Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

A little humour for this second week of March, entitled “5 Things to do during a boring sermon” (and no, I didn’t take notes about my congregations while preaching!):

~ Pass a note to the organist asking whether he/she plays requests.

~ See if a yawn really is contagious.

~ Devise ways of climbing into the balcony without using the stairs.

~ Listen for your preacher to use a word beginning with ‘A’ then ‘B and so on through the alphabet.

~ Sit in the back row and roll a handful of marbles under the pews ahead of you.

After the service, credit yourself with 10 points for every marble that made it to the front.

Now, on a more serious note….consider Ephesians chapter 1, verses one and two:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Back in 1996, I officiated a wedding for a good friend of mine, I’ll call him Joe. I love weddings! And I always carry an extra (clean, of course) hanky in case someone cries. Up to this wedding, I had used it only once. Until…”Will you love, honor, and cherish ’til death do you part?” The tears, starting as a whimper, suddenly flowed. The wedding stopped. The hanky came out. Joe was completely helpless. As was the bride! She joined all of us to wait until Joe got control of himself!

The book of Ephesians is the account of the object of the Groom’s affection! The Groom, of course, is the Lord Jesus, and the bride is the Universal Church.

We will grow in our study in this book.

We will grow in our knowledge of who we are.

We should then grow in our love for the Lord and Who He is!

What’s in a name? A name is VERY important! Years ago I visited my Uncle Jerry, my mother’s brother. He and I were named after the same man, our great grandfather “Jeremiah Philip Barnes”. Jeremiah was a farmer who back in the 1800’s owned a 500 acre farm in Cooperstown Junction, just outside of Oneonta, New York.

Uncle Jerry and I were pretty proud of our heritage. As were the Jews of Paul’s day! As you know, Paul was born as “Saul”, which name means “asked”. The name implies greatness, and was given to one who was expected to have counsel sought after, or asked, by many. As Saul, he was known for persecuting the Christian church. As Saul, his name would always remind him of a changed life. Who did the changing? The Lord Jesus in the most familiar story of “Saul” on the road to Damascus to round up some more “Christians” to be persecuted. And Jesus would tell him, “Why do you persecute ME?”

“Saul”, whose counsel was sought after, would become “Paul” which means…”little”! I would encourage you to read Philippians 3:4-7. Paul had a changed life! He thought LITTLE of himself and MUCH of Jesus! Do you and I?

“Paul an APOSTLE”. An “apostle” is “one sent on a mission”. In Galatians 1:1, 11-15 we learn of the change in Paul’s mission. Before he sought after Christians to bring them back to Jerusalem for imprisonment or even death. Galatians tells the change in him when Jesus became his Savior:

“it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…”. Galatians 1:15-16a. This was now his life work, because God did the work, the change, in Paul’s mission! Have you had this change of direction in mission?

By the will of God”. I once knew a missionary who I looked up to. Well, for those of you who might have known Lall Din, EVERYONE looked up to the former Army officer from the country of India. Lall was close to 6 feet 6 inches, weighing about 250 pounds, and had a most commanding presence. But when he trusted Jesus as Savior, all changed! He entitled his autobiography, “What God Can Do”.

God made a change in Paul’s life, NOT just for change sake. God changed Paul for a purpose, for a reason. Listen to the insight in these 2 verses:

“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—“ (Gal. 3:1)

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech youto walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” (Gal. 4:1)

Paul’s mission changed from caring what Saul wanted to caring what the will of God was for his day, his life. How about you and me?

LET’S LOOK A LITTLE FURTHER! What are those who are the objects of the Groom’s affection called in this passage? Did you catch it? Paul addresses the letter to the Ephesians in a most unique way: “to the saints”!!!

I once officiated a funeral for a Christian brother who had gone Home to be with the Lord Jesus at a young age. While the family and I were leaving the funeral home to go to the cemetery, one of the family members asked me, “Charlie was an amazing man. If anyone deserves to be in heaven, Charlie does. How long before he becomes a saint? 200 years?”. Now mind you, this IS a most interesting question that I don’t get asked too often. So I surprised the questioner: “According to the authority of the Word of God, because of his faith in Jesus, Charlie already is a saint NOW! He is with Jesus NOW! Not because of anything he is or did, but because Jesus died for Charlie’s sins. Jesus’ death on the cross was Charlie’s hope. And God’s word says Charlie is a saint NOW! AND God’s Word says you too can be a saint if you trust Jesus as your Savior today!”. Charlie’s loved one shook his head!

In Ephesus” means that this was a circular letter which was sent to all the churches in the area in which was Ephesus. The church at Ephesus was perhaps the last church to receive this letter. The fact that there were saints in Ephesus was astounding! Look back at Acts 19. “Diana” (or “Artemis”) was the false goddess of the people of the town. The temple to her located in Ephesus was world known! And worship of her brought with it all sorts of debauchery. Did you notice the chant of the people, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”. Rev. 2:1-4 tells us that at one time the Savior would accuse the church of “leaving your first love”. Yet Acts 20:17-20, 27-31, 35-38 tell us that the elders of Ephesus had a special affection for Paul. What God has done!

Did you notice “faithful in Christ Jesus”? This is an HUGE compliment! Paul was sharing with the people that their diligence in the work in Christ’s strength was noticed worldwide!

And how did they do that? Why, in the grace and peace which God provided! Grace is the characteristic of this whole book for our daily living. And peace – the peace of God and the peace with God are the characteristics of the Christian who knows to live in the presence of the Lord Jesus every day!

Don’t you just LOVE weddings? Isn’t it exciting that God has written a book to challenge and encourage HIS Bride? Aren’t you glad that because of Christ there can be a CHANGED life, and a CHARGED life, strengthened by the CHASTE Lord and Savior?

Have you fully tasted all that God has given you?

Then the Book of Ephesians is just for you!