We're Better Together: “We Are Adopted”

We're Better Together Series
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
1. We're Better Together: “We Are Adopted” (Ephesians 5:1-20)
  • As a Christian, you've been welcomed into a family with Jesus. Walk in love as children of light!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • In Christ, we are God's beloved children. (Ephesians 5:1 & 2)
  • As God's children, ew are to live as children of light, as that is what we are. (Ephesians 5:8 & 9)
  • As God's children, our lives in the community of faith are to be characterized by love, by joyful song, by thanksgiving, and by humble submission. (Ephesians 5:2, 19-21)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What does it mean to be a child of God?
  • What does it mean to live as a child of light?
  • How can we live out our life as a community of faith in a practical way as God's children? What does that life look like?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • We have been adopted into God's family. How did that happen?
  • What does it mean to be a fully adopted member of God's family?
  • What does it mean to “walk in love?” What is the measure and example of that love?
  • What is the opposite of a life of love, and why is such a life to be avoided?
  • List the actions and thoughts and words that are to be avoided. (Ephesians 5:3 & 4, 11, 18). What is the problem with such things?
  • What is the fate of the person who continually and intentionally lives a life of darkness?
  • Why are we not to be “partners” with those who live in darkness?
  • How do we shine on darkness by our lives?
  • What does it mean to “look carefully” how you walk?
  • What does it mean to submit to one another?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • As a follower of Jesus, you have been adopted into God's family. What does that mean to you and how does that make you feel?
  • How can you “walk in love?”
  • Describe the old life. Why are you not to practice such things?
  • What is the impact of practicing the ways of darkness among others?
  • What does it mean that you are light in the Lord?
  • How can yo “expose” the darkness by your life?
  • Examine your life; are you walking in love? Are you living as a child of God, as light? Are you “fully awake” in Christ?
  • If you come up short in any way in your answers to the last question, what do you need to do about it? Ask God right now for the strength to live out the transformed life that you have already.
  • How can you “be filled with the Spirit?”
  • Read Ephesians 5:19-21 again. What ways do you have to change to live out what those verses tell you? Again, ask God right now for the strength to live out these verses.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In the passage covered by these Notes, Paul continues to write of the contrast between the old life and the new life, but he moves the thought along with a “therefore” in chapter 5, verse 1 that looks back to what he just wrote. The word “therefore” permits verses 1 and 2 in effect to sum up what Paul just wrote by saying that the walk of the new life is one that imitates God and is based in love, a love that is measured by Jesus offering of Himself on the cross so that we might have life. But the “therefore” also indicates that what he is about to write derives from the truths of the prior verses (that we are one body in Christ, that we are to live a new life in that community of faith, and that we are to be ruled by the principle of self-sacrificial love); but Paul is going to recast the contrast between the old life and the new life in a different light, specifically, that of our being God's beloved children who are to imitate Him as our Father (Ephesians 5:1). So the question to be answered is what is this new life from the perspective of being God's children?

First, though, what does it mean to be God's children? It means that we have been adopted into God's family (Ephesians 1:5) and therefore have rights and privileges as well as an inheritance in His kingdom. But it also means that we have responsibilities to live like we are a part of God's family, following the principles and expectations of our being linked to and carrying the Name of Jesus (We are “Christ followers”, that is, Christians.). And that life is not merely to be lived out on an individual level, but it is to be lived out as part of the family, in relationship with each other, with our spiritual siblings, and with our Father. Furthermore, the key characteristic of that life is love. (Ephesians 5:2), which reflects the same love of God out of which we were adopted. As God's children, we must stand on the reality that our adoption by God out of His love is sure and certain, and was accomplished solely by God. Our adoption “reaches back into eternity” (Ephesians 1:4 & 5. The phrase is thanks to John Piper), is not based on our goodness or worth, is paid for by Jesus' death on the cross, is the result of God's mercy, love and grace, is not tenuous, cannot be undone by us, and is for God's glory. We are His ... fully His, and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38 & 39). We are His children!

As God's children, we are to “imitate” Him. To imitate means to be like, to follow the example of, emulate, copy, model oneself on (Compare Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36; I Corinthians 4:16; I Thessalonians 1:6). And this includes imitating God in the context of our relationships and living in the community of the faithful. When we think of the relationship of the three Persons of the Godhead – Father, Son and Spirit – we can see there is mutual submission, love, righteousness and truth. That is how we are to live as His children. But Paul then gets specific and real; he gets to where the “rubber meets the road.” He says that as God's children, immorality (meaning sexual immorality and activity outside of marriage), impurity (meaning sexual perversion), and covetousness (meaning worshiping the created thing and always wanting more of it, whatever it is) should not exist must less even be mentioned “among” us. The “among” means the body of believers, what Paul calls the “saints.” (Ephesians 5:3) Such activities are not befitting holiness. These are actions; but Paul goes further and then speaks of words, that there is to be no filthiness (sordid, disgraceful, shameful topics), foolish talk (words devoid of honor or decency), or crude jesting (dirty insinuations and course joking typically at the expense of others). Such words are “out of place” in that they are not holy, they cut aggainst the unity of the body and they undercut the spiritual family. Instead of such words we are to be people of spoken thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4b).

Then, as if to underscore how such actions and talk are part of the old life, Paul tells us that people who habitually practice the foregoing things are not part of God's kingdom; that they are, rather, “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6b). Is Paul saying that if you ever uttered a filthy swear word or engaged in an immoral sexual act you cannot be a Christian? No. But he is saying that people whose lives are constantly characterized by such actions and words are not believers in the first place; they are outside of God's kingdom and are objects of God's stored up wrath (Ephesians 5:6). And he adds that believers shouldn't be fooled by those who would argue that such activity is acceptable by saying that we have God's grace and therefore we can sin at will (Romans 6:15). Before we believed in Jesus for salvation we were in the “darkness” outside of God's kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13), and our lives were of the darkness (Ephesians 4:18 & 19). But now we “are light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8). In other words, in our adoption we have been transformed into children of light, Jesus being the light of the world (John 8:12). And as such, our lives should be lived accordingly (“walk as children of light,” Ephesians 5:8b), resulting in lives of “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9), lives that have no partnership with the actions and words of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), lives that don't even talk about the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5: 12), lives that discern what pleases God (Ephesians 5:10), and lives that shed light on and thus “expose” the darkness (Ephesians 5:11b, 13 & 14). In short, once we have been adopted and become children of light, we must not “do” darkness. So, writes Paul, using what was likely a phrase from an early Christian hymn, and which can be paraphrased as “Wake up! Live like the light you are!” (Ephesians 5:14). Thus, as believers, we are not to “sleep-walk” through life, living the “old way;” but instead are to live as those who have been saved and transformed into light and empowered to live like God, and filled with thanksgiving for what has happened to us.

Paul then sums up by telling us to take care (literally “with precision”) in how we live (“Look carefully then how you walk ...” Ephesians 5:15), living wisely which, as we recall from our study of the book of Ecclesiastes, means centered on God, His will and His way. And this life, this walk, is not statis; rather it is movement. We are to exercise intelligent judgment as we relate our “theology” (what we believe and know of God's truth) to our circumstances and situations, discerning right from wrong (Ephesians 5: 17), and making good use of the gift of time given to us by God albeit in the midst of evil (Ephesians 5:16). When we live this way, that is wisely and with understanding of God and His will, we are living in an informed way so we can be conformed to His way (cf. Romans 12:2). Moreover, as we live together in community, we are not to be drunk with wine which leads to lack of self-control, but rather to be in the Spirit. Interestlngly, Paul writes that we are to “be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18b) Why does he write thus when the truth is that the Spirit takes up residence in us when we confess Christ as Lord, and we are already, in that sense, filled? The answer is that “being filled” is the continuous, intentional act of our appropriating the power and guidance of the Spirit who is already present in us (cf. Romans 8:1-16; Galatians 5:16) Thus we have a part to play, though even at that it is the Spirit who empowers us to live out this part. We are to set our minds to spiritual things, to being under the control of the Spirit (Romans 8:6); we have an obligation to put to death the things of the old nature and live by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). And as it has to do with each other, this being filled with the Spirit will issue in our making spiritual music to and with each other (“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs; Ephesians 5:19), with the melody of the life of the Spirit in us being sung to the Lord Jesus Himself in our hearts (Ephesians 5:19b). And more, we are to do all this with the attitude of thanksgiving to God through Jesus for everything and in humble submission to each other in “reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 & 21)

Certainly a life lived in the way described above, specifically a “life of light,” supports and furthers the unity which we have in Christ and which we are to preserve (Ephesians 4:3). Such a life honors God, reflects who He is, and witnesses to the world whihc is otherwise in darkness, to the light of the gospel that has transformed us and can change all who come to Jesus for salvation. Such a life is one of love as it demonstrates serving others and treating them as more important than ourselves, and build up the body of Christ in the process. What better way to sum up this lesson than with Paul's words that call us to the life of light: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14). Might we all life this way, fully awake in Him, imitators of God, witnesses to the world of His grace in Jesus.

On Saturday, October 15, at 7:00 PM  Route 55 will sponsor a community event here at Randall. Area churches and schools have been invited to attend a concert and motivational speech by Sujeet Desai. Sujeet plays 6 instruments and his Bio is listed on flyers available at the Kiosks in the foyer.

Sujeet is our next door neighbor living  on Spindrift. Our mission is to  give inspiration and a “YES I CAN” attitude to those living with disabilities.
We're Better Together: “We Are New”

We're Better Together Series
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
1. We're Better Together: “We Are New” (Ephesians 4:17-32)
  • When you know who you are, then you know what to do. The old is gone; the new has come!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • In Christ, our lives have been changed. (Ephesians 4:20-24)
  • The old, “pre-Christ life” ways of living and thinking are to be “put off.” (Ephesians 4:17, 22) 
  • The new “post-Christ life” ways of living and thinking are to be “put on.” (Ephesians 4:23 & 24)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How have you been changed by believing in Christ for salvation?
  • What ways of living and thinking do you have to “put off?”
  • What ways of living and thinking do you have to “put on?”
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why must believers “no longer walk as the Gentiles do?”
  • Describe the Gentile walk (i.e., the walk of anyone who has not put his or her faith in Jesus for salvation)?
  • How does one “learn” Christ, and what does that mean for one's day to day life?
  • What does “futility of their minds” and “darkened in their understanding” mean? Where does such a state come from? What results from such a state?
  • What is the “new self” to look like? How has God designed it?
  • What does it mean to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind?”
  • List the characteristics of the old life from the text, then right next to each item, list the corresponding characteristics of the new life that replace the old life characteristics.
  • What is the impact of the new life on the body of believers in your church? What do these new life characteristics have to do with the life and health of the body?
  • How are we able to put on these new life characteristics?
  • Who is our model for the new life?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • As a follower of Jesus, how are you not to live? Why not?
  • Describe the focus of your life without Jesus. How have you changed? What do you see now that you didn't see before?
  • What is your responsibility as far as living the new life?
  • How can you be “renewed” in the spirit of your mind?
  • How can you put on the new self?
  • Describe the new life. What is the essence of the new life; in other words, what are the essentials of the new life?
  • How are you doing on putting off the old life actions and attitudes? What do you need to work on?
  • How are you doing on putting on the new life actions and attitudes? Do you work hard at it (you should)?
  • What are you going to do differently in your life after studying these Notes and answering the questions? In other words, how are you going to apply the lessons of this text from Ephesians? Commit your conclusions to the Lord and ask for His help in carrying them out.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
As noted in the prior Notes, this Series focuses on how we as the Church are to live together within the body to carry out God's plan, all the while reflecting to the watching world in our “together life” the glory that is God and inviting others to answer God's call to join His family in Christ. We saw last time that the Church is one body, with each individual piece of that body knit together in love, walking in Christlikeness, seeking to preserve the unity that is already present in the Spirit, and doing his or her part in the work of the whole. All this is part of the building of the Church on the foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone in whom we “are being build together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Starting in verse 17 of chapter 4, Paul gets down to the “nitty gritty.” Now that he has set the big picture that we – the Church – are “in Christ,” and are united and building up together, with each individual piece contributing his or her part of the work, Paul is about to say “our lives need to show it, that there needs to be a change or a makeover, as it were, that our individual lives and our life together must show forth in the everyday “stuff” of life that we are united in Him, that we are new creations attaining to the “measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13b).

So Paul starts by writing, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord ...” (Ephesians 4:17a). By those words, Paul is saying that he writes with the authority of an Apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:1) and affirms that his words, his admonitions, and his exhortations, are as from Jesus Himself. The New International Version translates the phrase as follows: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord ...” Another translation called “The Message” puts the phrase this way: And so I insist—and God backs me up on this ...” No matter the translation, the point is that there is no option; the new life in Christ is mandatory, and living the new life is a matter of obedience to the Lord Jesus, the One in whom the Church has its being and life; the One who is the Head. (cf. Ephesians 1:22; 2:20; 3:17; 4:15) Thus, the ensuing verses are literally commands to be followed, but followed with the knowledge that because we are new creations, we are empowered by the Spirit to be able to carry out these commands. (cf. Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 2:12 & 13)

What is the old way that is to be discarded? Paul likens it to living life “as the Gentiles do.” (Ephesians 4:17b) Paul is not hammering the Gentiles per se, but is using them as the picture of people without God who live not knowing God's way and who are therefore “darkened in their understanding” of the right way to live which is God's way as followers of Jesus. (Ephesians 4:18) Pauls' writing audience were primarily Gentiles who had turned to Christ and been saved; who were now included in God's plan (Ephesians 2:19). Thus, they would know what Paul means when he writes of a life “alienated from God.” (Ephesians 4:18) Such individuals become callous, which means heartless, uncaring, unfeeling, insensitive and hard, and which is certainly opposite of a life committed to others and unity; and in such overt individualism and self-centeredness, they give themselves up to sensuality, greed (referring to the insatiable desire for more of anything), and impurity (Ephesians 4:19). Here's how The Message puts these verses:

And so I insist – and God backs me up on this, that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. (Ephesians 4:17-19. The Message translation)

The common thread in this description of what we will call “the former life” is a selfish, prideful exclusion of God which results in Godless life practices. “But that is not the way you learned Christ!” Paul writes. (Ephesians 4:20). In other words, Paul knows his readers were schooled in the way of Jesus after they came to faith; after all, he himself had preached and taught in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:8-10). And what had they learned? That they were to “put off” their old selves – that which is now past and which was deluded into believing that satisfaction of self is the goal of life – and instead to “put on” the “new self” which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) Putting off and putting on are a picture of radical change; they the ripping off of filthy clothes and, having been cleansed from the inside, putting on beautiful new, clean clothes. Again, the translation of The Message brings this concept home:

Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

The beauty of the foregoing is that we are already new, even as we are becoming new. Paul writes that this new self is already “created after the likeness of God.” (Ephesians 4:24) It's a done deal, and thereby we are able to put on the new clothes of the new self. And not to leave the point in a “big picture” generality, Paul goes on to list some specifics, all of which have to do with the individual, but all of which relate to the individual in relation to others, and thus to the entire body of Christ. Here's the list of the “old clothes” that are to be taken off:

falsehood (Ephesians 4:25);
nursed anger (being provoked to irritation. Ephesians 4:26);
stealing (Ephesians 4:28);
corrupting talk (elsewhere translated “unwholesome words” and meaning words that are cynical, sarcastic, accusing and destructive) (Ephesians 4:29);
grieving the Holy Spirit (by any action or attitude that causes sorrow and distress to the Holy Spirit) (Ephesians 4:30)
bitterness (the harboring of resentful feelings) (Ephesians 4:31);
wrath (sudden rage) (Ephesians 4:31);
anger (lingering rage) (Ephesians 4:31);
clamor (confrontation and quarreling) (Ephesians 4:31);
slander (intentional speaking of untruth with intent to damage another's reputation) (Ephesians 4:31); and
malice (evil intent towards another) (Ephesians 4:31).

And here's the list of the “new clothes” that are to be put on:

speaking truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25);
not letting the sun go down on nursed anger (Ephesians 4:26);
honest work to enable one to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28);
words that build up, encourage and give grace (Ephesians 4:29);
pleasing the Holy Spirit (by implication from not grieving) (Ephesians 4:30);
kindness (literally “doing good”) (Ephesians 4:32);
tenderheartedness (Ephesians 4:32); and
forgiving (Ephesians 4:32).

Notice that the above “put off” list includes both actions and attitudes, and how all of them relate to others and to community. Those things to be put off are harmful to others and to the community; they divide and destroy; they give opportunity to the devil; and they undermine the purposes and mission of the community. Conversely, the above “put on” list also includes both actions and attitudes; they are beneficial to others and to the building up of the community and the accomplishing of the mission of the community. And as those in the Church live out and practice the “new self life,” that new life witnesses to the world of the transformative aspect of the gospel – that Jesus changes us, gives us life and life in a community, and enables us to show to the culture around us how to live that life which reflects who God is.

So, who are we in Christ? We are entirely new creations (II Corinthians 5:17), formerly dead in our sins (Ephesians 3:1) and now made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-6), God's workmanship created in Christ for good works (Ephesians 2:10); we were buried with Christ in His death (Romans 6:4a) and raised with Him to “walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4b). In short, the “former life” we lived when we were dead in sin is gone! That is our “position in Christ. But that is just the start; we now have to appropriate our position into the practice of our lives, getting rid of the old habits and adopting the new ways of Christ. It is a wholesale change of lifestyle clothes; and we don't get to keep on some of the old clothes. Nope! It's a 100% proposition, and it's to be done now, with full effort and setting of the mind to the task, every hour of every day, all the way. That is how Paul's audience learned Christ; that is how we learned Christ. The old is gone; the new has come!    
We're Better Together: We Are United

We're Better Together Series
  • We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!
1. We're Better Together: We Are United (Ephesians 4:1-16)
  • Diversity bound together in Christ is the way a church was meant to be. We are one!
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God created the Church as one people, one body in unity. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
  • We are to work diligently to preserve the unity we have. (Ephesians 4:3)
  • There is diversity amidst our unity, and together we are to grow spiritual in live to Christlikeness as one body. (Ephesians 4:7, 11-16)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How is the Church one people, one body in unity?
  • How are we to work diligently to preserve our unity?
  • Why is it important to have diversity amidst unity, yet grow in unity?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What is the basis for walking worthy of our calling in Christ?
  • What does it mean to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” to which we have been called? What is the calling to which we have been called?
  • List are the marks of our walking worthy?
  • What are the foundational bases of our unity?
  • What is the importance of unity?
  • Who has been given spiritual gifts? Why? Who gave the gifts?
  • List the 5 gifts Paul enumerated in verse 11. Describe what these gifts provide to the Church? Why are these gifts foundational?
  • What is the objective of the 5 foundational gifts? Why is that objective important for the Church?
  • What is the “work of ministry” of the saints?
  • What is the measure of maturity in one's walk of faith?
  • How is the Church to be built up in Christ? What is the “glue” that holds up the building?
  • How are we to “grow up” into Christ?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • To what has Jesus Christ called you?
  • What does it mean to be part of the body of Christ?
  • How are you supposed to act and live as a part of the body of Christ? Make a list.
  • What does “oneness” mean to you, and how does it “flesh out” in the Church?
  • Where does the unity of the Church come from? What do you need to do to preserve the unity of the Church?
  • What are the 5 foundational spiritual gifts and why are they important to you and for you? Do you have one or more of these foundational gifts? Who do you know that has one or more of these gifts?
  • How are the 5 foundational gifts to impact you and your walk with Christ?
  • What is the goal of your spiritual growth?
  • What does it mean in your life to attain to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ?” (Ephesians 4:13b)
  • What is your responsibility to the Church as part of the Church? To your local congregation?
  • How can you be built up in love? How can you help others to be built up in love?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
In our prior Series covering the first three chapters of Ephesians entitled “God's Plan,” we saw that God had a plan from the beginning to bring glory to Himself by calling a people into relationship with Him (Ephesians 1:4 & 5) and uniting all things in Himself (Ephesians 1:9 & 10; 2:13 & 14). And we saw that God's plan was to accomplish His mission through the His people, the Church, which He planned from before time and revealed in time (Ephesians 3:3-6), created in Christ (Ephesians 1:20-22; 2:4-7), implemented (Ephesians 2:19-22), and empowered the Church to accomplish (Ephesians 3:16-22). We concluded that God's plan is indeed many splendored and beautiful. And what an amazing thing it is that as so empowered, we can go forth with confidence that His work will be done in and through us. This Series, covering chapters 4-6, will focus on how we as the Church are to live together within the body to carry out God's plan, all the while reflecting to the watching world in our “together life” the glory that is God and inviting others to answer God's call to join His family in Christ.

Right away in verse 1 of chapter 4, with the word “therefore” the Apostle Paul points back to what he had already written as the basis for what he is about to write. In other words, it is because of what God has done and who we are in Christ as the Church that we are to live together in a certain way. And note that the “we” included Paul who denominated himself as “a prisoner for the Lord.” So Paul writes, “I urge you ...” The word urge could be translated “entreat” or “exhort,” or even “beg.” It is a strong word and its use underscores the absolute necessity that we live the way and with the attitude Paul is about to outline, and that way is “in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” The calling refers to our having been called to be God's children and actually made into His children through Jesus Christ, brought out of sin and into a relationship with God (Ephesians 2:1, 5). It is Jesus whose good Name we represent, and our conduct as His Church is to conform to and be in keeping with His good Name (cf. Ephesians 2:10).

Our walking in a worthy manner is to be characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:2). Each of the foregoing characteristics are counter-cultural and supportive of unity. Humility is lowliness of mind and the opposite of “me first.” Gentleness is power under control (cf. Matthew 11:29 where Jesus describes Himself as “gentle and lowly in heart.”). Patience is literally “putting off” wrath. An older translation used the word “longsuffering.” The word describes how extends His mercy to us as sinners instead of His wrath and judgment, and in his first letter Timothy, Paul refers to such as God displaying “his perfect patience.” (I Timothy 1:16) Bearing with one another speaks of holding up, or enduring one another in our imperfection and is certainly related to forgiveness. A former pastor of mine called this “love that tolerates.” And finally, we are to expend much effort to maintain, or preserve, the unity that we already have in the Spirit; we are to watch over and guard that unity which is “god made” and defines our status as the Church of Jesus Christ brought together. And we are to maintain that unity “in the bond of peace,” meaning that we are tied together, bonded, and are no longer enemies of God or of each other. Remember that part of what Paul is addressing is the inclusion of Gentile believers in the Church; they have now been “brought near” (Ephesians 2:13) by Jesus who “is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:14) It is that peace that we must work to maintain, and guard against being broken and breached. All of the foregoing undergird our unity in Christ as the Church and as local expressions of the Church.

And as if to further explain the reality of our unity, Paul goes on to set forth the seven-fold foundation of that unity. Specifically, he writes that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God (Ephesians 4:4-6) Each of these seven are common to all believers everywhere who make up the Church. One church refers to the reality that all believers in Jesus are part of the Church; there are no distinctions (And especially to Paul's audience, there is no Jewish church and Gentile church; there is but one church.), but rather oneness with a multiplicity of members. One Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit who is the agency of our faith and the unifying Presence and Power of the Church and all who are in it (I Corinthians 12:13). One hope is the common and certain end, namely the “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27; 3:4. See also I Peter 1:3) One Lord is Jesus Christ Himself, the sovereign Lord over the Church and all creation (Colossians 1:15-20); He is our common confession, “Jesus is Lord.” (I John 2:23; 4:2) One faith is the basic gospel message that we believed and that we share, that which is entrusted to us, namely that salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. (II Timothy 1:12-14). One baptism is the “baptism” of the Spirit at the moment of conversion (I Corinthians 12:13) and the witness to that conversion by baptism in water (See Acts 19:4-6). And lastly, one God is reminiscent of the Jewish confession of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There is only one God, albeit in three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit, “over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6). In all the foregoing is our unity as the Church, and we are urged to maintain that unity notwithstanding our diversity in the sense of different personalities, different backgrounds and upbringings, different languages, and any other differences we may have. While these have significance, they are trumped by our unity in Christ, for “we are united.”

Lest one think that in our unity, all are or must be the same, and that the Church is just one homogenous mix of uniformity, Paul continues to make the point that in the midst of this unity, there is diversity … that each one is different and important, and gifted by grace (Ephesians 4:7), and that our gifts are measured by Christ's gift, which was everything and by which He was exalted as King (cf. Philippians 2:8-11). Then Paul notes, by citing Psalm 68:18, that when Jesus ascended, He gave gifts (Ephesians 4:8). A reading of Psalm 68 provides the context, as the Psalm is all about the victorious king (God) who defeats his enemies (Psalm 68:1), who leads prisoners to prosperity (Psalm 68:6), who restored his people to abundance and a dwelling (Psalm 68:7-10), who marches with his troops into the conquered city to be crowned as the victor (Psalm 68:14-17), and who is blessed as he ascends (Psalm 68:18). And this Psalm reflects the norm in the culture of the day where a victorious king would indeed march into the conquered city with the captives in tow and the subjects blessing him, receiving and giving gifts. Such was Jesus' victory, described by Paul, in giving a parenthetical commentary on his citation of the Psalm, as Jesus having descended “into the lower regions of the earth” meaning that He died, and ascended “above all the heavens” meaning that He was victorious and dwells in heaven above all.

After his parenthetical explanation, Paul continues by describing the gifts as including the gift of “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” whose task it is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11 & 12). So, each believer has been given a spiritual gift or gifts (cf. Romans 12:6-8; I Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-31a; I Peter 4:10 & 11), but the five gifts he notes are foundational, as they equip all in the Church to carry out the mission and ministry of the Church. Those gifted as apostles found churches, those gifted as prophets “forthtell” God's word – they proclaim it for all to hear; those gifted as evangelists speak God's message, the gospel of grace and live in Jesus to invite people to follow Jesus; those gifted as shepherds care for the flock of Jesus' followers; those gifted as teachers explain, expound and apply God's word to the Church. These five gifts (the “APEST” gifts) are key as they equip the “saints so that the body of all believers will be built up (Ephesians 4:12b) “until we attain to the unity of the faith.” (Ephesians 4:13a). In short, these foundatinal gifts are for the service of the entirety of the body of Christ, the Church, and to that end serve the goal of unity which, in turn, is bound up in achieving the maturity of knowing Jesus and being like Him (Ephesians 4:13b). So, unity, maturity, Christlikeness are the goals of the Church, so that believers will not be like children who are fickle, undisciplined, immature and susceptible to error and being misled (Ephesians 4:14). Instead, Paul writes, those who make up the Church are to speak and act in love towards one another and together grow up into Christlikeness and service of Christ the King (Ephesians 4:15). And by being so joined with Christ, it is in Him that the Church is not only joined together, but grows together with each part, meaning each individual believer, doing his or her part in the process to the end of the whole being built up in love as a united whole (Ephesians 4:16).

What a beautiful picture of the Church of Jesus Christ! It is one body, called out and brought together in Him, empowered by Him, and built up in Him through the exercise of foundational gifts and the working together of all the individual parts, so that the Church may accomplish HIs mission of expanding the Kingdom of God through the “work of the ministry” by the saints. Believers are thus not to be “lone wolves” doing their own thing, even if well intentioned. Rather, the entire Church and each local expression of the Church, is literally one body, and each individual piece of that body is knit together in love with each other piece, all walking in Christlikeness, all seeking to preserve the unity that is present in the Spirit, all growing in maturity as each understands and plays his or her part in the work of the whole. That is God's plan for the Church, and He has made the Church and is building the Church, to accomplish His plan, all to His glory. A worthy calling indeed, to be made a part of the Church and then to “walk in a manner worthy” of that calling in the power of God the Spirit, to please God the Son, and bring honor to God the Father. Amen.  

We all know life is richer and more meaningful when we're connected yet for centuries tensions exist in society due to terrorist activities, racial divisions, fearful economics, and the seeming futility of "success." Relationships have deteriorated all around us. We believe God has planned more for His people, don’t you? Come with us as we study Ephesians...together!

1. We Are United [Ephesians 4:1-16]
Diversity bound together in Christ is the way a church was meant to be. We are one!

2. We Are New [Ephesians 4:17-32]
When you know who you are, then you know what to do.The old is gone; the new has come!

3. We Are Adopted [Ephesians 5:1-20]
As a Christian, we've been welcomed into a family with Jesus. Walk in love as children of light!

4. We Are Loved [Ephesians 5:21-5:33]
Jesus’ love for the church is the model for all relationships. Love and respect one another!

5. We Are Obedient [Ephesians 6:1-9]
The most important person in your life is your father. Jesus is Boss—he sees, knows, and rewards all.

6. We Are Alert [Ephesians 6:10-24]
We are in a war emotionally, relationally, financially, spiritually. Stand your ground! Pray for boldness to share the Gospel.
Radical Forgiveness – Live It!

The Radical Forgiveness Series
  • Forgiveness can be a difficult subject for many of us. We can find it hard to forgive others for things they have done to us. When it comes to our own past mistakes and failures, we can find it hard to forgive ourselves or to grasp that God forgives us completely. It’s easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said His followers would actually live, and what their new counter-cultural lifestyle would actually look like. We hope that this Series helps you engage and live in freedom as we take a look at what the Bible has to say about radical forgiveness.
3. Radical Forgiveness – Live It! (Colossians 3:1-17)
  • Forgiveness isn't just once in a while, it's all the while!.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • When you become a child of God in Christ, your life is changed, and that change necessitates a change in how you live every day. (Colossians 3:1-3)
  • As a child of God you must put the old life “to death.” (Colossians 3:5, 7 & 8)
  • As a child of God, you must put on the new life, including living a life of forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12 & 13)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • How has your total perspective of life changed now that you are a follower of Jesus?
  • What do yo need to do to put the old life to death?
  • What do you need to do to put on the new life?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • What does it mean to be “raised with Christ?”
  • What are the “things above” that we are to seek?
  • What does it mean to set your mind on things above?
  • What does it mean to be “hidden with Christ in God?”
  • Why must we put the old life to death?
  • Of what does the old life consist? What kinds of actions? What kinds of thoughts and attitudes?
  • Why is it important not to lie to one another?
  • What does it mean to be renewed in knowledge after the image of your creator? How are you being renewed?
  • Describe in your own words how you are to live now that you are in Christ? How are you to live in relation to other people?
  • What does it mean to forgive other people? How can you do that, and why must you do that?
  • The peace of Christ is to rule in your heart. What does that mean in your life? How does that work out on a daily basis?
  • Why is it important to be thankful?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • How can you seek the things that are above on a daily basis?
  • What does it mean for you to set your mind on things above? What changes do you have to make in your life to accomplish that?
  • What aspects of the “old life” do you still hang on to? Do you struggle with? Why do you still hold on to those things and why are they bad?
  • In what ways do your thought life and your speech still reflect the old life?
  • What changes do you need to make in your thought life and your speech? In other words, what old habits do you need to “put away?”
  • What is it about lying that undercuts the life of the community and your relationship with others?
  • How can you put on the qualities listed in Colossians 3:12 & 13? How can you forgive others, and why should you?
  • How can peace “rule” in your heart? And how can that lead you in all your decisions, actions and attitudes?
  • Does the word of Christ dwell in you richly? How can you make that happen and are you willing to take those steps?
  • Are you a thankful person? Why should you be thankful, and what steps can you take to be more thankful?
  • You are to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. What does this mean for you on an every day, practical level? What steps might you need to take to live out Colossians 3:17? Are you willing to take those steps? If you are, stop right now and ask God to help you in taking those steps.
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
We have learned that if you accept Jesus' offer of forgiveness by repenting and believing in His death in place of yours, you will be transformed just like the woman in Luke 7 was. And that transformation will enable, empower, and compel you to give love and forgiveness back out in response to what Jesus has done for you. But in these Notes, the last in the Radical Forgiveness Series, we answer the next question, namely, how is one to live a life of forgiveness? And the answer is found in Colossians 3 which, more broadly, describes the entirety of the new life in Christ.

The fact of the matter is that when one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is literally transformed.  The believer is reborn (John 3:3-8), made into a new creation (Romans 6:4; II Corinthians 5:17), given a new life (Romans 6:6 & 7), and as a result takes on the righteousness of Christ (Romans 5:17 & 19) and is henceforth alive to God (Romans 6:11; Ephesians 2:4 & 5). One's “status” with God, one's “position,” is changed from rebellion, rejection and being under God's wrath, to obedience, acceptance and being under God's grace; and there is nothing that can change that position going forward (Romans 8:38 & 39). The Christian life, then, is appropriating into practice the position that one has in Christ; it is working out in experience and lifestyle the new life that one has in Christ; it is shedding the old life that was put to death with Christ on the cross, and putting on the new life of Christlikeness. The Scripture calls this “sanctification,” and it is the process of being made holy, or being set apart to God while on earth. And our sanctification is as much our responsibility as it is the Holy Spirit working in us (Philippians 2:12 & 13). In other words, we are not just to sit around and expect God to change how we act, think and relate; instead, we are to take part in the process, intentionally and purposefully (Colossians 3:1 & 2), knowing that God will in fact be working in us to produce Christlikeness (Philippians 2:13).

All of this process of sanctification derives from the reality that as followers of Jesus, we have been made new and are expected to become what we are. That's what Colossians 3 verses 1 through 3 tell us: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek ...” and “Set your minds on things above … for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “Hidden with Christ” means that we have given up self for His Lordship, and have “died to the elemental spirits of the world.” (Colossians 2:20); we are in union with Christ now, with His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5-11), and in Him we have the motivation and the power to take on and live out the transformed life. Accordingly, this Colossians text contains a series of injunctions for us to follow: “seek the things ...” (Colossians 3:1); “set your minds ...” (Colossians 3:2); “put to death ...” (Colossians 3:5); “put them all away ...” (Colossians 3:8); “do not ...” (Colossians 3:9); “put off ...” (Colossians 3:9b); “put on ...” (Colossians 3:10, 12 & 14); “let ...” (Colossians 3:15 & 16); and “do ...” (Colossians 3:17). If you get the impression that we are called to work hard, you are right. All of these injunctions are strong words in the original Greek text, calling for intense, purposeful action and effort in an on-going, continual way (e.g., “keep on seeking ...” or “keep on putting on ...” etc.)

The over-arching theme in the foregoing is that our allegiance to Jesus and following Him and being like Him is to take precedence over all over allegiances. One commentator writes that we are to see to it “that the bent of the inner nature, the governing tendency of thought and will is toward God.” Hence, “put to death” in verse 5 means just that; we are to kill off, wipe out, or exterminate in a decisive and urgent way those things that are sinful and not of God. Another commentator writes that the approach is “a vigorous, painful act of self determination” when it comes to digging and rooting out the old, sinful ways of our past life, of our old, earthly and selfish focus. The text lists some of those old, sinful behaviors. The listings are not meant to be exhaustive, but representative, and they include sexual sins, uncontrolled desire, violent emotions, unchecked desire for self interest and things (Colossians 3:5), as well as anger, speech that cuts the reputation of others, and abusive, filthy speech (Colossians 3:8). These old, sinful ways incur God's judgment (Colossians 3:6), and although they characterized in one degree or another our behavior before Christ, they are to be intentionally cast away and killed off. This can be a painful process, as we are used to the old ways. But they are no longer acceptable in God's sight. That is Jesus' point when He said, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30) In 2003, Aron Ralston, an experienced climber and adventurer, was hiking in a rock canyon Utah when an 800 pound boulder dislodged and pinned his arm to the rock wall in the “canyon slot” he was in at the time. He could not get his arm loose no matter what he tried. On his fifth day being trapped, he concluded he would have to cut off his arm or he would die, so he proceeded to do just that, first breaking the bones, then using a dull utility tool to cut the flesh, muscles and tendons. Once freed, he had to climb out of the canyon and rappel one-handed down a 65 foot cliff and walk to help. He made it, albeit without his right arm; but he was alive. Aron Ralston took drastic action to save his life. So the believer; we must take drastic action to cut out and put to death those old sins and habits and ways of living that are antithetical to the way of Jesus, even if it means significant pain in the process.

But the new life in Christ is not merely stripping away the old; the transformation includes putting on the new self which is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10) And what is it that we put on? It is the qualities, characteristics and habits of new life that reflect Godliness, and that respond to the fact that God has chosen us, set us apart and loved us (Colossians 3:12). And these include compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another and (you thought we'd never get there) forgiveness (Colossians 3:12 & 13). The foregoing are all born out of love (Colossians 3:14) and in particular, are exercised in the context of others, especially the community of faith (Colossians 3:13 & 14). The foregoing look to others first, place others before self, freely extend grace, issue out of and reflect thankfulness to God, rule our lives, and most of all, represent Christ (Colossians 3:17). While it is only one action in the list of many, forgiveness has a special place as it results from the fact that we were forgiven by Jesus and therefore have the specific responsibility to turn around and extend forgiveness to others (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness thus is to be given to those who, like us, are not deserving, and is to be given from a place which recognizes that we still sin and offend and need forgiveness from others (cf. Matthew 5:23 & 24; Ephesians 4:32; James 5:16). When we forgive others, we deal with sin in the sense that by forgiving, we remove the sin of another as it relates to us, and restore the relationship. And we can do that not because we can forgive sin as such, but because Jesus has already died for sin and removed it and we extend His act to others in our act of forgiving. Our forgiveness therefore sets sin aside and puts it away, and in so doing sets the other person free from the bondage of sin and cancels out the sin-debt paid for by Jesus. Our forgiveness also frees us from the bondage of wanting a price to be paid, or revenge, or punishment to assuage our honor, as it were. We no longer need to have things “made right” vis-a-vis ourself because Jesus has taken care of that, and we are released to live without that burden. In that way, both parties are released and freed to live again, fully in the love of Jesus Christ. That is to be our attitude and our lifestyle of forgiveness; not selective, but all-encompassing.

In living out the above, we will be letting “the peace of God rule” in our hearts (Colossians 3:15), that is, being the “umpire” of how we live in relationship with others both in and outside the community of faith. And in so living, we are to be always thankful (Colossians 3:15 & 16) – thankful that Jesus has freed us to live that way, thankful that it is possible for peace to rule in us, and thankful that we are free to live life with joy. And in this lifestyle, we are constantly to live in God's word which is a lamp unto our feet, sharing that word with others, and engaging in joyful thanks and worship in song (Colossians 3:16). And how do we sum up this lifestyle of forgiveness and the qualities and characteristics of Christlikeness? We sum it up with the following words: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) What a way to live on earth! And what a way to give Jesus the glory He deserves as our Savior and Lord. Radical forgiveness – Get it! Give it! Live it!