Sometimes, the most wonderful word in the English language can be the little conjunction “but”. In the midst of receiving bad news, that little word can be the difference between complete despair and hope. We see this interesting reality in the Bible as well. Ephesians 2:1-3 is a very bleak, sad reminder of the natural condition of every human being. We are dead in our sins – following the world and Satan, and as a result, we are objects of God’s wrath. Verse 4 shines out in the midst of that darkness, however, with that little word: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5).
This past Sunday, we continued walking through Revelation by looking at Revelation 2:12-17. Jesus – as the One who stands in the position of judgment – commends the Church for holding fast to the faith in the midst of hostile territory. But He also rebukes the Church for allowing in its midst those who encourage an inappropriate relationship to the world and to sin. Notes and audio can be found here.
Also, we continued walking through the Gospel According to Mark by looking at Mark 2:1-12. This is scene in which Jesus demonstrates His power and mercy by granting help to the helpless – both physically (in the form of healing) and spiritually (in the forgiveness of sins). Notes and audio can be found here.
Genesis 1-11 tells us the story of this world’s beginnings. It tells of God’s good creation as well as man’s rebellion. It also demonstrates the effects of that rebellion. In reality, Genesis 4-11 serves as a clear demonstration that human beings are incapable of delivering themselves. The problems we have created are beyond our ability to fix. Understanding that helps us truly appreciate Genesis 12:1-9. In light of man’s inability to fix his own problems, God stepped in and initiated His own plan. After allowing humans to make very clear that they cannot succeed on their own, God stepped in to fix the problem Himself by choosing Abraham.
Obedience can be hard sometimes. It can be hard to forgive someone who has wronged you, and it can be even harder to forgive them “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). It can be hard to love enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). It can be hard to show patience and kindness toward people (1 Cor. 13:4) – especially when they do not deserve it. Yet God calls His people to do all of these things.
Though much could be said about this struggle, there is one thing in particular that we often seem to forget: these things are not struggles for God at all. Interestingly, many of the very commands God gives us are things God has already done Himself. He does not call us to act contrary to His own actions but rather to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Why does that matter? Because too often, our struggle is made more difficult by failing to realize the grace we have received. Obedience is fueled by meditating on the grace God has lavished on us rather than by simply focusing on the demands He has placed on us. So take a moment this morning to consider how God has loved you.
Ephesians is a letter about the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. Clearly, Paul wants every reader to understand the immense blessing that has come to everyone who is a “saint” (1:1). Beginning in chapter 2, Paul reminds us of the past. In order to drive home the good news of the gospel, he remembers the bad news that preceded it. In particular, in Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminds us of this vital truth: if we do not have Jesus, we are dead because we are slaves of sin and enemies of God. Only with that understanding can we begin to see the full glory of the gospel of Christ.
This past Sunday we continued our journey through Revelation by looking at Revelation 2:8-11 – the letter to the suffering church at Smyrna. Notes and audio can be found here.
And in Sunday School, we looked at Mark 1:21-45 – a passage that puts the authority of Christ on full display. We see His spiritual authority, His healing authority, His preaching authority, and His purifying authority. Notes and audio can be found here.
If we are honest, each of us would readily admit that certain parts of the Bible seem “less exciting” than others. In particular, genealogies and lists simply do not spark the fires of our hearts as readily as other portions of Scripture. However, all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16) which means all Scripture – including its genealogies and lists – is useful and necessary. This is good to remember as we come to Genesis 10-11. Though the story of the tower of Babel is well-known and full of action, it is surrounded by two genealogies that are more probably skipped on a regular basis. But God saw fit to include them, so we should see fit to consider them. As we do so, it becomes clear that God has a purpose and point – namely: He does what He says He will do, and nothing can thwart His purposes.
Who is God? What is He like? Can we even know? Some people may consider such questions silly and impractical. But in reality, they are critically important. In light of the fact that we are called to love God and trust Him, do we not need to know something about Him? If we simply make things up about Him in our mind, can we truly love Him or will we simply love a “God” of our own making? Surely the latter, and that is a problem because God’s Word is clear that we are not to worship false gods. We need to be sure we are worshiping the one, true God. But how can we be sure of that? We can be sure because we have the words of God Himself, and in those words, God has made Himself known.
Where does love come from? The question may seem too philosophical for some people, but it is a legitimate question. Especially for a Christian, the question is essential because the most important commandments we have received are “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor” (Matt. 22:34-40). Those commandments alone make love a priority for Christians. So how do we get it? Where does it come from? Maybe you love God truly and faithfully but would like to love Him more. Maybe you know you should love Him but simply cannot seem to “work it up”. Maybe you desire to love other people more but struggle to know how to do that. If any of those are true of you, I pray that you would consider this truth: Love – at its core – is the natural human response to what we believe is most valuable.
As we saw last time, Paul follows up His praise of God (1:3-14) with a prayer for his readers (1:15-19). He prays that God would grant them wisdom and “light” so they will know the hope to which they have been called, the riches of God’s inheritance for them, and the greatness of God’s power toward them. The first two items are simply listed, but the last reference to the power of God actually gets expanded. In Ephesians 1:20-23, Paul goes out of his way to actually help us understand and appreciate more of the very power of God that works on our behalf. Put simply: Jesus Christ has been given ultimate authority, and God has put Him – as the ultimate authority – over the Church for her good so that she will be equipped for her task. These words are intended to help us understand the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us.