Ephesians

Don't Leave Naked

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You know, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Sometimes I get up in the morning and immediately go through my routine without thinking. I take a shower, watch the news, brush my teeth, and have some breakfast. And if I’m focused, I might pray for a few things that are on my heart, including the day ahead, which is a good thing. But as I’m in the process of putting on my earthly corporal clothing I don’t always stop to ask God to dress me. Ephesians talks about wearing armor. Paul calls it the “full armor of God”. There’s a belt and breastplate, helmet and shoes, sword and shield; everything we need to be protected during the day and even one tool for going on the offensive if we need to. Ephesians 6:13 says:

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

I don’t forget to take my vitamins in the morning which help protect my immune system. I don’t forget to put on my seatbelt when I drive to protect me should I get in an accident. Then why do I, and many other believers, forget to dress in spiritual clothes before we leave the house? Paul warns us to put on the full armor of God, not missing one piece. He says that we should do it so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. The Bible reminds us that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Just like if we don’t password protect our phones or important data it is more vulnerable to thieves, if we don’t protect ourselves by putting on the armor of God we are more susceptible to the schemes of the devil. So, I encourage you not to leave the house naked. Pray to God to dress you in the full armor of God so that you’re protected. The full armor of God; don’t leave home without it.

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We need to put on the full armor of God every day. It may seem silly to literally ask God to dress us with armor, but when we do, somehow our minds and our spirit are automatically on guard. I used to visualize, in my mind’s eye, a knight in shining armor. When things were well with my spiritual walk, the knight was standing strong with armor polished and ready for battle. But when I fell, or was struggling, the knight would appear exhausted and beaten down with dented armor. But what I’ve learned over the years is that dented armor is better than no armor. When we are aware of the devil’s schemes, and have prepared ourselves with the elements of armor that Paul highlights, I believe that we can, and with the help of the spirit will, stand in the face of the devil. So again, I encourage you not to leave naked. Read Ephesians and learn about each element of armor, understanding that each piece has a role in our standing, fighting and ultimately winning spiritual battles.

Unity In Spirit

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Every New Year, I encourage you to make every effort to rekindle, or further stoke, your relationship with God, as well as your relationships with others - especially those in the church. The Bible encourages us to do that, and to never forget that all Bible-believing Christians are one in the Spirit. It says in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 3 through 6:

“Make every effort to keep in unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

That portion of scripture focuses on the oneness of our faith; one body, one Spirit, one Lord and one faith. American culture generally fosters individuality; that we can be fulfilled in our self-centeredness. Many of us have fallen into a pattern of going to church where there may be many believers, yet remaining isolated in our own lives, cares and troubles. But it isn't that way in many other cultures around the world. In some cultures, there is a "Global village" mentality, that we are all connected and our lives enrich one another’s with love and relationship as we intertwine them on a daily basis. Ephesians reminds us that we should be a "global village", spiritually speaking. We are one, and as one of us hurts, we should all hurt. And as one of us rejoices, we all as one body should rejoice. It is a difficult paradigm to embrace in America. We, as a culture, typically limit our relational bonding to family and close friends. I encourage you to expand your sphere of influence and include others in your life, remembering that we are all one in Spirit.

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Ephesians reminds us that we should maintain unity in the Spirit; that we are one body with one spirit, serving one God. If this is true, we should act and function as though we are one. We should care about one another, pray for one another, get closer to each other, and help each other. In essence, we need to love one another as we love our own families - in as much as that is possible, of course. This may not mean that we open our houses to everyone we meet, but it may mean that we become more sensitive to the Spirit and more open to his direction when it comes to who we should spend time with and who we should show special love to; who we should pray for and who we should reach out to. And maybe, even without knowing it, we will be exercising the principles of this scripture.

Life of Love

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When you were a child did you ever want to be like your father or mother? I was walking around my block one day and saw a father mowing his lawn as his little boy, who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, was pushing a toy mower right beside him. If we had good parents growing up, it is very likely that we wanted to imitate them - to be like them. Similarly, the bible encourages us to be imitators of our heavenly Father. And one of the attributes that seems to be highlighted most is his love. Paul says in Ephesians chapter 5 verses 1 and 2:

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

There’s really no way that we can grab our spiritual toy mower and mow alongside God the Father, but we can imitate his character because it is clearly spelled out for us in the Bible. We’ve seen his love from the time he created us, all the way to when he sent Jesus to die for us, all the way to his promises of Jesus’ return and eternal life in heaven. His love for us is a common theme throughout the bible and so should our love for him and for others be a common theme throughout our lives. I’ve heard it said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. So, I encourage you to be imitators of God, because when we are, we ultimately bring glory to him.

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If we are truly imitators of God we would live a life of love. Jesus showed us the ultimate form of love by dying for us. And when we learn that, we understand that our life is not our own because it was bought with a price. And as such, we should no longer live for ourselves, but we should live for God. We should live the life of love that he modeled for us. That might not mean that you’ll be dying for someone. Love that is pure can display itself in many ways, but all forms of Godly love have one thing in common… selflessness. So, I encourage you to allow the Holy Spirit to express himself through you in love towards others in a way that would compliment God’s love for us.

Make The Most

If you’re anything like me you’ll agree that when you were younger, if felt like you had all of the time in the world to do whatever you wanted to do. But the older I get, the more I realize that there seems to be less and less time in the day, and that I have to prioritize what is important and what is not. I’m realizing that I need to be wise about what I do, and where I place my energy - that I need to make the most of every moment. And I think Paul would agree, because he says in Ephesians chapter 5, verses 15 and 16:

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

Paul says this after encouraging the Ephesians to turn from darkness and to be like Jesus. He encourages them to “wake up, o sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you”. I encourage you as well to wake up. Take a step back and look at your life. Are you living wisely? Are you making the most of every opportunity? The words from Paul could not be any more timely when he says that we need to be careful because the days are evil.

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“Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”. I encourage you to think about how you are living life. Whether we are young and think we have all of the time in the world, or if we are a little older and realize that life is short and our days are numbered, we all need to consider whether we are living wisely or foolishly. I encourage you to live wisely, to live for Christ, to make the most of every opportunity you have to spread his love and to share the good news of the gospel because as Paul reminds us the days are evil. And I would submit to you that they are growing more and more evil as we grow closer and closer to Jesus’ return.

Not a Hint

If you were told that being a Christian was an easy path, then someone wasn’t telling you the truth. There is some truth to the adage, “if it were easy everyone would do it.” No, being a Christian can be challenging. Staying apart from the world, denying our fleshly desires, and going against the culture of society can be difficult. But that is what we are called to do. When Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus, he put it this way in chapter 5 verses 3 through 5:

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

If you follow Christ, you travel the narrow road, you enter the narrow gate, and the bible tells us that not everyone will find it. It is the wide path that leads to destruction where most people will find themselves. No one is perfect. Not even the best of us are sinless. But we are held to a different standard than the world. Yes, being a Christian can be hard, but it is also rewarding. And we find that out most clearly when we are in step with the Spirit.

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Paul tells us that as believers there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. We may not have Jesus in his physical form walking with us every day, and the world and it’s pull on our human nature may be strong, but we need to strive to meet the standard that God has called us to. It is impossible to do on our own. But all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. And he tells us that there is no temptation that we will face that he will not provide a way out of. We need to press in to God, to draw near to him and he will draw near to us. Being in step with the Spirit is the only way we can walk in a way that is pleasing to God.