In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul points out the contrasts of the “befores and afters” of their spiritual lives.
—You were far away; now you are made nigh.
—You were divided; now you are made one.
—You were enemies; now you are one new man.
—You were two; now you are one.
—You were separated from God; now you are reconciled.
—You had no invitation; now you have access.
—You were foreigners; now you are fellow-citizens.
—You were strangers; now you are of the household of God.
Jesus challenged the “jot and tittle” ideas of the religious professionals of his day with the “Great Commandment” — to love. The Apostle Paul challenged the assumption of the early church leaders that only Jews could be saved. His letter to them gave counsel which is relevant today — advice for relationships, comfort and hope — and suggestions on how to handle conflict and criticism.
Along with instructions and guidance for daily living, Paul discussed goal-setting and goal-tending practices of the Ephesians as he talked to them about growing in Christ.
The Ephesus church was very conscientious in their living and they strove to be perfect in what they did. But their goals were set low and when they were reached, the people felt that was the apex of their experience.
A man went to a piano concert and sat for two hours listening to the most correct rendering of the scales. Bored, most of the audience left early. After the concert, the listener approached the pianist and inquired as to why he only played scales.
“Well,” replied the pianist, “when I started taking piano lessons, my teacher emphasized how important it was to learn to play the scales perfectly. So I practiced and practiced until I could do every scale without any mistakes. I wanted to be the best scale master there was. I gave my time to scales. And that was as far as I got.”
A runner in a 10-kilometer race in first place looked like a winner. Then, after 3 kilometers, he just dropped out. When asked why he quit, the runner said that early in his running career, he set his goal at 3 kilometers and practiced until he could do it easily in the shortest amount of time. He reached his goal and from there on, he always ran the 3 kilometers, but never set his sights on anything more.
What if, when you were a child and learned to count to 100 and say your ABC’s, you had never gone any further to put letters together and make words and words together to make sentences? And you never learned how numbers related to each other? Your education would have been very limited.
The Ephesians felt they had all they needed and were doing OK. But don’t stop, Paul admonished. Be goal-setters, but don’t become goal-tenders. God has more for you.
The apostle told them to stretch, grow — think big and strive for excellence.
Some people are proud of being in the “permissive” will of God. But the “permissive” will of God only serves as a temporary learning place of struggle and wrestling until a person can move into His perfect will, which is total surrender. We are not meant to exist in a “permissive” place.
Ephesians 4:13: “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” This is what God wants for His children.