Week commencing 24th December 2017 With a PDF found here
Reflection notes and questions for summer
At the start of each new year, we often find ourselves reflecting on the past twelve months to determine what we can do differently during the next twelve. Will we set new goals? Will we resolve to change this quality or do better in that area? Instead of considering such resolutions, though, what if we started 2018 instead by reflecting on how God wants to shape our character and identity? Because if we began to understand the many personal and corporate blessings He has given us as his children, then all our “doings” and “goals” would take on a completely different perspective. In fact, God has already given us “every spiritual blessing” through Christ’s ministry so that we can enter a new year with deep peace and assurance. In other words, knowing who we are as His children matters more to our Heavenly Father than anything we did last year—or will do in the coming year!
That’s why over the summer, we are exploring Ephesians 1:1-14, so that we might revel in ‘every spiritual blessing’!
|JAN 31||Chosen||Eph 1:3-4|
|JAN 07||Adopted||Eph 1:5-6|
|JAN 14||Redeemed||Eph 1:7-8|
|JAN 21||Informed||Eph 1:9-10|
|JAN 28||Sealed||Eph 1:11-14|
Week commencing December 24: Read Ephesians 1:1-4 – You are Chosen.
As you read all of Ephesians 1:1-14, you’ll get a sense of Paul’s heart for his fellow believers. Paul was probably writing this letter while imprisoned in Rome. Unlike his other letters, he was not necessarily concerned for the church at Ephesus for any specific reason, but he did want to remind his friends how Christ Jesus had formed them. Ephesus was a port city at the time and its history included much diversity and fascination with magic and the occult (see Acts 19:19). This might be why Paul emphasized the power of God over all heavenly authorities and Christ’s place as head over the church and all things in this age and the next. Paul—who once persecuted Christians!—now enjoyed an entirely new identity as an apostle and follower of the Grace-giving God and Lord! No wonder he began his letter by reminding Christians that the great God of the Universe, the Maker of our hearts, the Creator of all the Earth, has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”
But what does that mean? In our current age, many claim to be “spiritual” just as many churchgoers believe blessings reflect God’s provision in wealth. And while all humans are in fact made in God’s image (spiritual) and He does provide for his people, spiritual blessings in Paul’s letter refer to Christ’s magnificent and personal work of reconciliation on the cross—his sacrifice brought flawed “spiritual” people into a life-giving relationship with their Maker, the Holy One. He chose us even before He made the world, and proved His love by giving up His own nature as God so that we might know deeply that we are His! We belong to Him. Our lives and meaning, then, are not found in some abstract vibe of the “universe” but in the person, life, death and resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth!
- How does the reality that Christ chose you and secured every spiritual blessing for you change who you are? How would you define blessings and how can you respond?
Week commencing December 31: Read Ephesians 1:5-6 – You are Adopted.
Everyone needs to belong. All humans long for connection, to be invited into community where safety and acceptance are offered. Of course, not everyone experiences this. So the truth that “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” chose us, in all of our shortcomings and failings, to belong to Him ought to send us to our knees! Yet, the reality that he did not just choose us, but went to great lengths to adopt us changes everything. Now, once self obsessed individuals are given new purposes and names (or identities): “Christ-followers” or Christians. We have a new family. We are adopted as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.
Why? Because this was God’s pleasure! This brings “praise of his glorious grace which he has freely given us in the One He loves.” Some translations use “Beloved” here. Because of His Beloved Son, we, too, can take on the family resemblance as adopted children, and invite others into an eternal place of belonging with the God of Love.
- It was God’s pleasure to choose you and adopt you. How can his “glorious grace” lead you this week?
Week commencing January 07: Read Ephesians 1:7-8 – You are Redeemed.
As if being chosen and adopted weren’t amazing enough, God went further by redeeming us. He was not content just to leave us as we were—He made sure His spiritual blessings came in the form of freedom! That is, our old lives of anger and impatience, foolish choices and selfish ambition (you name it), no longer held us prisoners. We were redeemed, bought and restored at great cost! It’s a little like when watching a fearful, marginalized character in a movie or novel transform into a hero; we know a theme of redemption runs through it. We cheer on the underdog, hoping he or she will come into that place of lavish heroism where the whole world is better because of their new identity. Likewise, because of the blood Jesus gave by taking our place on the cross, we can experience the freedom and hope that comes with forgiveness, the riches that come with grace. We are no longer the same people—we now enjoy the lavish gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self control (Gal. 5:22,23). God takes our old fearful lives and turns them into lives that honour him; people He always intended us to be!
- Where do you see redemption in our culture? How can you be an agent of God’s redemptive purposes?
Week commencing January 14: Read Ephesians 1: 9-10 – You are Informed.
Certainly, there are many tensions and mysteries we experience as Christians in this age. We’re saddened when friends are wrongly accused, grieved at the many tragedies in our world and discouraged daily when we haven’t acted as we know we should. Why do we hurt? Why do we forget God’s love, or who we are as his children? The difficulties in this broken life are real, and yet, God has made known to us—informed us if you like—of the reality behind all the mysteries: that God’s will and pleasure, “which he purposed in Christ, (will) be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” In other words, no matter what is happening, no matter what we might not understand in the here and now, we can be assured that God is God, Sovereign, Faithful, and full of Grace and Truth. Armed with that knowledge, we can endure any mystery or challenge that comes our way, for God will bring unity to all things in heaven on earth under Christ—in his time.
- Through prayer, what struggles can you bring to God this week as you rest in his Sovereignty?
Week commencing January 21: Read Ephesians 1:11-14 – You are Sealed.
Chosen. Adopted. Redeemed. Informed. Verses 11-14 summarise the new identity we have if we have turned to our Heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. We have heard the historic message of truth and are included in Christ! Now we are to BE for the praise of his glory, so that all of our Christ-shaped character flows out into Christ-shaped lives of love and grace toward others. But how can we be certain that we are His? Because we’ve been “marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” No one can ever tell us otherwise no matter what happens! We are His. And His Spirit now has sealed our inheritance with Him forever. So we “resolve” in this new year—and for the rest of our lives—to ask God daily to remind us who we are in Christ, as individuals and as a church community, and then to invite others to experience the same joy, grace and “spiritual blessings” we have, “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory!”
Weekly notes will recommence on Jan 28 in preparation for our first term series: “7 Searching Letters” in Revelation 1-3
|04 Feb||The revelation of Jesus Christ||Revelation 1|
|11 Feb||To the church in Ephesus||Rev 2:1-7|
|18 Feb||To the church in Smyrna||Rev 2:8-17|
|25 Feb||To the church in Pergamum||Rev 2:12-17|
|04 Mar||To the church in Thyatira||Rev 2:18-29|
|11 Mar||To the church in Sardis||Rev 3:1-6|
|18 Mar||To the church in Philadelphia||Rev 3:7-14|
|25 Mar||To church in Laodicea||Rev 3:14-22|