Affirmation of Diversity

I just want to make a quick note that my Dad was doing a sermon series in Ephesians, and this is in the middle of it, and I won’t be posting his parts because he does not make sermon notes the way I do.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Quick recap of Ephesians 4:1-13

  • There is one body and one Spirit, therefore there is no separation or “people groups” in the body of Christ; verse 4.
  • Paul affirms one God, Who is all powerful and Who is in complete control; verse 5.
  • We are a work in progress, and we are being worked into a Christ likeness; verse 13

The first question I had about being a work in progress is what are we when we are finished?  Paul answers this, by saying, when we are united in our faith, and in the knowledge of God’s son, or that we have had revelation of Jeus’ work on the cross, we can be assured that we have become mature Christians, and we will have a Christ likeness.

Just to note on what a Christ likeness is, I can only describe it to a degree.  Do you know of any Christians, including yourself, that people are drawn to, because they just know that this person has “the right idea.”  This person won’t be trying to draw a crowd, but people just naturally flock to them.  Some people might call them “good people,” but I’d say that they have a revelation of Christ, and are ferverently seeking God.  That is a Christ likeness.  It’s not somethingthat necessarily manifests in profession (like being a pastor), or a particular action, but it is evident in some people.

(verse 14)

Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.

Paul, here is talking about Christian maturity.  When we become more mature in scripture and in our relationship with God, we won’t be shaken.  It’s like when you get to know someone (“John”), a someone comes to you and says John is doing something that completely goes against what you know of him, and you only know truth about this person.  If you only knew John a little, you may change your opinion of him, but if you know him well, then you will know this other person is lying.  Just so, when someone tries to tell us lies about God or Jesus (gnostic gospels, anyone?), we will know God’s Word and know that it contradicts the nature of Jesus.

(verse 15)

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ.

I think this is self explanitory, that we are going to become a likeness of Christ – but it is a process, you won’t be born again, then immediately be changed into a mirror image of Jesus (although some people do have very radical transformations of lifestyle), but it is going to be a lifelong process, and even when you’ve been a Christian for 50 years, you will still be having Christ influence and change your life.

I don’t want to put anything against any one churches ministry, but a lot of churches today do not deliver the word of God to the congregation.  They may quote a verse or two, but I have heard more flowery filler in some churches, than I have God’s Word.  I want to encourage people in ministry, or that are going into ministry to not forsake the Word of God in favor of keeping a happy congregation.  We’re not in the business of entertaining, we are in the business of telling people about God, and encouraging the, in their relationship with Him.

(verse 16)

From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.

I think we can all agree that a healthy body will support and sustain itself; God has built your body to rely on itself and the environment.  If you did not have air, or no heart, your body would not be able to function, or at least, not for long.  Also, if we didn’t have muscles, we wouldn’t be able to move our bones.  Paul is painting a picture of unity.  Our body works in unity with itself, although all the parts are different and have different function.

When the body of Christ (“the church”) is operating in love and unity, then we will function to our maximum potential as Christians, and people will see Christianity for what it is, God’s love story in personal testimony.  A lot of people think that different denominations are incompatible or that there is disunity.  I think we should focus on two things as a church, God’s Word and God’s creation.  In God’s Word, we see the testimony of love through Jesus, and we are God’s creation, and we need to reach out and connect to each other, and show everyone, without discrimination, the love of God.  This is the classical arguments in Acts, “I follow Paul, I follow Barnabas, I follow Apollos.”  Well, we should all follow God, and we will all be put on the same path.

(verse 17-19)

Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts.  They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts.  They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

I like Paul’s analogy of dark and light, because it is powerful.  I think we’ll have to agree that when there is light, there can’t be any darkness, and where there is darkness, it’s because there isn’t any light.  With that in mind, when it says we should no longer walk like gentiles…they are darkened, we can safely say that we need to be in the light of God’s word, because we are no longer gentiles (more aptly, it should be “pagans,” in context, or non-believers for today’s politically correct world).

This passage says before we came into relationship with God, we were ignorant.  People could say, “but I wasn’t told about God,” or “I didn’t know what religion to pick,” but, especially at the time of this being written, everyone knew about the Israelites, and there was wide-spread rumors, at the very least, about Christianity (“the Way”), and no one is stopping anyone from asking questions.

There also seems to be some talk about promiscuity and [sexual] impurity.  In Ephesus, their “claim to fame” at the time was the fertility temple (was it the goddess Dianna?), and the big thing there was temple prostitues; if you had sex with them, then presumably the goddess Dianna(?) would give them favor in having children.

To bring it into today, a lot of people are involved in things that we might find hard to believe or do.  Some people are into drugs, new age religions, and unhealthy relationships.  The reason people do this is because they recognize an emptiness in their life (as Christians, we view that as the void left by sin), so they fill it with fleeting desires and passing fancies, substitutes for what God wants us to have: Jesus.  Jesus brings light into the darkness we had as people who have strayed away from God.

(verse 20-24)

But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus: you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires; you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s [likeness] in righteousness and purity of the truth.

Now we see the turn, that God does not reside in drugs, new age religions, or unhealthy relationships.  God’s testimony resides in Christ, and Christ has called all of us out of the darkness to be shining lights.  God empowers us to break out of a life of sin, and God is renewing us, by taking what we are and reconstructing it – we do this by studying scripture to see that it is true, and making your life come into accordance with scripture, to be an example of Christ to people.

We were, through sin, in death and now are reborn in Jesus Christ, and made a new creation.  When we come to Christ, we are working at removing the things that go against the Word of God (“the old self”), and taking the example Christ set for us and living how scripture tells us.

To paint a picture of what’s happening so far, imagine being on a major highway at night, and no one turned their headlights on.  No, we are in darkness, going highway speed, and hoping we are going in the right direction to get to our destination.  This, obviously, isn’t safe for yourself or the other drivers.  Now, imagine that every person that turned to Christ on the highway turned their lights on.  All of a sudden, those drivers can see, but also people in nearby cars have a better idea of what’s going on around the highway.  This is the kind of light we’re called into.  Maybe, simply by our example, people will wonder why some people have their lights on and some don’t, and our hope is that other people turn their lights on, too.

That even relates to my first definition of what it is to be a mature Christian.  People will just naturally know who is living right and who isn’t.  Some people call it a built-in mechanism, but I call it the Holy Spirit residing as a light in that person, and people will come to them because God’s truth will reach out and touch them.  Some people won’t come to believe in God through these people, and some will, and it’s not for us to decide.

(verse 25)

Since you put away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.

When we were in sin, we were liars, but now that we are in Christ, we must proclaim the truth which provides light in darkness, and spreads the love of God to His creation.  The best example I can think of is if you wanted to grab a glass of water, and your hand sends a signal to your head that says “okay, I’m holding it!”  If you aren’t actually holding it, your body is not going to benefit from that glass of water.  Likewise, with lying in the body of Christ, people will not be able to benefit from lies, but they will benefit from the truth.

(verse 26-27)

Be angry and do not sin.  Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.

Perhaps a better way of reading this is, “If you become angry, do not sin.”  Being angry is not a sin, but when you allow your body to react instead of thinking, you may find yourself in the midst of sinning.  When we bcome angry, we should deal with the anger constructively, not destructively.

Paul writes, and I believe it to be true, that we need to deal constructively with anger quickly, so we don’t give the Devil the chance to move down a sinful path.  When we hold onto anger, the devil will keep reminding us of it, and tempt us to act without thinking, and he will try and make us sin, because sin causes darkness, and darkness must mean that the light is removed.  (As a quick note, this removal of light doesn’t mean a loss of salvation, but it does mean a loss in fellowship with God, until we right ourselves with Him again).    Once the anger and situation is dealt with appropriately, forget it.  Don’t worry about, don’t bring it up, because it is done and gotten over.  I’ve seen so many families that are destroyed because one of the parents will hold onto anger, and unleash a hell-fire on the other parent (or children), and this is the work of Satan – divide [the family] and conquer.

(verse 28)

The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.

This is a build-up from verse 25.  In Christ, we must tell the truth.  Likewise, if you were a thief, you must now do honest work with your hands.  I like this complete reversal, as a thief steals what is not rightfully his/hers, and does so with his/her hands.  Now, Paul shows the reversal, that now, s/he needs to labor with his/her hands, to give charitably to people in need of his/her craft.  Talk about divine justice!

(verse 29)

No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.

I like the term this translation uses, “rotten talk.”  Well, I don’t know that I can exactly define rotten talk, but I’ll tell you what rotten talk does NOT involve:

  • Rotten talk does not edify or build people up.
  • Rotten talk is talk not appropriate for the situation.
  • Rotten talk does not impart grace or peace with the listeners.

This doesn’t mean we can’t tell a joke, or have light conversation about the weather we’re having, but your speaking shouldn’t tear down someone’s person, it shouldn’t cause them discomfort and shouldn’t leave them with an empty void of hopelessness.  Think of it this way; whenever you speak, act as if you are talking to Christ.  When you think about it, probably some jokes you’d say in normal conversation all of a sudden are no longer appropriate, or it might be an attack against their being, or it may just make the listener uneasy with something important to them.  Ultimately, your speaking should not go against God’s Word – if the bible said that your kitchen was red, and you told someone it was blue, you are going against God’s Word (this is just an extreme example, not someting to be taken more literally).

(verse 30-32)

And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit, who sealed you for the day of redemption.  All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.  And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

Grieving the Holy Spirit is when we go against what God is doing, or what He has done.  This will result in a loss of fellowship with God, so you must confess, and also make the situation right.  When you confess, don’t just confess to God, but also go to someone that you trust, and who can keep you accountable.  If you wronged someone, go and make it right with them, and then confess to God.  Bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander all lead to this loss of fellowship, and a grieving of the Holy Spirit, so, as we read about anger, we need to resolve, then forget.  When we live in kindness, compassion and forgiveness, we are living and accomplishing God’s Will, and are being an example Christ to people around us

So, to sum things up, if you didn’t want to read everything, this is the whole point:

  • The church needs to move in unity, following and imitating Christ, so we can be involved in the Will and movement of God.
  • We can only be in God’s Will if we follow and believe in Christ, and allow Him to renew us from sin into righteousness.

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