The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

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.

Ephesians 1:17

I’ve just been listening to a programme on the radio in which an academic has slated the internet as a source of knowledge. His principle concern is that internet becomes circular, which results in half-truths and downright lies being given more credibility than they deserve. The academic was keen to highlight Wikipedia as a key concern here. His worry was that someone might write something untruthful on Wikipedia, which is then taken up and quoted elsewhere, perhaps in the mainstream media. That ‘fact’ can then be referenced on Wikipedia, and therefore becomes accepted as truth. This clearly raises significant questions for our age. Where do we get our knowledge from? If we want to find out about someone of something, where do we go for reliable information? And more significantly still, what is truth?

For the Christian, we might want to know how we can find out more information about our God. If we are to know him as our Father, we need to know him in the sense of understanding who he is and what he is like. This seems like a challenging prospect. How can we genuinely know God?

Luckily for us, Paul, in the words of the prayer quoted above, gives us an insight into how we might achieve this. The key to knowing God is the Holy Spirit. Paul believes that the Holy Spirit can equip us to know God better. He describes the Holy Spirit as ‘the Spirit of wisdom and revelation’. The Holy Spirit can equip us with the intellect and insight to better understand who God is. The Holy Spirit can reveal to us the nature of God through the Bible. Unlike the internet, the Holy Spirit is a useful, trustworthy and entirely reliable source of knowledge about God, as is his word, the Bible.

I will be praying Paul’s prayer in the days ahead, both for myself and my friends and family. Will you join me in praying that God may ‘give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better’?

We have redemption through his blood

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:7-10

Did you manage to catch the Oscar-winning movie, Twelve Years A Slave? One of the biggest hits of the last twelve months it was at times a very hard watch because it exposed some of the sheer horrors of the system of slavery found in the United States. It really brought home to me the brutality that slaves were forced to endure.

The Bible often speaks of slavery. Paul himself spoke of humans being ‘slaves to sin’ (Romans 6:20). In our sinful lives we find ourselves slaves to all that is bad in the world and endure a painful, pointless existence and a bleak future of eternal separation from God. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. As Paul tells us in this passage in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘we have redemption through his blood’. As a consequence of Christ’s death on the cross we have been redeemed from our slavery to sin. The redemption penalty, or fee, or price of our sinfulness has been paid for Christ on our behalf. We are no longer slaves. Our sins have been forgiven. This is not the result of anything that we have done but because God has lavished his grace on us.

Paul also tells us that Christ’s death has also ensured that God’s ultimate plan will become a reality ‘when the times reach their fulfilment’. What is this plan? It is the plan that God has always had, to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ’s headship. Jesus will rule over the whole of God’s creation and everything on earth and in God’s heavenly realm will fall down and worship him. There will no longer be divisions but unity in the name of Christ.

Paul certainly knew how to pack big, heavyweight theology into just a few sentences and these verses from Ephesians are no exception! What joy to know that God has history marked out before us, and to know that he has a end point in sight. What a delight to know that he is in control. And what an amazing blessing to know that God has lavished his grace on us and redeemed us from our slavery to find freedom in Christ. Let’s be joyful today and give thanks for God’s great master plan, for his grace, and for granting us freedom!

He predestined us for adoption

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:3-6

I can’t believe that I’m in the final week of my holiday! Luckily when I do start back at work on Tuesday it is only four and a half weeks until my next holiday. Mind you, I’ve been so busy this holiday that I feel like I’ll be going back to work for a bit of a break! I’ve published my new book (The Shepherd God: Finding Peace, Worth and Happiness in a Busy World, available from Amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle, and also from Amazon.co.uk in paperback  and for Kindle), and also been hard at work preparing resources for a busy term of teaching history. Often people think that we teachers just turn up in our classrooms and make stuff up, but actually for most of us a great deal of preparation goes into our lessons. I have already determined in advance of term starting exactly what I’m going to teach, and when, to whomever happens to turn up in my classroom.

The verses we’re considering today, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, have proven problematic for many Christians (and non-Christians) over the years. Paul tells us that God ‘predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ’. Surely, some say, if God has already chosen who will follow him he has already consigned many to hell. How can this be fair? How can this be the mark of a loving God? How can this concept of predestination possibly sit alongside the idea of freewill? These are difficult questions, but my personal belief, with regard to this particular passage, is that God predestined people to adoption in a similar way to how I have already determined the content of next term’s lessons. My lessons are planned, and whoever turns up to them has in a sense been predestined to benefit from my knowledge and teaching. Perhaps God has predestined that all of those who follow Christ will be adopted as sonship without specifically predestining us by name. Maybe this is an inclusive predestination, in the sense that God has already decided that all those who follow Christ will be adopted by him as his sons and daughters through the work that Jesus has done for us all on the cross. This is in contrast to an exclusive predestination whereby God has already decided before their births that Robert, William, Sarah and Amy will be adopted as his children, whereas James, Brian, Rachel and Louise have not been predestined and therefore will not ever find Christ in their lifetimes.

Whatever the answer to the difficult idea of predestination might be, we have much to be thankful to God for, which is the overarching point that Paul is trying to make in this passage. Through Christ God has showered spiritual blessings on us and opened the way to heaven. He has done this out of love for all of his people. He has shown us all grace and ensured that we are saved because of his love for us, not as a consequence of anything that we do or do not do. Let’s all resolve to thank God today for his many blessings, and pray for his continued guidance as we strive to understand his word in the Bible.

A deposit guaranteeing our inheritance

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

I own a small house in Colchester which I rent out. My tenant moved out at the end of January, and for a few weeks the house was empty, with no sign of a tenant moving in any time soon. I got a bit worried because I need the rental income to pay the mortgage! Then, one day towards the end of February, when I happened to be at the house, a prospective tenant came to look around. She agreed to take the house, but was not able to move in until March 29th. I was a bit worried that she might pull out until she put down a deposit. I was relieved when she did! This demonstrated that she was serious about renting my house, and was unlikely to change her mind.

Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells his readers that when they heard and believed the gospel, they were marked with a seal, “the promised Holy Spirit.” The image of a seal is important, since a seal denotes ownership. When the Holy Spirit is received by believers, it marks them out as God’s possessions, his personal belongings, which cannot be taken by anyone else. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit also acts as “a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance.” God lays down a deposit, in the form of the Holy Spirit, in all those who believe. This is a deposit promising that we will gain our inheritance when we die; as co-heirs of God’s kingdom with Jesus, we will enjoy the same inheritance that he has, and be raised to live with God in heaven. Since we have been marked with the Holy Spirit, we can have absolute confidence in God’s promise of eternal life. He is serious about us, and will not change his mind with regard to our salvation.

Sometimes we can feel far from God. We can have doubts about out faith, about whether God could possibly love us, and about whether we really do have eternal life. But Paul is clear in these verses: if we have believed the message of truth, we are included in Christ’s inheritance, we belong to God, and he has already placed a deposit within us guaranteeing our eternal life. What an amazing situation to find ourselves in!

Put off your old self

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.

Ephesians 4:22-24

I get really irritated by television adverts at this time of year.  Companies are always trying to flog us the latest tat, proclaiming that the latest celebrity autobiography, computer games or gadgets would make excellent gifts for our family and friends.  Looking at the adverts, I guess that some people must spend a fortune on Christmas presents.  I don’t – but then I have the reputation for being tight!

Christmas is a perfect opportunity for us to think about how much we are affected by this blatant western capitalism.  Not only is it a time when we are subjected to the “Buy! Buy! Buy!” culture we live in more than at any time, but it is also the time when we should be thinking about the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.  Rather than getting bogged down in the commercialism of Christmas, perhaps we should be thinking about preparing ourselves for the arrival of the coming of Christ.

In our current Isaiah passage, the prophet tells God’s people to “put on your strength” and to “put on your beautiful garments.”  The time is coming when the Lord will come, and they must be ready and waiting for him.  They must shake themselves out of the dust where they’ve been hiding, and show themselves as God himself professes them to be.

Paul picks up this theme in today’s Daily Reading.  He tells the Ephesians that they were told to put off their old lives, which had been corrupted by deceitful desires, and to be made new in the attitude of their minds, and to be like God himself.

As we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, it is a good time for us to ponder on whether we are striving to be like God “in true righteousness and holiness.”  It seems ironic that the moment we celebrate the coming of the messiah, we actually get carried away with earthly desires.  We fill our heads with the stuff that we want for Christmas rather than all the good gifts that Christ has lavished upon us.  We get bogged down in our desire for Wiis or DSs, for plasma TVs and new computers, for coffee makers or DVD boxsets.  Does this really display the new attitude of mind that Paul urges us to adopt?  There’s nothing wrong with receiving nice gifts, but when it becomes the focus of our Christmas celebrations, we demonstrate to ourselves and God that we really have not put off our former way of life.

So as Christmas approaches and your family and friends ask you what you would like, why not think about ways in which the money they are willing to spend on you could be spent in a more positive way.  There are lots of charities that sell “good gifts” these days – textbooks for African schools, goats for third world farmers, or water pumps for villages without access to clean water.  Why not ask for one of these?  Or even simply ask for money to be donated to a charity on your behalf?

I get really irritated by television adverts at this time of year.  Companies are always trying to flog us the latest tat, proclaiming that the latest celebrity autobiography, computer games or gadgets would make excellent gifts for our family and friends.  Looking at the adverts, I guess that some people must spend a fortune on Christmas presents.  I don’t – but then I have the reputation for being tight!

Christmas is a perfect opportunity for us to think about how much we are affected by this blatant western capitalism.  Not only is it a time when we are subjected to the “Buy! Buy! Buy!” culture we live in more than at any time, but it is also the time when we should be thinking about the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.  Rather than getting bogged down in the commercialism of Christmas, perhaps we should be thinking about preparing ourselves for the arrival of the coming of Christ.

In our current Isaiah passage, the prophet tells God’s people to “put on your strength” and to “put on your beautiful garments.”  The time is coming when the Lord will come, and they must be ready and waiting for him.  They must shake themselves out of the dust where they’ve been hiding, and show themselves as God himself professes them to be.

Paul picks up this theme in today’s Daily Reading.  He tells the Ephesians that they were told to put off their old lives, which had been corrupted by deceitful desires, and to be made new in the attitude of their minds, and to be like God himself.

As we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, it is a good time for us to ponder on whether we are striving to be like God “in true righteousness and holiness.”  It seems ironic that the moment we celebrate the coming of the messiah, we actually get carried away with earthly desires.  We fill our heads with the stuff that we want for Christmas rather than all the good gifts that Christ has lavished upon us.  We get bogged down in our desire for Wiis or DSs, for plasma TVs and new computers, for coffee makers or DVD boxsets.  Does this really display the new attitude of mind that Paul urges us to adopt?  There’s nothing wrong with receiving nice gifts, but when it becomes the focus of our Christmas celebrations, we demonstrate to ourselves and God that we really have not put off our former way of life.

So as Christmas approaches and your family and friends ask you what you would like, why not think about ways in which the money they are willing to spend on you could be spent in a more positive way.  There are lots of charities that sell “good gifts” these days – textbooks for African schools, goats for third world farmers, or water pumps for villages without access to clean water.  Why not ask for one of these?  Or even simply ask for money to be donated to a charity on your behalf?