:) Finally had some time! Next week should be fun... we're heading into some messianic prophecies... :)

Happy studying!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ephesians Chapter 4

 vs. 1-2- A Free Prisoner

- Paul starts out with a challenge. “I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling...” Wait... Paul's in PRISON because he was serving God... and now he's asking, BEGGING... ME to do the same thing he just got locked up for?

- We have been called by God. Whatever our calling is, whether it's a pastor, a teacher (both in church and out), a parent, a missionary, a helper, a cook, whatever it happens to be... Your place in life, IS your calling.

- Are you willing to serve God regardless of situation and position? Are you willing to stand up to challenges from your closest friends? To face death? Torture? Worse?

- Philippians 1:12-30, 4:11-13
- I Timothy 6:6-10
- Proverbs 30:7-9

- My dad used to be a janitor. Ok, not the best job in the world. However, he went to work every day with the mindset that this is my place in life and what does God want me to do with it. And it was amazing... He was the only daytime janitor at the county high school for between 1400 and 1600 students and 80-100 teachers and administrators. He was in charge of not only the cleaning and all the things in the school, but also the grounds keeping and sidewalks in the winter etc, as well as a lot of the maintenance things like changing filters for the AC...

- And he did his job well. (When he transferred to maintenance, they replaced his position with two and a half employees because they couldn't see how he'd done it all by himself... ha ha...) but in the midst of the busyness of the job... and it was BUSY... he found time to minister to those around him. Students used to call him the “Jesus Janitor”.

- My dad is also a singer/song writer. So the Christian Fellowship Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes would have him come in and speak every year and do some music and so on. And one of the English teachers had him come in every semester to talk to her kids about song writing and lyrics and poetic form IN REGULAR CLASS TIME. And at the end, she'd let them ask any and all questions... and he was free to answer how he wanted... so he spoke God when asked about it. ALL IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL DURING SCHOOL HOURS. No door is ever shut to God... : )

- The point is... be faithful wherever you are. Dad's calling at that point in time was to speak Christ at every opportunity. To be a living example to thousands of kids that he came in contact with just through his actions. Yeah he had a smelly horrible job some days... but you know what? Be faithful where you are and God will bless it. In spite of being ridiculously busy and tired, he did the job... and did it well... and God gave him the grace to get through the days and STILL opened doors for him to minister on top of everything else...

- Had he walked in every day grumbling and complaining about how horrible the job was and how much he hated walking in that building and oh my gosh there's so much work to do and I'm still tired from yesterday... He wouldn't have had the witness that he had... nor would God have opened the doors He did. Kids who graduated even before I did STILL see dad at the store or run into him at football games or something and they STILL remember him as the “Jesus Janitor” and STILL talk to him when they see him about God stuff. That STILL blows my mind. It's been 10 or 15 years for some of them... and they still remember...

- Luke 16:9-13
- Hebrews 13:5-6

- vs. 2 starts talking about all the things we are to exemplify in our daily walks. Humbleness. Gentleness. Patience. To make allowances for each other's faults BECAUSE OF YOUR LOVE. (“But God! HE did it. I didn't do it. He's gonna have to come apologize to ME cause it was NOT MY FAULT.” “But God! I can't go talk to THEM! They offended me!... 20 years ago... But I remember it like it was yesterday!”)

- Colossians 3:12-17

- Now... first of all... Humbleness. Being humble does not mean that you put yourself down any chance you get. Or that you let other people put you down. Humbleness means that you don't put yourself on a pedestal. You don't brag about what YOU'VE done. You don't look around and say “wow! Look what I'VE accomplished”... All glory is God's and is owed to HIM. When someone comes and says... wow... you did a GREAT job and starts showering you with praise... it's ok to feel good about what you've done... IF you remember that it's not about you... and IF you remember Who gave you the ability in the first place... You need encouraged and lifted up in your spirit... but you don't need to have your ego fed...

- Psalm 138:6
- Matthew 11:28-30
- Philippians 2:1-11
- James 4:7-10
- I Peter 3:8-12, 5:5-7
- Proverbs 11:2, 18:12, 29:23

- secondly, Gentleness. In our call to spread the gospel (for we as believers are all called to do so) we are not told to shove it down people's throats. In our actions and in our reactions, we need to be gentle. Gentle again, does not mean that you let everybody walk all over you. It means that when you speak a rebuke, when you have to have a conflict of opinion, when you have to be the consoler, the comforter, you do so with a softness of manner. (Yes, men, you have to be soft... drop all the manly macho stuff... you can cry, it's ok... : ) One of the definitions of Gentle in Webster's is “gradual, not sudden”. When I read this, I got this picture of someone walking up to a total stranger and SCREAMING in their face “Jesus loves you! But you're a sinner! And you're going to hell! Repent or burn in hell!” That's not gentle... and that's not a gradual thing. (I mean sometimes it takes something drastic... but if God's not telling you to do it... I think I'd try and avoid getting to rash and brash...) Sometimes, before a heart can turn to Christ it has to be softened... which takes time, and patience. When hard things are hit with a hammer... like... frozen chocolate... It crumbles, shatters. But if you let it soften, let it melt down a little, then it breaks very gently and it can be molded into the shape you need. God needs to break you, so He can remake you. But sometimes, massive amounts of force, aren't needed or would be more damaging than beneficial. A sculptor sometimes needs to hit a stone with a hammer and chisel to take big chunks off... but sometimes he only needs a rasp or a file... and sometimes a hammer and chisel in a wrong angle... will completely destroy the stone... knowledge of where and when and how to use what tool...

- Titus 3:1-2
- James 3:13-18

- Patience... wooo! Hard one... I had a friend once who said “never pray for patience... because God'll give it to you... and it won't be pretty.” And at the time... I laughed... but you know, I understand now what she meant... Patience is a work in progress... it's a process... God doesn't automatically give you patience... but He will put things in your life to help you learn how to have patience... And it's a HARD process! It's not fun! But without patience and perseverance... no one will ever come to know God. Just like gradually softening a heart... A lot of things about God are things that happen very slowly. Like a flower growing and blooming. Sometimes, you may not see the fruit of your labors. But have patience not only in your own walk, but also with people. People can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes it would be easier (in your mind) to grab them and shake them until they saw things sensibly, than it would be to keep gently working on them. We want to get in there and chip away all the rough edges with a hammer instead of a gentle rubbing from sandpaper or a file.

- James 5:7-11
- I Thessalonians 5:12-22

- Make allowances for each other's faults... Oh so sin is ok? NO! It means to give people room to grow. Room to mature. You don't expect a 2 hour old baby to be able to sit up and speak with perfect grammar and enunciation... let alone... sit up... ha ha... He has to be taught to understand, taught to copy sounds, taught to imitate... It's the same with Christians. You have to let them grow. When people mess up and do something stupid, you gotta let them figure it out and learn from their experiences.

- As a teacher, I see a lot of kids who learn really fast. They catch on to everything you teach them. And then there are those kind of in the middle. It takes some more time, but they'll get it eventually. Then there are the kids who really struggle. Who really have problems learning. I had one little girl, we were learning how to read music, and she has SO much trouble remembering basic things... like the alphabet. And I worked and worked with this kid... and about the time I was ready to give up... she GOT IT! Now I still sometimes had to prompt... but if given a small clue, she could find the answer. It took her longer than all the other kids... but eventually she got there...

- And the most joyous thing to me in a classroom... is to see the kid who learns sometimes seemingly faster than you can teach it, turn around and volunteer to help the kid who just can't seem to ever get it.

- To me, that is the picture of what we should be as patient and humble and gentle people. Making allowances for the learning curve. Being humble enough in our knowledge to be willing to help, being gentle enough that our help is accepted, and being patient enough to see the work through and see the fruit of our labor come to full bloom.

- Why? Because of our love. What love? The love that comes only through Christ. The kind of unconditional love that stretches beyond our comprehension. The kind of love that makes people wonder what kind of drugs you're on. Ha ha.

- Because God so loved us, so we in turn, should love others as He loved us. As He loves them... He died for them too... not just you... Will His sacrifice go unused? Unnoticed?

- I Corinthians 13

- Who will you reach out to today? Will you meet a need? Patiently, Gently, Humbly, With love...

vs. 3-6- One for all and all for One

- Paul starts on a theme in verse 3 that is carried through to verse 6. Oneness. Unity.

- There is ONE body, ONE spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, and ONE God and Father.

- One Body- the church
- One Spirit- The Spirit of God
- One Glorious Hope for the future- Salvation, heaven, freedom- through CHRIST.
- One Lord- Jesus Christ
- One Faith- In Jesus alone for our salvation
- One Baptism- Of the Holy Spirit
- One God and Father- Lord over all and in all and living through all.

- Colossians 3:12-17

- Why the stress on ONE? Well first of all... there is ONE way for salvation. There is no other path... Secondly, I was thinking about Christ. Had God sent more than one Christ, the gospel could have been spread faster and been in more places. It would have seemed more beneficial. However, more than one brings division.

- Had there been more than one Christ, people would have split. Even if the message was exactly the same, people would have opted to follow one or the other and wouldn't have been able to reconcile their differences just out of favoritism and pride.

- If there was more than one of any of the above, there would be division. We as a church have to be of one mind. (Christ is the head in which the mind is housed... and we should be in one accord with Him anyway.)

- In a marriage ceremony, the couple is joined to be ONE. If they remain separate... it means they don't have to take each other into consideration. They can each go their own way and not worry about the effects to the other person. You don't do a ceremony and take part of your vows out... The wife can't decide she wants to leave out the “in sickness and in health” vow... nor can the husband decide to skip over the “forsaking all others” vow... It's not a marriage then. You're just living in the same house with the same last name...

- Hebrews 13:4

- Church, we are a marriage into one body under Christ. One mind, body, and spirit. Christ's. Not ours. If we enter into the body of Christ with our own agendas, our own plans, our own desires, the body will fall. We will split apart and die. If your legs want to go in two different directions and they insist on pulling at each other, you're never going to make any progress, and eventually, you'll strain a muscle and it'll hurt... and if they get so determined that they get help from other outside forces, then your body will rend itself in half.

- vs. 3 says to “make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”

- When issues come, fix them! Every effort! In a marriage, when you start having problems, you have to be determined that nothing is going to pull you apart. That's the first step. If you love each other enough to get married, then you should love each other enough to stay together. Second step- talk, communicate. Figure out what the root of the problem is. Be brutally honest. It might hurt and you might need time to cool off... but it has to be done.

- This might be a little gross, but I think it's a good example. I've been dealing with an infected finger for months. And yesterday, I thought I finally had all the infection out... and it even started to heal... and then today, I hit it on something and more infection started coming out. Not a lot, but it was there. Had I not realized it was there and gotten rid of it... it would have been just as bad as before in no time. (gross I know... bear with me... there is a point... ha ha)

- If you don't get all the infection out of your relationship. If you don't push the limits. If you don't make certain that all wounds have been opened and cleaned... it'll just keep coming back. It will never be healthy. It might look like it's starting to heal... until that sore spot gets agitated again... and then all over again, all the old issues and pain and anger come right back up to the surface again. As soon as you realize there's still an issue, RESOLVE IT! The other person , may think everything is still ok... and if you don't address it, it'll sit and fester in your heart and damage YOU irreparably.

- Thirdly, if you yourselves can't sort things out by talking them out... seek counseling. Go get some Godly counsel from someone you trust. Doesn't necessarily have to be a professional counselor. A pastor will do fine. My parents have done so much marriage counseling over the years for couples who were their friends. Sometimes it just takes someone from the outside looking in.

- All this applies to our relationships within the church. When you enter the body of Christ, you have in effect married every other believer as well. You have been joined into ONE body, mind, and Spirit. When there's an issue. “MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO KEEP YOURSELVES UNITED IN THE SPIRIT.” Whose Spirit? God's!

- My grandmother has this horrible habit of getting upset with her siblings and then not talking to them for months at a time. Most of the time, they don't have a clue she's mad. But she'll sit and complain and gripe about this horrible thing they've done to her to all of us. And sometimes I think it's all in her head anyway... she finds the smallest things to make huge deals out of sometimes...

- But the point is, she sits and complains about being hurt, because they're supposed to love her and then they turned around and stabbed her in the back... and it might be as small as they just didn't answer their phone when she called that week... (maybe they're on vacation?) And you know... her siblings don't have a clue... They don't feel any of her pain. They don't even know they caused it... It doesn't harm their daily lives in the least... But HER'S. She's eaten up with bitterness and anger and pain over this stuff. And it does nothing but hurt HER life.

- What good does it do YOU to sit and nurse your pain? What good does it do YOU to hold bitterness close to your heart. What good does it do YOU to complain about things only YOU can change? Absolutely none...

- Being of one mind, body, and Spirit means that we should know when a part of the body is in pain and is hurting and do EVERYTHING in our power to help it heal.

vs. 7

- Being in one body does not do away completely with the fact that we are individuals.

- Each of us has been given a gift through Christ.

- footnote- “All believers in Christ belong to one body; all are united under One Head, Christ Himself (I Corinthians 12:12-27). Each believer has God-given abilities that can strengthen the whole body. Your special ability may seem small or large, but it is yours to use in God's service. Ask God to use your unique gifts to contribute to the strength and health of the body of believers.”

- A gift is something you're good at. And you can't say that there's NOTHING you're good at... Your gift can be anything from cleaning the church every week, to encouragement, to music, to preaching. Just because you're not up front doing something “big” doesn't mean you don't have a gift. Not everybody can be a finger, or an arm, or a leg, or a hand. Each part of the body has to be present in order to have a whole body. If you just have arms... you can't walk anywhere. If you just have legs, you can't do anything once you get there...

- footnote- Our oneness in Christ does not destroy our individuality. The Holy Spirit has given each Christian special gifts for building up the church. Now that we have these gifts, it is crucial to use them. Are you spiritually mature, exercising the gifts God has given you? If you know what your gifts are, look for opportunities to serve. If you don't know, ask God to show you, perhaps with the help of your minister or Christian friends. Then, as you begin to recognize your special area of service, use your gifts to strengthen and encourage the church.”

- A gift is something of service. A gift is not something that glorifies you... A gift is something that edifies the body and brings Glory to God.

- Romans 12
- I Corinthians 12

- So what's your gift of service? Where/How can you serve in your church/community/home?
- What gifts do you see present in your church? How can you as a church use those gifts to serve each other and your community?

vs. 8-10- Our Mighty King

- verse 8 is a quote from Psalms.

- footnote- “In Psalm 68:18, God is pictured as a conqueror marching to the gates and taking tribute from the fallen city. Paul uses that picture to teach that Christ, in His crucifixion and resurrection, was victorious over Satan. When Christ ascended to heaven, he gave gifts to the church...”

- This is a different picture of Christ than we sometimes get. We see Him as a loving Father gently coming to teach His wayward children and loving unconditionally and healing all the sick... We forget sometimes that He's also a mighty King.

- The rest of vs. 8 and 9 especially... I really had a hard time with... I just wasn't sure how to interpret these verses completely... so I asked for help from a former religion professor of mine, Gary Garden... His answer and explanation are below:

First off, in verse 8, Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18. David prophesied about what would happen when Christ came. In verse 17, he writes that God would be among the believers even as He was among the children of Israel when He cut covenant with them on Sinai. Then David foretold some of the events that would happen in the spiritual realm when Christ would come.

Paul went on to say in verse 9 that Christ did not only ascend up into heaven, but that He also first descended into the lowest parts of the earth, so that the Scripture could be fulfilled that He is above all things and fulfilled all things [Eph 1:23].

Paul was simply explaining the unity of our faith, the prophecy of the Word, and the gifts of the ministry were all to the end that we would all be one in Jesus [see John 17].

Paul is referring to the sequence of events that happened between "it is finished" on the cross and Jesus seated on the throne. Many Christians are not informed in what the Scripture says about these events, but they are vitally important to our faith. I will try to reproduce here what I taught in several meetings and as part of a WVCU class.

What happened from the cross to the throne?

1. Jesus died spiritually when He became sin [Matt 27:46; Psalm 22; Psalm 51:9; II Cor 5:21; Eph 2:1-9]. To "die" doesn't mean to "cease", but to be separated from God.

2. Until Jesus died spiritually, it was not possible for Him to die physically. Jesus died spiritually so He could enter hell the way that men do: as the result of sin. If He entered as deity He couldn't really be our substitute. Therefore, Jesus took on sin, died a physical death, and descended into hell [Eph 4:9-10; Acts 2:23-27; Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 13:29-34; Psalm 88].
3. After suffering spiritual and physical death, Jesus was born again [Isa 53:9-12 -- the original text says "deaths", plural -- Rom 4:25; Rom 8:29; Psalm 2:7-9; Col 1:14, 18; Heb 12:23; I Tim 3:16; Heb 2:9].

4. After being justified, Jesus defeated satan and took from him the keys of death and hell [Col 2:15; Heb 2:14; Rev 1:18; Mark 16:17-18; Matt 28:18-20].

5. Jesus preached to all those who were in hell, both the lost and those justified by faith. In the OT, the place was called "Sheol" or "Abraham's bosom". The Greeks referred to the place as "hell". The location of this place was in the center of the earth. In Luke 16, the story of the rich man and Lazarus explains the situation. Abraham was waiting for the Messiah. When Peter quoted David [Acts 2, see above], David was referring to waiting in this place for the Messiah.
After Jesus defeated the devil, He preached to the lost and the justified. To the justified, He proclaimed Himself as Messiah, and they entered into rest. To the lost, He confirmed them in their disobedience. There wasn't one last altar call...their judgment was confirmed [I Pet 3:18-20; I Pet 4:6].

6. The portion of hell that was reserved for the justified was also referred to as "Paradise". Jesus took Paradise with Him into heaven when He ascended. The fact that the Word says that "captivity" -- those who had passed on and were waiting in Abraham's bosom -- were led "captive" means that that they aren't up in heaven celebrating while we're still down here. They are entered into the "rest of the Lord" [see Heb 4 and Psalm 127:2]. So when Jesus ascended, He relocated Paradise into heaven. The place of torment remained in the lowest part of the earth [Eph 4:8; II Cor 12:2-4; John 3:13-15; II Cor 5:6-8; I Thess 4:13-15].
7. Jesus had to take His own blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies to present it once and forever as the sacrifice for sin. Before going, He actually stopped to comfort Mary Magdalene -- she wasn't allowed to touch Him because He was sanctified, as the high priest would be, for presenting the offering [John 20:15-17; Heb 9:11-24; Ezek 36:25-28; Num 19:17-19; Psalm 51:7; Isa 52:15].

So this is what happened from the cross to the throne. In Ephesians 4, Paul was referring to this sequence of events, filling in what happened in the spiritual realm to give unity to our faith as well as to make the case for unity in our faith.

vs. 11-16- Gifts to the Church, The Body of Christ.

- Christ, after conquering Satan, gave us gifts. The mighty King bestowed on His children, gifts.

- The gifts listed here are: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Notice all five have something to do with teaching and discipling. And it doesn't say that He's giving a few people these gifts for their own benefit.

- verse 12 says they have a responsibility. Their job is to “equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Remember the body? Remember all the parts? The church as a whole, somewhere always has these people working under GREAT RESPONSIBILITY for the growth and edification of the church.

- Not everyone will have one of these gifts... partly because it is a great responsibility and it takes someone with a heart that is humble, and gentle, and patient...

- Their job is to teach and preach and build UNTIL... “we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”

- um... k... well... I don't know about you... but I do not see such unity of the faith that says we measure up to the full and complete standard of Christ... nor do I think that this is something that will be accomplished in our lifetime... but only in our death and ultimately in the family that will be heaven...

- So what these couple of verses say to me is that there will never be a time to quit. Never a time to slack off in teaching, preaching, evangelizing, prophesying, and discipling until we die and come into the fullness of what God intended for us to be. What He had in mind for us from the beginning... But we can strive for that to the best of our ability now...

- The Message reads this section as follows: “He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.”

- Wow... This brings a picture to mind of a well-oiled machine, all parts working together as they should, producing what they're supposed to, when they're supposed to... wow.

- All the rough edges are worn off, there's no conflicts, we're just working side by side in total harmony, towards one purpose, fully alive in Christ. That's such an awesome picture.

- The next section talks about maturity and what we can accomplish when we become spiritually mature.

- Again, reading from the Message (just because this is worded so great...) “No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”

- Part of the reason this caught my attention was the wording “No prolonged infancies”. I was reminded of going to churches as a little kid and seeing elderly people stand up and give testimony something like “I was saved 30 years ago and filled with the Holy Ghost.” And every time you went that was their testimony. There was nothing NEW in their walk with God. They were content to know that they had been saved from Hell however many years ago. That was enough. They didn't grow any DEEPER!

- I Corinthians 14:20

- It's great to give testimony of the fact that you've been saved from the fiery pits of hell... but what's God doing in your life NOW? How is He moving? How is He changing you? What's He accomplishing in your life?

- There's a lady in my church who's in her 80's... and her testimony is that she was in church all her life... taught Sunday School, the whole bit... but not until she was in her 50's did she come to KNOW Christ. Then she was saved. Wow. How can you go to church every Sunday for YEARS and not NEED anything deeper?

- People are too content to go to church, sit in a pew or a chair and hear a message with half an ear and then go home feeling like they did their duty for the week.

- Hebrews 5:11-14 is a rebuke for those who are still drinking spiritual milk and not moving on to solid food. GROW UP!

- Because once you do! OH! You won't be tossed and blown around by new teachings. You won't sit around wondering what is really truth. When people tell you you're wrong in your faith, you'll know you're not! You'll know a lie when you hear it!

- We won't be influenced by those who are trying to trick us by twisting the truth. We'll see the traps before we ever get there.

- We will speak the truth in love. LOVE. Not anger, not pain, not frustration. LOVE.

- We will grow in EVERY WAY more and more like Christ. Is that not the ultimate goal? If we get saved, but then don't let God change our hearts... we're like a kid who goes and plays in the mudslide and then rinses off with the water hose. He's not clean! He's not been changed! He took some surface dirt off... did he clean out his ears? Under his fingernails? There's still dirt there! Let the Holy Spirit be your soap and clean you FULLY and COMPLETELY!

- My brother and I used to go play in the creek when we were kids... build dams, catch tadpoles and little minnows... and when we came inside... you didn't just get in the tub and get back out... we learned real quick that we couldn't just get in and sit in the water and then get out and wipe the dirt off on the towel... Mom was not satisfied with leaving us dirty. If you didn't wash off well... she was going to get you down and scrub you off whether you liked it or not...

- God is not satisfied with wiping some surface dirt off. He wants you to grow and mature to the point that you WANT to be clean ALL THE TIME! That you know when you're dirty and come ask for His help to get it off! And to be who He created you to be!

- I Peter 3:21

- Christ is the head of the body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together. Each part has its own job to do. In the process of doing the job, that part, helps the other parts to grow.

- If you go to the gym every day and just lift weights with your right side... eventually, your right side will be muscular, strong, big... and your left will be skin and bones and just as weak as ever. If one part of the body is working, it encourages the other parts to work as well. So then the whole body will be healthy and growing... and full of love.

- Love is being stressed a lot in this chapter. It is one of the main aspects of our Christianity. To love God, and one another. Without love, the body cannot accomplish it's main purpose of spreading the gospel.

vs. 17-19- The World's View

- Now this gets hard.

- Paul says we are not to live as the Gentiles (the world). They are hopelessly confused, walking in darkness.

- The Message says it like this: “And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can't think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.”

- Wow... is that not our world today?

- I had a guy friend once tell me that he had come to the conclusion that rape wasn't as big a deal as people sometimes tried to make it out to be... and I sat in complete shock as he explained his reasoning... He had a female friend who had been raped multiple times (because she had a horrible habit of putting herself in bad situations... like allowing herself to get drunk in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people, or trying to walk home in the middle of the night from really bad parts of town while half drunk or high...) And he said she didn't care anymore. She didn't remember half of the times, but that it didn't bother her anymore... it was just something you had to deal with... and so this man now has this thought in his mind that rape isn't a big deal for girls like some people try to make it out to be because his friend has been through so much that she's locked herself away. She's also tried to commit suicide multiple times, she's now living in a lesbian relationship because she doesn't think a man can ever see her other than as a sex tool (and there was no effect on her?????) And so here's a young man with the thought that... eh... it's not a big deal... How many more are like that?

- I have heard so many similar stories... People are deceived in their thought processes. Nothing is supposed to hurt us anymore. We're not supposed to be affected by anything. We're supposed to be immovable. Unshakable.

- “feeling no pain” or as the NLT says “they have no sense of shame”. No guilt for acts committed. No conscience. Minds so numbed by all that they've seen and done by early ages that nothing affects them anymore.

- Our kids today have seen so many bad things, that it's hard not become numb. I have foster kids walk into my classroom every day who've seen more abuse and torture in their young lives than anybody should ever have to face. There was a 1st grader whose arms and hands are scarred from her mother putting them in boiling water to “clean” them. There was a 2nd grader whose legs were so scarred... looked like whip beatings or knife cuts... thin scars... that you could barely see skin in between the scars... scars upon scars. Kids in Kindergarten who've endured sexual abuse from parents and older family members. Kids who sit and literally tremble with the fear that their parents are going to get out of jail and find them... or scream in terror if someone touches them... or refuse to talk to much of anybody because they've been hurt so many times that they don't wanna ever let anybody in ever again for fear of being hurt again...

- NOBODY should ever have to deal with that. Let alone the innocent. What's going on in people's minds that they somehow can justify these actions? What makes it ok in their minds for them to do it?

- It's because they don't have God. Remember I asked last week or the week before... where would you be without God? Right here... living for lustful pleasure and eagerly practicing every kind of impurity (paraphrased).

- Romans 1:18-32, 2:1-16
- I Thessalonians 4:1-12

vs. 20-24- Spring Cleaning!

- But Christ teaches something different. His truth is that you throw off the old sinful nature. That you give up your former way of life. That you allow the Spirit to renew your thoughts and attitudes. Become a new creature made to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

- When Christ enters and starts cleaning... it's not an automatic process. Nor does He go where you don't allow Him to. There's a song called “Secret Places” by Steve Chapman (not Steven Curtis... just Steve...). The lyrics are below:

My heart is like a house, one day I let the savior in
There were many rooms, we would visit now and then
But one day He saw that door, I knew the day had come too soon
I said Jesus I'm not ready, for us to visit in that room

Cause it's a place in my heart, that even I won't go
I have some things hidden there, I don't want no one to know
But He handed me the key, with tears of love on His face
Said I wanna make you clean, Let me go in your secret place

Then He opened up the door, and the two of us walked in
I was so ashamed, His light revealed my hidden sin
But when I think about that room now, I'm not afraid anymore
Cause I know my hidden sin, no longer hides behind that door

Cause it's a place in my heart, that even I wouldn't go
I had some things hidden there, I didn't want no one to know
But He handed me the key, with tears of love on His face
Said I wanna make you clean, Let me go in your secret place

- When we let Christ in our hearts, eventually, He's going to start digging out even the dust bunnies in the corners. Everything eventually has to be cleaned. He doesn't walk in the doorway, give you a hug, and then blast the place with Holy Water... It's a process. It says let the Spirit renew your thoughts. That means a redoing. When the Spirit comes, it's new... but there has to be a REnewing as well later on.

- Christ walks in the house of your heart and starts a tour. And when He gets to the rooms you didn't have time to clean before He got there (not that you can clean yourself anyway. It'll always be like trying to clean with a dirty rag... or a sweeper that doesn't suck... or a muddy mop...) He wants you to let Him open the door and do a thorough house cleaning with the right tools and cleaners.)

- Colossians 3:1-17
- Romans 6

- What are some things God wants to clean out of your life? Has He been dealing with you about something for a while... and you just don't want to give it up?
- If God has put His finger on something in your life recently, or even a while ago... and you just couldn't give up control... think about what you're doing... Pray for strength... and then... be obedient to the call of God...
- If you haven't felt convicted of anything at all lately... check yourself... are you letting your heart become hardened to guilt? Are you pushing God away so you can live life the way you want to? Ask God to soften your heart and show you areas that He wants to fix...
- Allowing the Master to change us is hard... It hurts. It's painful... but without that little bit of pain and discomfort... we will never grow deeper in God or in our faith... and we will never be the vessel that He can use the way He needs and wants to... Nor will we have the life, full and overflowing, like the one He wishes to give to us.

vs. 25-32- Taking Out the Trash

- Some of the things He might want to clean out of your life:

- lying (but it's just a little white lie.... IT'S STILL A LIE!)- God says to tell your neighbors the truth for we are all part of the same body. Lie to one part, you're lying to yourself.

- I Peter 3:10
- anger (but they started it and I'm gonna stay mad till they apologize... WRONG!)- Don't go to bed angry. Don't let the roots of anger and bitterness grow while you sleep. Go work it out or at least get down and have some words with God about it. Make sure your heart is not allowing anger to take control.

- Matthew 5:43-48

- stealing- Instead use your hands for good hard work, and then GIVE GENEROUSLY TO OTHERS IN NEED. This is a hard statement. Not only is he asking you not to steal... he's asking you to take your hard-earned cash, cash you earned so you wouldn't HAVE to steal and give it away!

- and here's a hard one... foul OR ABUSIVE language... (ouch... that covers cussing, words spoken in anger, nit-picking, demeaning words, putting others down, making light of another's hard work or effort... doesn't have to be something done in anger... Use your words to be an encouragement to all those who hear them. That includes the random stranger walking on the other side of the street...

- Get rid of bitterness. All of it.- All those people who hurt you? Forgive them. All those people who wronged you? Forgive them. Get over it and let it go, because until you do... it's just hurting you.

- Matthew 5:23-26, 38-42

- Rage and Anger. Rage is different than anger. Rage is a short burst of great anger. It's violent. It's sudden. And it's over quickly. Anger is a burning. Inflamed. A smoldering. This may build into rage...- Get rid of it. Let go. When you get mad, pray. They always have this saying that when you get mad, count to 10 and by the time you get to 10, you should be starting to cool off... well ok, count to 10, and pray while you do... Words spoken in anger can be the most damaging... And when rage boils over? Walk away. Do not let Satan engage you in anger. He will use it as a tool to destroy every relationship you hold dear.

Matthew 5:21-22

- Harsh words- again, they will kill every relationship you hold dear. Don't speak out in anger. Think before you speak. Weigh your words out. See if it's something you should indeed say.

- Matthew 12:33-37

- Slander. Gossip. Things that you say idly. Nothing that you say should ever be harmful. “oh well it won't hurt anybody... just telling it like it is... just letting people know what's going on...” no.... It doesn't work that way. If your best friend finds out that you've been airing their dirty laundry for all the world to “so people can pray about it”, I doubt they're going to be so happy with you... Be careful of what you say and how you say it.

- I Peter 3:9

- All types of evil behavior. Well then... that left no gray areas. Any kind of evil behavior is to be destroyed in your life. “but it's not EVIL...” ok... so is it Holy? God called you to live a holy life... you may not consider it evil, but is it holy? It has to be one or the other... there is no gray areas with God...

- I Peter 2:1

- Going back up to verse 30...

- vs. 30 says “do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” Isaiah 63:10 says “But they rebelled against Him and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He became their enemy and fought against them.” Matthew 12:31-32 says “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” And remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11). They lied to the Holy Spirit... and God struck them down dead... Why is the Spirit so stressed? (Much of this... I'm not prepared to teach right now and I don't think now is the time to give a HUGE side lesson on the Holy Spirit... but I'm going to hit on a few things that I feel are related to this verse... hopefully I don't get too off topic...)

- The point is, don't live a double life. God knows... The Spirit knows... and trying to live the “right” way while your heart is black with sin... is throwing dirt in God's face.

God has called you His own. He has taken you under His wing. Taught you all He can... and you turn around and do the opposite of what He's been trying to teach you! It's like in a football game... If the coach has taught you all the plays and all the moves you need and he calls a play, he expects you to follow it. If he knows that this play is going to work, and you look at it and go... there's no way that's gonna work, I'm gonna do this instead... and then you end up fumbling the ball and losing yardage... your coach is not gonna be happy with you... He's going to feel sorrow... (and probably a few other things... but for sake of illustration we'll leave it there... : ) Christ called you His own. His child. So act like one. Act like you've seen your Father act and are following in His footsteps.

- Paul sinned. He was a murderer. Hunted down Christians... but he was forgiven. Ananias and Sapphira... lied. In our human minds... Paul was much worse. His sin much more dark and evil. But God forgave Paul... and struck Ananias and Sapphira down. Why? Because Paul was a heathen. Living outside the kingdom. Not yet accepted as a child of God. (I Timothy 1:12-17) Ananias and Sapphira? Were Christians. Were claiming the name of Christ. (Hang on... there's a light at the end of the tunnel... promise...)

- As a sinner, you have the opportunity to be forgiven. As a Christian, you know right from wrong and should try your hardest to avoid the wrong. Hebrews 10:26-31 says that “if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God's judgment and the raging fire that will consume His enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God's mercy to us. For we know the one who said “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge His own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

- Yikes! :0 Now this sounds as if there is no hope left. Because we all know we fail. Miserably. Every day, 80 times a day... However... when Ananias and Sapphira went in to give the money to Peter... they went in with a made decision to rebel against all that they knew was right... and for their own selfish gain. It wasn't something that was an accident or a temptation that they fell into... it was a conscious decision to lie to God... The key word in the above verse... is DELIBERATELY.

- And when Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, He always told them that they were hard of heart. God gives you second, and third, and fiftieth chances... But when you deliberately, on purpose, make the decision to sin over and over again... and are still claiming the name of Christ? Christ doesn't associate His name with sin. When we become Christians, we are changed creatures. He starts cleaning and changing us to fit who we were meant to be... He doesn't leave you the way you were. But if you rebel, and grieve the Holy Spirit, then He will become your enemy. And if you continue to brush God off and continue to persist in your sin... He will harden your heart so that your conscience doesn't register guilt. (Just like my friend up above.) He will leave you where you are if you insist on staying there... and the end result will be a final judgment landing you in a pit of fire for all eternity...

- Psalm 78

- Paul says all this to come to the conclusion that INSTEAD of doing all of the above to be: kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Just as God forgave you through Christ. You can't forgive someone and still hold a grudge. You can't forgive someone and still be angry. You can't forgive someone and not be kind to them. You can't be truly kind and be angry. You can't be tenderhearted and feel resentment and bitterness... Being a follower of Christ means being an imitator of Christ. The perfect picture of kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness...

- So who are you following? Who does your life imitate?
- Are you allowing yourself to be molded and shaped to look more like the Creator?

- I Peter 3:13-17, 2:11-17
- James 1:19-27
- II Corinthians 6:3-18

No comments:

Post a Comment