Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will’to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3–6)
The direction of deeper is not up.
We all want to go deeper. And we imagine that as we move deeper, the Holy Spirit will set us up on a mountaintop, elevated above the struggle of the world around us. But the direction of deeper is not up. The direction of deeper is down.
These words in Epheisans are inspiring, but Paul knows that enthusiasm alone will never be enough to sustain the life of this church he loves. So he challenges them to remember who they are, even in the thick of the struggle. In this masterful work he is speaking into them and over them who they are in Christ. Their identity is dependent upon Christ’s identity. Paul is moving them beyond inspiration and into identity.
These words are not sparked by a sunset over the ocean or a hike up a mountain trail. Most scholars think Paul wrote this letter from behind the bars of a prison cell with the threat of death hanging over his head. And he is not writing to a group of Christians huddled together in a commune, in a monastery, or detached from society. The city of Ephesus was a culturally rich, thriving economic center with competing values that would have been dismissive at times, hostile at others, toward their Christian faith. As far as religious climate, Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis, a structure so influential it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. To live as a light in the shadow of this reality, Paul knew inspiration alone would not be enough. He anchored them in their identity so they would remember that through the struggle.
He extends the same challenge to us. Do you want to go deeper? Then follow Jesus down the mountain into the broken places of the world, where we are rooted in and sustained by the base truth of who we are, our identity in Christ. The direction of deeper is down.
Jesus, lead us into the deeper life. We confess that we want this road to lead us into higher places, above the fray. But we declare that we want you more. You are the Pioneer of this downward journey into surrender and burial. And we will follow you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read the text aloud and everywhere the words we, us, and you appear, insert the names of each person (one after another) in your band, including your own name. This will be powerful, but only if you do it.
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