By Jessi Strong

“I remember the night my seventh grade Sunday school teacher taught from Matthew 7, where Jesus says, ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ I was convinced that was going to be me.”

J.D. Greear, author and pastor at The Summit Church of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, grew up in a family with an active church life. He remembers attending Awana and memorizing Scripture as a child. But in his early teens, he constantly worried about whether he was really saved. He wondered whether he was emotional enough about his sin. “By the time I was 15, I was scouring the Bible for answers. When I read John 3:36, everything clicked into place: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.’ You can be in only one of two positions in relationship with Jesus—you’re trusting him and surrendering to him or you’re rebelling against him. 

“I didn’t know anything about Christianity, except that I was a Christian,” says Ara Badalian, now pastor of a vibrant church in the heart of Baghdad. Badalian grew up in Iraq’s capital city in an Orthodox household—his grandfather was an ethnic Armenian who came to Baghdad to escape Turkish persecution following World War I. During Badalian’s childhood, Christianity functioned more as a family identifier than as a life-changing faith. “When I was 19, a Muslim friend of mine asked me why I was not Muslim. This question pushed me to know more about the Bible.”

Ephesians is different than most of Paul’s letters. Paul is usually straightforward and earnest, but Ephesians is ornate, even wordy. Paul’s letters are usually personal, naming names and addressing specific issues, but Ephesians is formal—strange, considering that Ephesus was arguably Paul’s missionary “home church.” Paul usually writes to address an issue, but the occasion of his letter to the Ephesians is not apparent, and the content addresses general, rather than specific, issues.