We Are Victorious, 13 April 2014

Big Idea: We are victorious!


Whether you know it or not, we are at war. It is not a war with Russia or North Korea or Iran—though that could be in our nation’s future. It is not one of the estimated 14,500 wars that have been fought in the past 5300 years (3600 BC to the present). We are at war with a real enemy, satan and demons. Ever since satan’s coup attempt to overthrow God failed, he’s been seeking every opportunity to destroy us.

C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis,
The Screwtape Letters). 

Many Christians ignore satan and demons. In fact, more people believe in angels than demons. Satan is not an impersonal force or a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork! At the same time, we must not give him too much credit. He is not God. He is powerful but not all-powerful.

How do I know satan is real? Pick up a newspaper. Check out CNN.com. Open your eyes and ears! Death and decay is all around. Homelessness, abuse, divorce, murder, violence, injustice, starvation, slavery, pride, self-righteous religion…this world is messed up!

A few weeks ago I spoke with the father of my friend who died from cancer. He told me never before has he felt death as an enemy. It’s not right! Present reality is a far cry from the Paradise God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy. Ever since sin entered the world through satan’s temptation we have been surrounded by pain, depravity and brokenness.

Often people talk about spiritual warfare in either a creepy or corny way. They get spooked about demons or think the armor of God is a costume for kids to wear on Halloween. Because satan masquerades as an angel of light, spiritual warfare is often subtle—so much so that more people believe in angels than demons, God than satan. Yet something has to account for the brokenness, pain, suffering and death we are exposed to every day on this planet that God originally called good.

After spending more than five chapters telling the early church about its identity in Christ and offering instructions for Godly living he concludes

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (10-13)

We are to be strong not in our strength or wisdom or experience or knowledge but in the Lord and in His mighty power. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). “Be strong” literally means “be strengthened.” The battle is the Lord’s, but we are not to merely hide. The devil is real and he is scheming. He is smart and crafty. He destroyed Job. He tempted Jesus. He plots destruction. The greater your passion for Jesus and the Kingdom of God, the greater threat you are to the enemy.

Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth…

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

Part of the reason people are unaware of the battle is it often rages in our minds. Paul continues…

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Paul says that battle is not against flesh and blood. People are not the enemy. Atheists or other non-Christians are not the enemy. They are merely deceived pawns of the enemy. The enemy is a spiritual creature that tempts humans to sin. There can be no greater contrast between the two sides of the spiritual battle.

God loves you.
Satan hates you.

God is life.
Satan is death.

God is true.
Satan is the father of lies.

God is light.
Satan masquerades as light.

God is for you.
Satan is against you.

God forgives sin.
Satan tempts us to sin and then accuses us of doing it.

Why, then, are we surprised when trouble enters the lives of Christians?!

We are at war and must know our enemy, be prepared to fight and be ready to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (14-17)

belt of truth
(against the father of lies)

We are to have the truth wrapped around us. If you don’t have your belt, you can lose your pants! Keep it on!

breastplate of righteousness
(say no to sin and yes to righteousness)

The breastplate is defense for the front torso and vital organs. It was often composed of a solid piece of metal, but it could also contain many small pieces that were sewn to leather or cloth that overlapped much like the scales of a fish. These scales could number as many as 700 to 1,000 per “coat.” When the sun shone directly on the armor, it could become very hot. So to avoid being burnt, or even pinched, by the moving metal plates, the soldiers always wore a sturdy robe under the armor. We are to wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.

The breastplate covered the front, but not the back. We are to stand firm and never retreat, never run away, never surrender.

boots of peace
(Jesus is the Prince of peace, our most powerful weapon)

Keep your boots on! Soldiers wear them to bed, always ready for battle.

shield of faith
(an internal conviction that leads to an external action)

The shield was the first line of defense for a warrior. It could protect the entire body when the soldier crouched down. Jesus’ blood is our first defense against satan’s arrows of deception, temptation, and accusation. When temptation lodges in our body, it’s too late. We must be alert, anticipating the schemes of the enemy that will entice us toward greed, lust, envy, rage, discouragement, fear, and worry.

helmet of salvation
(helmets guard the mind; never forget your salvation)

The mind controls the body. It is our most vital organ. All of our actions begin in our mind. What do you think? What do you feel? Who do you think you are?!

The sword of the Spirit.
The other tools shield and protect. The sword is the weapon. It is what we use to fight. The Word of God is truth. It is offensive to the lies of the world. It spreads truth and sets captives free.

The sword of God’s Word will give the beast of Revelation 13 a deadly wound (13:3, 14).

Some have called the two edges of the double-edged sword the Old and New Testaments. It is used against the enemy and for personal use. The Bible is a practical tool—like a Swiss Army Knife—that can be used for every area of life.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (18)

Communication is essential in any battle. We need to know what our Commander is saying. We need to listen for His voice.

Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians by saying

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (19-20)

We must pray for God to give us words to declare the Gospel, the good news, in word and deed.

Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. (21-22)

This is an interesting note as Paul sends Tychicus to Ephesus. Finally…

Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (23-24)




We have come to the conclusion of the book of Ephesians, this incredible book written to instruct us on how to know and live out our identity. Paul arguably saved the best for last, reminding believers that we are not to lounge around in comfort and luxury, but instead be engaged in the battle that has been raging since the beginning of time, a battle that will someday end with a victorious God and a defeated enemy. We caught a preview of this defeat at the cross, a moment we will remember this Friday. It is called “Good Friday” because

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, Jesus made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

Through sin, we all surrendered to satan and were taken as captives in war. Though we were legally satan’s possession because of our debt to him through our sin, Jesus redeemed us through his victory on the cross. His final words from the cross, “It is finished,” declared our liberation. And his resurrection to life signifies His complete victory over Satan, sin, and death in the life of all believers.

In Christ, we are forgiven.
In Christ, we are clean.
In Christ, our captivity has been replaced with a new identity.

Who do you think you are? If you love and follow Jesus, you have a new identity in Christ. serve him, follow him, and call him your Lord and Savior. There’s good news: you have a new identity…in Christ. That means we are…

We are in Christ
We are saints
We are blessed
We are appreciated
We are saved
We are reconciled
We are included
We are heard
We are gifted
We are new
We are forgiven
We are adopted
We are loved
We are rewarded
We are victorious

Grace and peace to you…in Christ.


Some ideas from

Mark Driscoll, Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Adopted, 23 March 2014

Big Idea: We are adopted

Ephesians 5:1-21

Today’s passage reminds us that we are adopted.

The first professional musical I ever saw was Annie. My mom had an opportunity to see it when I was a child and took our family to see it when it came to town. I was very excited many years later to watch our kids perform the show. It’s a great story of a poor orphan who moves from the horrible conditions of an orphanage to becoming the adopted child of a very rich man. Her life is radically transformed by a loving father and she instantly receives the wealth and privileges of being in his family.

There’s a great story about an adopted boy who was teased on the playground for being adopted. He confidently said, “My parents chose me. Yours are stuck with you!”

Adoption is our story, too. We have been adopted into God’s family. Our identity as followers of Jesus is no longer that of hopeless, hell-bound enemy of God living in the slime of sin but adopted children of the King of kings.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (1-2)

Kids love to imitate their parents.

We are to imitate our heavenly Dad. That is a life of love.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. (3-7)

This is quite a list! These are common sins in the world. They have no place in the Church. Not even a hint!

“If you can get into sin and it doesn’t bother you, you are not a child of God.”
- J. Vernon McGee.

We all sin. What is your attitude toward sin? Pride or repentance?

“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, it's pleasures, and it's pains, to a dear friend. Tell him your troubles, that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; tell him your dislikes, that he may help you conquer them; talk to him of your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others. If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of their heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”

Francois Fenelon

We need to tell God what is in our heart.

sexual immorality (porn, adultery, fornication)
any kind of impurity
greed (advertising and marketing tempt us)
foolish talk or coarse joking (what if all of your words were posted online?)

What is left to do?!

but rather thanksgiving.

God judges His children. Judging and disciplining the children of others is generally considered inappropriate. Loving parents discipline.

We need to love people and be with them, but sometimes we can’t do what they’re doing.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (8-14)

Notice the contrast. We were not in darkness; we were darkness! Now we are light. God’s children are filled with kindness, goodness, and righteousness, truth, sincerity.

“Character is what you are in the dark.” - D.L. Moody

We are not only to avoid the darkness, we are to expose it, to shine a light on it. This doesn’t mean we are supposed to be a tattle-tale but we are to shine the light of Jesus. Your actions truly speak louder than your words.

We are not to judge or lecture people outside the church. We are just to shine the light.

An engaged woman gives great attention to her fiancé. Do we give great attention to Jesus?

Wake up! How can we wake from the dead? This is for believers who have wandered from Jesus.

Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (15-17)

It’s all about the Lord’s will, God’s glory. If you are God’s child, you submit to God. You seek God’s will. It’s not about what you want but what God wants.
Does your use of your time bring glory to God?
Does your use of your money bring glory to God?
Does your use of your energy bring glory to God?

What is God saying to you?
What are you doing about it?

It’s easy to rationalize, excuse, and hide. If you have any relationship with God, the conviction of the Holy Spirit will usually alert you to those things that please and displease God.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (18-20)

God’s children are filled with God, with the Holy Spirit. This is not a text concerning alcohol, though alcohol has destroyed many lives. Paul tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you filled with the world or the Holy Spirit?

God’s children should not be controlled by any substance—alcohol, marijuana, nicotine, caffeine, food, etc.

God’s children should not be controlled by anything—Facebook, peer pressure, the boss, video games, …

We are to imitate God. We are to look and think and act like Jesus. How? By trying hard? No! By surrendering to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He empowered Jesus and He is available to empower us today.

A drunk is possessed by alcohol. A true believer is possessed by the Holy Spirit. They look like Jesus!

The image is one of sailing. Is your sail up? If not, it’s difficult to catch the wind of the Spirit.

We are to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. It truly is like drinking. You may have had a cup of coffee yesterday but it won’t sustain you today.

You may be so full today and yet hungry tomorrow.

How do you know if you are filled with the Spirit?

Speaking psalms (from the book of Psalms), hymns and spiritual songs (less formal).

Give thanks right now!

As a musician, of course I love this text!

Best-selling author, John Maxwell, has three questions to determine passion:

What do you cry about?
What do you dream about?
What do you sing about?

I realize some enjoy singing more than others, but the point is not about notes so much as it’s about what’s inside. As we saw last week, Jesus said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Here Paul takes it a step further to talk about singing.

What is the number one subject of pop songs? Love. When people are in love, they sing about it. Words alone often are inadequate.

When we sing at Scio, it’s not choir practice or glee club. It’s a way to express our love for God in ways that go beyond mere words.

Worship happens everywhere. In sports arenas, people yell and cheer for their team. On Wall Street, investors enthusiastically make money! In concerts, people sing along with rock stars. Where did we get the idea that it’s inappropriate to worship in church?!?!?

Have you ever been praying and you simply run out of words? I do all the time. Sometimes I resort to praying in Spanish, a language I studied in college. At times I wish I was given the spiritual gift of tongues just to express things I cannot express in my own vocabulary.

God has blessed me with a love language that often expresses that which I cannot do with mere words—music. I feel closest to God when I am in nature and when I have a nice piano to play. If I could get a cabin near water that had a grand piano, I’d be as close to God as possible on the earth, a perfect environment in which to compose music, sing, and worship the LORD. If you have one you’d like to let me borrow, let me know!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (21)

This does not mean to blindly obey what everyone says not does it say to do what you want, but submitting ourselves to one another in the fear of God.

Submit means respond to one another as unto the LORD. We love Him because He first loved us.


I thought about this for a sermon:

don’t commit adultery
don’t be greedy
don’t swear
don’t do anything bad

The problem, of course, is that you can’t just be good and try harder. Don’t think about a purple elephant!

How, then, shall we live? How do we obey God?

Going back to verse one,

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children…(Ephesians 5:1)

Religion says if we hear the words of Jesus, we can do the works of Jesus. It’s not that simple. Most of the time we know the right thing to do, we are just tempted to do otherwise. I know working out is good for my heart, but I’d rather watch basketball and eat ice cream!

Pasted Graphic

The secret to obedience and following Jesus is to begin with the words of Jesus and the ways of Jesus.

If we imitate the ways of Jesus—they rhythms, the disciplines, the lifestyle—the works of Jesus will eventually emerge as fruit. We are to be imitators of God first. Jesus did not just naturally live a godly life. He spent time alone with the Father. He disciplines His body and mind.

Pasted Graphic 1

What Now?

Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Consider how you can participate in adoption.

Today there are thousands of orphans around the world, including here in the USA. Many are abandoned or abused.

In the early church, Christians adopted unwanted kids. We’re adopted into God’s family and we should be eager to adopt, whether through foster care, overseas adoption, or even child sponsorship.

For the first time in history, 40% of children in our nation will go to bed without a father tonight. The majority of children born to women under 30 are born out of wedlock.

We’ve been adopted by our heavenly Father. He set a great example for us to follow. Become a foster parent. Adopt a child. Help a family in the adoption process through prayer, time, or finances.

Michigan Foster Care and Adoption Faith-Based Summit 

Thousands of Michigan children need a home....some just need love and support temporarily while their parents make the changes necessary to provide the home these children deserve while others are waiting for a "forever" family.  Finding a family for each and every one of these children is at the heart of the important journey that will begin at the Faith-Based Foster Care and Adoption Summit on
April 29, 2014.
There is no cost to attend this event.  Advanced registration is required. Please
click here for detailed flyer and registration information.


Some ideas from

Mike Breen, 3DMovements.com
J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Forgiven, 16 March 2014

Big Idea: We are forgiven.

Ephesians 4:25-32

The prohibitions from last week continue.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (4:25)

What’s therefore there for? Paul said we are made new, no longer children of Adam, but the new Adam, Jesus Christ. He is our Savior, Sanctified, Healer, and Coming King. He is our big brother, a perfect example for us to follow.

Paul says first not to lie. Speak the truth. Nothing destroys trust like lying. Nothing destroys unity like distrust.

This might sound obvious. Don’t lie. It’s one of the Ten Commandments. Everyone knows it’s wrong. How many do it, though?

Years ago a friend told me how he lied to his daughter. I was shocked! “How could you lie to your sweet child?” I thought. My friend said, “I told her I would play a game with her. I got busy, she went to bed, and I did not do what I said and, therefore, lied. I have since apologized.”

Wow! I challenged him on his assessment and he said sin is like layers of an onion. Just when we think we are righteous, we sin in our pride and have to repent of our godlessness.

I find I’m most prone to lie in what has been called the final 10%. Perhaps you are asked to recount a story and you share most of it, but there’s a little bit missing. Maybe you are asked to share your feelings and you reveal the majority of it, but you skip one or two details.

Brothers and sisters, we are all members of one body, and for the body to be healthy it must work together, it must speak the truth in love—even when it is difficult.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (4:26-27)

Notice this does not say do not get angry. Not all anger is sin. Jesus got angry. Don’t sin in anger. Resolve disputes. Don’t hold a grudge which would give the devil a foothold. God is angry with the wicked. He hates sin. He hates injustice. How do you deal with anger? Do you bottle it up? Ignore it? Express it violently? Rage on Facebook? Pray about it?

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (4:28)

Here’s another one of God’s Top Ten. Don’t steal. Further, if you want something, work. Notice the ending. Share. Don’t hoard. Be generous. Generosity is one of the most compelling signs of a child of the King of Kings who owns it all. We are to work, earn and share. Many are unable to do so and need our help. That’s what family does. Family helps family.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (4:29)

Oh dang! Oops! Keep your talk pure. The Bible is filled with instructions regarding our speech. Why? Out of the heart the mouth speaks.

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. (Proverbs 4:23-24)

This includes profanity, dirty jokes, sharp sarcasm (“anger in a clown suit”), and gossip (also known as confessing the sins of others!).

Words are very powerful. That line about sticks and stones is a big lie. Words have the power to kill and destroy, yet they can also encourage, edify, and bless.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (4:30)

What does this mean? The day of redemption is when the Holy Spirit presents us to Jesus. What grieves God? Sin. We can grieve God but we are sealed. We are forgiven, but that doesn’t give us a license to sin. God’s forgiveness does not negate human consequences of our words and actions.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (4:31-32)

Paul really lays it on here. Look at the list of prohibitions:

bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, malice

This is a common sequence. We are wronged and become bitter. Over time, the bitterness in our heart can grow into rage, anger, and outward actions of brawling, slander, and malice. This is not always the process, but Paul offers a compelling—if not radical—alternative. He says to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. Easy for him to say, right?! He’s probably writing from a mountaintop cottage overlooking the ocean, living the high life as an early Christian celebrity, surrounded by assistants and caretakers. Except that he’s writing from prison!

Why forgive?

…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (4:32b)

We forgive because we’ve been forgiven. Paul understood this. He was forgiven for persecuting the church, including his support of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 (Acts 8:1). Perhaps you have skeletons in your closet, but killing Christians is unlikely among them. Even if it were, you have been forgiven. We don’t deserve it. Nobody deserves to be forgiven—by definition.

We’ve all been wronged and we have two possible responses: bitterness and forgiveness. We know intellectually that bitterness only harms us—and Paul forbids it— but it’s so attractive. It’s easy to hold grudges, judge another, blame others, and hold their offenses against them. Forgiveness is obviously a superior response, but it can be so difficult. Perhaps part of the challenge is in our misunderstanding of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is…

canceling a debt owed to you
removing the control your offender has over you
giving a gift to your offender…and yourself
leaving ultimate justice in God’s hands
often an ongoing process
wanting good for your offender
forsaking revenge
moving forward
dropping resentment and grudge
a choice, a decision (not an emotion)
a step toward healing
an opportunity to display grace

An ancient Chinese proverbs says, “He who seeks revenge should dig two graves.”

Forgiveness is not…

denying the sin occurred or diminishing its evil
instant emotional healing
enabling sin
necessarily a response to a repentant apology
covering up sin committed against us
removing the consequences of the offense (legal action may even be required)
trust (forgiveness takes a moment; trust takes time to build and longer to rebuild)
reconciliation (it takes one to forgive and two to reconcile)

My Story

I was apprehensive about preaching this message. It seems often when I speak on a subject, God gives me real-life experiences that correspond. This is why I love to preach on success, freedom, and prosperity and I’m sometimes nervous about speaking on trials! I had a sense that this week I would need to forgive someone and I actually imagined a scenario in which I would be in a car accident and need to forgive someone.

I was in a car accident this past week! Fortunately, it was relatively minor. During Wednesday’s snow storm I was stopped at a red light and a car slid into mine. There were no bodily injuries and just some dents in the vehicles. I thanked God all morning that I didn’t have to forgive someone more reckless and ruthless.


On May 20, 2012, 18 year-old Takunda Mavima was driving home from a party when he lost control and crashed his car into an off-ramp near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Riding in the car were 17 year-old, Tim See, and 15 year-old, Krysta Howell. Both were killed in the accident.

Takunda Mavima lived.

Mavima pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to between 30 months and 15 years in prison.

Despite their unimaginable grief and anger, both the sister and the father of victim, Tim See, gave a moving address to the court on behalf of Mavima, urging the judge to give him a light sentence.

“I am begging you to let Takunda Mavima make something of himself in the real world — don’t send him to prison and get hard and bitter, that boy has learned his lesson a thousand times over and he’ll never make the same mistake again.”

And when the hearing ended, the victim’s family made their way across the courtroom to embrace, console, and publicly forgive Mavima.

Make sure this image sticks with you forever.

There will be a time in your life when someone will wrong you. God forbid they take the life of your child. But it will happen. And what matters most isn’t how it happened, but how you respond to it.

And if you’re a person of faith, the calling is even greater. The gospel of forgiveness isn’t a high calling for the heroic individual, or a counter-cultural description of heavenly perfection. It is a principle central to the gospel itself – the very heart of our faith in which we are called to embody.

In the swelling sea of human destruction, the little story of Takunda Mavima and a family from Michigan is a lighthouse on a hill, a beacon of hope, guiding the way for all our ships to pass through.

Right now, how can you prepare yourself with a clear plan of action to forgive in the darkest of times? (from Storyline Blog, March 8, 2013)

We are forgiven by God who gives us the power to forgive.

Who do you need to forgive?


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are New, 9 March 2014

Big Idea: We are made new in Christ.

Ephesians 4:17-24

Do you like you? Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? I meet a lot of people who are not satisfied with who they are. They want to be someone else. They want to be different. They want to change. They want to become someone new.

Several weeks ago we talked about the contrast between Adam and the new Adam, Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve’s sin blew it for all of us, ushering an array of consequences so great we have little memory of the Garden of Eden.

Do you want to become someone new? If we’re honest, there’s plenty of junk in all of our lives that we want to change—habits, insecurities, addictions, fears…

This morning I want to encourage you to be painfully honest with yourself and with God about where you are—about who you are.

Paul pens from prison words that may or may not describe your present reality.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (17-19)

Here’s the text from The Message.

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. (Ephesians 4:17-19, The Message)

This is the life of an unbeliever. Tragically, this also describes many believers who have wandered from the faith.

Somewhere in recent history a myth spread that if you pray and prayer and believe the historical events of holy week—Jesus’ death and resurrection—that you have a free ticket to heaven and then you can live like everyone else until you die. That’s part of it.

The founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, A.B. Simpson, described Jesus in the Fourfold Gospel.

We all like the idea of Jesus as our
Healer, providing divine life and physical healing (Isaiah 53:4-5).

We are grateful for Jesus being our
Savior. He died on the cross for our sins and to make us right with God (John 3:16).

We want Jesus to be our
Sanctifier, cleansing us from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

We are generally ok with the idea of Jesus as a
Coming King. We look forward to His return to fix the world we have broken (Acts 1:11).

However, He wants to be Lord and King now, which means we surrender everything to Him.

Friends, it’s not that God is on a power trip. It’s that you wand I were meant to live for so much more than destroying ourselves and our world with sin. Here’s why: Your Daddy loves you! Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s so essential to living the life God wants for us. He wants to do life with us. He wants to be with us, encourage us, guide us, and love us. Because He loves us, He wants us to experience abundant life, joy, peace, contentment, purpose, and meaning. When our lives are filled with sin, it’s impossible to experience all He desires since sin ultimately leads to death.

Many want Jesus to be Savior, but He also wants to be LORD. Mike Breen calls this “Invitation and Challenge.” He invited people into relationship with Him, but He also challenged them to pick up their cross daily and follow Him. It is wonderful that we have been adopted as children of God, but we must live into our true identity and sons and daughters of the King.

The truth is, none of us has truly made Jesus LORD. Every day we battle with our ego, our will, our reputation, our comfort, our security, and our pleasure. As we will see in the coming weeks we are in the midst of a war between good and evil. Like all relationships, we cannot simply rest on past investments, telling God how obedient we were years ago, how righteous we acted in the past, how we sacrificed in days gone by.

If you feel exempt from this discussion because you have lived a flawless life, you’re guilty of pride and self-righteousness. BAM!

Paul was religious. He was devout. He had perfect attendance in Sunday—er, Saturday—School! Outwardly, he was as religious as they come. What did he later call his righteousness?

Rubbish, filth, trash, …literally dog dung! That was Paul’s old religious life.

I want to invite you to join me in a time of confession. Many church traditions make confession a part of each worship gathering, and perhaps we should, too. Before we spend any more time in worship or study or fellowship, let’s have a time of confession.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


Pause now to confess your sins.

How did that feel? Sometimes there’s nothing like a good bath, rinsing off the dirt and being cleansed. That’s what Jesus does, He cleanses us, forgives us, and loves us.

He makes all things new!

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)

That’s what we have to look forward to in the future, but as the Kingdom of God crashes into our world now, we can experience newness now, here, today!

This issue of identity really matters. Your identity may be divorcee, failure, geek, athlete, winner, loser, engineer, mom, alcoholic, victim, artist, or sinner. Paul tells us that whatever is in your past can stay there. You are now in Christ, and that identity trumps all others.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (20-24)

Paul gives us three commands:

- put off your old self, your former manner of life
- be made new in the attitude of your minds
- put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness

Confession is essential, but more is required—repentance. Repentance means to turn away, to change directions, to do a U-turn. In Paul’s language, it is to put off the old self and be made new. Baptism is a beautiful picture of this, entering a water grave, dying to our old self, and resurrecting with Christ, possessing a new attitude, a new self.

The NIV uses this phrase “new self,” but the more accurate translation would be “new man,” not to be sexist, but to recognize how we are born with a sin nature from Adam that must be put to death so we can live for the new Adam, Jesus.

You can use whatever metaphor you wish:

- taking off old clothes and putting on new garments
- caterpillar to a butterfly
- ugly duckling to a beautiful swan
- frog and prince

The question is, can people change? Yes, but it requires more than just the kiss of a princess. We must daily choose to make Jesus our LORD. We must accept HIs challenge to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. We must live into our identity as children of the King. It begins by surrendering to God, dying to ourselves, and being made alive in Christ.

Where do you need to more fully surrender to God? Finances? Time with Him? Relationships? Future plans?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)



Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Gifted, 2 March 2014

Big Idea: We are gifted.

Ephesians 4:1-16


Do you like gifts? When do you usually receive a gift? When we get a gift, we usually think about how it can benefit us. Have you ever received a gift that you wanted to use to bless someone else? I’m not talking about regifting! I mean sharing a gift.

Two weeks ago I attended my friend’s daughter’s first birthday party. There was a huge pile of gifts. There were children there, too, that were interested in these gifts. Can you guess what happened?!

Today we continue our series on the book of Ephesians, Who Do You Think You Are? As we begin chapter four, a huge shift occurs, from doctrine to clear directives. Paul spent the first three chapters talking about who we are—and Whose we are. We are in Christ.

Ephesians parallels the book of Joshua. Joshua entered the land of Promised Land, leading the children of Israel over the Jordan speaking of the death, burial and resurrection to the Promised Land where we (should be) living today. Joshua had to take possession (the great word in Joshua).

Ephesians 1-3 is all about position, we are in Christ. Are we walking in possession? Now we enter the Promised Land to be a blessing to others.

We will see a shift from declarations to commands, from propositions to practical stuff for those in Christ.

Our culture often says if you do something, you can be somebody. God says be somebody and then you can do something as a result. Be in Christ. Becoming a child of God. Follow Jesus. Transformation follows.

I believe one of the great tragedies contributing to the decline of the movement of Jesus in our culture is the message we have sent to the world. Many churches communicate the need to
behave, believe, and then belong. The order must be reversed. We must welcome the stranger and invite them into relationship with us and God. After they are loved and feel they belong it is likely they will believe, and once they believe and receive Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then and only then do they have the ability to behave.

As we begin Ephesians 4, these words are instructions to believers who are in Christ. Without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit this text will be nothing more than futile, guilt-inducing moralizing. May it never be!

Paul the prisoner begins to instruct his readers, believers in the early Church.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (1-3)

We could camp out on these three verses for weeks!

Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. J. Vernon McGee said people may not be telling you but they’re smelling you to see if your faith is genuine. It’s not only how we walk but where we walk, walking in the light (1 John 1:7). Is your life worthy of being called “Christian,” a “little Christ?”

Be completely humble. Humility has been a challenge for me…ever since I was eight years old, played a piano solo in our small church, and responded to a kind old lady who said, “You play very nice, young man” with the fateful words, “I know!” Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. Few things make loving relationships challenging more than pride. We will in a culture where so many are creating platforms, establishing their own personal brand identity, and seeking as many likes, friends and followers as possible. Those endeavors are not necessarily sinful, but the attitude behind them can be evil. Pride got Lucifer the angel kicked out of heaven where he then became satan. Are you seeking God’s fame or your own.

…and gentle. Gentleness—or meekness—is not weakness. Moses (shattering the stone tablets) and Jesus (turning over the tables in the Temple) were both meek. Meekness is bowing to God’s will.

Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Patience is a virtue, but patience with people is especially challenging. They don’t usually change as quickly as a traffic light!

- Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

This is one of Paul’s core messages—

Perhaps the most significant verse for the people of Israel speaks to this idea of unity.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (4-6)

One body (the Church)
One Spirit (the Holy Spirit)
One hope (blessed hope)
One Lord (Jesus)
One faith (Acts 2:42)
One baptism (baptism in the Holy Spirit)
One God and Father (the Father of believers)

God is transcendent, above His creation.
God is through and in all, too.

Unity is one of my four prayers for Scio: unity, passion, protection and direction. LORD, make us one. That was Jesus’ prayer for us (John 17).

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (7-10)

This is an interesting segue from unity to gifts. There are a few possible meanings behind this reference to Psalm 68:18. We know Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). Some see “descended” as a reference to the Incarnation when Jesus came to earth as a baby. Others think it refers to when Jesus descended into Hell.

What is clear is God gives gifts to individuals to use not for themselves but for the Church, the Body of believers. It’s to bless others.

If you are a believer you have been given at least one gift to serve others. You are vital part of the body. With the possible exception of a haircut, no surgery is painless!

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (11-13)

Jesus gave the gifts.
He has the authority.
Every believer has at least one gift.
Nobody has all of the gifts.
It’s not that you have or don’t have a gift. There can be degrees.
Gifts may be lifelong or possibly temporary, like healing.
There is no comprehensive list of spiritual gifts.

There are four sections on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, Ephesians 4).

We are all called to be ministers.

As a pastor, I’m called to equip you to do the ministry, works of service.

Wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8)
Knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8)
Faith (1 Cor. 12:9)
Healing (1 Cor. 12:9)
Miracles (1 Cor. 12:9)
Discernment (1 Cor. 12:10)
Apostleship (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)
Teaching (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11)
Helps and Service (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Peter 4:11)
Administration (1 Cor. 12:28)
Evangelism (Eph. 4:11)
Pastoring/Counseling (Eph. 4:11)
Encouragement (Rom. 12:8)
Giving (Rom. 12:8)
Leadership (Rom. 12:8)
Mercy (Rom. 12:8)
Hospitality (Rom. 12:13)
Tongues (1 Cor. 12:8–10, 29
Prophecy (Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; Eph. 4:11)

Do you know your spiritual gift or gifts? These questions from Mark Driscoll may help you identify them:

Whom/where do you have a passion to serve?
What do you have a burden to do?
needs do you see in the church?
What do you find joy in doing for others?
What opportunities has God already provided for you to serve others?
What things are you best at and have the most success in?
What have godly people commended you for doing?
What acts of service have given you the deepest sense of satisfaction and joy?

What is the purpose of gifts? The maturity of the Church.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (14-16)

Grow up! We’re not supposed to remain as spiritual babies but we are to grow up. How do you know if someone is a mature person? How do you know if someone is a mature believer?


Where does your church need to grow towards maturity?
What gifts has God given to enable this to take place?
What challenges, what cunning tricks and false teaching, do you need to watch out for, and how can you combat it?

Not every Christian is called to full-time vocational ministry, but every Christian is called to the “work of ministry.”


You can take a free spiritual gifts inventory and experience other valuable tools at http://www.chazown.com.


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Heard, 23 February 2014

Big Idea: We are heard by our Father—Daddy!

Ephesians 3:14-21

Our world is filled with noise. I don’t mean just sound, though sound is certainly a type of noise. We are daily bombarded with messages—thousands of them—from billboards to telemarketers to television, radio, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, phone calls, e-mails, snail mails, …

Stop the madness!

Is it any wonder that we struggle to communicate? Are we surprised that people are misunderstood? Despite all of our communication tools, we do not always effectively use them.

This is especially true in interpersonal relationships and listening. How many times have you realized someone didn’t listen to a word you said? I’ve got great news this morning. God listens to us. God hears us. He’s with us right now, wants to speak, wants to listen, and wants to do life with us.

We are in the middle of a series called “Who do you think you are?” a study of the book of Ephesians that examines our identity in Christ. We are in Ephesians chapter three, continuing what Jonathan Hurshman began last Sunday. J.I. Packer offers some profound thoughts about those first fourteen verses of Ephesians 3, a paragraph with a particular pattern:

Paul is Christ’s prisoner because he’s a preacher of God’s plan and purpose to pagan people, Gentiles (3:1). He counts it a personal privilege to be such a preacher (8) because of his previous poor performance and the power that prepared him for preaching (7) and because of the preciousness of the Person and promise he proclaims (6, 8) and because of the pleasure and the profit produced by his proclamation. He has performed with his pen (3) and now prepares to pray for true perception of the glorious things of which he has been speaking.

We have earlier noted how the first three chapters are filled with doctrine while the second half deals with application and ethics. Much of these first three chapters is actually a prayer rather than mere information including our text for today which begins:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. (14-15)

Paul was a man of prayer. He bows before the Father. Posture is important. It communicates to us, God, and sometimes others.

raise hands
lay prostrate on the floor

It’s not uncommon at the PACT Pastors Prayer Summit for people to kneel or even lay on the floor in prayer.

Paul prayed to the
Father in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ. This is a model. Jesus said:

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 16:23)

Jesus is our intercessor. He prays for us. We are to pray to the Father or Dad. I actually prefer the word “Daddy.” I love it when my kids call me “Daddy” or even “Dad” since Father seems so formal.

Paul’s prayers were brief. Jesus’ prayers were brief, including John 17 (the Lord’s prayer for us). Actually, all prayers in the Bible are brief. We need not use vain repetition.

The shortest prayer in the Bible is…Peter as he was sinking:

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (16-19)

Being a Christian is more than praying a prayer. It is to become a little Christ. Paul wants Christ to live in us. Christ is to be our possession.

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright translates verse 17

that the king may make his home in your hearts, through faith; that love may be your root, your firm foundation…

I love that. Jesus does not want to merely be an historical figure or even a living Person far away; He wants to live in our hearts. We talk about being Jesus with skin on or being the hands and feet of Jesus, but ultimately Jesus wants to live in our hearts. He wants us to be full of Himself!

This is the only place in the Bible where it says to have Jesus in your heart. He doesn’t want your heart to be a hotel where He stays occasionally but a home where He resides. He wants to live in us and work in and through us.

Are you full of Jesus? That’s His desire. He wants us full of love and power—His love and power. More of Jesus, less of me! Jesus wants to do life with us.

He wants us to know God and His love.

Only the Holy Spirit can lead us into God’s love (again we see the Trinity).

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (20-21)

God hears and answers! This is a fantastic way to conclude a prayer! Listen to these words:

immeasurably more
His power
within us
glory in the church
glory in Christ Jesus
all generations

Prayer is exciting and powerful!

You can pray for others…or yourself. It’s ok. Paul prayed three times for God to remove a thorn in his flesh (2 Cor. 12:7-8).

He is able to do more than we can imagine. I love that! I have quite the imagination, yet I often pray small, weenie prayers! The book of James tells us that “we have not because we ask not (James 4:2). We need to pray big, bold, audacious prayers and see what God does in response. He’s not a cosmic genie, but He loves His children.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Present your requests to God!

Thoughts on Prayer

Are you satisfied with your prayer life? Have you ever felt guilty because you don’t pray more? I’ve heard stories about people who spent hours every day on their knees in prayer and I think I’m a loser in comparison; after all, I get paid to pray 40 hours a week, right?!

Like evangelism, helping the poor, and giving money to charity, we all know prayer is the right thing to do and we
should do it more, but it’s not easy. In fact, sometimes prayer can be work.


The key to prayer is the recipient. Who is God? If you view Him as a weak grandpa or an angry monster, prayer will be difficult!

When we pray, we’re talking to our Dad. That’s it. You don’t need to use fancy words or get formal about it. Just talk to Dad. Don’t focus on prayer but on the Father.

For some of you, you had a bad dad and have father wounds or you didn’t know your dad. Start with God and His character rather than your earthly father. He promises to be a Father to the fatherless (Ps 68:5).

I’ve been blessed to have a great dad and watching his health deteriorate has been one of the most gut-wrenching things I’ve experienced. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and call him, only realize we haven’t had a conversation in years. Nevertheless, the time I’ve spent with my dad has shaped me into the man I am today.

Becoming a dad has helped me understand God more than anything else. God loves me even more than I love our kids, which is a lot!

I love it when our kids talk with me. With one in Delaware, one in Grand Rapids, and one occasionally at home it’s often a highlight of my day to receive a text, e-mail, phone call, or—best of all—a FaceTime call from them. On Monday I celebrated a birthday (thanks for the cake last week!) and there was a moment when I was home with Heather and Kailey and I was video chatting with Trevor on one iPhone and Rachel on another so I saw all three of our kids at the same time! It was fantastic!

They could’ve said “happy birthday” and hung up but, instead, we had a great family conversation for a while, almost as if we were all together in the same room. I loved every second!

That’s how prayer is to God. The most beautiful sound in the universe to Him is the sound of your voice.

He loves it when you praise and thank Him for things, just as I do as a dad.
He loves it when you confess, apologize, and reconcile, just as I do as a dad.
He loves it when you ask Him for things, just as I do as a dad.
He even loves it when you are just still and quiet with Him, just as I do as a dad.

Your Dad loves to be with you, hear from you, and know you!

There’s nothing like time with your kids, regardless of their age. God doesn’t need us but He wants us.

How To Pray

Jesus’ followers struggled with prayer much like we do. In fact, they finally asked Jesus how to pray and He famously said

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9b-13)

Notice Jesus said “our” Father. There’s something special about God’s children praying together. I could’ve had three individual FaceTime chats with our three children on Monday but there was something special about us all being together at once. Dad loves it when His kids get along and share their hearts together.

Individual Prayer Ideas

Perhaps you—like me—find it easier to pray with others. Maybe your mind wanders when you’re alone…or even fall asleep when you close your eyes to pray! I have a few practical suggestions for you.

Pray with others. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? The Scio Soul lists various prayer gatherings that occur within Scio, including our 8:45 AM Sunday group. They would all love more participants.

Write out your prayers in a notebook or even a laptop. Some of my best prayers are done on my Mac. I don’t do it daily, but I have literally years worth of prayers that I’ve typed and they provide a great reference for me…and maybe someday my children.

Use a prayer list. This past week I realized I hadn’t looked at my prayer list in a while and discovered several prayer requests had been answered. A prayer list reminds you not only of things to pray for but also God’s faithfulness with past requests. Remember, God always answers our prayers, just not always how and when we desire.

Pray continuously. When our children are home, we talk throughout the day. We don’t have to set up a formal appointment. We may schedule a long conversation about a particular matter, but often the best chats are spontaneous and short. Talk with Dad…wherever, whenever. Sometimes I’ll turn off the stereo in my car and talk out loud as if He’s with me—because He is! It’s not uncommon for me to marvel at a sunset, pray for a friend when I see them on Facebook, or grab Heather’s hand and pray when alerted of a crisis.

Pray on the spot. Have you ever said to someone, “I’ll pray for you” and forgot? It’s embarrassing to have someone thank you for praying when, in fact, you never did! Years ago I e-mail a prayer request to a friend and he e-mailed a prayer back! I’ve done that on several occasions. I’ve also paused from activity to pray with or for someone in the moment.

Sing. Prayer doesn’t have to be just words. Praise and worship is one way to talk with God.

Listen. God speaks. It’s usually not audible, but through His Word, circumstances, the church, and prayer He is able to encourage, challenge, convict and guide us. My favorite verses in the Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6, tell us that if we trust Him, He will guide and direct our paths. He has certainly done that in my life more times than I can count. Prayer is not a one-way message but an interactive—albeit unique—conversation.

If there’s one thing to know about prayer, just do it! Talk with Dad. He loves you. He loves your voice. He’s listening, and your prayers—our prayers—are heard. Hallelujah!


Our Dad loves us. He wants to know us. He loves to talk with us. He hears us.

Listen to Eugene Peterson’s translation of the final eight verses in
The Message:

I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength— that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (16-20)
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes! (21)



Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Reconciled, 9 February 2014

Big Idea: We are reconciled to God—and one another—in Christ.

Ephesians 2:11-22


Who are you? As we continue our series on the book of Ephesians, a letter written by Paul from prison to the early church, we’re looking at this issue of identity. “Know thyself” was the famous declaration attributed to a number of ancient Greek sages.

Part of knowing ourselves is knowing others and how we are similar and different.

From the beginning of time, humans have experienced rivalry and conflict.

The differences between Cain and Abel resulted in the first murder.

The differences between Catholics and Protestants resulted in one of two Church splits.

The differences between those of European and African descent resulted in slavery.

The differences between USAmericans and al-Qaeda resulted in 9/11.

The differences between Buckeyes and Wolverines resulted in…

It’s a natural result of sin and the fall that we tend to see others as the enemy, especially if they are different (which ultimately includes every person on the planet!). Competition can lead to healthy fun and encourage growth. The Olympic games are a great example of this as athletes are motivated to train and perform knowing others are doing the same. When good sportsmanship leads to a great race, the world appreciates the dedication of both the gold medalist and those with lesser awards. Unfortunately rivalry and conflict can also lead to hostility, hatred and even death.

Differences can be celebrated and appreciated, but they must never overstep the second most important command given by God to love others.

Tragically our world is not filled with love. Sure, we see people that love their families and friends, but Jesus’ command to love our enemy may be the most radical statement in human history. Whether literally or figuratively, we have constructed walls to separate us from others.

The conflict we examine now is between Jews and Christians. Today that conflict may seem almost irrelevant. After all, when is the last time you heard about a Jew attacking a Christian? The Jewish/Muslim wall is far more visible, but the early church struggled to understand their role in relationship to the chosen ones of Israel. After all, God made a covenant with Abraham that included many special promises, including a Promised Land.

It’s impossible for us today to fully understand the depth of the hostility. Nothing in our present culture comes close. The differences between Jews and Gentiles resulted in division, pride, and tension. Many Jews believed Gentiles were created by God to be fuel for the fires of hell. The animosity was so great that it was against the law for a Jew to help a Gentile mother in her hour of greatest need need because it would bring another Gentile into the world. If a Jew married a Gentile, a funeral was performed for the Jew since such contact with a Gentile was the equivalent of death. (
The Message of Ephesians by John Stott).

Jesus was Jewish while on the earth. His first converts and disciples were Jewish. Paul was Jewish. However, the church in Ephesus and other churches were in the region were composed primarily of Gentiles. You can imagine the challenges this presented, challenges that were addressed in nearly all of the New Testament letters. The obvious issue concerned the legitimacy of Gentiles that followed Yeshua, Jesus. Debates went beyond theology, however, to include cultural issues such as diet and circumcision.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men) — remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (11-12)

It’s notable that the Gentiles are referred to in the negative, the “un”circumcised. Gentiles were without God and without hope.

Two thousands years later without God we have no hope. It’s no wonder people turn to drugs and pleasure and alcohol and a variety of other addictions. This is why it is so crucial for us to be filled with hope, filled with joy, and shine the light of Jesus to a dark, hopeless world. This is why God has a mission to seek and save the lost, and He has entrusted that mission—and the Great Commission—to you and me. These verses are written in the past tense to early believers, but to countless in our community there is presently no hope.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (13)

There’s another “but.” But God. But “in Christ.” The blood of Christ brings us in. I love this verse! We were far away and now we are brought near.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (14-18)

is our peace (2:14). He doesn’t distribute peace. He’s not the peace-maker. He is our peace. Peace is found in Jesus, not the opinion others have of you, circumstances, self-esteem, your finances, your health, or anything other than Jesus. Living in Him we have peace with God. Peace isn’t the absence of conflict; it’s the presence of Jesus.

Jesus has made the two became one. Where have we heard that? Marriage!

Yesterday on this stage a man and a woman became one in marriage. Each held a lit candle representing their two lives and families and brought them together to light the unity candle symbolizing their new life together. Neither individual was lost, but together a new family began.

This past week I spent nearly three days praying with 32 other pastors from Washtenaw County. It was an incredible experience, not only to spend time with Jesus but also with many so different from myself—in every way except for Christ. We came together in Christ.

On the way to the PACT Pastors Prayer Summit I was talking with my dear friend, Rabbi Allen Singer, about this passage. Allen is a Messianic Jew who embraces not only the Old Testament but also every word of the New Testament. He agreed that like a marriage, it is not the Gentile that becomes a Jew or a Jew that becomes a Gentile, but rather that one new man—one new believer—emerges because of Jesus. Through the cross we are both reconciled. Through Jesus we both have access to the Father by the Spirit, another beautiful image of the Trinity—one God in three Persons. Through Christ, Jews and Gentiles have equal access to God. We take this for granted but this was a radical revelation, especially to early Christians that were surrounded by elitist Jews who alone had special access to God before Jesus came. What this means is that through Jesus we all have access to the Father. My prayers are no more or less accessible to God than yours or Billy Graham’s. Jesus didn’t simply die so you can go to heaven when you die. He died to reconcile all—Jew and Gentile—to God if we trust and follow Him and receive by faith the gift of life that He offers.

Our status is not based upon our race, color, nationality or earthly citizenship. It is based upon our identity “in Christ.” That’s what brings us together. Reconciliation doesn’t just happen because we say some flowery words or put on a nice show. It begins in the heart and our deepest common identity in Christ. God separated the Jews from the nations which led to spiritual pride and hatred between Jew and Gentile, but now there’s peace. Now there’s true shalom.

Through Jesus we are even able to overcome church divisions that for centuries have separated Catholics and Protestants. I have often said that I have never met anyone that loves Jesus more than Father Ed Fride—and in my younger days I didn’t even know if it was possible to be Catholic and a Christian!

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (19-20)

Have you ever been in a strange place where you felt uncomfortable? Foreign countries are probably the most extreme example, especially when you don’t know the language. You quickly realize you are an outsider, and unless you are confronted with someone with the gift of hospitality, you feel like you don’t belong. Incidentally, this is true when people visit churches, too. They often feel alien until they are welcomed. Hospitality literally means welcoming the stranger.

In Christ we are not longer aliens. As we said weeks ago, we are saints. We are God’s children (1 John 2:12). David was God’s servant (2 Samuel 7:8). Moses was God’s servant (Number 12:7). We are fellow citizens. We belong to heaven now. Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

The apostles and prophets were not the foundation but laid the foundation. The foundation is Jesus (1 Cor. 3:11), the chief cornerstone. He is our foundation. He is our senior pastor. He is our big Brother, and because of Him, we receive the same love and treatment and access to the Father that He enjoys.

In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (21-22)

Paul refers to the Old Testament temple. We are living stones put together by Christ (1 Peter 2:5). The Church is under construction today. The temple is holy because the Holy Spirit fills each believer.

J. Vernon McGee said that God placed in a human-made structure is a pagan philosophy. God is in the house because we are in the house. When we come together to worship, the Holy Spirit is present, but when we all leave the building, the Holy Spirit leaves with us.

This building is important, but it’s not any more holy than your house, your car, your school, your office, or anywhere else you find yourself filled with the Holy Spirit. The house of God is not the church building…it’s you!!!


The first three chapters of Ephesians are filled with doctrine and theology that help us understand our identity, who we are. The second half of the book is filled with practical application.

To review,

we are in Christ
we are saints
we are blessed
we are appreciated
we are saved

We are reconciled—in Christ.

Paul was imprisoned for allegedly taking a non-Jew inside the temple of Jerusalem (Acts 21:27, 29). It was his efforts at reconciliation that led him to prison where he wrote this letter.

In some ways Ephesians is not unlike Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” a famous document written while imprisoned from the cause of reconciliation.

At the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games last week, IOC president Thomas Bach said

Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity.

He echoes the words of Paul, recognizing that despite our history, culture, race, income, nationality, gender, occupation or family of origin our primary identity and true unity can only be found—not in athletic competition—but “in Christ.”

We have more in common with believers of other nations, races and languages than non-believers from our own families. We are reconciled and made one in Christ.


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Saved, 2 February 2014

Big Idea: We are saved by grace. We were dead but now we’re alive. Hallelujah!

Ephesians 2:1-10


One of my many weaknesses is my propensity to see things in black and white in a world of grey. I tend to be all or nothing, going to extremes. I’ve learned this about myself and I am working to avoid the tendency but when I was younger it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to turn the volume of the radio down to 1 when someone complained that 11 was a little much, or if someone said I talked too much I would resort to silence.

Although much of life is grey, some things are clearly black or white, on or off, yes or no, Seattle or Denver!

The Wrath of God

Our series on the book of Ephesians is called
Who Do You Think You Are? This is one of the most important questions in life. How you see yourself determines how you think and act and live. We live in a culture where most people see themselves as good people, at least in comparison to the criminals we see paraded in front of us on the nightly news. People will say, “I haven’t killed anyone, I paid—most of—my taxes, and I’m kind to animals so I’m pretty good.” But they’re not. I’m not. Romans 3:23 says that

“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We tend to focus on the first part, but what about the latter. God’s glory is perfection. He is holy. He is righteous. He hates sin—all sin!

I want to begin today with God’s wrath. It’s politically incorrect to discuss, but it’s real. We can deny it but does not change it. God hates sin and

“…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

Ephesians 2 could’ve begun like this:

You are dead in your transgressions and sins in which you live, following the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also live among them, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we are by nature objects of wrath.

Objects of wrath. That means all sin will be destroyed. It’s like cancer. You wouldn’t want a doctor to remove 10% of your cancer or even 90%. The goal is to live 100% cancer free. God can only live in a sin-free environment. His wrath will come and destroy all sin…and that’s a good think—unless we are sinners. But we are! We are all sinners.

Celebrate Jesus

Today is a day of celebration. We’re not celebrating my birthday or yours. We’re not celebrating a Super Bowl championship since it is hours away. Today we are celebrating Jesus, and every day should be a celebration of Christ. Our text for today actually begins

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

It’s all past-tense because of Jesus!!!

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

But God. God butts in! He invades our broken planet that has been decimated by sin like our state has been invaded by snow and cold temperatures.

We were dead. Now we’re alive…with Christ. We are alive…in Christ.

Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people come alive!

I didn’t do it. You didn’t do it. Jesus did it!

We were dead and then Jesus made us alive!

I have a friend, Tony, who died six years ago at St. Joe’s Hospital. His heart was the worst the hospital had ever seen, but then a miracle occurred; he came back to life, and has never been the same since—in a good way. He was dead and now he’s alive.

What did Tony do to move from death to life? Nothing! He laid in the hospital bed and was healed in the midst of an ocean of prayer and a supernatural event not even the doctors can explain.

It’s the same way with us. We were dead and then Jesus made us alive. That’s grace!


Grace is unmerited favor. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. You can’t do anything to get it. It’s amazing!

A week ago I was DJing with a friend and I explained it this way:

If you recklessly smash your car into mine (please don’t!), justice means you pay to get my car fixed—and me, too, if I’m injured.

Mercy means I shrug it off, forgive you, and pretend the accident never happened. Who likes mercy?!

Grace means I not only refuse payment to fix my car, I offer to pay to fix yours…and take you out for ice cream!

That’s insane, right? That’s grace! That’s what Jesus offers every man, woman and child.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6-7)

We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. This means we are invited to spend eternity with Almighty God. We are welcomed into His Kingdom, not because we were good, but because of grace.

Notice again the phrase “in Christ” and “with Christ.” It’s all Jesus. We’re just along for the ride. Literally.

I have a friend who owns a Ferrari. It’s a beautiful car probably worth more than my house. He has two sons and if he were to ever let them drive the Ferrari into town, it would be obvious that there is only one reason they were driving such nice wheels—their dad! They did nothing to deserve the privilege except be born.

That’s grace!

Don’t miss these next two verses. This is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What is our role in salvation? Nothing! It’s all a gift. Even faith is a gift of God!

We all deserve God’s wrath. You, me, Billy Graham, and—fill in the blank!

Religion has always tried to work hard to make God like us. Every religion I have ever encountered is spelled
D-O; it’s about what we do. The problem is our works compared to God are like me trying to jump from here to the moon. It doesn’t matter how much I practice or how hard I work, there’s no way I could ever jump to the moon.

What I love about the movement of Jesus is we are the only ones with grace. Grace is spelled
D-O-N-E. It’s not what we do, but what’s been done by Jesus. I’ve encouraged my three kids to check out other religions. Explore. We’re the only ones with grace. It’s amazing, it’s extravagant, it’s almost unbelievable!

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

There’s so much that can be said about this verse but I want to briefly highlight a few thoughts

We are God’s workmanship, His masterpiece, His creation, His treasure. He doesn’t make junk!

We were created “in Christ.” We were created by Christ and then recreated in Christ because of grace.

We were created to do good works. We don’t do good works and then get in. We encounter Jesus and do good works as a result. Our lives are lived not out of obligation but gratitude. One of the most important works we can do is
let dead people know they are dead, and how they can become alive in Christ!

God knew us in our mother’s womb and prepared good words for us to do. He wants us to do two things: love Him and love others. When you ponder grace, don’t you want to dance, sing, and then obey whatever He says?!

We were dead. Because of Jesus we’re alive!


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
Louie Giglio, Passion City Church sermon series
J. Vernon McGee
, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Appreciated, 26 January 2014

Big Idea: We are appreciated…by God!

Ephesians 1:15-23

When did you most feel appreciated? Why?

When did you recently express appreciation to someone? Why? What did you do? How did it make you feel?

We all like to be appreciated. We may intellectually know that God loves us, but it’s quite another thing to hear the words “thank you” or receive a gift of appreciation.

Two things

There’s two things I want you to know: I appreciate you and God appreciates you.

Did it surprise you when I said God appreciates you? When I recently heard those words, I wasn’t so sure. God is God. I appreciate Him, but could He possibly appreciate me? He loves me, He died for me, but He appreciates me?

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Paul is writing to a church, a church he started in the city of Ephesus. He likely was speaking to a broader audience, however, since this letter was circulated among many churches…and has continued to be read by churches around the planet for the past 2000 years!

The church was filled with faith in Jesus and love for people. Those are the two most important things according to Jesus—love God and love people. Period. That’s the goal. That’s the litmus test. That’s success.

Do you love God? Really? How do you know? Does God know?
Do you love people? Really? How do you know? Do they know?

We often equate love with what’s in our head. It’s easy to say we love something but action is entirely different.

This past week I read that a restaurant I loved closed. I loved their food. I loved their atmosphere. I loved the service I received.

I dined there once! My love in my head did not translate into action. They closed. Can I blame them for closing?

Paul was saying that these people genuinely loved God and others. Their faith was visible, not just intellectual. He says that these people are in his prayers and he appreciates them and continually gives thanks to God for them.

I love that! He’s a great pastor. Remember, he’s writing from prison. He can’t exactly bring them gifts or FaceTime them. He uses the only tools he has—prayer and letters—to communicate his appreciation and love.

In Revelation chapter two we learn that the church in Ephesus was a great church.

Paul could’ve used the precious ink and paper to complain about the conditions in prison and to ask them to pray for him. That’s what I would’ve likely done! I’d write, “Help! Pray for God to miraculously release me from prison again!”

How many of your prayers are cries for help? God loves any honest prayer, but like any Father—like any person—He loves to receive thanks, too. This is a prayer of thanksgiving. We don’t need to wait until November to give thanks!

Are you thankful to God for anyone? Take some time and pray prayers of Thanksgiving.

Paul appreciates these people, but he also speaks for God as he writes scripture. He appreciates them but so does God.

Scio, God appreciates you. He loves it when you obey Him, love others, and pray.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Paul gives thanks but also prays for them—and us—to know God better. There’s nothing more important than knowing God. Nothing. We were created to know God.

Here's another beautiful depiction of the Trinity. We see Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Paul asks God to give them wisdom and revelation in order to know Him better.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (1:18-21)

That’s a mouthful! Paul had a habit of writing run-on sentences!

The eyes of your heart, not mind. Intelligence does not guarantee understanding of spiritual truth. There are some things only the Spirit can teach us.

Paul does not pray for material things but spiritual blessings. He wants them to know hope, their inheritance, and His power.

If we truly understood God’s power, I believe our prayers and our lives would be radically different.

This month we have learned about the power of wind and cold and snow.
The Detroit News headline on Friday said, “Enough already!” We often think about God’s power in creation or storms or the resurrection, but His power has been unleashed in other ways such as the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Can you imagine seeing Jesus lift off the ground into the sky?

The first three chapters of Ephesians are largely filled with doctrine and truths about God while the final three chapters provide practical instruction about how to apply the doctrine and live God-honoring lives. What I want you to see here is the vivid portrait of God.

This chapter ends with a reference to us, the church.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (1:22-23)

We are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the church. Since we are in Christ, the Father views us as He views Jesus.

He loves Jesus. He loves us.
He appreciates Jesus. He appreciates us.
He loves to hear the voice of Jesus. He loves to hear our voices.
He will spend eternity with Jesus. He will spend eternity with us.

Daddy is nuts about you! He loves you! He appreciates you!


Some ideas from

Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are Saints, 12 January 2014

Big Idea: We are saints, God’s people set apart for His purposes, blessed with grace and peace.

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Good morning, saints! Good morning, sinners!

Today we continue our new series, Who Do You Think You Are? It is a series about identity, and identity is one of the most important aspects of life. I believe theology and anthropology—understanding God and humans—are the two most important fields of study, for the more we understand God and ourselves, the more we will flourish.

Who are you? Who are we? These are the primary questions we will seek to answer throughout our study of the book of Ephesians.

As a review for those who braved the snow last week and a summary for those who didn’t, we noted that Ephesians…

  • - was written by Paul in prison in Rome
  • - to the church in the city of Ephesus, a cosmopolitan city not unlike Ann Arbor
  • - it was written not only to the church at Ephesus but to all in the region
  • - it is, therefore, one of the most universal books of the Bible, filled with timeless truths
  • - frequently speaks of what it means to be “in Christ,” our primary, true identity

I want to note a few additional things about this book.

  • - It is about “the Church which is His body,” of which Christ is the head
  • - Paul founded the church in Ephesus during his second missionary journey
  • - Paul stayed in Ephesus for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 19:8-10; 20:31)
  • - This may be the epistle referred to in Colossians 4:16
  • - Like many New Testament books, Ephesians has an Old Testament parallel—Joshua
  • - The church in Ephesus had many great preachers including Paul, Apollos, John and Timothy; what a legacy!

Ephesians 1 begins…

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

This is a letter written by Paul from a Roman prison. Paul was once a religious zealot named Saul.

Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. (Acts 8:2-3)

His conversion may be the most remarkable in history, an encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9). Later he goes by the name of Paul (Acts 13:9).

Paul, an
apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

The word “apostle” is interesting. The Greek word means “messenger” or “envoy.” I like to say there are two types—Apostle and apostle. An Apostle is the highest office of the Church. They received their commission directly from Jesus. Even though Paul did not know Jesus during His earthly ministry, the glorified Jesus commissioned Paul. They also saw Jesus after His resurrection, often wrote scripture, and performed signs, wonders, and miracles (2 Cor. 12:112). They also started churches.

Today there are people that are called
apostles. I consider myself an apostle. I have been involved in starting or planting churches. I’m a spiritual entrepreneur.

Paul, an apostle
of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

As we said last week, the core message of Ephesians is that our identity is in Christ. Paul is a messenger of Jesus. He has no personal agenda. The messenger only delivers—they don’t create—the message. As he was repeatedly arrested and beaten, he must’ve thought, “Don’t shoot the messenger!”

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
by the will of God,

It was clearly God’s will that Paul become an apostle. He was called for a very special purpose, specifically to write much of the New Testament and be the most prominent figure in it after Christ.

Note that God does the calling. He still calls people today. He calls people to start churches, to travel to foreign countries, and to become pastors. He calls people to be beacons of light amidst the darkness at factories, schools, offices, and homes across our county. Be ready for His call. Be ready to respond. Be ready to obey.

Jonah received a calling, did not obey, spent three nights in a fish, and eventually got on board with God’s will!

You may be waiting—patiently or impatiently—for His call. I had a friend who spent years asking God to show him what to do. Silence meant to continue to be faithful to his current assignment until the time was right for something new, something that eventually came. He now leads a church God called him to plant in Chicagoland.

You might not like your calling. Take it up with God!

To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

I began with the greeting, “Good morning saints.” When you think of saints, perhaps you think of a New Orleans football team or a bunch of dead guys that have churches named after them!

A saint is a holy person.

The word “sinner” is used about 300 times in the Bible, often in conjunction with the 600 references to God’s wrath. It occurs no more than three times in reference to believers. God sees us as saints. Why don’t we? When we begin following Jesus as Lord, we become genuinely new creations, though not totally new. We are given a new nature, the nature of Jesus Christ when we identify with Him. That’s incredible!

Paul writes to the church…

To God’s holy people
in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

…in Ephesus and to those in the region and calls them “God’s holy people” or saints.

A saint is not a perfect person. Saints (
haggais) means separated or set aside for the sole use of God, holy vessels like those in the tabernacle.

J. Vernon McGee used to say there are two types of people today: saints and ain’ts!

We have been set apart for God’s use. Isn’t that incredible?!

We are saints
and sinners. Notice what is next…

To God’s holy people in Ephesus,
the faithful in Christ Jesus:

We are not saints because of how we act but because we are “in Christ.” Last week we briefly looked at nine uses of this phrase “in Christ” in the first thirteen verses of Ephesians. We are saints or God’s holy people “in Christ.” We are the faithful “in Christ.” We are full of faith.

You might be thinking, “I’m not always faithful.” True. This is where the faithfulness of Jesus kicks in. Paul wrote to Timothy an incredible truth.

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Because we are in Christ, we are faithful. It’s not about what we do, but what He has done.

Imagine that your name was chosen in a radio contest and you’ve been given a
backstage pass to a rock concert. You go backstage, someone asks your name and then asks you to leave. When you flash them your backstage pass, everything changes. You’re “with the band!” You are on their team. You didn’t sing or play an instrument or even setup the stage, but you’re with them. You have special privileges not because of who you are or what you’ve done but who you know.

Being in Christ is so much more. It’s having a backstage pass to heaven, not because of anything you’ve done, but because you’re with Jesus.

It’s actually much more.

The bird is in the air and the air is in the bird.
The fish is in the water and the water is in the fish.
The believer is in Christ and Christ is in the believer.

That’s radical!!!

Paul continues this idea when he says…

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace. These are two of my favorite words.

What is grace?

It is unmerited favor.

was the Gentile form of greeting.

Grace is the means by which God saves us. You must know God’s grace in order to have peace. The world can never know true peace until it knows God’s grace.

Outside the church we see “love” and “peace” but rarely “grace.” It is that amazing!

Peace was the religious word, shalom in Hebrew.

Peace means peace with God, to have our sins forgiven. It is more than the absence of war. Shalom means “to complete, to make sound.” It was used to describe the temple when it was finished (1 Kings 7:51). It is used to describe tranquility. The word was also used as a greeting, as it is here.

Last year our daughter, Kailey, talked about how she was going to focus on a word in 2013. I decided to follow her lead and have declared “peace” as my word for 2014. I have far more self-inflicted anxiety and fear and I’m choosing to embrace peace. Jesus is the Prince of peace. Paul blessed us with peace. I’m declaring peace on my life and I want to do the same for yours.

Grace and peace are two things you can have regardless of life’s circumstances. They’re yours if you accept them, much like salvation and God’s love.

Paul is greeting his friends and blessing them with grace and peace, not from Himself, but…

Grace and peace to you
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit was already present in Ephesus. Now Paul ensures that the Father and Son are recognized.

Notice how often Christ Jesus is mentioned in this short section.

Christ is the title. Jesus was His human name. That’s why they’re used interchangeably. You can call me Pastor Kirk or Kirk the pastor. You can call Him Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Paul goes a step further and acknowledges Jesus as LORD. All glory and honor and praise is due Him for He is God, He deserves our praise, He is worthy of our worship.


We’ve spent a great deal of time on two short verses, just the greeting. If you’re reading through Ephesians with us, perhaps you blew past this passage, anxious to get to “the good stuff.” It’s here! In Christ we are saints. In Christ we are declared faithful. In Christ we are blessed with grace and peace.

This week I had this thought of Jesus talking to me. I didn’t have a vision or hear an audible voice, but I simply had the realization that Jesus truly loves me. He knows me. He is my friend. He’s God, but I’m on His team. He has given me His identity. I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Wow!

Every day we have a choice—to be saints or aints! We can choose to be lord of our lives or surrender to the LORD Jesus Christ. We can we His badge or risk it going alone, doing it our way. I urge you to embrace Jesus and the identity that is offered to you in Christ. It is truly a joy to say “Your will, Your way!”


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, http://thruthebible.ca

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

We Are In Christ, 5 January 2014

Big Idea: Our identity can be found in ourselves, our world, or in Christ.

Who are you? Few questions are more important.

When you meet someone for the first time, how do you introduce yourself after you provide your name? An American? Married? Engineer? Mom? Athlete? Geek? Hunter? Fisherman? Musician?

What three words best describe you?

We tend to think what we do determines who we are. The opposite is true. Who we are determines what we do.

This idea was reinforced this past week in an article I read about swimmers.

In Rolf Dobelli’s book,
The Art of Thinking Clearly, he explains how our ideas about talent and extensive training are well off-track:

“Professional swimmers don’t have perfect bodies because they train extensively. Rather, they are good swimmers because of their physiques. How their bodies are designed is a factor for selection and not the result of their activities.”

Did you catch that?

You are not who you are because of what you do, but what you do is because of who you are—your identity.

As we begin the new year, it’s a great time to reflect upon our identity.

Who are you?

I can ask who you think you are, but a more important question is…

Who does God say you are?

You are not your occupation, your IQ, your education, your income, or social status. You are a human being created with value, dignity and worth.

In the first book of the Bible, we see God’s plan for us.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
(Genesis 1:26-28)

You and I were created by God in His image and likeness. We were made to mirror God to the world. When we love, forgive, speak truth, and are generous we reflect His character to others. The goal is not for the world to know us, but Him.

The question should not be “how does this make me look?” but “how does this make God look?” That’s worship, imaging God.

We are not God, but we’re also more than just an animal with thumbs.

We were created to rule over creation.

We were blessed. We didn’t deserve or earn blessing, but that’s God’s grace. We have been blessed to bless others.

Many think identity is about what they do, but
our identity is received, not achieved.

You are not more or less valuable than anyone else, healthy or sick, rich or poor, born or unborn. This is unique about our faith, the belief that all are image-bearers. Your net worth has nothing to do with your self worth.

This is why we don’t believe in racism, sexism, classism.

God says we are cherished children, which begs the question…

Who does satan say we are?

Personal evil is real, a created angelic being who rebelled against God named satan. He wants to steal, kill and destroy. In Genesis 3, he lied and deceived Adam and Eve and destroyed them…and us. The power of a lie is contingent upon whether or not it is believed.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Genesis 3:1-5)

Here we see identity. Satan tempts them to be like God. We were already created like God! Our identity is received from God, not achieved by what we do.

Who are you?

Our new series on the book of Ephesians seeks to address this simple yet profound question, both in terms of who you are as an individual and who we are as a church, the Body and Bride of Jesus Christ.

Where: Ephesus

Have you been to Ephesus? I have not, but I know many things about it. First, it was the most important city in what is now western Turkey. It was a harbor city at an intersection of major trade routes which means…commerce, people, culture, diversity. Although Ann Arbor lacks a harbor, we have I-94, M-14, US-23, and nearby Detroit Metro Airport. Ephesus had a great pagan temple dedicated to Diana, a Roman goddess, one of the seven great wonders of the world. Ann Arbor has a great temple dedicated to…football (and an occasional hockey game!). Like our town, it had a huge library that is still visited today.

The church in this city flourished, though it later received a warning in Revelation 2:1-7.

The city had about 250,000 people which is about the population of the Ann Arbor area. Luke’s grave is there. It was a central hub for the early church.

The gospel transformed one of the greatest cities in the world.

They have dug up about 10-15% of the city. The streets are marble despite being thousands of years old.

They are unearthing New Testament homes, some of which are quite large, some with large great rooms to entertain and practice hospitality.

A 25,000 seat amphitheater is still standing. You can stand at the bottom, drop a coin at the bottom, and hear it at the top.

From: Paul

Paul wrote this letter, possibly around a.d. 60 while in a Roman prison. He knew Ephesus well as it was his base of operations for about three years of evangelism.

Some have said they like Jesus but not Paul. However, as an apostle, Paul speaks under the authority of Jesus. If you don’t like Paul, you can’t like Jesus!

To: Audience

Although we can summarize and call Ephesians a letter from Paul to the church in the city of Ephesus, his intended audience seems to be broader. Unlike other letters written to specific churches to address specific issues, this message is more universal and this letter was likely passed among various churches in the region. It may be the letter referenced in the book of Colossians as a letter to Laodicea. This makes it especially relevant for us since he is not reacting to unique circumstances but declaring God’s truth to multiple generations.

Paul does so with great precision. Paper was scarce, so he packed a tremendous amount of information in 155 verses. Despite their brevity, it took John Calvin about 700 pages to describe them and Dr Lloyd Jones five times as many! It’s as if Paul compressed a huge piece of theology into four pages like a zip file on your computer or even a loaf of bread that grows and expands when you let it sit.


In a word, Ephesians is about grace. In two words, our identity
in Christ.

In Christ

We can find our identity in our job, family, nationality…or in Jesus. The Bible uses the word “Christian” three times but the phrase “in Christ” appears more than two hundred times! We’re not going to look at each today, but I want you to see nine that appear in the first thirteen verses of chapter one. We are

faithful in Christ (1:1; remember who you are, then you’ll know what to do)
blessed in Christ (1:3)
chosen in Christ (1:4)
made blameless in Christ (1:4)
we can know the will of God in Christ (1:9)
reconciled to God in Christ (1:10)
we have an inheritance in Christ (1:11)
our hope is in Christ (not your job, friends, family!) (1:12)
we have the Holy Spirit in Christ (1:13)

These are only nine of thirty things we’ll see we have in Christ.


Who are you? Who are we? From now until Easter we will examine these questions as we journey through the book of Ephesians. I encourage you to read through it—along with Psalms and Proverbs which we are using as the content for this year’s Scio Journal on our Facebook page. One of our Life Groups at 11 AM will provide opportunities for you to reflect and interact on these scriptures about identity.


Some ideas from

J.I. Packer, Ephesians (sermon series audio)
Mark Driscoll,
Who Do You Think You Are (book and podcast series)
GLO Bible

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.