Good morning and welcome to Thursday’s podcast. I hope you are finding this week’s podcasts helpful. Today we are continuing our journey through Ephesians. On Monday we learned that we have been redeemed… We are now God’s possession which he bought through the death of his son Jesus.
Yesterday we looked at Paul’s Prayer and his desire that we might experience the Love and Power Jesus has for us. Today we begin chapter 2 with verses 1-7. In this section Paul highlights the difference between our old life and our new life with Jesus and by doing so sheds light on the daily battle that we face as Christians. Vs 1-3 say this…
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.
From this part of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians I would like to highlight two areas of battle. The Message translates v2 like this, “You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live…” (MSG)
Sometimes at STC we sing some of the old hymns. Have you ever noticed that they have a lot to say about the world? One of my favourite hymns, When I survey the wondrous cross, contains a couple of lines that speak about the world, “My richest gain I count but loss” and “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.” Not themes that come up very often in our modern songs! The world is a seductive place and it will shift our focus from heaven and tempt us with all kinds of worldly delights if we let it or we are unaware of the fight.
Those worldly delights are often grouped into three categories: money, sex and power.
As Tom shared on Sunday morning, the modern world is designed to create in us a sense of lack and dissatisfaction. It’s the way advertisers sell products and services. They always want to leave us wanting more. Money is not simply about money… it’s a collective term for stuff… the stuff we possess, the stuff we take pride in, the stuff we set our hearts on. Have you ever climbed into your new car, driven away from the garage and felt awesome? “Hey world, look at me, I am feeling good!” and then a couple of weeks later that feeling has worn off and your head is turned by another shiny car that is just a little faster or prettier than yours…
Sex… that desire to be wanted, to be needed, to be accepted, to be thought well of… or to have, possess or lust after…
Power… to be in control, to dictate, to get my own way… to forge my own path, to be self sufficient… dependent on no-one else…
All of these things betray a hole in our hearts that God wants to fill; an itch that only God can scratch. We grow up when we recognise them, bring them to Jesus in prayer and ask him to help us…
“As for you, you were dead… when you followed the ways of this world…” It’s time to come alive, to stand out as we recognise our entanglement in the things of this world, we bring our need to Jesus and put the God life into practice.
So, if the battle against the world is the first struggle that Paul highlights, the second is perhaps even tougher… the Message translates v 3 like this: “We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it”
If the first battle is against the world, the external enemy, the second battle is against ourselves… the internal battle. To follow Jesus means we have to stop following our way and start doing things his way. This is what it means to have faith… it is to trust that Jesus’ way is better than my way. Jesus says when you pray… So I better pray as if my life depends on it. Jesus says “give,” So I’d better ask him “how much?” Jesus says “love your neighbour,” so I’d better ask “how shall I do that today?” Jesus says “forgive,” So I’d better drop that grudge that I have been carrying with me all these years…
It’s not that he gets a kick out of bossing us around, it’s not that he wants us to be ‘religious’… living up to an impossible list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’, it’s that he wants us to live free, life giving, beautiful lives the way they are supposed to be lived. We cannot live this way by being led by our own hearts. That was what got us into trouble in the first place in the Garden of Eden.
So where are the battle lines drawn for you today?
Do you recognise the world’s influence on your life? Are simply going with the flow? Does your Christmas list reflect what’s new, cool and in vogue in the world today?
Or maybe you recognise that you are fiercely independent. That you rarely listen to others views, that you are used to getting your own way and that song you’ve got picked out for your funeral is ‘my way’ by Sinatra! Instead, being a Christian means getting down on our knees, looking to heaven and asking God to show you how to do it his way.
Father, Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 2:1-7
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.