The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board. This is my life work:helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. — Ephesians 3:6-8 (The Message)
I'm using The Message paraphrase here because I think it makes this passage in Ephesians more understandable. First, Paul makes it clear that we all stand on the same ground before God. We are all offered the same promises in Christ. Jesus came to die for all of us and it's up to us to accept His gift. I think our SUM community here understands this probably better than most.
But it's the second part of this that I want to point out. Paul shares how taken by surprise he was that he would receive such a gift. He's referring to his past as a Pharisee and his brutal persecution of Christians. We see this happen even today when the least likely in our eyes become powerful tools for God.
The beautiful part (at least to me) is God's loving care in all the details. Paul says the same, that God equipped him to do what he clearly knew he could not. He even emphasizes this in saying it had nothing to do with his natural abilities.
Think about it. Here is a man who once stood in complete authority in the Temple who could have easily relied on his knowledge to move forward in his new standing with Jesus, yet he saw it as way over his head.
We feel that way a lot in our mismatched marriages, don't we? We feel like we're ill-equipped and in way over our head. That would be true if we were completely on our own. But we're not. Just as God equipped Paul down to the smallest details to share the mystery of Christ with Jews and Gentiles alike, God does the same for us.
My friends, this goes way beyond our words! God's Holy Spirit lives and dwells in us. We are equipped to the gills! Perhaps our greatest challenge isn't knowing when to act, speak, or do but in trusting this truth—trusting that God is there equipping us constantly for every situation we encounter or are called to.
Scripture backs this up too:
Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age." — Matthew 28:20 (The Message)
We don't have to ask God to be with us. He already is so let's use that prayer power to ask for what we need. Ask God for something He can do, not something He's already done.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)
God's grace doesn't stop at the moment we accept Christ. God's grace is active and working. We tend to think we receive it when we are saved and then it's done, but God's grace is powerful and continues to work in and around us to transform us from the inside out. And that "out" is what those near to us see as we are transformed day by day to walk in the confidence, competence and gifts that come from God.
My friends, we spent a lot of time in our spiritual warfare series on our identity in Christ because this is truly our foundation.
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. — Luke 6:47-49
Now I believe God wants to build upon our foundation the truths that are part of our inheritance in Christ so that we can walk forward in the promises and victories that are ours.
Any time you feel ill equipped or ineffective, I want you to pray this prayer over yourself and repeat it, out loud whenever possible, to affirm who you are and that Jesus has equipped you:
For I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for me to do. — Ephesians 2:10
The Greek meaning of that word for “works” also means action, behavior, deeds, doing, effectual, labor, result and task. In other words, God created (in the Bible a word that is used exclusively of God and the energy He exerts) us and He planned significant actions that we would do effectively and with results (fruit).
Now repeat this to yourself, and out loud!
God intends for me to be effective and see results in my life.
When we are “walking in the Spirit”—following and seeking God in every part of our lives—we will be effective daughters and sons of the Most High God and see results in our life.
The choice starts with us, my friends. If we want this kind of life, we have to go after it, ask for it and believe it’s possible. God pursues us. We can choose to pursue Him.
Are you with me?
Lord Jesus, You came that we may know the Father as You do and to walk as co-heirs with You. Help us to truly believe this truth and to believe that wherever You are calling us to step out in faith, You have already prepared every detail so that we can walk effectively in this place and produce results (fruit) either in ourselves or to impact the lives of others. Thank you, Lord Jesus for this precious promise and gift! In Your powerful and mighty name, amen!
Praying & believing with you, my precious friends!