November 8, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 2)

Submitted by William S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 2:1-3

  • What was man’s state before God intervened?

Before God intervened in our lives, we were considered dead in our trespasses and sins.  Like a criminally accused, we’ve been tried and we were found guilty.  The only thing that remains now is the fulfillment of the punishment that has been passed down to us.  Though we still live, we are nonetheless sentenced and our future is set.  We are like dead men walking.  Our sins were so great before the Holy God, that we ultimately have no excuses before the Holy One.  Eternal separation was the only thing that was left for us.

  • What three things exercise control over unredeemed man according to this passage?  In what ways did I follow these things before I became a Christian?  Are there some ways in which these things still exercise dominion over my life?

The three things that control us according to this passage would be: (1) the course of this world, (2) the prince of the power of the air, and (3) the passions of our flesh.  Before I became a Christian, I readily gave myself over to these three things and they exercised complete dominion over my life.  I followed the course of this world because I had no other way of knowing what was right and what was wrong.  The world and all of its standards dictated to me what was the way to go.  I believed everything that the world told me.  I lived as if the world was just a place of very limited resources.  I needed to watch out for number one–namely myself, and I needed to ensure that I acted in such a way to ensure my own success.  No one was supposed to get in the way and no one would ensure that things were good for myself except me.  I believed that if I only achieved a high level of success, if I only found the “perfect person” to share life with, if only I reached that place of complete and utter comfort, that I would be satisfied.  The world told me that this was true, and certainly I bought that this was the absolute truth.

Before I followed Christ, I also was someone who was controlled by the prince of the power of the air, namely, the Evil One, or Satan.  Like my forefathers before me, I sincerely believed the lie that Satan placed in my own heart–that I was good enough to be my own God.  I determined right and wrong in my own life; morality was something that I made up for myself, to fit my own needs, and my own desires.  I acknowledged no other being higher than me, I acknowledged no God that could tell me how I ought to live my own life, nor tell me that the things that I was engaging in were actually wrong.  Rather, I was good enough to make my own calls.  I would make those judgment calls and no one would be able to tell me otherwise.  I certainly was not someone willing or ready to allow any other source of authority to tell me how I ought to live.  I made the choices and I would judge my own actions.

Finally, before I followed Christ, I was also very much given over to the control that my flesh had over me.  As I mentioned already, I simply did whatever I wanted to do, whatever pleased me.  As King Solomon stated in the Book of Ecclesiastes, I denied myself no pleasure.  If there was something that I wanted, something that my eyes delighted in–pleasure, desire and want–I would not hold back.  My flesh told me what I ought to do.  And having no other moral authority besides that which I determined for myself, I fell headlong into that moral corruption.  Thanks be to God for the Salvation that He brought into my life.  For in Salvation, I’ve been freed from all of these different controls in my life.

Since becoming a Christian, however, I can no doubt still feel the power and draw of these three forces.  In particular, I feel the draw that the world has over me.  As I live my day to day life, I see the way that the world calls me out to live a certain way, to give in to certain pleasures and goals in life.  The world tells me to strive only for myself and for my immediate family.  The world tells me that there is nothing more important than to “make it” and to give up everything and anything that may get in the way of me getting to and reaching my ultimate goal.  The world devalues covenantal commitment, community, relational bonds and the things that God gives us to experience a deeper relationship with Him.  The reason why it’s such a strong force is because it’s all around us.  Our neighbors, our family even, people in our workplace; they live by these values and promote it as if it were the normal course of operation.  For me to not give into my worldly desires, then, I need to be constantly connected to the Word, going back to God’s standard in my life, rather than living according to the ways of this world.

 Ephesians 2:4-7

  • Reflect on the words of v. 4.  Consider this portrait of God, against the usual picture of God I have by default. 

In verse 4, God is described as being rich in mercy and full of great love for us.  This is the fundamental picture of God, and it also says a lot about who I am before God.  God, who is rich in mercy, must have something to whom He shows mercy to.  I am that person that needs great mercy.  This is the logical conclusion of what is being said here.  I am someone that God needs to show His incredible mercy to.

When I think about God typically, I wonder whether I see this as the picture of God always.  I think that the reality is–God is extending His mercy to me because I am in that kind of need.  I am guilty, I am sinful, and I am broken without God’s great mercy.  This stands in contrast to the typical picture that I have of God in general, one view of God that I think is pretty typical in this current age.  When I see God, or when I picture Him in my mind, I think I often think of God as this loving, gracious Heavenly Father who wants nothing more than to show me off to all of his friends so to speak.  He is the Doting Grandfather figure, One who is all powerful and yet all loving.  God is fundamentally this loving, but what is more, His love is best displayed in the level of mercy that He has for us.  His love is not that which gushy or doting or willing to overlook our behavior simply because He loves us that much.  Rather, God sees all and knows me to the core, the sins and warts and all.  What God is, in addition to being able to see us this clearly, is also merciful so that we are able to stand up underneath His gaze.  God is merciful because even though He sees our sins clearly, even though He knows we are dead in our transgressions, God nonetheless forgives us and gives us this hope in Christ Jesus.

  • How did God show me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus?”

Through Christ Jesus, God showed me and the world the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us.”  In Jesus, we have God’s Only Son, come down to earth, to be with us.  God’s desire to be near to us brought Him here to earth.  God’s desire to have a relationship with us, a restored and right relationship with us, even though we were dead in our transgressions, was so strong that God decided that He would show us incredible grace in kindness through the death of Jesus Christ.

Even though we were condemned in our transgressions, even though our sins were so great that we stood accused and guilty before the Heavenly and Righteous God, God actually looks at us who have put our trust in Jesus Christ and instead of just punishment for our sin, He extends grace.  We are not punished, but the punishment for our sins actually fell on Christ Jesus instead.  Though there ought to be a gap between God and us on account of our sin, God extends grace to us and we are forgiven.  How can you measure this kindness?  How can you ever truly properly say thank you to God for all that He did?  Indeed, this grace can only be adequately described as being immeasurable.  Only God would be able to, and willing to express that kind of grace toward us.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I was dead in my transgressions.  I was condemned for my sins and I had nothing left to utter for myself except that plea for mercy and grace.  Lord, I thank you because You are indeed rich in mercy and kindness.  You forgive those who turn to You, even though we are dead in our transgressions.  Before, I was controlled by all of the forces of this world, and all of the other forces that seek to enslave and control me.  But Father, you overcame those things and gave me new life.  For that, I praise You and thank You.  I pray all of these things in the name of Christ Jesus, amen.

Submitted by Edwin H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 2:1-3
What was man’s state before God intervened?

Man’s state before God intervened was that we were dead in our trespasses and sin.  We were spiritually dead because of our trespasses against God and in our rejection of God’s rightful claim over us, we separated ourselves from the source of life.  We were also dead in our sins as we followed the pattern of this world since we knew no other way to live life.  We followed the hopeless pattern that we were given since we were born and that is to live selfishly for ourselves, maximize our comforts, minimize our pains, and gather as many toys and awards before we die and hope that this is enough to make our lives meaningful and all the while, knowing that we were somehow missing something.  This is the hopeless pattern that we found ourselves in since the day we were born.  Man was dead in his transgressions before God in our disobedience against God and wanting to make our own rules, purposes, and be our own gods rather than let God rule.

What three things exercise control over unredeemed man according to this passage?  In what ways did I follow these things before I became a Christian?  Are there some ways in which these things still exercise dominion over my life?

The three things that exercised control over unredeemed man according to this passage is the course of the world, Satan (the prince of the power of the air), and the passions of our flesh that is carried out in the desires of our body and mind, the sinful nature that we were born with.  The ways I followed these things before I became a Christian was so clear to me the moment I stepped out of my parent’s house and their watchful eye and lived on my own in college.  I ate what I wanted, which was often fast food, or at a fancy steakhouse depending on which video game I was addicted to at the moment and which friend I was hanging out with.  I slept at whatever odd hour I wanted to sleep, which was often 2 or 3am because I’d be up all night watching some movie or looking at websites I’m now ashamed over.  Whatever bodily desire I had, I fulfilled it whether it was buying some new gadget to fill my room or spending countless hours in front of the computer screen downloading another game to play or spending hours in chatrooms with people whose names I don’t even remember now.  It was the desires of my body and mind that ruled over everything I did so that I gave into addictions and found other addictions to try and comfort my mind and body.  It was the pattern that I saw in friends and people around me that reinforced my own desires because we would often be addicted to the same games and same lifestyles so we encouraged one another to live this way.  There was no hope of actual purpose in life let alone hope of being made right with God because we were too numbed out and distracted to even think about God.

The ways in which these things still exercise dominion over my life today is how I still face the consequences of my actions even now.  There are images and thoughts in my mind that don’t go away even after all these years.  I find the old patterns that I lived affecting the ways I interact with my wife and even filling me with fear for how this will affect my daughter as she grows up.  Even though I know that I have been forgiven of my past sins, the effects of my sins still haunt me today and I worry how this will affect my own daughter’s self-image as she grows up.  Then there is the expectation that life ought to be easy and everything happen on-demand that I grew up with creeping into my life today.  It is a constant battle against the desire to slow down and not give into comfort, especially now that I am a new father and it’s the same old battle against my own bodily desire to have a comfortable life where everything is predictable.  After becoming a Christian, it is not as though these old patterns of life just went away and I never struggled with them ever again but the difference is in that it does not have to remain the pattern of my life anymore.  By God’s grace, I have been given leaders and friends who help me through my struggles over my past sins and the forms they take on today and I have leaders who care enough about me to speak the truth into my life and point out the ways my fleshly desires still hold dominion over me and I am helped through the process of repentance.

Ephesians 2:4-7
Reflect on the words of v. 4.  Consider this portrait of God, against the usual picture of God I have by default. 

The picture of God that is portrayed in verse 4 is a generous, merciful God who is eager to bless and give us the riches of His grace.  This picture of God is a picture of someone who is generous and magnanimous.  God is rich in His mercy, meaning that His mercy is ready to be poured down on us who are dead and He is ready to forgive us our sins.  This is not the kind of God who has any reluctance or reservation about showering down His grace upon us but is ready to give of his immeasurable riches.  It gives me a picture of God as someone who is so fabulously rich and he can’t wait to share his wealth and fortune with poor orphans on the street.  In contrast to this is my default view of God, which is a severe God who always has a scowl and is waiting to catch me in the act of sinning.  Over the years I realize that my picture of God comes from having a twisted view of authority in my life so my default view of God is that authoritative person who is constantly shaking his head in disappointment and sighing with resignation at my actions.  The default picture that I have is vastly different than how the Bible describes God and so my view of God needs to constantly be corrected by these kind of passages and as I continue to experience the grace of God covering over my sins each day, the more I find passages like these more true and my own default view of God changing.  I am getting to know God’s richness of mercy and grace through Jesus Christ the more I see my sins and failures and yet God’s grace covers over me.

How did God show me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus?”

God has shown me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” by the amazing grace that I continue to experience each day as a forgiven sinner.  God’s grace and kindness in Christ Jesus must be great when I look back at the pile of sins that I have accumulated that needed to be ransomed through the cross of Christ.  I have experienced the richness of God’s grace in how much I have been loved and accepted by this community of faith through the ways that people have forgiven my brattiness and pride.  I have experienced God’s grace and kindness through the good work that He has given me to do at SF State in ministering to the students there and the relationships I enjoy with the staff I serve with and the students that I have met through the years.  It is amazing that I get to be called on by God to join in the work of sharing the gospel and the more I help others receive the grace of God through their salvation, the more I experience just how immeasurable God’s riches of his grace for me are.  I look at how I get to see students that I have ministered to grow and join in the work of serving others and how I get to see people who have given their lives to God grow and get excited about how they used to spend their time drinking and going to parties and now they are busy teaching under-privileged kids their ABCs and running around being silly with them during game time.  I contrast the immeasurable riches of God’s grace through Christ Jesus to the riches that I tried to fill my life with before I became Christian and there is no amount of joy or fulfillment that can be had compared to what I have received from God.  God’s riches and grace has only grown the longer I have been a Christian and I experience different shades and aspects of God’s immeasurable riches of His grace.  Even now I see how the number of people who have come by to help Betty and me through the various stages of our life from marriage to our first child when we really did not deserve such love and care from so many around us really testifies to the kindness we have received through Christ Jesus.  God has shown me such immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness in Christ Jesus and I would not trade this life for anything else, especially not for the life that I had lived before God intervened in my life.

Submitted by Jessica Y. from Gracepoint San Diego Church

Ephesians 2:1-3

  • What was man’s state before God intervened?

Before God intervened, man was dead in his trespasses and sins.  He followed the course of this world and the spirit that is at work in those who are disobedient to God.  He lived in the passions of his flesh and carried out the desires of the body and mind, and were by nature children of wrath.

  • What three things exercise control over unredeemed man according to this passage?  In what ways did I follow these things before I became a Christian?  Are there some ways in which these things still exercise dominion over my life?

The three things that exercised control over unredeemed man according to this passage were the course of this world, the prince of the power of the air, and the flesh.  Before I became Christian, I too was under the influence of these things.  I followed the course of this world and did what was expected of me.  I studied hard in high school so I could get into a good college.  I studied and got internships while in college so I could get into graduate school and get a good job, and hopefully meet my future husband.  I was on the course everyone else was on of building up their careers, working on getting married to have a family, live in a nice comfortable house, save up for retirement, and retire at a decent age so I could travel around the world and really enjoy my life before I die.  This was the course that my parents, relatives, and friends expected me to live.  And while I was trying to follow this course marked out for me, I also did whatever my flesh wanted.  I pursued things to gratify my flesh.  I sought pleasure and didn’t care about the consequences of my actions.  I believed in Satan’s lie that my life was my own to live however I wanted, that I wasn’t obligated to anyone, and I can always deal with the consequences later.  Even after I became Christian, I still find that I have to constantly battle against the desires of my flesh.  I still want to be comfortable and have to continually struggle against the pull of wanting to settle down and enjoy my life instead of living my life serving God.

 Ephesians 2:4-7

  • Reflect on the words of v. 4.  Consider this portrait of God, against the usual picture of God I have by default. 

V. 4 says that God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us.  This is such a contrast to the usual picture I have of God.  My usual default picture of God is that He is easily displeased with me.  He is the master who casts a critical eye on all that I do and if I fail even in some small way, I will quickly fall out of favor with Him.  In my default view of God, He is slow to show mercy.  My default view of God tends to come out whenever I fail in some way or when I sin.  I am afraid of confessing the truth of what I have done and who I am because I am afraid that this is the last straw for God and I have maxed out my number of second chances.  Yet, each time I take a chance and confess my sins to God, I am pleasantly surprised that God is merciful and loving and He has always responded with forgiveness and grace and I see once again how wrong my default view of God is.

  • How did God show me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus?”

God has shown me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” because in Christ, all of my sins have been atoned for so that I no longer have to bear the punishment for my sins.  I am no longer dead in my trespasses and sins, but am now alive in Christ and am restored in my relationship with God.  As I get older and see myself as a hopeless sinner more clearly, I am that much more thankful for the grace that is shown me through the cross because I realize how much I have been forgiven.  The fact that I have a place to go to unburden my heart and receive cleansing fills me with awe and gratitude each time because I know that it did not have to be this way.  Not only does Jesus forgive me of my sins, but in Jesus I am set free from following the course of this world and the spirit that is at work in those who are disobedient to God.  I no longer have to live according to the desires of my flesh and be enslaved to my insatiable appetite for pleasure.  In Christ, I have been set free from the law of sin and death, and have the hope of heaven to look forward to.  The struggles that I face now will one day end and I will no longer have to contend with my sinful nature.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, I praise you for you are merciful and gracious.  If you counted our sins against us, who would be able to stand?  But you are merciful and abounding in love and I am able to approach your throne of grace with confidence that you will receive me no matter how miserably I have failed or how many times I have failed.  Thank you for sending Jesus to the cross.  If it were not for his sacrifice, I would still be dead in my transgressions and I would still be bound by my life of following the world and living to satisfy my fleshly desires.  Thank you for setting me free from this wretched life and for giving me a new life in which I can have the hope of heaven to look forward to and can enjoy living the way you have made me to live, in a relationship with you.

Submitted by Betty H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 2:1-3

·       What was man’s state before God intervened?

Man’s state was bleak and hopeless before God intervened.  We were dead in our trespasses and sins.  We followed “the course of this world” and were controlled by Satan or “the prince of the power of the air”; we lived among others who were also disobedient to God.  We lived according to our fleshly, self-centered passions and did whatever we wanted without regard to God.  We lived out our own desires and dictated our own lives.  We were in our natural state “children of wrath” and were going to be judged by God because of our disobedience.

·       What three things exercise control over unredeemed man according to this passage?  In what ways did I follow these things before I became a Christian?  Are there some ways in which these things still exercise dominion over my life?

The three things that exercise control over unredeemed man are:  1) the course of this world, 2) Satan or the prince of the power of the air, and 3) the passions of our flesh.  Before I became a Christian, I, like the rest of the world, lived with myself at the center.  That is the way of the world and it was how I was taught as well.  If I had not become a Christian I could see how I would continue to live and follow the very natural course of godlessness in my life.  I also followed the prince of the power of the air in the sense that I was fooled into thinking that there were other things more important than God even while attending church and thinking that I was a pretty good person for being active in church.  But in fact I pursued idols, my own desires and agenda.  The way that these things still exercise dominion in my life, even though I have been freed from following them in Christ, is when I give into fears and anxieties and voices that tell me that I need to fend for myself, that I need to hold back instead of trusting in God and living a life sold out for Him.  As a new mom and going through a life transition currently, I am especially prone to falling prey to these voices.  I need to especially guard myself against these things that exercise control over unredeemed man, to be honest and to confess so that I can receive help and to fight the spiritual battle along with others who are doing the same.

Ephesians 2:4-7

·       Reflect on the words of v. 4.  Consider this portrait of God, against the usual picture of God I have by default.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

V. 4 says that God is rich in mercy and loved us with a great love.  The usual picture that I have of God by default is not someone who is rich in mercy and loved us with a great love.  Instead, the usual picture I have of God is that He is someone who is hard to please, that He is barely able to tolerate me and somehow I was just lucky that He decides to love me.  But this verse says that God has an abundance of mercy and He did not just love us reluctantly, but He loved us with a great love.  That means God’s love is more magnanimous and generous than I give Him credit for.  In fact, through the cross I can know and have experienced God’s rich mercy and great love.  God have not been stingy with His love and portioned out only a tiny bit for me, but He has poured out His love and mercy for me through the cross, taking pity on my hopeless state within His intervention.  This is the kind of descending love and merciful love that I have experienced from God through the cross.

·       How did God show me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus?”

Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

God has shown me “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness” in Christ Jesus because through Christ, I have forgiveness of sin and a reconciled relationship with Him, something totally undeserved.  I was dead in my transgression prior to receiving Christ.  I was spiritually dead, but in Christ I was made alive again.  Not only so, but this verse also says that I have been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  The fact that I have been given the same glorified status as Christ and included in His reward when I was disobedient and sinful is something amazing, and all because of God’s grace and kindness in giving Christ as an atoning sacrifice for my sins.  This is the simple yet amazing truth of the gospel, that because of God’s mercy a sinner like me can be saved and redeemed.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for intervening in my life, for taking pity on my state and not leaving me to be.  Thank you for taking pity on me, and for rescuing me through Christ even though I did nothing to deserve it, when in fact I sinned against you and was disobedient towards You.  You have turned my life completely around, from death to life, from following the ways of this world and my own selfish desires to being alive in Christ, even being raised up and seated in the heavenly realm with him.  You have ennobled me because of your great love, your mercy and your kindness.  I thank you for this amazing gospel.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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