Am I Worthy?

Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Worthy?

This week, I would like to start looking at the 4th chapter of Ephesians. The first thing we need to remember is that Paul didn’t write the book of Ephesians in chapters and verses, it was a letter to the church at Ephesus. So, Paul starts out what we know as chapter 4 verses 1 by saying, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Notice that he starts out by declaring himself a prisoner of the Lord. The Greek word used here is not the same word used by James, Jude, Peter, and Paul in other locations, that we spoke about last September in our 2-part series on the word “doulos”, but this word means the same thing. It is a bondservant, a servant by choice. I won’t go into depth, but you can read the series on my website.

Let’s look at the first word in the verse, “Therefore.” I had a pastor that used to always say, if you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. If you read last week’s blog, we talked about Paul’s prayer for the Church. He ended that prayer by saying that, as a result of Christ living in us and empowering us, we will be able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or ever dream of. Because of that power, Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of that calling. But what does he mean by this statement?

I see it all the time on Facebook and Instagram, people saying, “you are worthy.” But, what does the Bible say about it? John the Baptizer said, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11. So, John, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah, said that he wasn’t even worthy of being Christ’s servant.

Look at the Roman officer who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. What did he say? “But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.’” Matthew 8:8. This was a Roman officer, respected by everyone who had enough faith in Christ that he knew that all Jesus had to do is say the word and his servant would be healed, but he didn’t consider himself worthy.

There are many other instances, such as Peter in John 13:8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9. Look at the parable of the great feast, which is a picture of heaven, where the master said, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Matthew 22:8. And, Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

So, who in the Bible thought they were worthy? Let’s look at Matthew 7:22-23, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” These are people who think they are worthy of getting into heaven, but Jesus tells them to go away. He says He never knew them. Remember, pride was the original sin. What did the serpent say to Eve? He talked her into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by telling her that she would be like God. He played on her pride. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Saying that you are worthy is nothing more than pride. We are not worthy of salvation, we are forgiven. Salvation is a gift from God that cost His Son’s life, a gift that we don’t deserve.

So, we are not worthy, but Paul begs us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. And, what is that calling? Let’s look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In verses 19-20 it says, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who imitates the one they follow. So, our calling is to imitate Jesus. What Paul is saying is to live a life that is as close to Christ as possible. That’s a high calling, but one we must strive for.

Going back to Ephesians 4, Paul tells us how we can live a Christ-like life. Look at verses 2-3, Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The instructions are pretty simple: be humble, gentle, patient, stay close to the Holy Spirit, and…you guessed it, be united as the body of Christ.

If you wonder why I talk so much about the unity of the Church, it’s because the Bible talks so much about it, and the Church today isn’t doing it. The body of Christ is more divided today than ever. My book, also titled Cathedral Made of People, addresses this as well as other symptoms of the Churches disease. The book is the same title as this blog, but it isn’t the same. It is a compare and contrast between the Church of the New Testament and the Church today. It will be available next month on Amazon and some other electronic sources and my goal is to have it printed by the end of the year. So, as soon as it is out I will let you know where to get it and if you would like to see some ideas of what we can do to heal the Church, buy a copy and share it with your pastors to see what they think.

But, to sum it all up. Since you have that power living in you, pray that God will help you live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

Infinitely More!

Photo by Michelle Pearson

Infinitely More

There are many prayers recorded in the Bible. When we look, we find the Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, the prayer Jesus prayed before going to the cross in John 17, as well there are many prayers in the Psalms and more than ten of Paul’s prayers printed in the Bible. But, the one we want to focus on this week is found in Ephesians chapter 3, Paul again tells us what he prayed for the Church. He says in verses 16-19, 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

He starts out his prayer by asking God to empower us. A more literal translation is “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” We have seen this word he uses for power before. It is the Greek word, δύναμις, δυνάμεως, ἡ; dynamis; (dü’-nä-mēs) From the Strong’s Concordance: (from Homer down); the Sept. for חַיִל, גְּבוּרָה, עֹז, כֹּחַ, צָבָא (an army, a host); strength, ability, power; a. universally, “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”: Luke 1:17; Acts 4:7. This is an inherent power, it is innate within God, and it is the root word for our word, dynamite.

So, Paul is praying that we can be strengthened with this power. If you remember, this isn’t the first time that Paul prayed this. Back in Ephesians 1:18-19 Paul said, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” Paul is praying that God would strengthen us with the same innate, explosive power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father…Wow!

But, he says that he wants us to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. We all know the importance of strengthening our outer man, but it is equally important, actually more so, that we strengthen our inner man. The only way we can strengthen our inner man is to spend quality time studying the Word and praying. And, He’s not going to just give us some of this power, He is going to give it according to the riches of His glory…that’s a lot!

He goes on to say that as we gain this power, then Christ will make His home in our hearts and our roots will grow deep in God’s love to make us strong. The Psalmist also compared us to a tree. He said in the first chapter of Psalms that those of us who delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it all the time will be “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Again, we strengthen that inner man by delighting in the Word of God and meditating on it day and night.

In verse 18 Paul says that through this power we may be able to understand the length and width and depth of God’s love, but then in verse 19 he says that we could never fully understand it. Once we have gained that power and understood His great love, to the extent that we can, we will be made complete. You see, that is the only way we will ever be made complete because without Christ we can never be complete. There is a hole in our soul that only Jesus can fill.

Now, let’s check out the end of his prayer. In verses 20-21 Paul says, 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” Not only can this Dynamis power strengthen us and empower us, but it can accomplish INFINITELY more than we could even ask for. In fact, this power can do more than we could even imagine. Now, I have a pretty good imagination, but God’s Power can do more than I can even dream up…that’s a lot.

This isn’t just the end of this prayer, it is wrapping up every blessing spoken in these first three chapters. God can do all of this because He can do far beyond our ability to ask or think. One translation says that God can do “exceeding abundantly” above what we can ask or think. Charles H. Spurgeon had this to say about that phrase, “He has constructed here in the Greek an expression which is altogether his own. No language was powerful enough for the apostle, – I mean for the Holy Ghost speaking through the apostle, – for very often Paul has to coin words and phrases to shadow forth his meaning, and here is one, ‘He is able to do exceeding abundantly,’ so abundantly that it exceeds measure and description.” In Jeremiah 32:27 God said, “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” The answer is a resounding NO!

Paul ends this prayer by giving praise to God because, at the end of the day, that’s why we are here.

Come Boldly to God

Hugs and Kisses
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Come Boldly to God

Ephesians 3:12 tells us, “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.” So, what does this mean? Is this saying that I can barge in on God and demand that He answer my prayers? Of course not! Let’s take a few minutes and see what Paul is talking about.

The Greek word that is translated as “boldly” in this verse is the word, παῤῥησία parrēsia” (pär-rā-sē’-ä) which the Strong’s Concordance defines as, “outspokenness, i.e. frankness, bluntness, publicity; by implication, assurance: confidence, freely, openly, plainly (-ness)…” This word is used 32 times in 31 verses of the New Testament. Most of these occurrences are talking about preaching with boldness or speaking confidently, only 4 other passages speak of coming before God with boldness.

Hebrews 10:19-22 says, 19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house,22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” This one is a great picture of what he is talking about. The writer of Hebrews is comparing coming to God today to how they had to do it before Christ. You see, before Christ, the only way to bring something before God was to first go to the High Priest, because he was the only one who was allowed to come before God. So, once a year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, to offer a sacrifice and petition God for His people. Even this High Priest had to prepare himself first. He had to make sure there was no sin in his life and, just in case there was, he had to wear bells around the hem of his robe and have a rope tied around himself. This way, if there was unconfessed sin in him and he was struck dead, those outside the curtain would know when they heard the bells stop ringing and could drag him out by the rope.

But, because our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus, we can enter the Most Holy Place with boldness. See what verse 20 says, “By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” Jesus made a new way through that curtain. How do we know this? Because, when Jesus said, “it is finished” on the cross, that curtain tore from top to bottom. This act was no accident or earthquake, that curtain was about 80 feet tall and as thick as your hand is wide. God tore that curtain open because the Holy Spirit was moving out and moving into us. Now, Christ is our High Priest and He is the only one that we can go through to get to God, remember what Paul told us in 1 Timothy 2:5-6, For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.”

So, how do we develop this confidence in Christ? 1 John 4:17 tells us, “And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” If we live in God, if we are living to please Him, our love will continue to grow into perfection. This will enable us to come before God boldly…and why is that? Because we know that our sins are forgiven and that He is our loving Father who longs for our relationship and obedience.

If we look back a little in 1 John 3:18-21 we see how that works, 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.” This goes back to James 2:14-26, where James tells us that faith without works, is dead, well the same goes for love. You can say you love someone until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t show it, it is useless. I was raised in the South and when someone from the South says, “I love Bubba to death”, you know they are about to say something horrible about Bubba. They don’t love Bubba, that is just lip service, saying one thing but demonstrating another. So, don’t just say you love each other, show it. What does John say about that? 1 John 4:7-8, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Did you catch that? If you don’t love others, you don’t know God, because God IS Love!

The last passage about coming boldly before God is found in Hebrews 4:14-16 and says, 14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Jesus is our great High Priest in heaven, He is the only mediator between God and man, and He will plead our case. Look at verse 15, Jesus understands our weaknesses. He faced all the same temptations that we face, but, unlike us, did not sin.

So, because Jesus came to this earth, lived a perfect life among us despite temptations, died as a sacrifice for our sins, rose from the dead to claim victory over death and the grave, and sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, we can come boldly before God. Romans 8:15 says, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’” That phrase, “Abba Father” is best translated as “Daddy”. God wants an intimate relationship with you, a relationship where you can run to Him for comfort and assurance. Because of Christ, the Father is our Daddy who we can come boldly to…isn’t that beautiful?

Take Pride in Your Weakness

Photo by Michelle Pearson

Take Pride in Your Weakness

As you might have noticed, I’m spending a lot of time studying the book of Ephesians right now. The two verses that really stuck out at me today were Ephesians 3:8-9 which say, Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.” It has always amazed me how humble Paul was even though he was used so mightily for God.

He also said in his first letter to Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.” 1 Timothy 1:15. You see, this wasn’t some false piety that Paul was taking on, he truly viewed himself as the worst of all sinners. Of course, it is true that before Christ he persecuted Christians and that is pretty bad, but Paul knew that those sins were covered by the blood of Christ when he accepted Him as his personal savior. So, what kept Paul so humble?

To understand this, we need to go to 2 Corinthians chapter 12. The first 4 verses of this chapter are talking about some of the amazing things that God chose to show Paul. He even talks about being caught up into the third heaven and, in his own words, “heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12:4.

Paul goes on in verse 5 to say, “That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses.” So, Paul admits that the things he has witnessed and experienced are worth bragging about but says that he would rather brag about his weakness. He even goes on in verse 6 to say that the reason these are worth bragging about is that they are true. But, why wouldn’t he brag about it? “Because, I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,” 2 Corinthians 12:6. Paul wants it to be clear that every good thing he has in his life comes from God, so he can’t boast about things that he had no part in, he would rather boast in his weakness.

In verse 7 Paul says, “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” Paul recognized that, what he called the thorn in his flesh, was there for a reason, it was there to keep him humble. It would have been easy for Paul to be proud of the gifts that God gave him, we see this all the time with people who God has entrusted with gifts, but Paul had this infirmity that kept him from being proud.

So, what exactly did Paul mean when he said that he takes pride in his weakness? Let’s look at verses 8-10, Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” So, on three different occasions, Paul begged God to take this infirmity away from him. It is interesting that Paul never, in any of his writings, explains what the illness was. We assume, judging by some of the things he said and the fact that other people did most of his writing for him, that it was some kind of eye problem, probably a residual from when God blinded him on the road to Emmaus. But, the point is that Paul begged God on three different occasions to relieve him of this problem and got the same answer every time. What was that answer? God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Do you see that? God’s grace is all we need! God went on to tell him that His power works best in our weakness. In fact, Paul told the Church at Corinth, 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. So, if we are so foolish and poor, where do we get our wisdom from? Look at the last 2 verses, 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31. God united us in Christ for our benefit. He made Christ to be our wisdom.

So, here’s the point, God usually chooses the foolish and weak things, so they know that it is of God, but in Paul’s case, he was considered wise by the world, so God had to give him something to keep him humble.

I have been told by many people that God wants us to be well, He wants us to be healthy and happy. The truth is that God want’s what’s best for us, even if that is being unhealthy. He doesn’t necessarily want us to be happy, he wants us to have joy, no matter what our circumstances are, read James 1:2-4, Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” You see, joy is better than happiness. Happiness is a feeling, it comes and goes, but joy comes from God and you can have it even when you are flat on your back in the hospital. Galatians 5:22-23, 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

Cathedral Made of People

Friday Night Gathering
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Cathedral Made of People

Everyone loves the title of my blog, which is also the title of my upcoming book, but I can’t take credit for this title, Cathedral Made of People is the title of a song by the group, Downhere. The song lyrics say:

If they shut down the churches
Where would you go?
If they melted all the
stained-glass windows
Replaced every sanctuary
with a condo
Where would you go?
Where would you go?

We are a cathedral
made of people
In a kingdom that
the eye can’t see
We’re a house, we are the bride
Where God’s Spirit lives inside
And nothing ever
can stand against her

It goes on to ask questions like, “If they burned every Bible, what would you know?” And, “If they declared your devotion to be criminal, what would you know?” This has been the theme of everything I have written for the last four or five years, we are the body of Christ. Your church building isn’t your church, your church is you and your local group of believers, no matter if you meet in a building, in a park, or on a street corner. We must get this through our heads, we are the called out ones, “you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.” 1 Peter 2:9.

The passage of the Bible that best describes this phenomenon is the last few verses of Ephesians chapter 2. Paul has just talked about tearing down the walls of division and has said that there is no division in Christ, no Jew or Gentile, no bond or free, no male or female, we are one in Christ. He ends this passage by saying this, 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20-22.

What does Paul mean when he says we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets?” He is saying that our foundation must be the word of God. A building is only as strong as the foundation it is built on and there is no foundation stronger than the word of God. I remember back in the 80s when we were living in central Florida, I was managing a hotel which is located at the entrance of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven. Right across the street, they were building this high-rise condominium building called The Marlborough. We watched for months as the workers were building it, it was huge, and the top floor was all one penthouse condo for the owner. Months had gone by and they had already presold many of the units when one day we came to work and noticed that the building was leaning drastically to the right. They had to tear down the building and the owner went bankrupt because they didn’t build it on a firm foundation. So, I need to say this, if you are attending a church whose foundation is not on the word of God, you need to get out and find another church because that is not a church, it is a social club.

We see more about this foundation in the book of Matthew. He chronicles many of Jesus’ teachings and parables throughout his book. In chapter 5 Matthew tells us about the sermon on the mount and then goes on to give many of Jesus’ sermons all the way through chapter 7. The last in this list is found in Matthew 7:24-29 where he says, 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.” Again, Christ is telling us that we must be built on the firm foundation of the word of God.

Paul goes on to say, in Ephesians 5:20, that Jesus Himself is the cornerstone. So, what is the significance of a cornerstone? According to Wikipedia, “The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.” So, our foundation is on God’s Word, and Christ is the stone that determines the position of the entire building. Christ makes sure we are always positioned right.

Paul goes on to say that we are “carefully joined together in him”. We aren’t just thrown together, we are laid carefully right where God wants us, and we are joined together in Christ. This might be a good time to go back and read my blog titled, “In Christ” and remind ourselves what it really means to be In Christ. Paul goes on to say that through this process we are becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Remember, your church building isn’t the temple of the Holy Spirit, you are, in fact, Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”

He ends the passage by saying that, through Christ, we Gentiles are made part of God’s dwelling. Remember what we talked about the last couple of weeks. The big racial divide in those days wasn’t what we deal with today. It wasn’t about the color of their sin; the big racial divide back then was between Jews and Gentiles. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Jews were God’s chosen people, but because of religion, they believed that if you weren’t Jewish, you weren’t anything. God never told them this, their religion did. So, Jesus tore down that wall of religion and built a new building for His Holy Spirit to live in, a Cathedral Made of People.

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