Insights From Ephesians Part Three

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One of the most powerful negative forces that exist in our society today is discouragement. This force is even more powerful in the church. There are likely more people who worship no where, or have changed to a different kind of church, or who are a loud, negative voice in their congregation because they have been discouraged, than any other negative influence among Christians. If all the discouraged Christians assembled for worship on any given Sunday in their “home congregation” left their discouragement at home and praised God for His many blessings in Christ, attendance in most congregations would increase from one-third to over 100%.

People are discouraged for many reasons. (1) For many, life is just plain hard. Circumstances they never once anticipated descended on them, consumed them, and created a personal crises for them. Unfortunately, these people are in congregations that are unaware–for whatever reason–of their struggle. Or their congregation knows their struggle and either offers no help or no encouragement. Or the congregation is a part of the reason for their struggle. So these people look at life, or at the congregation, or at both, and are disillusioned.

(2) Many look at individual Christians they previously respected, but now they see “feet of clay,” and these individual’s weakness or poor choices discourage them. That is why our faith in God should never depend on people. No human is perfect. Every human needs God’s mercy and grace.

(3) Many look at congregations and are discouraged because their home congregation is fractured. They look at “the groups” who are vying with each other for a position of control or ascendency. Their impression is that the church is more an institution than a relationship with God, more political than spiritual, or more about a sense of self-importance than serving. The result: they are disillusioned with the congregation.

(4) Many have a significantly flawed concept of unity, or a significantly flawed concept of God’s purpose in Jesus Christ, or a significantly flawed concept of the objectives of Christianity. The result: these people have significantly flawed expectations. What they expect to happen never happens, and they are disillusioned. Incorrect expectations was a real reason for Jesus’ rejection during the time of his ministry and death–it is nothing new.

Understanding discouragement is not new. Consider today’s text from Ephesians 1:15-23.  For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

  1. The first thing I want to call to your attention is that Paul encouraged an imperfect congregation.
    1. First, I want to produce a perspective–Paul did not write an epistle (letter) to a place just to be writing because he happened to have some time on his hands and nothing better to do.
      1. In Ephesians (and other of Paul’s epistles), Paul wrote about problems that existed at the place where he wrote.
        1. If that is correct (and I am convinced it is), many in the congregation did not understand the significance (importance) of Jesus Christ in 1:3-14.
        2. They did not understand their dependence on God’s grace in 2:1-8.
        3. They did not understand the relationship between grace and obedience in 2:9, 10.
        4. They did not understand God’s gift of unity in 2:11-22.
        5. They did not understand the importance of hanging in there in 3:12.
        6. They did not understand that God’s power had little to do with human expectations in 3:17-21.
        7. They did not understand God’s purpose for Christians in 4:1-16.
        8. They did not understand they were to become the “new you in God” in 4:17-24.
        9. They did not understand that the “new you” deliberately adopted a lifestyle that excluded lying, anger, stealing, ungodly speech, resistance to God’s influence in their lives, and an imitation of Jesus’ kindness instead of negative emotion in 4:25-32.
        10. They did not understand they had to be influenced by God rather than the “movers and shakers” who “made things happen” in 5:1-14.
        11. They did not understand they lived a lifestyle that rejected drunkenness in 5:15-21.
        12. They did not understand the “new you” involved a lifestyle that included the way you treated the people closest to you in 5:15-6:9.
        13. They did not understand the importance of wearing God’s armor in their personal struggle with evil in 6:10-20.
      2. There are a lot of basic things they either did not know or did not know the importance of.
        1. How would you like to be a member of that congregation?
        2. How easy do you think it would have been to get spiritually discouraged in that environment?
        3. Yet, in 1:1 Paul addressed them as saints who were faithful in Jesus Christ.
        4. Do you think we have a lot to learn about Paul’s use of the word “faithful?”
    2. Obviously, Paul did not restrict spiritual encouragement to individual or congregational spiritual perfection.
      1. Again, let me call something to your attention.
      2. First, they did not understand the meaning of unity at all.
        1. That, to me, is obvious in 2:11-22.
        2. They had no understanding of the fact that unity was a gift God gave in Christ, and their responsibility was to preserve that gift, not create the condition (see 4:3).
        3. God made them one in the cross of Jesus Christ, and they did not know it (see 2:16)!
      3. Second, it jumps out at me that some of them were continuing to steal as they did prior to becoming a Christian (see 4:28).
        1. “Steals” is present tense.
        2. Some of these Christians stole prior to becoming Christians and continued to steal after becoming Christians.
        3. They did not even understand that conversion involved accepting a new lifestyle!
        4. They obviously had an enormous amount to learn about Christian existence after conversion–it was not easy to go from idol worshipper to Christian in their social environment!
      4. Even though these people were Christians and received Paul’s encouragement, they had a lot to learn and understand.
      5. How does that fit with your concept of Christian existence?
      6. How does that fit with your concept of Christian encouragement?
  2. There are some things in our text (Ephesians 1:15-23) that I want you note besides Paul’s encouragement because he heard of their faith in Jesus and of their love for other Christians.
    1. First, I want you to note Paul’s prayer for them in 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints …”
      1. He prayed that they would be able to see with their hearts.
        1. They were too much like us.
        2. They saw with their eyes, not their hearts.
        3. They saw what their society saw.
        4. They had to be trained to see with their hearts.
        5. They had to be trained to see as God sees instead of the way their society looks at things.
      2. Only if they learned how to see with their hearts could they know the hope of God’s calling.
        1. Their environment in their society was pretty hopeless.
        2. Only if they could see as God sees would they allow God to be their source of hope.
        3. The reasons for God supplying hope would not even compute in their society–and so it is with ours!
      3. Only if they learned to see with their hearts could they recognize the riches of the glory of their inheritance.
        1. According to their society, God had no inheritance to give.
        2. Society principally measures an inheritance in terms of money, of valuable possessions, and of property–none of which God offered.
      4. The things God offered were:
        1. A place to belong, to “fit in” for righteous people.
        2. Forgiveness coupled with compassion.
        3. Grace and mercy.
        4. Kindness to people who had nothing to offer.
        5. Those are things the heart sees!
        6. If you cannot see with the heart, those things are impractical and foolish!
    2. Verse 19 talks about the surpassing greatness of His power and the strength of His might.  “… [W]hat is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might …”
      1. God revealed His power and might in two things:
        1. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
        2. The resurrected Jesus being enthroned at God’s right hand–the most prominent place that the One who ruled could give.
      2. In those two things God made Jesus Christ the most prominent human-divine being they would ever know.
        1. He had the most important position they would ever know as humans.
        2. He had the most important name they would ever know as humans.
        3. He is Lord–the Ephesian Christians answered to him!
        4. Jesus is God’s fullness who cares for God’s interests in every situation.
  3. One final thought I want you to see.
    1. Jesus represents God and His purposes, and each of us as Christians represent Jesus and his interests.
      1. Just as people look at Jesus and see God,
      2. People should be able to look at us and see Jesus.
    2. Thus, even if I am a scoundrels, I still represent Jesus.
      1. Because any Christian acts less than ideal, his or her behavior gives none of us a reason to discourage others.
      2. Our imperfections and flaws provide no one a reason to live and act in ungodly ways.
    3. Representing Jesus is a privilege that provides everyone of us a reason to be godly no matter how ungodly others behave.

The challenge for a Christian to be an encourager rather than a discourager is as big as God Himself!

David Chadwell

Author: Greg

Welcome to Gods Message on the web. My name is Greg and I want to welcome you. I started doing these Podcasts, MP3, and Audio Books back in 2007. Stay awhile and make yourself at home. The Christian Podcasts here are free and for everyone to enjoy. I’m doing a complete series on David Chadwell who is a retired minister from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I’ve also done an Audio Book for Wayne Jacobsen’s the Naked Church. Plus a series of MP3s for Pastor Billy Crone and his The Final Countdown series.

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