November 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 1)

Submitted by John K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 1:1-14

  • Note all occurrences of the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent (e.g., “in him”).  What conclusions can I draw from this?

v. 1 …are faithful in Christ Jesus

v. 3 …blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings

v. 4 …chose us in him

v. 6 …blessed us in the beloved

v. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood…

v. 9 – “according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ

v. 10 …unite all things in him

v. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance…

v. 12 …we who were the first to hope in Christ

v. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth…were sealed…

The conclusions that I can draw from the fact that there are so many occurrences of “in Christ” and “in him” is that my salvation, that is my very life is not something that is intertwined with Christ and  more specifically it’s that my life is dependent on Christ.  Because Jesus intervened in history and on my behalf I can be saved from my sins today.  This shows how I, John, could not have reached God on my own, by my own effort, by my own goodness, by my own merit.  I cannot claim any part of the salvation and hope I have today.  None of this is of my own doing.  As a sinner, far away from God and far from God’s holy standard there’s no way I could even show my face before God.  As the prophet says in Isaiah 6, “Woe is me for I am undone.”  I could not stand before God on my own.  And so Christ’s role, what he did for me becomes ever more apparent and clear to me that Christ has intervened on my behalf.  Through Christ I can receive salvation, I can receive the inheritance that God offers.

I can conclude that I am connected to God only because of Christ.  He is the great mediator and he is the one who makes it possible for me to be blessed (v.3), to be chosen (v.4), to be redeemed (v.7), by his purpose (v.9), to be united with all things and all people (v. 10), to have the inheritance of God (v. 11), to have hope (v.12), and ultimately to have the truth and gospel of my salvation (v.13).

Being “in Christ” has changed these areas of my life.  For one I think of my purpose (v.9) and being “in Christ” shows me that my purpose is connected to the same purpose that Jesus came here for – to save men from their sins.  I’m not able to “save” men myself but I’m able to point them to the one who can. My purpose on earth is not about my job or furthering my income or status in this world or even just to build up my own nuclear family.  It’s about living out the purpose of leading others to Christ.  Being “in Christ” has changed what I’m going to do with my life, my resources, my time, etc., and it’s even what shapes my own decision to do ministry and as I help lead International Student Fellowhsip I think that this is the greatest purpose I can have–more than building any web product or advancing another notch in my career–but to help usher others into eternal life. What else can make that kind of impact?

I also see how being “in Christ” is what unites me to all things and people (v.10) as I think about how I’m here serving alongside some of my friends and peers whom I used to once feel competitive and envious of.  They were ones whom I thought had gotten more spiritual recognition or were just more “spiritual.”  And now I don’t ever see them in that way.  I don’t see them as competitors but as co-laborers.  Now as I think of Joe at San Francisco State ministry or Kevan at Klesis ministry or my other friends with Interhigh or Elderly Care Ministry, Visiting Scholars Ministry, etc., I can pray for them and lift them up and pray that God would really bless their ministries and multiply them.

I think most of all being “in Christ” has helped me to see how I’m here only because of God’s great mercy in my life.  He chose to send his son and chose to redeem a person like myself.   Despite all my sins of anger, impatience, lack of love, coldness, lack of empathy, judgmental ways, God still came down to reach me and pull me out of the sludge of my sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Despite who I am God still saved me through Jesus. No matter what I may have done or even what I may do, I am “in Christ” and I’m eternally secure.

  • Reflect on the words in v. 13 as it relates to me personally, and recount how I came to “believe in him.”   

v. 13 – “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Reflecting on this verse, I can recall the many ways that God had brought me the word of truth.  Growing up in a Christian home and having parents and relatives who were all very committed members of their church, hearing the word of truth, the gospel was quite a regular occurrence for me.  Hearing Bible stories, messages, singing hymns, learning praise songs and even going through many different discipleship courses and small group times my life was inundated with God’s word.   Specifically there were some Sunday school teachers who really looked out for me I remember.  They made a lot of effort to try to relate the messages and the teaching of the Bible in an interesting and relevant way.  We actually had a lot of college students and post-college helpers who were genuinely interested in teaching us and helping us to grow.  Also along the way there was my oldest sister who really tried hard to explain what it meant to have a personal relationship with God.  Even though she knew I was churched she would try hard to help me to see that the gospel wasn’t something that you were just born into.  Although I whole-heartedly agreed and believed in the gospel message it was much more a part of my culture and upbringing than it was a personal experience and response. So coming to college and especially when I came to our church I experienced the gospel in a fresh way as I heard the gospel message in such a fresh and powerful way.  I still remember one of the first messages I ever heard from Pastor Ed as he spoke on Ezekiel 34 and the watchmen and what this identity means for Christians and another message on Acts 2 and the early church and what this would actually look like.  And I think what really hit me was how I saw so many people living out this vision of an Acts 2 church in their daily lives–living in close proximity, sharing their possessions like through open homes and being free with things like their cars to people who were actually very open and honest about their lives through very vulnerable sharing.  I was stunned as I saw many Christians taking their faith seriously and living it out.  As I continued on in my own walk with God in college I began to hear the gospel message in even clearer accents as I saw how much of my faith was based more on the Christian culture and environment I had grown up in rather than my own personal experience and commitment.  And then the message really became personal to me.  That’s when I saw my sin, my pride, and my refusal to acknowledge God’s full control over my life. And that’s when I realized that I was bent on trying to run my own life but needed to release the keys or control of my life to God.  He was the rightful owner.  And so then believing in him was really about following him and experiencing this truth of the gospel that I am not in Christ.  And being with Christ was not about what I could do for him but it was about a restored relationship with God as I confessed my sins and asked God to take control of my life.

Ephesians 1:15-16

  • What is the relationship between “faith in the Lord” and “love toward all the saints?”  Why must one follow the other?  How has my faith in the Lord helped me grow in my love toward other believers?

The relationship between “faith in the Lord” and “love toward all the saints” is that my faith is confirmed through my acts of love.

One must follow the other because “faith in the Lord” is proved through genuine “acts of love.”  It’s a basic principle of life.  We do what we genuinely believe.  For a Christian, his faith in God naturally must lead to loving others.  As this is the call that Jesus himself told us through the Great Commandment–Love your neighbor as yourself–so we know that this is only going to be the result of someone who has “faith in the Lord”.  His “faith” leads to “love.”

Submitted by Michael K. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Ephesians 1:1-14

  • Note all occurrences of the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent (e.g., “in him”).  What conclusions can I draw from this?

The numerous occurrences of this phrase “in Christ,” or “in him,” highlight the fact that the blessings God has given us are in Christ, i.e. the way that we have received them is through Christ or by virtue of what he did. It is through Jesus and what he did on the Cross that all of these things have been made available or given to us–every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, being chosen, adoption as sons, redemption through his blood, forgiveness of our trespasses, an inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, etc. Through Jesus, we have a way to be reconciled to God; we have redemption because he is a perfect sacrifice for our sins. He is the mediator of a new covenant, in which we receive all of these blessings not on our own merit but on the merits of Christ. Therefore, as it says in v. 3, it is in Christ that God has blessed us.

  • Reflect on the words in v. 13 as it relates to me personally, and recount how I came to “believe in him.”   

Verse 13 states that I too, when I heard the word of truth, the gospel of my salvation, and believed in him, was sealed in Christ with the promised Holy Spirit. Even though I grew up going to church and physically “heard the word of truth” throughout my childhood, it was much later that I actually grasped its meaning and it became “the gospel of my salvation.”  When I was growing up, the gospel was just a nice story to believe in, but because I did not really see the sinfulness within me (and thus my need for a savior), I did not have a need to “believe in him.”  I just believed that Jesus was who he said he was, and he did what he did, but it had little to do with me. It wasn’t until I came to college and began to see the emptiness of a life chasing the world and apart from God, without a relationship with Him, and came to face my sin that I recognized this word of truth as the gospel that is powerful unto salvation. It was only then that I came to “believe in him” and trust Jesus for my salvation, and fall upon God’s mercy at the cross and cling to it for forgiveness and redemption.

Ephesians 1:15-16

  • What is the relationship between “faith in the Lord” and “love toward all the saints?”  Why must one follow the other?  How has my faith in the Lord helped me grow in my love toward other believers?

Faith in the Lord Jesus leads to love toward all the saints, because in Christ we share a common testimony, a common identification as a sinner and shared recipient of the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ. We share a common mission, identity as ministers of the gospel, and we are co-heirs together of God’s kingdom, brothers and sisters in God’s family and fellow members within the body of Christ. Someone who has faith in the Lord and has been redeemed and received these spiritual blessings now has this type of relationship with all the saints. I think the more that someone understands and embraces these truths, the easier it is to want to love their fellow believers. It becomes very natural and even expected, and this sentiment is also expressed heavily in 1 John 3 and 4 (e.g. 3:14 “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers,” and 4:21 “Whoever loves God must also love his brother”).

From my own experience, I think it’s very true that faith in the Lord goes hand in hand with love for the saints. As I’ve come to a greater personal appreciation of the spiritual blessings in Christ and the deepening of my own faith, this has helped me to grow in my love toward other believers. I remember specifically one gathering that my peers had at Dana House when I was a junior. It was just a dinner, nothing too special, but it was shortly after one of my peers had made a decision. I remember feeling very moved as I looked around at the people seated at the table and realized that each one of us shared a common identity as sinners saved by grace, and we had the common testimony of experience the word of truth and the gospel of salvation in our lives. They weren’t just friends or college buddies, but my brothers in Christ, and I felt my heart growing for each of them as I realized that God had indeed rescued each one of us and was working in our lives.

I’ve also experienced this principle of small steps of growing in my faith leading to a greater sense of camaraderie, fellowship, and love toward other believers. This has been the case as I have engaged in ministry with others, and as we together live out our faith in Christ by engaging in doing his work and trying to be his ambassadors and ministers of reconciliation. Whenever I’ve experienced a stretching of my faith, such as moving down to San Diego to help with the church plant, or through engaging in ministry while raising kids, I’ve come to experience greater love and appreciation for others who are sharing in this faith. I think of those in our other churches who are running the race together with us, supporting us in prayer and in so many concrete ways; I think of our leaders who were the forerunners and laid down the hard work and sacrifice of building up our church. Most recently, I have the privilege of being a part of this year’s Bible teachers’ training group. As this required a small step of faith in reducing my work schedule to 50% in order to make time for this, I have experienced growing in my love toward others at the same time. I have greater love and appreciation for all the pastors and teachers, as I see firsthand how much labor has gone into each message and how much love has been poured out through them over many years. I have greater love and appreciation for the whole church, as they support us financially and through their prayers. And I see that, through being faithful with this stewardship and entrustment, I will have greater opportunity and, with God’s help, be better equipped to minister to and love others.

Submitted by Ellen K.  from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 1:1-14

  • Note all occurrences of the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent (e.g., “in him”).  What conclusions can I draw from this?

The conclusions that I can draw from the many occurrences of the phrase “in Christ” is that all that I have, all of my blessings, the fact that I am chosen by God and adopted by him, the fact that I am able to have redemption from my sins, that I can be able to enjoy Christian unity with others, the fact that I can have hope in heaven and hope for myself regardless of my past sins, it is all because of Jesus and apart from Him I would not have or be able to enjoy any of it.  It is through Jesus that I am able to be found faithful at all in any service that I do.  It is because of the fact that Jesus took on the full payment for my sins that I am able to have a chance to even be faithful to God and to have the opportunity to serve Him in any kind of capacity.  All of these things first have their root and foundation in Jesus and what He did, without which any kind of Christian activity, service, any spiritual blessing that I have would not be possible.  The conclusion that I can draw is that the enormity of what Jesus did and who He is impacts my whole entire life and without him, I would be so poor and lost and ultimately I would have to pay for it with my life.  It is because of Jesus’ death that I am counted clean and able to serve God and be able to answer the call to be faithful to God, to be given a chance to be able to love Him back through my service and given an opportunity to express my thanksgiving to God through what He allows me to be able to do.  I am blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing, meaning that I do not need to fear condemnation of any kind even though I sin and fail again and again.  The blessing that I have through Christ is the fact that I have ready access to God’s love, that I can be forgiven of my sins and wrongs and that those things are not the end of the story, that I do not need to pay for anything or try to make up for my shortcomings and sins and failures but simply acknowledge what I did and what I’m like and yet be considered to have a clean slate and be a beloved daughter of God.  It means that all of my relationships are transformed in Him.  When sin would have led to permanent severing of human relationships, it is through Jesus that I can forgive others and that others can forgive me and through that and the fact that we know personally how we have each been shown such generosity from God, we can have unity in the knowledge of the fact that we are all debtors to God.  In the church, I experience that kind of other-worldly relationships where I have received forgiveness, been shown trust in the way that I have been trusted with representing God and the church through even something as being called a staff, which I know very clearly that I do not deserve.

  • Reflect on the words in v. 13 as it relates to me personally, and recount how I came to “believe in him.”   

 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

I came to believe in Him first through the faith of my parents who first instilled in me the belief that God was there, that He was someone that I needed to eventually contend with and understand, then in college, it was through the witness of people and their testimonies and as I saw Christian life lived out and came to see that this must be the way that God designed life to be lived and that He was calling me to acknowledge that fact as I saw how broken I was through the wrong choices that I had made, crossing boundaries that I knew I should not have crossed and seeing the way in which I had turned my back on the God of my youth and what I had been raised to know, limited though it was.  As I saw the lives of Christians at this church and as I heard message after message on how I had dethroned the proper place that God should have had in my life by my willful ways and the deliberate manner in which I coldly crossed boundaries and had also deliberately shut God out of my life even though I had known of him and had known His basic commands, yet I experienced love and forgiveness and being known by God and by others through the confession of these things.  It took many years for me to finally surrender my life but it was through all of these things that I came to believe in him, to believe in the reality of His redemption of my life and His forgiveness through the cross.  It was through the church and the witness of people, through their concrete actions of showing me how I have been and painting a portrait of how I have been toward God, and also showing me that God and His people love and forgive me that I came to believe in him.  Although much of it started out with a lot of head knowledge, it became more real to me and experiential as I myself opened up to others and as I became known in all of my ugliness and past transgressions and yet was affirmed that God knew this, that people know it, and that I am forgiven by God, given a clean slate and even given the honor of ministering to others and representing Christ in this way.  I came to believe in him though the power of the word of God.  I experienced God’s word to be living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, piercing my heart with it’s accuracy and the way it painted such a clear picture of my rebellion and yet also God’s love.  I can point to many different passages that God used to help me release sins in my life and to repent of them, passages that helped me to understand myself and what God was trying to say to me about that, and through many different messages that I have heard that really pierced me, God worked to lead me step by step to surrender my life to Him.

Submitted by Sarah Y. from Gracepoint San Diego Church 

Ephesians 1:1-14

  • Note all occurrences of the phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent (e.g., “in him”).  What conclusions can I draw from this?

v.1 – faithful in Christ Jesus

v.3 – blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing

v.4 – he chose us in him before the foundation of the world

v.6 – he has blessed us in the Beloved

v.7 – In him we have redemption through his blood

v.9 – making known to us the mystery of his will … which he set forth in Christ

v.12 – hope in Christ

v.13 – In him you also … believed in him

Paul emphasizes that all these blessings and good things are ours in Christ.  It’s ironic and tragic but sometimes I try to be a Christian and forget all about Christ’s role in my spiritual journey.  I easily start getting proud and attribute my faithfulness in serving the church to the goodness of my own heart and I think that good things have come to me by my own hard work.  But this is a totally non-Christian way to think because non-Christians don’t acknowledge God’s work in their lives and think they can control their own lives.  Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” or something similar repeatedly because he is well aware of the truth that every good and perfect gift is from God (cf. James 1:17) as all other Christians have come to conclude as well.  If anyone could have boasted about his accomplishments, it would have been Apostle Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:21-30, Philippians 3:4-9), but he chose to boast instead in what Christ accomplished for him.  I must not forget that I am just a sinner whom Christ mercifully chose to redeem through his blood (Ephesians 1:7).  There is absolutely no way that I could be found “holy and blameless” before God (Ephesians 1:4) if it were not for his forgiveness of my trespasses and riches of his grace on me (Ephesians 1:7).  The more I take the time to step away from distractions and actually reflect on my life, I see the truth that I’m always in need of Christ to bring anything good out of my brokenness.

  • Reflect on the words in v. 13 as it relates to me personally, and recount how I came to “believe in him.”   

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit …

I’m so thankful that the word of truth has come to me and that God offered me the gospel of my salvation.  It’s really amazing that someone like me could be sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.  Anyone who saw all my thoughts, feelings, and actions displayed on a movie screen would immediately cast me away but God still sees me as someone worth saving.  I came to believe in him because God sent so many people to speak the word of truth to me so that I might someday accept the gospel for my salvation.  My parents brought me to church where my Sunday school teachers throughout my childhood taught me that I was created by God, that he loves me, and that he is a mighty God.  My older sisters encouraged me to pray to God and trust him whenever things at home or at school got difficult.  My youth teachers taught me how to do devotion times on a regular basis.  My spiritual leaders in college went through a Christian foundations course with me.  Various pastors and spiritual leaders have preached the gospel to me since my childhood and I finally came to believe in him during my senior year in college.  I was so slow to believe in the gospel for my salvation but many people patiently prayed for me throughout my lifetime and God led me through his kindness that eventually led me to repent for my sin of rebellion against his rightful authority over my life (cf. Romans 2:4).

 Ephesians 1:15-16

  • What is the relationship between “faith in the Lord” and “love toward all the saints?”  Why must one follow the other?  How has my faith in the Lord helped me grow in my love toward other believers?

I think that faith in the Lord leads to love toward all the saints because it’s our natural, sinful bent to be focused on loving ourselves rather than loving the saints.  At least, that’s how it is for me.  Just because my brothers and sisters in Christ are called “saints,” it doesn’t at all mean that they’re perfect.  That means that sometimes the saints can be really hard to love because of their own sinfulness that still comes out in various ways and affects me.  But my faith in the Lord’s forgiveness of my sins gives me an example to follow in being able to forgive others of their sins too.  My faith in the Lord’s knowledge of all that I do keeps me accountable in putting in effort to love people even when it’s hard.  My faith in what God has in store for us in heaven makes me want to do my best in obeying his command to love others.  My faith in the Lord as our Creator who sent his Son to die for all our sins reminds me that we are all equal at the foot of the cross and I ought to love all the saints without any feelings of inferiority or superiority.  Without faith in the Lord, I would not have any love for the saints because it would all seem like a waste of time and energy when I could be doing whatever I could to secure my own comfort and pleasure in the here and now.

Personal Prayer

Father, thank you for the reminder that you have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Thank you for rescuing me from my own foolish thinking that I could experience anything good without your hand in my life.  Father, I confess that I am so forgetful of who you are and what you have done for me.  Thank you for your patient reminders to me in your Word each day that you have redeemed me from my sinful way of life, that you have given me the gospel of salvation, and that you want to fill me hope in Christ for all that I continue to struggle with today.  Thank you for bringing so many people into my life to teach me the word of truth.  Please give me greater faith each day so that I can be strengthened and motivated to love the saints in my life more and more.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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