We have been studying Ephesians in Sunday school. That has always been one of my favorite books. The first three chapters are a great exposition of the truth of the gospel and the foundation of our belief as a Christian. The last three books are teaching us how to live out our lives based on the foundation of the first three chapters. In other words, because these things are true – this is how I should live.
What is true:
Ephesians 1:3-10: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Ephesians 2:1-10: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Those are some of my favorite verses! What wonderful and inspiring truths there are for us. These verses have everything to do with what Christ has accomplished and given to us. Our only participation in these verses is that we were graciously gifted with these things and did absolutely nothing to earn them! The first few verses in Chapter 2 tell us how much we deserved God’s love and favor. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were following Satan and carrying out the desires of our own flesh. And then those great words – But God!
At the end of the verses in Chapter 2 we learn God’s purpose in choosing us and redeeming us – 1) To show his immeasurable grace in the coming ages, in other words to bring glory to Christ, and 2) We are his workmanship, created for good works.
The last three chapters of Ephesians spell out the good works that he created us for. Chapter 4 talks about the unity of the body of Christ and the author, Paul, (inspired by the Holy Spirit) also begins to tell us how to walk this Christian life. He reminds the readers that they are to “put off” the old self (the self ruled by our own desires and by Satan) and to “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:23-24
Chapter 5 just doubles down on everything that is listed in Chapter 4. This is where we get hit with both barrels. 🙂
Ephesians 5:1-2: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
There are a lot of directions in this Chapter about how we should walk and how we should not walk, but one thing really stuck out to me this Sunday when we were studying the first 21 verses. Twice it mentions to give thanks and it also mentions singing to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs – v. 4 – Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving., v.19-20: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Praising God and thanking Him for all He is and all he has done for us brings our focus back to where it needs to be. Away from our circumstances, away from difficulties with people, even away from focusing on our own failures. Have you ever tried to pray what you are thankful for when you really just want to complain? It really does change your thinking.
Levi struggles mightily with anxiety. From my perspective his worrying about everything takes his mind away from the fact that there are a LOT of things he DOES know and that he CAN count on. I am reminding him to stop and be thankful for those things. I hope that at some point it will become an automatic habit and that it will change his heart and mind.
So, my message is quite simple. When you find yourself worrying or complaining or just plain old in a bad mood because of the circumstances in your life, take a moment to be thankful and praise the Lord for Who He is and what He has done for you. One reason I included the Ephesians scriptures is because those are a great starting point for us in thinking of the blessings God has showered on us.