The Walls are Destroyed

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Ephesians Devotions – part 7

An overview of Ephesians Chapter 2

In my continuing effort to absorb Paul’s teaching for the Ephesians, I see this second chapter as about walls.

Paul begins the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesian church by speaking to the Gentile believers. He describes the life of sin. He says they were following the ways of the world, listening to the spirit that works in the those who are disobedient to God, satisfying the cravings of their flesh and carrying out the desires of their body and mind. He sums this up by saying everyone is by nature deserving of God’s wrath. There is only one sentence for a life lived in sin. It is death. (Eph. 2: 1-3)

That sounds completely hopeless! And it is, if we are depending on our own ability to please God. Paul begins the next sentence with, “But. . .” There is an answer to this fatal attraction to and life of sin. The answer is God’s great love and the mercy that He shows us. God makes us alive with Christ. (Eph. 2;5-7)

I will come back to the next few verses, but first it would be helpful to look at the other members of the church. The others were Jewish converts to Christianity. The Jews had received covenant promises from God. They looked down on everyone who was not circumcised, which was the sign of their covenant with God. There was a great wall between Jews and everyone they considered ‘the uncircumcised.’ Circumcision was done by human hands to the body. It was a reminder of the covenant, but did nothing in itself to save the Jews. Nevertheless, Gentiles were alienated from Israel, they were strangers to the promises, without hope and without God. There was a very secure, strong wall of division between Jews and Gentiles. (Ephesians 2: 11-12)

Jesus destroyed the wall

The Berlin Wall before and after its destruction

Like the Berlin Wall was totally destroyed, Jesus totally destroyed the wall between the Jews and Gentiles. He destroyed the wall by his death on the cross. His blood made the way for the Gentiles to come near to God. And He overcame the Law with all its rules and regulations by the very same blood so the Jews could come near to God. (Even the best of the Jews could never fulfil all the laws.)

Instead of two groups of people trying to find a way to please God, Christ joined the two groups into one. No more were the Jews required to fulfil all the law and no more were the Gentiles excluded from worship of God. Now all people everywhere, have one way to be reconciled to God. Jesus came to preach peace to Jews and Gentiles alike. (Ephesians 2: 13-17)

Peace

Paul uses different ways to express the resulting peace since the hostility has been destroyed. He says we are one body, one new humanity. Now in this new body, we all have access to God, the Father, through the Holy Spirit. We are fellow citizens. There are no more, citizens and foreigners or strangers. We are all part of God’s household, his huge extended family! We are like a building based on the teachings of the apostles and prophets. Jesus himself is like the cornerstone that holds the whole structure together. We are growing up to be a holy temple to the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Paul is overwhelmed with the enormity of this concept of peace and unity. (Ephesians 2:17-22)

I want to finish this part of the study by returning to verses 8 – 10. In the last devotional we looked at these verses from the personal point of view. This time, it is good to think about these verses in relation to the whole body of Christ.

It is by God’s grace given to all of us that we have been saved. This grace is only accessible to us through faith. It has nothing to do with anything we did or can do. It is a gift! Gifts are not earned; they are freely given. Our salvation is freely given to us when we believe. We can’t boast about how righteous and pleasing we are to God. There is nothing we do or don’t do that could ever earn God’s pleasure.

We are made by God. He made us to do good works. They are not work we do to earn His love, but rather because we have received His love. He prepared these works for us to do. We do what He shows us to do.

Because He loves us and rescued us from our own striving to please Him, we want to do whatever He has made us to do. That is a really refreshing thought. We don’t have to do rituals or make sacrifices or try to figure out what pleases God. We just have to believe Him, love Him, and do what blesses and makes life better for our family, our friends, and anyone God brings across our path. We can do that and that pleases God. Let’s rejoice in this peace and show God’s love and grace to everyone around us!

There are no second-class believers. How we came to believe in Jesus doesn’t make any of us better or worse than others. We all have equal access to the Father through the Spirit. If we see other brothers or sisters worshipping differently from us, that doesn’t make them better or worse believers. If others use a different translation of the Bible, that doesn’t make them more or less spiritual.

Jesus’ whole purpose was to bring all believers into one body and that body to be reconciled to God and have constant communion with Him and each other. He wanted nothing to keep us apart and distant from God, especially our faulty human ways of trying to please Him. He destroyed the walls. He didn’t just punch a hole in them, He totally destroyed them. We must be tireless in keeping the walls from being rebuilt. We must continue to hold hands and join our hearts with believers everywhere in praising and honoring our Lord and Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.


Finding Hope

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We are living in a time of lawlessness like I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Fear is epidemic. Depression is threatening to overwhelm everyone. Suicides are at record numbers. Where is there any hope?

The world is only expressing what’s in their hearts, for they are “without hope and without God in this world.” (Eph. 2: 11-12)

Fear, like a chilling fog, hides hope from our hearts. When we allow the advise of worldly experts to cloud our vision of God’s promises, hope fails. The Psalmist cried, “Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psa. 27:1) When we remember His Word and stand on it, the fog begins to clear and our hope returns.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIVUK

Our Hope is in God

Hope is like a sedative; it calms our fears. But it is also like adrenaline. Hope energizes us and gives us the encouragement and the strength we need for daily living. We need to be full of the hope that only God can give us. As we feed on His word, He will satisfy us with hope.

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Hope is the NIV translation for the word “wait” in the KJV. The Hebrew word carries the intention of waiting with eager anticipation. It is a good translation with a good message. When we eagerly anticipate the Lord and all He can do in any situation, our strength is renewed. We will soar and run and walk.

Energized by Hope

Our hope is in God. Let’s let Him energize us with His hope. And let’s be women who never speak a discouraging word, but fill the ears and hearts of those around us with hope! Hope is contagious, a good infection. If you have it, you can give it; if you don’t, catch hope today! Catch it from your time with God. Catch it from a positive Christian who has seen their hope fulfilled. Catch it from meditating on God’s Word. Then infect everyone you can!

Be encouraged by Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you many know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in this holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Eph. 1: 17-19

Let’s pray this for each other. If we know God better, we will be better prepared to have His hope fill us to overflowing. He has called us to hope. Let’s let Him fill us with that hope. After all, it is His power that makes our lives here possible.

I love the hymn, My hope is Built on Nothing Less. It was written by a Baptist minister, Edward Mote, in the mid 1800’s. Even with its old English words, it stirs our hearts to remember why we hope. Let these words increase your hope as they build your faith.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood
And righteousness
I dare not trust
The sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand (x2)

When darkness veils
His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around
My soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come
With trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand
Before the throne.

Face to Face

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In the last couple months I faced fear. It was not just a phobia about an imagined, possible danger. It was a specific and potentially very serious situation.

So, as I had faced fears before I went back to Isaiah 41: 10 and 13.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”

As before, I poured out my heart with its fear to God. I imagined Him walking along side of me and reaching out with his right hand to support me. But then it says God would take hold of my right hand. Oops. Did God and I have to switch places or did He just reach across me and take my right hand? The image was getting all muddled and I was distracted and couldn’t seem to get the comfort I remembered from other times of fear.

Suddenly, the image changed. Instead of God and I walking side by side while I poured out my heart to Him, we were facing each other. As I poured out my fear, He reached out with his right hand and supported my left elbow. Giving me just the support I needed to stand. Then He looked into my eyes and said, “I am the Lord your God.” I could no longer see what I was afraid of. His face came between me and my fear. His eyes locked on mine and He assured me He is my God and the Lord of my life. He was holding my right hand encouraging me and helping me keep my eyes on Him.

I’m so thankful that God’s comfort that is so different from the world’s. Where the world tells us to toughen up and stand, God says He will support us so we can stand. When the world tells us that whatever we are afraid of is nothing. God acknowledges our fear and says He is with us and won’t let go.

Instead of my focus being on these dark days and so many concerns, I’m more and more looking in my Father’s eyes and hearing Him tell me not to fear and that He will help me or the ones I’m praying for.
This image has changed much of my time in God’s presence these days. It is not fear that drives me to His presence. It is desire to see His face between me and my concerns, my intercessions for others, and my deep desire to see revival in our land.

The Nations Rage

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My Bible reading recently included Matthew 24 and Psalms 2.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is telling his disciples about the times leading up to the end of this age. He lists signs of the times: wars, rumors of war, nation against nation, famines, and earthquakes. As long as I’ve been alive all of these have been happening. They seem more frequent, but maybe it is because of our instant news. Anyway, by these signs, we’ve already been in the last days for many years. I’m sure my parents’ generation thought they were in the last days with two world wars, the Spanish Flu, concentration camps, and starvation after the ravages of the wars.

Jesus then goes on to say there will be persecution of believers. We would be hated by all nations. We also see this in many places. Churches are burned, crosses pulled down, and worse, persecution so bad that whole communities flee their homes as refugees to other nations.

But, more important than all the signs, are the directions Jesus gave us as we live in these times and see the end draw nearer every day.

He starts with, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah, and will deceive many.’” (vss 5-5) We must not forget this. We must not get so caught up in the fear and dread of the news that we latch onto anyone’s claims of deliverance. There will not be another Messiah, there is only One who saves, the Lord Jesus. Even if others follow a leader like this, we should not be deceived.

Next, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.” (vs.6) We are not to dwell on these things and get afraid and spread fear. We should look to the Lord our God who says to us, “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Isa 41:13)

He warns that persecution will get bad to the point of being put to death. (vs. 9-10) Why would He say this? It doesn’t seem a very good way to encourage his disciples. Jesus was not trying to frighten His disciples. He was just stating a fact. Persecution would be part of the end of the age. Jesus never scares us into obedience or threatens us with punishment. He wanted us to know this would happen to many believers living through those dark days. He wanted them to know so they would not lose heart and fall away from faith. He wanted them to avoid questioning whether God is a good God. He wanted them to stand together and support one another.

Now I don’t believe there are many believers who can think about persecution without cringing. We have a normal fear of pain and death. But many of our brothers and sisters today are being persecuted. Their homes are being confiscated, churches burned, and some are being killed. Some of these Christians were very new believers and God did a mighty work in them to bring them through with a good testimony. So what does Jesus tell us to do about persecution? “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” So for us who have time before facing persecution, we must know His Word, His presence, His comfort, His strength as more real than this world we live in now. That is who we will stand firm to the end. We will only be ready if we spend time with God and learn how to recognize His hand and help.

Jesus warns us not to be deceived by false prophets. (vs. 11, 23-24) And Jesus warns that because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold. (vss 12-13). One last warning in this chapter is that no one knows the day or the hour that the Lord will come. Our job is not to figure out the date and time, We are to keep watch, be ready, doing what the Master has planned for us to do. ( vss. 36, 42-46)

Now just after reading these verses and thinking about them, I turned to my Psalm for the day, Psalm 2. At breakfast, my husband played a modern rendition of this Psalm put to music.

It opens with, “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’”

That sounds like the news we get from the media today! Mobs riot and tear down any reminder of good people who have done good for our nation. They rob and destroy churches. They want to wipe out any memory of good and righteousness and Christian influence.

But the next verse tells us God’s opinion of all their bluster and evil. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”

God has their end fully planned! They may seem to win for now. We have read the last page of this story. God wins! He rewards those who love and honor Him! He has a place for us to dwell in His presence with no more weeping and no more pain. We are not forgotten! We will not be left out!

If you have read this far, you may be concerned about your preparation for living through harder days before the end of the age. In some of my next posts, I will be talking about ways we can grow in our faith and dependence on God. I will provide links to different types of aids to build your strong foundation on our Savior and our Lord.

What All of Us Have in Common

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Ephesians Devotions – part 6

Based on Ephesians 2: 1-10

When you look back at who you were and what your life was like before you turned to Jesus, what do you see? Some of you remember your rebellion and obviously sinful behavior. Some of you feel shame because of the thoughts and desires you had, even though you didn’t act on them. Others may look back and feel that you weren’t so bad. You were a good girl, obedient and maybe even went to church, though you didn’t understand why that was important. You may have been one that tried to fulfill the letter of the law.

Well, Ephesians 2:1-10 is Paul’s answer to all of that.

Paul begins with, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

If we were openly sinful, we know we were dead in our sin. If we were just trying to fit in with the world, our friends, and our culture; we were dead in transgressions and sin. If we just listened to the messages of the world, our enemy was at work in us to increase our disobedience, and we were dead in transgressions and sin.

Verse 3 catches even those who were just trying to do their best. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” All of us have satisfied cravings of our flesh. We raided the cookie jar, or we borrowed things and never returned them, or we schemed to get what we wanted. It is a most human trap. Satan first used it in the Garden of Eden and he is still successful with it today.

So, all of us, by nature were deserving of wrath. (verse3) God hates sin. Sin must be punished. God knew we could never pay the price. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (verses 4-5) God loves us! He loves us so much! God is rich in mercy! His plan worked! Christ took our punishment and now we are alive with Christ.

God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms. (verse 6) That is a mystery! Of course it does not mean we’re physically seated in heavenly realms. But God sees us as in Christ. Christ is seated beside the Father in heaven. And in God’s eyes we are in Christ. We do not have to understand this. Paul wants us to know why this is true. In the coming ages God will show how immeasurably rich His grace is by showing His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. This is another hint that there are ages to come after the world as we know it ends. This world and our life here is only the behind the scenes action that will go on stage in the next age. . . in eternity.

This section wraps up with three verses that we may be familiar with. Verses 8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast.” We have nothing to boast about, it is all God’s gracious gift to us. Our only responsibility is that we believe it.

The last verse in this section is, verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We can marvel at God’s handiwork in our lives. As we remember who we were and what we used to do, we can be thrilled with what God is making us. God has worked so steadily and thoroughly in my life that I hardly recognize who I am now compared to who I was before Christ. He teaches us little by little and changes us gradually. We can speed up or slow down the process by whether we yield to Him or resist. But as long as we are willing, He keeps working in us, for us, and through us.

This verse gives us our first inkling of what we must do. Later in this letter, we will learn more about the good works God intends for us to do.

Take time to consider where you came from before you knew Jesus. Think about people you know who might relate to where you were and want to get to where you are today. Pray for anyone God brings to mind. Be open to sharing your story whenever you have the chance.