Bible Study

This is a copy of the Sunday School Lessons presented to an adult class each Sunday.

Name:
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

Retired, Lobbyist in Washington,DC - Management - BS Chemistry and various continuing education courses

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Bible Study - Overcome (1) - Overcome Betrayal - Genesis 37:19-27; 39:1-2 - October 19, 2014


Bible Study – Overcome (1) – Overcome Betrayal – October 19, 2014

This is lesson (1) in our series entitled “Overcome: Living Beyond Your Circumstances.”

Our focus scripture for this lesson is Genesis 37:19-27; 39:1-2.

GOD is at work, even when it’s not obvious.

For the next six (6) lessons our scripture will be in Genesis and focus on various issues we face in life such as: Betrayal, Temptation, Being Forgotten, Hard Times, Bitterness and Earthly Mindset. Our series focuses on the life of Joseph.

Often, it is difficult for individuals to see the hand of GOD leading and directing their lives particularly when he or she is going through difficult times. The Bible gives us the opportunity to view the life of a person, nations and people groups and see HIS hand at work in their lives. When we look back on our walk with the LORD, often we can see that HIS hand was at work in our lives when we least expected.

The life of Joseph will be our focus in these six lessons.

In the book of Genesis up to Chapter 37 the focus was on creation, Adam and Eve, original sin, Noah and the flood, Abram (Abraham), Isaac, Jacob and Esau. The span of time from the birth of Abram to the birth of Joseph is about 250 years. Genesis Chapter 37 focuses the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have the opportunity to see GOD’S hand at work to preserve HIS chosen people through whom the promised Messiah, JESUS would come to earth. The fourth son of Jacob is Judah. It is through the lineage of Judah that David and JESUS would come. So as we study, focus on the role of Judah in the life of his brother Joseph. Also, note that the lineage of JESUS has all sorts of characters.

GOD was working to preserve the lives of the lineage of Abraham, who would become HIS chosen people and through whom the promised Messiah would come. Joseph became number two in power in Egypt. Joseph’s family came to Egypt and settled there. Joseph died and his ancestral family remained in Egypt which led to their slavery for about 400 years. GOD heard their prayers and came to their rescue by calling Moses to act in HIS behalf. Thus, GOD revealed Himself to the Israelites through Moses and signs of HIS presence during their exodus from Egypt en-route to the Promised Land. At Mount Sinai GOD told Moses that HE had chosen the Israelites to be HIS people and be a witness to the world, if they agreed. They agreed and GOD made a covenant with them, which held until JESUS gave HIS life, by the shedding of HIS blood upon the cross, to pay the sin debt, in full, for all who would place their faith in HIM.

The JESUS lineage came though Jacob’s son Judah:

Joseph’s father, Jacob, was a deceiver. He deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing that should have gone to his brother Esau. His mother, Rebekah, wanted Jacob to receive his father’s blessing instead of Esau. Esau was the first born of her twins and she helped Jacob to deceive his father. Jacob had four wives but his favorite wife was Rachel. Rachel birthed two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Jacob favored Joseph and treated him special. He gave Joseph a special ornate robe of many colors. Joseph wore his robe with pride and it irritated his brothers. Joseph knew he was special and he flaunted it. He told his brothers about a dream he had where his brothers and father all bowed to him. He tattled on his brothers to their father. Joseph had a streak of arrogance.

All of this set the stage for GOD to achieve HIS plan through Joseph. At the end of our series, we will see what Joseph had to say about GOD’S involvement in his life.

Jacob sent Joseph to find his brothers who were grazing his flocks near Shechem. Joseph arrived at Shechem. He was looking for his brothers and he encountered a man who directed him to Dothan. Joseph found his brothers in Dothan. Let’s explore!

Let’s read this account as recorded in Genesis 37:15-18:

15 A man found him there (Shechem), wandering in the field, and asked him, “What are you looking for?” 16 “I’m looking for my brothers,” Joseph said. “Can you tell me where they are pasturing their flocks?” 17 “They’ve moved on from here,” the man said. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph set out after his brothers and found them at Dothan. 18 They saw him in the distance, and before he had reached them, they plotted to kill him.

Joseph had his faults but as we see his life’s story unfold, we will see that he was a man of integrity. Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold to the Ishmaelites/Midianites. The term Ishmaelites identifies the ethnic descent of those who made up the caravan to whom Joseph was sold. The term Midianite identifies their home, where the group came from. Midian is located east of Jordan and south of Edom. 

Let’s read Genesis 37:19-24:

19 They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer! 20 Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the pits. We can say that a vicious animal ate him. Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from them. He said, “Let’s not take his life.” 22 Reuben also said to them, “Don’t shed blood. Throw him into this pit in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him”—intending to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. 23 When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off his robe, the robe of many colors that he had on. 24 Then they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

“Here comes the dreamer” was not a flattering remark coming from Joseph’s brothers. It was a remark of disgust. His brothers had had enough of Joseph’s arrogance. He walked toward them wearing his special robe. They would show him that he was nothing. So they hashed out a quick plot to place him in a pit and say that a wild animal had eaten him. Such a fate would kill those dreams he had, which they hated. If these dreams had been Joseph’s, then I do not think we would be reading this story but his dreams came from GOD. GOD had a plan and HE was at work, even though Joseph did not have a clue of GOD’S plan for him.

This was desert country and there were cisterns scattered over the area to catch rain water. These pits were made using clay and shaped like a bottle. Being placed in one of these pits meant that the poor soul placed in the pit could not escape unless he had help. At first, Joseph likely thought his brothers were joking around with him but he soon learned the truth. He had an ally in the oldest brother, Reuben. Reuben diffused their immediate anger toward Joseph with a plan to get them not to kill Joseph, place him in pit and to come back later to free him. At least at this point he saved Joseph’s life. Reuben was the first born of Leah. Reuben had issues as well but GOD used him to stop the other brothers from killing Joseph.

The other brothers listened to Reuben and stripped Joseph of his robe and threw him into the pit. Did they have a conscience about what they had done? Let’s explore!

Let’s read Genesis 37:25-27:

25 Then they sat down to eat a meal. They looked up, and there was a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were carrying aromatic gum, balsam, and resin, going down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What do we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay a hand on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh,” and they agreed. 28 When Midianite traders passed by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for 20 pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took Joseph to Egypt.

Were his brothers worried about what they had done? No! They sat down and ate. It is likely Joseph had not eaten but they gave his welfare no thought.

GOD’S timing is always perfect. As the brothers were relaxing and eating, along comes a caravan of Ishmaelites. Do you think that was by chance? No! It was by divine appointment. They saw that the caravan was carrying goods to be sold in Egypt, so they knew that these people had an eye for business and likely wanted to make a buck. Joseph’s brother Judah had an idea! Let’s make some money by selling Joseph to these people going to Egypt. Great idea, his brothers must have replied!

So they pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites for 20 pieces of silver. To put this into perspective, a year’s wage for a shepherd was 8 shekels of silver. It is interesting that later, the price for dedicating a male between 5 and 20 years old to the LORD was 20 shekels of silver as recorded in Leviticus 27:5:

1 The Lord spoke to Moses: 2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When someone makes a special vow to the Lord that involves the assessment of people, 3 if the assessment concerns a male from 20 to 60 years old, your assessment is 50 silver • shekels measured by the standard sanctuary shekel. 4 If the person is a female, your assessment is 30 shekels. 5 If the person is from five to 20 years old, your assessment for a male is 20 shekels.  

Joseph was 17 years old.

Let’s read Genesis 39:1-2:

1 Now Joseph had been taken to Egypt. An Egyptian named Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master.

We fast forward to Joseph’s arrival in Egypt. He was sold to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Potiphar was Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Potiphar’s official title in the original Greek is “the captain of the guard.” Bible scholars think that Potiphar was the captain of the executioners. Potiphar was a powerful person in Egypt and likely wealthy. Do you think GOD orchestrated that arrangement? You BET! Joseph was a slave in the right place at the right time.

How would Joseph respond to his plight? Would he be angry with GOD? Would he have a bad attitude? Would he be the model servant and honor GOD?

Let’s examine verse 2:

The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master.

These words reveal that Joseph and GOD were in relationship. The word “Lord” is the title which reveals a covenant relationship between GOD and HIS people. GOD had chosen Joseph because GOD knew Joseph’s heart. He positioned Joseph to preserve HIS people to fulfill HIS promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph had to be a man of integrity and hard worker. As Joseph obediently served, GOD brought about his success. Often we think that we did this and that. We did work hard and GOD allowed us to be rewarded. Once we arrive at a point of power, what do we do?

Joseph’s brothers removed his status when they removed his robe. But they could not remove his faith and trust in GOD. In fact, his circumstances likely drew him closer to the LORD. When we are in difficult circumstances, place your trust in CHRIST. I am not saying that your troubles will disappear but you have the assurance CHRIST will go through your circumstances with you.

Here is a quote from one of the commentaries I study. It is “Bible Studies for Life” Leaders Guide ISBN2330-9822, item 005075045, published quarterly by LifeWay, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, page 98 and 99:

“Joseph’s brothers had stripped him of the outward distinction of the special robe his father had given him. However, they could not strip him of wisdom and grace. The brothers separated him from friends, relatives, and country; however, they could not take from him the Lord’s presence. His brothers cut him off from blessings, robbing him of freedom, and confined him to a cistern; however, they could not cut him from communion with the Lord. Finally, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but they could not make a slave of him. He could still freely choose to follow the Lord and to do right instead of wrong. Joseph was blessed, wonderfully blessed, even in the house where he was a slave.

But despite the betrayal of Joseph’s brothers, Joseph’s God did not betray him. Quite the contrary, the Lord continued to have His hand upon Joseph, both blessing him personally and giving him favor in the sight of those around him.” Well stated.   

How would we respond to such an ordeal? Blessings!!!

 

Bible Study - Connected (6) - Connected in Prayer - Ephesians 6:18-22 - October 12, 2014


Bible Study – Connected (6) – Connected in Prayer – October 12, 2014

This is lesson six (6) and our final lesson in our series entitled “Connected: My Life in the Church.”

Our focus scripture is Ephesians 6:18-22.

Support your church with prayer. Prayer is vital to the life of the church and in the lives of Christians. Intercessory prayer is a gift. I am happy to say that our Sunday school class members are committed to prayer.

The Apostle Paul wrote about Spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-17, which leads into our focus scripture:

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.

Christians are on the Spiritual battlefield 24/7. That is one of the reasons Christians must be filled by the Holy Spirit and stay connected to the living Spiritual body. All Christians need prayers: our brothers and sisters around the world need our prayers, as well as in America. If you are prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for someone or some group of people – missionaries, Christians around the world, friends, or family - do it! The Holy Spirit knows the needs and the possibilities are endless.

The Apostle Paul related our journey with CHRIST to preparing to face the enemy. Suiting up with the right equipment is something each Christian must do, each day and is vital along with prayer. Christians can pray as they put on the proper equipment. We may not be able to go serve in a particular area or do a certain thing but we can all pray.

Prayer, which includes listening, are the communication links between Christians and the command center (CHRIST The Head), the living body, the supply line, reinforcements, support and the list goes on. Christians are not in the battle alone but under the command, power and direction of GOD and connected to the living Spiritual body.

Such times as these, Christians must be in prayer for their brothers and sisters around the world, as well as, at home and in the home. There are fellow Christians and those who are yet to receive CHRIST as their Savior in harm’s way physically – those fighting to eradicate Christianity and the many diseases which threaten all people - and Spiritually. Prayer is vital to protect from that which is seen and unseen. Christians must pray for each other, especially for those in leadership in our brick and mortar churches and the living church.

Let’s read Ephesians 6:18:

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the • saints.

The Apostle Paul aptly followed Spiritual warfare with the need for prayer. Prayer is a powerful weapon against Satan and his demons. Christians are to be people dedicated to prayer and they are to stay ready to pray as prompted by the Holy Spirit by being filled by the Holy Spirit. It is vital for Christians to pray, if they encounter the spirit world. They must ask fellow Christians to join them in this battle by praying for them. Never walk into a situation where you think there is demon activity without having a number of faithful prayer warriors praying for you. If possible, always have a fellow Christian go with you and pray as you go into the suspected demon situation.

As we have been studying, Christians are in unity with the Trinity and fellow Christian’s. The Holy Spirit prompts Christians to pray when there is a need. Christians may not know or see the need but GOD does. That is why Paul stated to pray “in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit knows the needs and can come to our aid when we pray as Paul wrote in Romans 8:26-27:

26 In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. 27 And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the • saints according to the will of God.   

Christians stay alert! Why? The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8-9:

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.

That is why Christians must stay filled by the Holy Spirit to stay in touch with the needs of the living Spiritual body. Christians need to pray for one another because the days are evil as the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:8. Christians are in the Spiritual battle field 24/7.

To pray at “all times” does not refer to seconds, minutes and hours but it refers to being alert and on stand-by to respond with active prayer as the opportunity is made known to you. “Every prayer” refers to prayer in general – public, private, silent, aloud, special occasion. “Every request” refers to specific prayer.” “In the Spirit” refers to a state of readiness to respond in prayer when prompted by the Holy Spirit because we are filled by the Holy Spirit. Perseverance means to stay the course, steadfast and constantly ready. Intercessory prayer is to make specific requests to GOD on behalf of others. The word “saints” means “Holy Ones.” Christians are made Holy the instant they accept CHRIST as their Savior by the shed blood of CHRIST. Paul admonishes Christians to pray for each other.

Let’s read Ephesians 6:19-20:

19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the • mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Often, we do not think that those in ministry need prayer but they do and so do we. The Apostle Paul asked for and saw the need for prayer for himself. He was a prisoner bound to a Roman guard but even so, he considered himself an ambassador representing the King of Kings, The LORD JESUS. He asked for boldness to not let his circumstances result in him slacking off from responding to each opportunity the LORD opened for him to make known the mystery of the gospel.

A mystery is that which has been hidden and will remain hidden until it is revealed. Salvation is hidden to the person seeking salvation until he or she takes a step of faith. Then it is revealed to that person. There are times that GOD keeps some things hidden until HIS plan is put into place. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:6-14:

6 However, we do speak a wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age, or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a • mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age knew this wisdom, for if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written: What eye did not see and ear did not hear, and what never entered the human mind— God prepared this for those who love Him. 10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the • world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Christians are connected to the living body through their connectedness with CHRIST, the true vine. HE is the vine and we are the branches is another way of visualizing the living Spiritual body each functioning as directed by CHRIST through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When Christians are functioning, as led by the Holy Spirit, ponder verse 9, they see that there is much yet to be revealed as they obediently serve GOD. Christians have not seen, heard or thought about what GOD has prepared for those who love HIM and obediently serve HIM. This journey begins at the instant of salvation and is fully realized the instant we see JESUS face to face.

Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. When we receive CHRIST as our Savior, we have moved from the mystery of searching and seeking to the reality of knowing. We are the salt and the light. We are the children of the true light.

The hope we have found in CHRIST, by placing our faith in HIM, is the hope for all people lost in sin and eternal death. The hidden mystery of the salvation through faith in CHRIST is made known to us individually. Christians, do not hide this Good News from those you encounter as the LORD reveals the opportunity. We all need to speak with boldness and seize the moment. As Christians, we are all ambassadors for CHRIST and represent the one true GOD.   

Let’s read Ephesians 6:21-22: Paul’s Farewell

21 Tychicus, our dearly loved brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me so that you may be informed. 22 I am sending him to you for this very reason, to let you know how we are and to encourage your hearts.

The Apostle Paul concluded his letter by commissioning Tychicus not only to deliver his letter to the Christians in Ephesus but to give them an update on his well being (Spiritual and physical health) and personal needs. They could expect Tychicus to speak truth to them regarding Paul’s circumstances, physical and Spiritual condition.

Paul was chained to a Roman guard but he was still an ambassador for CHRIST. They were not to look at his house arrest as a defeat for the spread of the Gospel but as an opportunity for being obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. They needed to pray for him that when opportunities were presented he would speak boldly.

Tychicus would inform them so they would, in turn, know how to pray for him.

Prayer is vital as Christians obediently serve. Prayer has no, limitations, boundaries, borders or barriers with the exception of Christians not praying or being willing to pray when they are prompted to pray. When you hear the local, national or world news, pray as prompted. When you hear a siren, pray for those already at the scene and those responding to an issue or have responded and en-route to the emergency room. Pray for those who will minister to the victims. When the Holy Spirit brings to your mind someone’s name, circumstances or any number of situations or things, pray. I know at times, I am led to pray for those in bondage or caged and for that which is hidden to be revealed. There are no limits to what GOD will prompt HIS children to pray for. We can all pray for revival starting with each of us and spreading throughout the world.

In our series, we have examined the importance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. Christians are connected to GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit in unity and harmony. Christians, in turn, are connected with each other through the same faith in CHRIST and are in unity with each other. CHRIST is the vine and Christians are the branches. The Holy Spirit is the communication link between the vine and the branches. The Spiritual power and nutrients flow through the Vine to the branches. Are we, as Christians, a healthy branch? Blessings!!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bible Study - Connected (5) - Connected in Service - Ephesians 5:15-21 - October 5, 2014


Bible Study – Connected (5) – Connected in Service – October 5, 2014

This is lesson five (5) in our series entitled “Connected: My Life in Church.”

Our focus scripture is Ephesians 5:15-21.

Serving in the church is not about what I want but what GOD wants and reveals to us individually and collectively through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let’s read Ephesians 5:1-2 and 8 using the Amplified translation:

1 Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].

2 And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

8 For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born to the Light].

Christians are to be imitators of GOD who are in unity with GOD, CHRIST, the Holy Spirit and fellow Christians. Christians are the light of the world and as such we are to shine as the Holy Spirit leads us. This leads us to our focus scripture.

Let’s read Ephesians 5:15-17:

15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk —not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

The King James version translates verse 15 “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,” “See” carries the idea of “take heed, look, beware, perceive, and discover” and means more than what our physical eyes perceive. What we see physically, we are to ponder, probe deeper and discern. Christians are to make it a habit of looking and watching how they walk. They must pay attention to where they step and also look around and observe as they step. The word “then” ties what Paul was writing in verses 15-17 to what he wrote in verses 1-2 and 8. 

The word “walk” means our lifestyle that is how we live on a daily basis. Does our lifestyle reflect our new life in Christ? Does our walk match our talk?

The word “circumspectly” carries the idea of a person walking across the narrow steel beam of a skyscraper high up with the wind blowing and it raining. Or if you recall Nik Wallenda’s tight rope walk across Niagara Falls in 2012. He was very careful with each step he took and the placement of his feet. The cable was wet, the wind was blowing and the cable sagging.

Circumspectly, as the Holman version translates it, means to “pay careful attention” to every step we take, as Christians. Life offers many opportunities to make a misstep as we walk along life’s paths. Christians must be diligent as they live each moment of each day and keep their minds focused upon CHRIST and listen to and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Each person has the same 24 hour day, what will he or she do with it?

The most important decision a Christian can make is to be obedient to the will of GOD. That requires a Christian to yield his or her will to GOD and allows the Holy Spirit to lead and direct him or her according to the will and purpose of GOD in order to use time wisely.

Redeeming the time is not necessarily seconds, minutes and hours but a season of time. However, the season of time is filled with seconds, minutes and hours. When Christians walk as led by the Holy Spirit, they walk in wisdom and understanding because wisdom and understanding come from GOD.

Christians are to understand the will of GOD. First, Christians must have the desire to do the will of GOD and then seek the will of GOD. They have to move from “I want” to “Father, what do You want for me?” HIS desire is for HIS children to have an intimate, personal relationship with HIM and then for them to build upon that relationship. Honesty is necessary for any relationship to have a firm foundation and upon which to build.

GOD can speak and reveal HIS will and purpose any way HE chooses – through reading and studying the Bible, talking to HIM in prayer, listening, waiting and taking action as opportunities are revealed. When Christians are in an intimate, personal, dynamic relationship with CHRIST they are in the will of GOD. Building such an intimate relationship is accomplished through sanctification. Sanctification brings to the surface of our minds the things that Christians need to face and deal with, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Who or what controls our lives is vital. The Holy Spirit is vital to all Christians who desire to live wisely, recognize and seize the opportunities GOD has for them and for them to understand and respond to the will of GOD. Just as there is diversity of Spiritual gifts, GOD calls HIS chosen to be actively involved in HIS plan and purpose. HE gives the invitation but it is up to us to accept and respond.  

Let’s read Ephesians 5:18:

18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:

Paul made it clear that Christians are not to allow substances such as wine to control their lives. When things control Christians, alcohol, sex, pornography, drugs, gambling, overeating, gossip and the list goes on, that means that the Holy Spirit does not. When Christians lean upon their own understanding, it means that the flesh is in control and blocks the Holy Spirit’s ability to reveal GOD’S direction to them. It robs the Christian of the joy their salvation and Christian fellowship because unity and trust has been broken.

When Christians are in unity with GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit they are in unity with fellow Christians, including their family. The greatest field of service is our family. This is possible by Christians who are filled by the Holy Spirit. When a Christian is filled by the Holy Spirit, they have direct access to the wisdom of GOD.  

Christians are to be “filled by the Spirit.” What is being filled by the Holy Spirit mean? When is a Christian filled and how do they know it? Oh yes, these are powerful questions most Christians ponder.

At the instant of salvation, the shed blood of CHRIST redeems us from the consequences of sin and eternal death. The new Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Salvation is the beginning of the Christian’s walk with JESUS and the sanctification process. Sanctification means being set aside to be used for the purposes of GOD. It is the process of renewing the mind and bringing the flesh, the natural will, under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. This is accomplished by building an intimate, personal relationship with CHRIST. We must become very best friends with CHRIST.

We see attempts of some Christian circles or groups to achieve this relationship through strict rules and regulations. But when man erects unwise parameters it usually means trouble. Christians must lead by example. They must recognize that each individual must be led by the Holy Spirit to see his or her need for salvation. Do those with whom we come into contact, family, friends and associates see the joy, Spiritual growth and personal relationship in us which comes from obedient service to our LORD JESUS?  

The Bible is clear that parents are to bring up a child in the way he or she should go and when the child is old, the child will not depart from it. Parents must be the role model for their children. They must discipline and train their children. Christians must be the role model not only to their families but to fellow Christians and non-Christians. Consistency and integrity are necessary attributes of Christians.

How is this possible? It is not possible without being filled with, controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.

So when are Christians filled with the Holy Spirit? They are filled at the instant of their salvation. But some may say, “But I had a second experience that was Spiritually powerful.” So did I many years ago. I received CHRIST as my Savior around the age of 10. I did not know that I was saved. I was baptized when I was about 20 years old. About the age of 34, after trying to live the Christian life in my own strength, I gave up and asked the LORD to take my life, good and bad, and to give me the strength live the Christian life. HE did in an instant. It was a WOW!!! moment. In that instant my life changed and for the first time I knew that I was a child of GOD. My eyes were opened to truth and the beginning of an exciting journey of building a relationship with GOD through CHRIST.

This was exciting but it was just another step in the sanctification process. I had false notions and my own ideas about GOD that needed to be dealt with. Over the years it has been a journey of discovery and getting to know GOD. About 7 years ago, my wife and I studied “Experiencing God” written by Dr. Henry Blackaby and Claude V King, published by LifeWay Press in Nashville, TN. While going through this study, the LORD and I developed a more intimate, personal relationship. I had to confess some things that had built a barrier in our relationship.

In my upper 70’s, I am still a Christian under construction.

We all have a desire to succeed in life. We seek all sorts of things which appeal to our egos but what is the most important for us to seek? JESUS said it best in Matthew 6:33:

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

A Christian’s priority is to seek the kingdom of GOD and HIS righteousness. Christians need to have the desire to have the fullness of CHRIST emanate from them, which is accomplished by being filled by the Holy Spirit. Is there more than one filling of the Holy Spirit? No, there is one filling that lasts a lifetime. Christians are constantly being filled by the Holy Spirit as they make room for HIM in their lives. As the Holy Spirit reveals the things in our lives that need to be removed and they are removed, they must be replaced by the Holy Spirit. The question is who is in charge? That is where our will raises its head in our lives. Do we yield our will to GOD or not? To yield takes trust in HIM.

How do Christians know when they are complete? It is when they are made into the image of CHRIST and in complete unity with GOD their Father.

Paul gives us some clarity regarding how to measure our progress as he wrote in Galatians 5:22-23:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When Christians experience the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives they minister where GOD directs them using the Spiritual gift or gifts HE has equipped them with in unity with HIS will.

The Apostle Paul gave us examples of what it means to be filled by the Holy Spirit as we read our next scripture. Being filled by the Holy Spirit is reflected in our lives as we journey each day.

Let’s read Ephesians 5:19-21:

19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

These three verses reflect the heart and attitude of those filled by the Holy Spirit.

Obedience and yielding to the Holy Spirit leads Christians to experience the joy of their salvation. Unity pleases GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit because in unity, Christians embrace one another in a common goal and serve as directed by GOD by the Holy Spirit. There is harmony.

Speaking and singing is a reflection and outpouring of the heart filled with the presence of GOD and gratitude for being redeemed from sin and eternal death by the shed blood of JESUS. Being filled by the Holy Spirit, through an intimate, dynamic relationship with CHRIST, comes from Christians knowing and trusting GOD because HE is sovereign and in control of all things. They see, through their Spiritual eyes, that they are connected by their faith in CHRIST to the living Spiritual body. They are a vital to the function, unity and harmony of the living Spiritual body in conjunction with fellow Christians. Christians have the common bond of being GOD’S children and are in unity with the living Spiritual body through their faith and trust in CHRIST. As such, Christians submit to each other in the work of the living Spiritual body because they are being led and guided by the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who is the communication link with CHRIST, the head. CHRIST, in turn, knows the plans and purpose of GOD. GOD has given over all things into the hands of CHRIST to complete. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28:

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the • firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, at His coming, those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy to be abolished is death. 27 For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says “everything” is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. 28 And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all.    

Every Christian is part of GOD’S plan and purpose, therefore when we yield our will to CHRIST and allow the Holy Spirit to lead, direct and control our lives each moment, we experience HIS presence. Our part is to yield and HIS part is to fill, equip, lead, empower and direct. Blessings!!!

 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bible Study - Connect (4) - Connected Through Words - Ephesians 4:25-32 - Septembeer 25, 2014


Bible Study – Connect (4) – Connected Through Words – September 28, 2014

This lesson four (4) in our series entitled “Connected: My Life in the Church.”

Our focus scripture is Ephesians 4:25-32.

Our words matter. Christians are connected to CHRIST, the true vine and as a natural result, HIS life flows through them and what they say and how they say it matters.

Our lessons have focused on the Christian’s corporate involvement in the living body. This lesson focuses on Christians as individuals as they function within their specific gift in the corporate body. Our lesson focuses on what comes out of our mouths, which is important to both the corporate body and outside the corporate body.

Our lessons have been building toward understanding the transition of Christians from their old life before salvation to their new life in CHRIST after salvation. Salvation is instantaneous but transformation into the image of CHRIST takes time.

GOD sees the final product, we see ourselves as we are being constructed in the image of CHRIST.

Christians renounce their old way of life and commit to a new way of life that reflects the righteousness that GOD gave them the instant they placed their faith in CHRIST. Paul explained this process as Christians taking off their old clothes and putting on their new clothes but at times they want to go back to their old clothes.

It is a process which involves taking off, being renewed and putting on. If these stages were such that, when you take off your old ways that would be a final and forever act, that would be wonderful. It would be as if I have taken off all the things in my old life, I have been renewed, I am all clean and now I am putting on my new way of life. In some areas of our lives that may be true but be careful because those old haunts have a tendency to raise their ugly heads. Over confidence in our ability can result in a problem. But if we slip back into our old life of sin, we are to confess it, stop, and flee from it. GOD forgives, cleanses and restores. (1 John 1:9)

This lesson focuses upon the words Christians use. Words that Christians utter are important but the manner in which they are uttered reflects the heart of the person uttering them. Christians are to speak with integrity. There are times when words need to be spoken with authority and with force but even then the situation dictates the manner in which they are spoken.

James, the half-brother of JESUS wrote about the tongue in James 1:26:

26 If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself.

And in James 3:3-12:

3 Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. 4 And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by • hell. 7 Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, 8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.

The foul or abusive mouth of a Christian can call into question their salvation. It can kill his or her witness for the LORD JESUS. A Christian’s old life before CHRIST must be removed, including some of the language he or she was accustomed to using before they received CHRIST. Since Christians are in unity with CHRIST and in unity with the living body, they either bring honor or disgrace by their speech which includes the tone.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:17-24: (Lead-in to our focus scripture.)

17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. 20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah,

21 assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus. 22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

“Therefore” ties what we have studied to what Paul was going to write. In our prior studies, Paul discussed the oneness and unity of Christians with GOD, CHRIST, the Holy Spirit and fellow Christians. Christians are bonded to CHRIST and to each other in love. GOD is love and it is HIS love for all people that resulted in HIM sending HIS only Son to earth as the Apostle John wrote in John 3:16-18:

16 “For God loved the world •in this way: He gave His •One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

Paul challenged his readers to walk the talk by living through the power and enlightenment of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul wrote that he could testify or had experienced what he was writing to them. Paul wrote that they were to “no longer walk as the Gentiles, in the fertility of their thoughts.” They were new Christians! They were to live and reflect lives that had been changed by CHRIST and the indwelling Holy Spirit. They were not like those without CHRIST who were searching for truth in their own effort.  They were new creations and they were to stop doing what they had been doing as non-Christians. They had searched and found the most precious treasure of all by placing their faith in CHRIST, now they were to live like it.

This is an “I think.” I think that as Paul reflected back to his life as a Pharisee and his effort to try to figure out Christianity intellectually was futile. Paul was a Jew who had been taught by the very best Jewish teacher. He was intelligent but he could not understand CHRIST and HIS role in salvation before he surrendered his life to CHRIST.

Paul had lived by the law and the commandments before his salvation experience on the road to Damascus. I think he referred to living like the Gentiles to living like the natural person who is without CHRIST: religious (Jew) or not (Gentile). I think, in looking back over his life’s journey up to his point of salvation, that he was, in essence, a Gentile or a natural person without CHRIST. He was a devout Jew and very religious. He obediently served GOD but when he encountered CHRIST he realized that he was a sinner and did not measure up to GOD’S standard of righteousness. He needed to be redeemed from the penalty of sin and death.  

People can be so religious that they miss the point of being and living as Christians, which is CHRIST in them. Rituals appeal to our physical nature but if they do not bring us closer and into a deeper relationship with CHRIST, they become a barrier.

Following a religion can be a placebo because it can darken your understanding and exclude a person from experiencing the life GOD desires for him or her through faith in CHRIST. Often, due to ignorance, stubbornness or the hardness of the person’s heart, he or she refuses to accept what CHRIST has to offer and often becomes callous. Often, those who become callous will throw up their hands, give up and give themselves over to promiscuity. World bring it on! Once the desire to live a Godly life is not achieved, a person can go in the opposite direction and practice every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. These are those who try to define Christianity according to their terms.

However, once you have experienced the truth of salvation and CHRIST is in you as confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, it is a new day. You realize that CHRIST is real and that you belong to HIM and are secure in HIM through relationship as confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit.  

Paul likens that understanding and reality to taking off your old dirty, smelly clothes, taking a refreshing bath, splashing on some smell-um good and putting on new clothes. Your old life without CHRIST has been removed and your new life in CHRIST has been put on. It is a new day and you are exuding a new fragrance as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17:

14 But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 15 For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. And who is competent for this? 17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.

The new Christian has put on his or her new clothes, now it is important that what he or she does and speaks matches his or her new look and smell. Integrity is vital. This leads into our focus scripture.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:25-28:

25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. 28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

Since Christians have taken off their old life and put on their new life in CHRIST, they have put away lying and they speak truth. Again, Paul ties the actions of Christians to their unity with CHRIST, GOD, the Holy Spirit and their fellow man.

Paul inserts “be angry and do not sin” and “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” When Christians see things that make GOD angry, they should get angry and respond as led by the Holy Spirit. Christians must keep in mind they are to get angry about the sin but love the sinner. Christians are to address the issues of life that make them angry quickly and not let them grow to an explosive point. When we let things stew, Satan enters and makes matters worse.

The Christian’s new life in CHRIST carries responsibility. Those who were thieves are to stop stealing and earn a legitimate living and be givers and not takers. They are new creations in CHRIST and integrity is vital to their testimony and witness.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:29-30:

29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of •redemption.

The Greek word for “foul” is associated with rotten fruit and carries the idea of being useless or worthlessness. As Christians, we are not to add to a down trodden person’s woes but as GOD has extended HIS grace to us through our faith in CHRIST, our speech, in turn, can be a healing balm to those in need. It is not you can’t but you can because GOD loves you and sent HIS only Son to give HIS life for you. All of our hope is in CHRIST.

At the beginning of our lesson James wrote in verses 11-12, “Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.”

Christians have a new life in CHRIST and they are to live as CHRIST would have them to live by being different than others in the world who are without CHRIST. Let the speech coming from your mouth be pure and not polluted. Be an encourager and not a harsh discourager because you represent CHRIST to those around you. When Christians do things that do not honor CHRIST and GOD, the Holy Spirit is grieved. The Holy Spirit rejoices when those in whom HE resides bring honor to CHRIST and GOD, HE rejoices because HE knows the truth of what awaits those who obediently serve GOD.

The Holy Spirit has sealed Christians until the day of redemption and HE knows that when Christians bring glory to GOD through obedient service, they will receive rewards. The more they serve HIM and minister to others they grow closer to GOD and to fellow Christians. HE knows that obedient service fulfills GOD’S desire for them. Once GOD removes the seal, the Holy Spirit’s desire is for all HE has sealed to pop out on the Day of Redemption and for all to say “WOW! Look what GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit have created for eternity in this person’s life because of his or her obedience through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” The final unveiling will be awesome!!!

Let’s read Ephesians 4:31-32:

31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Bitterness can be pointed, sharp and keen. It also includes resentment, animosity, wickedness and cynicism.

Anger and wrath go together. The Greek word for “anger” can be translated “rage” or “wrath” and “wrath” translated as “anger.”

Shouting and slander – shouting can be translated “brawling” or “harsh words.” It is often associated with insults. Slander refers to “evil speaking” and refers to speaking falsely about people or GOD.

Malice is “evil behavior” and relates to hatred, jealousy, murder and revenge.

The flip side is that Christians are to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Paul wrote three qualities every Christian needs – kind, compassionate and forgiving as part of their natural new Spiritual nature. These qualities reflect his or her heart and are the result of the sanctification process.

Christians are to put on:

Be kind – kindness comes from our relationship with CHRIST. It comes from the heart. All of the bad things Paul stated earlier need to be cleaned out and replaced with the fullness and presence of CHRIST. Kind carries the idea of virtuous, benevolent, gracious and with the addition of “one to another” means these acts are to be ongoing.

Compassionate – compassionate means tenderhearted, to be genuinely sympathetic toward others. It carries the idea of mercy toward “one another.”

Forgiving – the word forgiving carries the idea of grace. GOD gives all Christians “grace” or unmerited favor. Christians are to forgive “one another” and extend the same grace they receive from GOD to others.

Christians are to allow the Holy Spirit to fill the void created when they empty the bad stuff in their lives. The good things which replace the bad are to be a natural part of their lives, which can only flow through them because of being connected to CHRIST, the vine, and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead, direct and control their lives.

Christians are to speak the truth by living their lifestyle such that it reveals their new relationship with CHRIST. When Christians put on their new life in CHRIST that includes being mindful of what they say and how they say it. This includes the tone of their voice.  

JESUS spoke of the living water flowing in and through our lives. HE is the living water which is manifested by the indwelling Holy Spirit. A spring does not produce both good water and bad water. Christians are to live a lifestyle which reflects the grace GOD has extended to them by being kind and compassionate with one another and forgiving one another. Christians are to speak truth, which is living the lifestyle which reflects their new life in CHRIST. Blessings!!!

 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bible Study - Connect (3) - Connected in Growth - Ephesians 4:11-16 - September 21, 2014


Bible Study – Connect (3) – Connected in Growth – September 21, 2014

This is lesson three (3) in our series entitled “Connected: My Life in the Church.”

Our focus scripture is Ephesians 4:11-16.

Church members need one another in order to grow in CHRIST.

GOD chose the structure of Christian growth to be based upon Christian interaction in unity with GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit. CHRIST is the head of the living Spiritual body. GOD places Christians in unique positions to form the remainder of the Spiritual body through obedient service and ministry meeting the needs of that Spiritual body. HE equips them with Spiritual gifts. Just as the human body is made up of many different parts, they all have a purpose within the body. Let’s explore!

Let’s read Ephesians 2:10:

10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

GOD has a plan and purpose for every Christian. But Christians must yield their wills to HIM and allow HIM to lead, direct and empower their lives through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The foundation for obedient service for GOD is to be in unity with HIM through an intimate relationship with CHRIST and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

This leads us to our next scripture.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:7-10:

7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the • Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says: When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people. 9 But what does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.

GOD’S grace is HIS free gift to all Christians. HE gives them grace in proportion to “the Messiah’s gift” to accomplish HIS plan and purpose. Once a person gives his or her life to CHRIST, GOD’S grace is sufficient to carry him or her through life upon earth into heaven. Satan has been defeated and all who place their faith in CHRIST have also, in essence, defeated Satan.

As the victor, CHRIST captured all who place their faith in HIM to become Christians. HE took them from Satan’s domain and control. HE took them to heaven. The spoils of HIS victory over sin and death resulted in the opportunity for salvation for all who will place their faith in CHRIST. Some of these spoils are eternal life, rebirth, citizenship in GOD’S kingdom and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit has an arsenal of Spiritual gifts which HE chooses according to the plan and purpose of GOD to be manifested through specific Christians to minister to the living church as well as to those yet to receive salvation.

CHRIST willingly came from heaven to earth to live as a human and to give HIS sinless life for the redemption of all who will place their faith in HIM from sin and eternal death. HE left HIS Glory in heaven when HE came to earth, so that HE would be 100% human and experience life as a human even to the point of being tempted as humans are tempted, yet HE was 100% Divine. HE had HIS divine power at HIS finger tips to use but HE chose not because if HE had, HE would have sinned and the barrier between GOD and mankind would remain. The Good News is that HE remained faithful to HIS Father’s redemptive plan and we owe our salvation to HIS faithfulness. CHRIST paid the sin debt we could not pay. Why did HE pay the sin debt? It is because of HIS love for us.

Let’s read Philippians 2:3-11:

3 Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. 4 Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. 5 Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] 6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [ possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, 7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. 8 And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! 9 Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, 10 That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Amplified)

HIS victory over sin and death makes it possible for HIM to gift those who place their faith in HIM.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:11-12:

11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the • saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

Paul lists just a few of the gifts CHRIST has to give which are apportioned by the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit chooses.  “HE chooses” is critical. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Paul lists some of the Spiritual gifts but notice verse 11:

11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.  

Roughly there are 29 or so Spiritual gifts identified in the Bible but that is not the max. I have found that some gifts are for a season and some are for a longer period. Spiritual gifts belong to GOD and are HIS to give. Christians can desire certain gifts but with gifts comes responsibility and accountability.

The gifts that Paul listed in this scripture focus on building and benefiting the living body. Notice that HE gave some to be – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Apostles and prophets are foundational to the living body.

Apostles are defined as “sent out ones.” Some define apostles as those who had seen CHRIST, witnessed HIS resurrection and had been commissioned by HIM. Yet, Paul considered that he was an apostle, I think, because he encountered CHRIST on the road to Damascus. Barnabas was sometimes referred to as an apostle. Bottom-line, GOD gifts some with a special calling to build a solid foundation upon which Christians can grow Spiritually.

Prophets are those who are inspired by GOD to reveal what GOD has revealed to them. A prophet’s message may have past, present or future implications. It is GOD’S message that the people need to hear to discern HIS will, plan and purpose.

Some Bible scholars think that apostles and prophets were for the early days but not now. I believe they are for the times GOD needs for them to accomplish HIS plan and purpose. We have to be careful because JESUS cautioned that there will be false prophets as we approach the end times.

Evangelists are those who proclaim the gospel of CHRIST. They are gifted with communication. In the early days, evangelists were itinerant that is they moved from place to place as led by the Holy Spirit.

Pastors and teachers are considered as one office in the Greek. The office of pastor and teacher is “for the training of the • saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ.” Christians are referred to as “saints” who get their name from sanctification or that which has been set aside for the specific use by GOD. Christians are saints. GOD intends for Christians to work in the Spiritual vineyard as HE gifts and directs them.

They are to help the living body grow through “ministry.” Ministry can be translated “serving.” Serving others helps the living body to grow physically and Spiritually. The key is to serve where GOD places us and gifts us. Spiritual growth is not necessarily instantaneous. Some grow faster than others. Often, things in our lives have to be brought to the surface or weeded out of our lives in order for us to grow into the Spiritual person GOD intends for us.

Yes, there is a gift of teaching as well as many other gifts to equip and grow the living body in unity and harmony with GOD’S plan and purpose.

What is the end-point? How do we know when we have reached GOD’S goal? Let’s continue.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:13:

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

HIS goal is for all of HIS children to reach HIS goal as described in verse 13. The word “until” connects Spiritual activity in verses 11-12 to the objective in verse 13. It is all about unity in faith and knowledge. One faith in CHRIST based upon knowing HIM by growing. Growing is an active, dynamic process. First, the soil of the heart has to be prepared to receive the Spiritual seed. The seed is planted and it must germinate. It must be watered, fertilized, weeded, protected from insects, maybe pruned and harvested. Even the product harvested has seeds, which can be planted to produce a later harvest.

 It is more than knowing facts about JESUS but knowing HIM by walking with HIM as a normal part of your lifestyle. It is about Spiritual growth until the fullness of CHRIST has been reached in us. The word “reached” means to arrive at a specific destination of Spiritual maturity which is measured by the standard set by CHRIST. GOD’S objective is for all Christians to grow into the image of HIS only Son, JESUS.

Why?

Let’s read Ephesians 4:14-16:

14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

The word “then” connects us to the answer. When Christians are Spiritually mature, they are in unity with GOD, The Father, CHRIST, The Son and The Holy Spirit. They are complete and foundationally solid because they have grown from the exploring stage of Spiritual life to the knowing stage of Spiritual life which comes from experience. They are no longer Spiritually “little children” or “infants.”

Their Spiritual maturity comes from knowing GOD through an intimate, dynamic, loving, personal relationship with HIM.

Those called by GOD in verse 11, GOD equipped to minister to those called to salvation. All Christians are on the path to Spiritual maturity, which is built upon trust and Spiritual growth in partnership with the indwelling Holy Spirit Who has come along the side of them 24/7.

We must keep in mind that GOD never takes away a person’s right to choose: Christian or non-Christian. HE made us to seek and explore. When Christians are Spiritually mature, the winds of doctrine may blow and the angry waves may billow around them but they are not discouraged or waiver because their faith is built upon the solid foundation of CHRIST their redeemer. Their anchor holds because they are in unity with HIM.

Fully grown and Spiritually mature Christians are one with GOD through faith in CHRIST, Who is the head of the living Spiritual body. The Holy Spirit brings all together as ONE built upon the Solid Foundation of CHRIST. The rains may come but the solid rock of JESUS holds.

When Paul wrote this, there were all sorts of religions and religious practices throughout the Roman Empire. When the Romans captured various areas, those captured had many different religions. The Roman government decided to create one religion for all to follow, which could be accomplished with all except Christianity. Christianity was unique. CHRIST was and still is the way to the One True GOD. There were a lot of false teachers who blended head knowledge about CHRIST to false religious practices in that time.

As we get closer to the second coming of CHRIST, we will see a resurgence in false teachers and only those on the firm foundation of CHRIST, the Spiritually mature, will see the error of their teaching and will discern the truth.

Humans are cunning, deceitful and clever. Deceit has its origin in Satan. He is the father of lies and his goal is to confuse, lead astray and defeat every Christian and to prevent non-Christians from becoming Christians. Humans can speak the Christian language but insert a twist. To the Spiritually immature such deceit can confuse and lead them astray in an effort to prevent them from yielding to the truth as taught and confirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Keep in mind that GOD gives Christians and non-Christians alike the freedom to choose.

In verse 15, Paul made it clear that “speaking the truth” meant living the truth. It is not do as I say but live as I live. Christians are to grow Spiritually into the image of CHRIST Who is the head. CHRIST is the head of the living Spiritual body. CHRIST being the head means there is a Spiritual support structure which results in Christians making up the rest of the Spiritual body as directed by the Holy Spirit. That is why GOD gives Spiritual gifts to those HE calls to make up the true living body as guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. HE gives Spiritual gifts to accomplish HIS plans and purposes.

HIS Spiritual gifts are many and varied to make the Spiritual body complete and function according to HIS will and purpose to bring unity for the purpose of teaching and training the saints until they reach full Spiritual maturity. Then, they are fully equipped to function within the living body as GOD chooses.

Christians must “speak the truth in love”, which means they are to live by what they say. Speaking the truth in love, results in growth. The degree of unity in a body reflects the Spiritual health of the body.

That is only possible by the power and strength of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians must walk the talk.

Verse 16, brings to mind JESUS’ message of connectedness as recorded in John 15:1-8: (JESUS is the source of life giving power necessary to function as a viable obedient Christian. Christians must be in unity and intimate with CHRIST Who is the way to GOD and the conduit for Spiritual nourishment, growth in order to produce fruit.)

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. 2 Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already • clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.

As Christians obediently serve by using their Spiritual gifts and abilities to help others, they continue to grow in unity and become more like CHRIST, Who is the head. Each Christian chooses the degree he or she will yield to obediently serve. It is difficult to say, “Here I am LORD use me as You choose.” That is necessary because HIS will must be done through HIS strength and according to HIS plan and purpose. Satan will do all he can to keep you from yielding your life to CHRIST. The decision is yours to make and now is that opportunity. Blessings!!!