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Ephesians 5 

31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 

All right. I could’t take it any longer. I have to use some kind of statistic on the topic of marriage in our society today! Here it is.

In an recent Pew Research Center survey, adults were asked which statement was closer to their own viewpoint. The statements had to do with marriage and having children.

Statement #1

Society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority.

Statement #2

Society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.

Results? Here we go again United States divided!

4% answered “don’t know” “neither” or  “both equally”

The rest of the country?

Statement #1

46% of Americans think society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority.

Statement #2

50% of Americans say society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.

I guess the Bible is accurate once again in reflecting the human condition.

“This is a great mystery!”

The Bible doesn’t say everyone needs to get married and have children. Our best model of human life? Jesus. Didn’t marry. Didn’t have children.

But the overall message of the Bible is crystal clear. For everyone else, marriage and children are the foundation of well-being for society.

Now what if I don’t want to use the Bible as my criteria? Fine. Look at any research having to do with marriage and children.

Married with children-

Healthier. Mentally and physically.

Joy level-

Higher when married with children.

Satisfaction level-

Higher when married with children.

So, what is the mystery? The mystery is why something so obviously helpful in bringing well-being into our lives, and as a result, bettering the well-being of society, is not considered a priority for half our country!

When husbands and wives model the love Jesus has for people, society thrives. Always. When we become the kind of people who can devote ourselves to the well-being of those closest to us, everything else around us gets better in the long run.

ME

What are some of the qualities you see in marriages you admire?

Ephesians 2

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us…He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

What is this wall of hostility, this barrier between the Hebrews and the Gentiles, that Paul is talking about?

For the Hebrew people it’s all about patience. They are waiting for the day that by following the laws and regulations of their faith, they will be rewarded by their God. They may be exploited now, but the day of reckoning will come. The Hebrew nobodies will be the dominant culture and have all the wealth and power. They are the chosen people and the ones who will win out in the end.

Now, Paul is saying they have it wrong. God is blessing them by bringing them together with their oppressors and creating a new people. Not Hebrews and Gentiles, but God’s people. United through Jesus. Well, how do they experience this?

Hebrews no longer look at themselves as the only ones who are blessed because they follow God’s laws and some day they will prosper and dominate, and the Gentiles no longer pursue wealth and power in order to live an even more decadent life. Neither group can live in God’s ways under human power. Instead, God creates a new species.

Through Jesus, God makes it possible for the Hebrew people and the Gentile people to live with Him in shalom. That is where things are right between them and all things are right with God. It is only through the Holy Spirit that they can see this and do this. To live with the peace of God is only possible when you live with the justice of God. God is just and that is a family trait.

ME

When the oppressed come into power in world history, what usually happens?

Ephesians 2

But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

To be one with Jesus is to be brought to God. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Gentile now has hope. In fact, the Gentiles are now God’s people if they are united with Jesus. No longer separated from God, but rather becoming one with Jesus being in relationship with God.

When the Gentiles realize they have forgiveness of sin and are given a new life, they will start living life through God’s eyes. They will see the hurting and suffering that made their prosperity possible, and they will do something about it. Even to the point of being one with the Habiru’s. Really? That could happen? Really. It did happen.

ME

Jesus took God’s mission for Israel upon himself and completed it. What does this mean to you?

 

Ephesians 2

10 This is the explanation: God has made us what we are. God has created us in King Jesus for the good works that he prepared, ahead of time, as the road we must travel. 

 

The future of our country is way more dependent on how joyful, compassionate and humble Christians are than any political party or philosophy. It is God who made us to be like him. As we become more like Jesus, we do what he wants us to do, and in fact he has been preparing us to discover what he wants done to bring his ways of love, joy and compassion in the world all along.

Keeping with the metaphor of traveling on the road of life, how does God use us? I want to offer the picture of a bridge. On the road we travel, quite often Jesus makes us a bridge. Someone who connects Jesus to a friend; to a neighbor. A bridge. Someone who connects people from very different viewpoints to each other. A bridge. Someone who is used by God to be a bridge for the power of God to move from the heavens into the life of those in need.

Christians don’t put up walls to try to separate ourselves from the world. Christians build bridges. And Jesus, the master builder, is with us all the way.

ME

How has God used you to be a bridge lately?

 

 

 

Ephesians 1

19…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power? 20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power we have available to us. The power that puts Jesus, human like us now, in charge of the universe from the heavenly dimension- that kind of power. This doesn’t mean we can become magicians, a bunch of Harry Potters running around performing spectacular tricks to impress people. In fact, many of the things which God’s power achieves in us remain hidden from the world, even from other Christians. Things like taking on a life of prayer, putting secret sins to death, or forgiving someone who has deeply harmed us in the past. Resurrection power ought not be taken lightly.

But, here’s the thing. We aren’t all able to recognize this power. Remember, what Paul is saying when he prays we be able to see what people don’t normally see? This takes opening our spirit to the Spirit of the Lord. When we realize we are sons and daughters of the ruler of all, and when his dreams for his creation become our dreams, then he works through us to make it a reality.

ME

If Christians have resurrection power available, why isn’t it used that often?

Ephesians 1

17 I pray that the God of King Jesus our Lord, the father of glory, would give you, in your spirit, the gift of being wise, of seeing things people can’t normally see, because you are coming to know him 18 and to have the eyes of your inmost self opened to God’s light. Then you will know exactly what the hope is that goes with God’s call; you will know the wealth of the glory of his inheritance in his holy people;

Paul is letting the Ephesians know their faith in God is not in vain. Far from it, they are receiving two important visions, according to Paul. First, they are receiving vision of the glory of the coming kingdom which Jesus is bringing into reality. Second, they are seeing the power of God already available to them.

When we follow Jesus, like him, we are sons and daughters of  an adoring heavenly father who is also the ruler of the universe. We have the same authority as the King as we are princes and princesses. With our identity as God’s family, we are equipped with power to bless those around us. It is authority and power to make God’s ways the ways of the world.

ME

When have you experienced God’s power?

Acts 19

28 At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. 31 Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater.

Ephesus is known as a place of power. It is the capital of Roman Asia. Ephesus is also an important religious center. It is the sight of the Temple of Artemis- one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Artemis is the mother goddess of the ancient world. She is goddess of fertility, healing, and miracles. As a result, Ephesus is a city of sorcery and magic.

Paul spends three years in Ephesus. He works as a tentmaker for the Roman army during the day, with a break at midday to teach. The missionaries who reach all of the area of Turkey and the middle East are taught by Paul in this time. Paul is also known by the Ephesians. His teaching becomes so influential that he is hurting the tourist trade. Acts 19 tells the whole story.

It seems Paul is teaching about Jesus without denigrating the Ephesian pagan religion. Some of the city officials warn him he is in danger. Paul is friends with people who are choosing not to be Christians. In fact another official, the mayor of the city, probably saves Paul’s life, and some of his companions, by defending them to the riotous crowd.

ME

What does Paul’s model say about harshly criticizing other religions as an evangelism tool?

Ephesians 1

Yes, with all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the secret of his purpose, just as he wanted it to be and set it forward in him as a blueprint for when the time was ripe.

There have always been secret societies. Groups of people who identify with each other through elaborate secretive rituals. These may seem relatively harmless like the sororities and the fraternities you may have been part of. Other secret societies you may have heard of are groups like the Masons.

Human beings begin to develop their group identity around middle school. Who are my people and how is it my people act? are questions that are answered as we grow. We bond together when we share a common identity, but when it is secretive, it excludes. Not so with the Christian faith. Notice how God has revealed everything out in public.

But with God it takes time. God didn’t reveal himself all at once because people wound’t understand. The revealing of God’s plan is a slow process that built on the story of his people from the beginning. It is only in the time of Jesus that the world is ready to hear. When Jesus breaks into our time and space 2000 years ago, he brings God’s plan into clear focus. And one of the keys to being in the family of God is there is no exclusion.

This is why you find Christianity in all parts of the world. Not so with Islam or any other religious system. All worldviews outside of Christianity remain somewhat exclusive. They seem to work only in certain areas of the world or certain cultures.

But God the Father has a blueprint available for all. At its most basic it looks like this. Through trusting Jesus you love God, love your neighbor, and you become a blessing to those around you. There is no secret code or secret handshake, or secret writing or anything else that you have to know to know that you are his.

ME

How have you included people in your life who are different than you?

Ephesians 1

He chose us in him before the world was made, so as to be holy and irreproachable before him in love. He foreordained us for himself, to be adopted through Jesus the king. That’s how he wanted it, and that’s what gave him delight, so that the glory of his grace, the grace he poured on us in his beloved one, might receive its due praise.

We are chosen by God through Jesus before we were born. Actually, before the universe is born. We are his and he will never turn us away, but instead we have his pure love. We are connected to God through Jesus.

But notice we are not chosen for the sake of ourselves. We are chosen because of what God wants to do through us in his plans. That “the grace he poured on us in his beloved one, might receive its due praise.”

To be chosen is to go beyond salvation. Salvation is only part of the process. Salvation is the beginning and God moves beyond our salvation and works through us to fulfill his plan. Bringing in his Kingdom. Your actual life is the way God is bringing his Kingdom into the lives of people you influence.

And it’s the same for a community of Christians. A church community is not chosen for itself only, but that it is expanded out into the surrounding world so God can work through it.

And because God is most present where his work is being done, you are most vibrant when you are doing that work. Your church is most vibrant when it is doing God’s work in the world. Slowly American churches are discovering this.

It isn’t the size of your church that is a measure of God’s influence, it is the vibrancy of your people and how they are responding to work for God in the community.  The most effective mission work and Kingdom influence always occurs where few are gathered or one-on-one to have compassion and spread joy. This is the way large churches connect to their community. This is the way small churches connect to their community.

Kingdom influence isn’t about the stadium as much as it is the street.

ME

Americans are caught up in a celebrity culture. How does this affect the Christian Church?