323. God Wants All His People To Be Filled With His Presence. AND He Has Made It Possible. He Tells Us How In Ephesians 4:7-16.  [Part 1 of 2.] [Part Of The Series ‘Praying Our Way Through Ephesians.’]

In this passage Paul shows that God has given grace to all His people [verses 4-7]. He has also given them ‘graced’ people to help them work together to fulfil His purpose of filling them with His presence [or the fulness of Christ.] Eph 4:7. ‘But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9. (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  10. He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)’

What did Christ give? 4:7. He gave grace to all believers. We need to remember that grace is used in at least 2 ways in the New Testament. It can mean “God’s unmerited favour” which stresses His love towards all His people. As believers they are all equally accepted in His sight. But grace is also used to denote God’s enabling. That is seen in 2 Cor 12:9 where Paul records that he had asked the Lord for relief from a stressful situation. However, he writes that the Lord answered his request in this manner, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ God graces His people not only with His favour but also with His resources to cope in difficult and indeed all situations.

It is interesting to note that when Paul writes that grace was “given,” the word for “given” is from the Greek word [didōmi; δίδωμι]. It is the word used in the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son …”. Any gift from God stems from His love for His people and is a mark of His amazing grace to them. But Paul adds to that in the same verse where he writes that this grace was given ‘according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ where “gift” is [dōrea; δωρεά]. This word emphasises the gratuitous character of the gift. His gifts cannot be earned or deserved. They are always a free gift stemming from His grace and love.

 When did Jesus give this grace? After His death, resurrection and ascension. He gave this grace at Pentecost when He poured out the Holy Spirit on all His followers at that time. As Peter explained in Acts 2:38, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” As Eph 4:8 describes “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” Again the word for ‘gave’ is the word we saw above, [didōmi;δίδωμι.] The gifts have been distributed by the Holy Spirit since the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.

What was the content of His grace? He gave people to help fulfil His purposes.Verse 11.“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” [“Gave” here is the same word [didōmi; δίδωμι.] This was His sovereign act. The church couldn’t fashion such people. They could only recognise and affirm God’s gifting of each individual to be used by God for particular functions of ministry.]

  • Christ gave Apostles. From [apostolos; ἀπόστολος.] It can mean someone who is sent, such as a messenger, a delegate, an ambassador. Christ chose the original 12 apostles but there were others known as apostles in the New Testament, including St Paul. Opinions vary as to whether there are apostles in the church today. If they do exist, they certainly would not have the same authority as the 12 chosen by Jesus.
  • Christ gave Prophets. [prophētēs; προφήτης.] It seems that the main function of prophets was to declare the will and the word of God for the people of God [mainly] in various generations. It was like getting God’s perspective on situations or foretelling the predicted future if a present course of action was to be followed. Again it is debated whether prophets exist as an office in the church today to have this same function. However it has to be remembered that all believers are meant to be open to the Spirit of God to be used in prophecy.  Paul expressed his desire that all believers prophesy in 1 Cor 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul understood that prophecy needed to be tested. In 1 Thessalonians he urged his readers thus, 1Th 5:19  “Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21  but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22  reject every kind of evil.”

Jesus had warned against false prophets who could deceive believers, in Mat 7:15, 24:11, 24, Mark 13:22 whilst Peter and John also did so, Peter in 2Pet 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you” and John in 1Jn 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All prophecy has to be tested by the word of God.

 Sam Storms recently gave this wise counsel in his blogsite on Revelation 2:20, which reads “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.”

He warned in his article, “Some of you may be unaware of how mesmerizing and enticing the prospect of supernatural activity can be. When one witnesses what one believes is a genuine supernatural or miraculous event, otherwise normal theological defense mechanisms often fail to operate. Discernment is cast aside, lest it be viewed as a critical spirit or the response of a cynic. No one wants to be perceived as stiff-necked and resistant to the voice of God or the manifestation of his power. So, it is hard for some to resist and challenge the “ministry” of a recognized (or “alleged”) prophet in the church. … The “spirit” of “Jezebel” was not unique to the church in Thyatira. It is alive and well in the body of Christ today.” [See Note 1]

Having had to minister to many folk over the years who had received damaging “prophecies” and having also been the recipient of a few doubtful “prophecies,” this is very wise counsel indeed! Prophecies are meant to build people up, not to shame people or to have condemnation and judgment poured out on them. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 14:3, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Prophecy as described by St Paul has a positive purpose for the lives of the people of God.

  • Christ gave Evangelists. “Evangelist” is [euaggelistēs; εὐαγγελιστής.] It is made up of two words [eu meaning good or well] and [aggelistēs which is derived from angelos, ἄγγελος meaning a messenger.] So an “evangelist” is one who shares good news [euangelion; εὐαγγέλιον the gospel.] It was a role in the early church, but all believers were meant to share the gospel. It has always been part of the Great Commission for the people of God, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”’ Mark 16:15.

Paul gave his reasons why he preached the gospel, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Rom 1:15-16. There was nothing to be ashamed about in the gospel message. In fact it could bring salvation to all those who heard it and responded to it.

Every believer should be willing to share the good news about Jesus, for as He Himself said,  “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. If one’s heart is filled with love for Jesus, then from that fulness, one’s heart will speak of Him to others.

  • Christ gave Shepherds and Teachers. Some have taken these two terms as indicating the one role in ministry calling them “pastor-teachers.” It is helpful to look at them separately. If a gifted teacher lacks love, compassion or empathy towards those he or she is teaching, then believers may be tempted to drift to a more caring environment where the pastoral aspect of the ministry appears to be more evident.

“Shepherds” [poimēn; ποιμήν] is derived from a similar word [poimnion; ποίμνιον meaning a flock [of sheep]. The shepherd [pastor] cares for his flock. The true pattern for such ministry is Jesus Himself. He said so, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jn 10:11. 

“Teachers.” [didaskalos; διδάσκαλος] can mean a teacher or an instructor. Their function is to make the word of God come alive to the people of God so that they in turn can instruct others in Christian truths [or share truths about Jesus with others.]

What is humbling for teachers is to recognise that the Holy Spirit Himself is the real teacher in teaching situations as Paul wrote, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Cor 2:13. True teachers are those who are open to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them. Then, and only then, will they be able to impart those truths with any authority to others.

 What was His purpose in giving all these different people to perform different forms of ministry?12.“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

  • Equipping His people for the work of ministry. We note that it is the ‘saints’ [all God’s people] who are to be equipped. People of every age in every age. The word for “equipping” [katartismós; καταρτισμός] is used only here in the whole of the New Testament. It means making fully ready. But ready for what? Paul gives us the answer, “for the work of ministry.” So it is the whole body of Christ that is to be equipped for ministry; not just the middle aged people, nor just the older mature saints, but the young of all ages as well. No matter what age believers may be, they are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and can be used by Him to minister to others.

[I well remember a little girl aged about six who had a big impression on me as a 20 year old unbeliever. She was visiting our home after paying a visit with her parents to an institution for severely handicapped young children. Her older brother was a resident there and would never leave that institution or similar ones, such was the severity of his condition.  Her words were something like this as she spoke of her brother, “Timmy is different but Jesus loves him.” She obviously loved him [and Jesus] but it made me wonder what sort of person was this Jesus, who had any sort of concern for a young child who was virtually a vegetable [as people once used to say]. Her words made me begin to think very seriously about this Jesus. Perhaps she never knew how deeply her words that day affected me. I still remember them vividly 60 plus years later. Children can be used by the Lord to witness to others of His love! But they can be encouraged to do so naturally.

  • What is this “work of ministry?” for which that believers need to be equipped? Derivatives of the words are used in English today. “Work” is [ergon; ἔργον from which we get our English word “erg”.] It is a word used to describe the unit of energy or work in Physics. Likewise the word “ministry” is derived from [diakonia; διακονία] meaning service to others.  Those who do so are called “deacons” belonging to a “diaconate.”

We get some idea of the immensity of this work or ministry when we consider what Paul wrote in Philippians  2:12-13, “…..work out [katergazomai] your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [energeō] in you, both to will and to work [energeō] for his good pleasure.” (Notice the underlined ‘erg’in each of these verbs in the text!) Believers of all ages have to work out in practical living what God is inwardly working in them. What a privilege! What a responsibility! But what powerful resources are ours in Him, to enable us to fulfil those responsibilities!

  • What is the function of this ministry? To build up the body of Christ. [4:12, “for building up the body of Christ.”]

The work of ministry is a building work. It is the building up of the body of Christ. But what does that involve? Again the NT words help us. “Building” is the translation from the Greek noun [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. The word can mean a building or it can also mean “edification” [the building up of knowledge and understanding.]  Paul wrote later in the chapter, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 4:29.

That leads us to finding out what is the ultimate purpose of God in using people in ministry or service to one another! That will be the exciting and challenging focus in our next article!

A SIMPLE PRAYER BASED ON CONCEPTS in Eph 4:7-16.

“Father, I thank You that You have placed me in the Body of Christ. I thank You too that You have given me gifts to use in helping build up the body of Christ. Please work within me by Your Holy Spirit so that I can be motivated and empowered to do the work You have prepared for me to do. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

Blog No.323. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 29thAugust 2019 

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NOTES:

Note 1.  See on https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the–jezebel-spirit-

 

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322. Solving Some Of Rugby Union’s Problems. A View From An Elderly Fan.

My blogsite is listed as being “Reflections on life in general and on healing in particular.” But this is a little different from usual in that I am writing about sport and about using  preventative measures to ensure more healing takes place in sport.

Does Rugby Union have a problem? Yes, it has one that comes from their attempt to make the game safer for its players. But perhaps inadvertently it has made the situation worse. As I was watching the second Bledisloe test between New Zealand and Australia being played in Perth recently I was saddened when one of the All Black {NZ} players received a red card and was sent off for an alleged high tackle. It meant that the remainder of the game boiled down to a contest between 15 and 14 players. That is never fair when the contest is between some of the toughest and the most highly skilled players on the planet.

I saw two problems that needed to be addressed.

The First Problem Was The One To Do With Crowd Support. [Duty Of Care For The Supporters.]

As an Australian rugby fan I don’t always feel sorry for New Zealand teams when they lose. [Mind you, they hardly ever do, such is the depth of their Rugby in New Zealand and the broad support their All Blacks team (and provincial teams) receive throughout the nation.] But on this occasion I felt disappointed for the hundreds of New Zealanders had travelled all the way to  Perth to support their beloved national team but just before half time, the game was virtually over, as one of their players was ordered from the field. Only a very determined All Blacks outfit kept the score to a “respectable” level.

I thought of similar games when players were sent off for ten minute periods for yellow card offences, and for the rest of the game for more serious red card offences. Games in which this happens lose their purpose and meaning. The purpose of a test match between two nations is to have a competition where the best players of each nation seek to have a victory over the same number of players of the other nation by using superior skill-sets, better kicking, attacking and defending skills and often a more clever use of power.

The fans are best served by having full number of players on the field throughout the match. Otherwise it becomes an uneven and ultimately disappointing contest for the fans. If these send-offs are to continue to happen, then the support base for the game could seriously diminish. It could ultimately result in a loss of interest for young people in playing the game, and crippling financial losses as well.

The Second Problem Has To Deal With The Safety Of The Players. [Duty Of Care For The Players.]

Teams are chosen to represent the best team to overcome and defeat the opposition. That means there must be an equal number of players on the field at all times. Not only that but the safety of the players must be paramount. That is why in world Rugby there has been a determined attempt to prevent or minimise head injuries of attacking players in tackles made by defending players. There are in place difficult criteria that seek to determine whether the tackle was lawful or unlawful and also whether the alleged illegal tackle was intentional or not. Those details are virtually impossible to ascertain in the moments following the tackle. And how can you determine the intention of any tackler anyway? There must be a better way.

Here are some of my suggestions to help save Rugby as a sporting and safer spectacle.

A]. Intention cannot be proven. So scrap that part of the equation in determining the penalty for a perceived illegal tackle during a game. Consider these alternatives!

When a tackler makes what appears to be a shoulder charge and/or contact with the head [or above the shoulders] of the ballcarrier, then the following procedures should be put in place.

  • Both the tackler and the person tackled be forced to leave the field of play and the latter be examined for any symptoms of head injury. Reserves are brought on immediately to replace these 2 players to maintain a 15 a side contest.
  • If the tackled player is deemed to be free of any head injury and is medically allowed to return to the field of play then that can happen. However the alleged illegal tackler has to remain on the reserve bench and can only be used as the final replacement later in the game if that is necessary.
  • If the person who was tackled is unable to return to the field of play because a head injury is deemed to have occurred, then the tackler can play no further part in the game.
  • Reviews of the incident can be assessed more seriously and more leisurely following the game and any further penalties can be brought to bear on the alleged illegal tackler.

B]. Advantages of the above process

  1. It maintains an even contest between two 15 a side teams for the entire match.
  2. It avoids the danger that come from having undermanned teams physically putting themselves at risk in seeking to overcome their deficit in player strength and numbers.
  3. It avoids the needless stoppages in play as endless replays of such incidents are played on the ground big screens. Fans come to see action football, not several replays of the same incident as the players cool down waiting for some decision to be made as to the legality or otherwise of a tackle.
  4. It avoids the increasing anger of supporters when they begin to realise the severity and danger of a disputed tackle after watching several replays.
  5. It obviates the need to form a fair judgment during the duration of a match, on the intentionality or otherwise of any tackler.
  6. Longer times to conduct reviews of disputed tackles should result in fairer outcomes for both the tackler and the player tackled.
  7. It avoids the difficulty for referees in having to make-on-the spot decisions regarding the intentionality of the tackler, the severity of the tackle and the appropriate penalty to be applied.

So there is my contribution to saving Rugby Union as a sport. The rules are simple and could be applied almost immediately. Almost before the World Cup in a few weeks time! It offers a real duty of care for the team supporters so they get value for the money they have spent in following their team to often distant lands.

It also offers duty of care for players in having evenly numbered teams contesting for success. It offers a fairer assessment of intentionality [if that is ever possible] and an easier way of ensuring players are immediately protected in disputed tackles. It should also help reduce the number of illegal tackles in games as selectors would be loth to pick players who infringe regularly when they play.

At a time when many former players of contact sports such as Rugby Union, Rugby League and American Football have been diagnosed as suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [CTE] from repeated head injuries, these suggestions above could make a difference. There is nothing more excruciating than seeing a player who had received an obvious blow to the head in a tackle get up, shake his head, stagger a bit and then keep on playing. [My only personal experience with concussion whilst playing A Grade Rugby League made me realise that one can get up and continue playing without anyone realising some damage has occurred. My problem was that at half time I asked the coach what team we were playing. [We were actually playing the RAAF team at Amberley Airbase in the Ipswich Rugby League competition, so normally that would have been obvious with a number of Canberra bombers clearly in sight.] It was only after a night spent under observation in the Ipswich General Hospital that I realised that I had been concussed.]  Real duty of care demands that any blow to the head should be taken seriously and immediate assessment for damage take place. My humble suggestions above attempt to go some distance in making that provision.

Blog No.322. Solving Some Of Rugby Union’s Problems. A View From An Elderly Fan. Posted on Tuesday 13thAugust 2019

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321. God Wants All His People To Be Filled With His Presence. AND He Has Made It Possible. He Tells Us How In Ephesians 4:7-16.  [Part 1 of 2.]

(Please note that some Greek New Testament words are also used in these articles as a help to many readers of these blogs who live in Greece and in other Greek speaking areas.)

In this passage Paul shows that God has given all His people His grace [verses 4-7]. He has also given them ‘graced’ people to help them work together to fulfil His purpose of filling them with His presence [or the fulness of Christ.] Eph 4:7. ‘But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9. (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  10. He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)’

 What did Christ give?4:7. He gave grace to all believers. We need to remember that grace is used in at least 2 ways in the New Testament. It can mean “God’s unmerited favour” which stresses His love towards all His people. As believers they are all equally accepted in His sight. But grace is also used to denote God’s enabling. That is seen in 2 Cor 12:9 where Paul records that he had asked the Lord for relief from a stressful situation. However, he writes that the Lord answered his request in this manner, ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ God graces His people not only with His favour but also with His resources to cope in difficult situations.

It is interesting to note that when Paul writes that grace was “given,” the word for “given” is from the Greek word [didōmi; δίδωμι]. It is the word used in the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gaveHis only Son …”. Any gift from God stems from His love for His people and is a mark of His amazing grace to them. But Paul adds to that in the same verse where he writes that this grace was given ’according to the measure of Christ’s gift’ where “gift” is [dōrea; δωρεά]. This word emphasises the gratuitous character of the gift. His gifts cannot be earned or dserved. They are always a free gift stemming from His grace and love.

 When did Jesus give this grace?After His death, resurrection and ascension. At Pentecost when He poured out the Holy Spirit on all His followers at that time. As Peter explained in Acts 2:38, “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” As Eph 4:8 describes “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” Again the word for ‘gave’ is the word we saw above, [didōmi; δίδωμι.]

What was the content of His grace? He gave people to help fulfil His purposes. Verse 11.“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.” [“Gave” here is the same word [didōmi; δίδωμι.]

This was His sovereign act. The church couldn’t fashion such people. They could only recognise and affirm God’s gifting of each individual to be used by God for particular functions of ministry.]

  • Christ gave Apostles. From [apostolos; ἀπόστολος.] It can mean someone who is sent, such as a messenger, a delegate, an ambassador. Christ chose the original 12 apostles but there were others known as apostles in the New Testament, including St Paul. Opinions vary as to whether there are apostles in the church today. If they do exist, they certainly would not have the same authority as the 12 chosen by Jesus.
  • Even in New Testament times there were false apostles. Paul wrote of such people in 2Cor 11:13, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”  John recorded the words of the risen Christ to the church in Ephesus, commending their ability to recognise false prophets, “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” Rev 2:2. 
  • Christ gave Prophets. [prophētēs; προφήτης.] It seems that the main function of prophets was to declare the will and the word of God for the people of God [mainly] in various generations. It was like getting God’s perspective on situations or foretelling the predicted future if a present course of action was to be followed. Again it is debated whether prophets exist as an office in the church today to exercise this same function. However it has to be remembered that all believers are meant to be open to the Spirit of God to be used in prophecy.  Paul expressed his desire that all believers prophesy in 1 Cor 14:5, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Paul understood that prophecy needed to be tested. In 1 Thessalonians he urged his readers thus, 1Th 5:19  “Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21  but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22  reject every kind of evil.”

Jesus had warned against false prophets who could deceive believers, in Mat 7:15, 24:11, 24, Mark 13:22 whilst Peter and John also did so, Peter in 2Pe 2:1 “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you” and John in1Jn 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” All prophecy has to be tested by the word of God. If it can’t proved to fit in with Biblical principles, then it is not true prophecy.

Sam Storms recently gave this wise counsel in his blogsite on Revelation 2:20, “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” He warned, “Some of you may be unaware of how mesmerizing and enticing the prospect of supernatural activity can be. When one witnesses what one believes is a genuine supernatural or miraculous event, otherwise normal theological defense mechanisms often fail to operate. Discernment is cast aside, lest it be viewed as a critical spirit or the response of a cynic. No one wants to be perceived as stiff-necked and resistant to the voice of God or the manifestation of his power. So, it is hard for some to resist and challenge the “ministry” of a recognized (or “alleged”) prophet in the church. … The “spirit” of “Jezebel” was not unique to the church in Thyatira. It is alive and well in the body of Christ today.” [See Note 1]

Having had to minister to many folk over the years who had received damaging “prophecies” and having also been the recipient of a few doubtful “prophecies,” this is very wise counsel indeed! Prophecies are meant to build people up, not to shame people or to have condemnation and judgment poured out on them. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 14:3, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation”.

  • Christ gave Evangelists. “Evangelist” is [euaggelistēs; εὐαγγελιστής.] It is made up of two words [eu meaning good or well] and [aggelistēs is derived from angelos, ἄγγελος meaning a messenger.] So an “evangelist” is one who shares good news [euangelion; εὐαγγέλιον the gospel.] It was a role in the early church, but all believers were meant to share the gospel. It has always been part of the Great Commission for the people of God, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”’ Mark 16:15.

Paul gave his reasons why he preached the gospel, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Rom 1:15-16. There was nothing to be ashamed about in the gospel message. In fact it could bring salvation to all those who heard it and responded to it.

Every believer should be willing to share the good news about Jesus, for as He Himself said,  “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. If one’s heart is filled with love for Jesus, then from that fulness, one’s heart will speak of Him to others.

  • Christ gave Shepherds and Teachers. Some have taken these two terms as indicating the one role in ministry calling them “pastor-teachers.” It is helpful to look at them separately. In practice it often happens that if a gifted teacher lacks love, compassion or empathy towards those he or she is teaching, then believers may be tempted to drift to a more caring environment where the pastoral aspect of the ministry appears to be more evident. People want to be cared for, as well as well taught.

“Shepherds” [poimēn; ποιμήν] is derived from a similar word [poimnion; ποίμνιον meaning a flock [of sheep]. The shepherd [pastor] cares for his flock. The true pattern for such ministry is Jesus Himself. He said so, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jn 10:11. 

“Teachers.” [didaskalos; διδάσκαλος] can mean a teacher or an instructor. Their function is to make the word of God come alive to the people of God so that they in turn can instruct others in Christian truths [or share truths about Jesus with others.]

What is humbling for teachers is to recognise that the Holy Spirit Himself is the real teacher in teaching situations as Paul wrote, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” 1 Cor 2:13. True teachers are those who are open to the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to them that they can then impart to others.

What was His purpose in giving all these different people to perform different forms of ministry?12.“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

  • Equipping His people for the work of ministry. We note that it is the ‘saints’ [all God’s people] who are to be equipped. People of every age in every age. The word for “equipping” [katartismós; καταρτισμός] is used only here in the whole of the New Testament. It means making fully ready. But ready for what? Paul gives us the answer, “for the work of ministry.” So it is the whole body of Christ that is to be equipped for ministry; not just the middle aged people, nor just the older mature saints, but the young of all ages as well. No matter what age believers may be, they are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and can be used by Him to minister to others. 

[I well remember a little girl aged about six who had a big impression on me as a 20 year old unbeliever. She was visiting our home after paying a visit with her parents to an institution for severely handicapped young children. Her older brother was a resident there and would never leave that institution or similar ones, such was the severity of his condition.  Her words were something like this as she spoke of her brother, “Timmy is different but Jesus loves him.” She obviously loved him but it made me wonder what sort of person was this Jesus, who had any sort of concern for a young child who was virtually a vegetable [as people once used to say]. Her words made me begin to think very seriously about this Jesus. Perhaps she never knew how deeply her words that day affected me. I still remember them vividly 60 plus years after I heard her speak on our open verandah at our home in Ipswich! Children can be used by the Lord to witness to others of His love! But they can be taught and encouraged to do so more widely.

  • What is this “work of ministry?” for which that believers need to be equipped? Derivatives of the words are used in English today. “Work” is [ergon; ἔργον from which we get our English word “erg”.] It is a word used to describe the unit of energy or work in Physics. Likewise the word “ministry” is derived from [diakonia; διακονία] meaning service to others.  Those who do so are called “deacons” belonging to a “diaconate.”

We get some idea of the immensity of this work or ministry when we consider what Paul wrote in Philippians  2:12-13, “…..work out [katergazomai] your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works [energeō] in you, both to will and to work [energeō] for his good pleasure.” (Notice the underlined ‘erg’in each of these verbs in the text!) Believers of all ages have to work out in practical living what God is inwardly working in them.

  • What is the function of this ministry? To build up the body of Christ. [4:12, “for building up the body of Christ.”]

The work of ministry is a building work. It is the building up of the body of Christ. But what does that involve? Again the NT words help us. “Building” is the translation from the Greek noun [oikodomē; οἰκοδομή]. The word can mean a building or it can also mean “edification” [the building up of knowledge and understanding.]  Paul wrote later in the chapter using the same word, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 4:29. What all ministers deeply long for, is a building up numerically in the place where they minister so that more people are brought into the kingdom. They also long for them to be built up spiritually so that they have a greater  understanding of the faith and become more equipped to serve the Lord themselves.

That leads us to finding out what is the ultimate purpose of God in using people in ministry or service to one another! That will be the exciting and challenging focus in our next article!

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NOTE 1].  https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the–jezebel-spirit-

Blog No.321. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 11thAugust 2019 

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Forgiveness, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Real Life Stories, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

320. CHRISTIAN UNITY IS POSSIBLE! AND ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL! You ARE One In Christ!  BECOME One In Practice! Ephesians 4:1-6. [Praying Our Way Through Ephesians.]

Now to work! No. This isn’t a line from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ as the dwarfs on their way to work sing, “Hi Ho Hi Ho, Its Off To Work We Go!” Rather it is what St Paul was about to stress as he moved from the theological section in Ephesians chapters 1 to 3, to the practical outworking of that teaching in the following chapters.

[This is a continuation of the series I have been doing on Praying Our Way Through Ephesians as we look at the teaching and try to formulate prayers to help us put the teaching into action in our own lives.]

A).          THE UNITY OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST IS BASED ON THE GODHEAD. 4:1-6

In this chapter 4 there is an emphasis on the fact that believers are one in Christ and they need to show that unity outwardly in expressing their faith.

i).           Believers Are Called To Belong To Christ. 4:1 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

  • Believers have been individually called by the Lord to belong to Him.
  • It is a privilege they share with other “called” individuals as part of God’s “called out” people [the ekklesia]. [NOTE 1]
  • With privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility to show one’s appreciation for His amazing grace to us in Christ, by living in a way that pleases Him.
  • It involves a Christian WALK, in a manner worthy of their calling. [NOTES 2 and 3].

ii).          Believers Are Called To Belong To One Another In Christ. Eph 4:2-3. “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Paul tells us here in 4:1 what this Christian ‘walk’ looks like. It is characterised by godly characteristics in the lives of all those who live for Christ. They include: –

  • HUMILITY. [The word in the original Greek is [tapeinophrosynē; ταπεινοφροσύνη which is made up of [tapeinos ] meaning “humble” and a derivative of [phrēn] meaning “mind.”
  • It is fascinating that this same word is used in Acts 20:19 of Paul reminding the elders of this same city Ephesus, that his ministry among them was characterised as, “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews.” Humility had marked his whole ministry among them, in the good times and in the bad.
  • Paul also used it in his letter to the Philippians to describe how true humility eschews self- promotion and self-aggrandisement in preferring to meet the needs of others above one’s own, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Php 2:3. It takes a truly humble person to do that! Fancy having to think that I should count THAT person as more significant than me! “After all I am ….  And I have done ….. .” Definitely not easy to do! But definitely absolutely necessary, if we are going to live a servant life like Jesus.
  • In a similar passage in Colossians 3:11-13 where Paul describes the unity of the Spirit in terms of all being one in Christ, he adds, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” We see many of the same qualities here, as in our Ephesians 4 passage with the addition of the need to forgive others. [Paul adds that later in this Ephesians 4 chapter,  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Eph 4:32.]
  • Peter also used the same expression of “putting on” or “clothing oneself” with humility. He wrote, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5.
  • It appears from what Paul and Peter wrote that humility does not come easily to believers and they have to actively seek to humble themselves before God and others. It means in their terms, deciding to put on humility as a garment every day instead of choosing the easily fitting garments of pride and arrogance which draw attention to the wearers, rather than to the Lord.
  • GENTLENESS. [praotēs, πρᾳότης]. One dictionary describes the word as meaning, “it is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character.”[CWBS Dictionary.] A derivative of the word was used to describe a strong horse which has been broken in. The horse has lost none of its power, but it is now strength under control. A blessed attribute for every believer! Appropriate strength. But under control!
  • PATIENCE. [makrothymia; μακροθυμία]. As you read all these attributes Paul described, it could be possible to become impatient. But he’s got our measure. The very next necessary attribute he mentions is indeed “patience.” The Greek word gives us the meaning. It is made up of makro [makro] meaning “large” and [thumos] meaning anger or strong feelings. It can mean being slow to anger or taking a long time to get angry. Again a very blessed attribute that prevents us from getting into unnecessary conflicts. It allows us to apply reason to the situation and to become reasonable.
  • FORBEARANCE. [anechō; ἀνέχω]. From ana = up and echo = hold or stand. It is the ability to hold oneself in hand or to stand up in the face of difficult people or circumstances. All of us at times face difficulties. But by the grace of God they can be overcome. The context here is doing so in love. Love is the motivation for forbearance.
  • LOVE. [agapē; ἀγάπη]. This is the famous word for Christian love, being God’s love imparted to humans, as in Romans 5:5, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love [agapē] has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is an absolute necessity if unity among believers is going to be maintained. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

iii.)       Believers Are Called To Maintain The Unity Of The Spirit. 4:3

It also involves a determination on the part of the believer to actively seek “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”We notice that Paul doesn’t say here that this unity is to be created. Rather it is to be maintained as something that already exists. It is a present-day reality in God by His Spirit.

It means that when believers are not living in unity, they are living in a state of unreality in the eyes of the Lord. He made them one in the Spirit, but they are choosing, for whatever reason, to turn their backs on the Spirit’s uniting power and love, to live in a state of disharmony and disunity. It is a grieving of the Spirit as Paul suggests later in this chapter, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Verse 30.  He is grieved because He recognises the blessings that are being forfeited by those who refuse to remain in unity with Him and with one another.

iv).      Believers Are Called To Reflect The Unity Of The Godhead In Their Unity. 4:4-6

There is a pattern for Christian unity. It is the pattern of the Godhead itself, as Paul wrote in verses 4 to 6. Here we see the unity of believers associated with the unity of the Persons of the Godhead.

  • One Spirit. Eph 4:4. “There is one body and one Spirit–-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—.” The Holy Spirit is at work in our Christian conversion. He opens the spiritual eyes of those who turn to the Lord in repentance and faith. He also calls people to engage in Christian service as we see in Acts 13:2 ‘While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’
  • One Lord (Jesus). “5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Jesus is the Lord of the universe and also of the church. It is He who baptises believers with the Holy Spirit. He is the object of faith as Paul preached, “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:21.
  • One Father. “6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Every believer is a child of God. He is the Heavenly Father of all believers throughout the world and throughout history.

B]. HOW CAN THIS UNITY BE WORKED OUT IN PRACTICE IN OUR WORLD AND CHURCH TODAY?

We have seen that unity should be worked out in practice. However, we also know how difficult is to do so.

Having served in leadership roles as a lay person on Parish Councils and on Diocesan Council and School and Missionary Councils as an ordained minister I know just how difficult it can be. But we can do a better job by following this teaching in Ephesians and other parts of the Bible.

  • We need to remember that the church is the body of Christ of which He is the head. All people are equal in status as children of God, but they may have different functions within the body. All those functions are necessary for the good health of the body.
  • There is a principle of mutual submission within the body as Paul writes later in Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Eph 5:15-21. None are spared in this mutual submission! To be filled with the Holy Spirit of God requires a willingness to submit oneself to other members in the family of God. We do it out of respect for Christ. A failure to respect fellow believers as we are commanded to do, shows an appalling lack of respect for who Christ is and for what He has done.
  • All Christian service and ministry is servant ministry. Jesus set the example. He said of His own ministry as the Son of God, and as the promised Messiah, when He saw that some disciples were wanting to become greater in importance than others, “And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45. The Creator of the universe was willing to humble Himself in serving His creatures. It involved His death for them on the cross, even as He was mocked by so many of them. Now that is really what submission looks like!

Unity involves agreement for a way forward. Having witnessed as a layman some very difficult Parish Annual Meetings I felt there must be a better way. These are some of the things I learned subsequently.

  • Changes cannot successfully be imposed from above. There needs to be general agreement among those involved in the decisions, for any significant lasting change to take place. Leaders have to sell their vision and to encourage others to run with the vision as they learn to understand it, support it and promote it.
  • I soon understood that in chairing Parish Council [and other] meetings that to have a narrow majority decision was counter-productive. Where the voting was close, I reasoned that we had not reached a decision. Rather we had reached a DIVISION. Division is not unity. If parish councillors are divided, so too will be the whole parish.
  • A senior lay person once suggested to a Parish Council I chaired, that all decisions should be unanimous. With a Council numbering over 25 from 7 different centres [if they all turned up], that was not accepted as being feasible. Eventually we adopted the following strategy that worked very well. If someone disagreed with any motion, then if he or she could get another person to support them, then that motion lapsed until the next meeting. In the meantime, we would all pray for wisdom and guidance for the next meeting. It meant sometimes that it took a little longer to get something through but when it was passed [normally at the next meeting] everyone was behind the proposed action and became willing sharers of the vision to other parishioners. It helped keep all parishioners united and allowed for much valuable discussion between meetings.
  • The value of the above system became obvious in unusual circumstances. The parish had begun a Preschool in the parish hall decades earlier. However it had gotten out of parish control. Our parish hall was not available for our own functions. One parish councillor moved that we advise the Preschool to look for other accommodation. We were all shocked by the suggestion knowing what adverse publicity that would bring on the parish. I asked with some trepidation whether anyone was willing to support the motion. To the surprise of all of us, another councillor stated that he thought we should consider the motion before the next meeting. When we met next month the whole Council [including me] had changed their minds and voted unanimously in favour of the motion. The lone individual had been right. It was indeed the time to act in this way. We actually helped the Preschool find alternative accommodation and assisted them generously in making their move seamlessly to new premises. We were able to expand our ministry significantly from that time on. Sometimes the individual seen previously as an “irritant,” gets it right! None of us has all the truth all the time. We need the insights and wisdom of others to get the best overall perspective. The church is a body composed of many people. It is just not one brain!

A SUGGESTED PRAYER BASED ON EPHESIANS 4:1-6

“Dear Lord. Thank You for calling me to belong to You. Enable me by Your Spirit, to live for You in such a way that You are glorified in my life. As I offer every part of my life to You, please fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can show in my life, true humility. In my dealings with other people, enable me to be gentle, patient and forbearing as You fill me with Your love for them.

Please help me to maintain the unity which exists between us all as believers and where it doesn’t seem to exist, help me to play my part is bringing that unity to fruition in every relationship I have. I ask all these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

NOTES.

1.] The word ‘church’ in the Greek is [ekklēsia; ἐκκλησία]. It is derived from [ek] meaning out of and [kaleo] to call. So the church is composed of those whom God has called out of the world to belong to Himself. “Ecclesiastical” is a word in common English use.

2.] “Walk” is [peripateō, περιπατέω] meaning to walk around or to conduct one’s life. It is the basis of our English word ‘peripatetic.’

3.] “Worthy”. [axiōs; ἀξίως]. This adverb can mean “as becomes” or “as befits” or “suitably”. If God has called us in His grace [and He has] then it is befitting that we live in such a way that demonstrates that we are worthy of His grace. An English derivative “axiomatic” meaning ‘self-evident’ conveys much the same meaning.

Blog No.320. Posted on jimholbeck@gmail.com on Sunday 21stJuly 2019

 

 

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319. The God Who Can Do More Than We Ask Or Imagine. Ephesians 3:20-21. [Praying our way through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.]

Is anything too hard for God? It is a question that often comes to our minds when we are faced with seemingly impossible situations. It was a question asked very early in human history. It was verbalised by the Lord Himself when Sarah laughed to herself at the prospect that she would have a child with Abraham when they were both old, even though God had promised that was to happen.  We read, “The LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Obviously in the sight of the Lord, nothing was impossible for Him to accomplish according to His plan and purpose.

Jeremiah the prophet later affirmed the power of God to do whatever He wished, as he prayed to the Lord, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” Jer 32:17. He recognised that YHWH was a God of ultimate power and a God of perfect righteousness. The Lord responded to Jeremiah saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jer 32:27.  

Much later still, Paul was finishing his letter to the Ephesians and as he did so, he encouraged them to see the Lord as Someone for whom nothing was too hard. He put it in these words in his doxology, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21.

 “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think!”  That sounds like a powerful lot! Can it be really be true?

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE ASK

3:20, “ to Him who be the  power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”

What did Jesus Himself teach about prayer? He encouraged His followers of every generation to ask great things in prayer.

In Matthew’s Gospel alone you find these promises from the lips of Jesus.

God is motivated to give to those who ask

(Mat 7:7 )  “ASK, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 ) For everyone who ASKS receives, and everyone  who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

(Mat 7:11 )  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ASK him!

The promise of His provision and the promise of His presence with His people

(Mat 18:19)  “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ASK, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”

The promise that we have what we asked for

Mat 21:22 )  “Whatever you ASK for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”

Mark put it this way,  (Mark 11:24)  “So I tell you, whatever you ASK for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Did Matthew AND Mark get it wrong? Did they misunderstand what Jesus taught? How did John hear Jesus?

John heard and recorded the same sorts of promises from the lips of Jesus.

(John 14:13-14)  “I will do whateveryou ASK in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ASK me for anything, I will do it.”

(John 15:7) “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ASK for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

(John 15:16) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ASK him in my name.

(John 16:23) “On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ASK anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you”

(John 16:24) “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. ASK and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

John summed it up in his epistle when he wrote in 1 John 5:14-15.) “ And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ASK anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ASK, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” Here is a twofold confidence. A confidence that the Lord hears prayer. And a confidence that He answers prayer.

James gave an indication as to why we don’t receive answers to prayer.

We don’t ask in prayer or we ask from wrong motives. We want what we want, rather than what He wants for us. (James wrote in James 4:2-3 “You do not have, because you do not ask.” God respects our God-given free will. He will not impose on us what we are unwilling to ask for or receive.

Neither will He give us what He knows would be harmful for us. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Obedience to God and the desire to please Him are the keys to receiving answers to prayer. We receive when we want God’s will and not our own. John put it this way, “and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:22.

Progressing from saying “Please,” to saying “Thank You”.

If we believe what Jesus said our prayers should go from keeping on saying “Please” to asking and then immediately saying “Thank You.” That is taking Jesus seriously. God is not honoured when we fail to act on the promises of His Son. If Jesus as the Son of God said it, then it is true whether or not our experience of prayer might suggest otherwise.  Our experience, our understanding is limited. His word, His promises are eternally true for those who fulfil His conditions.

Abundantly More Than We Can Ask

Not only can Jesus give us what we ask, but He can give us immeasurably (abundantly) more than we can ask.

In our prayers sometimes, we are asking for peanuts when God wants to give us a whole plantation. We are asking for drops of blessing when He is wanting to pour on out on us the whole Pacific Ocean of blessing.  We have no human resources to understand or to measure what He longs to bestow on us.

  • It means that as Almighty God there is no illness He cannot cure. However not all prayer for healing is answered in exactly the way we expect.
  • There is no situation He cannot change. However, He never imposes change on those who are unwilling to be changed.
  • There is no person who wants His help that He cannot help. Provided that they are open to receive the help He wants to bring!

We need to think about all these things as we pray and ask God for His answers to our prayers. We need to be honest with ourselves by asking ourselves, “Am I being a blockage to answered prayer because deep down I believe He is unwilling or unable to answer my prayers?” If so we may need to adopt the humble attitude of the father of the boy with an unclean spirit in the following story,  “And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21  And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mk 9:20-23.

The father humbly exclaimed that he really did believe but he wanted to be free of any pockets of unbelief, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mk 9:24. We too should want to be free of any unbelief that the Lord sees in us.

  1. GOD CAN DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE … THINK

The word to think or imagine means to exercise the mind, comprehend, perceive, understand.

  • We might imagine incredible things happening by the grace and power of God. However, God says we have no understanding, no perception, no comprehension of what He is able to do in His power. As it is written in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is 55:8-9.
  • Notice that it’s not just God’s power “out there” in the world that Paul is writing about. It is God’s power “that is at work within us.” [Eph 3:20.] He means that God’s power is at work within the individual believer and also within the church.

Paul wrote previously in Eph 1:19, that he prayed that his readers might know God’s power in their lives, and reminded them that that same power was used in raising Jesus from the dead. It is nothing less than resurrection power that is available to His people.

  • That same power is now available to enable us to be what He wants us to be in terms of Christian character. We can be different by the grace of God.
  • That power enables us to know what He wants us to know, so that we can know His will for us by His Spirit.
  • That same power enables us to do what He wants us to do, in the power of His Spirit.

Prayer that derives from faith, coming from an intimate relationship with God, is able to release the power of God into the situations for which we pray.

  • He can do more than we ever possibly ask for.
  • He can do more than we could ever possibly imagine or comprehend.

Let’s think about the implications of what Paul wrote in Eph 3:20-21.

  • No matter what we ask, God can do more. That should encourage us to ask for more than we’ve ever asked for before. Not just the power to cope, but the power to conquer. Not just healing to take away the pain, but complete healing.
  • If we use our greatest imagination, could we imagine our illness being healed. If we can imagine that, we still can’t comprehend how much more He can do in answer to prayer.

Because our God is the God who can do more than all we ask or imagine, we may need to allow Him to put into our hearts what He would have us pray. Then let’s ask Him for those things and immediately thank Him that they are ours in Christ, to be released in His way, in His time and importantly, through whom He wishes.  To His glory!

Blog No.319. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 14thJuly 2019

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Healing, OUTLINE OF EPHESIANS, Prayer, Praying our way through Paul's letter to the Ephesians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

318. Recalling Some Healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.]

[The following link is to a podcast of a talk I gave at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church, Port Macquarie in June 2019 and which they later posted on their website.]

I had been asked to speak on tips for healing. Because healing is something that God alone can do, I spoke on some of the healings we had observed over the years where God worked sovereignly to our amazement or where we saw Him work in answer to prayer.

The best tip for those who want to be involved in praying for healing is to believe that He can heal today and then to trust Him to do it in the lives of those for whom we pray! He is THE HEALER! Not us, though He may use us, or others,  in His healing of people today.

Encouragements for all of us today

I concluded the talk with the challenges that come from passages in Ephesians chapter 2 and the next epistle Philippians chapter 2.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV) “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I mentioned that every believer has been created by God to do the good things He has prepared for them to do. Our responsibility is to find out what they are and to ‘walk in them.’ What an amazing truth that God from all eternity had a plan and purpose for us to accomplish for Him.

The next passage is very reassuring. When we discover what is it that God has planned for us to do, we might become fearful or overawed. But we can have confidence as we look at these verses.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) 12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

In working out our salvation [not working for it, because salvation is a free gift to us in Christ] we have the assurance that God both motivates us and empowers us to do what He has planned for us to do. He works in us to give us the willingness to do His will. AND He works in us to give us the ability to do what He has given us the willingness to do.

So one might say that the Christian life is so simple. Having received Christ into our lives as Saviour and Lord all we need to do is to allow Him to do in us and through us what He longs to do, [what He has eternally planned for us to do]. The only problem is that He has given us free will and often our Agenda is quite different to His.

What might happen if we gave ourselves completely to Him, allowing Him fill us with His presence by His Holy Spirit and allowing Him do in and through us what He wills!

A prayer like this based on Romans 12:1-2 might allow Him to become more active your life. “Heavenly Father, I offer to you all I am and all I have, that You might work through me to Your glory. I no longer want to be controlled by the world, the flesh or the devil. Rather I want to be transformed by Your Spirit as You renew my mind so that I can know Your will and experience Your power in doing it. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

OR more simply, “Lord do in me and through me what You wish, to Your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.”

This is the link to click on to hear the talk. I trust it may be of some help to you as you seek to live for Him and to serve Him.

https://www.gracechurchpm.org.au/podcast/2019/6/3/mens-breakfast

Blog No.318. Recalling Some Healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.]318. Recalling some healings. [A podcast of a talk at a Men’s Breakfast at Grace Church Port Macquarie, June 2019.] 

 

Posted in Bible verses. Comments, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Healing, Holbeck Helpful Hints, Prayer, Real Life Stories, Salvation, Sanctification, spiritual warfare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

317. THE MISSING “FACTOR” IN THE CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE. What if….. Jesus?

We have seen many different changes in the debate about the human contribution to climate change and there have been many suggestions given as to how to “save the world.” Our Chief Scientist in Australia as well as many other climate experts throughout the world, have suggested that a small country [in population] like Australia contributes little to the global emissions and that it could do virtually nothing to make any measurable difference to climate change.

Other well -qualified scientists throughout the world seem to suggest that unless something radical is done to combat global warming then the situation for humans could be disastrous within 20 years or so. One of their suggestions is to radically reduce the amount of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The way some of them have approached this ‘problem’ is questionable to say the least.

A good beginning

It is helpful to remember that God created this world as a “good” place where everything was in order and submitted to Him. However, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God in a vain attempt to be like God. They wanted to be powerful like Him and to be free to live as they pleased. As a result of their sin, order became disorder and the whole world suffered as a result.

Sin and death had entered the world through their sin, as Paul wrote in Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Not only that, but the creation itself was affected. It was no longer “good” but had become corrupted because of human sin,  “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21.

An imperfect world

The result is that we live in an imperfect world which is ‘out of order’ with God’s original intention. Often the creation seems to be out of order as major floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornados and cyclones occur, but He is always in control. We see in the Old Testament that God controlled the weather.  That is seen in the history of Israel. There were times when He used aspects of His creation to accomplish His purposes for His people. For example, at the Exodus from Egypt, when He delivered His people by holding back the waters for His people to cross over safely, miraculously as on dry land.

The Lord promised His blessing of abundant rain on those who loved Him and served Him, in Deuteronomy 11:13-15, “And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15 And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.”

However if they failed to love and serve Him, such blessing would be withheld from them, “then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, andyou will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you.” Deut 11:17.

God warned Solomon about the danger of falling away from Him, with these words, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14.  Obedience to God brought blessing. Disobedience to Him brought disaster. But if His people repented of their sin and turned back to God, blessing would follow.

There are many other passages in the Old Testament where it is shown that God rules over His universe and over its weather.

A change in the New Testament

However when we come to the New Testament we discover an interesting encounter. Jesus once faced a sea that was out of order until He took authority over it and it settled immediately, “He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still! ” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? ”41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” Mark 4:39-41.  A very good question to ask! And there is an answer!

In the gospel of John we are told that Jesus was the creator of the world and of everything in it,“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3.  The same concept is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The writer to the Hebrews expresses the same thought about Jesus as the creator of all things,  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Hebrews 1: 1-2. But the writer also takes up the thought of Col 1:17, [“…. and in him all things hold together]when he or she writes of Jesus, Hebrews 1:3 “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

In other words, Jesus is seen as the Creator of the universe and also the One who keeps it going as the Sustainer of the universe! Now! And always will!

WHAT IF? [What if Jesus IS the Creator AND the Sustainer of the universe?]

This has tremendous implications for the way in which we view the world. As one reads the articles of some of those concerned about global warming or climate change, one gets the impression that we humans are the custodians of the world we inherited and in which we live and that we alone are responsible for its upkeep. There is much truth in that concept. But many go on from there and believe that we must make every effort to deal with what we perceive to be the the dangers to our world, otherwise the earth is doomed. [Within 12 years some tell us!]

However, this is God’s world, created by Jesus and sustained by Him, though we must play our part in being good stewards of the resources we share in the world in which we live.

What is lost in discussions about climate change however, is this.

  • It is not our ultimate responsibility to care for the universe we live in. It is Jesus’ responsibility, not ours!
  • Our ultimate responsibility as creatures, is to come into a right relationship with Jesus, our Creator, and to live responsibly before Him in every aspect of our lives.
  • It means making Him to be the Lord and Master of our lives, playing our part in what He wants us to do IN His creation. It also means playing our part in what He wants us to do FOR His creation. The latter has to be His plan, not ours.
  • It is a fantasising about our responsibility as creatures, to think that we in Australia can make a massive difference to the control of the weather by anything we do. Virtue signalling by imposing heavy restrictions on our own country doesn’t really help either when bigger nations have no intention of reducing their outputs!
  • It is an abrogation of our responsibility as creatures to our creator to leave Him out of the equation. He is THE climate expert! He knows what He is doing with the climate!
  • Some have argued that if the focus of humans is taken off Jesus as the Creator-Sustainer of this universe, then we are in fact setting up a new religion in which “climate change” becomes the new god to be served.

Making creation our God, instead of worshipping Jesus as the Creator-Sustainer

Paul wrote about human rebellion in Romans 1:18-25 and revealed His view of the fallen world as He sees it. He made the point that God has revealed Himself in His creation but humans fail to acknowledge Him for who He is. Rom 1:24 states that God handed them over to do what they wanted to do in their free-will, because as verse 25 puts it, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen”. Rom 1:25.

 It seems in the thinking of many today that the creation has to be appeased by making all sorts of personal, national and international sacrifices lest we stress the creation in some way or other by misuse or by excessive production [for example of gases.] If we don’t play our part, then we are told that nature will not treat us well. This is a personification of nature. It has become a new religion.

HE [JESUS] IS THE MISSING FACTOR!

We need to remember that Satan’s temptations are to get us to seek to become more powerful by rejecting God’s control over us so that we can control our own world, to do our own thing apart from Him.

However ,Jesus is not only the Creator-Sustainer of the universe. He is also its Redeemer through His sacrificial death on the cross. He now offers all humans forgiveness of sins and a new life in Himself as their Saviour. Such an offer of grace cannot safely be ignored or rejected.

What is often not appreciated is that He also wants to be Lord and Master of every human life as well. He wants to lead us into making all the decisions He wants us to make as we live for Him in this world. Decisions about what we do in His world. Decisions about what we do for the sake of the world and for the peoples of the world. Making every effort to fulfil His plan and purpose for us in His world. And that means becoming a wise steward of all we are and have in His world as we live under His Lordship.

Jesus is the missing factor in today’s discussions about the world and about the climate of the world. Unfortunately many ignore Him and want us to follow a new religion with its focus on the creation rather on the Creator!

How much better it would be if we creatures got into a right relationship with Jesus our Creator by accepting Him as Saviour and Lord and trusted Him to care for His creation (whilst allowing Him to show us what part we are to play in caring for the world ultimately under His control).

Blog No. 317 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Saturday 11th May 2019.

Posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Climate change, Creation, Evangelism, Forgiveness, Politics, Prayer, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment