November 27, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 5)

Submitted by Frances K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:6-7

“In his days Gnostics were arguing that bodily sins could be committed without damage to the soul, and with impunity. In our day there are many deceivers in the world, and even in the church.  They teach that God is too kind to condemn anybody…irrespective of their behavior on earth.  But their words are empty and their teaching deceitful. The truth is that because of these things (these evil, immoral, greedy, idolatrous practices) the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”  [John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1979), 197.]

  • What are the “empty words” that the world today uses to deceive me against my need to be holy? 

The “empty words” that the world today uses to deceive me against my need to be holy often come in the form of questioning whether certain things are “that bad” or whether my life really should be lived out in a certain manner. These “empty words” question the seriousness with which I am called and choose to live out my Christian faith, my commitment to the church and ministry, and why my life is so black and white when it comes to values and standards of morality and ethics. “Empty words” want issues and choices to remain gray and blurry, not taking a strong stance. “Empty words” allow for wiggle-room and compromise. “Empty words” also dilute the truth of God’s word and the commands we find in the Bible. It presents itself in common language and a flippant attitude such as, “Do you really have to live like that?…Does the Bible really say that?…C’mon, it’s not a big deal…” I am deceived and thus far from the truth of what it means to be holy when I give in to any of these lies. What I think, how I feel, and what I do are so intricately connected, and therefore it is very important that I daily take to heart the truth of God’s word and daily fight off the falsehood that such “empty words” endorse in my mind and heart.

  • Who are the “disobedient” in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with?

The “disobedient” in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with are those who question, mock, and disapprove of my personal commitment to God, and therefore the choices I make in order to live a life that is holy and pleasing to Him. Unfortunately, sometimes these are my family members and relatives, co-workers, non-Christian friends, and even other Christians I know. To “not become partners” means that I cannot be swayed and influenced by what they say and how they respond and react towards the way I choose to live my life, the way I handle matters, and conduct myself on the basis of truth.

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8

  • What parallel is there between vv. 1-2 and v. 8? 

In verse 1, there is a command to be “imitators of God” and we are called “beloved children.” There is also a command to “walk in love” and it is compared to the way in Christ demonstrated His love by giving himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Similarly, in verse 8, we are called “light in the Lord” and “children of light” and therefore commanded to “walk as children of light.” The obvious parallel is the identity we are given as children and that we are to walk as Jesus did. We are beloved children, therefore, we are to walk in love as Christ loved us. We are light in the Lord, therefore, we are to walk as children of light. I am struck that we are called and we become what is seemingly so different from who we really are, or what we deserve to be in these two sets of verses. Yet because this is what God calls us – beloved and light – we are thus able to walk accordingly.

  • What is the truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk? 

The truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk is that Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. We are called to and we are now able to walk in love because Christ himself demonstrated His love for us through dying on the cross. His love for us far exceeded what was typical, comfortable, and convenient. Christ’s demonstration of love required the sacrifice of his own life. To this extent, we are shown what it means to walk in love. This gives me a clear picture of what walking in love entails in my own Christian walk – that it requires sacrifice and all of me.

  • Since the word of God declares that I am a “beloved” child, loved by Christ who gave himself for me, and that I am “light in the Lord,” what would it look like for me to respond in trust to these declarations in terms of how I see myself, how I relate to others, and how I see my role in the world?

I am touched and I am amazed by this kind of identity that God gives me: a “beloved” child, loved by Christ who gave himself for me, and that I am “light in the Lord.” I know that these truths do not necessarily sink in readily or easily. There are some days in which I do not fully understand or believe, and some days when I’m ruled by certain emotions or what’s going on around me, that I do not feel it. However, this is what the word of God declares that I am. It’s not based on how I’m feeling, what’s going on around me, or even for that matter, who I think I am. But God calls me his beloved, Christ has demonstrated his love for me already on the cross, and it is in Him that I am now in the light. For me to respond in trust to these very declarations is to accept and embrace this “call to live out what the gospel says is true.” The commentary also noted: “The Christian life is always a call to be who God says we are.  A life of faith is a life that takes God at his word.” I realize that I need to take what God says at face value, not second-guess, deny, or dismiss it. When I begin to see myself in this way, it will affect the way in which I relate to others. There wouldn’t be any sense of fear, insecurity, or comparison. I would be able to have the proper view of others as those who are “beloved” and “light in the Lord” as well. They will truly be my sisters and brothers without any inferiority or superiority or worldly and superficial difference dividing us in any way. To respond in trust to these declarations would also impact the way I see my role in the world. I would have confidence as His beloved child and as light in the Lord to freely declare the precious gospel to others in order that they too would come to accept, know, and experience these God-given identities for themselves personally.

Ephesians 5:9 

  • Reflect on the words listed here.  Think about the ways in which God has already given me “all that is good and right and true” in Christ. 

God has given me “all that is good and right and true” in Christ first and foremost by loving me to the point of sacrificing His own son upon the cross for my sins. The good and right and true that I have received is the forgiveness of my sins, the grace and mercy that grants me a second chance and a new life, the reconciled relationship I now have with Him, and the fellowship I share with believers. I have been able to experience such an abundance of “all that is good and right and true” in Christ through the church and meaningful work that God allows me to take part in.

Personal Prayer

Lord, Thank you for your love for me demonstrated through the life and sacrifice of Jesus. Thank you for taking my life that was once in such darkness, so far from you – steeped in my own impurity, covetousness, filth, and deceived so easily by empty words of this world – and allowing me to become light in you. You also call me your beloved child. Help me, Lord, to fully embrace these identities you give me and to truly take hold of this call you give me. I need to daily trust in who you say I am and take you at your word so that I can properly see myself before you, relate to others, and see my role in this world. I thank you and praise you for what you have given me that is good and right and true in Christ.

Submitted by Joe H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:6-7

  • What are the “empty words” that the world today uses to deceive me against my need to be holy?

There are so many “empty words” that the world today uses to try to deceive me. One voice says that there is no god–and so I don’t have anyone to answer to. Do what you want. You are your own god, and so you can just follow whatever appetites you have. They are natural, and you decide what is right or wrong. There is the voice that says that there are many gods, but there is no one particular god that is above any other. Postmodern. Relativistic. The only “sin” is to declare yourself “right” or someone else “wrong.”  As such, it allows someone to believe whatever he wants with no need to prove, defend, or have any reasonable reason why anything is valid. It’s a shortcut to doing whatever you want. Another voice comes at us from the media and from advertisements. It distracts us with all these other things that we need to have in order to be truly fulfilled in life. And so, who cares about holiness? It’s like the worldview of the cheater in the Emperor’s Club movie. To him, it didn’t matter if he broke some rules or failed morally–he just wanted to achieve position and status, and he would do whatever it took to get there.

And that’s the thing with all these words. Ultimately, it all leads to justifying our own sinful desires to “do whatever we want,”  The world tells us to ignore God, that he doesn’t exist, that his ways are old and antiquated, and that the only real authority is ourselves. And this is exactly how Adam and Eve fell.

  • Who are the “disobedient” in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with?

First, I have to be very careful about the media that I consume and the things that I allow my eyes to passively consume. Advertising is such a huge industry because they know what they’re doing.

Secondly, I have to be careful of the people in my life whose worldviews are clearly opposed to the bible. My coworkers often talk about what they did that weekend, or what parties they went to, or what things they bought for themselves, etc.–and if I am drawn to that lifestyle, I will become disobedient to God’s call for holiness in my life. I cannot allow that draw to influence me.  Rather, I should become the influencer, and draw them in towards God.

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8

  • What parallel is there between vv. 1-2 and v. 8?

Both verses affirm my status as a child of God. Verse 1 says that I a beloved child. Verse 8 says that I should walk as a child of light. And after affirming that reality, I need to walk a certain way, be a certain way, act in a certain way, which reflects that reality.

  • What is the truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk?

The truth is that I am a child of God. And that Christ loved me and gave himself up for me as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. This needs to become the bedrock of my Christian walk. In Apostle Paul’s call to the church and to individual Christians to live a holy life–it always comes after understanding God’s grace and God’s mercy and our sonship and adoption in Christ. This is the very essence of the Gospel. I am so used to always trying to do things for myself and by myself, that I can do this with Christian life also. I can try to run on my own strength and my own power, thinking perhaps that I can do quite well for myself. And perhaps I can try to do all the duties of a Christian and a staff member on my own power. But that power is so small and insufficient. God knows that I cannot do this. Apostle Paul knows this also. So he reminds us again and again that the basis and source of my Christian walk is indeed the basic Gospel again: that I am God’s child, his beloved, that even know I was a sinner deserving nothing but death, he loved me enough to apply the blood of Christ to me, so that I too can be an heir, a child of God. I’ve always got to go back to that reality–understanding my relationship with God. Then my Christian walk doesn’t become something that I have to make sure to do a really good job on, but something that flows naturally from wanting to please my father who has already guaranteed me an inheritance.

  • Since the word of God declares that I am a “beloved” child, loved by Christ who gave himself for me, and that I am “light in the Lord,” what would it look like for me to respond in trust to these declarations in terms of how I see myself, how I relate to others, and how I see my role in the world?

Seeing myself: As a beloved child, I don’t have to earn my spot. I’m not being evaluated for my worthiness in becoming an heir. This is a reality that is already true! Many times, I see myself as someone who is being evaluated–because everyone else seems to evaluate me and assign me a worth. School gives me grades; work gives me reviews; social circles can accept or reject; but, God is not like any of these things. He has already adopted me as a son and as an heir and I don’t have to look over my back and constantly worry about my place before God. If I evaluate myself in this way, then other people become competitors. My friends become competitors, and I would relate to them on a “who-is-better-at-this” kind of way. Constantly evaluating…constantly checking the pecking order. It’s exhausting and divisive. But when I see myself as a beloved child of God, I can finally be secure in my position and think about other people. I can see the world just as God sees the world: other insecure people trying to find their place in the world and trying to find the unconditional love that is in Christ. My role is to bring others to God, and for them to see that they have a loving heavenly Father, who wants to draw them out of the darkness and into the light! For me, this context is mainly on the college campus. There are so many walking around in darkness. And God wants them to enter into relationship with him. But if I’m always caught up in my own thing, there’s no time for that, and there’s no room in my heart for any of that.

Submitted by Steven C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:6-7

  • What are the “empty words” that the world today uses to deceive me against my need to be holy? 

The empty words that I hear from the world that strive to deceive me and pull me away from a pure devotion to Christ tell me that, “I shouldn’t be trying so hard in Christian life, if I have to try this hard, then something is wrong with my Christian life.”  Others tell me that, I need to take care of myself more, “God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and well.”  And still, others warn against such honest and transparent living, citing that it leads to later regret and betrayal because people can’t be trusted.

  • Who are the “disobedient” in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with?

As I think about the people who share empty words with me, who engage in disobedience before God, the “empty words” actually come from all around: from co-workers in the workplace who find it illogical and unknowable that there could be a God; from patients that I treat and get to know who tell me that I haven’t experienced enough of life to know true life; from church-going friends who’ve since become enamored by the world and lost the drive and focus to so zealously follow God; and, from family members who see me living my life, and ponder and question why I have to live the way I do.  The longer I live this life, I recognize that everyone in this world has opinions about how Christian life ought be lived out, whether they are Christians or not.  It’s such a strange phenomenon that I find people outside of the church, people who haven’t read the Bible, who seemingly think they know what it is to live a Biblical life.  But, the one who ought to teach me and be the source of authority in my life cannot be the fleeting words and sentiments of the world.   The source of authority for how I ought to live out my life to be pleasing to God and towards holy living is and must be the Bible.  The Word of God, teaches me how I ought conduct and live out my life, so that I might not be deceived away from living a life of devotion to God.  Scripture teaches me about myself, my old life and my new life and how I must be constantly putting off the old and putting on the new, so that I may better imitate the life of Christ.

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8

  • What parallel is there between vv. 1-2 and v. 8? 

Eph 5:1-2 notes that we are to be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love”.  As we are now saved, we are called to imitate God, and what that looks like is recognizing that we are God’s beloved children and what follows is walking in a life of love.  These sentiments are paralleled and echoed in v.8, now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.  There is something that happens when we become Christian and are adopted as God’s children.  And thus, there is a subsequent call to live a certain kind of life, to walk and live in a different manner than the rest of the world.  The call is to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us (v.2) and to walk as children of light, no longer living how we once lived in darkness, but to be changed and transformed as we are now light in the Lord (v.8).  The love that we have and the light we now possess are not innate to ourselves, but are things that we receive through God, and the call is to now live in the reality of these blessings and truth of the gospel.

  • What is the truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk? 

The truth that forms the basis and foundation is that I am a beloved child of God and a child of light.  No longer am I orphaned and outcast because of my darkness and sin, but instead through the great love of Jesus on the cross, I have been brought back from death to life and now have fellowship with the Father.  The truth is that there isn’t anything good in me, but God has transformed my life through calling me his beloved child and giving and granting me a new purpose to no longer live for the world, but instead to walk in love and walk as a child of light demonstrating the great glory of God.  The source of my significance in this world is that I am God’s beloved child.  I am his cherished son, his treasured possession, kingdom of priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:12).  I am a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession (1Peter 2:9).  This is now the truth and reality, and no longer do I need to clamor after any other source of significance in the world.  I don’t have to seek out after achievement in the world, success and wealth in my profession, I don’t need luxury and comfort in the world, I don’t need to amass a kingdom or name for myself, there is no need to seek after the approval of people or of man.  The truth that undergirds all of my life is that I am God’s beloved and there is nothing that I can do to change that.  The one who I am called to live before and the one who I must one day give an account for my life before is God.  So, I live my life in a manner to maximally please my God and creator, so that I might not disqualify myself from receiving the prize and one day hearing the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

  • Since the word of God declares that I am a “beloved” child, loved by Christ who gave himself for me, and that I am “light in the Lord,” what would it look like for me to respond in trust to these declarations in terms of how I see myself, how I relate to others, and how I see my role in the world?

If I were to live a life responding in trust to these declarations that I am a “beloved” of Christ and that I am “light in the Lord”, I would have a much more confidence in life and much greater intentionality about each person that I meet.  There would most definitely be a strong sense of confidence in God and the gospel, knowing that I am so dearly loved and secure in my relationship with God.  I wouldn’t be so easily defeated by setbacks, mishaps and problems that arise, and I suffering for the sake of the gospel would be much more manageable knowing that my eternal security is set and that the light and momentary struggles are achieving for me something far greater than anything that this world has to offer.  As I think about the people that I relate to and encounter, I would be much more intentional about loving them and sharing with them the love of Christ.  After all, in the grand scheme of eternity, all that matters most is if a person is Christian.  It’s so true that there is no mere mortal, each person is eternal and will outlast the things of this world.  So, I must have a greater sense of mission and calling, recognizing that it is God who is calling me to be light in the Lord and share the message of Christ with the world.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you for your concrete love in sending your son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice on my behalf, to save me and redeem me from the brokenness of my sins.  God, you loved me so dearly and with such extravagant love, endowing my life with meaning, purpose and significance.  Lord, I’m so thankful that my significance is founded upon my identity in You, and no longer do I have to clamor after meaning and purpose in the world.  Lord, you have freed up my life to love people, to walk in love and to walk in light, shining the light that you have filled my life.  Lord, I pray that as I continue to walk as a Christian, that I would grow in understanding and awareness of these truths in my life.  Help me to understand again and again that I am your beloved child and treasured possession, and please help me to grow in confidence of that reality.  Lord God, I want to commit to living a life of pleasing you and walking in greater faith as I strive to live with much intentionality as I reach out to all the people in my sphere of influence.

Submitted by Vivian P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:6-7

  • What are the “empty words” that the world today uses to deceive me against my need to be holy? 

The empty words are that sins in my thought life or sins that others cannot see I can just let it pass since “no one will know.”  This deceives me against my need to be holy. These empty words minimize my sins and make me focused on just what people can see on the outside, at the expense of compromising holiness. It is a lie that takes my focus off of God and onto just image-maintenance and fear of what others think of me. There was a period in my life where I had let worldliness fester in my heart without confessing it to anyone, hoping that no one would find out. This led to just going through the motion of things and growing numb about my sins. I grew farther away from God and people, where what I did on the outside in front of others was disconnected from what was going on in my heart. I learned the hard way that time, that though no one can see, God sees, God takes our sins very seriously. I learned that there are consequences to my sins, and the longer I let it fester, the more it grows and damages me and my relationship with God and others. And ultimately the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, including me if I allow sin to fester. Moreover, when I buy into this lie that “no one will know, it’ll pass,” I forgo the chance to come into the light and experience humbling myself before Christ who died for my sins on the cross. When I feel tempted yet again by these empty words, I remember the painful lesson I learned, and it helps me to see my sin before God rather than before the gaze of people.

Another set of empty words that the world uses to deceive me is that I should avoid suffering in life, and that I should look after my own needs and desires first. When I feel tired after a long day of work, a tough talk with someone, when ministry doesn’t seem to have much fruit, this voice creeps in and I can start to feel self-pity. It’s this expectation that life should be smooth-sailing, that suffering isn’t the norm to be expected, that ultimately I should prioritize my own comfort and well-being. When in reality, following Christ is a life of suffering that involves self-denial in order to love others.  Jesus makes this very clear with his words and his life. Moreover this idea is a gratitude-killer, as it causes me to turn my focus away from all the ways in which God has blessed my life even in hard work. It causes me to forget that ministry is a great privilege that has been granted to me by God’s mercy, and that to work hard is good, as it prevents me from becoming idle and falling into sin.

  • Who are the “disobedient” in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with?

The disobedient in my life in my life that I am called to “not become partners” with include my coworkers and classmates that minimize sin and even outright are shameless about it. I cannot compromise God’s standards in my life because of not wanting to stand out, make a big deal, or be judged by them. It should be expected that my values and my actions will be different from their values, otherwise my Christian identity really would not hold much weight. Also, there are Christians who may water down the call to live a cross bearing life because they want to hold on to their comfortable life style. They can point at my life and say relax a little, don’t spend so much time at church, don’t work so hard. This can even come in the voice of those who say these things out of love for me. However, the reality is that if I am not living in the light, then I’d be living in darkness, I can’t have one foot in the world and one foot in God’s ways. Ministry is a hedge of protection for me, that keeps me from falling into sin.

Ephesians 5:1-2, 8

  • What parallel is there between vv. 1-2 and v. 8? 

The parallel between vv.1-2 and v. 8 is that both point to our new identity as God’s children as indication that we should now live as children of God, as imitators of him, as light. As a Christian, I should no longer continue in my old ways of following the world when I was a slave to sin, but now as a daughter of Christ, my life should become more Christ-like.

  • What is the truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk? 

The truth that forms the basis and source of our Christian walk is that we are beloved children of God. We are not slaves to a taskmaster or a worker of some stringent boss who is constantly disappointed in us, but rather we are children of our merciful heavenly father. This forms the basis and source of our Christian walk, because as sinners trying to imitate a holy God, God knows that we will stumble and fall, however, he gives us grace, as we try to follow after him. Through the blood of Jesus that paid for our sins, we have mercy each day. It’s the knowledge that I am a child of God that causes me to press on in my Christian walk.

  • Since the word of God declares that I am a “beloved” child, loved by Christ who gave himself for me, and that I am “light in the Lord,” what would it look like for me to respond in trust to these declarations in terms of how I see myself, how I relate to others, and how I see my role in the world?

To respond in full trust of these declarations that “I’m a beloved child” and “light in the Lord” would really change how I see myself, relate to others, and my role in the world from my default mentality. Because it’s been engrained in me for so long, it’s easy to view myself in terms of my competence or lack thereof, outward appearance, successes and failures and get insecure. As a result I compare myself to others by these worldly criteria and just become a very inwardly focused, envious and have less room in my heart to love others.

I think I’d be lot less insecure if I remembered and clung onto these truths more. When I remember back to my track record, and how it’s truly by God’s grace that I have the privilege to take part in ministry and to be part of this body, it reminds me that though I lack many things, God did not choose me because I was qualified, but because he died for my sins and brought me into his fold and gave me the privilege to take part in his work. If I truly believe that I am a beloved child of Christ, I know that God is with me and that he is willing to bless me with his power, wisdom and strength. Instead of trying to just take care of things on my own, I’d pray and cry out to him a lot more. With my identity secure in God’s love, I’d not get so discouraged by how people respond to me in ministry. Also, how I’d see others would be with eyes of compassion, as people who either don’t know God and are living a life searching in the dark apart from him, OR as people who are brothers and sisters in Christ and co-laborers for the gospel. It’s also easy for me to belittle what I can do or accomplish in terms of leading people spiritually, however, if I were to trust in the fact that I am “light in the Lord” then I would have a lot more confidence and sense of mission as I engage in ministry. Although what I myself can accomplish is very little, as someone who has been washed and commissioned by God, I am God’s instrument of light onto this world.

Ephesians 5:9 

  • Reflect on the words listed here.  Think about the ways in which God has already given me “all that is good and right and true” in Christ. 

Because of what Christ has done, God has already given me all that is good and right and true. Although I may not fully grasp it now, but as I abide in him, I will grow to understand and receive more and more of what he has already given me. In Christ God has taken care of my greatest need, salvation from my sins through which I was rotting away with hope. Moreover, he has already conquered sin and death.  Satan’s accusations will have no hold on me on that final day. In Christ, God has given me eternal life with him in heaven, as we who are saved are now considered co-heirs with Christ. In Christ, God has allowed me to acknowledge the truth about myself, about who he is, and about the shape of reality.  God has given us his Word in which there is only truth and which is always right. What I’ve come to know more this year is that apart from God there is no good thing. I think about the purposelessness that many people of this world experience as they go on with day to day life, and all the ways they are just guessing through life what will bring them fulfillment, I see that my life is such a stark contrast since God has given me true meaning and purpose. Looking back on what I wanted for myself, a selfish ambitious, loveless, and vain life and what God has given me: a rich life with meaning and purpose, with many deep relationships, and eternal hope, I see that truly God knows what’s best for me. He has given me more than I could’ve ever asked or dreamed for myself.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the reminder of these truths that I am your beloved child and light in the Lord. Lord, I see that there are so many empty lies that the world tries to get me with each day, but please help me to stand firm and not compromise holiness. Help me to live really believing in the truth that I am your beloved child and light in you because of what you did on the cross for me, and may it really change how I view myself, others, and my role in the world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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