Ephesians

Approach God

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In the Old Testament, when there were kings who led nations, if someone were to approach a king without being asked by the king, it could mean their death. Even if one of the king’s wives were to approach him without being called, the same rule would apply. But with our God, who is King of all Kings, we are told that we can approach him with freedom and confidence. Paul tells the Ephesians in chapter 3, verse 12:

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

So in Jesus, and through faith in Jesus we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Just like a child might approach their earthly father, assuming their father is loving and kind, we are also offered the privilege to approach God, who is loving and kind. Paul tells us that we can approach him with freedom and confidence. We don’t have to worry whether he will allow us to approach, and we don’t have to fear that we might catch him in a bad mood and that he might kill us like earthly kings had the authority to do. No, if we have faith in Jesus, we can come to him with freedom and confidence. We must have faith because faith is the first ingredient in producing any true believer. The Bible reminds us that without faith it is impossible to please God. So if you have faith in Jesus, this verse is for you. I encourage you not to take this privilege for granted. We can approach almighty God without fear of being killed for doing so. In fact, we are told that we are invited to come to him; that we can approach God with freedom and confidence.

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In Jesus and through faith in Jesus we may approach God with freedom and confidence. If there is anything weighing on your heart or on your mind, you can bring it to God. We are granted the privilege to approach him with freedom and confidence. The God of all creation wants to be in relationship with you. He offered his son as a way for us to have that relationship. Every time you pray to God, it is only because of that relationship that he will hear you and allow you to make your appeal to him. It is also our privilege to praise him, to lift him up and to worship him. So I encourage you to take advantage of this truth. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Made New

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The Bible tells us that when we become a follower of Christ; when we choose to believe that his blood saves us and we accept his gift allowing us passage into heaven, that we are “born again”. We are a “new creation”. Have you ever given thought to what that means? Do you feel like a new creation? When Paul speaks to the new believers in Ephesus, he instructs them on the next steps of being a Christian; he instructs them on the path to Christian living, encouraging them not to live like the gentiles do, but to pursue purity and holiness. He instructs them to live the way that they were taught to live in Christ. It says in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 22 through 24:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” 

Paul shows us that being "made new” is a process, that it is a learned behavior, and that we have a role in being made new. If you claim to be a believer, then your desire should be to be made new; to put off your old self that is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, as Paul puts it. How? Through the attitude of our minds. I believe, and the Bible attests, that we can train our minds in the process of being made new. That is why we are told to think on heavenly things; to fill our minds with things that are holy, just and right. It is kind of like washing our brains with the things of Christ. So, I guess you could say that being “brainwashed” is a good thing if your brain is washed in holy thinking.

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Paul explains that being made new is the putting off of the old self and the putting on of the new. If you’ve ever been baptized, I’m sure you understand that it reflects the sentiment behind this portion of scripture. But being made new isn’t a one-time event, it is a continual process. The idea is to become more and more like Jesus and less and less like our old self with its deceitful desires. So I encourage you to wash your mind with heavenly things. Every day, allow the Spirit to cleanse your mind and your heart. Begin every day in the mindset of your new self; your new attitude; your new mission. I encourage you to allow yourself to be brainwashed with the attitude and desires of the Holy Spirit.

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.