A Crash Course in the Gospel (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Ephesians

One of my favorite books of the Bible is the Psalms. Through the Psalms I have learned how to pray. One of my other favorites is the Gospel of John. John’s telling of Jesus’ story has helped me connect my spiritual longings with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ so powerfully. Right after the Psalms and John comes Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here, the basic contours of right thinking about God and right living with God come together in such a short space that every sentence strikes with power.

This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, as I continued with our series “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity,” I had the privilege of addressing one of my favorite Scriptural texts in this favorite book of mine. I turned to Ephesians 2:1-10 for “A Crash Course in the Gospel.”

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities for involvement.

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A Letter from Prison (Philippians, pt 3)

This is the third in a series of posts with thoughts from Paul’s letter to the PhilippiansA Letter from Prison (Philippians, pt 1). These posts are personal reflections taken from devotional reading of the book.

I have always been captured by Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good pleasure.

These two short verses provide what I see as the best description of the mysterious tension that exists in our lives between God’s power and our effort. Paul is challenging his readers to obey God – and his teaching about God – even though he is geographically apart from them and in prison. He offers a kind, yet challenging, word to the believers to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In essence, Paul is telling us that we need to put in hard work to work this all out. It will not just ‘happen’ without energy expended and effort given to the work. I cannot help but think of Paul’s encouragement to his young pastoral trainee, Timothy, to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). His comparison in that passage to physical training seems to echo through the current words to the Philippian believers. ‘Get to it! Don’t stop working at it!’ Paul says.

But the other half of the equation is the reality that “it is God who works in you.” This working out of our salvation is not something based in human effort alone. Our own efforts find strength and their source in the truth that God is at work within us. This should encourage us, but also give us that “fear and trembling” Paul references here. Right now and right here in our lives, the Living God is at work. He will do His work in our lives. That’s why Paul said that God will “fulfill His good purpose” in us or, as he wrote earlier in this same letter, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

So, we find ourselves resting in this mysterious tension that we are to work out our salvation, while knowing that anything that comes worth talking about is fully from God’s gracious work in us. We cannot wait for God to do something without putting some effort into it. Yet, we cannot believe our efforts will do a thing apart from the powerful working of God in our lives.

[If you want to explore Philippians further, consider viewing the 2018 preaching series, “Unshackled: Joy Beyond Circumstances,” beginning with the message, “The Joy of Faith.”]

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 March 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

jenson how the world.jpeg“How the World Lost Its Story” –  In this article published in 1993, theologian Robert Jenson, who died in 2017, reflects on the ways in which the great story of God builds meaning into the church living in the postmodern world. While the article is more than twenty-five years old, it still speaks with power. “So how, with respect to ‘story,’ must the church’s mission now be conducted?…The obvious answer is that if the church does not find her hearers antecedently inhabiting a narratable world, then the church must herself be that world.”

 

108.thumbA Damnable Shame– Mark Mulder reflects in Comment Magazine on the church’s complicity in racism with reference to Jemar Tisby’s recent book The Color of Compromise. “Tisby’s volume offers a striking distillation of how the church in America has consistently demonstrated both tacit and explicit support for a racialized society. Though he describes the American church’s history with race as no less than a ‘horror,’ Tisby also insists that ‘to look away’ has become untenable. Hopefully, many people who care about the church will read The Color of Compromise and remember that Tisby’s book is ‘not about discrediting the church or Christians.’ Rather, they will notice its lineage with those who ‘speak the truth in love.’ True reckoning for the church on issues of race undoubtedly includes detailed retelling of disquieting truths that echo into the twenty-first century.”

 

jesus-in-the-garden“Lent Doesn’t Make Sense When Incarnation > Salvation” – Over at Mockingbird, John Zahl writes about the ways in which Lent is tied in not merely with the theology of the incarnation, but also with a good theology of salvation. “Today it seems most voices in the Church (at least the one to which I belong) seek to advocate a message about the human self that aligns almost exactly with the shallow philosophies proffered in any issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Cue the preacher who interprets loving your neighbor as yourself as being about, well, loving yourself. Under the auspices of ‘Incarnational’ language, the individual is deified. The true self is equated with the divine, and this is assumed to be a profound approach, and not that of every Montessori teacher/college drop-out. God-as-self is the most basic (#Basic) and misleading path in the world. The pursuit of it is the pursuit of self-interest: spirituality without humility. The assumption seems to be: ‘I must increase so that God might increase””

 

T S Eliot“Listen to T.S. Eliot Reflect on Poetry” – “On December 4, 1950, two years after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, T.S. Eliot stood behind a lectern in the Kaufmann Concert Hall at the 92nd Street Y and read some of his best work in front of hundreds of people. Now the whole world can relive that moment: The 92nd Street Y has unearthed a never-before-heard recording ahead of a listening event on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. celebrating the Unterberg Poetry Center’s 80th anniversary.”

 

89946“Court Overturns Atheist Victory Against Pastors’ Best Benefit” – “For the second time, a popular tax break for pastors has been judged permissible under the US Constitution, despite efforts by an atheist legal group to prove otherwise. Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s 2017 ruling that the Clergy Housing Allowance violates the First Amendment. Offered only to ‘ministers of the gospel,’ the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy, CT previously reported. GuideStone Financial Resources has called it the “‘most important tax benefit available to ministers.'”

 

Music: “The Lord God Bird,” Sufjan Stevens, 2005.

 

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Jesus’ wholistic mission and the Church (John Oswalt on Isaiah 9)

follow-me-satan-temptation-of-jesus-christ-1903.jpg!HalfHDIn his comments on Isaiah 9:2-4, Dr. John Oswalt makes this astute reflection on the wholistic mission of Christ that the church must keep ahold of in view of salvation in Christ. This ties in with my call for repentance from dualism in my message this past weekend, “Faith and the Final Vision,” from Daniel 10:1-12:4.

They [God’s people] rejoice because the Lord has freed them. It is not necessary to look for some specific liberation which Isaiah has in mind. It is apparent from the whole context that it is final deliverance which is in view. This is what God holds out to his people and that for which they justly pray and believe. Two extremes are to be avoided here. One extreme is to take the way that the Christian Church has  often taken, saying that true bondage is to personal sin from which Christ frees us, and thus turning a blind eye on actual physical oppression. The other extreme is the way of certain forms of liberation theology that seem to suggest that the only sin is the sin of political oppression, and that Christ’s only purpose in coming was to give human beings political freedom.

Neither extreme is adequate in itself. To make God’s promises primary political is to overlook the profound insight of the NT (and the OT) that the chief reason for the absence of šālôm (harmonious relationships) among human beings is the absence of šālôm between God and human beings through sin. Without šālôm between persons, freedom cannot long exist. But to act as if the forgiveness of sin and the consequent personal relationship are all that matters is to succumb to a Platonic distinction of existence into a “real” spiritual world and an “unreal” physical world, a distinction which is thoroughly unbiblical. The Messiah lifts the yoke of sin in order to lift the yoke of oppression. The Church forgets either yoke at its peril.

[From John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 243.

I Am Not Stuck

With our current series at Eastbrook Church, “Who Am I?”, we are exploring biblical answers to questions about our identity as human beings.

This weekend I  addressed the ways in which we feel stuck in life, and how a deeper level of being stuck – or existential dissonance – is the underlying cause of that. I talked about two great truths that pin us in their grip, and how the work of Christ opens a doorway into a new way of living out of an unstuck identity.

You can view the message video and sermon outline below. You can follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

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Wide: Changed with People

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I continued our series “Jesus Changes Everything” this weekend at Eastbrook Church by looking at what it means to have wide love like God. I cannot think of a better way to get at what God’s wide love looks like than to look at Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

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Deep: Changed with God

Jesus Changes Everything Series Gfx_Web Header
This weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series “Jesus Changes Everything” by looking at what it means to enter into the deep life with God. I jumped off from Paul’s powerful statements in Philippians 2:12-13 to get a deeper understanding of what Jesus saves us from and what He saves us to.

You can watch the message here or subscribe to our audio podcast, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site.

If you’re interested in getting to know us more at Eastbrook, please take a moment to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Vimeo. You could also join our community by downloading the Eastbrook app.

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