alive at this time is one of assurance by family ties. If you have a good family in the right bloodline, then you don’t need to worry.

-We have the opposite extreme in what I’ll call the “Western Way of Thinking.” The individual trumps the communal. Think about the Frank Sinatra song, “I did it MY WAY.” Our culture today places the emphasis pretty much exclusively on individual wants, needs, and desires. The way of thinking becomes “If I want to do it, by golly, I’m going to do it, and no one can stop me or get in my way!” This is also referred to as “expressive individualism.” 

This is where we have very loose abortion laws, no fault divorce, unconcern that anyone around us may be struggling, and only worry about me, myself, and I (Libertarianism isn’t the answer). No one else matters because I am an individual. 

-Just as the Eastern way of thinking has good things, so does the Western way of thinking. Yes, we are individuals. We all have unique gifts, strengths and weaknesses, just because our parents are gifted in an area doesn’t mean we’ll be gifted the same way. Individually, we all need to be saved. I think it’s helpful that many of us don’t look to our family heritage as a reason why I am a Christian. 

-The problem is when we take our individual identities into our community, which for us is the church. 

-A couple implications of this: 

-first, don’t waste your time comparing your gifts or strengths or weaknesses to someone else. News flash, they’re not you and you’re not them. God brought us both of you for a reason, to use your gifts for God’s glory, and strengthening and equipping the body, the church. 

-The second piece is the tendency to view the whole church only through your lens of interests. So if a specific ministry has significance to you, then it must be the most important thing in the whole church, right? Same as the previous idea, we have a wide assortment of ministries that combine together to make up this church. We also need to realize that some of these ministries are seasonal, depending on the people God has brought to our body at that time. “For everything there is a season” Eccles. 3:1. Just be aware of that, don’t be discouraged about it, don’t get too fixated on something that is meant to be a tool, instead fix your attention on the one who never changes!

-Both the Eastern and the Western way of thinking have strengths AND weaknesses. The Bible calls us to not completely follow either way, but follow God’s way, which is contrary “the course of the world.” 

-One author quipped “You can recognize ‘the ways of this world’ wherever sin seems acceptable and righteousness seems strange.” (Fruit of the Spirit) And who is behind this, attempting to orchestrate this negative “course of the world”? The devil. As Paul continues: 

“Following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sonsof disobedience.”

-Throughout the NT, the devil is referred to as: “the ruler of this world” “the ruler of the demons” “god of this world” Ephesians HEAVILY emphasizes the spiritual realm. But anytime we talk about the spiritual realm, we need to be careful because we don’t want to OVER emphasize it, or UNDER emphasize it:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” CS Lewis

-So we don’t overemphasize the devils work, nor do we want to underemphasize it, because there’s other things that are at work to lead us into sin.

-In Jewish thought at this time, the devil and his followers operated in “the air” the sphere between earth and heaven: spiritual realities happening around us all the time! And this influence is “now at work” 

-“Sons of disobedience” a way of referring to one’s character of life. Again, Thor son of Odin. Just do you get this: being called a son of disobedience is NOT a compliment. But think about the opposite as well, for those who are In Christ, we are now sons of God. Not demeaning to women, just talking about the way the world worked at the time, only male children received an inheritance from their fathers. Our primary allegiance and focus has completely changed!

-“Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.”

-This is the third and final way we were dead in our trespasses and sins. 

-For many of us, the devil doesn’t need to waste his time on us, because we’re too influenced by our fleshly passions. Our own wants, desires and needs no matter the cost. “Expressive individualism” found a prayer that would work in our cultural context today! 

-Nothing is left out, flesh, body and mind. Remember how Jesus said we can sin with our thoughts too? It’s not a matter of merely external obedience, it’s radical transformation. Paul has vice lists in a few of his writings, we’ll be looking at one of them in a few weeks in Eph. 5:3-14. But a summary is: the opposite of the fruit of the spirit. Those are the works of the flesh, the sins that we so easily give in to. 

-We’ve seen 3 different ways that influence us to remain dead: as one commentator stated “The world dominates from without, the flesh from within, and the devil from beyond.” (Kent Hughes, 65)

The implication of our being dead:

“Were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

-All of us were sinners by nature, and by choice as we’ve seen in the past couple verses. 

-By nature refers to our state at birth. Paul expounds more fully upon this idea in Romans 5, where he says “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (12) Our nature, our orientation, from birth is toward spiritual death in sin. 

By choice – we all have sinned (Rom. 3:23)

-We saw earlier “sons of disobedience” similar idea “children of wrath.” 

-An early church heresy that continues until today is this idea that we need to separate the God of love from the God of wrath. A popular pastor a few years ago said we need to “unhitch” the OT from the NT and only teach the New. As we’ll see in a minute, apart from God’s mercy and grace, we only have wrath. We don’t get to pick and choose the characteristics of God we like and throw out the rest. YES, he is love, AND he is holy, AND he is wrathful, AND he is kind and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His wrath is his just condemnation against sin. This isn’t the way we tend to see wrath today, which is often unbridled and unhinged, no, this is the just consequences for enmity against a holy and righteous judge. 

-This is our original nature, before Christ we were only deserving of condemnation, of his wrath, that’s the bad news. But now we come to the best news ever. 

-Here’s the deal, God’s wrath MUST be dealt with. There MUST be a payment made, there HAS to be restitution. All of us are sinners by nature and by choice, and the penalty for that HAS TO be paid. So for those who are “In Christ,” it has been. The debt we could NEVER pay has been paid in full.

2 of the most important words in the Bible, the best news possible:

  1. BUT God (4-7)

-All of those negative things that make us deserving of God’s wrath find their answer, their resolution, their demise in God’s mercy, love, grace, and kindness. 

-“Mercy” is a term that is used throughout the OT, which is tied to the notion of his covenant faithfulness, or steadfast love (hesed).

-Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

-Mercy is God’s forgiveness to not hold us accountable for our actions. But it’s not just mercy, God is RICH in mercy! God has more mercy than he knows what to do with! God has enough mercy for every sin all of us have ever committed, or will commit. His mercy is more! PLUS grace!

-Notice as well, that his mercy is tied to his love. Mercy AND love. We get mercy because of God’s love. We saw that a couple weeks ago in Eph 1. In love God predestined us for all these gifts here!

-When did all this take place? When we were dead. So we saw in the first 3 verses the past tense verbs (were), that’s where we used to be. Before Christ we were… and even when we were in that state, God. Because we are now “In Christ” there are now 3 realities about us. Spiritually we have been brought from death to life, and because of that Paul explains it this way: 1 – made alive, 2 – raised up, 3 – seated in the heavenly places. All 3 are “With Christ” 

1 – “Made us alive together with Christ.”

-First things first, we’ve already established that there’s not much someone’s who dead can do. Which means that needs to change! So we’re first brought to life! 

-So often when we talk about becoming a Christian we approach it as an add-on. “I tried all these other things, and then I tried Christianity and I liked it best.” We’re reminded here that Christianity isn’t something we can add on to our lives, it’s a complete and radical shift FROM death INTO life. That means that EVERYTHING changes from that moment on. One author stated “Christianity is not about becoming a nicer person, nor is it about starting a new religious routine. It is about becoming a new person.” (Tony Merida, 48) 

-At the very center of these things that we are “In Christ” is the reminder that over all of this is God’s grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor, it’s the reminder that we couldn’t accomplish any of the things that God has done. It’s all because of him! Remember: what can a dead person do? Nothing! There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It’s all grace, a free, undeserved gift. We’ll see this pop up again in the next section. God’s rich in mercy, and lavished his grace on us as his children. What else could we ever need?

2-“Raised us up with him.”

-After we’ve been brought to life, we are raised up with him. Because we are now “In Christ” we are with Christ in his resurrection. This term “raised” should remind us of Christ rising out of the grave. He has defeated sin and death so that we no longer need to be slaves to our flesh and passions. 

-Do you understand the implications of this? You don’t need to wallow in self-pity of misery anymore! Since you’re now in Christ, earth is literally the closest to hell you’ll ever be! 

-This idea of being “in him” can be hard to understand. A good way to think of it (albeit, on a MUCH less significant scale) is like the Olympics. 3 out of 4 years I don’t give a rip about swimming (more like 1 week every 4 years). But every time the Olympics come around, I become, or maybe became, obsessed with watching all the swimming events, largely because of a guy named Michael Phelps. Now: I am not a swimmer, I can barely make it from 1 side of the pool to the other, but Michael Phelps represents me and all of us at the Olympics, so we’re ALL pulling for him. We are all “in him.” As I mentioned, this is a far smaller scale because this doesn’t have eternal consequences. But just as we are all pulling for “our” athlete to win at the Olympics because he represents us, so are we brought together “In Christ” to participate in all that he accomplished. He did what we couldn’t so that we could celebrate with him. 

3-“And seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

-This is referring to Christ’s exultation. This is the final “In him” we’re made alive, raised up, and now seated WITH HIM, that is Christ. Spiritually we are seated with Christ in heaven, in our eternal home, where we will spend eternity with God. Just as Christ said on the cross “It is finished.” There’s nothing else we can do or need to do to change our position, spiritually. Christ has already accomplished it! 

-Once again, notice the tense of these verbs: PAST: MADE, RAISED, SEATED. It’s already happened! Yet we don’t experience that reality yet. This is where we have a tension. We live in this period between Christ’s comings, where we don’t yet see everything as it truly is. The war is over, but the battle wages on. This should make us long for the day when our spiritual reality matches our physical reality, but until that time we remain faithful. 

-Even studies/conversations about the end times are supposed to give us hope, not make us despondent. Here’s what EVERY person believes: Jesus is coming back! I once heard a pastor say “we’re not on the planning committee, we’re on the welcoming committee.” God didn’t tell us what would happen so that we would live in fear about whether or not we’re in the end times (spoiler alert, we are, and have been since Jesus ascended!), God told us what all of human history looks like from his perspective. Another spoiler alert, He wins! At the beginning of eternity He’s in the same spot He’s sitting now: on His throne. And guess who’s also sitting there with Him? Anyone in this room who’s “in Christ.” Nothing can change that.

-Now that we’ve seen the 3 spiritual realities because we are “In Christ” Paul continues on to the WHY question:

-“So that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

-The reason we are in Christ is so that God’s grace can be made manifest in and through all of us, for eternity. 

-Did any of you ever play show-and-tell growing up? The premise was simple: you bring in something you like to show people, and then tell them about it. The crazy thing is what God does for show & tell is: look at us! WE are God’s demonstration of grace and kindness to the world. This is why God extended his mercy and love to us, so that we could be a witness to the watching world.

That means we actually have a job to do: tell others what God has done! Throughout the Bible, the gospel message is compared to a light. What do you do with a light? You use it to extinguish the darkness! Think of the old song you learned: “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine!” We DON’T hide it under a bushel, we let it shine! SO SHINE! Share with others what God has done in you and through you. Share your story of how God brought you from death into life, how his grace mercy and love transformed you and can transform anyone. On author stated it this way “No one is beyond the reach of God’s regenerating grace, and no one is beyond the need for God’s regenerating grace.” (Merida, 48)

This leads us to the final point:

  1. GRACE Through FAITH (8-10)

-Paul reminds us that all of these things that are true spiritually are true because of God’s grace. As we sing in the hymn Amazing Grace “’Twas grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.” Everything we have is because of God’s riches of grace. 

-God’s grace is what allows us to be saved. Saved from what? Saved from our “death in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked”

-Paul then describes the means by which we are saved, which is a gift of God’s grace: faith. 

Faith is believing in God and trusting in him. Belief + trust. 

-Think of a tightrope walker. Now I am deathly afraid of heights so even saying that phrase makes me queasy. But let’s imagine we see a tightrope walker go back and forth over the Grand Canyon. (I would ask the question: what kind of fool does it multiple times, but anyway…) We’ll say he’s the best tightrope walker in the world. Now one of those times he’s going over the Grand Canyon he brings someone from one side to the other on his back, and then walks up to you and asks if you’d want to go over with him. Would you? My response would be a quick ABSOLUTELY NO! I believe he could bring me with him, but I don’t trust him to actually do it. It only takes one slip, or me messing something up and we’re done. The wonderful thing about faith in God is he CAN’T and WON’T let us go. We have every reason to both believe and trust him. 

-“And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

-And because it’s God doing it, we can trust completely. Once again, what can a dead person do? Nothing! But God can even resurrect the dead! We read of him doing that physically in the Gospels, but he also does it spiritually. We need the reminder that there’s nothing we can do to be saved: it’s all God’s work, it’s all God’s gift to us.

Ezek. 34 dry bones

-“not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

-Paul doubles down on the idea that we can’t save ourselves. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Think about that. Nothing. 

-Jonathan Edwards said it this way, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” 

-This is freeing! It levels the playing field. If we added something to our salvation that made it possible we’d spend the rest of our lives comparing to those around us. But God doesn’t let us. Everything in salvation is a gift of God so that we can’t boast in anything except the cross: where we are all equal. None of us is any better than the other.

-Therfore, because it’s all a gift of grace, Paul can conclude:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

-This word “workmanship” is one that means a work of art (poema poem). The NLT translates it as “masterpiece.” We’re the pinnacle of everything he’s done. We’re the Sistine Chapel of everything God has made! Just as God, when he created humans said it was VERY good. Now that he has re-created us by grace, it is VERY good! For those “In Christ” there have been 2 creations: physical life, and spiritual life. 

-Remember what we saw earlier about works not adding anything to our salvation? Now we see the purpose of those works. 

-One of the big statements of the Reformation was “faith alone.” But the Reformers refined that and said, “It is faith alone that justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” So while the works are not the root of salvation, they are the fruit

-God has good works that we are to do. We are to live lives that are holy and blameless as Paul says in Eph. 1. Our works cannot add anything to our salvation, but once we are saved, we now demonstrate that new life BY our good works. 

-This often feels like a tension, and is where many of us end up sliding into legalism. We MUST obey and do these good works. The problem is when we correlate these good works as something added to our salvation, that they somehow make us more righteous and holy before God. Don’t forget: spiritually we are ALREADY seated with Christ in the heavenly places. ALREADY. That’s not changing! But that future reality of us being positionally in Christ must also be manifest in our present reality. 

John Newton, author of Amazing Grace who experienced a radical transformation because of Christ: “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be, yet by the grace of God I am what I am.” 

-Just to remind us that it is all God’s grace, Paul says the good works we’re called to do were prepared by God beforehand. Before what? As he says in Eph. 1:4, “before the foundation of the world.” God not only sovereignly orchestrates our salvation, but the demonstration of that salvation in our lives today. That demonstration is what Paul says we are to walk in. This brings this whole section to a close, as the bookend to the opening verses: We once walked in death, but God in his mercy saved us and brought us back to life.