Category Archives: Relationship with God

Ephesians 5:15-21 — Conversations with God

Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Lord, lately I have been paying more attention to my footing on stairs.  I’m not as young as I used to be and it seems I’ve had more close calls than in the past.  Paul is asking us to take more caution in the way we walk and to apply more wisdom to our lives because there are so many opportunities for evil that must be met with the light of Christ.

If I get foolish and lazy and don’t realize what God’s will is for each situation, then evil and darkness will have a victory.  If I allow myself to get intoxicated with wine or spirits, as if nothing is more important than my own pleasures, evil and darkness will win out.

But if I am intoxicated by You, Lord, and filled up to the full by the holy character of Your Holy Spirit, I will take every advantage to speak into the lives of others with spiritual words.  My heart will be full of joy in You.  I will be driven by an attitude of gratitude for everything You bring into my life.  And I will gladly submit to those fellow believers around me for the greater purpose of defeating darkness with light.

Give me a thirst for You that cannot be quenched except by more and more drafts of your Spirit.

Ephesians 2:4-7 — Conversations with God

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Father, this doesn’t explain why You have such great love for me that You would show me mercy, indeed, rich mercy, but I am so grateful.  Making me alive in Christ (spiritually resurrected to new life in connection with His resurrection) and raising me and seating me in the heavenlies in Christ (in connection with His ascension and magesterial enthronement) has been the greatest thing that ever happened to me.  Oh, that You would do this for everyone!

It is incredible to think that not only did You rescue me from Your own well-deserved wrath but You are looking forward to showering me with Your riches because You have such grace and kindness toward me.  I do not deserve it, Father, but I sure want it.  I want to bask in Your love like the warm sun and receive Your healing kindness.  There is no one I’d rather be with than You.  I look forward to ages upon ages of relationship with You.

Ephesians 1:11-14 — Conversations with God

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Father, I have not worried or even dreamed about whether my dad will leave me an inheritance.  There’s no family land or home to hand down, no nest egg I am aware of.  You, God, have prospered me sufficiently that I have my own home and perhaps even some retirement money.  I know that in other cultures, however, obtaining the inheritance might be the difference between being a beggar on the streets or not.

I had no spiritual inheritance coming to me before You rescued me.  I was spiritually destitute and headed for a very dark eternity without You.  I was drifting and purposeless until You gave me life.  Now I have obtained the most glorious inheritance possible.  I am predestined by You to be an example of the praiseworthiness of Your glory.  I am unutterably rich in relationship with You and an owner of all that is Yours.  The immediacy of Your presence that I enjoy and experience now will only be heightened, deepened, and extended in the kingdom.

You have accomplished all this by merely willing it.  Amazing!

And You have added another blessing to me.  I think this counts as six now that Your apostle lists.  You have sealed me in Jesus with the promised Holy Spirit.  I listened to the message of truth, the good news that proclaimed my rescue by Jesus, and when I believed, the Holy Spirit entered into my life and like a signet ring or a regular sealed pressed into melted wax, He became the evidence that authenticated my rescue by Jesus.

He poured out Your love for me into my heart (Romans 5:3), bore witness with my spirit that I am Your child (Romans 8), gave me power to overcome sin (Romans 6,8; Galatians 5), and took up permanent residence in me (John 14; Romans 8).

Now He is the pledge or promise of my future inheritance because with Him in my life I am marked as belonging to You, Your own possession, and He will certainly complete the redeeming of my life.  I have been redeemed, made Your purchased possession, and I am being redeemed.  You are still winning over portions of my yet rebellious heart bit by bit.  And I will be redeemed entirely at the resurrection and coming kingdom, when all things are made new.

You deserve praise for this, God!

Setting Aside the Counterfeits (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.  For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 17-21)

One of Paul’s responsibilities, and a responsibility of all spiritual leaders, is to identify counterfeits to the true gospel.  Given the rebellious nature of human beings and the very active influence of Satan, there should be a high expectation of distortions to the message of life.  Paul leverages his own example of orthodox living and orthodox doctrine, then he begins to describe those in particular, the Judaizers, who are threatening all of Paul’s church plants.

Not everyone is agreed that these are “the enemies of the cross” to whom Paul is referring.  To some it looks like Paul is describing a group who seeks to push the limits of godly morality.  “Their god is their stomach” sounds to them like those who eat greedily. “Their glory is in their shame” sounds like taking pride in their willingness to push the boundaries ethically.

But in the context Paul has only identified one group of false teachers.  These appear to be people who teach the Jewish law as the standard of holiness and focus on the requirements of circumcision for males and kosher food laws for all.  With that in mind, “their god is their stomach” means their focus on keeping kosher has become their idol; “their glory is in their shame” means they rest confidence in circumcision as their badge of honor.  In all this “their mind is set on earthly things.”  What God designed as a picture of ultimate spiritual truths to be revealed when the new dispensation arrives, these false teachers are still clinging to and giving saving power to instead of looking at faith as the basis for salvation.

By way of contrast, Christianity, God’s new revelation in Christ contained in “new wine skins” (Matthew 9:17), is focused on heaven.  Though the Philippians might take pride in their Roman citizenship, the real reason to boast is their heavenly citizenship.  As citizens of heaven we need no longer be enslaved to earthly elements.  We are people of the last age, the age of the resurrection.  When Jesus comes He is going to resurrect us, make our bodies like His, with all the attributes of a body made suitable for the kingdom.

Focusing on the coming resurrection when Jesus returns to rule on earth helps us stay moored to the true gospel.  We are not trying to muster our own law obedience in order to earn God’s love.  We are operating in God’s already abundantly outpoured love.  We are depending on what Jesus can work in us (the willing and the doing of His good will, 2:13), something He is able to do as the resurrected one.  We are free from the earthly elements that so many have clung to as a means of earning God’s love.  We are in training to recognize the false so we may more readily embrace the true.

Surpassing Worth (Theology for Living from Philippians)

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 10-11)

For what would you give up everything?  For love?  Many have chosen to give up careers, family, current marriages, and even God, for the love of another human being.  For money?  Many have chosen to give up friends, health, honesty, leisure, and even God for money.  For fame?  Many have given up privacy, comfort, peace, and even God for fame.

Paul gave up everything for the benefit of knowing Jesus Christ.  With knowing Jesus Christ came a right standing with God on the basis of faith.  What Paul had to give up to have this was the pursuit of a right relationship with God based on his own righteousness.  He had to quit being good to get to heaven.  He had to forget all he had been taught about keeping the Law as a means of getting God’s love and favor.  He had to give up his religion.  And he had to give up all other pursuits for happiness.

But he did not have to give up God.  By receiving what Jesus had done for him (and what He will do for all who come to Him) Paul received a right standing with God, a place of loving acceptance and cherished family relationship with the divine Father.  He gave up everything to get God.

And for Paul it was worth it.  Everything else paled in comparison to knowing Jesus.  With Jesus as his lord there was no other master and all other masters fell short of really satisfying Paul’s longing heart.  All else was garbage.  Love, money, and fame were actually hindrances if they were sought as that which could fill the human heart.  Only one thing sufficed to fill that empty place inside him.  Jesus.

It is hard to describe how true this is to someone else unless they have found love, money and fame, or their own way of pursuing God to be bankrupt.  Then maybe they become open to the reality of how Jesus can truly fill that place.  I hope you have filed bankruptcy on life’s trivial pursuits and found solvency in Jesus Christ.

My Gain Is My Loss (Theology for Living from Philippians)

– though I myself have reasons for such confidence.  If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verses 4-7)

If I think I’m the bomb, I will bomb.  If I think I’m that and more, I’ll be less.  If I think I’m hot stuff, I’ll burnout.

Isn’t it strange that Christians are accused of being arrogant when they say they’re sure they’re going to heaven because they have believed on Christ?  I suppose it could be perceived that we’re taking credit for having faith, but the usual complaint with us is that no one could or should think they’re that good.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian, but it is strangely in agreement with what Paul is saying to the Philippians.  No one who boasts in themselves really knows the Lord.

Paul had a lot of spiritual boasting credentials.  The list he provides is the highest pedigree possible for a Jew.  There were many Jews who had accommodated themselves to Greek culture and other cultures, but Paul, though a native of Tarsus, had thoroughly immersed himself in the Judean form of Jewish culture.  His adherence to Pharisaism made him one of the elite among religious zealots in Israel.  But ironically, his very pedigree and fanaticism led him to persecute Jesus and his church.

The only way for Paul to have Christ was to disown his own achievements, to negate his own positive credit, and to burn his own bridges to God.  Our bridges to God are  our arrogant attempts to prove to God why we deserve to be acclaimed by Him as worthy of His kingdom.  The only ones He deems worthy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those who already think they are full.

When Paul realized how badly he had misunderstood himself and God, he had to give it all up.  He needed to view his achievements as losses.  What was gain for him was loss.  Do you want God?  Whatever you think you have to offer must be dumped in the trash.  You have to see it as worthless and, more than that, dangerous to your welfare.  As long as you cling to your own righteousness you won’t have any hands to reach out to God.  Empty hands – that is what God is looking for.

Paul identified the false gospel as one centered on self-righteousness.  Perhaps you came to Christ with empty hands and received his forgiveness despite having no merit to claim anything from Him.  But now the way you think about yourself is in comparison to others.  You might compare yourself to those who don’t follow Christ and think, “Wow, their behavior is so bad.  I could never do that kind of stuff.”  You might compare yourself to other Christ followers and think, “I may not be the best but I’m better than them.”  Both of these responses are so dangerous.

You are in danger of falling away from the true gospel when you adopt these comparisons.  You are measuring your connection to God with self-righteousness.  You are making the same mistake the unbeliever makes who accuses us of arrogance for saying we know we’re going to heaven.  They think we think we’re that good.  But we are just as self-righteous as they are and just as actually deficient in righteousness as they are.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.

Confidence in Our Rescue (Theology for Living from Philippians)

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 1:4-6)

The Philippian church had been a giving church.  Paul reminds them that they were the only church who supported him as he left Macedonia for Achaia and Greece (Philippians 4:15).  And when he was in the next big town over from Philippi, Thessalonica, and was experiencing such tough opposition and persecution, the gift from the Philippians was extremely timely and helpful (Philippians 4:16).  Their generosity was one more thing that had knit their hearts and Paul’s together.  They were partners in the gospel!

Partnership can be a wonderful thing when the partners are on the same page.  It can bring out the worst in us when we are not on the same page with a partner.  The Philippians were originally partnering with each other in their support of Paul, but now seemed to be fighting over just how to do that, and things were miserable.  The once happy church was struggling with the conflict.  There is very little more painful than church conflict.

But Paul had a confidence!  What he knew about God and His salvation was that once God began a work in someone He would finish it.  Once He rescued a person He didn’t leave them to their own devices to finish up the rescue.  He didn’t get them in the lifeboat and then refuse to feed them or make them row for some distant shore on their own, subject to the storms on the ocean or the creatures who would see the rescuees as prey.  He would bring that boat to shore!

Because of this confidence in God and because the Philippians had given evidence of God at work within them from the very beginning, Paul believed that their partnership would once again be harmonious.  He was going to be persuasive and partner with God to bring that about, but it was ultimately a God-thing.  We’ll see a repeat of this theme throughout the letter.

Is there someone you know who has given every evidence of God’s work of rescue in their lives but who is now struggling or even seemingly without struggle despite going the opposite way from God?  If God began this good work in them He will complete it.  This doesn’t mean He won’t have to use some severe discipline to make that come about.  It doesn’t mean you won’t be called upon, like Paul, to make a contribution to the effort.  What it does mean, however, is that there is hope for this person’s completed rescue.  A true believer will persevere in faith.

Paul saw evidence and drew a conclusion from it.  The Philippians had shown the work of God in their lives.  God would complete that work.  What if the evidence for a person’s salvation is sketchy?  To that degree our hope is lessened.  But if they have indeed come to Christ, they cannot lose what Christ began in them.  We cannot lose our salvation because it includes much more than an initial conversion.  As Paul says elsewhere (Romans 8:29), it includes being conformed to the image of Christ.  That is the complete salvation Jesus purchased for us.

Don’t give up on that erring Christian.  Model for them what it means to live out Christ’s love and persuasively compel them to return to the truth.  If God has saved them, they will return!

For Further Study Read:

What does God do with our unconfessed sins? (Ask the Pastors)

What is the sin that leads to death? (Ask the Pastors)

Does 1 Corinthians 6 teach that you can lose your salvation? (Ask the Pastors)

What is the unpardonable sin?  (Ask the Pastors)

Can backsliding cause me to lose my salvation? (Ask the Pastors)

Can a Christian fall from grace? (Ask the Pastors)

Does suicide keep me from heaven? (Ask the Pastors)