This coming weekend more church buildings will open up, others will open in the next few weeks and some much later. Most Church leaders are wondering how many will return. I am wondering when they do return what kind of church will they be. Will the year of a scattered church produce the fruit that is so needed? Will there emerge a holiness of God in our hearts and minds as well as behaviour? Will Christians stop church-hopping based not on a ‘leading of the Lord’ but simply because their humanity has been challenged in a variety of ways?
The Apostle in prison writes a long list of commands. From 4:25 to the submission passage in 5:22f there are 50 commandments which can be put into 12 categories. We will get to each and every one of them.
But before we do that it is imperative to approach the list with the background of what Paul has already written and most importantly this:
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22
4 v25 Therefore each of you must… and the list begins.
But that is for tomorrow.
For today I want us to look at a verse that will come up in the middle of all the do’s and don’ts of our behaviour:
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (5:14)
The inspiration for the formation of Christ in our lives is in this one sentence.
Where is the quote from?
Many attribute it to Isaiah. Paul has been used to referring back to that prophet already and will do so again. In 2:17 he quotes the prophet in that God will heal the racial divide of His people; in 4:30 when not grieving the Spirit of God and later the imagery of the soldier in 6:14-17 he takes from the prophet.
The inspiration and the empowerment to be able to achieve the 50 commandments are found in Isaiah 26:19 and 60:1.
Both passages speak about why the people of God went into exile and how they will return. The prophet gives lists of the sins of people which would exile them but then reveals how God will come into the battle for His people, they would be purified, the idols defeated, the Redeemer will come to Zion and establish a new covenant and will dwell with the people. The Light of His presence will emanate from His people as their lives are transformed.
Paul knew that and so did the hymn writer who wrote: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” For that is where the quote originates based on Isaiah. Was it Paul who wrote that hymn? Maybe. But he certainly knew it and so did the people who read his letter.
What were the other lyrics? Certainly we can understand what this lyric was meaning. It is a beautiful sentence. Set in the heart of 50 commandments the majority of which relate to our behaviour with one another.
Here is another hymn, the majority will know this:
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Can you imagine Christians experiencing this? Can you imagine a different Church post-lockdown?
Can you imagine a Church that does not grieve the Holy Spirit (4:30) set in the context of how we treat one another?
Can you imagine a Church that copies God and loves like He loved us at the cross (5:1-2)?
Can you imagine a Church which pleases the Lord (5:10)?
Can you imagine a Church that knows the will of the Lord (5:17)?
Can you imagine a Church filled with the Spirit (5:18)?
Can you imagine this for you?
A few days ago I hosted a meeting of leaders where my leader, Chris Cartwright, the General Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal Church was speaking. Whilst he was coming to a close I wrote a prayer based on what he had spoken. I then closed the meeting with the prayer. It is this:
Hear our prayer:
We want to move not drift.
We want to step into purpose not be stuck in the default.
Renew us for radical mission.
Reform us to unlock the possibility.
We commit to the pathway of the gospel.
We commit to carry the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We come down from the victorious mountain to the valley of compassion.
And as we do we ask for the renewal of the 5-fold ministries so that the lives of men and women, young and old, are equipped and the body of Christ is built.
We are in times of:-
Clarity so open our eyes
Urgency so open our doors
Flexibility so open our stubborn hearts
Opportunity so open our understanding
This is YOUR time
This is HARVEST time
This is the SPIRIT time
This is OUR time.
We are ready to change
We are ready for a new Kingdom positioning
We are ready for the advance
You call our name and we say YES to your call.
My desire is for that prayer to be answered; for the formation of Christ to be seen and known in our lives and for the Churches to emerge transformed from this lockdown season.