May 29, 2022
Environmentally Sensitive – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ephesians 1: 1 - 2

Purchase the CD of this sermon.

$5.00

This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

More From This Series

Transcript

Well, let’s take our Bibles. Ephesians 1:1–2. We’re in a series on the book of Ephesians called Life Together. We started it last week. I’ve had many of you tell me, let’s go slow. So, that’s a bad invitation to someone like me. Part one last week, part two this week, part three next week on verses 1 and 2. We’re kind of sitting at our stall, creating the portal into this wonderful book. Life Together, a message we entitled “Environmentally Sensitive.” That I’ll explain in a moment.
Ephesians 1:1–2: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I like the story I read about two Australian sailors who happened to be in London. They were coming out of a London restaurant, a little bit worse for wear. And, as they came out of that restaurant, they walked into the dense fog of a London evening. They really didn’t know where they were. Feeling disoriented, they watched this rather distinguished gentleman go into the same restaurant, but what they missed was his military medals. And so, one of them said, “Hey, mate, do you know where we are?” Well, the officer paused. He didn’t like the way he was addressed. He wasn’t impressed by the casual approach of this sailor, and he snarled back, “Do you men know who I am?” Well, the two sailors looked at each other and said, “We’re really in a mess. We don’t know where we are, and he doesn’t know who he is.”
Well, as we come to Ephesians 1:1–2, Paul wants you as a Christian to know who you are and where you are in relationship to other believers and to the world around you.
We started a sermon last week, and it’ll spill into next week, entitled “Environmentally Sensitive.” Now, when I talk about being environmentally sensitive in the light of Ephesians 1:1–2, I’m not talking about your recycling habits. I’m not talking about your carbon footprint, and I’m not worried about whether you drive a Tesla. What I’m talking about is this: As a Christian, you live in certain spheres, certain environments, to which you must be sensitive. The primary and first is the environment of being in Christ, of having a union and a relationship with the living Lord Jesus. And, when you come into union with Christ, that puts you into union with other people who are in Christ—which means you have another sphere and another environment to which you ought to be sensitive and responsible. And that’s the church.
Paul says here, “to the saints”—the church—who are “in Christ Jesus.” And, you notice, here’s a third sphere: “at Ephesus.” When God saves you, He saves you where you are, in the city in which you are, in the web of relationships in which you are. And He expects you to live out the in-living Christ in that place, no matter how difficult, no matter how dark. So, you need to be environmentally sensitive to your Christ environment, to your church environment, and to your city environment. In Christ, with the saints, at Ephesus. Okay? Do you get that?
Now, we started to look at this wonderful letter. Before getting into the heart of it, we looked at this letter’s author. Certainly, Paul is identified as the author in verse 1 of chapter 1. That’s reiterated in chapter 3, verse 1. No strong reason to doubt a Pauline authorship. He’s “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” And we know from chapter 3, verse 1 and chapter 4, verse 1, that he was a prisoner in Rome as he wrote this letter, probably around AD 62.
He wrote other letters along with this one. Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians are what theologians call the prison epistles, or the prison letters. You can often associate great men with letters and imprisonment. John Bunyan wrote while he was a prisoner in Bedford. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote while he was a prisoner in Birmingham. Paul writes as a prisoner. And we said that he didn’t allow his surroundings to define him or defeat him. In fact, he calls himself an ambassador in chains.
I came across an interesting little insight about a General David Baird who served with the 73rd Highlanders in India. This Scottish warrior became a prisoner of war in 1780. Now, the news got back to his native Scotland, to his dear mother, that her son was in prison in India. And here’s what she said: “God pity the young man who’s chained to our Davie.” I love that.
Paul is chained to a Roman soldier, and he doesn’t allow his environment to define him. He uses it as a platform. We saw that the audience was a church at Ephesus. And the letter itself may have been a circular letter and gone out to other churches in that area, because we noted that Ephesus was probably the mother church for many churches in that Asian area, Asia Minor. Then we’ve got the arrangement. The book breaks into two equal halves. We’ve got this wonderful balance between doctrine and duty, between creed and conduct, and between gospel indicatives—where the gospel is stated in all of its fullness and implication for our lives—and in gospel imperatives—where we’re commanded to indeed live that out practically. The aim was to encourage these believers, Jew and Gentile, to live in harmony. You’ve got a great emphasis on one Lord, one faith, one baptism. The word “love” is demonstrably used throughout this letter.
So, we got to the outline, which is these environments to which you and I need to be sensitive: the Christ environment, the church environment, the city environment. We’re going to keep the last two for next week.
The church environment: that you and I need to remember that we are to live out our Christian life in the context of the church—that your walk with Christ is personal, but it’s not private. You have an obligation to live in fellowship with saints. We’ll get into the importance of that.
Then we’re going to look at the city environment at Ephesus. We’re going to learn a lot about this city, not unlike the city’s you and I live around and interact with. It was a godless city. The temple of Diana and sexual prostitution went on at the heart of the city. There were aggressive and oppressive government powers. And there was certainly a feeling that this church at Ephesus is in a spiritual war. But they’re told to stand in the evil day.
Hold this thought, because I’m going to deal with it a little bit next week. I have a growing concern about the exodus out of the state of California. And I understand the economic pressures that drive people out. I get that 100%. But what I don’t get is the increasing narrative that this place is so dark and so lost I need to get out. What? And abandon people to hell, to vacate our space here to be a witness for Jesus Christ in the great state of California, badly run? No, they were at Ephesus, and they weren’t told to run. They were told to stand in the evil day, putting on the whole armor of God. Hold that thought. I’ve got a whole week to work on it.
Okay. Let’s get to their Christ environment. I don’t want to rehash what we went over last week, but the basics were that this is our primary environment, you see? How are they described? They’re described as those in Christ Jesus: “the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus” (vs. 1). As the root goes down into the ground, as the fish swims in the water, as the bird flies in the air, so you and I are in Christ. He is our environment. We are in union with Him. And that defines everything that we are. If you and I are in Him, that is a relationship, that is a union, that is a dynamic that utterly defines us. We now listen to music in Him. We now love and pursue romance in Him. We now go to work to the cubicle in the office or to the milling machine in the factory or into the classroom, into the university, in Him. Wherever we are, we’re in Him, and He’s in us.
That is a dynamic thing, and that is a defining thing that ought to show up every hour of every day of every week. The life you and I now live, we “live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). In Colossians 3:3, Paul says our life is in Christ. Just as a branch is in a vine, so our lives are in Him, and He’s the source. And you know what? That means that we are not fundamentally defined as Christians by our ethnicity, by our disability, by our circumstances, by our achievements, by our failures. We are defined by our relationship with Him, and that union is spiritual, unbreakable, and defining.
Now, before I leave that thought, let me talk about union leading to communion, because I think we’ve established—and we’ll go back over this several times in the book—that we are in union with Christ. We’re in Christ. We have a relationship with Christ. The moment we put our faith in the gospel and the Holy Spirit brings us the faith in Jesus Christ, you and I are now in union with Him. He’s now indwelling us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has sealed us until the day of final redemption (Ephesians 1:13–14).
But that union is dynamic. The One who indwells us is living, and the union that we have with Him ought to be living and growing. You’re going to read about this throughout this book—about growing up in stature and coming to a fuller and full understanding of who we are in Christ. When I was a young Christian, someone said this to me, and I’ve never forgotten what they said: “Philip, you’re either abiding or you’re backsliding.” Huh. Memorable little phrase and a wonderful little insight. So, I’m abiding in Christ, but that’s not static; it’s dynamic. It’s a branch in a vine that’s living, and if the vine is living and the branch is drawing sap and life from that, then the branch is healthy and bears fruit. That’s the whole point of Jesus’ teaching in John 15.
So I’m either abiding in a living, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, or I’m backsliding, going backwards rather than forwards. And you know what? I think I’m going to finish this whole series in Ephesians by preaching Revelation 2:1–7, because they had a second letter sent to them by Christ himself. We’re probably into the late first century, and Jesus says, “Hey, I’ve got something against you. Love you guys, but I’m picking something up here. Not good. You’ve left your first love. You’re not abiding; you’re backsliding.”
So think about this: Union leads to communion. Jesus said in John 15:4–5, “Abide in Me, and I in you.” Did you notice that’s reciprocal? He’s in us; we’re in Him. And this union is lived out in communion, where the relationship is deepened and widened. There’s a passive aspect to it, and there’s an active aspect to it. Okay? If Christ is to remain and abide in us, we must allow Him to do so. And our responsibility here is more passive than active. We’re to yield daily. We’re to give over control of our lives. There’s to be a moment by moment openness to what Jesus is and can be and wants to be to us. That’s why Spurgeon said that he actively tried to think and meditate upon Jesus Christ every 15 minutes of every hour—just constantly abiding, letting his thoughts abide in Christ, drawing his life from Christ.
But then there’s the active side. He abides in us, so we need to surrender to His presence. But, we abide in Him, and we do that actively by living in intimate communion with Him, by using the means of grace to grow in Him: prayer, Bible study, Sunday worship, the Lord’s Table, active fellowship with God’s saints.
Let me tell you a story, make a point, and move on. William Jennings Bryan was a wonderful American orator and defender of the faith. In midlife, he had a portrait done. The painter wanted to paint him picture perfect, and he asked Bryan, “Why do you wear your hair over your ears like that?” The inference seems to be that it wasn’t a great look. Bryan says, “Well, I’ve got a story to tell you. When I first sought Mrs. Bryan, to whom I’m now married, she declined every invitation I made. And then some girlfriends whispered to me and told me that she didn’t like my ears. They stuck out. They were offensive to her. So I decided to grow my hair and cover the offending parts.” The painter said, “Wow, that’s great story. It helps me understand your hair style. That’s really out of style right now.” And the painter said, “That was a long time ago, and fashions have changed. Would you not consider cutting your hair again?” To which he replied, “No. I’m still pursuing Mrs. Bryan.”
Guys, and girls, we all know, right? We’ve all got a date, in God’s kindness and goodness, where we married our spouse, and we said “I do,” for better or for worse. But you know what? Union leads to communion. Okay. I’m married. I’ve declared my love for June, and you’ve declared your love for your spouse. But doesn’t that lead on to a daily outworking, daily communion, daily intimacy, daily relationship development? That’s my point.
Now, for the time that remains, let’s think about this being worked out. There’s four things in these opening couple of verses about life in Christ and the kind of life that it ought to be. Number one, it ought to be saintly. The outworking of the in-living Christ is a saintly life. You’ll notice that the Christians at Ephesus are described as saints. It’s a word that means “set apart.” Now, some of us have come from traditions, perhaps Roman Catholic tradition, where when you hear the word saint, you think of an elite group of Christians. And there’s a whole process that someone must go through. There’s a lot of religious rigmarole that someone must go through for the church to canonize them into the category called “the saints.” And you’re to pray to the saints, and they’re to be a model of righteousness to you, and in some cases you can draw from their merit and increase your own sanctification.
That’s not what the Bible teaches. What we’ve got here is the description of every single Christian in Ephesus, and they’re all called saints because the word simply means “set apart.” It comes from the Old Testament, where you have someone or somewhere or something dedicated to God and reserved for Him, for his exclusive use. That thing belongs to God in a unique way for Him to use. It’s reserved for His utilization. And that’s what our word means. When you and I come into union with Jesus Christ and we pursue communion with Jesus Christ, we do that as those who belong to Him. The branch belongs to the vine. The body belongs to the head. You and I belong to Him. The temple was holy, the Sabbath was holy, and the nation of Israel was holy, in the sense that they were reserved and set aside for God’s glory. Same with you.
Do you realize this morning that as a Christian, you’re a saint? You’re set apart from sin to life in Christ and the pursuit of sanctification and service toward God. It’s the idea that you belong to Him, that all you are—all your gifts, all your faculties, your body, head to toe—and all that you have—your family, your car, your house, your money, your time, your gifts—are His. Simple. And I’ve got to remind myself of that when I spend. I’ve got to remind myself of that when I use my body to some end. Am I using my time, talent, and treasure for His glory? Because I’m a saint. It all belongs to Him. The question isn’t, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my money?” The question is, “Lord, what am I going to do with Your money, Your time, Your body, this life?”
If you go to Acts 27:23, it’s really interesting. That’s the story of Paul on the ship going to Rome, getting ship wrecked in the Mediterranean. But the Lord gave him a vision and told him, “Hey, nothing’s going to happen in terms of loss of life.” Ship loss, yes. Cargo loss, yes. Lost life, no. So, he stands up, and he says to the crew, “For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve.”
Next time someone asks you, “Well, who are you?” Say, “Well, I’m someone that belongs to God.” That’s how Paul introduces himself to a sailor. “Hey, God appeared to me, and I belong to Him.” That’s the language, isn’t it, of 1 Corinthians 6:19–20? “You are not your own.” Come on. I know it, and you know it. If we’re not conscious of that fact, we act like we are our own. “It’s my time. I’ll live the way I want. I’ll do what I want.” It shows up in counseling. It shows up in all kinds of various people. “I’m not doing that.” “Well, but God wants you to do that.” “Yeah, but I’m not doing it.” Have you forgotten you belong to God? No, we’re not our own. We’re bought with a price.
Sinclair Ferguson in his book Devoted to God gives us a really interesting little analogy. He said you might go into a restaurant, and it’s full, right? Not right now, by the way. But, you go into restaurant, and it’s full. You’re standing there, and you’re next up, but they’re saying it’s a 15- to 20-minute wait. And you go, “How’s that when there’s a table over in the corner there? It’s empty.” What are they going to tell you? “It’s reserved.” “For who? Are they more important than me?” No, no. “Reserved for who?” “It’s reserved.”
You go into a furniture shop. It may be more of a factory shop, maybe one offs. You look at a table and dining room set that you like, and you say, “Hey, I like that.” “Sorry, you can’t have that one.” You go, “Why?” Well, all of a sudden, you notice a little tag on it, and it says “reserved.” That’s our word. Literally, that’s our word.
So imagine earth from heaven’s perspective. As God looks down upon this world and the people of this world, you and I are different because there’s a tag that hangs around our neck: reserved. Reserved for My service, My glory, My kingdom.
We’ll get to this in Ephesians 5, but notice how this works out. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1–2).
Now, listen to the language: “But fornication”—that’s sexual sin before and outside of marriage, or even inside of marriage in its broadest sense, both in act and thought. “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among”—you notice—“as is fitting for saints.” That doesn’t belong in your life because that displeases God. And, if it displeases God, and you belong to God, it doesn’t belong in your life.
Let me illustrate this and move on. Ajith Fernando, in a wonderful little book on Ephesians one, tells a story of a mother who visited her son in the university. She went to his room and found twelve rather suggestive pictures of women in various stages of undress. She got a shock, but she decided not to say anything. She went home and sent her son a beautifully framed picture of the Lord Jesus as one might imagine Him. Well, the boy was thrilled by the picture, and he sat it by his desk. That night before he went to sleep, he felt a bit odd about the combination of pictures in his room. So, he took the picture down that was closest to the head of Christ, and little by little, he took down all the pictures because he knew they couldn’t remain in the room along with the Lord Jesus.
That’s what we’re at here, saints. We belong to God, and that which displeases God falls short of His glory, doesn’t comport to the gospel or the law of God, doesn’t belong in our lives. It’s got to be taken down and just thrown out the door. I love that little phrase. He felt a bit odd at the combination of pictures. I wonder what odd combinations are going on in your life and my life that are in contradiction to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Steadfast life. Steadfast life. Notice how they’re described. They’re described as saints set apart, belonging to God, and they’re described as the “faithful in Christ Jesus.” Now, this is a word that can be interpreted in two ways. It can be interpreted in the passive and in the active. Pistos means “to believe.” It can be translated as in you and I trusting Christ or trusting the gospel, or it can be used of faithfulness to Christ and trustworthiness of character.
I have about 25 or 30 commentaries on Ephesians right now, and in the ones that I’m dipping into, there’s a bit of a debate. Some fall on the side of it being faith in Christ (“to those who are faith believers in Chris”) or faithful. It may be much ado about nothing, in the sense that say we go with the proponents of commentators who say it’s actually faith, not faithful. One gives birth to the other, and one becomes the other. You can’t put your faith in Jesus Christ and not become faithful to Jesus Christ. The one breeds the other. You can’t be a believer and not be believable. So I’m okay with the rendition “faithful.”
In fact, Richard Phillips, in his commentary on Ephesians, says that “we should think of faith as being primarily receptive. Faith receives Christ and his saving work for us. . . . We are not saved by our faith, but we are saved through our faith as it brings us to the Savior, Jesus Christ.” Right? Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved”—notice this—“through faith.” Faith is the agency, the means by which we come to the Savior and embrace Him and receive what He has done for us.
We’re not saved by faith received through faith in Christ who saves us. So, in that sense, faith is primarily receptive, but here’s what Phillips goes on to say: “Once we are brought to Jesus, our faith becomes an active principle.” In fact, when you read “faith” or “belief” in the New Testament, it’s often in the present tense: “believing.” So, we trust Christ, and we keep on trusting Christ to a point where we’re trustworthy with regards to Christ. “Once we are brought to Jesus, our faith becomes an active principle. Believing these truths we begin to act upon them; committing ourselves to Christ, we manifest that commitment in our choices and actions.” Makes sense. “We are called to be faithful to Christ”— who have put their faith in Christ—“reliable in his service, ready to defend the truth, and obedient to what he commands.”
Question this morning to myself and to you. Is it steady-as-she-goes for you as a Christian? Are you still teaching children’s ministry five years later? Good. Have you been singing in the choir for a decade? Good. Have you been standing out in the car lot for the last couple of years? Good. Keep at it. Stay at it. That’s low hanging fruit. But look at your life. Is there a pattern of faithfulness? Are you still doing what you want to be doing right now as you did before? That ought to be true of your life and my life: reliable, dependable.
Years ago, I was at a funeral in our church in Northern Ireland, Rothko Baptist. I was a young Christian at the time. My father was a deacon. The church was literally at the bottom of our street. I’d just come to Christ, and I was finding my way in Christ. And I went to this funeral. There were two women in the church who prayed for me. And, the night I got saved, my mother came into my bedroom and said, “This week, you better call Ms. Houston and Mrs. Price. They prayed for you every Wednesday at the prayer meeting.” And I did.
So, I knew these ladies, sweet women. One was single and the other one had lost her husband. Ms. Houston had died, and now we were at the funeral for Mrs. Price. The funeral was finished, and when I was coming down the aisle, I heard this old man, Tommy Armstrong, say to another person, “Well, that’s Miss and Mrs. Faithful gone.” What a description: Miss and Mrs. Faithful. Now, I didn’t say it to him—and I don’t say this—to draw attention myself, but right there on the spot, on the red carpet of Rothko Baptist church, I said, “You know what, Mr. Armstrong? I’m going to be faithful. I’m going to take their place. I’m going to step up. My generation’s not going to let go of what the other generation did. I’m going to be faithful.” And hopefully I was. What about you? Let’s commit ourselves this morning to be faithful—faithful mothers and faithful fathers, faithful friends, faithful church members, faithful neighbors.
Thirdly, a sweet life. This is the idea of grace. Verse 2: “Grace to you.” So, the Christians in Christ are to be saintly, to be steadfast, and to be sweet and satisfied because they have been graced by God in Christ. Grace runs through this letter. Remember, grace is God’s undeserved favor toward us in what Jesus did for us. And remember this, it’s not only the ignition point of the Christian life. It’s all of the Christian life.
Darrell Bock, in his helpful commentary on Ephesians, says, “Grace is tied to the entire activity of God growing out of Christ’s work.” Let me say that again. “Grace is tied to the entire activity of God growing out of Christ’s work.” If you read the book of Ephesians—which we will study—we’re saved by grace, and then God in His grace gives us gifts to minister to the body so that the body might be graced and grow up (Ephesians 4:7–11). And we are empowered by that grace to take the grace gifts and make them operative in the life of the church (3:7). That’s why Paul in Ephesians 2:4–8 talks about the immeasurable riches of His grace. Everything that God does in saving us, keeping us, growing us, and coming back to receive us, to perfect us . . . “Grace is tied to the entire activity of God growing out of Christ’s work.”
And here’s the point I’m making about the sweet life or the satisfied life. It leads to praise. Verse 6 of chapter 1: “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” You and I ought to be sweet, happy, joyful, satisfied Christians because we have been recipients of grace. And that leads “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
I’d love to develop this more, but time doesn’t allow me. The word for grace in the Greek is charis. C-H-A-R-I-S: grace. But it really belongs to a family of words. The other word is chara, which means joy. Well, are you surprised? If someone has experienced the grace of God, wouldn’t you be joyful at the fact that God saved you and kept you and gives you gifts that makes your life purposeful? Of course. And the other word is eucharistia (right in the middle of it is charis), which means thanksgiving in the light of God’s gracious giving. I think those are all tied together. And you see it here. Paul says, “Grace to you,” and before long, in the next verse, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing . . . in Christ.” Think about the grace He has shown us in electing us, predestining us, adopting us, redeeming us. Oh, let’s praise the glory of His grace.
So my point is this: grace should push you to praise. One writer said this: “The only answer to charis is eucharistia. . . . Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning.” What about you? You who are the saints of God, you who are faithful in Jesus Christ, you who have been graced—is there gratitude? Is your life sweet and joyful and happy and content and full?
I’d love to tell you more about him, but I think I’ve mentioned him a few times, Billy Bray. He was a Methodist preacher in England, in Cornwall, right down in the toe of England. He was a minor when he got saved—radically, wonderfully saved. He never got over it. In fact, he said as he walked down the street, he would lift one foot up, and it would say, “Glory,” and he would lift the other foot up, and it would say, “Amen.” And he seemed to walk through life “amen, glory, glory, amen.”
Well, I learned this week that when he became a minister, when he visited a home where someone had just got saved—if they allowed him (and sometimes he didn’t worry about the fact that they would allow him or not)—he would grab them, hoist them onto his shoulder, and run about the room praising God that someone had got saved. When’s the last time that happened in the church? Because, you see, charis leads to chara, and chara provokes eucharistia. Grace produces joy. Grace and joy are grounded in Thanksgiving. Man, in a real sense, you should run around with each other on each other’s shoulders, just dancing and thanking the Lord for His grace. Marvelous grace, matchless grace. We’re going to finish with it.
Time’s gone. Last thought: secure life. “Grace . . . and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word means wellbeing, wholeness, intactness, safety, spiritual prosperity. Now, if you read the book of Ephesians, there’s two kinds of peace talked about. It’s peace with God through the reconciling work of Jesus Christ by faith (2:14–18). But then there’s the peace of God, the peace that allows us to be stable in an unsettling world. That would be Ephesians 6:15, where it talks about our feet shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” There’s nothing like a good pair of shoes. I like a good pair of shoes. Get yourself one good pair, and it’ll last forever. A good pair of shoes fits well, and they just make you feel stable and steady.
And that’s the point here. As a Christian, your feet are shod, clothed in the gospel of peace. That’s the Roman soldier’s footwear. They had spikes in the bottom of them. So, as you can imagine, a warrior, a soldier gets his feet settled as he fights the enemy—stability. And the peace of God brings stability to our lives—helps us to stand when the wind’s against us, when the enemy’s attacking us, when life is crowding in.
My friend, they did not need to live in insecurity as God’s marginalized people. They did not need to live in insecurity, despite hostile government powers and spiritual oppression—because their life was grounded in peace with God, which flows into the peace of God, which allows us to enjoy a secure life in an insecure world.
Let me finish with this story. John Foxe in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells us that one young protestant minister was sent to his death by bloody Mary in 1555. He was burned alive back to back with Hugh Latimer. That’s the story about “Master Ridley, play the man, for today God will light a candle in England that will not be put out.” But he did play the man, young Ridley. The night before his execution, his burning, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be an assistant and a comfort. Nicholas Ridley declined. And he said this: “I intend, God willing, to go to bed and sleep as quietly tonight as I ever did.” And he did. It’s hard to imagine, given the excruciating pain he would feel the next morning as the fagots were put around him and sat on fire.
You and I, thank God, will more than likely never face that kind of challenge. But we will face difficult times. We can put our feet down into the ground of peace with God and the peace of God. We can stand in the evil day, and we can enjoy a secure life because the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard our hearts from fear and disturbance and anxiety. Psalm 4:8: “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Father, we thank You for our second visit to this magnificent magisterial letter, Ephesians, the Mount Everest of the New Testament in many ways, the Grand Canyon of Paul’s writings. We thank You for what we have been reminded of this morning again—who we are and where we are, the environments in which we live: our physical environment, our spiritual environment in union with Christ, and our relational environment with each other.
And we pray that this relationship with Christ would be a defining dynamic reality—manifesting itself in saintly behavior; manifesting itself in faithfulness, trustworthiness, reliability; manifesting itself in joy and gratitude; manifesting itself in a secure confidence that nothing will separate us from the love of God. Lord, thank You. And we pray that indeed we would grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Bless us, we pray, and speak into our lives, we ask, and give us grace to hear, we plead. Amen.