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How Ephesians Gives Hope to the Depressed

     

        Ed Welch writes, “Depression is a form of suffering that can’t be reduced to one universal cause. This means that family and friends can’t rush in armed with the answer. Like most forms of suffering, [depression] feels private and isolating” (Welch, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness 4). Most people struggling with depression do not understand the cause of it, begging the question of, “why is this happening to me?” Hopelessness is a dark friend to the depressed. It sounds off in a subtle series of indifferent thoughts on life and relationships. This essay will attempt to provide a counseling plan moving forward from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, not primarily to eliminate depression, but to encourage faith in objective hope for the depressed.

       One thing is sure; depression gives the impression that you are alone and without hope. Additionally, though many people suffer from depression, the depressed often believe that they are without sympathizers because they feel understood by no one. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” In this passage, Paul alludes to Christ suffering for the sake of redeeming the saints. This he provides as a concrete example as one who knew suffering, physically, emotionally, psychologically, as he was beaten and crucified, abandoned by all his closest companions, mocked and ridiculed by his countrymen, and separated from his Father to whom he was in perfect communion for eternity past. The point here is that there is one who knows intimately how the depressed feel, and went deeper into that feeling, for their sake, then they ever will. 

       Depression has a way of darkening the realities of the past. It depicts itself as the biggest problem, both past, present, and future, but neglects to remind them of their past relationship with God. Ephesians 2:1-3 comes to remind the saints of who they once were before their regeneration in Christ. The reminder comes to tell the saints that they once walked in opposition to God, and thus were dead men, objects of God’s wrath. The image that is communicated here is that, though men walked, breathed, ate, slept, thus very much alive, from the eternal perspective, they were dead. Worse still, they were objects of God’s eternal wrath. This eternal death is certainly the epitome of hopelessness. However, Ephesians 2:4-5 reminds the depressed that, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Having been redeemed from your worst in this life, there is hope for future glory, happiness, and joy in the life to come (Eph 2:6-7). 

        Depression also has its way of deceiving the depressed by communicating that even God doesn’t care, and therefore, doesn’t listen to their pleas for help. Ed Welch says, “all suffering is intended to train us to fix our eyes on the true God.” (Welch, Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness 31). The Scriptures make abundantly clear that God does hear his children’s pleas, but also that he knows what is best for them (Ps 18:6; Is 55:8; Prov 16:9). But the narrative of depression that God does not care and therefore doesn’t listen, tends to drone out the objective truth in the Scriptures, resulting in asking the question, “Why pray and cry out to him?” However, having faith in the God of the Bible is trusting that he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph 3:20). Those in depression can either believe in the object truth that God is working in their suffering to help them see himself, or drown in the falsehood that God does not care or listen to the depressed. In one there is hope, in the other, there is only more darkness. 

       Lastly, though previously mentioned, the great hope for the suffering saint is in the future glory to be had in Jesus Christ, sealed now with the guarantee of Christ’s Spirit living in them (Eph 1:11-14). By the seal of the Spirit on this guarantee, the hope that suffering and depression will actually end is an inevitable future event. Though suffering is real now, it will not be a factor when the saints are ushered into the glory of Christ. Having now a redeemed heart and new life in Jesus, the saint then, is to push past the alter-reality of current suffering, and live in a manner consistent with the promise of future glory (Eph 4:22-24; 5:1-2; 6:10-11). 

David Mishler is a Missional Community Leader at Kaleo Church, a seminary student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has a passion for serving the local church in organization and administration.

ASPIRING TO ELDERSHIP: BECOMING A THEOLOGIAN OF THE CROSS

In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” Most people I know that are desiring the office of elder/overseer are often starry-eyed about the work of the ministry. Sure, the majority of intentions behind desiring such an office is a desire to see God glorified, to serve Christ, and to love the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those are the things that make the calling of elder a noble task to desire. However, like any other job or pursuit in this life, there can also be other desires underneath the noble ones. For some men it may be to change the things he sees wrong in the congregation he is a part of it. For other men it can be to get to a place of recognition and power.

A Theologian of Glory

A man seeking to be a minister of the Gospel must understand that he is not seeking an office of self-glory, but one of service, one that follows in the ways of the cross. The office of elder is not one to build your reputation, to fix the things that are wrong with the church, nor to feel good about yourself. In Gerhard Forde’s famous book exploring Martin Luther’s distinctions between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross, Forde writes, 

          “A theology of glory…operates on the assumption that what we need is optimistic encouragement, some           flattery, some positive thinking, some support to build our self-esteem. Theologically speaking it operates on the assumption that we are not seriously addicted to sin, and our improvement is both necessary and possible.”

The theologian of glory is pursuing life and satisfaction through building their own platform, driven to make much of their own name and ministry. The path to self-glory is dazzling and drawing, but only leaves you thirsting for more like a dehydrated man tirelessly chasing a mirage.

The reason I can say these things is because my heart so desperately longs for self-glory. Deep down inside of me is this longing for acceptance, the praise of man, and a platform where people would finally see and acknowledge my worth. In my head I often daydream of finally getting my break, writing a book everyone loves, and so hushing the whispers about me being the “other pastor.” But let me assure you, the little sips of glory never satisfy you and keep you longing for more. If you do not believe me, let me assure you that the ministry is not for you, and if you think it is, you ought not trifle with the glory that belongs to God alone.

A Theologian of the Cross

Over and over throughout my years in ministry, I have found that God himself loves his children enough to not let them continue in such desires of self-glory. Whether it’s in the ministry, family, finances, etc., I have witnessed a jealous God who loves me enough to crush my self-glory and bring me over and over again to the foot of the cross. It is there, that I rightly see the cost of self-glory: The innocent Son of God bleeding for me. It is there that I see what true glory looks like, lifted up for all to see. As John 3:14-15 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

The Son of God himself turned the world upside down when he was humiliated and lifted up for all to see. No longer are those who build a name for themselves the ones worthy of following, but one who was crucified and resurrected. And the call for all Christians, but especially elders, is to lead in being a theologian of the cross. As Luke 9:23-34 affirms this upside-down theology of the cross, Jesus proclaims, 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  The life of a man who desires the noble task of elder is one who is called to daily model death and resurrection in his own life. As Forde writes,

Theologians of the cross operate on the assumption that there must be a ‘bottoming out’ or an ‘intervention.’ That is to say, there is no cure for the addict on his own. We must come to confess that we are addicted to sin, addicted to self, whatever form that may take, pious or impious. So theologians of the cross know that we can’t be helped by optimistic appeals to glory, strength, wisdom, positive thinking, and so forth because those things are themselves the problem.

The man who desires to be elder is voluntarily joining a band of brothers that agree to lead the bride of Christ in daily killing self-glory and finding forgiveness and any righteousness whatsoever as a gift from Christ himself. To desire the office of elder is a noble task and is not affirmed through the church affirming your worth, but affirming your character (1 Tim. 3:1-7). Godly character that is worthy of imitating is one that moves out of the way so people do not make much of you but make much of the Christ and his cross (1 Cor. 2:2). To all of you men desiring the office of elder, it is not a place for you because the cross is a place where you die and Jesus lives through you (Gal. 2:20). If that sounds like a worthy calling, also know, it is a daily dying that must take place because self-glory blossoms often like weeds and only the theologian of the cross knows what to do with those weeds. I read this quote every morning and I hope it serves you as it has me:

       “Pastor, take your ego out to the woodshed, then, everyday. And don’t just whup it. Put a gun to its head and blow its brains out.”

Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church


Footnotes:

Gerhard Forde, On Being A Theologian of the Cross.

Jared Wilson, A Pastor’s Justification 

Do I Need More of the Spirit?

A while back I was walking out of the grocery store when an older lady walked up to me and asked me if I had heard the good news known as the Gospel. Interested to see what she believed, I told her that I had but that one could never hear good news too many times. She proceeded to tell me about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the place of sinners. I smiled and thanked for telling me the good news. I then explained that I am a pastor and it was really nice to know she loves Jesus. What I thought would have ended there was quickly followed up with, “But have you received the second baptism?” Knowing exactly where she was going, I explained to her why her interpretation of the Bible was off and exhorted her to reread some of those passages that have formed her theological position. 

“What would the average church member say to her,” I thought? Would the newer members in our church listen to her and wonder if they were missing something? Well, this morning in our Kaleo Bible Reading (KBR), we come across Acts 19. As I read through the narrative I was reminded of my time with this woman, and even friends who believe in a second baptism, and felt compelled to write a quick help for all of us.

What is the Second Baptism?

There are some evangelicals that read Acts 19:1-10 and interpret it as a second baptism. When asked about this, they see Christian conversion in a few stages. They would argue that the first stage of conversion is when one puts their faith in Jesus for salvation and is baptized. However, they see a second stage of conversion happen when the Holy Spirit “falls on them” resulting in speaking in tongues. In fact, they would consider a Christian without the gift of tongues, no Christian at all. As you read Acts 19:1-10, you might think at first glance that an interpretation like that seems possible. And yet, I bet you instinctively know it’s not possible because of the rest of Christian Scripture.

Acts 19:1-10

In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus tells his disciples that they would be given the great task of taking the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (1:8). In Acts 2 we see the Holy Spirit come just as Jesus promised and takes his residence inside the people of God. From that point forward we see Acts 1:8 fulfilled as the Gospel expands to further off geographical locations. After the Gospel reaches the immediate context of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, the Spirit comes upon God’s people. Then the Gospel goes out to the Samaritans in chapter 8, followed by a mini-Pentecost in that geographical region. The pattern continues with other Gentiles in chapters 10-11. Then, in our chapter today, the Gospel expands to Ephesus and we have another mini-Pentecost as the spirit indwells believers.

So why do some Christians hold to a second baptism idea, primarily formed from this passage? If you look at the discussion, line by line, it’s a bit easier to follow Luke’s telling of the event as well as Paul’s theology:

-Paul’s first question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

Their answer: “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

Paul’s second question: “Then what baptism did you receive?”

-Their answer: “John’s baptism.”

-Paul’s response: “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”

What often happens is a person can read the word “disciples” and automatically conclude that it means they are disciples of Jesus. But Acts 19 is helping is see that these were disciples of John the Baptist, completely unaware of the person and work of Jesus. In fact, it is an anomaly of sorts because they are disciples that were baptized, but they had not believed in Jesus yet. The truth of the matter is that there is only one stage in Christian conversion, upon which these “disciples” had not yet experienced. A true disciple is one whom has believed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and so simultaneously receives the Spirit of God.

What About those Tongues?

Tied uniquely to the conversion of these believers is the gift of tongues. The temporary nature of these phenomena is signaled for us by the fact that each time in Acts these two gifts (which always go together) take place “with the personal presence or oversight of the apostles” (Acts 2; 8:14-19; 10:44ff.; 19:6). Again, the Spirit and these gifts were tied together in the expansion of the Gospel and the church to an unreached people at the time. 

Conclusion

There is far more to being a disciple than supernatural gifts. In fact, the presence of the Holy Spirit is a downpayment and evidence that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ. The litmus test to know whether or not you are a true believer is that you have placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation. Wherever there is a person that believes in Jesus, there you will also find a person filled with the Holy Spirit. 

Family History

I’ve always been one of those weird people that enjoy genealogies. I blame my parents. Growing up I remember watching my mom pour over piles of immigration and City Hall records, trying to trace our families journey to the United States.  Things got even more intense when we moved to Europe and took cross-continent road trips to cities and towns that bore our surname, awkward conversations through translation books with people that might be distant relatives, checking the registry at Auschwitz to see if we might be related to any of victims that shared our family name, and looking for long lost connections.  

Being connected to your history is not everything, but it is something. For me it was always in the realm of things that were nice to know. Stories that make me more grateful and make me realize that I didn’t just magically pop into this world as a middle class white male totally independent of the successes, sins, and sacrifices of those that have come before me. But beyond that I don’t spend too much time thinking about where I came from.  

That’s because I am not a first century Jewish man. Back then heritage was everything. It determined everything. Where you worked. where you lived, who you married, and who you worshipped.  It determined everything.  

The people of Israel were ever aware of their ancestry.  They were literally named after their ancestor – Israel.  The organization of their wilderness camp, and later their place in there Promised Land, was based on their family tribe.  An Israelite’s role in worshipping God was also determined by their lineage, with the tribe of Levi having a particularly holy calling as priests.  Similarly the true line of kings that God would bless would be from the family of Judah (Genesis 49:8-10), specifically the line of David (II Sam 7:1-17). Not only would the kings of Israel come from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, the ultimate and universal King, the Messiah, would come from this line (Micah 5:2-4, Daniel 7:13-14).   

This is why both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels include a lengthy genealogy of Jesus.  For any first century Jew or anyone who takes God’s promises seriously, to even consider the validity of Jesus being the Messiah, his family credentials would have to be watertight. God is a God of His Word and if He said the Messiah would come through Judah and David, then that is how it had to be.  

This was so important that Matthew, writing primarily to a Jewish audience, leads his Gospel account with the genealogy of Christ.  Starting with Abraham he works all the way up through 42 generations to Jesus.  

Luke also records the family line of Jesus the Messiah. Careful observers will notice that there are some differences between Matthew and Luke’s records.  Problem?  Nope, easy and important answer.  Matthew recorded Jesus’ family line through Joseph, showing that he had a legal right to the throne of David because of his status as the adopted eldest son of Joseph. Matthew traces Jesus’ heritage through Mary, making the incarnate Son of God a blood relative of King David.  Both genealogies point to the glorious truth that both from legal adoption and blood lineage, Jesus Christ the God Man, is the rightful heir to the Messianic promises.  As a side note it is interesting that since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jewish people no longer have reliable genealogies to refer to.  Anyone who claimed to be the Messiah since 70 A.D. would have no way of proving that he came from the royal line of kings.  

No one has or ever will have the Messianic credentials that Jesus Christ has.  His genealogies record the breaking into history of God, His putting on flesh and becoming part of the human family so that He could bear the brokenness, guilt, and shame of that family on the cross and give it a new inheritance through His resurrection.  

Last week I blew it in a once-every-decade kind of way. It began when my father and I got into a disagreement about something stupid (it always begins that way, right?). But when neither of us were willing to show humility towards each other, things escalated and exploded.  Before I knew it I was bringing up sins and situations that had happened decades ago and I thought I had moved on from but were still affecting me deeply.  

I’ve been affected by the sins of my father.  He was affected by the sins of his.  My kids have and will be affected by the sins of their father, both biological and adopted.  

But this Christmas as I open up the Scripture and read the family history of my Savior, I have hope.  When I look at the sovereignly selected, scandal-filled genealogy of my Savior and Lord and see slaves and kings, redeemed prostitutes (Rahab), enemy Gentiles redeemed by their kinsman (Ruth), repentant murderous adulterous sinners (David), unrepentant murderous adulterous sinners (many of the kings after David),  seasons of joy, seasons of pain, and seemingly insignificant faithful historical footnotes (Achim? Matthan?)…I am reminded that my God is the God who brings beauty out of the hideous, honor out of the shameful, victory out of defeat, joy out of pain, and Life out of Death.  

This the Gospel of geneology. Because Christ had a genealogy my earthly family history can be redeemed and given hope and purpose. But more breathtaking is the truth that in Christ I have been adopted into an entirely new geneology.  One that begins and ends with an eternal, loving, perfect, infinitely rich, reigning Father.  Because the Son of God had an earthly genealogy, I can have a heavenly one.    

This Christmas be thankful for genealogies.  

John Freiberg is a Missionary in Training and Elder Candidate at Kaleo Church. John has been married to Sarah for ten years and has four kids: Esther, Isaiah, Phoebe, and Roman.

Advent: Eagerly Awaiting the One that Already Came

When I was a kid I loved Christmas so much. My excitement was primarily about the gifts and it caused a sort of unhealthy anticipation for me. I remember not being able to sleep no matter how hard I tried and that was how the tradition began. On Christmas Eve, ESPN would play the same episode of SportsCenter over and over until the morning came. I would lay there in my bed and watch the same thirty minute episode over and over, thinking in my head, “Only 15 more episodes.” This both drove me crazy but also helped me somewhat simmer down the excitement.

Advent is a season of waiting. Historically, Advent is defined by the idea of coming. It is meant to be a season celebrating and awaiting the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way the people of God were awaiting the Messiah for years and years, so the season is meant to be filled with waiting and anticipation. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the first century Jew who was awaiting the birth of Christ and actually got to see him face to face? I think of the splendor and delight in knowing that this newborn baby was going to be the King everyone longed for. What would his reign be like? Would all their enemies finally come under the reign of this King as evil would be finally subdued. Would all the injustices of the world finally be made right through this long-awaited King? 

The thing about anticipation is that we really believe that when we get what we are desiring, the satisfaction will last. But as we all know, we have had plenty of new relationships, new jobs, and new things that do not satisfy the way that they did at first. The heart of the matter is that we need someone or something to not only satisfy our longings of anticipation but we need that satisfaction to not dwindle. Jesus’ first century followers would have been drastically let down as the King they had awaited ended up on a Roman Cross, humiliated for all to see. Once again, their desires were crushed as the One in whom they placed their hope in breathed his last breath on the cross. That is where the author of Hebrews comforts the church by marrying together the two comings of Jesus. He lays them before us showing that Jesus alone can meet our anticipation and eternally satisfy our greatest desires. Hebrews 9:26b-28 says,

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

The longing and anticipation of Jesus’ first coming seemed deflated with his death…but only for three days. After resurrecting and showing himself to weary disciples (Luke 24), it was clear that he was worth the wait. Not only had he forgiven sins once for all, but he had extinguished the fiery wrath of his Father for all sins of those that would put their faith and trust in him. Weeks after he resurrected he ascended to his rightful throne in heaven. Before departing though, he promised his beloved disciples that he would come back for them (Acts 1:6-11). 

That brings us to our new Advent of sorts. We are presently waiting for our Savior. This waiting is different that it was for those whom awaited his first coming. It is different because we look back at his Incarnation, death, and resurrection and are confident that our Savior keeps his Word. Not only does he keep his Word, he has proven to be worth the anticipation and capable to handle and meet all our greatest desires. The greatest news regarding our waiting is that our future does not hold one ounce of judgment. Christ left it on that cross, in a real city, two-thousand years ago (Colossians 2:13-14). Our waiting promises an eternity with Jesus, face-to-face, in a place where all our longings and desires will be met in him. Sin and waiting will both be distant memories as we no longer wait by faith but are satisfied by sight. The Second Coming of Jesus is the worthwhile impetus of our present waiting. Let us eagerly await him this Advent season.

Wes Van Fleet is the Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Kaleo Church. He is married to Jenn and they have two little girls, Olivia and Hadley.

Living by the Scriptures

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If you have often struggled to find a balance between learning about Scripture and living it out, then Owen on the Christian Life is a good book to better see how this can happen. I have enjoyed learning about Christian doctrine, but I find too often an inconsistency in how I apply the truth of scripture to my life. To know about God has really been more of a hobby, something I find great interest in, but is done more for my glory rather than to know God as he is revealed in Scripture. Owen is a great help for me in mending that inconsistency.

This quote by John Owen captures well the two springs of mind and heart:

Our belief of the Scriptures to be the word of God, or a divine revelation, and our understanding of the mind and will of God as revealed in them, are the two springs of all our interest in Christian religion. From all those streams of light and truth derived whereby our souls are watered, refreshed, and made fruitful unto God.”

Owen upholds the supremacy of Scripture for faith and practice, and therein lies the challenge to live in light of the glory of the truth of God’s Word, and to not merely acquire knowledge about God but to know Him more intimately.

1 John 3:16 says this: “By this we know that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brother.” To say that I love God and then to have hatred or enmity against a brother is to really say I don’t love at all. This is a grave inconsistency in what I truly believe about God and the clear commandment to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

John also says later in this chapter that, “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 3:24). This obedience is not to gain approval or to somehow earn our acceptance before God, but is rooted in the gospel truth that we have been rescued from trying to earn our salvation and that we have an Advocate before the Father who is greater than our hearts (1 John 2:1-2; 3:20). For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly to be reconciled to God (Rom. 5:6-8), that we may rejoice in the new life we have in Him. We are then seeking to know God more through His Word but grow more in the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that will shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:4-6.

This book is a good intro into the doctrine and life of John Owen, and I enjoyed reading about the way his explanations of Scriptural truth lead to praise and worship. Reformed doctrine in the mid sixteenth century, on the heels of Reformation, has a strong conviction that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9).

My favorite chapter of the book dealt with this key doctrine, and it brings great joy to know that what God starts He will finish. If left to myself, I wouldn’t want to seek God and have anything to do with Him. It is by His grace alone that I have access to the Father, through the work of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I found myself wanting to read more about this great Reformer in England and to delve more into his writings. With a style unique to the Puritans, I did find that his prose was more accessible that other Puritans, chief among them Jonathan Edwards.

I am grateful for the opportunity to read this book on Owen and I pray that I’d go with eagerness to the Word and know God better. He has given us His word so that we may know Him and treasure Him above all else. There is none beside You, who can give hope and peace and the forgiveness of sins. Where else can I go?
I pray that my studies would be pleasing in your sight and be useful in edifying your church. I am praying that the truth of your Word would not be an exercise in gaining knowledge, but that I’d grow to know You better and more intimately, all for Your glory and for the benefit of Your church.

Book notes: Owen and the Christian Life. Matthew Barnett and Michael A. G. Haykin

Ryan Carr is one of the Missional Community leaders at Kaleo Church in El Cajon. Him and his wife, Kathryn, have been married for 1 year.