Ephesians 5:15-20 Be filled with God not Wine

Are you living a life permeated with the presence of God? These verses tell us how.

5:15  Therefore consider carefully how you are walking, not as foolish but as wise,

Every act, word and deed contributes, even every thought. It either shows the kingdom of God here and now or it fails to do so. The kingdom of God is expressed whenever and wherever God is obeyed, loved and praised by our actions and words.  The Christian life lived well is no accident; it is not automatic. It involves thought. At times it is necessary to think things through before going ahead, especially when it comes to significant moves.

5:16  redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

It is oh so easy to waste time overindulging in sensuality, entertainment, trivial pursuits and all sinful activities. These are the opposite redeeming the time. The days are evil. Our service to God is to buy back that time we have from the temptation to be  wasteful. What we do counts, every step of the way.

5:17  Because of this, stop being foolish but understand what  the will of the Lord is.

So with this in mind, cut off activities that do not honor and please God. Make sure you have a clear perception of God’s will. This implies Bible reading and meditation, thoughful consideration of what we are reading in faith that God will enlighten. It also implies learning from our mistakes. And, it implies an ongoing quest to see His will more clearly.

5:18  And stop getting drunk with wine, for that is wasteful, but be constantly filled with the Spirit,

God wants you to get high and stay that way, not via alcohol or drugs or even energy drinks but by His Holy Spirit. There are several ways to do just that. We can exercise faith that God will and is filling us with His Spirit. Obedience is another pathway: “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 4:32).

To obey God is to act in His power:

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3, NASB)

5:19  continually speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing (praises) and psalms (hymns of praise) in your heart to the Lord,

The Holy Spirit blesses what we do and fills us when we do God’s will. Perhaps the purest form of that obedience is speaking and singing words of Scripture and spiritual songs, including from the Psalms to one another. And when we are not interacting with others, we can still do that effectively in our hearts. Either way we are giving glory to God and showing the reality of His kingdom here and now.

Better yet is to do such things in faith that as we do so, in obvious obedience to God, His Spirit fills us.

5:20  always giving thanks on behalf of all men in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father,

One savvy self-help author recommends constant gratitude as the best way to be happy.  Thanking God even when it seems crazy to do so. This of course gives Him glory and blesses us at the same time.

Pause before you act and consider. Look before you leap. I paint watercolors and I have found that if I want it to go well, it’s a good idea for me to pause as key points to think carefully before I make my next move. That’s the best route to success.

Live thoughtfully today–and everyday.

Ephesians 5:12-14 On the Road to Pleasing God

Are you walking in the light, letting God ‘s light shine on your thoughts, words, and deeds?
5:12  for it is shameful to even speak of the things which are done by them (or, are coming upon them) in secret. 
There’s a power in words. Some things are better left unsaid. In fact, it’s our own mouths that often get us into trouble. James 3:6:
And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
Also, verses 2 & 3:
For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
 
 5:13  But all things are being made visible when exposed by the light, 
God prefers honesty. He prefers light. He prefers telling it like it is. Light is an inherent part of God’s character (1 John 1:5). And the inherent power of light is revelation. It shows things for what they are.
This, for one reason, is why confession is important. God wants us to acknowledge our sins to Him personally and voluntarily so that they can be cleansed from us and lose their hold on us (Isaiah 1:18; Genesis 4:6-7). God wants us to be transparent, certainly toward Him. And such a relationship is pleasing to Him.
5:14  for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says:
 
          “Awake, sleeper,
         And arise from among the dead ones,
         And Christ will shine on you.” 
These words were written to Christians. This isn’t a call to conversion; it’s a call, again, to copperating in the ongoing process of sanctification. We are in constant need of awakening. We constantly need to be on our guard against consenting to evil doings and speaking lightly concerning them. And even speaking about some of them at all is not a good idea. Paul calls it shameful to do so.
In verse 11 above, we are encouraged to not participate in the deeds of darkness. Next we are commanded to wake up and “arise from among the dead ones.” This is repentance, and ever-present and ongoing need in the Christian life. Repentance that leads to changes in habits, life-style. And the promise is that Christ will shine on us when we do so.
“So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8)
The strong implication here is spiritual warfare. That we are called to. We are to be light-bearers. We can live in ways that combat the evil in this world. (More on that coming up shortly in chapter 6).
May we stay alert every day to ways in which we can please God.

Ephesians 5:9-11 Serve Him by doing what is right.

When we seek to serve the Lord, why do we do what we do?

5:9 –-for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth–

God wants us to do good, to do what’s good, and that’s not hard to figure out much of the time.

We have the righteousness of Christ, but through sanctification, the by-faith process of letting the Holy Spirit of God bring us progressively into living a life style that mirrors Christ’s righteousness. The end result is that we will gain righteousness that is a part of our own character. But even when that happens, we will always know deep down that the grace of Jesus Christ is the power and source of it all, and that Source traces back ultimately God the Father.

 5:10  proving (and approving) what is well-pleasing  to the Lord.

This means testing out and coming to know in our experience, and hence also approving  life-style choices that are well-pleasing to the Lord Jesus. This is a progressive awareness. As we progress toward maturity, our spiritual sense of what is right and what is not right is fine-tuned.

5:11  Stop fellowshipping with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even expose them;

Fellowship means close association, participation, sharing common interests, activities, feelings or experiences. In other words, don’t find yourself on the side of God’s enemy as an ally to the works of darkness, and that includes everything from small to large evil doings. Such activities and their accompanying attitudes are unfruitful when it comes to expressing God’s kingdom on this earth here and now.

Instead, we are to “tell it like it is,” a rather unpopular notion in this age of political correctness when all too often speaking the truth is frowned upon. We need to be like Jesus and not back down from speaking truthfully, although it will not be without some cost in our temporary lives in this world.

Again, it’s not something earned.

We don’t earn our salvation, including our sanctification, but God does want us to cooperate in the sanctification process by doing what is right in His eyes. There will be rewards for our service for Christ, but it is better, I think, to do that service out of love for Him, not with rewards constantly in mind. To me, that’s the best motivation.

Praise Him today for His many gifts.

Ephesians 5:5-8 Cooperation with the Holy Spirit

What we choose to do  matters.

5:5  For this you know (from both reflection and experience), that no fornicator or unclean or covetous person, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

There will be loss from a lack of obedience and cooperation with the Holy Spirit, as he seeks to clean us up, that is bring our character in conformity to the character of Jesus—the process of sanctification. What is lost will be inheritance, reward. This does not mean loss of salvation:

If any man’s work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15, NASB)

5:6  Let no one be deceiving you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.

This verse clearly indicates that our disobedience in the form of willful sin brings God’s discipline. My personal take on this is that if we are actively struggling to overcome sin, we can avoid such discipline–at least to an extent. But if we deceive ourselves with “empty words,” telling ourselves we can get away with willful sin, that’s an invitation for disciple. And I want to avoid God’s discipline as much as possible! Especially troublesome is a flaunting of a sinful lifestyle. Remember Eli’s sons who had sex with women in front of the temple and that their father failed to rebuke them (1 Samuel 2-4).

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.  (Galatians 6:7-8, NASB)

 5:7  Therefore do not become fellow partners with them;

 5:8  for you were then darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; be walking as children of light

Our lives prior to inviting in Jesus Christ consisted of darkness, and now they consist of light. Because we have Jesus within us via the Holy Spirit of God. We cannot help but shine in the spirit realm. The trick is to live in light of that so that the light so evident in the spiritual realm will become more evident in this world too.  We do that by walking as children of light. In other words, act like it.

May our attitude continually be diligence in cooperating with the Holy Spirits as He seeks daily to work within us.

Ephesians 5:1-4 Walk in love; be like Christ

Do you want to be more like Jesus Christ in your daily walk? There are both positive and negative sides to this pathway. Things to do and not to do.

5:1   Become, therefore, imitators of God, as beloved children;

Now there’s a “mouthful in eight words.”

Paul isn’t saying that we should ask questions like “What would Jesus do?” and then act on what we think He might do (as implied in the famous novel In His Steps by Charles Sheldon). It means, instead, that we should take our clues on how we should act from God’s character.

Actually, Paul illustrates what he means in the next verse…

 5:2  and be continually walking in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God becoming a fragrant aroma.

To be an imitator of God and is to walk in love, and to walk in love is to sacrifice your interests for Him and for others. It means that we major in giving, that we live to serve God and other people in His behalf. It means that we are not to be self-centered and live for self-indulgence.

Does that mean a dull, drab and boring life? Absolutely not.

God wants us to have the things and circumstances and people in our lives that make us happy. Along with necessary trials, without which we so quickly become emotionally, spiritually even physically flabby.

Sacrifices–and for the most part they are small—with the right attitude can bring joy into your life.  There’s just something so gutsy, so seemingly crazy about them, that they is often accompanied with a deep joy. Sure, sometimes there is sadness but a sadness that will unfailingly be potently rewarded.

And pleasure is good and pleasant, but it can be addictive and all-too-quickly become the focus of our lives. That brings us to the next verse.

5:3  But fornication and uncleanliness or covetousness—don’t let it be named among you, just as it is fitting (or, proper, right) for holy ones (saints)

5:4  and baseness and foolish talk or coarse jesting, which is not fitting, but rather giving thanks.

And God wants us to live clean lives, free even of silly talk, including suggestive jokes.  Giving thanks to God is always appropriate.  Silly talk often gives opportunity to the devil to work hurt and to keep our old nature in the lead.

And giving thanks to God is always appropriate.

Here’s a worthy daily goal: replace all silly or whiny or smutty talk with giving thanks to God. And instead of indulging unworthy thoughts, dwell instead on with whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, any excellence and anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

Ephesians 4:30-32 Please God: Become like Jesus Christ

How can you and I cooperate with God in the process of spiritual growth? Spiritual growth is becoming like Jesus Christ. And He is our perfect role model for every aspect of life.

4:30   and stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God, with [or, by whom; literally: within] whom you were sealed into for the day of redemption.

It is possible to grieve God the Holy Spirit. What causes Him sadness? That’s in the next verse.

Again, the “within” above is an important translation.  It is our eternal connection with the Holy Spirit of God Who is our seal. In a very real sense, The Holy Spirit is the seal Himself. And we are in Him just as He is within us. An insightful auithor years ago called this the interpenetration of God and man.

What does “sealed” mean?

And what does the seal do? It marks us as God’s property. That original word “seal” was used to describe the mark cut in lumbar with the owner’s logo. When the logs were sent downstream to their destination, they could be located and collected via that seal. So many points in Scripture assure us of our safety and salvation. The fact that God owns us is one of them.

When men own us, it is called slavery. When God owns us, it means freedom.

4:31  All bitterness and hot anger and wrath and outcry and slander—let them be removed from you, along with all wickedness,

The passive mood of the words in the above verse is important.  The word I translated “be removed” above is in a passive command form with the sense of “allow this to be done.” It is not our self-discipline that gets the job done. Me gritting my teeth and determining that I will not be angry or loud or say bad things about others, not to mention forsaking all wickedness. No. The secret is in letting the Holy Spirit work the sanctification of Christ within us. It is always a miracle of grace obtained through faith.

We do have to choose not to sin, but that choice should always be accompanied by depending on God to give us strength to resist temptation.

Also, the verse above details part of the things we can do that will grieve the Holy Spirit—anger, yelling, putting down others, and all wickedness.  It is never good to put down another person, that is be personally derogatory.

4:32  becoming yourselves kind to one another, tender-hearted (compassionate), showing grace (forgiveness) to each other, just as God in Christ also has given grace (forgiveness) to you.

And just as it takes grace to rid ourselves of our bad habits and tendencies, once again it takes grace through faith to cultivate the best habits and tendencies.  All that good is accomplished by God with our permission. All our good qualities are a fruit of the Spirit of God’s work within us. And they become visible by our obedience and cooperation with God’s leading.

We  obey, we do works, but we do not depend on our own strength to do so; we depend on God—this is living by faith, not sight. We do works, not to earn our salvation—we are not saved by our performance—but out of love for God and His generous grace and goodness. We do works to activate the grace of God within us. It is His grace that produces sanctification. Works are our active proof to God of our willingness. Words alone are not enough. Action clears the way to get the job done.

That is the way of progress.

So how do we please God? By being kind, caring and compassionate, forgiving others the way God in Jesus has forgiven us (that is, all sins and mistakes, past, present and future).

May we show by our actions today that we are willing indeed for God’s Holy Spirit to do His work within us, forming the character of Jesus within us.

Ephesians 4:25-29 Some Detail on How to Walk

Paul gets down to the nitty-gritty here to further detail what he means by “putting on Christ.”

4:25  

Therefore, having put off from you falsehood, you are each to speak truth with your neighbor, because we are members of one another.

We are a part of each other. We are a family, and family members deserve and need to hear the truth.

4:26  Allow yourself to become angry, and yet stop sinning. Do not let the sun go down on your irritation.

It is possible to get angry and not sin—although that is a tricky challenge. But to harbor anger, which naturally sinks into resentment and feelings of malice, is wrong. It means, of course, that there is a lack of forgiveness.

There is nothing another person, even a fellow believer, can do to your or me that will not pale in light of the glorious, ineffably-wonderful future we have (even our present is better than we realize) what each of us will have individually and corporately as a part of Christ. When the Bible says that He has freely given us all things, once again it means exactly that (Romans 8:32).

4:27  and stop giving place to the devil.

Whenever we yield to sin, small acts as well large ones, we give the devil and his helpers a way of influencing us further.  All such acts, no matter how small, cause us to work against God and hinder the full expression of His kingdom on this earth now.

When Jesus prayed “Thy kingdom come,” He meant right now. And He was then and is now that kingdom, and so are we. Wherever we are and whenever we do God’s will, we express that kingdom. God rules in that place. Course that doesn’t mean it is fully expressed, that it has reached its fullest potential. That remains to be experienced.

4:28  The one who steals, steal no longer, but much more working hard with his own hands what is good so that he might have something to give to one who has need.

There’s a principle implied here. When you have done wrong, even though you have been forgiven, it’s often good to do the opposite of the wrong you have done.

4:29  Stop letting every worthless (or, rotten) word proceed from your mouth, but instead speak some good words needed for edification in order that they might give grace to those who are hearing.

Every thought we indulge in, respond to by thinking more about it, every word we utter or write, every act we do contributes one way or the other. It either advances the cause of Jesus Christ or it gets in the way. There is no such thing as neutrality.

And realize, please, that Paul is not writing to leaders alone here but to the whole body of believers. His epistles were read to the gatherings of believers. In fact, those epistles were transported from area to area, so that all groups of believers, whichever city they were near had an opportunity to benefit from his teaching.

Hence, every one of us is expected to watch what we say to assure that what we say ministers to others, that it gives grace to others.

This means too that it is wise to watch it when you and I are tempted to slam a fellow believer. Disagree? Sure. Absolutely, when necessary.  But guard against denigrating an individual personally. If you feel a fellow believer is wrong, tell him or her in private—politely, warmly and with humility. But tell him. It’s part of “giving grace.” But don’t with mistaken enthusiasm put him or her down.

We can do these things in obedience to the Lord. But daily, moment by moment, we can  only do all this well by living in active faith-dependance on the Holy Spirit’s ongoing enablement.

May we walk daily by the Spirit of God and the leading of our Lord..

Ephesians 4: 20-24 Learn from Him how to walk

Do you want to please God? To me, a prayer that is short and handy and covers the Christian life well is, “Father, help me to please you.”  If we are growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18) and in holiness, we are pleasing God.

That is the underlying theme of the next five verses.

4:20  But you did not  learn Christ in this way,

Paul’s contemporary readers didn’t get off easily in this “discussion,” and neither do we. We are to live differently than unbelievers.

Not in the surface aspects. Like anyone, we all need to eat. We all can enjoy friendships, even sex (within marriage). We all need time off, recreation. But we need different motivation and a different worldview. Because we believe and know the truth, we can see this life, not as an end in itself in which we eagerly go for all the pleasure and entertainment we can get before we die, but as a school, a training ground for eternity.

And to follow Jesus is to be obedient in sacrificing those sins we enjoy. It is a learning and maturation process, in theological terms called sanctification. Paul next describes this process.

 4:21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

Being a sincere Christian does not guarantee that you are listening to God.

This might sound a little “psycho” to some. Listening to God? But recall, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10:27). And that necessitates a willingness to do God’s will: “If any man is willing to do His will, he will know the teaching…” (John 7:17).

And, there’s more than hearing and even obedience. There’s “being taught” too. In fact, the truth exists in Jesus Christ. He is its source. Hence, we learn by walking with Him, sharing our life with Him, and listening to His gentle quiet voice within. Daily fellowship.

By the way, His voice is most easily understood intuitively. It can come as an eye-opening insight, more commonly called a “hunch.”

Do you want to learn at Jesus’ feet? Then actively, pro-actively exercise faith. Acknowledge that you need His help, His wisdom, His direction. Ask Him for it. And ask HIm to help you become willing to do His will. Then expect Him to give grant your requests. After all, it is His will that you know all that.

4:22  that you put off  the old self which is  according to your former manner of life, the one according to the lusts of deceitfulness,

4:23  and that you be renewed by the spirit of your mind,

4:24  and put on the your new self, that which has been created according to God in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

First, what is the core teaching that Jesus would have us understand. Paul has just described it in the above three verses. If we indeed are listening to Jesus intuitively within, what does He tell us? Paul gives us a summary in those verses above.

This is vital: it is the way to grow spiritually.

Like old clothing, take off your former way of living, which is motivated by lust (wanting more and more, things and pleasure). Such things are deceitful. We think that with them we will find happiness, that a little more will satisfy us, and more never does. We always want more–it’s the way of lust. Those things we want can be deceitful too because they can be harmful to us spiritually, and often we are not aware of the harm that occurs.

Instead put on, like clothing, your new self God made when you believed in Jesus Christ.These are decisions: “put off/put on.” To put on Christ, you let God’s way of life be your guide—daily. This means behavior.

Our cooperation is necessary.

It also means committing to live for God and then behaving the way we know God wants us to. Our good behavior is the engine of our sanctification–not the source, never the source–it is our cooperation with God’s will. Our part in the process.

Also, notice in verse 23 above: Our mind has a spirit. Our spirit is that deepest, most intimate part of us that communes with God Himself. It is there, really, that we hear from Him and gain precious insights. And, in my own experience, God’s Spirit most readilly uses our intuition to teach us.

Sancification is the process during which we experience the gift of Christ’s righteousness and by which that experience becomes our character.

That gift is eternal and is perfect righteousness. Our shortcomings will never defeat us ultimately because we have His righteousness–He is in us and we are in HIm, forever joined. But God means for us to be perfect. “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:49, NASB). He wants us to be like Him so that our character is His character.

And I think you’ll agree, we all have a ways to go to reach perfection.

One important cautionary note:

We Christians do “hear” Jesus’ voice, but discernment–paying attention to His voice and distinguishing it from other voices that vie for our attention–is a matter of learning and maturation. So what I’m saying is to take your time, that is don’t go running off with some wild hunch without confirmation.  And by “confirmation” I mean uncontrived incidents that say the same thing as your intuition, your insight. And several of them. The more confirmations the better. And by “uncontrived” I mean don’t try to manufacture confirmations because you want to go in a certain direction. It the word is from the Lord, He will confirm it apart from any efforts of yours.

Also, in this area of Christian intuition, a thorough familiarity with the Bible is indispensable.  Any insight from God, of course, will be morally and biblically sound. Plus, the Holy Spirit seems to prefer using Bible verses in our memory to confirm things for us.

Jesus disciples did have the Old Testament to learn from, and they would have the Holy Spirit as a very real indwelling presence within them permanently follwoing Pentecost. Yet Jesus made sure He spent a lot of time with them teaching them, preparing them for life in this world.

To live in the way that God wants us to requires knowledge.

We have to know what to do and how to do it. Then decide to do it. But that knowledge is not just consist of legalistic rules: “do this but don’t do that.” It involves understanding, purified motives, and It goes deeper than merely naming certain acts. Another way of saying that we need to learn from the Lord–in every area of our life, including when we read our BIbles and when we pray.

Have you spent time today in His Word learning at Jesus feet?

Ephesians 4:17-19 Be smart about how you walk

Ever feel like you are not better than an unbeliever at times? Indeed, we all have quite a ways to go to become truly Christlike. But as we delve into the following verses that describe how we are not to live, please remember that we all will become like Christ. That destiny God guanrantees.

4:17   This, therefore, I say and solemnly affirm together in the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also are walking, in the futility (or, vanity, emptiness, frailty) of their mind.

Based on everything Paul has written and in particular the immediately preceding verses, he urges his readers (and hence us too) to walk not “in the futility of their mind.”

What does that mean? The human mind easily becomes futile and is all too often driven by ego. “Futility” means such thinking and opinions have no helpful or good results, especially not eternal ones. They are empty of value.

An unbeliever is preoccupied with thoughts  and reasonings that are unproductive and unprofitable. Many are hurtful.

God always has the long-view in mind.

For us believers, on the other hand, our current situations and troubles are temporary, and actually not that significant when it comes to eternity—that endless time we will spend enjoying God the Father and His Son in the Holy Spirit and each other.

God’s goal for us is always maturity and Christlikeness. His desire is always that His Kingdom comes into its full expression here on earth as it is in heaven. Everything we do, every thought, word, and act, is viewed in the light of whether or not it contributes to these lofty goals.

All sin is missing the mark, missing those essential targets.

Again, everything we think, say, and do contributes or hinders. Both the expression of God’s kingdom here and now and our own growth to Christlikeness.

4:18  having been darkened in their mind (understanding), having been alienated (and thus excluded) from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, through the hardness of their hearts,

These words remind me of this verse:

“Who is this that darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?”–Job 38:2 (NASB)

Granted Job was not an unbeliever or a gentile. But there is so much we do know or understand. Our knowledge is so limited. And sin darkens our understanding even more. It alienates us from God—not totally if we are believers. But it produces ignorance and hardness of heart. We become cool toward God and the things of God. (We restore our good relations via confession to God, agreeing that we have sinned. 1 John 1:9.)

We understand so little, and the unbeliever much, much less.

It helps when I am tempted to get “Puffed up” in my own ideas to remember how limited my knowledge is. What do we know really? How deeply do we understand the words we use? Our understanding, without the Holly Spirit’s help can become all too easily darkened and ignorant. This comes from a hardness of heart that refuses to give God credit by trusting in Him to enlighten us. We’d rather do it ourselves, figure out things with our minds that God gave us–independent of Him, so that we can feel that we are smart and wise.

But in this context, in particular, Paul uses the Gentiles (unbelievers) as examples. As contrast, a picture of how we are not to walk.   I think that if those who have chosen not to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation would read these verses, understand them fully and believe them, they would likely become afraid, and with good reason.

Unbelievers are hostile to God.

They are in an ongoing state of alienation, hostility with God. They are without eternal life, that quality of life only God can give us. An ongoing state of having a mind that is characterized by darkness and futility and ignorance. Such alienation brings a hardness of heart that in turn results in that darkness, lack of understanding and futility. Truly, a sorry and scary state to be in, day to day throughout life.

But there’s more…

  4:19  which having become callous, He gave them over to wanton excess (indecency, shameless conduct) and they, having become callous, which resulted in their working all kinds of uncleanliness in greed.

Paul continues his description of the life of unbelievers as an example on how we are not to live. The end result of such independences, rebellion against a gracious and giving God, is callousness, then sensuality, and indulgence in impurity and greed—a preoccupation with profit, say.  It’s a “Vicious cycle” really. Only by God’s enabling grace can any of us escape it.

“Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed.” (Luke 12:!5, NASB)

I should mention here too that lust, wantonness, and even uncleanliness are indeed greedy. Addictive, illegitimate desire is a bottomless pit. At some point we have to exercise our power of choice to stop it, leave it behind by praying and actively practicing faith in God to empower our choice.

This is indeed a dark picture, but the light is just a few verses away!

Paul via God’s inspiration has painted a dark picture here in these verses. He is preparing his readers, us, for his description of the pathway of sanctification. We have a role, a responsibiity in that process.  And that role is not self-reliance but obedience.

We have a pathway to walk.

And we can all walk that pathway because we have Christ within us through the Holy Spirit, and He there to enable us to overcome.

May we continually trust God to enlighten us and enable us to live our lives in ways that move us toward maturity in Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-16 Ministry for every Believer

Ever wish you could be a prophet or an apostle or a pastor? God’s gifts and callings are up to Him. But there’s always something you can do.

4:11  And He Himself gave the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the shepherds and teachers,

 Paul lists here the major gift-ministries. But notice next what these gifts are for…

12  for the making fit (strengthening, preparing fully) of the saints into the work of service (literally: deacons, as in ministry) into building of the body of Christ;

Notice it does not say that Christ gave us these apostles, prophets, evangelists, so that they could exclusively do the ministering in the building up on the body of Christ—or keep such service as their personal possession. No, it is the laity that is to be equipped for doing the mutual ministry that builds up, edifies, nurtures the body of believers.

They are trainers.

The work of those gifted persons mentioned in verse 11 above is to train the saints, people like you and me, who then in turn build the body of Christ.  This is describing mutual ministry. Not top down ministry but “lay” ministry.

All Christians are ministers.

The current tradition of training a select few to do the work of ministry to the “laity,” while the latter sit around passively accepting spiritual food, is not really biblical. God has used seminaries, yes. God raises up leaders among believers, yes. Many have been considerable blessings to the body of Christ through the centuries, again yes. But God’s plan is for all to minister. It is not clergy-laity feeding, at least not exclusively, but mutual feeding.

You and I, my fellow believers, have a job to do, and that is ministering to each other. It is that ministry that builds the church, Christ’s body now on earth.  The gifts and so-called offices are for serving us—as radical as that may sound.

Someone once said that all great moves of God begin with prayer.

Sometimes the job that’s available to you and me may consist primarily of prayer. And prayer is the most vital of ministries. Don’t have a position, a recognized ministry? You can pray.  Years ago Watchman Nee made an interesting point. It went something like this: When we pray we take God’s side and voice His will and thereby activate it, promoting its realization. That voicing of God’s will is part of His plan.

Certainly God acts sovereignly. He is not limited by our lack of prayer. But He prefers to act in response to our prayers.

God is the ultimate solution. But we have the God-appointed privilege of being part of that solution too.  God could have had angels do the preaching for him, rather than fallible humans, and get it perfect every time. God rescued the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the leadership of a humble man. He has chosen to work through us. In fact, He insists on doing so. And prayer is a big part of that.

You and I are important, vital to God’s plan.

Now my own take on God’s will and the leading of the Lord is not that we must manufacture opportunity to serve the Lord. I mean by that, that we should be aware of the danger of drumming up opportunity in our own strength–to use an old expression: in the flesh. It’s best to follow God’s leading, exercise faith that He will provide opportunity to serve Him as He sees fit, pray for opportunities, and then respond to his leading and opportunities when they occur.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and the follow Me.” (John 10:27, NASB)

It is Jesus Who leads us, not we ourselves. And He leads us in spite of ourselves. We can count on HIm to lead us. He is the one who opens doors of opportunity or closes them (1 Corinthians 16:9; James 4:13-17). Our job is to be willing to obey.

13  until we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the full-knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect-complete-mature man, to the measure of the stature (as in a maturity of the same degree) which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

That word “until” at the beginning of the verse above is an important one. So is the word “all,” meaning all believers. “Until we all attain to the unity of the faith”—hasn’t happened yet as far as I can see. How about the rest of the verse? “The knowledge of the Son of God…a mature man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” I don’t think so, not yet.

By the way, that word knowledge has an intensifier attached to its beginning, hence the translation “full knowledge,” and it refers to the type of knowledge that is experienced, or is known through experience. And it is not just a piece here and a piece there but full knowledge.

So they are still around.

Those gift-ministries Christ gave are still around. They have to be since we all haven’t reached full maturity, full knowledge, etc. Although admittedly they are called different names at times, and not all are recognized as such. And they will be around until we all reach maturity and Christians arrive at the place where we are all truly unified.

Food for thought.

15  but speaking the truth in love, we may  be growing into Him in every thing who is the head, Christ,

It’s important that we speak the truth and that we do so in love. Many times we are tempted to speak what we think is the truth and not because of the best motivation. Too often our speaking out can be driven by ego-need. By telling someone what we think they need to hear, we assume the place of a mentor and thereby feel temporarily better about ourselves.

But, on the other hand, when we are speaking out of love, humbly and truthfully as best we can, then we can be God’s mutual instruments of spiritual growth. We realize more of our vast potential in Christ and are thus more useful to God. We establish and express His kingdom here and now on earth.

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted (or framed) and knit together through the supply of every joint, according to the working of each individual part, causes the growth (increase) of the body resulting into the building of itself in love.

Again, this is the mutual ministry that Frank Viola insists upon in his books and when describing home/organic churches that are currently growing throughout the world.  What Paul is advocating in these verses is not a priesthood of carefully cultured seminary graduates who exclusively have the right to minister and lead.  No, God’s purpose for us, all of us, is to be an  expression of the Kingdom of God on earth—the  purpose of the presence of Christ’s body here and now.

May we all trust and obey and grow into the character of Christ so that we may indeed Love God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind and our neighbors as we love ourselves.