Satan is a liar, deceiver, and accuser. Satan wants to put Christians against one another as they seek to walk in closer oneness in Christ. Of course Satan is upset with God’s Word being preached. Of course he does not like the book of Ephesians. He doesn’t like any of God’s Word, but this book is one of the greatest books instructing the believer in his rightful inheritance with God and the manner in which a child of God should walk. Ephesians encourages believers to grow and build one another up into the fullness of Christ, which is the head of the body. Of course, Satan is going to put up a fight and do all he can to prevent the body of Christ becoming one in Christ.
Okay, let me back up a moment and give some background to the seemingly upset disposition I appear to be in especially since I haven’t written anything in almost 2 months. This past week our pastor preached a message he has been struggling with for over two years now. (For greater context, click here to watch the sermon.) He spent many hours in prayer, God’s Word and in agony regarding how God wanted him to deliver the message God was calling him to preach. God in His great faithfulness helped our pastor through it all and truth was preached. Just as many others have been on a journey to process what was preached from the pulpit on Sunday, I too have wrestled with the message as all Christians should do with any message they hear preached, any book they read, or anything else they allow to influence their walk with the Lord. So as I processed the message this week I was left with these three things:
#1 Keep Peace
#2 Don’t Throw Baby Jesus Out With the Hay
#3 Make Disciples
How I came to these conclusions have been a pretty crazy process and one I have tried to put into some sort of coherent order to show how this believer is processing a difficult message from her pastor.
My week began with my usual time in God’s Word and greater time spent praying for God to prevent Satan from snatching away the truth of God’s Word that was preached on Sunday.
My Prayer: Lord, do not allow Satan to be able to have his way in twisting and deceiving people as they begin processing what they had heard yesterday, including myself.
On Tuesday I had the great joy of going to the library to study. (I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE going to the library…I know, I’m a geek.) The whole idea of keeping Christ, not the Christ mass was of course on the forefront of my mind. After spending time in God’s Word and prayer, I did some research in the area and pretty much found the same information that our pastor had shared on Sunday. However, it seemed like I was still missing something.
My prayer continued: Lord, help me to know Your truth. Help me to walk rightly with You. Help all of us to know Your will.
Like most people, I receive several articles of mail that I just let stack up until I have a spare moment to actually read some of them or decide they are too far out of date and then just throw them away. Mid-afternoon on Wednesday, I caught some of those moments and sat down to read a few. The first article I picked up was from Chosen People Ministries. As I read, it was like a huge light bulb went off. Briefly the story went as follows:
A modern orthodox Jewish man had two Jewish friends who became followers of Jesus. They encouraged this young man to read his bible (which is commonly called the Old Testament since Jews do not read the New Testament. “That’s the book the Christians read—not the book that Jews follow.”)
As this young man began to read the Old Testament he found himself “wanting a relationship with God that was personal, intimate and even supernatural, just like Abraham, Moses and King David experienced.” After several days he could not take it any longer and prayed his first ever “spontaneous” prayer (Jewish people usually pray in Hebrew and follow written prayers). He asked God, “If you are real, please show me and show me how to get to you.”
That very night in a phone booth in a campground he was working, there was a New Testament Bible. As he read New Testament the more in love he fell with Jesus and finally came to the point where “Jesus’ words brought peace to his heart.”
All I could say was, “That’s it! That’s it!” Since our pastor is preaching through the book of Ephesians I have been reading and rereading through the book several times. And here was a new piece of understanding of Ephesians 2.
“At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away [Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [Jews]. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:12-18
Christ brought true peace to the Jew seeking false peace through the keeping of the law. Christ also brought true peace to the Gentile seeking false peace through walking in the ways of the world (Ephesians 2:1). This may seem like it has nothing to do with the Keeping Christ not the Christ mass message, but little did I know God had begun to plant a seed He was going to expound on even more the following day.
My prayer continued: Lord, thank you for the peace you made between all mankind through Your Son. Please continue to help me process what it is You want me to see.
After taking our firstborn to get her driver’s license (yes, I am officially a mother of a licensed teenager driver; pray for me), I talked with two dear Christian friends on the phone. My heart was heavy as we ended our conversation. I fell to my knees and grabbed God’s Word. As parts of the conversation came flooding back in my mind, so did God’s Word and truth. It was then that the next connection was made for me. Reading through Ephesians again, it all began to click.
#1 Keep Peace
Christ is the Prince of Peace
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Christ Proclaimed Peace
“When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace.” Ephesians 2:17
Peace is Made Through Christ
“For God was pleased [to have] all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross- whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:19-20
Believers are to Walk in Peace
“…your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:15
The realization that if we are not careful we as believers will find ourselves fighting the wrong fight. The battle is not against one another, but against Satan who wants the body of Christ to be at war so that the gospel of peace does not get proclaimed. Reading further into Ephesians, it is the peace that Christ came and proclaimed and died for that I am to strive to keep and not let Satan steal away.
“Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” Ephesians 4:1-3
As I began to let that thought sink in, God led me back to the garden.
God had perfect peace with Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve had perfect peace with one another.
Satan wasn’t happy.
As Satan watched the oneness Adam and Eve had with God and with one another, the father of lies began his work. Satan took God’s word and placed doubt in the heart of man. He broke that oneness but only for a time. The Prince of Peace was born, proclaimed peace through His life, and gave His life for perfect peace to be had for all mankind.
My prayer became: Lord, You know Satan has no right to break up the bond we have with our fellow believers in Christ. I pray You break down the wall of deceit, doubt, and lies that are being swirled around and that You will give all of us humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance of others in love, the ability to keep the unity through the bond of peace that You gave to all of us through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
I have had the privilege for the past 4 years to spend most Thursday afternoons in prayer with three wonderful ladies. We have prayed, cried, laughed, challenged, and encouraged one another in all areas of our lives. During our prayer time this week I found the following question coming to my mind: If we don’t “do Christmas,” then what do we do that shows we value the birth of our Savior? Then the next reflection from the message came.
#2 Don’t Throw Baby Jesus Out With the Hay
I began to ponder this question as I considered those who listened to the message and came away thinking the pastor wanted everyone to do away with Christmas. The fact is that as a Christian, my God chose to send my Savior, His Son, to this earth as a baby to save me from my sins. My God could have chosen any other way and yet He chose to come in humility. God chose for His Son to come as a baby and that should not be taken lightly. So the question for me then became, What do I do with the birth of Christ? What does the bible tell me to do with the birth of Christ? I have always been told to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas. Now, just as I have taught my children to study the original intent of our founding fathers who wrote the Constitution in order to understand the true meaning of what our nation has been founded on, I myself am in a process of searching out the original intent of Christmas and what the Bible says about the birth of my Lord and Savior. God’s Word points to my Savior never talking about His own birth, but about His coming death and resurrection and the future kingdom upon His second return. God’s Word shows me angels rejoicing and worshiping my Lord at His birth and lowly shepherds, along with Mary and Joseph, being the only ones privilege to see the Savior’s face the day He was born. So far, my studies have showed that Christmas is just paganism Christianized. So what do I do with that information? Christ’s birth IS a significant event in my life as a Christian. I can’t just throw that out. Then it hit me.
Day in and day out my life should be reflecting the humility Christ Himself had in coming to this earth as a baby. He came as peaceful child, not a tyrant. Not boastful that He was the Son of God, but as a humble baby. Born as a baby, walking through every stage of life as a boy and then living a perfect life as a man all in humility. Should not my own life look like His?
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men, and when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
My prayer then became: Lord, forgive me. Forgive me for not placing the value You placed on sending Your Son as a baby as part of the glorious gospel of peace You gave the world. Forgive me for even excluding it sometimes from the gospel when I share it; for focusing so much on your death and resurrection that I left out the first piece of humility. Help me to demonstrate humility daily in my walk with You so that my family, friends, and community can see and receive for themselves the Prince of Peace.
With the idea of fighting the right fight and the idea of truly living out and valuing the birth of Christ in my every day life, the ladies left and my husband came home. As I began to share with him what God had been showing me, the last piece fell into place.
#3 Make Disciples
Why is it that I, the three ladies I pray with every week, along with our families have grown so much alike? Why is it that as a married couple, my husband and I are becoming so “one” that even a man in the grocery store stopped us to tell us that he could definitely see that we “go together”?
It is in the context of discipleship relationships that our personal sanctification process grows and the greater church body grows into the fullness of Christ. The pastor’s job is not to tell us what to do or not to do, but study God’s Word, pray, listen to what God wants him to preach and preach it. Then it is the job of every member of the church body, including the pastor, to continue to study God’s Word, pray together and do life together with fellow believers, so that our hearts are knit together and growth into the fullness of Christ can occur.
This thought began to show me how it was playing out in my marriage. My husband and I have had many heated theological debates throughout our marriage (I’m sure there will be many more to occur, but hopefully I am getting better at walking in it with a spirit of humility, gentleness, patience, and love [Ephesians 4:2] than a prideful, stand my ground attitude as I have in the past). It could be in the car traveling to seminary, at home following a sermon we heard, or discussing a topic some dear friends brought to our attention. In all cases, even though sometimes we have not come to full agreement, eventually oneness and peace came out of those discussions and we have continued to grow more into the fullness of Christ who is the head of the body.
Growing into the fullness of Christ is also occurring with my prayer partners. Our lives and families, while they have begun to look more like one another, are really looking more like Christ. All four of our families are very different and have been at very different places throughout the past four years. However, doing life together has brought about such freedom within our relationships that we have been able to live a life abundantly. It has not resulted in a sad, gloomy, I can’t fellowship with you anymore because you don’t do this or that. Rather, our relationships have become ones that reflect more of God’s grace to each of us on our journey of becoming more conformed to the likeness of God’s image. It is the joy of being able to live every day with the joy of having a Savior who would come as a baby, live a life of peace, and die for my sin. It is the ability to live life with other believers and celebrate God at all times. Who said we had to just celebrate on certain days? Who said we can only get together on the weekends or on Sundays? We get to walk in freedom because Christ came to set us free and live at peace with God and others!!
“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery…For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything: what matters is faith working through love. You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from the One who called you. A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in the Lord you will not accept any other view. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.” Galatians 5:1, 6-10
My prayer that night: Lord, thank you! Thank you! You are faithful. You tell me that if I seek You, I will find You. Thank You for being a promise keeper. Thank you for not leaving me in my safe comfortable place with You, but spurring me on to experience even greater oneness with You. I love You Lord.
Friday and the peace that passes all understanding has filled my soul and Satan is not happy. He tries to fill me with fear that other Christians are not going to come to the same outcome as I. I fight against the thoughts of fear Satan tempts me with and instead place my trust in the promise of God’s Word to be sufficient enough to testify for Itself. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). I am trusting in the God of peace to move all of us into oneness with Him and one another and praying against Satan trying to have a foothold in any of us as we seek to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling we have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
My prayer: Lord, my desire is for Your truth to be proclaimed and for Satan to be barred from casting Your children against one another. We are united through the blood of Christ as He proclaimed peace among the world.
Here it is Saturday morning and I am reading back over my journey this week and getting ready to hit the publish button. In summary, through prayer and searching God’s Word, the message on Sunday looks like the following for me:
Scripture reminds me to fight the right fight. Diligently keep unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds fellow believers together. As much as it depends on me, live at peace with fellow believers (Romans 12:18).
Don’t Throw Baby Jesus Out With the Hay
My Savior’s birth IS significant to my walk as a believer. The humility my Savior demonstrated through His birth, life, and death should spur me on to desire that same kind of walk in my own life.
First in my home and then in the larger church body I am called to make disciples. God wants my life to be lived in discipleship relationships so that I can continue to be sharpened and as well as sharpen others, to edify and lift up, and to carry burdens.
One last illustration comes back to my mind that I had earlier in the week. It is a picture of a child who is too big for his shoes. You know the one…the child who clumsily walks around, occasionally tripping because his feet are too big for his body. Such is the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the church and Ephesians calls the church to grow into the fullness of Him. He has given us every spiritual blessing and our feet are to be sandaled ready with the gospel of peace. As we grow into the peace Christ has for the church body may we also remember:
“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” Ephesians 4:12-16
My Prayer Today: Lord, help us to continue to walk forward. As clumsily and awkward it may be at times, may we not give up. Help us to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us. Help us to not give in to Satan’s desire to stunt the growth of Christ’s Church. We need your help to run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne (Hebrew 12:1-2). May You, God Almighty, receive the glory and honor due your name as Your church grows into the fullness You have placed before us. In Jesus Name, Amen