He Suffered for Us (Isaiah 53)

Hundreds of years before Jesus took on human flesh and walked this earth among us, the prophet Isaiah foretold that the Son of God would suffer and die for our sins. God showed His prophet a vision of a humble, broken Messiah enduring slander, beatings, and death for His people. He showed Isaiah and us that the Lord’s Servant would be a perfect sacrifice. Jesus never sinned. In 33 years of facing the trials and temptations common to man, He always obeyed all of God’s holy laws. The Son always did His Father’s will. He was totally innocent, yet in all of the unjust abuses that He suffered through on His way to the cross, Jesus never spoke out in His own defense. He could have called down angels to destroy the wicked Roman soldiers and Jewish religious leaders who conspired to torture and kill Him. He could have stopped all of the cruel jokes and taunts with a few powerful words. He could have come down from the cross at any time if He wanted. But Jesus chose to suffer until the very end. He did it for us. He went through it all to pay for our sins and fulfill the Father’s plan for our salvation.

If you want a strong passage to help you remember the cross of Christ on this Good Friday, here you go. Read through Isaiah 53 today, thinking about all that Jesus went through for you and me and all Christians for all time. Remember how God reached out to you when you were lost and gone astray from Him. When you had no interest in Him, He loved you still and drew you to faith in the One who suffered so much for you. Once Jesus meant little to you, as He does to most of the world. But now He is your Lord and Savior. You have seen that it was truly for YOUR sins that Jesus suffered and died. He carried YOUR burdens and sorrows. YOU are now “his seed” (spiritual son or daughter), and He rejoices that the “labor of his soul” has brought you freedom from the penalty and power of sin. Look back to the Suffering Servant today. He suffered and died for YOU because He loved YOU.

The Text (Isaiah 53)

1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

2  For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.

5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

9  And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.

11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Reporting for Duty (Ephesians 6:10-18)

The Christian life is a battle. Every day, we must wage war against the world, our own fallen natures, and the devil and his demonic forces. Sin and Satan never take a day off. This may sound a bit intense and harsh, but this is the consistent teaching of the Bible. In today’s passage, as Paul nears the end of his letter to the Ephesians, he warns us that our daily struggles to live for Christ have a strong spiritual dimension. We must trust in God’s “power” and “might” each day. We will face Satanic attacks and influences as we seek to think about and live out our new identities in Christ. The forces of darkness will work through this world to try to steer our eyes off Jesus and onto our worries, fears, and sinful desires. In trying to let the Holy Spirit direct our attitudes and actions, we will face daily temptations to surrender to our old nature’s instincts. From the moment we accept Christ until the day we die and meet Him in heaven, we must expect to fight hard as soldiers in the Lord’s army. We must report for active duty in His kingdom’s service every day.

Accepting this call to arms each day is the only way to experience true Christian joy and happiness. To not fight is to lose, and to lose is to suffer. When Christians don’t learn how to wear and use God’s armor, they are tossed about and beaten up by the sorrows of sin. Without walking in God’s truth, we are persuaded by the lies of the devil and fall victim to his schemes. Without putting on Christ’s righteousness, we fall back into our old sinful habits and characters. Without the gospel of peace leading the paths of our hearts and lips, we pour forth anger and selfishness in our words. Without the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation protecting us from the assaults of Satan, our souls are afflicted by doubts and troubles. And without training ourselves in the use of God’s Holy Sword, the Bible, we are both unable to set unbelievers free from the kingdom of darkness and powerless to help Christ’s people capture the strongholds of sin that remain in our lives.

How do we report for Christian duty each day? By studying God’s Word and seeking His face in prayer. If you do that humbly and honestly each morning, God will equip you for the fight and you will become one of His spiritual warriors. Instead of being kicked in the teeth every day by your sin and the attacks of the devil, you can learn to walk in victory. You can start being all that God wants you to be if you wil start showing up for duty in the Lord’s army.

The Text (Ephesians 6:10-18)

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints

Questions to Think About

  1. Before reading today’s passage, did you think of the Christian life as a battle? Why or why not?
  2. Can you think of some examples of spiritual warfare that you have faced this school year? How have you handled the fights?
  3. Think back on your times in God’s Word this school year. Now think back to your spiritual struggles. Could you say that when you were spending more time reading your Bible and praying that you were experiencing more joy and victory over sin? Then why not make a daily time with God your top priority?

Notes

  • Remember that Paul wrote this letter while he was a prisoner in the Roman Empire. When he wrote about the armor of God, he was looking at a Roman soldier for inspiration, not a knight from Northern Europe in the Middle Ages. So, when you see the suit of armor in the NRCA lobby, be impressed, but recognize that this was not the model used in Ephesians 6. That said, the Roman soldiers were fully-equipped masters of war, totally ready for the enemies they faced. Like them, we must be prepared to stand strong against our enemies – the world, the flesh, and the devil – each day.
  • The list of different kinds of demons in verse 12 should not be over analyzed. While there does seem to be different rankings in Satan’s army, Paul’s point in this passage is just to emphasize that there is a great force of fallen angels arrayed against us as Christians. Therefore, we must lean and lean hard on God each day by feeding on His Word and accessing His Spirit in prayer.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Redeemed Relationships (Ephesians 6:1-9)

A relationship with Jesus Christ changes all of our other relationships. As we saw in the end of Ephesians 5, marriage for the Christian is not about getting what we want from our spouses but about learning to love and serve another person more than ourselves. So, too, with the parent-child and worker-boss relationships, the redeemed versions are supposed to model humility and justice rather than rebellion, pride, and selfishness. Jesus shed His precious blood to repair our broken relationships with God the Father. But He also died to fix our broken relationships with each other. Christians can pursue love, joy, and peace in their homes and workplaces by letting God instead of sin and the world shape their thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. If you do what God says, He can redeem (buy back, restore, heal) your current relationships with your parents and prepare you to enjoy redeemed relationships with your spouses, children, bosses, and employees in the future.

Children must obey their parents. Period. There are no qualifications or restrictions given for this commandment other than that your obedience should be done “in the Lord.” Now, this does mean that you should not obey your parents if they tell you to sin against God by breaking clear commandments of Scripture (stealing, lying, hurting others, etc.). But it also means that with all commands that don’t violate Scripture, your obedience should be from the heart as if you are obeying Christ Himself. By learning to trust and obey your parents’ commands with a humble and respectful attitude the first time that they are given, you are learning how to trust and obey other authorities (like teachers and one day bosses). But more importantly, you are learning how to trust and obey God. True, parents, teachers, and bosses will not always be right. But, God has placed them in authority over you, and in His wisdom He also knows that they will usually be right more often than you. As our chapel speaker said Thursday, if you question and argue with your parents rather than obey them, you are disobeying God and removing yourself from His umbrella of protection. That is not a good place to be. If you keep on challenging and bucking the counsel of your parents and teachers, the damage to your life will eventually become really serious. If you look at the lives of people in their twenties who are suffering from the bitter consequences of their sin, you will often see a history of rebellion against parents in their childhood and teen years.

God’s blueprint for redeeming our relationships is easy to understand but hard to do; we need to depend on Christ each day to help us live out His plan. Submitting to authority does not come natural to most of us. We want to do what we want to do. We want what we want when we want it and we want it right now! Once you are older and become parents and perhaps bosses yourselves, leading others with fairness and kindness will be tough, too. Our sin nature likes to lord authority over others and take advantage of power. The bottom line is that we need to ask Jesus each day to help us honor Him in our relationships with each other. But He will help us if we seek Him with all of our hearts. God would not command us to do something without giving us the power to do it through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

The Text (Ephesians 6:1-9)

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

5 Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Questions to Think About

  1. How are you doing right now with obeying your parents? Is it a struggle? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think of obeying your parents and teachers as a way to obey Jesus? Does that mindset help you when you don’t want to obey? Explain.
  3. How can students whose parents are not modeling obedience to the Lord still obey today’s teaching? How can these students humbly obey their parents while still taking a stand for Jesus in their families?

Notes

  • The promise of happy, long lives to those who obey their parents in verses 1-3 comes from the Ten Commandments (found in Exodus 20). Like the promises given in the Psalms and Proverbs and other parts of the Bible, it should be taken as a general promise of earthly blessing that is normally but not always true. Sometimes, God takes very godly and obedient people home to heaven at a young age. And sometimes, God allows very wicked men and women to live longer lives than we think they deserve. But we must remember the perspective of eternity. A short life lived well for Jesus is better than a long life of sin and selfishness because the first leads to eternal joy and peace while the second leads to eternal suffering and misery. Remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 (the passage that Mr. Reel applies with the 4 chairs illustration).
  • Notice that parents (“fathers”) and bosses (“masters”) are expected to live out redemption in their God-ordained roles, too. They should be fair and kind and stay humble before their heavenly boss – Jesus. Wives, children, and workers are to model the obedience of the church to the Lord while husbands, parents, and bosses are to model the Lord’s wisdom and justice in His treatment of His people. This is not a perfect analogy because we are all sinners and only God is perfect, but in practice families and workplaces can help us to picture our relationship to Christ when they follow His plan.
  • The command to train children up in the knowledge of the Lord in verse 4 should definitely be understood as applying to both fathers and mothers. However, it is important to see that the role of the father in discipline and spiritual instruction is critical. Church research has long shown that when only the mother is an active Christian (i.e. a Bible-reading, praying, church-attending Christian), there is a 50% chance for each child that he or she will follow the Lord as an adult. But if the father is an active Christian, the chance improves to 90%! Simply put, as Dad goes spiritually, so goes the family.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Equal Yet Different (Ephesians 5:21-33)

Men and women are spiritual equals. Both genders are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 tells us this plainly: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” As Christians, both men and women are saved by the blood of Christ and neither is better than the other in any way. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we are given examples of godly women whose faith the Lord recognized and honored (Ruth, Deborah, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Priscilla, to name some of the most famous). Jesus always valued women during His earthly ministry and broke many cultural expectations when he approached them as spiritually significant individuals, such as His bold conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Clearly, the Bible shows that every man, woman, and child matters to God, who shows no partiality (favoritism) based on gender, ethnicity, or money.

So what is Paul talking about in today’s passage? He tells wives to “submit to” and “respect” their husbands. He tells the husbands that they are the “head” of their wives and that they must “love” their wives sacrificially. He likens the relationship to Christ (the husband) and the church (the wife). Paul writes that husbands ought to “nourish and cherish” their wives in the way that Jesus does His church, while wives are to be “subject…to their own husbands in everything.” Does this teaching contradict the teachings of the other verses above?

No, they work together in harmony. What Paul is describing is different functions or roles for husbands and wives in family relationships. God made Adam first as the leader of the family and Eve next as Adam’s helper. Neither is better than the other in essence or spirit, but the husband was given the job of head of the family. He should lead his wife lovingly and graciously, while she should respectfully follow his lead. This is similar to (though not exactly the same as) the different roles of children and parents that will be discussed in Ephesians 6:1-4 and the different roles of servants and masters in Ephesians 6:5-8. No one is spiritually or essentially better than anyone else in God’s family, but people are given different roles and responsibilities so that businesses and families will run smoothly in ways that honor the Lord.

The Text (Ephesians 5:21-33)

21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Questions to Think About

As middle and high school students, you are not yet married. However, now is the time for you study God’s teachings on marriage and the family. It is also time to allow God to train and prepare you for your future biblical roles in your own families.

  1. Do you have any questions or concerns about today’s teaching from Ephesians? Have you talked to your parents, teachers, or youth pastors about the issues of marriage and gender roles?
  2. What are you doing right now to begin preparing to be a godly husband or wife as described in today’s passage?
  3. What kinds of conflicts might occur in a marriage when husbands do not show love to their wives and when wives do not show respect to their husbands?
  4. Are there any Christian couples in your life who model biblical manhood and womanhood as taught in this passage? Are you taking the opportunity to learn from their examples?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Wisdom, Not Foolishness (Ephesians 5:15-20)

The Bible does not recognize “adolescence” or “the teenage years” as a distinct stage of life. As Dr. David Alan Black has discussed in his book, “The Myth of Adolescence,” the Bible speaks of childhood (birth to age 12), young adulthood (age 12-30), and mature adulthood (age 30 until death). We see this, for example, in the incarnational life of Jesus. In Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus as a baby and child, then He is in the temple teaching at age 12, and finally He begins his ministry at age 30. The Apostle Paul writes about how he thought as a child, and then he began to think as an adult and put away childish things (1Corinthians 13:11). The ancient Jews had a special ceremony called a “bar mitzvah” at age 13 to recognize the transition of boys into young manhood (religious Jews today still honor this tradition). For thousands of years, cultures all over the world treated ages 12-14 as a time to begin training young men and women as young adults rather than children. They were given and expected to show increasing responsibility in life. For much of history, 14 and 15-year-olds could start earning real money in a career and even marry (I’m not advocating these things for us today, just pointing them out as historical facts). The idea that ages 12-18 (or even up to age 22 or older!) would be a time of totally carefree fun and irresponsibility is a modern invention that only dates back to the late 19th century AD or perhaps even later. This notion of a long stage of adolescent carelessness has created generations of middle and high school students who are beginning to develop adult desires and interests like finding romantic relationships and meaningful work but lack adequate training in how to prepare for biblical marriage, parenthood, and vocational callings (finding the jobs God wants them to do). Teenagers still want to be adults as they always have but our modern society wants to keep treating them as children.

But today’s challenge from Ephesians 5:15-20 to walk in wisdom and redeem our time for the Lord should apply to teenagers, too! Middle and high school students are old enough to take individual ownership of their walks with Christ. They are emerging young adults. They are old enough to take public stands for their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are old enough to start having their own quiet devotional times with the Lord. Teenagers are old enough to start taking responsibility for reading their Bibles and praying on their own. They are old enough to start sharing their faith and testimonies with lost friends and family. And middle and high school students are old enough to start planning their time and using it wisely. They are old enough to say no to alcohol and other substances and influences that might control their minds and souls and to instead learn how to be controlled by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Teenagers are old enough to joyfully praise Jesus in chapel and church and not care what their friends might think. They are old enough to stand up for the Lord at the lunch table, in the locker rooms, and on the sports fields. And they are old enough to stop living as selfish children and start living lives of sincere praise and thanks to Jesus Christ. For our middle and high school students, it’s time to start growing up in the Lord. And for our parents and teachers, it’s time to start expecting more from our students spiritually and helping them to grow as God wants them to grow.

The Text (Ephesians 5:15-20)

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Questions to Think About

  1. In what ways do you think and act more like an adult now than when you were in elementary school?
  2. How can treating teenagers as children create problems for their spiritual and overall life growth?
  3. Are you taking increasing responsibility for your own walk with Jesus Christ? How can you tell?
  4. Does your heart sing with praise to God throughout the day? Why or why not?

Notes

  • The word translated as “redeeming” in verse 16 carries the idea of buying back something that was or could be lost. Paul is saying that if we do not plan to use our time wisely, it will be wasted and we may even fall into sin. The old adage “idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” is not literally in the Bible. However, the underlying principle that laziness often leads to other sins and always leads to lost opportunities for doing good is taught in today’s passage, the book of Proverbs, the Parable of the Talents, and many other places in Scripture. Biblical rest as part of a balanced weekly schedule is good. However, hours and hours and days upon days of doing nothing but streaming videos, playing games, and posting and commenting on selfies is not redeeming the time that God has given us.
  • Note the importance of singing to the Lord in our hearts through different types of worship music. “Psalms” probably refers to songs taken directly from Scripture, while “hymns” refers to songs about who God is and what He has done and “spiritual songs” refers to lyrics about our personal experiences with God. All of these should be sung from our souls out of an atttitude of thanksgiving to God for His many mercies and graces in our lives.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel