To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus:
The title saint simply means “holy – set apart” and that is who we are in Christ, set apart for His purposes. The American military has as its core principle that its members are there to serve at the pleasure of the President. That can be a risky business depending on who is President. We however, are set apart for the pleasure of our President and King, Jesus Christ. The risk depends on our worldview. If we value the things of this world more than Christ, then following Christ can be a very risky business! If however, we value Christ over the things of this world, then any perceived risk becomes a privilege and an honour. Jesus said of His followers in John 15v19 that they were to be in the world but not of the world. We may feel that being a Christian, aka a SAINT, in the 21st Century is a huge challenge, that we are hard pressed on every side, which may well be true. But let us reflect for a moment on what it meant for those called to be saints in Ephesus; what they had to endure on a daily basis. They like us were called out of the world, but they still had to work out their calling very much in the world… in Ephesus.
Ephesus would not have been an easy place to stand up for your faith in the 1st century. It was the major center for the pagan idol worship of the goddess Diana, and with it all the associated trimmings of a materialistic culture: luxury lifestyles, blatant pornography, rampant sexual promiscuity, state sponsored prostitution, political intrigues and the promotion of celebrity lifestyles in the form of trophy wives, gladiatorial heroes, actors, poet musicians and fashion gurus. Sound familiar? It was in Ephesus, Acts 19, that Paul encountered stiff opposition from the silver workers and tradesmen who crafted the images of Diana, and who sought to kill Paul on account of the loss of business in Diana paraphernalia. However despite the tremendous pressures on these saints in Ephesus our Scripture today describes these saints as faithful; in the midst of opposition they had not denied their LORD. See Revelation 2v2-3 below.
The culture of Ephesus is a time warp of our own Western culture today; the activities may by slightly different but the symptoms of materialistic pursuit are exactly the same. So how do we compare to the Ephesian saints? Are we in the world but not of the world? Are we able to see the brokenness of society through the eyes of compassion without pouring scorn on it, realising that but for the grace of God go we? Are we faithful in our presentation of Christ to our families, school, college, university or work place?
There is only one way to effectively live in the world but not be of the world, and that is to realise that this present world is not our true permanent home, heaven is. The stronger that hopes becomes a reality to us, the brighter our light will shine in the dark places of this present world system. Being so heaven minded doesn’t make us detached from the world, rather it makes us enthused to realise that while we are here as ambassadors of Christ we have the amazing opportunity to make a difference. The opportunity to bring God’s light, His love, His healing, His direction and truth to a people who are all ultimately craving one thing – purpose! What greater purpose is there than to know and make known the One who is our Creator?
Romans 12v2 tells us not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. This renewing involves a constant view of what is ahead. When we live every day with heaven in view we will not be ineffective or unfruitful in our witness and neither will we be deceived or manipulated by those things which are both fleeting and flattering.
So let us today determine to live up to our name SAINTS and be set apart in this world for the LORD’s service. Let us not compromise our faith in the midst of a liberalist culture, for if we do what will be our response if sterner times are ahead?
Alexander the Great was the 4th century BC Greek king and field commander who led his men into the heat of battle and who conquered the known world by the time he was thirty. During one of his military courts over which he presided, a young soldier was brought before him who had run away from the field of battle. No one present could fail to notice that the young soldier had the same golden hair and striking features as his king. Even more alarming to the gathered court room was the fact that the accused bore the same name, Alexander. The king could have sentenced the deserter to death but moved by the youngster’s similitude to himself he instead scolded the accused by saying, “Change your conduct, or change your name!”
Likewise let us live up to the title SAINT; it is the most privileged title in the universe!
OUR PRAYER FOR TODAY
“Heavenly Father, thank you that You have called us to be SAINTS, those who are set apart for our LORD’s service in this present world. Enable us to be FAITHFUL to that honoured title and use us to make a difference to even one life today.”