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.
Pastor Steve Behlke • March 19, 2023
Life is hard. The enemy makes it harder.
We see this in the Old Testament and the New. Before Israel entered the Promised Land with it's various peoples and cultures, God told Israel,
Deuteronomy 11:16 Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.
The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He’ll use whatever God allows in his mission to poison us and dull us, and turn us from God.
Still in the Old Testament, remember Satan's dialogue with God over Job. Job loved the Lord. So Satan sought to destroy his life in order to turn him from God. The Lord permitted him to do whatever he wanted except take Job’s life.
So, the bastard zeroed out Job's bank account, leveled his house, took his children’s lives. And it worked with Job’s wife; she told Job “F” God, and die.
The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy; and he runs the Empire. In the New Testament, Jesus told the believers in Pergamum
Revelation 2:13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
Apparently, Satan stirred up whatever court or mob executed Antipas. He tried to discourage this church’s faith, but they stood firm in Christ.
The devil wages war through worldly systems, government, media, schools, religion, popular opinion, laws, courts, in order to diminish our faith in Jesus, our service, our witness, our hope.
Jesus told another church, Christian believers in Smyrna
Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Jesus warns of the spiritual battle and motivates even soon-to-be imprisoned Christians to be faithful to Him, even if the worst happens... even we die in prison... even if we lose our job... even if our kids never turn around.
Jesus reveals the devil in this, that he’s attacking their faith and obedience.
Do not fear, but stay close to Jesus, remain faithful and He’ll reward you with the crown of life. More than eternal life, this is a special position in the kingdom to come, a role, glory, spiritual authority.
Whatever you’re facing, however the enemy tests or tempts you, it is your faith in Jesus that is being attacked. You’ll want to do things your way. React. Make big changes apart from God. So it starts here. Is God faithful? Is God’s way best? Draw closer to Him. Be Faithful. Fight the good fight of faith. For the Lord is with you. He knows everything you face. And He’ll reward you.
This is what the spiritual armor is for.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, [having fastened your waist with truth], and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having covered your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
So there’s a spiritual war taking place. It's real.
The fact that each piece of armor is listed and given meaning for our battle, helps us to visualize how important it is to use everything God’s given us.
So, by faith, put on the BELT OF TRUTH. A soldier regularly wore his belt, not just for battle. This is a daily task, counter Satan’ lies about God. Lies about you, your relationships. Don’t let the devil con you into acting on lies that stir hate, resentment, disobedience. Lies that tell you to ignore what God says.
And put on the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Set aside any trust in your own righteousness, pride, judgment, or self-loathing for your weaknesses, put on the righteousness of Christ, set Jesus’ righteousness over your heart.
Wield the SHIELD OF FAITH to reject Satan’s lies. Believe that God is truer and better than anything tempting you—any false idol. Any contrary belief…
Satan attacks our faith in God’s character, His Word, His trustworthiness, that we act in our own wisdom and power. So we need “the full armor of God.”
Including todays, the Helmet of Salvation to protect our head, our minds.
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation…
I ride a motorcycle. I hate wearing a helmet but I wear one when I ride. Why? To protect my brain if I crash. Plus, even a bug to the face hurts at 50 mph.
A helmet protected Roman soldiers from the enemy’s swords, and arrows, clubs, all the things Jim covered last week, hard salamis.
But what does the Helmet of Salvation point to?
I don’t think it means, remember that you are saved; every time the devil attacks we’re to recall that we’re saved and going to heaven. No.
Almost every time “salvation” is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to physical rescue from physical harm, suffering, sin, or death. When people asked God to save them it almost always meant from physical harm, men of bloodshed. When His disciples were on the storm-tossed boat they shouted, “Lord, save us.” They didn’t mean, Jesus make us right with God but God, don’t let us die.
To put on the Helmet of Salvation is not to remember that you're saved. But embrace the mindset that Jesus is going to save you, now. Put on Christ, your Savior. Know that He will provide a way to rescue you from this sin, this temptation, lie, anger, evil, that you may stand against the devil.
Isaiah spoke of God putting on righteousness like a breastplate, and putting the Helmet of Salvation on His head.
Isaiah 59:17 He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head...
This is how our Lord dresses, identifies going into battle. He’s the Mighty Savior. He’s the Righteous One to whom all else must answer. So He puts on His salvation. It’s His righteousness He puts on. We’re to put on the same—trusting Jesus to deliver us from Satan’s schemes. Hoping in His salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Don’t give up hope in Christ.
We’re impatient. We want what we want and we believe we deserve it. If it doesn’t happen fast enough, we lose hope. “O God can’t fix this. God can’t change me or her.” Really? You see that in Scripture? No, that’s a lie.
Put on the helmet, the hope of salvation. Jesus saved you when you were ungodly and dead in sin. Now that you are a child, how much more can you trust and ask Him to deliver you through this test, this trial, this hardship…
There is no doubt, Satan wants to screw up your life, your marriage, your self-worth. He uses whatever works to distance your faith from God.
But as we see powerfully portrayed in the fiery pit with Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, the Lord our God is in the fire with you.
Ephesians 6:17 Therefore, take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
When Paul says to take the Sword of the Spirit, that’s his way of saying take the Holy Spirit’s sword, receive the Holy Spirit’s sword.
Every other piece of armor is defensive, protective. They help us to stand. But this nifty little weapon, the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” is used to hurt the enemy, to slice him, make him back up, and flee.
The Bible uses several Greek terms for “the word.” For instance,
"Logos" refers to an entire collection of words, the entirety of God’s Word. In John 1:1, Jesus is the Logos; He represents the entirety of God’s Word.
"Rhema" is another greek term for "the word." While Logos refers to a collection of words, Rhema refers to a specific statement, a specific word, verse or passage, spoken into a specific situation.
This is the word Paul uses here. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God spoken directly into the battle.
It’s what Jesus did. He spoke the Word of God directly to Satan. For each temptation, He said, "It is written," then proceeded to speak the Word of God to Satan. Whatever you are tempted with, “Go away Satan. For it is written,” then Jesus quoted the truth of God that He believed and stood upon.
This is how you fight back against the enemy.
You might think, well, Jesus could do this, He was Jesus. I’m just me. But this is the sword of the Spirit. It's the Holy Spirit's sword. He knows how to swing it! You just need to take it out of it’s scabbard. Bring it into battle. Speak it into the situation. It is written. Thus says the Lord. Or go Mando, "This is the way."
Knowing the Word of God, and speaking it into the situation, this is the Holy Spirit’s answer to Satan’s lies, manipulation. So there is power when we declare it, and liberty when we obey it.
But if you don’t know God’s Word, it’s hard to say, “Thus says the Lord.”
So take the time to know God’s Word, and God’s character, God’s will.
Especially in an area of vulnerability, temptation, or deception. Don’t be satisfied to just know what you believe, know what God says, and believe it.
Then, when you are tempted, pressured, deceived, declare it!
Maybe declare it to yourself first. Then declare it over this situation. Declare it for the devil. This is the Sword of the Spirit. Declare it and trust God to accomplish it. His way. His timing. His Sword.
You may need to repent. Catch yourself. Your heart. Tell someone. Let them speak truth to you. Clarify God’s goodness, His will.
Then stand on it. Take your stand with Jesus on the truth of His Word.
As you put on the helmet of salvation, and take up the Spirit’s Sword, the Word of God, along with the rest of the armor, you can stand firm against the enemy, stand firm in the truth, stand firm in the righteousness of Christ, stand firm in the peace that God gives, stand firm in your faith, and stand firm in your marriage, your joy, and continue to grow in our walk with Jesus.
Grace United Church Northampton • March 06, 2023
God wants you to flourish. But by denying God in the Person of Jesus Christ, many people go through life without a clear source of truth, and without knowing their intrinsic worth. Rejecting God’s love they live their lives without experiencing unconditional love and acceptance.
Which they’d never associate with God but we need this from God to thrive.
Life is hard. It’s plain to see sins affects in the world and everyone in it. We all do things we wish we didn’t. We lose sight of what matters most. We get bored with good things. Add to this our addictions, destructive tendencies, desires, emotions, stinking thinking. Sin affects us, our closest relationships.
It can really mess us up. Our mental health. Our emotional well being.
So Paul in Ephesians grounds us in the truth of who God is, what Jesus has done for us, who He makes us to be, and all we have been given 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.
God told us throughout this letter that we’re loved. Eternally chosen. And we’re given eternal life. Forgiveness. Purpose. Destiny.
As this letter concludes, Paul shares what he calls armor that God’s given to stand against a spiritual enemy that pushes cultural darkness. And if you’d have spent three plus years with Jesus, as His disciples did, you wouldn’t flinch at the mention of Satan and demons. You’d have seen it firsthand.
While his tactics are suited for the times, it’s basically the same strategy.
So Paul tells us how to stand firm, how to withstand Satan’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
He’s not saying pump yourself. Be strong. But find your strength in Jesus, look to Jesus and be satisfied. Know that He is the Lord your Savior, the Almighty. He is faithful, wise and powerful. His lovingkindness is everlasting.
In a world that appeals to our flesh to forsake the best in Jesus for things that don’t last, nothing is more important than for you to know Jesus Christ and to love Him with all your heart, soul.
When we’re there, we’re freer from having to do what our culture says to do, or our emotions when they get the best of us. We’re free from having to prove ourselves to feel valuable. We’re freer to love. Freer to forgive.
From oppression to sin to slavery to addictions Satan doesn’t want you free. But he attacks the Christian where freedom flourishes. Your faith in Jesus. Therefore, be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ, find your joy and worth and identity in Christ. And RELY daily, he says, on “the strength of His might.”
When our son, Matthew, was very young he loved for me to try and catch him and and trap him. Once I caught him and held him, laughing, he’d call out to his mom for help. After enough times, he’d get tired, and instead of running he’d give up all self-reliance and just call on her strength to help him.
That’s what we need to do to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. No longer depend on your meager ability to control your life, your children, your marriage, or your reputation. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. How? Verse 11. “By putting on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
One of Satan’s best lies is he doesn’t exist. Another is that you don’t need God. “You got this.” “You go, girl.” “Be strong.” “Boston Strong.” But Paul reminds us, this is a supernatural battle. Rulers. Principalities. This is big league. This is God's league. However strong you are, you need to be “Jesus strong.”
Paul reminds us, this is a supernatural battle. Rulers. Principalities. This is big league. It is God's league. However strong you are, be “Jesus strong.”
It is a spiritual battle with spiritual enemies, yet it takes place in our physical, sensory world. Not only on the global, political, cultural stage, but also in our personal relationships. Where we put so much hope. Satan seeks to destroy.
Do you remember what Paul just spoke about before spiritual warfare? He called on husbands and wives, parents and children, employers and employees to practice cross-cultural yet godly virtues in our relationships together.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
With this, Paul brings up the reality of spiritual warfare. Point being, Satan’s battlefield is the world, he rules the world’s systems. AND he attacks us in our homes, our personal relationships.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth [lit., "having fastened your waist with truth"], and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 and having [covered] your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
We’ll just stick with verse 14 today.
Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm therefore, [having fastened truth around your waist],
Paul wrote while imprisoned for his faith in Jesus. He was well acquainted with Romans soldiers, in the streets and in prison. Unlike Mel Brook’s “Men in Tights,” Roman soldiers wore tunics, XL, loose-fitting shirts, requiring a belt to tuck it in. The belt also held their sword and fastened the breastplate tight for protection. Like a Roman soldier, Paul says, if you’re to stand firm against Satan’s lies, you need to fasten the truth or truthfulness about you.
He refers to the Gospel in V15 and the Bible in V17, so he’s not referring directly to these but to the reality of absolute truth. And to truthfulness.
For the Christian, truth has an undisputed certainty and force. Jesus said God’s Word is truth. He called the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of truth." He said of Himself, "I am the truth." Indeed, standing in the truth is a sure defense against Satan’s lies.
There’s no justice without truth. Truth provides real choices, real safety, real freedom. You can’t know God if you don’t accept what is true of Him.
Not surprisingly, another pop-lie is that there is no truth. No absolute truth. There’s personal truth—what’s true for you—but there is no absolute truth. So you cannot be sure of God’s Word. Nor of His promises, or your eternal life.
Church, don’t abandon truth to the enemy.
The devil has successfully blinded like half the planet to the fact they are skillfully and purposefully made in God’s image, that they have incredible worth, and that God loves them so much He took their place on a cross and gave His life for them.
He has half the planet believing they evolved from primates. He has young people questioning their own skin, their gender, living in shame. He further damns them by preventing them from looking to God for truth, love, identity, purpose and worth.
So, like Jesus when Satan lied to Him, we need to wrap ourselves in truth. Know it. Believe it. Live in it. And speak it. God has us here to speak truth in love; to speak truth to power, even as Satan speaks power to truth.
Christian, speak truth to power, even while Satan speaks power to truth.
When Paul says, “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth”, this same word, truth, can also be translated as truthfulness.
Truthfulness is solid armor against harmful lies. This is the opposite of hiding our sin, deeply held beliefs, feelings. Especially if Satan attacks us in our relationships, we defeat him by relating to each other honestly, openly, giving grace, protecting weakness.
The Greek word for Satan is diabolos, accuser. We see this in the world, lies, deception, accusation. BUT if we are open, honest, not hiding our struggles; if we trust Jesus for the truth of our identity, and we refuse to virtue signal, or hide behind some hypocritical self-righteousness, Satan has nothing to accuse us of. He may shame us but not with a crippling shame.
This brings up a second piece of armor that protects our hearts,
Ephesians 6:14 Stand firm therefore, [having fastened truth around your waist], and having put on the breastplate [thoraka—thorax or Chest] of righteousness.
A breastplate was made of chains, or thick leather, covering the soldier’s entire torso, from neck to thigh, protecting his heart and every vital organ. And it represents the righteousness of Christ that He’s imputed to every believer.
When Satan goes for the heart, when his lies put you on defense, or calls your faith, your competence, your salvation into question, makes you feel small, foolish, ashamed, you may be tempted to justify yourself, prove yourself—or hate them—that makes us feel strong. But be strong in the Lord. Wrap yourself in truth. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness.
This is a strong defense. Its works with the belt of truth. We fear accusations, lies. They’re evil. But that’s Satan’s M.O. “You’re worthless. You ruin everything you touch. You’re weak. You’re wife has no respect for you. You’re a terrible parent. I know what you think about; I know what you would do if you could get away with it; dude, no one else thinks like that. I know your past. How can you think God accepts you, forgives you, or loves you. Who would?!”
God doesn’t talk like that. Hate does. Satan does. God tells us the opposite.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we [whoever trusts Jesus] might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Even when God brings up your past, sure, He says,
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… 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).
When Satan brings up the past, look to Jesus and believe the good news: Jesus’ clothes us with His righteousness, which gives us peace with God, His full acceptance, despite the fact we can be terrible human beings at times.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Don’t believe the lies. Don’t feel condemned. That’s when we hurt ourselves, do stupid things. God specifically addresses this, you are not condemned.
Romans 8:1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
We don’t have to argue that we are better than others.
Sometimes Satan has us dead to rights. Yes, I did a terrible thing. You’re right, I’m guilty as charged. But my hope is not in me proving my worth. My hope is in Jesus Christ and His righteousness given to me as a gift of love.
1 Timothy 1:15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost , Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
So, be alert to the spiritual battle. See it in the world. See it your own world.
Be strong in the Lord. Seek to know and obey Jesus. Rely on Him.
Trust and seek truth. Absolute truth. Seek it, find it. There is truth in science, it correlates with a biblical view. There is truth in biology. Seek it. Don’t just be taught and say yes. If you question anything—God’s Word, Jesus—seek truth. If you doubt, seek truth. In every cultural issue. Truth conforms to reality and it always, always brings glory to God.
Truth is a strong defense in a world that lies every way.
Be open and honest. As you find your strength and identity in Christ, be honest about life, your weaknesses, fears, struggles. With Someone. This brings intimacy. Builds trust. Humility builds trust. Trusting Jesus, sharing your struggles, weaknesses, and finding strength in Christ—Satan cannot condemn/accuse you. Plus this helps, this strengthens others.
Truthfulness is a strong defense in a world that lies every way.
Speak truth in love. Be a Christian that humbly, confidently speaks the truth in love to those in your circles. Don’t fix people, point them to Jesus. Don’t tell them to trust Jesus, remind them of the awesome things about God that stirs their faith. People do harmful things when they believe lies, when they build their life on lies. Remind such believers of God’s sacrificial love, His infinite power, His purity and goodness. How He works. What He calls for.
Tell your unbelieving friends of God’s mercy, about Jesus’ redemptive forgiveness. Each one, reach one, right. Speak the truth of God’s righteousness and justice to come.
Wage war on behalf of those you love. Speak the truth in love and watch the lives of those around you change for the better.
Grace United Church Northampton • February 26, 2023
Have you noticed entertainers using occult symbols in their “art.” Nothing new. But when Sam Smith tweeted that his Grammy performance would be special, CBS tweeted in response that the network was “ready to worship.”
This was an interesting choice of words since Sam Smith, Kim Petra and their dancers were decked out as Satan and demons, dressed in latex, a bright red stage, fire, and women in cages, performing the song, “Unholy.” From the little I saw it was blatantly demonic and a bit been-there-done-that boring. But no doubt, that was straight up devil worship on national TV. Again.
Madonna did a recent photo shoot for Vanity Fair that was likewise dark, demonic. What’s interesting is when criticized, Madonna said, “My work as an artist united people, gave them freedom of expression, unity. It was the mirror of Jesus’ teachings.”
That is what is so deceptively dangerous: believing we are serving Jesus while supporting Satan.
Satan's influence is not just in Hollywood. It’s everywhere—online, on-air. Over Big Tech, Big Pharma. Wall Street. Main St. FOX. CNN. ESPN. The progressive movement. The Republican Party. The Democrat party. The Communist party. The NBA. The KKK. BLM. CRT. Capitalism. Marxism. Socialism. Universities. Elementary classes. Abortion clinics. Hospitals…
The battle is real. Throughout Ephesians, Paul has referred over and over to a spiritual battle. Spiritual powers and authorities. Spiritual sides are drawn.
He’s referred to, “The spiritual rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
He warned of the devil as, “The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is even now working in the sons of disobedience.”
Jesus Himself warned that Satan seeks only to kill, steal, and destroy. Yet He has come that we may have life, and have it abundantly. The enemy is real.
- How do we stand against Satan’s efforts to rob us of our spiritual blessings?
- How do we withstand his bids to keep us from loving and obeying Jesus?
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
This isn’t a command to charge after Satan but to draw near to God, be strong in the Lord—for you cannot stand against him on your own.
First, realize the battle. The stakes.
Then, take your stance in Christ! Be strong, lit., “Be strengthened in the Lord.” Find your strength in your relationship with Jesus, in Christ, in who He is.
Paul prayed earlier,
Ephesians 1:18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand 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. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Find your strength also in your identity in Christ.
Rely—not just on His might—but "on the strength of His might." Trust how powerful He is.
Our priority is to know and love Jesus with all your mind and heart and body. This is what is attacked. This is what we don’t want to lose. Therefore,
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Notice, your goal is simply to STAND FIRM against Satan’s schemes. Satan's lies. Stand firm in Christ. Hold your ground. Don’t cede a thing to the enemy.
Satan’s tactics include deceiving, tempting, and accusing.
His method is to twist truth, exchange it for lies, and deceive us—not just into sin—but into thinking we don’t need God, or what we want to do is wiser, more loving, or smarter. So that we trust and follow our will, still thinking that we are honoring God.
Afterward, he sweeps in and accuses, shames, and condemns us. And that leads to deeper darkness.
This is the battle. Satan’s plan is to dislodge you from trusting and loving, obeying Jesus. So your top priority is to trust and love Jesus with all your heart and all your mind and your strength (body).
But Satan is diametrically opposed to God, His Word, and those who love Him. I'm convinced he's opposed to any human flourishing.
He brings darkness but he calls it light. He uses people—culture, experts, influencers—to lie to you. Manipulate you into adopting ungodly beliefs, values. That Christians question even disagree with God, i.e., distrust Him…
For whenever you disagree with God, you distrust God, and you won’t follow, won’t worship, and won’t obey. And Satan robs you of spiritual blessings like peace, joy, humility.
Ephesians 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
Practiced in the art of deception, the devil takes good things yet satan calls them evil. Satan takes evil things, what God calls unholy, unnatural, and calls them good, loving. And any deviation is to be punished.
- What is Satan attacking today? What lies are being championed?
- What does God call evil that society now tries to convince everyone is good?
- What does God say is good but the world tries to convince us is evil?
In a twisted, not so subtle way, we are told, in the name of love, or for the sake of the gospel—we're to affirm whatever society endorses, for people’s mental health, or physical safety, we should endorse what God warns against, and essentially give God's blessing and encourage people to continue in these. Again, serve Satan in the name of Jesus.
Much of Satan’s strategy is to conform you to think and live as unbelievers.
Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.
Again the main thing for you is to love and trust Jesus, and resist Satan’s lies.
1 Peter 5:8 … Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith…
James 4:7 Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
For some, this calls for feisty resistance. It calls for a subversive resistance.
Back to Sam Smith dressed in red latex pants and devil horns on stage. It was meant to be subversive, to shock us! It promoted Satan, and Sam Smith, I never heard of him, but came across as predictable and sad and boring.
It is hardly shocking at all to call oneself a witch or a satanist or to flash some illuminati symbol. It is no longer subversive to call oneself a socialist, to drive a Prius, or for a man to dress like or even to call himself a woman. Why not? Because these are no longer fringe. Or as fringe as they may be they are touted as "normal." These no longer represent the resistance, but the Empire.
These are no longer subversive or shocking because they no longer represent the resistance, but the Empire.
Do you want to be subversive today, to go against the Empire, the system, group-think? Then openly love and worship Jesus.
Feeling rebellious, subversive, then share the good news of God’s love and salvation in Christ with those who feel God hates them. If the empire hates God and silences those who disagree with them, be subversive by declaring holy, life-giving truths, and for loving, respecting, forgiving those who hate us. It’s more shocking, and more powerful to love our enemies.
Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We see people. We know their names. We know the causes. But the problems in our world are not solely the result of bad players, bad policies, foolish politicians, poor education, racist founders. The problem is there are spiritual powers, and people are led, and rejecting Jesus, captive to do their will.
Our struggle is not against any person, but against the spiritual rulers, the demonic powers of darkness, the demons who tempt and destroy, lie and spread lies, who seek to kill, steal, and destroy.
The final solution is the return of Jesus. His is the victory. But until then, God equips us with His Word, Faith, the Church, and His Holy Spirit in us.
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
THERE IS HOPE. Even now. And it’s in Jesus Christ.
When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus didn’t attack Satan. He put on the armor of God. He stood against the devil’s lies, Satan intentionally misinterpreted Scripture and tempted Jesus to act independent of God. Jesus resisted by standing on God’s Word. Then telling Satan to depart!
We cannot bury our head in the sand. Too many Christians are like in the Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers: Theoden says, “I will not risk open war.” To which Aragorn said, “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”
So, how do we stand against Satan’s bids to rob us of our spiritual blessings?
Be alert to the spiritual battle before you.
Realize too, your chief aim is to trust and love and honor Jesus. That's life.
And that's where the battle lies.
Since Satan’s whole plan is to dislodge you from trusting and loving and obeying Jesus, take your stance in Christ! Find strength in your relationship with Jesus, find strength in your identity in Christ—and feistily, even subversively resist Satan’s lies.
His lies are attacks on your faith, and really, on God’s goodness, and love.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look closer at each piece of armor that we may stand. These include our free gift of salvation, the truth, righteousness, the Good News, God’s Holy Word, faith, and prayer.
Pastor Steve Behlke • February 12, 2023
The first three chapters of Ephesians 1-3 teach believers how our relationship with Jesus gives us new life, and a privileged, new identity and glorious future. Paul follows up in Ephesians 4-6 with challenging words, calling us to act on these truths, actions that require trust and reliance on Jesus.
One of those challenging words is submission, which is always a hard word.
Western society particularly abhors submission, promotes defiance over submission: Destroy the patriarchy, Blow up the family, Disobey your parents, Hate the police.
Paul tells us truly remarkable facts about God’s grace and the changes Jesus makes to our standing in this world, our identity and our future. He follows up in Ephesians 4-6 with very challenging words, calling us to act on these truths, actions that require trust and and reliance on God.
One of those hard words is submission, which is always a hard word.
Western society particularly abhors submission, promotes defiance over submission: Destroy the patriarchy, Blow up the family, Disobey your parents, Hate the police.
As you read God’s Word, watch Jesus, and value God’s order for relationships—a heart that chooses to submit is a valuable treasure, a priceless virtue.
In Ephesians 5:15 and following, submission is essential to wise living, godliness, and to being filled with the Spirit.
Submission is a choice of the heart to honor the person God set in authority over you.
Submitting in faith outwardly reflects our inner-disposition to God.
In Ephesians 6:1-4, God speaks to children and parents. How can parents set their child up for success, and help our children to live wise and godly lives?
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 [Then Paul quotes the fifth of the 10 Commandments] “Honor your father and mother,” which is the FIRST commandment with a PROMISE, 3 “So that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Children obey your parents. Children, honor your father and mother. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Yet many radically oppose God’s design for the family. They'd argue parents have no right to discipline your children. They insist that you're not to teach your children what to believe about God, let them figure it out; nor should you ever require your children to obey you. That's arrogant and abusive.
But the world is godless and as foolish and immature as an angry adolescent.
As followers of Jesus, we are to train and empower our children to live wise and godly lives. And fostering in them a heart that can submit is essential to this. So when God tells children to obey their parents, parents, it is implied that you require your child’s obedience.
If you need persuading, here are three reasons to teach and require your children to obey you.
The first reason is because this is right. (V1)
Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
This is morally right. This is how God designed the family. So mom and dads, it is right for you to require and to help your child to obey you.
God delegates authority to parents, for your child's sake; authority is always given for the sake of those under our authority! And God tells your children to honor and obey you. This is a way they can honor and obey God, by choosing to obey you.
Do your children know that?
Society would have us believe it wiser to teach our children to resist authority. But Christian parents bless your children with wisdom and grace by teaching that God delegates authority to certain roles—civil leaders, police, husbands, parents. That's a good foundation for them.
Why should parents teach and even require their children to obey them?
Second, because this pleases God.
Colossians 3:20 Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. [I.e., a submissive heart brings God joy.]
Parents, help your children to obey you from the heart, for this pleases God.
Why does it please God?
It pleases God because a submissive heart is receptive to love; it is willing to walk with God, learn from Him, follow Him, be instructed, protected. A submissive heart is actually better protected, able to love. A child’s submissive spirit lets mom and dad love, protect, bless them. It also makes it easier to parent, more enjoyable and rewarding. This pleases God.
We mention this a lot, but without humility we will never choose to submit. Without submission, kids won’t obey God or their parents, not from the heart.
Why should parents teach their children to obey them?
Third, because this is best for your child's life! (V2-3)
Paul ties this command to the fifth of the Ten Commandments; look closely,
Ephesians 6:2 [God told the people of Israel] “Honor your father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise, [Exodus 20:12] 3 “so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.”
This was a promise of God to Israel. Christians are not under that covenant or that guarantee, but the principle remains! If you want your children to grow up wise, enjoy a sweeter relationship with you, avoid foolish mistakes, even prison—teach and nurture them to honor their parents, and God's authority.
Too many kids are dying for resisting authority.
When they’re pulled over…
It wasn’t long ago the police were called to the scene where an inner-city adolescent was outside pointing a gun at people. The police told him several times to put the gun down. He refused. He then pointed the gun at the officers. He was shot in self-defense. Only afterward did they discover that it was a toy gun. What if his parents taught him to honor and respect authority?
God wants our children to have hearts that submit to Him, to their parents, to authority so that it may go well for them. That your children may live long and prosper.
Especially when they are young, parents, nurture this. Earn their trust, teach this, and require this of them.
Next, God speaks specifically to dads. He gives us three ways to set up our kids for success.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
This is the OPPOSITE of not disciplining your children. It is the opposite of not teaching them clear truths about God. It’s the opposite of not interfering, of letting them “discover their own truths” and “find their own way.” Again the culture is wrong about this.
How can parents, father’s specifically, set up your children for success?
1. First, watch their heart.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…
Dads, watch your own heart, and watch your son’s heart, your daughter's heart. Do not provoke them to anger. Notice here, their anger is partly on us.
Our anger provokes them to anger. Our impatience. Our demands. It’s easy for us to ignore their heart and focus on their behavior. God says, “Watch their hearts; be sure that they know you love them."
So we need the Lord big time. However hard our own childhood and our own father's passing their mess down to us. We have a Father in heaven who loves us and gets us and gives us His identity and His love.
And dads, as much as your son or daughter act disrespectfully or rebelliously, deep inside they want to honor you. They want your approval, your respect, your love. They want you to be proud. They want to do right. This is in them.
Understand too, behind a child’s rebellion are often questions like—“Do you love me? Do you like me? How important am I to you? Do you approve of me?"
And IF they don’t get those answers, if they doubt your love, all they hear are rules, criticism, judgment, which hurts their heart! And a wounded, insecure, and unloved heart is more easily provoked to sin, anger, and rebellion.
As Christians we know better than anyone else that children do not have the power to obey. It’s hard for us, and it’s hard for them. Willpower only goes so far. They need God’s help, and yours. That’s the essence of the Gospel, right, the help we need must come from outside.
Rather than tell them to shape up, act right, behave, and watch to see if they do; may we earn their trust, so we can help them mature, and live free.
It's not our goal to ensure good behavior but to foster a submissive heart.
But what fosters a submissive heart in our child?
Well, what does it take for YOU to submit to God? A relationship in which you know Him, see His authority, His love, His goodness. A relationship where you trust Him, you feel safe in Him, and you want to honor Him.
And it’s the same in our relationship with our children.
Parents its important that you earn their trust. Your child needs to trust you emotionally. Are you reasonable, fair, safe? And to trust your wisdom, you’re not speaking out of wounds and prejudices but out of truth, wisdom. They’ll have their days, their moods, a hundred other things are going on in their life. But if they trust you and your love, they’re more prone to submit to you.
How else can you help set your children up for success,
2. Bring them up in the discipline of the Lord
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [watch, protect their hearts], but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Discipline your children, instruct them in the Lord—that’s the command! Be careful with their hearts—that’s the warning.
Don’t provoke them to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Discipline is a difficult topic for parents today. Spanking provokes negative emotions in our culture. But if we trust and listen to God, it’s a love word.
Revelation 3:19 [Jesus said] Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.
Proverbs 13:24 He who withholds the rod [spanking] hates his son, but he who loves [his child] disciplines him diligently.
Our culture protests, this is hateful, evil. God says just the opposite. Dads, moms, God instructs believing parents to love your kids as God loves you,
Hebrews 12:7 … God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 10 ... He disciplines us for our good so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline at the time seems sorrowful not joyful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
The professionals” insist God is wrong on this, spanking is reprehensible. We know better—and you may agree. But God disagrees.
Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.
It must be controlled and measured! Never spank for an accident or silliness. Only when your child is defiant, willfully disobedient. God is wise and clear,
Proverbs 23:13 Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.
Proverbs 13:24 He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
Contrary to popular consent—parents, help to foster a humble, submissive heart in your child. Require and help them to obey you.
Dads, watch their hearts, but discipline their defiance for their sake, for their longterm good, their walk with God, and their future relationships.
Discipline should be the norm. It is an act of love.
But our Lord is also patient, long-suffering, slow to anger. So not every act of disobedience must be punished.
There are no hard-fast rules for when, but especially if they are provoked to anger, grace may allow a tirade and absorb their rage, like God to us.
Sometimes, dads, let them fire off their complaints, let them exhaust their fury, let your ticked off son or daughter get it all out without stopping them.
Sometimes let them win.
And listen to them very carefully, listen to their hearts. After they finish, perhaps fearing what happens next, agree where they are right.
Apologize where you are wrong. Use this to affirm your love, particularly for your angry, grieving child. Tell him how proud you are of him, even right now, as an act of love. As God does with us.
This is the love given the Prodigal Son. Before he could promise to act better next time, “I’m sorry I said that, I didn’t mean it,” dad set the family ring on his finger and kicked off the party celebrating the new intimacy of their relation.
It’s easier to be passive or to be quick to anger. But, what does she need this moment? What is best for him, grace, instruction, discipline? Not what is easier or nicer, but what’s best to prepare him or her to live wisely, godly.
Finally, how else can parents set up their children for a successful life?
3. Raise them in the instruction of the Lord
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and INSTRUCTION of the Lord.
They need to be taught and shown what to do and what not to do.
Parents, give them a foundation in Christ. Share the gospel. Teach them about God’s character, His goodness and love. Tell them God’s commands, God's promises, teach them of God’s grace.
Pray with them. Tell them why they can trust Him, tell them why you trust Him. And show them how it looks.
As fast as they grow up, try to stay ahead of the game. So keep learning for their sake. Before they start dating, prepare them for godly dating and a godly marriage. But start young because the world grooms them very young.
Parenting is hard! Paul’s statement, “I am not doing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate," could be said by every parent frustrated trying to get their kids out of bed for school, to eat something they don’t like, or to share a toy with their sibling. Parenting is hard, and excellent parenting is impossible. We need Jesus for this. They need Him too. And they need you.
Grace United Church Northampton • February 06, 2023
How do you act when you are treated poorly, when other people are mean to you, when you are treated unjustly? How do you wish you would respond?
How does God want you to respond? And how do we do it?
In John 13, Jesus is with the twelve disciples for His final meal.
John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
When John tells us Jesus loved His disciples to the end (V1), iIt may mean Jesus never stopped loving them. But it probably means He loved them to the the uttermost, completely, perfectly.
And look at the context for Jesus' love,
John 13:2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him,
Here’s Jesus being Jesus, loving us. Yet what does He know, He knows His hour has come, and Judas already turned his heart against Jesus. Judas has determined to hand Jesus over to those who wish Him dead.
Jesus is the only one in the room who knows this. And He knows all the other guys will also abandon Him.
Instead of get mad, call them names, He loves them completely, without reservation, to the uttermost.
A reminder for you, when you’re this way with God, or when others act this way to you—this is how God acts toward you.
Jesus shows us God acting in love even when we act in selfishness.
This is the grace of God that we find hope in. God’s favor toward you does not correlate with your love for Him.
Jesus takes full responsibility for loving you. Even when your sin abounds, God’s grace superabounds.
One of the incredible things about Jesus was how free He was to love, and by that we mean Jesus was free to act in love unmeasured, to the uttermost.
Generally, we treat others based on how they treat us.
But we can love the same way Jesus loves us, for the love we need does not emanate from us, it is expressed in us by God. It is given to us through faith.
Even in Galatians, after pointing out so many of the bad things we’re naturally capable of in our anger and unlove, Paul says,
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Notice Paul doesn’t say, “Hey now that you’re a Christian you have to be patient and kind. Start being more generous, have more self-control.”
Instead, Paul says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness...”
This is not a law—it’s a declaration, a promise! It's also Jesus' invitation: Turn to Me. Rely on me.
If you simply react out of what your heart seeks and your eyes see, you will sin and you will not love.
If, rather than react in the flesh, go with your own assessment and feelings, you remember who you are and seek and find Me in this situation, I will give you peace, patience, kindness, self-control.”
If we think we have to be such and such a way, that puts everything on us. Grace is what makes the gospel good news. It brings Jesus and His power into it. Grace sees every command as a mercy of God, knows every command comes with a promise, and Jesus can be trusted to fulfill it in us…
We see Jesus doing thinking through this very process in John 13:3.
Jesus didn’t love His faulty friends because He knew He should nor because He’s so loving. Jesus loved by faith, based on what He believed (V3),
Despite betrayal from his own inner circle, even knowing what was to come,
John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, [knowing His identity, trusting the spiritual reality. Knowing that God sent Him on this mission, God gave Him the world and the kingdom and all things, knowing He’d go home to a rich reward with the Father—Jesus] 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Not dwelling on the fact He had horrible friends, not feeling sorry for Himself, questioning God’s favor—but knowing the hidden reality of His identity and God’s purpose Jesus was free to serve them, to love them to the utmost.
As a church, we need to remember who we are, what we’ve been given and why we’re here. In the midst of betrayals at work, coworkers who stab us in the back, an entire culture telling us we’re evil for believing what God says.
Knowing who we are to God, what we’re given, and where we are heading, we can love. We can forgive. People don’t experience that. We can tell a cutthroat culture the Source of love and forgiveness, and we can even declare God’s to them forgiveness in Christ. And if they accept it, well that would be awesome.
Jesus is about to suffer immensely, yet He recalled hidden truths to mind.
He remembered who He was and He anchored His emotions and His actions in His relationship with the Father. Thus He loved and even served those who would fail Him, all as an act of faith.
John 13:6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?"
It sounds holy but it’s amazing how arrogant we can be. No Lord I’ve got this. We want to prove to Jesus that we are fine as we are; but we’re not.
We want to serve Jesus and prove our sufficiency; Jesus wants to serve us and nurture our dependency.
John 13:7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter." 8 Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." 10 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew [Judas] the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."
The bath is a picture of trusting Jesus and being born again and made sparkling clean with God. “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
What about Judas?
People often wonder what happened to Judas after he died? Did he lose his salvation for betraying Jesus? Jesus makes it clear that Judas never believed. He followed Jesus, but he expected Jesus to be something He wasn’t. He never trusted Jesus was who He claimed to be. Judas was never born again.
But the point Jesus made is this, Sin sticks to us. Sin dirties our lives!
A believer doesn’t need a whole other bath all over again; i.e., we don’t need to be saved again. We don't need to rededicate our lives to the Lord over and over to be right with God.
You are declared by Jesus to be right with God from the moment you trust Him! Jesus ensures this. Yet, if we don’t deal with the sin in our lives it cakes up, changes our priorities, leads to more sin.
When sin is allowed to settle in our hearts it can take over and prevent us from loving others. Hurt and anger, guilt and shame build up and we need Jesus to wash us. The Gospel is always Jesus dealing with the need, not us.
Jesus wants our hearts clean, free to love, and to know who we are to God in this world. He does this is by dealing with our daily grime, washing our spiritual feet, healing the wounds, dissolving sin’s power, unpacking our baggage, bleeding out our anger, so that shame and pain and anger don’t overwhelm our conscience and drag us back to into what Jesus freed us of!
Jesus invites daily conversation—confession, humility, relational honesty, letting Him love and clean us, tell us who we are to Him.
Then Peter, who never did anything halfway, said,
John 13:9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head."
Moments ago Peter didn’t even want Jesus to wash his pinkie toe. Now He wants Jesus to wash his feet and hands and head. This is a picture of "God’s grace leading to repentance." When we have that aha moment, when we get that Jesus isn’t trying to ruin our life, or make us do something we don’t want.
Repentance isn’t you turning your life around, you taking control of your problems, you fixing things so Jesus can give you a thumbs up for being so good.
Repentance isn’t saying I repent, but "Lord, help me. I welcome Your help. I welcome your power and authority and your way. Without you I’m unable." And then giving Him permission to lead and act in your life.
As a church, we aren’t able to make ourselves bigger, more godly. Through our planning and willing, we aren’t going to convert Northampton and liberate those who bullied, deceived, and herded like cattle by sin.
But Lord, cleanse us as a church and make us sparkle. Renew our hearts for your vision and purpose for this church in the Pioneer Valley.
See all of this is going somewhere. Jesus washes their feet to teach us something. All of this is meant to change us, to transform how we live…
John 13:12 So when He had washed their feet and taken His garments and reclined at the table again He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? 13 "You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
We know these. Blessed are we to do them. Others are blessed through us.
Knowing and believing our identity and our righteous standing in Christ is not the end-all-be-all. It’s meant to be the beginning of a changed life.
We’re not given this new identity and made to be a precious member of Jesus' church to feel good about ourselves, nor to rest in our new identity, but to live differently as a result. Trusting Jesus. Drawing near. Free from the world’s list of demands. Lord, we are your people. We are your body.
After ten years, we haven’t become the perfect church, we’re not fully mature, we still have some of the same problems, we’re a mess at times. We admit it.
But let us press on together in faith, trusting Jesus, that He is sovereign, that He is forgiving, that He has all power and authority, and He is building His church. And He does this best through His church being the church and introducing our friends, neighbors, coworkers to Jesus.
Tell a friend
This month. For their sake. For the church to carry out our identity before the world. Each one, reach one. We’ll offer labs to equip you for this. We also have a new community outreach team getting started.
And for your sake, longterm health, nutrition, connect with God’s people. Identify with the people of God. Worship together each Sunday. And it may seem boring, busy, inconvenient but Life Groups—
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
It’s not sexy. But meeting together from house to house, devoting ourselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, sharing meals together, praising God, it’s part of healthy Christianity and Grace United’s DNA.
Put your gifts into service for the sake of others.
Consider how you might serve, or who you might serve. The youth or children. Women? Men? Unbelievers? Your life group? But make the gifts God gave you available to help others.
Grace United Church Northampton • January 22, 2023
Paul just said to be careful how we live for the days are evil. He then gave two essentials for living wisely and well in an evil age.
Ephesians 5:16... the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit...
First, we are to understand what the will of the Lord is; it's not whatever culture says. We discover this in Scripture, Christian community, and following Jesus.
Second, we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Meaning, we are to be constantly open to God, prepared to follow Him and willing to be led.
Paul explained several ways for us to do this, together,
Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and [submitting] to one another in the fear of Christ.
The final verb should be translated "being subject" or "submitting" to one another since it is a present tense participle like every the verbs, speaking, singing, giving thanks; thus, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.
Whenever we are told to do anything "in the fear of the Lord," we’re told to do something difficult and unpopular, something we may rather not do.
And this is one. See, this isn’t a generic, “Everyone submit to everyone one; it’s not like anyone here has any authority over anyone else.”
Right after saying “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ,” Paul tells us exactly what he means: Wives submit to your husbands; children submit to your parents; employees submit to your bosses.
The THEME of this section is submission. We are to submit to those who have actual authority over us. And after each command to submit, our Lord tells those in authority, those to whom we submit, how to honor submission!
After telling Christian employees to submit to your bosses, he tells bosses to treat your employees well. After telling children to submit to your parents, he specifically tells dads to parent them well. After telling believing wives to submit to your husbands, he tells husbands to love your wife, cherish her, and sacrifice as Jesus does you.
Yet the theme is submission! So that’s where God has us start.
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, [strong, beautiful, competent, Christian wives] be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For [the spiritual reality is] the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But [since marriage is based on the relationship between Jesus and the church] as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Elephant in the room alert: this is about as counter-cultural, and as politically incorrect as it gets.
People might read this and protest, "God is a misogynist!" Is He? No. God is not strongly prejudiced against women, He honors and esteems them. And what is said here is for partly for her protection and blessing and best.
Others argue, "Paul supports the patriarchy!" Well, if by patriarchy you mean “a social system in which the father is the head of the family,” yes, he does. For this the design of the God who made us and knows us and gave His life for us. So where is this hate coming from?
"Well, Paul is just stating his white, male opinion!" No. Paul was born in present day Turkey. And this isn't Paul's opinion.
This is the Word of the Lord, Holy Scripture. And “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
This is great stuff. And one thing that sticks out is how Jesus and the Church are set forth as “the pattern” for husband and wife.
Jesus and the church are The Model for marriage.
The world sees no connection between God and marriage. Marriage is said to be a "human construct," patriarchal, outdated.
Marriage is NOT a human construct. It is the design of God our Father and Jesus our Lord, who perfectly know and love and created us.
God also wisely, lovingly, designed marital roles for a husband and wife. There is a design for this to work. And contrary to the reigning view of marriage, these are good and for our good.
You see this with Adam and Eve. God made the man first, gave him authority, and then formed his wife, directly from his side, and then our Lord presented her to the man as a HELPER, in order to complete him. That's a great role.
Before one takes offense, God wears this very title, "Helper," to describe Himself. God helps us, it doesn't mean He is beneath us. Anything but.
This Hebrew word for "helper" is generally used in military battles. The image is of a soldier, in this case, the wife, sword in her hand, standing "side by side", with her husband, facing life’s battle together.
To understand marriage and to make the most of it, look to God for how it looks, rather than to a spiritually dead, unbelieving, and unhappy world.
Just look at the world’s view of submission: submission is the worst. It's anti-woke, anti-woman, patriarchal, controlling, repressive, and archaic.
Yet, in the biblical understanding, submission is a love word, and it's a free choice; it is never forced.
If we submit out of fear, that’s compliance. If we submit out of duress, that's abuse. But if we submit freely out of love, that’s biblical submission.
Submission honors God and the other person’s God-given role.
Submission allows a husband, parent, boss, to carry out their role with joy, with grace, and without an internal power struggle.
Submission allows another to love you. Without submitting, one cannot receive the other's love, no matter how much love (wisdom, guidance, protection, etc.) the other has. This is often because of unresolved hurt, shame, insecurity, fear, control. And by refusing to submit, it feels safer, we feel more in control. But we don’t feel loved.
By refusing to submit, it feels safer, we feel more in control. But we don’t feel loved.
Since Jesus is our Model here, understand, submission is the very principle by which Jesus lived His life.
When Jesus walked this planet, He submitted Himself to God by honoring His authority. Remember, He is eternally God, equal in essence to God the Father, yet He freely submits to Him in love.
Jesus was infinitely superior to His parents, yet He freely submitted to each.
Jesus even submitted to a corrupt law and political leaders. He submitted to whoever had authority over Him in this life.
Stated as a principle: Jesus submitted to God by submitting to the roles and authority of others. So...
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
I.e., with both eyes on the Lord. Submit to your husband as you would to Jesus, because Jesus has delegated His authority and responsibility to your husband.
Submission is ultimately a way to worship God. It’s more about your faith in Jesus than in your husband.
Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ also is the head of the church…
Again, marriage is not a human model. It’s how God designed it. The call is to submit to the husband believing God designed it this way and for our good.
The husband is head of the wife? Yes, even if he doesn't act it. Even if she doesn't act it.
This is the reality of the role and identity of the husband.
Being the “head” signifies authority. Husbands, since this is God's design and not man’s, understand, biblical authority is given for the sake of those under your care. Jesus used His authority to bless and forgive, to protect and heal.
Biblical authority is given for the sake of those under your care. Husbands. This is your wife and children.
Ephesians 5:24 as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Consider for a moment the church’s submission to Jesus.
Submitting to Jesus, the church honors Jesus. His authority. Submitting to Jesus receives from Him and lets Him fulfill His role. Submitting to Jesus, we experience His love, and the relationship deepens.
So, a wife submits to her husband in faith because this is how God set it up, so this is how a wife honors Jesus, and honors God's intention for their marriage. Submission also honors and ignites something in your husband.
Submission is itself an act of love. Through her submission, a wife can powerfully love and bless her husband in a way that touches his heart, and cultivates his love, and relational intimacy and unity.
A wife thrives on being loved, on being known and cherished.
A husband thrives on being respected, honored. Submission communicates respect like nothing else.
Respect? Yes. The opposite of being ignored, treated like a child, being told what to do, nagging, arguing. The book of wisdom, Proverbs, reveals to women what a man feels, whose wife does not respect him.
Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.
The opposite of respect is shaming him, the opposite of being the crown of her husband is hollowing him from the inside out, rot in his bones. But the wife who submits, respects, honors him; that husband finds excellent.
Submission is a significant way for a wife to love her husband in a way that touches his heart, and honors God’s design.
Choosing submission is to relate to your husband in a way that promotes oneness in marriage.
That said, the Lord addresses husbands, those delegated authority for their wife's sake.
While wives are to imitate the church’s submission to Jesus, Husbands are to imitate Jesus’ love for the church.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, [agape] love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her [as Jesus sacrificed His life for us]…
What wife doesn’t want to be loved like that?
Agape love your wife. Do what is best for her. Lead her. Protect her. Know her. Understand her. Bless her.
Agape love is not ultimately based on your feelings, or how your wife makes you feel in the moment. God doesn’t command husbands to love your wives only when she is cute and smiley or flirty and she thinks your great and she respects you and you feel like a king. God calls for the husband to commit to love her, REGARDLESS how she make you feel—or not—at any moment…
A husband is to love his wife regardless how much love she merits. A wife is to respect her husband regardless how much respect he deserves. The most powerful time to give these is when they're least deserved.
Let Jesus be your guide: He gave His life for us when we were at our worst, when we were sinners! Jesus died for us when we were His enemies—why?
Ephesians 5:26 so that He might sanctify her [set her apart to Him, and set her heart on Him], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
"Having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word..."
Husbands, your words are powerful to build up your wife. So, walk with Jesus. Submit to Him in your marriage. Learn from Him. Tell her you love her, show her you love her. Be quick to listen, slow to anger, gentle when criticized.
If you're not good at this, join the club. Turn to Jesus. In your hurt. Your anger. He heals. He helps. He frees.
And may you see your wife as a deep part of you.
Ephesians 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
To conclude this, Paul writes,
Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. [The mystery, what the world doesn’t understand about marriage, is how it is patterned after Jesus and the church.] 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you [each husband] is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
A wife desires and needs to be and feel known, loved, and cherished by her husband. In the same way, a husband desires and needs to be and feel respected by his wife.
Big question, does your wife feel loved?
Does your husband feel respected by you?
It may be they don’t receive these, but do we give them? Jesus is our model. Jesus is our strength. The fruit of the Spirit is love. Allow Jesus to center your marriage in Him.
O and the word respect, in verse 33, is equated to submitting in verses 21-24.
A wife may say she respects her husband, but without submitting, without letting Him carry out his role, he doesn’t feel respected.
And husbands, you may tell your wife you love her, but without listening, caring, and enjoying her she doesn’t feel love.
So, marriage is to reflect both God's love and our worship. Looking to Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, wives, respect your husband.
How does this look? Respect him in your heart. Honor him. Honor his role. Don’t fight him. Don't argue or nitpick. Don’t tell him what to do or what he’s doing wrong. Don’t lead him. And don’t ignore his lead. Do. Affirm him. Be gentle. Patient. Come beside him to support him. This is an act of love that honors Jesus, marriage, your husband, and God may use it to open his heart to love and cherish you.
And because God is awesome, even in a deep dive on a wife’s submission, God calls husbands to agape-love our wives, regardless if she ever submits to you or hardly respects you. (Submitting to you is between her and God.)
But loving her is between you and God! So looking to Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, love your wife, listen, understand. Be gentle, patient. Lead her. Shepherd her. Oversee the family. She may be better at all of it, but you are responsible. So ask for help. And welcome her by your side. Battle together.