The Voyager: Encouragement for Life's Journey
Below you will find articles from our Church's leadership meant to encourage you and give you insight into questions about life, faith, and God.
I recently had a friend of mine lend me his Chevrolet Corvette for me to take on a trip. He let me drive his beautiful, expensive car in all its aerodynamic, advanced-technology, high-acceleration glory!! I felt like a crop duster pilot who was offered the undeserved chance to fly an F-15 fighter jet.
Such an opportunity makes a context that is ripe for pretense. When I pulled into a parking space, people noticed me, particularly when it was a space in a Walmart parking lot. I must admit that I liked the attention. I would get out of the car with my sunglasses still on, stand by this beautiful vehicle that was not even mine, and try to look like I owned it. Even the low profile of the Corvette made me feel taller.
If someone commented on how nice “my” car was, I would just respond with a “thanks” and let them draw their own conclusions. Maybe they thought I was a successful businessman, perhaps a company CEO, or possibly a financial professional who maneuvers the stock market as well as the Corvette maneuvers turns. There was no doubt that it was extremely easy for me to use the unmerited privilege of driving that car to motivate me to walk with an extra self-promoting strut.
The truth of matter is that the opportunity to take my journey in that Corvette was my friend’s idea by his initiative. The underserved reality of such a request caused me not to even consider making it. There was nothing I could do to show I was worthy of benefitting from his investment. He bought that car. He invested time and resources in customizing it. For me to think that it should be available for me to drive would be arrogant entitlement at best. In opening that vehicle’s door to me, my friend showed me grace, giving me the chance to take my journey in a context of quality that I did not deserve.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. . . . So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:8,11 NLT).
What my friend did for me Jesus did for us on an immeasurably greater scale. He offers us not just hope for life after death, but a quality of life in the here and now, a journey of living in a right relationship with God. It was His idea by His initiative. He preemptively saw us in the broken down junkers of our own self-reliance and chose to offer us the unmerited opportunity to travel in style. By trusting in what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have the opportunity to benefit from His investment. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). The new vehicle of life in which we can travel belongs to Jesus. It is His. He invested himself in it, signing the title in His own blood. By His grace, He opens the door and we sit down by faith.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NLT).
So how do we respond to such a privilege? What do we do once we sit behind the wheel? We drive in such a way that honors the owner, understanding that the vehicle of life in which we are traveling belongs to Him, not to us.
“. . . You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, NLT).
Before my friend allowed me to leave in his car, he went over some specific instructions with me. He gave me practical directions in how to properly steward his investment with which I was entrusted. Those instructions set a context that protected both me and the car. As he spoke to me, I did not ignore or reject his guidance out of some presumptuous sense of competency. I listened intently because I knew that the owner of the vehicle knew best how to operate it, and wise was I if I took his words to heart. Wise are we if we respond to God in the same way. Humble teachability enables prudent stewardship of the opportunity Jesus has provided for us and the investment He made to make it all possible.
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16, NLT).
My friend reassured me that he was just a phone call or text away if I needed any help. He was not abandoning me to steward his investment on my own. He would be available to help along the way. By the Holy Spirit, God offers us the same opportunity to an infinitely greater measure. While I drove the Corvette, I was reminded to drive in a manner of which I knew my friend would approve. The unmerited opportunity brings with it the responsibility to drive in a way that honors the owner. The Holy Spirit guides and enables us to drive the vehicle of life so that we are protected and others around us benefit from our choices.
The point is that others see the quality of life that we have and want it. Just as the Corvette was on display to others around me, we are to put the life we have in knowing Jesus on display. But don’t follow my example. When others look at you, tell them who the owner is. Don’t use God’s grace as motivation for you to do some pretentious, self-righteous strut. Relying on the Holy Spirit, drive in a manner that brings honor to the owner. Let people know that the same grace the opened the door to you is available to them. By faith, if they will choose to sit behind the wheel, the journey of a lifetime awaits!
Article by Pastor Jeff Pfingston
In this study of Ephesians 6:14-18, we will be looking at the whole book of Ephesians in order to understand what each piece of armor represent. We will find that putting on the armor of God isn’t a daily declaration that “this morning I am putting on my helmet of salvation, I am picking up my shield of faith…” Putting on your armor is living in the reality of your position in Christ Jesus! It is believing the truth about what God has done for you because of his great love for you (Ephesians 2:4; 3:18-19).
We start with the belt of truth…
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13).
“…you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21).
The Belt of Truth: The Ephesians have heard the truth by the gospel having been preached to them. The result of them hearing and believing the truth is that they are now included in him who is the embodiment of truth, Jesus Christ.
“…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
The Breastplate of Righteousness: Before Paul instructed them to “put on” the armor of God (Eph. 6:13) he instructs them to “put on” the new self, provided to them through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 2:15). By putting on the new self they are in essence putting on the breastplate of righteousness since that is part of the nature of the new self.
We should not be thinking individualistically about this righteous and holy new self. In fact, self isn’t a very good translation of the Greek word here. A better translation would be “new person” and it is the same Greek word used in Ephesians 2:15. Paul tells us in chapter 2 that this new person is created in Christ Jesus and made up of all those, Jew and Gentile, who have been reconciled to God. When we put on the “new person” of the Body of Christ our spiritual DNA becomes the DNA of that Body which is righteousness and holiness.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (Eph. 2:14-15).
“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
Feet Fitted with readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace: Are you starting to see how interdependent these pieces of armor are? The good news about peace is that inclusion in God’s plan is no longer limited to those with whom he made the Sinai covenant. The law of that covenant created animosity between Jew and gentile because gentiles represented everything that Israel was to be separated from. But now, through Jesus, we all have the opportunity to be reconciled to God. Peace with God results and peace with each other! That is good news worth sharing.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Helmet of Salvation: To understand this verse in the correct tense it should be translated, “For by grace you are saved…”. What does it mean to be saved? Paul describes it for us earlier in Ephesians 2…
“…you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (v. 1).
“God made us alive together with Christ” (v. 5).
Once you had evil at work within while following the prince of the power of the air…
“following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2).
Now you are in Christ, seated in heavenly places…
“…and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (v. 6).
Once an object of wrath…
“…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (v. 3).
Now an object of grace…
“…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (v.7).
Salvation isn’t just that he forgave us our sins, but that he has repositioned us in His Son seated above the demonic princes that once dominated us. He changed our very nature from objects of wrath into objects of grace. When the truth of your position in Christ gets down deep into your heart your mind is also impacted. Confusion about your standing with God leaves. Fear that the enemy will get you disappears. Performance motivation and anxiety is replaced by the assurance that Christ has already done all this for you!
“This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:11-12).
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith...” (Eph. 3:17).
Shield of Faith: Faith is the key that allows us to unlock all the benefits of salvation and our position in Christ. It is also what allows the Lord access to dwell inside us. If we are within Christ and he is within us, what access does that give the enemy to us? Appropriately, Paul uses the Greek word that describes a full, body length shield that will cover the whole person, in contrast with a small round shield used in closer proximity. The purpose of this shield is to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). In ancient warfare flaming arrows or spears were hurled at the shield of the enemy in an attempt to get them to throw aside their shield and leave themselves unprotected. To deflect this kind of attack the Roman soldiers would cover their wooden shields in skins and leathers and soak their shields in water before a battle. If our shield is faith then the water it is soaked in is our communion with Christ. Without that ongoing communion (described in John 15) our faith can become dry, vulnerable to the attack of the enemy, and in the worst case scenario we may throw it aside in an attempt to fight the battle without it.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13
Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God: Notice that the sword Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:17 is given to us by the Spirit of God. This is the same Spirit who secures and authenticates our position in Christ’s Body. The “word” of God mentioned in 6:17 is the same “word” mentioned in 1:13 and should be associated with the Gospel that the Ephesians and heard and believed. How is the gospel like a sword? When the gospel of salvation is preached the kingdom of darkness is raided and its prisoners rescued and brought into the Kingdom of God!
Summary: So if we were to take away the metaphoric reference to armor and state the truths that Paul is representing here what might that sound like?
Remember the truth you first heard and believed about Jesus, that you are now a part of the new person, the Body of Christ, and that you have peace with God! This is the peace that you proclaim to others! Remember that he has taken you out of the kingdom of darkness and evil no longer has dominance over you. Believe that you are now positioned in Christ Jesus above every demonic spirit. It is faith in your position in Christ, and his presence within you, that protects your from any attack the enemy might hurl at you from below as you remain in communion with Jesus. When you share this good news and true word about salvation in Christ you are doing damage to the demonic kingdom.