Coming Sunday Nights Starting January 2014

Daily Distinctives, May 11, 2015 (Homecoming)

May 11, 2015

Daily Reading:

[Eph 1:1 NKJV]
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

[Eph 1:2 NKJV]
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

[Eph 1:3 NKJV]
Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ,

[Eph 1:4 NKJV]
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

[Eph 1:5 NKJV]
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

[Eph 1:6 NKJV]
to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

[Eph 1:7 NKJV]
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

[Eph 1:8 NKJV]
which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

[Eph 1:9 NKJV]
having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

[Eph 1:10 NKJV]
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.

Daily Distinctive:

The last week or so has been quite a challenge and so I am so glad to get to the point in my day where I can spend some quiet time with the LORD and just put the fullness of my attention on the WORD of God and drink in what the LORD has prepared for me today. I know that the week ahead, should the LORD tarry or I get the express trip to heaven, is going to be busy and so it is good for me that I prepare for the coming days by being in the WORD of God and getting my marching orders. That said, I wanted to cover the first several verses of Ephesians in my devotional today, largely because it was the first book I ever read when I became a believer in Christ.

I think it is good that we revisit those “first love” passages from time to time and remember back to when we first read them. Now I can’t tell you how many times I have read through Ephesians since then, but today I want to go back to the book from the perspective of a seasoned believer remembering back to the days when these verses first enlightened me. ¬†I say “seasoned” because I am a little older and have a much better grasp on the whole of Scripture than I did when I first read this book. Not that I have “arrived” by any stretch, still I have a deeper relationship with the LORD now than I did way back when. Even so, I have to ask myself, “Are you still as in love with Jesus as you were when you first read this book?” I want to say, “Absolutely,” and I truly believe that is the case, but hopefully through self-examination I will confirm this through the reading of the Scriptures. It is a homecoming of sorts. And so no better time than the present…

[Eph 1:1 NKJV]
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:

When I first read this passage of Scripture one big thing stood out to me and that is that Paul was an Apostle by the will of God. I used to think that was so cool, and I still do really. Here we have one of the greatest Apostles and the only reason we are blessed with these epistles is because God willed that Paul become an Apostle of Jesus.

Later on as I grew in the faith, I discovered that Paul had written a large majority of the New Testament books. And looking back in hindsight I am truly amazed at the amount of content that has been canonized which comes directly from a man who never physically walked with Jesus, but whom Jesus chose for a purpose that was counter to everything that Paul believed in.

I find a great deal of joy knowing that God calls people who are living counter to Himself, in order that He might redeem them and use them to glorify His name. If anything it gives me continued and renewed hope that Christ can even use someone like me.

[Eph 1:2 NKJV]
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I love this verse. I remember when I was a young believer, I kind of adopted this line as my signature when I would write a letter or send and email. I used to put “Grace to You and Peace” on everything I wrote. It really had an impact on me as a young believer. I did not realize at the time that this was kind of of common greeting amongst the believers at the time Paul penned these verses. I remember being struck by the fact that Paul opens with grace and peace. What was so amazing to me was that by grace through faith I was given salvation and that has long since given me a confident peace that the LORD is in me and that my salvation is secure!

[Eph 1:3 NKJV]
Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ,

In my younger days I read this and saw¬†that this was a continuation of the greeting that Paul made. But as time went on I started to understand more about the depth of this vera. Paul is¬†saying here, “Blessed is the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ…” The word “blessed” means, quite literally, “Happy.” Paul is offering up praise here to the only One who is worthy of praise and so he offers up blessing to God. And so we know too that God is happy with those whom He calls His own. It pleases God the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ to bless us. And here we see that with which the LORD blesses us. It says here that He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. This is interesting because we see here that while God could very well open the flood gates of heaven and pour out His blessings on us in the way of physical blessings, He has chosen to bless us with spiritual blessings that far outweigh any material blessing that we could ever receive.

[Eph 1:4 NKJV]
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

It is this blessing which the Father intended to pour out upon His children from eternity past. It is impossible for us to fathom the depth of the wisdom and grace that the LORD has poured out upon us. That He chose us before the worlds were ever made does not usurp our free will, but rather, proves His will is far greater. There are some groups who hold that this is evidence of election, and indeed it is; however, man still has a part in this role of adoption and that is that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. The problem with much doctrine today is that it is dogmatic with regard to questions that go beyond our finite ability to comprehend the Infinite wisdom of an Infinite Creator. We can infer from this passage that God has indeed chosen us, and still there must be a reciprocal response lest our will be null and void. We reciprocate the free gift of salvation which God chose for us from before the foundations of the world by living in obedience, laying aside our will, or better aligning our will to His. This act of obedience is evidenced in holiness and blamelessness. For if our relationship with God had nothing to do with us then there would be no sin, for God is not the author of sin. We would, by virtue of His benevolence be born sinless and by virtue of such we would be immediately holy and without blame before Him in love. Since we do play a role in this divine relationship, it is incumbent upon us to be holy and without blame, which requires our submission to his Salvation first, and then submission to His will in obedience.

[Eph 1:5 NKJV]
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Predestination does not suppose automatically that those who are predestined will ultimately fill the calling. God has made a way for all men to come to a right relationship with Him through adoption by the acceptance of the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf on the cross. Still we know that some will not accept this perfect gift of grace and will not have a saving faith. Does this mean that God has predestined some and not others? Not at all. God has predestined everyone that has ever lived to adoption, but has given us a will to choose. The good pleasure of His will is that none would perish, but that all would come to repentance and enjoy the gift of salvation which He affords us for His glory. To illustrate this point, I can say I want for my children to grow up and live lives that glorify the LORD. Still they must come to a realization of the need for Christ if this good pleasure of my will is to come to pass. Now obviously I am not God and my will does not matter in the final analysis, nor does it bear any weight upon the choices of others. Still, I would hope that out of love for me and respect for my wishes, that consideration would be made by my children to explore and consider the claims of Christ that they too might come to know Him as I do.

[Eph 1:6 NKJV]
to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

His grace is indeed worthy of praise, for it is by grace that we have been saved through faith. Our salvation is dependent upon His grace first and then our faith in that grace. It is by grace that we are made acceptable in Christ¬†before¬†God. When we have accepted the grace of God we should have a song of praise upon our lips from the shear joy of knowing that our salvation is secure in Him because it was secured by His Son and accredited to us on our account. It says here the “He made us accepted…” and I think this is important to note because it is proof that there is nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. We are simply the recipients of such amazing grace to which our only response should be one of praise!

[Eph 1:7 NKJV]
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

We see that the key to our salvation is in the sacrifice, but no ordinary sacrifice would be sufficient. Only Christ Jesus was capable of the kind of sacrifice that God required for the remission of sins. This is the reason that the priests had to constantly provide sacrifices year after year. These sacrifices were temporary, Christ’s sacrifice on the other hand was permanent. It was by His atoning work on the cross that His blood was spilled satiating the wrath of God which we all deserve. It is by this blood that we are redeemed. When Christ spoke upon the cross, “Teltelisti,” He was using an accounting term which means, “PAID IN FULL.” Jesus paid the price for our sins and offered us forgiveness through His blood. This He did according to the riches of His grace. Notice here that it does not say, “out of the riches of His grace,” but according to the riches of His grace. It was the Old Testament sacrificial system that was “out of the riches of His grace,” for it temporarily offered forgiveness. But when God gave us redemption through the blood of Christ it was according to the riches of His grace and permanent!

[Eph 1:8 NKJV]
which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

When we consider the wisdom of the most infinitely wise Being that exists beyond time we can bank on it. It is this grace that the LORD has chosen to abound toward us. The word “abound” here is the picture of lavish overflow. God not only covers us with grace but a special grace that covers all of our sins. God has grace upon the sinner and the saint alike. He causes the sun to rise and set and the rains to fall on the saved an the unsaved. This is what is referred to as common grace. Unlike common grace, this grace is reserved for those who will receive it. It is the grace which comes by the blood of Christ. This precious blood is¬†sufficient for all, but only efficient to those who will receive His glorious grace that he so richly lavishes upon those who receive Him.

[Eph 1:9 NKJV]
having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

A part of this grace which He lavishes upon us in all wisdom and prudence comes with wisdom and prudence regarding the mystery of our salvation which is hidden from the eyes of those who refuse such an amazing grace. When I think about this it is kind of like a holy “Ahaaaa” moment. When a person receives Christ as their Savior, it is as if the light comes on for the first time and we are illuminated with the understanding of His love towards us. We see how it is that a Holy God would pour out grace upon us when we are so unworthy of it. We may not understand the fullness of His love, but we are able to discern now the mystery of His will towards us regarding our salvation. It is from this perspective that we are all the more enamored by His grace towards us and as an active response to this gift of grace we offer up praise and obedience to Him. God chose to reveal to us the mystery of His will, again, according to His good pleasure. In other words, it pleases the LORD to unveil His plan to those who receive Him. It is also important to understand that He does this for His own purposes and glory and not for any merit that we might have. In fact despite our righteousness, which we can’t have apart from Him anyways, He has chosen to give us insight into His eternal plan and purposes. Salvation and knowledge too! It does not get any better than this.

[Eph 1:10 NKJV]
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.

When I look at the word dispensation it carries with it a picture of something being dispensed. The Greek word for dispensation is “oikonomia” and it means literally, “stewardship” but as it relates to the fullness of the times it could rendered “plan.” In other words, in light of the eternal plan when the fullness of the times is at hand, or at the end of the age, Jesus will gather what belongs to Him. It is kind of like an economy, if you will. When Christ said, “Paid In Full” on the cross the declaration was made, but there is coming a time when He will come and make the withdrawal. We talked about this withdrawal in our last devotional being the Rapture of the church.

And so when the time comes and is complete, Jesus will gather together every soul that belongs to Him. It is Jesus Christ who reconciles the spiritual distance between heaven and earth. Jesus who is the author of all things will reconcile all things to Himself, gathering together his possessions on earth and heaven into one holy collective. This is the end-game. God will have His perfect will which is redemption. We are so blessed indeed.

When I consider this book and these marvelous Scriptures that are contained within, I am drawn to consider the book of Revelation. It is in the book of Revelation that we find the letters to the Seven Churches. When we examine those passages we find a word of rebuke against the church which bears the name of the book we are looking at in our devotional today. To the church in Ephesus, the Ephesians, He says…

[Rev 2:2 NKJV]
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;

[Rev 2:3 NKJV]
“and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.

[Rev 2:4 NKJV]
“Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.

[Rev 2:5 NKJV]
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent.

[Rev 2:6 NKJV]
“But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

And so as I alluded to at the onset, it is good that we revisit those “first love” passages of Scripture. For me, the book of Ephesians was one of the first that I read. I fell in love with Christ as I read these passages, and it is the same WORD that the recipients fell in love with when they first heard it themselves. And I have to remind myself as I read this, my own proclivities. When I read the Scriptures that have given birth to my love for the LORD how can I fall away from my first love. All the more reason for me to visit and revisit these passages as often as I can.

Daily Muse:

The WORD of God is overwhelming. I could spend every waking moment digging deeper and deeper into to it and never even scratch the surface, and yet the more I dig the deeper and deeper it gets into me. I joke around with my clients often about how when I share my passion about my business the wealth of information I give is like drinking from a fire hydrant. This is how I feel when I get into the WORD of God. It is truly overwhelming! But I will continue to drink.

Daily Prayer:

LORD, I pray that You would continue to bless me. I am grateful that You have given me all that I need to live a life that is pleasing to You. You have given me my salvation and that is enough. Still, I want to drink deeper, and draw closer to You. Let me know You more and more. Let me walk with You more and more. I praise You LORD. You are the love of my life. To You be the glory LORD.   -Amen

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