Christians are described at the end of Ephesians as those who love the Lord Jesus with incorruptible love. This reminds us that Christianity is about a relationship with a person - Jesus! Jesus is a person who is known through the scriptures. We enter into relationship with him by faith and repentance and then we get to know him by diligently reading the Bible. Loving a person implies relationship. A relationship with Jesus is defined by the word, "Lord" which reminds us that he is king and we are not. We relate to him as subjects who love our very good king. Finally, we are called to love with our wills, our minds, and our hearts. This means commitment, learning, and delight. Pray that your love for Jesus may increase. More, be diligent that you love Jesus first and do not allow other things to steal the love which is meant for him alone.
In calling Christians to be strong in the Lord, Ephesians 6:18-20 reveals a key element of this strength to be prayer. Prayer is the privilege of every Christian! By the work of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit, Christians are invited to pray with confidence to our heavenly Father. As we pray, we remember that we are addressing the Almighty who is perfect in wisdom, goodness, and power. Remembering this, we prioritize prayer in all circumstances knowing that we need the work of God in all situations. Ephesians exhorts us to persevere in prayer - a reminder that prayer is often work! With this in mind, how will you prioritize prayer this week?
Ephesians 6:10-17 exhorts us to be strong in the Lord because we face a struggle against the spiritual forces of evil in our world. These forces are personal, created beings who manipulate, use, and attack God's people. Our God is sovereign over all and is not threatened, but he permits their activities in this age for his wise purposes. Living in this age, we are exhorted to be strong by relying upon the Lord so that we may win the victory of being faithful to Jesus until the end. The armor is ours in salvation and we are called to make use of it. For example, the righteousness of Jesus is ours as a gift, but we are also called to live righteous lives. Reread the passage this week and do two things. First, give thanks that these traits are gifts given to us by God through the work of Jesus. Secondly, consider one area where you may need to clean up your armor. Write this need on a card and place it where you will see it each day. Consider a specific goal, pray daily for this area of growth, and then take steps to grow whether in truth, righteousness, sharing the gospel, trusting the work of Jesus, or knowing the Word of God.
Slavery & The Bible
Ephesians 6:5-9 contains instructions for slaves and their masters. What are we to make of this?! On examining the major passages addressing slavery we find that the Bible's instructions regarding slavery are like its instructions regarding divorce: Commands intended to mitigate the worst consequences of human sin and of living in a fallen world - NOT endorsements of slavery as good. On the contrary, God commanded Israel to shelter escaped slaves and forbid Israel to return them to their masters. In the New Testament, Philemon was exhorted to release Onesimus and Paul commends freedom to any slave who has the opportunity to gain it in 1 Corinthians 7:21. However, those who are trapped in slavery may still serve and honor the Lord and are called to do so.
How do we respond to Ephesians 6:5-9? Learn from slaves that we can glorify God even in the worst of circumstances and strive to do so. Learn from masters to see authority as an opportunity to serve Christ by recognizing him as the one above who will judge and as the one below who stands with those over whom you have authority. Thirdly, as scripture itself is honest about heroes of the past, so should we be honest about those of the past who twisted scripture and who promoted slavery as good. May we wholeheartedly declare them wrong and pray for healing from the natural consequences of such sins.
Finally, Pastor Josh read from the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a slave who became a Christian and sought with all his might to honor the Lord. This story is free online HERE and provides a sobering reminder of what slavery really was in our nation while glorifying God as the testimony of a man who loved him in the midst of horrific circumstances.