Day #169: Daily Bible Reading Plan - June 15th
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4 - 6 …
How few Christians today understand that they have a CALLING from the Lord?! Do YOU? There is actually a debate today about whether or not those who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ should be told that God now expects them to live in a certain way, confessing Jesus "not only" as Savior, but also as "Lord." Some complain that telling people who believe in Jesus that they must submit to Jesus as Lord is ADDING to salvation by grace alone … if we are saved by GRACE, apart from works, as the Bible clearly teaches, then we can't tell people that they need to do good works, can we??
"YES!!" There is no conflict between preaching the Gospel that says we are saved by grace apart from works … that it is the gift of God … and then helping those who believe in Jesus to understand that the Holy Spirit is now at work in them to PRODUCE good works from thankful hearts to the glory of God! What's so hard to understand? In fact, if we go back to Ephesians 2 for a moment, Paul makes this fact as clear as it can possibly be made: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - NOT by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
James makes it clear in James 2 that true faith … faith produced by the Holy Spirit … always produces good works. We don't try to EARN our salvation through our good deeds and we don't trust in our works for assurance that we are saved. We are saved by GRACE! However, the heart that is turned from sin to righteousness will desire to please God out of gratitude for His gift of life through Jesus Christ. So, after explaining the power of God's sovereign choice, His grace and His love, Paul begins Chapter 4 by saying, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have RECEIVED!" (4:1). And that calling begins with your connection to Christ AND to His body, the Church - the "called-out ones."
Many push for an outward "unity" of the structures of religion within Christianity. The truth is, there is only ONE body of Christ, as Paul states it here: "There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (4:4-6). The "all" refers to those to whom Paul is writing … all believers. It is these to whom he then writes concerning God's purpose in giving some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, "to prepare God's people for works of service," so that the body will be built up and those in it will become mature in Christ.
The Church was and is GOD's idea. He has given the Church a foundation - the apostles and prophets - and a Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (2:20), and now calls and empowers some as pastors and teachers to build up His body until He comes. God does all of this to fulfill His purpose to transform believers and to conform them to the image and likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29; 12:1-2). God calls believers as we are, but He doesn't leave us that way! Unbelievers remain "darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God" (4:18), but believers "were taught … to put off your old self … and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (4:22-24). Those who are "in Christ" cannot and will not live like those who are still "dead in their trespasses and sins" (2:1-2). While we still struggle against sin, we are not alone, as we see in Chapter 6.
God now gives believers His Spirit so that we can "be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power!" (6:10). In Chapter 5 we are called to "be imitators of God, as dearly loved children" (5:1). In one word, we are called to SUBMIT to Jesus Christ, and because we submit to Him as Lord, to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21). That goes for wives and husbands, for parents and children, and for slaves and masters (employers and employees). In that way we honor the Lord. The idea that the life of a believer should not look radically different than the life of an unbeliever is contrary to what the Bible teaches. GOD is at work in believers and the transformation that is taking place will be obvious!
OUR part in this process of transformation is to "put on the full armor of God" (6:11). The "belt of truth," the "breastplate of righteousness," the "gospel of peace," the "shield of faith" the "helmet of salvation" and the "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" are our weapons (6:14-17) … once again, gifts of God's grace to His children "so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground" (6:13). God is able and God is with us and God is IN us!! He has given us all we need to live with joy and hope and peace as we live to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
God calls us as individuals, but calls us into the body of Christ. Individualism has no place in the Church. "Living a life worthy of your calling" means serving Christ by living in relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ in His body, using your gifts for the welfare of other believers. The beauty of God's plan for His children is that we are never alone! God lives in us by His Spirit and when we are adopted by God by His grace in Christ Jesus, we are made part of His family, now and forever. This is all the incentive you and I should need to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
"Heavenly Father, I thank You for calling me to be one of Your children and for making me part of Christ's body, the Church. Fill me with Your Spirit daily, that I might glorify You by living in a way that is worthy of the calling I have received. Help me to submit to the Lordship of Jesus and to put on all the spiritual armor You have provided, using Your Word as my sword against the spiritual forces of evil that come against me and so stand firm until that day when I stand in Your presence. In Jesus' name, Amen"