Sunday, March 31, 2013

LESSON 8 Growing into the likness of Christ

Ephesians 4:1-13 Picture of Unity March 21, 2013

A well-trained NASCAR pit crew is an excellent analogy of a group of people working in harmony for the common good. Not everyone gets to be the driver of the race car but a driver is only as good as his pit crew.  After watching the choreography of over 70 unique maneuvers performed in under 12 seconds, I was greatly impressed by the cooperative spirit and standard of excellence I observed.  Six or seven men compose the average pit crew. (February 2013 the first woman was hired to work in the NASCAR pit.) During a pit stop, each member has a specific job that must be completed quickly  and accurately.
The speed with which they slide around the front of the car to the other side requires finesse not to trip over each other or the hose of the air wrench. BTW the tire changer is able to remove 5 lug nuts in one second per tire. 

The Unity of the Body 4:1-6
The first three chapters of Ephesians deal with basic doctrine, our riches in Christ. Hope Parks told us last week we were to sit and be, resting in the knowledge of who we are in Christ. I will post a link of 3 pages of affirmations on our blog.
Knowing Who I am In Christ
Now we must walk. Warren Wiersbe states last three chapters admonish us to
         Walk in Unity 4:1-16
         Walk in Purity 4:17-32
         Walk in Love 5:1-20
         Walk in Harmony 5:21-6:9
         Walk in Victory 6:10-24
Our memory verse advises us the manner of our walk.
 4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
Why is this important? Someone is watching; your family and friends; your neighbors and other unchurched people. Then there are the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” Ephesians 3:10
What is your calling?
God is building one body, one temple by reconciling Jews and Gentiles to himself. The oneness of believers in Christ is already a spiritual reality now we must guard and protect and preserve that unity.
Unity does not mean uniformity. We are not cloned robots, doing the same job in the same way. Indeed we are all parts of the body, but we are not all gifted the same. We work together to benefit and strengthen the Church.
Remember the pit crew. One man fuels the race car, another carries the tires, yet they need each other and are member of a team.
Verse 2 in KJV with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love,
Patience, (or forbearance in the KJV) is the ability to endure discomfort without fighting back, without taking offense at a slight oversight.   Bearing with one another in love, showing tolerance for one another in love. Mercy and grace should always trump finding fault. (Ephesians 4:2 NASB)
From your commentary :The Greek word for bear with means to endure or to put up with, which seems a very unglamorous virtue, but a virtue it is. Like a muscle that must be exercised to make it strong, “bear­ing with one another in love” thrives on a good workout. Not until we are challenged to love the unlovable, to bear with one who tries the patience, can Christian character be built and strengthened. It might be said that difficult relationships or situations are the essential ingredient—the very building material—that God uses to build the character of His children.
v.3 We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Never a spirit of division.
1 Corinthians 13 Paul instructs the church about their treatment of each other. Mostly we observe what Not to do!
·        love does not envy or boast;
·        it is not arrogant or rude.
·        It does not insist on its own way;
·        it is not irritable or resentful;
·        it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,
Would this be something profitable to read before a business or budget meeting?
Love is patient and kind; 6-but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
4 There is
·        one body and
·        one Spirit—just as you were called to the
·        one hope that belongs to your call—
·        one Lord,
·        one faith,
·        one baptism, 6
·        one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We are all God's children in the same family, loving and serving the same Father.
Becoming Christlike 4:7-16

V7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
Our lesson shared several scriptures listing different gifts. We will focus only in the four Paul lists here. The gifts from Christ come in the form of gifted people in the Church.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
Our Theme for Leadership training and devotions each week has been shepherding; specifically the 23rd Psalm. The subject leads itself well to CBS since we are admonished to Shepherd all of our members.
We can tell them about the love of God in Christ, and we can show His kind of love to them. And God has gifted each one of us to do so!
Shepherding (pastoring) suggests the feeding, protection, and guidance of the flock; teaching suggests nurturing and training in knowledge within a congregation.
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
equipping, perfecting  katartismós (a masculine noun) – properly, exact adjustment which describes how (enables) the individual parts to work together in correct act of preparing things to fulfill their intended purposes, to function properly.
The Jack Man in the pit crew must position the 35 lb. jack precisely on a ¾”post and have an excellent sense of timing to know when to drop the car after the tire changer has finished his job.
What job has Christ called you to do?
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,
Paul does not refer to the doctrine of "sinless perfection" - but to the state of manhood as compared with that of childhood - a state of strength, vigor, wisdom, when the full growth should be attained. Barnes commentary
We are not learning how to do but how to be. When a person is “in Christ,” he is destined to become like Him.
Jesus is our best example of service. Remember the night when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.
A mature Christian is one who is willing to serve in a hard demanding place where she may not be appreciated and may even be ridiculed. Remembering that this life is but a vapor and eternity is forever, such a person is willing to spend time and effort in service to God.
“She is willing to work for excellence without becoming proud, to withstand criticism without becoming bitter, to be misjudged without becoming defensive, and to withstand suffering without succumbing to self-pity.” Jerry Lemon
Every believer is given at least one spiritual gift. This gift is to be used for the unifying and edifying the body of Christ.  What is your gift to edify the body?

These are in addition to the natural abilities with which we are born. Paul calls Christ the gift giver. Spiritual gifts given by Christ to serve God and other Christians in such a way that God is glorified. Our gifts are tools to build they are not weapons to fight. Christians are not to live in isolation they are all members of the family of God-active and working members. What would happen if your kidneys stopped working or if your heart stopped beating? Every part of the body is necessary to its health and growth.
14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The sailing vessel lost all power and was at the mercy of the Atlantic Ocean when the crew of a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules based out of Elizabeth City, N.C. responded to a distress alert from the small boat. Feb. 9, 2013.
As Christians we will face conflicting doctrines, even in our churches. The best way you can effectively guard against being led astray is doing what you are doing right now: Participating in an in depth bible study; digging into the Word, searching for answers through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Your Anchor is the WORD of God and Jesus is the Lighthouse.
15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
My pastor used to own his own garage, so if I lock my keys in the car or have a slow leak in a tire, or get up Sunday morning to a dead battery, I know who to call for help.
M R De Haan Just as all the parts of an engine are vital to keep it running, every member of the body of Christ, the church, is important. Failure to do your part may hinder the whole body from functioning properly. Your failure to pray may result in loss of power. Your failure to witness may be the reason that someone doesn't hear the gospel. Your failure to support your church financially may curtail the work of evangelism or missions. Your little part, if neglected, can result in big problems.

The work of every member of the body, however small, is needed. Are you doing your part? —
God's perspective of greatness and success is different from the world's way of looking at things. Recognition and honor should not be our goals; rather we should seek to honor our heavenly father by serving in the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the body.
·        Do you know your part in the body?
·        How are you helping the body grow?
·        Are you practicing love above all?
No matter how skillful you are carrying out your position make sure it is wrapped in love.
Measurements can be indicators of growth. And it’s a good idea to measure our spiritual growth. For instance:
·        Do I spend time reading God’s Word and talking with Him each day?
·        Do I look forward to fellowshipping with the Lord? What ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is apparent in my life?
·        Do I talk about Jesus with people who don't know Him?
·        How am I using my spiritual gift or gifts?
·        Do I have a generous and giving spirit?
·        How much better do I know God today than I did a year ago? These questions are good indicators of spiritual growth.
·        Have you measured yourself lately?” Cindy Hess Kasper, “Measure Me,”  

Will you choose to use your God-given gifts so that the body of Christ will “grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ”?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lesson 6 Paul and His Ministry Ephesians 3:1-13 March 7,2013

The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed
I know a secret! I’ll bet you know a few secrets too! Why do we keep secrets? Some secrets are fun if we want to surprise someone, like planning a retirement party or an anniversary dinner.
Several events in the Old Testament were done in secret to protect God’s children: Miriam secretly watched her brother Moses drawn from the Nile; Esther kept her Jewish heritage a secret until the perfect time, Samuel anointed David secretly while Saul is still King. Elijah secretly hid in a cave from Queen Jezebel. Each time the life of God’s Chosen were spared and used to fulfill God’s Promise to Israel.
Even Jesus in His ministry instructed various ones not to tell of his miraculous healing: from our study of Mark you will remember the leper, Jairus’ daughter, the deaf man in chapter 7. Jesus had reasons for not wanting His works made known. The time was not ready.
What is the secret Paul is sharing? Verse 6- This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The Jews and Gentiles would together form one body The CHURCH.
God’s great love for the Gentiles, for me, is a mystery.  Why would an omnipotent Creator of the universe stoop so low to come in the form of a human. Philippians 2:8
e humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
e came for you. He came for me, for the selfish, prideful, unlovable me.
Without fail every year I taught there were children in situations that made them difficult to love. I have always been drawn to the “underdog,” the unlovely. Those were the ones that drew my focus, in attempts to level the playing field, to establish some equality, acceptance and success. This is my purpose, my calling from God.

Recently I read a book, “I’m Listening With a Broken Ear” by Vicky Kaseorg is a true story about a dying dog the author passed on a roadside and returned later to rescue grudgingly. A story of faith, persistence, and love unfolds as both she and her young daughter struggled to help “Honeybun” overcome severe health issues, fear, and aggression toward people and other dogs. In desperation Vicky found a rescue in South Carolina who offered to help rehabilitate Honeybun free of charge. During the many months of heartache and struggle, she discovered the truth “that nothing is truly unredeemable.” Most chapters end as Vicky has one-way conversation with God, bemoaning her fate, and proclaiming all her good deeds. Near the end the book, the author realized that in God’s eyes she is similar in nature and condition to the rescued dog. I saw myself in her conversations.

This week in Ephesians 3 we will learn that the “unsearchable riches of Christ” are available to the Gentiles, who to the Jews, are most unlovable.


Revealed by the Spirit 3:1-6
Equipped by the Father 3:7-10
Fulfilled by the Son 3:11-13
This week’s commentary reminded us that Ephesians is a circular letter to be read aloud and passed along to other churches. Unlike some other letters to the churches, this one in not a pastoral letter of encouragement, but rather an exposition of the “mystery of God’s will.”
·        Revealed by the SPIRIT 3:1-6
1 Corinthians 2:7-10  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Paul  begins by telling  he is prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles—calling his ministry to the Gentiles the stewardship of God's grace given to him for their benefit.
God’s grace saved the murderous man who was Saul and made him into a new creation.
When Saul was struck blind Acts 9:15 the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
Paul was specifically called to reveal the secret and given insight into the mystery of Christ which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations
God’s plan from the beginning hidden; 5b has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
·       Equipped by the Father 3:7-9
7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.
In the three references notice the more time Paul spent in service to Christ the less he thought of himself.
o   1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. AD55
o   Ephesians 3:8  I am the very least of all the saints, AD 61
o   1 Timothy 1:15 I am the worst of sinners AD 64
 Several years ago when my mother suffered a stroke, my two younger sisters had difficulty coping. My older sister came as often as she could to help with Mom’s care but she lived three hours away. The responsibility for most of my mother care fell to me and I was glad I could be there for her. Harmony could not describe the situation with my sisters. After the death of my mother both younger sisters were convicted of serious crimes.
It was easy for me to develop a superior attitude; after all I was caring for my mother every single day. Sometimes you just want to reach out and touch someone. As I tried to “fix” my sister’s life, she shouts, “Judge not that ye be not judged.
Ladies she was right! God has a way of bursting my prideful bubble and bringing me down low, convicting me of my sin. During that time we were studying 1 and 2 Timothy in CBS and 1 Timothy 1:15   was our memory verse.
Like we do now, we wrote the verse every day. By the end of the week I meekly wrote-
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinnersof whom I am the worst, I am the worst, I am the worst.
Later I had the opportunity to share the verse with my sister, confess my sin was no less than hers. I apologized for my judgmental behavior with a message on grace.
Understanding the deep truths of God does not give man a big head; it gives him a broken and contrite heart. Warren Wiersbe
Proverbs 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.
What a mighty treasury of mercy, grace, and love is laid up in Christ Jesus, both for Jew and Gentile who will receive Him as their Lord. SB-CSNT
Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and how unfathomable his ways!
 8b This grace was given to Paul, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things 10b might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Warren Wiersbe includes in his commentary of chapter 3 that the revealing of the mystery was important to the angels.
The angels minister with pure hearts of love. Much of their ministry is done in secret and they are present on this earth. Mark 1:13 tells of Jesus temptation in the desert and the angels ministered to him
Psalm 91:11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Psalm 103:20 Tells us his angels are mighty ones obeying the Voice of His word!
Angels cannot comprehend forgiveness or salvation but they rejoice to hear it.

1 Peter 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

o   Luke 15:10 there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents
o   1 Corinthians 4:9 a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.
So what can the Angels learn 10  through the church the manifold wisdom of God (Greek means "special knowledge")   
The mystery was unknown to the spirit world, hidden from Satan until now.
Wiersbe states -It was probably a good thing to keep this plan from Satan or he may have tried a different strategy. In chapter 6 we will discuss the limitations that God has placed on Satan and his demons and review the armor we need to wear every day.
·       Fulfilled by the Son 3:10-13
11 This was paccording to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our tfaith in him.
Ladies we cannot hear it enough: God purposed from the beginning of Creation that Jesus goes before us and clears our way to approach the throne of a holy and powerful God.
How could we dare approach such a holy place with confidence and boldness except through our faith in Jesus as the son of God who died to redeem us?
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
What a great a kindness to offer grace and mercy to sinful man, though will turn away and not receive these gifts. “His riches are as unsearchable and as sure as ever, yet while angels adore the wisdom of God in the redemption of his church, the ignorance of self-wise and carnal men deem the whole to be foolishness.” Matthew Henry
We have a list of the atrocities Paul endured in his ministry. Paul did not focus on himself but Christ. To the Ephesians-13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory
From Paul’s suffering, we know our affliction can result in our growth, the good of others, but primarily for the Glory of God. Christians will suffer. Jesus can help you endure your own suffering and use it to comfort others. Your neighbors are watching. What do they see in you? Don’t waste your affliction; invest it. Don’t lose heart.”
Will you choose to accept the riches available in Christ Jesus?
Feel free to come to the altar and pray as I read the words of this old hymn.
Before the Throne of God Above  by Charitie L. Bancroft 
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
PRAY Is there a secret only you know? Have you been burdened trying to keep this secret from your family and friends? Choose to unclasp your grip and give God all of your unwanted secrets. He will toss them into the sea of forgetfulness. Only Jesus will never leave you or forsake you. Confess to Him now and He will forgive.