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Throw out the bad fruit – “Fruit of the Spirit” lesson 4

Fruit of the Spirit, GalatiansThis is the fourth in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

 

If you’ve had any experience with a GPS or use a navigation system for driving directions then you are familiar with the following phrases:

Recalculating

Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible

My anxiety level rises dramatically when I hear that little computerized voice. In layman’s terms, “recalculating” means “You aren’t following my directions!” And the command to make a u-turn means, “You’re going the wrong way! Turn around immediately and go the other way!”

Plant: What does fleshly fruit look like?

Like these GPS warnings to drivers, there are certain things that should raise a red flag in our faith if they are present in our lives. In Galatians, Paul refers to these signs as “acts of the sinful nature.” These attitudes and behaviors are contrary to the Spirit and what He wants to produce in our lives.

Read Galatians 5:19-21 from the New Living Translation below.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:19-21, NLT

Grow: Is our life growing any fruit of the flesh?

Circle any fruit of the sinful nature in the passage above that sometimes pop up in your life.

This list in Galatians is not exhaustive. Paul merely gave the believers in Galatia a sample of the fruit of the flesh. And everyone will struggle with different things. Let’s read two more passages from Paul’s letters to broaden our understanding of “the acts of the sinful nature.”

Read the following passages (maybe in more than one translation) and list any attitudes or behaviors that your sinful nature tends to produce.

Ephesians 4:22-32 and 5:1-7:

Colossians 3:5-10:

The presence of these attitudes and behaviors reveal that sometimes we allow our sinful nature to win a spiritual battle. If you’re like most Christians – including me – your life does produce some fleshly fruit from time to time. We still occasionally choose our own way over God’s and reject the “way out” He promises to provide when we’re tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Cultivate: What can we do to get rid of the bad fruit?

Believer, whether our lives have produced a handful of fleshly fruit or an abundant crop, God’s desire for us is less “acts of the sinful nature” and more “fruit of the Spirit.” In the remainder of this lesson we are going to prepare our lives for the Spirit’s harvest by weeding out the bad fruit and tilling our heart for the Spirit’s work.

Read James 4:1-10.

Jesus’ brother James wrote to Christians caught in a cycle of sin. They had proudly rejected the leadership of the Spirit and chosen their own way. Distance from God, difficult relationships with God’s people, and a harvest of fleshly fruit were the result. But James commanded a remedy. I can hear him saying, “Make a legal u-turn as soon as possible!”

List phrases and words (vs 1-4) that describe their relationship with God and other believers.

Look back through verses 6-10 and list all the verbs you can spot that describe the actions a Christian should take when we’ve chosen our own way over God’s (I spotted 10).

These actions characterize true repentance. Sometimes Christians merely give lip service to repentance. But until we humble ourselves before God, grieve over our sin, and turn away from it we have not experienced real repentance. We must make a u-turn!

Read 1 John 1:9. How does God promise to respond to our repentance?

Today’s lesson has been very personal – and maybe even painful. We all have bad fruit in our lives. But, praise God, He does indeed allow u-turns! Take some time this week to sit quietly with God and work through getting rid of the fleshly fruit. In the meantime, let’s talk more about the process of repentance:

Let’s talk: Was there anything in James 4:6-10 about repentance that surprised you? Maybe an attitude God calls us to adopt or an action you previously have not considered part of repentance.

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The Battle – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 3

Fruit of the Spirit GalatiansThis is the third in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

I fought this particular battle many times. And I’ve watched many other moms fight it too. It happens every day in grocery checkout lines all over the world. The preschooler wants candy. The mom does not want the preschooler to have candy. And so the battle begins.

The preschoolers fight with every weapon in their arsenal – tears, pleadings, promises of good behavior, and even temper tantrums. Moms draw the line to defend healthy teeth and a nutritious diet. Who will win?

Sometimes the mom wins. Sometimes the kid wins. The outcome depends on willpower and determination. The kids have an advantage because they don’t care how many people stare and whisper. They value the candy much more than their self-respect. Sometimes the battle-weary mom just wants to get out of the store alive, even if that means giving in. At least she will live to fight another day.

The candy battle in the checkout line is a minor skirmish compared to the spiritual battle going on inside every Christian. Our sinful human nature wants to satisfy our selfish desires. The indwelling Holy Spirit calls us to follow Him. Who will win?

Plant: The two sides in this spiritual battle

Read Galatians 5:16-18. Describe this spiritual battle in your own words.

Let’s identify the sides in this battle. Paul says the Spirit wants one thing and the sinful nature (some translations use flesh) wants another. The Greek word pneuma, translated as “Spirit,” can also be translated as “breath” or “wind.” Like the wind, the Holy Spirit is an unseen but “powerful force with visible effects” (Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary). “Sinful nature” or “flesh” is the Greek word sarx. Although this word primarily referred to the physical body, Christians also used it to describe our fallen, sinful nature. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes this usage: “Sarx came to mean all the evil that man is and is capable of apart from the intervention of God’s grace in his life.”

Cultivate: Greater is He that is in us

Read Ephesians 1:18-21. How powerful is the Holy Spirit that lives within you? (Check all that apply.)

___ Incomparably great
___ God’s mighty strength
___ Powerful enough to raise the dead
___More powerful than any earthly authority

Unfortunately, our sinful nature still exists. But praise God, we have a weapon of unlimited power on our side. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives inside every believer! We have the power to resist our fleshly desires through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “The one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

“The Holy Spirit does not immunize us against temptation – rather, He enables us to withstand temptation. He imparts to us the ability to turn away from all things that are contrary to God’s plan and purpose for our lives.” Charles Stanley, Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit

Read the following verses and record God’s promises to you.

2 Peter 1:3-4 –
1 Corinthians 10:13 –

Grow: Follow the Spirit

We do not have to give in to sin. Our fleshly nature does not have to win. Jesus’ death and resurrection broke Satan’s death grip on us. Satan can appeal to our sinful desires, but his power over us is limited. We have a greater power at work in us.

Look back at Galatians 5:16-19. We have a choice to make. What is it?

We can choose to refuse our sinful nature. The powerful presence of the Holy Spirit supplies us with the power to be obedient to God. We can choose God’s “way out.” The question is: will we succumb to the call of our flesh or will we yield to the Holy Spirit and walk in His power?

Let’s talk: Think about the last time you faced a spiritual battle. What was it? Did you allow your flesh to win or did you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit? If you gave in to sin, can you identify the “way out” God offered?

 

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What is Fruit? – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 2

This is the second in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

Fruit of the Spirit GalatiansWhen my kids were little they loved watching the Veggie Tales movies. Their favorite Veggie Tale characters were Bob and Larry – a tomato and cucumber, respectively. If you are also a Veggie Tales fan, you might want to sit down because I am about to shake things up. Larry and Bob aren’t vegetables! To be botanically correct, tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits! In fact, pumpkins and zucchini are fruit too.

The confusion over fruits and vegetables stems from the differences between scientific classification and how we use them in cooking. We tend to see “fruits” as sweet and “vegetables” as savory. In case you’re interested, here’s a definition I found at wisegeek.com.

Simply put, a fruit is the ovary of a plant, which means that it may contain seeds, while a vegetable is a plant part, which does not contain seeds.

It really doesn’t matter if we consider a tomato to be a fruit or a vegetable. But we do need a good understanding of the “fruit of the Spirit.” Over the next few weeks we will plant God’s truth about spiritual fruit in our hearts, cultivate our lives to receive it, and take action to help it grow! Today we’ll take a closer look at what the “fruit of the Spirit” is and what it is not.

Read our focal passage, Galatians 5:16-26.

The word “fruit” used in Galatians 5:22 is the Greek word “karpos.” According to Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary, “karpos” refers to the natural product of something that is alive. Literally, it’s used of the product of trees, vines, and crops. But it’s also used metaphorically to refer to the natural product of a spiritual being. Paul uses it to contrast what our sinful natures naturally produces with what the Holy Spirit naturally produces.

Plant: Prerequisite to Growing Spiritual Fruit

The obvious prerequisite to producing the “fruit of the Spirit” is the presence of the Spirit. Let’s see what the Bible says about the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His work in us.

Read Romans 8:9-11. Mark the following statements as True or False:

___ You can be a Christian without having the Holy Spirit.

___ If you do not have the Spirit you do not belong to Christ.

___ If you belong to Christ then you have His Spirit.

Read Ephesians 1:13-14. Check all the statements that apply.

___ We receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.

___ The Holy Spirit “marks” us as belonging to God.

___ The Spirit is our “guarantee” that we will receive all God’s promises.

When we place our faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, God guarantees our salvation by placing His Spirit within us. Every Christian is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. (If you don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus or aren’t sure, read “How to Have a Relationship with Jesus.”)

Cultivate: Two Key Facts about the Fruit of the Spirit

Let’s get a better understanding of the Fruit of the Spirit by exploring two key facts.

Fact #1: “Fruit” is the natural by-product of the Spirit in a Christian’s life.

Read 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 from the New Living Translation below:

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The Spirit has work to do in the life of a believer. According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, what is the work of the Spirit in our lives?

From the moment of salvation until the end of our lives on this earth, the Spirit of God works in believers to transform our nature and character into that of Christ’s. God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is constantly working to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Gal 5:19) and conform us into the image of Christ. “Fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming like Christ’s.

Fact #2: “Fruit of the Spirit” is not the same as “spiritual gifts.”

We’ve learned that “fruit of the Spirit” is the development of Christ’s character in the life of a believer. Now let’s take a look at what this “fruit” is not.

Read 1 Cor 12:4-11. List the differences between “spiritual gifts” and “spiritual fruit.”

Although the Spirit is the source of both, His “gifts” and “fruit” are not the same. There are a multitude of different kinds of gifts but an individual only receives what the Holy Spirit determines to give. However the “fruit” of the Spirit should be common to all Christians. The word “karpos” is singular signifying that “fruit” is a unified whole. As we grow in Christ-likeness we will produce all the characteristics of His nature.

Grow: A Challenge to Know the Fruit

I want my life to increasingly produce the “Fruit of the Spirit.” How about you? As a solid reminder of what our lives should look like, will you join me in memorizing Galatians 5:22-23? Let’s do it?

Let’s talk. Will you take the Scripture memory challenge? How has today’s lesson helped you understand the “Fruit of the Spirit?” What stood out to you the most in what we discussed?

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The Proper Climate – “Fruit of the Spirit” Lesson 1

Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, & Grow                Lesson 1

Fruit of the Spirit GalatiansThis is the first in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.

 

“Stop, you’re killing me!”

Which of the following scenes produced the statement above?

  • A teenage boy won’t stop tickling his little sister.
  • A middle-aged woman just scored 75 points against her Scrabble partner.
  • A masked man is beating a defenseless elderly woman.

Does it matter? Absolutely! In the first two cases, the statement is meant to be teasing and playful. But the last scenario is life and death! We must know the context of the statement to know if we should laugh or call 911.

Likewise, before we can understand and apply Galatians 5:16-26, we must know its context. Too often, we misunderstand and misuse God’s Word because we attempt to interpret a verse or passage apart from the whole.

Where do we begin? Context of Galatians

The way God chooses to apply the truths found in His Word can vary with the individual and their circumstance. However the meaning of a biblical passage never changes. It will always mean what God originally intended for it to mean. Before we can make application to our lives we must have a good grasp of the original meaning by considering the larger context. (For more information on biblical context read “Context is King” at DoNotDepart.com.)

Galatians is a letter written to a specific people at a specific point in history for a specific purpose. Therefore, we need to know who, when, and why to understand the meaning.

Read Galatians 1:1-9 and gives as many facts as possible about the following:

            Author of this letter –

            Recipients of this letter –

            Purpose of this letter –

Many of you are probably familiar with Paul’s background and dramatic conversion. If not, you can get a good overview by reading the personal account of his story in Acts 22:1-21. A couple of pertinent facts about Paul is 1) he was raised a zealous Jew thoroughly trained in the law and 2) when Christ saved him God called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The recipients of Paul’s letter – the churches in Galatia – were comprised of mostly Gentile Christians who had been saved out of paganism. They had received Christ and the Holy Spirit by faith and had never observed the Jewish Law.

Purpose of Galatians

Understanding why Paul wrote to the Galatians will help us understand the “Fruit of the Spirit” and how it’s produced in our lives. Paul was concerned about false teaching in the churches, a “different gospel” which he refers to in Galatians 1:6.

Jewish Christians, who still held to the Law of Moses, had infiltrated these Gentile believers and falsely taught that they must observe the Jewish law to be Christians. These “Judaizers” were concerned that faith without the discipline of the law would lead to immorality, but their teaching had only minimized God’s grace and created a warped form of “Christianity.”

Paul, recognizing the danger, wrote to remind the Galatians of the truth of the Gospel message and to protect them from this false teaching. The letter emphasizes God’s grace while upholding God’s call to righteousness by living a life following the Spirit.

Read Galatians 5:1-12. Based on the passage and what we learned above list all the negative consequences of trying to live by the law.

Read Galatians 5:13-15. In addition to the Judaizers’ legalism, what other problem within these Gentile churches did Paul address?

Apparently the Galatians were using their “freedom” as an excuse to follow their sinful desires and they were hurting their fellow believers in the process. Paul longed for the Galatians to experience the freedom and unity only found in Christ while living a holy life that pleased God. That is also our goal! But freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires. What is the answer?

Read Galatians 5:16-26, our focal passage for this study. How can we find both freedom and righteous in Christ? (Check one)

___  Live however we want as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.

___ Follow the law as closely as possible.

___ Live life submitted to the Holy Spirit, following His leading.

Today we laid the foundation for our study. Next week we will dig into the meaning of “fruit of the Spirit.” In the meantime, let’s talk:

So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit? (We may not have the influence of the Mosaic Law, but the “do’s” and “don’t’s” or religion are still prominent.)


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Fruit of the Spirit – You’re invited to Plant, Grow, & Cultivate

About six weeks ago I planted two fruit trees – one lemon and one lime. I carefully placed them in large pots on the patio using the soil recommended by the nursery for citrus trees. Both received the same amount of sun and water. Both bloomed. Both had numerous visits from bees and butterflies.

The two trees have had the same care and nurturing, but the fruit production has been drastically different. The lemons seem to be growing overnight. The flexible young tree branches curve down under their weight. My husband and I anticipate large slices of the tangy fruit for our iced tea later in the summer.

bear fruit, fruit of the spirit

In contrast, the limes look pitiful. When the blooms faded, tiny little fruit balls emerged, but only two or three have grown much. Many have turned brown and dropped off. God intended for both trees to grow fruit, but only one is fulfilling its purpose.

Fruit of the Spirit

Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5, Bible studyGod also intends for us, His children, to bear fruit. According to Jesus, when we follow Him closely our lives will produce “much” fruit (John 15:5). Is your life producing an abundant harvest or are you in serious need of some spiritual fertilizer? Whether we need some major pruning or just a little shaping up, all of us could benefit from studying and applying what God’s Word says about the fruit of the Spirit.

You’re invited to join me this summer for a slow and easy walk through Galatians 5:16-25. The summer months can be busy with vacations, family visits, and time away from work, but don’t take a holiday from God’s Word. This study is designed to fit into the summer flow – less reading, small chunks, slow pace.

Study of Galatians 6:16-26

Here are a few things we’ll learn in Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, Grow

  • What are the characteristics of a “fruitless” life?
  • What does it mean to “live by the Spirit?”
  • Just what is “fruit” anyway?
  • Am I “fruity?”
  • What should the fruit of the Spirit look like in my life?
  • How can I improve my harvest?

Every Thursday for the next couple of months, I will post the weekly lesson right here on my blog. Each week as we study together we will Plant God’s truth in our hearts, Cultivate our own lives to receive that truth, and take action to help it Grow!

You’re invited to study with me!

Are you in? Will you join me for Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, and Grow?

Let me hear from you! Will you join me and from where will you be joining in? Where do you usually do your Bible study? Have you studied the fruit of the Spirit before?

Note: All six lessons of “Fruit of the Spirit” have been compiled into one PDF file you can download for your use!

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Prepared for Battle – Ephesians 6:10-24

This is the eight – and last – lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy.

We are fighting a battle right now at my house. It’s me and my husband against a massive army of Leaf Cutter Ants. They have stripped the leaves off numerous bushes in our yard. Thousands of them follow their tiny ant paths long distances across the grass. We’ve watched them work. The “empty-handed” ones leave the hole, following the one in front of them. When they arrive at their destination, they deftly snip out a big semi-circle of green foliage. Then weighed down with the fruit of their labor, they return to their hole.

We have a large yard, a long growing season, and the desire to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in our own space. Yet, as we work to realize this summer dream, the persistent cutter ant works to destroy it all. So, I just finished doing some online research to find out how we can defeat this enemy. Armed with a list of tactics, I’m now ready to do battle!

God has prepared us, equipped us, and provided everything we need to realize His purposes for us as individuals and as the local church. Meanwhile, the enemy constantly works to derail, discourage, and defeat us. But that won’t happen unless we allow it. We must be prepared to battle the scheming ways of Satan and our own sinful desires.

Wrapping things up

Before we consider how we can equip ourselves to stand firm, let’s do a brief review. This is our last lesson together in Ephesians. God has taught us many wonderful truths through the study of His Word. Here are some of the things we’ve considered:

  • God has given us every spiritual blessing we need to reach our full potential in Christ.
  • The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living and working in us in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • Our salvation is an eternal demonstration of God’s marvelous grace.
  • God has a purpose for your life and He fashioned you to fulfill it.
  • God strengthens us for trials and works through them for His purposes.
  • God calls us to love, unity, and spiritual maturity within the church family.
  • We have a unique place of service in the church that God designed us to fill.
  • Conforming our thinking to God’s thinking will produce Christ-like behavior.
  • When we follow God’s design for our relationships we will find joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Which of these truths above have impacted you the most? Why?

Know Your Spiritual Enemy

Read Ephesians 6:10-20.

Paul begins the conclusion of Ephesians with a call to arms. In his letter, Paul has beautifully shown God’s glorious purpose for His church and for us as individual believers. God has given us everything we need to fulfill His purposes but we must be prepared to meet the opposition. We can “be strong” in God’s purposes for us by “putting on His full armor” so we can “stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Based on verse 12, write a description of our enemy.

Read 2 Corinthians 11:14. Will Satan and his activity always immediately appear to be evil? Explain.

Sin (and Satan) is attractive and enticing. At least at first. He baits us, draws us in, tempts us with things that seem fun, harmless, and even fulfilling. That’s why we must “suit up” for protection. Twice Paul uses the term “full armor of God.” This phrase is translated from one Greek word, panoplia. According to Vines Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the panoplia was the complete equipment used by heavily armed Roman infantry.

Paul’s audience would have been familiar with the panoplia. His description of God’s armor would have conjured up a picture of every offensive and defensive piece – even the ones Paul did not mention. While Paul gives his readers a sampling of the spiritual weapons we have at our disposal, his intention is that we employ “every spiritual blessing” in our struggle against the devil. God’s “incomparable great power” is available to us who believe. Let’s not leave any weapon in its sheath. Like the Roman soldiers, let’s cover everything. Leave no part of the body vulnerable to attack.

What have you learned about these pieces of armor from our larger study of Ephesians?

  • Truth (see 4:21):
  • Righteousness (5:8-9):
  • Gospel of Peace (2:14-18):
  • Faith (1:15, 2:8):
  • Salvation (1:13-14):
  • Sword of the Spirit/Word of God (1:17, 3:16, 5:18-19):
  • Prayer (1:15-21, 3:14-21):

Arm Yourselves for Spiritual Battle

Paul’s imperatives in this section are plural. Although also relevant for us as individuals, God’s call to arm ourselves for battle is communal, to the church. Like Roman soldiers who were considered virtually invincible when they stood together in full armor on the battlefield, the Christian “whole” is stronger than the individual parts.

Also, our call to battle preparation closely reflects God’s own in Isaiah 59:17. Just as we are to “be imitators of God” (Eph 5:1) by living a life of love we should also imitate Christ when we “stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Read the following passages and draw a line to the corresponding way that Jesus fought Satan’s temptations.

Matthew 4:1-11                            Pray, watch for God’s activity, guard against Satan

Matthew 16:21-25                       Rebuke, Submit our will to God’s will

Matthew 26:36-41                       Know the truth of God’s Word and stand on it

 

Reread Ephesians 1:19-23. How can we be certain that victory is ours?

Closing Request & Remarks

Paul has been praying for the believers in Ephesus “ever since he heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus.” Paul battled in prayer for his fellow believers. Now he asks them to do battle on his behalf.

Read Ephesians 6:19-20. List the specific ways Paul asked them to pray for him.

God calls us to pray for each other. My fellow Christians need me to pray for them. I need them to pray for me.

Do you have one or more Christians who pray for you on a regular basis? If so, do you give them very specific requests? List some ways you can ask others to pray for you:

Read Eph 6:21-23. Compare verse 21 with Colossians 4:7-9. What similarities do you find?

This is some of the evidence that shows Paul wrote both letters from prison very close together. Tychicus was Paul’s representative to these two churches and delivered both letters. I would love to hear the additional news Tychicus shared about Paul and their ministry with the churches. Wouldn’t you?

As we close our study together I would like to say Paul’s benediction to the Ephesians over you – my fellow sojourners of God’s Word.

Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 6:23-24, The Message

Weekly Challenge

Find a prayer partner. Share specific requests with them. Ask them for specific requests. Meet regularly. Be real!

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Principles for Relationship – Ephesians 5:21-6:9

This is the seventh lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy.

On Black Friday in November 2008, hundreds of out-of-control bargain hunters busted through the front doors of a Long Island Wal-Mart. The frenzied mob barreled through a line of employees in the entry knocking some to the ground and sending others fleeing for their lives. In the stampede, one young male employee was trampled to death.

Although extreme, this is an example of our selfish sin nature in action. With no concern for others, each person selfishly acts to fulfill their own desires, charging ahead no matter who might get hurt in the process. Every man – and woman – for himself.

But this is not God’s way. He is not a God of chaos and selfishness, but of order and love. He has established a hierarchy for His people and our relationships. Ephesians shows us God’s ordered design for marriage, family, work, and the church. When we willingly follow His design we will discover the joy, peace, and fulfillment in community that God intends.

Rules of Engagement

Read Ephesians 5:21-33 and 6:1-9. Make a list of all the categories of relationships Paul discusses.

Write out 5:21 below. Circle the verb Paul uses as a command. Underline the reason we should obey that command.

The word “submit” has been misused, misunderstood, and abused.

Let’s start by digging into the dictionary definition for the Greek word hypotasso, which is translated as “submit” in English.  According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, the verb “submit,” – found in 5:21, 22, and 24 – is a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In general use, it means to put things in an orderly fashion under something else. It communicates the idea of voluntarily yielding to an established hierarchy.

Disorder produces only chaos. Therefore, God has established an order for all our relationships. His proper order brings about our good and results in His glory and honor.

In 5:21, Paul begins his discussion of God’s order with a blanket statement of mutual submission. All Christians are to voluntarily “submit” themselves to other Christians (5:21). This attitude of reciprocal yielding requires humility and selflessness. The basis of this position is our love for Christ and our desire to please and serve Him. The outcome is the edification of the church.

Read Philippians 2:1-5. How does this passage help us understand what it means to “submit to one another?” Who do we imitate when we do this?

Husbands and Wives

One specific relationship in which submission is needed for order to reign is marriage. Imagine the chaos – perhaps you’ve even seen it – when both husband and wife strive for their own will and way without consideration for the other person. Paul’s prescription for marriage, although radical to first-century ears, takes Christians back to God’s original design.

In the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, wives had obligations to their husbands, but nothing was expected from the men. God’s standards for the marriage relationship were revolutionary. Yes, women should respect and follow their husbands’ leadership. But the husbands must love and care for their wives like they do themselves.

This kind of mutual relationship had its roots in Genesis. A husband and wife are one flesh, a union forged by God (Genesis 2:20-25). A relationship created with a specific chain of authority to produce order and glorify God.

Reread Ephesians 5:22-24. List the God-ordained lines of authority you find.

I readily admit that my sin nature rears its ugly head when I read “the husband is the head of the wife.” But of course I nod my head approvingly just two sentences later: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Oh yeah, I want my husband to fulfill His God-given role without me fulfilling mine. But without both of us following God’s design there will be chaos and need within the marriage.

The Greek word translated as “love” in this passage is agape, which we explored two lessons ago. It’s the same kind of intentional, selfless love God has for us. Husbands are to deliberately choose to act in love towards their wives with their welfare in mind.

Before we move on to the other relationships Paul explores, I want to share a quote with you from The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians.  Commentator Klyne Snodgrass explains this difficult passage of Scripture far better than I ever could:

Ephesians 5:23 does not focus on authority, but on the self-giving love of both Christ and the husband. “Head” in this context suggests “responsibility for”. The husband has a leadership role, though not in order to boss his wife or use his position as privilege. Just as Jesus redefined greatness as being a servant (Matthew 20:26-27), Paul redefines being head as having a responsibility to love, to give oneself, and to nurture. A priority is placed on the husband, but contrary to ancient society, it is for the benefit of the wife. The activity of both wife and husband is based in their relationship to Christ and in his giving himself for the church.

Although the roles of husband and wife are unique and different, this passage assumes the unity and equality of the marriage partners. Husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. And the two will become one flesh.

Paul boils our marriage roles down to their essence in 5:33. What is the primary task for the wife? For the husband?

Note: For a wonderful exposition on these roles, check out “Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs” by Emerson Eggerichs.

Children and Parents

We’ve all seen unruly, disobedient children whose parents allow them to run all over them and others too. This situation not only hurts the children in the long run, it also dishonors God. God has established a pattern for parents and children that benefits the children, the family as a whole, and brings glory to God. Like marriage, this is a relationship with mutual responsibility.

Read Ephesians 6:1-4. What are God’s expectations for children?

What are God’s expectations for fathers (parents)?

“Obey” in 6:1 means to do as you are told. God makes it clear: children are to do what their parents tell them to do. And God promised to bless their obedience.

However, God has also established some boundaries for parents. The stronger parent has an obligation to the weaker child. We are not to be demanding, harsh, or unreasonable.

Read Colossians 3:20-21. What reason does Paul give here for parents to not act in a way that creates bitterness in their children?

A parent’s concern should be the welfare of the child. We discipline, train, and teach them for their good, not for some kind of self-satisfaction.

According to verse 4, what is the parenting goal?

What are some ways you can – or have – help your child to love God more and know Him better?

Masters and Slaves

Read Ephesians 6:5-9.

Once again, Paul writes to apply God’s expectations to a primary relationship. It’s estimated that there were more than 60 million slaves in the Roman Empire during Paul’s time. That would have been 1/3 of the entire population! And the majority of these were employed in the home. Although slavery is no longer a part of our culture, the principles in this passage apply to any authority/subordinate relationship like employer and employee.

Based on the passage you just read, mark the following statements as true or false:

___ We should obey our employer just like we should obey Christ.

___ We only have to obey them when they are watching us – just enough to look good.

___ My service and obedience is based on my devotion to God.

How does Paul apply the idea of “mutual responsibility” to the slave/master relationship?

Did you notice the common principles found in each kind of relationship?

  • All relationships should be based on our relationship with God.
  • There is a mutual responsibility in all relationships.
  • God’s design for relationship brings us peace and joy and Him glory!

As we close today’s lesson, reflect on the relationships in your life: church family, parents, children, spouse, and “master/slave.” Are you finding joy and peace? Do they bring honor to God? Where do you need to allow God to work?

Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Read Colossians 3:18-25 and 4:1. Compare it to this week’s passage in Ephesians. What additional insight did you gain about God’s design for relationships?

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From Futility to Fullness

This is the sixth lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started

During my teenage years I struggled on the edges of bulimia. By God’s grace it did not take me under, but I did exhibit much of the typical behavior common to bulimia such as binging and purging. My “purging” was in the form of excessive exercise and going for days without eating anything.

Like any young woman who suffers from anorexia or bulimia I believed I needed to lose weight – even after my periods stopped. When I looked in the mirror I saw hips and thighs that did not look like the models’ in the magazine. I wanted to look like them. My thoughts had conformed to the ways of the world and those thoughts – even though they were wrong – dictated my behavior.

The way we think dictates our behavior. If we think like the world we will act like the world in all its futility. But if we adjust our thinking to God’s will and way we will begin to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13, NIV).

Hardness or Holiness

Read Ephesians 4:17-19.  How does Paul describe worldly thinking (like the “Gentiles”)? Check all that apply:

  • Futile
  • Lacks understanding
  • Ignorant

What is the result of this kind of thinking?

Read Ephesians 4:20-24. What is the result of thinking in accordance with God’s truth?

“To be made new” or to “renew” in Ephesians 4:23 is the Greek word ananeoo. Here’s the definition from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words:

The “renewal” here mentioned is not that of the mind itself in its natural powers of memory, judgment and perception, but “the spirit of the mind,” which, under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of “fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ,” and of the fulfillment of the will of God.

Read Romans 12:1-2. According to Paul in verse 2, what will be the result of the “renewing of our minds”?

In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul systematically presents the great salvation we have in Christ. Now here in 12:1 he says “therefore.” Because of everything God has done for us, since Christ paid our debt on the cross, our proper response is full submission to God and His will. This submission, which Paul describes as a “living sacrifice,” will result in two things:

  1. We will no longer conform to the world and its ways.
  2. We will be transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) through the renewal of our minds.

The English word, “transformed” is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo. Metamorphoo refers to a change of condition and form. This is a continual process, not a one-time event. It is an ongoing renunciation of the world and its ways and a renewal to God’s thinking and ways. We must continually reject the world’s ways, constantly checking to see if our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors measure up to the pattern of Christ.

The more our thinking is renewed to be like the way God thinks, the easier it will be for us to see and understand God’s plan and ways, His design for things. It will become easier and easier to walk in His will.

Keep in mind, we can only do so much to change our thinking. We can fill our minds with God’s truth and fight the lies of the world, but only the Holy Spirit can bring real spiritual transformation. He is the agent of both our rebirth and our renewal (see Titus 3:5).

Right Thinking Leads to Right Relationships

In both the Romans and Ephesians passages we read, Paul clearly taught the general truth that right thinking fosters holiness and Christ-likeness. Now, beginning in Ephesians 4:25, Paul gets specific. He contrasts some particular futile behavior with particular Christ-like behavior.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32 and 5:1-7. As you read, fill in the table below. On the left side, list all the worldly characteristics that Paul says we must “put off.” On the right, list all the holy characteristics we must “put on.” 

PUT OFF PUT ON

Did you notice how Paul’s teaching in these verses center around how we should treat our fellow Christians? In last week’s lesson we learned that God commands His children to love each other like He loves us. This table we just filled out is a practical profile of what loving behavior should – and shouldn’t – look like.

Compare the profile on the left to the profile on the right. Which type of person would find the most fulfillment and joy living in the body of Christ? Why?

We covered an awful lot of ground in the last two questions. I want to go back and highlight one particular verse.

Read Ephesians 4:29 and write it below.

The Greek adjective translated as “unwholesome” or “corrupt” literally means “rotten or putrefied.” It refers to language that is itself rotten or that spreads rottenness.

Instead of spreading rottenness, what should our speech accomplish? How can this verse serve as a guide for our own speech?

Now look back at the table you completed. Underline or highlight everything that has to do with our mouths, the way we talk, or what we say.

Did that exercise impact you with the magnitude of the need to carefully watch your tongue? If not, go back and do it again! If you still aren’t convinced, read James 3:1-12.

Step into the Light

Read Ephesians 5:8-20.

The Bible repeatedly uses “darkness” and “light” to represent sin and holiness, the things of the world and the things of God, the realm of Satan and the Kingdom of God. Jesus declared Himself to be “the light of the world” (John 8:12) and the Apostle John wrote that “God is light; in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

Several times in Ephesians, Paul has contrasted his readers’ life before Christ with their life in Christ. Now he does it again using this familiar motif of darkness and light. Because God has brought the Ephesians out of the darkness and into the light, they should “live as children of light.”

List all the direct commands you find in this passage. (Depending on how you break down the sentences you may find as many as 13!)

Yes, Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12). And He calls those of us who belong to Him to reflect His light in the dark world.

You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14a, 16)

This week we’ve seen a very clear picture of what God expects of His children. How are you doing? What are your areas of strength? Weaknesses?

Here’s some ways we can interact this week:

  1. Respond to any of today’s questions in the comment section of this post. Share insights, ask questions, or simply praise our God.
  2. Share ways the rest of the group can pray for you. If you see a request, feel free to post a prayer. That way we can all pray for each other this week.
  3. I’d love to know if you accepted last week’s challenge and encouraged someone!

Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Memorize Ephesians 4:29 this week. Then find a situation in which you can actively practice it! I’d love to know how you “built others up according to their needs” with your words!

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Love, Service, and Maturity – Ephesians 4:1-16

This is the fifth lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download thePDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started!

 

You received something special in the mail today. The postmark reads “London, England.” The heavy linen paper smells faintly of lilac. Inside the first envelope is a second and your name is written in calligraphy across the front. Tucked inside is a gold-embossed invitation. Underneath the sheer vellum covering it reads:

 You are cordially invited to Tea

Buckingham Palace

Saturday, February 25, 2012

4 o’clock in the afternoon

Her Royal Majesty

Queen Elizabeth II

(Right now you’re thinking this is silly, but play along for just a moment. I promise there’s a point.)

After you accepted the invitation and booked your plane reservations what would you do? Perhaps you’d go shopping for something “appropriate” – maybe even a hat and gloves! Then you might do a little research about how to greet the queen and how to address her. I discovered that a curtsey is the traditional greeting for a woman. “Your Majesty” is the correct first response and then “ma’am” is sufficient every time after that.

If I were invited to tea with the Queen of England I would do everything possible to dress, speak, and act in a way that was worthy of the occasion and the company. I’m sure you would too.

Yet, we’ve received an invitation far greater than an afternoon at Buckingham Palace and we don’t always respond in a worthy manner. Our Creator has invited us to join Him in heaven for eternity. What’s our response?

Called to Love

Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and fill in the blanks.

Live a life _______________ of the ___________________ you’ve received.

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul beautifully describes our great salvation. This is the “calling” (or “vocation” in the KJV) he refers to in 4:1. Our “calling” is our invitation from God to partake of the divine blessings of redemption. If you have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ you have received this calling.

Paul’s encouragement to live a life worthy of the One who saved us is not merely a suggestion or recommendation. The Greek word translated as “urge” is a serious appeal. Paul pleads with the Ephesians – and with us – to live the kind of life that adequately reflects what God has done for us. Since God has saved us from eternal destruction our lives should show it.

In verse two Paul mentions four character traits that will be displayed in a “worthy” life. Next to each one listed below, write the antonym of that trait.

Humility:

Gentleness:

Patience expressed in forbearance:

Love:

How will exhibiting these positive traits help us maintain peace and unity with other Christians (vs 3)? What would happen if we displayed their antonyms instead?

The Greek word translated as “love” in verse two is agape. Agape is the kind of love God has for His Son – and for us. It is love expressed in deliberate action and God set the example.

But demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. NIV

Agape seeks the welfare of others. It is not based on fickle emotions, but on an act of the will. It is not dependent on the character of the object of love, but on the character of the giver.

Why is the truth that God’s love for us is based on His choice and character important?

Read John 13:34-35. What did Jesus command us to do and why?(Note: “Love” in this passage is “agape.”)

Why does agape expressed in the church have such an impact on the world?

Unity Modeled in the Trinity

Read Ephesians 4:4-6. How many times does Paul use the word “one?”

Paul moves from urging us to unity with each other in verse three to highlighting the unity of our Trinitarian God in verses 4 to 6. Biblical scholars believe Paul based these three verses on a creed of the early church. This creed teaches us important truths about God:

  • The unity of the church reflects the unity of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
  • The same Spirit indwells each believer, each local church, and the universal church.
  • The presence of the Spirit connects believers to each other and makes unity possible.
  • All believers are unified by faith in the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Water baptism identifies believers with Christ and each other.
  • The same Father reigns with sovereignty over all and in all.

Gifts for Service

Read Ephesians 4:7-13.

Paul now moves from the unity of the body to the unique place of service for each individual believer within the body. The church – the body of Christ – is a living, breathing entity. Yes, unity is vital, but unity does not release the individual from obeying His God-given role. God gifts us for and calls us to a specific function. God’s goal in this is to maintain the health of the body and carry out His purposes in the world.

Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 to emphasize the truth that Christ gives gifts to people. The ascended, exalted Christ not only fills the entire universe with His authority and power, He also fills His people with the ability to serve Him.

Based on Ephesians 4:7 & 11 who chooses and distributes spiritual gifts to believers?

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. According to verse 7 why are individual believers given spiritual gifts?

Note: Here in Ephesians 4 Paul attributes our spiritual gifts to Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 12 he calls them a “manifestation of the Spirit.” This is not a conflict but rather another testimony to the unity of the Godhead!

God gives specific spiritual gifts to individual believers in order for that believer to serve others. My gifts are not for me. Your gifts are not for you. Let’s see how God wants to use them.

Read Ephesians 4:11-16. List below every purpose for our gifts you can find in these verses.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Paul’s beautiful portrait of the body of Christ teaches rich truth about the church and God’s role for us in it.

Did you catch God’s vision for the community of believers? We cannot be “independent” Christians. When God saved us He saved us into His family, into a community of faith. We cannot be everything God wants us to be apart from a vital connection to a local church. Our local church cannot attain “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” unless we are fulfilling our God-given and God-gifted role in the body.

Has this week’s lesson expanded or changed your understanding of the church? If so, how?

Here’s some ways we can interact this week:

  1. Respond to any of today’s questions in the comment section of this post. Share insights, ask questions, or simply praise our God.
  2. Share ways the rest of the group can pray for you. If you see a request, feel free to post a prayer. That way we can all pray for each other this week.
  3. I’d love to know if you accepted last week’s challenge and encouraged someone!

 Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Prayerfully reflect on your place of service in the local church. Are you fulfilling the role God designed for you? Maybe you’ve let the busyness of life keep you from obeying God’s call. Perhaps you’re doing too much and taking someone else’s place of service. Ask God to show His specific place or places of service then step out in obedience.

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Strength in Trials – Ephesians 3:1-21

This is the fourth lesson in an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started!

In October 2009, Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested for “turning his back on Islam” and “converting Muslims to Christianity.” In September 2010, Nadarkhani was found guilty of “apostasy” and sentenced to death by hanging.

Still imprisoned, this thirty-two year-old husband and father of two will be executed unless he denounces his faith in Christ and returns to Islam. According to Iran’s judiciary, Nadarkhani’s execution has been delayed because they want time to “use whatever means necessary to cause him to convert to Islam.”

A council member of Pastor Nadarkhani’s church reported that the Iranian court has given the pastor four opportunities to recant his faith. Nadarkhani can reject Christ and live or stand firm in his Christian faith and be hung. All four times Nadarkhani refused to deny Jesus.

(Read more about this ongoing story of persecution at FoxNews.com and ChristianPersecution.info.)

When you hear stories like this one – Christians facing persecution for their faith – how does it make you feel? Are you encouraged in your faith or discouraged?

Paul’s Suffering

In our introductory lesson several weeks ago, we learned Paul wrote Ephesians from a Roman prison. One of his purposes in writing this letter to the Christians in Ephesus was to make sure his suffering did not discourage them in their commitment to Christ (3:13).

Paul’s commitment to the message of Christ brought him great earthly suffering, but he refused to turn back. Before we get into the third chapter of Ephesians, let’s take a brief look at Paul’s adversity to set the stage.

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. List all the hardships Paul faced. (Note: Taken out of context it might seem like Paul is boasting. Instead he is combating false teachers who have used their “credentials” to lead many in the church astray.)

How did Paul view these trials and persecutions? Read Romans 5:1-5 and Philippians 3:7-11 to help with your answer.

Scripture clearly teaches that believers will face trials, difficulties, and even persecution. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) and the world will hate us because it hates Him (John 15:18). So we shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter trouble. In fact, we should prepare for it, expect it, and “count it all joy!”

Read James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:3-7. According to these two passages, how can God use trials in the lives of His children?

How can knowing these biblical truths about trials prepare us to face them?

Understanding the nature of trials is vital for standing firm in tumultuous times. Paul and the Ephesians had to face them. We have to face them. Will we allow God to use them for our spiritual growth or will we waste them? Like Paul encouraged the Ephesians, let’s encourage one another to stand firm in trials and rejoice in what God will do through them.

Now back to Ephesians!

Paul’s God-given Ministry

Read Ephesians 3:1-13.

When Jesus intercepted Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), He not only saved Paul, He also called him to ministry. Paul used the term “mystery” to describe a “secret plan” God made clear to Paul and commanded him to carry out.

According to Ephesians 3:6, what is this “mystery?”

Reread 3:7-9 and describe Paul’s God-given ministry?

In the Old Testament, God hinted at His plan for the Gentiles. As early as Abraham’s call He declared that “all peoples on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Isaiah looked ahead to the Messiah who would be “a light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6). Yet, God did not fully reveal His ultimate intentions to until the first century.

I love how Paul described himself and the work God gave him. He saw himself as a “servant of the Gospel.” He considered this call as God’s grace working in his life and he recognized obeying it would be impossible without God’s power.

Contemplate for a moment God’s call on your life to service, ministry, and obedience. Have you submitted yourself to God’s call? Do you lean on God’s power working through you to obediently carry out His call?

Look back at verse 1. Where is Paul and why?

Although God chose to offer salvation to the Gentiles, many Jews violently resisted this “mystery.” They believed the Jews were exclusively God’s chosen people. Ironically, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem when a Jewish mob took advantage of a misunderstanding concerning Trophimus, Paul’s Gentile-Christian companion from Ephesus. (You can read about it in Acts 21.)

Encouragement Needed

Approximately three to five years passed from the time of Paul’s arrest to the writing of this letter. The believers in Ephesus knew Paul was imprisoned and why. Paul, assured he was in God’s will, did not want them to be discouraged because of his sufferings.

Reread Ephesians 3:12-13. What glorious truth did Paul declare to encourage them in their faith?

The Greek word translated as “freedom” in the NIV in verse 12 refers to liberty of speech. Believers in Christ have the blessed privilege to boldly enter into God’s presence and talk freely and openly to our Savior!

How would this great privilege help the Ephesian believers?

Praying for Growth

Paul returns to prayer in verse 14. This prayer powerfully shows what God can accomplish – and desires to accomplish – in the lives of believers. Remember, God has already “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” These blessings are already available to us. Paul’s prayer “is concerned with the appropriation of God’s provision in Christ through the Spirit” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, volume 11).

Read Ephesians 3:14-21 from the NLT below:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Make a list of Paul’s requests for the Ephesian believers.

Who enables these blessings to be active in their – and our – lives?

Our God, the Creator of heaven and earth, has all power and unlimited resources. He longs to pour His power and love into our lives through the presence of His Spirit. As we continue to trust in Him, our relationship with Him deepens and grows and we experience more of His blessings.

Paul’s prayer moves to a doxology of praise in 3:20-21. Can’t you feel the intensity of Paul’s worship even in the written words. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine… God is able!

Read Ephesians 3:20-21 out loud as a prayer of praise to God.

What life circumstance threatens to discourage you now? How can remembering your freedom to approach God encourage you?

What blessing of God do you need to experience the most today? Using Paul’s prayer as a model, write your plea to God, knowing He is able!

Weekly Challenge

(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)

Before next Wednesday, identify someone in your life that needs encouragement. Pray for them daily and send them a hand-written note of encouragement. I’d love to hear about any results!

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