Category: Ephesians (Page 1 of 18)


On this Juneteenth holiday, I would humbly invite you to join me in prayer to our God for three things: 1) lament to our Lord the atrocities of slavery and acknowledge to him this country’s sins of racism and segregation; 2) thank God for the progress we’ve made and that we are not where we once were, as individuals and in this country; and 3) personally resolve before God to continue fighting racism and segregation in all its forms in our communities, our families, and our churches.


Today we look at the first of Josh Ross’s six principles for navigating an election season without losing our witness. These come from Josh’s new book, Coreology, written to Christians as a call to be intentionally thoughtful, careful, and prayerful with our words and actions, particularly as they relate to this country’s national politics. These are core practices that will remind us daily of who we are and to whom we belong. These core Christian disciplines will help keep us from confusing the kingdoms of this world and their ways and means with the eternal Kingdom of our God and his very different politics.

#1 – I will daily confess that Jesus is the Lord of my life and nothing else is.

In the New Testament, confession almost always refers to pledging allegiance to Jesus as Lord and to his ways. In 22 of the 26 times the word “confess” is used in the New Testament, it’s about renouncing the ways of the world and proclaiming loyalty to Jesus as Lord. Our concern, as expressed by Josh, is that many Christians are allowing the social, political, and cultural issues of our day inform how we think about Jesus, instead of letting Jesus inform how we think about and respond to the issues. If Jesus is Lord and nothing and nobody else is, then we must interpret the issues through his clear teachings and actions, instead of letting my political party or my favorite candidate or my preferred news outlet tell me how to think and respond to the issues and then read and interpret Jesus through that. Jesus is Lord. Everything runs through him first.

Josh points to the apostle Paul’s metaphor at the end of Ephesians of dressing oneself in the armor of God. Paul does not encourage the Christians there to leave the city of Ephesus because of the evil culture. He doesn’t argue for a Christian colony, for cancel culture, or to run for your lives. He argues for cultural engagement through a faithful Christian witness grounded in the lordship of Christ.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. People and people-groups are not our enemies. Jesus is our Lord and he directs us to love and forgive, to sacrifice and serve, for the sake of all the divine image-bearers among us. We are not called to fight anything. Or anyone. As Josh writes:

“It is not for the preservation of the Roman Empire, a nation, or even for the eternal Kingdom of God. In a city full of theaters, halls for every form of philosophy, and pagan temples, Paul paints a picture of how we engage culture without getting lost in culture wars. His message wasn’t to protest keg fests and to cancel marketplaces and to boycott parts of town, but to dress yourselves as people of the Kingdom and to live in a way that makes a difference in the world.”

Cancel culture is not good for the Church. Culture wars do not advance the Kingdom of God. Josh reminds us that we get lost during election seasons when we choose sides and give in to the fear tactics and create enemies who are not enemies of God. That greatly hinders our motivation and determination to passionately engage people. It is difficult to win to Christ those your media outlets call your enemies.

It is possible to confess Jesus with your lips, yet give your allegiance to the kingdoms of this world. It is possible to confess Jesus as your Savior, yet never confess him as your Lord.

As vital as conversion is to the Christian faith, Josh says, confession is vital to conversion.

“Our confession is meant to center us, transform us, and redirect us. Confession sets us on a trajectory to live with one ultimate allegiance, not dozens of them. Jesus is Lord. Nothing else is.”

If your regional or national politics clash with the clear politics of our Lord, you have to make a choice. If the goals of your candidate are different from Jesus’ stated goals, you have to decide. If your party’s ways and means of getting things accomplished are the opposite of Jesus’ love and sacrifice and mercy and service, you have to pick. You can’t do both. You can’t be devoted to two kingdoms. No one can serve two masters.

A daily confession of the lordship of Jesus will help us keep our story straight. And our Christian lives. Let us hold fast to our confession.



Resurrection Community

Not one person experienced the resurrection of Jesus alone. Nobody encountered the risen Jesus by themselves. The people who saw the empty tomb and the angels, the ones who ate dinner with Jesus that evening–they were all with their friends. Most of them, we know their names. We know their stories. We know about their relationships with one another.

The resurrection of Jesus creates togetherness. It creates community. It forms us together as one people today, just like it did then.

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive together with Christ.” ~Ephesians 2:4-5

I still think the best picture of this is in Acts 2. Those first disciples who witnessed the risen Lord, those first 120 followers of Jesus who were gifted by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit at Pentecost, are living resurrection life together in community.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the community, to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in community. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” ~ Acts 2:42-46

They didn’t have a whole lot in common other than the resurrection. But they acted like family. Every day. In each other’s homes. Loving each other. Serving each other. Ministering to one another. Taking care of each other. Eating together. Praying and singing together. They devoted themselves to the community.

The resurrection community is like a neighborhood, but it’s more personal. It’s like a family, but it’s more diverse. It can be like a football team or a civic club, but it’s much stronger. Your resurrection community, your church family, is brought together and held together by something much bigger than you. But some of you just aren’t around enough to be changed by it. Some of you–seriously–we hardly ever see you.

We need each other. None of us can do this by ourselves. It’s impossible. We were raised by Christ and with Christ to be together. I need you. And whether you admit it or not, and whether you like it or not, you need me.

You need me to love you. I need you to encourage me.

You need me to challenge you. I need you to correct me.

I need your strength when I’m tired. You need my support when you’re down.

I need your patience when I’m out. You need my joy when you don’t have any.

We all need to remind each other about the resurrection and our parts in it. We all need to be able to look around and see clearly that we’re not in this new resurrection lives by ourselves.



Resurrection Power

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.” ~ Philippians 3:10

The power of the resurrection of Jesus is the Gospel. Jesus lives! Jesus reigns! It’s great news! It’s the best news you’ve ever heard! The resurrection of Jesus proves the universal and eternal power of our God. Earth-shattering, history-changing, mind-blowing power. And to all of us who belong to God in Christ, that exact same power belongs to us.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know… his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” ~Ephesians 1:18-21

Scripture goes out of its way to explain to us disciples just how much power we have in Christ. Eternal power. Dynamic power. It’s like the apostle Paul pulls out his college Thesaurus and conjures up every possible word for power: rule, authority, power, dominion, title. And he says Christ is more powerful than all of it. Every power that’s ever been and ever will be, every title that’s ever been given and ever will be given, every government, every political structure, every economic system, every industrial complex, every biological reality, every financial authority, every historical rule–Christ Jesus dominates all of it by the power of his resurrection!

That’s what changes everything. If you are connected to God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the most powerful power in the history of the universe is inside you. You’ve got resurrection power.

You’ve got it. But you don’t get it.

We just don’t get it. If we do get it, it only seems to be in the abstract logical sense, not in the practical, real, living every moment of every day application sense. We’ve got God’s resurrection power inside us. But we don’t get it. How do I know?

Because I see us all over the place chasing after different kinds of power. The wrong kind of power. A far inferior power. Some of us are losing our minds chasing after regional and national power. We’re throwing our money and our energy into political party platforms and putting our names and our reputations behind elderly men in suits so they can appoint other people in robes to reach decisions that make things worse instead of better.

Some of us have bought into the fear and anxiety. We worry about not having control or losing our influence. And when we’re told that if we don’t vote for the right guy or support the right agenda the Church of Jesus Christ will be in big trouble, we swallow it hook, line, and sinker like Jesus Christ is somehow still in the grave! He isn’t! He is risen! And he is our King! And if his resurrection power is more than enough to destroy forever the forces of sin and death and Satan, why in the world would any of us think for a second that his eternal Kingdom could ever be impacted by whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican living on Pennsylvania Avenue?

No wonder this is the focus of Paul’s great prayer: I want you to know the power. I want you to understand it. To grasp it. To own the staggering truth that the same Holy Spirit power that brought Jesus out of the grave to reign supreme forever at the right hand of God is the exact same power we have in us and at our disposal as his disciples.

What might happen if we really believed that? Oh, man. Everything would change. Everything!



Marital Sex Promotes Christ-likeness

I took a break from the posts on sex inside our marriages to write about our “4 Midland” plans. Now, just a couple more posts here related to our GCR sermon from November 5. If you’ve missed something in this thread, scroll down and follow the alliteration. 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” ~Ephesians 5:21

Frequent and regular sex shapes both the husband and the wife more into the image of Jesus. You might say it’s a spiritual discipline. God shows us in our marriages that we do not belong to ourselves, but we pour ourselves out in service to others. The Christian life is concerned with genuine living sacrifice, not selfish transactions. Jesus says if you want to gain your life, you have to really lay it down. And you do that in a marriage. Like Christ and his Church, the one-flesh union is not forged through demands for one to meet the other’s needs, but through a sense of common purpose, common mission, together.

Scripture tells us to delight in sexual union with our spouses, not because sex is an appetite that must be filled, but because it reminds us to love and serve the other. It makes us the kind of people who stand by our promises and stand by each other. It teaches us that love is not a way to get what I need, but a way to pour myself our for somebody else.

We don’t love each other because we find each other sexually attractive; it’s the other way around. We grow in our sexual attraction because we share a growing love. When Scripture demands that the sexual rights of both spouses be maintained, it’s not talking about a legal thing, like a contract. It’s talking about the love and attention two people should give each other who’ve been brought together in Christ.

This is the way Christ loves the Church. So we mutually submit to one another out of reverence to him. Imitating him. Honoring him. Each partner in the marriage has to be most concerned not with getting sexual pleasure, but with giving it.

In the Woody Allen movie, “Annie Hall,” the title character’s therapist asks her how often she and her husband Alvie are having sex. She says, “Constantly! All the time! Like three times a week!” Later in the movie, the same therapist asks Alvie the same question. He says, “Almost never! Like three times a week!”

Okay. It takes two to tango. You have to figure that stuff out. And it takes all the mutual loving and submitting and sacrificing and serving the Bible describes to make it happen. It’s about constant kindness and consistent learning and communicating. It’s about daily attention and respect. It’s not about you. It’s paying attention to something bigger than both of you.



Leading Lavishly

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love out to us. He doesn’t weigh it on scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love. We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine. That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s impossible: God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love. We are his children. That is what we are.

“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.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. Matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me! God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven is you do this one thing or keep this set of rules or follow this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, every single one of your sins — all of ’em; name em! — are all gone forever! God’s forgiveness is total and complete! Your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west! They are all hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again! God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out again and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s grace is lavish and complete.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

This is not an incidental or isolated remark from our Lord. This comes right between “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is our doorway to salvation and the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. And in the middle is the key contrast between his purpose and mission and that of the thieves and robbers: They come to take, Jesus comes to give. They seek destruction, Jesus seeks abundance.

From the fullness of his grace we have all  received one blessing after another. God gives the Spirit without limit. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Rivers of living water for all to drink. You will bear much fruit and your joy will be made complete. You will  do greater works than me. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ lavish life-giving abundance. If we wrote them all down, all the books in the world wouldn’t hold them!

The apostle Peter says we shepherd like our Chief Shepherd. We treat those in our flocks the same way Jesus does. With lavish love. With limitless grace. With inexhaustible forgiveness. With unmerited favor. We give everybody in our church life to the full.



Prophesy: Discern the Word They Heard

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophesy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.” ~1 Corinthians 14:1-3

What do you do when that person shows up and says, “I have a word for you from the Lord?” You didn’t expect it, you weren’t asking for it, but a brother or sister in Christ says, “God told me to tell you…” or “God put it on my heart to say…”  How do you discern the word they heard? Let me suggest four questions to ask about the message this well-meaning Christian gives you. How do you know if it’s really from God?

Well, does it lift up Jesus as Lord? The Holy Spirit of Christ will always point to the lordship of Christ.

“No one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” ~1 Corinthians 12:3

Remember, there’s more than one voice out there seeking your attention. Any word from anyone that diminishes Jesus or questions his deity or his humanity, any word that reduces the sufficiency of his atonement, any word that questions his uniqueness as the one and only way to the Father – that message is not from God. The voice of God will always exalt his Son as Lord.

Does it hold up Jesus’ Gospel of grace? This is a very important question. Some people want to share words of encouragement or teaching with you, but these words speak to a form of legalistic slavery. The church in Galatia was being upset and divided by a word that was confirming Jesus as Lord, but was also wanting to add circumcision to the Gospel. Any news that undermines the Good News of grace and freedom in Christ, any news that puts an emphasis on human works and rules over freedom and grace in Jesus – that is not from God.

Does it flow from a Christ-like life? No matter how gifted the person might be, the Bible never exalts giftedness over character. A person who hears and speaks words from Jesus should bear the fruit of Christ in his or her own life.

“Watch out for false prophets… By their fruit you will recognize them… A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” ~Matthew 7:15-17

If someone tells you they’ve got a word from the Lord for you, and your first thought is, “I don’t know about that,” because of the kind of person he or she is, you’re on to something. If that person is a known liar or a gossip, if that person is a busybody or lacks self control, if that person is divisive or ungrateful, that person is not speaking for our God.

Finally, does it build up the Body of Christ? Remember, prophesy is given to us by God to strengthen, encourage, and comfort his people, the Church. Prophesy is not about discovering the mysteries of the end times or predicting the future. It’s not for judging or condemning anyone. It’s intended by God to build up disciples of Jesus. So any words that discourage, insult, criticize, or divide should not be excused with the “God told me” trump card. And they shouldn’t be considered as potentially from the Lord.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” ~Ephesians 4:29-30

Interesting, huh? 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 says you’re quenching the Spirit when you tell people they can’t speak words from God. Ephesians 4 says you grieve the Spirit when you speak words that are ugly or hurtful and claim that God gave them to you.

We need to take care of God’s gifts. And the Bible says one of his greatest gifts is prophesy.



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