BSF Acts: Week 23: Lecture

Aim: God has a purpose for me and for you

Why?  Why?  Why?  We love to ask that question.

Why do I have to?  Why did you?  Why did that happen?  Why didn’t that happen?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do bad people do well?  Why? Why?

But, so often we approach that question not really wanting an answer we just want to gripe and complain.  But, here is the answer, even when we are only fake asking:  Why?  Because it is part of God’s plan. Period.

Now, we may not always understand God’s plan and we sometimes may not like God’s plan, but who do you think is better at a making a plan?  Us or God?

Let’s look at how He communicated this to the Ephesian church through Paul:

1st Division: Eph 2: 1-10 We are made alive through faith in Christ

Principle: God has work for us to do

Illustration: Our job is to work – that is what it means to have a job – that is what it means to have purpose – that is part of the answer to the question “why?”  The work we do is not to earn something (wages or favor), it is simply what members of the family do.  In your family you have jobs.  They are not things others need you to do – let’s face it, your parents have far more experience and skill at doing most of the things than you do and sometimes they could do them faster than having you do them.  (sorry to burst your bubble).  But, if you do not participate, you are not part of the family – see that word participate – it starts with “part” and means you have to do your part.  If you don’t you aren’t.  God gives us work so we can be part-icipants in His family.

Applications: Are you doing work to be a part or to get something special?  Are you doing work gratefully or grudgingly?  What is God asking you to do but you are denying or hesitating?

2nd Division: Eph 2:11-3:13 Christ provides unity for believers

Principle: Christ’s church was a mystery

Illustration: Have you ever seen a magic trick?  A magic trick is kind of like a mystery.  To people on the stage, there is  no mystery, they know what, when and how everything happens.  But to people that choose to just sit and watch, they don’t understand, it is unclear.  The difference is perspective and revelation.  Jesus revealed to Paul the mystery.  God revealed it to Paul, Peter, Isaiah, etc. etc.  There was no lack of information.  But there were lots of people who chose to view things from their comfy seats in the audience.

The church of Christ – Jews and Gentiles, was always God’s plan.  It is not, “for God so loved the Jews”  God loved the world – and, thank God, because otherwise we would not be on the stage and part of the show!

Application:  Are you curious or just wanting to be entertained?  Have you made up your mind or do you continue to ask and learn?

3rd Division: Eph 3:14-21 Paul’s prayer for Ephesus

Principle: God is glorified through His power in His church (you and me)

Illustration:

“Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.  What an interesting statement.  It is easy to pass over because at first glance it sounds common.  I’m old enough to remember my dad pulling up to the filling station.  ding, ding.  The station attendant jogged out and my dad would say, “fill ‘er up with ethyl.”  But, wait a minute – while that is where this verse starts, it actually says more.  Let’s take a deeper look.

In greek, the first filled is the word πληρόω plēroō, (strongs G4137).  This literally means to fill it as full as is possible – that another drop would over flow, that another grain would fall off.  Literally that there can be no more.

Now, most of us would look at that and say – filled is filled. Anything over filled is spilled and wasted, right?

But Paul doesn’t go there.  He goes on to say filled to all the fullness of God.  The second fullness is πλήρωμα plērōma (strongs G4138).  In the New Testament verses, this word takes on additional meaning: the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ.  In particular, it is the same word used in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”.

See, even in this seemingly simple verse Paul is continuing to emphasize this important message.  He doesn’t want us to be filled in accordance with what our earthly selves can hold.  He is praying that we are filled to the fullness that Christ in us can hold – He is praying that we are filled with the fullness of the Deity in bodily form – He is praying that we are filled not to the level we can manage but to the level God can manage, not with human limits but with holy limits (are there holy limits or is it limitless?)

But what a contrast that is to how I think – I think that I have a tank that holds a certain amount, just like the tank on our car.  Filling it any fuller just would overflow on the ground and be wasted.  But I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  (that repetition was on purpose – don’t make me say it a third time :-) ). I am the church.  I am the body of Christ.  I am the body of believers.  I am the power, agency and riches of God and of Christ.  I am limitless in God’s eyes.

Application: How are you asking God to fill you up?

Advertisements

BSF Acts: Week 23, Day 5: Ephesians 3:14–21

Questions

13. a. Strength through his spirit, power to grasp the magnitude of the love of Christ

b. My co-leader when he is instructing the children.  I can sense and hear the holy spirit speaking through him.  It is someone who gives up themselves to be filled by the spirit to share the word of God and reveal His love to others.

14. How I underestimate and under utilize God’s power.  My approach is to pray to God to have an earthmover standing by just in case my shovel breaks.

Additional Thoughts:

“Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.  What an interesting statement.  It is easy to pass over because at first glance it sounds common.  I’m old enough to remember my dad pulling up to the filling station.  ding, ding.  The station attendant jogged out and my dad would say, “fill ‘er up with ethyl.”  But, wait a minute – while that is where this verse starts, it actually says more.  Let’s take a deeper look.

In greek, the first filled is the word πληρόω plēroō, (strongs G4137).  This literally means to fill it as full as is possible – that another drop would over flow, that another grain would fall off.  Literally that there can be no more.

Now, most of us would look at that and say – filled is filled. Anything over filled is spilled and wasted, right?

But Paul doesn’t go there.  He goes on to say filled to all the fullness of God.  The second fullness is πλήρωμα plērōma (strongs G4138).  In the New Testament verses, this word takes on additional meaning: the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ.  In particular, it is the same word used in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”.

See, even in this seemingly simple verse Paul is continuing to emphasize this important message.  He doesn’t want us to be filled in accordance with what our earthly selves can hold.  He is praying that we are filled to the fullness that Christ in us can hold – He is praying that we are filled with the fullness of the Deity in bodily form – He is praying that we are filled not to the level we can manage but to the level God can manage, not with human limits but with holy limits (are there holy limits or is it limitless?)

But what a contrast that is to how I think – I think that I have a tank that holds a certain amount, just like the tank on our car.  Filling it any fuller just would overflow on the ground and be wasted.  But I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  I am no longer just me when I am a Christian.  (that repetition was on purpose – don’t make me say it a third time :-)). I am the church.  I am the body of Christ.  I am the body of believers.  I am the power, agency and riches of God and of Christ.  I am limitless in God’s eyes.

Fill ‘er up! Amen.

BSF Acts: Week 23, Day 4: Ephesians 3:1–13

Questions:

11. a. Through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

b. God’s purpose to bring all things together under Christ, all as one body all share the same promise – that Christ is in us and we are in Christ and able to approach God with freedom and confidence. – also given specifically to Peter by revelation (Acts 11:1-18), and it is consistent with prophecy in the Old Testament (such as Isaiah 49:6) and the specific words of Jesus (Acts 1:8)

12. That regardless of how much I and them might feel there is an un-crossable chasm, God has purposed that we will be joined together and that, in truth, we already are in Him if we both believe and profess.  No matter the barrier (pain, disagreement, wrong, anger), it was destroyed on the cross.

Final Thoughts:

Let’s discuss the word mystery.  What an interesting word.  For most of us, it brings to mind Sherlock Holmes and deductive reasoning.  But in the context here it is actually a much simpler meaning.

As a visual reference, think about a door frame in your house.  On one side of the door frame is the answer to all of lives big questions (why am I here, where did I come from, what is everything all about, is there a God, what happens to us after we die, etc., etc.).  From where you stand you can see people gazing up at the wall above the door, but on your side it is just painted wall.  You see them living differently.  You see them dropping to their knees.  You see them loving and sacrificing everything worldly for the message.

But, here’s the thing that makes it a mystery.  You can’t understand it, you can’t know it without passing through the doorway and, you can only pass through the doorway by accepting that it is where the answer lies.  Once you are through, you can’t imagine not knowing ever again.

This is the mystery of faith – it is shielded on the other side of the door, but by crossing through the door (Christ) we have already received all of the blessings of God.  The words on the wall are not the critical element, although they are of help and benefit and growth to us – crossing through the doorway is the what it is all about.

In the Roman Catholic faith there is a great element of the order of mass related to this:

Priest:  Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: 
All
AChrist has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Doxology and Great Amen:
Priest
:  Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.

For the first to have meaning we must step through the door.  When we step through the door we accept Christ and realize everything is about him: through him, with him, in him.  The entire reason for everything pivots around Jesus.

BSF Acts: Week 23, Day 3: Ephesians 2:11–22

Questions:

7. a. where they came from: gentiles, uncircumcised, separate from Christ, excluded, foreigners, without hope, without God

b. The blessing that He gave me from a loving family and great church education and how far I fell from that promise before coming back to Him, but then also the power that He has entrusted to me by calling me to be holy and a brother of His son.

c. Remembering helps me understand how deeply God dug the foundation pillars with me.  Despite all but ignoring Him for several years, the foundation was strong and did not waiver.  He had work for me to do and each day He reveals more of what that is.

8. a. Negotiation, mutual compromise, give and take, mutually beneficial scenarios, promises and agreements, “aid”, war (peace by submission)

b. He is peace.  He made the two one (human and heavenly).  Abolished the law.  one out of two, making peace, reconciled

c. It is not a bargain, it is of God, by God and only is possible when it is with God.  There is no other lasting peace.

9. peace, no barrier, no wall of hostility, law abolished, joined (1 out of 2), reconciled, no hostility, 1 body, peace to far away and peace to near: both have access to the Father by the one Spirit

10. They are non-existent – we are one body in Christ, there is no difference or separation in God’s eyes as He views the church.  Near or far (I’m not sure which I am, the near or far) both have the same access to the Father and the One Spirit.

Final Thoughts:

1.This whole concept of peace negotiations is really critical to understand.  There are so many ways that earthly thinking (our world view) is so upside-down compared to God thinking.  I mean, even the term: peace negotiation.  Christ didn’t negotiate peace.  He didn’t offer a deal or coerce us into accepting something by threat, intimidation or force.  Could He have – well: He created everything and everyone and is all powerful.  I’m pretty sure the answer to that is yes.  But that isn’t what he did.  Peace with God is not a deal or state of time or condition of practice.  Peace is a being.  Peace is Christ: Christ is peace.  Stop a minute and get your head around that:  peace isn’t a what or a how, it is a who.  The only way to be “in peace” is to be “in Christ.”

We (humans) were not with God – because of sin we had separated from God.  Jesus Christ destroyed the wall, in him he took what was two and made it one again.  In dying on the cross, when he defeated death and rose again.  He did it as God and man combined in one.  The what he did cannot be separate from the who He is – joining us into Him joins us into Peace by making us holy as He is holy.  Being outside of Him is an un-natural and unstable state.  We were made in God’s image to be in communion with God.  The unstable state is sin and separation; the stable state (the one He created and designed) is peace in communion with Him. No wonder we have so much turbulence in a world that continues to live a outside of Christ.

2. Differences:  I live in a prominent suburban neighborhood and attend a church in city/county with a significantly above average household income.  And, the “Us helping Them” movements drive me insane.  Yes, I and people I sit in the rows with have money, education and resources at our disposal, but as soon as we enter into a mindset that we need to help them, we create a wall – the same kind of wall that Paul is trying to teach the Ephesians to not have in place.  We are the church, not this church and that church.  We need to give for the needs of the church, not for us to help them, because there isn’t an us and them (other than supporting missionaries who are going out to people who are not yet in the church).  Whenever we draw lines of white churches, black churches, hispanic churches, wealthy churches, poor churches, people with house, homeless people, well-fed people, hungry people – we put up a wall that separates.  Christ didn’t do walls – he ate with tax collectors, he healed lepers, he talked with prostitutes and thieves.  He even died for sinners to pay the price for their sins (that is you and me that we’re talking about).

Give generously and joyfully as your heart allows, but give with thanks to God not with guilt to demonstrate you have more or are better than “them.”  If you hear someone talk about helping “them” in your church – please, stop them.  There is no them in the body of the church – just us – helping each other through Christ.  Amen?

BSF Acts: Week 23, Day 2: Ephesians 2:1–10

Questions:

3. a. As good as dead with no redeeming qualities.

b. As Paul told the Corinthians: Do I live a changed life, do I know the H/S is in me, working, Do I claim the gift of Jesus?

4. 4. Loved, 5. Made alive with Christ, 5. Done even while still dead in transgressions, 5. Gave grace, 6. Raised us up with Christ, 6. Seated us with Him, 7. Will show incomparable riches of his grace, 7. will express kindness. 8. Saved

5. From hearing the word through the word of Christ

6. a. Ones that cause us to boast.  Ones that attempt to “earn” God’s gift – takes away from it being a gift

b. Those works that God prepared in advance for us to do – done as workman in Christ

c. Teach and lead.  Write and share. Serve as a godly parent and husband.

 

Final thoughts:

Since this lesson jumped into it, let’s take a closer look at the Romans 10:17 passage, because I think it is crucial to our understanding of faith.

Let’s break it down: Consequently/So.  This is important.  This verse is a conclusion to a point Paul was making.  While we love it as a memory verse, it is important to look back to what he is saying, starting back in vs. 13 or 14.  Basically, he is saying, there is only one God, the same God that Jews and Christians believe in and, yes, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but… hold the boat.. how can they call on the name of the one they don’t believe in? and how can they believe in the one they have not heard? and how can they hear unless someone preaches? how can someone preach without being sent? … but, despite all of that sending, preaching, hearing, many have still rejected:  Consequently…

Faith comes from hearing the word.  The point isn’t listening, or calling or preaching or anything else, it is faith and to get faith you must “hear” the word.  There are many places you can go with this.  Clearly, there are many things that are said during the day that we do not hear.  We have so many distractions, background noises, etc., maybe we miss an important alert.  But I don’t think that is what Paul is saying.  The Jews of his day clearly heard him.  They heard him clearly enough to have strong reactions to what he said.  5 x whipped, 3 x with a rod, 1 x stoned.  They got the message… but hearing the word did not convert into faith: why?

Hearing through/by the word of Christ.  They heard Paul’s words as Paul’s words.  We might hear an eloquent preacher or speaker.  But for it to become more than words we must open our ears to the source of the word: Christ.  See, the word is the middle part, and we love to start with the middle (I’ve eaten a few oreos and peanut butter cups in my day).  But for the words to really mean anything to be what they really are, to become faith we must understand and accept the source.  You can’t start with Faith unless you end with Christ.

So what do we do with faith?  Well, despite the Fiddler on the Roof song, the goal is not to sit in the temple and discuss the learned books with the holy men Seven hours every daidle deedle daidle dum.  We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works which God has prepared, in advance, for us to do.  Do you think God has work for you to do?  Let me help you: Yes.  Did God prepare you to do it?  Let’s see, you are His workmanship – oh, yeah, maybe he didn’t do a very good job (not!).   There is nothing wrong with being fed, and churches and BSF are great places to start growing and learning – but we are called for something more than being fed, we are called to work.