The Grace of God Keeps Us Going

We’ve come to the end of Ephesians 3. Paul’s words in this chapter are all part of a sidebar for the apostle.

Ephesians 3 begins: “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ on behalf of you Gentiles–”

Verses 2-13 are a sidebar, where Paul explains that the “reason” he mentioned, that being the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation, came as a result of God’s grace on him, an undeserving sinner, and that the church is called and equipped to take that message to the ends of the earth.

Now, Paul revisits that original statement in verse 14:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…”

Paul understands the Ephesians’ need to remember the “bigness” of the gospel. The gospel robs us of our self-righteousness, forces us to run to Christ for salvation and new life, and then says our enemies may also be saved in this way. Our enemies become our friends so we can go share the gospel with our enemies, all to the glory of the God who is now our Father. Woah.

So we see why Paul would pray to this great God that the Ephesians would remember all that He has done for them.

We are prone to forgetfulness. We forget who we are in Christ. We forget to treat others with the grace and mercy God shows us because we forget they are made in the image of God and are either our brothers/sisters in Christ, or they are in need of grace so they may become our brother or sister in Christ. We forget that we are forgiven and free, so we continue to sin. We forget that in Christ, God sees Him, not us, so we wallow in despair instead of worshiping our Redeemer.

Paul does not intend for this to happen at Ephesus. And we would be wise to not let it happen in our lives and in our churches. Remember the gospel. It will keep you going when times get tough.

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…”

This passage highlights the work of the Trinity. God the Father strengthens us through God the Spirit so that God the Son may “dwell in our hearts through faith.”

The Spirit of God helps us and enables us to persevere in obedience. The goal of this strengthening is so Jesus may dwell in us. Now, Jesus dwells in us through His Spirit when we are saved. But as He bears fruit in our lives as we submit to Him, by the Spirit’s power, we grow in fellowship with God. We have more joy in God. We grow in holiness. And Jesus is glorified.

Seeing God’s work allows us to remember that our lives are not over when we stumble in sin or struggle through suffering. Seeing God’s work reminds us to keep moving.

So Paul prays that the people would persevere by seeing the work of God in their lives, by the power of the Spirit through the indwelling of the Son.

Paul also prays that they would be reminded of God’s love, as there is no maturity in the Christian life without the assurance of God’s love.

“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.”

Knowing the love of God leads to the fullness of God. As the Spirit strengthens us by God’s grace to live for God’s glory, and as Jesus dwells more richly, God consistently reminds us of His love for us and all that He has done for us. The gospel fuels good works, precisely because the gospel destroys our reliance on good works.

When you trust Jesus to save you and lead you, turning away from your self and sin, you are already forgiven and righteous, before any good works. But the Spirit of God reminds us of the love of God to call us to serve God by good works, out of love, not legalism.

Finally, Paul prays in remembrance of the truth that God is bigger than we are, and able to do amazing things.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

God is not bound by our small prayers, so let’s pray big prayers. He’s not bound by those either. The God who overcame sin and the grave, and who plans to usher in a new kingdom that is free from sin and suffering is able to do what He wants to do in our lives, in ways we can’t even imagine.

Pray for the salvation of lost friends. Pray for victory over besetting, big sins. Pray for victory in memorizing large chunks of Scripture. Pray for deeper faith. And rest, knowing that God is able to do all this and more.

God’s grace not only saves us and unites us with those we normally wouldn’t associate with, but strengthens us to obey Him, to honor Him, and to remember His love that we may love Him all the more. Praise God!

Lord, may we remember your love. May we not forget the power of the gospel. May Christ dwell in our hearts richly through faith, that you may be honored, that we may be reminded to move forward in our walk with you, that people may be saved. May you do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

God bless,

Neal E.


Salt and Light: Matthew 5:13-16

This is the second in a series of posts examining Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7.  Last week, we walked through the Beatitudes and talked about what it means to be truly blessed.  This week, we’ll discuss being salt and light as followers of Christ.

Every person throughout history has sought to find some kind of purpose in life.  One of the “big” questions we ask about our existence is why are we here, what are we to do with the time we’ve been given.  As Christians, we aren’t immune to these probing, and often troubling, questions.  But by God’s grace, He’s given us the answers to these questions in His Word.

Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown our and trampled under people’s feet.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Take careful note of what Jesus says.  He doesn’t command Christians to be salt.  He says that we are already salt by virtue of our union with Him.  So often we focus on what we are to do rather than what we already are.  Identity must precede behavior.  We act like salt and light because it’s who we are in Christ.

One of salt’s many uses is to add flavor to food, making it better, and, at times, completely transforming the taste of the food.  In the same way, believers in Christ ought to be making the world a better place, seeking to transform the world by following Christ.  There are three ways we can do this:

1) Work–Get a job that makes the world a better place.  While this is good advice for anyone, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, this is especially true for the Christian, for we work not just for the world that is, but for the world that is to come.  In this regard, laziness is inexcusable for the Christian.

I currently serve as a sales associate at a local retail store in the footwear department, and it’s been one of the most humbling, sanctifying jobs I’ve ever held.  God’s taught me to be more patient, understanding and much less bitter through the experience.  I’ve had opportunities to befriend people I would’ve otherwise never met, and opportunities to share my faith.  It’s easy to be bitter, because it’s not my “career job.”  It’s not the job I envisioned having when I graduated at the end of 2013. But I have a job where I get to meet people’s needs, just like Jesus did.  I get to (hopefully) influence people’s days and lives for the better.  I get to be out in public, representing Christ, even if that’s by stocking shelves and making sure you get the right size shoe with a smile on my face and a genuine desire to serve.

Faithfulness and Christlikeness, not job title or location, is the marker of our success as believers.  Remember that, and seek to make the world a better place wherever God has called you.

2) Sharing the gospel–This goes without saying, hopefully, as we are commanded multiple times throughout the New Testament to make our faith known to others.  As we work, we seek to share the joy of knowing Jesus Christ with others.  People only experience true life when they come into relationship with Jesus Christ.  Our world is transformed as Christ transforms hearts.

3) Live holy–A holy life is a marker of God’s grace, not our effort.  We don’t change ourselves, but we have given our lives to Christ and trusted Him to save us and change us, and He has.  Living holy comes from our identity as a child of God, one who, in Christ, is already holy before the Father.  Be who you are in Christ.  The world doesn’t need to see “Christians” that look just like them–they need to see Christians transformed by the power of the gospel and the working of the Holy Spirit into holy, godly people.

Jesus also tells us that we are the light of the world.  Why are we the light of the world?  Because Christ is the light of the world, and we are in Him.  All He commands us to do is not hide Him.  We’re not going to “hide it under a bushel, no! (We’re) gonna let it shine!”  Understand that it’s not just our belief system or our doctrine that we’re called to show, but Christ Himself, in all of His glory, grace and holiness.

Just as you cannot hide a city set on a hill, so you cannot hide the light of Jesus Christ that indwells every true believer.  While all Christians will at times be more or less like Christ due to an ongoing struggle with sin, all Christians will at times also show the beauty, love and holiness of their Lord.

In a typical Jewish home, a lamp was placed on a stand so as to give light to every corner of the house.  In the same way, the light of Christ and His presence should extend to every area of our lives.  There is no room for compartmentalized faith that says, “Jesus is only important on Sunday mornings.”  Our relationship with Jesus affects how we act Monday morning when we show up for work, Monday evening when we get home, and what we do Friday night when no one’s watching.

The Lord has already declared us salt and light.  We are imperfect salt and imperfect light, but we are salt and light.  Let’s strive to make the world a better place, to share the gospel, to be holy, and to show Christ in every area of our lives.

Lord, may we take comfort that you have already declared us salt and light.  May we remember that this is who we are, and may our identity in you lead us to live as you’ve called us to live.  May you give us grace for every good work you have called us to, and may we always seek to make much of you, wherever we find ourselves.

God bless,

Neal E.