Zoe Christian Fellowship
Lord, I Want to Be a Christian
March 1, 2021

Lord, I Want to Be a Christian

March 1, 2021

Introduction

  • Today is the last lesson in our series on Ephesians.
  • Depending on where we were in the series, we gave groups of messages within the series different titles.
  • Today is the last message in the series. It’s titled, “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian”
  • “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” is also the title of an African-American spiritual, appropriate given that this is the final day of black history month.
  • The title is also important because it distills the essence of Ephesians, which really is a brief manual on what it means to be a Christian.
  • Today, I want to sum up what we’ve learned about Christianity over the course of the series and then expound on the final sections of the letter.

 

Review

We started our series talking about Roman family law.

  • Paul used language that would have been familiar to the Ephesians.
  • Family law centered on the paterfamilias (oldest male in family)
  • The paterfamilias had legal ownership of everything (even wife and kids)
  • The paterfamilias sought the glory of his legacy though his heirs.
  • If the paterfamilias had no children or if his birth children were not worthy, he would adopt an heir.

By way of analogy, Paul presents God as our heavenly paterfamilias.

  • God did not need to adopt an heir because He already had one eternally in Jesus.
  • God adopted us and gave us the status of His favored Son.

In Christ we are. . .Blessed, Chosen, Predestined, Adopted, Sons, Redeemed, Forgiven, Wealthy, Wise, Heirs, Sealed, Seated, Poetry

 

Believe Before You Behave

Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

  • Many people behave to prove that they believe; this is a doctrine of works.
  • God asks us to believe to access the power to behave; this is a doctrine of faith.

 

Sit Before You Walk

Ephesians 2:6 – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

  • Seating represents authority, but also rest and completion.
  • “Christianity begins not with a big do, but with a big done” (Watchman Nee, Sit, Walk, Stand: The Process of Christian Maturity, CLC Publications, 2012, p. 9)
  • We must first know that our identity, destiny and security are settled in heaven before we can walk with confidence on earth.

 

Walk in a Way that is Worthy

Ephesians 4:1 – 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

  • God wants us to be good actors.
  • Acting is literally about actions.
  • In good acting, actions are not a cause, but a result.
  • Bad actors begin with an external process; good actors begin with an internal process.
  • Acting is not mere pretending but identification with a character.
  • For good actors, the identification is so strong that it affects not only their actions, but also their thoughts and beliefs.
  • Good actors can identify so strongly with a character that they can convincingly portray people to whom they bear no physical, economic or cultural resemblance.
  • From God’s perspective, we’re all actors.
  • We all identify with a character at a deeply personal level and behave accordingly.
  • Jesus is asking us to change our identification (Ephesians 4:22-2422 . . .put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.)

 

A Word on Sexuality

You don’t have to be straight, cisgender or have the felt sense of being sexually binary to be a Christian.

  • Straight: “ ‘straight’ means you’re attracted to the opposite sex. . .in a sexual or romantic way” (https://www.healthline.com/health/cisgender-vs-straight#straight-defined)
  • Cisgender: “The prefix ‘cis’ means ‘on the same side as’. . . . people who are cisgender remain on the same side of the gender they were initially identified as at birth.”
  • Binary
    • Most people who have the felt sense of being sexually binary way don’t identify this way formally because they presume their sexual identities and expressions are normal.
    • The term “nonbinary” can mean different things to different people. At its core, it’s used to describe someone whose gender identity isn’t exclusively male or female. (https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/nonbinary)

 

  • The contemporary categories for gender expression and identity are not recognized by Scripture.
  • The emphasis of Scripture is not on changing your sexuality, but on changing your heart.
  • Once your heart changes, you will see sexuality differently.
  • This is because you will look at sexuality from the vantage point of the one who created both sex and sexual expression.
  • Once you see differently, you will act differently.

 

Authority and Submission

(Ephesians 5:21 – Ephesians 6:9)

A word on the Roman cultural reality:

Three key relationships in Roman family life:

  • Husbands and Wives
  • Parents and Children
  • Masters and Slaves

If you were married to a paterfamilias, you were related to your husband in three ways:

  1. You were a (virtual) daughter. (Legally, you had the same status as your children)
  2. You were his wife.
  3. You were a virtual slave. (Legally, your husband owned you).

God is related to us in the same three ways:

  1. God is our father.
  2. God is our husband. (We are married to him, not individually, but collectively)
  3. God is our master.

 

The Divine Conspiracy

  • As our heavenly paterfamilias, God is the God-Father in the truest sense.
  • God honors human authority and asks us to do the same because all authority belongs to Him.
  • This is why when we resist authority, we are resisting God.
  • The world is networked to God through authority.
  • God interacts with us through authority to manipulate the human experience.
  • Authority is a tool God wields to shape human history into submission to His ultimate design.

 

Empowerment through Submission

  • We can safely and securely submit to human authority.
  • Jesus is seated above all other authorities.
  • Jesus asks us to submit to authority, not abuse.
  • People in authority are held accountable by God and manipulated like chess pieces.
  • For believers, the power question has already been settled.
  • All power belongs to God, so we don’t have to fight for it anymore.
  • This leaves us free to submit and serve.
  • God not only has authority over the church, but over authority itself.
  • Because all authority comes from God, when we submit to authority, we are submitting to God’s care, His mighty hand.
  • God gives power to those who submit to His. He exalts the humble.

 

Take-Aways

  • Jesus is always the ultimate authority figure in human relationships.
  • In Christ, we all have the status of the favored Son (Jesus).
  • The spirit of Christianity is submission and service.
  • No one is too good to submit and serve; if Jesus did it, why can’t we?
  • We submit and serve out of our freedom in Christ, not out of our bondage to humans.
  • If you’re reading Ephesians 5 and 6 and your main concern is “Who’s the boss?” you’ve missed the point.
  • Jesus is the boss!
  • From the world’s perspective, those who serve and submit have the least power.
  • From God’s perspective servants have the most power.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

  • Our enemies are from another dimension.
  • We fight those enemies using tools from that dimension, not this one.
  • God commands us to stand because our position (in Christ) is secure.
  • The true fight is to maintain our identification with Christ; everything else takes care of itself.

 

 

© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2021

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