The scripture of the week comes out of the letter to the church at Ephesus. The first section of the letter is a doxology of praise to God. This doxology has three parts. The three parts deal with the role of each person in the Godhead. The Father is praised for choosing us to be in Christ and the blessings that flow from His election. The Son is praised for doing the work of redemption so that we can experience the blessings of election. The Holy Spirit is praised for securing our place in eternity and making these blessings a present reality. Paul uses the term adoption to describe this new relationship with God. I know a little about adoption. I am blessed to have two adopted children. It was a lot of work going through the screening process in order to adopt a child. When a couple goes through this process of adopting a child, they are very aware of what they are doing. It is one of the greatest choices one can make in life! When a child is placed in the arms of an adopted parent, the bond becomes immediate and special! Going through this process personally, I became more aware of how special I am as an adopted child of the Kingdom! I praise God that He choose me to be a son. Jesus told His disciples that they were no longer orphans, but children of God. This is our God given identity. No matter what I experience in life, I can be assured that I am someone! As an adopted child, I have a place in the kingdom of God. If you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have an eternal identity. No one can take that away from you. In this world of contradiction, it may seem that you are a stranger and alien. No problem, you and I have an identity as a child of God. Claim it and live it!
Last week I attended our Pacific Southwest Conference annual celebration. While I was there I attended a workshop on growing churches. Paul Wilson, our Superintendent was the facilitator. He made a profound point about power. He said that there are two great powers in this age. The first is the power to divide and the second is the power to unite. From a biblical worldview, we know that behind the power to divide is our arch enemy the Devil. It is his primary role in this age to divide people. History shows he has done a good job! Whether on a macro level or a micro level, we are living in a time of great divisions. Sadly, even in the body of Christ there are divisions among believers. In our series in the book of Acts, we will be observing how God was able to keep the unity among the body of Christ as they faced extreme challenges both within and from outside the body. This happened because there is a greater power in the world! That power is in the Holy Spirit of God! He is able to break down walls of division and unite people in Jesus. Paul writes in Ephesians that Christ broke down the barriers through the work on the cross. The Spirit takes this work of Christ and applies it in the hearts of everyone who truly comes in faith to Jesus. We need to be praying earnestly for God’s Spirit to break into our world. It begins with Christians uniting around Jesus and living out the Gospel both in the church and in the world. When I reflect on this in terms of our own context, we must work hard at maintaining our unity in Christ here in Eagle Rock. It begins with our own Christian community and then our brothers and sisters who fellowship around us. Then it is living in peace as much as possible with our neighbors. We have a purpose and that is being Jesus here!
One of the early Christian leaders was Barnabas. Luke introduces him in Acts four. Barnabas is his Christian name.It was common for early Christian converts to have a name change. As a person was preparing for baptism, the members of the body of Christ would pray and the Spirit would prompt them to give a name that reflects something unique to that individual. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, must have reflected a strong spirit of encouragement. His new name, Barnabas, means Son of Encouragement! I bring this up because I experienced someone’s encouragement this week. I was doing an errand for my friend and ran into a brother that I used to be his pastor. We haven’t seen each other in a few years and I was so glad to see him. What blew me away was his appreciation for my teaching. He told me that the reason he will be in heaven is because of my preaching and teaching! He will be in the Kingdom because of Jesus, but I was so grateful to have a part in his faith. What it did for me was give me a great dose of encouragement. He didn’t know it at the time, but I needed to hear from God that what I do does make a difference. The next day someone encouraged me by letting me know how much my teaching has meant to them. Wow! God knew what I needed and it got me thinking how much we need to be encouraged! Life is hard and if you are a decent person and a person of faith, you are trying your best to be what God wants you to be. The problem is that we don’t always get the encouragement that we need. For me, encouragement makes me want to do better. Encouragement is from God’s Spirit and we that are Christian should be the most encouraging people in the world. Let me encourage you today. God loves you despite your faults, weaknesses and sins that keep plaguing your life! Pentecost provides both forgiveness and the Spirit of God. Today is a new day and your are loved!