God’s Love For His Church

Ephesians 5:22-33 is the section about marriage. Christ’s love for His church is the template Paul used. Since I’ve never been married, my only example is what I have seen and heard through my years of counseling. Therefore I am going to focus on His love.

2 Corinthians 9:25 says that God’s grace is indescribable. I find that also true with His love. 1 John 4:7 says that God is love. Everything God does, allows, and orchestrates is done in love. As I was thinking about this I became overwhelmed with the power of His love toward us. We were dead in sin, alienated from the life of God. We didn’t even think about Him. Yet, He loved us enough to give His life to redeem us.

Here are just a few words to describe His love. You can add more. Unrequited. He died for everyone even though they may never receive Him. Unchangeable, steadfast, enduring, unconditional, immoveable, complete, unstoppable, indestructible, and it does not ebb and flow.

Jeremiah 31:3 says, “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” We had nothing, we were bound in sin, yet He drew us with His love, and gave us a heart to respond.

Now let’s go back to Ephesians 5:25-27. Christ gave Himself to sanctify or set apart a body of believers. Our hearts are cleansed as we daily read His word and practically apply it. Verse 27 says, “That He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

He uses marriage and the family to display His gospel. Singles are not exempt. He uses our lives as well. Every trial any of us goes through is divinely orchestrated to best manifest His love for us and through us to others. He perfects, or brings us to spiritual maturity, through what He allows. Let us embrace His process and purpose.

Synchronized Strength

Ephesians 5:20-21 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” As I was thinking about these two verses, I pictured what our natural body is like. God designed it to work as a whole, our brain being the head.

Our thoughts control our brain, and our brain controls our body. If we are mentally dialoguing with negative thoughts, chomping at the bit with anxiety, or wallowing in self pity what happens? When we are praising the Lord, giving thanks for everything, and worshipping Him with our whole heart what happens?

Now we take the Body of Christ into our thoughts. We know from 1 Corinthians 12 that it has many members. Verse 20 says, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.” Verse 25 says, “That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” Schism means: division, a split, a gap, or dissension.

This is where our synchronized strength comes from. The two verses in Ephesians 5 gave the pattern: thanksgiving and submitting to one another. Colossians 2:19 says that when we hold fast to the Head, His body flourishes. As we physically thrive when our body is functioning that way God designed it, so His body thrives.

We are knit together through His love that causes us to grow and increase. There are lots of ‘one another’ verses that help us follow the pattern the Lord set. Romans 12:10 is one of them. It says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brother love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

Dependence Versus Own Strength

Have you noticed that the things the Lord says ‘don’t do’ would be things done in our own strength? The things that He says ‘do’ would require absolute dependence on His grace-strength.

Ephesians 5:16-17 says to redeem the time, and to understand what the will of the Lord is. When we are in the center of His will, He directs us. His impeccable timing and orchestration help us to recognize the opportunities He sets before us.

Verse 18 says to not be overcome by anything that would cause us to waste away. Psalm 106:15 says, “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” This verse makes me tremble. Nothing is worth it!

Verse 18b-19 says, “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Here is the capstone. Verse 17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Anything that we do in the name of the Lord requires absolute dependence. We certainly don’t sin in the name of the Lord! I encourage you to think about what you do. Are you wasting time or seizing every opportunity the Lord sets up for you to share the gospel?

Weighing In On God’s Scales

I’m writing this to me, but I’m sharing it with you. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” Job 31:6 Amplified says, “Oh, let me be weighed in a just balance and let Him weigh me, that God may know my integrity!

Contrast Job’s life with king Belshazzar. God weighed him on His scales. Daniel 5:27 says, “Tekel: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.”

Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, Surely we did not know this, does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

In putting all these verses together I had to ask myself: How would my life weigh out on God’s scales? As I thought about the answer I considered this. Remember He told the church in Laodicea that they were lukewarm-not cold or hot. God’s scales would not be balanced. They would be tipped to hot or cold. There is no lukewarm in God’s kingdom. There is no straddling the fence.

Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6 to stir up the gift that was in him. 1 Timothy 4:14 he told him to not neglect the gift that was in him. 1 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.”

Haggai 2:19 says, “Is the seed still in the barn?…” Joel 1:17 says, “The seed shrivels under the clods, storehouses are in shambles; barns are broken down, for the grain has withered.”

We are sowers. Our nation is in trouble, but there is hope through the gospel. Here is my next question to myself: How do I weigh in God’s scale with evangelism? We must seize this opportunity. Hearts are fearful. No one knows what is going to happen next. They are looking for answers. We have the answer within us. Let us be about our Father’s business.

Where Are You Walking?

Ephesians 5:7 says, “Therefore do not be partakers with them.” The ‘them’ are those who are walking in darkness: fornication, all uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, or coarse jesting. Verse 8-10 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

Light penetrates darkness. We are living in dark times. Verse 15 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” Circumspectly means: carefully, exactly, strictly, distinctly.

There are so many verses in Proverbs about wisdom. Proverbs 2:10-12 says, “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.” Our nation is full of folks speaking perverse things. Don’t let that affect your testimony of light.

Grumbling and complaining is walking in darkness. The end of Ephesians 4:4 says, “…but rather giving of thanks.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the WILL of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Oh! How we all need to be reminded of this. It is God’s will for us to be an army of thanksgiving and praise.

A great example for us to remember and practice is found in 2 Chronicles 20:21. King Jehoshaphat appointed the singers, “…who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness…” The result? Verse 22 says, “Now when they BEGAN to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes…and they were defeated.”

Let us collectively BEGIN to sing and to praise. Isaiah 59:19 says, “…when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Our Victorious Conqueror is actively at work in our nation. Let us honor Him through our thanksgiving and praise!

Test For Authenticity

Ephesians 5:1 Amplified says, “Therefore…” What does the therefore go back to? 4:30 said to forgive AS we have been forgiven. The verse goes on to say, “…be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children (imitate their father).” Many years ago we had a family in our church of all girls. Then they had a little boy. We all were amazed when he began to walk. He walked just like his father more so than any other boy I have ever known. Ricky copied his daddy perfectly.

What was Christ’s example? Verse 2 says, “And walk in love, (esteeming and delighting in one another) as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God (for you, so that it became) a sweet fragrance.” Esteeming and unforgiveness are like oil and water. They don’t mix. Is there someone in your life that you cannot speak peaceably to? Are your thoughts towards them marinated in bitterness?

Philippians 2:2 says, “Fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Paul was writing to the church in Philippi, a group of people that he loved and prayed for. Philippians 1:7 he said that he had them in his heart.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul wrote, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Is your life an example for others? Do you live in the freedom of forgiveness? 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” The Lord is our standard in every aspect of our lives.

I love Hebrews 1:3 which says, “Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

‘Express image’ means the exact copy of representation. The Greek word is charakter. What does that look like to you? The Lord uses the trials He allows in our life to develop our character into Christ-likeness. We are to be His representatives. 2 Corinthians 5:18 says that He has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Verse 20 says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” Let us embrace our trials that are pressing us and conforming us to His image. As we go through the fiery trials, He is purifying our faith that we might represent Him through our thoughts, purpose, and actions.

Inner Defilement: Fruit Of Unforgiveness

I have read Ephesians 4:29-32 many times. I’ve even memorized it. Yet this time when I read it, the Holy Spirit showed me something I had not connected before.

We eat the fruit of our lives. So do others. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eats its fruit.” Ask yourself this: are the words that I speak to myself and others life-giving?

Our lives are to bear succulent fruit. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.”

The fruit of unforgiveness is poisonous! Paul described that heart-fruit as: corrupt or defiling words, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

Both the verse in Proverbs and Hebrews use a word that denotes something quick that can’t be retrieved. Have you ever said something that you wish you could have taken back, but it was too late?

The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 is: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Forgiving those who have hurt us, in the same way that the Lord has forgiven us, will bear fruit indicative that we are walking in His grace. Our fruit then will be gifts of grace to those who eat from the tree of our life.

United To Walk In Righteousness

Paul addressed some essential truths in the end of Ephesians 4. They are truths that we need to speak in our heart, walk in, and inculcate in our actions. Verse 25 sets the stage. It says, “Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for WE are members of one another.” We are the church. In order to walk united we need to be sincere.

1 Peter 1:22 says, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” In the days of dark bazaars, the vendors would cry out ‘sincere’ meaning there was no wax in their pots to cover up cracks.

Paul went on to explain how to walk in righteous victory with one another. Here is my paraphrase for verses 26-32. Repent of your anger before you go to bed, don’t allow unresolved issues to marinate in pride that produces bitter words and actions, do not quench the Holy Spirit, emulate the Lord’s character, and forgive in the same way that you have been forgiven.

Forgiveness is a choice, and to not forgive is sin which blocks our fellowship with God and those around us. Unforgiveness destroys from within, not only health wise, but it defiles the body of Christ. We will only be united in love, as we each walk in experiential truth that sets us free. United we will stand firm against the wiles of the enemy to divide and conquer. Let us collectively walk in His righteousness that will honor and glorify Him.

United Through Truth

In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul was reminding them of how they used to be: futile thoughts, understanding darkened, alienated from God, and past feeling in their debauchery. Verse 22 says, “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”

While he told them to put off their former way of life, he said to put on something in its place. Verse 23 Amplified says, “And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind (having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude).”

Paul wrote something similar to the church in Rome. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Conformed is like being pressed into a worldly mold or mindset. It is like they did in Nazi Germany through propaganda. Beware.

I love the word ‘transformed’ because I love butterflies. They speak to me of freedom from the past. No longer bound by crawling and eating leaves, but free to flit from flower to flower–drinking life-giving nectar.

Paul said that they were to put off in order to put on. It is a divine exchange. Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.” The butterfly doesn’t think like a caterpillar because it has been transformed through metamorphosis.

When we renew and saturate our minds with God’s truth, speak truth in our heart, we will walk in truth with others. That is the picture of the church. As we are united in truth, we will be a formidable force against the coercion of satan’s mold-forming tactics.

United To Grow

In Ephesians 4:7-16, Paul described God’s plan for growth in His body. He set in church leaders to equip His saints. Verse 13 says, “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Perfect in the Greek is telos which means mature or complete.

It reminds me of Philippians 1:6 which says, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” We are in the process of maturity.

Ephesians 4:16 helps us understand how this growth takes place within His body. It says, “From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

Colossians 3:14 says, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Again it is the Greek word that means maturity or completeness.

In a nutshell: we need each other to grow. Christ’s body is designed to function in synergy. One part supplies the need of the other. I was in Costa Rica on a mission trip. Our pastor-guide took us into a rainforest. He explained how the tall trees got the sun, but the low shrubs were always in the shade. They each supplied the nutrients the other didn’t have.

Synergy means: a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. 1 Corinthians 12:18 says, “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” May we grow where He has planted us. May we, the church, wholly reflect Him to those who are outside and in need of a Savior.