Friday, January 25, 2008

Lessons in Ephesians

Last night I was spending some time reading my Bible and I turned to the book of Ephesians, not really for any particular reason. I've read this particular book several times and I really enjoy it. I especially enjoyed reading it last night and I was greatly encouraged.

I have the bad habit of speed reading, which can be both good and bad. It's great when I have to read a bazillion pages for school or when I'm just reading for pleasure. However, it's not so good when I'm spending time in the Word and I really need to be soaking up what I'm reading. Lately, I've been working on reading slowly and really focusing on what I'm reading. Well, last night I was so focused and read so slowly that I only got through the first chapter of Ephesians. But, that's OK, because I really enjoyed reading it and meditating on the words contained in the chapter.

I very much enjoy writing letters, even though I don't do it as often as I should. I like to keep in touch with friends and family who I don't get to see often. I also enjoy the opportunity to encourage those who need it. As I was reading this first chapter of Ephesians, I learned a great lesson in letter writing.

First, we have the introduction of who is writing and to whom he is writing. Note especially to whom Paul is writing, "to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Jesus Christ." The faithful in Jesus Christ...what a title! I desire, as we each ought, to be acknowledged as "the faithful in Jesus Christ." However, I know there are many, many days when I don't meet that qualification.

Paul then opens his letter with his greeting to the saints at Ephesus, "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." What I really like about this is that he doesn't spend a lot of time opening his letter. He doesn't inquire about how their great uncle's brother's niece's dog's sister is doing. He doesn't ask about the weather. He doesn't start writing about how nice it is to write to them. He doesn't start writing about everything that is going on in his life. No, he starts by giving a short greeting, then he immediately starts praising God and proclaiming His wonderful works.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:"
Paul doesn't waste any time telling the faithful at Ephesus of the wonderful news of God the Father. He tells them of God choosing us before the foundation of the world, of His adopting us "according to the good pleasure of his will," he tells them that He made us "accepted in the beloved," that we have redemption through His blood, He has forgiven our sins, He has "made known unto us the mystery of his will," he tells us the promise that He will gather His children together one day, and that we have an inheritance in Him. What a way to open a letter to your fellow saints and children of the Heavenly King. There's nothing else that I would rather read about in a letter than the greatness of God, His marvelous works, and His promises to me!

After Paul proclaims the greatness of God and gives praises due Him, he then directly addresses those at Ephesus. He has heard of their faith in Christ and the love they have shown to the saints, and he wants to encourage them. He tells them that he is thanking God for them and praying for them. What exactly is he praying on their behalf? "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints..." He wants the faithful in Jesus Christ to know more about Him. He wants them to more fully know and understand the greatness of God. He is concerned about their spiritual understanding. What an encouragement!

These couple of verses really struck me last night and resonated in my heart. So often I get frustrated when I am attempting to read the Word. I get frustrated that I can't understand what I'm reading. Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to me, and I get frustrated. Honestly, in those moments of frustration, I want to give up. I want to throw in the towel and take on the mindset that if God wants me to know what He has written, He will somehow put it on my heart and miraculously have me to know it without putting any effort into it. I realize that I am completely wrong in my thinking. I realize that it's in those moments that I don't deserve to be called the faithful in Jesus Christ. I am thankful to God for showing me the error of my ways, as He is so faithful to do. It is in those moments that I think of what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." In order for me to know, understand, and rightly divide the Word of God, I have to study. I have to put some effort into it.

Reading this passage in Ephesians gave me great understanding and encouragement. God the Father gives understanding. He gives us "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." Oh how I pray for God to bless me in my efforts to study. I pray that He might give me understanding. I pray the same for you. I pray for "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened."

May He bless the faithful in Jesus Christ to know His power and His promises. May He bless the faithful in Jesus Christ with the hope of the inheritance. May the faithful in Jesus Christ give the praise and glory due Him. May we proclaim the greatness of God in our daily walk and our interactions with strangers, but mostly in our communication with fellow saints!


strem said...

"He doesn't inquire about how their great uncle's brother's niece's dog's sister is doing." HILARIOUS!

At the first part of December, my studies focused on Ephesians, and I have enjoyed reading today's post... reminding me of the blessings within that book that I have already forgotten in such a short time. I can completely relate to what you posted about becoming frustrated in studying. In light of my post today, I especially appreciated the prayers and quote from v. 18... I pray for "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened."

Elizabeth said...

(I was happily suprised to see a new post!)

It sounds like the Lord has been teaching you and I similar things. I too have a tendancy to read REALLY fast just to get things accomplished, but my whole church started a this Bible reading plan, and it has been such a blessing because I know that I am just reading these set chapters and I do have time, I have really enjoyed soaking up the Word.

Thank you for reminding me of the wealth contained in Ephesians. Sometimes I get in this crazy mindset that is like "oh, that's just Ephesians, I know all of that stuff" Hello! what foolishness!

I look forward to spending some more time there, maybe even today.