Imitate

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Ephesians 5:1-5 Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God. Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy—which happens when things become gods—those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God. 

Paul has been talking and teaching about the old life versus the new life. This is something that is of utmost importance because our faith in Christ is supposed to change us from the inside out. The power of the gospel is not just to show people heaven and bring people into the Kingdom of God; the power of the gospel is that it transforms and recreates us into new creations to live a life that is holy before God and we can bring people to faith through our life.

We are supposed to live like Christ; he was and is our example of how to live. How can we know how Christ lived? I would recommend reading the gospel accounts. Start with the Gospel of Luke to see the compassion of Christ, then go to the Gospel of John to see the divinity of Christ and the new life that comes from him. After that, go to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Reading all of the gospel accounts will give a great picture of who Jesus is and how we should imitate him in our life.

The first thing that Paul speaks against is sexual immorality. We live in a culture that is obsessed with this and the truth is we do not realize how much this has control over us. It is important that we do not live in a way that immorality does not live in us because we should view each and every person as a child of God and a beautiful creation of the creator. People are made in the image of God, we just help them realize that fact to guide them to faith in Christ. If we look at people with the wrong set of eyes, we end up devaluing them and it is much more difficult to express the love of God though Jesus Christ when they are hearing a different message from immorality.

Paul then goes on to teach about how we speak to each other. Our words have much more power than we sometimes remember. Our words can bring hope and joy, and then the very next minute bring devastation and fear. Instead of talking down to another person, what if our language, jokes, and communication exuded love yet truth? This is a much more effective way to bring people to faith because they feel as if they are truly valued enough to become who they are made to be.

Finally, Paul warns that sexual immoral, impure or greedy are actually serving other gods, which is idolatry. The first and second commandments God gave Moses was “You must have no other gods before me,” and “Do not make an idol for yourself.” (Exodus 20:3-4) Idols are anything that distract us from the One God. We may or may not have idols in statue form today; but we do have idols in our life: money, sex, power, and anything else that forces our attention off of God. For us to embrace all that God has to give us, we should be of singular focus and see the Creator working all around us and in us.

God does not want us to acknowledge Him some of the time; He wants it all of the time. We do this when we treat others as the precious creations they are and help them see their value, not only to us, but to the Creator of the universe. Our entire lives (attitudes, thoughts, actions, words, etc) should reflect Christ to all we encounter and show that we are changed. That is an incredible power of the gospel.

#TheGospelChangesUs

Old vs New Part 4

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Ephesians 4:29-32 Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy—you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. 

This is where I feel Paul is really stepping on my toes. How can he write this and expect that people live like this? It almost seems too difficult. After all, don’t the people around us make us do the things that we do? Aren’t we obligated to speak what we want to say and “need to say” so the other person knows how they are in the wrong? Paul is finishing this chapter with this seemingly negative command. It can almost seem like he is in your face and telling you directly that you and I are the ones in the wrong and he is proving it to us. But, this is not what Paul is talking about. For the past few days, we have been looking at the differences between the “old” way of life and the “new” way of life.

So, why should we desire to live this way? What’s in it for us? The truth is that we should live this way because it is God who forgave us and is compassionate toward us. How bad is it when you give a gift and the person you gave it to treated everyone else as poor? This is the same kind of thing. God has shown us grace, forgiveness and mercy, why shouldn’t we freely give as we have been given?

Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and love people. Even if someone treats us wrong, we should look at our response. We like to justify our actions and show people why they are the ones in the wrong; but we are all asked to live to a higher standard. This means loving our enemies, feeding them, turning the other cheek, not judging, etc (see Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount). This kind of life is not easy with out Christ. For, when we lean on Christ and trust in Christ, we can see the value in other people and live lives of humility and patience toward all people. God has freely given us grace and forgiveness, how can we pass this on to others so they too know God’s grace and love personally?

Tomorrow, we journey into Ephesians 5!

#TheGospelChangesUs

Worthy Life

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Ephesians 4:1-6 Therefore, as a prisoner for the Lord, I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. 

“But you don’t know what this person did to me!” “How can I treat them with gentleness and patience when they are the ones clearly in the wrong?” I have heard people say many times, “I wish everyone would just follow the Golden Rule (treat others the way you want to be treated).” As I heard the person say this, I remembered how they bad mouthed another person right before that.

Living in humility, gentleness and patience in this world is not easy. This kind of life is so against how everyone else wants us to live. We walk around wanting to get revenge, or even hold back forgiveness. But, in reality, who is holding back forgiveness and plotting revenge really hurting? See we want to have justice done, but we forget how damaging attitudes like that actually are to our soul. We become calloused and do not see people as God sees them. We’ll focus on the brokenness and become blinded to any amount of goodness in another person. There is no one too far away from God to come close and know God. We can be the people to show others this incredible grace by our words, actions, and even thoughts.

Our attitudes are the most important thing that people will remember about us after we have an encounter with them. This realization struck me several years ago when I found myself not wanting to offer forgiveness to a person who hurt me. Somehow, God brought healing into my heart and I was able to forgive. This doesn’t mean I condone or tolerate what the person did; instead I released the control that negative attitude had on my life.

Though I am far from being a very humble person, I ask God daily to show me the qualities in people He desires me to see. When I look at people, I am in awe at how God is moving in their life, even when they can’t see it for themselves. We are all called to show and teach people about the Kingdom of God and God’s grace. People will be turned away if we have, even the slightest hint of, a feeling we think we’re better than them. Jesus Christ has made it so that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. “There is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile….all are one in Christ Jesus.” This is the spirit we should work with because the Spirit of God is residing in us.

God is working in all people, in some way. He has also called us to a live of serving and loving those around us, even the difficult ones (add your own phrase); but God still desires we live in humility, peace and gentleness with each other. This does not come easily to us; in fact it goes against our basic instincts. But, this means we have the chance to call on God and allow His Spirit to work through us.

God is calling, and has called, you and me to change the world with Him by proclaiming Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives; and to make us a “city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden.”

#TheGospelChangesUs

We Belong

Ephesians 2:11-13 So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

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I know everyone one of us has felt like we wanted to be part of a certain group, but for some reason we felt like we did not belong. We have also felt like we do not deserve to have the people in our life that we have because we feel unworthy. This kind of attitude and mindset seems to be prevalent. There is only one problem with this kind of thinking: we devalue ourselves.

Yes, there is part of us that has made mistakes and has lived a life we did not want to live, but there is something incredible about grace. God grace is pulling us in and is giving us a new life that we never expected to have. Yes, we live lives separate from God. Yes, we do not have everything in a row. Yes, there are parts of our past that we wish we could escape from. Yes, yes, yes. This list of reasons why we do not belong goes on and on. We focus on our failures and God focuses on our future.

Our lives, without Christ, do not have the joy and peace; but when we realize Christ is already here and is calling us to know and follow Him, then we become filled with His Spirit. It is by the grace of God that we belong. We belong with groups who desire to help us live right. We desire to be loved. We desire to be with someone in life that will help us live out the life God has in mind. We desire all of this stuff and we belong.

We should just lay down our past, look to Christ and ask Him to be the central focus of our life. This makes Him Lord and Savior, and us His people. Our lives take on a whole new meaning because it is from a payment that we belong to God. This is a payment we did not give, but was paid for us. This payment was the blood of Jesus Christ who lived an incredible life that God wants us to live, died this death that is so incredibly cruel and humiliating and rose from the dead. He rose from the dead because, even though the world showed it did not want Him, He wanted to show the world that it was wanted.

What are you struggling with today that makes you feel like you do not belong? I hope you can see and hear the soft voice of God so loudly that your perspective changes and that you can see and know that God is pursuing you and even believes in you. You and I belong, we just need to believe this and trust this. Because of Jesus Christ everything is different. What once caused division and rule keeping, now invites all people to know grace. Your life will be drastically different if you find the grace that is around you.

#TheGospelChangesUs

December 22: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:10-12 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

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We are now just a few days away from Christmas and celebrating once again the birth of Jesus Christ. In our passage today, we see the wise men (magi), have come to visit the toddler Jesus in his home. Even though this even took place up to two years after Jesus’ birth, there is still something here for us to see and hear during this Advent season.

The magi entered the house, bowed down and gave their gifts. So what is really interesting, to me, is how these verses today end: “they went back to their own country by another route.”

The magi left different. They still went back home, but they left different. After you and I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this year, we should leave different and not take the same path back we searched for him on. This means, we do go back into our home, work, school, life; but we are different. We do not have the same patterns, the same “rituals,” the same direction. Our new purpose is that of following Christ and helping people find him. You and I have become the angels (messengers of God) to proclaim to those who feel unworthy that the God in heaven loves and adores them and is longing to be around them.

How will you be different this Christmas season?

Jesus, too often we hear the story of your birth in this world and it does not phase us. We seek for and long to be in your presence. Help us proclaim to others your reality and your love for them, even if we feel too important. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.