I love to travel and would happily live out my days roaming God’s green earth. I love to travel, but I don’t like to fly. I’ll do it to get where I’m going more efficiently, but I don’t look forward to it, I endure it.
Every time the plane taxis down the runway preparing to take off, my brain carries on two competing conversations. One side of it tells me to scream and to make such a scene that the pilot is forced to stop the insanity and let me off. It shouts that there is nothing rational about strapping myself to tons of steel with a group of complete strangers and hurtling at great speed to heights of 30,000 feet. Thankfully, as an act of grace towards the people strapped into seats around me, the other side of my brain speaks reason to my fears. It lays out facts and statistics that reveal the truth that flying is actually a reasonably low-risk method of travel. For me, flying is an act of fear-filled faith.
Sometimes my life feels like those scary minutes of hurtling down the runway before being launched into the air. Times when fear of what’s coming has my brain screaming to stop the madness and looking for the closest exit. What if, in those times of fear, doubt, or insecurity, there was no conversation to compete with my feelings, and the only voice that spoke was the one telling me to get out because there’s no hope? That would be a disorientating way to live and I suspect it would lead to some poor choices. I need a competing conversation.
That’s why I love the book of Ephesians! As you were reading through chapters one through three, did you notice that Paul spent a lot of time and effort showing us how to think? Did you notice how he did that?
Paul shows us how to think by showing us who we are in Christ as opposed to apart from Him. Did you make a list as you read? If you didn’t and you have the time, go back and read through the first three chapters of Ephesians and make a list of everything that is true of you apart from Christ, and then what is true of you in Christ. (If you’re going to do that, don’t keep reading until you’re finished. It’s so fun to do the detective work of digging for details on our own before seeing what somebody else found.)
Here’s what I discovered as I read through Ephesians 1-3: Apart from Christ, I am dead. Not just floppy and low energy, completely dead. Apart from Christ, I was a prisoner to death and darkness so what I did (and wanted to do) was dictated by who I belonged to. Apart from Christ I was separated from God. I was an alien and a stranger with no secure place of belonging.
Wow. That sounds scary. Scream and shout and get me off this plane kind of scary. But the thing of it is, it’s a plane I can’t get off of on my own, no matter how much I kick and scream.
But God. But God intervened on my behalf when I was incapable of doing anything for myself. Because of Him and what He did for me, for us, we have a competing conversation that we can shout at our doubts and fears. From just these three chapters of Scripture alone, we can make a whole different kind of list. One that shouts out, in Christ, I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. In Christ, I am chosen and I was chosen before the world was even created. In Christ, I am seen by God as holy and blameless. In Christ, I belong—I’m loved and adopted into the family of God. In Christ, I have an inheritance that will last through all eternity. In Christ, I’m sealed. In Christ I’m safe because He bought my peace with God which means that I have bold and confident access to God. In Christ, I have access to the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.
Couldn’t a list like that change everything?
You know what the best part of this list is? It’s all Him! He brought us near. He saved us. He is our holiness. He secures our inheritance. He is our salvation. He secures our place of love and belonging. He is our method of confident access. It’s all Him—we haven’t done anything that we can boast about or sing praises of—it’s all Him so He deserves all the praise and glory. And that is a great thing because if it’s on me, I’ll mess it up. I’ve lived long enough to compile a very long list of ways that I’ve messed things up! But because it’s all Him, and He is all knowing, all-powerful, unimaginably rich in wisdom and love, existing from eternity, because He has had a plan from before the beginning of time that He is carrying out, I can be sure that He is far beyond me and my ability to mess things up.
Paul is teaching us how to think about God and then about ourselves. He’s giving us a list of things that are true about ourselves because of who God is. By teaching us how to think, he’s giving us words to speak to our feelings. Yeah, you might feel like you don’t belong, but the truth is you belong to the very family of God (Ephesians 1:4-5; 2:19). You might feel like you’re not loved, but the truth is that you were chosen in love before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). You might feel poor, but the truth is that you have an inheritance you can’t even fathom the richness of (Ephesians 1:11-14; 2:7; 3:6). You might feel lonely, but the truth is that God wants you to know Him and be in relationship with Him (Ephesians 1:7-10, 17-18; 2:17-18; 3:8-12, 17-19).
Paul shows us who God is and what He has done so that our minds can talk to and inform our feelings and together they can better guide our actions. We can choose to live in fear and doubt or in confidence and hope. We can tell ourselves what is true of us if we are in Christ or we can let our emotions dictate our thinking and behave in a reactionary way to whatever comes at us—like we’re out of control rather than under the control of an all-powerful and loving God.
Paul spends the first half of his letter to the Ephesians telling us how to think. He spends the next half encouraging us to live like what we think is true. If God is God and He is who He says He is, live like you believe it. Be humble because He saved you when you were dead and couldn’t do anything for yourself. Be gentle because that’s how He treated you when you were in a state of absolute rebellion. Be patient because He showed great patience to you. Be loving because of the great love with which He loved you. Maintain the peace He bought with the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. Truth is found in Jesus Christ so train your mind, daily renew your mind, in His truth. This is how to grow up into Christ.
This week, as we keep reading Ephesians, let’s train our thinking to impact our feelings and our behaviour. We are saved by grace, through faith, for good works. The order is important. When we believe in the truth of what Christ did on our behalf, our faith in the grace of God is shown by our works, it’s not given to us through our works.
What if I got on a plane and the second I felt fear and doubt creep in, I pulled out my list of facts and statistics about the safety of air-travel and read them to my fears. But what if, as soon as I finished reading the list, I folded it up, slipped it into my purse, and then started screaming my head off and begging the pilot to stop the plane. Wouldn’t that kind of behaviour reveal that I believed my feelings and fear more than the facts I just read? Let’s grow into maturity in Christ as we read Ephesians together. We’ll make our lists and check them twice and then live like we believe they’re true.
And if you want a bit more help with the truth-telling, why don’t you listen to this song several times over the next week. Click on this link to Sing truth to your heart: Before the Throne of God Above