Ephesians

Well, welcome all to another beautiful Sunday and a time where we can come together in fellowship for the glory of our God. I pray that all our eyes and ears are open to his words and that his wisdom is able to grow in you with a thirst for more.

Today, I’m kicking off with a 2part sermon routed in the book of Ephesians concluding next week.

Ephesians is six chapters long and if you have not read it, I truly encourage you too. It will only take you 15 minutes. Keeping it simple this week, ill discuss the first 3 chapters and the last 3 next week.

Before we delve in though. A bit about the book, for those that may not know, Ephesians was a letter written by Paul, to the church of Ephesus, which he established on his second visit there. Evidence of Pauls visit here is in Acts 19.

Paul wrote it while imprisoned in Rome under house arrest.

The letter for the Ephesians was believed to be delivered by Onesimus. The runaway slave who sort Paul out in Rome for reasons only known to him.

Onesimus is believed to have left Rome in possession of three letters for Paul, these being Philemon, Colossians and Ephesians. Each one dropped off on the slaves return to his master Philemon, near Colossae. Another testament, to Gods plan for us not being like the plans we have for ourselves, yet guiding us through his wisdom.

The book of Ephesians is unique as more than any other epistle demonstrates how Important and how central the church is to Gods plans and his purpose for mankind. The Epistle is not a solving letter, or a letter addressed to a person.

It is a letter addressed to a church. It is a letter written to a church that was currently in an economically booming city. Ephesus is described as a major trading port and once considered the most important trading centre in the Mediterranean.

It’s even home to one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World. The temple of Artemis. Also known as Diana. However, even with this active Greek god worship, it was a hot bed of Christianity and the word and the way had spread to Ephesus from Jerusalem.

I guess, I’m trying to show you how Ephesus can be like Bulahdelah, a busy town, never a car spot free, if you find one you thank god. People coming and going traveling north, south, east and west, dealing with finances, spending and collecting. Easily snared to focus on Money and personal ways, rather than the way of Christ . And us, our little church, as well as the others in our town, a hot bed of Christianity in all the busyness of the world.

This letter by Paul you see is relevant to us today, here in this room as it was to the Ephesians all that time ago. We could even say it is addressed to us. Are we not a church of Gentiles (Non Jewish) now living with the good news having the gift of Grace and God’s love, available to us.

But first, What makes receiving a letter so special?

Have you ever written or received a letter based with love?, whether it be a love of friendship or romance. How did you feel when you received it? How did you feel when you wrote it?

Letters, now unfortunately more and more a thing of the past thanks to technology, but letters are so special, as it personalises ones thoughts. It takes time to stop, think and write, as well as time to stop, think and read. It requires our focus and effort.

A letter requires a personalisation from both the writer and the reader. It offers us a spiritual connection. I Say this, as when you write it, your thinking of the reader, and although not in the same room, for that moment in time, in your thoughts, they are!

It is the same for the reader.

Writing and reading requires our thought, our analysis of what is being said and our reactions influenced by the other. Self-reflection of what has been said as it was said for a reason.

If this is not true, why then do we buy birthday cards for people, based off what we think sounds nicest. Yet, we still have to write something in them. Even if it’s just their name and love from, blah blah.

Why? We just chose the best worded one already. If I wanted to write, why didn’t I just choose a blank card.

I believe it’s, because we have an instinct and desire for personal connections and an instinct that our thoughts have more meaning and are best conveyed when written and read. The time it takes, allows us to spread love the best we can, with no worldly distractions taking away the meaningfulness of it.. It allows us to create a tangible real moment in time, recorded down, forever. Like the epistles.

When I graduated from the police force, my mother wrote me a letter about how proud she was. I kept this letter in my wallet for more than 10 years, It’s now in my treasure box. A simple cardboard box in my cupboard.

Leesh has a top draw full of old love letters I have written to her over the years. Priceless to her, but a thief, the words are worthless as they do not feel and see the relationship we have. They do not have a connection. My children though when leesh and I both pass on, I dare say will value them more than leesh. I real life memento of their parents love. A corner stone for their memories of us and our family. We keep these things as they are a physical reminder used by us to connect with and reflect on during our life.

The reason I speak about letters, is this is what Paul has done here, to the Ephesus church, and also for us in our church. I want you to see Ephesians as not just a letter written to an ancient church, but to the universal church. I want you to see a letter written to us by Paul, with an honest and encouraging mindset, for the here and now and the value it offers us, as disciples, brothers and sisters, children of God, individuals together in fellowship, a church. A letter that took time to write and careful picking and choosing of words to reveal his real thoughts and real words of wisdom.

The letter starts off with Paul, identifying the will of God in his life, in making him an apostle and his proud acceptance of it. Reminding us that our lives too are used for Gods will and glory, not our own and we should be proud to accept this.

I found the first Chapter to have an overriding theme of Peace and the Peace that Christ brings to us and our church. His body.

Paul tells us that we have been blessed by Christ with every blessing in the heavenly realms through his love for us. What blessings does Paul mean here. To provide you with the right mindset, I turn your attention to Matthew 5:2-10 NIV. The Beatitudes.

Where Christ states we are blessed to have access to the kingdom of heaven. Blessed to have comfort. Blessed by inheriting the earth. To be filled with his righteousness. To receive his mercy. To Be united with God and be called children of God and that through Christ we can call the kingdom of heaven our home.

I wonder if you would agree with me in my thought that these blessing have a common theme, a theme I say is directly related to the church and of peace. A peace, that I have an inheritance with Christ, that I am and will be taken care of. That I am forgiven, that I don’t not have to worry as God loves me and has prepared a place, I can call my own and that death is not the end of me. No Doctors can give me that type of Peace.

Notice though, how there is no financial blessing or prosperity blessing mentioned here. That is because Christ does not give as the world gives. However, Christ does give peace, John 14:27 NIV 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Paul reminds us of this in Colossians telling us to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. Again, drawing our attention to the Heavenly world and the reality of Christ, Heaven and Hell and the temptations of Sin.

In Ephesians 1:13, Paul tells us that we were marked with the seal of the holy spirit, that is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption. Christ return.

A deposit is something we can all understand. It is transaction that works both ways in providing a peace. I have recently decided to buy a caravan, I needed to pay a deposit, to secure the van for me and for the supplier to guarantee to provide it to me. As such the deposit paid by me was a sense of peace that I was going to get what I wanted.

Paul, tells us we were each chosen and are included in Gods plan

Redeemed by the blood of Jesus on the cross and that through Christ we are saved and forgiven of our sins. Each of us chosen to be his people.

Because Christ paid this deposit for you and me, in his death. A deposit that I now find peace in, through my faith that God will provide me with my spot at the table in heaven.

Chapter 1 ends with Paul telling us how important it is for him to give thanks to the church and the importance of continued prayer for the spirit of wisdom and revelation that we may in fellowship get to know our God better.

Specifically asking for enlightenment of our hearts to know the hope Christ can provide, the richness of the glorious inheritance Christ has prepared for us and the immeasurable power of God the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For us to find our peace as part of his body, the church, Christ the head.

Ephesians 2:1-10 starts off with bang and straight to the point.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, [2] in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. [3] All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. [4] But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, [5] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. [6] And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, [7] 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. [8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— [9] not by works, so that no one can boast. [10] 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Isn’t this piece of scripture so true and so relevant. So humbling, It truly speaks to you, personally about your past and your future.

He made us alive in Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions. Christ the giver and provider of peace.

Peace is a blessing for us that is easily misunderstood and mistaken. We don’t find peace in earthly desires of the flesh. Or earned money. Having a bigger house or Car than our neighbour. We don’t find peace, in fame or in the amount of facebook likes or social media recognition. Yet we as humans try. We try to find it in these places. following the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Can humans not be described as sheep, happy to follow.

Like Paul writes, All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. We live in a world where peace is believed to be found in human concerns, material fortunes, in alcohol, prohibited drugs, sexual immorality.

Yet, what is the one thing this earthly world ruled by the prince of the air, does not and cannot give us?

Love.

If it did there would be no need for shows like MAFS, or when I was a boy perfect match. No need for Dating apps. No need for divorce courts or Criminal courts as love would rule. And as such we would also have peace, not wanting, no restlessness, not searching for the next high or trying to forget the past.

It is through love we find peace. A Comfort and belonging, accepted for who u are. Christ leaves peace for us, do u choose to pick it up? Do u choose to take hold of it?, he states he gives it to you? What do you chose to do?

Do you Choose to turn to him and acknowledge him in your life as your guide. Your God. Thank him, trust him and his will for you and thirst for more knowledge about who Christ is and how he provides for you if you let him. Or do you choose to turn away, to ignore Christ, go it your way as you know better and that you’ll find your peace soon as you have a plan. And a plan B and a C for in case of setbacks and circumstances that occur, in your own admissions, as out of your control. But nothing human sensual satisfaction cannot fix, through material concerns and fleshly desires.

These are real choices.

Interestingly in my research, the word Joy keeps appearing in association with blessings. I do not think it is a coincidence. As True joy can only be experienced through true love and a true peace.

Romans 12 v2 warns us. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

I recently read an article about the old Rosenthal Church, located in Markwell and I dare say fondly remembered by a majority here. The article was around the brief history of the church being built in 1905 and the eventual selling of the church in 1995. I’m not sure if you are all aware. However, the money from the sale was donated to our church here. The money used, to go towards renovations and a disabled access to the Bulahdelah Uniting Church.

Knowing humans, I would say this time, would have been one of mixed emotions, doubt and sadness. Full of human concerns verse Gods will. Yet with the renewing of their minds and a trust of Gods will, the Rosenthal faithful sold the church, A chapter in their lives closing. But look at us today in this renovated building listening to Gods word, in fellowship because of their acceptance and trust in Gods will.

If the persons involved in the early Rosenthal church could see this today and hear the word preached from the pulpit. Would that not bring them peace and comfort and joy, knowing they did what that had to do, not for their own self glory, but for the will of God. They were used as Gods handy work, for a future they would not see or be a part of. Yet provided for. Like Pauls letters, Like the Bible!

I drove past our church last Friday night around 8pm. I have never seen a more beautiful light in Bulahdelah. The colours of the windows, shining brightly through the darkness. It even made Trevor comment on the prettiness of it. Now I say this cautiously, as we are the church and not the building, but That beautiful light shining that night was a reflection of our church. Of Us, you and me and our faith, our love for Christ. Our confidence in allowing this building to be our public place of worship and fellowship.

The lit-up building was a great show to the community and travellers of our faith in Christ. Christianity, alive and active in Bulahdelah shining through in a dark world, while people were gathered inside for world prayer. The light offering an invitation to peace, comfort and joy, for those who sore it and an invitation for those deciding to enter. I encourage the church council for the coming easter period, to leave the church lights on during the evening from Friday to the Sunday night. So the building can shine in our community and start conversations between families rushing around our town for Easter. To help plant a little mustard seed in a mind searching or seeking peace.

After all the great mystery revealed by Paul in Ephesians is that the Jewish and the Gentiles, were now one humanity. For he himself is our peace who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. His purpose was to create one new humanity out of the two, and thus making peace.

Christs death unites us all to God. Christ sacrifice, not only split the curtain of the temple, but broke the wall of divide between the Israelites and the gentiles. Creating one humanity in which all of us are now a part of Gods kingdom. Fellow citizens in Christ and members of his household.  No longer strangers and foreigners to each other but simply, brothers and sisters.

I wonder if we have not learnt from this, as we still have different denominations and religious sects. But to me that shows the blinding power of human concerns, that we all need to be aware of.

Regardless, Paul plainly tells us the cornerstone that we are to build our faith on. Jesus Christ. Verse21 – 22 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple In the lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit.

Now, as a church with the corner stone of Jesus as our foundation, we are required to serve and allow the wisdom of God to be made known, to not just each other and our community, but to the heavenly realms, as a part of the universal church, one humanity, through our actions, thoughts and deeds, and our discipleship of love and acceptance of Christ as our lord and saviour.

John 3:14-16 NIV

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [15] that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” [16] 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.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Moses from Numbers 21 this is what Jesus is referencing here.

While travelling from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, the people grew impatient on the way, speaking against God and Moses.

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” the Lord sent venomous snakes among them which bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

This is why Christ said, look to him, like the Israelites looked at the bronze snake held up by Moses. The world is a hard and testing place already without the included burden of Sin around us like the snakes. Though by focusing on the ascended Christ, we too will be saved, even of bitten by sin.

Paul writes with passion, concern, thought and authority, providing wisdom and counsel to the Ephesians and us today. Paul makes it known that his words alone would not ensure maturity and wisdom. But it would be the Holy Spirt, the gift provided by Christ that resides in them, that would ensure their development with a maintained focus on Christ.

Paul emphasises that God’s grace and Love is for all people, no matter what they have done, highlighting that all persons can approach God with confidence and freedom because of the gift of grace, freely given with love by God to all.

We understand that Paul knew that faith and wisdom cannot be solely provided by him and he encourages us as members of the church to personally work together with the holy spirit to understand the deep love of Christ and ground ourselves humbly to Gods power and will.

In God’s plan and through the holy spirit we are connected to Gods love and power, have no doubt.

By an active relationship with God through the spirit and prayer, we will see our faith and understanding mature and further glorify Christ discerning our own paths God has for us.

As a result of this though, we share a responsibility to spread the good news to all, which is also supported in the scripture of Matthew 28:19, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.

I got Leesh to read the first three chapters on Friday night. She commented to me, wow, I found it strange how he prayed for the people who were already Christians and believing in God and was taken aback by how he said we were all dead in our transgressions.

This is a great opportunity to reaffirm, that although we pray for the sick and for unbelievers. We at times may forget to pray for the people we think are strong or well cemented in faith. I prayed for Steve the other week. I had to stop and pause as a man of stronger faith, I do not think I have met. What do I pray for him about. I thought about it and after a short pause, I simply said, Lord, I hand the thoughts, concerns and worries of Steve over to you lord and I ask that you guide him in your will.

None of us are never not in need of prayer.

Allow the first 3 chapters of this letter by Paul, to reach out to you personally. It was written for you and the church. It tells us the importance of the unity we now all live together in, as a result of Gods love. It tells us the Peace we seek and want is ready for us to collect and take and it tells us that we were, once dead in our sins, he conveyed the message so well, that it stood out to leesh who has never read it before. It spoke to her thoughts. It is true, we were once dead and lived in sin. But now through the love and grace of God, we have the gift of peace and eternal life. There is no other reason, we are saved and made righteous.

Our church also, has an important responsibility to remain righteous, to promote unity and be a place of peace and love. Just like you, your own holy temple. Personally, allow the holy spirt to unite with you, allow your self to seek, ask and take hold of the peace Christ offers  you and act, think and serve with love.

Like a letter, our church requires our personalisation from both the writer and the reader, God and ourselves. It offers us a spiritual connection to grow in wisdom and knowledge and provide a place where Peace can be searched for with success. It is through the church we learn and appreciate the love and peace offered by Christ. A Comfort and belonging, an acceptance for who you are, and a love and care for each other as brothers or sisters of our father in heaven.

Today I thought our prayer can come straight form Ephesians as it like our letter is heartfelt and so relevant.

Ephesians 3:13-21 NIV

A Prayer for the Ephesians [14] For this reason I kneel before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. [16] I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [18] may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [19] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. [20] Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, [21] 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen

Next week, we get to tackle the last 3 chapters. I wont spoil it, but I encourage you to read it before then.

Never be lacking in Zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:11-12, NIV)