Week Commencing 13th May 2018   With a PDF found here

Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Ephesians 4:17-5:2

Week 7: IMITATING GOD

Unified in Jesus, gifted to serve and growing to maturity. That’s where last week’s passage was taking us. What does our life now look like? How different is it now from those around us? Paul sets out to be absolutely clear on the difference living the gospel makes.

DAY 1: Read Ephesians 4:17-19

From way back in January, we have been reminded that we have been chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless; predestined to be adopted as his children; we’ve been redeemed, forgiven and had God’s will revealed to us; we’ve been sealed with his Holy Spirit; made alive with Christ, saved by grace, had good works prepared for us to do! Christ strengthens us in our inner being; we are loved beyond all measure and we have in God someone able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine.

In response, we are to keep the unity of the Spirit. And equipped (or mended) by evangelists, pastors and teachers, we are to serve one another and as a people become strong and mature in Christ. Wow!

So of course, it makes total sense (4:17) that we now ought to live entirely different lives! We’ve been brought out of the darkness and futility of a life without the Lord Jesus. So, Paul rightly insists that we live no longer as the Gentiles do – that is, those Gentiles who have not come to know and serve Jesus. Paul reflects on their current state and it is very sad. Why are they ignorant? Because of the hardening of their heart toward God.

Friends, this is how we see many in the world around us. Futile, dark, ignorant, hard of heart, insensitive as to any notion of right and wrong, meaning that they indulge in all kinds of unspeakable impurity.

Because we’ve been rescued from all that, our lives are to be entirely changed. Paul will go on to explain more of what this looks like, but I trust you’re getting the point! Our passions, interests, perspective, plans, priorities; all that fills our time will be entirely different because of the life into which we’re so privileged to have been called.

DAY 2: Read Ephesians 4:20-24

Understood in the context of yesterday’s passage, Paul points out that from the time they first came to know the Lord Jesus they would have known that their life would never again be the same. From the beginning they were taught in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. That is, the costly way of discipleship would have been made known. They would have been taught that following Christ means entering through the narrow gate that leads to life and that only a few find it. (See Matthew 7:13-14). They would have been told that they are the light of the world and salt of the earth. It would have been made clear that they cannot serve two masters; that they are to pray for and love even enemies and that they are not to do anything in life for religious ‘show’.

When someone comes to know the Lord Jesus, they ‘put off’ their ‘old self’. That is, that old self that lives for self, has to go! It is open to corruption and deceit. There has to be a decisive break with the past. Through the Holy Spirit’s influence and power, Christians are ‘made new in the attitude of’ their minds. Romans 12:1-2 also speaks of this when it says, ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Or in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has done, the new has come!”

So radical is this ‘new self’ that it’s created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. That is – like God in his appropriate right-ness in everything. Like God in his being separated out as entirely different from the world around us.

In tomorrow’s passage he will explain a little more of what this looks like, but can I ask you today – how different do you think your life is from your unbelieving next-door neighbour? In what ways? Do you think your very character stands out among those who know you?

DAY 3: Read Ephesians 4:25-28

Now we’re getting to the ‘rubber hits the road’ of what this radically new and different life looks like.

Lies and falsehood abound in 21st century life. We find it hard to trust anyone with the truth. On the whole we no longer trust our politicians to tell the truth – nor sales staff, tradespeople nor other professionals. Corruption is rife at all levels of society. Friends don’t tell the truth to one another. Not so with us. We must speak truthfully ‘for we are all members of one body’. That is, the very fact that we are bonded together in Christ (and indwelt by God’s Spirit) means we ought to be utterly open and honest with one another.

But there are to be many other points of differences between us and the unbeliever. Yes, we will get angry – but when that happens we are not to sin. We are to deal with our anger in a calm and measured way. Note that anger is to be dealt with on the day, and not carried over! To do anything else is to ‘give the devil a foothold’ – that is, to open up opportunities – driven by anger – to behave in inappropriate ways.

Finally, in this section, notice that stealing is to be turned on its head. Instead of wanting to take from others, it is to be turned into a desire to give to others – sharing with those in need.

Truth, anger and stealing – three clear areas in life which are to be radically different for those who have come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus. May the Lord give us grace to be radically different in these and many other ways!

DAY 4: Read Ephesians 4:29-5:2

If we are only to say what is helpful for ‘building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen’ then ‘unwholesome talk’ must surely be that which brings others down. And there’s a lot of that sort of talk we hear all the time. Not from our mouths though. We need to be slow to speak and quick to run a mental check list before we do so “will this help?”, “will it build up?”, “will it be beneficial?” What a challenge! But how helpful too!!

Have you ever considered that what you do may cause the Holy Spirit grief? What will cause him to grieve? See v31 – bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and slander, malice; unkindness, lack of compassion, withholding forgiveness. All this (and more) grieves God – grieve his Spirit. Think with me for a moment – have you caused the Holy Spirit grief this past week?

Kind, compassionate and forgiving – the total opposite of all that grieves the Holy Spirit. And who has set the standard in these characteristics? Jesus! Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The final call then which sums up all that has gone before, comes in 5:1-2 in the call to be imitators of God. That’s a huge call! What will that look like? Go back to the text for it tells us. Even as we are dearly loved children we are to live a life of love. To ‘imitate God’ will mean to follow Jesus’ example in giving up his life. It means we will consider our life a living sacrifice; that we will expend ourselves in giving ourselves to others and putting their needs before our own. In a world which emphasises and prizes individuality and looking after “no. 1”, this again is radical and will mean that we absolutely stand out in our world! But friends, the church as God intended, lives a life of love, after the pattern of Jesus.

References: “Church as God intended” reading notes; a sermon series from 2015.