Humble Confession – by Austin Gonzales

Following God’s instructions concerning one aspect of life will help us follow His instructions in other aspects, as well, so that we can live better lives overall.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about this in regards to humility and confession.

(James 4:10) Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

(1 Peter 5:5b) …all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

(James 5:16) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

(1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

In my (limited) experience, if I am going to truly apologize for an offense, or if I want to try and obey the command to confess my sins to a brother in Christ, it definitely requires swallowing my pride. In turn, it helps me develop humility – just a little bit at a time – when I sincerely apologize to someone, or confess a sin that I have been hiding.

When we apologize; we are admitting to God, to our friend, and to ourselves that what we did was wrong – no matter how valid our excuses may seem to our prideful selves. Similarly, when confessing sin, we are admitting that it was indeed a sin. So we have no excuse – since “with the temptation [God] will provide the way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13) – and we realize the need to resist any desire to do it again. Therefore it helps us, when we confess wrongs, to humble ourselves by understanding that some things are wrong no matter our reason – the ends do not always justify the means. And in so doing, it can also help us with obedience to God.

We have a need to confess not just our sins, but also the struggles we go through. How are our brethren supposed to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2-3) or “look out for [not only their] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4), if we do not let them know what we are going through? Except, of course for the deep, painful wounds that “they can’t do much to help with,” right? No! Rather, we especially need to confess those kinds of inward struggles!

Even if there is nothing that a fellow member can actively do to help; they can listen. Simply the action of speaking your thoughts and emotions out loud does much to help us understand and process such issues. Also spiritually, the deep, hidden wounds are just the opportunity Satan can best use to tempt us with – especially the ones that nobody else knows you are thinking about. This is also where humility comes in. We do not want to appear ignorant, weak, or un-Christ- like, etc.; so we don’t want to let people know that we hurt. But humility tells us that we are ignorant, weak, and un-Christ- like. Everyone is, except for the LORD Himself. That is why humility tells us that we must confess our need and appeal for His help – as well as the help of His church.

Confession and humility can also give us tools to be proactive and take preventative measures to avoid or resist temptation. Accountability, for one thing (Galatians 6:2-3). As I have just mentioned, humbling ourselves to admit struggles, or sins that we struggle with, means that others can help us through them. However, this requires communication and complete honesty – both of which, humility can help with; and both of which can help to build humility. When we “tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” then our brethren can most effectively help us out. It may have to do with keeping an eye out for situations that they know may tempt us. Or maybe they can get us in contact with someone who has been through the same struggles. In addition to such things, communication and honesty build stronger relationships between us.

Advice I hear about marriage or relationships nearly always includes being honest
and/or constantly improving communication. It is how we become close to our family in Christ – and it helps us come closer to Christ Himself.

Humility is also required when we are hearing confessions or apologies from someone else. When someone comes to us in such a way, it is easy to be tempted to judge them, gossip about them, or not to forgive them – maybe in not so many words. But if we keep in mind that we have committed offenses of our own, and that God has been so gracious to forgive us, it helps us to forgive them and to honor their confidentiality – to pay it forward. Colossians 3:12-13 tells us, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Additionally, when hearing confessions; humility can tell us that we do not always have the answers. When someone opens up to us, we may really want to help with any advice we can offer. But humility can teach us to think before we speak. Not always – but sometimes – the best thing we can do is to listen.

To sum up, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” if we humble ourselves and confess our sins.

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Innate Qualities

When considering characteristics of the human body that are innate, several things may come to mind. Actions such as a heart beating, lungs breathing, and eyes blinking are examples of actions that happen involuntarily and do not require to be first taught. When the Lord made Adam, He made him a fully-grown man who’s bodily functions were fully developed. Adam’s mind was made to understand logic, and he was made able to understand the language in which the Lord spoke to him. Mankind was created with a certain set of abilities that needed no instruction, from the moment God breathed into the nostrils of Adam. (Genesis 2:7) Some actions are in some ways obviously and involuntarily innate in regards to the physical, human body; this we know to be true. How often, though, do we take into consideration the innate qualities of our spiritual natures that set mankind apart from the rest of creation? For instance, can communication with words be seen as spiritually significant? Is prayer instinctual? Is the desire to fear and worship a being of higher power something inherent? Questions like these have rattled the minds of philosophers and deep thinkers for ages. Fortunately for mankind, answers to these questions can be found in Scripture, and can be demonstrated through the examples of men and women throughout history.

The first instance of a spiritually innate ability can be found as early as Adam communicating with God in the garden. Starting in verse 16 of Genesis chapter 2, a communication between God and man was happening. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from there of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” It goes on to say in verse 19 that Adam was given the authority to name the creatures God presented to him. These circumstances, although simple in appearance, prove two truths. The first truth that can be noticed is that there is a verbal language which God used to transfer messages to Adam. The second truth is that that language appears to be understood and reciprocated by Adam without him being taught it. In light of these truths, one could conclude that the act of communicating with God was an experience for Adam that was unlike a man’s typical, physical needs, but was a spiritual one that needed to be met just the same.

Although mankind can’t have a verbal conversation with the Lord today, there is an avenue we’ve received by which we can meet the spiritual need to communicate with God, this is prayer. Throughout the Patriarchal Age, most recorded instances of communication had with God was verbal and direct. The word “pray” wasn’t even mentioned until the time of Abraham. Its first reference is made several hundred years after the creation of man, in Genesis 20:7. The context of its inclusion was after the Lord had appeared to King Abimelech in a dream to warn him that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, and not his sister like Abraham had told him. Other occurrences of the word “pray” began to emerge in the Bible after this point in time.  

Due to Abimelech’s preexisting belief in the gods, the word “pray” would have meant something to him. However, moving forward from Abraham’s time, and focusing on the present, there are people who choose to accept a belief in there being no God (or gods for that matter) at all! If we are holding to the concept of this act of communication being one that is innate, then it would be significant to witness individuals who claim, with no belief in a supernatural being, to pray. Such information was given attention by Timothy Keller, a Presbyterian minister and famous author, in his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Although not all of what Keller has to say is something I agree with, his cited research on this topic fits in well with the subject at hand. In his book, Keller cites a survey done in 2004 that shows a percentage of atheists who pray. In the original survey, the results concluded that almost 30% of the atheists living in the UK admitted to praying. If the definition can be agreed upon that praying is a form of communication with something of a higher power than the individual, why would someone who claims a belief in nothing pray at all? Could it be that it’s simply a part of the human nature to desire for a communication with what is superior to mankind? A number of God fearing people have answered this question with, “yes.”

In Scripture, there are references to what the innate purpose of man is to be. Both the Old and New Testament share knowledge on what cannot be denied by any human being who has lived, or will live, on the earth. In regards to what the purpose of creation is, one does not have to search very far in Old Testament to discover it. “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1).” Glory to God is displayed in His creation. In regards to what is innately known by man, the apostle Paul makes reference to the fact that man has no excuse but to accept God’s power and divinity. Romans 1:19-20 says, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” What the writer says in Ecclesiastes 12:13 can be paired well with the words of Paul. “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” 

Due to certain qualities that have been instilled within us, the desire for a connection between us and our Lord is inevitable. The need to express a respect and adoration for a higher power has been something that remains to set humanity apart from the rest of creation. Focusing on the innate qualities of our spiritual natures is something that may prove to be beneficial as we walk our Christian walks. I urge us all to focus on our individual walks and talks with our Lord, and treat them as if their intentional. The Lord calls all of us to Him. “Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made (Isaiah 43:7).”

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Peace”

What is the Biblical concept of peace?
Hebrew:
shalom – based on the concept of “fastening” so as to achieve a stable condition. Implies not only the absence of conflict, but also wholeness, tranquility, stability, spiritual soundness, and good health.

Greek:
eirene – the higher spiritual fulfillment resulting from Christ coming into the world. A harmonious relationship between God and man, man and man, in the state, and in the church. Used as a common greeting in all 13 of the general epistles attributed to Paul.

(Romans 5:1) “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Mark 9:50) “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” (Acts 24:16)

Are there things more important than peace?
Apparently, yes.

(Matthew 10:34-36) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:8) “…a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Bear in mind that being taken advantage of and injured by others is not a peaceful situation. Perhaps this helps explain (Luke 22:36) “whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

(John 16:33) says “…take heart; I have overcome the world.” Notice, they could have peace not because there was no conflict, but because they had a champion among them who could end the conflict once and for all. Long-term peace is more important that short-term peace.

(Jeremiah 6:13-14) “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” — This seems to indicate that a “superficial” or false peace that seeks to ignore the problems rather than address them is not an acceptable outcome.

(Hebrews 12:14) says “strive for peace with everyone.” Peace ought to be an ultimate goal.

Blessed are the peacemakers, but are there times when it is wise not to get involved?

(Matthew 18:15) “if your brother sins against you…”

(Matthew 5:23) “if your brother has something against you…”

Notice that in both of these cases, you are one of the parties directly involved.
It may be unwise to get mixed up in other people’s business:
(1 Timothy 5:13) warns against the tendency to be “not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.”

(2 Thessalonians 3:11) also mentions busy-bodies. This word means to “work all-around, i.e. to meddle, going beyond proper boundaries (where a person doesn’t belong); to fixate on what others are doing, instead of doing what the person himself is supposed to do.”

However, there are times for other parties to get involved:
(Philippians 4:2-3) “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

How can we find peace when we are troubled?

Seek in in God.

(2 Thessalonians 3:16) “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

(John 16:33) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

(John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26) Jesus repeatedly declared peace to His followers. Find peace in what He is done and its significance for our spiritual future.

(Isaiah 26:3) “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Through prayer.

(1 Peter 5:7) “casting all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”

(Philippians 4:6-7) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What does “the peace that passes understanding” mean?

(Romans 8:26-27) “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Could this be relate?

 How can a church or a family in turmoil work for peace?

Follow the protocols of Matthew 5, Matthew 18, and Romans 14

Notice that being in Christ and in the Spirit together are key:

(Philippians 2:1-2) “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. “

(Romans 14:17) “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And Romans 14 is all about making peace by “accepting those who are weak in the faith.” Sort of like our concept of being the bigger person.

(Romans 15:13) “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Galatians 5) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”

(Ephesians 4:1-3) “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

(Ephesians 2:14, 17) Jesus is our peace, and He came and preached peace. He made peace possible.

It will require work:
(1 Peter 3:8-11)Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

(Hebrews 12:14) “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Compromise and perhaps the wisdom to keep a healthy distance:

(Genesis 13:8-9) “Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’”

Think also of the example of Abigail and Nabal,

Or of Solomon and the two mothers

(Romans 12:18) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Sometimes it may simply not be possible.

(Numbers 6:24-26) “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

An Ancient Story of Healing with a Powerful Message

The Bible tells us of an ancient army captain named Naaman. He was “a great man with his master, and highly respected,” and “a valiant warrior,” but he also suffered from the painful and debilitating disease of leprosy.

A little girl from Israel, who served as a maid, told Naaman’s wife about a prophet of God in Israel who could help him. So Naaman got permission from the king of his land, Aram, and went to the king of Israel with ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes, hoping to use this wealth to buy healing for his disease.

Naaman did not even get to meet the prophet of God who could heal him, but the prophet, Elisha, did send word: “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.”

This is how he responded: “Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.”

Naaman almost missed out on the chance to be healed, but luckily his servants came to him and said “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’”

Naaman almost missed out on God’s blessings because the means by which they were received seemed too commonplace to him to be taken seriously. Surely it was not by simply dipping in water that he would be healed! Surely it would be a big, meaningful, emotionally charged spectacle, instead!

Are we like Naaman today?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to personally pray to God whenever and wherever we want, simply because it is so easy for us to do? Do we forget that for thousands of years, God’s throne could only be approached once a year, and even then, only by a High Priest? Do we forget that the veil in the old Jewish temple has finally been torn in two, so that now we can boldly come into God’s presence because of the blood of His Son?

Do we take for granted the amazing opportunity to open God’s word and read it whenever we want? Do we forget that these words came to Moses in a thick cloud of smoke and fire on top of a mountain, or to David the great king of Israel by the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that for thousands of years, the Word of God could only be read by the scribes, while the people stood on their feet for hours at a time, desperate to hear what they could before the sun set and they had to go home? Do we forget that until very recently, scrolls were extremely expensive, and Bibles could not be taken out of the pulpit that they were chained to?

Do we take for granted to power that meets us in the waters of baptism? Do we realize that it is there that we come into contact with Jesus blood, which washes away our sins? That by such a simple and commonplace act as immersion in water, the kingdom of heaven is richly supplied to us?

Naaman failed to recognize the power of healing that was available to him because it came in such seemingly ordinary packaging. May we learn from his story. If the Lord had asked us to climb formidable mountains, practice mysterious rituals, or wear ourselves out in feats of impressive devotion, would we not do it? If therefore He tells us that He will meet us in common prayer, and common Bible study, and immersion in common water, let us go.

Christianity is More than simply Doing Good Deeds

As Jesus was traveling along, He entered a village.

“…and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10)

As many have noted, Martha was probably doing admirable things, rushing about and making sure that the needs of her guest were taken care of. But in the midst of all of her well-doing, she had taken her eyes off of the only thing that really mattered: Jesus.

And it really is so easy to get distracted by so many different “important,” and “good” causes that we forget what matters most.

Maybe we are busy all day working hard to provide for our families, but are unmotivated to open our Bibles or spend quiet time in prayer.

Maybe we spend hours online researching political news-stories and assessing what is best for our country, but we hardly give a thought to what Jesus might be trying to teach us as individuals today.

Maybe we feel deeply for the physical needs of those around us without giving a single thought to their spiritual need for a Savior.

We must remember that doing good is not simply about what we do, but why and how we do it. Christianity minus the Christ is just another form of humanism. Put another way: good deeds are indeed good, but it is possible to do them while missing the very heart of Christianity.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
Jesus Himself is an example to us in that He never allowed the good and necessary actions of everyday life to pull Him away from His Father. “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” (Luke 5:16)

The church in ancient Ephesus was warned that their good deeds alone were not enough to save them:

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”  (Revelation 2:2-4)

We must ask ourselves: Am I helping the poor? Am I serving my neighbors? Do I take care of my family and friends? Am I kind and considerate? Do I care about my country?

But we MUST also ask: Am I truly in love with Jesus?

100 Facts about the Church of the Bible

100 facts about Christ’s church as demonstrated in the book of Acts.
From a 7 month bible study at the church of Christ in Mankato.

Chapter 1

  • Is a people who is waiting.
  • Is a people who have unity despite their differences.
  • Is devoted to praying together.
  • Trusts in God to guide them.

Chapter 2

  • Teaches the truth about repentance.
  • Teaches the truth about baptism.
  • Is supportive of one another.
  • Spends time together often throughout the week if possible.

Chapter 3

  • Has more to offer than the world would ever imagine.
  • Points out the sins of the world, yet with gentleness.
  • Takes every opportunity to share the gospel.

Chapter 4

  • Sometimes teaches a message that the governing authorities do not endorse.
  • Maintains the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ only.
  • Is full of members who are bold proclaimers of the word of God. 

Chapter 5

  • Has its own scandals, but handles them appropriately.
  • Has favor with outsiders.
  • Is protected and aided by God.

 Chapter 6

  • Takes care of its widows.
  • Has a leadership devoted to the Word and prayer.
  • Appoints men to serve in various capacities.

 Chapter 7

  • Has members who really know the Bible.
  • Is sometimes slandered falsely.
  • Is willing to die for Christ.
  • Is amazingly forgiving.

Chapter 8

  • Is sometimes physically persecuted.
  • Must not be corrupted by money.
  • Conducts one on one Bible studies resulting in baptism.

Chapter 9

  • Should not write someone off, assuming they could never come to Christ.
  • Is called to accept and encourage all who would receive the truth.
  • Sometimes gains its most powerful evangelists in its most drastic conversions.

 Chapter 10

  • Has godly women who continually show kindness.
  • Is no longer under Mosaic dietary restrictions.
  • Is open to all people, Jews and Gentiles.

 Chapter 11

  • Is not “set in its ways” so that it cannot learn new information.
  • Are known as “Christians.”
  • Sends men to preach wherever there is a need.
  • Collects money to send to brethren in need.

 Chapter 12

  • Is affected by the senseless whims of an unstable world.
  • Gathers in each other’s homes to pray.
  • Sometimes cannot believe what God is doing.
  • Is sometimes under a wicked government, yet still grows.

 Chapter 13

  • Combines prayer and fasting.
  • Boldly condemns false teaching.
  • Preaches an interesting message.
  • Shakes the dust from its feet.

 Chapter 14

  • Can become the center of public controversy.
  • May have charismatic leaders, but they are only human.
  • Suffers many tribulations.
  • Has elders in every church.

 Chapter 15

  • Doesn’t automatically know everything.
  • Seeks God’s help in uncovering truth.
  • Sometimes has quitters.

 Chapter 16

  • Connects the old and the young.
  • Has women that convert their families.
  • Emphasizes the urgency of baptism.
  • Uses the status of its members for good.

 Chapter 17

  • Reasons from the scriptures.
  • Searches the scriptures daily to see if teachings are accurate.
  • Speaks to outsiders in a language they can understand.

 Chapter 18

  • Has both “vocational” and full time ministers.
  • Has individuals with incomplete knowledge.
  • Is gentle in correcting the genuinely mistaken.
  • Uses scripture as its authority on all matters.

 Chapter 19

  • Is concerned with the details of baptism.
  • Comes in congregations of all sizes.
  • May find more open hearts among the “pagans” than the religious.
  • Confesses sin and repents.
  • Operates in a crazy world.

 Chapter 20

  • Gathers on the first day of the week to break bread.
  • Is overseen by elders, who shepherd the church.
  • Must be on the alert for troublemakers.
  • Builds emotionally powerful relationships.

Chapter 21

  • Has counted the cost.
  • Is universal, even as individual congregations are autonomous.
  • Must be careful to get the whole story before jumping to conclusions.

Chapter 22

  • Shares its personal stories.
  • Has its sins washed away in baptism.
  • Will encounter individuals who are blinded by emotion.

Chapter 23

  • Does not violate its conscience, but does not think it is infallible either.
  • Respects those in authority.
  • Weathers the storms of outside groups in turmoil.
  • Has important roles for young people.

Chapter 24

  • May be falsely accused.
  • Has much in common even with those outside the faith.
  • Refrains from unjust practices.
  • Can make people uncomfortable.

Chapter 25

  • Will always have enemies.
  • Will always be a minority.
  • May be perceived by the world as boring or unimportant.
  • Must be patient and wait on God’s timing.

Chapter 26

  • Is unashamed of its belief.
  • Repents in deed, not only in word.
  • Makes a clear and personal evangelistic appeal.

Chapter 27

  • Issues a warning that is sometimes ignored.
  • Earns respect as time reveals the truthfulness of its message.
  • Becomes the natural leader in times of turmoil.

Chapter 28

  • Develops positive relationships with its neighbors.
  • Sometimes gets special opportunities to make an appeal to the lost.
  • Convinces some and loses others.
  • Makes the best of circumstances that are less than ideal.church-206650_640

An Outline of the Letter to the Ephesians

Ephesians is written primarily to Gentiles.

This becomes apparent gradually through the use of the pronouns “you” and “we” to refer to Gentiles and Jews respectively:

  • “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance… to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” (1:11-14)
  • Consider similar instances in 2:11-12 and 3:17-19

The central message of Ephesians is the mystery of Gentile inclusion.

The word “mystery” occurs 6 times, more than any other New Testament book.

  • “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.” (1:9)
  • “By revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ… to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (3:3-4,6)
  • Consider also 3:8-9 

The goal of Paul’s writing is to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • This is achieved through illustrations:
    • You were dead; God made you alive. (2:1-10)
    • You were strangers; God made you fellow citizens. (2:11-22)

The goal of Paul’s prayers is likewise to help the Gentiles grasp the magnificence of God’s gift to them.

  • “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (1:18-19)
  • Consider also his prayer in 3:14-21

All glory and thanks be to God for His salvation.

  • It was according to His will.
    • He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (1:4)
    • He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (1:5)
    • “According to His kind intention.” (1:9)
    • “Having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (1:11)
  • He acted for His glory.
    • “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” (1:6)
    • “To the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.” (1:12)
    • “To the praise of His glory.” (1:14)
  • It was His grace, not our goodness.
    “Grace” occurs 12 times, more than any book except Romans.

    • “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” (1:7)
    • “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (2:4-5)
    • “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (2:8-9)

There is a major shift that pivots on “Therefore” in 4:1.

This is a shift from the theological to the practical, and is emphasized by the word “walk,” which occurs 7 times, more than any other epistle.

  • “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (4:1)
  • “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” (4:17)
  • “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” (5:8)
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” (5:15)

Walk in unity

  • Attitudes to preserve it. (4:1-3)
  • Truths that establish it. (4:4-6)
  • Leaders who seek to preserve it. (4:7-13)
  • Forces that threaten it. (4:14)
  • An illustration of it. (4:15-16)

Walk in purity (5:1-21)

  • Imitate God.
  • Not in darkness, but in light.
  • Not in: immorality, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting, covetousness, drunkenness.
  • Rather: giving thanks, goodness, righteousness, truth, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Walk uprightly in relationships

  • Wives (5:22)
  • Husbands (5:25)
  • Children (6:1)
  • Fathers (6:4)
  • Slaves (6:5)
  • Masters (6:9)

Having given these moral prescriptions, the letter to the Ephesians now gives encouragement and proper tools for the spiritual battle.

  • Armor of God (6:14-17):
    • “Having girded your loins with truth,”
    • “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”
    • “Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace,”
    • “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith,”
    • “And take the helmet of salvation,”
    • “And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
  • Prayer: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” (6:18)

    DCIM100GOPRO

Christians and Time Management

Americans as a whole devote considerable amounts of time to leisure activities.

  • We will happily devote a couple of hours to watching an interesting movie.
  • We will sit through an entire NFL game on television, which averages 3 hours 12 minutes of airtime, with over 100 commercials and only 11 minutes of actual play.
  • NASCAR races take 3-5 hours.
  • Some prefer to run, walk, jog, bike, kayak, etc. regularly for extended periods of time.

There is nothing inherently wrong with watching a movie, a game, a race, or going for a run. In fact, having times of rest, relaxation, and refreshment is vital for our mental and physical health. But it may be beneficial to consider our use of time on such activities in comparison to our devotion to spiritual disciplines.

  • In Luke 6:12, Jesus spent all night in prayer.
  • In Mark 14:32-42, at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus expressed concern that His closest friends could not devote even one hour to watching and praying for Him without falling asleep.
  • In Luke 6, the apostles sought out willing servants to help with the churches work, so that they could devote more time to the Word and prayer.
  • David often remarked in the Psalms that he meditated on God’s Word day and night. He often lay on his bed during the watches of the night, treasuring God’s commands.

Of course, praying long prayers or devoting countless hours to study is not some formulaic way to earn God’s favor. We should not “babble on” in lengthy prayers in he hope that we will “be heard for our many words” as those who are mentioned in Matthew 6:7.

But it might surprise us how little time we actually devote to the Lord, if we were to time it. Why not give it a try? Perhaps see how it feels to spend half an hour in prayer a few nights this week.

The goal is not to achieve a higher spiritual status by enduring monotonous disciplines. This is simply a reminder for us all that our use of time can be an indicator of our hearts deepest desires.

Times of Rest

Dog taking a nap.

We all need periods of rest in our lives. Genesis 2:2 tells us that even God rested from His work when He was done creating the heavens and the earth. He also blessed the seventh day as a day of rest, and went on to instruct His people to rest, as He had done, every seven days.

Why would a perfect God need rest? Surely His muscles were not tired, and His mind was not weary. The fact that God Himself would choose to rest indicates that there is a sacred, special quality to rest that we all need in our lives.

  • It is a time to step back and survey the work that has been done.
  • It is a time to shift focus for a while, so that we may return with renewed energy.
  • It is a time to consider new ideas and concepts with the freedom afforded by a clear and uncluttered schedule.
  • It is a time to remember what things are really important that we may have been neglecting.
  • It is a time for family.
  • It is a time for solitude.

Jesus actually advocated vacation time for His apostles:

“The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” – Mark 6:30-32

Times of rest also serve as times of renewal. What do you need to take a rest from for a while?

  • Work?
  • Television?
  • Internet?
  • Facebook?
  • Negativity?

“Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” – Luke 5:16