Today we begin reading Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, which was meant strengthen the believers. Paul wanted the believers to know his strength and desire to live came from Christ alone. In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, For to me, to live is Christ and to die gain. Paul was not only willing to die for the cause, but he actually preferred to be with Christ. Though, he recognized his mission was not yet complete and he still had work to do for the Kingdom. Paul was single-mindedly focused on serving Christ and others as long as he could on this earth.
We cannot expect to face the evils of this world if we do not stand behind God’s protection. In Ephesians 6:13 Paul says, Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. God’s armor protects us if we choose to look for His guidance and protection through the minefield of life.
Christ brought each of us out of the darkness and into the light. We should live our lives accordingly. In Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. When you are in a dark room, it is hard to move around. When the lights are turned on we are able to move about freely. Living in the light is not a sacrifice, it is freedom from struggling in the darkness.
One of my biggest struggles in life deals with anger. While 99% of the time I am“happy-go-lucky”, when the wrong buttons get pushed, I become a different person and it is hard for me to get over it and move on. To make matters worse, even though I know “sleeping on it” is not productive, it becomes a vicious cycle and is hard for me to just let it go. Paul addresses this in Ephesians 4:26-27, 26 In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. I have learned over the years that even in a heated state it is better to talk things out than to simply walk away. The truth is the longer we hold onto pain that causes anger, the more likely we are to act in a sinful way. Anger is not sinful in and of itself, but the way we respond to anger can be. God never leaves us alone to deal with our own emotions. If we let Him in to help us, we can deal with it in a healthy and productive way.
What an amazing freedom we have to approach God directly through our individual prayers. In Ephesians 3:12 Paul says, In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Because of Christ, we have the ability to approach God directly through prayer. We are not hindered or limited by an intermediary. Praise God for the privilege of having a direct and loving relationship with Him.
There is nothing any one of us can do to deserve eternal life. God’s grace is how we have come into salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul says, 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. God ultimately gives us the gift of salvation because He loves us and He knows we were incapable by our own power to live a life worthy of eternal life. It is a gift from Him which does not require anything of us. We may feel like we owe God something for this gift, but we don’t. His grace is sufficient.
Today we begin the book of Ephesians. It was written as a letter to the church at Ephesus in order to strengthen the body of believers there. At the end of the first chapter, Paul emphasizes this in Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness if him who fills everything. The fullness comes from Christ’s ability to fill the church with His gifts and blessings that can only come from Him. When we trust in Christ we have the ability to receive gifts that cannot come from anywhere else.
Philemon 1:16 describes all of us as believers in Christ: no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. Before we knew Christ and trusted in Him for our eternal salvation, we were slaves. After, we became magnitudes better than slaves; we became brothers. Nothing can bless us more than that.
As we finish the book of Acts, Paul finally made it to Rome and was able to share his experience and the truth about Jesus. Some heard and believed, while others heard and did not believe. In Acts 28:26-27 Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah 6:9-10, 26 ” ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ “ Paul’s example of obedience shows us it is our job to share the gospel of Christ, not to convince people or to judge them if they don’t believe. Only God can change a person’s heart.