Friday, January 17, 2014

His Church - Awake and Arise to the love and way of Christ

Before we dig in the beautiful letter of Ephesians we need to do some background research on Paul. In order to do this we will do a whirlwind overview of the book of Acts.

"All Churches need to be reminded continually who they are in Christ and what they are called to. The purpose of the letter to Ephesus was to do this; to build up the church. False teachers were corrupting a solid foundation. The church needed to be reminded of the Truth and how they were to walk. The first three chapters of Ephesians focus on theology - right belief in God. The final three chapters focus on how how we are to act, live, and reflect Christ. In light of who we are in Christ (theology of Ephesians 1-3) we are called to be imitators of Christ and walk in His love and His ways (behavioral therapy of Ephesians 4-6)." Taken from "Ephesians Study The Basics"
If you are taking this study with us at Fort Drum PWOC, be sure to get a copy of the study booklet. Are you ready? Let's get started!

                   Week 1 ~ Introduction: Acts

Begin each day this week in facedown worship. Read Psalm 93 out loud and bow facedown in prayer. Bow your head face down on a table, get on your knees, or lay flat face down! - whatever works for you. The idea is to start each day for the next 7 weeks in a state of humility , reverence, and surrender .
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God and at the proper time He may exalt you.” 1Peter 5:6

Memory Verse: Psalm 93:1

 Welcome to our 7 week study on the book of Ephesians! During this first week of our study we will cover a lot of material as we lay the ground work for the book of Ephesians. We will be going through the book of Acts discovering the birth and development of the early church. We will also examine the life of Paul, the author of Ephesians. This week is foundational to our study, so commit now to do the work! Yo u don’t want to miss out on what God has to teach you. There is no greater joy than loving and knowing the all-sufficient Creator God. We thank God for you and are praying for you as you seek Him through His WORD. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your Word is truth.” John 17:17

Pray each day for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read.
Ask God to show you His marvelous works.
”Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Psalm 119:18 ESV

Day 1 - If you’ve read the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - then you’ve heard and examined the life of Jesus the Christ. In those books we see the birth, earthly ministry , sacrificial death, and the resurrection of Christ. As the gospels close we see that all along Jesus had been preparing His followers to continue the work of God. Jesus is the ultimate example showing us how to walk in love and to live the abundant life. Essentially we “Christians” should be “little Christs,” following His ways and pointing the world to God. How do we do this? Let’s examine the Bible together…

1) In John 16:7 Jesus says, “ Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.” Read also John 14:26, John 15:26, and John 16:13. Who is “the helper” and what is His purpose? Bonus work : Write down as many scriptures as you can find that teach us about the Holy Spirit. (biblehub.com/greek/strongs_4151.htm is one internet source to turn to for help.)

  2) Read Acts 1. Note Acts 1:4-8. What were the disciples to do and what would happen to them when the Holy Spirit came? How do you think the disciples felt?

  3) Read Acts 2 and see the coming of the Holy Spirit. What sticks out to you? Do you notice anything new about Peter as he addresses the crowd? (Remember when he denied Christ in John 18.) How has the Holy Spirit changed you?

  4) Examine Acts 2:42-47. In what ways do modern day churches resemble or not resemble this?

Day 2 - In Acts 2-6 we see the early church exploding in growth. Many are receiving Jesus as Savior and following wholeheartedly .

  1) Read Acts 6. Why did the disciples need more helpers? Did they randomly pick them?

  2) What attributes were required? What did the disciples need to focus on?

  3) Read Acts 7. Was Stephen full of the Holy Spirit? How do you know?

  What did the high priest and crowd do to Stephen? Why?

  What young man do we find approving of this death? (Acts 7:58 and 8:1)?

  4) What new thing did you learn today? How can the witness of Stephen inspire you to better serve Him?
  
Day 3 - In Acts 8 we see that a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem and the people scattered. Saul is a big player in persecuting followers of Christ. But God has other plans for him. Saul/Paul never forgets who he was before God graciously opened his eyes to the truth. He knows God’s love and experiences His great grace. Paul writes about it in Ephesians 2:4-5 ,“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved-”

  1) Read Acts 8:1-3 and 9:1-2. What was Saul doing? Why?

  2) Read Acts 9:3-31. What happened to Saul in his encounter with God? Whom did God bring into Saul’s life to encourage him and help him along? How? Whom has God brought into your life to do the same?

  3) Read Acts 11:19-30. In Acts 9:30 Saul was sent to Tarsus to flee those seeking to kill him. In Acts11:25 we see Barnabas going to Tarsus to get Saul to bring him to Antioch. What is going on in the church in Antioch? What are the disciples called there for the first time? What does this term mean? (Try looking it up in the original language on biblehub.com/greek/5546.htm or blueletterbible.com)

  4) The conversion and transformation of Paul is an example of how nothing is impossible for God! No one is out of God’s reach. Do not grow weary in praying for your family , friends, and community to believe and be saved. God is faithful and He hears. Who can you pray for today?

Day 4 - Saul and Barnabas are sent from Antioch to bring relief to the brothers in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). When they complete their service they return to Antioch. While there and “While worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” ( Acts 13: 2-3) This is the start of three of the greatest missionary journeys ever adventured!

Paul’s First Missionary Journey AD 47-49 Acts 13:1-14:28 (Saul’s name changes to Paul Acts 13:9,13)
Paul’s Second Missionary Journey AD 49-51 Acts 15:36-18:22
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey AD 52-57 Acts 18:23-21:16

  Out of all of his travels, we will focus our time on Paul’s time in Ephesus.

  1) Read Acts 18:18-28. We see at the end of his 2nd Missionary Journey that Paul stops by Ephesus for the first time. He leaves Priscilla and Aquila there to help the church and says “I will return to you if God wills it”. In verses 24-28 what do you learn?

  2) Read Acts 19. We learn that Paul spent about three years teaching and serving the church in Ephesus. What are some things that stick out? Why is there a riot and uproar in Ephesus? Who is worshiped there?

Note: Paul writes the letter to the Christians of Ephesus five to ten years (depending on which scholars you are reading) after his three year stay there. He also writes to teach, admonish, and encourage the church in Ephesus as he writes to Timothy , who is pastoring the r e, in 1 and 2 Timothy . As we prepare to study the book of Ephesians remember that Paul was invested in these people and loved them with a fatherly love. He wanted them - and the church as a whole - to know who they were in Christ and how they were to live their lives.

Day 5 - We have covered so much this week! I hope you are excited about what God has done in lives of the past and for what He is doing today . As we close this week out, take some time to meditate on these scriptures.

  1) What overall sticks out to you from this week’s readings?

  2) Learn more about Paul in Philippians 3:3-16, 2 Corinthians 2:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 11:22-27. Who was Paul apart from Christ? After his encounter with Christ? Note character traits and patterns of his life.

 

  Take some extra time this week to look at the “Faith in Action” below. Each week we will have a few examples of practical ways you can put your faith to action!

  Let’s be intentional to apply these truths from the Bible together! Let’s practice what James encourages in James 1:22 , “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

  As we have read, and will also discover in Ephesians, the Christian walk is not easy. But be encouraged because God gives us everything we need to be faithful followers. God has given His Son and He gives us His very Spirit! Through the death of Jesus we are redeemed and freed from the curse and bondage of sin. He didn’t stop there. After Jesus ascended to be with the Father He sent the Spirit of God to help, comfort, encourage us and to lead us into truth. To all who believe and receive Him, He gives the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell in our lives leading us to walk in His truth and empowering us to do His will. In the book of Acts chapters 1-28 we see the works - or “Acts” - of Jesus through the early followers of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit! The earthly mission of Christ was finished on the cross. (Remember the victorious battle cry in John 19:30 “It is finished”?!). But the work for His disciples, His followers, was just beginning. The “Acts” of Christians do not stop in Acts 28. We are Acts 29 and are to continue on in these good works! We are to be His hands and feet sacrificially showing His love and shining His light - Absolute Truth - to a dark, lost, and broken world. Paul, Barnabas, and others in Acts are great examples to follow, ultimately because they were faithful followers Christ!

  Sadly, too many Christians living in prosperity have forgotten their purpose. Too many supposed Christians have taken the name of Christ without following the ways of Christ. Too many of us have become distracted with building our own kingdoms, pursuing our own pleasures, following the ways of our culture and flesh instead of loving and obeying the call of Christ in building His Kingdom.

This week be doers of the Word and not merely hearers. (James 1:22 )

  1) Confess sin and turn away from it. What attitudes, thoughts, habits, actions do you need to confess and surrender to God? (Write it down.)




  2) Is there anything in your past life that you regret? How can you, like Paul, use your testimony to point people to Christ for the glory of God?




  3) Commit today to faithfully study God’s Word with us and to follow Him wholeheartedly .




  4) Write down the name of your accountability/prayer partner here: ________________



Commit weekly to be real with one another, to love, encourage, admonish, build up one another in truth and love for the glory of God! “Iron sharpens iron.” (Proverbs 27:17)

  It is our prayer that God would open our eyes to recognize the patterns of this world, and that He would awaken us to real faith.

  “He must become greater; I must become less ” John 3:30