Ephesians 5:10 - "Trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord"
I believe we all know that once we become a Christian, there is much to learn, but have you ever given much thought to the need to learn what pleases God? That was the thought that struck me as I read this passage. What it says to me is, the process of learning what pleases God goes far beyond mere obedience to the plain commands of scripture. It seems to me that when we pursue learning what pleases anyone, it means we're learning what's important to them. In other words, we are pursuing the things that are hidden in their heart. I find that interesting in light of the theme that we have chosen this year, Going After the Heart of God.
Obedience is the starting point in getting to know God's heart. If we think in human terms, we know that a child will be obedient to the parent's commands if they are afraid of the punishment that might come from disobedience. That same child, however, may become even more obedient if they learn what is in the heart of the parent that caused them to put the rule in place. How many times have we kicked against some rule (commandment) of God's because we thought it was limiting our freedom? Often it wasn't until much later that we discovered that God was actually trying to spare us some pain. He knew that violating those rules would cause us more damage than we could possibly foresee.
So, if we truly pursue God to know His heart, it ought to result in more faithful obedience to His commands because we want to please Him and we have come to know His heart for us better than before. Let's continue to grow in our desire to know God's heart more each day.
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The book of Ephesians has always been one of my favorite books in the Bible. Maybe it's because of the way it is logically laid out. Maybe it's because of the depth of revelation that Paul reveals in this book. I don't really know why. What I do know is that today, after all these years of reading this book, I can truly say that I saw something I had never seen before. In verse 24, Paul says that we are to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (KJV). The NET Bible puts it this way: "put on the new man who has been created in God's image - in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth."
As I thought about what that verse is saying, it suddenly dawned on me that what we have here is a brand new creation of God. Once again, God has created man in His image. Just as when God first created Adam in the garden of Eden, He created Him in His image, so too He has created the new man in His image. This new man, is not a man of flesh and blood, but a spiritual man which is righteous and holy and based on the truth which is found in Jesus Christ. So, when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that those who are in Christ are a new creation, he isn't just using metaphorical words. He is instead revealing that God has indeed created something new. In fact He has re-created the type of man that was originally created, with the difference being that this new creation is totally spiritual and it is filled with the Holy Spirit which gives the new man advantages that the original Adam never had.
Suddenly, the concept that we are to be Holy as He is Holy, and we are to be perfect as He is perfect, is not an unreasonable demand by a capricious God, but something that is fully within reach. Now, those of us who have understood and taken the steps to truly put on the new man, had the power and ability to overcome every temptation of the serpent that comes before us. No longer are we subject to falling for every scheme of the enemy as Eve did. Nor are we inclined to willingly and knowingly fall headlong into sin as Adam did. Instead, when the temptations come, we have the power of the Holy Spirit working inside of us to reject the temptation, refuse it, turn from it, run from it, and never allow it to gain a foothold in our minds, as it did with Adam and Eve. This is truly good news. The caveat is that it is up to us to walk in that new life. While it is true that we are growing up in to Christ, it is also true that we are the ones who get to choose how much like Christ we will become.
Let's all commit ourselves to truly being like Christ; having His mind; thinking His thoughts. Let's fully put on the new man and be transformed.
Today I want to reflect for a moment on some things Jesus had to say to us in John 15. This chapter contains ten conditional "If" statements. The entire theme of this chapter revolves around our connection to Jesus as seen in the level of our obedience to Him. In verse 10, Jesus uses one of the "If" statements in this way: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love". As I reflected on the times Jesus talked about the importance of us keeping His commandments, I kept remembering the many times that I have heard Christians say, "We can't keep the commandments."
There seems to be an underlying error that has crept into the thinking of the church which must be laid to rest. The thinking goes something like this: "I know God tells us to keep His commandments, but the Children of Israel discovered they couldn't keep the commandments. Then when Jesus came along He raised the bar of obedience to include what we think, so now I know I can't keep the law because I am a sinner and I am going to sin just because I am a sinner." This thinking has led many in the church to conclude that since they can't completely obey God's commands, there is no need for them to know the commands or even attempt to keep them. So, they just go on their way with the attitude of "I'll just do the best I can and God will understand."
When I look at God's word however, I do not find anywhere that God lowers the bar for us to "doing the best we can." Everywhere I look I see God saying, "Be like Me. Be Holy as I am Holy. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." I also know that God never is unreasonable in His expectations of His people. If it were not possible for us to be Holy as He is Holy, then He wouldn't ask us to do that. So, before we toss out the requirements for obedience to His commands as impossible, maybe we need to take another look at our hearts to determine if we have become lazy and willing to live short of all that God has called us to be. Maybe we've not really studied to find out what His commands really are. Maybe we've not really relied on the Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome temptation. After all, didn't Paul tell us that no temptation has overtaken us, but that everytime God will make a way for us to escape the temptation before we sin? Maybe our problem is we've not believed God and really put Him to the test in this area. Maybe we've bought in to the lie that we'll never be perfect.
Let's stop and look again at God's word and try putting it in to practice and see what really happens.
This year our members are learning to connect with the heart of God through a daily time in the Word of God. We call it "Walk With Me Today". We began our journey on January 1st in Psalm 1. This Psalm is a great passage of scripture to begin the year. It focuses our attention on the things that God considers to be important if we want to live a properous and happy existence during our time on earth.
As we looked at what this Psalm was teaching us, we discovered that the Godly person takes pleasure in obeying God's laws. This is a far different approach to thinking about the laws of God than most of us have probably been accustomed to using. For instance, have you ever enjoying obeying traffic laws? I've found over the years that I don't really think too much about whether or not I'm obeying the traffic laws as I drive down the road. I can't even recall a time when I thought to myself, "I'm really enjoying obeying the law that tells me to stop at this stop sign." If you're like me, you are more irritated than pleased whenever you have to stop in your journey to your destination...especially if you're a guy.
But, here we have a man who says that God-like people are so different from the norm, that they actually enjoy obeying the laws of God. Which include commands about obeying the laws of the land in which you live. As I thought about the difference in how we go about obeying laws, I realized that many times we obey simply out of a sense of duty or obligation. How different it is to obey because you enjoy obeying. When it comes to obeying God's laws, we need to understand that obedience to His ways keeps us from sin, and staying away from sin keeps us from being damaged by sin. So, a person who enjoys obeying God's laws will be someone who, when confronted by a temptation to sin, recognizes the benefits of refusing to give in to the temptation and instead finds delight in obeying God. This person knows that true joy, peace and contentment are found in living by God's laws not by the desires of our flesh.
May God bless you as you learn to Walk with Jesus day by day.
Facing Hard Times
Read Psalm 102:1–28; 104:1–35
Published: May 26, 2017
Pat became depressed when her husband’s health declined. She spent worry-filled days and sleepless nights caring for him. It seems that the writer of Psalm 102 would have understood her depression and the accompanying issues.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones (Psalm 102:4–5).
Life on this side of heaven is sometimes stressful and challenging. Even the writers of Scripture sometimes felt overwhelmed by their troubles. The writer of Psalm 104 seems to have been at very low point—too stressed to eat and losing weight. And yet the writer chose to seek God and to praise Him for His greatness while affirming that God “release those condemned to death” (Psalm 102:20).
When life’s circumstances seem overwhelming, follow the Psalmist’s example and seek God while praising Him for His greatness.
Challenge for Today: Praise God no matter what crisis you face.
Quicklook: Psalm 102:2–13
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