Questions from Chapter 1
(1) “How do we sift through the good and bad in both culture and the church?”
Great question. It’s a tough tension that I think Christians throughout the ages have wrestled with—how do I engage my culture, but navigate the “grey areas” in a healthy and God-honoring way? There are three things we need to use as filters when sifting through the “good and bad”:
- Scripture – the Bible doesn’t speak to everything specifically, but it should be our starting point when looking for direction on morality, decision-making, etc. It’s not intended as “rulebook” or a “do-and-don’t-list,” but rather, a living guide that helps shape our values.
- Prayer – seek God’s face in all things. Spend as much time listening/watching for His voice and interaction with you as you do talking to Him. You’ll be surprised at the clarity that often comes after bringing a particular situation before the Lord.
- Community – the best hermeneutic we have as Christ-followers is other Christ-followers. When questions arise, confusion happens, or we’re really struggling to figure out the “right way forward,” it’s imperative we turn to those around us, who we can bounce ideas off of, ask questions of, and hear their experience. Even if we end up disagreeing in community, it’s still a sounding board for this process.
(2) “Eph. 1: 12 – why “might” instead of “will” be for the praise of his glory?”
“11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12, NIV)
Here we see the apparent tension between God’s Sovereignty (He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, etc. so He knows everything for all time), and Human Free Will (which is obvious in both Scripture and our own lives – the power to make decisions that affect the future). Ephesians 1 is somewhat of an “ode” to the Sovereignty of God, and yet, even here, we see that, though we were predestined to know Christ, to be come adopted as God’s sons and daughters, there is still a choice to be made.
God’s will is that all people will know Him, and live their lives “for the praise of his glory,” but He does not, will not force anyone to do so. It’s still our choice whether we live under the freedom offered in God’s plan for us, or whether we reject it in favour of our own ways. Predestination is not about the whims of “God the Grand Puppet Master,” but rather, about the fulfilment of promise by our Loving Father.
(3) “What does the freedom Paul is taking about look like in our lives? Practically speaking?”
The freedom in Christ that we experience is a somewhat subjective thing, depending on the circumstances of the individual believer’s life. But there are some key elements that shape what it looks like when someone is living under the freedom of Christ. Here’s a few that come to mind (by no means an exhaustive list):
- Humility – the freedom of Christ produces in us a desire to offer ourselves in selflessness to tasks, relationships, work, and play.
- Joy – there’s an innate, wonderful rejoicing that goes on in the souls of the free! This comes out in the way we look at our lives, our situations, and in the way we tackle conflict and adversity.
- Community – living under the freedom of Christ necessarily includes living life in community with other people, whether that’s easy for us or not ;-)
- Spiritual Hunger – as is evident from Paul’s letter(s), this freedom naturally causes us to thirst for more and more of God. This includes the pursuit of knowledge, but also spiritual disciplines, Scripture, and supernatural experiences.
- Mission – the central purpose of the church is to carry the message of Jesus to the world. The freedom Paul talks about causes us to seek out opportunity to share and live the Gospel in our own context. We’re all “missionaries.”
- Intimacy – loving God and loving people is what comes of living under freedom. Even for people whose personalities don’t tend towards relational intimacy, this is an important feature of what it looks like to follow Christ. One feeds the other in a beautiful, endless circle.
Check out Galatians 5:22-25, where Paul talks about the “Fruit of the Spirit.” This is yet another way to describe the incredible freedom found in Jesus.
Have you ever taken time to walk up to the top of Nose Hill, to one of the points that overlook the city? Depending on where you are, you can actually view the entire cityscape, and pick out certain communities, landmarks, and areas of Calgary. I don’t know of a better view in the entire city!
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians has a similar effect—the ability to show us, in broad strokes, a beautiful picture of the whole Christian life. The epistle is full of deep theology, embedded story lines, practical tips, and spiritual wisdom. Much of Paul’s teaching in the New Testament is summed up in what he writes in this letter. Through it, we are introduced to the different “Ingredients of Freedom” that compose the rich life of relationship with Jesus.
Over the next 6 weeks, we as a church family will be diving into this book during our weekend services, and I invite you to enter into the story, God’s story, as we look at these different elements together. Each week we’ll look at one chapter, and the thematic elements that Paul brings up in it. May you be encouraged as the church in Ephesus was, and challenged to take seriously this task of living under freedom in the midst of a culture with so many competing voices and distractions.
For this series, we are SO excited to have the opportunity to hear from diverse preachers, who will approach the text from their own perspective and with their own style. Myself, Pastor Tom, Lance Christie, and Elaine Phillips will be sharing the pulpit over the next few weeks as we work through the Book of Ephesians.
Blessings on the journey!
-Pastor Sam Grottenberg