How does God show His extravagant love for His people? What impact and implications does this love demonstrated through His Son’s death and resurrection have on the life of the redeemed soul? What does it look like to go from the walking dead to the walking dead made alive in Him? These are the in-depth questions Gloria Furman dives into as she takes the reader through the book of Ephesians in her book, Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything. As she states in her intro,
“studying Ephesians and its contents is not about making people aware of their blessings for the sake of self-esteem; it’s about the glory of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (19).
This is the third book I’ve read by Gloria Furman and as a mom of four, reading any book, let alone finishing a book is a big deal! Her writing style is enjoyable because it’s so easygoing, as if you were sitting across from her having a cup of coffee discussing the text. Gloria writes with deep brevity, just what the soul of the busy Christian needs. Thus, the content and length do not feel overwhelming but rather accessible and worth the effort.
As she takes you through the book of Ephesians, she emphasizes three key points in the book:
- Recognize You’re Chosen!
- Recognize the Power!
- Recognize the Purpose!
Recognize You’re Chosen!
Do you know that if you are a believer in Christ Jesus, you have been chosen by God to be His child? It is not because of your “good girl” image or efforts. It is not because you have remained sexually pure in college. It’s not because you grew up in a Christian home with Christian parents. You, dear one, are a recipient of the incredible spiritual riches of God through Jesus Christ His Son to the praise of His glorious grace! Not only are you chosen by the Heavenly Father to be adopted into His family, you are also no longer a part of the walking dead (not the TV show), but the real walking dead, the spiritually dead. God the Father has made you alive together with His Son, the risen Christ (Ephesians 1:3-8). Can I get an amen?!
Predestination shows us God’s heart for His beloved. God chose you for adoption because He wanted to. Why? As Furman puts it, “so that His grace could be enjoyed and magnified” (33). God set His love on you before the beginning of time to the praise of His glorious grace… let that soak in.
Recognize the Power!
As those spiritually raised to new life in Christ Jesus with a new Christ-identity and a new Christ-driven purpose on life, we live this all out by Christ’s power via the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we have a new trajectory in life where we work, eat, sleep, breathe, jog, shop, and rest to the praise of His glory with Holy Spirit power (echo the chorus from Snap’s 1990 hit, I Got the Power!). No, this song isn’t about Jesus, but it does have a great hook, “I got the power!” And it’s not my power, but His resurrection power empowering me to love my neighbor or a difficult child. It’s His Spirit that enables me to give to others without expectation of anything in return. It’s this Holy Spirit power that gives me the holy boldness to share the Gospel with my neighbors and friends who don’t know Jesus. Why? Because, it’s all to the praise of His glory.
Remember, as His child, Christ’s power is now for you, not against you.
Recognize the Purpose!
If there is ever a people group that should know and be confident of their purpose it is those who are in Christ Jesus. Whatever your season in life, whether student or Mom or pastor or grandmother, you are called to live out your days in Christ for the praise of His glory. Furman writes, “I am part of a new humanity who blesses this cursed world.” Farther along she continues, “But having the mind of Christ reminds you that there is nothing greater than Jesus. The Holy Spirit will not allow you to live satisfied on the rubbish heap; He will nurture a longing for the City of God to beat in your heart.”
Because eventually, living for our own glory wears us out, it exhausts us and leaves us empty. It’s insatiable.
As those created in God’s image, He created us with a need for knowledge. Gloria writes, “He ordained that we would live by the knowledge that is best for us, that is, the knowledge of Him.” In Ephesians, “Paul prayed that the Holy Spirit would give us wisdom and revelation so that we would better understand God’s plan and His plan to unite all things in Christ…We need the Spirit to open our eyes to God’s truth, warm our hearts to love that truth, and empower us to live in line with the truth that God alone is worthy to be praised.” One of the ways that Paul prayed our growth in the knowledge of God is knowing that we are called to hope as followers of Him to live empowered by the Spirit to resist the temptations of the world.
I highly recommend this book for women in all seasons of life looking to grow deeper in their relationship with the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Although a group setting is ideal, individual reading and study will not leave the reader empty handed. There are no study or discussion questions within the chapters but Crossway has provided a free downloadable study guide. There is so much depth that Gloria has put in her book. Simply put, “the first half of Ephesians describes a narrative picture of what Jesus has accomplished through His cross; the second half of the letter describes how we can walk in the light of that reality” (17). She includes deep theological truths in her exegesis without going over ones’ head or over-intellectualizing the text to the point of neglecting the actions required of believers to walk holy and blameless in this world. As we seek to better understand our “oneness in Christ” and how that should impact our own personal growth as it takes place in community, may we walk in light of that oneness as believers united in Him to the praise of His glory.