An Enduring Foundation – Ephesians
Lesson 10 – Who I Am
If you could re-write the story of your life, what would you change?
- Color me gorgeous
- More romance
- More money! Lots more money
- Put me in charge of everything (I like control)
We’d probably all edit the dumb mistakes out of our lives. What to add? That would be different for everyone. It shines a light on who you think you are, and who you’d like to be.
Think back to Lesson 5 – In Christ. Ephesians chapters 1 through 3 tell us who we are in Christ.
Let’s take a close look and make a list. Who are you from God’s point of view?
Ephesians 1: 5-7 (NIV)
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.
- Chosen by God
- Holy and blameless in God’s sight
- A child of God by adoption
- Forgiven, redeemed through the blood of Christ
- The recipient of God’s grace
When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
- Marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit
- God’s possession
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.
- Called to the hope of the riches of his glorious inheritance
- Called to the hope of the power that raised Christ from the dead
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Alive with Christ
- Saved by grace
- Raised up with Christ, seated in the heavenly realms
- God’s handiwork, carefully planned and uniquely created for God’s purpose
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
- (In Christ, with all other believers) a place where God lives
In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
- Able to have an intimate relationship with the Almighty God
Let’s go back to the story of our lives. We have an enemy with a mission of deceit, writing lies on our hearts. Ephesians counters those lies with God’s truth. We must be careful to follow God’s story, not the enemy’s.
The lies Satan whispers:
The truth from Ephesians:
|You are ugly and stupid.||You are God’s workmanship.|
|You never do anything right. God can’t stand you.||You are holy and blameless in God’s sight, adopted into his family.|
|You can get into heaven if the good you do outweighs the bad.||You are saved by grace, through Christ’s blood.|
|More money will make you happy.||Money is nothing compared to your glorious inheritance in Christ.|
|You need a more powerful job, more people under your control.||You have access to the power that raised Christ from the dead.|
|God is too busy to care about little old you.||You are God’s child. You can approach him anytime.|
|The world is such a mess. Why even try to make a difference?||God prepared good works for you to do and created you to do them.|
|You’re nothing special.||You are a place where God dwells, You are sealed by the Holy Spirit.|
Paul provided powerful weapons to fight the enemy of our souls.
I discovered Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians when I was in college. I grew up well-churched, and I knew all the Bible stories. What I lacked was knowledge of Bible text (I’ve since learned that this is not uncommon; too often children study about the Bible and never really study the Bible).
Away from home and church, I lost the rhythm of my spiritual life. I decided to read straight through the New Testament (it seemed more doable than reading the whole Bible—silly me, back then I thought that the Old Testament was boring and irrelevant). I started with Matthew and worked my way through the gospels and on to the epistles. When I got to Ephesians, I discovered Paul’s soaring words:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
50 years later, I recall these details: I was in my dorm room, reading from my “One Way” paperback Bible. I’d put a sticker on the front cover, Solution to mind pollution: Read the Bible.
I thought this was the most poetic and picturesque passage in the whole Bible. I was surprised that it was unfamiliar to me. I wondered why it wasn’t preached from every pulpit, quoted in every newsletter, emblazoned on every church bulletin board. I marked this section, and reread it often.
I took the words personally. This passage was about me. Paul prayed that Christ would dwell in my heart, that I would understand God’s wonderful love for me, that I would be filled with the fullness of God.
Now I see this episode in the context of the passing decades—a God’s eye view, I like to think. I know that God planned and prepared me to teach, write and pray. This passage was my first call to pray.
I wanted to pray like Paul did. I wanted to impact others’ lives spiritually, and praying seemed the way to do it. It would be an honor to know I’d helped move other people forward in their faith: that Christ would dwell in their hearts, that they would understand God’s wonderful love, that they would be filled with the fullness of God.
50 years ago, this prayer was the only part of the first three chapters of Ephesians I noticed. But before I could move forward with my prayer assignment, I had to learn the other lessons of Ephesians. And the enemy tried his best to derail me:
The lies Satan whispered:
The truth from Ephesians:
|You aren’t good enough; fix yourself first.||I am holy and blameless in God’s sight.|
|What makes you think God needs your help?||I have access to the power that raised Christ from the dead.|
|You’re too busy—kids, job, house. There’s no time for long talks with God.||I am God’s child. I can approach him anytime.|
|People make their own choices. Why bother?||God prepared good works for me to do—prayer is one of them.|
|You’re nothing special.||I am a place where God dwells. I am sealed by the Holy Spirit.|
I am impatient by nature. I finished college in three years, anxious to be done with school. I still bore easily and often jump to the next project before the last one is complete. I am irritated with people who are slow to understand.
And regarding the good works of praying, teaching and writing that God prepared in advance for me to do, I was slow to understand. Fortunately, my God is more patient than I am. He taught me the lessons of the first three chapters of Ephesians, precept on precept, year after year. I know who I am in Christ. He already wrote my life story.
Here’s a poetic take on the first three chapters of Ephesians, from Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778):
“How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess!
We are redeemed from guilt and shame and called to holiness.”