August 30 — Ephesians 4 — Building the Church. Three times in this chapter Paul mentions how important it is to build up the collective members of the people of God. God gave equipping leaders “for building up the body of Christ” (v. 12). The pastors at your church have the responsibility to train you for ministry so the church might grow and grow up. Secondly, the Church grows by “speaking the truth in love” (v. 15). When its members are thus “working properly … it builds itself up in love” (v. 16). When we lovingly teach each other truth from God’s Word, we build each other up. Thirdly, we are warned to be careful about how we talk to each other, saying things that are only “good for building up” (v. 29). That reminds me of a song I used to sing as a kid:
|O be careful little mouth what you say;|
O be careful little mouth what you say.
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love,
So, be careful little mouth what you say.
August 31 — Ephesians 5 — Imitating Love. This chapter begins with the command to “be imitators of God” (v. 1). Wow, what a standard! It is a lofty goal to aim for but it is not impossible. The focus of the quality of God here is His love. We are commanded to “walk in love, as Christ loved us” (v. 2). Jesus is our example of love. How did He love us? He “gave himself up for us” (v. 2). That is sacrificial love. Christ’s example of love is mentioned the second time in how husbands should love their wives. Here, too, the example is sacrificial love, “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25). We should be careful, however, to distinguish between “imitating” love and “imitation” love. Our love must be genuine, like God’s love, which has in view the well-being of the one loved.
September 1 — Ephesians 6 — Obedience. Paul finished this letter with the subject of obedience. Children are to obey their parents because it is right (v. 1) and bondservants are to obey their masters sincerely (v. 5). And since fathers and masters are in positions of authority, they are reminded that they are under the authority of their heavenly Master (v. 9) and must obey Him. Paul then followed with a paragraph of imperative forms that all of us are to obey in our defense against the threats of evil and in our ministry to others: “Be strong … Put on … take up … fasten on … put on … take up … take … keep alert” (vv. 10-19). In a sense, children and bondservants are forced to obey but adult believers must make themselves obey God. Here is a question we should ask ourselves every time we read one of these chapters in God’s Word: Is there a command to obey? Then, force yourself to do it.
September 2 — Philippians 1 — Praying for Love. Paul founded the first European church, at Philippi, during his second missionary journey (Acts 16). It began at a riverside prayer meeting with a small group of Jewish women but it became a strong and loving church, the only one Paul allowed to provide financial support for his ministry. Paul visited them at least once after that beginning but was now writing to them from his imprisonment in Rome. It is a letter of encouragement and challenge that focuses on Christ, who is named 18 times in the first chapter. It also shows Paul’s strong and intimate relationship with these people. He prayed for them often (v. 3). One subject of his prayer was “that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (v. 9). It would be good to memorize that expression and use those words often when praying for your family and friends. The resulting benefits are great, too, developing the ability to “approve what is excellent … be pure and blameless … filled with the fruit of righteousness” (vv. 10-11).
September 3 — Philippians 2 — Being Humble. Whereas Jesus was seen in the previous chapter as being our example of love, in this chapter He is our example of humility. Notice several actions involved in Jesus’ humility: He took the form of a servant (v. 7), He “humbled himself” (v. 8), and He obeyed His Father even “to the point of death” (v. 8). We are not naturally humble; we need to take intentional steps to humble ourselves. Two of those steps are to “count others more significant than yourselves” (v. 3) and to “look … to the interests of others” (v. 4). Timothy was also a good example of this. Paul said that he had “no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare” (v. 20). God the Father will ultimately demonstrate His pleasure with Jesus’ humility by having “every knee … bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (vv. 10-11). Jesus promised that “whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12). Being exalted should not be our motive for humbling ourselves but it will come in God’s timing as a benefit.