PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 5-6)

01/21 Re-Oreinet; Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180121_prayer-unity.mp3

2 weeks ago we looked at prayer as intimacy; enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God, listening to his word, talking with him, enjoying his presence.

Today I want to look at Ephesians 5 and 6, being filled with the Spirit and spiritual warfare and prayer in the Spirit.

Being Filled with the Spirit

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? We tend to import into the passage ideas about some supernatural religious experience, some ecstatic feeling. We might think of casting out demons and prophesying and doing mighty works, forgetting that Jesus said that some who did these things in his name had no relationship with him, and therefore were not filled with the Spirit (Mt.7:21-23). Instead of importing ideas from outside, we ought to start with what the passage itself actually says.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

…15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine. When you are drunk, enough of the alcohol has gotten into your bloodstream that it begins to affect the way you think and the way you act. Being filled with the Spirit must mean that enough of the Spirit has gotten into us that our actions and our thinking begins to be affected by the Spirit.

In the immediate context of this passage, being filled with the Spirit is walking in wisdom, making the best use of the time, knowing the will of the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with how we address one another, and how we address the Lord. Is there a song in your heart? Is there a nautral overflow of joy that just must express itself? Are you thankful? Always and for everything? Being filled with the Spirit will be seen in our interaction with other people. This passage goes on to give instructions to wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. How we interact with the people in our lives will show if we are filled with the Spirit.

John’s letters make this really clear. His language for a Spirit controlled life is ‘walking in the light’. You can’t claim to be a Spirit filled person walking in the light if you hate your brother (1Jn.2:9,11).

In Galatians 5 Paul tells us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (5:16) and be ‘led by the Spirit’ (5:18) and contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit look like not gratifying fleshly desires, but instead walking in love and the other things that are characteristic of the Spirit. This life of love and joy and peace, this walking by and being led by the Spirit in Galatians 5 must at least overlap with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 about being filled with the Spirit.

Spiritual Warfare

We have these instructions in Ephesians 5-6 on the relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, and then this passage on spiritual warfare. Again, we are inclined to import into this passage a bunch of what we think spiritual warfare is. We tend to think it has to do with demonic activity and a sense of spiritual oppression and doing battle with the enemy. We may tend to romanticize it and imagine ourselves dressed in armor, sword in hand, skillfully swinging and dismembering the demonic hordes. It may be all that, and the text does invite us into the imagery, but we tend to divorce it from its context. This passage is a reminder that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood’ (6:12). Connected with the context, that means that your wife is not the enemy. Your husband is not the enemy. Your children or your parents are not the enemy. Your employer or your employees are not the enemy. The other people in church are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our flesh and blood relationships are not the enemy. In our relationships, especially in the midst of relational conflict and tension (and by the way, it is normal to have conflict in relationships), we need to be reminded who the real enemy is, and that the enemy seeks to control how you respond to all these people in your life.

Instead, we must be Spirit controlled in all these relationships. We need to stand firm in gospel truth, in our blood bought righteousness, in gospel readiness to be at peace, forgiving as we have been forgiven, in believing Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy, in in our salvation that is undeserved, all of grace, fighting the lies with the truth of the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Praying in The Spirit

But the passage doesn’t end there. In fact there is another part of the weaponry that is essential. Or maybe this is what all the armaments are for, this is the field on which the battle is fought. This is the battle. All the armor is equipment to get ready for this battle. Take up the armor that you may withstand and stand firm. Stand therefore …praying.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Through all prayer and petition, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Again, we could import our own ideas of what this means, that it is some super-spiritual supernatural state. But the text says that we are to pray in all times in the Spirit. So this can’t be some special state state of prayer that wouldn’t be safe to do while we were driving our chariot to work in the moring. This text indicates that our every prayer is to be an ‘in the Spirit’ prayer.

Access through Jesus in the Spirit to the Father

So what does it mean to pray in the Spirit in Ephesians? First, we must remember that all the practical exhortations in the second half of Ephesians (4-6) are built on the gospel truth laid down in the first half of Ephesians (1-3). All the imperatives (or commands) are built on and grow out of the gospel indicatives (or statements of truth). So this command to pray at all times in the Spirit must be built on a foundation of gospel truth.

Ephesians 2 lays out the good news of God’s resurrecting power at work in dead sinners to make us alive as a gracious gift (2:1-9). We who were separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12-13).

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus, through his once for all sacrifice, through his grace, we now have access to the Father. Our access is in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit can only begin with blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6).

Into One Body In One Spirit

So praying in the Spirit means access; that through Jesus we have access to the Father in the Spirit. And praying in the Spirit connects us horizontally with other believers.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

We are all baptized into one body in the one Spirit. And our access to the Father is in this one Spirit.

Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is a blood-bought unity of the Spirit with other believers, a unity that frees us to bear with one another in love, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. It is in this unity of the Spirit that we must come to the Father in prayer.

So praying in the Spirit is both a vertical and a horizontal thing. We have access to the Father through Jesus in the one Spirit. And we have a horizontal unity with all other believers in the one body in this one Spirit. So together, in unity with every other believer in the Spirit, because of what Jesus did, we have access to the Father.

So prayer is never a solo activity. It is never just you and God. Of course you can pray alone. You should, as Jesus said, go into your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret (Mt.6:6). You can pray alone, but when you pray, you are never alone. The triune God is with you. That is the only way prayer works. You pray to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. And in the Spirit you are united with every other believer. There is a connection, in the Holy Spirit, with all believers. As Hebrews says, ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Heb.12:1).

For All the Saints

So there is an aspect of praying in the Spirit that connects us with all other believers. But Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to pray ‘for all the saints.’ Praying in the Spirit is both praying with all the saints and for all the saints. Let me ask you, what believers does this leave out? Is there anyone that you shouldn’t be praying for? Is there anyone you find it difficult to pray for? Someone you disagree with? What about brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations? Maybe they believe differently than you on some secondary issues. Maybe they worship differently. Maybe they are wrong. Do you confront them or speak out against them? Are you praying for them? Maybe they don’t even recognize you as a believer. Can you still pray for them?

What about someone who has offended you or wronged you? Someone who has hurt you deeply. And they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything. Can you pray for them? And I don’t mean you should pray Psalm 35 over them:

Psalm 35:4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor… 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

Can you sincerely ask God to bless them?

Are there people you think are doing just fine and don’t need your prayers? Paul the apostle makes it explicit in verses 19-20 ‘pray also for me.’ Paul needs their prayers. We all need prayer. We need each other. Pray for all the saints.

Always,

Note how we are to pray. It is to be full-time prayer. At all times. That means all kinds of times. When things seem to be going smoothly, pray. When things are difficult and messy and broken, when things seem hopeless, pray.

It is to be alert prayer. Attentive, Watchful. Pay attention. Pay attention to the needs of others. Be aware that the enemy is seeking to divide and to destroy. Be on guard, and pray.

It is to be persevering prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on knocking, keep on asking, keep on seeking. Don’t give up. Persevere in prayer for all the saints.

But I Can’t

You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can pray like that. There’s people I don’t think I can honestly pray for. I don’t think I can be alert and persevere in prayer. I can’t pray at all times. You are right. You can’t. There is no way you can. And that too is part of what it means to pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Be strong in the Lord. It is not your strength, not your ability, not your watchfulness, not your perseverance. It is the strength of his might that is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil.2:13). You can’t. But in his strength, in his Spirit, you can.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

…18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Remember, you have been invited in. You have access, blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. You are in a battle, and it is not against flesh and blood. So stand your ground. Stand firm, praying.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment