In Preparation for Ephesians

This Sunday, we begin a sermon series in the book of Ephesians. In this letter, Paul will highlight several profound truths that shape who we are as believers. We’ll see the themes of God’s glory and the praise that is due him, cosmic reconciliation and a new humanity in Christ, God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, and, ultimately, we see the gospel in this letter and how we are “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called” (Eph. 4:1).

And though the original audience was the church in Ephesus and the surrounding areas in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), it’s certainly written for us, the church in Chapel Hill. Paul explains the meaning of the faith to believers who had recently become followers of Jesus. Then to mature believers, he reminds them of the essence of their faith, calls them to pursue unity, and to live in the light of their identity in Christ. For those of you who are not followers of Christ or who are not sure if you are, this letter is an excellent introduction to our Creator God whose life-changing love is on display in this letter. There is a good word for all of us in this beautiful book.

I’m excited about the various ways that we’ll get to journey through this book together. Of course, as we gather online or in person over the next 13 weeks, we’ll hear a section of the book preached each week. I know that the Lord will work powerfully through the preaching of His Word as the Holy Spirit applies the text to each of us, shaping us more into the likeness of Christ. 

But as a farmer tills and prepares the soil before he plants, let me encourage you to do a little tilling of the ground in your own heart in preparation for hearing the Word preached.

First, let’s begin with prayer. Let’s pray for Pastor Jay and others who will open the Word for us each week. Let’s ask the Lord to do a work in our hearts, and let’s pray that those who are not yet followers of Jesus would hear his Word and respond in repentance and faith.

Secondly, I encourage you to read through the entire letter, preferably in one sitting. You can budget somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. Often, we get so focused on one aspect of the book that we forget to see the big picture that Paul intended for his original audience. In addition to (or in place of) reading, listen to someone else read through the book. Several Bible apps will do this for you like YouVersion’s Bible App or the Dwell Bible App.

Thirdly, I encourage you to use the Community Worship Guide (CWG) each week, starting with taking notes during the sermon and then walking through the week in community with others. Here’s an overview from the introduction to the CWG:

The Guide is an entrance into the unifying experience of the preached Word beyond merely an individualistic, intellectual assent on a Sunday morning into an embodied weekly rhythm of worship through Scripture, prayer, song, reflection, and fellowship with the community in which you are known.

James K.A. Smith summarizes spiritual formation this way: “In ancient not-just-a-sermon worship, you are asked to inhabit the gospel as a Story. You are re-habituating your loves. You don’t think your way into consumerism, so you can’t think your way out of it. Historic Christian worship forms us on the level of our loves.” Thus, we have created a worship liturgy for our intimate communities at CHBC to re-habituate our loves toward the One for whom we were created. Each element of the liturgy holds a key piece of the truer Story about who we are in Christ and what we’re created for.

Friends, amid the current strife and challenges of our day, let’s look to God’s Word together to let it shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. And then let’s walk in light of that truth. I’m looking forward to growing along with you as we dive into this letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus and to us, the church in Chapel Hill.