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Nov 18 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 16, 2014 – Ephesians 2:8-10

The Invitation Of Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Intro: In our Sunday night meeting we recently discussed a quote by David Steindl-Rast

“. . . we never start to be grateful unless we wake up. Wake up to what? To surprise. As long as nothing surprises us, we walk through life in a daze.”

- this week we began watching the Romuald conversations, which he began with the statement, “Worship is awe”
• he listed ways that we usually experience awe:

“For example, in nature, in something that takes us by surprise . . . in something that takes our breath away.”

Because these three verses in Ephesians chapter 2  are familiar to us, they do not surprise us
- we read them and do not feel grateful, we read them and do not experience awe
• besides their familiarity, they are the condensed version of some very big themes
• Paul glides through these themes in a couple sentences that in Romans takes two or three chapters to explain
- our goal today is not to try to make ourselves feel grateful
• but maybe we can let these verses surprise us again


I’m going to begin by jumping into the heart of this

The three words, “in Christ Jesus”
- we have already observed how many times “in Christ” (or “in Him”) appeared in chapter 1
• now, glancing back to the previous two verses, we see the phrase there too (vv. 6 & 7)

 

Albert Schweitzer argued that “Being-in-Christ” was the most common “expression for union with Christ” and that this
“concept of being-in-Christ dominates Paul’s thought in a way that he not only sees in it the source of everything connected with redemption, but describes all the experience, feeling, thought and will of the baptized as taking place in Christ.”

- Jesus entered our flesh and blood existence to forge a spiritual bond with us
• he shared our life with us so we could share his life with him

Christian spirituality entails an increasing awareness of our union with Jesus
- it is to experience the many ways that being in him affects our everyday lives


V. 8, A huge theme is packed into one sentence

The simplest way to think of grace, is gift
- it is a gift that opens doors of opportunity and fits us to meet the challenges that opportunity brings
• grace is a gift that makes impossibilities realities
• grace in the Old Testament was also “favor” (e.g., Gen. 39:4, 21; Est. 2:9, 15, 17)
- did you ever get hired for a job even though you lacked the qualifications for it?
• that is the kind of thing grace does for us

read more…

Nov 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 9, 2014 – Ephesians 2:1-7

How We Got From There to Here

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Ephesians 2:1-2

Intro: Our first challenge will be to unravel this impossibly long sentence (vv. 1-10)

E. K. Simpson, “We have here another of Paul’s broken sentences; so that a verb made alive has to be supplied from v. 5 for the initial pronoun you.” (For example, as in the King James Version)

William Barclay, “In this passage Paul’s thought flows on regardless of the rules of grammar; he begins sentences and never finishes them . . . . That is so because this is far more a lyric of the love of God than a careful theological exposition.”

- the theme transcends the constraints of human language – it doesn’t fit any of our familiar categories
• the freedom Paul needed to give passionate expression to his message is better supplied by poetry than prose

Last week we read about the dynamic energy of Jesus’ resurrection that is at work in us
- I introduced Albert Schweitzer’s phrase, “resurrection mode of existence”
• this may have been news to Paul’s readers — “Hey, all I remember is that I decided I would be  a Christian”
• it could certainly surprise anyone who signed-up to become a Christian at a big evangelism event
- let’s imagine that someone has asked ,“Tell us more about this resurrection mode of existence”
• Paul’s answer would be what follows as he revisits our past to show how we got from there to here
• and what he lays out may be different from the way we remember it


Vv. 1-2, “Once upon a time, we were dead”

Paul turns from his depiction of the splendor of Jesus to us, “And you”
- to be dead, in this sense, is to be unconscious – unresponsive – inactive
• we may have known about God, but we had no vital link to him
◦ we were unconscious of his presence, unresponsive to his calling, and inactive regarding his will for our lives
• this is a different kin of spiritual death than Paul describes in Romans 6:11
◦ in our new life with Jesus we are dead to sin, but prior to that we were dead in sin
- “trespasses and sins” are two parts of our death-state
• the first part is our trespasses–that is our slip ups and lapses in thought, word and deed
• the second part is our sins, which means our failures to reach a potential goal
◦ ultimately it is a failure to become the person God designed and desires me to be
- sometimes I get nervous when reading Mt. 25:14-29

Jesus tells a parable about a man preparing to take a journey, but first entrusting a portion of his income to three of his slaves. Two of them were able to put the money they were given to work and both of them doubled the original amount they were given. But when their master returned and interviewed the third slave, he was only able to return the few dollars he had been given and that he had hidden in the ground so as not to lose it. His punishment was that he was no longer allowed to handle or be in charge of anything that belonged to his master. The point of the story: For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

• I have to ask myself, “Have I developed my gifts and potential as far as possible?”
◦ In entered the ministry way too young — I started my first church when I was twenty years old
◦ I had not been a good student in jr. high or high school
◦ but in the early, apocalyptic days of the Jesus Movement, an “establishment education” was not required

read more…

Nov 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 2, 2014 – Ephesians 1:19b-23

A Resurrection Mode of Existence

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which he brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:19b-23

Intro: Two weeks ago we meditated on HIP spirituality

‘H’ stood for hope, ‘I’ for inheritance and ‘P’ for power, which Paul described as surpassing or excessive
- the religious tradition of my youth stressed my responsibility in spiritual transformation
• it was up to me to force myself into a lifestyle that was contrary to my nature
• we were led to believe that the “good Christian” was someone with the will-power to make all the right choices
- Paul, however, does not appeal to our will-power
• rather, our salvation comes when we are “helpless,” “without strength” (Ro. 5:6)
◦ we are not our own saviors
• God gives us a new nature that he then empowers by his Spirit (Ro.8:5-15)

It is to that power that Paul takes us next
- it is a power according to “the working of the strength of His might”


Vv. 19a-21, How does Paul explore God’s “power toward us”?

First, he tries to fill out its dimensions

Skevington Wood, “Paul proceeds to collect all the synonyms he can lay hands on as he describes how the power (dynamis) of God functions according to the operation (energeia) of the strength (kratos) of his might (ischys).” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

- these words carry the sense of capability, (effective) energy, strength to resist or control, and (raw) strength respectively
• we should include the Greek word the NASB translates “brought about” (energesen), also translated “exerted”
• any way that force can be applied to an object or objective

Secondly, the power at work in our spiritual lives is derived from Jesus’ resurrection

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Nov 4 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 26, 2014 – Guest Speaker: Nancy Lopez

Meditation For Silent Prayer

Chuck asked us to pray this week—actually for two weeks–and “ask God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts.” It’s a way of seeing that he was inviting us to practice.

With our usual way of Quiet Sitting in prayer, our intention is to quiet our minds from distracting stimuli and find that attentiveness to God increases. We want to pay attention to the REAL Present, the Presence of God Who loves us and is with us.

Today, I’d like to invite you into a more guided imagery meditation, with the same purpose, to be intentionally present to the Presence of God. Join us if you feel that’s what you want or be present to God any way that you choose.

While the music is playing:

  1. Become comfortable in your physical space. Close your eyes and ask God to let the eyes of your heart see what is present and life-giving for you.
  2. As you look from that perspective—really imagine looking from the eyes of your heart—see what the atmosphere, the environment in your inner world looks and feels like.
  3. Notice whatever emerges, without judging or evaluating, just picture it all from that perspective of God opening the eyes of your heart and keep looking, seeing and sensing from a heart perspective.

When the music stops and we are sitting here in silence, the inner place from which you are seeing now:

  1. Look up and observe the icon depicting the three angels who visited Abraham, sometimes referred to as the Holy Trinity icon. Look at it from the peaceful inner space where you have been present to God.
  2. How do the figures in the painting appear to you? Are they close or at a distance?
  3. Notice that they seem to be having a conversation, doing some kind of planning or project together.
  4. Allow your awareness to move in closer to observe what they’re doing and hear what they may be saying. Looking from the eyes of your heart, enjoy another minute with them looking and listening.

 Vision

I. Chuck asked if I would consider speaking while he and Barbara were in Hawaii, and asked that I give it prayerful consideration. At first I was excited at the possibilities. Then reality set in….I started thinking of all of you, knowing that many of you are my older brothers and sisters in the faith, spiritually mature, godly….and of course temptations to compare…but then, I started thinking about God’s Vision for me, and for us. I started SEEING differently, from a different perspective.

A. Remember when Chuck recently had cataract surgery, and he said the doctor told him that one eye now had the vision of a 10-yr old. I started that “holy envisioning/seeing” that we just practiced in our meditation time. I began to wonder what it felt like as a 10-yr old. When I saw older brothers and sisters doing things I wanted to do, I didn’t say, “Oh, I can never do that.” Right? We always said, “When I grow up I want to stay up late, drive a car, go on a date, or wear makeup….” We were enjoying being 10, but at the same time, we knew that in our physical bodies, something alive was at work to lead us to what we would become and we kept asking, “Can I do that yet?”

It’s the same in the spiritual realm, I think. We have OBTAINED life and an inheritance; we are growing in REAL, albeit invisible life of The Spirit. New Covenant Theology tells us that we now have the indwelling Holy Spirit…something has changed. We “know” it in our heads, perhaps, but do we KNOW it by lived experience? Do we anticipate our own spiritual growth? When we hear Chuck teach on Paul’s words in Ephesians, does it stir up a desire in us to know that truth for ourselves?

read more…

Oct 21 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 19, 2014 – Ephesians 1:18-19a

HIP Spirituality

 I pray that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

Intro: This is the second part of Paul’s prayer for his readers

There are several “eye-opening” stories in the Scriptures (from Baalam in Numbers 22:31 to Paul in Acts 9:17-18)
- there is one in particular that has some resemblance to Paul’s prayer
• the prophet Elisha was staying in a small village (2 Kings 6)
◦ upset that Elisha kept spoiling his plans, the king of Aram sent troops to capture him
• one morning, Elisha’s attendant rose early and seeing a massive army surrounding the village, he panicked
◦ reassuring him, Elisha said, “Don’t worry, there are more on our side than on theirs”
◦ then he prayed “O LORD, open his eyes that he may see” — suddenly the attendant saw a much greater army “of fire”
- that is what Paul does for us
• if our eyes were opened, we would be amazed to see what we have going for us

Paul is praying them into something deeper
- last week he prayed that they would be equipped to know God – epignosei
gnosis is “to know,” acquired, personal knowledge — the prefix epi enlarges knowing
• what we knew from distance we now know up close — it is an intimate knowing
- this week Paul prays that we would perceive what God has for us 
• in essence his prayer is that we would know God and then through him come to know ourselves
• or what is ours in God


Paul uses an unusual phrase – “the eyes of your heart”

Even if we never heard it, we immediately understand what he means
- the “heart” represents a persons inner life
• our devotions and commitments (Mt. 6:21)
• our belief system – what we take for “reality”
• our passions and aspirations
- the heart determines the direction a person’s outer life moves
• words and actions – (Pr. 4:23)

read more…

Oct 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 12, 2014 – Ephesians 1:15-17

A Spiritual Person Who Knows God

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:15-17

Intro: If people tell you, “I’m praying for you,” is it important to you to know the content of their prayers?

I once spoke with a monk about a mutual friend who lived for awhile in his monastery
- the brother said, “We’re praying for him, that God will bring him pain”
• he noticed my shocked expression, smiled and explained:
◦ “He’s been running from it, but sometimes going through pain is the only way forward”
- so if someone says, “I’m praying for you,” you might ask, “And what is your prayer?”

Two times in this letter, Paul shares with his readers the content of his prayers for them
- in essence, he prayed that they would experience the fullness of Christian spirituality
• that is, all that life with God can be to a person
- in the prayer we look at today, Paul makes two requests but then shifts from prayer to theology
• it is as if he cannot talk about Jesus without getting carried away
• but it’s precisely what he knows about Jesus that justifies the richness of his requests


Verses 15-16 form an introduction to his prayer

He begins his prayer the same way in chapter 3, but gets carried away again (for twelve verses!)
- “For this reason” – Paul heard about these believers
• he wanted to contribute something to their faith — this was his calling

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established (Ro. 1:11)

- prayer is one way we can promote God’s work in the lives of other people

Paul had heard about their faith “in the Lord Jesus”
- faith in Jesus is how a person becomes a Christian and the essence of being a Christian
• we go through life with Jesus, trusting him
• he will have more to say about Jesus a few verses down
- Paul had also heard about their “love for all the saints”
• faith is not our only Christian trait and commitment
◦ when it comes to other people, faith is not the most import trait or commitment

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:3)

• a person can have and believe all the right doctrines yet not be a Christian

read more…

Oct 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 5, 2014 – Ephesians 1:13-14

The Spirit of Christian “Spirituality”

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His Glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

Intro: I’m not sure why I just noticed it this week, but there is a pattern in this passage I had missed

It is almost a rhythm that emerges in verses 4-14
- it moves back and forth between what God has done and what we have been given
• he chose and predestined us – now we have redemption
• he made known to us the mystery of his will – now we have an inheritance
- block by block, Paul has been building a model of Christian spirituality
• the the climax of this pattern comes in the two verses of our meditation this morning: “you also”
• there were those who knew God before us–e.g., v. 12
◦ but now it’s our turn – we get to know God too


The Last spiritual blessing on Paul’s list – (our inclusion)

It has to do with our inclusion in God and Christian spirituality that is our experience of God

These verses are straight forward and easier to understand than what came before
- the only challenge may be for those who are unfamiliar with Paul’s vocabulary and concepts
- his point: How did it happen? (that we are included) and, What does it mean?

How did it happen? From our side there were two important “moments”

  1. “after listening” or “having heard”
    - hearing Christian messages has come too easy for us
    • we’re not so desperate for its truth that we memorize every word of it
    • there is a responsive way to hear
    ◦ it is both receptive and prepared to act on what is heard
    Do you ever feel like telling someone, “I know you were listening to my words, but you didn’t hear me!”?
    ◦ Jesus ran into this with his disciples — “Having ears, do you know hear?” (Mk. 8:18)
    • the brain is like a radio – lots of stations are blaring in it all the time
    ◦ we want to learn how to tune into God’s frequency, shutting out the other voices
    - what we heard was “the message of truth”
    • the Greek word for truth can mean nothing is hidden or corresponding to reality
    ◦ a person who is true is reliable, faithful
    ◦ there’s no tension between the message of salvation and reality
    • the “message of truth” is also “the good news of your salvation”
    ◦ the good news that things can be different
    ◦ we can be different – we can have a different life and a different destiny
  2. “having also believed” – a second stage
    - this is not simply acknowledgment or education
    • I was told oxygen is two parts H…& believed it
    - it is to put faith in something – to trust or rely
    • Paul: it is hearing it and saying Yes to it

Our faith was met by God’s response

“Sealed” – was used in various contexts in the Greek and Roman social worlds
- could be a sack of grain purchased in the marketplace then the opening of it was tied and sealed
• or it may be a letter that was sealed when an impression was made in soft clay or wax
• it signified ownership–that is, a seal identified the owner

read more…

Sep 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 28, 2014 – Ephesians 1:11-12

Maturing Into Childhood

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:11-12

Intro: The theme we’re exploring in Ephesians is Christian spirituality

What I have in mind is not something extraordinary
- a special or rare form of Christian experience
• it is not a way of being with God that is unique to saints
• Paul assumes that God meets all of his people in this way
◦ it doesn’t require a special temperament or talent
- we are not given options from which to choose
• “I think I’ll be an ethical Christian,” or a theological Christian, or a sociological Christian
◦ we are all of this, our faith built on a theological foundation, our will undergoes ethical formation, etc.
• it is simple–we all share a life with God through Jesus Christ
◦ spirituality is one dimension of its experience
◦ and all that matters is whether or not we wake up to it

Historically, Christian mystics worked out a discipline to develop ones spiritual life
- the classic pattern has been:

  1. purgation (purifying oneself from worldliness and sin)
  2. illumination (one is still far from perfect, but God’s presence and will begins to come into focus)
    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
  3. unification (union with God, an intimate and unbreakable bond is formed)

• as far as Paul’s teaching goes, this process is the reverse of the one God uses
• the outline in these verses: we are not working our way to God, but he has been and is working his way into us

So we come to . . .


The next spiritual blessing in Paul’s list

We have “obtained an inheritance”
- something has been allotted to us (the way the twelve tribes of Israel were alloted an inheritance (Jos. 18:1-6)
• notice the past tense – God has already done this
◦ we already have our inheritance “in Him”–i.e., Jesus Christ
• Paul then quickly links this with the word “predestined”
◦ we live in a present that is shaped by the future (our inheritance) and the past (what God predestined long ago)

read more…

Sep 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 21, 2014 – Ephesians 1:7-10

Two More Spiritual Blessings

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. Ephesians 1:7-10

Intro: Ephesians is an unusual letter

As a rule, Paul wrote to churches to address specific problems or concerns
- however, Paul’s primary purpose in Ephesians seems to be to enlighten his readers
• they’ve become Christians, but what does that mean? how does it happen?
• what has transpired between them and God?
- all of this makes Ephesians an excellent document for tracing Paul’s outline of Christian spirituality

What do I mean by “Christian spirituality”?
- God’s intent is that we not only believe in him, but experience him
• it is vital that his activity in our lives is made real to us
◦ that we awaken to his presence more frequently and in more places

Paul began a list of several spiritual blessings
- it so happens that the two we will go over today are extremely critical
• there is no Christian spirituality apart these key blessings
• the core concepts represented here are redemption and revelation
- in the last two weeks, I feel like I’ve been slapped in face with the importance of these
• I suppose I’m tempted to take them for granted
• however, they must be taken seriously!


What was Jesus’ primary mission?

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
(Mk. 10:45)

“Ransom” is the Greek root of the word for redemption in Ephesians 1:7
- in the Greek world a payment could be made to release slaves, prisoners of war, and criminals (in some cases)
• payment was made to secure someone’s freedom
- in the Hebrew Scriptures redeem (redemption, redeemer) had several meanings
• we’ll look at two:

read more…

Sep 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 14, 2014 – Ephesians 1:3-6

A List of Spiritual Blessings

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to His pleasure, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6

Intro: The first two words of verse 4, “just as,” indicate a link with the previous verseT

There we learned we have been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”
- so we can read verse 4 as the first example of our spiritual blessings

This week I’ve been trying to grasp what it means to be blessed in heavenly places in Christ
- it occurred to me that Jesus joins us in our earthly places to lift us up to heavenly places
• in fact, he joins us in our hellish places, our toughest situations and deepest griefs (Ep. 4:9-10)
• but, of course, that is just scratching the surface of what he is saying
- what is the experiential reality of being in Christ in “heavenly places”? (cf. Ep. 2:6)
• about 3:00 this morning it dawned on me that I’d never find the answer with my rational mind
◦ it is something God’s Spirit communicates to our spirit (Ro. 8:16)
• when the truth of it enters us, it takes us by surprise because it doesn’t enter through our intellect or feelings
- somehow we already belong to the heavenly realm (Col. 3:1-2)
• we straddle two realms, living in one with our heart and soul in the other (Mt. 6:19-21)
• “spiritual” blessings may not show up in our circumstances
◦ think of how the Lord’s “blessings” look more like disadvantages or disabilities (Mt. 5:3-11)
◦ nevertheless, spiritual blessings eventually show up in us as they yield the fruit of  love, joy, peace, etc. (Gal. 5:22-23)

Another important factor to keep in mind regarding spiritual blessings:
- what Paul describes is the view from within – he produced this list from inside the experience
• it doesn’t look the same from the outside (or if examined with the mind alone, cf. v. 17)
- we want to get inside the experience too (or discover or be with the blessings from inside the experience)
• otherwise we are only Christian because of our beliefs, behavior, and membership in a church
- as far as Paul is concerned, we already have these spiritual blessings
• he isn’t telling us what we must acquire, but what we already have


The first example of a spiritual blessing: “He chose us”

We don’t want to get drawn away from the central point
- but the words “chose” and “predestined” (vv. 5 & 11) raise two difficulties”

read more…

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