Every Spiritual Blessing… in Him!

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Spiritual Blessing In Him

Sunday 02/18/24

Title: Every Spiritual Blessing… in Him!

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Every Spiritual Blessing… in Him!

Now, as I was telling you, as we were going through the book of Colossians there really is quite an amazing overlap of material between the two books of Colossians and Ephesians

The books or letters of Ephesians and Colossians are speculated to have been written about the same time between 60 and 62 AD when Paul was in his first imprisonment for the gospel. And so he probably wrote them pretty much back to back. So that not only the themes, but the progression of thought would naturally have been somewhat similar. This of course does not take away from its inspiration, it just offers a possible reason for the remarkable amount of symmetry that exists between the letters.

The same concerns, teachings and instruction were in the view of the Holy Spirit to convey to these early believers in both places – though without question, Ephesians is the more theologically robust of the two letters!

There’s a number of those today who don’t believe that the book of Ephesians was written to the people of Ephesus. They believe it was a circuit letter. 

While I believe it almost certainly was USED as a circuit letter – at least to the church of Laodicea, I personally believe it was originally written to the believers in Ephesus because at least some of the oldest copies actually says so.

Now that is not to be uncharitable to those who think otherwise. You need to understand, like I’ve told you many times, we have thousands of copies of the New Testament that date back to antiquity. I mean, literally thousands.

We have over 5,600 Greek copies – the very language of their Greek originals. 

In addition to this the New Testament was translated into Latin very early on and we have over 10,000 of those copies. 

Add to this that they were copied into other ancient languages such as Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, Gothic and Old Church Slovanic of which we have at least 5,000 copies and the meaningful agreement between them is almost 100%. 

By “meaningful” I mean very few variations which transfer any impact onto historical statements and zero which impact the doctrines taught by Jesus and the apostles

Make no mistake there are a LOT of variants, but that a large contributing factor to this is the numbers of copies we are dealing with. If you have 20,000 copies of a document as thick as the New Testament it is only reasonable that the number of variants would be MUCH higher than a historical document of which we only have 20 copies and are only 1/10 of the length comparatively. 

That is not to side step the variants which are there but they are all in the form of very simple and obvious differences like the spelling of a city, region, name or body of water – where the context and pronunciation make it obvious what the original word was. Another example is when a scribe would substitute a pronoun like “he” for a proper name where the person being referenced is clear.

Another variant is the one I am addressing right now regarding this letter to the believers in Ephesus.

Here it is likely that Paul wrote this letter TO the Church of Ephesus

However, there were times, as I’ve told you before, that when a Church like Ephesus received a letter, they would often copy it. They had scribes there that would copy these letters and send those copies to other surrounding churches.  This is just one of many reasons why there were so many ancient copies from which other copies were made which survived. 

They did this to maintain agreement in doctrine AND ta continuous encouragement to the churches. When they did this, it would not be an unlikely thing for them to exclude parts of the original letter which were personal to the original recipient. 

So in our case, the introduction which says, “to the church in Ephesus”, they would probably eliminate that and just give the contents of the letter. As such there would be many more copies of the original letter that don’t say “to the Ephesians”. 

[For more on the reliability of scripture and a better understanding of variants in the copies see – Are the Scriptures Reliable?]

If they were going to send this copy to the church in Laodicea, it was not necessary to include the introductory phrase “to the Ephesians” written at the top.

So there really are some very practical reasons for these things. 

The great majority of the copies of this letter don’t sayto the Ephesians” and so people can be justified in assuming that the phrase was later added when I believe in reality, it was part of the original and it was from some of the copies that it was eliminated.

Sometimes I like to give you little backdrops on a letter or a book. I think it’s good for you to have more understanding about your Bible and the way it was composed, compiled and preserved. 

You also need to understand that eliminating the phrase “to the Ephesians” is not on par with adding to and taking away from scripture.

First off, when this was done, it wasn’t scripture… it was just a letter. A very precious and valuable letter to be sure – thus the huge number of copies, but a letter all the same.

These early letters had not yet been canonized as scripture. That did not happen until MUCH later. 

Let me just add one more fact. This letter is also more likely to have been originally penned to the Ephesians because we have it on the testimony of Luke in the book of Acts that Paul had earlier told the elders of this church that he had not failed to share with them the FULL testimony of God.

You see Paul probably first came to Ephesus in 52 AD, staying with them 3 years teaching and preaching and not failing to tell them all the counsel of God. He left in 55 AD. (though these dates may be 53-56AD)

Paul’s visit with its elders which Luke recorded was about 4 years later in 59 AD.

This letter to the Ephesian church was anywhere from 2 to 4 years later still in 61-63 AD and contained some of the most exalted and profound teachings of Christian doctrine to be found anywhere in the Bible. 

As such it seems MOST fitting that this church was the original and intended audience for this letter. They were arguably more mature than many of the other churches and therefore more spiritually ready to receive and live out the contents of this letter.

Now, in this book, the first three chapters are largely written from the perspective of informing or reinforcing the truths that have to do with our privileges and our positions ‘IN CHRIST’. 

The last three chapters (4-6) are about what should be demanded in our behavior BECAUSE of our privileges and positions ‘IN CHRIST’. 

So the first three are all super encouraging. They really are a big shot in the arm. 

The last three are not lacking that encouragement, but they are more focused upon the heart felt and reverent response in the life of the believer to the encouragements offered. That is because these encouragements are not simple platitudes but are spiritual realities of the honest position and privileges we have now that we are ‘IN CHRIST’. 

So it is only natural that along with these come a stewardship of responsibilities in kind.

Chapters 1-3 = This is what has been provided for us and given to us ‘IN CHRIST’. 

Chapters 4-6 = This is our response to the fact that we have been brought into this kingdom and been lavished with every spiritual blessing. 

Also Paul employs the phrase “in Him” or “in Christ” or its equivalent over 35 TIMES IN THIS ONE SHORT LETTER. That is much more than any other book in the New Testament!

So ‘IN CHRIST’  is the key phrase of this letter and is therefore its primary focus.

Each New Testament letter has a type of “key phrase” which you could easily discover if you were to go through them and this was the focus of what Paul was conveying to the saints in Ephesus.

So diving right in to Ephesians 1:1,

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus, grace to you and peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 So he starts off again with the statement of “grace and peace, and really in a nutshell, what he means every time he says that phrase in his letters is that he is evoking God’s influence upon their hearts, its reflection in the way they live their lives – that it might work to eliminate anything that would be in disagreement with God. That they might walk in accord with Him. 

That’s what it really means. 

Peace here means to bring together two things that were opposite from one another into a place of agreement so that there is tranquility and unity. 

In order to achieve this REQUIRES God’s influence (GRACE).

So he says… 

“grace and peace from God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Meaning in other words, there isn’t a spiritual blessing that God could give you that he hasn’t given you.”

There isn’t one. There is no such thing as a spiritual blessing that has not been given to the church and there are no favorites with God. He didn’t give some to some members of the church and others to others among the members of the church. We have ALL BEEN BLESSED with every spiritual blessing, but where’s it found? ‘IN CHRIST’! 

“… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Just as He chose us IN CHRIST, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will.

Now there’s a lot of people who get caught up in the whole predestination thing, because these verses, as they are written in English, seem to imply predestination by the very words. 

The words, “just as He chose us in Him” sounds very exclusive. 

If he chose us, what does that mean with those that are outside and were not chosen?

I think it is easy enough to see why some people see this as an exclusionary gospel that God preordained certain people to be born again and other people not to be born again. But this is a misconception that some doctrines, belief systems and denominations have run with. 

That however, is  not really what’s being said here. 

How do we know that? 

Because God is very, very clear in scripture that if He got what He wanted, NO ONE WOULD PERISH. Everybody would come to the knowledge of the truth. 

So we already know that we have to eliminate the notion of God pre-selecting some people off the table as a possible answer. If He had – NO ONE would be lost!

I think when we deal with passages and concepts like this, we need to understand that scriptures, even though they’re written to human beings, they’re largely written from God’s perspective. 

God is the center point. 

So when we try to view things as though it’s from a human perspective, we are almost bound to misunderstand things. 

So if you can use your imagination to hypothetically put yourself in the position of being God, it would help you see the problem.

Often we tend to translate and understand scripture through a filter where God thinks and acts from OUR HUMAN perspective and when we do this we are doomed to get something wrong. 

Now that doesn’t mean that our perception is so great that if we try to imagine being in God’s position, we still won’t get something wrong. We probably will, but at least we’re on the right track at this point! At least then we have placed the problem in a context where we have at least SOME hope of properly understanding it.

Everything flows from God to us, not the other way around. So if we come to scripture from the perspective of God and understand that God knows all things it changes our understanding.

Unique to the persons of the godhead is omniscience. 

God not only can – They DO, look throughout the future and can see all the hearts who would be responsive to the gospel… whose hearts would respond with humility and love to Jesus. 

Those are the very people that They choose – and wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t choose the people that you know are violently hostile against Your Son.

This does not mean that God IN THE CHOOSING made it impossible for the others to come. Not at all! It means that God did the choosing He did because of the type of heart that He saw in those who would believe. You see what I’m saying?

God, in looking across the future, knew the hearts who were going to respond to the gospel. God knew those who were going to have hearts of humility which opens them up to grace He offers. Those are the hearts He predestined to bear the image of Jesus

God is no fool. They are not going to predestine a person that They know is going to reject Jesus and spit in His face in their self-righteous and defiant wills – and try to predestine them to be bear an image they reject! God is unwilling to force anyone into compliance and belief, so in God’s foreknowledge only those who would respond were predestined to bear the image of Jesus in the New Creation.

We live in a world where God wants things that He will never have. 

That being so, when God predestined certain people, He didn’t predestine people to the exclusion of others. He predestined certain people because they were going to choose submission to the Lordship of His son.

The other people He knew were hostile against His son and would never receive Him. 

This is the reason why the “son of perdition” was appointed to destruction before the foundation of the world. It doesn’t mean the Judas didn’t have a choice. Of course he had a choice! 

Everybody has a choice! 

Why would God look across the landscape of eternity or the future of humanity and love a certain person and say, even though I love you, I’m going to predestine you to destruction just because I need a good example. You’re just going to have to spend eternity apart from Me in destruction and suffering because I needed a good example in my book! 

Does that sound like the God you know? No, it isn’t! 

So clearly you have to lay the concepts of predestination as understood as pre-chosen apart from freewill to one side. Don’t you?

It’s not an option. This is what it means. 

God knows all hearts fully before they are even born! Didn’t the Spirit tell us as much through David in Psalm 139

He said, 

“(13) For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.  (14)  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.  (15)  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  (16)  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.  (17)  How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!  (18)  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”

So anyway, that’s what it means when we read this.

So let’s back up and read it again with this understanding. 

“(3) Blessed to be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world THAT,”

So there’s intention there, isn’t there? He didn’t just choose us. He chose us with a purpose!

What was that purpose?

“That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” 

So this is based upon His will! 

This is why we know it can’t be a matter of predestination of His choice, because we also know that it is God’s will that NO ONE perish, both for all to come to the knowledge of the truth. So God’s foreknowledge is not God’s forechoosing!

Then we are told that God did this …according to the good pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace by which He has made us accepted IN THE BELOVED!” 

“(7) IN HIM, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace,” that is to say of His influence upon us, “which He made to a bound towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself.”

 So it can get confusing because we are crossing back and forth between His will and His purposes. 

We have learned over the years, and especially in our lessons in our ‘Thru the Bible’ series, that there is a HUGE and fundamental difference between God’s will and His plans & purposes.

God’s purposes will ALWAYS be accomplished! 

God’s will will not always be.

Such is obviously demonstrated by the history of the world. 

Has anybody ever perished? Anybody? Well yeah!

Yet as we have referenced several times just today that we have it according to His word that it is God’s will that no one perish! 

So we already know God doesn’t get everything He wants.

We also know however, that scripture has gone on record multiple times that God accomplished His purposes and that nothing could stop it from happening – not even man’s freewill!

So God has certain things that He has determined will happen according to the counsel of His will. The Bible says He works out all things according to the counsel of His Own will and by the word “will” here, it means purpose because the word purpose is used in immediate conjunction with the word “will”. 

having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself.

The great “go to” example we often use because it’s an easy one is Pharaoh. It was God’s WILL to save Pharaoh, but it was His purpose and plan to deliver His people.

The Bible tells, remember, that He had told Abram, that his descendants were going to be in bondage for 400 years, but that He was going to bring them out. – Gen. 15:13

“(13) Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.  (14)  And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.  (15)  Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.  (16)  But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”Gen 15:13-16.  

The scriptures say in another place that God brought them out on the very day He had planned – Exodus 12:40-41

“(40) Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  (41)  And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.”

So evidently there was a set day. So God couldn’t be mamby pamby, wishy-washy about this. If He was going to fulfill His purposes and not be a liar, He had to make it happen on the day He had predetermined to do it and it didn’t make a difference what was going to get in the way. 

Free will will not serve to be an obstacle. God was going to make this happen. 

Now you may notice a discrepancy between the times offered. We have 400 years in bondage mentioned to Abram and 430 years in Egypt mentioned in Exodus. So what gives?

Well they are BOTH correct! The children of Israel were IN Egypt 430 years. However, it wasn’t until the death of the Pharaoh who was ruling during the life of Joseph that the people of Israel were placed into forced servitude. Evidently that was 30 years into their time in Egypt. The remaining 400 years were in bondage – just like God foretold to  Abram generations prior!

However, God, in His wisdom and in part due to His foreknowledge set the circumstances up in such a way that He wasn’t going to have to break anybody’s will. 

He still accomplished His purposes and He tried to save Pharaoh in the middle of it, but Pharaoh would not be saved. 

Remember that we went over this very thoroughly at the time and I’ve referenced it probably at least dozens, if not a hundred times. 

The scriptures do say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but only AFTER Pharaoh hardened his own heart. 

Remember there were 13 times that we are told Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. The first seven are attributed to Pharaoh’s unilateral response to God’s advances and warnings. The last six were God’s judgment on Pharaoh in accordance with his own decisions. [See – Hardening of the Heart]

Pharaoh kept on digging his heels and said, I will not give in. I will not respond. I will not listen to you! So eventually God slammed the gavel and made a judgment in favor of Pharaoh’s decision. “Okay. Have it your way. Your heart is now hard. You chose it!

You see that God made His judicial decision based on Pharaoh’s decision. He didn’t just come into Pharaoh and say, well, I don’t like you. So I’m just going to harden your heart and make it so that you will not let mMy people go unless I force the issue. Just because I want to make an example out of you, God doesn’t do that!

He kept on going to Pharaoh and warning him and giving him miracles that showed him, that He was powerful, that He is God, that he should listen to Moses His spokesman.

None of this was intended for Pharaoh’s destruction. It was for God’s people, but Pharaoh would not listen! He dug his heels in and eventually God let him have his own way. 

Worst thing that God can ever say to a person is “you can have your way”.

That clearly and effectively shows again, that God’s foreknowledge doesn’t make people’s decisions for them. He knew that Pharaoh wasn’t going to respond. He knew that Pharaoh was going to die in his sins.

So if predestination took people’s choice for them why didn’t God just forgo all of the miracles and opportunities to listen? Why not just kill Pharaoh and move on?

Because then if would not have been his free will choice!

God gave Pharaoh the information, the warning, the proof and the opportunity. 

Pharaoh squandered them all in his pride!

Pharaoh had to earn his own destruction, God was not just going to give it to him without him earning it!

To do otherwise runs contrary to God’s nature, character and purpose! 

Free will choice and compliance is a major part of God’s plan – you cannot have relationship without it!

[There was MUCH more to this part of the teaching which I did not choose to write out here in the body of this post. For that information please LISTEN to the message itself.]

So, backing up again, let’s just reread that section one more time starting in verse 3

“(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”

That means that any blessing that a seraphim, a cherub, an angel has, I’ve got that one too!

As a child, I’ve got it all. 

Now, there’s something I might have as a child that they don’t have, but they don’t have anything I don’t have. Because EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places has been given to me.

I’m His child.

Again, allow the privileged position that you were in to really register with you. 

“(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  (4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”

This is where we get things off. It’s good to be aware that we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing. At that point however, we don’t spend our life in pursuit of blessings, because that’s to live unaware that we already have got them. 

What we ought to be focused on is the “WHY” He blessed us with every spiritual blessing

He says the reason is…

So that we might be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

THAT is what you are to be focused on! 

You are to be devoted and loyal!

That’s holy and blameless before him in love. That’s your job. 

He did what He did for this purpose. Get on the job with that. Be devoted to that. Be on the train leading there.

“(5) Having predestined us to the adoption of sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

Now, why did he bring up the adoption of sons here? Why didn’t he just say that you’ve been born of God? Why did he bring up adoption? 

Paul deliberately used the word “adoption as children or sons” only a handful of places in the scriptures and every time it was in direct connection with our inheritance.

In their society, an adopted son shared equal inheritance with the first born. That’s why he brought it up here. 

Led by the Spirit, Paul is bringing this up because of where he’s headed which has to do with our inheritance. 

So WHEN scripture uses that phrase, that’s a little clue that either where he just came from or where he’s heading, he’s about to bring up something about our inheritance. 

For example, in Romans 8 beginning in verse 12 it says,

“(12) Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. For if we live according to the flesh, we will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are habitually led by the Spirit of God, these are His mature children.”

Now notice that at this point he is referring to them as CHILDREN.

Now he is about to bring up our adoption.

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to live in fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption.”

Now he’s calling you adopted. So what do I know he’s about to bring up? Something about our inheritance. 

He says, “the Spirit of adoption by Whom we cry out, Abba Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children then heirs, heirs of God and JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST.” 

Joint heirs means we receive the same inheritance Jesus does.

We are joint heirs with Christ, but it’s conditional. 

If we do what Paul already said in verse 12-14… if I don’t allow myself to be conformed the world, but be transformed through the working of the Holy Spirit within me, if I’m led by the spirit and not by my flesh – If I do that, we suffer with him that we might be glorified together with Him – I’m going to receive the same inheritance He receives!

So that’s why, so He already talked to us about being sons, about being children, but then changed language and said “adoption” just before bringing up becoming co-heirs with Christ

That’s what he’s getting at here in Ephesians as well. It was a cultural thing which 2000 years later living in the Western world, you wouldn’t necessarily know, but the Ephesians would have understood it just by reading it. 

So going on, he says in verse 6

(6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Now THAT time, that word grace is not talking as much about God’s influence over our lives, but the power of His favorite towards us. That would definitely fit the traditional definition of God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. 

Verse 7

IN HIM, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made a bound towards us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth IN HIM, IN WHOM we also have an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him Who works all things according to the counsel of His will.”

IN HIM, we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him, Who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted IN CHRIST should exist to the praise of His glory.”

Wow. Do you realize that regardless of what you believe that you see in the mirror every day, looking back at you, you are not necessarily seeing things clearly. This is because we have another mirror to look in!

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul is talking here about comparing the ministry of condemnation, which is what he’s using as a term to represent the Old Covenant, with the New Covenant, which is a ministry of God’s grace. So starting in verse 12

“(12)Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— (13)  unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away.”  

What was passing away? The Old Covenant and the letter and curse of the law! 

The law was supposed to be a tutor that brought men to Christ. The reason it brought men to Christ is because of the condemning effect that this chapter talks about. The curse of the law was it that it was the standard for righteousness, but you couldn’t do it!

That was the curse! 

Remember, what did we learn in Deuteronomy that was said to all the children of Israel back there in that valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim

He pronounced all the blessings that would come on and overtake them if they would do all that was written in the law. Now, we know they couldn’t do that in the flesh apart from God’s inner working though the Spirit subsequent to the New Birth and THAT was the curse.

If you could live it perfectly, you would have righteousness with God and blessings as a result. But you can’t live it perfectly, and so therefore it condemns you.

That’s the curse!

Paul tells us that what God intended to give life, we’ve subjectively found it to bring death [Rom. 7:10]. It condemns me because I can’t do it. 

So, now Moses, when he went up on the mountain and he spoke with God. He was so hungry for God on a relational level, unlike the rest of Israel, that he said, God, I have to see You! Cause me to see Your glory. 

Of course God told him that no man can look at Me and live.

Nevertheless, God caused His goodness to pass before Moses and remember God hid him in the cleft of a rock and even covered him over with His hand. After the goodness of God had already left the mountaintop, so that it was really not God so much as the aroma of God that was still in the air so to speak – God lifted His hand and allowed Moses to be exposed to the air around him that had been ignited by the goodness of God. You remember that it caused his face to shine like the sun for days. Just the goodness of God having already passed by!

But Moses had to put a veil over his face because if the children of Israel had been able to look at Moses’ face, they would have understood Jesus. Because Jesus is the end of what was passing away.

Jesus is the manifest goodness of God which He caused to pass before Moses.

Moses had to cover over his face because if these people who were in obstinance against God had seen what was being reflected off of Moses’ face, they would have understood Jesus in a state of rebellion against Him and that would have condemned the entire nation in a moment because they would have known God and would not be submissive to Him. It would be tantamount to rejecting the Messiah. But God’s too good for that so He had Moses place a veil over his face.

“(14) But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.  (15)  But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.  (16)  Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  (17)  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

Now we know that Jesus is the Lord of the kingdom. But the Spirit is your immediate Lord because the way that you obey the Lord Jesus is by obeying your immediate Lord Who is the Holy Spirit. He is the one that leads you and guides you and tells you what Jesus the Lord of the Kingdom wants you to do. That places the Spirit in the position of being our immediate Lord. He is the Spirit Who reveals Christ.

So Paul says, “(17) The Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.  (18)  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We really, really need to get this. It is part of the spiritual blessings we have all received IN HIM. They didn’t have this blessing under the Old Covenant!

Now we look with unveiled face behold as in a MIRROR the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into that glory from glory to a greater level of glory, from a lower level glory to a higher level of glory, even as by the working of the Spirit of the Lord! 

This is the heads to the tails of the verse in James where it says, he says,

But be doers of the word and not hear as only. Because whoever is a hearer of the word and not a doer is like a man who looks at the natural face in THE MIRROR. And he goes away and he forgets what manner of man he is.”

That’s the tails end of the same coin. 

It says here in 2 Corinthians 3 that when we look in the mirror, we see the glory of God reflected back at us! 

But if we walk away and forget what manner of people we are, that we are the glory of God, then our life doesn’t change to reflect our inward reality. We begin to fail to be branches drawing life from our Vine.

If we forget what we see reflected back at us and live life as we did before we knew the Lord there are severe consequences for that!

This is why I told you before, when you look in the word of God, if you see condemnation, you’re not reading it with the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the One Who causes us to see with an unveiled face since we are in Christ and causes us, when we look in the perfect law of liberty, to see God’s glory and be transformed into that same glory by His inner workings!

James called it the perfect law of liberty? 

Here, he says, with the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Not condemnation, but liberty. 

So when I look at the law, when I see the word of God, I don’t see condemnation, I see a reflection of Jesus in me. So when I walk away from having read the word, I’m mindful of who I am, rather than paying attention to how I have acted.

You’re not going to change if the only view you have of you is how you act. You’ve got to view who you are IN HIM!

What is reflected back in the mirror at you? Somebody else’s image or yours?


And what does it say that it shows you? The glory of God! 

So you don’t even know who you are. This is why this verse over here in Ephesians says that you are predestined to exist to the praise of His glory. 

There’s a day coming, regardless of what you think you’re seeing in the natural mirror, when you are going to bear the image flawlessly of the firstborn Son of God, and your very existence is going to be the praise of His glory.

You are predestined to bear the image of the firstborn Son. That’s our great hope, isn’t it? You were saved in this hope.

It’s only hope if you’re hopeful about it. 

If you don’t stir it up, it’ll just lay dormant on the floor. You got to look at your Christian life like a snow globe. If you don’t shake it up, it’s just going to sit there. All the snow is just going to stay on the bottom. The enjoyment of the snow globe is when the snow is falling, right? 

Well, the same thing is true regarding you. So shake yourself up!

God’s joy in you is when you shake up what’s in you. You’re not some dead knickknack laying on the shelf, but you’re enjoyable to look at. Because the snow is falling. There’s activity in there, and it looks like JESUS!

So he says here, back in Ephesians 1:7 that,

…IN HIM we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound towards us in all wisdom and prudence.

If you are lacking wisdom, it’s not because it’s not there. He says it’s not only there, it’s abounding towards you!

Well, why is it that I don’t always see it? Well, because your eyes aren’t where they belong! 

So often the person who needs wisdom is more focused on the fact that they don’t see it, than they are of the promise that it is already abounding towards them!

It is a deadly thing to have your eyes on yourself.

The verse we just read over there in 2nd Corinthians was not about you just looking to yourself. You were looking at the perfect law of liberty. And that word of God reflects back an image like a mirror does. It’s not an image that you see in the natural human mirror. It’s the mirror of what God has done inside of you! Its the “every spiritual blessing”… the “now that I am in Christ, old things have passed away and all things are made new and now all things are of God” mirror!

Now all things are of God Who has reconciled me to Himself. That’s what I see. 

I don’t see what I do. I don’t see what has happened to me. I don’t see natural things. 

  • There’s no cause for wallowing. 
  • There’s no cause for grumbling. 
  • There’s no cause for complaining.

Because what I see is not what I’m experiencing here on this earthlings plane, but what God is accomplishing and is predestined to accomplish in me through Christ. That’s what I’m focused on. You will only hit what you are aiming at… what you are looking at and are focused upon.

We have to be people that stop wanting to just do it! 

If you are saying all day long, “I want to read this book” and yet all the time that you have free time to do it, you’re doing something else then you’re hitting exactly what you’re aiming at. You weren’t aiming at reading the book.

You just wanted to read the book. 

You know I can want to go to Europe all day long and still be on a boat heading to Australia. The “want” doesn’t get me there. The direction does!

Wanting something doesn’t make it true. You’re going to have to set your course and set your gaze. 

What did Jesus say? He said, what you need to be doing is setting an expectant gaze at Me, the Author and the Developer of your faith

Don’t be looking at the other things because the other things are just going to produce more of what you already got.

If all you do is keep your eyes on the loss, you are going to repeat it. Don’t be surprised. It should not be an aha moment that things are not changing, things are not getting better.

It should be absolutely expected because you’re going to hit what you’re aiming at. 

He says, I want you to set your gaze. The wording there actually in Hebrews when it says to set your gaze upon Jesus, it means to set an expectant gaze

You’re to look to Him, but you’re looking expecting to receive something! 

What was He talking about when He said to set an expectant gaze? He was talking about Jesus developing your faith.

He is the Author of it, but He’s also the Developer of it. 

So if I want my faith to increase, I need to set my gaze at the One Who increases it, not at other things. 

This is where the Word of Faith movement got so many things wrong.

They would go to the Bible in the same mistaking way that the Pharisees did and Jesus corrected them. He said, (and I paraphrase) 

You think you’re going to find life there in the scriptures and you’re not going to find life on those pages. It’s going to point you TO life and here I am!

Faith can come by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, but they didn’t say hearing by the Logos, it’s by hearing by the Rhema. And to be sure the Word of Faith movement taught that as well, but then when they lived it out – it was by simple recitation of snippets from the word of God which were often never spoken TO THEM and were the great majority of the time lifted out of their given contexts!

The Logos is the written word. 

The Rhema is the spoken word. What the Spirit of God speaks to you.

He quickens those words. 

So you set an expectant gaze. You come to the throne of grace knowing what you’re going to walk away with is grace.

The scriptures tell us to come to that throne of grace – not so we can walk away disappointed but with the grace we came for! Grace to help in times of need. 

I don’t go to the throne of grace with my eyes on the trouble.. on the need. I go to the throne of grace expecting grace to help in the time of need, not with my focus on the need.

You don’t pray the problem! 

You don’t think the problem. You’ve got enough of the problem. You’re already convinced of that. You know it’s there. You’re not living in denial of that. 

You are to pray the solution!

You seek the Person of the solution

One of the things that God increasingly expects of His children as they mature is to make it less and less about themselves.

That’s a sign of maturity.

So when I come to God, even my prayer for daily bread needs to be more about God and less about me. 

God, I need to hear Your voice” – not just because I don’t want to be a failure and appear to be a failure to my friends and my family and those around me. I want to hear You so that I can live in a way that honors You. That’s why I’m seeking Your face. 

That’s why Jesus started His prayer with “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your will be done.” 

Your kingdom come. 

Your reign arrive. 

And Your will be accomplished here in MY LIFE as much as it is in heaven.

Now, with that setting, please, “give Me this day My daily bread”. 

You know what I need. I don’t know what I need. I might want this, but You know I need that.

So I’m asking You to be the One that provides whatever need I have. 

That’s literally the amount of time you spend on yourself

You realize Jesus didn’t pray that five or ten different ways in the same prayer. He said it and moved on knowing that God already heard it.

Because His focus was what He told you to make your focus. 

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, right standing in that kingdom, and then all these things will be will be added to you.” 

I’m a conduit, not a reservoir. 

That’s the direction of what Paul is saying in these words here in Ephesians

Picking back up in verse nine, he says,

(9) having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which on the earth IN HIM

IN HIM also, we have obtained an inheritance being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His Own will, that we who first trusted IN CHRIST should exist to the praise of His glory. 

IN HIM, you also trusted after you heard the word of truth.”

Who trusted? I did. You did.

It doesn’t say God forced that on you. He said He gave you the message. 

YOU decided to trust!

This is free will, isn’t it? It didn’t say God forced you to trust. He said you trusted. Trusted is a verb. It’s an action. It’s something you did. 

He said, IN HIM, you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, IN WHOM also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, a promise.

So this is your condition. When you heard the gospel message, you responded in trust. You directed your relational trust into the person that had been revealed to you, namely Jesus. And when that happened, He filled you up with every spiritual blessing that is in the heavenly places and then sealed you with the Holy Spirit, a promise. 

He’s already given you what you need. 

“(15) Therefore, I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”

In other words, that your intimacy might increase. 

That your intimacy might increase.

Here in Ephesians 1:17 you have Jesus referring to God as Father, not because he’s not equal with God and is part of the Godhead, but because He had also become human. 

The name Jesus is referring to the Living Word in His humanity.

He was never called Jesus before he became a human. From eternity past before there was ever a heaven or an earth or an angel or anything created, the person you and I call Jesus… who John calls the “word” was never named Jesus before His natural birth into this world. 

He took on that designation when He became Savior, which makes sense. 

God Himself didn’t need saving. 

Humanity needed saving, and so it is that God sent part of the Godhead to became flesh. 

The living word Who was with God the Father and was part of the Godhead Himself became flesh and dwelt among us. At that point he was begotten through Mary but was physically of the Father

He wasn’t begotten spiritually. He had existed from eternity past, having never had a beginning nor will He ever experience an end.

He physically was begotten of the Father through Mary

Thus we called Him Emmanuel – He was God with us.

A member of the Godhead wrapped in flesh. God the Father was in God the Son, to reconcile the world back to Himself as the Father

So it is that when we read here in verse 17

Ephesians 1:17-21,

“(17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,  (18)  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power  (20)  which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  (21)  far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”

Far above! It would be enough if it was just above. Wouldn’t it? 

I mean if a drowning man is happy if he’s just above the water. You know what I mean? But he’s not just above the water he’s far above it!

Far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named. Not only in this age but also in the world to come. 

So there’s no authority and no name that he’s not above. Amen?

“(21)  far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (22) And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, (23)  which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Now I’m going to dip into chapter two to give you a little bit more just to bait you. 

Because I told you we’ve been invited into this perimeter dance – the perichoresis as offspring of those who have been dancing that dance for an eternity.

We’ve been invited into this union of giving and being spent on and spending ourselves. 

He says…

Ephesians 2:1-7, “(1) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,  (2)  in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,”  

Wow, I’m no longer a child of disobedience. Well then what would that patently make me? I’m a child of obedience. Well I embrace that definition I gotta tell you.

I need tons of that. I’m a child of obedience. Amen? That’s my designation. I’m a child of obedience.

“(3)  among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”  

This is why Romans tells us don’t set your mind on things of the earth. 

If you’ve got problems in your life, don’t think on the problems. 

If you’ve got lack in your life, don’t focus on the lack. 

He’s not saying walk in denial of it. He’s just saying do you not realize you have a heavenly Father? Set your mind on that and then pursue the kingdom of God… seek first the kingdom of God and right standing in that kingdom and all of these things will be added to you besides. 

And we get these things not by pursuing them but by pursuing Him.

“(4)  BUT GOD!!!!! 

But God, Who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  (5)  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),  (6)  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  (7)  SO…

So this is His intentions… 

You know as a young lady, if a young man sought your attention and wanted to take you out on a date what might have come to your mind is what are his intentions!

You see back in the day if you courted a young lady they understood it was to end result in marriage. They knew that this wasn’t just because the young man was attracted to her.

No! His intentions were to share her life. 

A young man courted a young woman’s favor and it was clear from the very beginning that his intentions were to see whether they were compatible. To see if this initial attraction might lead towards marriage.

That was the desire and you stated that from day one. 

Well God has courted you and He stated His intentions. Amen! 

Let’s read what His intentions are…

“(7) …that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Get that!

He did all this so that for an eternity he can be kind to you. 

Man Who are we serving?

The One Who is calling us wasn’t lying when He THREE TIMES in one sentence spoke of His devoted love towards us!


“God Who is rich in tender loving kindness because of His great love with which He loved us !”

Three times!

God’s great love – rich love is not dormant it’s active! 

With which love He has loved us! He didn’t just sit on the love, He used it!

And He did all of these things while we were still filthy and hostile against Him SO THAT in the future He can spend Himself on us through acts of kindness to us! 

That He might act towards you as He’s been acting towards the Son and the Spirit for an eternity and as They act towards Him. That we might all act that way with one another for an eternity.

Though we are not part of the godhead we’ve been invited into their perimeter dance! Again like I said, we just really don’t know what we’ve been invited into!

What we DO know however is sufficient to get us there right!? 

It’s sufficient! The eyes of my understanding have already been enlightened, already the veil has already been removed! 

What am I doing with my gaze? 

Well you know if I’m following the advice of the apostles who went before me, I’m no longer setting them on earthly things but I’m setting my gaze on heavenly things where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father!

Which by the way so am I even though I’m still dredging around here in this earthly corporeal state I’m still seated with Him amen!

Far far far above! 

Those are His intentions with me… with you. That’s His plan and purpose, and He always accomplishes His purposes and plans! 

Thank you Father!


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!