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Welcome to Grace United Church

To learn the profound joy of God's grace and the significance of who you are in Christ, join us this Sunday at 10:00 AM, as Pastor Steve Behlke leads us through Paul's letter to the Ephesians.

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Our youth connect to discuss important life issues and to learn how God's grace in Christ makes a real difference.
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Sermon Manuscripts
Ephesians 4:11-16

Last week Paul wrote about growing in maturity together. 


1) Spiritual maturity begins with Jesus, His gifts and grace

2) Spiritual maturity invites us to act in relation to His grace

3) Spiritual maturity focuses on being and helping others to be like Christ 


In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul instructs that Jesus gave gifted men to the church, from the apostles to pastors today. And they equip us with the knowledge and coaching to serve.


As we each serve, the church can grow and mature. 


Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists [apostles established the church, evangelists expand the church], and some as pastors and teachers [to equip the church], 12 for the equipping of the saints for the WORK of service, [every believer has a role, a vocation in the church. We're to carry out the work of ministry or service] to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man [church], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 


May God help us to value this, to commit to loving one another and making disciples.


This is why we’re starting up home groups. This is why we seek volunteers to serve. For all of our sake and for God's vision for us.


Our Lord wants to build up this church to a strong, united, mature church.


Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man [a mature church], to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.


This is God’s goal for us—maturity in the unity of the faith.


The unity of the faith is more than doctrinal agreement—it’s relational. It’s achieved over time through things like personal Bible study, and love expressed in community—humility, gentleness, patience (4:1-3).  


God’s goal is maturity in the unity of the faith and in the knowledge of Christ. 


Maturity is more than faith, its experience; it's more than knowledge, it's the application of knowledge in life. Much like wisdom. 


This is what God wants for us.


Our heavenly Father is not trying to make us into something that we aren’t. He wants to mature us into who He says we are. God wants us to be a church that lives out before others the reality of who we are in Christ. 


But it does take work.


Honestly it’s far easier to stay home. Live solitarily. Focus on our wants.


So not every believer serves. As a result, not every church matures. And some of us remain vulnerable to the pain of sin, relational disasters, and the lies that lure us slowly away from God. So Paul calls each of us to “the work of service” as an expression of faith and love. 


Ephesians 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming...  


We all start out as children, and that's often applauded, the innocence, the faith. But immaturity among adults is never applauded in the Word.


Children are swayed to believe whatever trusted adults teach them. That’s why parents need to be so careful, because so many dangerous lies are being promoted to confuse our kids.


Our children are not, however, cognitively, emotionally, or spiritually developed enough or mature enough to process and discern and choose to act on truth. So what? It takes loving parents and mature, caring adults, to protect, affirm, and ground them in the truth. 


Paul applies this rule to the Church. So many lies are promoted to confuse us, and none are random. The religious zeal for individual happiness; discovering the authentic-self based on personal longings; defining one’s self exclusively on personal feelings; hyper-individualized theology based on "how I want God to be;" and denying the reality of people’s need for God, His love, forgiveness, and eternal life. 


Paul says these are promoted by sneaky people with evil motives, "by the trickery of men, by deceitful scheming" and wicked plans. 


This is why we need home groups, children's workers, youth leaders, helpers, administrators, helpers, encouragers, teachers, elders, and godly friends loving each other enough to help each other reject the world’s bull sh*t, to see Jesus, trust how He’s leading us, and to walk with Him by obeying Him.  


In contrast to false doctrines, the apostle gives us a second way we, as a church, mature. We mature together, not only by each serving but each speaking the truth in love...


Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  


So serving where we are, where we can, and speaking the truth in love.


And implied, by letting others serve us, and by hearing the truth in love. Trust needs building, time, testing, and forgiving. Again, relationships. This is how Jesus works, stick with it…


But understand what Paul is telling us in verse 15:


Maturity Requires Truth and Love.


Truth without love. Some of us don’t speak truth beneficially. We say the truth and we think we do so in love, but the other person gets hurt or upset. 


Truth without love can be hurtful, even unhelpful. Sometimes being brutally honest with someone can just end up being brutal. Law. Hammer.


The answer is not to shut up. Or don’t tell the truth, I mean if a little lie helps them to feel better. But that’s not why we’re here. Jesus never chose to tell a sweeter lie over a painful truth. Instead, speak the truth in love.


1) Speak truth to the heart, not just from it.

2) Speak it to build the other up not tear down.

3) Speak truth compassionately, understanding sin, immaturity, weakness.


Love without truth. While some speak the truth without love, many speak in love without truth. They say nice words, words of affirmation, but they communicate love without truth.


That is America today. Truth is relative. Insignificant. Affirm what anyone thinks, feels.


We live in a world that wrongly insists the truth is hateful. Truth is called a weapon. If you speak the truth it may cause someone to take their lives.


Love without truth affirms false identity, gives entitlement without character. No direction. No hope. It grounds people in perpetual immaturity. Love without truth is truly unloving. 


So we mature as we SERVE one another in love and SPEAK the truth in love.  


Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint [each believer] supplies, according to the proper working of each individual, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.


12 Serve one another in love… 15 Speaking the truth in love… 16 Building up the body in love. 


Love is essential. Maturity in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of Christ cannot be experienced without either truth or love. And we have both here.


Imagine our church pulling together, helping one another to mature into the fullness of Christ, and imagine new people worshiping our Lord and living freer in God's grace, sharing the good news with their friends.


Immediate opportunities to apply this:


SERVE. We have teams that have gaps. Team leaders need admins, leaders, workers.We have opportunities for many to offer their gift of hospitality. We have opportunities for people to serve in children’s ministry. Those with organizational gifts and administration can have many opportunities to bless.


OTHER GIFTS. Trusting God with you, we are open to craft ministry around gifted people with a passion to serve.


OUTREACH. We need an Smith Vocational Liaison. Also, for local outreach.


COMMUNITY. Home groups—Serve. Share. Love. Receive. Learn. Mature.

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Ephesians 4:1-6

The first half of chapters 1 and 2, teaches individual believers about the spiritual blessings God has given us in Christ.


Our Heavenly Father wants to develop our sense of self and build it on His love. So in these chapters, God tells every believer, "This is who you are to Me."


Understand, you are loved, chosen, adopted, forgiven, made to God alive in Christ. Bought and paid for. Sealed by the Spirit. Destined for glory, all unmerited, unprecedented, and free of charge. By grace you’ve been saved.  


Yet the second half of chapters 1 and 2 and all of chapter 3, tells us who we are together. He spends more time telling us about our collective identity, here’s who you are, here’s your significance, and community—the destiny that you share together as MEMBERS of Christ—His people, His church.  


Read Ephesians 2:13-21


We are constantly developing a sense of self, how we relate in this world, who am I, where’s my value, to whom do I belong to, who are my people? 


God is telling us, by His grace, this is who you are, it is an identity we share together. We must trust, and value the oneness God establishes. This creates the opportunity for transformative community. This is worth preserving.


So three chapters were all teaching; no shoulds, oughts, or commands. But Ch. 4 marks a clear shift from teaching to living, from theology to practice.  


Ephesians 4:1 Therefore [based on everything that God says we are] I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you [plural, church, together] to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…


To walk is to live and conduct our lives in this world. And the basis of the believer’s walk is who you are in Christ.


The Greek for worthy means appropriate or suitable. Walk in a manner that is suitable—to what?—“to the calling with which you’ve been called.”


To walk in a manner worthy of our calling is to walk, by faith, in a way that aligns with who the Father says you are.


As individual believers, live as those who are loved, who know that you are forgiven and know to Whom you belong, to the Father of glory, knowing also the sacrifice He made for you in love.


And together, live out of the exalted position we share collectively, as those who make up the greatest organism, organization, team, nation, or family ever, as members of Christ, as His body, His family, together.


But too many Christians read, “I implore you to walk in a worthy manner” as if Paul is telling us to get serious, work on changing your behavior, try to be better, strive to prove yourself worthy of Christ, worthy before others.


Here's the problem. If we do not embrace what Paul wrote in the first three chapters, we will believe more striving, more willpower, more determination is what we really need to walk worthy. And however good our intentions, since it's not out of faith there’s no freedom, there's no real power to do it. 


Not basing our sense of self on who God says we are, notice, we can subtly shift our focus upon STRIVING TO BECOME SOMEONE BY HOW WE ACT, rather than TRUSTING JESUS THAT WE ALREADY ARE SOMEONE LOVED, righteous, significant, destined for glory—by the miracle of God’s grace to us. 


As we do this, we walk worthy, and we can trust Jesus to mature us in this. 


Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you [together] to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


All four of these virtues are fruits of the Spirit, expressions of love.


Together, humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance for one another in love form “the bond of peace.” This bond helps protect unity, helps churches stay together—and marriages, families.  


So these are four love responses that protect relationships—oneness, unity. 

Since Paul urges us to apply these first to the church, we’ll look at these in that light. But these are helpful responses that can apply to our marriages, with our parents, families, or children.


Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.


First of all, why does Paul have to say this? The fact Paul calls us to diligently preserve the unity of the church through humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance highlights how vulnerable we are to disunity through pride, impatience, and intolerance. In churches, and in our homes. So this is important…


Humility is a love word, and an action word. We often define humility as trusting God and others with me.


Humility is also love lowering oneself to bless another. Humility is love stooping down to serve. 


You see this in Jesus. He became a servant. He washed feet. He died for us.


We normally position ourselves to be served, to get what we want. We can adopt that mindset even when we come to church. But trusting who Jesus says you are, and who we are collectively, we can choose in love to position ourselves to meet other’s needs. To bless others. To serve others.


As a husband or wife, knowing who you are, seeing your spouse through God’s eyes, in love, lower yourself to serve, to hear their hearts and meet their needs. How would your husband or wife respond to you if you did this?


Gentleness is another fruit of the Spirit, another love word; love is gentle. Gentleness is love that’s strong, yet controlled.


The ancient Greeks used this word to describe a wild stallion that had been tamed to serve. The stallion is still powerful but his power is controlled, gentle, benefitting those it serves. 


The opposite of gentle is abrasive, harsh, rough, all pretty hurtful. 


Gentleness is a loving response to something that irritates. It is a strong love, flowing out of Christ, which chooses to benefit the other rather than belittle. 


Gentleness is not something only the husband needs to heed; in humility we can see that both husband and wife can be abrasive, condescending, hurtful. Gentleness brings peace, safety, and opens relationships to deeper levels. 


Patience too is a love word. Love is patient. Patience is long-suffering. Love endures all things.


Patience is love choosing to suffer rather than control the other.


It chooses to stick with the other—to love them rather than control them. Patience is the fruit of the Spirit not our labor or willpower.


Godly character develops in an atmosphere of protection, not control. It doesn’t always change the person. But it always honors God. Godly character has a chance to grow in an atmosphere of protection, but not control. 


The Greek word for tolerance is translated to accept, bear with, to put up with. Tolerance is love that bears with those whose differences divide us. 


Each of these love responses correspond with living out of who Jesus says we are. Together, humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance form a relational bond of peace that preserves unity in the church and core relationships.


This is huge. In churches, in marriages, sometimes, over the long run it is hard to love. People change. People hurt us, frustrate us, let us down, turn us off.


So we need to be rooted in God’s love. If we think, “Okay, God tells me to love, I can do that; I don’t need to rely on Him for it,” it may work fine when things are good, but when things get rough, when love is tested, again, we have no real power to be gentle or patient or tolerant of each other in love. 


We won’t bear with others when they hurt us or annoy or offend us. We’ll avoid them, grow annoyed by them, avoid them or stop coming to church.


Applying this to the church, sometimes grace makes church harder, riskier. As we feel safe, we take off our masks, get real. As a church, we believe God uses this to grow us and set us free.


Grace also makes us more vulnerable. It's worth the risk. But it is a risk.


The more we know each other, the more we become part of each other, the more may be required of us. And we’re all far from perfect... Jesus even sked who is good but God alone... so we may let people down. Things may not go as they hoped. They can get hurt. Or we can. Not everybody has the same level of maturity.


Hurt in relationships often reveals how mature, or humble, we are or not.


So grace makes life sweeter… and harder! Because grace doesn’t just let you run away, intimidate or control. Grace is harder because it calls you to stay, to suffer with, to bear with, to tolerate. Grace makes the hard choice with Jesus, to love and forgive.


Yet, few sense a responsibility to be patient, forgiving, sacrificial or serving. Fewer are committed to unconditional commitment, permanent oneness. People leave churches in droves. Often without trusting God for any of this.


So why commit to it? In our last three verses, Paul lays out further reason to commit to each other, to preserve the unity Jesus has established among us.  


Notice the role of the entire Trinity as the basis for our commitment to unity:


Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;  


Together we form the one body, how? The Holy Spirit baptizes every believer into Jesus' body, the church. The same Spirit lives within us. The same Spirit teaches of us us, works through us, protects us, loves, matures us.


Ephesians 4:5 [And there is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism,


We serve and worship the one true Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. 


And there is only one faith that saves, one truth, in this one Lord and Savior! 

There is one baptism by the Holy Spirit when he baptizes each believer into Christ. We have this shared identity with Jesus Christ and with one another.  


Ephesians 4:6 [And there is] one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.


There is only one true God and He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all who believe. Here is our source of unity.


Whatever political allegiances you share with others, whatever national, ethnic, skin color, social social status, sex or gender-claims or commonalities you share with others. The primary basis of your identity and of our collective identity as believers, thus, the basis of our unity together, is the Oneness we share together in Christ our Savior, God our Father, and the the Holy Spirit who regenerate us.

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Ephesians 3:14-21

This is a wonderful, powerful prayer to pray for you, your family, your church.


Context. Paul is about done with the first half of Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 are pure teaching, not application. Chapters 4-6 are pretty much all application.


So, in Ephesians 1-3, there’s no mention of what we must do, no commands, no behaviors to change.


In these first three chapters, Paul’s pen flowed with incredible, weighty truths about who God is, and who we are to God in Christ, which are admittedly beyond our ability to fully comprehend. 


Even just the opening statement in 1:3, that God the Father "has given you every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."


The reality that you were "chosen" before the world was formed, and "predestined" before time. You are "adopted" by God, "redeemed" and "forgiven" and one day when the LORD returns and all things are made right and everything is "summed up in Christ," you will be right there with Him—co-heirs.


When everything is "summed up in Christ," you will be right there with Him.


We get this. But then again we hardly get it at all. I can tell by how we live. 

Paul knew this is way too big to wrap our heads around, you can tell just be some of the words he used: he wrote on “the surpassing riches of God’s grace,” “the mystery of God’s will,” and “the unfathomable riches of Christ.”


Just as we have a conceptual idea of how vast the universe is, yet we cannot truly fathom how vast and deep and wide it is. How can we possibly fathom the incomparable glory of who God is, or the unfathomable riches of Christ?! 


So, as he brings his teaching section to a close, before he moves on to the application, Paul prays for us,


Ephesians 3:14 For this reason [because everything that Paul has written is so awesome and amazing, yet beyond human comprehension] I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.


In this prayer, there is one, maybe two requests for God to do something so that we may live rich, full lives. What is the first thing Paul asks God to do?


Ephesians 3:16 [I pray] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power [GK: dunamis—with dynamic living power] through His Spirit in the inner man, 


This is the first, and maybe only request in this prayer, everything else flows from this. Pray this for your children, your grandchildren, spouse, our church—for you. 


“Father, strengthen us with power through Your Holy Spirit working in our inner man—our new hearts, where we are born again, where we think and trust and feel and choose. Strengthen our faith, our humility, our hearts, our obedience.” 


Paul doesn’t tell us to grow up, get this, be more spiritual. He prays for us to catch the significance of everything he’s written, the significance of who we are in Christ, to believe that we’ve been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. Sometimes we forget. But God never forgets who you are to to Him. 


Next, notice the purpose behind this prayer for God to strengthen our inner being:


Ephesians 3:16 [I pray] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in [lit., "be at home in"] your hearts through faith


The goal is that Jesus may dwell in your hearts through faith.


But doesn't Jesus already dwell in every believer!


Absolutely! God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is physically, spiritually indwells each and every believer.


But Paul is referring to something more intimate, relational, experiential.


Christ is physically present but we don't always "experience" His presence or His power. Fact is, we’re not always receptive to Him! We don’t always care or listen or obey. Our faith is weak and the sin that is in us is so strong.  


Paul doesn’t say, “Okay, church, it’s time to shape up, stop messing around, and start working on getting your hearts right with God. In fact, I want to see a report on my desk by 0900 tomorrow of all the changes you plan to make.” 


Instead, he prays to the Father for the Spirit to work on our behalf.


Catch the implication: having a strong faith and choosing to submit to Jesus is really hard for us, it requires the work of the Holy Spirit. And He is in us. So ALL OF THIS IS POSSIBLE because the One who strengthen you is present in you.


So we can pray this with faith, and make ourselves available.


This phrase, “dwell in your hearts” is lit., “that Christ may be at home in your hearts.” This refers to far more than His physical presence, but His influence. this is experiential.


This prayer is a reminder of the intimate fellowship that our Lord want with you. Jesus wants to “make His home in your heart,” not to be a fearful landlord or an occasional guest.


So the incredible thing is God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. One that impacts you emotionally, volitionally, experientially—out of love. And it very well may be ignited with this prayer,


Ephesians 3:16 [I pray to the Father] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love… 


Notice, when we have this faith and humility, which the Spirit provides, and Jesus owns your heart, He uses this to root and ground you in His love. That’s what He wants to do. And that's when we grow and are made even stronger.


Ephesians 3:17 ... and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend 19 to know [Gk: gnosis—“to experientially know,"] the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.


It is so cool that God wants us to know His love that supersedes our knowledge, our understanding. It is weightier and more powerful and wonderful than we can dream or imagine. And God wants us to experience His love in this life. That’s why we pray for the Holy Spirit to work in us! 


And as we grow, God wants us to trust His love and experience His love.


When He allows really hard things into our lives, when you feel small or insignificant, weak, aging, worth little, God wants you to experience by faith the full measure, the weight, depth, height of His love in Christ. 


But there’s still a final goal to this prayer as Paul ends this section. 

What is the ultimate aim or goal of this prayer?


Ephesians 3:16 [I pray] that He would grant you… to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 [the first result:] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [the second result] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, [the ultimate result] that you may be filled up to all the fullness [the full measure] of God


Paul unfolds this in chapter 4. But that’s the ultimate goal of this prayer. Yet, what does it mean to "be filled up to all the full measure of God."


It means God wants us to realize by faith and experience in our lives today, everything that Paul has written to us in Ephesians 1-3, about who God is and who we are in Christ, and all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. He wants us to live out of these truths, to fully experience His presence, His power, oneness, His love. 


This leads to a full life. One that glorifies God. This is Ephesians 1-3.


Know it’s God’s goal and our heart’s desire to be filled to the fullness of God, but for us to experience the fullness of God, we must experience God’s love.


In order for us to experience the fullness of God, we must experience the love of God.


In order for us to know and experience God’s love, we need Jesus to make His home in our heart.


Not just be an occasional guest, or a frustrated landlord—but a happy homeowner. With freedom to remodel. So we and others can see, “Wow, Jesus lives here. We see His influence. His loving touches.” 


In order for Jesus to dwell intimately in our hearts, we need God’s Spirit to strengthen our inner being.


Because, it's a battle too big. Our flesh wars against us, Satan lies to us, the world pressures us. We need to be strong to choose, to live by faith, to believe that God has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. Faith is critical to our maturing. And again, we don’t make ourselves strong, we turn to God for it.


So, let us pray for us, for our church, our families, for God to strengthen our faith in Him and in every promise. Strengthen our wills to submit. And our hearts to believe. Because all of this is possible. We need to believe that.


And I think the way Paul ends this prayer helps to build a confident faith,


Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.


The One we pray to, the Father who loves you, is able to do far abundantly beyond anything we ask. Trust this. This is pure grace and assurance. Pray to Him. And to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ forever and ever.

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Ephesians 2:11-22

Last week, in Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul spoke to us as individual believers. He reminded of us who we were.


In verses 1-3, “Here was your personal situation: You were dead in your sins. You lived in sin and you justified it like everyone else! You were, by nature, children of wrath, destined for wrath. And you weren’t going to change.”


But then he said,


Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 


And just like the church in Ephesus, most of us were not born Israelites.  


Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh [born non-Jews], who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” [Israelites and Jews who felt spiritually superior to other believers because they were "circumcised", a sign of God's covenant wit Abraham] which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that [not only were you dead in your sins individually, but NOT being Israelites, on a national level too] you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. 


And just like last week, after he tells us who we were before Jesus, he now tells us who are on account of our trust in Jesus,


Ephesians 2:13 But now, in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. [Not just close to God, Paul tells us Jesus brings us near to one another:] 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups {believing Jews and believing non-Jews] into one [the church] and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the [OT] Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,  


This begins Paul’s teaching on the church.


Point being Jesus brought near to God undeserving yet believing non-Jews believing Jews together, and reconciled them, into a whole new group—The Church. 


Jesus doesn’t make the church, Israel. Gentiles don’t become Jews. But believing Jews and believing Gentiles do become Christians. And together, we form a whole new people, chosen and belonging to God—the church.


We were outsiders, enemies. Now, we are closer to God than anyone else.


What’s different from then to now? What changed this? Jesus. His blood.


Ephesians 2:13 But now, in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near [to each other] by the blood of Christ.


First, being in Christ gives us a rich and powerful identity that adds to everything we know about who we are. Everything Jesus has, we have. It’s how God sees us, how we are to see each other. But… 


By the blood of Christ.” Not by Christ’s teaching, but Christ’s blood, His death, the crossthink of itthat’s what brings every believer in the world together.  


Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [believing Jews and believing non-Jews] into one [the Church]


What comes with being made alive in Christ and brought near to God together, is all the division that separates people is resolved; it is abolished in Christ Jesus.


Back then, the main division in the church was between Jews and Gentiles. 


We live in an America that is increasingly tribal, broad-brushing individuals into tribes or groups, labeling them accordingly, then hating entire groups. Even if they don’t see themselves primarily in those categories, its how the world operates. This way we know who is good and who is evil. So it foments hate and division. And it’s based on the “small ball" identity politics of our day: skin color, sex, gender-identities—pitting women against men, minorities against whites. LGBTQ vs straight white males. 


Sadly, this division creeps into the church.  


So Paul reminds us of God’s grace, His choice to love us when we were His enemies, and to bring us near to Him through Jesus’ blood. Not just us, this is the case with everyone who is in Christ. Even those the world says we should hate. Yet Jesus has made peace, Jesus gives us peace—“Peace I give to you”—But Jesus Himself is our peace, for in Christ and through His blood, He made all these groups into one people in Christ—the Church…


We are in Christ, together. This is our most significant group that identifies us, gives us eternal worth, infinite significance. Not the fact we’re Americans. Or whites, or blacks, males or females, or victims, or straight or gay. 


Trusting the spiritual blessings you have in Christ, how Jesus’ blood changes you and your destiny forever, whatever you most associated with who you are and how you want to be known, loses its power to define the Christian who finds his or her value and peace and identity and destiny in Christ. 


So with two words, in Christ, Paul establishes a rich identity, unity & peace.


Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinance, so that in Himself He might make the two [believing Jews and believing Gentiles] into one new man [Church], thus establishing peace,


Back then, Gentiles could not enter the temple. A dividing wall prevented them. Said they weren’t clean, circumcised, or given any access at all to God. 


But on the cross, Jesus tore down the wall that divides believers. HOW? He fulfilled the Law for all believers and thus took it off the table. 


We must not think we are righteous by obeying the Law. Nor think you are better than others for obeying a few commands that you care about or that are easy for you. We all fail a hundred other ways. The good news is God credits our faith in Jesus as righteousness. Paul’s like don’t judge believers that struggle with sins that don’t tempt you, when you know all too well that you have other sins you do struggle with. And start seeing them in Christ, like God does, and stop doubting that God is working in them in His way.


It’s not just the OT Law. Any set of rules can be used to discriminate against other believers. Whether it’s how you raise your children, how you dress, what you drink, what shows you watch, whether or not you’re married, how often you pray, how often you serve, or who you vote for. “Good Christians do this. But you do not do this. Therefore you are not good. I’m better than you.”


Jesus abolished all of these manmade laws. He is our righteousness. He is our peace. So for the church, by His blood, Jesus does away with all of this, 


Ephesians 2:15 [WHY?] so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man [the church], thus establishing peace [between those who were at odds], 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 [AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY [Gentiles], AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR [Jews]; 18 for through Him we both [We all] have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 


In Christ we have a new identity, unity, peace, and intimacy with the Father. We have that with Christians in Iran, Russia, Ukraine, China, North Korea. 


All the division that curses our world is resolved for believers, in Jesus.


Ephesians 2:19 So then [therefore] you [formerly outsiders] are no longer strangers and aliens [to God], but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household [family, equally, united in the church], 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.


In a world that judges, and justifies hate, neither should define the church. 


God loves the church. Paul described the church as God’s family, and then as a great building, still being built, the holy temple wherein God dwells, built on the apostles and prophets, and Christ the crucial cornerstone, in whom, to this day, “you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”


So what?


1.  God calls for peace and unity (love) in the church, and He establishes eachin Christ.” Jesus created peace “by His blood,” and established unity “in Him,” for all who believe, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, social status, sex or politics. Black Christians, Brown Christians, White Christians have a unity in Christ, which goes deeper than any unity we have with any other group we might identity with. Believers who vote Trump, believers who vote Biden, the world doesn’t understand, but let us show them our love and unity in Christ. 


John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.


Are you adding to the unity in our church?  


2. View as evil, worldly divisions which are based on pride and prejudice; discern this on cable news, TikTok, media, in class, it’s everywhere, “See it, don’t be it.” 


Identity politics, defining ourselves, and relating to others primarily by our sex, skin color, sexual preference, or gender preference has nothing to do with Christ. And categorizing others into these broad groups, then pitting whole groups against one another, women against men, blacks vs whites, the 99% against the 1%, Democrats against Republicans, Republicans against democrats, depersonalizes individuals and stirs hatred and division.  


3. Embrace and build upon (live out of) your identity in Christ; this defines who you are in relation to God, and reality. See yourself as chosen, right with God, belonging to God, seated with Christ in the heavens.


And by faith, remember to see this in other believers too. They too were chosen by God, belonging to God, loved, liked and seated with Christ…


2 Corinthians 5:16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 


4. Focusing on Jesus, identifying yourself “in Christ,” hoping “In Christ,” minor on politics, forgive political differences, and help reconcile political divisions.


We’re not saying never discuss politics in Church, that’s wrong. But love first. Submit to the peace and unity and hope we have in Christ. And seek to base our views of culture and politics, gender, abortion, LGBTQ, guns, on scripture.

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Ephesians 2:1-10

The apostle Paul spent the entire first chapter of this letter praising God the Father for the awesome blessings He’s given all who trust Jesus Christ for eternal life. They are already given to you, already yours. 


Where are our spiritual blessings? They are “in Christ.” 


Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.


We are still learning to go to Jesus for these. So, how do we access these? Relationally, by trusting Jesus for these; submitting to the truth that we possess these in Him.


For the Holy Spirit expresses these through believers as we trust and rely on Jesus for these in time of need.


They are not small blessings. As the apostle wrote to us of these, he burst into praise for His grace. “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord…”  


Ephesians 1:5 God predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Himwe have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished on us…


Paul trusted God for the present reality of our blessings in Christ. His heart filled with praise as he considered them and God’s grace. So we’re taking our time in Ephesians, asking God to change how we see Him and ourselves.  


Today, after highlighting several of our spiritual blessings in Christ, he backs up. In chapter 2, he reveals a shocking reality about us, about our spiritual condition, before Jesus saved us. It might knock us down a few pegs…


Ephesians 2:1 you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and [you] were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 


Here is the first shocking reality behind God’s grace: THIS WAS YOU!


This was your spiritual condition. And not just you! This list characterizes every person still, who is not “in Christ” through faith. 


The Greek word for "dead" (V1) is nekros, a corpse; i.e., unresponsive. Helpless as far as pleasing God, having fellowship with God, or eternal life.  


He says you were dead in your trespasses and sins; this is where God found you. You may look back and think, “I wasn’t spiritually dead, I thought about God, I went to church.” Well good for you; good for your parents. But you lived a spiritually dead life, again, where? in your trespasses and sins.  


The word trespasses means you went where you should never have gone, you did things you should never have done. The word sins means to miss the mark. So you both fell short and went too far.


One thing about Satan, he uses institutions and people to spin so many false narratives including the one about the inherent goodness of man. No doubt, everyone is capable of relative good! But however kind or disciplined, hard-working, generous, or anti-racist you are—when God found you…


Ephesians 2:1 you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to [Satan himself] the prince of the power of the air, the [very] spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience [lit., “the sons of unbelief”].


People would fight you for suggesting this, but the whole world follows Satan and carries out his works. And in that way, you were like everyone else, doing what the world says, according to the lies of Satan, who to this day is working in ‘the sons of disobedience,’” I.e., in those who do not trust Jesus.  


Ephesians 2:3 Among them [the sons of disobedience] we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 


Some of us may stumble over the word “formerly.” Formally?! “I didn't just formally live in the lusts of my flesh, I still carry out these desires.” But that’s no a surprise to Paul! He’s the one who gave Christians freedom to admit this, to bring our struggle out of the dark into the light...


Trusting in God’s grace, Paul could admit, “I do the very things I hate.” For in Christ, this doesn’t define the deepest reality of who we are—Jesus does. Our failure to follow Jesus have no power to separate us from God, to define our identity.


We can fall into two errors—first, we dismiss how sinful and cursed we were before Jesus; second, we underestimate how blessed we are in Christ. We need grace to experience this. As a church, we are wise to remind ourselves of this. And in our homes, husbands and wives. Parents to children. 


But in Ephesians 2—you were dead to God and serving Satan, known for giving into your selfish desires, living out your nature as children of wrath. 

You didn’t need a helping hand. You needed eternal life and redemption through God's blood, the forgiveness of your sins against God. 


That’s you. 


Ephesians 2:4 But God [Here’s the second shocking reality behind His grace! God], being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,


This is another of our spiritual blessings in Christ. When we were dead, “God made us alive together with Christ.” He gave us new birth. Spiritual life.  


Even more startling, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with God Himself in the heavenly place in Christ.” So, God no longer sees us in our sins and trespasses; He sees us with Christ—in Christ. Notice, where is Christ? 

Look at Eph 1:20-21. Its about when the Father raised Jesus


Ephesians 1:20… when He Raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand [notice] in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  


This is your high position before God. This is your high position in the galaxy. You’re seated with God in Christ. Your sins, addictions, weaknesses do not define your relationship with God or your status in the world—Jesus does. You are in Christ. And every spiritual blessing is available to you in Christ. 


Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.


Considering what we deserved, the fact we were spiritually dead, why would God now give us every blessing? What is it about us? Not us. But what is it about Him?! 


The answer is in verse 7, God made us alive with Christ, and gave us every other spiritual blessing in Jesus, 


Ephesians 2:7 so that in the ages to come [so forevermore] He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 


God saved us, despite ourselves, so that for all eternity He can showcase before us, and to our applause and gratitude and joy, the majestic riches of His grace shown in the Father’s unparalleled kindness to us in Jesus Christ.

I.e., God saved us to Himself for His glory, for us to delight in Him, so that forevermore we may know Him and dive always deeper into the uncharted waters of His infinite grace in Christ. For right now, as much as we know and believe and love about God, how blessed we are, how loving and rich and generous and powerful He is, God needs “the ages to come” to show us “the surpassing riches of His grace toward us in Christ.” 


As much as Ephesians says about us and our new standing and who we are in Christ, it points ultimately to the Father’s incredible nature and to the riches of His grace and to His eternal glory. For even as Paul tells us who we are in Christ, read again, everything word he wrote points to who God is.


Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), ||||| 6 and [He] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him[self] in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 


This is the gospel of God’s grace. And the shocking reality behind His grace.


Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith [not faith plus works. Not faith plus commitment. Not faith plus obedience. Not faith plus perseverance. You have been saved by faith. Trust. Belief. Faith that trusts Jesus For God’s grace!]; and that [your faith, the fact God has done everything to save you to himself is] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, [get that through your head, or into your hearts. It’s not a result of any good works that you have done or not. It’s because God knew you’d believe, or God knew you’d make a fine Christian or worship leader. It’s not a result of anything in us] so that no one may boast.


This speaks so clearly that you belong to God and nothing can ever undo that. For it is not because of your goodness or your works. You belong to God because of His amazing and glorious grace, because of who God is and what God did for you. He chose you. Died for you. He granted you faith.  


And now Paul shifts from you to we; he includes himself and us together,


Ephesians 2:10 For we [believers together, we the church of Jesus Christ] are His workmanship [His masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.


Rather than walk according to the course of this world, we are created in Christ to walk in the good works which God long ago prepared for us. This is part of why He chose us, remember, to be holy and blameless in love. 


As believers, we who previously walked according to the course of the world, are made into a new people who by God’s grace are capable of doing great good, the “good works which God prepared that we would walk in them.”


Paul isn’t saying, “Do more for Jesus, be more, give more, work more.” Too many Christians live under this. But under this “more is always required,” and whatever you’ve done its never enough.


So what do we do with this?


First, trust Jesus with this. Listen to God, don’t let the world conform you. Don’t overestimate who you were apart from Jesus. And don’t underestimate who God now makes you to be in and with Jesus. He did this that you would know Him and love Him and rejoice and gladly obey Him. And through the ages to come, you’ll love Him more.


Second, look to Jesus, trusting God our Father, that He has given you every spiritual blessing in Christ. No matter what you face, everything that you need for everything that God allows in life is found for you in Christ. Access it by faith. At work. At home. In your marriage, your struggles, your hurts.


Third, one of the ways we mature in Christ and live Christ’s life is to bless others. Serving. Sharing the gospel. Loving. Forgiving. As you trust Jesus, engage with the church and look for God’s ways to bless others together

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A Summary of Ephesians Ch 1

We come to Jim's summary and worksheet for you to work through this important chapter on who we really are in Ephesians chapter 1.


Since we are blessed, we every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Jesus Christ, we can praise God the Father for His selection of us; we can praise Him for the Son's provision for us and for the Holy Spirit's sealing and possession of us. Finally, we can pray for our full use of these incredible blessing by knowing God more intimately, and by faith relying on His wealth and power.


Outline: Ephesians 1:3-23


I. Since we are blessed with every spiritual blessing from God we can praise God (1:3)


II. We were selected by the Father so that we might be holy and blameless before Him in love, having been adopted into God’s family (1:4-6).


III. We are given the sacrifice of the Son providing redemption and wisdom to understand the mystery of God’s will to head up all things in Christ (1:7-12)


IV. We are sealed by the Spirit, which indicates the security of God’s ownership of believers (1:13-14)


V. To access those spiritual blessings, Paul prays that we would know God more intimately and His hope, wealth and power (1:15-23)


Read Ephesians 1:1-23


See if you can’t think your way through the passage. Close your eyes and talk it through.


After going through the passage what does “in Christ” mean?


Transform Your Life


How can this passage become part of your life? Try memorizing it and reciting to a friend. By faith, begin acting on it and experience it in your relationship with God and others?


What is the difference between what you tell yourself, or what the world says about you, versus what God in this passage tells about who you really are?


Replace the pronouns with your name in the passage. Now read it out loud, and personally believe what you read.


Thought: “The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you” What is your response?


Who in our community has heard of Grace United's “faith” and “love”? Who has heard about your own “faith” and “love”? How has this been shown?


Think of a problem you are currently involved with. How can you practically rely on Jesus and live out the power of Christ's resurrection to address it?


What must you do to access this power? Remember it's in Christ and He gives grace to the humble.


How can you promote “faith” and “love” among the people within this church?


The Prayer


Read Ephesians 1:18-23


Pray this prayer for yourself, for someone else and for our church this week who needs power. Put their name in place of the pronouns in the passage and pray this to God on their behalf.


Outline of the Prayer


Our Past: We need to know the hope of our calling (1:18a).


Our Future: We need to know the wealth of His glorious inheritance (1:18b).


Our Present: We need to know the incomparable power of God that raised Christ from the dead (1:18c).


God's Resurrection Power: God shows His power by raising Christ from the dead (1:20a) 


God's Ascension Power: God shows His power by seating Him in universal heavenly glory (1:20b-21).


God's Dominion Power: God shows His power by making Him head over everything (1:22-23)


How has this passage helped you to understand God and who you are in Jesus Christ?

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How do I receive eternal life with God?
Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sins. He made forgiveness possible through His death, and new life and relationship with God available through His resurrection. Trust Jesus for this and you shall be saved.
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How do I get baptized?
After you trust Jesus Christ for eternal life, a great next step is to express through baptism that your past is buried and you have new life in a new relationship with God through Jesus. We can help with that.
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