Making Work a Blessing

working for God

His name was Henry James and on this particular Sunday morning, his wife was having a hard time getting him out of bed. She called, she screamed, she even cooked bacon, thinking that the smell would coax him out of bed. Nothing worked. And so, as a last resort, she went into the room and gave him “the look,” saying “Get out of bed… It’s Sunday morning and we’re going to church!” “No!” he replied. I’m not going. The people don’t like me, the service is boring, and frankly, some of the people there are mean to me!” And then he challenged her, “Give me three reasons why I should go to church today!” She replied, “Fine! First, God says that we are to be faithful in our worship. Second, the people do like you. They’re nice! And third, you’re the pastor, you have to be there.”

God has blessed me in that I have never had a ministry assignment that I didn’t like. I cannot recall ever waking up and not wanting to go to work! Now let me be honest, there are have been difficult days and there have been difficult people. I have had to put in long hours and sometimes I received very little compensation. But I loved the people and most of all, I loved serving the Lord. That might not be your story… but it can be. Work is difficult because of the fall of man, because of Adam and Eve’s sin. It’s difficult because we work with sinful people. It’s part of God’s punishment upon us for our sin. What I want to tell you today is that work can be a blessing. Work can be fulfilling – even if you’re cleaning toilets or sweeping floors. It can be a blessing even if the work conditions are terrible and even if your boss is a jerk!

We’re in the Book of Ephesians once again and we are in a section which began in chapter five where Paul is explaining to us the importance of submission. He began in 5:21 where he wrote that we were to be “subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  He continued in verse 22 when he commanded wives “to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.” Two weeks ago, we saw that in 6:1 he commanded children to “obey your parents in the Lord.” Today we are in 6:5 where he writes, “Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ.”

Two things stand out to me in this section. First, God is calling us to a submissive role in the church, in our families, and in the workplace. He is calling us to be servants. Second, we are to submit to others as if we were submitting to the Lord. A Christian who is being filled with the Spirit is one who submits to others out of reverence for Christ. He submits to others just as He would to Christ Jesus Himself. It is one of the ways in which we worship God.

When I think of someone who is submissive, I think of Jesus. He submitted Himself to His Father’s will. He was obedient to His commands and to His Word. But He was more than just obedient, he was fully surrendered for the glory of God and the good of others. Paul declared in Philippians 2:6-7, “Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.” Work becomes a blessing when we submit ourselves to the Father’s will and when we submit to others as if we were submitting to Christ Himself.

The world encourages everyone to stand up for his or her rights. God’s way is, “submit to one another in the fear of Christ.” He declares, “Make yourself nothing and become a servant.” In other words, a Christian has realized that this life is not about being served, this life is about serving. This life is not about other people doing things for you, this life is about doing things for others. This life is not about the blessings that we can get from somebody else, but the blessing that we can be to someone else. This life is about living for God’s glory and for the good of others.

Having addressed our submission to one another in the church, in our marriages, and in our families, Paul now turns to the workplace in Ephesians 6:5-9. When Adam and Eve sinned, God declared that from that day forward work would be difficult (Gen. 3:17-19). Along with the punishment of their sin, work would be difficult because of the people we work with – many of them are sinful, flawed human beings. Many of the companies we work for are driven by greed and are willing to use people to line their pockets. You can see why many people are miserable at work. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Work, regardless of the task or the conditions, can be a blessing. Remember, God declares in Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for the good of those who love God…” So how do we make work a place of blessing? How do we discover joy in our labor?

First, you have to determine who’s the boss. If you want work to be a blessing you have to determine who will be the boss over your life. Is it you? Is it your employer? Or, is it God? You cannot serve two masters. Joshua declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Paul wrote in verse 9, “And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” The Master of the slave and the slave owner is in heaven. Someone or something will direct your life. You decide. Make it God.

Second, submit yourself to the boss completely. Jesus demanded that Nicodemus start over, that He submit fully to Him as Lord over his life (JN 3). To the rich young ruler, Jesus said, “Sell all that you have, give everything to the poor, and then, follow Me!” Paul wrote in verse 6, “as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.” If you want work to be a blessing, you must determine each day that your boss is a Jewish carpenter and that you will obey everything He commands you to do. That’s why Paul commands Christians to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  He is saying that we are to surrender to the Spirit’s leading.

Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks tells of a time when his flight was delayed. His fellow passengers were getting more and more irritated, and some of them began to take out their frustrations on the flight attendants. Hendricks noticed how gracious and poised one of the flight attendants was, and when they finally took off and she had a minute, he called her over and complimented her. She replied to his compliment: “I don’t work for the airline; I work for Jesus Christ. And this morning before I left for work, my husband and I prayed that I would be able to serve Christ in my job.” If you want work to be a blessing, do the same!

Third, live your life in such a way that the boss looks good! Have you ever been in a store or a restaurant and needed help? We all have. There is only one thing worse than not being able to find help, it is finding someone who really doesn’t want to help you! I cannot tell you how many times I have felt like I was bothering an employee in a store or in a restaurant. There is a lady at our local grocery store who works in the deli department. She always has a smile, acts like she is excited to serve me, and basically has a great attitude. (She should work at Chick-Fil-A!) Paul wrote in verse 7, “Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men.” This lady represents her company well, they look good because of her attitude.

Fourth, serve the boss with integrity. How we perform our duties at work matters. Paul said in verse 6, “Don’t work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.”  Our employers pay us for a full day’s work and we should deliver what they paid for. Paul teaches us that we cannot go to work and do as little as possible. It makes our boss look bad! Be a person of integrity. Give them your full attention the entire day. We are to stay off our phones at work and take breaks only when they’re allowed.

Finally, serve the boss by storing up treasures in heaven. Have you ever felt like your employer was taking advantage of you? Maybe you have felt like you weren’t getting paid enough? Maybe you have felt like no one noticed the sacrifices you were making? I am sure that the slaves Paul is addressing felt that way and I am sure that many tried to run away because of it. Feeling unappreciated or undervalued can cause us to give less than we should. Paul states in verse 8 that we should know that “whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.” God cares so much about the work we give our employers that He promises to reward us in heaven for the work we do. When you’re at work, you’re serving Jesus and He not only notices what you do, He promises to reward you.

Conclusion

We all desire to do tasks that are meaningful and fulfilling. God often grants us just that. But not always. At the core of the Christian work ethic is not what we do, but whom we serve. When we see our work, whatever it is, as serving the Lord and not men, our work takes on a holy dignity and an eternal significance. When we realize that any work we do, no matter how ordinary or lowly, is for the glory of God and for the good of others – it takes on new meaning. It’s no longer work. It’s ministry. It’s a calling from God. Your reward is in heaven, your paycheck is an added bonus!

Emma Daniel Gray died on June 8, 2009, at the age of 95. On the office records, her title reads “charwoman.” In simplest of terms, she was a cleaning lady. As a matter of fact, she cleaned houses. Your job is probably more important than that, right? Nonetheless, there was a big story about her in the Washington Post when she died. The house she cleaned was the White House. Sounds like a great job, cleaning the president’s office. But for 24 years? For 24 years she was the charwoman for six different U.S. presidents. Each day she dusted the office of the President of the United States.

What makes the story of Emma Gray interesting to me is that she was a devout Christian. She would stand and pray over the president’s chair every time she dusted it. With her dusting cloth in one hand and her other hand on the chair of the president of the United States, she would pray for blessings and wisdom and safety. That is what turned her work to good. That’s what made it a blessing. She believed that she was chosen by God to be an intercessor for the most powerful man in the world. That is what earned her heavenly reward. Friends, of all the places you’ve got to go and all the jobs you’ve got to do—some of which are nasty—do it unto the Lord. That is what makes our jobs different. That’s what makes them a blessing.

Parenting God’s Way

ParentingGodsWay

When our oldest son, Travis, was born in 1982, the hospital provided Lori and me with a nice steak dinner before we left the hospital. At first, I thought that it was a nice gesture, but I came to understand that it was more like the last meal for a condemned couple! With his arrival, everything in our lives changed – and I’m not talking about positive changes! This child was a sinner – self-centered to his very core. He screamed whenever he didn’t get his way which meant he screamed all the time!

And yet the Bible says in Psalm 127:3-5 that children are a blessing from the Lord! When does that happen? Lori and I were clueless as parents. He didn’t come with an instruction manual and we were so unprepared. You have to have a license to drive a car. You have to go through training to get a hunting license. You have to be certified in CPR to save someone. In some cities, even babysitters have to pass a test. Shouldn’t people who want to have a baby go through some sort of training and certification process?

The Family

From the beginning of time, God’s plan has been that children would be raised within the context of a family. If you study scripture you will see that God’s plan centered upon a man and a woman raising their children with the help of their extended family and the body of Christ. But listen, the primary role for raising children falls upon the child’s mother and father (Gen. 1:28).

Our job as parents is to prepare our children to know, love, and serve God. We’re to help them understand the gospel and equip them to live gospel-centered lives. To do these we must teach our children how to immerse themselves in the Word of God and how to know God. What they need is a deep abiding knowledge of God – a love for Him and His ways. Parents, if the majority of our time is spent teaching our kids how to hit a ball with a stick or how to catch a fish, we are failing them. If the majority of our time is spent teaching them how to look good, kick a soccer ball, or prepare a meal, we are failing our children. Our children need a good education and a stable job, but their greatest need is to be in a relationship with their Creator and to walk like Jesus.

Strong families declare, “The Lord is our God. We acknowledge His presence, His holiness, His power, and His right to rule over us. We seek His will, we hunger to walk in His ways and we will, in His power and with His guidance, teach and train our children to do the same.”

Ephesians 6:1-4

As Paul continues in his letter, he moves from the husband and wife to children in verse 1 of chapter 6. He states, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord because this is right.” Paul addresses this command to children. The word used here in the Greek doesn’t refer to little children, but children in general. Children, teenagers, even young adults – are to obey their parents as long as they live under their roof and as long as the command doesn’t violate the law of God.

Paul is very specific, they are to obey their parents. Obedience in its simplest form is learning to live by the rules. It requires that you learn to live under the authority of another. Because of our sin nature obedience doesn’t come naturally. It must be learned, and for the majority of children, it is learned by suffering the consequences of disobedience. Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on The Family, states that about 25% of all children are compliant. They listen, and with minimal instruction, they obey. He calls the other 75% strong-willed. The good news is that 85% of the strong-willed children will embrace their parent’s values if the parents are consistent in fulfilling their assignment.

God is saying to the strong-willed child as well as the compliant child, “Obey your parents in the Lord.” Obedience is an act of worship, it reflects our respect for God. He is saying that because you are a Christian, you should obey and honor your parents. Finally, Paul says that children are to obey their parents because “it is right.” Why should we obey? Because it is right, because obedience pleases God and because He commands it. Again, these things must be taught. Children must be trained to obey those in authority by their parents.

Continuing in verses 2 and 3, God’s Word declares, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land.” In quoting the fifth commandment, God is commanding the child to not only obey his parents but to honor them – to hold them to the highest level of respect. Honoring your father and mother is being respectful in word and action and having an inward attitude of esteem for their position. It means to show them respect and love, to care for them as long as they need us, and to seek to honor them in the way we live. Honor is giving respect not only for merit but also for rank. Children of all ages should honor their parents, regardless of whether or not their parents “deserve” honor.

Although we may no longer be directly under their authority, we cannot outgrow God’s command to honor our parents. Even Jesus submitted Himself to both His earthly parents (Luke 2:51) and His heavenly Father (Matthew 26:39). Following Christ’s example, we should treat our parents the way we would reverentially approach our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9; Malachi 1:6).

God has placed parents as the authority in the life of a child. In many ways, we represent God to our children. This means that what the Lord is to us, we are to our children. A child who responds to that relationship will find it far easier to respond to the claims of Christ. What I am saying is that training our children to obey and honor us is the best way to train our children to obey and honor God.

Next, in verse 4 God declares to the parents, “Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” God is declaring that the father, as the spiritual leader in the home, has certain responsibilities toward his children.

First, he must not provoke or anger them. This isn’t talking about getting your child mad because he didn’t get his way. Bette Davis said, “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent.” God is saying that we shouldn’t use our authority and strength to abuse our children physically or verbally. We provoke our children by showing favoritism towards a particular child, by being overprotective, by setting unrealistic goals, by not letting your child grow up at a normal pace, and by being inconsistent. One of the worst ways that we provoke our children is by constantly criticizing our kids. The opposite of provoke is to encourage.

Second, he must nurture them. The word from which we get bring them up is a word that speaks of providing nourishment. It’s not enough for the father to provide food, shelter, and clothing. A father must nourish his family by loving them as Christ loves the church. He is to help them grow intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially. God looks to the father to nurture his children.

Third, he must discipline his children. The word nurture carries with it the idea of learning through discipline. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God disciplines the one he loves, and punishes, every son whom He receives. Proverbs 13:24 declares, “The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Some modern psychologists oppose the idea of discipline. Our schools have bought into that idea as well. Discipline is a basic principle of life and an evidence of love. Effective parents embrace discipline.

We must be sure, however, that we discipline in the right manner. First, we must discipline in love and never in anger. I learned as a parent that it was best to send my kids to their rooms for a period of time before I disciplined them unless it was something that merited an immediate response like disrespecting my wife. Second, our discipline must be fair and consistent. Not only must the time fit the crime, we must make sure that we are consistent. They should receive the same punishment for the same crime day in and day out. Verbal threats one day and a smack the next day doesn’t help the child.

Finally, the father must train and teach the child. This is the meaning of the word admonition or instruction. Wise parents not only use actions to raise the child, but they also use words. We are obligated to instruct and encourage our children with the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:13-17). Home is where the children ought to learn about the Lord. But we are to train them to walk like Jesu as well. They are trained best by our examples and by being given the opportunity to practice what they are being taught.

Good Parenting Requires Godly Parents

Pursue intimacy with God. Live in community with like-minded believers – learn from them. Invest in others with your children. Surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3)

Mutual Submission in Marriage

Marriage Gods Way

God has a better way of living, a better quality of life, that He would like to give you. But you have to do something. You have to allow yourself to be filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. To get there you will have to surrender fully to the Lordship of Christ, you will have to seek intimacy with God and choose to live in community with fellow believers. You will have to invest yourself in what matters to God – you must become a disciple-maker. Finally, if you want to experience God’s best you must decide to walk in obedience to the will of God. If you do these things, you will experience the abundant life promised by Jesus.

In our text today, Ephesians 5:22-33, God is going to show us how to have a God-honoring and fulfilling marriage by helping us understand the unique roles of the husband and the wife. Over the past 30 years of ministry, I have had the joy of performing a large number of weddings. My experience has been that it is rare to find a young couple who has a clear vision of what it means to be a “Christian” husband and a “Christian” wife. Few understand the unique role each is to fulfill in the marriage. Sadly, I sense that many of them do not know what it means to be “Christian” as well. The confusion of not understanding their unique role in the marriage and not understanding what it means to be “Christian” in the context of marriage has huge implications for their marriage and their family.

Before we dig into our text today, I need to provide three brief disclaimers. First, this letter is written to Christians. If you want to have a fulfilling and God-honoring marriage, it must be between a man born male and a woman born female who both are passionate about following Christ. If you’re dating someone who is not a committed follower of Christ – dump him or her. If they ever come to faith in Christ, you can start dating again (as long as they are pursuing Christlikeness). Second, there are no moral or spiritual distinctions between men and women. Galatians 3:28 clearly states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Every believer in Jesus Christ has exactly the same salvation, the same standing before God, the same worth, the same divine nature and access to the same promises. My third disclaimer is this: In matters of roles and functions God has made distinctions. In our text today, we will see that the husband and the wife have different roles and when we live to fulfill our God-given roles, life gets good!

Wives

We begin in verse 22 with God’s admonition to the wives, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” On occasion, you will find certain sections of Scripture that appear to contain deadly landmines and if you are not careful, you could get blown up – or worse! This is one of those sections and this is one of those verses! The oldest battle of all time is the battle of the sexes. While the world cries out to our ladies, “Stand up for your rights” – God is calling them to submit to their husbands! Our first assignment, therefore, must be to define what God means when He commands a wife to submit to her husband.

In defining the role of the wife, Paul simply builds upon the command in verse 21 where he challenged every follower of Jesus to submit themselves to one another. Submission is not a reflection of inferiority or lesser worth. God is not commanding the wife to raise a white flag and surrender to her husband. Nor is God calling the wife to blind obedience or is He calling her to slavery. In the life of Christ, we see that the basic meaning of submission is to place yourself under the authority or will of another. Jesus constantly submitted Himself to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42; John 5:30), without giving up an iota of His worth. Another word for submission is “follow.”

The basic meaning of the Greek word for submission carries with it the idea of completion or to make another whole. Donald Barnhouse states that both the Greek and the Latin words used here carry the idea of the wife being “a helper fit for her husband – a servant who completes her husband.” As a wife voluntarily places herself under the direction of her husband, she is free to live out her responsibility of completing him. She is helping him fulfill his responsibilities, and therefore, she is helping him become the servant leader God intends him to be.

The key phrase here is “as to the Lord.” The phrase doesn’t mean that the wife is to worship her husband as though he were the Lord. It means she is to yield to her husband because it is pleasing to the Lord. It means her primary relationship is not to her husband, but to her Lord. And what He asks of her is that she yield herself to the will and aims of her husband as he follows Christ.

What’s the role of the wife in the marriage? Her role is to complete her husband. She does that by allowing him to lead; by submitting to him. She does that by showing him respect (Vs 33). Respecting her husband is the perfect complement to submitting to him – you cannot have one without the other. Practically speaking, to respect her husband means to value his opinion, to admire his strength, intellect, wisdom or character, and to appreciate his commitment to and involvement with you.

Husbands

Let me define the role of the man in the simplest of terms. As the head of the household, the man is to lead his wife, to love his wife, and to serve his wife – all with Christ as his example.

The husbands’ first responsibility to his family is to lead. In verse 23, Paul states that the husband is “the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” The man is to be the spiritual leader in the family just as Christ is to be the spiritual leader of the church. A spiritual leader is one who commands authority or influence by the way they live – not by decree. He shows the way by walking like Jesus. He calls his family to follow him as he follows Christ. If a husband leads properly, he doesn’t have to ask or demand that his wife submit or respect him. She will willingly follow his leadership because she sees Christ in him.

The husbands’ second responsibility to his family is to love them unconditionally. Verse 25 commands the husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Just as Christ loves us unconditionally, men are to love their wives in the same manner. We saw in chapter four of Ephesians that the love of Christ was a giving love. He willingly gave His life for you and me. We saw that His love was an unconditional love – He gave Himself for us without expectations. We saw that the love of Christ was a sacrificial love – He gave His life for you and me upon the cross. Finally, we saw that the love of Christ was a pleasing love – a sweet aroma unto the Lord. That’s the love husbands are to have for their wives.

A man’s final responsibility to his family is to serve them. According to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 20, being the head of your wife doesn’t mean being her master, but rather, her servant. Jesus, the Son of God, did not come to be served – but to serve. He demonstrated His servant’s heart when He washed His disciple’s feet. He demonstrated service when he left the splendor of heaven and took on human flesh. Jesus showed us what a servant does as He died upon the cross. Husbands are to sacrifice for their wives. To do so, she must become their top priority, only second to God Himself.

What is the role of the husband? He is to lead his wife, to love his wife, and to serve his wife.

Mutual Submission

Many would declare that Ephesians 5:22-33 is the classic Biblical text on marriage. It’s often read at weddings and referenced in books on marriage. But in almost 40 years of marriage, it has not been the most significant biblical passage for myself. If I had to pick one, it would come to a few verses earlier, before the focus turns explicitly to marriage. It’s found in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” You see, I believe that there is a shared role in marriage that gets ignored – we’re to be Christian towards each other – kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.

Looking back over the years, my wife hasn’t needed to be reminded of her role of completing me. Nor, have I needed to be reminded to lead, love, and serve her. What we’ve needed most is to learn to be Christian towards one another — with all that entails — as we live with each other inside the covenant of marriage.

Even though Ephesians 4:32 isn’t explicitly about marriage, it is the single most important verse for a married couple because it summons them to be Christian – to treat one another as Christ has treated them.  He is the third entity in a healthy marriage. He sets the pace; He’s the example couples need to follow. He shows them how to live. He guides and directs them as they mutually submit to the leading of the Spirit. Husbands are to lead, love, and serve their wives. Wives are to complete their husbands.  Husbands and wives are to mutually submit to one another – to be Christian towards one another.

The Spirit-Filled Life

SpiritFilledLife

Two verses have shaped my life from the beginning of my walk with Christ. First, John 10:10 where Jesus declares that He had come that we might have life – and have it abundantly! The second is Jeremiah 29:11 where God declares that He has a plan for our lives – plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. Scripture is clear – God has a plan for our lives. He has so much more for us than we are experiencing. I believe that the majority of us know this, but few are experiencing the abundant life promised by Jesus. That’s why Paul, in the Book of Ephesians, spends so much time telling us what not to do and what to do instead. The life promised by Jesus comes down to good choices and hard work. It comes down to our submitting to the will of God in every aspect of life.

In Ephesians 5:15 Paul cautions followers of Jesus, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So, don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” All of this comes directly from our Father in heaven who loves us. He knows and wants, what’s best for us. In verse 18, Paul provides us with our last two imperatives – Don’t get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. The issue here is one of control. Paul is saying, “Don’t be controlled by wine, but by the Spirit of God.” Last week we looked at what the Bible says about the consumption of alcohol. Remember we discovered that the Bible says three things about alcohol: first, drunkenness is a sin. Second, wine is a gift from God and at times, Scripture encourages people to drink something with a much lesser alcohol content than what is consumed today. And finally, we saw that Scripture declares that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should!

Today, we are going to look at the positive command presented to us in verse 18, “But be filled with the Spirit.” My desire is to briefly unpack what it means to be filled with the Spirit, identify the four marks of a Spirit-filled life as presented by Paul in verses 19-21, and then help us understand how we get there.

Be Filled with Spirit – Ephesians 5:18-21

God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, moves into the life of every true believer when they are born again, making our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit. And yet, in this text, Paul is commanding us to be filled with the Spirit. How can we be filled with the Spirit if we already have Him inside of us? You cannot! The word in the original language is not speaking of something like a cup being filled, but rather of something being driven or controlled by the Spirit. The question isn’t “Do you have the Holy Spirit, but rather, does He have you?”

Picture in your mind a large sailboat. It’s out on the ocean and there is a strong breeze. As you picture the sailboat do you notice the wind in the sails? They are billowing, filled by the wind. As a result, the sailboat is being moved across the water – it’s headed somewhere, being driven (controlled) by the wind. The captain of the sailboat is responsible for hoisting the sail and positioning the ship so that it can be driven by the wind. If he fails in either task, the ship will not be moved by the wind.

The Spirit-filled life is just like that sailboat. It is a life that is being driven by the Spirit of God – it’s moving us towards Christlikeness but we must position ourselves for this to occur. The majority of the people in America claim to be Christians. And yet, few are experiencing the Spirit-filled life. With that in mind, we need to ask, “How do you know you are living the Spirit-filled life and how do we get there?” Glad you asked!

In verses 19 to 21, Paul identifies four marks of a Spirit-filled life. They’re really not things that we need to work on or produce in our lives. We can’t. They are the fruit, or the evidence, that the Spirit of God is moving us towards spiritual maturity. Jesus said in Matthew chapter seven that you can tell the genuineness of a person’s life by their fruit. Paul is saying, “here’s the fruit to look for.” As a matter of fact, you could use these four marks to determine if a church is a Spirit-filled church as well.

The Four Marks of a Spirit-Filled Life

We read in verse 19 that speaking to one another “in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs” is the first mark of a Christian who is being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a strange phrase. You would expect it to say, singing to one another, not speaking to one another. After all, don’t you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?

Psalms, which for the most part are found in the Biblical book of the same name, speak of the nature and work of God, especially in the lives of His people. They exalt or glorify God. A follower of Christ who is being filled with the Spirit is one who speaks of the greatness of God. Technically, a hymn is a song of praise. The hymns of the early church praised Christ for who He was and what He has done for them. Spiritual songs speak of our experiences with Christ, our testimonies. They speak of who we are in Christ, our struggles, our victories and our forgiveness. They deal with the experiential side of the Christian life.

I believe that Paul is saying that a believer who is being filled with the Spirit is one who uses his words to encourage others by exalting the Father, praising Jesus, and by giving testimony of God’s work in their life. And, they do this within the context of a small group.

Next, Paul states in the second half of verse 19 that the second mark of a Christian who is being filled with the Spirit is that they sing and make music with their heart unto the Lord. Notice he didn’t say that they do so with their mouths or their vocal cords. Their singing originates within their hearts – it causes them to sing! Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

I know that some of you don’t like to sing, and I know that some of you aren’t as good as others are at singing. But the Apostle Paul is saying that the Christian who is being filled by the Spirit can’t help but sing praises unto the Father! Why? Because they have been transformed. Their stony heart has been made new! There’s nothing that brings more delight to a believer than to gather with God’s people and give Him praise. Paul is saying that a heart transformed by the Gospel wants to sing! It might not be loud, and it may not be on key – but it is genuine and directed towards God.

Third, Paul states that a Christian who is being filled by the Spirit gives thanks to God in, and for, all things (vs. 20). A Spirit-filled person is a person who is characterized by gratitude–a Father-focused, Christ-enabled, gospel-centered gratitude. A Spirit-filled individual is characterized by thanksgiving and contentment because they understand grace and have found God to be faithful in all things. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In everything? Yes, in everything – both the good and the bad.

I believe that there are three levels of thanksgiving. The lowest or simplest form of thanksgiving is the thanking of God for the blessings of life. It is being thankful when we are blessed. The next level of thanksgiving is the giving of thanks for the hope of blessing and victories to come promised in Scripture. In other words, we give thanks for what we might receive in Christ in the future. A mature follower of Jesus, however, has learned to give thanks in the midst of pain and suffering as well, which is our third level of thanksgiving. If we can only thank God when things are going well, our thankfulness is on the bottom rung. If we thank Him for what is to come, we show a greater level of maturity. But if we can thank God in the midst of pain, trials, or persecution it shows a level of spiritual maturity few attain but that God desires for all.

Finally, verse 21 declares that a Christian who is being filled with the Spirit is one who submits to others out of reverence for Christ. To submit or to be submissive is to be obedient to some requirement or person in authority. Submission, as it is used here, is not a one-way street; it goes both ways. God is not asking one group of people to rule another. Spirit-filled believers are mutually submitted to one another. The reason we submit to one another is “out of reverence for Christ.” Jesus is our example of submission, and we are to follow Him. Paul declared in Philippians 2:6-7, “Though He was God, He did not demand and cling to His rights as God. He made Himself nothing; He took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.”

Jesus gave up His rights. For our sake, He took on the lowest possible position, that of a slave. He was exalted because of it. As a follower of Christ, we need to follow His example and submit to one another instead of clinging to our rights.

How do we get there?

Remember in the beginning I said that being filled with the Spirit is something that is done to us? The filling of the Spirit comes as we put our lives in a place where God can move in our lives. It starts as we surrender to the Lordship of Christ, embrace the gospel, and receive the forgiveness of God found only in Jesus Christ. When we die to self, the Lord fills us with His Spirit. The principle stated by John the Baptist applies to the Spirit as well as to Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Next, we must make intimacy with God and His Word the supreme treasure of our lives. As we abide in Christ the Spirit will gain more and more access to our lives. We come to recognize His voice with greater clarity. Next, we must choose to share life with a small group of Christ followers. It is through the encouragement, prayers, and rebuking of people who love us in Christ Jesus that we find a deeper filling of the Spirit.

Not only must we surrender to the Lordship of Christ, seek intimacy with God and share life with like-minded people – we must invest our lives in God’s mission of disciple-making. The proclamation of the gospel will force us to deny self. It will cause us to reprioritize our lives. We must decrease so that Christ can increase. Finally, as the Spirit moves in our lives, as He fills us, we must obey His leading. It comes down to our choices. Will we choose today to be filled with the Spirit?

 

Should a Christian Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol

I am preaching through the Book of Ephesians and came to chapter five, verse 18, where Paul declares, “And do not get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions but be filled with the Spirit.” Preaching on the topic isn’t a problem for me but did I mention that it fell on Mother’s Day? Yep! Not your normal Mother’s Day message to say the least. So, let’s ask, “Can Christians drink?”

Not according to the little Baptist Church Brittany grew up in. They were people with a genuine love for the Lord. They also had a genuine love for the “rules” … and making sure that everyone followed them. Their church moto? “We don’t smoke, drink, cuss, or chew… nor do we hang around with people who do!” In their church, they were taught that drinking was a sin. Holding hands was seriously frowned upon as well. Let’s not mention dancing, playing cards or going to movies! Brittany’s parents weren’t quite so strict, but they didn’t drink either–no one she knew did–so it just wasn’t something she grew up around. In fact, she spent her 21st birthday at Steak n Shake with a table full of good friends, and, couldn’t have asked for a better birthday.

Ask her husband about his Catholic family’s relationship with alcohol, though, and you’ll get a completely different story. Should Christians drink alcohol, according to them? Sure, why not? They’re old enough. They’re responsible. For his family, alcohol is a normal part of life. It’s not even a thing. It’s just normal. They serve wine at Christmas dinner. They drink margaritas when they go out with friends. And they bring a case of beer to church league softball to share with the team. His parents were just as committed to their faith as Brittany’s parents were committed to theirs. They just have different traditions and values.

So, who’s right? Can Christians drink alcohol or should they abstain from alcohol completely? Is it sinful, completely fine, or somewhere in the middle? It’s a question Christians have vehemently debated for years. To answer the question, we must open our Bibles and ask, “What does the Bible say about consuming alcohol?” That’s what really matters!

First, drunkenness is condemned in the Scriptures. Ephesians 5:18 declares, “And do not get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit.” The language of 1 Corinthians 6:10 is even stronger, warning that drunkards “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Jesus warned against drunkenness in Luke 21:34. Both the Old and New Testaments condemn drunkenness. Every picture of drunkenness in the Bible is a picture of sin and disaster.

Second, the drinking of wine is not totally forbidden in Scripture and is, in fact, sometimes encouraged. Psalm 104:5 declares that wine is a gift from the Lord. Drink offerings of wine often accompanied many of the Old Testament sacrifices (1 Sam. 1:24). Proverbs 31:6 states that we are to give strong drink to those who are perishing. Paul advised Timothy to not just drink water, but to have a little wine for his stomach (1 Tim. 5:23). I bet you haven’t heard a sermon on the blessings of alcohol! And then there is the practice of Jesus, who not only began his ministry by miraculously transforming water into wine (John 2:1-11) but also drank it himself (Luke 7:33-35).

A close look at the relevant passages shows that Scripture condemns not the use but the abuse of alcohol. Even though some Christians advocate for the total abstinence from alcohol as a moral mandate for all believers, the Bible never requires all believers to abstain from alcohol. It condemns drunkenness and being enslaved to wine, but it never says that tee-totaling is the better way to obey God.

Which brings me to another question, “Is the alcohol consumed in Scripture the same as what is sold today?” Nope. In the New Testament, there are three types of wine mentioned. First, there is a kind of wine that has a strong alcoholic content and would lead to rapid intoxication. In Scripture, it is referred to as “strong drink.” The second kind of wine was called “new wine” and was especially sweet. Because freshly squeezed juice would ferment quickly it was mixed with water before being consumed. The third type of wine was a concentrate that was produced as the new wine was boiled and turned into a paste. It could be stored for an extended period of time and mixed with water prior to consumption. The boiling removed the alcohol and therefore was often referred to as grape juice. It is the most common form of wine mentioned in scripture.

The first wine mentioned, the strong drink, had an alcohol content of around 10 percent and was not consumed by reasonable people in the first century. People who did were considered barbaric! The two remaining types were always watered down, making their alcohol content less than 3 percent – well below the 3.2 percent that today is generally considered necessary to classify a beverage as alcoholic. The wine of the first century was not the same as that which is consumed today. Even the most civilized pagans of Bible times would have considered the drinking of modern wines to be irresponsible.

So, can Christians drink? Yes and no. Should Christians drink? Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should. One of my favorite scripture passages is 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is profitable. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. No one is to seek his own good, but the good of the other person.” For followers of Jesus, we must ask, “How will my choices in life impact others?”

Later, in verses 31-33 Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.” As a follower of Jesus, my purpose in life is to live for the Father’s glory – even in the mundane things like eating and drinking. My mission is to make disciples. The question must be asked, “Does my stance on alcohol bring glory to God and does it aid me in the fulfilling of my life mission of making disciples?” Life isn’t about me!

Why I Choose Not to Drink

Let me provide you with the four convictions that have shaped my stance on the consumption of alcohol.

First, I choose not to drink because alcohol is destructive. Proverbs 20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” We live in a culture of addiction and abuse.

  • 32 Million Americans, nearly one in seven adults, have struggled with a serious alcohol problem in the last year.
  • 200,000 people each year are victims of alcohol-related deaths each year.
  • Children with one parent who struggles with alcohol have 3-4 times increased risk of becoming an alcoholic themselves.

Drunk driving, teenage alcoholism, child abuse stemming from drunk parents are HUGE issues.  The truth is that no one can deny that alcohol is associated with a myriad of negative consequences. From liver disease to drunk driving to poor choices while under the influences to simply wasting your life away, there are a LOT of behaviors you can prevent when you choose to say no to alcohol. I am convinced that God’s best for us and our families don’t include drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21).

I grew up in a family that not only used alcohol, they abused it. My grandfather was an alcoholic. His children grew up abusing it. They did stupid things that they came to regret. They wasted thousands of dollars. Some family members, while under the influence, hurt others – even family members. But I think the saddest thing is how it impacted their children and grandchildren. I am sure that if you were to have asked them when they were younger if their intent was to raise up their children to abuse alcohol, I am sure none of them would have said “yes.” But it happens. And, it begins with just one drink. I believe if you have a family history of alcoholism or if you’ve struggled with it in the past you absolutely should not be drinking. Why would you risk the lives of your family? Because of my family history, one of my greatest fears as a parent and as a grandparent is that the curse of alcohol abuse would destroy a member of my family.

Second, I choose not to drink because I believe that abstinence is an expression of my love and commitment to others.  Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others.” The question for me has never been what might or might not be “permissible” for me (a self-centered approach) but how my choice might impact other people. Paul wrote in Romans 14:21, “It is a good thing not to eat meat, or drink wine, or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.” I want to always be available for the Father’s work, desiring that nothing would hinder people from exploring the gospel with me.

I have yet to find anyone who associates the consumption of beer or wine with Christian behavior. I’ve yet to see how it improves someone’s testimony or makes anyone a more effective witness for Christ. No one has ever told me that their drinking has made them more like Christ. Quite the contrary.

If a mature Christian’s freedom causes a weaker believer to fall headlong into sin, then it is a sin to drink.  If their freedom hinders a lost person from exploring the gospel it is wrong as well (Gal. 5:13). This is not a warning for people who walk in grace to be stifled because they are worried about legalistic Christians criticizing them.  This is a warning to make sure that we never destroy the work of Christ in a weaker believer’s or lost person’s life by abusing our freedom. It is a call to express our love for others by living for the good of others. Like every other disciple of Jesus, my desire is to declare and demonstrate the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. I choose to “flee from the appearance of evil.”

Third, I choose not to drink because I believe Scripture commands leaders to abstain completely from the consumption of alcohol. The Bible teaches that Christian leaders (Both OT & NT) are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). Jesus said that to whom much has been given, much is required (LK 12:48). Overseers, or bishops, who are the same as elders and pastors, must not be “addicted to wine,” which is from the Greek word paroinos and literally means “at” or “by” wine. Could it be that a leader in the church is not even to be beside wine? That is why I ask those with me in public to refrain from consuming alcohol. I do not want to dishonor God by giving the appearance of evil.

When we lived in Kentucky I decided to cook some bratwursts Wisconsin style which required that I boil them in a sauce made from beer. In an effort to “hide” my purchase, I traveled two counties to the east of our home and bought one can of beer at a gas station.  The lady behind the counter looked at my purchase, looked at me, and then asked, “Is that all you need preacher?” I about died! You never know who is watching you or where they might be!

Finally, I choose not to drink because my ultimate purpose in life is to bring God glory. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31 declares, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” For me, God’s glory is the bottom line. Although I fail often, my desire is to live my life in such a way that God is glorified, that my actions point others to the greatness of my Heavenly Father. I think that is what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 5:15 when He wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” The will of God is that we bring Him glory in all things.

In light of the many biblical warnings regarding the abuse of alcohol, Christians have the liberty to enjoy this gift from God within the boundaries of His moral law.  Believers who feel it is safer not to drink any alcohol have the freedom to abstain. Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages must always do so responsibly—doing no harm to others or themselves. Paul also exhorts Christians to abstain from drinking alcohol in situations where doing so could cause their brothers or sisters in Christ to stumble. We should always seek to bring glory to the Lord in all our activities.

So why don’t I drink alcohol?

  • Because it is destructive.
  • Because I do not want to harm my witness in any way what so ever – because I love others and desire to see them experience God’s best.
  • Because Scripture states that as a pastor I cannot.
  • Because I want to glorify God in all things.

Walk Wisely

walk wisely

Churches have been full of candles for years. When we see lit candles, I am sure that you, like myself declare, “What an interesting collection of hydrocarbons.” We think about the liquid wax and marvel at the science of the capillary action drawing it up the candlewick. We are drawn in by the four separate regions of the flame as we reflect on the relationship between hydrogen and oxygen in the burning process. That’s right, isn’t it? Is that what you think when you see candles burn in church?

No, of course, it isn’t…

We see a candle and we are drawn to the beauty of the flame. We don’t scientifically analyze it, we just watch it – and what we see occasionally creates in us an emotional response. We are moved by the beauty of the flame… When people see our lives as Christians, they don’t analyze our belief systems. They don’t try to figure out what makes us think the way we do or what makes us believe the things we believe. Instead, people just watch our lives – and they watch to see if what we profess, in terms of the Gospel, is matched by the way we live. And when they determine that we’re genuine, when they see that God has transformed our lives, there is the possibility that they will give God glory (MT 5:16).

If people can see a difference in our lives, they may be drawn to God themselves. But if people don’t see a difference, they won’t think Christianity is worth exploring. That is why Paul in the Book of Ephesians is spending so much time on showing us how to live. It matters. We are called to be holy and love others – be good and to do good. We are called to walk worthy. But it doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and it forces us to make some tough decisions. But the result is God’s glory and the salvation of the lost.

Ephesians 5:15-18

We pick up today in verse 15 of chapter five where Paul declares, “Be careful how you live…” Because the world is looking for hope, because they are examining our lives – because we live in a morally corrupt society, we must be vigilant about the way we think and act. Unless we deliberately choose to guard ourselves, we will simply do what comes naturally to our flesh and go along with society and ruin our testimony. That’s why Paul has called us to flee from all immorality and to not partner with the lost. That’s why he said obscene and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable for Christians.  He declares, “Be careful how you live!” In Ephesians 5:15-18, Paul identifies five principles to guide us in our quest to be careful in how we live life.

First, Paul declares that we are to walk in wisdom. He declares in verse 15, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise…” He is talking about how you live your life. And he is saying that we must not walk as unwise people, but as wise.

In Scripture, a wise person is one who recognizes that God is our supreme authority and that obeying Him is not optional! They live their lives in the reality that God’s ways are best for them, that His will is best. We are to conduct our lives in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:1).  Jesus declared in John 9:4 that He had to do “the will of Him who sent me.” We’re to do the same, but to do so we must present ourselves as a living sacrifice. We are not our own, we have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 16:9). To walk in wisdom is to surrender fully to the will and ways of God. In Scripture, a person who lacks wisdom lives as if God doesn’t exist (PS 14:1). They conduct their daily affairs with no concern for God’s will or His ways… as if His perspective wasn’t relevant.

Second, we are to make the most of the time God has given us. Not only should we walk in wisdom, we must make the most of the time God has given us – we must live our lives as gifts from God, for God. God has entrusted each of us with 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. Within those days we are given various opportunities to participate in His mission and to live for His glory. As a matter of fact, the word in the original text translated time refers to opportunities, not chronological time! When opportunity knocks, don’t let those occasions pass by you. Seize the opportunities that God has planned for you.

The wise men from the east experienced an “opportunity” in their lives. The star appeared, and they recognized it as an opportunity to see the One born King of the Jews. They made the most of that opportunity. In contrast, priests and teachers in Jerusalem also experienced an “opportunity” when asked where this Messiah would be born. In their preoccupation with other things and indifference to the will of God, they missed their opportunity. It went straight by them without any significant impact.

These missed opportunities are common for most people. Some are too busy with “life” like the religious leaders when Jesus were born. One day Jesus was walking along the road and two blind men were crying out to Him. The people around Him not only ignored their cries for help, they told them to be quiet. But not Jesus. He heard their cries, He saw their needs – and He met them. He made good use of the time God had given Him. Life is a gift from God – walk wisely.

Third, if we are going to walk wisely, we need to know what dangers to avoid. In verse 16 Paul states that we’re to make the most of our time because “the days are evil.” Certainly, all times are evil because the world is under the dominion of the evil prince of darkness (Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19). But it seems that sometimes and some places are eviler than others. The world I grew up in was evil, but you could not see sex scenes or hear profanity on television or even at the movies. Lifestyles that are embraced or even celebrated today weren’t even talked about. In the name of tolerance, society says that we should be accepting of those who choose to live in sin.

Psalm 1:1 says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” Unwise people ignore these warnings and, regretfully, so do people who claim to know Christ. We are called to live lives marked by obedience and that means we don’t partner with those who walk in darkness. It means we flee from all sexual immorality, impurity, and greed. Jesus said that we were to pray that we not be led into temptation, but many believers play around with it as if it were a toy. In reality, it is a dangerous way to live. Unless we deliberately choose to guard ourselves by following God’s commands, we will simply do what comes naturally and go along with cultural influences.

Fourth, we are to know the Father’s will – we’re to understand His plan for our lives. Jesus understood why He came to the earth. His life was marked by purpose. He understood and accepted His destiny. He came to seek and save the lost – to offer His life as a living sacrifice for the sins of humanity. The fact that Jesus was a man of purpose declares that you and I must be people of purpose as well. To walk wisely is to walk with purpose. We read in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved by faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift-not from works so that no one can boast. For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

Typically, when people think of finding God’s will for their life they think of their calling or ministry. They talk about it as if it were some mystical quest that continually evades most people. Actually, it is fairly easy to know God’s will. To know God’s will for your life, to know your destiny, you must choose to know God. We must understand that the answer is found when we pursue Him, and not the assignment!

Focus upon the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, and small group participation. Pursue the face of God and not His hands. Choose to live by faith. Choose to suffer for the Kingdom. Jesus said that He did nothing unless commanded by His Father to do so. He said that He heard the Father speak. As you walk with God intimately you will know His will and therefore, your destiny.

Finally, we walk in wisdom when we are being continually filled by the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit is not the same as possessing the Spirit. All believers, at the moment of their conversion, are indwelt by the Spirit. We have Him! Nor is it a special blessing for those who pursue the Spirit. We received all the fullness of the Holy Spirit at our conversion. There is no second or special blessing. As a matter of fact, the word used in the original language for “filled” is not a word that describes a cup being filled by something, it refers to a sail on a ship that is filled, or driven by, the wind. Paul is saying that if you and I want to walk wisely our lives must be guided by the Spirit of God who lives inside of us.

It’s also important to point out that the word used in the Greek speaks of a continual filling. It is a choice we must make not only daily, but on a moment by moment basis as we seek to walk wisely. No Christian can fulfill God’s will for their life apart from being continually filled with the Spirit. Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust Christ for their salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture. Although every Christian is indwelt, baptized, and sealed by the Spirit, unless he is filled with the Spirit, he will live in spiritual weakness, frustration, and defeat.

How do we walk wisely? In these five ways. First, we are to walk in wisdom. We are to live our lives in the reality that God’s ways and His will are best for us. Second, we are to make the most of the time God has given us. We must live our lives as gifts from God – for God. Third, we are to know what dangers to avoid. Fourth, we are to know the Father’s will – we’re to understand His plan for our lives. Finally, we walk in wisdom when we are being continually filled by the Holy Spirit.

The Love of Christ

howdeepthefathersloveforus1

All around us are people who feel unloved, neglected, abandoned or mistreated. There is an emptiness in their heart that cries out, “Fill me!” My guess is that many of them have tried a variety of ways to fill that emptiness but have had little or no success. Some have a string of broken relationships behind them.  Many have been tossed out like an old newspaper by people who have claimed to love them. Some have tried drugs, alcohol, sex, or material possessions to fill the emptiness. Nothing seems to work.

Many of us can relate to their situation. We too have felt unloved, neglected or abandoned. But we found hope. We found love in the One who created us! That’s right, the Creator of the universe loves us. How do we know God loves us? He says that He does and then, He proved it upon the cross. Last Sunday at Marble Springs Baptist Church I spoke about the love of Christ. As I described the love Jesus has for us I saw people crying all around the room. I imagine they were moved by the extent of His love. Maybe they had forgotten the depth of His love. Maybe they were hearing it for the first time. What I know is that God loves them and He loves you.

We toss the word “love” around everywhere we go. I love pizza. I love my truck and I love my dog. I love my wife and kids and I love my church. Did I mention that I love my God? None of those compare with the love that Christ has for you and me. We tend to view love as a nice, warm, fuzzy, feeling. It’s kind of magical when it hits, but when the feelings go away, we can’t do anything to get them back! That’s not the kind of love that God has for you and me. In Ephesians 3:17 Paul stated, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge…” Paul’s prayer was that you and I would be able to comprehend and know the greatness of the Father’s love.  Let me try to describe the love of Jesus.

First, the love of Christ is a giving love. Jesus gave Himself for us willingly; no one took His life (John 10:18). God’s love, and all love that is like His, loves for the sake of giving, not getting. Jesus declared in John 3:16 that God expressed His love for the world by the giving of His only begotten Son. In 1 John 3:16 the apostle John wrote, “This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down (gave) His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Because Christ gave Himself for us, we should give our lives for others. Biblical love isn’t an emotion or a pleasant feeling about another. It is the giving of oneself for the good of others. Jesus Christ gave His life for you!

Second, the love of Christ is an unconditional love. I rejoice in the fact that God’s love didn’t depend on me cleaning up my life or upon me getting my act straightened out! God’s love for us is unconditional and undeserved. He loves us in spite of our disobedience, our weakness, our sin and our selfishness. From the cross, Christ cried out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Jesus was asking God to forgive those who had nailed Him to the cross and those who were mocking Him. If Jesus loved those people that much, can you imagine how much He loves you?

Third, the love of Christ is sacrificial. In fact, the two–love and sacrifice–cannot be separated. Jesus gave Himself for us; it was by His stripes that we have been healed. He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus left the splendor of heaven, setting aside His equality with God. He took on the form of a human. He emptied Himself, becoming a slave for our redemption. He humbled Himself by surrendering to the will of God. He willingly sacrificed His life upon a cross so that our relationship with God could be restored. He suffered through the wrath of God because He loves us!

Fourth, the love of Christ is an everlasting love. Our lives have been filled with people who claimed to love us but are no longer a part of our lives. For some reason or another, they have walked away, leaving us alone. Jesus declares that not only will He never leave you or forsake you – No one or nothing can separate us from His love! That includes you. God knows all about you and your sin and yet, He declares that He will never stop loving you! Isn’t that comforting? No matter what we do, God will never stop loving us.

Finally, the love of Christ is pleasing to His Father. Jesus gave Himself for you and me upon the cross. The giving of Himself was the greatest demonstration of love ever recorded in history. Although we were underserving of His love, He did so willingly – obediently. It was why He came to earth. The sacrifice He made was tremendous. All of the wrath, the punishment that we deserved, He took upon Himself. He gave Himself – not His money, not His time, not His energy – He gave Himself for you and me. And, the Father was pleased with the love He expressed for you and me. When God bowed down over the love that his Son poured out for us upon the cross, it was a fragrant aroma to him – a pleasing fragrance to Him. God loves the Son’s love of us.

To those of you who feel unloved or unworthy of love let me declare to you that God loves you. He says that He does and then He proves it at the cross. His love is a giving love, an unconditional love, a sacrificial love, and a love that never ends! And best of all, He desires to shower you with His love! Are you ready to experience the love of the Father? PM me or better yet, call a true follower of Jesus right now and tell them you want to experience the love of the Father for yourself. They will gladly share with you how you too can know His love.

 

You’re a New Creation

new creation

There are some things and people that were meant to go together. Peanut butter and Jelly. Peas and carrots. Bacon and eggs. Sonny and Cher. Abbot and Costello. From the scriptures, we would say that confession and repentance belong together. The cross and the empty tomb. Salvation and grace go together. The apostle Paul, in the second half of the Book of Ephesians, would say that your beliefs and your behaviors go together as well. In other words, those that are new creations in Christ Jesus should act like it!

Paul begins chapter four in Ephesians by declaring in verse one that those who are in Christ Jesus should walk worthy. In light of what Jesus did on the cross for us, we should walk like Jesus (1 John 2:6). Then, in verse 17 he gets a little bit clearer when he declares that true followers of Jesus Christ should not walk like the world. Then, in verses 22-24 he tells us how to accomplish the command – make Christ the center of our lives, put off the old self, renew your mind, and finally, put on the new self.  He is reminding us that God has done His part, we must do our part.

Next, in verses 25-32 Paul, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, gets very specific on how true followers of Jesus should live. First, he writes that a follower of Jesus should put away lying and speak the truth to one another. Next, he states that we should be angry but not sin – that we must be careful, making sure that we don’t give the devil an opportunity to gain a foothold in our lives. Next, he states that we’re to stop stealing and become generous! Next, he declares that foul or useless language should not flow from our mouths. Rather, our words should build others up. Finally, he states in verses 32-34 that we’re to “Let all bitterness, anger, and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.” Instead, we are to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave us in Christ Jesus.

Paul is declaring to the church in Ephesus, and to you and I, that if we have been truly saved through faith in Jesus Christ, our lives should be different. Those five commands partially define how a true follower of Jesus should live. Can I be honest with you? They can be overwhelming! The power of sin seems to be strong in our lives, but the truth is, sin’s power has been broken! (RO 6:6-7) We don’t have to be slaves to sin. New creations in Christ Jesus should walk like new creatures. The motivation? The way God has treated us! How? In the power of the Spirit. Amen and Amen! Let’s unpack those five commands briefly.

First, Paul states that followers of Jesus should not lie, but rather, that they should be truth tellers. Why? Because we are members of one another; we belong to each other and because we’re family, we’re to love one another. Unity matters to God and at the core of unity is the telling of the truth. Paul is saying a few things. First, he is saying don’t deceive or distort the truth. There’s no place for this in the Christian life; tell the truth.

At first blush, you may think, “That’s not my problem. I don’t lie; I’m honest.” But because we fear confrontation, or because “we don’t want to cause trouble,” or because we’re afraid that if our real feelings were revealed, the relationship might suffer, we often fail to speak the truth which is another form of deception or dishonesty. Be honest, speak the truth.

Christians are to “speak the truth in love,” a command found in Ephesians 4:15. It’s biblical and important to share hard truths with others “in a loving way.” But before you do, check your motivation. Why do you feel that it is important to share this truth with them? Will it lead to their growth in Christlikeness? Will God be glorified? Are you sharing these difficult truths with them because you love them and want what’s best for them?

Second, Paul says in verses 26 & 27 that we’re to be angry and not sin, making sure that we don’t allow the Devil to gain a foothold in our lives. Paul is saying three things. First, he is saying that it is okay to experience anger. God created us with emotions. We were created with the capacity to experience anger. Second, he is saying don’t express your anger in sinful ways. Finally, he is saying that failing to deal with your anger will give the enemy a foothold in your life and that cannot be good!

There are two types of anger. The first, the good kind, is what we might call righteous anger. It’s a powerful emotion we experience when we get upset with something that opposes God’s truth or standards. Righteous anger is being angry at what makes God angry. The other type of anger, the bad type of anger, usually results when we get frustrated or when our wants or desires get blocked by another. Typically, this anger causes us to lose control and take matters into our own hands. It’s sinful and sinful anger leads us to address the people involved in a hurtful manner.

Most of us express our anger in one of three ways. First, there are the spewers. A spewer has a short fuse and a hot temper. They don’t have a problem with expressing their anger! Anger that blows up is never proper because it is not under control. It’s never productive. By the way, the odds are that you learned how to be a spewer from your family.

Another way people deal with their anger is to just bottle it up. I call these folks stewers. They might not explode and lash out, but their anger is still destructive. Instead of being a volcano, they’re more like a fire that is left to smolder. It leads to bitterness, another form of sin. Spewers and stewers have something in common. They fail to practice love towards the people they deal with. Both sin in how they handle their anger. First Corinthians 13:5 says that love “is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrong.”

There is a third way that people deal with their anger. I call them doers. These people let scripture define how they deal with their anger. They are more than hearers of the Word; they are doers (James 1:22). The apostle James provides us with some great counsel on how to deal with our anger. He writes in James 1:19-20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” From this passage, we find three ways to deal with our anger. First, he says that we are to be quick to listen. I know it sounds impossible, but as your blood starts to boil, as the vein in your neck starts to bulge out – stop and listen for the voice of God. Is what you’re about to do an appropriate response? Will your response glorify God?

Second, we are to process what’s going on inside of us. We are to be slow to anger because God is slow to anger (Exod. 34:6). Before we express our frustrations, we need to chill out and process what we’re feeling and let God instruct us in our response. Since anger is typically not the original emotion, doers seek to identify the root emotion and ask, “Is my anger righteous, sinful or a mixture of both?” God used this approach with Cain when He asked, “Why are you angry?” (Gen. 4:6). God never asks questions to gain information, but rather to help the person think about the situation from His perspective.

Third, don’t jump straight to being angry. A mature follower of Christ chooses to respond carefully. God declares in Proverbs 14:29, “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness.” In spite of God’s command to not let the sun go down on our anger, we are to be cautious in our response asking, “How would God have us respond?”

Third, Paul states that true followers of Christ must have a passion to share, not a passion to steal! We read in verse 28, “Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.” Here is a great contrast that pictures the total reversal that occurs when a person is in Christ. The thief becomes generous! Paul is saying that those who walk in newness of life are to do honest work, they’re to get a job and earn the money they need for the expenses of life! And, when they work at their job, they do so in a way that glorifies God. Work with integrity and honesty.  We are reminded in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”

Paul ends this topic by adding, “So that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We do not work to have. We work to give. We are to become a giving people. We need to consider that we have been financially blessed to share with anyone in need.

Fourth, Paul states that true followers of Christ refuse to talk like the world, choosing rather to make sure that others benefit from what they say. Paul writes in verse 29, “No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need so that it gives grace to those who hear.” First, Paul says that no foul language should come from your mouth. The original word for foul was used to describe fruit or vegetables that have gone bad, that was useless. It smells, it is offensive, it doesn’t do anything for anybody, in fact, you don’t want to get near it, let alone eat it. If we’re not careful, our words can be just like that – worthless.

Whether it’s off-color jokes, profanity, dirty stories, crude things, there’s no place in the life of a Christian for that stuff. And, it’s not always what you say. Sometimes it’s how you say it that is offensive. Let me give you a verse to remember.  Psalm 141:3 says: “Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.”  Make it your prayer! We are not just to hold our tongue, however. We are to replace destructive words with constructive words that build up others at their point of need. We’re to do so not because they deserve it, but because our God is gracious to us. Therefore, we are to be gracious in our speech. There is a proper place for criticism or confrontation, but it should be with the goal of helping, not hurting.

Finally, in verses 32 and 33 Paul states that true followers of Jesus are to exchange natural vices for supernatural graces. He writes, “Let all bitterness, anger, and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” As Christians we must deal with each other properly – we’re to love one another. How are you doing? Is there any bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking in your lives?  Put it away.  And in its place “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”  You say, “Oh, man, but you don’t know what they did to me; I have a right to be angry.  They’ve never changed, and I’m bitter.  And when I see that guy, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!  And I’ve got a right.  Look what he did to me.”

And that’s just why verse 32 ends the way it does: “just as God also forgave you in Christ.”  You want to hear something interesting?  God was kind to you.  And God was tenderhearted to you.  And God was forgiving to you.  And you want to know something else?  You didn’t deserve it.  If you’re going to base your dealings with others upon what they deserve, you’ve missed the point. The character of God says, “I don’t care what you’ve done to me, I’ll love you, and I’ll be kind to you, and I’ll be tender to you, and I’ll forgive you.”  And Paul says, “And that’s exactly what God expects to see out of His followers.” True followers of Jesus don’t give people what they deserve. They extend mercy and grace.

Experiencing the Power of the Resurecction

easter-2

All around us are people struggling with life. People we love are battling cancer. Teenagers are having problems coping with the pressures of life. Families are mourning the loss of loved ones. Others are struggling financially. Marriages seem to be falling apart everywhere you look. Children are being abused. Addictions have entire families trapped in sin. Families in Florida are mourning the senseless loss of their children. If you watch the evening news you can’t help but become discouraged. Kid’s go to bed hungry. Hopelessness seems to be the norm.

The world is asking, “Is there hope?” That’s one of the fundamental questions of life. You can go forty days without food and three days without water and you can go eight minutes without air. But take away a person’s hope and it’s like issuing a death sentence. Hope is one of the essentials of life. When hope is gone, life is soon over. So, in a world that seems to be void of hope – we must ask – “Where is the hope we need for life?”

Thankfully, we have a good answer that is not grounded in wishful thinking but in a historical event. Specifically, I am talking about the resurrection of Jesus – about Easter! Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3, “In His great mercy God has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Hope is found in Jesus Christ and its reality is verified in the resurrection. The cross and the empty tomb declare that there is hope!

Without the empty tomb, we would be people without hope. Death would have won. We’d be trapped in our sin. There’d be no future – no hope of heaven. Jesus would have been just another man. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” But because Jesus is alive, we are people with hope. Because Jesus is alive we have hope for eternity and for today.

First, there is hope for life after death. Our sins can be forgiven, our sin debt can be paid. Our relationship with God can be restored and our eternal home in heaven can be secured.  Our past can be canceled! But Easter declares that there is hope for today as well. Your sorrow can be turned into joy. Your weaknesses can become strengths. Your personality can be transformed. We no longer have to be ruled by our sinful desires!

God offers a hope so powerful that it can transform a person’s life and rewrite a person’s future. How can that be? Romans 8:11 declares that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is living in you…  God has done His part; The Spirit of God lives within His true children; the power of the resurrection is yours… But you must activate it!

Easter declares that not only are we forgiven but that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, is ours through the presence of the Holy Spirit. That’s right – the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead over 2,000 years ago is available to you right now to transform the weaknesses in your life into strengths. This resurrection power has the ability to cancel your past, the ability to conquer your problems, and the ability to change your personality. And, it’s that same power that gives us the ability to walk like Jesus (1 John 2:6). The power that raised Jesus from the grave is ours in Christ Jesus. And yet, it has no power in your life until you activate it.

Activating the Power of The Resurrection in Your Life

For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus went about the countryside continuing to communicate His message. He met with small groups of the disciples and with as many as 500 people at one time. It was during this time that Jesus taught one of His most valuable lessons – a lesson that transformed the disciples from scared rabbits into roaring lions who changed the world. Open your Bibles to Matthew 28:16-20 and let’s discover together how to live in the reality of the resurrection’s power.

First, you activate the Spirit’s power through obedience. Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” The eleven disciples went to the Mount of Olives as Jesus had instructed them to do. Although Jesus is not with them, they still obeyed. Have you noticed that with children you can tell them to do something, but you have to keep reminding them over and over again until the assignment is completed? One sign of maturity in a child, as well as a follower of Jesus, is that they do what they’re told without asking questions and that they obey immediately. Delayed obedience is disobedience. Living in resurrection power comes not from knowing God’s will for your life – It is found in obeying His will.

Second, we activate the Spirit’s power in our lives when we worship God and God alone. God declares in Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” We must choose to worship God. We read in verse 17 that when the disciples saw Jesus, they worshipped Him. These men had followed Jesus for three years, they had eaten with Him, slept with Him, and ultimately denied Him. Now they fall on their knees and worship Him. Don’t take this lightly – this is an acknowledgment on their part that Jesus is God. They understood that worship is for no one else but God. God wants us to make that final decision in our lives, is Jesus God or isn’t He? If so, worship Him both privately and with other believers.

Third, we activate the power of the resurrection when we submit our lives to Christ. In verse 18 Jesus states, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Folks, if Jesus has all authority, and He does, we only have two options – submit or rebel. Those are our only two choices. One of those choices leads to power for living – the other leads to disappointment and death. Which one will you choose? Mark’s Gospel tells the story of a rich young man who came to Jesus. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” he asked. “I have kept the commandments of Moses what shall I do?” Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. His face fell – despondent – that is the one thing he would not do. He wanted redemption, he wanted the good stuff but was unwilling to submit to the Lordship of Christ. What are you still holding on to? What part of your life do you still control? I want to tell you this morning that until it’s all His – none of it is His.

 

Fourth, we activate the power of the resurrection when we invest in others. True followers of Jesus understand that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. They also understand that His mission has been passed onto them. This is His directive to us – we’re to go and make disciples. If you’re not investing in those who don’t know Christ, you have missed Jesus’ message. This is what resurrection power is for. Jesus didn’t come so that you could be happy, successful, or rich. Listen to the words of Jesus, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” You have been empowered for a purpose, disciple-making. There is a world full of lost people who need to know what you know – that there is hope and the power to change in Jesus Christ.

Finally, resurrection power finds its source in fellowship with Christ. Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit because you can do nothing without me.” Jesus closed the conversation by stating, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Resurrection power does not find its source in religious observance. The source of power, the power that can change your life and secure your future, is found in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

How long has it been since you were with Jesus? I am not talking about working for Him or even sitting in church. How long has it been since you sensed His presence, trusted His guidance, prayed more than a blessing on your food? How long has it been since you really spent time alone with God? If you lack power in your life today for living – take the advice of James “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Conclusion

The resurrection assures us that Jesus can transform our lives. We not only are forgiven but through the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Some question whether people can really change. We’re being told that people are stuck in a lifestyle and can never be different—that once a person’s personality and behavior are set, it is impossible to change. If I believed that, I would close my Bible and never mention Jesus again. But I know Jesus changes lives. He has changed mine and millions and millions of others through the generations. He transforms the hateful and the angry into loving, caring people. He changes the selfish into generous givers and the immoral into men and women of character. The resurrection raises us from the death of sin into a life of righteousness.

We gain access to this power when, at our conversion, the Holy Spirit moves into our lives. Once He arrives we must activate that power by doing the following:

  • We must choose to live in obedience to the Word of God.
  • We must worship God and God alone.
  • We must submit to the Lordship of Christ.
  • We must invest our lives in discipling others.
  • Finally, we must pursue intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Walk Worthy

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Have you ever described someone as being “ungrateful”? Maybe you gave them a gift or paid for their meal. Maybe they were given a special gift and it seemed like they didn’t appreciate it. I’m sure if we took time to think about it, not only could we identify a few instances where someone was ungrateful, we might be able to identify a time or two when we might have been ungrateful ourselves.

Jesus died for us, yet we continue to live in sin. Jesus paid a terrible price to reconcile us to God and to man. We owe Him something better, but we fail to deliver what we should. We fail to reflect upon the cost of our salvation. If we did, I strongly believe that we would live differently. We would treat others, especially those that we love, differently.

We’re halfway through the Book of Ephesians. In the first half of the book, the Apostle Paul showed us not only how God sees us, he showed us the benefits, honors, and privileges of being a child of God. Now, in the second half of the book, Paul is going to show us that along with those blessings and privileges we also received certain obligations. Now, these obligations don’t save us. They are how we express our gratitude. What Paul is going to show us is that the Father expects us to act like the new persons we have become in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:1-6 – A Call to Walk Worthy

Paul begins chapter four with the statement, “Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received…” The word “therefore” is used by Paul to indicate that we are about to transition to a new train of thought. He is moving us from doctrine to duty, from principle to practice. He does the same thing with Romans 12:1.

Paul is trying to show us that right living is based on right doctrine or teaching. There is no way that even the most sincere believer can live a life that is pleasing to God without knowing what God Himself is like and how God wants him to live. It is impossible to do good works without knowledge of God’s Word.

Before unpacking God’s expectations for us, Paul once again refers to himself as the prisoner in the Lord. By mentioning his imprisonment, I believe he is gently reminding his readers that those who walk like Christ, those who strive to meet God’s expectations, can expect to pay a price. He understood that God was sovereign and that He was using his sufferings for His own glory. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:12-14, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul was honored to suffer for the kingdom.

Paul made no apology for pleading with people to do what he knew was right. “I urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received…” Paul urges or beseeched his audience to walk worthy. His word choice here gives us a picture of a man who is passionately pleading with the body of Christ to respond appropriately to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s so passionate about this that he is out of breath. Walk is frequently used in the New Testament to refer to daily conduct, day-by-day living, which is the theme of the last three chapters in Ephesians. Paul is urging them to walk or live lives worthy of their calling, or of the price paid by Jesus upon the cross. Walking worthy should be a consuming passion for every child of God.

The word worthy has the root meaning of balancing the scales. In other words, what is on one side of the scale should be equal to what is on the other side. The follower of Jesus who walks worthy is one whose way of living matches his spiritual position in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament, God said to the Jews, “If you obey Me, I will bless you.” Here, in the New Testament, God is saying, “Because I have blessed you, obey Me!”

How Should We Walk? Responding to the Gospel.

If you are like me, the first thing that enters into our minds is, “What does it mean to walk worthy?” To put it simply, we are to walk in a way that is consistent with our calling – with the reality that God has saved us from the penalty of our sin with the blood of Jesus His Son. We’re to live lives that show deep gratitude for the grace that has been extended towards us. What does this look like? In the next five verses, Paul is going to paint a picture of the kind of lifestyle that is worthy of the calling that we have in Christ Jesus. Beginning in verse two Paul is going to lay down five stepping stones that will guide us as we respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as we seek to live in a way that glorifies God. Those stepping stones are humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, and love.

Our first stepping stone is humility and it speaks of an individual, like John the Baptist, who empties themselves so that they might be infused with God’s presence and power. The result? Sacrificial love for God and for others. Humility is putting Christ first, others second and yourself third. At the height of his own fame and recognition as a prophet, John the Baptist said of Jesus, “I am not fit to remove His sandals” (MT 3:11) and “He must increase, but I must decrease” (JN 3:30).  That’s humility. It is an attitude that declares that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

Next, we have meekness. When I think of meekness I think of power under control. Moses was a meek man (Num. 12:3), yet you can see the tremendous power that he exercised. Jesus Christ was “meek and lowly in heart” and yet, He drove the money changers out of the temple. Humility and meekness go hand in hand. Humility is an attitude of mind, meekness is how that humility is expressed. Meekness softens our rough edges and keeps us from scraping, cutting, bruising those who we come in contact with. The word suggests an unselfishness that manifests itself in sacrificial love for those who are close to us. If all of us who claimed to be followers of Jesus balanced our strength with humility and gentleness, as Jesus did, virtually all the conflicts and drama would be gone from our lives.

Our next stepping stone is longsuffering. The word longsuffering in the Bible is made up of two Greek words meaning “long” and “temper”; literally, “long-tempered.” To be longsuffering, then, is to have self-restraint when one is stirred to anger. A longsuffering person does not immediately retaliate or punish; rather, he has a “long fuse” and patiently forbears. He is patient. Longsuffering is associated with mercy (1 Peter 3:20) and hope (1 Thessalonians 1:4).

Next, in verse two, Paul states that we are to bear one another with love. Our next stepping stone is forbearance. The term “forbearing” derives from a compound word portraying the idea of “holding up”—with reference to a potential action. A disciple of Jesus who walks worthy refuses to give people what they deserve. He extends mercy and grace. A true follower of Jesus is not to respond quickly and hatefully when conflicts surface; to the contrary, they are to resist every inclination to explode and attack.

Our final stepping stone is love. Paul is speaking of agape, a love that looks out not for one’s own interests but for the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). It is a love that expects nothing in return. It is the love of Jesus.

Walking as a New Person in Christ

As believers in Christ Jesus, we have the privilege of displaying the nature and characteristics of Jesus to people who do not yet know Him. It’s a huge responsibility. In many instances, all that people will know about Jesus will come from what they see in us. Just telling people about Him is not enough. The world and the church long to see the transforming power of the gospel on display in our lives. They hunger for people of humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance, and love to speak into their lives with their words and actions.

God calls us to walk with humility – we’re to have the proper perspective and the correct attitude before God. We are to be God-centered and not self-centered. We are to walk with meekness – As God fills us with His presence and His power we must spring into action. We’re to love others. We are to walk with longsuffering – we’re to have a long fuse when we are angered. We are to walk with forbearance – we’re to extend mercy and grace when it’s not deserved. Finally, we are to walk in love – we are to put the needs and interests of others before our own. We are to walk like Jesus.

As I close this message I can’t help but return to Paul’s prayer in the second half of Ephesians chapter three. As we become honest with ourselves and with God we see our need for God. We want to walk worthy, but many lack the power to do so. In his prayer Paul compels us to pray the following:

  • First, we are to pray for strength in the inner man. We need the power of the Spirit working in our lives if we are going to resist temptation and walk worthy.
  • Second, we are to pray that our relationship with God would grow deeper and deeper, that our intimacy with God would increase.
  • Third, as a result of our growing intimacy with God, we are to pray that we would grasp how tremendous the love of God is which leads to obedience.
  • Finally, we are to pray that we would be filled with the fullness of God. Our desire should be to be totally dominated by God, to have nothing left of self or any part of the old man.

If we truly desire intimacy with God and if we truly pray as Paul instructed, I believe we will walk worthy.