In the first three chapters of Ephesians there is only one command; it comes in 2:11 – “Remember.” Remember the gospel. Remember who you are in Christ. Over twenty (20) times the in the first three chapters Paul uses the term “in Christ” or “in Him” or “with Christ”. Here’s what Paul is telling us:
- You have every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3)
- You are chosen by God in Christ (1:4)
- You are adopted into God’s family through Christ (1:5)
- In Christ, you are redeemed by the blood (1:7)
- In Christ, you have obtained an eternal inheritance (1:11)
- You have a great hope in Christ (1:12)
- God works the greatness of His power toward you in Christ (1:20)
- Though once dead in sin, you have been made alive with Christ (2:5)
- You have been raised up with Christ (2:6)
- God will show you the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward you in Christ (2:7)
- In Christ, God created you for good works (2:10)
- In Christ Jesus, you who once were far off from God have been brought near (2:13)
- In Christ, you, Restoration Church, are being built together (2:22)
- In Christ you are partakers of the promise through the gospel (3:6)
- You have boldness before God and access with confidence in Christ (3:12)
- God is able to do far more abundantly than all you ask or imagine in Christ (3:20)
Those are the blessings you have in Christ, “therefore” walk in a manner worthy of those blessings. The position of being in Christ leads to the practice of walking like Christ.
From our brother Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Listen to Dietrich Bonheoffer: “God has put his Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find his living Word in the mouth of a brother. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him…The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the words of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure…And that clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 23.
Almighty and loving God, you are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, everlasting, faithful God. You are our rock, refuge, and redeemer. You are the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. Through Jesus Christ, you are our Father in Heaven. We come praising you in the name of your eternal Son Jesus. We come praising you in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. We come praising you because you alone are worthy to receive our worship.
We come amazed at the abundant grace you have shown to us in Christ Jesus. How marvelous! How wonderful! Our song and prayer shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful! Is the Savior’s love for me! Nothing in our hands we bring, Simply to the cross we cling! Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his perfect righteous life. Thank you for his sin bearing death. Thank you for his triumphant resurrection. Thank you for eternal life, life in your presence, both now and forever more.
Oh, that this would be the controlling message in our lives. For the glory of your name, Lord God, for the exaltation of Jesus Christ, help us to be a church centered on and driven by Jesus. By your grace, help us to preach the name and message of Jesus to ourselves daily; help us to know how to best speak the gospel into each other’s life. Make us a people zealous to share the gospel and make disciples both locally and globally.
We praise you for the work you are doing through XX & XX in Russia. We praise you for the work you are doing through the American Friends ministry. We praise you for the ways our members regularly share the gospel with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers. We praise you for the dozens of discipling relationships that are active among Restoration Church members. We praise you for the Spanish Bible study in Columbia Heights. We praise you for those that gather each Sunday at 930 to labor before your throne. In the name of Jesus, we ask that you would continue to make these things the heartbeat of our church.
For your namesake, O Lord, raise up more workers from this church that we might send them to unreached peoples around the globe. We pray in particular for workers to go to the Middle East to work among the Bedhini Kurds. Right here, right now, set apart a man or a woman to go to this people. Give us grace as we seek to work with others to bring the gospel, and a bible translation to these people who are created in your image.
And help us to work alongside other churches here in DC to make your name known in our city. We thank you for the gospel efforts of Grace Baptist in Arlington and Capitol Hill Baptist. We pray for Bill Ridel and Jon Rees as they lead Redemption Hill. Bless the efforts of Aaron Graham and the District Church as they seek to proclaim the gospel and live it out in radical ways. We pray for Russ Whitfield and Duke Kwon as they plant GraceDC Merdian Hill and Grace Mosaic.
Father as we pray for and work alongside of others, help us also pay attention to our own hearts. Help us to be a people who are marked by repentance. Help us to see the plank in our own eye before looking at the spec in someone else’s eye. We confess that we are a people prone to wander. We are so easily pleased with the fleeting pleasures of this world. We are so easily distracted and quickly turn our thoughts away from you. We are selfish scheming to accomplish our goals even if it comprises our morals or hurts others. We are greedy seeking to acquire as much as we can here on earth because we don’t really trust you. We look down on others either because we think we are morally superior or better looking or have better theology or more capable and gifted; in doing so we forget that everything we have worth having is a gift from you.
Help us understand your grace is meant to lead us to repentance, not indifference. Help us understand your patience with us should not lead us to presume upon you, but rather we should bow in worship of you. We praise you for the truth that in Christ Jesus you remove our transgressions from us; for as high as the heavens are above the earth, that in Christ, your steadfast love is upon us. We praise you that Jesus has done everything necessary that we might know, praise and enjoy you forever.
Give us grace this morning to hear from your word; give us minds to understand, hearts to rejoice, and the will to obey all that you have commanded us. We ask it in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Read over and be refreshed by these words we’ll sing together this Sunday:
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
For me it was in the garden
He prayed: “Not My will, but Thine.”
He had no tears for His own griefs,
But sweat drops of blood for mine.
Christ took my sins and my sorrows,
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary,
And suffered and died alone.
When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To worship eternally!
Words by Charles H. Gabriel (alt), Edwin O. Excell
This past Sunday, we introduced “Jerusalem, My Happy Home”. Meditate on these lyrics and yearn for the restoration of all things:
Jerusalem, my happy home
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?
The saints are crowned with glory great;
They see God face to face;
In endless joy they do partake,
Most happy is their case.
Why should I shrink at pain and woe?
Or feel at death dismay?
I’ve Canaan’s goodly land in view,
And realms of endless day.
Oh when, thou city of my God,
Shall I thy courts ascend;
When congregations ne’er break up
And Sabbaths have no end?
O happy harbor of the saints!
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil.
O Christ, My Lord– my soul prepare
For that bright home of love;
That I may see You and adore,
With all Your saints above.
Our Father in heaven, through Jesus Christ you promise to hear us, so we come united to him by the Holy Spirit praying in his name. Confident in your love and mercy we offer our payer to you. As an earthly father has compassion on his children, so you show compassion to those who know, praise and enjoy you.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. You alone are holy, there is none like you; your glory is above the heavens. Hallow your name this morning through Embassy Church. Give Pastor Dave Owens grace and wisdom as he seeks to faithfully lead that church. Hallow your name through the handful of faithful workers laboring for the gospel among the Bedhini Kurds. Yes, Lord God Almighty, hallow your name among the Kurdish people. Hallow your name here at Restoration Church this morning as our brother John preaches your word to us; hallow you name as we sing praises to you. We exalt you; we worship you for you are holy.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Spread your Kingdom in Columbia Heights – for the sake of Jesus’ name, help us plant a church that faithfully proclaims the good news of Jesus. Spread your kingdom in Raleigh North Carolina through Oaks City Church. Bestow grace and favor upon Josh and Larry and their families as they seek to faithfully shepherd your people.
Mighty God, sovereign over the nations, direct those who make, administer and judge our laws – the president, congress, local and national elected officials and others in authority among us, that guided by your wisdom they may lead us in the way of righteousness through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, especially in places of tribulation and turmoil. From the political unrest in Thailand and Ukraine, to the destruction in Central African Republic and Syria. Lord, we pray, your kingdom, your peace, your justice, your will be done.
Give us this day our daily bread. All creatures’ look to you for their food at the proper time; when you provide they are satisfied with good things. Lord, help us to be good stewards of all the gifts that you have given us. We thank you for the jobs that we have, the clothes that we wear, the roof over our head, the bed we sleep in, the food we eat. Help us to generously share with those around us, showing others the hospitality you have first shown us.
Forgive us our sins, as we also forgive those who sin against us. Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, who sin is covered, and who know the joy of forgiveness. So we come confessing our sin to you. This week we have been impatient yelling at others; we have been slanderous talking behind our friends back; we have been sexually immoral acting in ways contrary to your character; we have been mean to others simply to make us feel better; we have been dishonest trying to protect our own name.
The list of accusations against us goes on, so we turn not to ourselves, but to Christ. We praise you that he in his life worshipped you with all his heart mind soul and strength. We praise you that he never sinned, but was sinless. We praise you that on the cross he made the payment for our sin. We praise you that he rose from the grave offering new life, enteral life to all those who trust in Him. Oh, how we praise you for our Lord and Savior Jesus.
As we have been forgiven, help us to become like Christ, forgiving those who sin against us. Help us to be quick to offer mercy and grace rather than seeking justice and vengeance. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might bear fruit in keeping with our profession.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. In mercy, O God, answer our prayers when we are in deep distress – for some of us that’s right now. Hear our cries. Help us stand firm in your grace to be sober-minded and watchful. Give us the strength, O Lord, to resist the evil one as he prowls around looking for someone to devour. Let the light of your face shine upon us.
For yours is the kingdom, power and glory, forever. Amen.
“And after you have suffered a little while…” (1 Peter 5:10)
If God has defeated the devil and will one day bring all suffering to an end, then why is he waiting? Why does it have to be a little while more?
Have you ever found yourself asking that? Why does God delay? If the war has been won, then why let the battles go on?
As I prayed and thought at least two answers came to mind. First, God waits yet a little while more because God is compassionate and patient. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read this:“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
In other words, God patiently allows the temporary suffering of his children now to relive the forever suffering of those who have yet to repent and trust in Christ. God in his infinite mercy, desires to see all people saved and takes no delight in destruction of the wicked, so he waits that others might come to repent of their sin.
And as we’ve seen throughout 1 Peter, it’s often when others see us suffering with a supreme delight in Jesus that they are captured by the truth of the gospel themselves. In that way, God uses our temporary suffering to alleviate others from eternal suffering.
A second reason God waits is because his ultimate aim is not just to defeat Satan, but display his superior beauty that brings about our supreme joy. I rely on a pastor by the name of John Piper for insight here: “Christ could simply exert sovereign power and snuff Satan out. That would indeed glorify Christ’s power. But it would not display so clearly the superior worth of Jesus over Satan…The aim of the gospel is to put the glory of the crucified Christ on display and to shame Satan by the millions of people who…forsake Satan’s lies in preference for the beauty of Christ…If Christ obliterated all demons now (which he could do), his sheer power would be seen as glorious, but his superior beauty and worth would not shine so brightly as when God’s people renounce the promises of Satan, trust in Christ’s blood and righteousness, and take pleasure in the greater glory of Jesus revealed in the gospel.”
So God waits because he wants the gospel to shine most clearly; he wants the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ to be painted on the canvas of our soul with the most vibrancy we can behold. And this is good news because not only does it bring God glory, but it brings us joy. For all of eternity we will see Christ for who is, not just for his power, but for his beauty and worth. God is after your eternal joy so he waits so he can magnify the one thing, the One Person, who fulfills that joy for you.
Sovereign and blessed God in the name of Jesus Christ we come to you in prayer acknowledging your greatness; you alone are self-sufficient; you alone are infinitely happy; you alone are all powerful; you alone know all things; you alone deserve all glory; you are Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of our lives. For this we give you praise.
Deepen our humility before you, dependence on you, and thankfulness to you. Captivate us with your glorious grace; by the power of your Holy Spirit, cause us to be satisfied by and delight in your goodness. Help us, in view of your mercy and greatness, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices – this is our spiritual act of worship. Give us the grace and strength to not be conformed by this world, but fill us with your Spirit that we might be transformed by the renewal of our mind.
We pray for your glory not just in our lives, but around the globe. Oh, that you would be the supreme joy of the Comorian people of Madagascar and the Tay people of Vietnam and the Behdini Kurds of Northern Iraq. Raise up men and women – even from this congregation – to carry the gospel to these lands that they might know, praise and enjoy you forever. We pray for the nations right here in our city; we pray for the Hispanic community in Columbia Heights. By your grace, we plead with you in the name of Jesus Christ, that you would use our efforts to start a Spanish speaking, bible-believing, Christ-exalting church in Colombia Heights. Use the current Bible study to increasingly see people not just hear about Jesus but come to faith in Jesus.
We pray for our own congregation. We give you praise for your evident grace working in and through our church. Continue to knit us together in love that we might reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of you, our Lord. Build up the body of Christ here at Restoration Church that we might attain the unity of the faith; give us grace to speak the truth in love, to serve each other selflessly, to reach out to each other intentionally. Yes, Lord by your grace, grow us up into Christ Jesus.
We praise you for the ways you have done and are doing this. And at the same time, we confess that we often pursue our own interests not those of Christ. We confess that we are selfish thinking ourselves better and more important than those around us. We confess that too often we masquerade behind our good behavior, which only conceals our self-righteous heart. We confess that we use the stock phrases and expected answers to keep people from really knowing our sins, our hurts and even our hopes. We confess that we desire stock phrases and expected answers from others so that we don’t really have to engage them and be inconvenienced by their honesty. Father, when we stop and think for just a moment, we realize just how creative and corrupt we are in our sin against you and others.
Oh, Lord God, we are great sinners rebelling against you in word, thought, and deed. Give us grace to not just change our behavior and words, but to stop believing lies and worshipping the false gods of image, success, materialism, and comfort. By your Holy Spirit convict us of sin and point us to the redemption and satisfaction found in Christ alone – He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed; we were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls, Christ Jesus. God of all grace, in the name of Jesus, restore and strengthen us that we might delight in the supremacy of Christ our King and spread His Kingdom. Amen.