Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

We Are Appreciated, 26 January 2014

Big Idea: We are appreciated…by God!

Ephesians 1:15-23

When did you most feel appreciated? Why?

When did you recently express appreciation to someone? Why? What did you do? How did it make you feel?

We all like to be appreciated. We may intellectually know that God loves us, but it’s quite another thing to hear the words “thank you” or receive a gift of appreciation.

Two things

There’s two things I want you to know: I appreciate you and God appreciates you.

Did it surprise you when I said God appreciates you? When I recently heard those words, I wasn’t so sure. God is God. I appreciate Him, but could He possibly appreciate me? He loves me, He died for me, but He appreciates me?

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
(1:15-16)

Paul is writing to a church, a church he started in the city of Ephesus. He likely was speaking to a broader audience, however, since this letter was circulated among many churches…and has continued to be read by churches around the planet for the past 2000 years!

The church was filled with faith in Jesus and love for people. Those are the two most important things according to Jesus—love God and love people. Period. That’s the goal. That’s the litmus test. That’s success.

Do you love God? Really? How do you know? Does God know?
Do you love people? Really? How do you know? Do they know?

We often equate love with what’s in our head. It’s easy to say we love something but action is entirely different.

This past week I read that a restaurant I loved closed. I loved their food. I loved their atmosphere. I loved the service I received.

I dined there once! My love in my head did not translate into action. They closed. Can I blame them for closing?

Paul was saying that these people genuinely loved God and others. Their faith was visible, not just intellectual. He says that these people are in his prayers and he appreciates them and continually gives thanks to God for them.

I love that! He’s a great pastor. Remember, he’s writing from prison. He can’t exactly bring them gifts or FaceTime them. He uses the only tools he has—prayer and letters—to communicate his appreciation and love.

In Revelation chapter two we learn that the church in Ephesus was a great church.

Paul could’ve used the precious ink and paper to complain about the conditions in prison and to ask them to pray for him. That’s what I would’ve likely done! I’d write, “Help! Pray for God to miraculously release me from prison again!”

How many of your prayers are cries for help? God loves any honest prayer, but like any Father—like any person—He loves to receive thanks, too. This is a prayer of thanksgiving. We don’t need to wait until November to give thanks!

Are you thankful to God for anyone? Take some time and pray prayers of Thanksgiving.

Paul appreciates these people, but he also speaks for God as he writes scripture. He appreciates them but so does God.

Scio, God appreciates you. He loves it when you obey Him, love others, and pray.

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.
(1:17)

Paul gives thanks but also prays for them—and us—to know God better. There’s nothing more important than knowing God. Nothing. We were created to know God.

Here's another beautiful depiction of the Trinity. We see Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Paul asks God to give them wisdom and revelation in order to know Him better.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (1:18-21)

That’s a mouthful! Paul had a habit of writing run-on sentences!

The eyes of your heart, not mind. Intelligence does not guarantee understanding of spiritual truth. There are some things only the Spirit can teach us.

Paul does not pray for material things but spiritual blessings. He wants them to know hope, their inheritance, and His power.

If we truly understood God’s power, I believe our prayers and our lives would be radically different.

This month we have learned about the power of wind and cold and snow.
The Detroit News headline on Friday said, “Enough already!” We often think about God’s power in creation or storms or the resurrection, but His power has been unleashed in other ways such as the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Can you imagine seeing Jesus lift off the ground into the sky?

The first three chapters of Ephesians are largely filled with doctrine and truths about God while the final three chapters provide practical instruction about how to apply the doctrine and live God-honoring lives. What I want you to see here is the vivid portrait of God.

This chapter ends with a reference to us, the church.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (1:22-23)

We are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the church. Since we are in Christ, the Father views us as He views Jesus.

He loves Jesus. He loves us.
He appreciates Jesus. He appreciates us.
He loves to hear the voice of Jesus. He loves to hear our voices.
He will spend eternity with Jesus. He will spend eternity with us.

Daddy is nuts about you! He loves you! He appreciates you!

Credits:

Some ideas from

Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Saints, 12 January 2014

Big Idea: We are saints, God’s people set apart for His purposes, blessed with grace and peace.

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Introduction

Good morning, saints! Good morning, sinners!

Today we continue our new series, Who Do You Think You Are? It is a series about identity, and identity is one of the most important aspects of life. I believe theology and anthropology—understanding God and humans—are the two most important fields of study, for the more we understand God and ourselves, the more we will flourish.

Who are you? Who are we? These are the primary questions we will seek to answer throughout our study of the book of Ephesians.

As a review for those who braved the snow last week and a summary for those who didn’t, we noted that Ephesians…

  • - was written by Paul in prison in Rome
  • - to the church in the city of Ephesus, a cosmopolitan city not unlike Ann Arbor
  • - it was written not only to the church at Ephesus but to all in the region
  • - it is, therefore, one of the most universal books of the Bible, filled with timeless truths
  • - frequently speaks of what it means to be “in Christ,” our primary, true identity

I want to note a few additional things about this book.

  • - It is about “the Church which is His body,” of which Christ is the head
  • - Paul founded the church in Ephesus during his second missionary journey
  • - Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31)
  • - This may be the epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16
  • - Like many New Testament books, Ephesians has an Old Testament parallel—Joshua
  • - The church in Ephesus had many great preachers including Paul, Apollos, John and Timothy; what a legacy!

Ephesians 1 begins…

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

This is a letter written by Paul from a Roman prison. Paul was once a religious zealot named Saul.

Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:2-3)

His conversion may be the most remarkable in history, an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9). Later he goes by the name of Paul (Acts 13:9).

Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

The word “apostle” is interesting. The Greek word means “messenger” or “envoy.” I like to say there are two types—Apostle and apostle. An Apostle is the highest office of the Church. They received their commission directly from Jesus. Even though Paul did not know Jesus during His earthly ministry, the glorified Jesus commissioned Paul. They also saw Jesus after His resurrection, often wrote scripture, and performed signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:112). They also started churches.

Today there are people that are called
apostles. I consider myself an apostle. I have been involved in starting or planting churches. I’m a spiritual entrepreneur.

Paul, an apostle
of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

As we said last week, the core message of Ephesians is that our identity is in Christ. Paul is a messenger of Jesus. He has no personal agenda. The messenger only delivers—they don’t create—the message. As he was repeatedly arrested and beaten, he must’ve thought, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
by the will of God,

It was clearly God’s will that Paul become an apostle. He was called for a very special purpose, specifically to write much of the New Testament and be the most prominent figure in it after Christ.

Note that God does the calling. He still calls people today. He calls people to start churches, to travel to foreign countries, and to become pastors. He calls people to be beacons of light amidst the darkness at factories, schools, offices, and homes across our county. Be ready for His call. Be ready to respond. Be ready to obey.

Jonah received a calling, did not obey, spent three nights in a fish, and eventually got on board with God’s will!

You may be waiting—patiently or impatiently—for His call. I had a friend who spent years asking God to show him what to do. Silence meant to continue to be faithful to his current assignment until the time was right for something new, something that eventually came. He now leads a church God called him to plant in Chicagoland.

You might not like your calling. Take it up with God!

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

I began with the greeting, “Good morning saints.” When you think of saints, perhaps you think of a New Orleans football team or a bunch of dead guys that have churches named after them!

A saint is a holy person.

The word “sinner” is used about 300 times in the Bible, often in conjunction with the 600 references to God’s wrath. It occurs no more than three times in reference to believers. God sees us as saints. Why don’t we? When we begin following Jesus as Lord, we become genuinely new creations, though not totally new. We are given a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ when we identify with Him. That’s incredible!

Paul writes to the church…

To God’s holy people
in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

…in Ephesus and to those in the region and calls them “God’s holy people” or saints.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints (
haggais) means separated or set aside for the sole use of God, holy vessels like those in the tabernacle.

J. Vernon McGee used to say there are two types of people today: saints and ain’ts!

We have been set apart for God’s use. Isn’t that incredible?!

We are saints
and sinners. Notice what is next…

To God’s holy people in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus:

We are not saints because of how we act but because we are “in Christ.” Last week we briefly looked at nine uses of this phrase “in Christ” in the first thirteen verses of Ephesians. We are saints or God’s holy people “in Christ.” We are the faithful “in Christ.” We are full of faith.

You might be thinking, “I’m not always faithful.” True. This is where the faithfulness of Jesus kicks in. Paul wrote to Timothy an incredible truth.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Because we are in Christ, we are faithful. It’s not about what we do, but what He has done.

Imagine that your name was chosen in a radio contest and you’ve been given a
backstage pass to a rock concert. You go backstage, someone asks your name and then asks you to leave. When you flash them your backstage pass, everything changes. You’re “with the band!” You are on their team. You didn’t sing or play an instrument or even setup the stage, but you’re with them. You have special privileges not because of who you are or what you’ve done but who you know.

Being in Christ is so much more. It’s having a backstage pass to heaven, not because of anything you’ve done, but because you’re with Jesus.

It’s actually much more.

The bird is in the air and the air is in the bird.
The fish is in the water and the water is in the fish.
The believer is in Christ and Christ is in the believer.


That’s radical!!!

Paul continues this idea when he says…

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. These are two of my favorite words.

What is grace?

It is unmerited favor.

Grace
was the Gentile form of greeting.

Grace is the means by which God saves us. You must know God’s grace in order to have peace. The world can never know true peace until it knows God’s grace.

Outside the church we see “love” and “peace” but rarely “grace.” It is that amazing!

Peace was the religious word, shalom in Hebrew.

Peace means peace with God, to have our sins forgiven. It is more than the absence of war. Shalom means “to complete, to make sound.” It was used to describe the temple when it was finished (1 Kings 7:51). It is used to describe tranquility. The word was also used as a greeting, as it is here.

Last year our daughter, Kailey, talked about how she was going to focus on a word in 2013. I decided to follow her lead and have declared “peace” as my word for 2014. I have far more self-inflicted anxiety and fear and I’m choosing to embrace peace. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Paul blessed us with peace. I’m declaring peace on my life and I want to do the same for yours.

Grace and peace are two things you can have regardless of life’s circumstances. They’re yours if you accept them, much like salvation and God’s love.

Paul is greeting his friends and blessing them with grace and peace, not from Himself, but…

Grace and peace to you
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit was already present in Ephesus. Now Paul ensures that the Father and Son are recognized.

Notice how often Christ Jesus is mentioned in this short section.


Christ is the title. Jesus was His human name. That’s why they’re used interchangeably. You can call me Pastor Kirk or Kirk the pastor. You can call Him Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Paul goes a step further and acknowledges Jesus as LORD. All glory and honor and praise is due Him for He is God, He deserves our praise, He is worthy of our worship.

Conclusion

We’ve spent a great deal of time on two short verses, just the greeting. If you’re reading through Ephesians with us, perhaps you blew past this passage, anxious to get to “the good stuff.” It’s here! In Christ we are saints. In Christ we are declared faithful. In Christ we are blessed with grace and peace.

This week I had this thought of Jesus talking to me. I didn’t have a vision or hear an audible voice, but I simply had the realization that Jesus truly loves me. He knows me. He is my friend. He’s God, but I’m on His team. He has given me His identity. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Wow!

Every day we have a choice—to be saints or aints! We can choose to be lord of our lives or surrender to the LORD Jesus Christ. We can we His badge or risk it going alone, doing it our way. I urge you to embrace Jesus and the identity that is offered to you in Christ. It is truly a joy to say “Your will, Your way!”

Credits:

Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are In Christ, 5 January 2014

Big Idea: Our identity can be found in ourselves, our world, or in Christ.

Who are you? Few questions are more important.

When you meet someone for the first time, how do you introduce yourself after you provide your name? An American? Married? Engineer? Mom? Athlete? Geek? Hunter? Fisherman? Musician?

What three words best describe you?

We tend to think what we do determines who we are. The opposite is true. Who we are determines what we do.

This idea was reinforced this past week in an article I read about swimmers.

In Rolf Dobelli’s book,
The Art of Thinking Clearly, he explains how our ideas about talent and extensive training are well off-track:

“Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities.”

Did you catch that?

You are not who you are because of what you do, but what you do is because of who you are—your identity.

As we begin the new year, it’s a great time to reflect upon our identity.

Who are you?

I can ask who you think you are, but a more important question is…

Who does God say you are?

You are not your occupation, your IQ, your education, your income, or social status. You are a human being created with value, dignity and worth.

In the first book of the Bible, we see God’s plan for us.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
(Genesis 1:26-28)

You and I were created by God in His image and likeness. We were made to mirror God to the world. When we love, forgive, speak truth, and are generous we reflect His character to others. The goal is not for the world to know us, but Him.

The question should not be “how does this make me look?” but “how does this make God look?” That’s worship, imaging God.

We are not God, but we’re also more than just an animal with thumbs.

We were created to rule over creation.

We were blessed. We didn’t deserve or earn blessing, but that’s God’s grace. We have been blessed to bless others.

Many think identity is about what they do, but
our identity is received, not achieved.

You are not more or less valuable than anyone else, healthy or sick, rich or poor, born or unborn. This is unique about our faith, the belief that all are image-bearers. Your net worth has nothing to do with your self worth.

This is why we don’t believe in racism, sexism, classism.

God says we are cherished children, which begs the question…

Who does satan say we are?

Personal evil is real, a created angelic being who rebelled against God named satan. He wants to steal, kill and destroy. In Genesis 3, he lied and deceived Adam and Eve and destroyed them…and us. The power of a lie is contingent upon whether or not it is believed.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Genesis 3:1-5)

Here we see identity. Satan tempts them to be like God. We were already created like God! Our identity is received from God, not achieved by what we do.

Who are you?

Our new series on the book of Ephesians seeks to address this simple yet profound question, both in terms of who you are as an individual and who we are as a church, the Body and Bride of Jesus Christ.

Where: Ephesus

Have you been to Ephesus? I have not, but I know many things about it. First, it was the most important city in what is now western Turkey. It was a harbor city at an intersection of major trade routes which means…commerce, people, culture, diversity. Although Ann Arbor lacks a harbor, we have I-94, M-14, US-23, and nearby Detroit Metro Airport. Ephesus had a great pagan temple dedicated to Diana, a Roman goddess, one of the seven great wonders of the world. Ann Arbor has a great temple dedicated to…football (and an occasional hockey game!). Like our town, it had a huge library that is still visited today.

The church in this city flourished, though it later received a warning in Revelation 2:1-7.

The city had about 250,000 people which is about the population of the Ann Arbor area. Luke’s grave is there. It was a central hub for the early church.

The gospel transformed one of the greatest cities in the world.

They have dug up about 10-15% of the city. The streets are marble despite being thousands of years old.

They are unearthing New Testament homes, some of which are quite large, some with large great rooms to entertain and practice hospitality.

A 25,000 seat amphitheater is still standing. You can stand at the bottom, drop a coin at the bottom, and hear it at the top.

From: Paul

Paul wrote this letter, possibly around a.d. 60 while in a Roman prison. He knew Ephesus well as it was his base of operations for about three years of evangelism.

Some have said they like Jesus but not Paul. However, as an apostle, Paul speaks under the authority of Jesus. If you don’t like Paul, you can’t like Jesus!

To: Audience

Although we can summarize and call Ephesians a letter from Paul to the church in the city of Ephesus, his intended audience seems to be broader. Unlike other letters written to specific churches to address specific issues, this message is more universal and this letter was likely passed among various churches in the region. It may be the letter referenced in the book of Colossians as a letter to Laodicea. This makes it especially relevant for us since he is not reacting to unique circumstances but declaring God’s truth to multiple generations.

Paul does so with great precision. Paper was scarce, so he packed a tremendous amount of information in 155 verses. Despite their brevity, it took John Calvin about 700 pages to describe them and Dr Lloyd Jones five times as many! It’s as if Paul compressed a huge piece of theology into four pages like a zip file on your computer or even a loaf of bread that grows and expands when you let it sit.

Themes

In a word, Ephesians is about grace. In two words, our identity
in Christ.

In Christ

We can find our identity in our job, family, nationality…or in Jesus. The Bible uses the word “Christian” three times but the phrase “in Christ” appears more than two hundred times! We’re not going to look at each today, but I want you to see nine that appear in the first thirteen verses of chapter one. We are

faithful in Christ (1:1; remember who you are, then you’ll know what to do)
blessed in Christ (1:3)
chosen in Christ (1:4)
made blameless in Christ (1:4)
we can know the will of God in Christ (1:9)
reconciled to God in Christ (1:10)
we have an inheritance in Christ (1:11)
our hope is in Christ (not your job, friends, family!) (1:12)
we have the Holy Spirit in Christ (1:13)

These are only nine of thirty things we’ll see we have in Christ.

Conclusion

Who are you? Who are we? From now until Easter we will examine these questions as we journey through the book of Ephesians. I encourage you to read through it—along with Psalms and Proverbs which we are using as the content for this year’s Scio Journal on our Facebook page. One of our Life Groups at 11 AM will provide opportunities for you to reflect and interact on these scriptures about identity.

Credits

Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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