“Finally,” Paul writes…
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of HIS might. You feel a little weak? A little unmatched? No worries! The strength of the Lord is where it’s at.
Put on the WHOLE armor of God. Some won’t do. A piece here and there won’t cut it in this fierce battle. We need the WHOLE armor of God.
All of this SO THAT you may be able to stand against schemes of the devil. He’s very good at his job. He has a ton of experience. He has a proven track record. Know your enemy.
For we do not wrestle against the flesh and blood, but against cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil. It’s not the person to the left or right. It’s not your boss or your employee or your co-worker. It’s not that girl who left you out or that guy who left you heartbroken. It’s not the politician in Washington, DC or the person behind the screen. It’s not your neighbor or your worst enemy. It’s not people who look different or think different or vote different. It is the devil. HE IS THE ENEMY. He is waging war in places unseen to us using his weapons of lies, manipulation, oppression, comparison, critique, differences, strong opinions, entitlement, unforgiveness. Don’t waste your fight on flesh and blood. You’ll be fighting the wrong fight.
Spiritual forces of evil. A masterful enemy, Satan. What’s a girl to do?
Suit up, friend! It is there…it has always been there…but you need to take it off the shelf, dust it off and PUT IT ON.
The belt of Truth. Know it. Cling to it. Strap it on tight. Everything falls off if this isn’t in place.
The breastplate of righteousness. Heart and soul protected – sealed and secured – by the blood of Jesus.
Shoes of the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Firm foundation. Planted and steady.
A shield of faith able to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. Get behind me, Satan. God is in control. I believe.
A helmet of salvation. Mind – command center -- sealed and protected
The sword of the Spirit. The Word of God, useful on offense and defense.
With lips of prayer…at all times in the Spirit, with prayer and supplication.
And eyes wide open. Alert and prayerful with all perseverance for yourself and all believers.
THIS. This is how we fight the battles waging around us and in us. We have to be battle ready, friends. Fully covered in the armor of God. There is no other way to win this war. Suit up!
We passionately cling to the beautiful Bible verses full of encouragement or that support a point we are trying to make. We create calligraphy verses and Pin images with our favorite passages. But what do we do when we get to the hard stuff? The parts that sort of rub us the wrong way when we first read them? Often we quickly flip through them or brush them off as being culturally specific at the time, but irrelevant now. You know the ones…the ones that go against current cultural norms, our ego, or what is politically correct. Well, Ephesians 5 is full of them. Sexual immorality, covertness, debauchery of wine, crude joking, submission…oh my.
Here is one thing I know: Jesus and the apostles talked A LOT about us casually dismissing biblical truths for convenience. They talked A LOT about false teachers and truth distorters and warnings like, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Here is another thing I know: The Holy Spirit will convict us. If we ask for wisdom and discernment, God promises to give it to us. And this may not be the case for you, but when I assess the things that typically rub me the wrong way, they are often rooted in some sin area in my life. They reveal my pride, my desire to please myself, my entitlement attitude, my desires that don’t do much to glorify God.
Paul says, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…you are in the light of the Lord. Walk as children of light…Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:1-2, 8, 15-17).
So that is what I am going to do today. I am going to examine carefully how I am walking through this life. I am going to evaluate how I am using my time. I am going to pray to understand the will of God. I am going to humbly ask for God’s wisdom and revelation of truth. As it relates to me; as it relates to areas that I need to take a hard look at and change. I desire God’s truth over my convenience. I desire God’s approval over man’s accolades. I desire God’s will over mine. Praying.
Paul tells us to, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1)
As Christians we talk a lot about eternity; about being saved and secure. Indeed, we eagerly wait to enter our forever home. But we also have purpose while we are here. Our lives aren’t about just patiently waiting it out until we die or Jesus returns, whichever comes first.
We have been called. For here and now. Those ideas the Spirit plants in us, that passion to make a difference, that thing we love to dream about…God calls us to these things. It is part of the work He has prepared in advance for us to walk into. It’s often different in different seasons, but there is always work to do. A patient mom, a dedicated employee, a start-up entrepreneur, a student, a volunteer, a caregiver, a small group host, a teacher, a writer, a musician, an encourager, a doctor, a photographer...
Our purpose is to glorify God and one way we do this is by completing the work He gave us to do. By walking into our calling. John records a prayer of Jesus speaking to His Father, “I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)
Though we weren’t born to save the world through our death on a cross, we do have work that has been given to us by God. And stepping into this work – completing it – is how we glorify God. We miss out on glorifying God when we miss out on our calling – because of fear, insecurity, false humility, busyness, distractions, worrying about what others will think. We often miss our work because we are following the masses and chasing after others’ callings. It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.
Are you walking in a manner worthy of YOUR calling? Are you walking with confidence that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do? Are you doing the things you need to do related to the work given TO YOU from God? Are you preparing the way you need to prepare? Are you tapping into the power of the Spirit for wisdom and discernment and guidance? Are you stepping out into YOUR calling in this season?
Our callings are worthy of some intentional walking. Let’s boldly walk in a manner WORTHY of the calling to which WE HAVE BEEN CALLED!
Paul says that he bows his knees before the Father so that…
According to the RICHES OF GOD’S GLORY, he may grant us to be…
STRENGTHENED with POWER through his Spirit in us…in our inner being. So that…
Christ may DWELL IN OUR HEARTS through faith. That we…
Being ROOTED and GROUNDED in LOVE may…
Have STRENGTH to COMPREHEND what is the BREADTH and LENGTH and HEIGHT and DEPTH, and to…
KNOW the LOVE of Christ that…
SURPASSES knowledge, that we may be…
FILLED with all the FULNESS of God. Filled. With. The. Fullness. Of. God. Yes, please!
Do we comprehend the power available to us? Do we grasp the deep love? Do we abide in the fullness of God? The one who is ABLE to do FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.
In those moments I am abiding and filled with His fullness and rooted in His love and feel strengthened by His power…in those moments, I feel like I can do anything. But then night comes. Then I let my guard down and the devil sneaks in with his lies. And I begin to doubt and question. I begin to fear. I begin to even be embarrassed about all those things I thought I could do. The darkness mocks me.
There’s a quote I often think about when I become aware of the devil’s meddling, “Don’t doubt in the dark what you received from God in the light.” If God has put it on your heart, God will be with you. Remember Paul’s words about who God is…the one who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. How could we doubt if we believe this?
I’m starting a 21-day Daniel Fast today with the Church of Eleven22. I’m intentionally going to pray about my family, friends, the Church at large, a handful of ministries (you know who you are!), and a few big dreams God has planted. I’ve posted some info about the Daniel Fast with links to resources here if you would like to join in.
Ephesians 2 • Day 170 of 260 • #NTin2018
With the words, “Let there be…”, God creates the world and declares, “It is good.”
With His hands, God creates man in His image and His likeness.
With His breath, life flows through the first human body. And God declares, “It is VERY good.”
It is very good. You are very good. You are made in the image and likeness of God. You are HIS WORKMANSHIP. You are created WITH purpose and FOR purpose.
And in His infinite creativity, He has prepared in advance good works with YOUR NAME on them.
GOD HAS PREPARED these good works beforehand for us. The master creator isn’t finished yet. He has a project He is inviting us to join Him in. He’s been waiting for just this time; waiting for you. And it is good. So good…you have no idea. Your mind could never have dreamed this up.
As independently amazing as we might think we are, God is the creator. On our own we just make a mess. We aren’t different than those first humans who walked with God, but still took the fruit. And just as it is BY GOD’S GRACE THROUGH FAITH ALONE that saves us, it is God who set in motion good works for us to do. The good works don’t save us, instead BECAUSE God saved us and we said, “yes and amen!” we have been given the key to unlocking the good works prepared in advance for us.
Our job? To WALK IN THEM.
The promised land was set apart for the Israelites, but they had to walk in. And just as the Israelites said, “I don’t think so” initially, we often do the same with regard to the incredible plans God has for us. “But God, it is too hard…I’m not qualified…did you see those giant obstacles?...I’m content enough right here; at least I know what to expect here…what if ____ happens?...”
Look around at the beauty, order, purpose of all creation. Designed in it all are some pretty incredible plans and purposes for us that have been prepared since the beginning…for such a time as this and such a person as us. Let’s walk into them with confidence in and power from the master Creator.
This life can often feel very unstable. Things can change on a dime. It can feel like everything is crumbling around us and we wonder if we can rely or believe anything. And the devil masterfully capitalizes on this, planting seeds of doubt. We start to wonder if maybe it is the same with God; maybe He and His promises are also unreliable. We start to wonder if we really are saved and forgiven and secure in eternity with Him.
Steven Cole says, “The enemy knows that if he can stir up doubts about your salvation, you will not glorify God as you should.”
Paul tells the Ephesians that this is an area we can have certainty. He says, “In him you also, when you HEARD the word of truth, the GOSPEL of your salvation, and BELIEVED in him, were SEALED with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the GUARANTEE of our INHERITANCE until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Paul wants us to know that God is different. God is consistent. God is reliable. Who God says He is and what He says He will do will come to pass. And we have this seal, this guarantee on God’s promise. A seal that represents ownership, authenticity, approval, authority, security, and protection. A seal that says, “this one here…this one belongs to me.”
God wants to seal in faith and seal out unbelief. He wants us to live life knowing that WE ARE HIS. No matter what we do, no matter what we don’t do, no matter how bad we mess up intentionally or unintentionally, no matter what is done to us, no matter what pit we find ourselves in. No matter what…when we hear and believe the Gospel; when we accept Jesus as our Savior…we are SEALED with a powerful seal of God Himself in the Spirit form. A seal so powerful even the devil’s most artful prying can’t unseal.
John Piper says, “God’s desire for his people is that we feel secure in his love and in his power, even if everything else in the world is uncertain.”
Twice in Revelation (Rev 7 and 14), John tells of a physical seal he sees on the forehead of God’s people. Though we don’t see anything in this realm on our foreheads, as believers we have been sealed. The down payment has been made and the fullness of our eternal life and home awaits.
This side of heaven will remain unpredictable and often very hard. But we have God’s seal and God’s guarantee that there is something better – something eternal – waiting for us.
We have been chosen, we have heard, we have believed, and we have been sealed with a seal that says, “[insert name] belongs to me.”
After sitting with this chapter, I made a background/screensaver seal from God for my phone as a reminder. I have included a few seal images below if you would like to save one as your background/screensaver on your phone as a reminder as well.
“Nothing reveals the wickedness of legalism better than the way the legalists treat those who have sinned.” (Warren Wiersbe)
Paul has spent much of his letter to the Galatians addressing how they have been deceived by these false teachers requiring adherence to laws for salvation. But he also recognizes that we are sinful people who will mess up and fall to temptation from time to time. And though it doesn’t impact our salvation, it does diminish our impact. He says that in these cases we must – with gentleness – restore them.
Our lives aren’t meant to remain in a pit of sin and its effects. We must seek restoration and alignment with the will of God.
The goal is always RESTORATION. We are called to restore – not ignore or destroy.
Think about how most interactions with sin are handled. They are often ignored, hoping it will all just go away, or terrified of the consequences of addressing it. Equally devastating, the alternative is often a brutal and public attack, behind the back gossip, and harsh judgment.
Neither ignoring or destroying leads to a restoring.
Luther says, “if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith.”
When we are dealing with sin, it must be handled with gentleness. We are all prone to wander...Paul reminds us to keep watch on ourselves. As we seek to restore, we must examine our own shortfalls. Pride is a sneaky and destructive poison.
Likewise, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. If we want to know how to love our neighbors, we can bear their burdens. We all have burdens and we weren’t meant to bear them alone.
Jesus bore our burdens of sin and its devastating impact. What better example to follow.
Life is hard and full of trials. Why add one more burden that no one can bear – the burden of saving ourselves?
What if instead of piling on more burdens of legalism and striving to save ourselves, we bore each other’s’ burdens? What if we became burden-lifters by preaching the freedom found in Christ alone?
What if we were a community that bore each other’s burdens; that made life a bit easier and lighter instead of more difficult and lonely?
Imagine a community where you didn’t have to face trials alone; where when the load was too much to bear, a brother or sister in Christ came and gently, humbly, joyfully reached over and started taking it off your shoulder and passing it down the line to be shared as a community. This is what we are called to do.
And as Paul brings his letter to a close, he excuses his transcribing companion and grabs the pen and parchment. Pouring out more of himself, Paul personally pens the final paragraph, closing with these words, “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17)
Paul physically bears on his body the marks of Jesus. In preaching the gospel he is beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisoned (2 Cor 11:23-25). Many Christians around the world still physically bear the marks of Jesus.
But there are unseen marks as well. Jesus tells us there is a cost to following Him. It comes in different forms in different seasons. There will be times when we will bear painful marks of a follower. But there will also be times where we will bear beautiful marks of a follower – the marks of the fruit of the spirit, the marks of bearing one another’s burdens, the marks of serving others, the marks of love and restoration.
What marks are you willing to bear for Jesus?
Galatians 5 • Day 167 of 260 • #NTin2018
Paul gives a warning to the Corinthians: If you bite and devour one another, WATCH OUT that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15).
Adam Clarke’s Commentary says, “These Churches seem to have been in a state of great distraction; there were continual altercations among them. They had fallen from the grace of the Gospel; and, as Christ no longer dwelt in their hearts by faith, pride, anger, ill-will, and all unkind and uncharitable tempers, took possession of their souls, and they were in consequence alternately destroying each other.”
Sound familiar? Thousands of years have passed since Paul penned these words and the church is still battling the biting, devouring and consumption of one another. Both organizationally and personally. What is wrong with us? What opportunities we are missing to change the world!
When we are not coming from a place of love, it leaves a void that is quickly filled by pride, anger, self-righteousness, envy, ill-will. Utter consumption; destruction.
Paul reminds us the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “you should love your neighbors as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14). Paul is basically saying, “You are so stuck on the law? You want to keep the law? Here is how to do it: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
Every moment we spend fighting and devouring our own, we miss opportunities to share Christ with others.
God, help us love well. Teach us how to love like You love. Let love take up so much space in our lives that pride has no place to settle in. Let us rest in the grace and freedom you have gifted us with, even when it goes against everything the world is telling us.
Galatians 4 - Post 1 of 2 (Galatians 1:1-7)
“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son.” (Galatians 4:4)
It gives me much comfort to know that God is in control and His timing is perfect. He has the patience to wait for the perfect timing, and He has the power to put all things in place when the time is right.
In my simple mind, I often think things are ripe for whatever action or outcome I think should happen. I am impatient and always in a hurry for things to move on. Thankfully, God is neither.
Imagine that day in the heavenly realm when the Father looks over at the Son and says, “strap on that flesh…it’s go time.” The overwhelming joy and anticipation of the heavenly beings must have been about to explode.
The fullness of time had come. The precise and perfect moment ordained by God the instant Eve bit into that apple had arrived. Everything that had to happen was complete; everything was in place, just as God had told His people for thousands of years.
It was time. It was just the right time.
What we now celebrate on the same predictable and scheduled time each year, the timing wasn’t as perfect or predictable for everyone on that first Christmas.
Imagine Mary, joyfully planning and anticipating her wedding day. Her world is rocked by the visit from an angel.
Imagine the shepherds going about their daily chores and responsibilities. An ordinary day. Every day the same, with risks of danger, mocked by others for their menial profession, and long boring nights keeping watch. This was no ordinary day as an angel comes into focus.
Imagine the magi. Gazing at the stars and referring to their charts, as they had done countless times. But this night was different. “See that over there…something big is happening…this is the star of a king. We must go at once and find out where.”
The timing on that first Christmas was perfect for a new chapter in the book of the kingdom of God. Enter the baby, Emanuel.
The fullness of God in the fullness of time, coming as a baby to make us heirs to His kingdom, His family.
Thank you, God, that even though I can’t always see it or grasp it, your timing is perfect.
Galatians 4 - Post 2 of 2
Obedience minus relationship is just legalism. The more we impose Christian regulations on others as a requirement for salvation, the more we preach a false gospel and turn people away from the only One who can create a change in them.
When we preach a message of obedience before relationship, we are turning God-ordained ways of living into human precepts and teachings. This is what Paul is calling out.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches a way of living that becomes more of an internal heart issue than an external law issue. Things like, you think murder is bad, you are liable to judgement if you are angry with your brother. And, you think adultery is wrong, you are guilty of adultery if you look at another with lustful intent. (Matthew 5:21-28).
Rules alone – the flesh alone – can never solve a heart issue. In fact, that is what got us into this mess to begin with… Adam & Eve couldn’t obey the ONE law they were given…and sin entered the world.
The false teachers with their religious requirements have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value when it comes to making us right with God. They may carry an air of authority with smooth talk, charm, persuasive personalities, the appearance of devout spirituality and gifted speech, but when they add something to the work of Jesus for salvation they preach a lie that mocks the sacrifice.
It is easy to be deceived because they aren’t atheist or followers of the many cultural “gods”. They are believers, but in their insistence on observance of laws for salvation, they miss he relationship. They miss the grace. The Pharisees were religious elites, full of who full of Scriptural knowledge. They walked and talked with Jesus, but they missed Jesus. They missed their Savior.
Why then does legalism have such a strong appeal?
Grace is hard for us to accept. It goes against the grain of our culture where we work and strive to achieve success. And we like to have some standard by which we can measure success. We like the checklists to know if we are doing okay. We want parameters to help us understand if we are doing things right. But these things take an elevated role and ultimately mock the work of Jesus. And left unchecked they reek of superiority and sanctimoniousness…creating more sin, rather than washing us clean. It is easy to see the sin and legalism in others, but hard to see it in ourselves.
When we focus on the rules, we lose our focus on Jesus. We need Jesus, not a check list.
The “do/do nots” aren’t what make us right with God, better Christians, or what will invite people to follow Jesus. Rather, they are the outcome of living in closer relationship with the One who created us and who saved us. The true gospel is freedom and an open invitation. We don’t have to be cleaned up and perfect to come to Christ. We come to Christ and He does the work for us. Then with love and gratitude, we desire a deeper relationship and obedience. We want to obey because we love, not obey to hopefully be loveable and loved.
When we have Jesus, why would we want to turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, becoming slaves to them once more? (Galatians 4:9)
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus