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An Active Role in God's Work - Ephesians 4:17-25

Ephesians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  59:37
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Ephesians 4:17-25 The christian plays an active role in God’s work of grace in them. INTRO I want to draw your attention to an observation of mine from the text to kick us off this morning in the study of God’s word. The opening verse (verse 17) of our passage in chapter 4 reads. “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,..”…and we’ll hold up there. Does this sound vaguely familiar at all? If you’ve been traveling along with us through Paul’s letter to the Gentile church in Ephesus, perhaps you are looking back to the beginning of this chapter. (Chapter 4 - verse 1) Which starts off saying…. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,…”. Very similar language. Why would Paul start off with the one and then bring in the other a fair distance down in his letter written? The picture that comes to mind for me as I consider why is a bit like the difference between being an active contributing part of a road trip,…verses just being along for the ride. Sort of like when my parents took us camping as children. Their experience in the cab of the truck was completely different than my brother’s and mine who rode in the upper bunk of the camper positioned above the cab of the truck. Totally illegal today, but in the 80’s…the best way to travel as a kid in my opinion. We were totally along for the ride. Careless viewing of the on coming scenery and vehicles, playing the car games such as ‘dib’ or ‘slug bug’, …wrestling with each other which often resulted in mild scuffles we never let our parents know about and then usually, of course, a bulk portion of the travel was spent (what do you think??) - sleeping. Just, lights out, drooling, heavy sleep. In a nutshell, we were totally along for the ride. NO contribution whatsoever on our part to the travel. Not participating in the journey to our destination at all. Asleep for most of it. While on the other hand, my father and mother each played there active contributing roles during the road trip. From start to finish, working together to safely arrive at the intended destination. They were not just along for the ride. Well, what I believe Paul is leading his audience to arrive at this morning, is that: The christian plays an active role in God’s work of grace in them. They, christians are not merely along for the ride. What he (Paul) began at the start of chapter 4 as urging the believers whom he is writing to, in light of the glory of God’s grace revealed to them through the gospel, in light of the spiritual blessings they (the christian…you and I) have because of the gospel of the grace of God, how we ought to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Paul now moves from what virtuous attributes of the heart he describes a saved sinner ought to have in the opening verses of chapter 4 in light of God’s calling on their lives, NOW putting some details as to what should not be present and what should be present. The active role the christian has in God’s work of grace in them. He continues this through the rest of the epistle….all the way to the end. Our focus this morning, is to get on board with Paul and take hold of this truth together. That the — The christian plays an active role in God’s work of grace in them. BODY 1) FIRST POINT - (Ephesians 4:17-19). The Life of One without Jesus We begin doing so by looking at the life of one without Jesus. That which everyone once lived and that which we are no longer to be like. The life of one without Jesus. Let’s go ahead and read (verses 17-19) to see this. A uniform description of one without Jesus. JESUS,.. “The Light of the World” as He spoke repeatedly of himself in the gospels as well as who his followers are to be. (Matthew 5:14, John 8:12,9:5). Perhaps you are familiar with the song that sings…. “Light of the world you stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes let me see. Beauty that made, this heart adore you, hope of a life spent with you.”…yeah… How accurate that depicts what Jesus did and needed to do to deliver us from this state described by Paul here in these 3 verses. (Psalm 36:9) says, “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” And that is just it,..right? Only with the Light of world, only with Jesus do we see things rightly as in the brightness of day and not as in the darkness of night. With JESUS, one’s outlook on life becomes completely transformed from what it was in their life without JESUS. They have a different mind set now. All has shifted. But until one comes to JESUS, until their life is in the light of His presence, they remain in darkness as depicted concisely here by the Apostle Paul. Blindly under the rule and reign of the god of this world,…under satan. The Apostle John states it this way. (1 John 5:19) “We know that we (the born again christian) we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” The whole world which included every christian prior to their conversion. Prior to the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ setting them free they were in darkness with the rest of mankind as described here by Paul. Now, to examine this passage together more closely and see how all the descriptions given relate to one another regarding LIFE of ONE without JESUS….I call your attention to the end of (verse 18). “….due to their hardness of heart.” “….due to their hardness of heart.” Futility of their minds,…darkened in their understanding,….alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them….ALL…DUE to their hardness of heart.”…and therefore have become…it results in a callousness and a giving of self over to sensuality and greediness to practice every kind of impurity.” All due to hardness of heart. Hardness of heart. You know, Hardness of Heart is not something necessarily easy to discern. It may very well be quite evident in how they carry themselves outwardly,…sure…. but One who is very hard of heart may be quite - JOVIAL ….and even bear a soft countenance about them while remaining obstinate in unbelief. As goes the saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” The outer shell of one who is hard hearted can be many different flavors or textures, figuratively speaking, while in their heart they remain obstinate in unbelief. Because that’s the essence of being hard hearted isn’t it? - unbelief. (Mark 16:14) Jesus who was grieved over hardness of heart of the Pharisees,…even “…. rebuked his disciples for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him (him Jesus) after he had risen.” UNBELIEF,…which can be present even in a christian at various times but most assuredly in one who’s life is without Jesus. Regardless of outward appearance and perceived persona…. Life of One without Jesus is one who is in unbelief, one who is hard hearted and fits into Paul’s concise yet complete description of them. We see this in nonbelievers and many here are able to remember back to life without Jesus and attest to it. Starting with. “…walking in the futility of their minds…”. You know, not many years ago this may have proven difficult to present a convincing argument…. TODAY,….simply go to the latest headlines, see what is happening in our culture, in our government. Take for instance our cultures thinking on gender. It’s ludicrous. MINDS considered to be of great intellect are not just accepting the perversion of gender identity but advancing the distortion of what ought to be considered truth. Born a male….they are male…all the way into manhood to the point of death. Born female… ‘she’…not them..they or ‘it’ but ‘she’…’she’ will grow to be a woman. Likely give birth to another male or female as women made by God are designed to do. Futility in their mind…darkness in understanding…yeah… slam dunk! NOT a tough argument to make these days. You don’t need to be a christian to ask the question… “What has happened? Where is common sense these days?” Let’s press this a bit further though, shall we. We can do a lot of thinking can’t we? I mean, consider the minds ability to be able to think and ponder. It’s truly amazing. There’s a type of power to it if you will, a power that can prevent you from falling asleep or cause illnesses. Anyone attest to this? Up all night fretting….unable to turn your own mind off. Being sick with worry….literally sick to the stomach, migraine headaches, nausea, muscle spasms, chest pain, heart palpitations and the like. Literally sick with worry. Think also about the volumes of books written by great thinkers over the ages…huge buildings required to contain them and now data files and archives of which volumes of information contained in them are beyond figures I could offer to measure …but,…if you ‘think’ about it….if tremendous thinking is done not in accordance to truth…to who God is and understanding the framework of the purpose of life…is not all this thinking futile….ultimately useless in the end. I don’t care if you have Tony Stark’s mind, to use a make believe example of a monumental mind, an intellectual giant far beyond all others, holding great fame both in the movie world and in our world alike. Regardless of unthinkable breakthroughs and extravagant, mesmerizing inventions,…if darkened in your understanding, being alienated from the life of God then it all results in a pointless, futile, and useless end to your life. You go to your grave an condemned sinner. Guilty of every act and/or thought of sensuality and impurity your unbelieving hard heart without hesitation gave itself over to. The christian’s life should not resemble this…should not resemble a Life of One without Jesus,…Paul is saying. It simply should not. “You must no longer walk as they do…”…says Paul. Must not. Non optional. A sharp distinct contrast to that sort of life resulting from a hardened heart of which Christians may be guilty of. WHAT adult here doesn’t know of a believer, a pastor, who has succumbed to some sexually sin? Whether personally or in the news. SADLY, We know of them. Perhaps you are one of them. Paul commonly puts this (sensuality/sexual immorality, lasciviousness as the King James translation states it)…Paul puts this particular class or type of sin upfront when describing life without Jesus ,… I believe because it is so pervasive throughout all time and culture. Read your Bibles…it is full of scandal and brute honesty of sexual immorality in all it’s perverted forms…from cover to cover and Oh how many godly men have fallen prey to the deadly Viper of Lust. (Proverbs 7:24-27) “…, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.” That’s hell. The warning in God’s Word is clear. When Paul lists the works of the flesh of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of heaven…both times he leads out with (Galatians 5:19-20, 1 Corinthians 6:9) “…sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,…saying those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived,..” Christian, actively guard your heart against becoming hard hearted and callous - insensitive to it’s encroachment upon your soul. This is the way the Gentiles live, the way you once lived,…actively take part in knowing the distinction. Actively Mark this in a sense Paul is saying. Do your part to mark this christian, mark this believer…know this distinction of a life without Jesus and that it must-not-be-YOU. IF there is evidence of this remaining in your life, any remaining element in your thinking…giving yourself over to sensuality and impurity…unflinching in condoning anything that God himself would not approve of, unholy conduct of any sort. it shouldn’t! If you stand in the presence of JESUS - the Light of the shouldn’t. This must not be the case. Why? Why? For that is not the way you learned Christ! Paul says in (verse 20)…Moving along with him in how the christian plays an active role in God’s work of grace in them. It begins in The Life of One having met Jesus. Our 2nd point drawn from (verses 20-21) 2) SECOND POINT (Ephesians 4:20-21) - The Life of One having met Jesus The Life of One having - met Jesus. That’s the turning point right? That’s the turning point. Not before,…but at the time the Life of One meets Jesus they begin to actively participate in God’s work of grace in them all the way till they are with Him in glory. PAUL is writing to the church in Ephesus, made up mostly of Gentile believers and he is going to drive hard this point of a changed life, of no longer walking as hard hearted unbelievers. Why do I say that? (verses 20-21) - read. Now, I say again….Paul knows to whom he is writing to…the christian church he planted made up of Gentiles in Ephesus whom he spent nearly three years with instructing in the ways of Christ. assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him. Assuming?? - What is Paul doing here? Paul is making a point - SORT of like if I were to say to someone I know whom I see using the Yellow pages to search for a restaurant……. “I’m assuming you’ve heard of the Internet?” Knowing full well that they have and therefore that they know then how vast information is a few finger swipes away,….that is unless you use Siri and then you just ask “Hey Siri - “Pizza place in Hood River” Siri does the searching for you. Knowing then, that they have heard about the internet….WHY are you behaving as if you haven’t? …… “You are searching the Yellow pages when google is at your finger tips.” I mean Come’n man. Do you see the arguing logic here? And Children, your parents can explain to you later about the Yellow pages. I can hear your thoughts…Yellow pages?? Colored pages? Are we doing crafts soon?…What on earth is he talking about? Ask your parents later to fill you in on Yellow pages and phone booths for that matter…Yes phone booths…and I’ll leave it at that.….have it serve as a helpful conversation piece later to talk about the sermon. The point is though, the point is,…with that illustration, that Similarly, Paul is challenging these believers whom he has taught about Christ,…the ONE whom they are to live like. The perfect example of living after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness which is what we are created by God for as His image bearers. True living is living as the author of life lived. Paul is driving home hard this point. The life of one having met Jesus ‘must’ bear a stark contrast to one’s life without Jesus. Then begs the question. Have you met Jesus? Maybe you think you have but really haven’t. There is a BIG difference between a concept of JESUS, a knowledge about JESUS verses actually meeting JESUS, following him…..coming under His rule and reign over your life. A heaven and hell difference. Meeting JESUS in this way changes you…fundamentally changes who-you-are. Which leads us to our travel destination in (verses 22-25). The Life of one working with Jesus. If you’ve truly met JESUS…from that day forward your life is one working with Jesus. 3) THIRD POINT (Ephesians 4:22-25) - The Life of One Working with Jesus Our third point. Putting this into practice. Placing our feet on the ground if you will in our role of actively participating with God’s work of grace in us. Let’s pick up again in (verse 20) and read all the way through to (verse 25)… When “the Father of lights,…of His own will…brought us forth by the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of fruits of His creatures” (James 1:17-18)…Our life took an about face turn away from the world and towards Him to live life in the light of His presence actively participating with His work of grace in us. These closing verses provide clear instruction for us on what that looks like. There are two key words that provide the framework for this. A little GREEK lesson for us this morning. The first one is for the word Put off. The GREEK word for this is - Apotithemi - (Apatithamee) - Say it with me…. (Apatithamee) good. This GREEK word means to put off, cast off, renounce. To deny, to reject as belonging to, to refuse to own. “renounce the world and it’s cares” (Titus 2:12) We are not of this world….Are we not? NOT if you’ve truly met JESUS and have been brought us forth by the Word of Truth…(James 1:17-18)….“the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him” (Ephesians 1:13),..Him JESUS as Lord and Savior of your soul. No, you are not of this world and therefore… Nor should you be living as if you are. JESUS said to “deny yourself” … “to pick up your cross (die to old self) and follow him.” (Matthew 16:24-26) Stated elsewhere in scripture… “Your life is not your own, you’ve been bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20,7:23). Put off therefore that old life that has died with Christ and put on the new life in Christ whom we are alive in. (Romans 6:8, Colossians 3:3) “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” That old man was crucified with Christ on Calvary and the life you now live you live by faith in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2:20). “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Your life is not your own,…therefore put off that old self and put on the life of Christ. WE, the christian, play an active role in God’s work of grace in our lives. It’s not passive, YOU are not just along for the ride. WE are saved by grace alone…(Titus 3:3-7). “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace (justified by His grace)..we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Saved-by-grace…It’s all grace, It’s all God’s power at work in you transforming you “from one degree of glory to the next” (2 Corinthians 3:18), sanctifying your life more into the image of Christ of which we work with God in Him doing. “I am a sojourner with you….” (Psalm 39:12) a guest here” on-this-earth… ….participating in, engaging with His grace, with The Father of Light’s grace operating in us by the Holy Spirit which bears weight on our eternal inheritance. Let’s not miss that saints! Our working with God (2 Corinthians 6:1) in which only He can do by grace alone bears weight on our eternal inheritance. LET me state it this way. “Our capacity…our capacity to enjoy the glory of God will vary based on our life lived by faith here and now.” Do you understand what I am saying? Everyone saved enjoys God’s glory for all eternity, everyone of us…but the measure we have the capacity to enjoy Him is determined by our life lived by faith during our earthly pilgrimage. We, ‘christians’ are judged according to our works…not for salvation,..but for our heavenly reward. (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6:23,35; Hebrews 10:35; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). We-get-God - and our life lived by faith now bears weight on our capacity to enjoy Him for all eternity. (2 Corinthians 5:10) “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Randy Alcorn, the author of Money Possessions and Eternity agrees saying “Two jars can both be full, but the one with greater capacity contains more. Likewise, all of us will be full of joy in heaven, but some may have more joy because their capacity for joy will be larger, having been stretched through trusting God in this life.” Consider also John Bunyan’s thoughts on the topic. John Bunyan…The author of Pilgrims progress….He says,…“And why shall he that doth most for God in this world, enjoy most of Him in that which is to come? But because by doing and acting, the heart, and every faculty of the soul is enlarged, and more capacitated, whereby more room is made for glory. Every vessel of glory shall at that day be full of it; but every one will not be capable to contain a like measure; and so if they should have it communicated to them, would not be able to stand under it; for there is… ‘an eternal weight in the glory that saints shall enjoy’ (2 Corinthians 4:17), and every vessel must be at that day filled—this is, have its heavenly load of it….He that is best bred, and that is most in the bosom of God, and that so acts for him here; he is the man that will be best able to enjoy most of God in the Kingdom of heaven.” We work ‘with’ God,…We are not merely along for the ride…we participate in, engage along with His grace, with The Father’s grace operating in us by the Holy Spirit which bears weight on our eternal inheritance. Put off, renounce that old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. And put on…the second GREEK word to complete the framework of this text. The GREEK word for Put on is Endyo (endu-o’) - say it with me also.. (endu-o’) nice. (Apatithamee) - put off and now (endu-o’) meaning “put on”….in the sense of sinking into a garment, to invest with clothing (literally or figuratively). This new life we put on in such a way. Think of how what you wear in a way puts you in a mindset of what you are about to do. Such as Nathan putting his flight suit on to get geared up to fly, or myself changing into scrubs before I begin work. Whatever the attire that suits the job at hand, you put it on - literally. I imagine Nathan would feel pretty out of place if he were wearing his P.J.’s while boarding a plane to pilot. Now P.J.’s, at home,…when you are winding out your day. I’m not sure about your house, but the Schreiber’s sink into those garments. Soft, comfy, cozy P.J.s. There are even occasional days in the year in which P.J.’s are sported the whole day. Those are fun,…Are we alone there?.. At any rate, the point is to consider this figuratively. This new life in Christ that we are called to, clothed in His righteousness by faith…we are to sink into that garment. Put it on as to the mindset and outlook of who-you-are and how-you-are going to live each day. If it helps, as you are dressing for the day, take the literal putting on of clothing to remind you to “put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true Righteousness and Holiness.” Put off and Put on…conveying our active role in working with God’s work of grace in us. The framework is set, now, let’s complete the build by applying the finishing touches as to the means provided by God to do so. Where do we find this? (verse 23). ON the coattails of speaking about the corruptness of our former manner of life through deceitful desires….GOD, through the Apostle Paul says “to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,”…. How exactly is this done? Take another passage by Paul to the same effect (Romans 12:2) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” “Transformed by the renewal of your mind…”. Renewal - Reform; Renovate; take on a new mind set, altogether a new way of thinking. Where does this come from? Could it be anything other than God’s Word? Let’s read some passages from (Psalm 119) to solidify this from scripture. (verse 1) “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” - (verse 19) “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me!” (verse 37) “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” (verse 105). “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (verse 130). “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (verse 144) “Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I-may-live.” (verse 175). “Let my soul live and praise You, and let your rules help me.” And finally…the Word of God quoted by JESUS “the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) JESUS - quoting from the Torah when being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4) “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The renewing of your mind by the Word of God of which we then put into practice. “Renewed in the spirit of our minds” - Renewed by taking God’s Word in…reading it, listening to it taught, singing it together, meditating on it, hiding it in our hearts. “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5). Only by renewing the spirit of our minds by the intake of God’s Word are we able to see through our own deceitful desires that would draw us back to the old manner of life that we are commanded to put off. Don’t listen to the deceiver, satan, that serpent…when he comes and tries to deceive you same as he did so to Eve. His tactics haven’t changed. “It’s all grace man…take it easy and enjoy the ride. You don’t need to renounce sin, NO effort is needed to put forth to fight temptation. You’re good…Jesus has your back.” That deception leads to hell. NO, you must put off (Apatithamee) put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on (endu-o’) put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. CONCLUSION Having arrived,…to tie off this package gift from God to us…I bring us to (James 1:22-25). “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves, (thinking you are a christian when in fact you are not). For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like, (no change whatsoever). But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, (remains steadfast in obedience and bears fruit with repentance when they don’t,…pursuing holiness in the fear of God) the one who perseveres in the ways of Christ being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Actively participating in God’s work of grace in them to the praise of His glory. - PRAY * Life without Jesus - darkness, futility in thinking, hardness of heart * Meeting Jesus - Delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into His Kingdom. In your light seeing rightly, Outlook on life transformed. * Working with Jesus - actively participating in God’s work of grace in the salvation of our souls. COMMUNION Meet with Jesus, walk and talk with him who came from heaven to earth, lived as a man, lived a perfect sinless life fulfilling all righteousness and then laid down His life on the cross,…dying in our place as payment for our sins and rose to new life as our hope of glory. If you haven’t met Him, I invite you to do so this morning. See me or one of the elders or deacons here after service and invite us to continue the conversation about getting to know Jesus. If you have met him, I invite you up as the Spirit leads to partake of the elements of communion and remember his sacrifice given, purchasing your salvation through faith in Him. Benediction (Micah 6:8)
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