Ephesians 1:1-2

As you can see from my last post, I was jumping in to what I thought was the meat of this epistle, and bypassing the standard, “boring” greeting that Paul and other first century writers put at the beginning of their letters. But then, as I was reading commentaries in order to delve deeper, and to more fully understand Paul’s letter, I came across a series by Pastor Chuck Smith who founded Calvary Chapel in Yuma, Arizona. Though he passed away in 2013, his messages live on, pointing the way to Jesus, and helping people like me (and hopefully you), to see the grace and beauty of God’s Word in a deeper way.

What struck me, in the very first sentence, was Pastor Smith’s thought of us writing this letter. The first part of the first verse, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” says so much more than just the words. And I never realized that until Pastor Smith suggested substituting your own name. For me, it would read, “Bonnie, a motor vehicle cashier by the will of God.” Wow! We are not all apostles or teachers or Whatever, but we are all called to Something by the WILL OF GOD. And no matter what that something is, we are called by His Will, and we are all ministers in one way or another within that calling. We are in the place God has put us, for a reason. No matter the job, remember what Paul said later in Ephesians, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the LORD, not people.” (Ephesians 6:7 NIV).

In the second half of verse one, Paul states whom he is addressing with this letter. In the ESV version of the Bible,, it says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.”┬áThe King James Version, however,┬ásays, “to the Saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” There’s been lots of speculation from experts about this sentence. In some of the old manuscripts the city of Ephesus is there, and in others it’s not. Some experts, such as F. F. Bruce, say that this is what they call a “circular letter,” meaning that it circulated from city to city within Asia Minor, and each city inserted their own name.

When it comes to the difference in those in Ephesus “and faithful in Christ Jesus” (ESV) , or “and TO THE FAITHFUL in Christ Jesus,” (KJV), I know which one I pick to be right. I have no idea if it is or not, but I pick the King James Version. If this is correct, then this letter is actually written to all of us. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Gill says that the Arabic version says, “and to them that believe in Jesus Christ; with all of their hearts, to the saving of their souls; who look unto Him, venture on Him, rely upon Him, and trust in Him for life and salvation, and who shall certainly be saved.” (My emphasis added). So, from this standpoint, this letter is to each and every one of us. It’s not just for those in the churches at ancient Ephesus, or Asia Minor, it is for all who claim Jesus as their personal Savior, then, now, and forevermore.

And then Paul calls for grace and peace. Chuck Smith points out that it’s always grace first, then peace. Everywhere in the New Testament, grace and peace are paired, and grace comes first. He posits that we can not know the peace of God until we fully understand His grace. And that, my friends, is a subject of a different post! Grace and peace, coming soon. Or, perhaps you want to begin exploring that on your own.

Here are some things for you to think about until the next post:

If you were writing this letter, how would the opening greeting read? Are you in “the will of God” in your job? If not, can you get there? Can you bring glory to Jesus in your present position? Do you know the peace of God, or are you still seeking after His grace?

 

1 Timothy 1:12-16

“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our LORD, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:12-16 ESV)

Yep. This would be me, and every sinner, saved by His grace and mercy. We all think we are the “foremost.” But He does judge us faithful and appoint each and every one of us to His service.

Yes, as I said a couple weeks ago, it’s easy to say “Yes” to Jesus. But there is a cost to discipleship. When we turn our lives around, start walking with Jesus instead of away from Him, there is a price to be paid, a job to be done. It’s not a free ride or a government handout. We have work to do. We have been called into His service.

And what is this service, you ask? While there will be some variation, mostly it is to live your life for Jesus.When I was a new Christian, I heard someone scythe the Christian’s life is sometimes the only Bible a non-believer sees. People are watching you, more than you may ever know. When Jesus comes into your life and you make that 180 degree turn, and people start noticing that you are different, they will ask. “What happened? What’s changed?” And that’s when you have the opportunity to tell them, “Well, Jesus became the LORD of my life. And with His help I have given up cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs with no withdrawal symptoms, no cravings, no real problems whatsoever. The desire for Jesus just drove out the desire for all the other things.” (Yes. This is what happened to me. Over the course of about one month, I went from smoking nearly 3 packs of cigarettes a day, drinking at least a quart of bourbon a day (Yes, every day), and smoking about an ounce of pot a week, to clean and sober. I gave it all up, cold turkey. I walked away from it all, straight into the arms of Jesus.)

Before I let Jesus in, I called myself”Spiritual.” I believed there was some sort of superior being, god, if you will, but I didn’t see god as God. And I certainly didn’t get the whole Trinity thing, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t get the religion thing, the you have to believe this way, or that way, or whatever way. I was very much an individualist. One friend from high school recalls me saying, “All this religion crap is bunk,” or words to that effect. She, a very devoted Christian, (who prayed for my salvation for about 28 years – Thanks Deb – Love you!), was debating with another student, from Iran, about Jesus vs. Allah. Not only do I remember the debate, we were waiting for the start of geometry class, but I also remember telling them that I thought they were both “cracked.”

Those who knew me in my days BC (Before Christ), and who know me now, know what a great transformation God did in my life. And that, my friends, is the point to the last line in this passage, that “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to this who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” He waited, patiently, (even more patiently than Debbie’s 28 years) for me to come to the point in my life that I could say yes to Him, let Him redeem my life from the pit of hell and become an example of His great love, patience, mercy, grace, forgiveness, all of the above and even more so.

He turned my life around, and now I serve Him. Everything I do is for His glory. I work for Him, I rest for Him, I even play for Him. It’s all for Him. Thank You Jesus. His patience is for you too. He will wait for you. His mercy and His grace is for you. He will extend it to you whenever you ask. So I ask you, what are you waiting for? Just open your heart to Him, say, “LORD, I’m sorry for all I’ve done against You and Your Word. I do believe in You, Jesus, and I want You in my life. I ask for your forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Please come into my life to rule and reign. Thank You.” It’s that simple.

And when You have done this, please, let me know. It’s not required that you let anyone know, in fact, in some countries it’s safer if you do keep it to yourself. But, for the most part, it’s easier in community. God will lead you if you’re on your own, but having someone pray for you, guide you, point the way and direct you around the pitfalls, just helps.

For this week’s Scripture memory verse let’s stick with today’s theme, 1 Timothy 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”

READING PLAN

Day 36 Exodus 15-16 Psalm 33 Mark 12

Day 37 Exodus 17-19 Psalm 34 Mark 13

Day 38 Exodus 20-21 Psalm 35 Mark 14

Day 39 Exodus 22-23 Psalm 36 Mark 15

Day 40 Exodus 24-25 Psalm 37:1-22 Mark 16

Day 41 Exodus 26-27 Psalm 37:23-40 Luke 1

Day 42 Exodus 28 Psalm 38 Luke 2

 

1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 3

The last section of this passage speaks of the law. It tells for whom the law is established. 

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for this who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslaved, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted,” (1 Timothy 1:8- 11).

I work at a job where contact with the public is continuous. Many are in violation of the law when they come to my place of employment. Many are contrite, apologetic, and requesting mercy and grace. I’m not law enforcement, so there’s no problem with me.  We get their business done, and they move on. But the next year they are back, contrite again, apologetic again, asking for mercy again. And so the next year and the year after that and the year after that….

Some really don’t seem to even notice that they have been in violation of the law and just move on with their lives in the oblivion they’ve created for themselves. And then, there are those who flaunt their defiance of the law. They seem almost proud that they have gone for lengths of time without being caught. Some who have been caught are outraged that they are being punished. 

These are the groups for which the law is established. For those who feel bad for what they’ve done, yet never change, for those who are so focused on themselves that they pay no attention to anything or anyone, and those who flaunt their lawlessness, brazenly defying anyone who tells them they are wrong. 

Some may think there is a difference in the scale or measure of wrongness between these groups.  They think that those who are oblivious or ignorant of their wrongness are less seriously wrong than those who are openly defiant, and those who recognize their wrongness, admit it, and apologize, paying the penalty willingly,  even less so. But Jesus says that it doesn’t matter, wrong is wrong, whether done knowingly or unknowingly, admitted or not. And wrong deserves punishment. All sin is sin.

In Psalm 14, David says,  “There is none who does good, not even one,” (Psalm 14:3b). In the first verse of this Psalm he talks about the flaunter when he says, “The fool in his heart says “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.” (Emphasis added) We are all in the same boat. We all fall into one of these groups, probably even all of them at one time or another. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).

The 1 Timothy passage we are looking at has quite a list of wrong doings, from what we would consider little things to great big, honkin’ huge sins, from “simple” disobedience to homosexuality, immorality, murder, and “WHATEVER else is contrary to sound doctrine,” (Emphasis added). All that and more is sin. And any and all sin disqualifies us to be in the presence of God. Yes, the law of God is that harsh. And that’s what a lot of non- believers react to when they say that God is an angry God or a mean or cruel God.

But those who believe that God is mean, angry, or cruel, missed the last part of the sentence, verse 11, “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” The gospel, the good news, that God, though He will punish by eternal separation from Himself, with NO chance of reprieve after out physical body dies, (a fate worse than physical death), anyone who does not accept His free gift, will grant forgiveness, grace, and mercy to anyone and EVERYONE who does accept the free gift. 

That’s a really long sentence. There’s a lot going on in it. And it’s really hard to believe. REALLY? No matter what I’ve done, all I have to do is accept the gift and God forgives me? I didn’t believe it for decades, preferring instead to try to devise my own way to get to God. I believed there was a God, but I didn’t believe that the only way to God was through Jesus. I believed that as long as I was mostly a good person and tried not to hurt others, I could still get to Heaven. OH, how wrong I was. 

The funny thing is, what I believed, (and probably nearly all non- believers think as well), that what is perceived as the hard way, saying yes to Jesus, is SO MUCH easier than trying  (and failing) to do it on your own. The perceived difficulty is deception from the devil. He doesn’t want people to know the truth. His mission is to kill, steal, and destroy, and he stops at nothing to do that. 

So, if you want grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all you have to say is, “YES.” Tell Jesus that you believe in Him, that you’re tired of trying to do it all on your own, and you want Him to come into your life and be your LORD and Savior. It’s NOT giving up control, as many believe, but finally taking control and moving in the right direction. Repenting of sin is simply turning around and moving in the opposite direction from where you’ve been going.

If you take advantage of this incredible free gift, PLEASE contact me and I’ll help you with your next steps. The reward is worth the journey.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is the most famous, John 3:16 and the less famous verse that follows it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16- 17

READING PLAN

Day 22  Gen 39- 40  Psalm 20 Matt 25

Day 23  Gen 41 Psalm 21  Matt 26

Day 24 Gen 42- 43 Psalm 22:1- 18 Matt 27

Day 25 Gen 44- 45 Psalm 22:19- 31 Matt 28- Mark 1

Day 26 Gen 46- 47 Psalm 23 Mark 2

Day 27 Gen 48- 49 Psalm 24 Mark 3

Day 28 Gen 50- Exodus 1 Psalm 25 Mark 4

Born Again?

What does that really mean? Born Again. To the one who is, it is a term of love and affection for the One and Only True God who reached down from His throne in the Heavenlies to save us from the pit of Hell. To those who have not been Born Again, the true meaning is hidden. It’s something that really can’t be understood until you take that leap of Faith and make the commitment, claiming The LORD Jesus as your very own LORD and Savior, committing to follow Him all of the rest of your days, and even beyond. It’s something that has puzzled people since Jesus first discussed it with Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. Nicodemus asked how one can be put back in their mother’s womb, thinking the Jesus meant a literal second birth. It seems strange coming from an obviously well educated man. But that is the kind of confusion it causes.

I remember the first time I ever heard the sinner’s prayer. I had only been going to church for a few months. I distinctly remember thinking, “If I’m going to give this ‘Christian thing’ a fair shot, I have to pray this prayer. I can always change my mind later.” I didn’t realize at the time that it was the prayer of salvation. I didn’t know that by praying that prayer I was joining the ranks of the Born Agains that I used to make fun of. All I knew was that my life was messed up and something had to change, and the quicker the better. Nothing else had worked, so just about anything was worth a shot. And so I prayed, silently, just me talking to God.

And that’s all He really wants, relationship, talking with Him, spending time listening to Him, just being together. And the more time you spend with Him, the better you are able to hear Him. The better you are able to hear Him, the more you will listen to Him. It’s an ever increasing, upward spiral. It’s been a wonderful walk with Him, 9 1/2 years, so far. Of course, I have my days, and sometimes even weeks, when I don’t have time, or I just don’t want to talk. While these times of non-communication make Him sad, He doesn’t go away. He just waits for me to come back to Him. It’s NEVER Him who walks away.

So, if you want to change your life, if you have been traveling a path that you know is not good for you, or even if you’ve been living a “pretty good” life, but have not dedicated yourself to God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you too can join the ranks of the Born Agains. All you have to do is tell God that you love Him, you are sorry for the things you have done that hurt Him or disappoint Him, tell Him that you will strive to do better, to live for Him, and that you want Jesus, His One and Only begotten Son to come to you, to lead and to guide you in following Him. That’s all there is to it. You don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to because the most important One will already know!

While it’s a good idea to get connected with other believers because we are able to strengthen and encourage each other, it’s not an absolute requirement. I think you will find, though, that you will begin to seek out relationship with others in order to learn more and get connected. If you pray this prayer, PLEASE, let me know. Comment back to me. I will keep your comment private if you wish. But if you do respond, I’d like to know so I can be one of your connections. If we live in the same area, I can direct you to churches to check out, or websites to start studying the Word of God, or just stay in touch and be an encourager. That’s one of the best parts, growing the family of God. I have more brothers and sisters around the world than I know what to do with! And the family keeps on growing!! Come, join us!!