Day Nine:  The Blessings of Being “in Him” or “in Christ”

Day Nine: The Blessings of Being “in Him” or “in Christ”

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In Him We Have Redemption Through His Blood

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,
according to the riches of His grace.
Ephesians 1:7

As we continue praying through Ephesians, sometimes phrase by phrase or even word by word, we come to the beginning of another long sentence that takes up four verses (1:7-10).  And in each of these verses, we see some profound truths revealed about His grace, our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins, the mystery of His will, and the gathering of everything, and I mean everything, in Christ.  I know, it’s quite a mouthful.  So read it for yourself.

We are also introduced, in a bit more detail, to the term, “in Him,” which occurs five times in this first chapter.  And in each of these instances, it shows the source of the blessings we are promised and have received.  Consider the following:

•   We are chosen “in Him” before time began to be just like Christ, “holy and without blame” (1:4).
•   It is “in Him” we receive redemption and the forgiveness of our sins, and in no one else (1:7).
•   In the fullness of time, everything— both in heaven and on earth, shall be gathered together— “in Him” (1:10).
•   Our inheritance we receive is only found, “in Him” (1:11).
•   And we are sealed with the Holy Spirit because we believe the “gospel of our salvation,” which is only found by faith “in Him” (1:13).

But there is so much more to discover.


What Does it Mean to be “In Him” or “In Christ”?

The phrase, “in Him,” is found 26 times in the letters of Paul.  And, even more amazing, Paul uses a similar phrase, “in Christ,” over eighty times in his writing.  This again begs the question: What does being “in Christ” mean, or what is the Spirit trying to tell us by having Paul use this phrase to describe our relationship with Him?

Let’s begin with salvation.

Salvation

According to the Scriptures, salvation is all about being united or reunited with God (and there is much that must take place for that to happen).¹  It’s a process where those He chooses are rescued and redeemed from a life of sin, which made them enemies of God (Rom. 5:10, Col. 1:21), and instead, He brings them into a life in harmony and fellowship with Himself, described as “holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4)— as a member of His family, and adopted as sons (Eph. 1:5).  But there’s more.  God also transforms or re-creates us into something new, something we were not before our redemption in Christ.  This is called regeneration, and it’s when we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29) or, as Jesus called it, being “born again” of the Spirit (John 3:16).  So much so, that when God sees each of us, what He actually sees is us in His Son, “in Christ”— clothed with the imputed righteousness, not of our own, but of His Son.  And this was something the Father did for us by grace.

For He (Father) made Him (Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us, (why) that we might become the righteousness of God (how) in Him (or “in Christ”) – 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This is why God never promises to make you better, but to make you new.  The old man, the unregenerated man born in sin (you before Jesus came into your life), must be crucified and put to death (Gal. 2:20).  And only then will He, God, resurrect you into a new creation, someone created in the image of Jesus who is now capable of having a relationship with Him as a child of God (1 John 3:1).

This brings us to the practical aspect of being “in Christ,” which is sanctification.

Sanctification

Sanctification is the process by which we, as redeemed, regenerated believers, are progressively transformed into the likeness of Christ in our daily lives, and given the freedom to choose to surrender to Him and follow Him in every aspect of our lives (Gal. 5:16-17).  Sanctification is the means of experiencing the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10), as we are “set apart,” or sanctified for His purpose.  And it’s where we become more like Him and less like us, and in doing so, bring glory to His name (Matt. 5:16).  Bottom line, sanctification is what brings joy in the Christian life— becoming more like the One we love.  And it allows God to work in and through us, as we remain connected to Christ, the Vine, and “bear much fruit” for the Father’s glory (John 15:8).  Again, read it for yourself in John 15.  It’s the perfect picture of a sanctified life.

Sanctification is a work of God’s grace that begins at the moment of salvation and continues throughout our entire lives.  It’s what defines your devotion to Him and is the tangible, visible product of being “in Him” or “in Christ.”  Let me explain.


Being “In Him” and Not “In Me”

When we come to understand the incredible honor and privilege we have of being, or living, “in Christ,” the blessings in our life begin to open up like floodgates from heaven.  We can then see how our Father did not leave us alone, as orphans, to somehow find our way back to Him by the sheer determination of our will.  But, as Jesus promised, He remains with us, within us, in the Person of the Holy Spirit who, in every aspect, is fully God, just like Jesus and the Father (John 14:16-18).  This makes us truly invincible to the attacks of the enemy (1 John 4:4; Eph. 6:11), since we are “in Christ” (Jas. 4:7).  Let that sink in for a moment.  If it helps, try to envision physically being “in Christ” or being clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27): Satan would have to get through Jesus before he can lay a hand on you, since you are “in Him”— which we are.  And what a blessing that is!


But There is More

Being “in Christ” also has some practical blessings that are often overlooked, especially in our culture of shame, degradation, and others constantly trying to erode your confidence in… well, everything.  Consider the following.

Identity:  We now know our identity is found in Christ rather than in our accomplishments, failures, or what others think of us.  This realization provides a great sense of security and confidence in this troubling culture of self-promotion (Gal. 2:20).

Purpose:  When we recognize and embrace that we are united with Christ, it gives our lives meaning and purpose.  Just think, we are called to live for Him and to advance His kingdom (Phil. 1:21).  What could be a grander purpose than that?

Strength:  When we face trials and challenges (and we all do), we can draw strength from our relationship with Christ, knowing that He is with us and will never forsake us because we are “in Him” (Phil. 4:13).

Relationships:  Being “in Christ” also means being part of His body, the church.  This understanding leads to greater love, unity, and service within the Christian community and His Kingdom (1 Cor. 12:27).

Eternal perspective:  Our union with Christ gives us hope and assurance for the future, knowing we will one day be with Him for all eternity (1 Thes. 4:16-17).  And if that doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will.

In addition, being “in Christ” means we share in Christ’s death, resurrection, victory over sin, and eternal life (Rom. 6:3-8).  It also means we are adopted into God’s family (Eph. 1:5) and are made new creations in Him (2 Cor. 5:17).  And the list goes on.  Everything, it seems, that is good in our life comes from being “in Christ”— who is the source of all our blessings, our righteousness, our future, and our life.

So rest in this amazing truth today.


Time to Pray

As you pray, remember all you have because of all He has done for you and given you.  And thank Him for not allowing you to aimlessly wander this life alone, but for placing you “in” His Son, “in Christ,” and imputing the perfect righteousness of His Son to His now “adopted” child— you.

And we will talk more later.


Notes

1. Such as regeneration, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the other aspects of salvation that are, not to sound too simplistic, all included in the one package.  See Romans 8 for some of these.

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Day Eight:  The Joy of Being Chosen and Adopted

Day Eight: The Joy of Being Chosen and Adopted

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The Blessing of Every Spiritual Blessing

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,
according to the good pleasure of His will.
Ephesians 1:5

As we have been praying through the book of Ephesians, we’ve previously focused on Ephesians 1:3, which talks about God, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, having blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  It’s important to note that “blessed us” is in the past tense, meaning we have already received these things.  And what have we received?  Read it carefully… “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  And the word “every” means just that— every, as in each, all, the entire, in totality and without exception. In other words, there are no spiritual blessings we haven’t already received.  None.  And that, in itself, is quite a blessing, don’t you think?

It’s also true we don’t always experience all those blessings today, usually because of our lack of faith or disobedience.  But the reality is those blessings are available to us, right now, for the asking.  This begs the question: What exactly are those spiritual blessings?  As we continue reading in Ephesians, we find some of those blessings laid out for us one after another and, quite honestly, they’re spectacular.  There’s really no other word for it.  So, let’s look at the first one.


We are Chosen Before the Foundation of the World

Ephesians 1:4 says, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”  The first blessing we received was that God chose us in Christ before we had time to do anything good or bad or before He discovered anything in us worth choosing, which is more than amazing.  It means (and you can look at Romans 9 to learn more about this) that because of His will, His volition, and what He decided to do, He chose us— who were so undeserving of His love, grace, and mercy— to be just like His Son.  Therefore, we are “holy and without blame before Him in love.”  Holy and blameless… sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?

Another incredible aspect of this, which we’ve talked about before, is the fact Jude 1:24 says that not only did He choose us to be holy and blameless before Him, but He will also make sure we make it to the finish line in one piece— still holy and “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).  It says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”  This is one of our spiritual blessings in Him, which should give us great confidence and bolster our faith, especially as we see the growing clouds of persecution and deception right over the horizon.


Predestined for Adoption as Sons

But it gets even better.  Ephesians 1:5, the verse we’ll be praying through today, says, “He predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”  Think that through.  The term predestined means God predetermined our outcome beforehand and has already decided how this is going to play out.  It says God predestined us, despite our sin, pride, apathy, and failures, or as it says in Romans 5:8, “while we were still sinners”— to be “adopted as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.”

I love the word “adoption.”  It’s not a Jewish concept but a Roman legal procedure where a person was received into a new family and given all the rights and privileges of the other natural-born children.  Think about that.  Adoption is where someone with no ties or history to a particular family is granted full access to that family as a member, as a child, and equal to the other children in every way.  The Scriptures state God decided to bring us, who were not part of His family (who were actually enemies of His by sin – Rom. 5:10) into His family, not as servants, slaves, second-class citizens, or as independent contractors who have to prove their worth, but as sons.  And if you want to take it one step further, you’ll find in Romans 8 that we’re not only sons of God but also heirs, and the Scripture then dares to say we are “joint heirs” with Jesus Christ Himself (Rom. 8:17).  I know, it’s so amazing, it’s hard to believe.  So read it for yourself.

Today, if you’re looking for something to thank Him for, you can begin with the fact you’re a son of God because of His predetermined choice of you before the foundation of the world to make you just like His Son— “holy and without blame before Him.”  Then, if that wasn’t enough, He chose to bring you into a relationship with Christ unto Himself.  You are not simply granted access into His Kingdom, like a citizen.  But you are invited to dine at His table as His son.  Let the reality of that sink in for a moment.  It should take your breath away.


According to the Good Pleasure of His Will

“But why?” you may ask.  “Why would God do something like that for us?”  Or, make it personal… “for me?”  It’s really simple.  Pride tells us maybe it’s because we’re smarter than others, or perhaps we somehow deserved it because we cuss less than our friends or only watch PG-13 movies… or whatever.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  The Scriptures declare He did it because of His good pleasure.  Specifically, “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5, 9).

Let me give you a common understanding of what that phrase would sound like if it were written today.  We would say it like this: “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself… because He wanted to.”  That’s it.  No other reason needs to be given.  He did it because He felt like it, because He chose to.  It was something He wanted to do, and it made Him happy.  It was “according to the good pleasure of His will”… and nothing more.


Surrender and Give Thanks

So, as you pray today, think about what Christ has done for you.  Think about how blessed you are to be a son of God, adopted into His family for no other reason than it brought Him pleasure to do so (Eph.1:5).  I mean, He chose you and me and somehow, in ways we may never understand, it put a smile on His face.  And I’m sure glad it did.  So open up your heart to Him, surrender to Him, and give Him all that you are, because He is so worthy.  As Romans 12:1 states, it is our “reasonable service” or expected response to what He has already done for us.

Remember, you are loved, cherished, and chosen by the Creator of the universe to be like His Son and to have direct access to the Father… His Father and your Father (Heb. 4:6).  After all, you are family.  You are a son of God, predestined for adoption, and “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3).  That’s past tense.  You have these blessings now.  Let this truth fill your heart with exceeding joy, unspeakable peace, and profound gratitude as you go about your day, knowing you are a part of God’s family, not because of anything you have done, but because of His great love for you (Eph. 2:4-5).


Time to Pray

And face it, nothing this world has to offer sounds better than what you already have.  It’s just stuff, worthless trinkets and toys— and you are a son of the King.  So begin your prayer time with Him by surrendering your life to the One who called You His own and adopted you into His family.

And we’ll talk more later.

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Day Seven:  The Incredible Blessing of Being Chosen

Day Seven: The Incredible Blessing of Being Chosen

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God’s Choice vs Our Choice

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,
that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
Ephesians 1:4

We have looked at the blessings the Lord has given His children in Christ, even to the point of the promise of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), which are now ours because of Him.  And one of the greatest blessings is being chosen by God to be adopted as His son.  Nothing can compete with this.  Nothing.

Just think, when we were not looking for God or even had Him on our mind, He chose to bring us into His family as His child for no other reason than “the good pleasure of His will” or simply “because He wanted to” (Eph. 1:5,9).  And if God wants to do something, who is going to tell Him, no?  Not me.

So, in Ephesians 1:3, we are introduced to the wonder that we have, past tense, already been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  And every means just that, every— or all, each, the entire, in totality, and without exception.  In other words, there are no blessings that you have not already been blessed with.  You have them all, every one of them, and on steroids.  But that doesn’t mean you are currently experiencing those blessings.  That is another subject altogether, and we’ll dig into that when we talk about the life of sanctification at a later time.  So hang on.


The Sum of Our Blessings

Let’s look at just a few of the blessings the Lord reveals to us in the first few verses of this chapter.

•   Election:  Where God chose us before the foundation of the world to become just like Him, holy and without blame in love (1:4).
•   Predestination:  God pre-determined that we would become His son through adoption by Jesus Christ to Himself.  And He did this, not because we were worthy or somehow merited sonship.  No, He chose us to become part of His family because He wanted to, and for no other reason (1:5).
•   Acceptance:  God, for some reason I’ll never understand, chose to accept us into fellowship with Himself regardless of our past or how bleak our present may seem.  And He did this because of His Son (1:6).
•   Redemption:  God chose to pay the price for our freedom from the consequences of our sins by the sacrifice of His only Son.  He redeemed us and forgave all our sins— past, present, and future, because of the riches of His grace (1:7).
•   Mystery:  And if that wasn’t enough, He has made known to us the mystery of His will because, again, He wanted to and it brought Him pleasure (1:9).

This we could call, “Our Blessings, Part One.”  But it gets even better.


The Sum of Our Blessings… Uh, and Even More

The book of Ephesians tells us even more about how blessed we are in Him.  For example, the sphere of our spiritual blessings is in the heavenlies (our translators added the word places in 1:3).  This is where God dwells and where we will spend eternity.  So our blessings are not temporal or have an expiration date, like everything else in this life.  No, they exist, like God, forever.

We are given a glimpse into Christ’s present enthronement, which is also in the heavenly places, seated at the right hand of the Father (1:20).  And we are then told, since we are “in Christ,” that our present enthronement is also with Him in the heavenly places (2:6).  And it is in the heavenly places (or heavenlies) that the angels witness God’s wisdom on display in His church as a rebuke to them (3:10).  And finally, the battleground of our present conflict with the forces of evil spirits are also found in the heavenly places (6:12), where God is seated with His Son and we with Him.  Can you think of a safer or more secure place to be?  It gives you another sense of what Jesus meant when He said,

“And I (Jesus) give them (His sheep, you and me) eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” – John 10:28-29.

And how is all this possible?  Keep reading.

“I and My Father are one” – John 10:30.

Case closed.  Mic drop.  It doesn’t get any better than that.


“I’ll Take Him”

And it all begins with His choice of us to call unto Himself.  Amazing.  Even as the shy, fat kid with thick glasses, God wanted us on His team.  Therefore, He chose us and called us by name before we even knew who God was.  This is what it means to be chosen by Him.

The fact that God has chosen us for salvation is a staggering thought and should elicit praise from those He chose for all eternity.  And maybe it will once we fully understand what it means.  The Scriptures say that before we were even born, before we had done anything good or bad, when God had no reason to choose or not choose us, He had already set His love upon us and predetermined to save us and make us like His Son (see Romans 9).  And this choice was not based on our merit or worthiness, but solely on His grace and loving-kindness toward us (if it seems I am belaboring this point, well, I am.  All of life changes when you fully grasp what you have been given in Christ).  As Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is (note) the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

But God’s choice goes beyond just salvation; He has also chosen us to have a personal relationship with Him.  Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we have been reconciled to God and adopted as His children (Eph. 1:5).  That means we are no longer strangers or enemies, but beloved sons and daughters who can approach God with confidence and call Him “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).  In fact, we are also deemed heirs and joint-heirs with His Son.  Read it for yourself in Romans 8:14-17.  This intimate relationship is the foundation for all other blessings we receive in Christ.  It is the foundation from which all our blessings flow.


Chosen to Be Holy and Blameless

God also reveals in Ephesians 1:4, the purpose for which God has chosen us: to be “holy and without blame before Him.”  This means that our salvation is not just about escaping hell or enjoying eternal life or having our “Best Life Now”— as some believe.  No, it’s about being transformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and living a life that is pleasing to Him.  As 1 Peter 1:15-16 exhorts us, “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all (pas) your conduct, (why) because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.'”

Being chosen to be holy and blameless is both a privilege and a responsibility.  It means that we are set apart for God’s purposes and called to reflect His character in all that we do.  It involves putting off the old self with its sinful desires and putting on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).  This is not something we can accomplish in our own strength, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to renew our minds to be more like Christ (Rom. 12:1-2).

And in Jude 1:24, God is praised for being able to “keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”  So God not only makes us holy and blameless but will make sure we remain that way because it brings Him exceeding joy (and it will bring us joy as well).  This is all part of the blessings we have in Him.


The Antidote for Pride

One last thing before we pray: Do you realize that God chooses almost everything regarding our salvation and how He wants to be worshiped?  Research it yourself.  He chose His disciples, not the other way around (John 15:16).  He chose the people of Israel to be His special people (Deut. 7:6).  He chose Moses to lead His people out of Egypt (Moses certainly didn’t volunteer for the job).  He chose the tribe of Levi to serve as priests unto Himself (Num. 3:12).  He chose the exact blueprint for the Tabernacle and the Temple and how it was to be built.  God chose specifically how He wanted to be worshiped in Leviticus.  He didn’t leave that up to the passing whims of His people.  And He even chose that the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were to be engraved on two onyx stones and placed on the shoulders of the ephod (Ex.28:5-10).  Let’s face it, God chose almost everything and did not leave any of this up to you or me.

Except one thing.

After salvation, after we are changed by regeneration and the Holy Spirit lives within us (Eph. 1:13-14), God allows us to choose (and expects us to choose correctly) how we will worship and serve and obey Him with the lives He has redeemed and given back to us (John 14:15).  Again, this is called sanctification, and we will spend quite a bit of time unpacking what that means at a later date.

So, once you understand God’s sovereign choice in just about everything, where is the place for our pride?  Exactly, there is none.  Think about that before you pray.


So Let’s Pray

As we pray today, being guided by His choice of us in Him before the world was created, be filled with gratitude and a deep desire to serve and honor Him with the life He has blessed and given back to you.  Nothing, I believe, would please Him more.

Dear Father,
I come before You with a heart overflowing with gratitude for the incredible blessing of being chosen by You.  It amazes me that even before the foundation of the world, You set Your love upon me and predestined me to be holy and blameless in Your sight (Eph. 1:4).  I still don’t understand why, but I can never thank You enough.

I recognize that this choice was not based on any merit or worthiness of my own, but solely on Your grace and loving-kindness toward me (Eph. 2:8-9).  I am humbled by the realization that You wanted me to be part of Your family, not because of anything I have done, but simply because it was Your good pleasure (Eph. 1:5).  And again, I don’t understand why, but thank You so much for this blessing.

Thank You for adopting me as Your child through Jesus Christ, according to the kind intention of Your will.  I am overwhelmed by the privilege of being able to call You “Abba, Father” and to have a personal, intimate relationship with You (Rom. 8:15).

I understand that being chosen by You comes with the responsibility to live a life that is pleasing to You, reflecting Your holiness in all my conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16).  And I know I haven’t always been at the top of my game in that regard.  Forgive me and help me, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to put off my old self with its sinful desires and to put on the new self, created to be like You in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).

I praise You for Your ability to keep me from stumbling and to present me faultless before Your glorious presence with great joy (Jude 1:24).  And I trust in Your faithfulness to complete the good work You have begun in me (Phil. 1:6).

May my life be a testament to the riches of Your grace and the depth of Your love (Eph. 1:7).  Use me as an instrument of Your will, and may I always find my greatest joy in serving, honoring, and obeying You (John 14:15).

In the precious name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Day Six:  Being Thrilled With What You Already Have

Day Six: Being Thrilled With What You Already Have

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Ephesians 1:3


The Cup is Always Full

Let’s face it, we live in troubling times.  Almost everywhere we look, there is division, chaos, fear, uncertainty, and corruption that erodes our confidence in our so-called “sacred institutions” and can be so depressing they often keep us from wanting to get out of bed in the morning.  The future, for many, looks bleak.  And the present doesn’t look so hot either.  But that should never be said of a believer— especially after praying through this one verse, which is part of a long, single sentence in the letter to the church at Ephesus.  No, this truth should give us hope and encouragement as we see life, not from the physical, horizontal perspective, but from God’s perspective.  After all, His way is always better.  And our problems always look smaller, almost insignificant, when viewed from heaven (Isa. 55:8-9).

Remember, we don’t have to choose to look at the glass as either half full or half empty.  It is always full, totally, right to the brim.  But it’s not necessarily full of the same thing or with what we can readily see.  Half may be water and the rest air.  But it is still full, nevertheless.  And so it is with God.  Some things we can see and some things we can’t.  But He is still present, filling everything to the brim, even if our eyes are not open to Him moving.  Then, we rely on faith in His promises and rest in the goodness of our God (Rom. 8:28).  What an incredible place to live.

For this is where we experience the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7).

But don’t take my word for it; experience His peace yourself.  Ask Him to put you in a place where you have nowhere to look but up, and see what this will do for your faith.  Still not sure, then check out Hebrews 11 for some examples.


“Blessed,” “Every,” and “Heavenly Places”

When you pray through Ephesians 1:3 today, focus especially on three key phrases: “has blessed us,” “every spiritual blessing,” and my favorite, “in the heavenly places.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ – Ephesians 1:3.

In our last time together, we spoke about the past-tense nature of our blessings, meaning they have already been given to us, and we possess them now (even if it doesn’t feel like it so much).  This is not some minor grammatical detail, but a liberating spiritual truth once you wrap your mind around it.  Basically, all God has in store for His children is available to us today, right now, in our present situation.  The phrase, “has blessed us” means we don’t have to wait until He returns to earth to set up His kingdom, or we die and go to live with Him in heaven, or the trump of God sounds and the rapture takes place before we come into possession of “every” or “all” (pas) of our spiritual blessings.  Nor do we have to earn them by living flawless lives or working ourselves ragged to gain His favor.  No, we have them with us already, always— just like the Holy Spirit, who continually dwells in us.

Next, we are drawn to the words “every” (pas) and the phrase “spiritual blessing.”  For me, I am reminded He has held nothing back from me, and I am now completely “blessed” with “every” or “all” spiritual blessings.  Our Lord, our Father, has already bestowed on us things we cannot understand— truly amazing things, unheard of things.  Try this one on for size:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man (what) the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” – 1 Corinthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4).

And these things are described as being “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).  Ah, takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

Plus, the “spiritual blessings” we possess are just that: spiritual.  They are blessings that pertain to our spiritual life, our relationship with God, and our eternal destiny— you know, the things that last, unlike cars or money or houses or fame.  And they are blessings that involve the work of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, the word translated “spiritual” (pneumatikós) always pertains to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Always.  You might want to look into that amazing truth yourself.

And finally, these blessings are not limited to our time here on earth, but are reserved for us “in the heavenly places” where God dwells.  Where time is abolished.  Where we will spend eternity with Him.  Where our true reality resides, and not just this shadow of things to come.  And where it really matters.


Some Blessings That Matter Most

As a quick reminder, look at some of our “spiritual” blessings revealed in just the first fourteen verses in this chapter (we will look at each of these in the days to come):

1. Election – Ephesians 1:4
2. Adoption – Ephesians 1:5
3. Acceptance – Ephesians 1:6
4. Redemption – Ephesians 1:7
5. Forgiveness of Sins – Ephesians 1:7
6. The Revelation of God’s Purpose in History – Ephesians 1:10
7. Our Inheritance – Ephesians 1:11
8. Sealing by the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 1:13

Tell me, what more could we need, or want, than what we already have?


“Complete in Him”…er, Lacking Nothing

One final thought before we pray.

While looking at this passage, I was also drawn to Colossians 2:9-10, where the Lord tells us we are “complete in Him” and, by definition, lack nothing.  It means, there is nothing to add to make us more than we are.  There is nothing we need to make us whole or more loved by the Father.  In Him, and only “in Him,” we are right now, at this present moment, and just like we are: complete.  And the word translated “complete” is pleróō which means to “make full, supply abundantly, or impart richly.”  This is who we are in Him and the spiritual blessing we already possess.

And if that wasn’t enough, in Psalm 23:1, our Shepherd, the Lord Himself, promised us, “I shall not want.”  Do you know why?  Because we are already, past tense, “blessed” with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  What is there to want if we already possess all there is to have in Him?  Makes you think, doesn’t it?


So Let’s Pray

I hope you experience a bit of awe when you pray this verse today.  And I hope these truths will give you pause to reflect on how much the Father truly loves you, no matter what you have done, no matter your past— and no matter how messed up your present may seem.

Now, armed with this, go to Him in prayer, use these marvelous truths to allow His Word to guide your prayers, and see how our Lord desires to reveal Himself to you.

Dear Father,
Once again, I come before You with a heart full of gratitude and praise for Your choice of me “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).  And I thank You that in Christ, You have blessed me with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3).  What an incredible truth this is!  To know that the moment I placed my faith in You, You chose to lavish upon me the full riches of Your grace and blessing (Eph. 1:8) for no other reason than the “good pleasure of Your will” (Eph. 1:5).  Thank You so much for giving me what I don’t deserve, nor ever will.

And thank You that these blessings are not something I have to earn or strive for, but are already mine in Christ.  Thank You for the forgiveness of sins, for my adoption into Your family (Eph. 1:7), and for the indwelling presence of Your Holy Spirit (Eph.1:13-14).  Thank You for the wisdom, the hope, the peace, and the joy that are my inheritance in Christ.

Father, I pray these truths will not just be intellectual knowledge for me, but become living realities in my life.  Help me grasp the incredible scope and magnitude of the spiritual blessings I possess in Christ.  Open the eyes of my heart to see myself as You see me— seated with Christ in the heavenly places, blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 2:4-7).

I pray the truths of these blessings will transform the way I live each day.  Help me to draw upon the spiritual riches that are mine in Christ, to walk in step with Your Spirit, and to live out the fullness of life that is mine in Your Son.  When challenges and trials come, remind me that my life is anchored in the unshakable realities of Your eternal kingdom.

Above all, may the truth of these blessings lead me to a life of continual praise and thankfulness to You.  Keep me from ever taking Your grace for granted or living as a spiritual pauper when in reality, I am a spiritual millionaire (or billionaire)!  Fill my heart with wonder and awe at the glorious inheritance I have in Christ.

Finally, Lord use me to be a conduit of Your blessings to others.  Let me not hoard the spiritual riches You have given me, but freely share them with those around me.  Make me an instrument of Your grace, Your love, and Your truth in this world.

Thank You, Father, for the unsearchable riches of Christ that are mine in Him (Eph. 3:8).  I pray I will spend the rest of my days exploring the depths of these blessings and living in light of the glorious truth of who I am and what I have in You.

In Jesus’ precious name, I pray.  Amen.

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Day Five:  Overlooking and Neglecting Our Blessings

Day Five: Overlooking and Neglecting Our Blessings

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Our Blessings in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Ephesians 1:3a

The phrase “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” appears three times in the New Testament, and in each instance, it highlights some often-neglected spiritual blessings that believers have in Christ (Eph. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:3).  And once we learn to embrace these blessings and not let them slip out of the spotlight because of our trials, temptations, or just the chaotic stuff of life, then we can remember how truly blessed we are, regardless of how we feel or what others might say.  Long two sentences, I know.  But let’s look at some of the incredible things God has already given us by virtue of our redemption provided by the sacrifice of His only Son (John 3:16).


The Letter to Ephesus

In Ephesians 1:3, Paul proclaims, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (why) who has blessed us with (what) every spiritual blessing (where) in the heavenly places in (how) Christ.”  He then lists some of these blessings that are easily ignored.  For example (and we’ll only look at the ones found in this one, long sentence):

   We Have Been Given Every Spiritual Blessing: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed (past tense, action already accomplished) us with every (pas) spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ ” (Eph. 1:3).  This overarching truth sets the foundation for all the blessings that follow.  In Christ, we have been granted access to every (pas) spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms— which means there are no existing blessings we do not have access to.  Everything, all of them that ever existed, are available to us as His children.  This is the meaning of the adjective “every” (pas) in the Greek.  It doesn’t say we have been blessed with “some” of the blessings or “most” of them are available to us.  No, it says “every” or “all” (pas).  Think about that for a moment.  Do you understand what that means?

   We Have Been Chosen for Holiness (to be just like Him): “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Eph. 1:4).  Before the creation of the world, before time began, God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in His sight.  And our holiness is not based on our own efforts, which are usually littered with failure, but on His sovereign choice and the work of Christ in our lives, where He imputed His righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21).  God chose us to be like Him, holy, faultless, and without blame, simply because He loves us and wants us to be with Him (Jude 1:24).

   God Determined to Adopt Us to Himself: “Having predestined (to predetermine the outcome beforehand) us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, (why) according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5).  God not only purposed to adopt us as His children, but has also elevated our status as children to heirs, and even joint-heirs with Christ Himself (Rom. 8:16-17).  Can you imagine what that means (we will unpack this truth at a later time)?  God determined, long before we proved ourselves worthy or not, to bring us into His family as His children for no other reason than “the good pleasure of His will.”  Or, as we would say, “Simply because He wanted to.”  It was His choice to choose you as His adopted child, and this unspeakable blessing should make everything else in life pale by comparison.

   God Has Chosen to Accept Us to Himself: “To the praise of the glory of (what) His grace, by which He made (His action and not based on our merit or work) us accepted (charitóō – to be highly honored or greatly favored) in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6).  The world may reject you, as they did Jesus, but the Father never will.  By grace, God has determined to accept us unto Himself, even covered with the scars of our sins and past failures, because of His great love for His children, including you and me.  And again, what problems in life could we possibly have that compare to this blessing?  I can’t think of any.  Can you?

And all this is only from Ephesians 1:3-6, which is just the second sentence in this letter.  Can you imagine the multitude of blessings we can find elsewhere in Ephesians?  I, personally, have found over sixty— and the number keeps growing daily.


How Should We Respond?

In light of these truths, what should we do?  How should the blessings of God change our view of life, church, worship, and how we approach Him and others?

First, with gratitude and praise.  When we reflect on what we already possess in Him, our hearts should overflow with praise and thanksgiving to God for His grace in Christ, freely given— no, lavished, on us (Eph. 1:8).  We did nothing to earn or deserve these blessings because they flow from God’s love and mercy alone.  So, as we meditate on these spiritual riches, let us remember the words of David: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

Next, we should be encouraged and strengthened in the face of trials.  When we encounter hardships that just come with life, we remember that our identity, security, purpose, worth, future, and hope are always anchored in Christ, and not in our circumstances.  Pain and suffering are for only a moment, but eternity lasts forever.  And we have a compassionate Father who is ‘the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3), who will one day wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).  From His perspective, our sufferings and trials are nothing more than “light afflictions, which is but for a moment” (2 Cor. 4:17), and are “working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Finally, these blessings should inspire us to live holy and godly lives.  Truth is, we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4).  That seems to be one reason He created us in the first place.  Therefore, our lives should be marked by growing conformity to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29, which is called sanctification), by our daily choosing to put off the old self and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24).  And as we abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit, we will bear His fruit that gives glory to our Lord and points others to Him (Gal. 5:22-25)


Let’s Put it All Together

There is so much more to this life with Christ than we have been taught or experienced in the church in the West.  And I’m not sure why that is.  But, our blessings in Him are inexhaustible and already ours in Christ.  They are not some future promise for those who meet some predetermined condition, nor something we receive only when we die and go to heaven.  They are ours now, as stated in the past tense.  We have been “blessed” (past tense) with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (where God lives) in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

Tell me, what does this world offer that you don’t already have in Him?  That’s right, nuthin’.


So Let’s Pray

As you pray, remember to never cease to thank and praise God for the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8), that are yours, right now.  And ask Him to give you a life overflowing with gratitude as we share with others the wonders we have found in Christ (1 Pet. 2:9).

Dear Father,
I can’t thank You enough for all the blessings that are mine because of Your choice in me before the foundation of the world.  It literally takes my breath away.  And just think, You chose me for no other reason than the fact You wanted to.  Lord, I am overcome with humbleness, knowing that I’m Your son, adopted into Your family because of Your love, mercy, and grace.  And that this is something You actually wanted to do.  You forgave all my sins.  You redeemed me and made me an heir, a joint heir with Your Son.  How is this possible?  And why did You choose me?

Lord Jesus, I don’t know the answers or what You had in mind, but thank You for making all of this possible.

Would You teach me to show the same grace and gratitude towards others that You have shown me?  And never let me get so burdened with the trials and temptations of today that I forget who I am in You, and once again view myself for who I once was.  That person is dead, buried with Christ.  I know I am no longer that person, but I am now someone new, created in Your image.  Lord, help me live like that today, just for You.

And let me remember today, and commit to memory, Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Father, bring this verse to my memory several times today and let me contemplate how truly blessed I am.  Thank You for all You’ve done for me.  And allow me to live a life worthy of Your grace and sacrifice.

In the name of Your Son Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

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Day Four:  Two Powerful Words – Grace and Peace

Day Four: Two Powerful Words – Grace and Peace

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Just Scratching the Surface: Grace and Peace

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2

There is so much here in these fourteen words of verse two that it is hard to know where to begin.  Paul, as was his custom, often presents these two fundamental truths of the Christian faith, “grace and peace,” at the end of his greeting to those recipients of his letters (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Phil. 1:2; 2 Thes. 1:2, Phlm. 1:3).  It is almost like he wants to remind them of the gift of salvation and eternal life they have received by faith, based on God’s grace towards them, which brings a peace the world cannot understand nor experience (Phil. 4:7).

And sometimes Paul would add “mercy” to “grace and peace,” creating a holy trinity of blessings we have received from Christ (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4), yet he seems to reserve “mercy” for his letters to individuals rather than churches.  We’ll dig into the reasons for that at a later date.


What is Grace?

Grace is a word that Paul uses to both begin (1:2) and end the book of Ephesians (6:24), and it occurs another ten times within these six chapters.  Ephesians speaks of the grace of God’s unmerited favor in providing salvation through the sacrifice of His Son (1:7; 2:8) and His power granted to each of us to lead a life of sanctification, a holy life (4:7, 29).  It also speaks of the fact that by grace, and grace alone, we are saved (2:5, 8) and that it is a gift of God to be shared with others (3:7).

But what exactly does the word mean?  And how are we to understand this blessing of grace given to us by the mercy of God.  Grace (cháris) means to “rejoice, and is God’s great kindness freely given towards those who are undeserving of His favor.”  But more specifically:

This word may, at times, indicate kindness, as a quality or attribute of God or of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It may also describe the state of salvation, and thirdly, the believer’s gratitude for the salvation received or for any gift of God.  But in the present instance it refers undoubtedly to God’s spontaneous, unmerited favor in action, His freely bestowed lovingkindness in operation, bestowing salvation upon guilt-laden sinners.  Grace is the fountain from which everything in Christ flows.¹

Just think, God the Father is called the “God of all grace” (1 Pet. 5:10), and Jesus is the Author, Giver, and Dispenser of grace (Acts 15:11; 2 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 16:20; 1 Thes. 5:28).  Not to be left out, the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29), and the very throne of God is referred to as His “throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).  As you can see, grace seems to permeate everything in the realm of God— and rightly so.


But What About Peace?

The peace this passage talks about is not just the absence of conflict, like peace between two warring factions, but it is a peace that is the result of God granting us His grace.  When we speak of “grace and peace,” we are looking at two bookends of the entire Christian experience.  What begins with God’s grace freely bestowed upon us undeservingly, ends with our peace— peace with God (Eph. 2:14, 17), peace with others (2:15; 4:3), and peace with ourselves.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.

And this peace knows no bounds.  We cannot imagine what it is like until we experience it ourselves because it is unlike any peace the world can offer (Phil. 4:7). Jesus said so Himself:

“Peace I leave with you, (described as) My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” – John 14:27.

“Grace and peace” are pivotal, key terms in Ephesians that are not simply chosen randomly.  For example, in Ephesians 6:15, the good news is called “the gospel of peace,” and in 2:14, it states that Jesus Christ, “He, Himself is our peace.”  So if we want a concise summary of the good news that the letter to the church of Ephesus proclaims, we could not find a better one than these three small words, “peace through grace.”


It Gets Even Better

Finally, this verse reveals the source of our grace and the peace that follows.  And it comes from none other than “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  These two, mentioned in this fashion back-to-back, once again remind us that Jesus is God, co-equal with the Father, and has granted you and me direct, unhindered access to God Himself.  The veil of separation has been torn, top to bottom, by the sacrifice of Jesus, who provided for us the forgiveness of sins and His imputed righteousness, thus allowing us access to the Holy of Holies where God dwells (Heb. 4:14-16).  This is what it means to experience grace.  And this is what it means to have peace.

Paul used these twin terms in his greetings to the churches to show them their blessed position in Christ and to reinforce to them that only through God’s grace and His ensuing peace can we live the sanctified, holy, God-pleasing, abundant life Jesus promised (John 10:10)—the Higher Christian Life we so desire.  And if God has provided us with His peace through His undeserved grace, then why should we ever worry about anything?


So Let’s Pray

Before you pray, consider deeply the meaning of these two words and the great blessings you have received from Him through them.  You have been given grace, even though you don’t deserve it and never will.  And you can experience peace, even though you were once an enemy of God (Rom. 5:10), of yourself, and others.  Both of these, grace and peace, are gifts freely given by the One who will allow nothing to come between you and His love (Rom. 8:38-39).  And I mean nothing.

So when you pray, be sure to thank Him for what you have and not moan over what you think you lack.  This is also how faith grows.

Dear Father,
I come before You with a heart filled with gratitude for the gifts of grace and peace that You have so freely bestowed upon me.  Your Word reveals the depths of these blessings— that grace is Your unmerited favor and kindness towards me, a sinner undeserving of Your love.  Yet in Your infinite mercy, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the author and giver of grace, purchasing my salvation through His sacrifice on the cross.  And I know that it is by grace alone, through faith, that I am saved.

Thank You that Your grace not only redeems me, but empowers me to live a life pleasing to You.  By Your Spirit of grace dwelling within me, I can walk in holiness and offer words of grace to build others up.  Lord, help me to do that daily.  And I can’t thank You enough that Your throne of grace is always open to me, inviting me to boldly approach You to receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.

Father, I also praise You for the perfect peace You give to those who trust in You.  This peace surpasses all understanding— it calms my troubled heart and drives out fear, for You Yourself are my peace.  Through Christ, I now have peace with You, peace with others, and peace within myself.  No matter what storms rage around me, I can rest secure in Your unfailing love and unshakable peace.

I pray that I would never take these precious gifts for granted or fail to extend grace and peace to others.  May I be quick to forgive as I have been forgiven, to love as I am loved by You, and to share the good news of grace with all who cross my path.  Let my life overflow with thanksgiving for all You have done and reflect the glorious realities of who I am in Christ.

Thank You that nothing can ever separate me from Your love and the blessings of grace and peace that are mine in Jesus.

It is in His mighty name I pray, Amen.


Notes

1. Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, p. 71). Baker Book House.

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Day Three:  Saints and Faithful in Christ Jesus

Day Three: Saints and Faithful in Christ Jesus

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Uh, Sorry.  We Don’t Do Saints in Our Church

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
Ephesians 1:1b

“Saints.  Really?  That sounds kinda Catholic to me.”  And for many, it does.

But the term “saints” seems to be God’s go-to description for those He redeems and calls to Himself.  In fact, Paul uses this term to identify those he addresses in his letters.  For example, in Romans, he writes, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7).  In the same manner, he addresses those in Corinth as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2).  And he repeats this pattern in his letters to the churches in Philippi (Phil. 1:1), Colossae (Col. 1:2), and Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1).

By addressing believers as saints, Paul reminds them, and us, of the reality of our new identity in Christ.  Being deemed a saint is not a status earned through good works or perfect behavior, nor is it a title given by a religious body to commemorate some meritorious act, but it’s a descriptive designation God bestows on His children by grace.  It’s how He sees us— no matter how much we may have lived un-saintly lives or how we have grieved His Spirit (Eph. 4:30).  This designation as a saint reminds us we are no longer defined by our past sins or failures, but by our relationship with Christ and the righteousness He imparts to us (1 Cor. 5:21).


But What is a Saint (hágios)?

In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “saints” is “hágios,” and carries the meaning of being “holy, set apart, and dedicated to God.”  It is not a title limited to a select few who achieved some higher level of spiritual excellence, performed miracles, or made great sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel, but it refers to all believers who are set apart for God’s purposes.  Being called a saint implies we are consecrated and dedicated to God, and reflect His holiness in our lives (or at least, we should be reflecting the holiness of God in the way we live.  But we’ll address ‌sanctification at a later time).

In Ephesians 1:1, Paul uses this term to remind those in Ephesus of their unique identity in Christ— not by defining them by what they were, but by who they are now (1 Cor. 6:19).  And as saints, they in Ephesus, and we today, are called to live in a way that honors God by demonstrating His character in our daily lives.  Remember, this life of holiness is not something we achieve on our own (because we can’t), but it is made possible only through the work of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Note the operative word: holy— as in Holy Spirit.  Our holiness is simply a reflection of the Holy Spirit who now lives in us.


The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Central to our identity as saints is the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which is one of the most amazing things about this life with Christ.  In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul writes,

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with (what) the Holy Spirit of promise, (described as) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

The moment we believe and regeneration takes place, the Holy Spirit makes His home within us, marking us as God’s own, and acting as a seal and guarantee of our eternal inheritance in Christ.  This seal signifies ownership, security, and authenticity.  It is a divine guarantee of our future inheritance in God’s kingdom, a promise that we will one day fully partake in the blessings of eternal life with Him.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives is not a passive reality, but an active, transformative power that allows us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).  The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13), empowers us to live righteously (Gal. 5:16), and produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23).  And as saints, we must learn to walk in step with the Spirit (Rom. 8:14), yielding to His leading and allowing Him to give us the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

And the presence of the Holy Spirit is not just a future promise, but a present reality that empowers us to live holy lives, as saints, right now (which is the essence of the Higher Christian Life).  For without the Holy Spirit, there is no salvation (Rom. 8:9), for it is the Spirit who brings about the new birth and sustains us in our faith journey.


Saints Are Faithful, Like the Ones in Ephesus

As saints, we are called to live lives characterized by faithfulness to God.  The church in Ephesus serves as a model in this regard.  In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus commends the Ephesian church for their diligence, perseverance, and discernment, while also exhorting them to return to their first love.  This passage highlights key aspects of faithfulness that we should see growing in our own lives.

First, faithfulness involves diligence in our spiritual walk.  We must be committed to growing in our knowledge of God’s Word, engaging in fervent and frequent prayer, and actively participating in the life of His church.  These spiritual disciplines have defined a faithful believer since the Book of Acts and still do today.

Second, faithfulness requires perseverance in the face of trials and challenges.  As saints, we will inevitably face opposition and hardships (it comes with the territory – 2 Tim. 3:12), but we must remain steadfast in our faith, trusting in God’s goodness and sovereignty, no matter what.  After all, trusting Him when we’re flying blind and can’t see tomorrow is the best way to have your faith tested and grow (Jas. 1:2-4).

Third, faithfulness demands discernment— like big time.  We must be able to clearly distinguish between truth and error by holding fast to sound doctrine and rejecting false teachings that would lead us astray.  Remember, Jesus said the primary sign of His soon return would be deception.  Read it for yourself in Matthew 24.

Finally, faithfulness is rooted in our love for God and for others.  Jesus called this love the two greatest commandments, and it should flow from a heart wholly devoted to His and seeking to extend His love to those around us.

“‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these” – Mark 12:30-31.


So Let’s Pray

As we embrace our identity as saints (even if it still makes us feel a bit uncomfortable), let us continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2).  May we daily surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to transform us from the inside out.  And may we, like the church in Ephesus, be known for our unwavering devotion to Christ and our commitment to living out His truth in a world that desperately needs to see the light of the Gospel, no matter how difficult that may be in the days ahead.

Dear Father,
I come before You with a heart full of gratitude for the incredible privilege of being called Your saint.  Thank You for setting me apart for Your purposes and filling me with Your Holy Spirit.  I am humbled by the knowledge that Your Spirit dwells within me, sealing me as Your own and guaranteeing my future inheritance in Christ.

Lord, I desire to live a life that reflects my identity as a saint.  Help me to be faithful in my walk with You, just as the church in Ephesus was faithful.  Strengthen my commitment to prayer, so that I may communicate with You daily and align my heart with Your will.  Grant me the grace to obey Your Word, living out Your commandments with joy and faithfulness.

Fill my heart with Your love, so that I may love You with all my heart, soul, and mind, and love my neighbor as myself.  Lord, please inspire me to serve others selflessly, following the example of Your Son, who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).  Empower me to be a bold witness for You, sharing the good news of Your truth with those around me.  And let my life be a testimony to Your transformative power and grace.

Father, I ask that You draw me closer to You each day.  Continually remind me of my identity as Your holy one, and help me live in a manner worthy of Your calling.  May my faithfulness bring glory to Your name and advance Your kingdom here on earth.

I pray all this in the precious name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Day Two:  Transformed by the Will of God

Day Two: Transformed by the Will of God

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Zero to Hero on a Dusty Road

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,
Ephesians 1:1a

As we embark on this adventure in prayer and the study of the book of Ephesians, let’s begin by looking at the person God chose to write this letter and evangelize the known world at that time.  His name is Paul, formerly Saul— whom the Lord designated as an apostle of His Son, Jesus Christ.

There is much to learn about this simple change of names and, more importantly, the change of identity that accompanies the new name.  And the transformation we see in Paul is the same transformation that occurred in you— if you know Christ and have experienced true regeneration and salvation.  But more on that later.

In the opening few words of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul identifies himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Eph. 1:1a).  Note that this transformation was by the will of God and not based on the strength of Paul’s personality, his own merit or hard work, nor his ambition, education, family background, or career choice.  It was by God and God alone— because only God has the power to transform lives and use individuals for His divine purposes like He did Paul and countless others throughout church history.  Paul’s life is a living testament to this.  Once he was Saul, a violent persecutor of the early church and an enemy of Christ.  Then, in a blinding light, he met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  And now, everything changed (read it for yourself in Acts 9:1-19).  As Mary Magdalene from the series The Chosen said when she was trying to explain her transformation to Nicodemus:

“I was one way— and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him.”

This is what happened to Paul, and to each of us who Christ has changed.


From Saul to Paul or From Darkness to Light

Saul was a zealous Pharisee who dedicated his life to upholding Jewish law and tradition.  It was his passion, and therefore, he saw the early Christians as a threat to his beliefs and actively sought to silence them through persecution, imprisonment, and, ultimately, death.  However, God had other plans for Saul.  In a blinding moment of revelation and truth, all orchestrated by God and when Saul least expected it (which is often how the Lord works), Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and confronted him with the truth he had so vehemently rejected (Acts 9:1-9).  This encounter marked the beginning of Saul’s transformation into Paul, who became one of the most influential Christians and an example to all.  He became a missionary, evangelist, church planter, apologist, and the writer of most of the New Testament.

But what happened to Paul was not an isolated event.  God is still in the business of changing lives, even yours— if you would surrender your life to Him.  But once again, we’ll talk more about that later.


What Does it Mean For Us Today?

Paul’s story is a reminder that no one, including you and me, is beyond the reach of God and His wondrous grace.  Just as God changed a violent persecutor of the church into a committed proclaimer of the Gospel, He can also transform our lives, no matter how messed up we have made them, and use us for His glory.  All throughout history, we see examples of ordinary people, like you and me, who experienced the extraordinary, life-changing touch of God:

   Augustine of Hippo was once driven by worldly ambitions and desires (he was actually a pretty nasty dude), and became the most influential theologian during the early history of the church and penned such classics as “The City of God” and “Confessions.”

   There was John Bunyan, once a profane and blasphemous man, who became a preacher and the author of the Christian classic “The Pilgrim’s Progress” after he encountered Christ.

   Then consider John Newton, a former slave trader who encountered God’s grace and became a minister, abolitionist, and the author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”

   Mary Magdalene was a woman once possessed by seven demons (Mark 16:9), who became a devoted follower of Christ and the first witness to His resurrection after she encountered Jesus and He freed her from her bondage.

   And don’t forget Chuck Colson, a former political operative involved in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration, who found redemption in Christ while in prison and founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry dedicated to transforming lives behind bars.

   One of my favorites, Corrie ten Boom, was a humble Dutch watchmaker who the Nazis imprisoned for helping Jews escape to freedom. After the war, and after experiencing the horrors of life in a concentration camp, she traveled the world sharing her story of forgiveness and God’s unending love, touching countless lives (including mine).

   And finally, there is you. That’s right, you (put your name here ______________ ).  You were once one way before Christ came into your life and now, by His grace and the redeeming power of the Spirit, you are someone new.

And your life is just as valuable to God as those we have listed above.  All you need to do is place your new life in His hands like those heroes who have gone before us have done.  The rest, as they say, is up to Him.


Our God is the God of Second and Third (and More) Chances

These stories, along with countless others, demonstrate that God’s transformative power knows no boundaries.  He can take our broken pasts, our failures, our weaknesses, and what we are most ashamed of, and shape them into something beautiful for His kingdom.  In fact, He can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).  All He is waiting on is for us to ask.  So do that today.

If you find yourself feeling unworthy or too far gone and beyond the reach of God’s love and grace, remember the story of Paul.  No matter your background or the mistakes you’ve made (or are still making), God sees you through the lens of His unconditional love.  He has a plan and purpose for your life, always has, and He desires to transform you from the inside out and conform you to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).

Remember the encouraging words from Paul:

Therefore, if anyone (put your name here) is in Christ, he (and here) is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new – 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This is His goal for you.  It always has been— and always will be.


Self-Examination and Prayer

As we reflect on God’s transformative power, let’s examine our own lives.  Think, are there areas where we need to surrender to God’s will and allow Him to work in us?  Are we open to the changes He wants to make in our hearts and minds?  Take a moment to pray and invite God to reveal His purpose for your life.  Ask Him to guide you and grant you the courage to follow His lead (and to let you know His perfect will for you), even when it means stepping out of your comfort zone and doing what may seem frightening or impossible.  This is how faith grows (see Hebrews 11).


So Let’s Pray

Be sure to make your prayer personal, just between you and your Father.

Dear Father,
I come to You today, thanking You for transforming Saul into Paul and me into the image of Your Son, just like You promised.  I cannot thank You enough for Your grace, mercy, and unconditional love.  Thank You for Paul’s example, who reminds me that no one is beyond the reach of Your grace including, and especially, me.  I pray You will continue to work in my life, molding me into the person You have called me to be.

Give me the courage to surrender my life to Your will, trusting that Your plans for me are good and perfect.  Help me to embrace the changes You want to make in my heart and mind, even when it means stepping out of my comfort zone.  And Lord, when I am tempted to return to my old habits and mindset and way of life, remind me of who I am in You.

I pray for those who may feel unworthy or think they are too far gone from Your love to ever return to You.  Remind them of Your unconditional grace and the transformative power of Your presence in their lives.  And use me, Lord, as an instrument of Your love and truth.  May my life be a testament to the work You have done in me, and may I be a light to those who are searching for hope and purpose.

I ask all these things in the precious name of Jesus.  Amen.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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Day One:  Praying Through the Book of Ephesians

Day One: Praying Through the Book of Ephesians

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Small Beginnings Lead to Great Endings

As we pray through the marvelous book of Ephesians, I want to give us an overview of some truths in this first chapter that will literally change your life.  The book of Ephesians is something you could spend your entire life studying, and still not discover all God has hidden in its pages.  It is magnificent, speaking to the very core of our being as believers in Christ, and it has an inexhaustible supply of spiritual truths and revelations that are so needed today.

As an overview, early in chapter one, we encounter a grand display of God’s sovereignty revealed by His choosing us, in Him, before the foundation of the world.  We see this in verses 3 through 6, where it says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved – Ephesians 1:3-6.

Next, this amazing chapter ends with the proclamation of the power and might of our wonderful Lord where the Holy Spirit proclaims that God placed Jesus “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21).  And as you will see later in this study, “principality and power and might and dominion” not only refers to earthly kings and kingdoms, but more specifically, demonic kingdoms (Eph. 3:10; Col. 2:10).  But we will unpack these amazing truths later.

And finally, the chapter is stuffed full of graduate-level discussions of the church, the body of Christ, and the power that rests with the church because of Christ.  In today’s turbulent times, I can’t think of anything more important than for the church to understand the power we have because of our risen Savior and Lord (Eph. 1:22-23; Matt. 16:18-19).  This is a topic we will spend some time trying to fully understand in order to be the salt and light we are commanded and empowered to be (Matt. 5:13-16).  But once again, we’ll have to wait a bit before we feast on this life-changing truth.

As you can see, there is so much for us to discover as we strive to grow into the likeness of Christ (Eph. 4:22-24).  And this is only the beginning.


Asking Important Questions

One skill I hope each of us will gain during our study is the ability to ask simple questions of the text and feel comfortable doing so.  These questions do not lead to doubt, but they allow us to dig a little deeper into what the text says and means, rather than settle for just scratching the surface.

You may recognize many of these questions from high school English, if you were paying attention, which I wasn’t (which means I had to learn this later in life, which is always harder.  Ahem).  They are what we call the who, what, when, where, why, how, and my favorite, to what extent types of questions. What we find when we ask questions of the text is that the macro (large, expansive) view becomes the micro (small, detailed, specific) view, and we are better able to grasp, understand, and internalize more of what the word of God is saying.  And we can do all of this without additional study and resources by just asking a few questions.

Let me give you an example of Ephesians 1:3-6, which are the verses we looked at earlier.  But now, let’s look at them and ask a few clarifying questions.

Blessed be (who) the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has (what) blessed (who) us with (what) every spiritual blessing (where) in the heavenly places (how) in Christ, just as (who) He (what) chose (who) us (how) in Him (when) before the foundation of the world, (why) that we should be (what) holy and without blame before (who) Him (how) in love, having (what) predestined (who) us to (what) adoption as sons (how) by Jesus Christ to (who) Himself, (why) according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He (what) made us accepted (by whom) in the Beloved – Ephesians 1:3-6.

Now read these few verses again, slowly, intentionally emphasizing the questions and the answers that naturally follow the questions.  Can you feel the impact of this passage more than you did when you simply read it to yourself?  Do you see how the Lord provides for us, in the text, the answers to the questions we ask?  And can you experience the conversation, your questions and His answers, by just reading His Word with new eyes?  I sure can.  And I hope you will learn to do so as well.


What it Says, What it Means

One final thought before we pray and close out this first day.  It is one thing to casually read a portion of the Scriptures, focusing on what you understand and skipping words or themes you are unfamiliar with.  But it is quite another thing to take your time and truly meditate on what the Lord is trying to say to each of us in His Word.  This process takes time, and obviously some work.  But the benefits are so incredible they make the added effort well worth the time.  (Note: take a moment and see what the Lord says about meditating on His Word versus simply reading it.  For once you do, you’ll never be satisfied with just reading it again.  But this is something you need to discover for yourself.  Don’t take my word for it).

For example, in the passage cited above, there are a few words and concepts that need better understanding before we can comprehend and fully appreciate what the Lord is saying to us as we pray through His Word.

Let me list just a few.

•   What are the blessings God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ have blessed us with?
•   What does the phrase, “every spiritual blessing” actually mean?
•   And where are the “heavenly places” where we receive these blessings?
•   What does the phrase “in Christ” mean?  We see it many times in the New Testament, but is there a deeper meaning to this phrase than we may know?
•   How did God choose us “in Him” before the “foundation of the world”?  What did He choose us for?  And on what basis did He choose us?
•   And it appears the phrase, “according to the good pleasure of His will” means “because He wanted to” or “because He felt like it.”  Is that true?  Or is there something I’m missing?

I hope you are as excited about this adventure through Ephesians as I am.  Together, we will mine the deep truths of this letter and turn it back to the Lord in prayer.  And who knows what God plans to do with each of us during this process?


So Let’s Pray

As we go to the Lord in prayer, we’re going to make each prayer personal, in first person.  That way, we can’t hide behind the “we ask You to forgive us of our sins” type of prayer.  But, “I ask You to forgive me of my sins.”  I hope you see the difference.

So make this prayer your own and pray from your heart.

Dear Lord,
Thank You so much for the freedom I have to read Your Word and talk with You in prayer.  And Lord, as I embark on this journey in prayer through Your book of Ephesians, will You help me grow closer to You and understand the amazing truths You are going to reveal to me in this study?  I literally can’t wait.

Please help me stay committed to this time with You and not let anything, especially the enemy and my flesh, keep me from this appointed time of prayer and study.  I humbly ask for Your guidance and wisdom in everything.

Would You open my heart and mind to receive the deep truths and revelations hidden within these pages?  And help me approach Your Word with a spirit of curiosity, freely asking questions and seeking to understand the full meaning of each verse.  And then, once You have revealed Your truth to me, please change me into the image of Your Son as I embrace the truth of Your Word.

I pray that as I meditate on Your Word (and Lord, please teach me how to do that), You will reveal to me the incredible blessings You have given me in Christ.  Help me comprehend the significance of being chosen by You before the foundation of the world and the power and authority that is available to me as a member of Christ’s body, the church.

Lord, You know my heart.  And You know my desire to grow into the likeness of Christ.  As I study this letter, please transform me from the inside out, renewing my mind and enabling me to walk in the fullness of my identity in Him.  Give me the strength to lay aside my old self and put on the new self, created to be like You in true righteousness and holiness.

Thank You for the opportunity to dive deep into Your Word and to commune with You through prayer.  I trust that as I faithfully seek You, You will guide me, teach me, and empower me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.

In the mighty name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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Salvation and the Deception of Non-Saving Faith

Salvation and the Deception of Non-Saving Faith

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“Faith or No Faith, That is the Question”

All throughout Scripture, we see examples of people who have faith, but it’s non-saving faith.  After all, every one of us has some type of faith, and we exercise faith every day.  We have faith a car will stop while we cross the street, we have faith our prescriptions will do what our doctor told us they would do, we have faith a chair will hold us up when we sit down in a crowded restaurant, and we have faith the sun will come up in the morning as we prepare to go to the job we have faith we still have.  We all have faith— but we have faith at different levels and in different things.  And not all faith is the same.

For example, we have a certain type of faith in our government, our economic system, or the media.  But that faith is not as strong, nor of the same substance, as the faith we have in the sanctity of our marriage, or the trustworthiness of our best friend, or in our ability to keep a promise to those we love.  Each of these kinds of faith is as varied as the objects of that faith.  And none of these reach the level of faith or trust or dependence we would expect to have in Christ.  Hence, we would call these examples non-saving faith.

But what happens when a seeking person, just like you or me, comes to Jesus for salvation with nothing more than non-saving faith?  Would that person be saved?  Or would they be deceived into thinking what faith they had, bordering on intellectual curiosity, was sufficient for salvation?


The Deception of Non-Saving Faith

The Scriptures repeatedly warn about the deception of non-saving faith.  In the Parable of the Sower, seventy-five percent of the seeds sown did not lead to salvation (Matt. 13:3-9).  Those who sowed in the shallow and thorny soil were deceived into thinking that mere growth, without corresponding fruit, equates to salvation.  Or, to put it another way, faith, without corresponding fruit, leads to salvation.  And the Scriptures clearly state they don’t.

The Scriptures also talk about having a “form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:5).  We see people like Hymenaeus and Alexander, both lost, serving as prominent members of the church (1 Tim. 1:20).  There are those who come to the wedding feast dressed in clothes of their own righteousness.  The result?  They were bound, hand and foot, and “cast into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13).  We have the warning from the Lord about the wide road that leads to destruction and the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).  And, in the book of Hebrews, some were “once enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift” but never fully drank of the living waters of salvation (Heb. 6:4).

Remember, Jesus said He “did not come to bring peace on the earth, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34) and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:36).  How?  Because our commitment to Christ must be greater than our love and devotion for those we hold most dear, even our own family. When asked, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?”— Jesus  said of His own family, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:48-50).

The sad truth is many people come to Christ but never fully partake, or drink, of Him (John 7:37) and are deceived into believing they are truly saved.  Many people, most in fact, go part of the way towards Christ and end up short of true salvation.  They feel and recognize their need for Christ and acknowledge He is the only One that can satisfy their deepest longings, yet they fail to appropriate Him into their lives on His terms.  They thirst, they come— but they fail to drink.  They create their own gospel, their own way of salvation, and their own standards of righteousness, holiness, and sanctification.  Yet they are deceived— because a man-made Gospel does not lead to Christ.


Thirst, Come, and Drink

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, approximately six months before Jesus was to celebrate His last Passover in Jerusalem and was later betrayed and crucified (John 13:1), He stood amid the crowd and gave the following invitation: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).  Jesus gives His gospel presentation to a group of people who have very different views about who He is.  And whenever Jesus presents us with Himself— He always forces us to choose.  We are forced to either accept Him on His terms or reject Him outright.  There’s no middle ground, no gray area, and it’s not open to personal interpretation.  It happened to the crowd at the Feast of Tabernacles and it happens today every time we proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

The questions are always the same:  Who is Jesus?  What is truth? (John 18:38).  Is Jesus who He says He is?  And, if He is, what does that mean for me?  Is it possible to have my sins forgiven?  How can I be reconciled with God?  Tell me, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 2:37).

In this passage, three key words describe the path to true salvation:  thirst, come, and drink.  And the promise, of course, to those who thirst, come and drink is eternal life with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit, the living water Jesus talked about (John 7:39).

Thirst – Those who thirst recognize a deep longing, an intense craving, an unsatisfied need in their life.  It’s those who come to grips with the reality that their life has no eternal purpose or meaning and they are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  They instinctively perceive there’s more to life than what they’re experiencing and, therefore, they try to fill the void they feel with all sorts of carnal sensations— sex, drugs, food, false religions and philosophies, immoral relationships, pride, selfishness, arrogance— until they finally admit only Jesus can bring light into their darkness.

Come – When the personal longings become unbearable, and the promise of redemption seems so alluring, captivating, and enticing, many come to Jesus for what He promises to offer.  These understand who Jesus claims to be, the exalted Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord— and they understand what He has done for them, redeeming them from the penalty and power of sin by dying for them on the cross.  What they know and understand about Jesus is true.  The problem, however, is what they do with that truth.

In other words, there’s more to salvation than simply coming to Jesus.  You can’t just come and receive Him on your terms as some sort of trade or barter transaction.  You must enter through the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13), on His terms, and His terms are not open to negotiation.  His terms are all or nothing, total commitment, His life for yours.  He doesn’t come to make us better or to enhance certain aspects of our lives.  No, He comes to put us to death and raise us to life again in His image, as His child, to do His will and not our own (Rom. 6:3; 1 Peter 3:18).  He is the Lord, the Sovereign One, God Almighty (Phil. 2:10-11), and we are now voluntary slaves, bondslaves, of His.  Remember the words from Romans 10:9: “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  Note, it’s Jesus as Lord and nothing else.  You cannot come to Jesus as Savior only.  He is Savior, because He is Lord.

Most people never make it this far.  They never move past simply coming to Jesus, and they never progress to true salvation.  Most view Jesus as an enlightened master or great teacher or the supreme moral example for all mankind, but never as Lord.  They fail to take Him at His Word, or count the costs of salvation (Matt. 8:19-22), and give their lives to Him in abject submission and humility.  They want what He can do for them to make their life better, but they do not want Him as their Lord.  So they say a prayer and try to incorporate some behavior modification or moral changes into their life and maybe even experience a deceptive sense of salvation, like a sensation of peace or contentment, but they never yield or surrender their life to Him nor submit to His Lordship.  And, as sad as it may seem, they’re still lost.  Why?  Because their nature has not been changed (2 Cor. 5:17), redemption and regeneration have not taken place, and the Holy Spirit does not indwell them as their deposit, the guarantee of their future inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1:14).  And then Jesus will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:23).

Drink – This is where true salvation takes place.  You have a thirst, and you come to Christ to quench and satisfy it.  Yet simply coming to where the Living Water flows does not, in itself, quench your thirst.  You must drink.  You must partake.  You must be engulfed, enveloped, saturated in Christ, the Living Water.  He must be everything to you if you are to receive anything from Him.  Salvation, being a joint heir with Christ (Rom. 8:17), requires more than reciting some prayer as a nine-year-old at VBS.  It’s a radical, unconditional, total and complete, without reservation and with reckless abandonment, pledge, vow, promise, commitment, and allegiance to Christ as Lord.  You are no longer your own to do what you wish with your life (1 Cor. 6:19).  You have been bought with a price, you now belong to Him, and you are to live to bring Him honor (1 Cor. 6:20).  You are now pilgrims and strangers on the earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11) because this world is not your home (Heb. 13:14).

This kind of all-or-nothing relationship marked the disciples, the early church, and every true believer from Pentecost until today.  And if you truly know Christ and are known by Him, it will mark your life as well.


Those Who Believed Jesus… Kinda

The Scriptures tell us when Jesus finished His invitation to the unbelieving crowd to come and drink of Him and those who would come and drink would receive, in themselves, the flowing rivers of eternal life in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), the crowd was divided.  Some believed His words, but only partially.  Some didn’t believe at all, and wanted to destroy Him (John 7:44).

Nothing much has changed.  As it was back then, so it is today.


“Truly, this is the Prophet”

John 7:40-41 states:  Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.”  Others said, “This is the Christ.”  Note, they said He was the Prophet, capitalized, and not just a prophet.  This first group asserted that Jesus was the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, in which Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear.”  For centuries, this passage had been interpreted to prophetically speak of the coming Messiah, the Christ.  However, by the time of Jesus, the Jewish scholars, from their understanding of Malachi 3, believed the passage spoke more of the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5-6), and not the Messiah Himself.  Now the Prophet was someone who would show men their need for a Redeemer, for Christ, and then faithfully point them to the only One who could satisfy their need.  But the Prophet was not the Messiah and could not, in himself, satisfy their thirst, need, or longing.  He could just point the way or be a path or channel, but He had no power or authority to grant salvation.

Unfortunately, many people still believe this about Jesus.

They believed Jesus came to point men towards the truth, but they would fervently deny He was the Truth (John 14:6).  They would declare Jesus came to point men to someone or something coming to satisfy all their needs, but He was not that Someone and did not possess the something they were looking for.  The men who said, “Truly this is the Prophet” (John 7:40), recognized and affirmed the special status Jesus had as a one-of-a-kind religious leader who did things and taught things unlike any religious figure before (John 7:46).  He was in a class all by Himself.  They would even go so far as to say Jesus was sent by God and had a special relationship with God (John 3:2).  But they would not receive Him as God or serve Him as Lord.  They wanted Jesus and something else, anything else.  These were those who thirsted and came, but never drank.


“This is the Christ”

The second group said, “This is the Christ” (John 7:41).  This group recognized and believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of Israel, the One prophesied from the Old Testament (Luke 2:11).  Yes, they knew these facts about Him to be true, but they defiantly refused, like the first group, to bend their knee to Him as Lord (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10).  They refused to commit their lives and future to Him as the Sovereign One.  The Scriptures do not indicate this group followed Jesus as Lord.  They simply said, “Yes, I believe He is the Son of God and, yes, I believe He is the Messiah and the Christ.  So what?  What does that mean to me?  Now, pass me the butter and biscuits.  I’m hungry.”

This group confessed Jesus as something, but not as Lord (Rom. 10:9).  They had non-saving faith in Jesus as the Christ.


“This is the Christ… uh, but…”

Then there’s the group that fully confessed Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16), but would rather argue and bicker and debate over trivial matters of their own theology and reject Jesus because, in their mind, He didn’t meet every jot or tittle they thought He should (Matt. 5:18).  These are the ones who argue, saying, “He can’t be the Christ because He came from Galilee and the Christ is supposed to come from Bethlehem.  Plus, the Scriptures teach the Messiah must come from the line of David, and I’m not sure where this guy comes from” (John 7:40-42).  So they compared what little they knew about Jesus with their own limited and incomplete knowledge of the prophetic Scriptures and concluded He could not possibly be the Messiah because He failed to meet all their sincerely held convictions of what the Messiah would be.  We have many in the church today who operate the same way.  They smugly elevate their own statement of beliefs or denominational creeds or preferences to the level of infallible Scripture and use them as a litmus test for fellowship or, sadly, salvation— and even truth.

But if this group had investigated further, they would’ve discovered Jesus was from the line of David (Matt. 22:42) and did come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah (John 5:39).  But they were more concerned with being right in the eyes of each other and promoting their own theological brand or position than in knowing the truth.  Because of their apathy and laziness, they failed to look for the truth because they arrogantly assumed they’d already found it.  And in their pride and hypocrisy, they missed their Messiah.

Again, just like the first two groups, they also missed out on eternal life.


Those Who Did Not Believe Jesus

The final group was those who hated the Lord Jesus and wanted to destroy Him.  These were the ones who wanted to take Him by force (John 7:44) but were prevented because, from God’s perspective, it was not yet His time and His hour had not come (John 7:30).  Needless to say, the people in this group did not understand Christ nor receive the gift of salvation He offered (John 7:37-39).


To What Group Do You Belong?

So where do you fit in?  What is your response to Christ?  Do you believe partially, somewhat, kinda, in Him?  Do you say, “Yes, He was a good man, and yes, He was sent from God, and yes, He’s a great moral teacher and example, and yes, He’s a path or a way of some sort to God?”  If so, that’s not enough.  Your confession of Him or your profession of faith is severely lacking.  Fatally lacking.  For Jesus, He is all or nothing.  There is no partial with Him.  There’s no halfway, no honorable mention, no consolation prize, and no kudos for trying.  He’s all or nothing, totally in or totally out, through the narrow gate only, and on His terms without negotiation or compromise.

Remember His words,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:53-55).

In other words, Jesus gives eternal life to those who ingest Him into the core of their very being, as their strength, source of daily nourishment, and sustenance.  Jesus did not come to make us better or to enhance or improve our fallen lives.  No, He came to make us new, to put the old man to death, and to raise the new man to live with Him.  And what kind of life does He promise?  It’s beyond anything we can ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21).  He offers a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).  And He promises we will be children of God, and if children, then heirs, and if heirs, then joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).  Just think, all that Christ is and all He possesses becomes ours as a joint heir with Him— when, and here is the requirement, we give all that we are to Him.  This promise belongs to those who exercise real, genuine, saving faith in the completed work of Christ.

One final thought, the seeds that fell on the path, in shallow soil, and in the soil infested with weeds and thorns, did not produce fruit (Matt. 13:3-9).  They did not lead to eternal life.  Why?  Because Jesus never said you’ll know My disciples by their profession, church membership, civic good works, non-profit activities, or from the applause of men— you will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16-20).

Fruits.  And nothing else.

Do your fruits show you belong to Him?

Leaving Laodicea | The Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church

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