1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2, NIV)
In my weekly letter this week, we focused on the exhortation in Eph. 4:1: “[L]ive a life worthy of the calling you have received.” In this verse, our calling emerges from God’s saving, healing, renewing, life-giving work through Jesus Christ, that work which was revealed in the opening chapters of Ephesians. When we embrace what God has done through faith, we accept God’s calling to live in a whole new way for His purposes and glory.
How should we start living out our calling? If I had been writing Ephesians – I am glad is not the case – I would have been inclined to start big. I would have issued some challenge to do grand things for Christ. I would have focused on bold preaching and justice seeking. Now, that’s one reason why we’re glad that Paul was writing this letter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rather than my sharing my insufficient wisdom.
Look where Paul starts immediately after telling the letter recipients to lead a life worthy of their calling. They’re to do this by being “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (v. 2) These things are not especially grand. They won’t get much attention from the world. They don’t appear at first glance to advance the kingdom of God very much. I mean, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance are just fine. But they don’t exactly shake up the world. In fact, they seem like things that might easily be ignored or forgotten. Yet, Paul says this is where we ought to begin if we’re going to live out our calling.
Why are these such primary priorities? First, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance are essential characteristics of Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be “gentle and humble” (Matt. 11:29). Phil. 2 celebrates the fact that Jesus humbled Himself by becoming human and going to the cross. After calling the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling, Paul could also have said, “Do this by imitating Jesus” (see 1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1). If you want to faithfully live out your calling, it’s never a bad idea to do as Jesus did. In fact, it’s a great place to start.
Another reason Paul prioritizes humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance reflects his pastoral experience with his churches. He knows it is very easy for Christian communities not to get along. He is aware of the dangers of division and strife. He’s seen it happen far too often in his churches. But Paul isn’t merely wanting people to get along because it makes church life nicer. Unity among Christians is absolutely essential to our calling as God’s people.
One of the things I love about Eph. 4:2 is its utter practicality and feasibility. We can start this very moment to work on humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. Each day brings many opportunities to reflect one or more of these Christ-like characteristics. Why not begin doing so today?
Help me, Lord, to imitate Jesus today. May I be truly humble both in my heart and in my actions. O Lord, help me to be like Jesus today!
17I 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. 18And I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people. (Ephesians 2:17-18, NIV)
From Paul’s letters, we see that God calls us to many things. He calls us to be His special people (1 Cor. 1:2). He calls us into fellowship with Christ and His people (1 Cor. 1:9). We are called to believe the good news of salvation through Christ (1 Cor. 1:22-24). We are called to peace in our relationships (1 Cor.5), to belong to Christ (Romans 1:5-7), and to unexpected freedom (Galatians 5:13). In the letter we know as Ephesians, Paul prays for the letter’s recipients, mentioning another dimension of God’s calling: “[I pray that] . . . you may know the hope to which [God] has called you” (Ephesians 1:18).
This prayer, in the Greek, reads more literally, “that you may know what is the hope of His calling.” God’s calling, as we have seen, is primarily God summoning us into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God invites us to be His special people, living in His love and as walking in the good works He has designed for us (Eph. 2:10). We learned in a previous section of Ephesians that God’s mission for the cosmos will be culminated in the future when God “gather[s] up all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1:10). The universe, shattered by sin, will be put back together through Christ. God’s peace, permeated by righteousness, justice, and blessing, will fill the whole creation.
So, when God calls us through the gospel, we are called to a compelling vision of the future. We are called to hope. In contemporary culture, hope is wishing for something, longing, perhaps even anticipating that we might get it. Hope sounds like, “Oh, I hope the pandemic will soon be over. Oh, I hope we can start being with people again. Oh, I hope the economy will recover.” We can even hope for things that are quite unlikely: “Oh, I hope we won’t have any more fires in California this year” (even though I’m pretty sure and sad that we will). Hope is longing, wishing, and desiring, whether or not that for which you hope will happen.
Biblical hope is different. Far beyond wishful thinking, it is deep confidence. It is a conviction about the future. Christian hope is knowing that what God has begun in Christ, God will complete when the time is just right. We are called, not just to any old hope, but to confident hope.
This kind of hope isn’t something we conjure up through our own efforts. Rather, it is something to which we are called, something given to us as a gift of God’s Spirit. Notice that Paul did not tell the Ephesians to be more hopeful. Rather, he prayed that God would help them to know of the hope of God’s calling. Hope comes from God’s work in us through the Spirit. When we embrace the hope of the Gospel, not only do we look forward to God’s future, but we are also empowered to live boldly and courageously every day.
Gracious God, thank You for giving us a vision of the future.
Thank You for the fact that, at the right time,
you will restore all things through Christ.
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Romans 8:28 makes it clear that God is at work for good in all things. Though God’s goodness might be experienced by those who do not recognize Him, the focus of v. 28 is on those “who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
According to this verse, we are called according to God’s purpose. The Greek word for “purpose” means “plan, purpose, resolve, will.” This word also appears in Ephesians 1:11, where it says, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” In Ephesians we are “destined” according to God’s purpose. In Romans 8:28 we are “called according to His purpose.”
What is this purpose that led to our calling? It certainly includes God’s intention to save us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. But God’s purpose is broader than salvation, as wonderful as that might be. In Eph. 1:10 we learn about God’s purpose “to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Through Christ, God is saving, not just souls, but also the whole broken cosmos. God is restoring that which has been shattered because of sin.
Immediately following this astounding revelation, Ephesians notes that we have been “having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Eph. 1:11). God’s purpose is not only to save us from the destruction of sin, but also to enlist us as partners in His saving purpose. This is made even clearer in Eph. 3:10-11. There we discover God’s plan for the ages, namely, that “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known … according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The people of God, you and I, are essential to God’s purpose of letting the whole cosmos know of salvation through Christ.
God’s purpose includes restoring all that was broken because of sin, as well as saving fallen human beings. Yet that’s not all of God’s purpose. His plan also calls human beings together as the church so that we might participate in God’s saving, restoring work in the world. His purpose for us involves saving us from sin and death and mobilizing us as His partners. Just as we were once charged with helping the world to be fruitful and full (Gen. 1:28), now we are charged with helping the world to experience the full salvation of God.
Because you have been called according to God’s eternal purpose, your life has an eternal purpose. Your calling is more than your career, your family, your creativity, or your volunteer work. It is God’s summons to join in God’s work in the world. The more God’s cosmic purpose resonates in your soul, the more you’ll be able to live into this purpose in your career, your family, your creativity, and your volunteer work. God’s purpose will shape all that you do . . . and all that you are as you walk in the good works He has designed for you (Eph. 2:10).
Gracious God, thank You that You calls us to be part of Your plan.
Let everything I do, Lord, glorify You as I walk in the good works
You have planned for me to do.
Many of you are already aware that California is expected to fully reopen effective June 15, 2021. What it means is the county tier system based on Blueprint for a Safer Economy will no longer be in effect, although Los Angeles and Orange counties have been in the minimum restriction yellow tier for the last 3 months. In other words, capacities and social distancing restrictions will be lifted for indoor and outdoor assemblies.
However, there are still some protocols according to CDC that we must observe. In particular, masking will continue to be required for some people. Those who have been fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask. You are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if 2 weeks have passed since you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the 2nd dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
For your own health and safety, to those who are yet to be vaccinated, or for some reasons, those who cannot or do not want to be vaccinated, CDC required that you observe all protocols including wearing a mask and keeping social distance. Unfortunately, those who contracted Covid-19 are considered not fully vaccinated though they may have acquired some anti-bodies.
Outbreaks of such viruses as Covid-19 among people are always a serious public health threat. We thank God for His mercy and grace in protecting His people. Furthermore, we must not allow fear to control our lives. We need to understand the severity of the illness, the characteristics of the virus, how well it spreads between people, and the medical measures available to control the impact.
With the timely production of the vaccines, we are comforted to know the spread of the virus has been arrested. The threat to the general public has lessened. Unless you have special concerns or conditions preventing you from getting vaccinated, CDC encourages people to get vaccinated as an effective protective measure against Covid-19.
Beginning on June 20, 2021, our California campuses will follow CDC and State Department of Public Health guidelines on in-person gathering, while Michigan campuses will follow suit on July 1, 2021. All restrictions will be lifted except wearing masks as stipulated above. We will also celebrate Fathers’ Day and resume lunch services. May we find our fellowship around the table a much-needed blessing that we long for.
Prayer is the only antidote to all our fears. We must believe that God is in control and He cares for all our needs. I can appreciate some of your anguish and concern, but please know that you are a beloved child of God and a member of our church community. The Lord promises to be with us always. May the peace of God that surpasses all understanding be with us all! Amen.