Saturday, May 19, 2012

Touching Base! Part 165

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 4
God’s Trophy Wife– Ephesians 2:1-10

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

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.

Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse, has spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. As Ware walked with her patients through the final stages of their lives, she witnessed how many of her patients gained "phenomenal clarity of vision" as they approached death. Ware claims, "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again." According to Ware, these are the top five regrets of the dying:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Bonnie Ware added, "Health brings a freedom few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. Ware observed, "This [regret] came from every male patient that I nursed."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others …. Many [patients] developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends. "There are many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish I'd let myself be happier. "Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits."

It is interesting what approaching death does to us.

I love the line "phenomenal clarity of vision". In our text today, Paul wants us to get that phenomenal clarity of vision, not as we look at our approaching physical death, but as we look back as a Christ follower and reflect upon our spiritual death.

Big Idea: My spiritual death gives me “phenomenal clarity of vision” on who God is.

There are three things we learn about God when we reflect upon our spiritual death, three aspects of God that are crucial as we journey with Him in this life.

How would you describe God? Would your adjectives lean toward negative impressions or positive, biblical and theologically-sound ones? What experiences in life have tainted your view of God and what did you do to correct that view? Note in v.4a, Paul’s description of the character of God - great in love, rich in mercy. Note how he ended up here.

Paul describes the state of all humanity as spiritually alive, yes, but not to Christ. What are the words that would indicate that in v.1-3? Note that dead (“nekros”, meaning useless) does not mean we are not in some way spiritually alive. In what way are we spiritually alive? Who are we following, what are we craving, who are we disobeying? To be dead in our transgressions and sins means to be very much alive, but just not to Christ!

Are you comfortable with this description of your neighbors, friends, or workmates? They may be good people. This seems to describe humanity as pretty savage. What do we know about Paul’s context that would cause him to say what he says in v.1-3? In Ephesus, Paul was dealing with what, at times, could be described as a pretty hostile audience. Note Acts 19:23 about the riot in Ephesus. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 15:32 that he “fought with wild beasts” in Ephesus. He used a phrase of Plato from his student days in Tarsus. Plato likened the mob to wild animals.

Not all people who are spiritually dead to Christ engage in the same degree of hostility or violence, but the scripture is clear, all are born into spiritual death. How that expresses itself in each person, culture, city, or generation is different in degree and expression, but at the core of all humanity we are dead in trespasses and sins yet very much alive spiritually to other realities.

What does Paul want us to see? He uses the darkness of our situation, and the hopeless state of humanity to show the brilliant character of God (v.4). Our vulnerability, our weakness, our depravity, our state of destitution highlights not the cruel nature of God or the remoteness of God or that He is a tyrant in heaven, but the great love and mercy of God. It becomes the platform for God to display his great love and rich mercy - Phenomenal clarity of vision! This is what Paul wants us to see. Without the problem, I would not appreciate the solution.

Like on a hot, hot summer day: without the thirst I would not appreciate the thirst-quenching glass of cold water. V.1-3 represents the thirst, v. 4 is the quenching glass of cold water.

Ever had an experience in life where you got through it because of your belief in the great love and rich mercy of God?
Ever been tripped up because you began to question the great love and rich mercy of God?
I think we would all agree that a proper view of the character of God is key for the journey.

GIFT (V5, 8)
The reason I have titled this as a “gift” is because of what Paul says in v.8, “it is the gift of God”. What is the gift?

V.5 Made alive in Christ
Contrast this with v.1 - it is not that we have not been open to the spiritual but that we have been dead to Christ. The gift is that God made us alive to himself. This has to do with a whole new way of living. Note the contrast:

  • v.2 walking in the ways of the world vs. walking in the ways of Christ now that I am alive in Christ.
  • v.2 spirit of this world vs. Spirit of God is our deposit 1:14
  • v.2 disobedient vs. obedient
  • v.3 gratifying the things of the flesh vs. living according to the new self 4:24
  • v.3 object of wrath vs. object of great love and rich mercy

How challenging is it to walk in these new ways? How does the old boss “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” try to get us back to the old ways? What is one part of the old life that is always something you must be aware of, that may represent the greatest area of temptation? When we get clarity on the gift we can more clearly see why discipleship is so important. Old ways need to be put to death.

Note how we receive this gift. Paul mentions this in v.5b but then elaborates in v.8. I will let you break this down on your own. I am running out of space! 

Reflection on our spiritual death gives us phenomenal clarity of vision regarding this great gift.

And while Paul says no one can boast, there is One who can, and does.

GLORY (V.6-7,10)
What I really want you to note is v.7. Who is boasting? Who is he boasting about? CLUE: not you or me!
We are like His trophy wife. A trophy wife is a young, attractive woman married to an older, more powerful man; a woman who marries for money and then sits at home all day looking pretty.
Guess what, as the bride of Christ, we are married to the “older man”, not to sit around and look pretty but to get busy. Notice v.10 - we are literally the byproduct of his work, making, created to do good works that glorify God not man.
Our spiritual death brings glory to God because when he moves towards us in his great love and rich mercy and gives us the gift of life, He gets the glory, the praise and the honor. And guess what? He gets it for eternity. As one writer said “This was God's publicity program for the whole of history—and beyond.”

Note how much Paul talks about God’s glory thus far in chapter 1 and 2.

1: 3, 6, 12, 14 - 2:7 Is that not egotistical?

God is the greatest of all goods, thus to be self promoting is to be putting forth the greatest good that human kind could ever encounter. It is not an egotistical thing but the most loving thing to do. To do otherwise would be to mislead and be an immoral act by God eternal. His great love and rich mercy toward us demands that God be self promoting. (I gave this statement in a previous TB)

God’s glory is an important truth to have on our journey in addition to His character and gift. God’s glory and making life about the glory of God, directs people toward the true source, the true well spring of life. Making it about us, leads people to another human solution that will end up at another dead end. It is about the glory of God.

Do you have phenomenal clarity of vision? He wants you to see his character, great gift of salvation and glory.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact 

No comments: