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Tag Archives: Epistle to the Ephesians

Acceptable Worship

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:26-29)

We should indeed be thankful that we have an unshakable kingdom. – After all, Christ gave His life up as a sacrifice, so that we could have that kingdom (along with many other things). However, the bit after ‘let’s be thankful’ may seem a little confusing. “Let us offer to God acceptable worship”. At first glance, it’s really quite straightforward: we’re to offer up acceptable worship to God. Not much to it. Yet, we must ask, what is acceptable? What is the distinguishing mark between unacceptable, and acceptable worship? Is not all worship, worship? And as such, acceptable in any and every form which it comes in?

God doesn’t want just any kind of worship. He doesn’t want pagan forms of worship, in which He is put level with all the fake “gods”. He doesn’t want false worship, which is not worship at all. No, He wants worship which He can delight in; which He finds acceptable. So, again, what is acceptable?

Well, we know for a fact that Christ offered acceptable worship when He was crucified. – Jesus’ crucifixion was an act of worship, because there has never been, nor ever will be, a time which brought more glory to God. And bringing glory to God, is pretty much what worship is. – Otherwise God would’ve never raised Him from the dead. So let’s look to Him for an example. There are a couple of specific points about Christ’s worship to focus on:

  1. His act of worship involved sacrifice. Jesus’ type of sacrifice only had to be made once, and could only be made by Him. Thus, our sacrifices are on a far less dramatic scale. An acceptable act of worship now, would involve “sacrificing” time, money, or energy.
  2. His act of worship served others. As with His sacrifice, Jesus’ act of worship at the cross only needed to be made, and could only do what it did, one time. Thus, anything we do to serve others, can at most, involve Earthly things. Unlike Christ, who served others by giving up His very Spirit. But we are still to serve others, in whatever way which God calls us to.
  3. His act of worship spread the Gospel. Granted, Jesus’ act of worship was the Gospel, but, in that, it was also the greatest spreader of it. That aside though, any acceptable act of worship, spreads that which saves, and gives glory to God: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So then, the point is this: we are commanded to offer acceptable worship. Acceptable worship, is not comfortable worship (which is unacceptable). God wants us to grow up into Christ [Ephesians 4:15], and one way which we do that, is by offering worship like Christ’s. – Sacrificial service which spreads the Gospel (along with, no doubt, many other attributes).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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The Big Three Tools of the Christian

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Though we “walk in the flesh,” i.e. though we still have flesh and bone, and thus are of Earth, we can’t defeat our enemies as the World does; with physical weapons. Rather, Christ has given us divine weapons, known commonly as the Bible and prayer, which are capable of defending our minds, and warding off nearly all attacks… To put it another way: if you’re thinking about Jesus’ agony on the Cross, you’re certainly not thinking about sinning. In that way, Jesus’ cross is a shield around our minds. As Paul says:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

Our helmet, the thing which protects our heads, and thus our minds, is salvation. We are to be constantly thinking of Jesus, and His suffering for us. He should be the focus of our lives. Yet, as we’re, as Paul pointed out earlier, still walking in the flesh, it’s impossible to always be thinking of Jesus. In fact, it’s difficult to do in even some of the time… And that’s where, “but God gives more grace,” is possibly most helpful.

Yes, we should be thinking of what Christ has done for us, but God knows that our pathetic, tiny little human minds are incapable of doing so for very long. Which is where he gives His grace and strength; grace for when we fall during that time, and strength to help us resist temptation. But the only time when we’re truly protected, is when we’re mediating on God’s word; on our Salvation, and how Jesus brought it about (i.e. through His death).

“But,” one may say, “what if I’ve already got sin struggles, and not only need to protect myself, but to also rid myself of the thought strongholds I already have? What do I do then?”

That’s where the other half of the above verse in Ephesians comes in; where the Sword of the Spirit comes in. A sword is both a defensive and offensive tool, a Christian is to use His sword, the Bible, in both ways. i.e. Scripture tells us how to be free from every sort of temptation; by, as previously mentioned, focusing on Jesus. And, in addition to that, by going to other Christians and getting help from them, and by prayer. The big threes in the Christian life:

  1. The Bible
  2. Christian Comrades
  3. Prayer

God’s given us these divine tools for one reason: to use them! To use the Bible to understand how we’re to live our lives, as well as several other things. To seek help from fellow Christians. And to pray to Him for strength, and His power.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Saved by a Great God to do Great Things

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Every person in the World has been born. Every person whose been born, has had a sinful nature… Yet, everyone whose been born again, is born without a sinful nature. He’s become a “new creation,” and is currently only a faint mirror of Christ. Yet, like all babies, a new Christian will grow if he has milk, the ‘basic’ teachings of the Bible, to nourish his little self. – If he isn’t fed, however, he’ll end up nothing more than skin and bones; useless to everyone. – This is what Paul means, when he says, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The old sinful nature is done away with, now we’re clothed in a new body! Still, as of yet, imperfect; we still have a physical body which defiles our Spiritual one. Yet when our physical body (finally) dies and returns to dust, our Spiritual selves will finally be taken to Heaven… In the mean time, we should be like Paul:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24)

He wanted to depart and be with Christ, but stayed in order to bring more to Christ. This is exactly how we should be; like mirrors, though somewhat dimly and not as clearly as when the layer of skin and bone will be removed, we are to reflect Jesus. What we do should reflect Him; likewise what we say, etc.. We should show our love for God, by our actions for Him.

The point being this: we’ve been changed by a great God, in order to (through, and in, His power) do great things in His name… Or, to say it as the Bible says it:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Sword Of the Spirit

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:17)

the sword of the Spirit

What does a sword do? Well, as can probably be gathered by the blade at the end of it, its effective at attacking. It’s also used to parry attacks against you. The strange thing though, is why our sword would be the Spirit. Sure, He can protect us (parry) but can He really attack? For that matter, isn’t all the Spiritual life defending against Satan’s attacks?

As shocking as this may seem, the Christian does not cower in a corner waiting for Satan’s fire to cool down. A battle, like an argument, requires two people to continue. If one person is cowering in a corner, it isn’t a battle; it’s a hunt. However, we in of ourselves can’t fight. Thus the Christ part of Christian. We can’t do anything, however, the Holy Spirit (the sword) and Christ (the armor) let us fight and actually stand a chance. In fact, more than simply standing a chance, it becomes one of those old mythological hunts. The kinds were the knight inevitably slays the dragon. The main difference between back then and now being that we aren’t the knight, Jesus is. And He already slayed the dragon. Really, we’re more like the princess who was trapped inside the tower which the dragon was guarding. Or maybe the writers which went with the knight to sing His praise and write extremely long poems after he slayed the dragon… But now we’re getting off topic.

As Christians, we aren’t supposed to sit around and do nothing. Yes, our opponents commander (Satan) has been taken out of commission. But there are still a couple of guerrillas who won’t call it quits (the flesh). But how does one attack sin?

9But when(U) the archangel(V) Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing(W) about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said,(X) “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 1:9)

One attacks sin by letting the Holy Spirit driving it out. Our job is actually incredibly easy when compared to Christ dying for us (though, everything seems easy in comparison to that. So I suppose that’s not really saying much). It may seem hard to drive out sin. Just like it seems hard for someone to have brain surgery.They don’t really do any of the work, the surgeon does it all. In fact, they’re sedated the whole time! Yet it seems to be so hard to have the surgery done. The difference is that our Spiritual surgeon knew that because of the blood we’d lost we’d die, so He gave His own blood to keep us alive. And through that act, allowed us to live and cured our illness of the brain.

In short: in order to fight against sin, we can’t be the one fighting. Christ must fight through us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Helmet of Salvation

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:17)

Today we’ll talk about(/I’ll write about) the helmet of salvation, tomorrow we’ll talk about the sword of the Spirit:

The helmet of salvation

A helmet, pretty obviously, protects the mind. Another one of those parts of the body which if so much as gently poked, when cause serious damage. Here’s a hint though: the enemy won’t want to gently poke. Thus the helmet, bone, and skin protecting it.

A helmet was pretty much standard back in the day for any army who wanted to get anything done. But there’s more to a helmet than simply protecting the head. The Roman galea, which was their helmet, was also meant to mark the one wearing it as a fellow Roman. Have you ever seen some movie where someone was wearing a helmet with a red or blue “horse-ploom”? That’s a sort of helmet that a Roman centurion would wear. Yes, it was meant to protect. But it also told fellow Roman’s not to attack that guy; he’s a partner.

For the Christian, a helmet does give protection, yes; but it also distinguished us. It’s like a modern-day circumcision. But instead of being the “circumcision group” which gave Paul so many problems, we’re the salvation group. Distinguished from everyone else by… The fact that we, um, where our salvation on top of our head? What, should we all go buy toy Roman helmets and where them to church? It’s called the armor of God for a reason; that reason being that it is in fact, His armor. Which means its Spiritual and not physical. The difference between the two I believe is self-evident.

Our Salvation is Christ. He is our savior; the one without whom we would all be Spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses now. He is our helmet of salvation, because He is our salvation. Therefore it could be said Christ Himself is, in fact, our distinguishing mark. He is the one who protects our mind from harm as well as distinguishes us all others. But now a question comes, “How does Christ distinguish us?”

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

He makes us a new creation. That’s how He “distinguishes” (or, “sanctifies” us, if you want to get technical) us. You see, the helmet of salvation serves one more purpose that no regular, human-made helmet could do: it changes us our mind. It changes us from longing for the Devil to longing for God. Thus the, “salvation” bit. — Christ, who is our helmet of salvation, does this by shedding His blood. By that sacrifice, the gap between us and God is closed and we become new creations; part of the salvation group.

Like ever other piece of armor we’ve talked about, we don’t put this helmet on. Rather, when Christ died for us and we accepted Him as savior, He Himself put it on our head.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Shield of Faith

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Ephesians 6:16)

The shield of faith

What was the job of the shield? Obviously, to protect the wearer. In the case of the Romans – who, by the way, may be who Paul is basing this armor on. Seeing as he was most likely in Rome while writing this letter. Albeit under house arrest. But still… –, as well as blocking swords, it was also used to block arrows and spears. All the Romans in the army would lock their shields together, hold them up, and hardly anything could get past to harm them. Just like that, they had an old fashioned force-field, able to blunt all attacks…. At least, so long as they were all standing together, with their shields locked into place.

Likewise, so longer as believers stand together and have the shield of faith, we’ll be able to blunt all the Devil’s arrows… But, faith in what? What is it that we have faith in that gives us this shield of faith? Some all-powerful genie? A mighty warlock? None of the above, rather, a man on a tree. That’s where our faith originates from.

Jesus protects us:

A mighty man and son of God? Yes. A man whose given up His spirit on a cross to save all humanity? Yes again. He, Jesus Christ, is who we believe in; is who we have faith in. Thus when we hold up our shields to defend against the Devil, we are holding Jesus, our faith, up to defend us. When the devil throws His arrows, we hold Jesus up on the cross to defend ourselves. But more than that:

Jesus unifies us:

In order for all to be safe, all must lift their shields up together, and lock them into place together. The only way to have a unified shield without any gaps is for everyone to take part. The only way a church or any other gathering of believers can be safe from the Devil is by exalting Christ Jesus on the cross and their faith in Him. Everyone becomes at risk when one person lets their shield down, because a single person letting down their guard can cause a domino effect: the enemy will target the weak one, and when his/her shield is down, they can attack those next to the fallen one from the side, which creates a bigger gap, which leads to everyone’s death, if someone does step in remind the weak soldier to keep His shield high.

Our Spiritual lives rest wholly upon Christ. He must be our very life, or our shield lowers. And the moment that happens… Picture one of those practice dummies with a couple dozen arrows sticking out of it.

The Roman army is actually a surprisingly good example of what Christians should look like:

  • Organized.
  • Always on alert.
  • Armored against attack.

You are Loved

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)

Still moving down the list; today I’ll write about the shoes of the gospel of peace. As may be indicated by the above verse… And the title too, for that matter.

The shoes of the Gospel of peace

What good could shoes (or sandals for back then) be good for? Sure without them it would be hard to travel, but frankly speaking, do we really need them in our spiritual armory? I can just imagine that conversation, “Ah, here we are. I’ve got my deadly mace, my incredibly sharpened sword, oh, and my shoes of fury…” Shoes aren’t exactly the most of intimating things. So why does Paul bother mentioning them?

Armies back then had a completely different sort of mine (the bomb sort). It didn’t blow off legs like ours sadly do today, but it was almost as effective at preventing soldiers from continuing to move. – When a one group knew that an enemy army was approaching, they would almost completely bury a sharp stake into the ground with only the tip remaining barely in sight. This may not seem to you and me like the best way to stop a foe, but it worked surprisingly well. Barbarian tribes who didn’t have any shoes, or armies who only had ‘weak’ sandals would step on the stake and suddenly, lo and below, they were no longer in any sort of condition to be fighting. That’s why shoes (or sandals back then) which were strong and reliable were required. You can’t focus on fighting some enemy in front of you, when the enemy below you (who happens to be an inanimate wooden stake) stabs you.

Strong sandals are what allowed the armies back in the day to keep moving despite the enemies attempts to the contrary. Spiritual shoes are what let us keep moving despite the Devil’s schemes… And what, might I ask, are these shoes made of? The Gospel of peace. Or, in other words, the Gospel of Jesus. Which is that he died and, three days later, rose again to save all humanity. Something which begs the question, “How does that protects our tootsies again?

The fact that Jesus died and rose again to save us, means a couple of things. First, it means that man no longer must go the Hell. It also means we can have a personal relationship with God. But what we’re getting at now, is that in addition to the rest, is that it also means we can break free of habitual (continual) sin. It allows us to, after we’ve fallen, to get back up again and keep going. Or even to simply avoid falling all together. It let’s us stand firm when the Devil turns His fury onto us. Or in other words, Christ’s death for us let’s us put on the shoes of the Gospel of peace.

But, sure we may be able now to put on these shoes, but how do we? After all, we know that simply staring at armor won’t protect us. So how do we put it on? When we accept Christ as our savior, the shoes are automatically added to our inventory. So to speak. What is the only good news of peace? The good news of Jesus. Thus, because of that, when we believe in Him he gives us His peace; His, erm, shoes. So to speak.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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