This morning we are turning the corner in our study of Paul’s letter to the folks in Ephesus. For the past several weeks, as we’ve been working our way through Ephesians 1-3, we’ve been seeking to learn about the great doctrines Paul has shared with the people. These great doctrines have helped us to understand our identity in Christ, what God has done on our behalf. Today, as we begin taking a look at Ephesians 4, we are transitioning from our position in Christ to the practical living out of these truths. Take a look with me at Ephesians 4:1-3 and we will get started.
1 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. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV)
I mentioned to you that we’ve been taking a look at all that God has done for us, but I want to take a minute to refresh your memory. First of all, God has chosen us. In the opening verses of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus we read,
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4 NIV)
God chose you. In the very next verse Paul tells us that God adopted us as His very own. Those are powerful statements aren’t they? The Bible clearly teaches that we are tainted through and through by sin. We are born spiritually dead as a result of our sin nature. There is nothing within any of us that would attract God’s attention. This leads to the second great truth we have learned from Paul’s letter: God’s love for us led Him to act on our behalf. In Ephesians 2:4-5 we read.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV)
“But because of his great love for us…” I don’t know if there are any more beautiful words that I have ever heard in my life. Because God loves me, because He loves you, God acted on our behalf—He made us alive.
The third truth that we must constantly remember is this: God is at work in our lives. God not only saved us. He not only made us alive. We are His workmanship. We are the ongoing product of the Sovereign God’s hand. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10.
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
God’s work is not without purpose. He has given us life. He is continuing His work within us in order that we might do His work in this broken world overflowing with alienation, strife, and sin.
There are many more truths that we have learned in the first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, but these three truths that I have shared with you are more than enough to remind us of our position in Christ. Now that we know what God has done on our behalf it is time to move forward.
“There is more at stake than we can even begin to imagine.” I’m not referring to the players on the Oklahoma City Thunder contemplating the importance of each and every game ahead of them as they press on to try and win the World Championship. I’m not thinking about the thoughts of the members of the Board for the Chesapeake Energy Corporation as they try and navigate these uncertain times for their company. I’m not highlighting the anxiety of many high school kids preparing to take the ACT test in hopes of scoring high enough to get into their dream college. What I am thinking about, and what I have been thinking about all week, is you and me and our relationship with the unbelieving world around us. “There is more at stake than we can even begin to imagine.”
We who are called “Christ’s ambassadors,” we who are told that God is making His appeal to the lost through us, we desperately need to understand God’s call on our lives and then seek with every ounce of our being to live out that call in a worthy manner. Paul wrote to the folks in Corinth and expressed this same line of thought to them. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 and let’s read together.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20 NIV)
If we are “in Christ” then the old has gone and the new has come. Our life is not our own any more. We are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. We are called to be His mouthpiece. We are called to be His hands and His feet. We are called to let His light shine in this dark world. We are called to go into all the world and make disciples. We are called to appeal to those who do not know Jesus to come to Jesus. There is more at stake than we can even imagine.
At the beginning of Ephesians 4, Paul writes, “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” If we fail to recognize the seriousness of this call, if we fail to realize the all encompassing nature of this call, then we will do great damage to the cause of Christ. Brennan Manning once said,
The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. (Brennan Manning)
Those are words that each of us should hide in our hearts. They are not merely a catchy sound bite, but they are a reflection of what Scripture teaches. Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am talking about. In 2 Samuel 12, after David committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, and then made himself out to be some kind of noble king by taking her into his own home, God called David on the carpet. The prophet Nathan pointed a long finger at David and let him know that God was on to his scheme. Then, in verse 14, we read,
14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:14 NIV)
David’s sin caused those who did not know God to show utter contempt for God. When they heard of the sin of the man who was called a “man after God’s own heart,” they mocked God. How many times has the sin of some well-known Christian been made public and the late night TV talk show hosts and skeptical media personalities follow with a barrage of jokes and contemptuous commentary?
Let’s take a look at one more example. In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he wrote these words,
21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:21-24 NIV)
We really don’t need to go back to the days of King David or the Apostle Paul to know that unbelievers mock the name of God because of the failure of His people to live out what we believe do we? There are far too many present day examples of this truth. As a matter of fact, all we have to do is look in the mirror to know that we do not rightly reflect who God is through the way we live our lives.
We are called to live a life worthy of the calling of the Lord. It is important for us to understand this word, “worthy,” because I don’t want any of us to be led to believe that we are “worthy” of what God has done on our behalf. There is not one of us who has “earned” our salvation because we’ve been such a great person. God has acted on our behalf, not because we were worthy of His actions. The Greek word, “ἀξίως” (axios), means, “bringing into balance” or “equivalent.” A great visual of this definition is found in Romans 8:18. Take a look with me.
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)
You can understand that can’t you? If placed on a set of scales our present trials and tribulations do not even come close to equaling the glory that awaits all of those who are trusting in Jesus. Another great example would be the travails of a mother going through the process of having a baby. The pain is enormous, but once the doctor lays that precious little boy or girl in her arms the joy of her holding her baby far outweighs the pain of the birth process. Can I get an “Amen” mommas?!
So, you can see that we are not talking about being worthy of God’s many blessings. We are talking about responding to God’s many blessing by living a life that reflects what He has done. Another place where this Greek word is used is in Matthew 3:8. Turn there with me. John the Baptist was baptizing folks in the Jordan River when he said to the Sadducees and Pharisees, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8 NIV) The word, “worthy,” isn’t found in the NIV translation. The Greek word we are taking a look at is translated with the phrase, “in keeping with.” The New Living Translation gives us a better understanding of what John was saying.
8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. (Matthew 3:8 NLT)
Over and over again in Paul’s letters he encourages the followers of Jesus to live lives worthy of their calling. I am convinced that until we really realize what God has done on our behalf this simply will not happen. “Self” is so rooted in our DNA. “Self” is so secured on the throne of our hearts. “Self” has such an overwhelming pull on our souls that we will continue to follow “self” instead of following Jesus whenever we lose sight of what God has done on our behalf. We must be reminded over and over again; we need to encourage one another to walk worthy of God’s calling on our lives. While Paul sat in a prison cell he encouraged the people in Philippi with these words.
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27a NIV)
“Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” While still in prison Paul found the time to write a letter to the people in Colosse. What was on his mind? Let me read it to you.
9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: (Colossians 1:9-10 NIV)
Paul says, “I’m praying for you in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and that you might please him in every way.”
When Paul sat down to write a letter to his friends in Thessalonica he reminded them of how he lived when he was with them. How long was he in Thessalonica? We don’t have an answer to that question. In Acts 17 we can learn about some of the details of Paul’s stay in Thessalonica. There were many who came to know Jesus and there were others who were jealous and stirred up an angry mob. They dragged Paul’s host before the city officials, they slandered his name, and they wanted to kill Paul. What was his demeanor? What was his attitude? How did he conduct his affairs? When Paul wrote his first letter to the folks in Thessalonica he reminded them of how he lived through all of the experiences, both joyous and horrific. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 with me.
10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 NIV)
Did Paul seek justice? Did he seek vengeance? Did he become frantic and frazzled when he learned that he had stirred up the hatred of those who opposed him? No, he sought to walk worthy of the calling of the Lord on his life. He sought to have his life reflect the character of God as he was confronted with all kinds of opposition in life. He sought to set an example for the other believers so they might desire to walk worthy of the calling of God on their lives.
Paul’s desire to walk in a manner that was worthy of what God had done in his life was a consuming passion. Paul wanted his life to reflect all that God had done in his life to the people of Thessalonica and in every place where he traveled. When Paul wrote to the people in Corinth he urged them, 1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)
We have been inundated with high profile people letting the world know that they are not “role models.” Charles Barkley started it back in 1993 when he filmed the famous Nike commercial. Charles said, “I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Cher, who is going on 70, still hasn’t figured it out. She said, “I’m not a role model, nor have I ever tried to be a role model.” And the beat goes on…Lil Wayne, Brittany Spears, Rihanna, and good ‘ol Snooki have all made it clear that they aren’t role models. They may not be role models, but we are called to model the grace, mercy, and love of God before those who do not know Jesus. Our lives should so reflect the Father’s heart that others are drawn to him.
Paul was not the only follower of Jesus who possessed this passion. Simon Peter was as human of a follower of Jesus as there ever was. He was prone to stick his foot in his mouth. He denied that he ever knew Jesus in Jesus’ greatest time of need. He was called out by Paul for being a hypocrite at Antioch. Yet, Peter was passionate about following Jesus. He messed up, but he never gave up. He kept getting up, being lifted up, and seeking to walk in Jesus’ steps. In 1 Peter 2:19-21, Peter wrote to the followers of Jesus about suffering. He wrote,
19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV)
“Following in his steps” is seeking to live a life that is worthy of the calling of God. When we suffer injustice how do we respond? When we are treated unfairly how do we respond? When things don’t go our way how do we respond? Do we respond in a way that reflects the way that Jesus responded when He was mistreated or does our response reflect the way that 99% of the world responds?
Here is the question that each of us must answer: “In light of all that God has done for me, how now should I live?” I can’t answer that question for you, but I’ve given it much thought this week and here is my answer. “I should live in a way that reflects the gratitude I feel for what God has done for me.” “And why should I seek to live such a life?” Two reasons: “First of all, I am grateful and I want God to know that what He has done for me was not in vain. Jesus dying for me has caused a great change in me. Secondly, there are many still out there who do not know Jesus and I understand Scripture to teach that God’s plan is to use me to draw them to Himself.”
I believe that when Paul wrote to Titus he had the same thing in mind. In Titus 2, Paul writes, 1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 NIV) Immediately following this statement Paul begins to list groups of people and how they should live. Paul lists “older men and women.” Concerning the older men, Paul tells them to be “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” (Titus 2:2 NIV) Concerning the “older women,” Paul says that they should “be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.” He goes on to say, “Then they can train the younger women…” I won’t go through the whole list of folks that Paul addresses, but it includes “younger men and women” and “slaves.”
In verses 7-8, Paul calls Titus to be a role model. He tells him to “set them an example.” That’s what it means to be a role model isn’t it? To set a good example for others. Listen to what Paul wrote to Titus.
7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 NIV)
The last group of folks that Paul addresses are “slaves.” We could substitute the word, “employee,” for the word “slave” and it would fit just fine. Paul tells Titus,
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10 NIV)
Why did Paul give Titus these instructions for all of these groups of people? I think the answer to that question is found in verse 10 where we read, “…so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” This is our call. We are called to live a life worthy of our calling so that the truths we say we believe are lived out in our daily life and as a result others will be drawn to the Christ who is at work in us.
Isn’t that how some of you came to know Jesus as Lord of your life? It is definitely my story. It was another young guy who loved Jesus so much that he chose to live his life for the glory of God that caught my attention. We worked out together. We hung out together. Through the time we spent together I recognized that there was something different about my friend. The difference was Jesus. That summer spent with my friend changed my life. It was that summer that I knew I needed Jesus in my life. I didn’t want to be a “church member,” I wanted to live like my friend John lived. I was following John as he followed Jesus. He taught me how to pray as I listened to him pray. He taught me how to read the Bible as I listened to him read the Bible. He told me that he wanted to live his life for the Lord because of all that the Lord had done for him. He taught me that there is nothing in life as important as living for the glory of God. Now, today, I want to do the same for others. I want to invite you to begin to follow Jesus this very moment.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 6, 2012