What I am

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus”
(Ephesians 2:10)

Reflection:
 I am not what the world has made of me. I am who and what God created me to be, and into which He is leading me and expressing through me.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

However, this newness is not something or someone that God has recently dreamed up. My true identity and nature goes back into the mists before our time began. And God is restoring me into that image which has all the beauty of something new and untarnished – a someone I have never seen or even imagined.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”
(Ephesians 1:4-5)

George Appleton, in his beautiful and deeply insightful prayer, expressed it like this,

“Give me a candle of the Spirit,
O God,
as I go down into the depths of my being.
Show me the hidden things,
the creatures of my dreams,
the storehouse of forgotten memories
and hurts.
Take me down
to the spring of my life,
and tell me my nature and my name.
Give me freedom to grow,
so that I may become that self,
the seed of which  You planted in me at my making.”

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Live Higher

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling
and slander, along with every form of malice”
(Ephesians 4:31)

Reflection:
As we saw at the beginning of the week Paul encourages us to

“purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit,
perfecting holiness out of reverence for God”
( 2 Corinthians 7:1)

This is not just another requirement that is laid upon us but a call to increasingly see God as He really is and to see ourselves as He has recreated us and is transforming us to be.

He is the Lord God Almighty – the God of majesty, power, purity and holiness – and deserves to be revered and honoured, worshipped and glorified. And we now are not merely a bunch of graceless sinners but the daughters and sons of the great and glorious Lord and God. So just as He is wondrously holy we too are called to be holy – allowing His image to shine in and through us.

It is in this context and for these reasons that Paul calls us to look to our lives and to live out and up to our great calling by our glorious God. So just as we do not see bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander and malice in the character and life of God – and would be alarmed if we did – they should not be seen in our own lives and emotions. And instead of embracing or allowing them as natural reactions we should be recognising that they do not belong – and that we do not wish for them to be a part of our redeemed lives – because we are now different and wanting to live to our higher calling and identity.

Response:
Be the new you – and keep asking the Lord to fill you with His healing and love

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to want to be more like You and to live it out – and please continue to pour Your love into my heart by the Holy Spirit whom You have given to us. Amen

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God’s Revelation

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the glorious Father,
may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,
so that you may know him better”
(Ephesians 1:17)

 

Reflection:
Paul has been talking about our new life in Jesus Christ. He refers to our not being with Christ but, far more intimately, ‘in Christ.’ This expression and variations on it occur 164 times in his letters.

To be in Christ is to become a part of His life and living right where we are, how we are and who we are, at this moment in time – and to continue in that Way. It is to be personally and vitally united to Christ – as branches are to the vine and members to the body. It is to come to know the Lord Jesus as a personal and living reality – and to know that in some mysterious and spiritual way He lives within us. ‘It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of His authentic followers’ (Stott)

Paul now reveals that a part of his prayers is that God will “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” This immediately gives us the insight that is should be a part of our own prayers as well. Note that he is not praying that we will know more about God – as in the accumulation of knowledge – but that we will get to know Him more and more as the Person that He is and in so doing deepen our relationship with Him as well as our knowledge of Him.

This knowing God better and knowing more of Him comes not through study alone but through God’s revelation of Himself to us. Elsewhere Paul would write that

  • You … may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18)
  • “God (will) fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9)
  • “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9)

 Adolphe Monod wrote that “Philosophy taking man for its centre says know thyself; only the inspired word which proceeds from God has been able to say know God.” That is both our calling and God’s desire for us. He wishes us to have and to enjoy a personal and deepening relationship with Him – both now and throughout eternity. And it is only through coming to know God as our Creator and Redeemer that we have any possibility of really coming to know ourselves – both as we are and as He intends us to be.

Response:
Ask the Lord to reveal Himself to you – and look out for Him in His Word and in your prayer life and living.

Prayer:

Father God, please bless me with Your Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know You better. And please help me to be aware of Your reaching out to me, to recognise it and treasure it. as You draw me into a more meaningful relationship with you. Amen.

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United in God

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace”
(Ephesians 4:3)

Reflection:
Our relationship with God was fractured at the fall – and so were our relationships with creation and with one another. Jesus Christ came to make it possible for these relationships to be restored through His death and resurrection. And what He made possible is given effect by the Holy Spirit who comes to live within us and to minister to us at that level.

He draws us into the ‘body of Christ’ where the Lord Himself is the Head and we are the members. These members are then in a close and living relationship with both the Lord as Head and with each other. Any disunity amongst the members would grieve the Head and would be disastrous to the proper functioning of the body itself.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

As Christians we have one Lord, Jesus Christ, one Spirit of God who lives and ministers within us, and one God and Father of us all. Jesus prayed that we should be brought into the unity that exists between He and His Father and it is the Spirit who works to give effect to that prayer.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23)

It is this unity, which could only be brought about by God, which is supposed to be a witness to the world of God’s love and redemption in Jesus Christ.

As we recognise these truths we begin to see that the problems in the world may not only be because of those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord. It is also clear that the Body is not functioning as it should  – and it is certainly not presenting a unified face of love and of truth to the world. Until the world begins to see God in us it may not bother to look for Him anywhere else.

Response:
Where am I in disunity with other Christians and within myself?

Prayer:

Father God, please forgive me for the things within me that destroy my peace and cause me to withdraw from others. Please heal me and draw me closer to You so that I may be more of a point of love and healing in my context. Amen.

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My Purpose

“For we are God’s workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do”
 (Ephesians 2:10)

Reflection:
God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us. He has equipped, and will empower, us for that purpose. It is in that purpose that we will begin to find our satisfaction – not because of any material rewards that it might bring, but because it is so worthwhile doing.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew He said to them, “I will make you fishers of men.” In other words, in the new identity that He would give to them this would be their purpose. Paul, in the passage above, affirms that in our ‘new creation’ as God’s sons and daughters, we are the workmanship (again) of Christ. A focus of that workmanship is that we will have been (re-) formed to do the ‘good works that God prepared in advance for us to do.’ He has a plan and a purpose for us.

Through the Holy Spirit, living within us, He equips, empowers and calls us into that purpose. Our peace will lie in recognising our calling, accepting it, and living it out. Some may be called to high and public office, others to quieter and less visible ministry. Each one is important in the plans and purposes of God. Where we are called is where we will be most effective. I cannot fulfil your purpose nor can you fulfil mine – each one has their own.

Chesterton famously wrote, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” That was not an excuse for sloppy work – its truth is in the fact that, if we are only able to do a worthwhile thing badly, it is still worthwhile doing! If we are only able to love Christ poorly, it is far better than not loving Him at all. And of course, in all of this, God is the One who will decide.

Everyone is called to be a person who receives and passes on the love of God in the situation in which He has placed them, and to which He will call them. We can begin and continue right where we are – living as the light and love of Christ in our particular world.

Every person has a God given purpose in this life. We are not to envy others but to recognise our own.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8)

Response:
God knows where I am. He can use me here. He will lead me on to wherever He wants me to be.

Prayer:

Father God, please help me to trust you with my life. Help me to be more open to You, so that I will not waste the opportunities open to me now, but use them to Your glory. Amen.

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Life in the Spirit

“Be filled with the Spirit”
(Ephesians 5:18)

 

Reflection:
Pentecost is essentially about life. It is not just about the same old person with a new opportunity. It is all about a new person commencing a new life with a new focus and a new life force within them – that of God Himself.

Jesus spoke about our being born again of the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit would live within us in an intimacy of relationship beyond that which was possible with Jesus in His earthly ministry. He explained too that when the Holy Spirit came He would bring to God’s people a new strength – a new power – that they had not enjoyed before.

The absolute importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives is put very clearly by Paul.

  • “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “You received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16)

It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to the Lord Jesus, who opens our understanding to the forgiveness and salvation to be found only in the Lord Jesus, who guides us to open our lives to the Lord and who then helps us to live out the life that God has purposed and planned for us.

We cannot ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives to co-exist with the life of the world which is already there. We are asking Him to come in to be the Lord and Master of our lives and to show us how to live, equip us for that life and give us the strength and faith to live it. We also ask Him to identify, cleanse and heal us of any evil and its consequences that He finds there. It is all a part of His establishing His complete Lordship in and over our lives and clearing us out and cleansing us for the new life God has given us. The Holy Spirit does not come to help us to live our lives but to help us to live the life God has planned and prepared for us.

This Life in the Spirit is a life of following Christ and that is what’s vital. Any experience of being baptized in the Spirit and of our own Pentecost is an important beginning but not an end in itself. Different people will have different experiences at different times for a whole variety of reasons – including the fact that God treats each of us as an individual and not part of a mass production line. Our greatest danger will be that we ignore the Holy Spirit or relapse into our old default setting of the way of the world – trying to live in our own strength, slowly closing in on ourselves and losing contact with the Spirit.

Because we are human, and because all this is a process that having begun continues for the rest of our lives we will need to keep turning to God for a ‘fill up’ or fresh release of the Holy Spirit – because on the one hand we ‘leak’ and on the other we cannot avoid becoming clogged now and then by the dirt of the world in which we live. We will need forgiveness when, not if, we sin, and healing of the pains and hurts that we will encounter on the journey. However ‘in Christ’ and with the Holy Spirit our end is certain and secure and no one can change that.

Response:
One Lord of my life

Prayer:

Father thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit please come and fill my life – cleanse me and set me free from the sins and stains of the past and bring me into the fullness of the life that You have for me in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen.

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What a Blessing

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know ..
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
(Ephesians 1:18-19)

Reflection:
Paul’s prayer for us is not that we may know of certain things but that we may know them as true for ourselves. So He prayed that

  • We might know God better
  • We might know the Hope to which God has called us

Now he goes on to pray that we might know

  • The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe

His inheritance for us is that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v14). Peter describes it as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:4) Paul also calls it both rich and glorious – finding words to describe that which is beyond our present capacity to see, to hear or to imagine.

As God children we are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) One day by His grace this inheritance will be ours and it will include everything that God has and has planned and prepared for his beloved children – us. Transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus we will be enabled to see and worship God as He really is, in all His glory, majesty, power and love  – and to live in His presence forever, freed from the imperfections, pain and burdens of this fallen life.

Only God’s power can fulfil the expectations which belongs to His call, and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us. So Paul writes of

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe
  • The working of His mighty strength

The resurrection and the ascension were a decisive demonstration of this divine power. There are two powers man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. In Christ God has conquered both – and so is more than able to protect, rescue, liberate and transform us too.

Lord God,
enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the riches of our glorious inheritance
in the saints
and Your incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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