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.
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.
Pastor Steve Behlke • January 15, 2023
We’re going to talk about several big subjects: God’s wrath in the world today. Understanding God’s will. Being filled with the Holy Spirit. All in order to help live wisely or thrive today.
Let’s pick up from last week’s passage…
Ephesians 5:6 … The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Not by sending floods or bombs to their cities but, as Paul explained to the church in Rome, by giving people over to their shameful desires and unbelief.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God IS REVEALED from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations , and their foolish heart was darkened.
At some point in the life of certain peoples, nations, empires, God gives them over to their sins,
Romans 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…
So they eventually become more wicked, more impure, less open to God,
Romans 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions…
So they become more shameful, though they deny any shame, and deny God
Romans 1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
It seems God "may" be doing this with western society. It’s quite stunning how rapidly things are changing. People calling good evil. Calling evil good. Normalizing the most bizarre and unnatural. Selling the most destructive behavior.
But in His wrath, God gives entire cultures over to their sinful desires which, in time, ultimately destroys them.
Therefore do not be partakers with them.
Ephesians 5:7 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… 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.
Even expose them, not to themselves. Not in judgment. Not shouting at a spiritually deaf and defiant world, but in protective love. How, by exposing to the church the lies and propaganda that the world calls good and healthy when according to God it is evil, unnatural, and harmful to individuals, to children, marriages, and families.
So, the world is in a very dark place. It's amazing how committed our society is to a self-destructive, godless mindset, and will not tolerate any dissent.
Therefore be careful how you walk.
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.
That said, what do we do?
How do we keep the faith, and follow Jesus in an increasingly godless world? How do we live wisely and make the most of our time? Paul lays out two must-dos for every believer to thrive today.
Ephesians 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
The first must-do is to understand God’s will.
God wants you to know Him. He’s saying, “If you wish to live well in an evil age, know Me. Understand My view on things. My order. My goals for you, for My Son. Understand what I love, what I despise, what I want for you.”
God’s will can be understood in two ways.
God's Sovereign Will. His Sovereign Will shall happen. It cannot not happen. He is sovereign. All knowing. All powerful. If He decrees something to happen, nothing can stop it from taking place…
God's Preferred Will. God also commands us to do things. Believe in My Son. Love one another. Forgive one another. Don’t be angry. Don’t be anxious. This is sometimes called His preferred will, His revealed will.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality…
While His sovereign will cannot fail. We can and often do fail to obey Him.
God wants us to understand His will, particularly in His commands, His directions for how we live. Understand this takes time…
So, get to know God; spend time in His Word, and in Christian community. For seriously, we discuss God’s will together every Sunday and in life groups.
Again, the days are evil. God wants us to live wisely. How do we keep the faith, and follow Jesus in an increasingly godless world? How do we live wisely and make the most of our time? It starts by understanding God’s will.
A second must-do, we must be filled with the Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.
This is super important, so let’s talk about being filled with the Spirit.
First, grammatically, this is an imperative verb. “Be filled” is a command.
We’re never commanded to be indwelled by the Spirit! Or to be baptized or sealed by the Spirit! God does each of these the moment you trust Jesus. But He commands us to be filled with the Spirit. We’re each responsible for this.
Second, to be filled is a present, passive, command. It's the present tense, so, right now, be filled. It's in the passive mood, meaning, we don’t actually DO the filling ourselves—we are called to let it happen.
The command to be filled with the Spirit is more like—allow God to act in your life. Be constantly ready and willing to allow God’s Spirit to lead you wherever He leads.
The third thing to know is that the phrase “be filled with the Spirit” is not what we typically think. When we hear “be filled,” we think of filling up our gas tank or filling up our plates, which de-personalizes the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an it, a power or food or a thing.
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. He is Christ in us. He is not a substance; we never run out of Him. But we may not pay attention, care, or listen, or agree to be led by the Holy Spirit.
Fourth, to “be filled with the Spirit” is not an ecstatic experience where we are transported to heaven or we collapse under His power. This is not a feeling.
Don’t over-spiritualize this, nor depersonalize the Holy Spirit.
The command to be filled with the Holy Spirit can be understood as “Be open to God’s leading, prepared to walk with Him, understanding God’s will. Be constantly ready and willing to let God’s Spirit lead you wherever He leads.
At times it is a conscious choice to trust God. Particularly when you want something contrary to God’s will, something tempts you, you want to act one way yet you realize or hear that God says no.
YOU have a choice to trust God, yield to God, be filled with His Spirit, or to give into your flesh.
Galatians 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
So it’s an act of trust. The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, self-control.
How are we filled with the Holy Spirit?
Individually, we can do this by reading and praying, knowing God and His will.
Paul shows us how this takes place communally, when the church is together on Sundays, in life groups, when two or more gather in Jesus’ name.
Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, [do it together] 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody [in] your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks [“giving thanks at all times] for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and being subject or submitting] to one another in the fear of Christ.
Everything Paul tells us to do to be filled with the Holy Spirit prioritizes relationships in the church.
“Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs,” E.g., sharing God’s Word with each in encouraging ways, ways that stick and make sense. This is before the NT was written. He’d add that now. Reminding each other of God’s truth, goodness, and who we are to Him.
“Singing” and worshiping together, “Making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Being full of praise. Having a heart made glad through worship and praise.
Sunday worship music may not be your preferred musical style, but coming together intentionally as Christ’s body, lifting our hearts out of our stress, anxiety, busyness, or emptiness to exalt Jesus, motivates and prepares us to follow Him, opening ourselves to His love, influence. That's being filled.
“Giving thanks at all times for all things,” to God the Father for His salvation and love and His abundant grace to us in Jesus Christ. Be full of praise. Be full of thanks. This is what we do together. This is how we are filled with the Spirit together. This prepares us to follow Jesus in the week.
Each of these verbs are participles flowing together to fulfill God’s command—Be filled with the Spirit. 1) Speaking, teaching, discussing God’s Word. 2) Worshiping together. 3) Thanking, praising God for all things. And…
Submitting to His love, His authority, by trusting God and “submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.” Submitting to one another’s words of love, gifts and help, to one another’s love and wisdom.
Verse 21 completes Paul thoughts, but he then leans heavy into the power and beauty of submitting to one another—who? why? what’s that mean?
We’ll pick that up next week.
But as we started, the days are evil. So be careful how you walk.
Understand God’s will. Be filled with His Spirit. And that really means, be knowledgable of God’s will and open to God’s leading. Be prepared to walk with Him, trusting Jesus, Christ in you, and willing to follow.
And see how important of a role the whole church plays in being filled with the Spirit.
So continue to meet with your church family. Worshiping together. Listening to God’s Word together. Centering ourselves on Christ. Building relationships and giving a few godly friends access to influence you. All helps us be in a frame of mind and position to be led by the Lord during evil days.
Pastor Steve Behlke • January 01, 2023
We'll start the new year learning from Peter who is like the prototypical disciple. Self-confident, well-meaning, but often wrong. “Get behind me, Satan.” Strong yet not always courageous. “Jesus? I never even heard of Him.”
But Peter loved the Lord and came to be one of Jesus's closest friends.
It started when Peter first trusted in Jesus at the Sea of Galilee. This is where everything starts, the moment you believe in Jesus for eternal life.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Everything changes the moment you trusted Jesus to make things right between you and God.
Having believed, you have eternal life. You will never come into judgment.
Your spirit will never die. You now have life in Christ that others do not have. Sounds exclusive but it is for everyone. Jesus says, "whoever believes..."
Eternal life is not only an eternal quantity of time, but also an eternal quality of relationship.
John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Eternal life is permanent and real relationship with God starting now. It is non-forfeitable everlasting life in the personal love, life, and fullness of God.
1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
So for those who want a relationship with God, for those who want a more personal and transformative relationship, it starts with trusting Jesus.
But the entire Christian life is a life of faith.
Romans 1:16… The righteous man shall live by faith…
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
This is where it starts. But it is NOT automatic that we live this relationally.
So just a reminder of the importance of putting down the phone and taking time with our Lord. Talking with God. Listening. Sharing your heart. Receiving from Him. Doing things together. These type of things deepen relationships.
If you want to feel closer to God and live happier,
- Listen to God (Bible. People. Indwelling Spirit)
- Talk to God (pray)
- Share your heart (worship, confess)
- Receive from God (accept His word as authority, receive His love, accept His direction, protection, care)
- Do things together (serve, and obey God)
This will strengthen your faith. Increase your passion. Change your life.
So, Peter first believed when Jesus called him to follow him. But something happened before then—his brother, Andrew invited him to meet Jesus.
This was a common sequence, something to follow. Starting with John the Baptist. Note, he trusted Jesus, and he told his friends and followers.
John 1:35 Again the next day John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
And notice, one of these men, Andrew trusted Jesus and he told his brother.
John 1:40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus.
In the very next scene, Philip then trusts Jesus and tells his friend Nathanael.
The Gospels show the power of inviting our friends and bringing them to meet Jesus. This practice is all the more necessary that we still do this today.
People are dealing with a very sinful stressful world all without God. They don’t know how to cope with life’s hurts, heartaches, mental health, family breakdowns, loneliness. They don’t know forgiveness or true love. Even as they face life-and-death issues, they don’t think of going to Jesus or church.
This is especially true in NE. Tell a friend. Introduce them to Jesus, the Savior, the Healer, Who embodies wisdom and love. Who changes hearts, makes sense of this world, helps us through life’s worst, & gives eternal life.
Tell a friend. This month. Bring a friend to church.
We’ll set up a few Sundays in 2023 specifically for this. This is a way of inviting them to meet Jesus.
Next, be an involved member in Christian community.
Having believed in Jesus, Peter was immediately connected to a community of Christians. Rich and poor. Right and Left. Moralists and sinners.
When you trust Jesus, you are set into a community of believers, peers who are also in Christ. Jesus puts us together. Says you are one body. One family.
People poke fun at the church, even Christians marginalize it. Distance themselves. Apologize for it. They agree with a hyper-individualized world that we can’t trust organized religion. This is not Jesus’ view of the church…
The church is people. So from the start, the church has had issues. Every NT letter corrects some error. Yet the Church—you and I—is Jesus’ beloved bride. His body. The one thing He’s using, building. And not even the gates of Hades will prevail against it.
In order to foster your faith and kindle your passion, trust Jesus and practice relation-builders like listening to God, to His Word, and praying. Tell a friend, share your hope. And choose community—identify, connect with His people.
We also learn from Peter to pour into others. Pour yourself into someone. Disciple someone. When you help others to get closer to God, they make wiser choices, they have new motivations to love. It’s easier to forgive. This makes their life better and it roots us in Christ. And it feels good.
Consider how you might serve others, who you might pour into. Maybe in your life group. Someone in the church. The youth or children in our church.
Serving may be as important as community for personal growth.
What if when you attend on Sundays, or go to your life group, you intend to serve. It doesn’t mean you lose out, you don’t get blessed. But it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
By serving, we help people to worship. We help kids to hear about Jesus. To be grounded in truth. We help teens to know the truth of God’s love, God’s design for living. We meet needs. We ease burdens. We make life easier, richer for people. We glorify God when we serve Him.
Pour into someone. Serve, disciple, bless others. Join the mission.
Finally, in order to deepen your faith and live closer to Jesus—FOLLOW JESUS. Obey Jesus. Say yes to Jesus. Let Jesus change your life.
One of the most significant moments in Peter's life occurred when he first obeyed Jesus' command to “Follow me.” This began his new life.
Another time Jesus told him to cast his nets into the sea.
Luke 5:4 He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” ||||| 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”
Another time Jesus told him to come out of the boat and walk on the water. Another time he told Peter to go fishing and when you catch a fish open it’s mouth and pay our taxes with the money you find. Peter models failure. And obedience. And in his obedience he is humbled and his faith in Jesus grows.
This is one of the most transformative, faith-invigorating things we can do: obey Jesus. If you love me—Jesus says. Not only if you trust Me, but if you love Me at this very moment—obey Me. It is an act of love to obey Jesus.
To follow Jesus implies a close relationship with Him. How? By going with Him where He goes. By doing with Him what He commands. Serving. Loving. Forgiving. Slowing down your driving.
The apostle Peter, is just one example of following Jesus and living out one's faith. Through his faith, serving in his church, his small group of disciples, and through his obedience to God, Peter’s faith was strengthened, his passion grew strong, and his life still invites each of us to follow Jesus, today.
As we enter 2023, may you embrace the opportunity to live out your faith, whether that means bringing a friend to church, choosing to invest in a life group, serving in a way that helps others, discipling others, whether kids or men or women, or simply obeying Jesus in a significant area.
Pastor Steve Behlke • December 18, 2022
On Christmas, we celebrate the sacred, the birth of the Savior, the newborn King. Most people, understandably, are ignorant of this. Across the land, Christmas is a secular holiday. Even Christians are not so careful with this.
An occasional "O Holy Night" is followed by five versions of "Baby It’s Cold Outside," and Santa Baby, Jingle Bell Rock, and White Christmas.
Even our decorations blur the lines. Next to a manger scene, Santa and Rudolph tower in the glow of the Christmas tree and the gaze of elf on the shelf.
Lighthearted. Sentimental. Fun stuff. I get it. I do it.
What’s crazy is how many consider these symbols, Santas and Christmas trees, to be Christian symbols. Like this is what Christmas is all about.
This just played out in a public library in Dedham MA. Some felt Christmas trees were blatantly offensive, hateful symbols of Christianity. So for two weeks, before the backlash, they barred displaying the Christmas tree…
But historically, Christmas trees and jolly white-haired Santas are secular symbols having zero to do with the Holy Infant’s birth.
But it’s easy to confuse lighthearted stories with life-changing, historic facts. So it’s important that we revisit the historical Person at the center of it all.
Last week we considered Jesus’ eternal pre-existence. We considered His identity before He was conceived, before the universe came into being.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Before anything else existed, the Word existed. Before He was Jesus, He was with God. From eternity past, the Word was God.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh [God became man], and dwelt among us,…
This is a remarkable statement that should rivet our attention to this Child who was born to us. Come and worship Him who shows us the glory of God.
Today, we look at another NT Christmas name for the Word-become-flesh:
Jesus. His given name.
Matthew records the angel Gabriel speaking to Joseph who was engaged to Mary, whom he discovered was pregnant—and no, he wasn't the father. The angel tells Joseph to go through with the marriage, there’s no other man involved, for she’s been chosen by God to give birth to this Holy Child,
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The name of Jesus, which started as a Hebrew name, was originally Yehoshua, which meant, “Yahweh is Salvation.” That's what you said when you stated His name. Over time it was shortened to Yeshua. When things shifted from Hebrew to Greek, Yeshua was transliterated as Yesus. Yesus was transliterated as Jesus in English.
However we enunciate His name, "Jesus" means “Yahweh is Salvation” or “Yahweh Saves.”
When the Eternal Word became mortal man, this is how He chose to identify Himself. Yahweh Saves. This is Jesus’ name. This is who He is. Particularly, Jesus came to save us from our sins.
Matthew 1:21 … You shall call His name Jesus [YHWH Saves], for He will save His people from their sins.
So Jesus’ name tells us a lot about God. His heart. His mercy. His desire to have us with Him forever. Jesus came to exert God’s grace in our salvation. He came to save us from our sins. He came bearing our death, our forgiveness.
The name Jesus also says a lot about us—for one, we are incredibly loved and important to God. For another, we’re not okay as we are. We are affected by sin, guilty of sin. We’ve no answer for it; it’s too powerful for us.
The apostle Paul acknowledged this in Himself, in light of Jesus' advent to save sinners.
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.
Really, "save us"? Yes, there are always consequences to sin. Wrong someone to their face. Slander them. Cheat them. Hurt them. Roll your eyes at them. Sin naturally separates, isolates; it causes distrust, anger, fear, resentment.
Sin is always punishable. You may be yelled at. Given the silent treatment. Forced to sleep on the couch. Or fired. Put on timeout. Or even do time.
That’s what we get if we wrong people who themselves sin. Yet we sin against the Holy One, the Righteous Lord, the infinite and eternal One.
This makes our sin worthy of infinite punishment and eternal death.
But only God could pay an infinite and eternal penalty. And yet, sin is so serious that it requires blood, life, death. And God is Spirit, He cannot die. And God is eternal, He cannot die. So, He cannot save us! Unless, somehow, God were to become man? And took our place. Died for us. Bore our sin.
Hear again the message the angel spoke to Joseph,
Matthew 1:20… “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people [all who believe in Him] from their sins.”
And the Word became flesh. God became man. And He, and He alone, died for your sins. He alone could. This is serious stuff. Let us be reminded.
Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
But in the Christmas narratives, there are two ways that “Yahweh saves.” The Gospel of Luke mentions a second way that He will save us. The angel Gabriel spoke with Mary about this, and when she consented, He said,
Luke 1:31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
His first time here, Jesus saved His people from their sins. When He returns, Jesus will save the whole world, cultures, societies, nations, innocents, and the powerless, from corrupt societies, governments, and world leaders.
Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
This is how Jesus will save us in the future. Jesus will take the seat of government, the throne of David, physically, visibly; and He will calibrate every pocket of culture to the kingdom of God.
The LORD God will give Him the throne of His Father David… He will reign over the house of Jacob, forever… His kingdom will have no end.
What does the name Jesus tell us about God, and about us?
It tells us God loves us more than we know. And we’re more messed up by sin than we know. We have no answer to it. We need God to save us.
And since the very name that He chose to be called means “Yahweh Saves,” realize, you and the whole world has a standing offer in Jesus to save.
It also means God has an awesome future for us!
Revelation 21:2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
The hopes of all mankind rest on this Child whose birth changed everything. At His return, Jesus, “Yahweh Saves” shall be with us, God Himself will be among us. And He will wipe away all sadness and bring about goodness, justice, righteousness, and everlasting peace. No death, mourning, no pain…
So the thrill of hope this Christmas isn’t that your child gets to sit on Santa’s lap. The thrill of hope is that one day, Jesus, YHWH Saves, shall return. You will be like Him. You will be all that you hope to be. and the world will be right, just, loving, real peace, real joy everlasting and greater than we know.
And it’s hard to imagine, for worldly powers, governments, bow to no one except their own lust for power. Individuals bow to no one except their own wants and desires. Who bows to God today? We ourselves hardly do.
But when He returns, hearts will praise Him. Unparalleled joy will fill every believer's soul. Even those who currently hate Jesus will be in awe of Him, for every knee shall willfully bow to Jesus,
Philippians 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [held onto] 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God [the Father] highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth [everyone who’s ever lived, dead or alive, believer or not], 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Grace United Church Northampton • December 04, 2022
After several chapters describing the changes Jesus makes, the apostle Paul exhort us to stop living like unbelievers and start to live the new life that Jesus saved us to live.
He then gives us three steps to do this.
Finally, he shows us how it can look.
Based on everything we’ve read in Ephesians 1-4,
Ephesians 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk…
Paul tells us this because while many deny it, Paul says born again believers can live much of their lives just like unbelievers. We can be carnal and immature, live out of the flesh, and prioritize personal pleasure over all else.
Ephesians 4:17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God [Why?] because of the ignorance that is in them, [because they reject God’s word, they reject God’s grace in Christ. Why?] because of the hardness of their heart…
V. 18 Most people are willfully ignorant of God and eternal realities because of their hardness of heart; they refuse to believe God’s Word and trust Jesus.
It doesn’t end there. Look at verse 19. Over time, people become calloused, without feeling. We see it. They don’t blush over their perversion, they don’t feel anything is wrong as they reject truth and God’s order and goodness…
Ephesians 4:19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
Paul’s not just saying don't listen to those who seek to mold our values to theirs. But CHURCH, do not BE like them. O and he hasn’t even said a word about their behavior; he refers primarily to their ignorance of God, futile minds, and hard hearts.
So Paul affirms together with the Lord, DON’T BE LIKE THEM! Embrace everything that Paul has taught us about Jesus and who we are in Him.
Ephesians 4:20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,
Three Steps to Real Change
Now Paul gives us three steps to live the new life that Jesus saved us to live.
Ephesians 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Do you see the three steps to change your life? It's not what we'd say.
The first step to change, lay aside the old self (22).
The old self does not refer to our sin nature or our sinful behaviors. It refers to our old identity before Christ. Think of it like your old operating system: you were willfully unbelieving, excluded from the life of God, by nature children of wrath.
But it's no longer true of you. So by faith, lay this aside. It’s not you anymore. Good thing. For it could never merit God’s favor, or bring you close to God.
Ephesians 4:22 [So], in reference to your former manner of life, lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,
So how do we lay aside the old self? By grace through faith.
The way this is written, the change has already been made. Our old self has already been laid aside, crucified with Jesus; i.e., the cross has already changed everything for us. We're really just called to appropriate these truths, believe and act on the changes that Jesus has already made.
Daily look to Jesus, see yourselves free in Christ from the shame of our past, from the foolishness, and from the pressure of how we used to live. Without God, relying on yourself, beating yourself up, judging others, futile thinking.
To lay aside the old self is to believe in the efficacy of the cross, the power of Jesus’ death for you. Your past no longer defines you. Your sins have no more power to condemn you. There is no shame in who you are in Christ.
Second, be renewed in the spirit of your mind (23).
Paul does not tell us to “renew ourselves,” but “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” In your born again spirit where you think, where truth resides.
This is a passive verb. "Allow yourself to be renewed by God’s Spirit."
In other words, pray that God's Spirit strengthens you in the inner man. Paul prays for this twice in Ephesians alone. Then position yourself to be renewed. How? Read God’s Word, allow others to speak truth, serve and bless others.
Third, put on the new self (24).
Ephesians 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
You have a new standing and a new relationship and a new identity, and you have a whole new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
You have a choice every day to trust Jesus for this grace, to put this on by faith.
When he tells us to lay aside the old self and put on the new self, Paul takes us into the dressing room. He likens this to putting on new clothes. These old clothes, the old self doesn’t fit us anymore, it no longer fits who we are.
So take these off, daily; especially when you're acting in the flesh, unlike God, angry, hurting, resentful, fearful. No, this is not who I am, it's not how I am anymore. I’m not excluded from God. I am in Christ, and He is in me. With me. For me. And by faith put on this new set of clothes, identity, from God, which perfectly express who He has made us.
Okay, so how do we do take off the old self and put on the new self?
Don't think he's telling us to act differently! Or maybe I should just stop sinning, watch what I say, stop acting rude to a coworker. No. Good stuff but none of these actions really change our heart or bring us any closer to God.
We don’t put on the new self by striving to be better. The new self is our new identity in Christ. We put it on as an act of faith, by seeing ourselves different because of His grace. Again, we see the power of the cross to change us.
So you’re not stuck with your old way of seeing yourself, thinking, or living.
How it might look if we live it out
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
Paul doesn’t jot down a list of things we’ll do if we’re truly saved. He shows us how it looks to live out of the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness, holiness, and truth.
He’s not telling us here’s what you must strive to do, but here’s how it looks as we put on the new self, when you live out the truth of who you are.
Verse 25 You can stop pretending to be better or smarter than you are, stop trying to one up each other, but laying aside falsehoods, you can speak truth to each other in love, building up, trusting that we’re members of Christ together.
Verse 26 It doesn’t mean you won’t get hurt or angry, but in Christ we have a way to resolve our wounds and to still love and soon also to forgive one another. In Christ, we don’t want to give the devil opportunity as if we’re not in Christ.
Ephesians 4:28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Again Paul isn’t telling you how to act in every situation. That’s just acting.
Verse 28 But when you see your identity and power and unity in Christ, as part of His church, you won’t have to steal from people; find direction, serve and actually give—share with those in need.
Verse 29 You won’t need to spew a whole lot of bravado or crassness or put downs, but you’l be able to build others up according to the need. You’ll give grace rather than grief to those who hear.
So Lord, help us to put on this truth of who Jesus makes, how we’re united with you and with one another. Help us see ourselves in Christ. Loved. Holy. With you right there with us. Wanting to bless us, wanting to be led by you.
Ephesians 4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Most of these are fruits of the Spirit. So Lord, help me to remember who you say I am, how you see us. Help us to know every spiritual blessing in Christ. As we trust in the power of the cross, we can forgive as we’ve been forgiven. To be kind as you are kind to me. Tenderhearted as I experience it in you.
Help us to respond to your grace to us so that we can extend it to others.
Particularly, when you are confronted with this problem, this person, or this temptation… lay aside the old, put on the new, and walk with Jesus by faith.
Pastor Steve Behlke • November 27, 2022
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.