Ephesians Bible Study recap week 4

4:17 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, and they are full of greed.”

 

Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would experience the fullness of Christ, that HE would come and dwell in their hearts through faith in chapter 3. This prayer has pounded on my own heart-as I go about my daily life; washing dishes, folding clothes, driving to ball games…. I utter those simple words “Come Lord Jesus dwell in my heart…”. I love the word dwell, there is something sacred about it. it carries the idea of fellowship, sensitivity, intimacy, and most of all a sense of home, a sense of belonging and acceptance. Paul was praying this prayer about believers, these people had already accepted Christs atoning work om the cross, so in a sense they already “had Christ”(He was not implying that one may lose Christ but that one may lose fellowship) but Paul was never one to stop at salvation. No, he wouldn’t allow us room to settle into a comfort zone; he charged the frontlines of complacency with bold prayer. This prayer, that Christ may dwell in our heart, is a plea for the believers to realize that Christ is not merely “in” believer’s hearts but that He would come and make Himself at home there and in doing so consume our desirers, minds and wills. This prayer melts a cold heart and ignites it with zeal. This prayer threatens our status quo and asks the question: is Christ at home in your heart or is He a visitor?

 

Paul goes on in chapter 4:17-19 to insist that we who are now in Christ no longer operate as the gentiles do. Their lives are a testament of their alienation from God…..could our lives be a testament that Christ is a visitor? They can’t hide the fact that they are out of fellowship with their creator and like them we will not be able to hid the fact that Christ only “visits” our hearts. Verse 18 tells us plain out that the reason why these people are alienated from God, isn’t because God isn’t searching them out, it’s because their hard hearts have calloused over and they no longer know what they know, they know the truth but they ignore it and in doing so ignore Christ. We can’t ignore the truth of the word and expect to experience Christ to the fullness for He is the Truth, the Word made flesh, to ignore it would be to ignore Him.

 

In the old testament, God came and dwelled among His people first in the Tabernacle and then in the temple. These dwelling places where divided into two different compartments: The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The first held all the temple objects such as the table of showbread and such, this is where the Priest would perform various rituals. As a repentant sinner would enter the courtyard of the Tabernacle or temple, they drew closer to the presence of God. Yet, they could only go so far and then the priests would represent them before God. Yet, only one time a year would the High Priest enter the Holy of Holies because this is where the Presence of God actually dwelled, in between the Cherubs on top of the mercy seat, the Shekinah glory of God would shine in brilliance and majesty. Now, as New Testament believers we are the temple of the living God, now Christ Himself dwells within us through His Spirit. It is even told to us in Hebrews 10 that Christ sprinkles blood on our hearts now! (Just like the mercy seat in the Old Testament)

Now, it’s a common thought that in the Old Testament time period the Jews believed that the inner being of man, the soul, was divided into two categories: the heart and the mind.

Since the heart is where the Spirit dwells It makes sense that our heart is now the Holy of Holies it is that sacred dwelling spot, while the mind is the gateway to it (meaning it is the Holy place).

 

Ezekiel chapter 8 is so interesting to me. In this vision of the prophet, God tells him to go to the temple. Everything looks ok from the outside, everything seems to be in order but then God said peel back the wall and go in. what Ezekiel saw, hiding within the walls of the temple, was disturbing. There was every kind of idolatry and abomination possible. In verse 8 describes these things as being “engraved on the wall of the temple”.

What have you engraved on the walls of your heart? it could be any number of things; bitterness, loneliness, heaviness, uselessness, unforgiveness, a specific sin, pride….what is the testimony of your heart? In class, we all drew a heart and then wrote whatever it is that we have “engraved” on our heart. it was so interesting to me to that the word “engraved” also meant “limited”. You see anything that we have engraved on our heart, that defies the truth, limits the effect Christ has on us and through us. whatever is engraved on the walls of your heart has the compacity to limit Christs influence on your life.

 

These people did this in the dark. They hid behind the walls of the temple so everything would look like it was normal, so that the perception from the outside would be, that very thing was well and good. Its no coincidence that as Paul talked about the gentiles being alienated from God, that he starts with their darkened minds. We hide within the darkness of our own minds. It’s easy to hide our tattooed hearts there, our minds justify the marks and encourage the treatment for our sin sick hearts. Our minds take our hearts captive. Many of us do sincerely have a heart that is devoted to God, yet we can’t figure out why we keep returning to the same mess.

2 Corinthians 11:3 says “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

Our hearts are wishy washy and our minds can talk them into believing just about anything. (For example, we can truly forgive someone but then our minds replay the betrayal over and over and then before we know it unforgiveness has engraved our hearts again.)

To experience the fullness of God that Paul prays for in Chapter 3, our emotions, our wills and our minds must be surrendered to the Lordship of the Spirit.

It’s so interesting to me that after this account in Ezekiel, in chapter 9, God appointments a marksman to go throughout the city and stamp the forehead of all who are repentive or sorrowful about the engravings that desecrated the temple of God. As God calls for this man to “mark” them, the word for mark here is “taw” in the Hebrew and it is a letter in the alphabet that is the closest thing they would have had to a cross! God was marking the forehead of man with a cross!

 

Again, in Exodus 29 when God is telling Moses how the Priest are to dress, He tells them in chapter 28 that they were to have a golden plaque on the forehead with “HOLY TO THE LORD” engraved on it! 1 peter 1:13 says for us to “prepare our minds for action” in regard to being holy as the Lord is holy. This is a reference back to the Exodus, when they were commanded to eat the Passover “in haste”. They would take their long tunics and tuck them into their belt so that they would not trip when the Lord delivered them. In order to be holy as the Lord is holy, there are certain things we will have to “gird up” to pull out of the way so that we will not trip over them mentally!!

 

I think this is significant, it is as if the Lord is saying “ If you want to come into my presence, to experience this dwelling, then your mind is going to have to be submissive to the cross!! Our minds must come under the submission of the Word of Truth, nothing else will work. We have got to learn to retrain our minds to think differently by submerging them in the word.

This kind of thing is so big to me, I wish I had the words to describe it accurately, because this has been my story. My mind has been my worst enemy and now looking back I see what a darkened mind initiated in my life. so much rebellion that was motivated by mental strongholds. I say this as honestly as I know how, every single mistake, every single pit I fell in was a reflex to the war that was waging in my mind. A calloused heart is a sign that something is gone haywire in our minds.

 

If you would like more study information on the 4th chapter of Ephesians here is a link to the study guide!ephesians 4 study guide

EPHESIANS 3 RECAP

 

“Now, to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask and think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20

 

 

This verse is pregnant with expectation and promise. It lifts the mightiness of God above the close refines of our finite minds. It threatens our doubt and encourages our faith. This is a statement that can profoundly grow not only our faith but our perception as well. Answer this question:

 

What are you expecting from God?

 

The answer to that question directly gauges our faith as well as our perception. For many of us we do not expect very much from God, our prayers are safely tucked within the comfort of “simple”. Yet, as we have been studding Ephesians we have learned that we have been given a vast inheritance in Christ. But for most of us there is a gap between our reality and that inheritance. The bridge between the two is prayer. Now, let me ask you this:

 

When was the last time you were disappointed with God?

 

If we are honest we all have been at one time or another, when what we begged God for didn’t come, when what we thought was such a clear “yes” turns out to be a stark “no”. Our past disappointments have the opportunity to kill our expectation. Sometimes our greatest hurdle in our walk is our last unanswered prayer. This verse tells us that God is able, so if He’s able to answer our prayer but doesn’t does that mean that He just doesn’t want to? Many times, this is where we get hung up, because humanity as a whole, if we are able and we also want to then we do it, sometimes without any consideration of the repercussions that follow. Its human nature to do what we want if we have the ability. So, to us it makes no sense that a God who is able and willing doesn’t.

God’s ability never outweighs His willingness; He is both able and willing. He wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Psalms tells us that He catches our tears in a bottle, those times when our hearts melt and flow out of our eyes, He cares….He’s even moved. John 11 tells the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus who were very close to the Lord. So, when Lazarus got sick the sisters immediately sent for Him. The trio had witnessed their Lord heal the lame, give sight to the blind, and restore what leprosy had taken. They never doubted He could and until Lazarus breathed his last, they never questioned that HE was willing. But the days rolled by and so did the sisters hope. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had been in the grave four days. As Jesus entered the small town, Martha went running to Him, but Mary she stayed behind, it wasn’t until He called for her that she went to Him. Why is that? For up to this point Mary has been the devoted one, the one who hung on His every word….sitting at His feet in the ultimate bible study. I think she was disappointed, it had seemed like the Messiah had let her down. She had thought that He loved them, now she felt pushed aside and forgotten. But what she didn’t know is that was the exact reason why He waited….”Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was ill, he stayed where he was two more days.”. Mary had asked for a healing but Jesus wasn’t willing to do that, He had a resurrection in mind. You see many times we are asking for a healing but Jesus has something much more glorious in mind, even if it’s painful for a moment-in order to have a resurrection there must be a death. But often times we question the hand that crafted our inner beings and breathed the stars into existence. As the caravan of mourners followed Jesus to the tomb, He commanded the tomb to be rolled away, scripture says “ Jesus, once again moved, came to the tomb….and said take away the stone.” The heart of Christ moves the stone away, not only in our circumstances but also in our hearts. Martha immediately responded “BY this time there will be an odor for he has been in the tomb four days.” He responded “didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”…..then after praying for the will of the Father, He shouted “Lazarus come forth!”. What represented disappointment just a few moments earlier now was a living emblem of the love and ability of Christ.

 

Gods ability goes beyond the limits of our minds. That means that any dream, any aspiration, any plan and any prayer that we can come up with is limited. Luke 9:10-17 tells the story of Jesus multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5,000. When faced with the dilemma the disciples responded, “We have no more than 5 loaves and 2 fish-unless we are to go and buy food for all these people?” Do you see the limitations? One is small, the other is larger yet they both limit God. The reason we get disappointment with God is that we pull Him down and try to compress Him into the boundaries of our own minds so when He exceeds those boundaries we get frustrated. Every disappointment with God is because our expectancy is motivated by our own fleshly wills instead of the Spirits revealed will. Here’s the difference: anytime our expectation is focused on our comfort, acceptance, preference or our own names then that’s our flesh’s desire. The Spirits will on the other hand is concerned with our freedom, Christs glory & fame, the body of Christ as well as the lost. While the flesh disappoints, the Spirit strengthens. We can be infused and amped up with the resurrection power by four simple words: your-will-be-done.

 

Just like the feeding of the 5,000, it’s not always the blessing for us that is the greatest work but the blessing in us. the greatest miracle wasn’t necessarily the multiplying of the loaves and fish but the satisfaction of over 5,000 hungry souls. You see in the context this verse is the praise Paul is giving to a God who gives spiritual strength to the weak through knowledge of His love and the dwelling of Christ in our hearts. This verse is saying to us “I (God) can do far more abundantly IN and THROUGH you than you can ever imagine!

 

Think how shallow our lives will be if we are only the recipients of blessing instead of the vessel. This promises that abundance in our lives isn’t limited to the tangible realm but is also multiplied within.

Our God isn’t limited by our expectations. He is able to surpass them not only in quality but in quantity. To answer the question we started with: what are you expecting from God? For God to be God; big, capable, willing, and limitless.

 

Join us in our study of Ephesians!! Here is the link for the study guide

Ephesians 3 study guide