Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 3
The Pink Letters – Ephesians 1:15-23
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This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
This week’s TB is geared for you to personally reflect on how the pink letters of Paul encourage us to move on in our faith. Pink letters? Let me explain. This past week, I was running on a paved path and came across several pink letters written with chalk - amazing, stupendous, incredible,… I couldn’t help think that in life those kinds of pink letters are so important for us to keep pressing on. Often people are motivated by fear, guilt, obligation, but the pink letters represent words of encouragement to grow on in our faith.
Text: In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul kneels down (allow me some imagination) and with his pink chalk in hand writes words to the Ephesians on the “trail”, that encourage them to press on. God has done some wonderful things for them (see 1-14) but simply just resting in that, and not growing on, is not the point. God has done wonderful things for us so that we can grow, move, develop, and mature.
Big Idea: “Plateau: A place to grow from.”
This I think is what partly motivates Paul to write. He wants his audience not to get comfortable where they are. Not growing is choosing to die. So what are the pink letters?
Before we jump into the text, share with your group the good and bad pink letters along your trail. Did they give you life or further feed into a broken spirit? Have you been able to erase those letters and replace them with God’s truth? What might the color of those toxic words be?
THE PINK LETTERS
• KNOW HIM BETTER (INTIMACY) V.17
What is stated in v15-16 that reveals whose help we need to know Him better?
The kind of knowledge Paul is talking about here is not just head knowledge, but referencing a personal and intimate knowledge of God. Notice v.18a “ eyes of your heart” - in the Greek this is all part of the same sentence - it seems to be parenthetical, all describing knowing him better. For the Semitic person, the heart was the seat of thought and will as well as emotion. Thus this inner enlightenment may have both cognitive and affective dimensions.
What is the difference between these two kinds of knowledge of God?
What do you find most helpful in growing in this second kind of knowledge?
What are the roadblocks?
Here is a problem to think about:
The temptation in following Christ is to settle in on a plateau. We get comfortable - and our boxed-in knowledge of God somewhat tames God, makes him neat and tidy. The challenge is that we are often growing in other areas - careers, family, perhaps physical fitness, education etc. - and they begin to capture our hearts and they get more captivating until our plateau with God looks boring, because it is and God gets shoved aside. Plateaued faith is no competition for the things of this world that can present such sizzle.
Some of us could assign a date to our plateau. “Been here since…” And we might even be able to give the reason why - business, pain, idols etc. Rigorous faith finds the edge and jumps. The invitation of Christ is not come and sit, but to come and grow. The invitation of Jesus is not to conversion but to discipleship - “Follow me!”
• HOPE (INVISIBLE FENCES) V.18 – THE BYPRODUCT OF KNOWING GOD.
Hope refers to expectation. Note that it is God calling us to hope. What a great picture and very informative. As God calls us to hope, he is simultaneously calling us away from something. In the context of the original audience no doubt it included fear. Fear was a big part of the spirituality of Ephesus. This picture is of God calling them out of that which limits and hinders them and instead, to step into freedom.
Here is the thing about plateaus- they don’t need fences, or big walls, or guards. If the enemy can use your life brokenness to fence you in, he will. If he can use the tapes that play over and over again in your head to form the big walls around you, he will. Fear can be one of those invisible fences that keep people on a plateau. Being called to hope is being called to move, grow, and step forward.
What are some invisible fences that keep people plateaued in their walk with God? How much does fear play into this?
• GLORIOUS INHERITANCE (VALUE) V.18
This is the third grouping of pink letters along the trail. You might wonder what this means, but as you stop and think about it, it will become clear.
Whose glorious inheritance is this?
Who is the glorious inheritance?
Note v.14 - our inheritance is God, yet we are His possession, referenced in v.18 as a glorious inheritance. YOU ARE PART OF THAT GLORIOUS INHERITANCE if you know Christ.
Note that we don’t become his glorious inheritance once we get our act together, we are in fact his glorious inheritance now, warts, wounds and all. Think about the following and let it sink in:
“Everything minus Jesus equals nothing, but Jesus plus nothing equals everything.”
Tullian Tchividjian (grandson of Billy Graham)
How does this quote help you understand more deeply what Paul is saying about us with these pink letters- Glorious inheritance?
How are these motivating words to not rest on a plateau but go deeper in God?
Note that the “you” is plural and glorious riches refers to believers not just one believer. How does being part of community, this glorious inheritance, help you grow? Note Paul is nudging, encouraging, cheering on these Ephesians. Who does that for you? What group helps you?
• POWER (ENABLEMENT) V19-23
As a group note how Paul illustrates this great power in the text.
A great example of power is in the one who holds the pink chalk. He writes as a man experiencing the greatest freedom but he in fact is constrained by the powerful arm of Rome - in prison. Rome did not need to set him free for Paul to be free. Paul was free regardless of where he was. He had intimacy with God (- know him better), he had hope not fear, he knew his value (-glorious inheritance).That is a demonstration of the power of God.
Perhaps God will demonstrate his power in your life as you follow him along the trail.
Like Paul your life can rise above the brokenness.
Like Paul your life can demonstrate passion and focus even though people around you try to deter that passion.
We can experience God’s power in our lives even though, the other person has not repented, even though the loss is still stinging, even though you cannot undo what has been done, even though in this life justice may not be realized, even though the consequences of your mistake will never be erased, even though Rome still exerts great power- you are free! That is power.
Plateau: A place to grow from. Are you growing? Are you reading the pink letters?
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