Psalms 90:12 NIV Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.At the beginning of a new year, we must bereminded of our purpose as a church to not become distracted. Paul can encourage the Lindley Christian church as he did the Ephesians by reminding us who we are and what we are to be doing.
There was once an absent-mindedprofessor who became so absorbed in his work that he forgot the simplest details. One morning his wife said, "Now Henry, remember, we are moving today.Here, Im putting this note in your pocket. Dont forget."
The day passed by and the man came home to his house. He entered the front door, and found the place empty. Distraught, he walked out to the curb and sat down. A young boy walked up to him, and he asked him, "Little boy, do you know the people who used to live here?"The boy replied, "Sure, Dad, mother told me youd forget."
How often do we become so absorbed in"the little things of this world" that we forget who we are and whose we are and where we are going. As we navigate through this life do we steer off course because something shiny takes our attention away from the route we should be on? Distractions are all around us all the time, aren’t they?
How many of you have been shocked backinto reality when your vehicle’s tires roll overthe grated strips down the middle or edge of highway 65 because you became distracted? Sometimes distractions can be just a little annoying...a child whining at you while you’re trying to talk to someone on the phone…a new kitty crying out & walking on the keyboard while you’re trying to work on this sermon.
Sometimes distractions can cause you to lose concentration when you’re doing any number of things. Reading, studying, working, praying, oreven something as simple as watching TV. Maybe it just happens to me due to myhead injury, but I have trouble following thestory when someone is talking. Many times I have paused or hit reverse so I could figure out what was going on.
But sometimes distractions can be downright dangerous! You hear about legislation to discourage the use of cellphones while driving. I don’t know if morelaws are the answer, but I know there aremany accidents credited to cell phone use.
Remember those two pilots who told investigators they became distracted as they were working on their laptopcomputers and flew past their destination of Minneapolis, MN, by 150 miles. They claimed to lose concentration while flying.They did not steer, navigate, the plane to its intended destination. Becoming distracted can be fatal not only to you, but others as well!
I bring up “Distractions” today because I am concerned that we might allow various “distractions” to take our eyes off of our focus... Seeking, Serving and Sharing Jesus Christ! What could these distractions be? Maybe something or someone new hascome into your life. The new addition to you life could be a blessing to you. BUT…
Do you spend so much time or effort enjoying or thinking about it or them that you get distracted from navigating the life God has laid out for you?If a church or Christian is on fire for the Lord and about the business of the kingdom, SATAN doesn’t like it! And you can bet that he’ll begin attacking! But wecan’t allow this to take our eyes off of what it is we are to be about as God’s church!
As we begin 2012, I want us to ask 5 veryimportant questions to help us maintain our focus... 1. Will we be anchored in God’s Word?I’m not smart enough to stand before youeach week and give you spiritual direction or ANYTHING ELSE for that matter that might be useful...from myself!
I very much see my role as opening the text; helping us explore its meaning together and finally coming to some kind ofconclusion about what that means to my life & yours. 2 Peter 1:3 NIV His divine power has givenus everything we need for life and godlinessthrough our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
I want us to begin 2012 in the book of Ephesians to answer the two most important questions we could ask: Who are We? What are we to do about it?Ephesians is the Word of God and is one of the most compelling, spiritually challenging and important books for the church in all of Scripture!
Ephesians 1:1 NIV Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in ChristJesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this standard greeting of 1st centuryletters, we see that Paul is very clearly thewriter -the same Paul who had at one timededicated his life to eradicating Christianity (& Christians themselves!) But on that Damascus road in Acts 9 had an experience that forever changed his life! NOW he is an apostle, not by his ownchoice, but by the will of God - a point he’ll continue making!
By the time he writes this letter, he is in prison suffering for the cause of Christ, referred to in Chapter 3! Scholarsaren’t certain when he wrote it, because he spent so much time in jail! The reference books I refered to inticate Paul most likely wrote it during his Roman imprisonment-approx. 63-64 AD. Some date it as early as 58 AD. We don’t know.
But in that we can get a sense of the determination that Paul had in his ministry to spread the gospel. No other book in the N.T. provides more insightful thinking on the N.T. church as a whole. Paul discusses the imagery of the church as a body, a temple, a family, – images which combine to stressinterrelatedness, belonging, connection, fell owship!
This is a message we need so much! Our world today is SO fractured by racism, individualism. The religious world is fragmented by denominationalism. EVEN within Christian Churches there are bitter divisions– some churches not fellowshipping with other churches, some actively working against others. BUT Ephesians holds up another model! Onethat destroys sectarianism & division! It tells of God’s providing a wholeness that binds us together as believers!
If you’re not plugged into the power source there’s no wonder you may be feeling spiritually dry or empty this morning! If you’re not spending a few moments each day in God’s Word, you’re not receiving or hearing from God! How can you have a meaningful relationship with God if you never allow him to speak to you?
This New Year is a good time to ask yourself and re-evaluate the question- isMY life anchored in God’s Word? Do I look to it for direction? For inspiration? For instruction?We’re going to spend the next few weeks going through this book...once again anchoring everything we do here as achurch and as individual Christians in a textual study of the Word of God!
Paul talks more about Grace than any other NT writer. Paul knows that it is by Gracethat he has been saved, not by works, BUTPaul also says that a life saved by Grace is a life that is forever CHANGED! Ephesians demonstrates that change!
Ephesians 5:1 NIV Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But amongyou there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talkor coarse joking, which are out of place, butrather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can besure: No immoral, impure or greedy person- - such a man is an idolater-- has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’swrath comes on those who are disobedient.7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.
Nowhere in the Bible is CONVERSION soclearly described as here! Not so much its process...but its RESULT!Paul repeatedly contrasts one’s former way of life vs. life in Christ! Life “in Christ” is different from life “in the world”!! Sadly, the lives of many Christians are no different than the lives of non-Christians!
I wonder, are we really all that different from the world around us? In the music we listento? In the television shows we watch? In the way that we dress? In the way that wespend our money? In the organizations that we belong to?Do people see us and know right away that there’s something different about us...that we’re Christians?
THAT’S the call that Ephesians is beckoning us to! Verse 8 is the crux of the matter! “…nowyou are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” YOU’RE CHILDREN OF GOD, SO LIVE LIKE IT!
Ephesians puts a great deal of emphasis on UNITY. Ephesians 4:3 NIV Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Notice, Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 12 to make the case for Unity! It’s a favorite theme. 1Corinthians 12:12 NIV The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were allbaptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14 Now thebody is not made up of one part but of many…
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. We are to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to keep the unity of the Spirit! Notice, that unity exists whether werecognize it or not, because it is unity of the Spirit! There is ONE body- whether we want to admit it or not just as there is ONESpirit, one Lord, one faith and one baptism!
The demonstration of our love for oneanother shows our unity & testifies to the world we are Jesus disciples!John 13:35 NIVI wonder what Dallas County thinks of God by observing us?...our unity…Our love for one another?
This is made even more complicated by theview of some scholars that Ephesians was intended for a much wider audience than JUST the church at Ephesus. Here is whythey think that. Paul would have been very familiar with the church at Ephesus.According to Acts, he spent more than two years there and knew the people well.
Yet, this letter doesn’t have quite the personal tone that Paul’s letter to the Philippians does. So, most scholars believe it was a circularletter–that is, to be circulated among many of the different congregations including Ephesus, which is why its name is in the greeting.
In other words, it wasn’t meant JUST forone congregation, but was intended for thechurch as a whole. I believe we’ll see that in its message. I say all of that to say this: unlike theCorinthian letters where Paul seems to be addressing particular problems in thatparticular congregation–Ephesians is more general...having in mind the universal church!.
The church universal is essentially ONE! And we are to “make every effort” to maintain that “oneness”!! The church is made up of every savedindividual regardless of what congregation of the church they attend!It’s NOT my job to draw lines; to determine who is in and who is out;
It IS my job to preach & teach people the truth of the gospel AND to “make everyeffort” to demonstrate the unity that is ours thru the Spirit! What does Dallas County think of God by observing the way in which severalChristian Churches demonstrate that Spirit- Unity?
In several lessons we’ve talked about thesubject of Worship. It is perhaps THE most important thing we do as a church family! The book of Ephesians doesn’t say a lotabout worship or prayer, but notice this: the book is filled with both! A good deal of Ephesians IS worship & prayer! For example the 1st chapter is entirely praise & prayer.
Many scholars believe that other largechunks of the letter were traditional hymns or prayers that Paul took in to his writing. While not discussing the subjects directly; Ephesians teaches us a great deal about how to worship and how to pray. That prompts me to think; it’s one thing totalk about it; quite another to do it. Doesn’t James make a similar point?
James 2:14 NIV What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith buthas no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is withoutclothes and daily food. 16 If one of you saysto him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith withoutdeeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.After talking about it for so long, has it made a difference in the way YOU worship? Will this church be a praying church in 2012?
Will we seek the Lord’s guidance & will in what we experience in the coming year? In our families? In the opportunities that he affords us? Will this church be a worshiping church in2012? Or will we just talk about it some more? Will we openly & honestly come before the Lord each week in truth & Spirit and offer ourpraise & adoration to God for who he is & what he has done? Will YOU?
In Ephesians Paul very clearlycommunicates his mission as an apostle of Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:7 NIV I became a servant ofthis gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me:
to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. Paul was a servant; a servant tasked with the mission to take the gospel out into the world...To “make plain to everyone” the mystery of what God had done!
This wasn’t a task that he was guiltedinto...or forced into; RATHER he consideredit a “gift of God’s grace” to be able to spread this message! Is THAT how WE see evangelism? As a gift of God’s grace? Most sermons I’ve heard on trying to get Christians to be more evangelistic have tended to heap guilt upon me for not doing more; they’ve tended to pressure me into signing up for some kind of door-knocking campaign, etc.
NOT Paul! He says simply it is a gift! The opportunities we have to share thegospel are God’s gift of grace to us! It is a great privilege and honor to share Christ with someone...not a chore or task to be dutifully but reluctantly carried out!Ephesians has the potential to change theway we think of evangelism in the church!
In short, Ephesians tells us how to be the church! That’s perfect as we begin a new year! Where Will We Steer This New Year?It is my hope that we will seek to emulate the church that Paul talks about in Ephesians! Where Will YOU Steer This New Year?
Ephesians also reminds us of what it meansto be a Christian ...someone who has made a change from the way we USED to be. It tells us how to be good wives & good husbands; good children and better parents. It holds SO much for ALL of us! I’m looking forward to this study and hope that you’ll take every opportunity (not only to be here with us each week) but to bring someone with you.
Knowing Jesus makes a difference in how we live our lives.Has he made a difference in your life? Haveyou ever committed your whole life to him? If not- let me encourage you to do so this morning. If you ARE a Christian but have beenconvicted that some things in your life needto change...make that right with God today!