Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Have you ever noticed how much about us is packed into the opening verses of Ephesians? Just look at what we are and have in Christ:
Can you even begin to fathom such a great love or such great mercy? We don’t deserve it but it is offered to all freely. So let’s break these verses down. Paul exalts in praising God at the beginning of Ephesians because God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. First, how are we “in” Christ Jesus? When we accept Christ’s atoning sacrifice for us, we are blessed to receive His precious Holy Spirit who lives within us. 1 John 4:13 says, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” How do we abide in Him? We abide in God by reading His Word and applying it to our lives. How do we know this is how we abide in Him? Because Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-14)!
How are we blessed in heavenly places? What does that mean? We know that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and also our hope (Colossians 1:5) and inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). We are to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20, 21) and our affections (Colossians 3:1, 2) are to be “in heaven.” So what does this mean for us on a practical level? If our citizenship is in heaven, and our hope and inheritance are there as well, we could say that the Christian’s spiritual blessings are retained for us in heaven (reserved there since the foundation of the world) and they are progressively dispersed to us in the form of spiritual gifts in accord with our need and Christian growth as we abide in Christ. Those blessings are waiting in heaven for everyone, on hold until we make that decision to follow Jesus and when we do, live our lives by abiding in Him. Everyone has these blessings waiting to be bestowed on them.
What does it mean to be "chosen" before the foundation of the world? Many have mistakenly believed that God chose certain people before the world began to be saved. Signifying that they were indeed "chosen". Unfortunately, this belief contradicts John 3:16 which says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Jesus didn't die for a select few. He died for the whole world. Which means He was thinking about everyone, everywhere, before the foundation of the world, to be united with Him and saved. Why? So that we would be holy and without blame before Him. Jesus paved the way for everyone to be saved. We were all "predestined" to receive His grace. But there would be one stumbling block - you simply had to repent of your sins and believe in Him (John 3:18; Luke 5:31-32).
What happens when we repent and believe? We are adopted by Jesus as His sons and daughters and we are accepted into His presence and loved. Why? Because of the good pleasure of His will and for the praise of the glory of His grace. So, in simple terms, we receive all these wonderful blessings because it makes God happy. Imagine that! And all you have do to is repent of your sins and believe.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
Throughout the week I like to look on the verse of the day on Biblegateway. I do this for two reasons - to help me focus on a particular scripture verse to memorize, and to read the entire chapter the verse is in, in order to keep it in context. I often find by doing this something else will jump out at me that God wants me to see so that I can write about it here.
The verse above comes after King Solomon had finished the Temple in Jerusalem. He and the people celebrated it's completion for twenty-three days, with offerings and sacrifices, music and praise. It was a joyful time and God had made His presence known by causing fire to come down from heaven to consume the burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 7:1). His glory filled the Temple and because it did, even the priests who were dedicated to Him could not enter the Temple. Try to imagine what that was like. Fire came down from heaven and this fire represented the glory of God. It completely filled the Temple and everyone who was there saw it, bowed with their faces to the ground and worshipped God. Imagine how you would be feeling if you had been there. Certainly you would be afraid. Fire from heaven is not a normal thing you see every day. You would also be in awe. You would be grateful, because as a person in that era, you would know about the gods of the other nations and you would now be comparing them to the Most High God. And you would realize without a doubt that there was only one God and all the rest were fake. You would also feel loved because the God of the universe had blessed your people by showing favour to you. The honour, the implications of that alone would be overwhelming. Would you ever be able to get off your knees?
But the day came when the celebrations ended and King Solomon sent everyone back to their homes. That night, God came to him and told him that He had heard his prayer (2 Chronicles 6) and reminded Solomon that He had chosen the Temple as a place for Himself, a house of sacrifice. Then He said:
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.
King Solomon knew that if he or the people sinned against God from that point forward, they would need to humble themselves, pray, seek God and turn from their sin in order for God to hear them and forgive them. Notice that the verse does not say "If I shut up heaven", but "When I shut up heaven", meaning, bad things would continue to happen in the world despite the fact that they were His chosen people.
We know sin has consequences and as history and the Bible would reveal, King Solomon led his people into sin by worshipping other gods. Due to this, other kings who came after Solomon continued to sin and because they did not repent, God did what He told Solomon He would do if there was unrepentant sin in the land:
But if you turn away and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will uproot them from My land which I have given them; and this house which I have sanctified for My name I will cast out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
Unrepentant sin cannot go unpunished, but God in His infinite mercy would set a new plan in motion. He placed the punishment meant for all people on the shoulders of one man. His name was Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself and crucified it on a cross. By His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5) and forgiven. He became the sacrificial lamb for all people. But it wasn't something to take for granted or a "get out of jail free card". We are still required to humble ourselves, pray, seek God and turn from our sin. Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Today we live in an unrepentant world that has thrown the offering of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, back in the face of God. In fact, many in positions of church leadership, who profess to know the Lord are, like Solomon, leading their congregations astray. Some, in the name of tolerance, are agreeing that homosexuality is not a sin. They are approving of same-sex marriage and encouraging homosexuals to be leaders in the church. Others don't even bother to hide their beliefs and proclaim that they don't believe God is the only way, while continuing to preach from the pulpit. Still others have given themselves over to full-blown idol worship (FYI - they are singing about the goddess Sophia). Sophia in Greek means wisdom. She is honoured as a goddess of wisdom by Gnostics as well as by some neo-pagan, New Age, and feminist-inspired goddess spirituality groups. Her statue is still standing in a temple in Ephesus. Ephesus was one of the churches mentioned by the Lord in his letters to the seven churches of Revelation.
To these churches, God's Word no longer stands. The church, like the people during Solomon's day, are to set an example of faith in God and love toward others. We are not to approve of sin, nor participate in it. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery but told her to "Go and sin no more." Why is the church not following His example? We know from today's verses that unrepentant sin cannot go unpunished. The day of the Lord is coming soon. How will He find the church? Will we be in agreement that God's Word is the same yesterday, today and forever and therefore living our lives in obedience to it? Or will we be so worldly that He won't recognize us at all?
Today is Monday Meditations – Please link your faith-based posts below.
Let's encourage one another. Don't forget to visit those who post.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
As I was thinking about the above verse today I was reminded how some people behave once they come to know Jesus as their Saviour. We are trying so hard to "get it right" and to not fail in our walk with God that we unintentionally assume an air of self-righteousness. We don't think we are superior in any way to those who don't have a relationship with God. However, to those on the outside looking in, our striving to deny ourselves and follow Christ, might give them the impression one has to be perfect to be able to approach God. They don't understand that we are sinners saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and our desire to live a holy life comes only from our thankfulness at being saved in the first place. We want to please the Lord by making sure we do not bring shame to His name. But sometimes, it has the reverse effect.
I can remember back in the 70's, singing at the Yonge St. Mission in Toronto. At that time it was called Evergreen and operated as a coffee house where many Christian bands or soloists would come in for the evening and perform. One night while I was singing, a young woman came in and sat down at a table right in front of the stage. I should point out that singing at Evergreen could at times be dangerous. Drug addicts would often come in and you never knew what they would do. So volunteers were always at the ready should someone be difficult. This young woman was clearly stoned when she sat in front of me, but she was also clearly in need of God's love. At one point she laughed out loud and said, "Jesus isn't for someone like me. I'm too far gone." I looked at her from the stage and told her that no one is too far gone and that Jesus loved her just the way she was. She then said something that shocked me and has stuck with me for years, "Lady, you don't know what you're talking about. I'll bet you've never even sinned." I was floored. Was that the impression people were getting from me now? That I was perfect? I wanted to get off the stage and sit and talk with her for the rest of the evening. Instead, I told her that I was someone who had been changed only because of God's grace. That I used to be like her, in a bad place, far away from God. But she didn't believe me. She said, "Lady, you have never been as sinful as me." I found out later that she had been coming in regularly and that many of the counsellors available had talked to her about Jesus. But she was convinced that because she was a drug addict and a prostitute God would never love someone like her. She believed she had no hope because she was under the mistaken impression that she had to change first and then come to God.
Sadly, I believe many people think that same way today and this post is for them. Jesus died on the cross for you and me, He did it knowing we are sinners. He never said, "Change first and then come to me." He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT FIRST!
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