Saving Faith

Guest Blogger: Zac Ethridge

What is saving faith? Does someone have to persevere to the end to have eternal life? If so, how do we persevere to the end?

Hebrews 3:14 says, “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Confidence in what, we might ask? Well, certainly not ourselves! The confidence is in Christ and his work! Hebrews 10:19 says that “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” But the word “if” is so important. We have only become true believers “if we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” True salvation has a confidence in Christ that produces persevering repentance.

Saving faith will always reveal itself through perseverance.

But what about eternal security? You may be thinking, I thought Baptists believe in “once saved, always saved?” Well, I don’t believe you can lose your salvation. There seems to be an unbreakable chain of events in Romans 8:30—“…those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Or as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Or as Jesus said in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

So I do believe in “once saved, always saved.” But, as Pastor Chip Dean once told me, we do NOT believe in “once prayed, always saved.” Jesus said on two occasions, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13). Just because someone walked the aisle or repeated a prayer doesn’t mean they have saving faith. The truest measure of faith is obedience. Faith is the root and obedience is the fruit. If you have real saving faith it will reveal itself through persevering obedience. That doesn’t mean our obedience is perfect (it’s definitely not), but it does mean that the trajectory of our lives is toward Christ and repentance.

So if perseverance is required, how do we persevere? Start by not assuming your own perseverance. Paul wrote, “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Be diligent! Casual Christianity won’t inherit the Kingdom. The devil loves it when people sleep walk through life assuming they are saved. He loves it when unbelievers have a false assurance and wake up in eternity to find out they are lost. These verses are meant to make sure we don’t do that! Below are three essentials to perseverance.

Faith

Those who crossed through the Red Sea didn’t enter the promise land because of unbelief (3:19). This text warns us not to have an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief seems to be less about what our minds think and more about what our hearts love. True saving faith is more than just an intellectual agreement with a series of facts about Jesus. Saving faith is an embracing of those gospel truths. It’s a treasuring of Christ. If you are wondering whether or not you have saving faith, the question to ask is: do you really love Jesus? I don’t mean do you love salvation or heaven or blessing? I mean do you really love Him.

Obedience

Unbelief was the condition of their hearts, but rebellion was the condition of their lives (Hebrews 3:15-18). Emphasizing obedience may not sound like a gospel of grace to you, but it is part of the gospel the New Testament teaches. Jesus’ gospel was repent and believe (Mark 1:15). Peter’s gospel in Acts was repent (Acts 2:38, 3:19). Paul said we “should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).

So often we want salvation without actually surrendering to God. But that’s not the gospel God has offered to us. Heaven is a holy place, ruled by a holy God, and populated by a holy people. Here’s what I’m getting at: Anyone who isn’t serious about dealing with his sin in the present isn’t serious about entering heaven in the future.

Daily Exhortation

Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” We need each other! We have to start taking collective responsibility for each other’s perseverance. You need to give other people the green light to speak into your life. The goal is to make it to “the end” (Hebrews 3:14) but the command is to exhort “every day.” The point is this—The only way to persevere to the end is to live for Christ one day at a time.

So, here are some questions to ask in closing: What are you doing to cultivate a heart of faith? What steps are you taking to repent of sin and obey God? And finally, who’s exhorting you and who are you exhorting?

Relationships

More important than position or possessions, are the relationships we have in life. God is in the business of healing our relationships. The number one relationship in life is your relationship with God. Your relationship with God is going to influence and determine all others. As we continue through Ephesians, we’ll see that Paul offers insight into three particular types of relationships. In each of these, we learn a very important and common necessity, “submission.” Submission is not a popular word; however, Christians are not called to be politically correct, but to be spirit-filled and to submit to one another. “…submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).

Husband and Wife
If the husband is submitted to the Lord, and the wife is submitted to the Lord, they will have no problem submitting to one another. Ephesians 5:22-33 elaborates on the marriage relationship. Of this passage, only four verses are to wives and 9 verses are to husbands. Husbands have the greater responsibility! They are called to be the head of the wife. Paul’s teaching has nothing to do with superiority/inferiority. Anything with two heads is a freak and anything without a head is dead! More than authority, Paul is talking about responsibility. Husbands, lead your family. Lead by loving your wife, providing for her, putting her before yourself, kids, and work. Be a spiritual leader. Don’t be passive or absent.

Verse 33 says, “…let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” The home is built on love and respect. He submits by showing her love. She submits by showing him respect. Every man wonders if he has what it takes; every wife can convince her man that he does. Ladies, affirm your man. Be proud of his accomplishments, or at least his attempt to try. Submitting to your husband does not mean dominance. He is not Lord, but you submit because of the Lord, as a way of serving the Lord. A woman needs unconditional love. A man needs unconditional respect. You get what you want by giving what the other one needs.

Parent and Child
In chapter 6, Paul talks about the relationship between a parent and child. Children are told to obey and honor their parents. Obedience has to do with actions and is temporary. Honor is an attitude and is lasting. Parents are told to bring their children up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (v. 4). Some parents are too authoritarian and do not exercise love. Others are too permissive and do not exercise discipline. Tammy and I are not perfect! A couple tips we give are the ABC’s. First, have Aauthority over their attitude and actions. Obedience is not optional. Start early. B– set boundaries for their behavior. The best example is livestock in a fence. In fenced land, they have everything they need and room to grow. Set limits, but give freedom within. C– enforce consequences with consistency.

Employer and Employee
In Ephesians 6:5-9, Paul shifts to talk about the employer/employee relationship. Twice in this passage he mentions the heart. He is in no way condoning what we in the Western world think of when we say “slavery.” Paul is referring to indentured servanthood, a voluntary contract that didn’t last for a lifetime and that was not based on race. These instructions Paul gives apply to employees and employers. This is what it looks like to be a Christian at work. God is your real boss. You don’t work for “them,” you work for “Him”. Never just do the minimum required. Get rid of a get by attitude. Always do your best.

How are you doing in your relationships at home? How are you doing in your family relationships? How are you doing in your work relationships? If you are struggling in these relationships it may be because the number one relationship in your life is not right. Submit to God today. Ask Jesus to take control of your life, home, family, and work.

Lifestyle

It’s good to be back! I appreciate Dalton preaching for me and doing the blog post while I was away last week. This week, we will continue our study in Ephesians 5, looking at three ways we can honor the Lord through our lifestyle.

Walk Up
Three times in chapter 5 Paul uses the word “walk.” He starts off saying, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us …” (v. 1-2). There is nothing like seeing a child take their first steps. Remember when you saw your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew learning to walk? In the same way, God wants to see His children learning to walk spiritually. Walk refers to lifestyle. What we think, what we say, what we do, should all be characterized by love. God is love. God’s love for us is sacrificial. His love is giving and it’s also forgiving. Jesus said to love one another, but He also said to love our enemies. Loving your enemies can only come from loving God. This is an upward walk. The road to the next level is always uphill. Anyone can go down. It is hard to walk up, but that is where we grow stronger and healthier!

Wake Up
Ephesians 5:14 says, “Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” Don’t walk in darkness. Don’t just go with the flow. When you walk in darkness, you go based on feelings. You also run into a wall! Don’t follow your heart and trust your feelings. Follow Jesus and what the Bible says.

Verses 3-13 give insight on how to wake up. We are to rid ourselves of fornication. Fornication means immorality. It’s where we get the word pornography. We are going to talk more about relationships, marriage, and family next week, but the Bible says sex is a sacred union between a husband and wife who have made a covenant to God. We are to put away uncleanness, greed, foolish talking, coarse jesting, and idolatry. Jesus is the Light of the World. Life is all about His majesty and His glory. Unbelievers live in darkness and darkness lives in them. It is a new day! Wake up! Stop sleepwalking.

Wise Up
Verses 15 and 17 warn us to be wise and not unwise. The surrounding verses tell us how. Verse 16 says, “redeeming the time.” A wise person makes the most of their time. Are you a good steward of your time? Do you plan your time/day? Life is short. Once it is gone you cannot get it back. Don’t waste time, or spend time, but invest your time. Verse 17 says, “understand what the will of the Lord is.” Every day we make choices between doing God’s will or our will. Understand the will of God for your life. Verse 18 warns us not to be drunk. It is all a matter of control. A drunk is under the control of a substance. Christians should be under the control of the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled daily (continuous action) with the Holy Spirit. We leak! Verse 19 says we are to speak to one another, “making melody in your heart to the Lord….” How do you talk to one another? Who do you spend time with?

This passage closes in verse 20: “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Chesterton said, “The saddest moment in the life of an atheist is when he realizes he has something for which to be thankful but no one to thank.” It is the will of God that you give thanks. Do you know the Lord? Do you thank Him daily?

Time here on earth is coming to an end. Eternity is when time will be no more. Don’t waste time or kill time, make sure you prepare now for where you will spend eternity forever! The devil’s tactic is delay. Don’t delay in getting right with God!

Get Healthy

Guest Blogger: Dalton Stoltz

Pastor Grant recently challenged all of us to take steps towards getting healthy physically before summer. I’m working on getting healthy and I have lost over 50 pounds in 60 days. On this journey, I’ve learned that nothing in life worth having is easy, and getting healthy isn’t easy. People can’t get healthy halfheartedly, they must be all in and the same applies spiritually. You can’t follow Christ halfheartedly.

The first step towards getting healthy spiritually is thinking healthy. Colossians 3:1-2: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

When we begin to think healthy it means we “seek the things that are above.” The Greek phrase here is saying habitually set your attention on things above. This means that our practical, everyday affairs and circumstances get their direction from Jesus, who is in heaven. How do you do that? Spiritual disciplines are a major catalyst that God uses. He uses spiritual disciplines to change you from the inside out. By beginning to practice spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, and worship, we begin to train our mind to think from above.

Our next step is acting healthy. The first key to acting healthy is mortification, that is putting our sin, our flesh, to death. Colossians 3:5-10: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. Likewise, the child of God must put off these attributes from the old sinful life. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

I want to remind us, Paul is talking here to people who were Christians as he lists out these two sets of sins. Paul is saying that the child of God must put to death every impulse that desires these sins. Sin is a choice for the child of God and you can choose not to sin. This meant for the Colossians that they had to give up their social sins that were socially acceptable to people all around them. Paul Tripp has said, “The sin struggle is universal and inescapable, the grace of God is boundless and sufficient, we have to admit the one to receive the other.” Jesus wants us to receive and embrace the grace of God.

Jesus also wants us living healthy. Colossians 3:11-14: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Living healthy means that there are certain things we need to put on. What does it mean to “put on”? It means that our conduct should match our faith. This is as simple as putting on your clothes. These attributes that Paul shared need to be wrapped up in love. When we do this collectively, we start to become a healthy community. We want to be a church that is producing a Christ-centered healthy community where the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, where we are encouraging each other and building each other up. We want to be a church that loves God, loves one another, and that loves our neighbors. These are just a few steps in becoming healthy spiritually.

Growth

This week as we continue in Ephesians, we will talk about growth. Ephesians 4:15 and 16 both reference growth. Are you growing? How do you know? Here are six ways to know that you are growing spiritually.

Your Maturity
Ephesians 4:12 and 13 mention phrases such as, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,” “for the edifying of the body of Christ,” and “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Salvation is not the end; it is the frontend. We are called to make disciples who make disciples. Verse 14 begins, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro.” Children are marked by inconsistency, instability, unreliability. Trends are temporal. Truth is timeless. Are you unstable in your faith, emotions, understanding, commitment? Are you showing signs of maturity or childish behavior?

Your Mind
Verse 17 goes on to say, “you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind.” You are going to live the way you think. Jesus said, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Verses 22-23 remind us that just like we would take off a garment, there are some things in our minds that we need to put off, and there are other things we need to put on. There are some things we need to stop doing, and other things we need to start doing. Renew your mind spiritually.

Your Mood
Paul tells the Ephesians to “‘be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (v. 26-27). We give place to the devil when there is disunity (v. 1-13), immaturity (v. 12-16), and impurity (v. 17-32). Where there is anger, lying, stealing, bitterness, and unforgiveness, there is a place for the devil. When you get moody or in a funk, that is the enemy and you need to reject it in Jesus’ name. Don’t give the devil ground in your life. Don’t allow anger to go unchecked.

Your Money
“Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (v. 28). Any form of stealing is unacceptable for the believer. Work is a gift and a blessing. Make sure your money is earned honestly, legally, and ethically. Our motivation for getting should be giving. You don’t have to be rich to be generous. Grow in your giving until generosity becomes your lifestyle.

Your Mouth
Verse 25 tells us to put away lying and to speak the truth. Verse 29 says, “let no corrupt work proceed out of your mouth.” Immediately after that, verse 30 says, “and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God….” Your words either heal or hurt. Before speaking, ask yourself these questions: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Sins of the tongue are sins against the Spirit living in the speaker and the Spirit living in the listener. With our words, we sin against the Spirit who lives in us, against the Son who died for us, and against the Father who forgave us. Do you say things that are unacceptable, unkind or unimportant?

Your Model
Verse 32 reminds us that Jesus is the ultimate example for us. If you keep your eyes on people, they will disappoint you and let you down. When Jesus hung on the cross, He did not focus on Judas who betrayed Him or on Peter who denied Him. He forgave them and focused on John and the work to do. Be kind to people even when they are unkind to you, tenderhearted even when they hurt you, forgiving even when they don’t deserve it. Keep your chin up and your knees down! The devil wants to use our problems to tear us down. God wants to use them to build us up. He uses everything for our growth and His glory!

Resurrection

Happy Easter! I pray you had a great Resurrection Sunday. We are in a series studying the letter to the Ephesians. Our key verse for Easter was Ephesians 4:10: “He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” The death and resurrection of Jesus provides us special, spiritual, and specific gifts. What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you today?

Resurrection Prayer
In Ephesians 3:13-14, Paul says, “I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father.” We can learn from Paul! Don’t let troubles get you down. God is working your troubles and trials for your good and His glory. Difficulties are to be expected, but they should drive us to prayer. Even our problems are gifts. They are strengthening us. Paul goes on to pray that the Ephesian Christians would be strengthened in the “inner man” and that Christ would dwell in them. “Dwell” means to settle down and be at home. When your heart is Christ’s home, you have strength, stability and security.

In verses 18-19, Paul prays that they would know the width, length, depth, and height of Christ’s love. Width- enough to reach His arms around the globe. Length- to extend from eternity past to eternity future. Depth- to meet the deepest needs of your heart. Height- reaching to the very throne of God. God’s love, which was ultimately demonstrated on the cross, surpasses knowledge!

Resurrection Power
Paul closes his prayer saying, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (v. 20-21). There is power when the church prays and when the church believes. Whatever your boldest prayer or greatest dream, it is far less than what God is able and prepared to do in your life! God is able to do the impossible. I don’t know what your hurt, need, or impossibility is, but I know a God who rose from the dead who can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think in your life, health, finances, relationships, marriage, kids, and work!

Resurrection People
At the beginning of chapter 4, Paul encourages the believers to walk worthy of their calling, bearing with one another in love, and keeping the unity of the Spirit. He then goes on to tell of the gifts that are ours in Christ. “When he ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men… He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” (v. 8, 10). This section is the hinge to the whole book of Ephesians. It connects the first three chapters with the last three. Unity is the first sign of maturity. The body, the church, has a variety and diversity of members, but they must work in unity.

Like a king in the Old Testament would give gifts after a victory, King Jesus won the victory over sin, death, and Satan when He rose from the dead. The One who founded the church, loved and gave Himself for her, gave to the church gifted leaders and gifted members. The leaders lead, feed, and protect. Every member has a ministry. God’s plan is for every one of His children to use their gift in His service. When they do, it “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (v. 16).

When we understand these resurrection gifts, believers are equipped, the ministry is enhanced, the church is edified, new believers are established, the church is effective, the congregation is enlarged, and everyone is encouraged! Easter is a time when everything is alive and growing. Are you spiritually alive? Are you growing?

Cross

This past Friday, we had a special Good Friday service called “The Power and the Passion.” It was the first time we’ve done a service like this and what a special time it was. We took communion and reflected on all that Jesus’ sacrifice means for us. In looking at the end of Ephesians 2, we took time to:

Remember the Separation
In verses 11-12 Paul says, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh…were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God….” What does that mean? Remember, without Christ you were dead in trespasses and sin. Not just sick, dead! You were in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil. You were separated from God, with no plan or purpose in life, doomed and damned for all of eternity.

Paul says “without commonwealth.” Israel had the blessing of God, protection, love, the law, priests, promises, direction, and guidance, but Gentiles (unbelievers) did not enjoy this commonwealth. He also says, “without covenants.” A covenant is simply an agreement in which God binds Himself to a promise. God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, and David did not apply apart from Jesus. Without Christ, we were without hope and were separated from God.

Remember the Sacrifice
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). The word peace is used three times in verses 14-17. Verse 18 says through Christ we have access to the Father. What the law, ordinances, ceremonies, good deeds, and sacrifices of animals could not bring, Jesus did! He paid the price of His blood so that you and I could have peace and access.

The cross was a cruel and humiliating death for hardened criminals. It was a symbol of suffering and shame. They stripped Him naked and beat Him with a cat of nine tails. The skin on His back was stretched tight. The metal balls would bruise the skin; jagged pieces would rip the tenderized flesh open. They made a crown of thorns and beat it into His brow. They mocked Him and spit in His face. Then, He walked up the way of sorrows carrying His cross. The cross was so heavy and He had lost so much blood that He stumbled under the load. They drove nails in His hands and feet. His outstretched body was literally bridging the gap between heaven and earth. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-5). He is the Way. The cross is the only way to cross over to the other side.

Remember the Salvation
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (v. 19,22). In Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, with all the privileges, protection, and blessings that brings. We are united in God’s family. We are members of His body, the church, and are living stones in His temple. The very presence of God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit and we have purpose and hope!

On Friday, we came to the Lord’s table to remember what Jesus did. We took time for self-examination and to ask questions like, Have I thought things I should not have thought? Have I said things I should not have said? Have I done things I should not have done? Have I not done things I should be doing? In light of all that Jesus has done for us, these are questions we should ask daily. Remember the separation. Remember the sacrifice. Remember the salvation. He is worthy of our all!

Church

After explaining the gospel, Paul explains the church, the community of people that the gospel brings together. We’ll come back to the end of chapter 2 later; today, we will look at Ephesians 3.

The Mystery
Paul begins chapter 3 saying that God has given Him grace and has revealed the mystery to him, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men…” (v. 5). Paul did not get it through reason, but through revelation by the Holy Spirit. Old Testament saints had no clue about the church, all the saved in one family. They could not see the complete picture from their limited perspective.

We have no clue all that God has planned for our lives. The handful of people who met over 100 years ago to start Liberty could not see campuses at Big Bethel Road, Harbour View, Greenbrier, York River, and LibertyLive.Online. It was all a “mystery” that has been made known in our day. Likewise, we cannot begin to fathom what God is going to do in the next 100 years if He tarries His coming.

The Members
God’s comprehensive plan was to bring all people groups together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the head, the church is the body, and we are members of that body. Look at verse 6: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” Both Jews and Gentiles would be members of God’s family. Not just Jew and Gentile live in peace, but Gentiles be adopted into the same family, sharing the same promises of the covenant and the same inheritance.

The Church is a place for racial unity and ethnic diversity. Trusting in Jesus does not remove our cultural distinctions, it just shows us that we are not ultimately defined by our cultures, but by who we are in Christ. A group of people all sharing one culture, getting together over what they have in common, is not miraculous. When you have a group of people who have little to nothing in common except love for Jesus, that points to the power of the cross and the resurrection. Racial division is not a skin problem, but a SIN problem! The God who unites us is greater than anything that divides us!

The Ministers
Paul goes on to say, “…I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power” (v. 7). Every member is a minister. Every one of you has a gift. The God who called Paul to the ministry also gifted Paul to carry out the ministry. Whatever God calls us to do, He will gift and equip us to do. It is not that we are more talented, it is God’s grace. When we all work together it is powerful. When you get out of church and away from God you are disconnected from God’s power. If you sit on the sidelines you will never experience all that God has for you.

The Message
In the final verses of this passage, Paul says that grace was given to him so that he might preach Christ. He says the intent is that God might be made known by the church, and that Jesus provides the boldness, access, and confidence to do so (v. 8-12). Paul was moved to true humility that God would use him to spread this message. He was a persecutor of the church who became a preacher of the church. He knew his past, the shame, the guilt. He was unworthy. You can preach the “unsearchable riches in Christ” if you have experienced it. God’s purpose is that you have boldness, you have direct access to Him and His power, and that you have personal confidence to not lose heart. Have you experienced His riches? Are you sharing the good news that Jesus died for ALL people and that those who are in Christ are all members of the same family?

Gospel

If you only had one book, you would want Ephesians. If you only had one passage, it would be Ephesians 2:8-10. You have heard people say, “What I am saying is the gospel truth!” Ephesians 2 is the gospel truth. It is a summary of salvation.

Humanity’s Condition
Paul begins this chapter explaining that our spiritual battle is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. He says we are “by nature children of wrath,” and without Christ, we are “dead in trespasses and sins.” We all have sinned. That includes the best person you know and the worst person you know. You may think you are better than other people, or not as bad as some, but we are all dead spiritually. Dead is dead.

The world thinks that deep down, we’re not really that bad. We’re basically good people who make mistakes and are just weak. The gospel truth is deep down we are all worse than we know. Jeremiah said the heart is so wicked no man can know it. Sin is more than an action; it is a condition. We’re not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. You cannot appreciate the good news without facing the bad news.

God’s Intervention
Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ….” You may have heard salvation described something like this: “I was drowning in a sea of sin and Jesus came by in a boat, threw out a lifeline, and saved me.” That sounds good, but it’s just not the gospel. The gospel is that I wasn’t just drowning in a sea of my sin, I was dead, floating face down. Jesus walked on the water, came to me when I could not come to Him, picked me up in His nail scared hands, carried my lifeless dead body back to the shore, and breathed eternal life into my soul! That is the Gospel.

Paul goes on to say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Grace means it was undeserved. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! If grace is no longer amazing to you it is because you have forgotten where you came from. Have you forgotten the sinful life from which you were saved?

I like the biblical term saved. We don’t need better self-esteem, self-image, self-improvement, self-confidence, self-determination, or self-righteousness; we need to be reached, rescued, redeemed, reconciled, and resurrected. We need to be saved! We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Faith is more than mental assent or theological agreement. It is more than determination or feelings. Faith is trust that results in transformation. Why would a fearful child jump into the water? Because they trust their dad will catch them. Jesus proved His love for us. He is trustworthy! All world religions are based on human achievement: DO. “Do this.” “Don’t do that.” Christianity is based on divine accomplishment: DONE. Jesus paid our debt in full on the cross. We are saved by Jesus’ works and not our own.

Life’s Mission
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” You are God’s masterpiece! You are not saved by good works, but saved to do good works. Faith is the root, works are the fruit. What makes you think you are going to heaven? You prayed a prayer, joined the church or were baptized? Many claim to be a Christian but have no proof to prove it, no signs of salvation. Stop being afraid and confused. Get it settled. I don’t care if you are a Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Hindu, or Muslim, there is salvation in no other name but Jesus!

Prayer

Last week, we began a new study on the book of Ephesians. In just the first few verses, we saw that God the Father planned our salvation, God the Son provided our salvation, and that God the Holy Spirit protects our salvation. After reflecting on God’s purpose for us, Paul then prays for the Christians in Ephesus. “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16). These verses are given to us as a model on how to pray for our spouse, kids, neighbors, nation, and those we are inviting.

The Spirit of His Wisdom
The first thing Paul prays is that God would give them “the spirt of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (1:17). “Wisdom” means intelligence in diverse matters and “revelation” means instruction. Paul is laying some heavy stuff on us spiritually and we cannot understand the mysteries of God apart from God. “Knowledge” in this case isn’t just knowing facts, it’s knowing experientially. Some people are always learning but never come to a knowledge of the truth. More than information, we need transformation! You can know about God and not know God. The classic example is Judas. He lived and worked with Jesus for three years. Many Americans have heard the Gospel and were brought up in church. Maybe you know the God of the Bible in your head, but you do not know Him in your heart. God wants us to know Him, have a relationship with Him, put our faith in Him, and love Him.

The Sight of His Understanding
In verse 18, Paul prays that their eyes would be enlightened to the hope of His calling. Having your eyes opened is understanding you have hope. Hope in the Bible is not like we use the word in English. It is not, “I hope Kentucky or North Carolina makes it to the Final Four.” In the Bible, hope means certainty. I am confident of the hope of heaven. Why is it some people go through hard times and fall apart, and others go through similar situations and come out stronger? The difference is hope. We can be hopeful about the past, present, and future because of Jesus! Pray that your neighbors would know Him, that their eyes would be opened, and that they would find hope in Him.

The Strength of His Power
In verses 19 and 20, Paul prays that they would know Jesus’ resurrection power. The resurrection sets Jesus apart from all other religions. Paul did not pray for more power. How could there be more power than has already been given? He prayed that they would know the power they already have in Jesus. In creation, God created something from nothing. In the resurrection, God brings the dead to life! If your life seems like nothing, God can turn it into something! Where sinful choices have brought death and destruction, God can bring life and restoration. God brings strength from weakness. The cross appeared to be only suffering and weakness for Jesus, but three days later He said, “Look at me now!” Life may look like suffering and weakness today, but because of Jesus, we soon will say, “Look at me now!”

The Sovereignty of His Christ
Finally, Paul acknowledges the sovereignty of Christ as he prays. God the Father “seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet…” (1:20-22). Even when things seem out of control, they are under His control. When waves are over your head, they are under His feet! In the end, Jesus wins! If we love and trust Him, in the end we win! Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” You do not “make” Jesus Lord. He is Lord! Salvation is when you submit and surrender to His Lordship. No sinner is beyond redemption. No saint is beyond restoration. How do you need to pray for yourself and for those around you today?

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