Bible Study

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

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Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina, United States

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

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!!!

   

 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bible Study - Connect (2) - Connect in Unity - Ephesians 4:1-6 - September 14, 2014


Bible Study – Connect (2) – Connect in Unity – September 14, 2014

This is lesson two in our series of study entitled “Connected: My Life in the Church.”

Our focus scripture is Ephesians 4:1-6.

Unity is one thing but staying unified takes work according to the will and purpose of GOD.

Ephesians Chapters 1-3 focus on doctrine. Chapters 4-6, Paul focuses, for the most part, upon the application of the doctrine. What Christians believe is reflected in what they do.

We saw in last week’s study that salvation is for all who will place their faith in CHRIST. Those who place their faith in CHRIST are redeemed from sin and eternal death by the shed blood of CHRIST. GOD declares the person who places his or her faith in CHRIST as righteous. Since the Christian is righteous, the Holy Spirit can indwell that person’s body and is part of the miracle of rebirth. Rebirth results in that person being made into a new creation through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the renewing of the mind, as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:22-24:

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.

And in Romans 12:2:

2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

And in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

When we have not seen our grandchildren for a few weeks, we are amazed how much they have grown physically. Often, they are placing marks on a wall or a door to reveal how much they have grown. How do we measure our Spiritual growth? Is unity one measure?

Let’s explore!

As stated in our first lesson, the Apostle Paul was in prison, likely in Rome. Paul had been in prison before and GOD had miraculously delivered him quickly. This time, he remained in prison not because the legal system trumped GOD but because GOD chose for him to be there. Paul was a prisoner “of the LORD” and he was content in that situation because he knew GOD had a plan and purpose for his life at that time.

We know that Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians while in prison. Christians then and now benefit from his writings. Did GOD allow Paul to be in prison and write to reveal to Christians what HE had revealed to Paul? Only eternity will reveal some of the why’s in life. Paul saw his being in prison as a calling. He was practicing what he was writing about. He urged fellow Christians to walk “worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,”

The word “walk” relates to lifestyle and attitude. Christians are not to be arrogant. They represent GOD to others and in doing so, they are accountable to HIM and how they treat others. GOD has forgiven them and called them to obedient service according to HIS plan and purpose.

We need to keep in mind that Paul did not write in chapters and verses. The verses in Chapter 4: 1-6, in Greek, is one sentence.  

Let’s read Ephesians 4:1-2:

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to • walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love,

“Therefore” is a word which ties together what was stated in the doctrine chapters with the application chapters.

The word “urge” is a beautiful word. The two Greek words which create the English word “urge” mean “along side of” and “call.” When translated it means to be “called along side of.” Paul tied “urge” to “walk” or “lifestyle” with the calling Christians receive at the instant of salvation. Salvation is a partnership with GOD through our relationship with CHRIST. Christians are to yield their will and lives to GOD by coming “along side of HIM” to accomplish HIS will and purpose through them.

When I think about “along side of” I think of Christians being in step with GOD as HE leads and directs their lives. As we walk with GOD, through relationship, we realize that our worthiness to walk with HIM is due solely to our relationship with CHRIST, through faith in HIM. There is nothing we could have done or do in our own strength or goodness to achieve salvation.

Such a realization and dependence is beyond our capability. This reality results in humility which in turn produces gentleness. We realize the patience and love it took for GOD to wait for us to accept HIS invitation of salvation. This realization, in turn, extends from us to others as we wait for GOD to complete HIS work in their lives. GOD calls all Christians to yield their will to HIM such that HE can mold them into the image of CHRIST. This is the process of sanctification, which produces humility and humility in turn produces gentleness.

GOD is patient with us as we are shaped into the image of CHRIST. GOD’S agape love for us prepares us not to give up on those who struggle with the things we have under control in our lives – food, lack of exercise and other addictions.

Christians are to walk carefully along side of GOD realizing that any of us can find ourselves in difficult circumstances and sin if we yield to the desires of the flesh.

Humility and gentleness comes from knowing GOD and trusting that HE is in control of all circumstances. Keep in mind that Christians can find themselves in circumstances as the result of their actions.

GOD calls to obediently serve HIM. Even when Christians obediently serve, circumstances may be very difficult but GOD has placed them in these circumstances for a variety of reasons – for our Spiritual development, to help others and the list goes on.

Accepting one another in love is based upon the realization that all Christians are sinners saved by grace. Patience is an attribute which results from the sanctification process. GOD teaches HIS children to wait upon HIM. We wait because we trust HIM and are confident that HE is in control and working to bring about HIS will, plan and purpose.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:3:

3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.

Unity is one thing but keeping the unity takes work, thus Paul used the word “diligent.” Unity has value and is worth keeping. The word “keeping” carries the idea of a continuing effort.

Here, we have to be careful because we need discernment. In my opinion, it is not keeping unity at the cost of Biblical doctrine. That is why Christians must be filled with, controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.

It is important that we, as humans, do not let our flesh guide our decisions. There is often a very fine line between those who are guided by the Holy Spirit and those who think they are guided by the Holy Spirit. Does our involvement in an issue lead to peace and unity that binds Christians together?

The peace that passes all understanding comes from GOD to Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Philippians 4:7:

7 And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Amplified)

The peace that comes from GOD binds in unity.

Let’s read Ephesians 4:4-6:

4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Unity with CHRIST results in oneness with GOD, CHRIST, the Holy Spirit and true Christians. There is a witness of a Christian’s Spirit with GOD and true Christians as reflected in Romans 8:16:

16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children,

Salvation results in the rebirth of the human spirit which in turn produces GOD’S children. Christians are family because they all have the same Father. As such, they are bonded together by the same Spirit and to GOD, through faith in CHRIST.

In the Greek, verses 1-6 are one long sentence, as mentioned earlier. Verses 4-6 read like a statement of faith or credo, which means “I believe.”

Notice that Paul used seven one’s in these three verses. He began verse 4 with “there is.” In Greek, there is no verb but the use of a verb helps readers to understand the term. The term “we belong to” could have been used, as well.

It is exciting to see how the Holy Spirit led Paul to reveal the source of Christian unity, GOD. The source of Christian unity is GOD through faith in CHRIST and knitted together by the Holy Spirit. CHRIST is the way to GOD. The Jews worshipped GOD. Since the passion of CHRIST, there is a clear, certain path to GOD. Faith in JESUS is the only way to GOD for all people. The ground at the foot of the cross is level, meaning all, regardless of wealth, position in life, race, social standing, good deeds and the list goes on, every human comes to GOD through faith in CHRIST.

To the Jews, the number seven represented completeness. When we consider all seven statements it reveals completeness in GOD, CHRIST and the Holy Spirit. Trinity is a contraction of “tri unity” thus Trinity, the three are One.

There is: [The first triad – one body, one Spirit, one hope. The second triad –one LORD, one faith, one baptism. One triune GOD – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.]

-         One body: The foundation for one Spiritual living body, the living church, is CHRIST. CHRIST gave HIS body/earthly life through the shedding of HIS blood to pay, in full, the penalty for sin for all who place their faith in HIM. Faith in CHRIST means receiving salvation from sin and eternal death. When a person receives salvation he or she receives eternal life, rebirth, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, citizenship in heaven and so much more. The miracle of rebirth is brought about through the union of GOD’S Spirit with the human spirit. The result is referred to as rebirth or being born-again in a person’s spirit. CHRIST in you is what makes you a Christian. At the instant of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes into the Christian’s life and confirms the miracle of rebirth. CHRIST unifies both the Jews and the Gentiles who place their faith in CHRIST because CHRIST was GOD in the flesh and HE is the only way to GOD.

-         One Spirit: Since all Christians are born into the family of GOD by the same Spirit or divine sperm, they are all in unity with GOD and fellow Christians. GOD gives Christians the Holy Spirit to indwell them to confirm their faith and to lead, guide, empower, gift, teach, warn, instruct, enlighten, assure and communicate with HIS children. The Holy Spirit helps Christians build an intimate, loving relationship with GOD through CHRIST. The Holy Spirit is the first installment or guarantee of a Christian’s inheritance yet to be fully realized through faithful living and ultimately at the instant of our physical death. To be absent from the body is to be in the presence of our LORD. Several scripture references focus on the guarantee and security deposit – 2 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:14, Ephesians 4:30.

-         [Called: Paul used the word “called.” First, GOD calls all people to salvation through faith in CHRIST. Once people accept HIS call of salvation, HE calls HIS children to obediently serve HIM as directed by the Holy Spirit. HE calls some to be pastors, teachers, deacons and into various vocations. When HE calls, HE also gifts and equips. Salvation is available to all. GOD does not discriminate.]

-         One hope: Hope can imply a certain degree of uncertainty but this is not the intent in the use of the word “hope.” Hope can be translated as “confidence.” The confidence or assurance of our faith in CHRIST is confirmed by the resurrection of JESUS and the indwelling Holy Spirit. I always wanted the assurance before I took the step of faith but it does not work that way. Those seeking CHRIST must take the step of faith and then the Holy Spirit will confirm their new relationship in CHRIST.

-         One LORD: The Jews worshipped the One True GOD before CHRIST came to earth in the flesh. The passion of CHRIST, the promised Messiah, established the new covenant of faith in CHRIST by HIS shed blood. Christians worship the same One True GOD who Abraham worshipped and was declared righteous because of his faith in GOD. One LORD is CHRIST.

-         One faith: It is faith that is the common bond between the Old and New Testaments. The shedding of the blood of certain animals was symbolic and a place holder for the day when the promised Messiah would shed HIS blood for the final and permanent remission of sin and conquer eternal death.

-         One baptism: Baptism is an outward expression of an inward reality. In the Baptist Church, we baptize by immersion in water. It is symbolic of dying to our old life before we accepted CHRIST as our Savior and being resurrected to walk in our new life in CHRIST. Some denominations believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Baptism reveals that a person is not ashamed to be identified as a Christian and a follower of CHRIST. It is an act of obedience. Baptism reflects the oneness of all who place their faith in CHRIST. Keep in mind that JESUS was baptized.

-         One GOD and Father of all: The source of salvation and unity is GOD and HE unifies all who place their faith in CHRIST.

-         Who is above all: Indicates HIS position of power and authority. Omnipotent.

-         And through all: GOD is all knowing. Omniscience.

-         And in all: GOD is involved in all matters. Omnipresent.

When taken as a whole, faith in CHRIST results in unity with GOD and fellow Christians.

Scripture ascribes election to GOD, The Father, salvation to JESUS, the Son and sanctification to The Holy Spirit. The three are in complete unity and function as ONE. GOD calls all to salvation, CHRIST gave HIS life for all who will place their faith in HIM and the Holy Spirit indwells all who place their faith in JESUS.

We as Christians need to get back to the basics of building unity with each other based upon GOD’S leadership and HIS Word and not social acceptance or being politically correct. CHRIST in us is the hope of glory. Love the sinner but hate the sin. Blessings!!!

 

 

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bible Study - Connected - Connected in CHRIST - Ephesians 2:17-22 - September 7, 2014

Bible Study – Connected – Connected in CHRIST – September 7, 2014

This is lesson one in our series entitled “Connected: My Life in the Church.”

Our focus scripture for this lesson in Ephesians 2:17-22.

Church Membership does not make a person a Christian. CHRIST in the person is what makes him or her a Christian.

This begins a six-week series regarding the institution, we call “Church.” The focus scripture will be in the Book of Ephesians. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison either in Rome or Caesarea. Most Bible scholars believe Paul was in Rome. Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians while he was in prison.

The letter to the Ephesians was likely delivered by Tychicus, Ephesians 6:21-22:

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 true church is not a physical structure but a Spiritual structure of which CHRIST is the head. The apostles, prophets and born-again believers are the living stones that make up the Spiritual structure. The Spiritual structure functions as one because of the indwelling Holy Spirit. CHRIST is the head. Those who have received CHRIST, through faith in HIM, are gifted by GOD with Spiritual gifts to be used as led by the Holy Spirit. Thus the Spiritual body functions in unity to benefit the Spiritual body just as the human body functions as one to benefit it.

The Apostle Paul discusses this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20:

12 For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body —so also is Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body —whether Jews or Greeks, whether • slaves or free —and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 So the body is not one part but many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 Now there are many parts, yet one body.

Those who belong to the Spiritual body also belong to the physical church. The degree that the physical church allows the Holy Spirit to lead and direct it determines the spiritual nature of the physical church. The indwelling Holy Spirit and HIS leadership results in Spiritual growth, maturity and balance. Balance relating to in-reach and out-reach. Meeting the Spiritual needs and physical needs both inside and outside of the church through the use of Spiritual gifts. No Christian will boast because he or she has a certain Spiritual gift neither will others be jealous or envious of those who have certain Spiritual gifts. Because each will realize and understand that the gift or gifts are from GOD to be used as HE directs according to HIS plan and purpose.

Let’s explore!

We will begin with background. The Apostle Paul builds upon the fact that his readers will be a mix of religious cultures - Jewish, Jewish-Christian, Christian, nothing and pagan.

Let’s read Ephesians 2:1-3:

From Death to Life

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2 in which you previously • walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3 We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.

Paul begins by reminding his readers, which includes us today, that before we accepted CHRIST as our Savior, we were dead to GOD because of sin. Sin is a barrier between mankind and GOD. In our sinful state, we were not concerned about GOD or the things of GOD. We were interested in the things of the world or the things that pleased our human nature, the flesh. We were disobedient to the things the true one GOD desired for us. We were obedient to the ruler of the lower world, earth, who is Satan. Satan and his demons do all they can to prevent us from focusing upon the One True GOD and especially CHRIST.

There has always been spiritual/Spiritual warfare but has it intensified? Readers, we must keep in mind that GOD is in charge and the victory has been won by CHRIST. Christians must not let the raging storms around them distract them from the truth – GOD is in control and HE has a plan and a purpose. 

Let’s continue Ephesians 2:4-10:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, 5 made us alive with the • Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6 Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, 7 so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 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’S desire is for mankind to be redeemed and restored to HIS original intent before sin entered the world. John 3:16-18 captures the heart of GOD toward mankind:

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.

GOD reached down to mankind by allowing HIS only Son to come to earth, to live and function as a human. HE allowed HIM to live fully human and to be tempted as humans are tempted. HE lived a sinless life and as such HE became the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin that GOD had imposed upon mankind. GOD reached down to mankind but GOD made mankind with the freedom to choose. Will mankind accept GOD’S free gift of salvation from sin and death by placing their faith in JESUS?

When humans reconcile their relationship with GOD by accepting CHRIST as their Savior, the Holy Spirit indwells them. When humans are reconciled with GOD through CHRIST, their flesh nature is changed through the renewing of their minds. They see the world through changed eyes and reach out to fellow humans around them with the Good News of salvation because of the love that GOD and CHRIST has revealed to them.

Reconciliation with GOD through faith in CHRIST and a changed human nature results in unity and peace among those who have placed their faith in CHRIST. Are we, as Christians, in unity and have peace? If not, why not?

Let’s read Ephesians 2:11-16:

Unity in Christ

11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh —called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which iss done in the flesh by human hands. 12 At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. 14 For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, 15 He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it.

The “uncircumcised” referred to non-Jews/Gentiles and the “circumcision” referred to Abraham, his descendants and the Jews. GOD established a covenant with Abraham which was confirmed by the ritual of circumcision. Circumcision was to identify those who placed their faith in the One True GOD. Circumcision was performed by man.

When the Israelites, descendants of Abraham, were in bondage in Egypt, GOD remembered the covenant HE made with Abraham, HE came to their rescue. GOD revealed Himself physically to the world through the Israelites. After GOD freed the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, HE led them safely to Mount Sinai. It was at Mt. Sinai that GOD revealed that HE had chosen the Israelites to be HIS people, if they agreed. They agreed and GOD gave them the laws and commandments they were to follow. Exodus 24:6-8:

6 Moses took half the blood and set it in basins; the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people. They responded, “We will do and obey everything that the Lord has commanded.” 8 Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you concerning all these words.”

This covenant lasted until the ultimate and permanent covenant was revealed to the world and established through the shed blood of JESUS for all people who would place their faith in CHRIST, the Promised Messiah. Faith in CHRIST results in the circumcision of the heart which only GOD can do because of the faithfulness of CHRIST. CHRIST did for mankind what mankind could not do by any effort it made. CHRIST gave HIS life in substitution for those who place their faith in HIM as their Savior. CHRIST paid the penalty GOD imposed on mankind for sin. Each human, because they are human, this penalty of eternal death. The shed blood of CHRIST redeems all who place their faith in HIM from eternal death and gives them eternal life through the miracle of rebirth.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21:

16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses   20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He (GOD) made the One (JESUS) who did not know sin to be sin for us (those who place their faith in HIM), so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Those who place their faith in CHRIST become the righteousness of GOD. Since GOD has declared those who place their faith in CHRIST righteous, the Holy Spirit can indwell them. Christians are set aside for the purposes and plans of GOD, which makes them saints. They have direct access to GOD.

Let’s read Ephesians 2:17-18:

17 When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

CHRIST gave HIS life by the shedding of HIS blood to pay, in full, the penalty for sin which broke the sin barrier between mankind and GOD. In doing so, HE reconciled all of the covenants into one new covenant which included all people. This new covenant was based upon any person, placing his or her faith in CHRIST as his or her Savior, would be reconciled with GOD and as such has direct access to GOD.

Let’s read Ephesians 2:19:

19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the • saints, and members of God’s household,

CHRIST established a new everlasting covenant which includes all people who place their faith in CHRIST. JESUS said in Luke 22:20:

20 In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.

Through the miracle of rebirth, those who place their faith in CHRIST become members of GOD’S household and eternal citizens of HIS Kingdom. This was directed to both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Many of the Jews thought they were special because of their heritage but Paul wanted them to know that whether a person was coming from a Jewish or Gentile background, that by placing their faith in CHRIST, they were all members of GOD’S household.

Let’s read Ephesians 2:20-22:

20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. 21 The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. 22 You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

GOD’S redemptive plan has been revealed by the apostles, who witnessed the ministry, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension of CHRIST. The prophets throughout the ages have recorded GOD’S plan which has been fulfilled in CHRIST. GOD’S Word, the Bible, reveals these truths to those who seek truth.

GOD is not building a brick and mortar church but a Spiritual church of which CHRIST is the cornerstone. The cornerstone of a building is the foundational stone which sets the architectural intent of the building. The cornerstone connects two walls. GOD is the architect of this Spiritual building. CHRIST is the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets have their place in relation to CHRIST. Christians are living stones used in this Spiritual structure to accomplish GOD’S intended plan and purpose for HIS Kingdom. GOD has a plan and purpose for every person but in order for a person to achieve HIS plan and purpose, he or she must place his or her faith in CHRIST. When a person receives CHRIST as his or her Savior, the abundant life comes by allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and direct his or her life.

The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of the importance of allowing GOD to direct our lives in 1 Corinthians 3:9-17:

9 For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire. 16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s sanctuary, God will destroy him; for God’s sanctuary is holy, and that is what you are.

Verse 21 in Ephesians and 16-17 in 1 Corinthians 3 reveal that born-again Christians are GOD’S sanctuary or the Holy of Holies, where GOD resides. GOD resides within every born-again Christian and when someone harms him or her, GOD will respond.

Have you accepted CHRIST as your Savior? If not, now is your opportunity. Blessings!!!