søndag 29. september 2013

Genesis 1:1-2:4 The God who speaks

Genesis 1:1-2:4

If God did not speak, we would all of us be lost.

For how could we know God?

If he did not speak, we would not know him.

We would know of him: all creation speaks of his handiwork. The detailed design in the world shows a designer - but we would not know the designer.

Last week we looked at the big point of Genesis 1: The God who is there. He is the Creator, and he is the ONLY Creator. The second big point in Genesis 1 is that The God who is there is also the God who speaks. He has made himself known. He speaks through his word, and his final word to the world is Christ Himself, the ultimate revelation of God. We know God, the unknowable, invisible, because he became a man, knowable, visible. He is the God who speaks.

1. God brings order through his word

2. God brings light through his word

3. God is his Word

1. God brings order through his word

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

The earth was without form and empty. The universe did not exist. No stars, no sun, no moon, no trees, no animals, no people, no light, no night, no day. Nothing. Empty. Formless.

And then God speaks.

There is order, purpose, set roles and responsibilities in the universe, in our world, because God has made it so. He brings order out of chaos.

The careful order of the chapter emphasises God’s order.

In the first three days, the earth is prepared – the next three days, the earth is filled.
On day 1 (v3-5) God creates day and night “Let there be light”...and he called the light “day” and the darkness “night”
On day 2 (vv6-8) God creates the oceans and skies “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.”
And on day 3 God creates land and plants.

Then on day 4 (vv14-19) God creates the sun to fill the day, and the moon and stars to fill the night (created on day 1)
On day 5 (v20-23) he creates the fish to fill the sea and the birds to fill the sky – created on day 2.
And on day 6 animals and people, to live on the land, and eat the plants for food (created on day 3).

Order out of chaos. The first three days, the earth is prepared – the next three days, the earth is filled.

There is order in our world by the word of God. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Every day. By the word of God. The earth orbits the sun, every year. By the word of God. Summer follows Spring, Autumn follows Summer, by the word of God. Chemical reactions give the same result every time. Maths sums always yield the same result. We live in a universe of ordered predictability because God has created it so, by his Word.
It is this very idea, this understanding that gave rise to modern, experimental science. Without a belief in the Christian God science as we know it would not exist. Without Genesis 1 science would not exist. Other religions generally have a battleground of gods, which leads to great changes in the universe, making repeatable experiments impossible. Ironically, the modern atheist with all his faith in science has a worldview which depends on Genesis 1!

Science can exist because God’s word brings order out of chaos.

But there’s more. Because at the end of each day he pronounces his judgement on the day. V4, 12, 18, 21, 25, he saw that it was “good” 31 it was “very good”, and in 2:3 he blesses the day and makes it holy (set apart). God’s word brings not just physical order but also moral order. He declares what is good and bad.

What is “good” is whatever obeys him. The days are “good” because what he says must happen does happen. God’s will is done. That’s what good means. “God saw that it was good”.

Things are not good or bad in and of themselves, but based on God’s declaration. Our value is defined by God. He is Creator. Everything that aligns with his goals is good. Everything working against him is not. Think of an artist chipping away at a block of stone. The chips on the floor are worthless to him – the goal is the sculpture before him. Or a garden – trimming off branches that are growing the wrong way, or the soil producing the wrong plants, or a tree producing bad fruit – the branches are chopped off, soil is replaced, the tree is cut down – it is worthless, to be thrown into the fire.

That idea of “good” and “bad” is throughout the universe. Just like light and dark, there is good and bad. There are moral laws just like there are physical laws. And disobeying God’s moral laws has consequences, just like disobeying God’s physical laws. We can try to disobey gravity and jump off the roof saying “I can fly” – the reality will hurt! In the same way we can try to disobey God’s moral laws and say, for example, “I’ll just tell this little lie, that wouldn’t hurt anyone” – the reality will lead to bigger lies, mistrust, broken or damaged relationships.

Having sex with lots of different people will probably lead to a number of sexually transmitted diseases, maybe a lot of single-parent children (or worse, a lot of dead children killed in the womb) and will certainly lead to deep emotional pain. Just like kicking a wooden box with your little toe can maybe break it and will certainly lead to deep pain! We live in a world of moral and physical laws.

God has declared a moral order to the universe, and we cannot avoid it anymore than we can avoid gravity. The pain we experience when we have been hurt by someone, or even when we hurt someone reminds us that we are not God, we do not make “the Rules”.

Our society is always trying to get away from God’s laws and remake them in their own image. We trash our world, instead of ruling it in God’s image (see verse 26). And so we have acid rain, and cancer, and mad cow disease, and new deserts.
We trash our relationships, and call it “free love” – no sexual morals – “its morals that make us unhappy”. As a result we have a huge increase in STD’s, huge increase in abortions, kids living each week in a different house, huge increase in child abuse, not to mention all the people on sick leave or with psychiatric problems because of their relational mess. It’s like a tsunami or earthquake – the destruction in our society is huge.

God has ordered morality, and we break that order at our peril!

God’s word brings order. Physical order. Moral order.

2. God’s word brings light

After v1 “In the beginning, God” the most famous and arguably even more significant verse is verse 3 God said “Let there be light!” and there was light.

Light. God is light and he brings light to darkness.

Remember last week we saw that it is not the dark night sky that the Israelites were warned not to worship, and it was not the inky blackness that many nations around them worshipped (and many still worship) - but the great big lights, the moon and the sun and stars. We worship the light. We are made to worship the light.

We love the light, and we’re afraid of the dark. But we are also afraid of the light. Not the light itself – rather we fear being exposed by the light!
We fear the light. For we fear exposure. Adam and Eve in chapter 3 hide from God. Why? Because they had sinned against him and they feared being found out. But God knew where they were. Adam, Eve, where are you?

Light is both thrilling, invigorating, wonderful – and terrifying as we come face to face with the darkness within ourselves. If you’ve ever crawled through a dusty, dirty attic in the roof or cave or something – you don’t realise how filthy you’ve become until you stand blinking in the sunlight. Good grief! Look at me!
In the gloom of hardly any light you looked clean. In the bright morning sun – ugh!

“Let there be light” is a terrifying thing to hear for us. For we must then face that which we don’t want to face. We are dark, we are dirty, we are hiding in the bushes with a leaf around our genitals realising that we have sinned against God.

That’s why we so often struggle with the Bible. It is a deep, piercing light that cuts through to our very heart, exposing us before the eyes of the Lord. It’s like opening the sun, blazing out at us. God’s word brings light.

But God does not just turn on the light. He creates the light. Remember v2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. Then God said “Let there be light!”

Don’t forget that the same God who exposes your darkness also is the God who creates light out of darkness. He has done it before, and he will do it again. Genesis and the first five books (Pentateuch) are carefully structured to remind us that what God has done in the past, he will do in the future. It is written as an “eschatological reading of historical narratives” – looking back, it points forward. And we know that it points forward to Christ, and our hope in the gospel. For it is the gospel which brings light to the darkness.

In Genesis chapter 6 we will see that the world is plunged into darkness and chaos. Gen 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

Darkness covers the world. And God says “Let there be light” 6:8 But Noah found favour with the LORD.
In chapter 11 the Tower of Babel was man’s attempt to reach up to pull God down from heaven, to say, “We are like God”. God reaches down and scatters the people, and darkness covers the land.
“Let there be light” and Abraham hears the word of God, believes him, and is credited with righteousness. Moses is declared to be righteous, David, declared to be a man after God’s own heart.
Let there be light in the darkness. And finally, someone arrives who says “I am the light”: John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

God’s word brings light because…

3. God is his Word

Now before you accuse me of Bibliolatry (Bible worship!), I did not say that the word is God. The Bible is not God. However, God is the Bible, just like a recording of me, is me.
The Bible is God’s living Word to us, and His Spirit inspired it, He wrote it, He gives it power and life. It is his voice to us. The book of Hebrews in chapter 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” He speaks through his word today.”

To listen to God’s Word is to listen to God himself. Our God speaks to reveal himself to us. We can know him. We can know him!

And because God’s Word is God’s revelation of himself to us, Jesus himself is called “the Word” in John 1. Jesus is the clearest and ultimate revelation of God. To know Jesus, is to know God, for Jesus is God. John 1:1–5 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

God is his word.
And therefore a Christian who refuses to obey the Bible is not a Christian.
A Christian who goes to church and prays but pays no attention to his Bible is not a Christian, just like a “friend” who comes up and talks at you and then leaves, never listening to a word you say, who does not even know the first thing about you, is not a friend.
To ignore God’s Word is to ignore God himself.

Someone who calls themselves a Christian but “has issues” with things clearly taught in the Bible like sex being for marriage, or God being sovereign, or Jesus rising from the dead, or Jesus being God, or Jesus being the only way to God, or that all of us - even children - are sinners, or the only way to be saved is through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross and not by good works… that person is on shaky ground. To ignore God’s Word is to ignore God Himself. To ignore parts of God’s Word, or to choose which bits you like or don’t like – is to choose to ignore God himself, and to set yourself up as God over God. Dangerous ground, and if that is you – repent.

Instead we should have confidence that the same Voice which called the Universe into being, which brought order out of chaos and light out of darkness, is the same Voice which can call order out of chaos in our lives, in our town. Don’t judge God’s word – obey it. Live in the light. Live in order, not chaos.

To preach the Bible is to declare the Voice of God to the world. That’s why I have confidence in Rock Church being filled to the brim – we looked at a building the other day which could only seat 60 and I said “that’s too small” – so did Mia. Our confidence comes not from ourselves but from the power of God’s Word. The same Word which brought order out of chaos and light out of darkness throughout history and today, right now, all over this world – that same Word can bring light and order to Notodden. Our friends and neighbours, those we treasure and love and care for, our townsmen – Lord, we give them to you. Speak your Word of Life to them Father.

Have confidence in the gospel. This seemingly weak, strange message of a God-Man dying on a cross is the very CREATION POWER of God. Look around you and SEE the power of God’s Word. With every breath be reminded that his Word is powerful. And speak the gospel. When you are afraid to share the gospel – look at creation, know that it is God’s Word that sustains it, you’re only breathing because God commands it - God is in control – and speak.

Because the Word of God declares what is “good” and what is not. We began by looking at God ordering creation, physically and morally. And we saw that God creates moral laws by saying “this is good”. The value of something, or even someone, is in God’s declaration. And through Christ’s work on the Cross, by God’s grace, he is in the business of declaring “good” what is, in and of itself, bad.

This really helped me, to see God declaring his creation work “good” or “very good”. Not in and of itself, but its worth coming from him. So when he says of me, in Christ, “good”, then it is simply true. I am good because he has declared me good. Just as on the first day light was good because God said it was so. Praise God.

In Christ I am good. Not because I am good, but by God’s word. To use the language of Romans: I am declared righteous. And therefore, I am righteous.

It is mind-blowing. God brings order out of chaos. God brings light out of darkness. Through his Word, because he is his word. Let us listen to him, let us know him.
"I am the Lord; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed." Ezekiel 12:25

søndag 22. september 2013

Genesis 1:1-2:4 The God who is there

Genesis 1:1-2:4

“In the beginning, God.” These four words are some of the most significant, most important, most vital words ever written in the history of mankind. In the beginning, GOD.

In the beginning: there was a start, there will be an end.
In the beginning, God: He is before time and space, before all that is and was and ever will be. He is above all, before all, the supreme First, the Origin of all things. He is not bound by matter. He is not bound by laws of physics or chemistry, not subject to the laws of time. He is beyond. He is Other. He is Holy.
He is not even bound by moral laws: what he says is good, is good. He is the standard of what is good and bad: his character determines it. Who he is is infused throughout the universe because it is He who is the creator. In the beginning God created everything – including you and me.
We are not God. He is God.
I am not God. He is God.
I am not the Creator or ruler of my life. He is.
God is God, and I am not.

Today we begin our 10-week series in Genesis. We’re going to spend our first three weeks in chapter 1. Next week we’ll look at “The God who speaks”, thinking about how God reveals himself through speech – we know him because he speaks; the power of his Word in creating order out of chaos, life out of death – a work he continues today; and then looking at the Word Incarnate, God’s supreme revelation of himself: Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.

The week after that we’ll spend some time looking at “The God who rests”, thinking about His perfect relationship with himself in the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit in perfect unity, perfect love; how he created us, this whole universe, to share in that love relationship, bringing glory to him, and how all of creation is moving toward that seventh day rest with God. That is our destiny, to be united with God in perfect harmony. But to do that our sin and rebellion have to be dealt with first – and that is only possible through Christ. Christ is God’s rest, our rest – and outside of him there is no rest.

Today however, we turn our focus to who this God is. Today’s sermon is called “The God who is there”. Just two points today: the first, rather long point: God is the creator – we are his creatures.
And the second: God is the only Creator, supreme - above all other “gods”. There is none like Him.

1. God is the Creator (we are his creatures)

Now there’s been lots of arguments about Genesis 1 because we don’t like the idea that there is a God, and that I am not him! (First step to becoming a Christian: 1. There is a God. 2. I am not him.)

On the one hand, there’s those who claim that evolution has killed God. God is not necessary. Life just…happened. Everything is an accident, so create your own meaning in life (as long as that meaning doesn’t involve God- that you’re not allowed).

On the other hand there’s those who claim that God created the world in 6 days, and anyone who believes anything else is, well, basically not a Christian. It becomes the standard for whether you’re a real Christian or not.

So we’ve got these two groups bellowing for our attention, yelling at each other - and what’s missed is the actual point of Genesis 1: God is the Creator. So, before we get there, let’s do some damage control and try to turn down the volume…

First, Evolution. Some famous scientists like to pretend that they are also philosophers and theologians and make grand statements about evolution and the Big Bang doing away with the need for God.
For example, Richard Dawkins is a professor of Biology. He’s an expert in biology. Existence of God? Not so much.
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s geniuses – in physics. But when he says that the Big Bang proves that God doesn’t exist he’s not talking as Stephen Hawking, physicist, but Stephen Hawking, ordinary man in the street.

The funny thing is that Science has as one of its fundamental assumptions that we live in a closed system. That is, we assume that something from the “outside” can’t interfere with the normal workings of the world. We HAVE to assume that if we are to set up experiments. Otherwise it would be like trying to set up a house of cards with your little brother in the room – at any moment he could knock it over. So, to avoid that, you lock him out of the room. And then you can do your experiment, building the house of cards. But only a fool would then say “little brother does not exist”. You’ve just closed the door.

Science is the same. It assumes God does not interfere with the normal workings (or more correctly assumes that God maintains the normal laws of physics). But that does not mean that he therefore does not exist! What Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins and others are doing is this: 1. Assume God does not exist. 2. Some other points. 3. Therefore, God does not exist (forgetting we assumed him away in point 1!).

The message of the Bible, however, is that God exists. And it proves his existence by recording his dealings with his people, recording how he has opened up the closed system to show us what lies beyond. It shows us supremely in the person of Jesus Christ that God exists, who he is, what he has done, and what he will do. And as we’ve just seen in Ephesians, all of creation has, since the beginning, been moving towards one goal: he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Eph 1:10

Jesus Christ knocks Hawking and Dawkins for six. He is the very evidence for God that is unmistakable. Unmistakable power. Unmistakeable love. He is the supreme revelation of the God who is there.

And that is the God whom we meet in Genesis 1. Now the writer of Genesis, probably Moses, had only the promise of Christ – he did not know the gospel fully like we do. But he did know God. He knew God when he was called out of the burning bush. He knew God when he rescued his people the Israelites with a great show of his Mighty power. He knew God when he lead them across the Red Sea, through the desert, to Mt Sinai, when he spoke to them and made them his people and gave them laws to give by. This is the God he says “created the heavens and the earth”. “Elohim” (God) is “Yahweh”, Israel’s God (in fact, his name is used in 2:4 “LORD (small caps= Yahweh) God (Elohim)).

You see, science answers the “how” questions: how things work. But it cannot answer the “why” questions: why were things made, why do they work like this. “Science” has become a bit of a religion - people claiming science can answer all our questions. Well, it’s only been able to explain a small portion of the “how” (quantum physics opened a whole other world to science – a strange and mysterious world) and it, by definition, can never answer the “why”.

Genesis answers the “why”. In the beginning, God.
He is the Prime source, the First Mover, the Reason behind all that is.
God. Not us.
We do not create our own meaning for the universe. It has already been given a meaning and a purpose: to glorify God.

Now the second group yelling in our ears about Genesis 1 is the group of Christians who insist that the world was made in 6 days (because it says so – right there!) and that the earth is only 6000 years old, and that anyone who believes otherwise isn’t really a true Christian. They, too, set up Science vs. Christianity and say that you cannot believe in both. You cannot be an evolutionary biologist and a Christian. And if you are a Christian you must reject all forms of evolution. Dawkins and company try to make Science answer the why question. The mistake these guys make is trying to make Genesis 1 answer the “how” question, instead of the “why” question.

Now, I know some of you may now be offended. You may be Young Earthers and start thinking that I have compromised my faith, I’ve given in to the big bad world.
To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t really care less. It makes no difference to me whether the earth was created in 6 days, 6 minutes, or six billion years. What matters is who created it, and that by his grace I can know him. Be careful of people who are always on about something other than the gospel – because soon it comes to replace the gospel. Good things are the most dangerous enemy of the best thing: the gospel of Christ. Food kitchens, orphanages, home schooling, politics or 6-day earth may be good things. 6-day earth may be correct – but 6 –day earth has no power to save, only Jesus does. And if I’m in Christ, I’m saved whether I believe in 6-day earth or not.

So having said that, I have no agenda here except this: I want us simply to look at the passage itself. Read what God has written. And make our own conclusions as to what the author is trying to tell us.

As we read through it, did you note the stylised structure and language that is used. Did you see? Each day begins “And God said”
“And that is what happened”
“God called”
“And God saw that it was good”
“And evening passed and morning came, marking the x day”

It is a carefully structured, poetic way of writing. And if we read it as literal history, as narrative (like the rest of the book), rather than poetry, leads to all sorts of problems. When we read the Bible we must pay attention to the genre (that is, type) of literature it is. You don’t read comics and news reports the same way. So don’t read historical narrative and stylised poetry the same way! Engage your mind when you read, particularly the Old Testament which was written into a very different culture and time than ours. The biggest difference is that it was written before Christ was revealed, so it won’t mention “Jesus” or “Christ” even though his person and his salvation work are seen all over the place. Even here in creation Jesus is present – the New Testament tells us again and again. For example Col 1: 15-17 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth...Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

Bible commentaries can also be helpful (or study bibles) when they tell you things about the culture you would not know. For example my Bible Background commentary tells me that Gen 1 is written in the style of Middle Eastern Creation myths popular at the time we believe Genesis was written. You see, Moses was a good evangelist. He wrote it in a way people could understand! So they could hear the big message: God, our God, is the Creator of the Universe.

Today we could write it maybe something like this: In the beginning the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ created the universe, through his Son, by his Spirit, to the praise of his glory.
He held a tiny particle in his hand, the whole Universe compressed into an infinitesimally small dot of immensely powerful energies. And God said “Explode” and the Universe did explode. God called the explosion “the Big Bang”. And it was good. Eons passed, and the next phase of creation came: the second age.

God said to the matter flying apart: “come together!” And the matter came together: stars, then planets, moons, asteroids. And God saw the universe, and it was good. Eons passed, and the next phase of creation came: the third age: the age of life.

God chose a planet and called it earth. And he said “Live!” and life did form. And it was good. Eons passed, and the next phase of creation came: the fourth age: the age of evolution.

And God saw small single-celled creatures and said to them “Evolve!” and caused them to jump huge evolutionary barriers. He created complex systems from nothing, creatures appeared who were unrelated to anything that came before. And it was good. Eons passed, and the next phase of creation came: the fifth age: the age of man.

And God looked at his world teeming with impossible life, and said “Mankind, live!” – and out of nothing OR a sudden gigantic evolutionary leap (which can’t be explained), people appeared. And God breathed his Spirit into them. And he saw that it was good.

What’s the point of the story? Not HOW God created, but THAT God created. Getting into arguments about 6 day creation vs. evolution is pointless. Setting up science vs. Christianity is not only wrong, it’s to miss the big picture. Don’t miss the big point: In the beginning, God created everything.

God is the Creator. We are his creatures. Everything around us is spoken into existence through him.

God is the Creator.

One short little point to end with: he is the only Creator.

2. God is the only Creator: One God above all other “gods”

There’s a nice little touch in v14–18, the account of the fourth day, when God makes the sun and moon. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Why “lights” instead of sun and moon? Well, many people in those days worshipped the sun and moon. Abraham himself was probably a moon-worshipper before God called him. In fact in Deuteronomy (fifth book of Moses) 4:19 And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced (tempted) into worshiping them.

Genesis knocks that right on its head – there’s nothing special about the sun or the moon. There’s no spiritual mystery. They did not help God make the world. They do not rule. There are no other rulers. They are just lights. BIG lights. But just lights. There is no God but God.

‘The great sea creatures’ were regarded as divine in some ancient myths. V21 God created the great sea creatures. No divinity. They’re just creatures. God has no equal. He is supreme.

And notice who helps him. Where’s the army of workers, digging the foundation of the world? Where’s the great hoard of gods, fighting to control the great energies of Creation? Where’s the great tree bringing life through the universe? Add your creation myth here.

He stands alone. Above all. Beyond all.
He speaks, and it is.

There is no-one like him. He is unique. He is supreme.

Our vision of God is too small. We think of Him as a big version of us. You know, still sort of bound by time and space. Limited in what he can do. Subject, even, to the laws of the universe, to the laws of morality.

Genesis 1 demands that we expand our minds to grasp who this God is. For he is not just bigger than us, he is BIGGGGGER than us. He is beyond our comprehension. We cannot understand him.

He is not bound by time or space. He stands outside the universe, and all of time and space is as transparent to him as a window is to us. He sees, he knows, he plans everything. He holds the universe, all of it, in his hands, his gaze piercing through time and space. He is beyond.

There is no physical law that limits him – he is the law. He is not even subject to moral laws – he is the definition of morality. What he is and what he does defines what love is, what grace is, what compassion is, what justice is. He is the law.

This is the God whom we worship.

This is the God who is unknowable, unapproachable, beyond us.

And this is the God who reveals himself to us. Who reaches down from beyond the universe and says “come with me, and I will show you what you were made for.”

He is our Creator, our God the only God, and we were made for his glory. That is our purpose, our joy, our destiny.

Rejoice, for our God is awesome!

søndag 8. september 2013

Ephesians 6:10-20 God’s warriors

Ephesians 6:10-20

Did you know that you are in a battle? Did you know that your home, your workplace, even church – is a warzone?

Some of you have experienced that – you’ve lived through the terror of your home being bombed and war coming to your village. Some of you have been soldiers in battle. You know what it is like.

Today’s passage tells us that we are in a spiritual war – and that we need to be ready. No soldier goes out to battle in his underwear with no weapon in his hand! But many of us do exactly that. Any Christians are wondering around in their spiritual underwear, facing a fearsome enemy armed with… nothing. Dear friends, don’t do that. Be ready. Stand firm. Put on the armour of God. Pick up the sword of the Spirit. Pray.

Now many people go off on all sorts of tangents with today’s passage, all sorts of weird theories and ideas, detailed explanation of the spirit world and different demons and casting out this and casting out that – but that’s got nothing to do with today’s passage. You see, Ephesians 6 is EPHESIANS CHAPTER 6. This is not a little article about spiritual warfare that Paul thought would be pretty cool to include at the end. No. This is why context is so important. Reading what comes before the text we are reading. This is a final reminder, a final summary of all that we have learned.

This is how we “imitate God” that is, obey Christ in everything. This is how we love our wives like Christ, and obey our parents and treat our employees like people instead of “resources” and keep going to church and keep loving the people there even though sometimes you really don’t feel like it. Put on the armour of God. Stand firm in his strength. Fight the fight of faith wherever you are.

The battle is not visible, but invisible, the enemy is not physical, but spiritual, our weapons are not swords and armour but the Bible, prayer, and obedience to God – and our battleground is not “out there” but right here, first in our minds, how we think, what we determine to do: and then how those thoughts become actions in our homes, in the workplace, in the church. Those are our spiritual battlegrounds.

This is how we can live like a Christian: 10 Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

1. Be strong in the Lord

2. Put on Christ

3. Pray

1. Be strong in the Lord

How do we live an impossible life? 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Remember as we read “imitate God” in chapter 5 and saw all the list of requirements in chapters 4 and 5 – remember what we saw sprinkled about in all these verses? The gospel. The reminder to 4:23 Let the Spirit renew you, put on your new nature. 4:30 The Holy Spirit guarantees you will be saved. 4:32 Christ forgave you 5:2 He love[s] us. 5:8 You were full of darkness, but now light – and that light produces what is good and right and true.

We can live as Christian people, not just good people, Christian people, only in the strength of the Risen Lord. Oh, we can imitate the good life. Some people are very good at that. Some people couldn’t care less about God yet live wonderful lives, are generous and kind and work hard and have, at least on the surface, good family relations. It’s just like when Moses threw his staff down and it became a snake by the power of God – and then the Egyptian magicians did the same thing. Oh, yes, they could imitate the real thing.

But we know that things soon escalated beyond their power to imitate. God slowly revealed his mighty power through Moses, and they could not match him. And that was just a small, tiny little show of power by the God who spoke all of creation into being with a word. And at a word from him, it will all crumble to nothing. He is mighty.

We are not called to live just good lives – we are called to live Christian lives. We are not called to be just good husbands. We are called to lay down our lives for our wives. Even if she sucks. She can be a nagging, moaning, manipulative shrew – love her like Christ loved the church. Give all of yourself to her. Listen to her. Love her. Make love to her. (Infrequent sex in marriage is a big warning sign that things aren’t how they should be. 1 Corinthians tells us the only excuse for not having sex is because you’re spending the time in prayer instead!) Know your relationship. Know your wife. Teach her the Bible. Pray for her. And don’t aim for her happiness, but her godliness. This is not Bible-bashing, but a consistent, loving guidance towards Christ. A reminder that we are both sinners, under grace. Being quick to forgive, patient, ready to share even your emotions with her. It’s knowing what she needs and giving that, especially when it costs. Be like Christ in your marriage.

We are called not to be just good fathers, but Christian fathers. To raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. That means spending time with them, knowing them, knowing their deep struggles and shining the light of God’s grace on their struggles. I shared last week how Kristin, like me, like you, struggles with anger when she can’t get her own way. The root cause of that anger is that we want to be like God, doing whatever we want, whenever we want. And when someone tells us “no” – we’re reminded we’re not God, and so we get angry. There the gospel comes in – dear daughter, you are not angry because of <the thing that happened> but because of what’s in your heart. Sin. And the only solution is the gospel of grace. Dear daughter, have no fear to confess your sin. Don’t hide it, but confess it to the Lord for he loves you. Your sin is paid for. I, your father, love you. And her face lights up like the morning sun, joy fills her face, and we hug and hug, so happy to be forgiven sinners. (And Kristin has a real grasp of the gospel – really understands the reality of sin, and the great joy of being forgiven in Christ. (I love her so much – she’s a great delight to me. J ) )

Or in business where we are called to be not just good businessmen, but Christian businessmen, where we may turn down a good deal, even go bankrupt, rather than lie, or exploit someone else.

Or perhaps even to give up our life rather than deny Christ. Or give up our business, or be thrown out of our homes, or be social outcasts. The times are changing in the West. Are we ready to give up everything for Christ? To stand united to Christ, united to our borthers and sisters, united to the gospel message – no matter the cost?

The standard is impossibly high.

Only by his mighty power. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Because it is first a spiritual battle that we fight. 11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. The devil wants us just to be “good” – not push through to be Christian. The devil wants us to take this easy path, the path of least resistance. To give in to sin. Oh, pornography is not too dangerous, just a bit of fun. Oh, it’s just a little lie. Oh my kids will be fine, the school is doing a good job bringing them up. Oh, I don’t really need to tell my wife I love her, she knows. Fill in your own excuse that you find yourself saying.

No, brothers and sisters, don’t sit there in your spiritual underwear, put on the armour of God, because we are in a battle, not against Muslims, or political parties, or corporations, or even individual people who we know are opposed to the gospel. They are not the enemy.

12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

It is a spiritual battle which we fight. A spiritual battle which we cannot win, cannot even fight, unless we put on the armour of God, which is Christ. To live your life with Jesus – that is to put on the armour of God. Every moment, in Him, united to Him, speaking for his glory, acting to please him, serving, serving, serving, because he is our master our Lord, our Saviour, and we love him.

2. Put on Christ

Now why have I said “put on Christ” when the passage says put on the armour of God? Ah, if you knew your Old Testament, it would be very clear! Like if I said “use the Force Luke” – most of you would know I was quoting from Star Wars. Likewise, when Paul says put on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness we should say “Oh, he’s quoting from Isaiah”.
But lest you think I boast, let me confess that this was new to me, despite the fact that I had just read Isaiah! Memory like a sieve. My Mom had a teacher once who used to read the Bible. Not that amazing – until she tells that he was blind, and had memorised the entire Bible. That’s how well we should know the Bible!

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The belt of truth and body armour of God’s righteousness: that’s a quote from Isaiah 11 – you know the chapter which begins “out of the stump of Jesse will grow a shoot” – the first massive promise in Isaiah of the coming King. And this King who will rescue his people, shake the earth in his judgement, and make a new heavens and new earth where the lion will lay down with the lamb – he wears righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.
In Isaiah 59:17, a chapter talking about the sinful evil of mankind – says that God will come to judge and to save. 18 He will repay his enemies for their evil deeds – but 20 The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins. And this Redeemer 17 put on righteousness as his body armour and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.

The armour Paul describes is the armour of Christ. It is what He wears. So take off your dirty rags of sin and rebellion against God, and put on the shining clothes of the Son.

Like those stories where the beggar turns out to be the prince or princess. Like “Reisen til Julestjerne” where Sonja the poor forest girl turns out to be the long-lost Princess, and suddenly we see her dressed as the princess, in all her glory, the crown upon her head, beautiful. That’s us! Take off the old, put on the beauty of Christ.

But it is not just fine clothes, shining clothes: it is armour. For we are in a battle. It is practical. We are to stand firm. Put on your belt, your helmet, your breastplate (body armour), your shoes. Pick up your shield and sword. And do not be moved from the gospel.

Note that we are not called to “storm the gates of Hell” or any such thing – Christ has already done that, already won the war. We are called simply to stand firm. Don’t be moved away from Christ. Trust him in every situation, in every circumstance. At work, tell the truth. At home, be righteous. At school, be at peace, knowing the Gospel truth that God has made you alive in Christ, and nothing can change that – you belong to him. On the internet, have faith. With your children, trust your salvation. Put on Christ in everything you do. You are God’s warrior. And you fight with truth, righteousness, faith, salvation – and the word of God.

One last point – the only offensive (attacking) weapon we have is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Most of us don’t know the Bible well enough, so our weapons are short and blunt – like going into battle with a butter knife. Know the Word! Read your Bible every day, come to church, come to the Bible study, memorise verses, read the Bible at lunch, on the loo, listen to the Bible, listen to sermons in the car on the way to work – use every opportunity to fill your mind with the Spirit’s words that you may be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Our minds must be filled with God’s thoughts so we see life through his eyes, see people through his eyes – otherwise our own sinful nature will ruin things.

Put on Christ, in everything you do.

3. Pray

The final piece of our armour is arguably the most important: prayer.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

It’s like the soldier on the battlefield calling for reinforcements, calling for provisions, weapons, air support – calling back to HQ (headquarters) “we need help”.

Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life. It is a constant attitude of dependence on God. Note how often we are commanded to pray “at all times and on every occasion”. In fact, it’s even stronger in the Greek “praying at all times in the Spirit” – and the word “pray” or “plead” is mentioned 4 times in this one verse! Bible writers didn’t have bold or underline in the way they wrote – so they would repeat things that were important. Paul says “PRAY!”

But how do we pray all the time? Do we go around muttering under our breath, like absent-minded professors. Is it some kind of mindless continuous chatter – a stream of consciousness going up to heaven?

Firstly, what is prayer? Prayer is talking to God. But why do we pray? We pray not to give God information – he knows everything! We pray to remind ourselves that we are not God, that he is God, and that we are dependent on him. Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God. That is why we find it hard. Our sinful hearts are always trying to convince us we’re God. Hard to pretend you’re God, the boss of your life, when you’re talking to your real boss. That’s why we find prayer hard – it’s a spiritual problem, a spiritual battle.

So praying in the Spirit at all times is living with an attitude of dependence on God. No matter the situation, your first instinct is to pray, to give the situation over to God. Pray in the Spirit.

Secondly, we will fail to do this! There is only one person who perfectly lived this verse out in practice, who prayed perfectly in every situation, in all times and on every occasion – and who still does plead before the throne of God for all believers everywhere: Jesus Christ our Lord. God the Son pleads on our behalf to God the Father. God the Son prays perfectly every time – so put on Christ, the armour of God, also in your prayer life. You are covered by his grace.

Thirdly, we pray in the Spirit. It is not long prayers, or powerful prayers, or complicated prayers, or even loud prayers that count. It is Spiritual prayers. Pray your stumbling, badly-worded, confused, messy prayers – knowing that the Spirit hears our prayers, and takes them before the throne of God as sanctified (that means “made holy”) prayers, and that he hears our prayers because they are prayed in Christ. So pray with confidence, weak and feeble Christian, for the Holy Spirit of God is in you!

And what is the overriding theme of our prayers for ourselves and for our fellow believers? 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Let us pray that we would declare the gospel of Jesus Christ in everything we do, speaking boldly for him as we should: in every action, every word, every thought, declaring the glory and beauty and grace and power of our God. Amen!

Our fight is not against flesh and blood. Our fight, our battleground is in the home, in the workplace, in the church. So dear friends, let us throw off our sinful way of living, and put on the shining armour of Christ, being like him wherever we are, and pray to him at all times, in every situation: I am yours, I live for you.

søndag 1. september 2013

Ephesians 6:5-9 Working...for God.

Eph 6:5-9

What is your goal in life? For many that’s the same as the next question: What is your career goal?

Is it to gather as much as you can? Get the most out of your place of work before moving on? Is it achieving your maximum potential self-actualisation? Or is it just a paycheck – a place where you go unwillingly in order to get enough money to survive. A drudgery. “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.”

And if you’re a mother and think well, I’m at home, so this has nothing to do with me... well, firstly, mothers probably work harder than anyone else (3 under 5’s oh my!), and whether paid or unpaid our attitude to work is what’s being exposed here. Do we marry a rich man and get a nanny so we can avoid work. Do we ignore our kids so we can watch TV all day or drag them to cafés so we can have lattés with our friends the whole afternoon and achieve “self-actualisation”. Do we put ourselves aside for the good of others or not? Do we work like Christians – whether that work is paid or unpaid?

I must admit that when I sat down to prepare this I already had an idea of what I was going to preach. I had lots to say about work and work pressures, and how to be a Christian at work. But as I began reading the text, reading the text in context, I realised my preconceived ideas about this passage were wrong. The longer I worked on it, the more it went off in a different direction to the one I had planned – and into what God actually wrote and what He wants us to understand. Praise God!

Because today’s passage turns the focus off US and onto the LORD – even in work. Work is not about us. It’s not even about our employers. Work is about the Lord.

So we’re going to look at what it means to be slaves of God: we are chose, we are under a new master – and then an implication of that we are slaves of each other. Slaves of God: chosen, a new master, slaves of each other.

1. Slaves of God: chosen

A “slave” is “A person who is the legal property of another”. At the time this was written probably about a third of people were slaves. Slaves were often household servants. They may be slaves for life or they may be for a limited time. However, they were to obey their master in everything, they belonged to him.

And that’s the main point of this passage. We are slaves of God. We belong to Him.

As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.
9 remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favourites.

V6 had me puzzling for a while “as slaves of Christ”. What does that mean? Have we seen it before? I’m familiar with the idea from other books of the Bible, but what does it mean here in Ephesians? What’s the context?

I did a search through the text to see if the word or idea of slave or slavery had been used before – and in reading through the book two things jumped out.

Firstly in chapter 1, verse 1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. Paul was completely transformed when Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. In one moment he was transformed from someone who persecuted and arrested Christians, and tried to have them killed – to the Apostle to the Gentiles. As Jesus said about him in Acts 9:15 [P]aul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.

He was chosen by God. Appointed by divine decree. He had no choice but to obey. And praise God, he did obey – and the gospel went forth into the whole world! We are here today because Paul was chosen to be – and was - an obedient servant, no matter the cost.

Secondly, in 3:1 and again in chapter 4:1 Paul describes himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the benefit of you Gentiles – and continues Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

Chosen. Called. Live like it. Paul is a slave of Christ because he was chosen by God, called by God – as are we. Paul is a slave of Christ because Christ rescued him and turned his life around. Paul owes Christ everything – and he will give him everything, even giving up his body to prison and eventual death. He belongs to Christ.

We are slaves of Christ because we are called by God. And we are slaves of Christ because we have been ransomed (bought, rescued) by God. That’s what chapters 1-3 are all about!

Eph 1:3–5 (NLT) All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Daniel, chosen by God to be his slave, his servant. A divine decree, an eternal purpose: to bring God pleasure, adopted into his family as a son of God. Chosen to be holy and without fault. Wow!

2. Slaves of God: a new master

I have heard it said, often by Christians uncomfortable the mention of slavery, that 1st century slavery (when this was written) wasn’t as bad as the 19th Century African slave trade – but there’s very little historic evidence for that. Roman slaves were the property of their master. Female slaves (and indeed male slaves) were sexually available to their master, and could not refuse. Slaves could be killed by their master and seemed to be legal. There’s also little evidence that society as a whole condemned such behaviour. In contrast, it was normal.
In short, life as a slave could be pretty brutal and awful – or could be fantastic, with high honour, depending on your master. Everything depended on the favour of your master.

All of us are slaves of something or someone. As chapter 2 puts it 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature.

We were once slaves to our sinful natures, prisoners of our passionate desires of our sinful nature. I want. I demand. Manipulating to get what we want. Getting the most for the least amount of effort.

Oh, doesn’t that sound familiar. My daughter’s really been struggling with that. She gets so angry when she’s told to do something she doesn’t want to do. She’s angry because she’s been reminded that she’s not God – she does not have the power to bend the world to her will, and make everyone else do what she wants. Her wounded pride (sinful nature) DEMANDS that she does something about it. And takes it out on her poor brother.

And I recognise that so well in her heart because it is the same battle in my own heart – and if you’re honest, in your heart too. We’re just better at hiding it!

We are slaves to our sinful nature – our ego, our pride, whatever it is within us that demands MY rights, MY way, MY comfort. We all agree that the golden rule “love others as you love yourself” is brilliant – but none of us live it! We all want people to treat US that way – but as soon as it comes to me setting aside what I want – as soon as it becomes hard or costly or even inconvenient – oops, that philosophy is out the window and it becomes every man for himself, dog eat dog, etc.

But without Christ we’re not just slaves to our sinful nature. Oh no. We are slaves to the world (peer pressure to look out for number 1, to find happiness in shopping, to live for pleasure, for example), and slaves to Satan. All of us have a Master. And if it is not Christ, it is Satan, it is the world, it is your own sinful nature. Who do you serve?

Because in Christ you can be raised to life Eph 2:4–6 (NLT) But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!). And raised to life for this one purpose: to glorify God in everything we do. Eph 4:1 lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Eph 4:24 (NLT) Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Eph 5:1 (NLT) Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Eph 5:15 (NLT) So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

We were raised to life to be the slaves of Christ. To serve the very Emperor of the Universe, the King Most High. And that is a good thing, because he is a good King, and a good and loving and compassionate master. Do not be afraid to leave behind the brutal master sin, the world, and the devil. Oh they promise much, but they will spit you out and destroy you. Like the stories I shared with you a few weeks ago, sin has a way of growing until it destroys you. The little “borrowing” money from the company theft ends up in being fired as a thief. The harmless flirting that leads to divorce. Our sinful natures are brutal and merciless task masters. How often have we seen people with “it all” self-destruct and ruin everything. How often have we done things that we knew we shouldn’t but we did or said it anyway – with terrible consequences.

In contrast, Christ demands everything – but gives everything. We have every spiritual blessing in Christ. We are seated with him in the heavenly realms (2:6). We are united into the church – here we are, together, from all over the world – the family of God, the servants of the Most High God.

Do not be afraid to obey your master in everything, no matter what it seems to cost. Because our Master is a good master. Eph 2:10 (NLT) For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

We belong to God. He bought us with his blood. HE created us anew. We are his masterpiece, a masterpiece of grace. And we are to do the good things he planned for us to do.

Don’t be afraid. Trust your master. Obey in everything. Live for Christ. How? Read chapters 4-6 again. Serve one another with joy!

3. Slaves of God: slaves of each other

Because we love God. Because we are his slaves. Because his Spirit is within us, changing us, empowering us – we CAN live like we are called! Imitate God. Love each other. That’s the golden rule “love other as you love yourself” or “treat others as you want to be treated”. If you are a master – how would you want your slaves to work? Similarly if you own a business, what kind of employees would you want? People who work hard, gladly, happily.

And what kind of master or boss would you want. Someone who cares for you, who values the work you do, who considers you as a person, not just a “resource”.

And that’s what we see commanded in these verses.

Eph 6:5–9 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. 6 Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. 7 Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. 9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favourites.

Note that it does not say “slaves (or employees) if your master is good and kind, then work hard for him”. There is no exception. Your boss may be awful. But if you drag your feet, and steal things from the office, and send emails making fun of him, and doing things as slowly as possible – where is the nature of Christ in that? Your Christian witness is destroyed, your relationship with your boss is one of hatred and conflict, and he will never want to come anywhere near a church because he’s seen YOU in action and thinks “well, if that’s what Christianity is about I want no part of it”. And that’s tragic because the ONLY thing that can change a person’s heart is…the gospel.

Instead, you obey them, respect them, work hard for them. Win them over with your hard work. And you may even win them for Christ.
Of course, they may reject that, they may see you as someone to exploit, and you may need to respectfully set clear boundaries – as you are called not just to obey your boss, but also to love your wife as Christ loved the church, and to raise your kids in the Lord, and to serve in the church, and you can’t do that if you’re at work 80 hours a week! So be wise in managing upwards. Just like with wives, with children, this is not calling for us to be a doormat, just to do anything we’re told blindly – but it is calling for our heart attitude to change. This is an internal matter, not an external one. Living the Christian life is letting the Spirit change us from the inside out.

Is this hard? Of course! But did you see the motivation there? In every verse we are reminded: Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

At the end of the day, what we do we do ultimately for God. In our day and age we may be “slaves” for a time to a particular job that we have no choice but to do, or a period of life like with little children where life just seems to be an endless cycle of feeding, washing and wiping bums! And you know what – we can do it with enthusiasm, to glorify God. We work for the Lord, not for our bosses, not for our kids, not even for ourselves. We work for Him.

I have worked for nearly four years as an auditor. And I HATED that job. It was boring, soul-destroying work. I had no motivation – I so often just sat in front of my computer wishing the day was over. The only thing that kept me going through those days was this: I work for God. And I prayed, I begged him to help me serve him faithfully. And you know – he did. I worked hard. I got through the days. I did my job well by the grace of God.
You may be in the same situation now. Trust God, trust his word, and obey him with gladness.

Whatever we do, we are to do it for his glory. The reward we work for is not the paycheck at the end of the month (for it is God who supplies our needs, not us through our work) – but v8 Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

We work for him.

Oh, and if you’re a boss, a master – remember that your slaves are people too, and that you are both answerable to the same master. Note the respect given to slaves – placed equal to masters under God: You both have the same Master. Whether slave or free we are slaves of the Lord Almighty.

And it was this idea of the equality of men before God which eventually brought down the system of slavery in Rome, and brought down the system of slavery in the 19th Century. It’s brilliantly subversive: not “this is wrong, rise up and fight” (which would have ended in mass executions or even civil war) but “you are equal before God. Treat each other as brothers”. Read Philemon for more on this completely new way of thinking, as Paul writes to a Christian master of a slave Onesimus, who has also become a Christian and basically says: he is your brother, not your slave. Treat him as a brother.

We are slaves of God – because we have been chosen by him, by his mercy and grace, to be rescued, ransomed, turned around.

We are slaves of God – because we have come under new management. No longer slaves to the world, the devil, and worse still, our own sinful natures – horrible masters. But now slaves of Christ, who loves us to the point of death and beyond. A good master.

We are slaves of God, and so we are slaves of each other, seeking the good of our fellow men, whether at work or at home or at church.

5:1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.