Teaching Notes – Loaded Up

Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.

Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.

These teaching notes are from a study in Ephesians.

Continue reading “Teaching Notes – Loaded Up”

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Teaching Notes: On The Walk Of Unity

Teaching Notes are Bible studies we taught before GraceLife Ministries began publishing articles online in 1995. Some were presented as sermons, others as group studies.

Our hope is that these older studies will be a blessing to you in your life and ministry. Please use them in any way God leads you.

These teaching notes are part of a study in Ephesians about the importance of unity among Christians.

Continue reading “Teaching Notes: On The Walk Of Unity”

Fathers and Sons (Part 3)

silhouette-of-a-family-walking-hand-in-hand_1048-6260

Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

In our last study, we saw the important role fathers play in their family. They are formers, leaders, providers, and protectors. That is also the role they play in their church. Let’s look closer at Fathers in the Church.

“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church … Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:17, 28-30

Paul was greatly concerned about what would happen to the church after his departure. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem and didn’t know what would happen to him there. What Paul did know knew was the Holy Spirit had told him that chains and tribulations were waiting for him. Paul also believed he would not see those church leaders again. “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

Paul told the Ephesian elders they needed to “take heed” to themselves. The Greek is prosechete and means “to turn one’s attention to a thing by being on one’s guard against it, to devote thought and effort to, be attentive in caring for.” The idea is of being aware and on guard and Paul told the elders to start with themselves. The biggest challenge church leaders can face is their own motives and actions. They need to devote a lot of time and attention to what’s happening in their spiritual lives because that’s where problems in churches often begin.

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock.” Elders in a church also have the responsibility to guard the flock of God. That means those who belong to God and are placed in their care – “…  to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Do you see the gravity of the situation? God purchased the Church with His own Blood. The Holy Spirit makes elders overseers of the Church God purchased with His own Blood. The ministry of elder-overseeing is to shepherd the Church of God which He purchased with His own Blood. God the Son died on the Cross and bought the Church, the flock of God, with His own Blood. The Spirit of God places the people who God bought with His own Blood into the care of elder overseers.

Notice the progression of thought here:

1. Take heed to yourselves

2. Take heed to all the flock

3. Among which the Holy Spirit made you overseers

4. To shepherd the church of God

5. Which He purchased with His own blood

Why was Paul so concerned about what was going to happen to the flock of God? “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29) People from outside the Church (wolves) were going to attack God’s flock, the flock He bought with His own Blood, not sparing the flock. These people were vicious and would tear the flock to pieces, unless the elders took heed to themselves and the flock.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Paul went on to tell the elders – “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:30) Can you imagine that? Some of the elders who were standing with Paul would rise up and speak perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. That’s amazing! How did Paul know that? The Holy Spirit showed it to him. That’s why Paul wanted to meet with the elders. He wanted to warn them about dangers to the Church from outside and inside the flock.

I read these words for the first time during my first year as a Christian. I understood about the ravaging wolves because I had been one. What I didn’t understand was that leaders from inside the Church would hurt the flock of God. Unfortunately, I learned about that during my second year as a Christian and continued to see that happen again and again. It is one of the saddest things I’ve experienced as a Christian. We have a saying in martial arts – “You can be attacked at anytime by anyone from anywhere.” If I had applied that self-defense fact to my life as a Christian, I would have been better prepared to protect myself, my family and the flock of God. Listen to what Paul says here: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” If you are a father, if you are a leader in your church, take heed to yourself and all the flock of God. Make sure your heart is right with God and men, then guard the flock of God carefully.

As you can see from what Paul told the Ephesian elders, being a Church leader is an serious responsibility. Men need to carefully consider that responsibility before becoming leaders. Look at the qualifications for Church leadership:

“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?) 1 Timothy 3:2-5

“Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” 1 Timothy 3:12

Notice in each example (bishop and deacon) that the men were to be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. The initial test for leading, providing and protecting the flock of God is in the home. If a man is a good husband and father, then they have fulfilled one of the most important qualifications for Church leadership. How do we measure up to God’s measurement? Remember – the flock is God’s. He purchased it with His own Blood. That makes it personal to Him.

In our next study, we’ll see the important role Christian fathers have in the world. There is so much to do.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

How To Walk Like A Brother – In Summation

Person walking along road

The Apostle Paul was coming to the last years of a fruitful, but difficult ministry.  He was in prison – again – for faithfully preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God. This time Paul found himself in the granddaddy of all prisons – in the city of Rome. The year was about A.D. 60. The journey had started a few years earlier and had been a difficult one. Jews from Jerusalem saw Paul as a turncoat and a great threat to their religion and way of life. They wanted Paul dead and some even took an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him. Paul spent a lot of time in prisons between Jerusalem and Rome. He had faithfully testified about Christ to everyone who would listen to him – from angry mobs to soldiers to governors and a king. And now he was on his way to appeal his case to the emperor. Paul had been shipwrecked and bitten by a deadly snake, but nothing kept him from getting to Rome.

Paul didn’t know when his last day on earth would be, but God knew. The Holy Spirit placed on Paul’s mind and heart a powerful message that he wrote in letters to Christians he knew personally, and some he had never met. Three of those letters later became part of the Holy Scripture we love to this day: Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. The message God gave to Paul to share with the Church of that day is one we need to hear loud and clear today: Your life has been changed, so change your life!

Each of Paul’s three prison letters from Rome are specific to the needs of those churches, yet there is a common thread you can hear throughout.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

“Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Philippians 3:15-17

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15

As complex as Paul’s letters can be, the message is clear about the importance of God’s people being filled with love. It is a “bond” of perfection. We were called to be “one body” – not two bodies, not ten bodies, not a thousand bodies, not thirty thousand bodies – one Body of believers. We lost sight of that “oneness” a long time ago and as hard as it is for me to admit it, we will likely not experience the fulness of that oneness until we are all together with Christ in Heaven. God has the power to take all of the divisions that exist among Christians today, and make us one.

The way Christians treat each other is central to the theme of the Gospel of the Grace of God. The Gospel message we preach today is based on that oneness, but we don’t actually have it. When I was an atheist, pointing my angry finger at the people of God, I used the many divisions in the Church as one of my major “proofs” that there was no God. I pointed another finger at the hypocrisy I saw in the church. Atheists often look to Christians to give them the best ammunition against Christianity. They see us as hypocrites, divisive, unloving, and no better than anyone else – certainly not proof that there is a living God in Heaven above. I had seen first-hand what divisions in churches can do to people and wanted no part of it, but God saw it differently. He saved me and made me a part of His Church. God also gave me a special love for His people and called me to teach them as He taught me.

What have I learned after almost 40 years as a Christian? “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” May this be our high calling – our ultimate goal – in 2011. Let’s do everything we can do make a difference in the life of the Church by walking like a brother.

In Christ’s Love and Grace,

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

How To Walk Like A Brother 3

Person walking along road

The Bible is practical. The truths we learn in God’s Word are meant to be practiced in the real world under real-life pressure. Christianity is not for the weak. It takes great spiritual strength to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. God has never been theoretical about life. It’s always practical. So, how do we practice walking like a brother?

We’ve already seen the first two steps: 1. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” 2. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here are the next steps:

“… that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Step 3 – Put off the old man

Step 4 – Be renewed in the spirit of your mind

Step 5 – Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian believers that they had been taught, with regard to their former conduct (way of living), to do these things. Remember that Paul spent a lot of time ministering to the Ephesians. Pastors Timothy and Titus also invested time teaching in Ephesus. The believers there knew the how and why of walking like a brother.  It started with deep love and devotion to God and each other, and moved to putting off the old man, being renewed in the spirit of their mind, and putting on the new man. What does that mean? Putting off and putting on? Is it something we have to do or does it happen automatically to every believer?

Putting off and putting on is what we do in concert with the Holy Spirit Who lives in us. We do not accomplish anything in this life “for” God “without” God. That’s one of the reasons why the Spirit of God resides in us. He provides us with the strength and wisdom to accomplish His Will for our life. The word translated “put off” is apothesthai. It is the process of taking something off and putting it away. The ancient Greeks used the term for taking off clothing. It’s something they did after making a choice.

Every Christian has a choice. Do we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength or do we not love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength? Do we love our neighbor as ourself or do we not love our neighbor as ourself? Do we obey God in everything or do we not obey God in everything? Choices – the Christian life is about making hundreds of thousands of choices during a lifetime. We make important choices every day that impact our walk with God and others.

Paul says making the choices that please God begin with loving Him and loving others, then moves on to the process of putting off the old man. What is my “old man?” The words are palaion anthropon – the man of the past, that which is obsolete. It’s the way we were before God changed us through spiritual regeneration. It has nothing to do with our new life – it is the old life – the way we used to be – our former way of life. Paul tells us to “put off” that past man, that old man. Why? “… which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Our “past man” is in the process of corrupting (phtheiromenon – destroy through corruption, bring into worse state, to waste, decay). There are physical and spiritual forces applied to all people because of sin that are causing this corruption (present passive). They are filled with deceitful lusts (epithumias tes apates – very strong desires excited through deceit, seduced through delusion). Life for an unsaved person gets worse and worse because of the decay and corruption they experience in every aspect of their life. As Paul wrote the Ephesians earlier in his letter, Christians were once like everyone else in the world with no ability to change their spiritual situation – so God had mercy on them because of His great love for them.

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 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, 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. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10

This is the doctrinal foundation for everything we do and can do as Christians.  We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ! We experience life from death because Jesus conquered death for us. In the verses leading up to Paul telling the Ephesians to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new man, he reminded them that their life should look a lot different than the lives of the unsaved.

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Ephesians 4:17-19

That’s what the Ephesians had been before God saved them. Their thinking had been futile. Their understanding had been darkened. They were alienated from the life of God. Why? Because of the ignorance that was in them and the blindness of their heart. They were past feeling. They had given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. That’s how Paul expressed the pitiful condition of being lost. That’s what the Ephesians believers were like until God saved them “by grace through faith.”

The Ephesians knew what to do. Most Christians today know what to do. We need to “put off” the old man and “put on” the new man. How do we do that? “… be renewed in the spirit of your minds …” The word “renewed” (ananeousthai) speaks of your being made new (made young again) at the present time. This present renewal is happening in the “spirit of your minds” (to pneumati tou voos humon). It is a reviving of your human spirit, which affects your attitude and intent. Who does this for us? God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is the One acting on our hearts and minds every day, giving us the ability to “put off” and “put on.” Once we make the decision, we find all of God’s Heavenly Resources available to do what we decide to do.

That is such a comfort to me – knowing that living for God is not something I do alone and without help. I do make the choice to obey God, but He is the One with the power to help me make the choice, fulfill the choice, and live for Him. I like it that way. God gets ALL the glory. He doesn’t get “some” of it, or even “most” of it. God gets ALL of it.

A good example of this is the Apostle Paul. Look at what he accomplished during his ministry. Who got the glory?

“Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God.” Romans 15:15-17

“But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:30-31

This is not something Paul hid from the Ephesian believers. He made it clear that they existed for God’s glory as well. It was a choice God made long before the Ephesians were born. “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 will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)

Moving now to the next step in this important process – what does it mean to “put on the new man?” Who is the “new man?” The words “put on” are endusasthai. It was used for people putting clothing on themselves and wearing them (middle voice). The Christian life is more than putting away the former things of our life. It is becoming new in every way that matters to God. Paul helps us understand what we “put on” with the next part of the sentence: “which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” The word “created” is ktisthenta and was used by the Greeks for the founding and forming of a place for people to live (e.g. village, town, city). New Testament writers used the word for creating or producing something from nothing. Who does this creating? “… which was created according to God …” The words “according to God” are ton kata theon and speak to the dominance and control God expresses in this special work in a believer’s life. God creates within every Christian a spiritual laboratory where great experiments of life can occur. It is in our spiritual lab that God works with us in the putting off and  putting on. He equips our laboratory with all the necessary tools we will need to carry on this great experiment – “true righteousness and holiness.” Just as a scientist needs mixing bowls, flasks, burners, and basic elements to conduct their experiments, God gives us what we need to put off and put on – Himself. Who loved us, chose us and blessed us from before the foundation of the world? God. Who had mercy on us? God. Who shed His Blood for us to pay the price for our sins? God. Who lives inside of us to pray for us, support us, teach us, and guide us in every spiritual thing? God. What are the primary elements God has placed within our laboratory to assist us in putting off the old man and putting on the new man – “true righteousness and holiness.” The Greek reads en dikaiosune kai hosioteti tes aletheias – in righteousness and holiness of truth.

The most essential element of Christianity is “truth.” Everything is based on God telling us the truth about everything. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) He also said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) That is the foundation of our faith and trust in God – truth. Jesus is Truth and He will set us free! God uses this Truth as the basic element for every experiment we will ever conduct in our spiritual laboratory.

What springs from His Truth is His righteousness and holiness. Think about that for a minute. Can we really put on the new man without God’s righteousness and holiness? There’s no way. We’re wasting our time if we think we can. Our goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). That is the most amazing thing to ever come out of a spiritual laboratory. Take a sinful human being, spiritually dead and without hope – mix in the Blood of Jesus Christ, the Truth of God, and the Power of the Holy Spirit – and we have a human being who God fashions by His Grace into the very likeness of His Son! How can that happen without the righteousness and holiness of God in truth? It can’t. Putting on the new man will NOT work without God’s righteousness and holiness in the sphere of truth. If we’re not focused on that in our Christian lives and ministries, we need to stop right now and not take another step until we take care of that first. It is that important!

What happens when a Christian puts “off” the old man and puts “on” the new man? Their world changes. People take notice of the change and react to it. They may or may not like the change, but they will react. When Christians put on the new man, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness,” hearts, minds and lives are affected for eternity. We’ll see how – next week – as our study continues about How To Walk Like A Brother!

Blessings!

Mark McGee

GraceLife Ministries

“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”