PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 4

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 4

James first talks about dangerous desires in this chapter.  He uses words like “battle” and “kill” and “covet.”  None of those are good words.  James gives us the picture that a battle is going on inside us because we want what we want and we can’t have what we want.  We want to be right.  We want to be heard.  We want the other person to agree with us.  We want the other person to act like us.  We can also want what other people have… which is what James is highlighting in particular.  We want the same house, car, or clothes.  We want friends like them.  We want the job they have.  We ‘want’ and because of that desire a quarrel begins. 

We have anger because we don’t have what we want and it causes an argument.

We have frustration because we can’t be like someone else and it causes a struggle.

We lack patience with another person and it comes out because they aren’t doing what we want.

Dangerous desires cause quarrels and arguments because they are feelings that get out of control and spiral into something else.  I started feeling one way and then as a result acted in another way several steps down the road.  James says watch out for dangerous desires.

You ask wrongly (verse 3) James tells his readers (and us).  It is true we ask God for many things, but in the asking how much do we consider our intentions and our desires?  Do we think of our double-mindedness or our aggression for simply meeting our personal desires?  If we do not consider such things, we will not have real relational peace with God.

James reminds his readers fellowship with the world is a terrible friendship. Those that chase after their desires rather than God’s Will is in fact enmity with God.  This is the reason God does not answer many prayers… because of the human disposition for self.  Knowing this, James says we should be cleansing ourselves of enmity-potential behavior because the only proper response to being loved is love.  God loves us.  We should want to love Him in return.

James’ words are so practical.  He says with authority, “there is only one lawgiver and judge.”  James here teaches it is only truly affective to do what God says.  Doing what God says leads to blessings and life, whereas, judging even based on God’s law leads to punishments and death.  James makes it clear everyone transgresses the law.  See also Romans 3:23 and also Ecclesiastes 7:20. 

God gives instructions (law) not simply to judge others or ourselves, but to make way to forgive and live.  Paul speaks of this in Romans chapter 2 when pointing to those Gentiles who do God’s law because it is written on their hearts.  With such people, the Prophets predict God would make a covenant.

God leads.  We follow.  God leads.  We follow.  We are to commit ourselves to practically live out what God has written on our hearts and lead others in the right direction.  God is in command, not man.  God is in command, not us.  Yet, He does lead through His children… Jesus being the first fruit.  The Godman Jesus Christ leads the way for humanity to part take in God’s Will.  James says don’t just hear Jesus, but do. Likewise, do not just enforce the word of God on others, but lovingly live it out.  That is what really helps others.  Without love, we are just making noise.

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 3

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 3

James pens direct words with a simple explanation and examples that illustrate well our condition and our need for spiritual maturity.  Yes, these are humbling words that expose our need for Christ and encourage conformity to the nature of Lord Jesus.  I just love it.  One example he targets is our tongues.

This passage describes the tongue as a powerful muscle that steers who we are.  I like that The Message describes the mouth as a possible mud hole.  You can tell a lot about a person by the way they talk and the words they use.  You can tell how a person will react based on words they have used in the past.  Chapter 3 describes words as a fire, restless evil, poison, and salt water.

Surely you have heard the saying do not judge a book by its cover. Similar is the poetic suggestion that the “eyes are the window to the soul” which speaks of the person beneath the exterior body.  James in the 3 chapters of his letter wisely writes that it is the tongue which manifests what is in the heart of a person.  It is not the eyes. He states our tongues reveal the soul and speaks to the reality of our strength or lack of control. Our tongue speaks to our level of spiritual maturity.  Pun intended.

James says that negative speech and positive speech can come from the same fountain.  He said this should not be so.  It should not be the normal flow of language that both good and bad flow from the same mouth.  We should not curse God and bless Him with the same mouth.  We should not build up others and tear them down with the same tongue.  Yet we do and it is a sin.

This passage from James shares with us that you and I are not stuck in our sinful nature that we all have.  All of us deal with the sinful nature because we are human beings.  All people deal with temptations and desires and sin.  Our world is sinful and yet we do not have to be tied to this world.  Many times we see characteristics and actions in the people around us and we conclude because everyone acts that way, talks that way, or spends their money that way that we must have to be that way too.  We do not have to be bitter or angry or selfish or full of lies or unspiritual or envious or chaotic… even though the world tells us that being that way is ‘normal.’ We who are believers in Jesus Christ, we are not trapped by our sinful nature.  We don’t have to be like the world says we have to be, but we are free in Christ to pursue Him.  We can pursue God.  Free to pursue God becomes our new ‘normal.’

What are we free to do?  Who are we free to be?

Pure

Peace-Loving

Considerate

Submissive

Merciful

Bearing Good Fruit

Impartial

Sincere

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 2

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 2

James says do not show partiality (verse 1).  Partiality equals self-interest and worldly values looking to our own strength over faith in God.  Faith equals trust in God thus covers over self-interest.  James teaches us to be impartial to everyone understanding that we are the vessels of God’s grace.  We should show others the kindness we would want which means we “love our neighbor” (verse 8).  James also says that when we don’t do the good we know we should do, we sin.

James says faith works.  This means having belief in Christ produces an action (living faith) that rebukes sinful behavior that arises from our hearts; hence our faith is tested (see chapter 1).  As James states, God does not tempt us, but rather He leads the way for us to follow out of temptation.  We learn to grow up into His character having the aim of completeness.  Therefore, even in long-suffering, we should keep in mind what God is up to counting it “all joy” because God counts such faith as righteousness.  What God counts as righteousness we indeed can count as joy.

James says to speak and act as those under the law of liberty (people in touch with God’s mercy through Christ).  Does not the law derive from the nature of God Himself?  It does!  So, the law of liberty is the reality over those who embrace God’s grace.  God wants His whole law manifest in human beings and so we must connect to the source of grace (Christ) to live out under liberty.  The Son is Lord over the law and so able to by mercy offer liberty.  He is Lord and fulfills the requirements and can out of a new birth in us in light of this law of liberty.

I think there is much packed into the phase “the law of liberty” for those who manifest faith that works (those in Christ).  We are to live in accordance to the message received (Gospel) under the lordship of King Jesus, which is what it means to be under grace. 

Jesus taught us so much: Compassion, Turning the Other Cheek, Speaking Truth in Love, Forgiveness, Loving our Neighbors, Being Committed to Holiness, Humble Hearts, Kind Speech, Living Rightly, Praying Often, Complete Trust in God the Father, Guarding our Hearts, Faithfulness in Marriage, Being Salt and Light, and so much more!

These types of actions must accompany the pronouncement of faith.  James would say, in verse 19, that if we say we believe in Jesus, but don’t do anything about it then our faith is as good as a demon’s faith.  Let that sink in a little.  A demon knows God exists, but has chosen to go Satan’s way or even its own self-interested way.  This may sound weird, but I want to have more character than a demon.  I want to have better faith than an angel that has turned its back on God.  I want to treat God better than an evil spirit.  I want to have faith that leads me to salvation and that leads me to be more like Christ.

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 1

PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 1

So James says, “count it all joy when trials come” (verse 2)  I get great encouragement from that statement.  He also mentions he is a servant of Christ Jesus.  Isn’t it interesting the first thing he says is to “count it all joy” when hardship comes on you?  He can only mean this in light of the fact that faith in Jesus means trials.  Trials are where we are empowered to grow in character.  The idea is that without faith in God and the associated trials that we would grow less or not at all.

It’s odd to me how some folks seem to think faith removes hardship like taking a shower… faith just washes trouble away.  What James talks about here is quality of faith because it has been tested.  It is completely true that faith placed in God does save us, but James is speaking to a living faith that passes the test by perseverance.  The result is we act in love for God.  Understand, James speaks of a faith that is dead (without action) and faith that is living (acts through love).

James says we need “wisdom” (verse 5).  Living faith is found when we persevere which is an exercise of wisdom (that is how I read it) because God is generous and will provide.  This must be asked for without doubt… doubt in God’s willingness to feed faithfulness.  It should be God’s wisdom that we pray for in trials. Wisdom is the vital thing to pray for because the goal is to reflect God’s likeness, not merely a way out of pain and troubles.  Wisdome is beyond the healing, money, or fix of our issue.  James points out we are tempted out of what we desire from our hearts.  Unrighteousness is the real issue and should not be ignored in trials.  James clearly says a living faith overcomes selfishness and through hardships produces character and in that way comes deliverance.

Whether out of innocence (because we’ve not yet built up the moral muscle) or lack of integrity (due to carnal tendencies of taking the easier path rather than the road less traveled), we need wisdom and the Bible tells us, Christ on the cross is the wisdom of God on display for us.  It is of that wisdom which Christ does possess that we should request in prayer.

James is speaking to people who are already believers in Jesus Christ and he is talking about how we are sanctified in our lives by getting rid of this and that, listening to this command, and having freedom.  In the middle of talking about sanctification, James uses a simile about two people who look into a mirror (verse 23).  He is comparing and contrasting them.  Jesus often did that when teaching… He taught about the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:26-29), Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-31), The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), and the Parable of the Two Servants (Matthew 24:45-51, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 12:35-48).  Comparing things lets us see truth.  Contrasting two items allows us to understand the point of what is being taught.  James wants to explain why sanctification is so important and he does it by comparing two people who look into a mirror.

In the metaphor that James presents, about a mirror, is about the Bible.  The mirror is the teachings of Jesus.  The mirror is God’s way of living.  The mirror is God’s will.  The mirror is Christianity.  The overall purpose of a mirror is examination.  I think James uses a mirror in his simile between the two people because it is easy to read God’s Word or hear a message and see where someone else needs to change.  It is a whole other matter to read God’s Word or hear a message, examine ourselves truthfully, and apply it right to us.

We are to Persevere in Faith, 1:2-5; Deal with Temptation, 1:13-15; Have Proper Anger, 1:19-20; Get rid of moral filth (verse 21); Humbly accept the Word of God as it is planted in us (verse 22); Do what God commands and live His way (verse 22); Watch what we say (verse 26); Look after orphans and widows (verse 27); and Keep ourselves from being polluted by the world (verse 27).  That’s pretty deep.

Ephesians 6: Nothing But Questions

Ephesians 6:1-24

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”– which is the first commandment with a promise– 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. 9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. 21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. 23 Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

Questions can be the heart and mind engine that lead us to truth. With that in mind, here are questions in Ephesians 6 that may break you into new Truth.

What does children obeying and honoring parents teach us about submission to one another?

Set aside moral implications of slavery: What does slaves obeying and honoring masters teach us about submission to one another?

How does one serve wholeheartedly?

How does one serve wholeheartedly when you hate the job or boss?

How does power from God allow us or energize us to be strong?

What did Paul know about spiritual warfare that we tend to ignore?

How is standing firm spiritually connected to prayer in these verses?

What is the mystery of the Gospel he mentions and why does it have to be explained?

What chains do we have (if any) that prevent us from sharing the Gospel? Are those chains imposed on the outside or do we make them ourselves?

Are you fearless for Christ?

Who have you encouraged in Christ lately?

Do you love Christ with an undying love?

Questions can be the heart and mind engine that lead us to truth. With that in mind, may these previous questions in Ephesians 6 break you into new Truth and move you closer to abiding in Him and faithful action.

Ephesians 5: Ideals for Husbands and Wives

EPHESIANS 5:21-33

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–  30 for we are members of his body.  31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church.  33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 

The Apostle Paul, when directing commands and expounding on the Christian life for couples, takes a look at the example of Jesus Christ as the ultimate ideal in how we should treat one another and how we should structure our most intimate relationships.  Jesus is our ideal. You see, Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, security, and selfless love are a perfect pattern for us to model in our relationships.  Now, this is not an ideal that can be cast aside because it is an opinion, but rather it is the ideal of God and therefore is absolute.  Now I have to tell you that I am no expert on marriage.  I am not a relationship guru with all of the answers and six neat tricks to give you the best life now.  What we do have is the Word of God which shows us the way which is more than enough.  I find it interesting that in this passage, Paul says in verse 21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” which is the umbrella statement for this passage which applies to all people, and then breaks down his comments to husbands and wives.

HUSBANDS

Paul tells us in this passage (and in others) that the husband is the head of the home.  What does that mean?  I think that means that the husband is the one who sets the overall direction for the family.  Husbands are charged with leadership.  Husbands are also charged with loving their wives.  Husbands are charged with spiritual leadership in the home.  What should the leadership, love, and spiritual leadership look like?  Again, it should look like the ideal that Christ has already given to us.

Sacrifice.  It is the job of the husband to put his wife and children and grandchildren before himself because he is the leader.  You do what you have to do to lead your family well.  That may mean sacrificing pride when making a decision if that is best for the family.  Sacrificing sleep may be needed for a child or grandchild.  Sacrifice selfish things that take away from family like guys’ night out or sports if it hampers the family.  Sacrifice golf on Sundays to make church and family a priority.  As the leader of the home, it is the husband’s job to sacrifice in important ways to show the rest of those in your home what is priority.  I also happen to think it is the husband’s role to decide what sacrifices the family needs to make so everyone is growing spiritually.  Sacrifice is a key element of being a good and loving husband that leads and serves the family.

Security.  It is the job of the husband to create a stable home where the wife, children, and grandchildren know they are loved and cared for.  Security means provision.  Security means they feel safe.  Security means you will always be there for them dependably and you will not skip out when it gets hard.  Security means you are consistent in saying yes and no and spending money and your expectations of them and of yourself.  Security means they know you will always listen.  Security means you tell her she is the only woman for you. 

Selfless love.  Of the three of these, I have to say that I think the “selfless love” is perhaps the most difficult part of submitting to Christ and leading well in the home as a husband.  Paul says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  In my mind, that means perfectly.  I am certainly not a perfect person.  I will never be perfect this side of Heaven.  So what does that mean?  I think it means that we make every effort to love our wives and children and all the people in our homes in as many ways as possible at all times.  That means we love without expecting something in return.  We strive to use loving words because that is what we are called to do.  Love should be out motivator in how we treat our wives and children and grandchildren.

WIVES

Paul tells us in this passage (and in others) that the wife is the submissive leader of the home.  What does that mean?  Submission means exactly what it sounds like.  Submission means that at the end of the day or the end of the argument or the end of the decision making process, that input is given but responsibility rests ultimately with the husband.  God says that.  God has made that the structure and function of a Christian home.  As a wife yields to her husband’s leadership in their marriage, she reflects the heart of faith that characterizes Jesus’s people.  The church follows Jesus as her head and uses her gifts to carry out His mission in this world.  Likewise, the wife respects and yields to her husband’s leadership as she uses her gifts to complement his good purposes for their marriage and family.  What should the submission, care, and support of a wife look like?  Again, it should look like the ideal that Christ has already given to us.

Sacrifice.  Sacrifice means giving something up for a greater cause.  The greater cause that women sacrifice for his the respect for the husband in the home.  The greater cause that women sacrifice for is the health of the marriage and the love of children.  Women sacrifice much.  Wives need to sacrifice the need to be right.  Wives often need to sacrifice getting credit for all that they do around the house and with children and sometimes even working outside the home.  Wives at times need to sacrifice their independent goals because marriage is all about interdependence.  Sacrifice, for both wives and husbands is needed.

Security.  Believe it or not, wives can provide security in the home as much as husbands can.  Wives can provide security by constantly praying for their family.  Wives can help my managing money well with their husbands.  Wives can make their husbands feel secure by always taking their side in public and presenting a united front with the children.  You see security in the home means more than being safe from robbers and bandits, but security can be felt on the inside within the relationships. 

Selfless love.  Of the three of these, I have to say that I think the “selfless love” is perhaps the most difficult part of submitting to Christ and submissive leading well in the home as a wife… not that I have ever been a wife.  Paul tells the women in this passage that selfless love leads them to submit to their husbands and to respect them.  I have to say that this is a tall order at times.  The husband may not be acting in a way that is worthy of respect.  The attitudes that he may be projecting may be hurtful at times.  Selfless love means you love him through it to make him a better man in Christ.

BOTH OF YOU

A godly marriage is one in which both the husband and the wife seek to die to self and live for Christ daily. Personal agendas are submitted to God’s agenda as both spouses seek to be controlled by the Spirit of God rather than by their flesh. Neither partner clings to his or her “rights”, but both realize that they are under the authority of God. Their unity is not based on likes and dislikes or other “compatibility” issues, but on the fact that God has joined them together. They seek harmony through “putting on the mind of Christ”.  When there is an issue to address, they first consider where they have been wrong. After they have confessed and repented of their area of responsibility, they prayerfully and lovingly seek to bring their partner to a right place before God. Both partners are willing to consider their own sin, repent, and are ready to forgive.

Sacrifice.

Security.

Selfless Love.

TMB

Ephesians 5: Maturing Repentance Toward an Order of Love

EPHESIANS 5: Maturing Repentance Toward an Order of Love

Ephesians 5:1-33 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children  2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person– such a man is an idolater– has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.  7 Therefore do not be partners with them.  8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  10 and find out what pleases the Lord.  11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  15 Be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise,  16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.  19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,  20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–  30 for we are members of his body.  31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  32 This is a profound mystery– but I am talking about Christ and the church.  33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The Apostle Paul in this 5th chapter of Ephesians states clean behavior is a must for the saints.  This means that a Christian person who has Christian behavior is one who is seeking Christ’s character.  We want to be like Him.   Paul tells the Ephesians what this doesn’t look like in verses 3-5 and what it does look like in verses 6-14. 

“Clean living” would be the lifestyle Christ Jesus modeled.  Moreover, for us, this means personal sacrifice and maturing repentance (learning along the Way).  These two go hand in hand.  There seems to me to be a strong correlation with what I want to call “maturing repentance” (sanctification) with Christian love.  Until the fullness of God has come to believers as the body of Christ, the very goal of Christians is unity.  Remember, the Apostle Paul explains how these will be achieved in this passage.  First, Christ Himself is actively filling believers with the Spirit as 5:10 states.  Second, 5:18 informs believers to receive Him in an ongoing manner.

We are to “be filled” because we are maturing into the fullness of the Body Christ has provided.  We should be aware that Paul is speaking of more than being “born again and initially receiving the spirit of Christ.”  There is much more to it.  He is speaking to what should occur after a commitment of loyalty to Christ.

“Debauchery” (not a word we use a lot) is then forbidden for the Christian.  Paul tells the Ephesians to understand that such a lifestyle is nothing less than idolatry.  This reminds me of Lord Jesus who in John 8:34 said, “Anyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  Also, the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:16 makes the same claim.

Instead of being a slave to sin or enamored with an idol, we are to be filled with the Spirit and in straight forward language Apostle Paul states the action through which Christ fills us with the Spirit.  This is not just an individual filling, but more so a filling up corporately.  The maturing he is focusing on has the body of believers in Christ unified in a confession and commitment to Christ.  Each all together.  The believers’ action in the filling up into the fullness of God should  be as verses 19-21 encourage.  We are to unify with each other in living with music in our hearts to the Lord and thanking God and submitting to each other out of reverence to Christ.

In what areas of your life do you seek Christ’s character?  Where do you hide from him?

Are there habits and choices you continually make that pull you away from Christ?

Are there habits and choices you continually make that draw you close to Christ?

Is “clean living” easier or harder than it was in Paul’s day?

BMD

Ephesians 4: God-Honoring Forgiveness

God-honoring forgiveness is described in Ephesians 4.  In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul describes moving from unforgiveness and all the physical, emotional, and spiritual results of that in our lives to forgiveness.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Forgiveness is at times a process for us.  What are the steps we need to take? If we are believers, you and I want to be like God and emulate His forgiveness that we have experienced. This is not easy.

#1 Recognize Our Issue: We first need to realize that unforgiveness has taken root in our heart before we can do anything about it.  In Ephesians 4:31, the Apostle Paul describes some characteristics of our lives that may indicate we are harboring unforgiveness. If you are dealing with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, or malice… unforgiveness may have a piece of your heart.

#2 Give Up Our Rights: I think this is the hardest part. We need to give up our right to be wronged.  We must give up our right to exact revenge and make them feel bad for the bad stuff they did.  We must give up these self-serving rights and adopt the right to forgive given to us by Jesus Christ.

#3 Pray for a Miracle: The only way we will forgive someone who has hurt us deeply is by praying for God to work a miracle.  I honestly believe that forgiveness is not our normal nature.  I personally struggle with forgiveness there for He (God… through Christ… in the power of the Holy Spirit) needs to give us the capacity to forgive.

#4 Continue Praying: I firmly believe forgiveness is a matter of prayer.  An important ingredient in forgiving someone is prayer in which we honestly pray for the other person and ourselves.  Now these are not prayers of “I pray they get hit by a truck,” but rather honest simple prayers for their well-being. 

#5 Decide: At some point, a decision needs to be made.  In Ephesians 4:31 when it says, “get rid” I read into that a personal decision is made.  You and I must move from recognizing our unforgiveness, giving up our sinful rights, and praying about forgiveness to actually forgiving.  Forgiveness is a decision. Decide to let it go.

#6 Work on Permanent Forgiveness: I believe that once you have made the decision to forgive someone, that this is an active decision.  What I mean by “active decision” is that this is a decision of the will that must be kept up.  If we get lax in our willingness to forgive, we may let resentment creep back into our lives.  Forgiveness is a decision that must be a constant state of who we are and we must be vigilant against falling back into unforgiveness.

TMB

EPHESIANS 4: Walk Worthy

EPHESIANS 4: Walk Worthy

Ephesians 4:1-32 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?  10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.  20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.  21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  27 and do not give the devil a foothold.  28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.  29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Here is a little reminder before we jump headlong into Ephesians 4.  In Ephesians 3:6, Gentiles are through Christ fellow inheritors to all God promises in Christ.  So, by the Spirit of Christ, there can be unity because of Him.  In addition, Ephesians 3:19 speaks to that aim by noting that the children of God are being filled up with the fullness of God. 

Now onto Ephesians 4. 

In Ephesians 4, we see that the gifts from Christ are the reality of His victory in descending from Heaven to crucify sin in His flesh (His death).  Jesus completed that feat and at Pentecost God the Father began to pour out His Spirit on all flesh who believed.

God provides the Body of Christ with apostles, prophets, evangelist, teachers, and pastors (and many others).  He provides His disciples the means to mature to become like Him.  For the believer, enduring in faith is required toward the sake of unity because the plan and the means are made clear in how God will have His humanity live… as He intended.

Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace comes by Christ Jesus having peace with God and then offering forgiveness to us by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension.  With that victory, He gifts humanity with the ability to be filled up to the fullness of God.

Love must be in view with one another towards unity because not everyone is gifted alike or in the same place with God.  Moreover, though we are to grow in every way, we must not demand folks grow in accordance with the grace we have personally received.  Rather, we give freely as we have received from the Lord so we share with them so they learn of God through us and vice versa. 

Verse 13 is very important.  As we advance in our call through Christ, we mature.  Maturity is the steadfast effort of all those who share in God’s Spirit with the good works of Faith in Christ.  We seek to follow Christ’s example and out of that seeking and unity will arise among His people.  Unity in the Spirit is stability in our maturing in Christ.

The goal is a body (group, fellowship) indwelled with Christ’s Spirit.  A healthy body has everyone living out their given functional role according to the Spirit’s wisdom.  We find balance with the Lord and also with His church.  This balance then extends to the whole of creation where everything will be brought under Christ.  Think about that!  Jesus Christ will return to a body of mature believers (the Church)… so our maturing in faith and unity is fully supported by God.

Yet… even though we have God’s full support… we must recognize that God is good and not us.  The best we can do is reflect Him.  Keep in mind the human heart is often wickedly deceitful and we can deceive ourselves out of being as responsible as we should.

I often find myself (and others) wanting to place the full burden of the relationship on Christ’s shoulders.  It is true that the means of having a relationship with God is all on Christ, but our response is not.  That is what Paul is addressing.

Verses 25-32 are very practical in nature.  Life under the authority of God’s grace means old sinful behavior is to stop.  Period.  To come under the lordship of Jesus, is to become free of all law and authorities that are in opposition to Him.  Moreover, we must then live under Christ’s authority if we are to have eternal life.  Anyone who repents can do so because the Spirit of Christ is given and with it the revelation in how to live.  Jesus did say we must deny ourselves and follow Him.  Otherwise… why call Him Lord? 

BMD