Last night our community group from church started a new study in Ephesians. This will be an in-depth study of one of the most densely packed letters from the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. As we started the study last night, one of the guys made a really interesting observation about Ephesians 1:5, which starts at the end of verse 4, In love, 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. The observation was this: by being adopted, we skip to the front of the ancestry line of inheritance. We are not the great, great, great…. grandchild of the King, we are the adopted child of the King. We have direct access. What a blessing it is to have direct access to our Father in heaven through Jesus Christ His Son. And what an interesting way to look at it, don’t you think?
When I first read the Bible all the way through a few years back, the biggest thing that struck me was the fact that there are no perfect people in the Bible; at least not until we reach Jesus. Every single character sinned and was saved by the redeeming blood of Christ. And, every single character’s purpose was to ultimately point everyone back to Christ. Hebrews 3:3 give a wonderful analogy of this: Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater than the house itself. No matter how great the individual is, we were all created to be a reflection of Christ and to point others to Him, without exception.
Our sin nature will always be a force in our lives. It will always want to push us into doing the things we know are wrong even when we know the potential to hurt us. In Romans 7:15 Paul says I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Without the power of the Holy Spirit in us to change, and the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we would forever face a losing battle. Praise God for showing us grace and giving us a a path to salvation.
One of my favorite things in today’s reading comes at the end of Acts 11:26 where it says The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. In our present day many believers shy away from the word “Christian” as a title for who we are. But when you look at the word, it is meant to mean “Christ-like”. When we shy away from what we were intended to be, which is to be a reflection of Christ and thus Christ-like, we fail to fulfill our calling. In the end, we are not trying to bring others to a place where they are more like us, but more like Christ. To be called a Christian does not make us better than anyone, it simply makes us forgiven and identifiable with our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is everything to us. Few verses in the Bible state it more clearly than John 6:35, Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” While Jesus can provide for our physical needs, when we have a personal relationship with Him, He satisfies our spiritual needs completely. For this reason Jesus called Himself “the bread of life”.
People can deny the existence of God, but the truth is apparent even to the demons. In today’s reading Jesus encounters a legion of demons who have possessed a man and even they know who Jesus is. Mark 5:6-7, 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” Later on in the New Testament in James 2:19, James states, You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. Belief in God or the denial of His existence does not matter. We can intellectualize reality all we want, but the truth will never change; God exists today and He is working all around us through Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit in our lives.
As I read Mark 2:23-24, I thought about modern day Christians in comparison to the Pharisees in the time of Christ, 23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” As I get older and I read and study more about Jesus’ life, I have come to the realization that modern day “Christians” represent more of the life of the Pharisees than Christ Himself. We have become more comfortable holding onto rules and beliefs that have little or nothing to do with the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice and more to do with our own attempts to present a righteous life. While living a pure and righteous life is admirable, and is typically a reflection of changes brought by the presence of the Holy Spirit, the truth is it has very little to do with the grace and mercy Jesus provided through His sacrifice on the cross. As believers we must remember to meet people where they are and not require them to be where we think they are supposed to be. This can only come through an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ our Savior.
God knows the life we lead on this earth is not easy. But we can still have peace because we know His ultimate purpose. In John 16:33 Jesus tells His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus does not abandon us to our struggles no matter how alone we may feel. Our peace does not come from an easy existence, but from a life with Jesus in our lives.
Today we begin to read the story of Jesus Christ in chronological order through the Gospels. From now through the last day of the year, we will skip throughout the different books of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) as we cover Christ’s birth through His crucifixion and resurrection.
We begin this journey in Luke chapter 1 with the incredible account of all God prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The most powerful verse to me in today’s reading is Luke 1:37, For nothing is impossible with God. From Elizabeth becoming pregnant with John the Baptist in her old age, to Mary’s virgin pregnancy, God was able to orchestrate His plan which ultimately leads to the perfect sacrifice for the atonement of our sins.
I hope you enjoy the journey over the next 3 1/2 months as we read the story of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Where would I be without Jesus? That is a question I often ask myself. The video below by Shane and Shane reminded me how empty my life would be without Him. In the end, I could have it all and still have nothing if not for His saving grace and the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life.
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