Tuesday, November 29, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-29 [Ephesians] Godly Living #1: Imitate

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians5:1-2

Our next section (5:1-20) deals with Godly Living. While the section will provide some specific ideas about what Godly Living entails, Paul starts us off with a very basic truth: Godly Living means living and loving like Christ.

Piety or Godliness, in Paul's definition, is very simple - it is about becoming becoming imitators of God in Christ and living a life of love.

But Paul gives us a two good reasons to do this:

1. We are not trying to live Godly lives to satisfy the whims of some stern deity in heaven. We are living Godly lives because we are "dearly loved"! Paul is using the same Greek word here as is used in Matthew 3:17 where God speaks at the baptism of Jesus and says "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased..." Little boys imitate their fathers because they know their dads love them. We imitate God because we are "beloved."

2. We live a life of love because Christ loved us and led by example. He loved us and gave Himself as a sacrifice. When we live lives of love, we are simply small reflections of what He has already done for us.

Godly living is imitation and love. Our motivation is that we are much loved and Christ has already set the ultimate example.

The rest of this section really just spells out what that might look like...

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 25, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-25 [Ephesians] Inside out

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians4:29-32

In this final part of chapter four Paul offers useful advice for the ongoing community of the Church.

Good church communities are inside-out phenomena. When God's Grace is at work INSIDE people and they courageously live it OUT then the outcome is real Christ-honouring unity and not rigid uniformity or compromising conformity.

In each of the four verses here Paul tackles an INSIDE attitude:

The first has to do with the tongue. The Bible speaks a lot about the tongue and Jesus made it clearest when He said: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Mt.12:34) We need to learn to put a leash on our tongue:
- avoiding the unwholesome
- building up others
- adding benefit to those who hear.
The point here is the leash on the tongue - the tongue is the bridge between the inner and outer worlds, and when we get good security on the bridge we will be healthier people and the world around us will benefit.

Next up, Paul calls us to march in step with the Spirit. His word choice is striking here: Don't "grieve" the Spirit. He is reminding us that that Spirit is not an impersonal force, but an equal part of the Trinity. We are in relationship with Him. The internal choices we make affect our relationship with Him. How do you feel when someone you love very much makes bad choices?

Thirdly Paul calls us to root out bitterness and all its companions. These are the negative emotions that fester in us and cause us to become dissatisfied, disgruntled and disappointed in life. We need to relentlessly eradicate these things in our lives. Are you angry, bitter, disgruntled? Get over it! If you can't get over it, get help!

When we get rid of the negatives of bitterness, there is room for kindness and compassion and Paul urges us to make decisions to be kind and to forgive. His argument for this is a trump-card: because Christ forgave you! There's no arguing against that.

So, this is the inside-out change process:
- Start by putting security on the bridge between inside and out
- Remember that you have a friendship with God through the Spirit
- Relentlessly root out bitterness
- Be gracious because Jesus was extra gracious to us!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 24, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-24 [Ephesians] Live for Christ, live for others

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 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. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Living for Christ means we live for others.
There is no substance at all to the thought that we can be solo, hermit or lone-ranger Christians.
Being called to Christ means being called to community.

Yesterday we saw how Paul has called us to put on a "new self" which has its roots in being like Jesus. Now we are being called to live in community and over the next three days we'll look at three paragraphs that have to do with this communal life.

There are three community concepts at stake today: Truth, Anger and Work.

TRUTH is foundational to communal life. We are part of one body. When I am not truthful it is very damaging to the body, because the truth will eventually come out and those I have misled suffer from my deceit.

ANGER is something many Christians deal with very badly. We think that being angry is wrong and so we bottle it up and it comes out in horrible unexpected ways. Paul is clear: Don't sin in your anger and don't bottle it up. Badly dealt with anger is Satan's foothold: When we sin in our anger we hurt others and when we bottle it up we hurt ourselves. We must learn to deal with anger constructively.

While it looks like vs.28 is about theft, it is actually about WORK. Theft is what we resort to when we are too lazy to work. Theft is not only theft in the criminal sense, but theft in the sense of someone playing the victim and abusing the generosity of others. The outcome Paul seeks here is not the absence of theft, but a dignifying work ethic that not only supports the worker but assists the needy.

Paul calls us to community, but not superficial community, rather courageous community where the truth is told, anger is constructively resolved and a dignifying work ethic is the order of the day.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-23 [Ephesians] Another alternative

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians4:20-24

After describing the downward spiral of "futility thinking," Paul reminds the Ephesians that it is possible to "put off your old self" and be made "new."

What is very striking to me is that Paul centres this life transformation on their knowledge and experience of Christ. New life is knowing Christ and learning from His Truth (the example He set during His Incarnation by being obedient to the Father even by going to the cross.) Being in tune with Christ's life will help us put off the old self and develop a new mind attitude that will lead to a new self.

Trying to live good lives on our own does not work - new life is found in Christ. The more we look at Him, the more we know Him, the more we will become like Him.

It is the "attitude of your minds" that is all-important. If we fill our minds with God's truth and the example of Christ then transformation can take place. It is very much a battle of the mind, not so much the power of positive thinking, but rather the power of the truth of Christ being at the heart of how we think and act.

There is a verse in Acts (4:13) that says it all:
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been WITH JESUS." (Emphasis mine)

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-22 [Ephesians] Losing the Plot

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. Ephesians4:17-19

Paul has spent the first part of this chapter explaining the nature, purpose and importance of the church. Now in the second part, he explores some of the practical ramifications.

There is an interesting downward spiral that takes place when we try to leave God out of the picture. Paul considers this "futile thinking" and it is the hallmark of mainstream society.

This first step downwards is powerfully described in v.18...

It all stems from a hard heart.

A heart that is closed to God is a heart that is separated from the Life of God in the world. Think about sunsets, the miracle of breathing, the wonder of child-birth and so many other things that speak of the majesty and splendour of God - they are the "signposts" of the "Life of God." When we harden our hearts to God, then we can't read the "signposts" of God's life and our understanding becomes darkened. If we don't have God as our reference point, we become self-referencing, self-centred and self-defining.

This leads us to losing sensitivity (toward others) and giving ourselves over to sensuality (our own pleasure) and because this can never satisfy, we try harder and harder to find self-pleasure no matter what rules we break.

In the context of this chapter, it needs to be recognised that Paul is offering the church (where people are growing closer to God and each other) as an alternative to main-stream society that is locked in a downward spiral.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

EMMDEV Break in eDevs

Hi there,
There will be a break in eDevs this week as I am on leave.
God bless!

Friday, November 11, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-11 [Ephesians] Why we go to Church

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians4:14-16

Paul has been talking about the four ministries given to the church to equip, build and mature God's people.

Today's verses amplify the benefits of being "part of the body"...

1. We grow up in our faith. When we are Christians on our own we tend to become self-referencing and self-informing. Proverbs tells us that "as iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another" (Prov27:17)

2. We don't get "blown and tossed back and forth." While the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand, we will spend the rest of our lives (and eternity!) soaking up the grandeur and glory of God's dealings with us. Being part of a faith community (that has the apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers) safeguards us from being side-tracked.

3. We learn to speak the truth in love and discover that Jesus is the head of the Church. People can be hard to love and they can drive us crazy. Many people love God, but struggle to love people. But God gives us no alternative: loving Him means loving others. The church is a workshop where we learn to love others. In church we discover that Jesus died for those who are not like us. When we learn REALationship (speaking the truth in love) we discover the power of God's love working in us and we see past people's imperfections to Christ who is the Head.

4. We discover our purpose as part of the body. A finger by itself is useless, an ear by itself is useless, a nose by itself is useless - but when they are part of the body they have value and purpose. As we realise our part in the body we discover that teamwork is much more fun than going solo.

These are solid reasons to go to church and get stuck in!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 10, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-10 [Ephesians] The reason for the gifts

12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians4:12-13

Paul has described four gifts given specifically to the church: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers. These four ministries have a very specific purpose:
- To prepare God's people for works of service,
- thereby building up the body of Christ
- and leading us into united Christ-like maturity.

Let's look a little closer:

1. Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers need to equip God's people for works of Service (Grk is Diaconia - where we get the word "deacons" from). They are not to do the work, but equip and inspire God's people to get stuck in.

2. This builds up the Body of Christ. There are many other Spiritual Gifts (See the lists in Romans 12 and 1Corinthians 12) and when the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor-Teachers equip the God's People to use these gifts, then it builds up the church.

3. When the people of God put their faith into action, it increases faith, enhances their experience of Christ, promotes unity and leads to maturity. (There is less time to be petty when there is work to do!) When we are willing to serve and use our gifts and take faith-risks then we grow in the image of Christ and will eventually become more and more like Christ until His fullness can be seen in us!

This is why God has given four gifts to the church.
Let's be excited about the goal He has for us:
Unified, faith-filled service that brings us closer and closer to Christ.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-09 [Ephesians] Four gifts to the church

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, Ephesians4:11

Having paused to reflect on Jesus descent in baby humanity and ascent to fill the universe, Paul now gives us a list of the gifts that the Descended and Ascended Lord Jesus gives to the church. These gifts are in the form of people who are particularly gifted in certain areas to grow and build the church.

There are four ministries given to the church:

1. Apostles: From the Greek (Apo (out) + stello (send)). These are the pioneers, the planters, the ground-breakers, the missionaries and the innovators. They are the ones who love starting things. They go where no-one has gone before. They go "out" beyond the realms of the familiar and the already organised.

2. Prophets: Most people think that a prophet fortells the future, but this is only a small part of what they do. The best definition of an Old Testament is "someone who gives God's comment on current affairs and the impact this will have on the future." They courageously stand for truth. They are not comfortable people to have around, but they speak out for God's justice and righteousness. Whether it is Amos speaking about the oppression of the poor or Desmond Tutu taking on the NP and then the ANC about corruption and injustice, the prophets are much needed.

3. Evangelists: These are people who have the amazing ability to share the Good News (Evangel) in an amazingly attractive way. Some do it for the crowds (like Billy Graham and Angus Buchan) and others do it one on one like the folk who are always bringing another friend to church. They have an wonderful way of sharing their faith in an attractive and sincere way.

4. Pastors and Teachers: Some have tried to separate these two but a careful look at the sentence structure both in English and especially the Greek reveals this cannot be done. (Look at the four repetitions of "some to be") Think of your favourite teachers at school - they were the ones who cared. Good teachers really care and if you really care about someone, you will teach them what they need to know. Pastoring and Teaching are inseparable.

This is what the church needs to be healthy...
Unfortunately we have many who want to be teachers but don't want to be pastors. We are also resistant to the prophets who tell us things we might not want to hear. The apostles scare us because we want to stay in the safety of the known instead of heading into the unknown. We have lost sight of the need for evangelism and we don't encourage those who are good at it.

A healthy church needs loving teaching, courageous truthfulness, a pioneering spirit and those who will bring the lost in. Jesus has given the church people with those gifts - now let's encourage them!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-08 [Ephesians] Digressing again!!!

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men."
9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) Ephesians4:7-10

Paul is about to tell us about the gifts that Christ gave the church when He ascended into heaven. But the thought of the ascension makes him think of Psalm 68 which is about a king ascending the throne.

For Paul there is a sense of wonder and awe. Jesus isn't simply walking up (ascending) a few steps up to an earthly throne in an earthly palace or temple. Jesus ascends to his _heavenly_ throne. And His victory isn't merely over earthly enemies but over sin, death and Satan.

This leads him to a two verse digression where he wonders and marvels at the wonderful truth of the incarnation. For, how could Christ ascend to the heavens unless He had first descended?

Paul is digressing to remind us of the wonder that Jesus chose to obey the Father's will - to become human and to be incarnate in Mary's womb and incarnate in our lives and in His incarnation to suffer terribly in order to be made perfect (even more than He already was) through His obedience.

So, in Paul's eyes, Jesus loses nothing by taking off all His glory and descending to earth. In fact, this act of descending makes His ascension even greater.

Paul is digressing, but he is allowing himself to pause, ponder and reflect on the great graciousness of the Saviour who "descended into greatness" and ascended to fill the universe with His sacrificial grace.

Paul was distracted with this incredible thought and the same should happen to us!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 4, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-04 [Ephesians] The basis of unity

4 There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians4:4-6

The basis of our unity is not found in culture, race, language or even doctrine. The basis of our unity lies in God and in the Salvation He offers us. We are one because we are saved by Jesus. Paul made this clear in chapter two and here, in almost creedal form, he re-iterates it.

There are seven "one's" in this passage.
Three of them refer to the Triune Godhead.
* One Spirit - the one who binds the body together
* One Lord (The Greek word is "Kurios") which in the NT refers to Jesus
* One God and Father of all

Three of them refer to our salvation:
* Hope: This is the start of our faith journey - we discover we don't have to save ourselves.
* Faith: We put our trust in Christ for there is no other way to be saved.
* Baptism: In New Testament times baptism was a public sign that indicated faith in Christ and allegiance to the Church.

And there is one
* Body: The church, which is the place where this unity is experienced and where we grow. Not the institutional church, but the Body where Jesus is the Head.

Paul uses a different sequence to what I have: The way he spells it out to us is the way most of us come to faith:
We come into contact with the BODY (Church) and the SPIRIT begins to draw us in and then we begin to have HOPE that Jesus Christ is the LORD who saves us and we put our FAITH in Him and BAPTISM signifies our allegiance to Him and we spend the rest our our lives giving glory to the FATHER.

This is the basis of our unity.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 3, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-03 [Ephesians] Practical Community Life

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians4:1-3

In ch.4 Paul will concentrate on the church. It is a chapter that makes my pulse race and puts a gleam in my eye...

He starts off with the baseline requirements to make community work. These are the back-to-basic things needed for people to be and become the body of Christ. They are disarmingly simple to grasp, practical and yet challenging.

Here we go:
1. Live a life worthy of the calling: Good community needs a good value system and a great vision. The calling we have received is to follow Christ: To die to ourselves and to live for Him. For us to become less and Christ to become greater. This core-value-system underpins community. If we do not aim this high, community begins to centre on individuals and petty issues.

2. Be humble, gentle, patient and forbearing: These character traits are little decisions we must make every day as part of community.
We have to choose not to take ourselves too seriously.
We must decide not to use our power even though we could.
We must take the next step on the pathway of patience.
We must bear with one another because love causes us to see more holistically.
This is a huge challenge that our ego wrestles against, but bears great fruit when we get it right.

3. Keep the unity of the Spirit. As we learned in chapter two, Jesus, by His death, united us. We don't have to create unity, we must simply continue in it or keep it. When human beings try to _create_ unity it often ends up being uniformity that we are trying to create. Unity starts with God and so it goes without saying that we can only experience it when we are closely co-operating with the Spirit who is the bond of peace.

Wow! Each of these is actually a devotion in itself, but for best impact it's better that we take them together. If we take these seriously, our church community can become a vibrant and life-giving part of the body of Christ.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-02 [Ephesians] Incredible God

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians3:20-21

At the beginning of ch.3 Paul was going to pray, but he digressed into the wonder and mystery of the plan, economy and mystery of God's call on His life.

Then he got to the prayer... He had a problem: God's love for us is huge and we struggle to grasp it. So he prayed that the Ephesians would get the help they needed to understand the enormity of God's love for them.

This leads inexorably to the a doxology: an outburst of unbridled praise and adoration. Go an read it again!

He is indisputably God!
Paul is deliberately overloading the superlatives:
He could have said "God is able to do more than we can ask."
But he says "God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than ALL we can ask OR IMAGINE!"

And this power is not far away and distant - He is with us and working in us and in the church!

And He is the God of Eternity (all generations!) and His glory is revealed in all that Jesus has done for us Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. So ALL the glory goes to Him!

All good theology and preaching leads us to this point:
SOLI DEO GLORIA - To God alone be the praise!


Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-11-01 [Ephesians] Incredible Prayer

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now, after a 13 verse digression about the mystery of God's purposes in spite of suffering, Paul prays for the Ephesians. It is an incredible prayer.

It is incredible in two aspects:

1. The One being prayed to: He is praying to the Father who is at the heart of everything: The Son, the Spirit, the Angels and all of earth derive their name from Him. He is the centre, source and fountain of everything - Paul will return to this theme later (we'll look at it tomorrow...)

2. What Paul prays for:
Firstly that we'd be strengthened so that Christ could live in us. Although we were created in the image of God and were able to receive Christ in our hearts, sin has damaged us - we are not ready to receive Jesus - BUT we receive help from the Holy Spirit.

Secondly that we need Divine Help to understand God's love for us!! Our brains are too small to grasp that God loves us unconditionally. Our minds can barely understand that He gave His one and only Son for us. We can hardly conceive the love that took Jesus to the cross. So God helps us: He roots and establishes us in love and then He gives us power to grasp the length, breadth, depth and height of Divine Love.

Thirdly we must realise that He doesn't just want us to grasp this love, He wants us to know it experientially, so that we understand the fullness of God.

There is no escaping the fact that knowing God means we have to come to terms with love. Not sloppy sentimental love, but the self-giving love that transforms you and me. The love that beats at the centre of God's being and that He gives to each of us and even helps us to understand it.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/