Monday, October 11, 2010

EPHESIANS: PARTAKERS of LIGHT in the DARK DAYS of EVIL

Previously in chapter four of Ephesians we examined much of that which involves the body of Christ, and what's been known as 'body ministry' or that ministry that takes place within the church, among the saints themselves. Verse 16 is a key to the latter half of the chapter -

Eph 4:16
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


What follows is an admonition from Paul that the saints would "put off the old man" and its sinful tendencies, and to "put on the new man" by the "renew[ing] in the spirit of your mind". The new man is created by God "in righteousness and true holiness". Note that word, "true"; false holiness is nothing more than legalism, a human contrivance born of a heart of religious pride, which in itself is anti-thetical to the holiness born of God. We must guard ourselves against even the more subtle forms of legalism that would seek our fall from grace and head-long into a 'works trip' that would have us earn 'brownie points' towards heaven.

We continue now with our study by starting chapter 5 -

Eph 5:1-2
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.


Working among the public as I do (at the airport), I often witness parents with their children; these adorable little ones are equipped with their own walk behind luggage, and with those short, little legs of theirs, they toddle and scamper after their parents without question. It seems to be the nature of children (at least for the most part) to follow their father, and as well it should be. Likewise for us, we should walk and follow after God our Father, choosing to walk in the newness of a holy life and the mind of Christ; rejecting a walk of the old sinful ways.

Its much as Elijah admonished the children of Israel:

1 Kings 18:21
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

"Walk in love" Paul encourages the saints at Ephesus, "as Christ has loved us". A remarkable exhortation, considering the depths of love in which Christ Jesus has loved us, Who Himself became an offering and a sacrifice for us!

Yet this is the commandment we received from the LORD Jesus Himself (and remember, the LORD never commands of us anything, but that He isn't willing and able to equip, and empower us by His Spirit that indwells us followers of God, to obey that command):

John 13:34
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another
.

This is the singular characteristic that would identify the followers of Jesus: not their doctrine, not their faith, not their worship, but by their love one for another. These former things are necessary of course, yet without love for God they are worthless, and we cannot hope to reveal our love for God as valid, if we fail to love each other as Christ Jesus loves us!

See 1 John 4:20

Eph 5:3-4
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks
.

These are the deeds of the old man which we are to "put off" and which should not "be once named among you, as becometh saints". How tragically sad and deplorable when I consider that such things ARE named among the saints in today's church. Young Christian girls are routinely getting pregnant by men who claim the faith, then they decide to abort the baby afterwards. High school and college age Christians find no objections to drug use, or films of "filthiness", and whose speech is coarse with profanity

(See Col 3:8). Even as they partake of such things, they plead, "grace, grace, I'm not under the Law, I'm saved by grace! I have my liberties! Don't be so legalistic!"

Yet what is the purpose of grace but to save us from our sins, both past and present and as well as this, empowering us to resist sin, and maintain the blood-bought liberty and deliverance from sin so that we may serve God and the saints unhindered by such damnable domination -

Gal 5:13
For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

"Fornication" is readily understood as simply "illicit sexual conduct in all its various forms". "Uncleaness" was already mentioned previously in Eph. 4:19; here it is again in vs. 3. Akatharsia is the word used in the Greek and it can refer to "physical and, or moral uncleaness; also its suggestive of the fact that sensuality and evil doctrine are frequently associated with it (2 Tim 3:5-9)". Its interesting, and tragically sad to note that many ministers who fall into heretical beliefs and false doctrines are also actively involved, previously or afterwards, in immorality.

"Covetousness" is basically "greediness and a strong, inappropriate desire to possess that which one presently lacks".

"Filthiness" is aischrotes in the Greek, meaning "shamefulness, obscenity, a word that represents all that is contrary to purity". "Foolish talking" uses the Greek word morologia, and it refers to foolishness, buffoonery, dull, stupid; in this passage it means more than mere idle talk but the talk of fools which is foolishness and sin together. "Jesting" is from eutrapelia, meaning "well turned, repartee, witticism (in a vulgar sense), ribaldry (lewd humorous language)".

These things, as the scriptures state, are "not convenient" or "not proper, not befitting, that which is not ethical"

When you think of taking the LORD's Name in vain, do you think of profanity? Something a construction worker screams when he hits the wrong 'nail'? I won't exclude such a thing, but I believe the commandment to not "take the LORD's Name in vain" refers to more than simply this.

When one takes on the Name of the LORD, Who's Name is Holy, one is submitting oneself under God's Lordship, and dedicated to loving, worshipping and serving Him whole-heartedly. Once one commits one's life to the LORD, then returns back to worldly ways and conduct, as mentioned above, I believe one has taken the name of the LORD in vain!

And such should not be NAMED among us, the saints (remember the term 'saint' and 'sanctified' have the same root word, and it means to be separate; that is separate from the world-system with its sinful ways of pride, aggression, wantonness, violence, etc. and separated for GOD Himself) of God.

Verse 4 of our text ends with, "but rather giving of thanks" and this IS quite proper and befitting for the saints. We ought to be a people overflowing with thankfulness to the LORD for our present blessings we receive from Him, as well as past blessings.

In hectic lives full of 'busyness' we often don't take the time to reflect on all that the LORD has done for us. A good brother I've known for years now is fond of saying, "If Jesus Christ did nothing for us, except to die for our sins, that would have been MORE than enough!"

I wholly agree! And yet,

Rom 8:32
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?


Note that it says "with Him", that is Jesus Christ . . . that God will give us "all things" with or through Jesus Christ. Nothing impure, improper or anything contrary to God's will can come through the LORD Jesus, therefore "all things" would limit itself to the nature and Name of Jesus Who is Holy.

If we can find nothing else for which to give God our thanks, there is the paramount reason to be perpetually bubbling over with thankfulness and praise and adoration and humble worship: Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!


Paul could rightly give us this admonition without the least hint of hypocrisy for he himself was a giver of thanks, even in the midst of imprisonment, ridicule, hardships, lacking food and shelter, persecutions and beatings, and more. Thanksgiving to God is His due, regardless of what sufferings we may endure, for we cannot neglect His grace and blessings, nor allow any present hardships to overshadow them.

Lets take time out from the study for just a moment and listen to this song by sung by Matt Redman -

Blessed Be Your Name - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NL3NFhmxQxs (check out the comments on this page too, so beautiful to see the saints adoring God!)

Blessing the name of the LORD, even in the midst of pain, and suffering, is something that God is due, but more than this, in the offering of thanksgiving for what God has provided and granted us by His grace, this a sure way to prevent harboring a bitter, and hardening heart! By focusing our hearts in worship of God, we gain an altogether different perspective, an awareness of the goodness and righteousness and holiness of God, and this can elevate us above the effects of hardships and trials (not the very things themselves necessarily).

Eph 5:5-7
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.


Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Read also 1 Cor 6:9; Rev 21:8 and see who shall not inherit the kingdom of God, but are reserved for judgment.

I must at this point take care with my words, because there are those of us who are struggling with sin issues, many of them represent what's known as 'strongholds' that have ensnared us from before the time we came to salvation in the LORD (or perhaps even afterwards in some select cases).

There is not a single saint in all the church, in all of church history, that doesn't sin, and if any make that claim, they are a liar according to 1 John 1:10. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God, we are all prone to stumbling into sin in this walk with God, and the LORD has made provision for us at such times -

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What we as Christians should never permit, is a resignation towards our sin, and consider such sins or sinful lifestyles as compatible with our walk with God. As the old argument would say, "God made weed, man made beer, who do YOU trust?"

I've known Christians who smoke marijuana and justify it as entirely acceptable to God for the above reason. Others justify sex outside of wed lock. Justification for all sorts of different sins while maintaining a profession of faith is common these days (Consider Christian artists Jennifer Knapp - and Ray Boltz prior to her - and their coming out as a homosexual, but still professing to be a believers; they maintain a sinful lifestyle, but still conduct themselves as Christian musicians; they need our prayers, saints! Watch this video clip from LARRY KING LIVE - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xDWc7SvBOA) but scripturally speaking, is entirely unacceptable.

Stumbling into sin is one thing, sustaining a lifestyle of sin is quite another! See the difference? As believers we are to produce fruits of righteousness, not of corruption and sin. We are the "dear children of God" not the "children of disobedience" upon such will fall "the wrath of God". Paul therefore pleads with the Ephesians (whose society was very morally loose in their day, much as ours is today) "not to be partakers with them".


Eph 5:8-10
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:


(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;), Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.

Light and darkness, holy and sinful, truth and deception: polar opposites with no middle ground whatsoever. Spiritually speaking, there is no such thing as 'gray' (Matt. 12:30).

We were darkness once before we came to know Jesus, we were slaves of the prince of darkness and his dark kingdom (Act 26:18; Rom 6:20-21; Col 1:13) but we've been liberated now, and walk in the glory of God's Light!

Darkness has the connotation of chaos, disorder, lawlessness and confusion; Light on the other hand connotes peace, order, lawfulness and clarity (John 1:4; 1 John 1:7). As children of the LIGHT of God, we should exhibit the nature of that Light, just as all children exhibit the nature of their parents:


Eph 5:11-13
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light
.

To have no "fellowship" would mean to refrain from partnering up with, participating or sharing, communing or conducting a common work together.

The word for "reprove" in the Greek is elegcho, and it has a wealth of meaning: "to confute (to decisively prove one is wrong or in error), admonish, rebuke, convince, tell (one's) fault, convict".

Dr. James Strong elaborates on the meaning of the word,"To rebuke another with the truth so that the person confesses or at least may be convicted of his sin. Although convicted he may not be convinced. The world will be convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) but not all will change. Jesus was charged with sin but none convicted nor convinced him of sin (John 8:46)".


And so the children of Light ought to properly reflect the LORD of Light (1 Cor 4:5) in their lives, in such a way, as to prove an effective means of convicting others of their sin. Light is silent, and often its merely our silent presence that can so effect others to their spiritual benefit in manifesting their sin. A surgeon must first expose a cancer before it can be effectively removed.

Psalm 37:6
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.


Yet in order to rebuke, words often must be said, and here, as stated previously the saint must "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) for love ("charity") indeed "rejoices in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).


Eph 5:14-16
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil
.

Spiritual slumbering is something that Christians can be guilty of; the LORD repeatedly cautioned His followers to not be asleep at His return, but to be watchful and ready (see Luke 21:36; also 1 Thess. 5:6). Satan, conversely, is ecstatic at the sleeping saint unaware of the times in which he lives, unconcerned for his own welfare or that of others.

These are not watchful or diligent in matters of the church either; they do not guard against wolves, against false doctrine, against abuse of authority by those who are commissioned for the church's blessing who rather than feed the sheep, they fleece them. To slumber behind enemy lines (and rest assured, the church is behind enemy lines - rebel planet: Earth) is sometimes needful under protection of shelter or foxholes, or in our case, our Strong Tower; see Psalm 61:3.

However, to walk in our faith asleep, a kind of spiritual sleep-walking can prove fatal; imagine a soldier arising from his cot, yet still asleep, and roaming about outside, in view of the enemy's crosshairs! This is the image I have of some Christians who are not walking circumspectly.

"Circumspectly" means "exactly, precisely" and carries with it the idea of accuracy, definitive intent and precision. Walking circumspectly, I picture a high wire trapeze artist with his body and attention finely attuned to the placement of his feet, walking 'circumspectly' across that wire.

Perhaps an even better illustration is a soldier, crossing the battle field, knowingly traversing a mine field; he must carefully, delicately navigate across this lethal landscape and take the utmost care - his life depends on it, as well as the lives of his fellow soldiers who follow his lead!

Redeeming the time for the days are evil - What would it take to redeem evil times? Living a life pleasing to the LORD; being salt and light in this wayward world (both salt and light are preservatives and destroy infections; see Matt 5:13 - Mat 5:16); walking in the Spirit, obeying the LORD in accord with His Word, standing fast in the faith and denying ungodliness (see Titus 2:12) is all part and parcel in the spiritual war that we are engaged in. Be prepared to venture into the militant message from our Messiah in Ephesians ch. 6, coming soon: this warfare that we conduct against Satan and all of his evil hosts of spiritual wickedness.

Eph 5:17-19
Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
;

Wisdom of the Divine sort is impossible to acquire through human means, and yet its also in bountiful supply for those who simply, humbly come before the Father and ask Him for some. Upon such a request asked in such a manner as this, our gracious Father gives this wisdom with utmost generosity! (see James 1:5)

As believers whose lives and hearts enthrone the very presence of God, as literal and spiritual houses or temples for the Spirit of God (1 Cor 6:19 ) we are to fall under the influences of no one or no thing, but rather under the sweet, gentle, and all powerful influence of God Himself - thus for a Christian to fall under the sway of alcohol is a shame, but its no less a shame to fall under the influence of other things (gambling, porn, materialism, seeking wealth and pleasure) and people, seeking to please them rather than God. To become influenced by our own motives, ambition, covetousness, envy, etc. is no less shameful.

Let us rather with eagerness and humility be filled with the Holy Spirit and be led by God just as our LORD Jesus Himself was led by and filled with the Holy Spirit, and as a result enjoyed a ministry full of power and Divine effectiveness (Luke 4:1, :14)!

In my private times, I love to sing to the LORD, meditate on His ways, and commune with Him - its a relational interaction, between Father and son, and such times are sweet and intimate indeed!

Eph 5:20-21
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God
.

Again, we come to the vital issue of thanksgiving and where the scriptures repeat themselves we ought to sit up and take notice. Thanksgiving needs to be an integral part of the believers life. In what way are we to submit to one another? By serving one another in a way that pleases God; we don't serve one another to seek to please them or gain their approval or acceptance, but because of our love for God, and for them (regardless of whether or not its returned) and our desire to fear (reverence) and obey God.

Eph 5:22-24
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing
.

Here we begin to examine some of the relationships of believers among family, particularly of the husband and wife in the marriage, which in itself
is a model of the relationship between Christ Jesus and His church, the Bride of Christ.

As husbands love their wives with the same potency and quality of love that Christ Jesus has for His church, this establishes an atmosphere of grace, aceptance and love, and in such an atmosphere the wife finds it easy to submit with loving acceptance of her husband, knowing that he has her best interest at heart in all things.

Even so, husbands require patience for even Christ Jesus Himself the Prime Example of love and grace some times has a church that is not yielded and obedient. Yet with such grace and patience, He woos her, blesses her, nourishes and cherishes her, and by His goodness leads the church in repentance for any obstinancy or rebellion.

As mentioned previously, since Christ Jesus is the veritable Head of the church, His body ought to obey instantly His commands, and yet sometimes like a body afflicted with palsy, we do not respond as we should. May we repent of such a lack on our part and yield to the One Who loves us so much, that He shed His blood for us in excruciating suffering as our sin-bearer.


Eph 5:25-27
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish
.

Husbands are to minister to their wives in the Word, and such study in the scriptures can be a sweet fellowship (among any believers, but particularly those saints who are blessed in matrimony), and in the washing of the bride, in the Word, she is ever blessed and grows in spiritual might, maturity and magnificence! So likewise the church under the tutelage of our great King, Savior and Ultimate Teacher!

Only Christ Jesus can produce and maintain a church not having any blemish, or wrinkle but instead possessing a God-instilled glory and holiness. He can and will present the church to Himself in this manner. It cannot be manufactured by the church, nor can it be maintained by us saints. Only by the effectual working of the Word of God, ministered to us by the WORD made flesh, can we receive this blessing as we yield to Him.
This is true for the church, and for the individual saint as well:


Philippians 1:6
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Eph 5:28-29
So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church
:

Eph 5:30-33
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband
.

Again, this mysterious union between Christ Jesus and His bride is spoken of, and compared with the marriage relationship. Thus we understand the sacredness of marriage between a man and his wife, and why this, and no other kind is sanctioned, and ordained and blessed of God. Upon this marriage is the foundation of the family established, and thus the family is likewise ordained of God. Any nation is only as strong as the families that it consists of, just as any chain is only as strong as its individual links.

Just as those who are joined in holy wedlock are one flesh in the sight of God (thus is divorce abhorrent to the LORD, but even here, He has made some provision) those who are joined with the LORD are one spirit. There is a union shared between God and His saintly children, and this union ought not be polluted by a careless and sinfully prone life:

1 Cor 6:17
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
(see 1 Cor 6:16-:20)


In chapter 6 we continue in the examination of various relationships among family, the working environment and others before we venture into the domain of spiritual warfare, and yet these two subjects are not disassociative as one might suppose. How we live our personal lives among our spouses, family, friends, co-workers and the church has a profound effect on the efficacy of our warfare in the spiritual realm.

We shall examine these issues in the next study, and an expanded study of Spiritual Warfare and the armor of God will be posted on the primary site, The TRUTH Under FIRE!

I would deeply appreciate all of your prayers as I prepare to venture into the studies required for these next upcoming articles, and until then, may the LORD JESUS CHRIST bless you with all SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS in heavenly places!!

agape, grace & peace

brother James FIRE

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