In Christ (Ephesians)

October 5, 2016

 

Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians sometime between AD 60-62. It was during this time that Paul was in prison in Rome. (Ephesians 3:14:1), making Ephesians one of the four Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

 

The book of Ephesians was written to warn the church at Ephesus about false teachers that were teaching a false gospel and to maintain their first love that they held when they first became believers.  Paul desires for them to be identified with Christ and one in a sense of purpose. Paul also emphasizes that Jew and Gentile are one in the same in Jesus Christ and so this ought to be expressed in their love for one another.

 

The theme could very well be titled, “The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the believer in Christ.” Ephesians is the gold mine of the Bible, the Fort Knox of scripture. It is condensed theology, the most authoritative and thorough compendium of our Christian faith.

 

The words. “In Christ,” or their equivalent are found 35 times in the book, 14 times in chapter 1, where we learn, “I am in Christ and He is in me.” This book helps the believer to realize his riches in Christ.

 

A woman name Hetty Greene was labeled was, “America’s greatest miser.” She ate cold oatmeal because it cost too much to heat it. Her son had to have his leg amputated because she refused treatment when he broke it. Finally, she died of a heart attack in 1916 arguing over the merits of skim milk because it was cheaper than whole milk. She left an estate of more that one-hundred-million dollars. She didn’t realize or take advantage of her wealth.

 

Several years ago they found a 55-year-old couple dead of malnutrition in a run-down apartment in Los Angeles. When they cleaned out their home they found forty-thousand dollars stored in bags in their apartment. They did not utilize their riches.

 

The book of Ephesians speaks to Christians who are like Hetty Greene or this starved couple, people who do not realize what they have in Christ. They are dying of malnutrition because they do not know where to find the feast.

 

A four-year-old girl was at the pediatrician for a check-up. As the doctor looked in her ears, he asked, “Will I find Big Bird in there?” No response from the little girl. Next he took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. ”Do you think I’ll find the Cookie Monster down there?” Still no response from her. Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heart beat, he asked, “Do you think I’ll find Barney in there?” “Oh, no!” she replied, “Jesus is in my heart, Barney’s on my underpants.”

The pertinent question is, “Is Jesus in your heart? Are you in Christ?

In the Beloved accepted am I,
 Risen, ascended, and seated on high;

Saved from all sin thro' His infinite grace,
 With the redeemed ones accorded a place!

In the Beloved, how safe a retreat, in the Beloved, accounted complete.

Who can condemn me? In Him I am free! Savior and Keeper forever is He!

In the Beloved, God’s marvelous grace, Calls me to dwell in this wonderful place!

God sees my Savior, and then He sees me, In the Beloved, accepted and free.


–Martin–

 

These blessings of grace come down from Heaven. They are ours “In Christ.” All that Heaven can give us is already ours, In Christ. We believer’s are a very wealthy people. James 1:16-18 MSG, “So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all His creatures.”

The word, “Blessed.” Dictionary definition: “Of or enjoying happiness; specifically: enjoying the bliss of heaven, that which brings pleasure, contentment, or good fortune, a state of well-being.”

the Greek root, “machar,” real joy unaffected by circumstances.

 

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “The joy referred to here is the joy which God gives, and so it is. It is also the joy which God possesses and experiences. God gives us joy because He is joyful. He is the source of joy, just as He is the source of love, truth, mercy, and so on. Joy is both a description of God and a description of what He gives. God is a God of joy! He rejoices in His creation, and He especially rejoices in the salvation of lost sinners. If we are God’s children, then we are in tune with the heart and character of God and should thus be characterized by joy as well. This joy comes from God and is mediated through the Holy Spirit to every Christian. “The joy of the Lord” should characterize our service and our worship. It is a joy that will be even greater in heaven, a joy we will enter into in heaven. For the Christian, joy is not an option, for we are commanded to experience and to express joy as Christians. “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12). –Adapted and edited from, Bob Deffinbaugh, bible.org.

But many of us use the word “Blessed” as referring to material things or physical well-being.

If we are enjoying good health, we say, “we are blessed.” If our family is well, we consider ourselves “blessed.” If we have money in the bank and our bills are paid, we say “we are blessed.” If we live in a nice home, well-furnished, with a 60-inch screen TV, we consider it “blessed.” If we drive a nice car, not one that embarrasses us, we say “we’re blessed.” If we have the latest wardrobe, with fine expensive fashions, we may say “we are blessed.”

But what about the “What ifs” of life?

Is someone in our family is stricken with a serious illness, did we cease to be blessed? If there is no money in the bank, the bill-collectors are knocking, and it seems that God went on vacation and took the check book with Him, did the blessings stop? If our family car is old and broken down ready for the junk yard, have God’s blessings ceased? If we are reduced to rags for our clothing, is God gone away, have His blessing stopped?

Paul was chained in a dungeon in Mamertine Prison in Rome when he wrote this book, yet he says, “How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him” (Ephesians 1:3 MSG).

We tend to look at blessings as to how they benefit us physically or materially. What we fail to realize is that these benefits are only temporary, at best! Your health will eventually decline with age. Your money will not always be there for you. Your home will, sooner than you want, decay and need lots of repair. Your nice new fancy car will become a rust-bucket all too soon. The real blessings from God are spiritual in nature, and these blessings can never be taken away from us! Even when everything else is gone, has decayed, broken down, or has gone away, without Christ there are no blessings to be found for you.

I heard the story of a pastor and a deacon who visited the richest man in town. As they drove up the long driveway, seeing the beautiful gardens around them, then as they approached the magnificent mansion, the deacon turned to the pastor and said, “What good news do we have for him?” That’s the age-old belief that material things equal blessing from God. And they may be if that person is in Christ. God doesn’t want us to be poor, destitute beggars in this world. “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25).

Years ago, Hugh Moorehead, a philosophy professor at Northern Illinois University, wrote the book, “The meaning of life.” For research he asked 250 well-known authors, philosophers and scientists, “What is the meaning of life?” Many respondents confessed they were ignorant, unable to come up with an answer to his question, or they just offered “best guesses.” Most answered, “I don’t know.” But we who are in Christ, even the youngest, least intelligent believer in Christ can tell you the meaning of life!

“In our humanistic culture, people pursue many things, thinking that in them they will find meaning. Some of these pursuits include business success, wealth, good relationships, sex, entertainment, and doing good to others. People have testified that while they achieved their goals of wealth, relationships, and pleasure, there was still a deep void inside, a feeling of emptiness that nothing seemed to fill.

The book of Ecclesiastes describes this feeling,  “In my opinion, nothing is worthwhile; everything is futile.  For what does a man get for all his hard work? Generations come and go, but it makes no difference. The sun rises and sets and hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south and north, here and there, twisting back and forth, getting nowhere. The rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full, and the water returns again to the rivers and flows again to the sea…everything is unutterably weary and tiresome. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied; no matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 TLB). Emptiness! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless, that’s life without God. King Solomon was a man who had everything to live with and nothing to live for!

King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, had wealth beyond measure, wisdom beyond any man of his time or ours, hundreds of women, palaces and gardens that were the envy of kingdoms, the best food and wine, and every form of entertainment available. He said at one point that anything his heart wanted, he pursued. And yet he summed up “life under the sun”—life lived as though all there is to life is what we can see with our eyes and experience with our senses—is meaningless. Why is there such a void? Because God created us for something beyond what we can experience in the here-and-now. Solomon said of God, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men...” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our hearts we are aware that the “here-and-now” is not all that there is.” Adapted and edited from–www.gotquestions.org.

King Solomon concludes with, “Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man. For God will judge us for everything we do, including every hidden thing, good or bad. Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.

Listen to God: Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 22:37-40 TLB, “Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.” Luke 12:15, “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Our world is filled with unhappy, dissatisfied people searching for answers to the emptiness they feel. This explains why there is alcoholism, drug abuse, criminal behavior, immorality, divorce, depression, and psychological disorders. Seemingly, people will do anything just to try to bring some semblance of happiness into their empty lives. We are a messed up society, and we know it’s not going to get any better! If and when the world learns how to solve all of these problems through Christ, Dr. Phil, Dr, Oz, Jerry Springer, and Maury would be out of business, along with the spiritualists, palm-readers, astrologers, most psychologists and worldly counselors.

The meaning of life is not found in wealth, material things, pleasure, enjoyment, power, prestige, wisdom and knowledge, and not even in religion. Paul here is not saying, “I don’t know the meaning of life!” In every sentence there is one subject, one person who is the only key to the meaning of real life! There is only one way to find real life, Jesus said…“I am the Way (so there is no other way), the Truth (so there is no other truth), and the Life (So there is no other life). No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).

Look at what we have and what we are In Christ:

  • Justification (Romans 3:24).

  • No condemnation/Judgment (Romans 8:1).

  • No separation (Romans 8:38,39).

  • One body (Romans 12:5).

  • Sanctified/set apart, called saints (1 Corinthians 1:2).

  • Declared righteous (1 Corinthians 1:30; 4:10).

  • Made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).

  • Established (2 Corinthians 1:21).

  • Triumphant (2 Corinthians 2:14).

  • Enlightened (2 Corinthians 3:14).

  • A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

  • Reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:19).

  • Have liberty (Galatians 2:4).

  • We are children of God (Galatians 3:26).

  • Are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28).

  • Are blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).

  • Seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6, That’s talking about now, In Christ, you can live in heaven on the way to heaven.

  • His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

  • Near to God (Ephesians 2:13).

  • Made perfect (Colossians 1:28).

  • Recipients of faith and love (1 Timothy 1:14).

  • Called to a holy calling and purpose (1 timothy 1:9).

  • We have an inheritance (1Peter 1:3,4).

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation,  and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:3,4 NLT).

Ephesians tells us that those of us who are in Christ have been adopted, predestined, chosen, foreordained, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, made alive, given an inheritance, made holy and blameless, made to the praise of His glory, given wisdom, made to know the mystery of His will, placed in heavenly places, strengthened with might, filled with all the fullness of God, the power of God lives in us, sealed with the Holy Spirit, and blessed with all spiritual blessings. Halleluiah what a Savior, and what a great God we have!

 People join athletic clubs, fraternal organizations, businesses, and lodges and conform to a rigid set of rules and regulations, why is the church so different? It’s incredible that some people make commitments to earthly organizations, that will vanish away and have no spiritual value! Don’t you think that Christians should be willing to make a greater commitment to Christ and His body, the church, not out of fear or guilt, or legalistic pride, but because we love Jesus?

Some members of a church were asked to write, “What does it mean to be in Christ?” Here are some of the responses:

   “It means that Christ in in control! I can’t force situations, but I can let God take control.”

   “There is nothing that can happen to me that God cannot handle. I try to remember that God will never put on me more than I can handle.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

   “It is no longer living only for myself and my desires, choosing my direction. It is living a Christ-directed life.”

   “Christ in me means, I have peace and comfort.”

   “Because Christ lives in me, I have joy in all seasons.”

 

How would you answer the question: “What does it mean to be in Christ?

How does one get In Christ? Many people know about God, but few have had a life-changing encounter with Him. Few have a personal relationship with the true God. Here’s a simple plan to get you in Christ:

Principle #1: God loves you and offers an incredible plan for your life. All throughout the Bible there is passage after passage that talks about how much God loves you. The greatest example of this was when He sent His only Son into the world to die for your sins. But even today, He watches over you and pursues you to have a relationship with you.

Principle #2: Man is sinful and separated from God. It is so common in today’s culture to believe that there are many paths to God. There are so many religions, each with very nice, good people in them. There are also so many good people that it can seem natural to assume that each of these “good” people or their religious affiliation have a lock on heaven because they have done so many wonderful things. But the truth is that all of us have blown it…All of us have sinned, and it only takes one sin to separate us from our God, because He is perfect. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). As you can imagine, this creates a huge problem, through sin, we are separated from God and therefore cannot get to God on our own, for where He is, there can be no sin. But just when it appears that all is lost, principle #3 kicks in:

Principle #3: Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Now I know that sounds too simple. But then again, we are not God. It was God who chose to provide a “sacrifice” for our sins, His own son Jesus. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now here’s the incredible part, it was His death that paid for your sins and mine, all the ones we have committed as well as any we will commit in the future. There had to be a blood sacrifice, and Jesus willfully gave His life for you and for me. But the most incredible thing to know is that three days after He died, He rose from the dead. This is not just religious mumbo-jumbo, this is historical fact. And because He rose from the dead, He now sits at the right hand of God making intercession (carrying messages for us and speaking to God on our behalf) for us. “Christ died for our sins…He was buried…He was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures…He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve (disciples). After that He appeared to more than five hundred others…” (I Corinthians 15:3-6).

Principle #4: Jesus is the only way to God. This is the hardest one for many people to believe. There are no other “paths” to God or “ways” of salvation. While this “many paths to God” theory is popular in the minds of many and even some modern-day churches, it is a lie designed to keep people from the truth of Jesus Christ. “Jesus said, I am THE WAY, (so there is no other way) THE TRUTH, (so there is no other truth) and THE LIFE; (so there is no other life) no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). This is why it is so important that you understand that to simply be a good person, believe in God, and do your best to serve Him is not what it means to be a Christian. It is impossible to be a God follower without accepting God’s son Jesus. Jesus is the way…the only way to salvation for mankind. It was Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, and it is Jesus that we must accept and come in to a right relationship with if we are to be called by His name…”Christians,” which means “followers of Christ”.

Principle #5: You must receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. “But to as many who received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Each person must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Written below is a very simple prayer for salvation. It may be very similar to a prayer you have already prayed, but for some of you, this is your actual time of decision. If you have already prayed this prayer and know you are a Christian, then just read it over once and pray for those that may be praying this prayer for the first time. But if this is your moment of salvation, then simply stop right where you are at this moment, and pray this prayer to the Lord. He is waiting with great anticipation. Only pray these words if they truly represent the desire of your heart and your decision to follow Christ:  Dear Lord God, I need You in my life. I acknowledge that I have sinned and I come to You right now confessing my sin, and asking for your forgiveness. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for me, and rose from the dead and are alive today. I open the door of my heart and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please take control of my life from here forward and make me the kind of person you want me to be. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

 Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Living Bible (TLB).

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