Archive for May, 2012

THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING (Pt. 4)

“For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:18, 19 HCSB).

One of the great hidden mysteries that the apostle Paul reveals to the Ephesians community of believers is the joining together of Jew and Gentile alike IN Jesus, our Messiah. This was kept hidden until the expressed time of God’s chose in human history. “The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26, 27 HCSB).

What was formerly God’s secret is now being made known through the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom of God’s Son. What was a mystery is now revealed. Tucked away in the Father’s heart was the love He always had in unbroken fellowship for the Son. But also, the desire to share and express that love with “many sons like His Son”.  What else could a Father want but a family with whom He could share His inheritance and legacy with? So it is true for those who are “in Christ”(Messiah). Paul does not waste this opportunity to share this heavenly vantage point with the Church in Ephesus.

A NEW STATUS

The language of the Old Covenant is used to indicate the new relationship under God’s New Covenant. He does this to express their new status with God. “So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh-called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” [which is done] in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:11-13, 17, 19 HCSB).

CIRCUMCISION

Please don’t miss Paul’s teaching in the language. He is expressing to a primarily Gentile audience the new benefits that Jesus, the Messiah has accorded THEM. He actually is acknowledging that Israel’s Messiah has come, and those who have received Him are enjoying their true inheritance as was promised. They were known as the “circumcised”, like their father Abraham (Genesis 17:9-13). That language will now be applied to those who have not experienced, in their flesh, circumcision but  circumcision of the heart. Paul wrote to the Colossians community, “You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah. Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses “Colossians 2:11-13 HCSB).

CITIZENSHIP

He further lets them know that they have been given the privilege by grace through faith to become part of the “Citizenship of Israel”. Please notice Paul does not teach that they have “replaced Israel”, only  that through faith they have been brought into the family of “Israel”. This means that “the promises of God” are theirs by virtue of this new status. It is not based on anything they have earned by performance, but they have been “brought near by the blood of Jesus”, God’s Lamb (John 1:29).

Let us never (We who are Gentiles) become proud of our relationship with God. It did not come by any cleverness on our own. God has “made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:5-10 HCSB). Only by the blood of Jesus do we have access to the Father, with our Jewish brothers in Messiah.

(c) Copyright 2012, Walter Fletcher Jr, All rights are reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD (Pt. 3)

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.”(Ephesians 3:20 HCSB)

We should not lose focus in the Ephesian Letter on Paul’s prayers. Much has been rightly made of the great revelations and teaching of Paul. And rightly so. But if we really move into the heart of the apostle we discover that Paul was a man of prayer. Prayer was the secret to Paul’s effectiveness in ministry, which has stood the test of time. I remember a great man of God saying,”The test of any ministry was not how much activity they were involved in for the Lord but how much time in prayer they spent for that ministry”.

PRAYER IS A WEAPON

In Ephesians chapter 6,Paul exhorts God’s people to “Put on the whole armour of God “; to both Stand (and Withstand) the wiles of the enemy. If we’ve read the Ephesian 6 “list” of armour or weaponry we can tend to think that the list ends after “covering our feet with the gospel of peace”(If considering the logical order from head to feet). And yet, it is what they are exhorted to do AFTER they have put on the armour that really completes them as true soldiers of Christ.

“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. PRAY Also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should”.Eph. 6:18-10

MAINTAIN A PRAYER FOCUS

The Church is powerless against the enemy”s assaults if She does not maintain a right focus in prayer. From Her very inception prayer was a vital element of her daily life. Read the Book of Acts and we could call it “A BOOK OF PRAYER”. Over 20xs “prayer” is linked to the activity and advance of the Kingdom of God. This was key to the Church armed for battle. “They continued steadfastly in prayer”(Acts 2:42). This was equally true of those who were called to apostolic ministry. “We will devote ourselves to prayer and the preaching of the word”(Acts 6:4).   Watch out for the “good things” that rob you of the “best things” in God. Only by maintaining a life of prayer and the Word can ministry be truly God-honoring.

PAUL’S APOSTOLIC PRAYER

Paul prays in this way,”For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. (Ephesians 3:14, 15 HCSB)  We notice Paul’s confidence in prayer. He is POSITIONED before the heavenly Fathers throne.  At His throne Paul is able to conduct the Family business. He has two primary focuses for the Ephesian Church: (1st) The Spiritual Growth & Development of the Believers. He wants to make sure that they get to know God better. Getting to know Him personally which in turn will cause them to understand His heart and purpose. “That you may know the heights, lengths, depths…to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge”(Eph. 3:18-19).  Again, he said,”You did not learn Christ this way” (Eph. 4:20).  The lesson and upgrade that every true believer desires is to know,experientially,more of Christ.  Christ the person and Christ the principle by which to live the life of Christ received should be our daily goal.

(2nd) Paul prays that they may Manifest The Family LIKENESS. “Be imitators of God…Walk in love, as the Messiah(Jesus) also loved us and gave Himself for us , a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God”(Read Eph. 4:1-6; 5:1). “The LOVE Walk” is the way we live our lives before others.  In this way we fulfill the entire Law. JESUS said,”Thou shall love the LORD your God, with all our heart,soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself…On this hangs all the Law and the Prophets”(Matthew 22:40) Again, “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them– this is the Law and the Prophets”.(Mt. 7:12)   We are not capable in ourselves to do this. WE NEED God’s G.R.A.C.E. ,as someone aptly said is “GOD’S RICHES AT CHRIST’S EXPENSE”. The only way that can happen is to RECEIVE His love for you,PERSONALLY. That love is only made real when we receive the Holy Spirit as our true Comforter and Teacher.   Paul said,” God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us”(Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit is the One given by the Father through the son  teach us the meaning of God’s love…for us and for others. This is only realized in the classroom of life.

 

(c) Copyright 2011, Walter Fletcher Jr.,All rights reserved.  This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content.  Address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD(Pt. 2)

“Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace”. (Ephesians 6:14, 15 HCSB)

As I began in our last article, telling of how the Lord spoke to me, a few years ago, regarding Him doing “First things in these Last days”. We are in a time of recovery of those things which may not have been entirely lost but certainly ignored. This is why the letter of Paul is important to consider. He is writing to the Church in Ephesus with no apparent on-going problems that other churches he planted faced.

PAUL, A SENT ONE

Another reason we find the Letter to the Ephesians unique among Paul’s Letters is the fact that he spent more time among the Ephesians believers than he did at any other period as a Church Planter. Paul’s role as an apostle was TRANS-Local, meaning that he had a base that was local(Antioch, among the leadership) but his calling was far-reaching. In Acts 13:1-3,as the Lord’s bondservant, he was SENT by the Holy Spirit (and the brothers) to do the WORK of an Apostle. He planted and helped establish new works(churches) in new regions among the Gentiles.

In Romans chapter 15, Paul tells of his primary aim or ambition. Namely he was led to preach Jesus the Messiah where He had not been known(Rom. 15:15-21).  Although he helped strengthen existing works, He was primarily a pioneer into new fields for the Kingdom of God’s advance.

Apostolic WORK

There is much conversation regarding apostolic work today. We need greater biblical clarity on this important subject because the Lord’s true apostolic works are recognized for 3 basic things:

1- Knowing Christ better through our mutual worship and Fellowship of God.  Only as we are open and intentional is ministering to the heart of God in praise and adoration of Him can we draw closer in fellowship in the Spirit. This cannot be accomplished by mere performance, but hearts open and expectant of a more intimate knowing of Christ in our worship. As a true priesthood of believers we learn to “offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips giving thanks unto His Name”(Heb. 13:8). The psalmist gives us a secret of corporate worship, when we come together “in His Name”. “But You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”(Psalm 22:3 HCSB). In our joined praises we make a throne for God to reside in our midst.

2- Getting to know Christ through our fellowship and serving among fellow believers in the family of God. In this way we are “building up the Body of Christ”. There are at least 13xs in the New Testament that commands that we practice the “one another” principle; which is used to express Body life ministry among God’s people when we come together. Our love for Jesus is manifested when we reach out sharing that love to help each other grow in our love for Him.

3- Making Christ known to People and Nations who do not know Christ. In chapter six of Ephesians Paul writes that we should have our feet covered and ready to tell the Good News of the gospel of peace (Eph.6:15). One of the signs we will see again in this hour is a new heart of compassion for the lost and the hurting. There are broken lives, marriages and families all around us…Do we see them as Jesus does, as “Sheep scattered without a Shepherd”? God will give His people in these final hours an opportunity to participate in the greatest harvest in Human history. Are we ready to go into the ripened fields and reap?

“You are writing a gospel,

a chapter each day,

By deeds that you do

And words that you say.

Men will read what you write,

Whether faithless or true.

Say…What is the gospel,

According to you?”

            by Paul Gilbert

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Walter Fletcher Jr.,All rights reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in anyway from its original content. Address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD

“To know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us- to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”.(Ephesians 3:19-21 HCSB)

A number of years ago while in prayer I heard, “I am doing first things in these last days”. I understood that the Lord was indicating that many things would be changing in the earth. Things that this generation had not seen before. One of the things that I knew would change is the way in which God’s people would view and experience the Church of Jesus Christ. With this knowledge, began three and a half years of prayerful personal study and journey. The end result was falling in love with the Church as never before as a living ,vibrant expression of Christ’s life and love. Perhaps no where is it more beautifully expressed as in Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus.

 In the Letter to the Ephesians, we have Paul’s revelation and understanding of the Church of Jesus Christ. Like no other of his letters Paul seems to take wings and soar into the heavenly realms in Christ to bring back a higher view of the Church. Perhaps because he is not addressing problems within the life of the congregation, he has the freedom to express God’s heart and purpose for His people. But let me digress for just a moment for those who are careful students of the New Testament. The Books of the New Testament are not in their chronological order, therefore a misconception of the flow of thought may occur. When you read the apostle Paul’s LETTERS to the Colossians and Ephesians, TOGETHER you have Paul’s essential understanding of the Mystery of CHRIST.

In Colossians, Paul deals with CHRIST, The Head of the Church. For example, he writes, “So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God” Colossians 3:1-3 HCSB).  As the Church, we must understand that Jesus Christ is the exalted Head. All direction, governing, and authority flows from the Head to the Body.

 In Ephesians, Paul deals with CHRIST,His Body(At least 9 times- “Body” is mentioned). The Church as His Body is CHRIST expressed. He writes,”And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way”.(Ephesians 1:22, 23 HCSB)

There are other images as well that Paul gives to show the dynamic reality of the Church in this great letter. She is like a Building (Ephesians 2:20-21a); She is like a temple (Ephesians 2:21b); She is like a Household or family (Ephesians 2:19); She is His Bride(Ephesians 5:24-30); Finally,the Church is like An Army (Ephesians 6:10-18).  Watchman Nee, a faithful apostolic brother from China, wrote a wonderful little book on Ephesians called, SIT,WALK, STAND.  In it he pictures this dynamic Church positioned in the heavenlies WITH CHRIST, functioning in the Earth realm with purpose; enforcing Christ’s victory over the forces of this present darkness with power. Who cannot be excited about this view of the Church of the living God. IN CHRIST you are part of something(Someone) bigger than yourself.

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Walter Fletcher,Jr., All rights are reserved. This article may be shared free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content. Address all correspondence to: Walterfletcherjrgmail.com