Saturday, December 3, 2022

An Uphill Battle

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Greek Culture had a great impact upon all the nations swept up into its Empire, and Rome did the same, overthrowing Corinth and Athens about 146 BCE (BC). The residual effects of Greek and Roman idolatry stayed in place in Asia. The City of Ephesus was steeped in Greco-Roman Culture, including their false gods. The level of involvement of Ephesus is revealed in Acts 19:27 & 28, with the excited declaration of Demetrius, the silversmith, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” If Paul’s ministry was successful, the silversmiths would soon be looking for new careers, for the Gospel is a threat to idolatry. The worship of false gods and idols is addressed in Romans 1, and its impact on a culture is found in verses 18-32 of that chapter.

The worship of false gods will always lead to the same thing. We can recognize it here in our own country, ever since the raucous decade of the 1960’s (School prayer was outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court [Engel v. Vitale, 1962], and three decades or more of “free love” followed.)

Diana (Artemis) shared her attributes with other fertility goddesses of the ancient civilizations, Ashtaroth/Ashtoreth, Astarte (Canaanites), Aphrodite (Roman & Greek), Venus (Rome), Hathor (Egypt), each culture had their own. In their worship of Ashtoreth among Israelites, they brought shrines to her into Jewish homes (Joshua 9:10). The worship of her was just one of the issues that King Solomon found to be an empty vanity (1 Kings 11:5,33). Satan makes no exceptions for class distinctions. He attacks any and all alike.

If Jehovah God is not worshipped among a people, they will create a god to worship for themselves, and sexual immorality will follow, and its citizens will fight for acceptance tooth and nail; exactly as we are witnessing here in all of western civilization. If the Son of the Father is not worshipped in a home, there will be pagan ideals that are accepted there.

Paul uses this last part of the fourth chapter of Ephesians as Instruction in Righteousness, and it serves as a high standard against which we can measure our relationships, and examine our own hearts.
1 Corinthians 5:7 - “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.”

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:30-31 - "An Uphill Battle"


Today as we look closer at Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul is exhorting the Ephesian believers not to sin, but to manifest the godly behaviors—namely, showing kindness, being tenderhearted, and exhibiting forgiveness. The main danger in not “putting on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24) is that as we sin against and stray from God, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), whose role it is to comfort and to guide believers in Christlikeness.

We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (Ephesians 4:17-19), by lying (Ephesians 4:25), by being angry (Ephesians 4:26-27), by stealing (Ephesians 4:28), by cursing (Ephesians 4:29), by being bitter (Ephesians 4:31), by being unforgiving (Ephesians4:32), and by being sexually immoral (Ephesians 5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed. How can we grow in godliness when we are living like the rest of the world? In order for us to draw closer to God and away from sin, we must be born of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who produces new nature in us. God promised that He would give his people a new heart, a new nature, clean lives and a full measure of the spirit on the last day.

Jesus taught His disciples, and by extension, all believers, how the Holy Spirit will work after Christ’s ascension into heaven. In John's Gospel, Jesus promised that when He departed, He would send another Comforter, who is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. Our Lord expounds on the Work and Person of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

New Man; New Walk

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

The Apostle Paul has taken us a long way in this Epistle. The outline for this Epistle is the same for all Paul’s letters, as presented in 2 Timothy 3:16. He Teaches the church and individuals the truth of God’s Word as doctrine. He reproves even as he encourages. He offers correction without condemnation, reminding them of what Jesus has done for us all. And as with this chapter, he offers instruction in righteousness. All this so that peace reigns in the hearts of His people, whether Jew or Gentile.

His Epistles Are filled with Doctrine and presented in a loving way, but he pulls no punches. From his Jewish background he was transformed into a leader among the Apostles, planting churches, and encouraging other churches that we planted by others.

Paul’s ministry is Spirit-led. Paul’s human spirit is now Spirit-led. His travels were Spirit-led, and his love for the Lord took over his whole life. This is his hope for every Christian, that we would immerse ourselves in Jesus’ teachings, immerse ourselves in His life, and share Him like He shared Himself with all mankind.

Paul followed Jesus all the way to his own execution. Teaching the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and offering the Salvation of the Lord too all. Eternal life became possible with Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and He offers it to all who will simply believe on Him. That’s the first step in our new life. Jesus asks us to follow Him, and He gifts us with the faith to do just that: denying self, take up our cross, and follow Him. (Luke 9:23)

This He has done because He loves each of us. And as we walk with Him, He leads us deeper and deeper into relationship with Himself, with the Father, as He imbues His Holy Spirit unto us. And as the Angel Gabriel spoke to a young virgin named Mary, we learn and experience the truth of the Angel’s words: “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” - 1 Cor. 15:53

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:17-32 - "New Man; New Walk"


The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the action by which God takes up permanent residence in the body of a believer in Jesus Christ.

Jesus revealed to His disciples the new role the Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter. He is the Spirit of Truth. He would testify of Jesus. He will teach us and guide us into all truth. The role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives is in John 14:17, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

The scripture tells us in John 14:16; 15:26; 16:13, that the believer in Jesus Christ has the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, living in him. As the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, He brings about some life-changing results: New Life; New Birth, New Man; New Walk.

The indwelling Holy Spirit empowers the yielded believer to live for Christ to do His will (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit leads the believer in paths of righteousness (Romans 8:14).  As Pastor Bob so aptly put it, “The Holy Spirit brings us into full power, the fullness of God’s power - the power behind our growing faith."  The power of the Holy Spirit in our lives enables us to walk in newness of life, obedient to the Word of God, set apart for His plan and purpose.  

As we finish the Ephesians chapter 4, Paul urged the Ephesian church and, by extension, believers today—to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. As believers, we are followers of Christ. We have been given new life, and with that new life we have new duties and a new life path to follow. Through the Holy Spirit, God empowers us for every step of that worthy walk as we submit to His leading.

Paul having described the corruption of the mind, heart, and will of the “old man," then begins to unpack what it means to walk as a “new man” (Ephesians 4:22). In detailing what it means to “no longer walk as other Gentiles walk” (Ephesians 4:17), Paul reminds the church that they had previously “learned . . . heard . . . and been taught by . . . Jesus." With a new mind, heart, and will, Christians begin to resemble Jesus. Practically speaking, the transition from the old man to a new man is oftentimes slow; yet it must occur if salvation is authentic (Luke 6:43–45).

While the exact phrase “new man” or “new self” only occurs in the books of Ephesians and Colossians, the concept occurs with regularity in Scripture, especially in the letters of Paul. Throughout scripture we learn that in Christ, believers have: a new mind (1 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 12:2), new knowledge (Colossians 3:10), a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 26:36), a new will (Philippians 2:12–13), new passions and desires (Galatians 5:24), a new conscience (Hebrews 9:14), and are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is all the result of being in a new covenant with God (Hebrews 8:6). Note the scope of the transformation of the old man into a new man. The new man is completely and thoroughly renewed.

In summary, Paul's exhortation in Ephesians 4:31–32 is to not sin, but to manifest the opposite behaviors—namely, showing kindness, being tenderhearted, and exhibiting forgiveness. The main danger in not “putting on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24) is that as we sin against and stray from God, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), whose role it is to comfort and to guide believers in Christ-likeness.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

The Unity of the Spirit

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Paul’s Letter to the Church at Ephesus continues and introduces us to yet another of the “Mysteries of Our Faith” in chapter 4. Jews and Gentiles saved brought both groups together in a new understanding of leaving old beliefs behind, and becoming something new: The Church.

Yes, the Jews are still God’s Chosen People, chosen to bring forth the Savior and Redeemer. Well, Jesus had come and dwelt among them, His salvation and redemptive works were complete. Now it was time to fulfill those prophetic passages with Jews and Gentiles together as “The Church,” a peculiar and unique combination of peoples, where there is neither Jew, nor Gentile; bond nor free, no more wall separating even pagans from Believers; all were and are welcome to fellowship and worship together as His Church.

We jump in at Psalm 68:17-19 today and find that the prophecy has been fulfilled, sort of. The Church is made up of people with multiple backgrounds, backgrounds of sin washed clean, and people redeemed. But there are many in The Church who still hang on to those old things that should have been left behind. The old ways have crept in, and Believers are reluctant to leave their old comfort zones behind.

Today we find The Church divided again. Division is among the traits of the natural man, lacking an understanding of the scriptures and God’s plan for all mankind. Denominations have sprung up putting emphasis on one sacred passage or another. Even the Jews who have accepted Christ have self-identified as Messianic Jews, which separates them from the Jews, AND the Christians!

Division as a trait does not allow for unity. So when God has called for unity in The Church, who do we think has been at work in the hearts of those that have divided it up into denominations and sects? The Deceiver has been at work. My wife and I were brought up in a faith system that taught us it was a sin to worship in any other church but THAT one. Yet all of the churches find their basis for existing in God’s Sacred Word. It is past the time that we should just call ourselves “Christians” regardless of the building where we worship.

Acts 11 is a parallel for our passage for today.
“….And the Disciples were called ‘Christian’ first in Antioch.” ~ Acts 11:26

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 4:1-17 - "The Unity of the Spirit"

Summary/Notes: Forthcoming!

Saturday, November 12, 2022

God's Eternal Purpose

Bobservations' Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

A week and a day ago, my wife’s last living uncle passed into eternity. “Uncle Jim” spent his life serving the Lord in ministry and by example. We know he is home with his beloved Lord Jesus. Our prayers are for the peace and comfort of Fran, his wife, and his four children, James, Linda, John, Mark, and all their families. Dr. Rev. James Allen was a consummate teacher, whether in a church pulpit or in a university classroom. His passion was to teach young people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and all the workings of faith.

In last week’s third chapter of Ephesians, it was the Apostle Paul, another consummate teacher of the Gospel who eloquently revealed and explained some of the mysteries of faith. Today, we look at the second half of chapter 3 and find the title of today’s teaching: “God’s Eternal Purpose.” We find that His eternal purpose is ongoing today: that we might know His Son Jesus, and the incredible work of salvation which He accomplished for all mankind on the cross. It is a universal gift to all.

By definition, a gift is something freely given or made available. In order for the gifting process to be complete, it must be received. Can you imagine, a precious gift being rejected? It’s like a gift left unopened at Christmastime, just because one did not like the gifter/donor. Besides the gift of salvation, God also gave mankind the gift of free will, and many have already rejected God’s gift of salvation. A profound lack of belief or trust is all it takes to reject His gift.

But believers have opened the gift of God and had their lives changed forever. “Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8. This is the invitation given to all mankind. It continues to be extended to every generation throughout the world.

My wife’s uncle told us one time that he prayed regularly that each of his eleven brothers and sisters would come to Christ. A few did. But he was overjoyed when he saw so many of the next generation in the family respond to the invitation, and opened, and receive God’s gift.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” - Proverbs 22:6
Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 3:11-21 - "God's Eternal Purpose"

Summary/Notes: Forthcoming

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Two Became One

Bobservations' Column

Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Growing up and attending religious schools, it was common the hear the phrase “The Mysteries of Faith.” The “Mysteries” are numerous: the Mysteries of the Church, the Mysteries of Jesus’ Miracles, the Mysteries of the Eucharist, etc. etc. If any of these phrases are familiar to you, then you might also have attended Catholic Schools. To a degree, some of these “mysteries” are what have divided Christianity into Denominations, each focusing on one mystery or another: Baptism, the Oneness Doctrine, Calvinism and Arminianism, Pentecostalism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, and on and on the list goes.

It is recorded that Islam has 57 individual Sects. I’m pretty sure that Christianity has more. It is this divisive nature of Gnosticism, or “inside information” allegedly given by God to certain men that creates division in the Body of Christ, or any belief system.

Today, we will look at one of those mysteries, and find that the scriptures address the mysteries in a logical manner to the Faithful of the Lord. The Mystery of the Church naturally becomes unifying when individuals find a love for Christ Jesus as individuals grasp His love and commitment to them, and to mankind in general. And then it becomes what God meant it to be: His building project. Herod the Great built massive structures in Israel to glorify Rome. God’s building project(s) dwarf Harod’s both here on Earth, and in heaven as He reveals His glory to us!

The Apostle Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 1, and again in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, he addresses it more directly. The shroud of this mystery falls away throughout the Bible, even in our Genesis 2 reading today. We read of newness, and read of putting off the old man. We read of old things passing away and all things becoming new. It’s a theme that repeats often from Genesis to Revelation.

As God sheds His light on “The Mystery of the Church,” the shroud of mystery falls away to understanding, and a love for what God is building develops in our hearts. As the Body of Christ grows, so also does our love for Jesus the Creator, and our love for other believers.
“And I say also unto thee, ‘That thou art Peter (petros, a little stone), and upon this rock (Petra, a large stone) I will build My Church.”Matthew 16: 18 

Today's Audio Message:
Ephesians 3:1-11 - "Two Became One"

In chapter 2, Paul talked about the Gentile Christians in Ephesus. They had been “dead in transgressions and sins,” (2:1), but God in his mercy “made (them) alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (2:5-6). The salvation accorded these Gentiles, then, was “the gift of God, not of works” (2:8-9).

In times past, there had been a deep division between Jew and Gentile—between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Gentiles had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12).

But Jesus broke down the dividing wall that separated Jews and Gentiles. He made the two one, “making peace” (2:15). The result was that these Gentiles were “no longer strangers and foreigners, but… fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:19).

In Ephesians 3, the apostle unfolded the great secret that had been in the heart of God from eternity. In a very special sense Paul was the chosen one to make known this mystery in all its fullness. No one else wrote of the body of Christ, among all the New Testament writers. This teaching came first to Paul that he might communicate it to others. But the truth that Jew and Gentile were to be blessed in the same way on the basis of pure grace was made known to the twelve. Our Lord taught this truth. “His own sheep” from the Jewish fold, and “other sheep” of the Gentiles were to form “one flock” under the fostering care of “one Shepherd” (John 10:4John 10:16).

In Ephesians 3, "For this cause..." In other words, God assigned Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and that became the mission that consumed the rest of Paul’s life.

Summary/Notes: Forthcoming

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