This section of Ephesians is one of the clearest pictures of who we are as Christians. Our identity as a Christian isn’t based on anything we do-but WHO WE ARE. As you take your first steps following Christ, ground your feet in who you have been made to be. Christ has made you new and the old has passed away
In Ephesians, we see Paul, the author of this letter, contrast who Gentiles were before Christ and who they are now. In your journal, make a similar list for yourself and reflect on the new creation you are because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
This can be a confusing passage at first glance, but it tells us a lot about what it means to be a follower of Christ. One of the most common misconceptions about our faith is that it is just about us and God. When we are brought together with God, we are also brought together with other believers. In this passage, Paul is explaining that God took two groups of people who were very different, had some animosity towards one another, and wouldn’t usually think well of the other side, and made them one new body, united in Christ. You are linked together with every believer in the church. The way we live this new community out transforms the way we see other people, live with other people and care for other people. You are not alone as you follow Christ, you now belong to a new community of believers who you are united with in Jesus.
Who are some people you know at church? List them out, when do you connect with them, what does that look like?
What do we do with our lives? This is a question all people ask themselves at some point. When Christ makes us new, we have a new picture of what we are supposed to do with our lives-we have a new purpose. We aren’t called to just go to church or to “behave” so that God loves us or to earn our way to heaven. We see that we are called to love the world around us so that they see a picture of who God is. Our lives orient around the way we were made new by Christ and our lives are pointed a new direction. We love the world like God loved us!
How can you love people and engage in good works this week?
Christians are different. We are set to follow Christ and that looks different than a world that follows its own way. Our behavior or works don’t save us-we when we are made new, our hearts begin to want new things. This leads to a different set of values or way of living than we experienced previously. We see this new rhythm of life laid out for us here in Romans. We see the way to live that leads to life and how different that is than the way that leads to death.
One way we set our minds on things of the spirit is through prayer. It doesn’t have to be a complicated prayer with religious language, it is as simple as asking God to focus our hearts and minds on the things above. Write out a prayer in your journal today. Ask God to help you see and participate in the new rhythm of life you have been called into, ask him to help shape and direct your desires to align with the spiritual things above.
Have you ever been let down? Have you put hope or trust in something only to find that it didn’t come through, or give you what it promised? We spend the majority of our lives chasing the places we believe we will find hope or salvation. When we put our faith in Jesus, the source of our hope changes-we become secure in our hope-a hope in eternal life, a loving God and freedom from sin. Our hope as Christians is not found in anything outside of Jesus-beware of drifting away from Christ as your only hope. When we put our hope places it wasn’t meant to go, we end up frustrated and disappointed. Beware of the temptation to put your hope in your behavior or performance-we can’t be fulfilled by being good enough, it’s not how God designed us to work. You have a new hope in Jesus.
Write through the areas of your life you tend to place your hope aside from Christ-why is Jesus better than those areas you’ve put hope in before?
Walk in love. Before Christ, it’s easy to view our relationships as a means to an end, inconveniences, necessary evil, or maybe just random connections. In Christ, we have a new purpose for our relationships. Our relationships have been redeemed, or changed. We have been brought into a new understanding of relationships. They exist to help us walk in joy and obedience to God. We are to submit in reverence to one another, or another way of saying that is to put the needs of the people around us before our needs. This is often a new way of viewing relationships, or a change in how we relate to the people around us. The best way to grow in this new way of life is to practice.
How can you love someone in your life this week? What is it going to look like for you to encourage them or submit to them?
What’s the purpose of life? There are so many different answers to that question out there. For some people it’s to make money, for others it’s to make a difference. In Christ, we have a new purpose-a new mission. Everything about our life is built on and pointed towards the Gospel of Jesus. We work hard, we engage the world around us, we love people and we think about how we can use the relationships and platforms God has given us to share the Gospel of Jesus.
How can you make your faith a part of your work/life this week?
1 Peter 2:1-5
Think about the things that you desire-what do you have a taste for? Sin naturally creates desires in us. We long for that which we believe will fulfill us and end up chasing desires that are destructive to our souls. After we come to Christ, we find that our very desires and longings begin to change. We aren’t perfect or sinless, but we begin to want to be around the things of God, we begin to desire the spiritual fruit of obedience. When we have been changed by Christ, the idea of being obedient to God isn’t something we dread, but something we want to do more of because Jesus has redeemed what we long for, pointing us towards that which brings us life.
How do you find yourself developing a desire for the spiritual things of God? (ie, maybe it’s praying, or worship music or reading)
How do you view God? Before we know him, our definition of God is subject to what we are told about him through culture, family, our own ideas or pre-conceptions and we have very little grounding or understanding of who God is. We end up interacting with God based on something other than reality. If we believe God is out to get us, or he isn’t real or he doesn’t care, then of course we are going to struggle to interact with him. Now that you know God, you can safely interact with him based on the truth of who he is. Your new understanding of God brings you into both a trust and love for him that was not available to you before. Following Jesus is such a radical change because it accompanies a new understanding of who God actually is and what that means for you.
What has it looked like for you to trust God this week? How can you trust him this week?
1 Peter 4:12-19
The world teaches us that suffering is connected to our actions. We can work our way out of it or pay our way into avoiding it. Sadly, we live in a world broken by sin, and suffering is a natural byproduct of living in our world. We see that suffering isn’t a matter of doubt-we will experience suffering-sometimes we will suffer for our faith. The good news is that we can endure that suffering because we understand the reality of eternity. Suffering for our faith is worth it because nothing we can lose compares to all that we gain in Jesus Christ.
Write out/journal what it looks like to suffer well for our faith. How could you be put in a position of suffering and how would you endure that suffering?
2 Timothy 3:10-17
God’s word is powerful. As we begin to follow Christ, one of the most important aspects of growing in our faith is to ground our understanding of what it means to follow Christ in the first place. God’s word illuminates who he is, why we should follow him, and what it looks like to live a life of obedience that brings us into who we have been created to be.
SOAP Journal the scripture reading for today. Let God’s word work it’s way into your heart and life, begin developing this as a habit and a normal part of your day.
How can we know the truth about who God is and what it looks like to follow him if we don’t know who God is in the first place? A clear understanding of doctrine, or what we believe about God, is a vital part of your faith because it is the foundation your actions will be built on. We can easily be led into error and pain if we get off track in our understanding of what God’s word teaches about who he is, what we believe and why.
Read the MCC doctrine statement online. Ask questions of the person who baptized you/is helping you grow as a Christian. Develop an understanding of God’s character and what we believe about Him.
2 Tim 4:1-8
We are called to preach the word. Maybe we aren’t all called to get up in front of a large group of people and teach, but all of us are called to tell people about who God is and how we worship and follow him. Telling people about our faith can be scary, but God has given us the strength and knowledge to do it!
Talk to someone about your faith this week. I know it’s hard and scary, but look for a chance to tell someone about your faith and what has happened in your life as you’ve begun to follow Christ.
One of the ways scripture helps us to direct us towards what really matters. As we read God’s word, we filter our priorities through the lens of God’s priorities. What matters to him should matter to us. Part of our new creation is a new set of values. What matter to God matters to us because we believe his way is better than our way. James lays out the importance of widows and orphans. Why? It is a reflection of God’s heart. God cares for his people, his heart breaks for the disadvantaged and oppressed. People matter to God, so they matter to us. Serving and caring for people is a key part of our faith because God cares for his people. In following Christ, our concerns conform to God’s, so we care for his people as well.
Start serving. Where are you serving people? How can you do that at MCC?
1 John 4:1-6
How do I know what God wants me to do? This is one of the most asked questions in the church. This is why it’s so important to know what God says. God is never going to contradict himself, so when we know and understand scripture, we can easily “test the spirits” against the word of God. If something contradicts or disobeys scripture, we can know and trust that is not from God. It’s harder to recognize God’s voice when we don’t know what it sounds like. Scripture teaches us to recognize who God is and what he calls us into.
Ask God to speak to you this week. Trust that you will hear from him. Practice listening to God.
1 John 4:7-12
The church is powerful because we love one another. If you truly want to experience the depth of the new creation you are in Christ, immerse yourself in the local church. Love other people, allow them to love you back. As we looked at earlier this month, suffering is a reality of our lives as we follow Christ, but it’s not a reality we are supposed to experience alone. So, when people ask “why do I have to be a part of a church?”, the answer to the question is found in the power that community has in our lives.
Go to DISCOVER MCC and take the first step towards getting connected at Maryland
2 Thess 3:6-15
Our faith is hard. Following Christ as we live in a broken world is not easy, and none of us do it perfectly. One of the most insidious dangers of trying to live out our faith on our own lies in being unaware of our errors or blind spots. We are usually the last people to see when we are headed a bad direction. They are called blind spots for a reason-we don’t see them well. When a church is filled with people who know and love one another, we can experience accountability and hear people telling us where we should be careful or make corrections. The church is a powerful piece of our faith because it can help keep us from falling into dangerous decisions and sin.
Get into a small group. Go online, connect with Joel Lauritzen (HWY 46) or Dan Gisel (12 points) and find a community of people to follow Christ closely with.
1 Timoth 5:1-25
We care for each other! That goes beyond words, at MCC we have an entire ministry area devoted to caring for the needs of the people in our congregation. Whether it be financial needs, specialized counseling, or focused care groups around issues such as divorce, finance, parenting, etc. we strive to create a community that is prepared to love people and care for them in the midst of the pain and brokenness impacting them. As a church, we are in this journey together, and we exist to be available to people as they are hurting. The church matters because you can’t experience this care in isolation!
Check the care page of our website-how can you jump into our care ministry? Do you need care? Do you have the ability to jump in and help care for people? What does this look like for you?
1 Corinthians 2:6-16
When we become believers, scripture teaches that we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we come together to worship God, something powerful happens. There is a unique spiritual reality in a gathering of the church to worship God. God moves in us and we see the way he is working in our church, community and world. When we come and pray as a congregation, take communion, sing, we are not only brought closer to God, but we are changed by him as we are brought closer to one another. “Going to church” isn’t something we do because we have to, it’s something we do because of who we have been made in Christ and what happens when we worship corporately.
Pray with a member of the prayer team this week after the sermon. Share what God is doing in your life and how you can be prayed for.
We aren’t just called to gather together, we are also called to go out. Taking the gospel into the world, baptizing and making disciples are an important part of our life as believers. One of the roles of the church is to organize and equip God’s people to go forth and join the mission of God. Again, this isn’t something that we do by ourselves in isolation. We go out into the world through and with the church.
Check out the local and global missions page of the website. Where can you pray for, join or send people going out and sharing the gospel?