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“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

What is Apostle Paul’s prayer for his readers in Ephesus? What is his prayer, and mine, for you – for each of us? “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Paul prays that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God (Romans 10:17), would strengthen and keep us in the true faith in Christ Jesus, that we would trust in Him and His atoning sacrifice for the remission of all our sins and that He, Himself, would take up residence in our hearts and dwell in us, as He does in His members, His Church (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Paul prays that our faith would be rooted and grounded in God’s love for us sinners in Christ Jesus and that we – together with all other believers in Christ – would be able to comprehend “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

But do you – do we – even begin to grasp and understand the love of Christ for us? The Bible tells us of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son:

  • John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10 – “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
  • Romans 5:5-8 – “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

But do we understand and grasp this love of God for us sinners – that God, in love unmerited by us, sent His Son into the world to redeem us from our sin and the eternal death and damnation we deserve. Do we understand and grasp the fact that God, in love for us sinners, sent His Son to be the propitiation and atoning sacrifice for our sins? Do we understand that Christ Jesus gave Himself to die on the cross in our stead, for our sins, that we might not have to die and suffer the eternal punishment we justly deserve and which God’s law demands on account of our sins? That is the apostle’s prayer for us.

Do we still fear death and God’s judgment? The Bible tells us (1 John 4:16-18): “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

If we truly know God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, it will remove our fear of judgment. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:31-39. Who will condemn us on the last day? Christ will be our judge and He is the one who died for our sins and rose again and now intercedes for us before the Father (v. 34).

Can anything or anyone separate us from the love of Christ? No, no matter what happens in our lives, even if we are persecuted and suffer death, we still have God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul writes: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Paul’s prayer for the believers at Ephesus – and mine for you – is that the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, enables you to know and grasp in faith the love of God for you which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (and in Him alone); that you see His great love for you in sending His only-begotten Son into this world as a true man to die for you; that you see that Christ Jesus so loved you, even when you were yet dead in your trespasses and sins, that He suffered your punishment and provided salvation for you in His cross; that God so loved you that He brought you to see your sinfulness and the punishment you justly deserve but also brought you to trust and believe in Christ Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for your pardon and your salvation; and that, knowing God’s great love for you in Christ Jesus, you continue to trust in Him unto the end, knowing that you have forgiveness and will not be condemned in God’s judgment, and knowing that no matter what you face in this life, nothing will able to separate you from the love of God in Christ. God grant this to you for Jesus’ sake.

Dear Father in heaven, by the Holy Spirit, graciously open our hearts and minds and grant to us to know and grasp Your great love for us in Christ Jesus that we might trust in Him and Him alone for pardon, peace and life everlasting. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:7-8

Many deceive themselves, thinking that they can sow to the flesh — living to gratify their own sinful desires — and still reap life everlasting. They feel that they can use their time, energy and money to gratify their own selfish ambitions and yet still grow and mature spiritually and be ready for the Day of Christ’s return and Judgment. How foolish!

God’s Word warns us of the fallacy of such thinking when it says: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:7-8).

God would not have us be deceived. And, God will not be mocked. If one sows weeds, he cannot expect to harvest wheat! So it is with our spiritual lives. If we sow to the flesh, we cannot expect to reap life, but corruption.

Again, the Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Thus, if we live to enjoy the pleasures of sin, we shall die. But if we sow to the Spirit of God, who has regenerated us and brought us to faith in our Savior, He will continue His gracious working in our lives through Word and Sacrament and keep us in the true faith and graciously give to us the eternal life won for us by Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead.

How do people sow to the flesh? when they live in such a way that they gratify the will and desires of their sinful nature, when they provide opportunities for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. Thus people sow to the flesh when they flirt with sin and temptation and when they give in to their own evil desires. They sow to the flesh when they go places and do things which will arouse the desires of their hearts.

How do people sow to the Spirit? when they make regular use of God’s Word and His Sacraments and support the preaching of His Word (cf. v. 6) that the Spirit of God might use these means to strengthen faith in Christ Jesus and teach men to live godly lives, when they provide opportunities to do that which is God-pleasing and to follow the leading of His Spirit. Thus, people sow to the Spirit when they regularly attend church services and Bible Study, when they read the Scriptures daily and spend time in prayer, and when they seek to live according to the counsel and guidance of the Holy Ghost given to us in the Scriptures.

God will not be mocked. If we spend our time courting the pleasures of sin, if we live to carry out the sinful desires of our old evil nature, we will reap what we have sown: spiritual corruption and death! On the other hand, if we devote ourselves to Christ and His Word and read and study the Scriptures and partake of the Sacraments that the Holy Ghost might strengthen and preserve us in the true faith, we will reap of the Spirit life eternal in Jesus Christ our Lord!

O Spirit of God, grant that we sow, not to our flesh and its evil desires, but unto Thee, that Thou might graciously grant unto us the everlasting joys of heaven for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 (Read v. 25-34)

Do we seek first God’s kingdom and trust God to provide for all our earthly needs? Or do we seek first our needs in this world and neglect our greatest need – to be part of God’s everlasting kingdom?

It is easy for us to be overly concerned about earthly things such as what we will eat and what we will wear. Even in our affluent society where the thought of going without food or clothing is far from our minds, we still devote a great deal of time and energy into gathering and keeping an ample store of food, clothing and other things we deem necessary for our life and enjoyment.

Jesus tells us not to filled with worry and concern over such things as having enough food to eat, or enough clothing to wear. Using the examples of the birds which God feeds, even though they do not plant, reap or garner their food, and of the lilies of the field, which are clothed in fairer dress than Solomon in all his glory though they quickly wither and are used as fuel for the fire, Jesus illustrates that God our Maker can and will care for our daily needs; for, indeed, we are of more value than the grass of the field or the birds of the air.

And what good will worry do us? We cannot, by worrying, add to our stature or to the length of our lives!

Rather than being filled with worry and concern over our earthly wants and needs, Jesus would have us devote ourselves first and foremost to seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Our first concern ought to be seeking a place in God’s eternal kingdom and being counted righteous and holy in His eyes through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son made man to redeem us (cf. John 1:1,14; Col. 1:19-23)!

As sinful human beings, we focus our attention on having the things we need and desire in this life instead of seeking after our greatest need, to have God’s forgiveness for all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ sufferings and death on the cross in our stead. We seek to cover our bodies and make them appealing to others instead of having God cover the guilt and shame of our sins with the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. We seek to store up the goods of this world so that we will never be in need, and we neglect to nourish our souls with God’s life-giving Word that we might be preserved in the faith unto life everlasting.

Jesus tells us to focus on what is really important first — to follow after Him that we might have a place in His kingdom and be clothed in His righteousness. And He adds the promise that our heavenly Father will supply all our earthly needs as well (cf. Galatians 6:6ff.; 1 Kings 17:8ff.; Proverbs 3:9-10).

And so, don’t be worried and overly concerned for tomorrow— each day has enough trouble of its own. Rather, follow Christ Jesus that He might wash away your sins in His own blood, clothe you with His perfect righteousness and give you a place in His eternal kingdom!

Dear Father in heaven, forgive me for worrying about the needs of this life and neglecting my greatest need, forgiveness of sins and life in Your only-begotten Son. Grant me a place in Your eternal kingdom and clothe me in Jesus’ righteousness. And, dear Lord, give me faith to seek after You first and to trust You to care for all my daily needs. I ask this, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible

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“And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Mark 7:24-30

What right do we have to go to Jesus for help? Not only are we, for the most part, not descended from Israel, we are poor miserable sinners undeserving of God’s grace and mercy. We have no standing of our own, no basis, to expect God’s Son to hear us or to help us!

As we see from Mark 7:24ff., that did not stop a Greek-speaking Syrophoenician woman from coming to Jesus for help and deliverance for her daughter who was demon possessed. She was a Gentile from the Phoenician part of Syria and not of the House of Israel, and Jesus was sent first to His own people; but she still came, asking not to take away what rightly was for the people of Israel but to eat of the crumbs which fall from Israel’s table.

This woman’s daughter was demon possessed, something we hear little of in our day though it likely still exists but is diagnosed with other names. It appears, in such cases, that the devil or one of his evil spirits takes control of a person’s body, often seeking to destroy both body and soul. She begged Jesus to cast out this demon and make her daughter whole again. And Jesus granted her petition. The demon was cast out and her daughter was made well.

While we may not be bodily possessed by the devil, the truth is that each and every one of us comes into this world under the control and sway of the evil one. Ever since the fall of Genesis 3, people are born into this world “dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1,2; cf. Psalm 51:5). The Bible tells us “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). And the Bible tells us that “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Only Jesus, God the Son, can free us from our spiritual bondage and reveal Himself to us as the Redeemer of the world. Only Jesus can raise us up from spiritual darkness and death and free us from the control of the devil (cf. John 8:23-24; 34-36).

We are not, for the most part, of the House of Israel. Nor are we deserving that Jesus should deliver us from our bondage to the devil. But when we humbly come to Jesus in faith, what happens? God delivers “us from the power of darkness” and translates us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

The Bible tells us of Jesus: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Therefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-17). The only-begotten Son of God took on human flesh and blood that He might obey God’s law in our stead and offer up Himself as a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins — all that we might obtain mercy and forgiveness through faith in His name.

And God “made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself” and He brought us to trust in Christ after that we “heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:9,13). “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7; cf. John 5:24-26).

God graciously called us to faith in Christ Jesus through the gospel. And, when we come to Christ in faith, believing He atoned for our sins and the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:1,2), He forgives us all our sins, delivers us from the bondage of the devil and gives us new life in Him! Jesus makes us whole.

Have mercy upon us, Lord Jesus! We are unworthy sinners deserving only of wrath and punishment, but we look to You and Your sacrificial death upon the cross for mercy and forgiveness. Amen.

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Psalm 119:18 (Read Psalm 119:17-24)

Unless the LORD God opens our eyes and gives us understanding, His Word, the Bible, remains a closed book to us.

Oh, we may learn many things from the Bible and even know the historical events it records. However, its central message will remain veiled and hidden from our sight (2 Corinthians 3:14-16). Without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, we will not come to see our sinfulness as God sees it; nor will we come to know of His grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

Jesus spoke of this when He quoted from Isaiah 6 in regard to the people of His day (Matthew 13:14-15): “By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

Jesus also said, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life … And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:63,65).

Unless the LORD opens your eyes, you too will miss the life-giving message of the Bible. But, when the LORD opens our eyes to see and understand our sinfulness and rebellion against the LORD, and when He reveals to us the glorious salvation He has provided in His Son, Jesus Christ, we will truly see wondrous things in His Word!

O Spirit of the living God, open our eyes that we may see and understand the message of Your life-giving Word, repent of our sinful ways and trust in Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death for our eternal salvation. In His name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]

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