A Call To Commitment: Eph. 4-6
As Christians who are growing we have to learn how to:
- SIT - in our position
- WALK - in our condition by faith
- STAND - against Satan's tactics
Let's think for a few moments about the character qualities we need as committed disciples:
- Develop a heart to know and love God. Take whatever steps are necessary to keep a constant, consistent, growing relationship with the Lord. This vertical relationship will result in loving our neighbor - horizontal - the Body of Christ, and those who don't know the Lord.
- This life of commitment is defined by Paul in Eph 4:1-3. "Walk in a manner worthy of your calling."
- The mindset of obedience; making the right choices even when my flesh and Satan try to seduce me not to. Disobedience short-circuits my commitment --> walk.
- The mindset of faithfulness. We need to live in a godly consistent manner.
"Be careful how you walk"
"Making the most of your time."
"Understand what the will of the Lord is", and
"Be filled with the Holy Spirit."
You cannot by ignoring this issue of your walk avoid it.
So how do we "walk worthily" with all humility, gentleness, serving and loving? Do we make a list of rules and try to keep them? Or do we claim we are not under the law, but under grace, so God will cover our tracks no matter what we do? Both of these extremes are selfish. We as humans tend to swing wildly between these two extremes.
- The first is legalism - resulting in self-righteousness and pride which lead to a critical spirit and exclusivism - not godly living.
- The other extreme is licentiousness - catering to our lusts, sin areas, resulting in carelessness, laziness - not a disciple's godly walk.
Contrast these two extremes with Paul's attitude in II Cor. 11:28,29. His "pressing concern" for his disciples, and how he "continually worked" and buffeted his own body bringing his lifestyle in line with his preaching. If we assume that it does not matter how we walk, we are insisting that God work in our lives at the expense of our obedience. He will not.
In I Tim. 4:7ff, Paul gives specific instructions for Godly living:
- Train yourself to be godly: this is our part of sanctification.
- God gives us the tools: MOG and His power. "I labor striving according to His power which mightily works within me." (Col. 1:29) The "life-giving Spirit". (Rom. 8:2).
- But we have to implement them. Like an athlete, we may "gymnastisize" ourselves- the self-discipline and self-denial of the athlete. "This one thing I do," says Paul. Billy Graham at the funeral of Dawson Trotman said, "This was a man who did not say: These 40 things I dabble in - no, 'This ONE thing I do.'"
The Christian walk starts with understanding our position in Christ. We have to SIT and absorb the truths of what God says is true of us (Eph. 1:1-3). But this is just the beginning. To sit "in the heavenlies with Christ" is to see your position, to rest in Christ, to abide in Christ.
In the next three chapters in Ephesians, Paul teaches them about the WALK of the Christian life. There are two aspects of walking he deals with in Eph 3,4,&5.
- "Walk in a manner worthy of your calling." (Eph.4:1). This is the aspect of your Christian conduct.
- Progress - proceeding on towards what? There is a goal.
We have moved from the Indicative to the Imperative.
The Indicative describes what God has already done for us "in Christ". The next chapters describe the things which ought to be in view of what God has done. Ware are to walk in a manner which is compatible with who we are in Christ. This is the imperative.
In other words, we found out what a wonderful inheritance we have and what a great future we have with Christ, but we also have a great life today - every day. Christ gives us objective proofs and one of the best is being in the Body of Christ. This is where we start to experience one of the life-changing and exciting aspects of being a Christian. We begin to experience the Love of Christ through the Body of Christ.
Eph. 2:19-22; 4:1-4
But in this autonomous, "doing your own thing" culture this sounds scary, and you will avoid the unity - the vulnerability the commitment of being built together into the Church, the Body of Christ. If you feel this way and cringe or withdraw or become critical of this concept, I can tell you something about yourself: You don't know that you are totally forgiven and accepted in Christ. That is why you are self-protective and fearful. You are afraid of being rejected and erect barriers to hide behind. You disguise your fears by attacking the concept of the Body of Christ, and then criticize the way people are and what they do. It's self-protection.
If you want to check up on yourself to see whether you understand your forgiveness, check out how you view the other members of the Body of Christ. I check up on myself. If I am making judgments this is a sign that I have decided not to be vulnerable and open because I think:
- Look at those fat ones - they have a problem. I won't get close to them.
- Then there are those obnoxious ones - every time they open their mouth it's embarrassing. I don't want to be around them.
- There are the ones with so many problems - they are always asking you to help them solve their problems. I avoid them.
- There are those who are not spiritual - they don't keep all the laws I keep, so I'll keep away from them.
- Then there are those who are not my kind of people - I can tell I wouldn't enjoy them, we have nothing in common so I won't waste time with them.
- Besides these categories there are some here who don't like me - I can tell by the way they look at me, so I'll keep away.
- How about the dumb ones - They are not as intelligent as I am, so they bore me.
I deserve smart, beautiful, gracious people as close friends.
Conclusion: there are really none that fit that category here, so I'll just pretend to enjoy this Body of Christ, but not really be a part of it.
Now I can tell you two things about yourself if you are ever thinking this way - if you are making these external judgments. (1). You don't see yourself as totally SINFUL. (2). You don't see yourself as totally FORGIVEN and loved by Christ.
- It is absolutely essential to see yourself as SINFUL - as Paul did. "In me there is no good thing" "who will deliver me from this body of sin." And yet he was as good as it is possible to be! A religious fanatic who worked all day every day to do good and look good (Phil.3). His problem (before he met Christ) was comparing himself to others - horizontal, human, self-righteous viewpoint.
- But when he faced God - Christ himself - he saw himself as a wretched sinner. "Oh wretched man that I am," he cried out. But he also saw himself as totally FORGIVEN. "There is no condemnation for anyone in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) Paul understood his own sinful helplessness and joyfully accepted Christ's total forgiveness.
When we are making judgmental external evaluations it always because we are being self-centered and self-protective. These are the devices we use when we are afraid. Afraid of being rejected if people really get to know me. So we erect self-protective barriers to hide behind. We wear camouflaged veils which keep us from being understood and vulnerable to other people. We react by attacking others to deflect attention away from us. This applies to you who are arrogant and self-confident also. You need us as friends just as much as any other human being. You are just playing a protection game.
The result: You are cheating yourself - and you are cheating the other members of the Body of Christ. You see, you need us as your close friends, and you will be amazed at how wonderful we ALL are - even with our fat bodies, our obnoxiousness, etc., etc. That is one of the first truths I experienced when I understood GRACE - my total forgiveness. Then I could see how wonderful other people are, how enjoyable, how gifted, what great companions and friends. Do you know why? Because I wasn't preoccupied with myself: protecting myself, projecting a false facade in order to be accepted. I was able to relax, be myself and really enjoy others - I even enjoyed enhancing them and building them up in their gifting.
Let me repeat -- You are cheating yourself if you make no effort to relate - and - grow with us in the Body of Christ. We are all created by God - "fearfully and wonderfully made" - just the way we are: perfect in our createdness. We are all gifted by God in many diverse ways. We have such interesting backgrounds, such dynamic personalities, such specialized training. Each of us is a "chosen vessel", chosen by God for His good working. Each one has great gifts to share with you and help build you up in your area of ministry. You are cheating yourself if you refuse to be open and vulnerable, and you are cheating me also. I need your love, your insights, your encouragement, your speaking the truth in love to me.
In Eph 2:21-22 Paul says we are being built day by day into God's living temple. Peter tells us in I Peter 2 we are living stones being fitted together. We all need the rubbing of the living stones, together, to form a perfectly living temple - the Body of Christ.
We are to be marked by unity and love (Eph. 4:3) - the oneness and love that Christ prayed for us to have in John 17. The same love and oneness He and the Father and the Holy Spirit have, we can have with each other because the Holy Spirit pours God's love into each of our hearts. It is a life-changing magnetic love, drawing others to Christ. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted.
Let me emphasize again (and I can't do it enough). Only as we see ourselves as forgiven, accepted and loved by God can we drop our self-protective barriers and hates and prejudices, and truly and openly love others. You must see yourself in your position in Christ, and "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you."
In practical terms just how does this oneness - this unity take place?
In Eph 4:20-24 Paul tells us how we have a new identity - our NEW SELF. How does that new identity have anything to do with our daily lives? How do we start renewing our minds? .
- The first step is to make the decision to become a disciple of Jesus Christ - "count the cost" and leave all and follow Christ. Paul call this the "whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).
- Develop a consistent devotional life. Francis Schaeffer said he had learned that "combat faith must flow from a consistent prayer life" - this is God's training ground.
- Maturing through dependence - when 2 wills are in conflict there can be no growth. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to bring our will to the place of complete adjustment to the will of God, we live the "faith-rest life". It is not one of inaction, but one of harmony with the will of God - casting the whole weight of our cares on Him, and we function in cooperation with Him. Samuel Chadwick said "with God and for God, the believer is almighty". Phil 4:13.
- Appropriating the Spirit's power. The dynamic for maturity is the Holy Spirit Himself working unhindered in the believer.
- Being in the Body of Christ on a regular basis - each member functioning in their gift - growing together "up to the fullness of Christ". This is the God-given place to grow and mature with deep LOVE relationships.
This is the God-given place to "renew our mind" and grow from young believers to mature Christians. "The fullness of Christ", the head of His Body. Heb. 13:1,2 says, "Let the love of the brethren continue", and, "Love the stranger", those outside of Christ.
This is the balance we need to maintain:
- The balance between building close, mature love relationships in the Body of Christ,
- and a loving outreach to the world.
The reason these 2 concepts are always taught together in the Bible is that we can only reach the world for Christ when we have closeness and love in the Body. Then that love and closeness will energize their growth, as well as when they became Christians.
Why is it so hard to maintain that balance between love of the brethren and outreach love of the outsider? Because that balance with both areas emphasized requires output from me, from you. I have to be prepared to sacrifice my time, my self-centered schedule, and convert it into an other centered schedule. All of the pursuits which feed my ego, my selfish desires have to now be directed toward other's needs. Of course, we can get-by with less out-put and more selfishness, but then one area suffers. Either the "love of the brethren" or the "love of the stranger". We are one-sided; half-selfish.
As we look at the life of Christ, and Paul's teaching, we see we cannot dispense with either. We realize it's going to take twice as much time - strength - involvement if we are going to be effective disciples. No wonder we need a "renewed mind". We need to "walk in the Spirit", and "be filled with the Spirit" to be able to walk the Christian life - committed and effective.
Dependence on God, the Holy Spirit, is the KEY to changing our selfish and small involvement with the Body of Christ and God's program in the world, and reaching out to the world with His love. This dependence is not the clinging, helpless, non-directive attitude of a child, but the mature freely given response of one loved by God. It is our response of love. Paul says, "It's the love of Christ which motivates me." (II Cor 5) It is not a "have to" but a "want to".