This summer, I have been meeting with a small group of women, outside to study Ephesians. It has been delightful. I knew a study of this book would be wonderful. Meeting in person has been great too! It beats the sterility of a zoom call. We sit 6 feet apart and wear masks. Sometimes, during the meeting when we have to talk, we take our masks off. It’s much easier to hear each other. But this past week, the state has mandated masks for all meetings, so we were hesitant to take our masks all the way off. Someone driving by might think we hadn’t been wearing them. Ugh! So it was more difficult to hear each other.
The passage we studied this week was extremely encouraging. Reading it over and thinking it through will be very encouraging for you.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—
that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints
what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV
Notice how often it talks about the “riches of…”, “the fullness of…”, “more abundantly”. These are all associated with GOD or HIs power or His ability to provide what we need. There is no mention of “barely enough”, “stingy”, “not enough to go around”.
As we worked our way through this passage along with some accompanying verses, it became clear that we don’t begin to enjoy the riches of what we have available in Christ in terms of being strengthened, having power, having the faith needed for a given situation, loving each other, experiencing the love of Christ for us and through us as well as experiencing His abundant answers to prayer for both our own generation and the generations to come! The one about the generations to come really got to me. How hopeful is that?!
As GOD works in our present, He is also preparing us and our family for the future.
What hope we have for the future! GOD is not only working in our lives now, but His power is at work to bring glory in the church and to Christ Jesus in the generations to come. There is no question it will not look just the way we think it will. It is highly likely it won’t look anything like we expect. In my lifetime, the things that we thought brought glory to GOD were very different than what we think now…and I think many of the changes in emphasis are Biblical. Certainly not all, of course.
I have seen changes in emphasis in my lifetime. I need to grow with the best of these changes.
At one time, our focus was much more on rules of behavior. This was what a Christian looked like: they didn’t do this, they didn’t do that. As someone who grew up during those years, I found it very confusing to figure out what I actually believed! Once I did, I realized, some of the emphases of my growing up years had not been Biblical. They were not on what was happening in my heart. Many of them were on the very things Jesus warned the Pharisees against. They were on the negatives, not on the positives. They were on the externals, not the internals of my heart.
If my trust wasn’t in Jesus to work out the changes in my heart, the do’s and don’t’s can be very cold and empty.
The same goes for justice and mercy. If I’m not doing it from a heart that is trusting Christ for my salvation, not my good works, it will be worthless.
Now, a few generations later, the emphasis is more on justice and mercy. That is very Biblical. It’s an emphasis that was neglected. Many of us made the choice between justice/mercy and true doctrine. In the desire to choose, we forgot we needed both. The correction is being forced by our culture to some degree, but it is a correction that is needed. It is painful but it is also good. To the degree that generational sins are being repented of and changes are being made, GOD will bring benefits to the next generations. It will be to our benefit to be brutally honest with ourselves before GOD as we seek to change. We can’t be half-hearted about it.
This New Testament passage reminds us that if we are in Christ, we have Christ’s resources to give us the strength from the Holy Spirit to do what GOD wants us to…do what He calls us to…to love others, to do justice, to be merciful and kind and walk humbly with Him.
The truth is that this is not an either/or issue. It is both/and. We must have true, Biblical doctrine. We must also live out the Gospel by doing justice, loving mercy and kindness and walking humbly with GOD. That is how others can know we are GOD’s people.
A sign that our doctrine is correct, is that we will live out justice, mercy and kindness in our culture as we walk humbly with GOD. How it plays out will look different in the lives of each family, but the principle is the same. “Pure” doctrine without justice and mercy is just cold orthodoxy. Justice and mercy without good doctrine is simply social justice without substance. We need the balance so the truth, kindness, justice and mercy that we live out, will be genuine, not fake.
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:6-8 ESV
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