Are You Hoping for Partiality?

In today’s text (Ephesians 6:5-9), we are told to ‘obey (or serve) others, as we would Christ.’ We’re also told ‘there is no partiality with Him—with God.’ Are you hoping for partiality? In the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the heroine of the film gets stuffed into a basket and kidnapped away from her hero friend, Indiana Jones. And as she’s being carried away, she says this: “You can’t do this to me, I’m an American.” It’s a funny line that adds some humor in a rapid-fire, action-packed scene. But I want us to consider what it was she said. I’ve had the opportunity to both live and visit other countries, and this kind of privileged-American mentality seems to be everywhere I go. We live in one of the most prosperous and blessed countries this world has ever seen. Even our poor are relatively well to do by other countries’ standards. You’ve probably heard the term ‘Ugly American.’ It’s in the dictionary. It’s an American who behaves offensively abroad. Part of the ugliness may stem from a sense of entitlement and privilege. I’m an American; we’re the best; I get special privileges.

Now I can’t imagine that anyone here would take this kind of attitude with them overseas. But do we have this sense of entitlement here at home? “I deserve. I need. I’m supposed to get.” My kids like the movie, Emperor’s New Groove. The movie centers around the a character named Kuzco, a South American emperor who acts like the whole world revolves around him. At one point someone says to him, “All you care about is you.” To which he replies, “Yeah. Me. Everyone else in the kingdom gets it. You’re the only one that doesn’t seem to be with the program.” Now none of us would be this blatant in stating our sense of entitlement, yet, we move through life thinking we deserve better. And what God would have us know is that there is no partiality with Him. He doesn’t care where you’ve come from, or what you’ve got, so long as you live in obedience to Him. Do you live and work like a Christian: expecting nothing in return other than the grace of God? No entitlement; no partiality; all grace. Obey and serve those in authority over you as you would Christ.

The Before-and-After of the Christian Life

Today’s text (Colossians 1:21-23) gives us a beautiful before-and-after picture of the Christian life. It is very common for advertising companies to use before-and-after images in order to prove the power and ability of the product they are trying to sell.  This is the sort of thing Paul is giving us here. This is your situation before Christ saved you: because of your sin, you were “alienated, hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.” This is your situation now by the grace of God: you are “reconciled” in order to be presented “holy and blameless and above reproach” before God.

This amazing, before-and-after picture does not make much of you.  It merely shows how far you have come in your spiritual maturity.  This picture clearly makes much of God’s power in the way He gives sight to the spiritually blind (Matthew 11:5). This picture glorifies God in the way He gives life to us: we who were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  As your reflect on the sermon, remember the immeasurable grace of your savior Jesus Christ who, despite the fact that you were in rebellion against Him, loved you and saved you.  What an amazing God we worship.

The book of Colossians has been a huge blessing in my life.  If you are interested in going through Colossians in you devotional time, I would encourage you to consider The Hope of Glory by Sam Storms. My wife and I have been greatly blessed by reading this devotional together. I also recommend a book called The Hole in Our Holiness for anyone who would like to learn more about the joy of seeking holiness.

The Hope of Glory by Sam Storms

100 daily Meditations on Colossians

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin Deyoung

Tells of God’s power to help us grow in personal holiness as we enjoy the process of transformation

Resources for Parents and Children

In today’s text (Eph 6:1-4) we’re told to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  If your children (young and old) and grandchildren get only one thing from you, I pray that it is faithful biblical instruction.  There is nothing they need more.  Below are some resources for parents, grandparents or anyone who’s around kids (that’s you) that we’ve found helpful.  Talk to me if you would like to look into one of these.

The Action Bible by Doug Mauss & Sergio CarielloA comic book style Bible for kids 3 to 12 (I love it too); Parents might also learn stories they’re unfamiliar with.
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas (Book & Video)What if one of God’s primary intentions for you as a parent isn’t about successfully raising perfect children, but about becoming more holy?
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd TrippSolid, biblical help for parents on how to speak to the heart of your child.  One of our favorites!
Everyday Talk by John YountzTalking freely and naturally about God with your children (Deuteronomy 6).
Peacemaking for Families by Ken SandeA biblical guide to managing conflict in your home.
ApParent Privilege by Steve WrightProvides biblical understanding and the latest research to encourage you in the unparalleled opportunity you have to be the primary influencer.


3 Necessary Characteristics that Secure and Sustain Commitment

I want to draw from our text this morning—Ephesians 5:22-33—Three Necessary Characteristics that Secure and Sustain Commitment. If these Christ-like traits are lacking, we will find commitment lacking.

(1) Submission. This role is primarily assigned to the wife.  In our day and age, this statement does not perhaps sit well.  And given the abuse of centuries of men dominating and abusing women, it’s no wonder. Throughout the Bible submission is required: to governing authorities (Rom 13:1) and God (James 4:7).  Submission is for everyone.  God is the one who institutes authority; and so, if we have a problem with that, then we have a problem with God.  Wives, you’re not submitting solely for the sake of your husband—Christians you’re not submitting solely for the sake of yourself—you’re submitting for the sake of the Lord (Eph 5:22).

(2) Sacrifice.  This role is primarily assigned to the husband. And the implication for husbands is that you are to sacrificially love your wife in a way that does not expect her to always do right by you.  Even when we failed Christ, He remained true.  Even when your wife fails in her role, you willingly—out of reverence for Christ, v.21—give yourself up for her.  And that means that my agenda has to die if it is pulling us apart.

(3) Love. It is important for us to define love, otherwise we will have the culture’s understanding of what love is (that does not square with the biblical picture).  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us that “love is patient and kind; loves does not envy, boast, insist on its own way, or rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth; it is not arrogant, rude, irritable, or resentful.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  Notice what love is not: it is not sensual, it is not romantic, it is not sexual; it is not casual or convenient.  Yet, they may be part of our spousal relationship (see Song of Solomon).

In the end, we must see both our relationship with our spouse and with Christ in terms of submission, sacrifice, and love.  Without them, there will be no firm foundation to build our relationship with either, upon.

Are You Making the Best Use of the Time? 3 Questions.

We are told in Ephesians 5:16 to make the best use of the time, to redeem it, or buy it up.  In order to intentionally redeem that time, ask yourself the following questions:

(1) If Jesus were to walk through the door right now would I be okay with Him seeing what I’m doing?  A few weeks back I was setting up the new church computer: hooking up the hardware, loading the software, filling it with all of the files we need; and then I spent literally 5 minutes at the end of the day playing a round of Solitaire.  And that’s when Gordon walked in.  I was embarrassed—so embarrassed that I haven’t touched it since.  What if he thought that’s what I do all day?  Jesus knows what we do all day—He knows the time we waste—but would it not be sobering for us to see Him in the middle of our wasted time?

(2) Is there a way for me to take the desires I have—whether it’s hunting or baking or watching sports—and use that as a means to invite unbelievers to do those things with me, in order that I might have an opportunity to both live out my witness and verbally witness to them?  Redeeming the time doesn’t mean that you have to sit in church 7 days a week.  It means that you are taking whatever it is you’re doing it, & bringing God into the middle of it, seeing all that you do as an act of service to Him.

(3) If I were to look at my bank statement or even a record of the time I’m spending would understanding God’s will, rank high on that list?  Am I in daily communion with Him?  Am I in regular contact with those who don’t know Him?  More importantly do I act as a witness when I’m with them?  Everyone is a witness to whatever it is they love and spend time pouring into.  Oftentimes, diets will have you record the food you eat, so that you will be more conscious of what you eat.  If we kept a record of our time, we might be embarrassed to see how much of it is just going to burn up in heaven.  None of us want to get to heaven and realize, we feel out of place; everyone else here seems to love it; everyone else seems to know what’s going on; but I squandered my life on earth and now I’ve got to start afresh.

The Cataclysmic, God-wrought Change in Man’s Heart: Observations from Puritan John Flavel

One of my favorite Puritans was a man by the name of John Flavel.  His writings were and are eminently practical and biblically sound.  I have been much helped by his work Keeping the Heart.  In today’s text (Eph 5:8-14) we are told that you and I were darkness.

The Problem

John Flavel, in writing of man’s heart, speaks of just how dark we were: “Man, by the apostasy (abandonment of belief), has become a most disordered and rebellious creature, opposing his Maker, as the First Cause—by self-dependence; as the Chief Good—by self-love; as the Highest Lord—by self-will; and as the Last End—by self-seeking.  Thus he is quite disordered, and all his actions are irregular.”

The Solution

Yet, that is not where we remain, for by the grace of God, we are called to walk as children of light (Eph 1:8) because of the fragrant sacrifice that Christ made (Eph 1:2).  Flavel goes on to say, “But by regeneration the disordered soul is set right; this great change being, as the Scripture expresses it, the renovation of the soul after the image of God—in which self-dependence is removed by faith; self-love is removed by the love of God; self-will is removed by subjection and obedience to the will of God; and self-seeking is removed by self-denial.  The darkened understanding is illuminated, the refractory (stubborn) will sweetly subdued, the rebellious appetite gradually conquered.  Thus the soul which sin had universally depraved, is by grace restored.”

The Application

Is your life characterized by faith, the love of God, subjection and obedience to God’s will, as you practice self-denial?  If so, you are walking as a child of light.  Or is your life characterized by self-dependence, self-love, self-will (doing what you want), and self-seeking (your perceived good over God’s expressed good)?  If so, you may still be darkness.  Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you (Eph 5:14).

God-given Sexual Parameters Within the Marriage Relationship

In today’s text (Eph 5:1-7), we primarily look at sexual prohibitions.  God prohibits sexual immorality and impurity (that is: all sex outside of a marital relationship between one man and one woman).  Rather, than delve deeper into these prohibitions against sexual immorality, which have already been well covered in today’s sermon, let us consider our own potential sexual parameters (or limitations even) within the marital relationship.  Keep in mind that we have been called to glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor 10:31).  That applies in this arena too.  My Marriage Counseling professor at seminary, Stuart Scott, gathered the following principles of limitation for a married couple’s sexual activity from Scripture.  I have taken the liberty to expand upon them.

(1) Unselfish love must always be the motive (1 Cor 13:4-7).  Love does not insist on its own way.  Love is not about what you can get, but about what you can give. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(2) Your relationship in this matter must be based on mutual agreement, preferring the other (Phil 2:1-4). Do nothing out of selfishness, but regard the other as better than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his or her own interests, but also to the interests of others (in this case, your spouse).

(3) Apply the principle of mutual authority (1 Cor 7:2-5): your body does not belong to you; the Bible wants you to flee temptation by giving one another your conjugal rights.  Unless you have mutually agreed to refrain for a time (for the purpose of prayer), both should be willing based on the other’s perceived need.

(4) Do not cause your spouse to violate his/her conscience by asking them to do something sinful (Rom 14:23).

(5) Demonstrate self-control in between your time together.  In other words, there must be no self-fulfillment (Prov 5:19).  This robs you of intimacy and an ability to see your sexual relationship as self-giving, rather than self-taking.

Can Radical Heart Change Happen Outside of the Body of Christ?

In our text today (Eph 4:25-32) we are told to put away several natural, man-like traits (i.e.-falsehood, unrighteous anger, theft, corrupt talk, bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice) and put on several supernatural, God-like traits (i.e.-truth, righteous anger, honest work to have something to share, talk that builds up, kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness).  This is a call to radical heart change.  Can this kind of change happen outside the church?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, assassinated by the Nazis during World War II, didn’t think so.  Upon his study of Scripture, he said in his book, Life Together:

“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.  The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.  Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man.  And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness.  Only the Christian knows this.  In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.  The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth.  The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.  The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God.  The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”

If we are to put away all of these old-self practices, we cannot see them as merely sickness or weakness.  They are nothing short of sin.  Further, what better place to confront them, than within the body of Christ?  If we are to grow up in every way, into Christ, we need each part of the body (the church) to work properly, so that we grow and build one another up in love.

Old Self. New Self. Which Are You?

In today’s sermon text (Eph 4:17-24), we’re told to put off our old self, which is corrupt, deceitful, futile, dark in its understanding, alienated from the life of God, hard-hearted, callous, sensual, and greedy to practice every kind of impurity, & put on the new self, which is renewed in the spirit of our minds, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness & holiness.

And even though we only see 2 persons in view here, I would argue that the church contains 4 such types of persons:

(1)    There are old self people living old self lives.  They live their own life in their own power and their quite content to remain in their sin.

(2)    There are old self people trying to live new self lives.  They live life in their own power, apart from the Holy Spirit.

(3)    There are new self people living old self lives.  They believe they’ve had some point of conversion, they’ve had some noticeable fruit, but they continue to rely on themselves and ignore the Holy Spirit’s demands on their lives.  They have in some effect hardened their hearts.

(4)    There are new self people living new self lives.

And all but the last one lives in their own power.  They have in some form or fashion alienated themselves from the life of God.  They’re understanding has been darkened.  And what I hope you will consider is what category you fall into.  Are you an unbeliever—an old self person whose either trying or not trying to do what the Bible calls you to?  Are you a new self person who refuses to let God, through the Holy Spirit work on you, who constantly thinks that the pastor is talking about someone else when he’s preaching, or who is just generally ambivalent about the things of God?  Or are you a new self person who lives out your claim?

And the point is: you are to put off the old self—alienated from God—and put on the new self—made in the likeness of God.  How can you do that?  Look at Ephesians 4:25-32 and see how you measure up.

Who Does Ministry & What Do They Do?

God gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers, “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12).”  Did you know that it is your job to do ministry?  I can equip you for it; but I can’t do it for you.  This is where our Western church has gone terribly wrong.  We relegate everything to pastors and staff and those whom we recognize as elders, deacons, and trustees.  At large, we’ve bought into the idea that we hire someone to do ministry for us.  And I commend those of you who have not bought into that and spend yourself in selfless ministry.  You know you don’t need my permission to minister to people; you already have God’s.  Do we see that our whole life belongs to God and that whatever we do, we do all to His glory (1 Cor 10:31)?

And the ministry you do is for building up the body of Christ.  All of us have gifts; all are integral to the success of the church, because Christ has made it that way.  And so He calls you to a high calling, to grow up in every way into Christ—to be equipped to build up the body of Christ.  That can happen in one of two ways: (1) You can edify and serve and do ministry to those already that are already inside the body of Christ.  And if you don’t know how you might do that, pray about it; ask me about it, and I’ll help you find something, based on your giftedness.  (2) You can evangelize and serve and show the love of Christ to those outside of the body of Christ.

We’re being built up together into a dwelling place for God (Eph 2:22).  That job is not done yet; if God had His complete dwelling built, He would come back and occupy it.  And so, we have work to do.  Believe it or not, you are the evangelists, he’s talking about in v. 11, in whatever context God has put you.  People have the mistaken notion that they’re not gifted in evangelism, so therefore, they don’t have to do it.  There is no basis in Scripture for that.  In fact, evangelism is never spoken of in the Bible as a gift; it’s a command.  All of us are called to evangelize—to make disciples—Matthew 28.  Trust the Spirit within you, and do it.  You don’t have to do it in your own power.  God will work in and through you.