Sunday 11 July -Ephesians 1:3-14
The message to us in the letter to the church in Ephesus is exciting. It’s radical and it’s revolutionary.
The account of John the Baptist’s death makes for grim reading. He is executed on a whim for his faith. Herodias disliked his message from God of justice and love because it challenged her lifestyle. In that, the situation has changed little for so many Christians 2000 years later. In many places in the world declaring allegiance to Jesus Christ is a criminal offence which carries the death penalty. Research shows that Christianity is now the most persecuted faith on the planet Bishop of Truro for the FCO 2019 and in some places it is described as being at almost genocidal levels. Let us not make the mistake to think that it could never happen here because in many ways it already is. Christians are marginalised for their faith, condemned as ‘bigots’ for daring to share their faith, prosecuted for offering to pray with others, for wearing Christian jewellery or for making a stand for what they believe in.
Many in the world are forced to follow Christ in fear of reprisal, torture, imprisonment, economic and social deprivation and yet … despite all of these dangers they continue to turn to Christ and follow him and the church often continues to grow the fastest in places where this persecution is at its strongest. Why might this be I wonder?
I believe that Paul’s words at the start of this letter answer that question. He speaks of the wonderful promises and gifts that are ours when we turn to Christ and believe and trust in him. His ideas flow so swiftly that in the original Greek it is actually all one sentence. It’s like he cannot get his ideas down onto paper fast enough. It’s a message of hope, of life, of freedom, of power and of God’s love to us all. That is why it was opposed by tyrannical powers 2000 years ago and continues to be opposed by them today. The message of Jesus is radical and it’s revolutionary and it’s supposed to make a difference.
Paul speaks of the difference that believing and following Christ makes to our lives. How many times I wonder might we have read or heard these words and not allowed them penetrate into our hearts and minds. They are radical and they are life transforming. If we truly accepted them, took them to our hearts and lived our lives in the reality and power of them the church and the world would be a very different place indeed. Christians are meant to be different. We are meant to stand apart for all the right reasons and be salt and light in the world. Matt 5:13-16. I wonder if those we work with, live with and speak with can see the light of Christ shining out of us?
If Christianity was illegal in the UK, would there be enough evidence to find you and I guilty?
Christianity is fundamentally NOT about a religion. It’s about a relationship and relationships are exciting and make a difference in our lives. Our relationship with God himself should certainly do so and be seen to do so.
I have never been interested in belonging to an organisation that is mediocre, mealy mouthed or lacking in integrity. The message of Jesus Christ is the most exciting message that has ever existed or will ever exist and the world is desperate for the church to share the message clearly, with love and with authority. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to do so.
Look again at the promises in these verses and hold strong. I could teach for a very long time on what this all means for you and me, but for today I will have to rest on drawing your attention to God’s promises and encourage you to ponder and pray into them yourselves. I have encouraged you before to turn scripture into a ‘first person’ response in order that it might strike your heart as it is intended to and here is a perfect piece to do precisely that.
‘I thank you my God and Father that in Christ you have Blessed3 me with every spiritual blessing. That you Chose4 me and have made me Holy4 and Blameless.4 That you have Adopted5 me, Redeemed7 me and Forgiven7 me. You have lavished your Grace8 upon me, given me a heavenly Inheritance11 and Sealed13 me with your Holy Spirit.’