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Feb 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 15, 2015 – Ephesians 4:32-5:2

The Heart of Everything

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Intro: A thought occurred to me a couple days ago

I haven’t worked through it yet, so I’m not certain it’s true
- however, it does have some biblical support

It has to do with authentic spiritual communities
- first, how they are formed (whether monasteries, home groups, churches, etc.)
• people who find themselves drawn to God are also drawn together
◦ like lines converging on a single point
• attempting to satisfy our thirst for God we meet others who share a common  devotion
- then, the community drawn to God becomes as crucial to our development as One who draws us
• a spiritual community provides us the first opportunities to live what we learn
◦ to practice it with real people

. . . for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 Jn. 4:20-21)

• What I’ve learned on Wednesday and Thursday nights:
◦ that how God works with you is as helpful to me as how he works with me

I’ve taken a step backward

I wasn’t happy with how I finished last week
- the last verse in chapter 4 is too profound to treat lightly
• in fact, I doubt my ability to do it justice
• but at least we can benefit from simply spending more time with it
- these two verses may be a summation of the essence of this whole section
• like the way Jesus sums up all the law and prophets in two commandments (Mt. 22:34-40)

In verse 17, Paul began writing a negative checklist
- this could be characterized as the do’s and don’ts
• but notice he begins verse with “Be” – a shift in emphasis:
◦ from “what we do” to “who we are
• the doing is automatic to a thing’s being
◦ e.g., an orange tree automatically grows leaves, blossoms and oranges
◦ Jesus said that a person is known by what he does (Mt. 7:16-20)
- “Be” is “become” or as A. T. Robertson has it, “keep on becoming”
• we cannot instantly change ourselves — for example, into “kind” people

John Chapman observed that the beginner is not “expected to show at all a high degree of perfection. God does not show the soul all its faults nor all it has eventually to give up. It gives up something, and in time He will ask more. Meanwhile, it has faults which are obvious enough to others, though probably not to itself.”

“Tender-hearted” is a move inward

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Feb 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 8, 2015 – Ephesians 4:25-32

The Gradual Death of the False Self

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25

Intro: Paul begins where he left off in the previous verse

He explained why our spiritual transformation is not instantaneous
- we are tugged at by the gravity of two potential selves
• the old self and the new self – or the false self and the true self
◦ the conflict is described well in Galatians

. . . walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Gal. 5:16-17)

◦ essentially, the ethical challenge is to “put off the old self and put on the new”
• we learn today that we do this piece-by-piece
◦ similar to the way we “put on the whole armor of God” (ch. 6:11-17)
- “laying aside [or “putting off”] falsehood” is one of the pieces of the old self that we strip off

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his [soul] for My sake, he is the one who will save it. (Lk. 9:23-24)

• Christian spirituality begins at the cross and is made possible by the cross
◦ the soul we lose at the cross is the false self and the soul we gain is the true self
◦ we lose the false self day-by-day (“take up his cross daily“)
• the new self does not develop automatically
◦ we have to learn how to walk and talk and listen and so on
◦ that’s what this whole section has been about, beginning in 4:1, Walk!

Later, Paul paints a picture of Jesus with his bride, bathing and beautifying her,

. . . that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. (Ep. 5:27)

• we cannot perfect ourselves
◦ but we can break some bad habits, make some changes
◦ we can wash the window of our hearts and rinse our eyes (Mt. 5:8; 6:22-23)
- as we make our way through this passage, keep in mind: Paul was addressing Christians
• you may find yourself identifying with a behavior in the negative column
◦ remember that other believers do too
• this struggle is the spiritual journey and to stay in it is to take up our cross

V. 25, There’s a speech issue between the old self and the new self

“Falsehood”–pseudos–has been an underlying theme in this section
- awhile back,a  man represented himself to me as friend
• the way he showed interest in me was by asking a lot of personal questions
◦ for several years I assumed that we shared a genuine friendship
• after confiding in him all those years, the lesson I learned the hard way was that:

Curiosity is not necessarily an expression of love

Rowan Williams argued, “It is an unscrupulous rationalization of the lust for power which can be hidden in curiosity, the diabolical thirst to know without loving, to substitute knowing for loving.”

- for someone to know you without loving you is terrifying
• it is exactly the danger that is posed by identity theft

read more…

Feb 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 1, 2015 – Ephesians 4:20-24

“Transformative Education”

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in [lit. "according to"] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:20-24

Intro: There are several stories in the gospels in which Jesus made side-trips

Departing from his normal itinerary of towns, villages and hillsides,
- Jesus took off with disciples – usually for rest, but also for reflection
• one time, he led them to the northern most area of the Galilee, to Caesarea Philippi
• the beautiful and majestic setting was marked by a history of pagan gods that was centuries old
- there Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
• they, no doubt, would have heard the gossip — “a prophet,” “the return of Elijah,” etc.
◦ they knew people were merely guessing
• then looking directly at them, Jesus asked them, “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”

I doubt Jesus was overly concerned with how the crowds perceived him
- if anything, he worked at keeping his identity hidden
• but it was crucial to his mission that some knew who he was
• so he tested what disciples’ experience of him had taught them
- the truth that would save them would not be:
• Jesus the prophet, or teacher, or healer
• but Jesus “the Messiah, the Son of the living God”
Paul grasped this truth as clearly as anyone
• his passion in life was to know Jesus in ever greater intimately (Php. 3:8-10)

In the 1980′s, a phrase was introduced to adult education: “transformative learning”
- we grew up in an educational system that was informative and “conformative”
• that is, we were taught that there was one right answer that everyone had to recite
- Paul’s big idea in these verses:
◦ transformation is exactly what knowing Jesus does (2 Cor. 3:18)

I find it intriguing that in this passage Paul inserts four odd (or at least unusual) terms

Vv. 20-21, The first odd term, “learn Christ”

“But you did not learn Christ in this way”
- “this way” refers to what we went over last week
• that as “Gentiles,” we lived in futility, closed off from God, and driven by insatiable neediness
• Paul contrasts this with our current life in God, which is a transformed life
◦ we’ve been changed from what we were then to who we are now
◦ this has resulted from our spiritual education — we have learned Christ
- Jesus is the curriculum of Christian spirituality

E. K. Simpson, “Usually we learn subjects, not persons”

read more…

Feb 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 25, 2015 – Ephesians 4:17-19

“Just Walk Away”

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19

Intro: In verse 1, Paul began to focus on the “Christian walk”

Walk is used metaphorically–i.e., how we make our way through life
- Paul’s concern is to emphasize and explore the fact that Christian spirituality requires a practice
• for example, many of us have adopted a practice of silent prayer
◦ we quiet our thoughts to become open and receptive to God for for ten minutes every day
• the purpose of practices like this is to sharpen and deepen our experience of God
◦ practice is one way to make spirituality “practical” — a reality rather than intention
- Paul’s first instruction regarding our walk is that it is to be consistent with our calling
• that would indicate having a practice that is defined by our spiritual identity and destiny

Although the same theme is carried forward here, we now see its negative image
- Paul tells us how not to walk (what he describes seems to be the progression of degradation)
• we can think of this as the “bad news” (we know that gospel means good news)
◦ this is a “walk” that is inconsistent with our spiritual identity and destiny
• in a way, this passage could be an answer to the question, “What’s wrong with our world?”
- it may be helpful if we do not think of Gentile as an ethnic label
• the religious mentality tends to divide humankind into two groups:
◦ good and bad, Jew and Gentile – or even Christian and pagan
◦ but according to Paul, Jews could also be “hardened” and “ignorant” (Ro. 10:2-3; 11:25)
• let’s think instead of Gentile as a spiritual state of being separate from God
◦ and Paul assumed that this letter was being sent to “former” Gentiles (Ep. 2:11)
(and we must remember we’re not entirely free of this ourselves)
◦ with that in mind, what can be said about how the Gentiles walk?

Theirs is a walk characterized by futility

Paul uses the phrase “I affirm” or (literally) “testify in the Lord” – to add force to his words
- looking for the primary source of Gentile condition, what Paul sees is the “futility of their mind”
• this word could be translated “emptiness” or “meaninglessness”
◦ for Paul, this explains what follows, namely, why they live as they do
• a whole course of lessons is devoted to this them in the Hebrew Scriptures–i.e., Ecclesiastes

read more…

Jan 14 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 11, 2015 – Ephesians 4:11-16

A Visit to God’s Worksite

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers . . . Ephesians 4:11

Intro: Let’s take a look at the roadmap to see where we are

Paul painted a wonderful picture of Christian spirituality in chapters 1-3
- then, in chapter 4, he says, in effect, “You must have a spiritual practice”
• this is sometimes referred to as “spiritual disciplines” or “spiritual exercises”
• it is behavior that promotes, reinforces, and externalizes our inner spiritual life
- this practice is surprisingly social (remember how Paul began with humility, gentleness, etc.)
• the one practice Paul has focused on is “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
◦ the big challenge to unity is our differences — we are not all the same
• but as Paul sees it, the ways in which you differ from me is a gift (to all of us)

For who differentiates you from another? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)
Now you are Christ’s body, ad individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)

◦ we cannot brag of a greater status than others, because what we have is only what we’ve been given
◦ God’s Spirit passes out gifts to each person that are beneficial to everyone

It would helpful to study 1 Corinthians 12, where the body as a metaphor for spiritual community is more fully developed
- the point is the relationship of the parts to the whole
your gifts makes you a gift to others
• you are a gift Jesus has given to the community
◦ and he’s given you “gifts”that make your participation valuable to others
◦ although everyone’s participation is unique, we function as one and move toward one goal

Now we are caught up to verse 11

Paul provides examples, choosing those that would be most familiar to his readers

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Jan 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 4, 2015 – Ephesians 4:4-10

Look For Jesus

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-10

Intro: I don’t like breaking up this section–i.e., verses 1-16

It’s too easy to lose Paul’s train of thought
- this is where “verse by verse” teaching commonly slips up
• all verses may be inspired, but not all verses are created equal
◦  that is to say, some verses contain key themes while the verses around them play a supportive role
◦  also, some verses contain “data” (numbers, genealogies, etc.) that do not have the theological weight of others
• at any rate, the Bible was not written in chapters and verses, so the divisions are artificial
◦ as a rule, several verses together form one thought
◦ to lose sight of that main point, it is too easy to overemphasize something that is merely one piece of a bigger idea
- nevertheless, we want to enjoy all that Paul has packed into this passage
• and the only way to do that is to focus up close
• so what we’ll do is alternate our view by zooming out for the big picture and zooming in on the particulars

Paul’s concern (from last week) is that his readers would be “diligent to preserve the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace”
- in verses 4-10, he elaborates on this and answers two questions:
• where do we (believers, members of his church) find our unity?
• why isn’t our unity obvious?

Vv. 4-6, Where to we find our unity? The answer lies in a list of “ones”

One, in these verses, is a point where two or more lives are linked by single factor
- notice that verse 4 begins abruptly, “One body” (the Greek does not have “There is”)
• so he jumps from “unity” into the list, which begins, “One body”
◦ he has already made the connection between the church and the body of Christ (1:22-23)
◦ also, in 2:16 he demonstrated how Jesus had incorporated both Jews and Gentiles in one body
• toward the end of his ministry on earth, Jesus told his disciples:

I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd (Jn. 10:16)

◦ every follower of Jesus, in every place and in every period of history belongs to this one universal community of faith
- we have learned that sharing a common interest forms a bond between people

C. S. Lewis, “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

• camping, stamp collecting, and many other interests are potential points for beginning a friendship
• even so, a bond is formed between us when we discover that we share membership in Jesus’ “body”

read more…

Dec 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 28, 2014 – Ephesians 4:1-3

The Fruit of Christian Spirituality

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Intro: The chapter begins with a “therefore”

It serves as a link to connect what came before to what comes next
- what came before?
• a radiant horizon of spiritual blessing, enjoyed by Christians, which includes average people (“Gentiles”)
• the inner self is prepared to receive Jesus Christ as a permanent resident (3:16-17)
• we become more and more enlightened to a divine love that is infinitely unsearchable
- this is the essence of Christian spirituality

Until now, we have been contemplating the inner experience of Christian spirituality
- an analogy Christian mystics liked to use was that of the sisters Mary and Martha
(Lk. 10:38-42, which can be found in Cassian’s Conferences, for example)
• Mary, the contemplative, sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to every word he spoke
◦ this is one way that our hearts and souls become open, receptive, and responsive to him
• but there is another way that is just as important — Martha who was active in serving
- Paul now walks us into the Martha half
• that is why this chapter begins with “Therefore”
◦ it links the contemplative part to the active part of Christian spirituality
• Mary is joined by Martha
◦ sometimes Christians make the mistake of identifying with either on or the other — the point is, we are both
◦ they do not represent alternative behaviors but alternating behaviors

Thomas Aquinas observed that the contemplative life and the active life go together to form the Christian life. “But just as in every mixture one of the simple elements predominates, so in this mixed kind of life now the contemplative, now the active predominates.” [Now Mary, now Martha]

V. 1, Paul asked us to contemplate, now he asks us to walk

Walk is my favorite metaphor of the Christian life
- walk, because this is a spiritual journey
• walk, because we’re not there yet – it’s a process
• walk, because God walks through the world and asks us to join him
- for Paul, it was meant to give hands and feet to our spirituality

I’m not comfortable with “worthy”
- it sounds like “deserving”

read more…

Dec 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 21, 2014 – Ephesians 3:14-21

 A Goal of Christian Spirituality

For this reason
I bow my knees before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth
derives its name . . .  Ephesians 3:14-15

Intro: Paul finally returns to what he began in verse 1 before getting sidetracked

“For this …” refers to all he’s said about what God has done for us, the revealed mystery, and life in Christ
- in this section, Paul wants to pray into them all of these wonderful truths (cf. Col. 4:12)
• his prayer reveals the possibilities of the Christian experience of God
• and those possibilities are magnificent

Verses 14 and 15 are preliminaries to Paul’s prayer

The first preliminary: “I bow my knees” – we know prayer is not its ritual form
- yet at the same time, the body is not irrelevant
• physical posture, gestures, and the time and place of prayer are important to the act
◦ these are things that we associate with drawing close to God

Balthazar Alvarez, who at one time was St. Teresa’s spiritual director, described a moment when, “Having placed myself in prayer, I felt that God was there.”

◦ bowing our heads, closing our eyes, and however else we use our bodies serve this purpose; to place ourselves in prayer
- the body is important also when it comes to praying with our whole person
• I don’t believe there is such a thing as disembodied prayer or worship

The next preliminary: the One whom Paul addresses in prayer “before the Father”
- in the Greek text, the “before” is “a preposition of direction” (Strong’s Dictionary) e.g., toward
• Paul was not facing the east when he prayed, but the Father
- a play on words: Father (patera) and family (patria)
• “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”
◦ he is thinking of God as Father in the larger context, namely, the Creator of the life of all humankind

[Paul, addressing an audience of philosophers in Athens] . . . as even some of your own poets have said, “For we also are His children” (Acts 17:28)

patronym: the family takes the father’s name
(my theory: the universal last name of humankind is Smith–but it’s just a theory)
• “in heaven…” — a reminder that some of those whom we love are already in heaven
◦ but they’re still family, still connected to us

. . . that He would grant you,
according to the riches of His glory,
to be strengthened with His power
through His Spirit
in the inner man;
so that Christ may dwell
in your hearts through faith;

Vv. 16-17a, Paul’s first request

The essence of this request: that their hearts will become Christ’s home

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Dec 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 14, 2014 – Ephesians 3:8-13

 Another Kind of Person

To me,
the very least of all saints,
this grace was given,
to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ,
and to bring to light
what is the administration of the mystery
which for ages has been hidden in God
who created all things;
Ephesians 3:8-9

Intro: We saw that Paul has taken a long detour

In verse 13 it will become clear why he went off-topic
- in referring to himself as a prisoner, Paul realized the reminder could disturb them
• so trailing off from verses 2-12 was meant to reassure them — there was no need to worry

Paul repeats themes that we went over last week
- for a third time he refers to:
the grace given to him (for his ministry)
Gentiles (to whom the doors of salvation were opened)
• made known
- and, for a second time, he refers to his stewardship (translated administration in v. 9)

When themes recur like this, we look for what is added or expanded in the repetitions

Vv. 8-9, Catching his own reflection (in v. 7), Paul backtracks

“To me . . .” of all people!
Paul refers to himself as “the very least of all saints”
- as if he suddenly feels really small
• and in light of the message he carries, he is small
• he works this huge contrast between the messenger and the message
- Paul makes three additions to what he’s said already:

  1. “unfathomable riches of Christ” – unfathomable is a metaphor that means “unable to track”
    - the greatness of Jesus’ wealth is so vast that its limits cannot be explored
    - there’s a spiritual wealth for us in Jesus — there is no reason to live at a low level of spiritual development
    . . . in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge . . . . For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete . . .  (Col. 2:3 & 9-10)• the spiritual journey is a continual sinking ever deeper into Jesus Christ
  2. “for ages had been hidden in God”
    - Paul said this in verse 5, but in different language — “in other generations was not made known”
    - here we learn, the mystery existed, but it was hidden in God
  3. “who created all things”
    - God working out what was hidden within him
    - he engineered space and time to achieve a goal; namely, to bring humankind to himself

As small as Paul was, the truth he handled was infinite

read more…

Dec 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 7, 2014 – Ephesians 3:1-7

 An Open Window to Mystery

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you . . . Ephesians 3:1 & 2

Intro: Right off the bat we can see that there is something wrong with these two verses

Paul begins a sentence, but does not finish
- he’s about to tell them something he was doing
• but before he gets to the what, he trails off into another thought
• we have to wait until verse 14 for Paul to return and explain, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . .”

Nevertheless, already Paul has given us something to chew on
- “prisoner” – defined his situation; he was living in a Roman jail cell
• but in spite of that, it was not Rome that determined the meaning of his life
• wherever he was, whatever he was, he belonged to Christ Jesus
- there are two ways to read everything, whether a book, a person, an event, a period of history, and so on
• one way is to read the outside – the bare words, the obvious, the surface appearance
• the other way is read the inside – underlying meanings, motives, and motions
◦ a truth not visible on the surface – this is having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear”
◦ it’s possible that none of the Roman soldiers who guarded Paul could see that he was the Lord’s prisoner
- the section of scripture we are going over today is based on Paul’s inside reading of God’s word and revelation

It was “for the sake of you Gentiles” that Paul was in prison
- it is his reference to them that gets Paul side-tracked
• from the time of his conversion, Paul had a special connection with Gentiles, forged by Jesus (Acts 26:16-18)
• Paul describes his ministry to the Gentiles as a stewardship
◦ in v. 9 the same word is translated administration
◦ a steward was a trusted servant that a wealthy person would put over all of his household affairs

Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? (Lk. 12:42)

- what is it that Paul “rationed” to the Ephesians? “Grace”
• in 1 Corinthians 4:1 it was “the mysteries of God” over which he was a “steward” (as here in v. 9)
• we expend a lot of energy defining grace
◦ for Paul it wasn’t a word to define, but a gift to experience
◦ it is through God’s daily gifts of grace that he puts us where we’re supposed to be

Vv. 3-7, The key thought in this passage is “the mystery of Christ”

The key words in verse 3 are revelation, made known and mystery
- they are repeated in verses 4 and 5, but in reverse order

read more…

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