Read Ephesians 2:11-18
Last Monday we learned through Paul's letter to the Ephesians who we are in Christ and that trying to "work" our way into heaven is a futile task, for our salvation is secured through faith and God's grace alone, not by works.
Paul has driven home the point to the Ephesians who they were in Christ and who they are now. He calls them Gentiles, which in the Old Testament meant anyone who was not Jewish. Which, by implication, meant they were a heathen or pagan nation who did not worship the one true God. Paul used the term "Gentile" with the Ephesians to distinguish between Jews who had converted to Christianity and pagans who had converted to Christianity. It was the pagans (Gentiles) who had the hardest time believing that God would just accept them without them doing something in return. After Paulmakes it clear they were saved through faith he then goes on to remind them how both Jews and Christians are now united because of Jesus.
Paul explains that the promises of the covenant God made with the Jews, now also, because of Jesus, were promises extended to Gentiles as well. But, while the Jews were seen as a holy nation, set apart by God as His prized possession (Exodus 19: 5-6) they still had the same problems the Gentiles had - they continually sinned against God. They needed a Saviour! So Jesus became the mediator for both Jew and Gentile. Jesus, as Paul says, broke the dividing wall between the two groups (Ephesians 2:14) so that the two would become one in Him. And it is through Jesus that we are made whole again, reconciled to God and have His Holy Spirit living within us. Through Jesus we all have access to God. And because His Holy Spirit is available to all, we are united as we grow into a kingdom of priests for God. Imagine the possibilities! The world would actually know peace! This is why it is so important for those of us who know Jesus to share Him with as many people as possible. So that His kindgom will come! And we who believe and trust in Jesus Christ will become a holy nation dedicated in service to the one true God. Come Lord Jesus come!
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22, NKJV).
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor,
When Jesus began his famous sermon on the mount, who was he talking to? The Bible says that this sermon was spoken to his followers - in other words - his disciples (Matthew 5:1). These words were geared specifically for those who had given up everything to follow him and they still apply to his followers today.
Jesus calls all his followers to be salt and light to the world. So what does this mean for us today? During Jesus' time most of the salt used in Israel came from the Dead Sea, so it was full of impurities and would lose some of its flavour. But salt had many uses other than flavouring. It acted as a preservative, melted ice and was used to heal wounds. So it is a very good description of how the relationship of a believer in Christ should be toward the world.
By using salt as an example, Jesus was telling us that while we, like salt, are full of impurities (sin) we also bring a message that makes life better. However, we are in danger of losing our flavour, the longer we align ourselves with the world's values and beliefs. As disciples of Christ we all have the same mission - to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). Unfortunately, as the world has progressed and degenerated into apostasy and sexual immorality, some believers have "lost their saltiness", by embracing the world's values and beliefs and forgetting the most important message we have been commissioned to share - that Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again, in order that all those in the world who accepted Him, would not perish (be eternally separated from God), but would receive everlasting life. This should be our main focus and message in this world. If we stop sharing this message we lose our flavour and will be "good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men."
We are also called to be a light to the world. We are not to hide that light (our belief that Jesus is Lord and Saviour), but to share it with EVERYONE. This can be a scary thing in an age where Christians are no longer tolerated. But guess what? Christians have not been tolerated since the church began! They have been persecuted since the beginning and will continue to be persecuted until Jesus comes again.
This love and concern that drives the Christian message has been strong since the church began. It is why Antipas, whom Jesus speaks of in Revelation 2:13, was slowly roasted to death inside the statue of a bronze bull, the symbol and companion of Zeus. This happened in Pergamum, which according to Jesus, "was the city where Satan lived." Antipas went to be a light in the darkness and was killed for it. It is why the Apostle John was boiled in oil, survived and was exiled to the island of Patmos. It is why the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down on a cross. This message of salvation in Jesus Christ has driven every Christian since the church began. It is why we risk death - so that no one should perish and be eternally separated from God.
The irony of course is that this message of light, love and life we are preaching, is not a message this world wants to hear. Instead, we are called intolerant bigots. Why? Because we are called to be salt (which can sting) and light (which exposes the darkness) in a world that is without morals, filled with darkness and given over to their sin nature. So how do we share the message of Jesus and be salt and light in a world that is intolerant to our message?
We feed the homeless, care for the poor, visit the sick in hospital, or do something in our communities that would bring joy to others and show the love of Christ. So that when someone asks you why you do these things you will be able to say without fear, I do it because of Jesus. That is being a light, and it is in accordance with what Jesus commanded us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
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"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
1 Corinthians 13 is probably the most well-known and well-used chapter in the Bible because of its subject matter - love. It is the "go-to" chapter for weddings for it uniquely and perfectly describes the many facets that make up love. But to keep it in context we need to look at the chapter before it, which talks about spiritual unity and diversity in the body of Christ.
It was this diversity that the Apostle Paul was addressing and he wanted people to realize that even though we are one body with many members, we have all been baptized by the same Spirit and so we should try to live in peace with each other. So speaking tongues, or having the gifts of prophecy or faith, were not important if you didn't have love.
Paul eloquently reminds us that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. And when we look at Paul's description of love we see the object of his affection right away.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
The verse above is often used by Christians as a source of comfort when our plans fall through, or life just gets too hard. I know in my own life, because I have so much to deal with in relation to my health, it's nice to have one of those "go to" verses that help me to not lose hope or give up entirely.
Prosperity teachers would have you believe that Jeremiah 29:11 is all about how God wants us to prosper financially. But that is not what this verse is all about. So what does Jeremiah 29:11 tell us about God? What are His plans for us? In order to get to the heart of this verse, we need to first take it in context. This was a message from God to the Jews who were being held in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. The verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 are specifically to tell the Jewish people that God had a plan and after seventy years, He would bring them back to Jerusalem. You can read the whole chapter at Biblegateway.com.
So, does that mean the verse has no benefit for us today? On the contrary, we are at the heart of God's plans. So what does this verse tell us?
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