How we relate to others is an important part of our Christian walk. The 2nd half of Ephesians is like a Road Map of Christian living. Choose to build others up. Choose to take the high road. Choose to demonstrate the love of Christ as you have been loved.
This old world is hard. Christian communities don’t always get it right. This week a sad FB posting appeared on my wall. I won’t tell you the name, but it was posted for the public so I feel it’s fair game:
One response: “Organized religion sucks. it’s man’s way to get to God. I don’t go to church. I am the church…organized religion is one of the most hypocritical critical things on this planet and it’s one of the biggest lies of the enemy of the cross I’ve ever seen.” (I guessed on punctuation)
I could quibble with some of the details (e.g. what “church” means), but as far as the charge if being hypocritical, my response is simply: I AM GUILTY. This is why we need a road map of Christian living because being unloving, uncaring, partial, is part of our sinful nature. To live as a Christian is to overcome our innate nature. The message of Ephesians is, “You can do it.”
Eph. 4:17-19 is not meant to give us a list of everything that is wrong with the world…. it’s a list of everything wrong with us…. [Skim read, not quite sure what Paul means by “Gentiles…” but this is my guess] If Eph. 4:17-19 is used as a weapon to show others how bad they are, you are missing the point. These words describe what we are prone to be w/o Christ. As we journey forward with Christ, may our message to the world be for others to join us in our journey of overcoming the way of futile thinking… What does futile thinking look like in our world…. [any responses? Depression, no hope, inconstancies, a dead end, no purpose.] Faith in Christ is open to all who are ready to live with purpose.
“you did not come to know Christ that way” Eph. 4:20… Ephesians is written to people of faith; Paul is not saying “The Christians life is pure and holy and the non Christian is futile and dark,” ~ Newsflash: Christians can be depressed. Where did we ever get the idea that being a Christian is synonymous with some level of perfection. This is why we need a roadmap so that we can walk a path of becoming more like him. We may get off course. Detours are part of any journey. Yet for followers of Chist, there is a way forward. There is a way out. We need a road map… Many people think they can’t be different. They feel stuck. They feel this is the way I am, I cannot get away from feeling hopeless, I cannot get out of my patterns. Eph. thunders: YOU CAN CHANGE!
Eph. 4:22 speaks of putting off your old self. This is a process. Of course you are going to find sin in the church. Of course you are going to find hypocrisy. We are in the process of becoming what Christ wants us to be. “made new in the attitudes of your mind” (Eph. 4:23)… if a person defines Christianity with a list of criteria to determine who is in and who is out and declares they are in the Christian box, then that is an arrogant person. Being a Christian is more like being on a journey of becoming, of trusting God to carry us through our shortcomings.
Eph. 4:24 says we are to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. That is the end of the journey, I am far from attaining such lofty living, but that’s where I’m headed. I can see it on the map.
If I’m having a hard day, overwhelmed by the struggles of a hurting community, feeling sorry for myself, I imagine the end of the day, being with Sally, watching a dopey tv show where I don’t have to think … that little goal keeps me going that day. How much more the Christian journey of life… it’s easy to get depressed by the news of the day, discouraged, critical, hopeless… but what a joy to focus on where we are going: “we are created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” That’s probably the last thing you are thinking about when stranded on the side of the freeway in a broken down car…. That’s why we need a roadmap, because the final destination keeps us going… I was fascinated by a FB friend the past few weeks that drove from Sumas to Texas for a job. Along the way his truck died. For days they could not find the problem… time was growing short as he needed to get to the new job… On day two of being stranded, still no answers, he posted this:
God is good. This was the verse He put in my devotional for today: Brothers, I do not consider that I have already attained this. Instead, I do one thing: forgetting those things that are behind, and extending myself toward those things that are ahead, I pursue the destination, the prize of the heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
The Christian life is a journey of becoming. We need a roadmap. We need to know where we are going even though we have not yet gotten to the destination.
Eph. 4:25-28 is wisdom in how to survive the journey. When I used to climb Mt. Baker when I was young, I was a very unskilled climber. I only took the easiest routes, nothing technical. The only thing I knew about Mtn. Climbing was what to do in case something went wrong. That’s what Ephesians is doing here… if and when you fall into a crevasse this is what you do….
- When you are dealing with a neighbor and tempted to lie, don’t do it. Truth is always the right way to go…
- “in your anger” admits there will be times you will get angry. How often do we excuse our anger with laziness telling others that that is just my nature, I can’t help it….
- We settle way too much with our bad behavior. Settling with our sin making all sorts of excuses is a killer for Christian growth. Don’t settle in your anger, but do something about it: “do not let the sun go down while angry.”
- According to the next verse, Eph. 4:27. Ignoring destructive patterns is giving in to Satan. Don’t think the greatest threat of Satan is active roadblocks… it is excusing ourselves allowing ourselves to not change. The goal is to be like God… to settle and quit giving our sinful ways to the Lord is to be sidetracked.
Eph. 4:28 is fascinating. it seems to random: READ. I often think of a testimony of my counseling professor in mid 80’s, Dr. Dennis Guernsey ~ a busy man with many responsibilities, a counselor, a professor, a speaker flying all over the world… Dr. Guernsey said he was pondering this verse trying to understand because it didn’t seem to fit. It didn’t seem to apply to him. “Let him who has been stealing steal no longer…” then it hit him like a ton of bricks. He was not a petty thief, he didn’t cheat on his taxes, but he suddenly realized he was stealing time from his wife and family… let him who has been stealing, steal no longer” his children were still at home ~ he suddenly realized in his pride and arrogance, he was putting too much responsibility on his wife and neglecting his children, all in the name of serving the Lord with “his” important work .
What responsibilities in life are you neglecting… where are you falling short… don’t steal anymore placing undo burdens on those you love… maybe the Lord is calling you to a ministry in the church or community, are you resisting… “steal no more.” Fulfilling responsibilities the Lord has given you is part of the road map of Christian living. a few weeks ago Chad talked about Spiritual gifts… are you using your gifts?.
Eph. 4:29-32 is another set of wisdom for the journey of Christian living. It’s not complicated. Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. Duh. That’s obvious. Yet we fall into the trap of being critical and negative. We need the reminder. Back and forth the wisdom goes, don’t be bitter, rage, slander… but instead be positive and uplifting. The person that speaks the truth of God in anger and bitterness is misguided. Our attitude is important to God. On Friday I learned a new phrase: “Turn your face to the SON, and the shadows fall behind you”
I love Eph. 4:30 smack in the middle of this practical paragraph. READ. I don’t know the full depth of what this verse means, but it is big. At the least it means God believes you can become an amazing person in Him: he seals you, sets you apart for his glory. He knows you can make it to the final destination and that along the way you can grow in Him, your attitude can become more and more like Christ, you can become a different person, you can adopt new attitudes.
I love the final word because it makes clear Ephesians is not exepecting anybody to absolutely live to perfection the high character outlined in this scripture. The final word is about forgiveness. READ Eph. 4:32. There is only one reason we need to hear about forgiveness: because we will fail in our journey, we will get a flat tire along the way, we will lose our heads and unwholesome talk will explode our of our mouths, we will be lazy and steal time and energy forcing others to step up in our place… the final word is forgivness. Forgive others because hypocrisy will be part of any Christian community, any family, any relationship. We will fail.
I am a hypocrite. There is no doubt I am inconsistent in my Christian journey. But thank you Lord for the gift of forgiveness, the grease that allows us to continue the journey towards a life of living for Christ. Don’t undersell what the Lord Jesus Christ can do in you and with you…. Allow his Spirit within to transform you into the new creation promised by God. If the Lord can create the heavens and earth out of nothing, then surely he can change you into a new person, change the way your relate to people, change you into a postitive hopeful uplifting, responsible person that exemplifies the high calling of Christ upon you.
The Lord has provided a roadmap of Christian living. Let’s walk that path together. Let’s strive to live for Him. Thank you Lord for a way forward. Thank you for the high calling you have given us. Jesus Christ believes you can become more and more like him. He’s given us tools when we fall short to keep going. He’s given us wisdom. He’ll keep us focused on him as the destination. He’s given us the ability to forgive one another as a way to keep the community together. Keep your eye on Him, and be amazed by the journey as you follow the roadmap of Christian living. Amen.