October 4, 2018 • Life for Leaders
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 1:3; 3:20-21
With today’s Life for Leaders devotion, we come to the end of the first half of Ephesians. Throughout the past months, we have been working our way through Ephesians 1, 2, and 3. Now we’re about to make a major transition as we move from the lofty theology of Ephesians 1-3 to the everyday ethics of Ephesians 4-6.
No doubt about it, Ephesians 1-3 is profound, expansive theology. But it is theology in the form of story and it is theology in the form of worship. The story reveals the nature and purpose of God, which in turn inspires our worship.
As you may recall, the story of Ephesians begins before the foundation of the world, with God choosing us to belong to him and to be partners in his cosmic work (1:4-5). This work, an expression of God’s amazing grace, is focused in Jesus Christ, through whom God will “bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth” (1:10). We who are in Christ have a new reason for living. We exist for the praise of God’s glory (1:12, 14).
But, in our natural state, we are not fit for such a calling. We are, according to Ephesians 2, already dead in our sins. We are in bondage to our shameful desires and to Satan himself. But God does not abandon us to a zombie kind of existence. Rather, because of his great love and limitless grace, God has saved us through Christ. When we receive this salvation by putting our faith in God, we are delivered from death into new life. We are recreated in Christ as God’s masterpiece, so that we might live out God’s grace by doing the good works he has prepared for our lives.
We do not do this alone, however. Rather, through the cross, God has broken down the walls that divide people, epitomized in the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Christ’s death forges a new unity among people, so that all might be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, built together as a temple for God.
Thus, the church is not just an afterthought in God’s plan, but rather its centerpiece. Through the church—the down-to-earth result of God’s unifying work in Christ—God’s plan for the cosmos is unveiled. Through the church, all cosmic entities, in earth and heaven, will see that God’s plan to unify all things in Christ is working. This will happen as we, the church of Jesus Christ, are empowered by God’s Spirit and established upon of God’s love, which we continue to understand and experience as we grow in him. As the church participates in God’s plan for the cosmos, he will do in and through us more than we could ever ask or imagine.
One response to this theologically-saturated story would be to believe it. That would be a fitting but incomplete response. Another response would be to allow this story to shape our lives. This too would be appropriate but still incomplete. A complete response to God’s story must include worship. That’s why Ephesians 1-3 is filled with expressions of worship, from the beginning to the end (“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” [1:3]; “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” [3:21]). The more we grasp the story of God’s grand plan for the cosmos, the more this story shapes our lives, inspires our hearts, moves us to offer ourselves to God in worship through the praise of our lips and the actions of our daily lives.
Something to Think About:
How do you respond to the story of God’s grand plan for salvation?
What inspires your worship?
How can you live your life each day as worship for God?
Something to Do:
Let me encourage you to learn this prayer by Ignatius and use it throughout the day: “Grant, Lord, that all my intentions, actions and operations be directed purely to your praise and your service.” Yes, allow the “ordinary” actions of your work to be worship to God today.
Gracious God, thank you for the incredible story of your salvation as revealed in the first three chapters of Ephesians. This story amazes us. It helps us understand our lives in a cosmic perspective. It inspires us to live for the praise of your glory, to offer our whole selves in worship.
O Lord, may I worship you today with all that I am, in everything I do, everything I think, everything I feel, everything I choose. To you be all the glory. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
I love this summary to wrap up the reading of Ephesians, 1, 2, and 3. One of the terms, “shameful desire,” however, caught my attention because its meaning seems to be culturally laden. Contrary to the adjective, “shameful,” Chinese classics (e.g., The Book of Rites, 9.19) presented desires as neutral, and part of human nature. Only when desires become excessively self-seeking, or in Christian terms, not aligning with God’s way, desires would be considered corrupted. A different adjective may be more appropriate.
Shi-Min, thanks for your comment. “Shameful desire” was my attempt to render what the original text spoke about as the desires of the flesh. “Fleshly desires” would have been more literal. The point is that not all human desires are wrong, but some are. In light of the Chinese perspective, it would be interesting to consider whether “fleshly desires” are an excessive version of more neutral or even good desires.