Week Two, Saturday Ephesians

From Wall Builders to Kingdom Builders

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-18

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands) – 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:11-18 (New International Version)

One of my undergrad professors used to say that when you see “therefore” in Scripture, you have to ask, “What’s it there for?” This is true with today’s passage of focus. If you remember back to Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul reminded us about how we were dead in our sins, yet God reached out to us and saved us by His grace. So, what the “therefore” is there for is for Paul to elaborate on how this salvation by God’s grace has affected us.    

And how it has affected us is that the Salvation Jesus offers is for anyone and everyone. Jesus breaks down the walls of prejudice, reconciles people back to God, and unifies us as one body. Jesus has destroyed the barriers that we are quick to build between ourselves and others. Because these walls have been removed, we can have real unity with people who are not like us. Because of Jesus’ death, we are all unified, on the same side, citizens of the same kingdom (2:14); our hostility against each other has been put to death (2:16); we can all have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit (2:18).

Do you struggle with barriers and finding unity with others? If so, allow the Holy Spirit to help you to look beyond those potential barriers to the unity we are called to enjoy. Focus on the cross, and the barriers will crumble.

Prayer:

Jesus, help us to keep our eyes on the cross so that we may remember what it truly means to us and our future with you. I thank you for your sacrifice on that cross, and for the immense love that enabled you to go through with it for each and every one of us. Thank you for how you unify us with others – even those with whom we disagree. Help us to stop being wall builders and instead let us become kingdom builders.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen!

 


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Week Two, Friday Ephesians

You’re a piece of work!

Scripture: Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)

Have you ever heard someone call someone else “a piece of work?” It’s not usually a good thing, except for in Ephesians 2:10 where it is. This verse refers to us as being “God’s masterpiece.” Other translations word it “God’s handiwork (NIV),” “his workmanship (KJV),” “His creation (HCSB),” and, “what he has made us (NRSV).” I could go on, but you get the point – God created us and we are a piece of work – His piece of work. The Greek word Paul chose for this verse is “poiema.” This is where we get the English word, “poem.” What Paul had in mind when penning this verse is that we are a work of masterful creativity. Paul did not use this word flippantly. In fact, Paul only used this word twice: once in Romans 1:20, and the other in Ephesians 2:10. However, this word is used several times in the Old Testament, one of which being the Creation account found in Genesis 1, where God concluded that His work was “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

I want to remind you today that you are perfect, beautiful, amazing, and a masterpiece in God’s eyes and that He loves you more than anyone else will ever love you. Go and live in that love, realizing that you are God’s masterpiece.

For a powerful video on God’s continual work on and in our lives, go here: https://skitguys.com/videos/gods-chisel

Prayer:

God, thank you for creating us, for loving us, and for declaring that we – being your masterpieces – were “very good.” Thank you for viewing us as such. Help us to remember that even though we are your masterpieces, we are still works in progress, meaning that you continually work on us and mold us more and more into the image of your Son. Help us to be open to your continued work on and in us.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!


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Week Two, Thursday Ephesians

Saved By Grace

Scripture: Ephesians 2:8-9

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.” – Ephesians 2:8-9 (New International Version)

Paul reminds us that we have not earned our standing with God. Salvation is available only because of God’s grace provided by the death of Jesus on the cross. It is entirely initiated and freely given by God alone. Grace is a gift, and a gift, by definition, is free – it cannot be bought or earned, only accepted. Grace is best understood as unearned, undeserved favor. As with any gift given to us, our job is simply to receive it. (For a powerful video on God’s Grace, go here: https://skitguys.com/videos/grace ).

While Salvation is about God’s work and not ours, it doesn’t mean the way we live our new life in Christ is unimportant. A change of attitude and behavior is hugely important in the lives of Christ-followers. We need to understand that our new Christ-like behavior is part of our secure acceptance as part of God’s family. Good behavior doesn’t save us, but it’s because we have been saved that we should want to do good works. Saving us is God’s work. He had Christ die on the cross to pay the penalty for all our sins. Our new behavior – what the Bible calls “works” – shows our love for God and our gratitude for the grace He freely gives to us.

Prayer:

God, thank you for your grace. We don’t deserve it, but you still want to give it. Please allow the fact that you have saved us from our sins to change the way we live our lives so that we can share what you have done for us with others, eventually changing their lives.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!


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Week Two, Wednesday Ephesians

The Already But Not Yet

Scripture: Ephesians 2:6-7

For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:6-7 (New Living Translation)

As was discussed in yesterday’s devotion, prior to coming to faith in Christ, we were headed down a path of destruction, BUT now we have hope. Because of Jesus, we have life. Yes, sin kills and destroys, BUT Jesus heals us, bringing new life and transformation. In verse 6, Paul states that we have been raised from the dead along with Christ, and united with Him.  

There’s a theological paradigm known as “the already but not yet.” This paradigm states that followers of Jesus are actively taking part in the kingdom of God, although the kingdom will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. That is to say that – as followers of Jesus – we are “already” in the kingdom, but we do “not yet” see it in its full glory. The kingdom of God is described in Scripture as both a realm presently entered and as one entered in the future.

So, verse six is talking about us being resurrected from our old way of living – the already – and is also referring to the future when we will be resurrected into God’s heavenly kingdom – the not yet. It’s both a hope now, and a hope for the future.

In verse seven, we see that God will point back to our lives – which have been transformed and redeemed by Him – and use our transformation as evidence of His abounding and overflowing riches toward His children.

Can you imagine that? Can you imagine God looking at you, smiling upon you, and being ecstatic that His grace and love changed you and that you are now redeemed, perfected, and a shining example of how His love changes and transforms us?

Prayer:

Father, in light of these verses that portray what it means when we believe in your Son and turn our lives over to you, I cannot help but to stand in awe and silence of the inexhaustible and unsearchable riches of your grace toward us. Thank you for the already but not yet that allows us to experience you here on this earth, and then in paradise when our days on this earth have come to an end.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen! 


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Week Two, Tuesday Ephesians

But…God!

Scripture: Ephesians 2:4-5

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—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (New International Version)

In verses one through three, Paul painted a bleak picture of how lost and hopeless we were before coming to faith in Christ. We were dead because of our sins, but God. We were rebels against Him, but God. We were enslaved by the devil and our sinful natures, but God. “But…God” may be the two most welcome words in all of Scripture. They show that even though what came before them was negative, what comes after – because of God showing up – will be positive. God could have left us spiritually dead, in rebellion against Him, and in bondage to our sins, but He didn’t. He did not save us because of – but rather in spite of – what He saw in us. 

In verses four through five, we see where hope came into the picture. Here, Paul is saying that we do not need to live any longer under sin’s power. The penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23), and its power over us were miraculously destroyed by Jesus on the cross. Through faith in Christ, we now stand acquitted – not guilty – before God (Romans 3:21-22).

God doesn’t take us out of the world or make us like robots who can do nothing but what we were programmed to do. We will still feel like sinning, and we will still sin. The difference is that before we started following Jesus, we were dead in sin and were slaves to our sinful nature. But now we are alive with Christ and have His help to avoid sin and live with real joy and freedom.

Prayer:

God, I thank you for showing up. I thank you that when I look back at my past sins and mistakes, I can confidently say “but…God” and remember that I am no longer there. I can say, “but…God” and know that I am different, changed, redeemed, and on a new path towards becoming more like Jesus. I pray that you would continue giving all of us these “but…God” moments so we can continue to be in awe of you and the way you work in our lives.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!


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Week 2 Monday Ephesians

 

Never Forget
 
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-3
 

“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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” – Ephesians 2:1-3 (New International Version)

In these verses, Paul describes the old, sinful nature of followers of Jesus. He describes them prior to coming to faith in Christ as dead – not as unfulfilled or incomplete – but dead. Their spirits were dead because they had broken relationships with God, the source of life.

When we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, we can take comfort in knowing that He takes our sins and removes them as far from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). If this is the case, then why is Paul writing here to remind the Ephesian believers and everyone else who received this letter – including us – of past sins? He was not writing to remind people of their past to condemn them or to make them feel bad about their past life choices, but to give them a greater understanding and appreciation of the work of God in Jesus. It is important for us – as followers of Jesus – to never forget our pasts – the conditions from which Jesus saved us. Those memories, though sometimes painful, will inspire us to thank Jesus for all He has done for us. So, remembering our past sins will actually help us to appreciate and love Jesus more. Remember, but don’t turn back to and repeat.

Prayer:

Father, I thank you for saving me from my past, present, and future sins. I know that without you, I would be hopeless and lost, meandering down a dark path to nowhere good. But you, Lord, are good. You lit up my path, showed me the error in my ways and that I was empty without you in my life, and you filled that void. Help me to remember my past, but to not repeat it. And Lord, I also thank you that you don’t remember it – that the moment I asked for forgiveness, you threw my sins so far away and chose to only see the new me – the me that you have forgiven and redeemed.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – Ephesians 2:4-5 – But…God!

Scripture: Ephesians 2:4-5

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—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5 (New International Version)

In verses one through three, Paul painted a bleak picture of how lost and hopeless we were before coming to faith in Christ. We were dead because of our sins, but God. We were rebels against Him, but God. We were enslaved by the devil and our sinful natures, but God. “But…God” may be the two most welcome words in all of Scripture. They show that even though what came before them was negative, what comes after – because of God showing up – will be positive. God could have left us spiritually dead, in rebellion against Him, and in bondage to our sins, but He didn’t. He did not save us because of – but rather in spite of – what He saw in us. 

In verses four through five, we see where hope came into the picture. Here, Paul is saying that we do not need to live any longer under sin’s power. The penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23), and its power over us were miraculously destroyed by Jesus on the cross. Through faith in Christ, we now stand acquitted – not guilty – before God (Romans 3:21-22).

God doesn’t take us out of the world or make us like robots who can do nothing but what we were programmed to do. We will still feel like sinning, and we will still sin. The difference is that before we started following Jesus, we were dead in sin and were slaves to our sinful nature. But now we are alive with Christ and have His help to avoid sin and live with real joy and freedom.

Prayer:

God, I thank you for showing up. I thank you that when I look back at my past sins and mistakes, I can confidently say “but…God” and remember that I am no longer there. I can say, “but…God” and know that I am different, changed, redeemed, and on a new path towards becoming more like Jesus. I pray that you would continue giving all of us these “but…God” moments so we can continue to be in awe of you and the way you work in our lives.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!


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Week 1 Tuesday, Ephesians

 

Tuesday, June 4,, 2024 – Ephesians 1:7-12 – Blinded and Redeemed

Scripture: Ephesians 1:7-12

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” – Ephesians 1:7-12 (New International Version)

There’s a lot of flowery language in this passage, but we need to understand that the Apostle Paul is talking about the culminating event of the Bible – Jesus dying in our place for our sins, rising again, and triumphing over sin and death. This is talking about what God had to do to bring us into the reality of His sending His Son as a sacrifice to save us from our sins. God had to redeem us. Redemption means “to buy back.” It was an old slavery word where you would literally buy back a slave from the auction block. They would literally be bought back, taken out of slavery, and given freedom and a better life.

This is what God did for us, and it’s what God did for the Apostle Paul before he became the Apostle Paul. His name was Saul and he was a religious nut job who thought that it was a good idea to kill Christians. In fact, in Acts 9:1, we see that Saul was breathing out murderous threats against Christians. One day, as he was en route to elevate the threats into action by killing more Christians, God got a hold of him in a powerful way, knocking him off of his donkey and blinding him for three days. In this process, God revealed Himself to Saul and he became the Apostle Paul, a man with a new mission in life – a mission that was the complete opposite of his prior mission.

This is how we come to Christ, too. That is to say that we get blinded by our old worldview and way of living, we get knocked off of our own ideas and our trying to do life on our own, and we see Jesus in a new way. And that’s what God’s grace is. We don’t deserve His grace, but He still wants to give it to us out of His immense, unconditional love for us.

Prayer:

Thank you, God, for saving me from the slippery slope that was my life of sin. Lord, you know that I was headed down a path that kept getting darker and darker, but you showed up, lit up my life, and changed my direction. Now, Lord, my journey only leads toward you. Please help me to always keep my eyes on you and help me to not stray from your path. I love you, Lord. Thank you for changing my life!

 

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


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Week 1 Saturday, Ephesians

 

Saturday, June 8, 2024 – Ephesians 1:22-23 – We Are the Church

Scripture: Ephesians 1:22-23

 

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” – Ephesians 1:22-23 (New International Version)

Jesus does not walk the earth as He once did. You cannot see, hear, or touch Him. Sometimes I think about what it must have been like to be one of His earliest followers who could walk, talk, eat, and laugh with Jesus. What would it have been like to share a meal with Jesus? What would it have been like to stare deeply into His eyes as He explained the purpose of His coming to this earth and the depth of His love for us? What would it have been like to hug Jesus?

I want us to think about these questions and sense the wonder in them. The truth is that Jesus is no longer walking this earth in bodily form the way He once was; however, He is walking it in a new way. Jesus walks – and works in – this earth through His church. The church is not the building that is currently closed due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The church is the Body of Christ. The church is us. 1 Corinthians 12:27 states, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” We are the church. We are Jesus’ body in this world, and, therefore, “the fullness of him who fulfills everything in every way.” Just as a head needs a full body in order to function, Jesus – being the head – needs us – His body – to continue the furthering of His kingdom and fulfilling of His mission.

So, even though we are having to practice social distancing right now, it would behoove us to keep in mind that none of us should attempt to work, serve, or worship merely on our own. We need the entire body – we need each other.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for creating us to be your body and for giving us a part to play in the spreading of your gospel. This is the same gospel that changes us from the inside out, so we ask that you would use us to help others to learn about and come into relationship with you so that they can be changed from the inside out as well.

In Jesus’ powerful, life-changing name I pray, amen.


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Week 1 Friday, Ephesians

 

Friday, June 7, 2024 – Ephesians 1:18-21 – Open the Eyes of Our Hearts, Lord

Scripture: Ephesians 1:18-21

 

18 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 his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” – Ephesians 1:18-21 (New International Version)

“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you!” If your religious upbringing was anything like mine, then reading the above-quoted words brings back memories of youth group, retreats, summer camps, and mission trips where you sang Michael W. Smith’s “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” which was written – along with 120 other popular worship songs – by Paul Baloche. About the writing process of “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” Baloche stated, “In Psalm 95, it says, ‘Come let’s sing for joy. Let’s shout out loud. Let’s kneel in worship. Let’s clap our hands.’ That’s all neat, but I began to realize you can teach externals, but unless something is happening from the inside out, it’s just really a form. It’s like a cloud without rain.”

The Apostle Paul understood the fact that unless there is an internal change – unless God is allowed into our inner beings and allowed to begin changing us from the inside out – it is meaningless. You are just singing theological words that mean nothing to you but have a catchy tune. But if change is happening – if God is moving in your life and transforming you into the image of His Son, Jesus – then the eyes of your heart will truly be opened to the hope and inheritance that we have through our personal relationships with Jesus.

Prayer:

Lord, I’ll keep this short and simple. Open the eyes of our hearts. We want to see you!

In Jesus’ glorious name I pray, amen.


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Week 1, Thursday Ephesians

 

Thursday, June 6, 2024 – Ephesians 1:15-17 – A Shift in Understanding

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-17

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 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 may know him better.– Ephesians 1:15-17 (New International Version)

In these verses, Paul is not praying for the Ephesian Church to gain knowledge about God, or to learn about Him and start to put their faith in Him. He’s not praying in this way because these Ephesian believers were already committed followers of Christ. What Paul is praying for here is a shift of their complete understanding of who God is and for them to understand God’s very character.

If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps we need this shift, too. Perhaps we already came to faith in Christ and lived our lives fully for Him for a while, but then life happened – we got busy, we got distracted, we allowed our focus on Jesus to wane. In these verses, Paul’s desire for the Ephesian believers, the other churches who would receive this letter, and for us today is that we would know God better. And that’s my prayer for you, as one of your pastors – that you would come to know God better. For those whose passion for God has dimmed over time, I pray that He would reinvigorate you. For those whose passion is strong, I pray that He would increase that passion and fan the flame to bring you into a deeper level of relationship with Him.

Prayer:

God, make it so we want nothing more than to be in your presence and to know you on a deeper, more intimate level. Lord, let our words be few, and let us become even more in awe of you.

In Jesus’ awe-inspiring name I pray, amen.

 


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