Learning from Ephesians and the 23rd Psalm (Part One)
"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).
- What does it mean to say, "I shall not want"?
Are we to think in terms of overconfidence in our own ability - I shall not fail, I shall succeed?
"I, I, I" - this is man's way of thinking. It's not God-centred.
It brings glory to man. It doesn't give glory to God.
- What do we mean when we say, "I shall not want"?
What we must remember is this - the words, "I shall not want" come immediately after the words, "The Lord is my Shepherd."
We're not asserting our own ability to succeed. We're affirming our faith in the Lord. Equipped with "every spiritual blessing in Christ", we shall go from strength to strength, glorifying God and living on the basis of "the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7).
Before he speaks of God blessing us with every spiritual blessing in Christ, Paul blesses the Lord - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). Before David says, "I shall not want", hew says, "The Lord is my Shepherd."
- First, the confession of faith in the Lord. Then, the life of victory.
- First, the acknowledgment that salvation is God's gift. Then, the living on the basis of God's salvation.
This is always the Gospel order.
- The new life is God's gift to us - this comes first.
- Then, and only then, comes the call to live the new life.
We can only say, "I shall not want", when we have learned to say, "The Lord is my Shepherd."
Before we can live the life of faith, we must receive the gift of grace.
We can only love God once we have experienced the greatness of His love for us: "In love ... (He has) freely bestowed His glorious grace on us in the Beloved (His well-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ)" (Ephesians 1:5-6). Concerning Christ, we are to say, "He is my well-beloved Saviour."
When we consider what it means to say, "The Lord is my Shepherd", "Jesus Christ is my Saviour", we are moved to praise God - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" - and to live our life for Him.
When we say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want", what we're saying is this: "The Lord, my Shepherd, the Shepherd of love, Jesus, my Saviour, has given me all that I need to live for Him."
Praising God and living for Him belong together. He calls us to be "holy and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4). As we live this new life, the life of God's children - His sons (and daughters) through Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:5) - ,we are living "to the praise of His glorious grace" (Ephesians 1:6).
If we are to live this life, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. "Every spiritual blessing" is in Him. take your eyes of Jesus, and you are no longer living the Christian life, since the Christian life is life in Christ.
He is the Saviour, your Saviour, my Saviour, our Saviour. Without Him, we cannot even begin to live the life that is pleasing to God. With Him, we live a new life, a life that is to be lived "to the praise of His glorious grace."
What are we to say about the Christian life, this new life, this life in Christ?
- It is a spiritual life. It is also a practical life. Life in Christ is life in the Spirit. It is life which really makes a difference. You cannot remain the same, once the Holy Spirit has entered your life. He changes you. he changes your outlook. He changes your way of living.
- It is eternal life. It is also life here-and-now. Through the gift of "the Holy Spirit", God has given to us "the guarantee of our inheritance, until we take possession of it" (Ephesians 1:13-14). Life in Christ has its origin in God's eternal love - "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world ... He destined us in love" (Ephesians 1:4-5). Life in Christ finds its fulfilment in God's eternal Kingdom. This is our eternal inheritance. We "have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:12). This living "for the praise of His glory" will be fulfilled in the eternal Kingdom of God. It must begin here-and-now. This is where it starts - in our day-by-day living, here on earth.
- Life in Christ is life in community. Paul speaks, in Ephesians 1:10, of God's "plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth." God's plan for us is personal. He has a wonderful plan for your life. He has a wonderful plan for my life. His plan involves more than that. he brings us into fellowship with others. without them, His purpose for you and me is being hindered. We need one another. God has given us to each other so that, together, we may grow in our shared experience of salvation.
In view of this great salvation, we say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1).