Series: Grounded in Love
Message: Our Community
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jenniffer Ogden
Live Beyond: Andrew Jones
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Ephesians 5:1-21 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Ephesians 5:5 says, “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”
In our series on the book of Ephesians, we’ve spent a lot of time telling people what gets them into heaven. Essentially grace, the free gift of God, is given to every human being. Everyone is born with an A. Everyone is included.
In the midst of all that good news comes a warning. Paul, in many of the letters he writes, lists the kinds of people that have no place in the kingdom. No place in heaven. In essence, he says, you can’t earn your way to heaven by keeping all the commandments, but you sure can go to hell if you break all the commandments.
Let me explain.
If you, in your life choices, become an immoral person (a person with no moral compass), a greedy person (a person who puts financial gain in front of values and love for God and others), or an idolater (someone who puts the love of the created and its value over the love of the Creator and His values), you will want nothing to do with the Kingdom. You will, at some point on this life journey, have embraced the values of the empire (Babylon/beast/image to the beast in the book of Revelation) and forsaken the Kingdom. With the Kingdom come the values of selflessness, forgiveness, acceptance, and love. If your life journey takes you away from these Kingdom values and toward empire values, you will have forfeited your Kingdom standing.
It’s not that God has to condemn you. It’s not that He has to revoke your Kingdom pass and take back your Kingdom keys. He doesn’t have to do any of that. You’ve already done all that work. When a person embraces the empire, they forsake the Kingdom. God doesn’t forsake anybody. He embraces all who want to be embraced. He also honors every human’s choice to choose the empire. He’ll blot them from the Book of Life if that’s their desire. It won’t be without a fight, but He’ll do it if that’s their true heart’s desire.
That’s why sin is so horrible. It’s not horrible because it causes God to strike out in anger. It’s horrible because it literally changes our minds about God and the Kingdom. It robs us of our sense of what’s true and what’s valuable to the point that we will call black white and love hate. We will see with eyes that are clouded with deception and not even know that we are deceived.
Paul warns his readers to stay far away from these kinds of things because he knows how poisonous they can be. He knows how they can take over a life and steal a crown.
There was once a trucking company interviewing new drivers for an open position. The interviewer asked the three applicants the same question: “If you were driving 50 mph around a corner close to the edge of a cliff, how close do you think you could get to the edge and be confident in maintaining your control of the truck?”
The first guy said, “I’m a great driver. I could get within two feet of the edge and be fine.”
The second driver said, “I could get within six inches and not fall over the cliff.”
The third applicant said, “I’d slow down and stay as far away from the cliff as I could without veering into oncoming traffic.” The third driver got the job.
Recalibrate: Think of a time you found yourself knee deep in sin. What were the processes that led you to that place? How did little compromises lead to a big thing?
Respond: Pray the Lord’s prayer to yourself several times. Pay special attention to the phrase, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
Research: Read James 1:1-15.
Remember: “You are God’s children whom He loves” (Ephesians 5:1, ICB).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor for the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Walk.
Play a game of Hide and Seek or Peek-a-Boo with your little one. Take turns looking for each other. Know that no matter how well we think we can hide from our Heavenly Father, He knows exactly where we are. The question is where do we choose to be? One thing I love about playing Hide and Seek with little kids is that most of the time they cannot bear to hide for long from the one who is seeking them. Let’s follow their lead and be found in love.
Work on memorizing The Words to Remember today (“You are God’s children, whom He loves,” Ephesians 5:1)! Have you ever received a love note? I remember the first love letter I got! In second grade, Bryan Kirby gave me a note asking if I loved him, with two boxes to check: Yes and No. I checked Yes. Somehow I kept the note, so Bryan, yes! I love you! Of course, in second grade I wasn’t quite ready for long term love, but I knew for sure that Bryan was a great guy and easy to love. Challenge yourself to write someone a love note today and tell them why you love them so much.
In our Words to Remember, the Bible says that “You are God’s children whom He loves.” It’s a pretty incredible thing that the Creator of everything loves us. The guy who made the birds and fish, the oceans and mountains, the stars and planets, cares about you and wants to get to know you. Nothing you could ever do could make Him stop loving you. He wants to see you grow up, succeed, and be happy. If you keep that in mind throughout your day, you can’t help but smile and be kind to those around you!
What are you worshipping? You might be thinking right now, “Why, I worship God; what else would I worship?” And that might be very well, but I have found that oftentimes other gods creep up into our lives without us even knowing. The god of success, the god of image, the god of lust, and the god of money, to name a few. While these gods might not be fully-fleshed idols or have a temple or church, they are still gods. They might not be like the Baals of the Bible, but they still try to capture our attention and take our focus away from God. These gods are self- seeking and, while they might be appealing at first, they quickly lose their wonder once pursued. And like the gods worshipped in the Bible, they easily captivate human hearts when we allow them to control our lives. So what are you worshipping? God doesn’t tell us to give up those “gods” or strongholds in our lives because He is controlling or wants to make our lives difficult. He does this because He knows that if we worship anything other than Him, our hearts will be in captivity. It’s through Him alone that we can experience ultimate freedom. It doesn’t make sense though! How can it be that through giving up our control, we can experience freedom? “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23, NLT). To be a follower of God, we need to give up our own way, die to self, and follow God. That is how we can experience the kingdom of God and that is how we can experience ultimate freedom. What are some things that you have been holding on to? Pray that God will reveal strongholds in your life so that you can surrender them to Him and experience His freedom.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development groups. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jenniffer Ogden serves as the children and family pastor at the Walla Walla University Church in College Place, Washington.
Andrew Jones teaches grades seven and eight at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado. He is originally from Oregon and attends Boulder Church.
Emily Ellis is a junior studying theology at Walla Walla University and interning at the Eastgate Seventh-day Adventist Church.