Ephesians 4-1-7 (MP3 file for download)
Open your Bibles please to Ephesians 4. We are going to be looking at verses 1-7 this morning.
Today’s text is the beginning of the second half of this letter. What we have read so far has been primarily theological in nature, and we are moving now into practical instructions on how our theology is to make itself known in our lives as Christians. Let me begin by reminding us of this, your theology, or your beliefs about God will show up in your everyday life. At your core, the things that you believe about God, who he is, and what he does, what His character is like, etc. will reveal themselves in your daily life. You can know a lot of facts about God, and scripture, but what really reveals your true beliefs are your actions towards your family, your close friends, and towards God when no one is watching. I will also remind us of the truth that you cannot change your beliefs about God by managing your behavior. Your behavior will mirror your beliefs, therefore, your mind and heart need to change before your behavior will have any lasting change. So as Paul gives us instructions on how to live, they should always flow out of the truth of who we are. These are not things to do to earn God’s love, He is instructing us one how we are to work at our faith. If you recall, he just closed out the last section with a prayer for strength, because he knows the task is hard. He knows what he is instructing these people, and us in is not easy work.
So lets look at his first instructions to us: Lets read Ephesians 4:1-7
Let me ask you a question that I want you to think about for a minute. What is your primary calling as a Christian? How often do you reflect on your calling? Ok, so before we go on, take a minute and write down in order of priority the top thing you are called to. Maybe there are more, many of us are called to many different things, some of us only a couple, but write down the top priority of your calling. If it helps to think about it another way, what is your first job as a Christian?. We will get back to those things in a bit, but I wanted you to write those down to look back at later.
So, the first instruction Paul gives us in this section is profound. It is life changing, it is earth shattering. Paul has been building up to this moment for three chapters. What is the message he wants to tell us, what is the amazing advice he wants to give us?
WALK Paul’s first instructions to these Christians, and to us today is to walk? SO, your telling me Paul, that you just built this huge case for how we are in Christ, and have these new identities, and we have been saved, and brought near, and we are the vehicle fore God’s self revelation to take place, and the first way we do that is to Walk? i know, glamorous right? Well, God is a God who understands our limitations, and also has ways that are above our ways. SO why does he tell us to walk? Why not run, or sprint, or something else fast, even a speed walk would be better right? so why walk? Well, let me suggest three things.
a. The Christian life is a gradual process. Even though you are saved from your sin and justified the moment you repent and trust in Christ for your salvation, you are not perfect yet. You are far from perfect, you have much to learn, and most of us have many years to learn it. So the change you want to see must come at walking pace, not running.
b. The Christian life must keep moving forward. We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare right? I know, its not in scripture, but it does illustrate a point well, that those who feel like they are doing a lot of work, may not be getting as much accomplished as those who are just plodding along. The important thing is that you are moving forward. I have noticed in the past 15 or so years of being in ministry of varying kinds that we as humans fall into the culture’s mindset that we should be growing in leaps and bounds, and not slowly. I have felt the exhilaration of feeling like I have grow years at one weekend conference. I have felt the depression of returning to “normal life” only to feel like I am not growing at all. I am ok with those types of experiences, but I also want us to be reminded that real life is where the growth of those events is put to the test. The valley is the proving ground for what you have learned on the mountain. And honestly, it is in the valley where the real lessons can be learned. It is not in the sprints, and spurts, but the steady, day in day out one foot in front of the other walk that most growth in your life will occur.
c. Walking has a destination that is far off. Our destination as Christians is not one that is close, by any means. there is no one here that has arrived at the destination of their walk. As long as you are breathing, you should be walking, and the destination is into the image of Christ. Check your pulse real quick for me. Does everyone here have a pulse? If you have a pulse today, you are not at your destination. Keep walking toward your destination.
How are we to walk? Well, I am glad you asked, Paul tells us that right here. He says to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, which is essentially saying, act your identity. But then he goes on to say we are to walk with all humility and gentleness, bering with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace.
All that to say how we walk matters, not just that we are walking. we are to walk with :
a. Humility: Humility is seen by popular culture much today as it was in the time of this letter. It was not an admirable quality to posses. The prevailing cultures of the day saw humility as weakness, and would have scoffed at this instruction. But those who recognize the truth of their situation will recognize that humility is the only response of one who is in Christ, because very simply, they have nothing to boast about.
b. Gentleness: Gentleness, along with humility is not something that you can do begrudgingly. It is very hard to fake gentleness. Dealing gently with one another however is another outflow of being in Christ. Many times in scripture we are instructed to be gentle with one another.
c. Bearing with one another: OK, so here we have again another direct application of Paul’s prayer for strength. You and I need strength because we have to bear with one another. This is a theme we see repeated in Paul’s writing. He says it in Colossians 3:13, as well as Galatians 6:2. The imagery here is fairly clear, we are to give deference to others weakness as we walk the Christian walk. This is a beautiful display of Christlike sacrifice that we are called to as a body…
d. Eager to maintain the unity in the Spirit and the bond of Peace: The word eager is a curious word to me. what are things that you are eager for? Are you eager for your taxes to come around? Are you eager for the power bill to arrive? Are you eager to go to the doctor? You realize, all of those things must be done. Paul is also calling us to something that must be done as well, and he is reminding us that we must be eager to do it. When we maintain the unity in our families, or in our church, and we must defer, or bear with someone, or be humble, we should be eager to do that, because the outcome is desirable.
So, What is the outcome? Well, to put it simply, we display the character and nature of our salvation. When we, as believers walk in unity with one another, we display as it says in v. 4 and following, that there is one body, and one spirit, just like there is one hope. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God and Father over all. through all and in all. So, God did not call us to be different bodies, or different faiths. We are made one by the fact that we are all saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ. We have no other ground to stand on, no other credentials by which to enter this family, no other flag to wave. We have been redeemed by Christ, and Him alone. And the way we are meant to display that is in our unity. We are meant to be held together by the bond of Christ. In order to do that well, we must walk, in humility and gentleness, bearing with one another, eager to maintain the spirit of unity in the bond of peace. And we do that ultimately because God is glorified in our unity…