22 Feb Walk of Wisdom – Ephesians 4-5 (Pt 1)
When we trust in Christ, the Holy spirit indwells us, changes us. However, we can’t make the flesh any better through sanctification—doing otherwise would be to polish the brass rails on a sinking ship. Learn why in our 4-part Walk in a Worthy Manner series.
EASLEY: Don’t most of us remember a time when high schools had Woodshop or Metalshop? How many of you remember that? How many of you took Woodshop or Metalshop? Be proud. Be brave. Raise your hand. In our day, it was sort of relegated to those of us that weren’t very smart. You went to Woodshop. But, there were usually these big burly guys that taught the class and they were a lot of fun. The first few days there was just rules and there’s a reason for that. Before you hand a power saw, a welding rod, or a blow torch to a teenager, it’s a pretty good idea to lay out some rules about how you’re going to use these tools that could kill somebody and blow up a room.
When Paul writes his letters, his Epistles, he uses a similar formula. In fact, almost every letter he writes is fifty percent theology or doctrine and then fifty percent practical application. It’s true of everyone of his letters. In the book of Ephesians for example, chapters 1,2, and 3 is doctrine, theology. It’s about some pretty high stuff like: election, and adoption and predestination, and being called. Chapters 4,5, and 6 are very practical. They’re very “doing” oriented. Grammatically Chapters 1,2, and 3 there’s not one imperative or directive verb and in Chapters 4,5, and 6, there are thirty five imperative and directive verbs. So he lays a foundation with the theology or the doctrine and then he applies it. He gives us “how to’s,” practical injunctions, and commands. The reason this is important is in the Christian life when you trust Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells you. When He indwells you, He begins transforming you and me into what we are not. That’s called sanctification. The problem with trying to just do the right thing in the right way-at its baseline is no more than legalism. As Lloyd often says, “The Spirit’s power has to control us.” He even prays for that very frequently in his prayers. A young man confronted me many years ago and said, “Michael, you cannot make your flesh any better.” It messes with our mind because we think we’re going to be more like this Mosaic Christian. For example, “I’ll read my Bible more. I’ll pray more. I’ll trust more. I’ll be more faithful,” and then be able to create this “Michael,” this persona, that if I was like this, or if Michael was like this, then Michael would be a better Christian. We have to erase that concept and understand its Christs power indwelling us, the resurrection power, HIs Holy Spirit indwelling us to change us into what we are not. It’s a big mindset change for people that do things for a living. We go out and we check boxes, we read books, we do this, we pray more, do a Bible study and these are all good things. True change can only come from the Holy Spirit’s transformation, not being more disciplined, not making our flesh better.
We’ve been thinking about walking in wisdom. I want us to look at Ephesians, Chapter 4 and 5. I There’s a mindset now and in the future that I want you to keep present as we talk about this passage. I want you to see how Paul applies this. We have to understand the foundations theologically. Simply put: Christ’s Spirit is the One who empowers us to apply these things. It’s not merely the flesh, otherwise we fail, otherwise we’re just polishing the brass rails on a sinking ship. We want change, not just behavioral change.
Now if you open your Bibles to Ephesians 4:1, I want to show you five times the word walk appears. The simple word walk. Paul uses it intentionally. So you’ll see in Chapter 4:1, he says, walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. If you drop down to Chapter 4:17, you’ll see it again. Walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk. See the comparison and contrast there. Chapter 5:2, walk in love. Then Chapter 5:8, walk as children of Light. Then finally, Chapter 5:15, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise. So if you’re a person that takes notes, underlines, circles, and so forth, (Godly people do that), you can circle the word walk or outline it so that you’ll see it next time. If you’re like me you can read it, and study it and the next time you look at it you have forgotten you have observed those things. That’s why I draw a lot in my Bible. So keep in mind this is a mindset. It’s not just doing; it’s being the person Christ wants us to be in His Spirit and by applying those things then we’re changing and being transformed.
Let’s look first of all at Paul’s identity and his motivation. Chapter 4:1, Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. First, we get his identity and then we get his motivation. He identifies himself as a prisoner. One of Paul’s common self defining terms is a bondservant, a bond slave, a servant of Christ, a prisoner of Christ and we know if you read a little bit of your New Testament there are the so called Prison Epistles, that he wrote while he was in prison called the Prison Letters. So he’s writing and identifying himself, not first here as an Apostle, but as a prisoner. Secondly, his motivation. He implores the reader. He implores the Ephesians and by the way what was written for the Ephesians applies today. He’s imploring you and me; I implore you to walk in this manner. He’s pleading with us. He’s urging us. We think about the motivation of raising children. When they’re young you implore them to pick up their room. You implore them to obey you. You implore them to learn good habits, do good table manners. When they become teenagers you plead with them to make right decisions. When young men and women are in college we implore them, “Don’t drop out. Finish college. Don’t take a year off to find yourself. Stay in there.” We implore people to stay in their marriages. Paul’s imploring you and me; As a prisoner, I implore you walk in a manner worthy with what you have been called.
Now, studying this the past week the personal application that struck me was I would never self identify as a prisoner or a slave of Christ. I just wouldn’t do it. And it struck me that the Apostle that’s speaking the very Word of God self identifies as a prisoner. Soon my mind runs down a trail and I say, “What am I enslaved to? To whom or what enslaves me?” I hate to admit it but it’s not my service to Christ. The world, the flesh, the devil, money, sex and power, those ever looming umbrellas are always hanging over all of us. Our propensities, our yearnings, our longings, the things that tug at our hearts and our souls-those are the things that draw us in. How we spend our time will tell us a great deal of what’s important to us. Where we spend our money tells a great deal of what’s important to us. How we’re stewards of what God gives us tells us what we’re enslaved to. To whom are you enslaved? To What are you enslaved? Would we ever self identify as a slave of Jesus Christ? I often wake up in the morning and it truly is a prayer of mine. I say, “Lord, help me to not serve myself today but to serve You.” I have to pray that every morning because I forget. But I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in the terms that the Apostle describes himself, I’m a slave of Christ. John Stott writes, He’s both a prisoner of Christ and a prisoner for Christ, bound by chains of love and in custody out of a loyalty to the gospel. Bound by chains of love and in custody because of his loyalty to the gospel. So we begin this section of Ephesians 4, with his identifier, “I’m a prisoner.” and I implore you walk in a manner worthy. He’s not setting himself up high as an Apostle saying, “Walk like me as an Apostle.” He said, “I’m a prisoner.” I implore you to walk like the manner with which you’re called.
Let’s move on and look at this word manner, verses 1 and 2. Now, when you were in grammar school, you may have had to write some topic sentences and probably learned those about third or fourth grade and you probably got them like I did; mostly wrong. Because teachers are that way. Sorry. (Laughter).Then you finally learn what a topic sentence is and about that time it doesn’t matter anymore, but Chapter 4:1 is a topic sentence. He’s encapsulating everything he’s going to tell you in these next two Chapters. In this one phrase, walk in a manner worthy according to the call with which you have been called. So he needs to explain what does that manner look like? What do you mean, Paul, walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which I was called? So that’s how he’ll explain it. The NIV and their interpretive rendering I think helps a little bit. Live a life worthy of the calling you’ve received. They lose some of the Greek words, but they’re truncating it. Live a life that’s worthy of how you were called.
Let’s talk a little bit about this term called because there’s a lot of confusion on the street about what it means to be called as a Christian. From the Bible’s view there are three calls. The first call is the call of the Prophet. It’s a very specific call. Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea hear from God very specifically what they are supposed to do. Sometimes the instructions were very detailed as with Moses. Sometimes they were pretty brief as with Jonah, but God speaks to a Prophet and calls them, and by the way almost all of them are very reluctant to do what God asks them to do. The second call and the one that’s the biggest call in the Bible is the call of Salvation. God’s calling His people to Himself. I believe in a universal call, meaning whosoever will respond to the call. So when you hear the story of the life, death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that He died in your place, on your behalf instead of you, instead of me, by trusting in, by believing in Christ and Christ alone for our Salvation, we are given a free gift called Eternal Life. That’s the Gospel. Even the saying of those words, that’s a presentation of the Gospel of Christ and God can use those words to call His people to Himself. That’s the biggest call in the Bible. There’s one other call in the Bible and that’s the call to discipleship. Some Christians differentiate these; some don’t. Some lump all Christians as Disciples. I tend to be in a different camp that says, “No, not all Christians are Disciples.” We saw the masses following Jesus and when it got a little hard the Disciples fell away. He speaks to The Twelve and says, “Are you too going to leave?” Later in Paul’s life he writes some cryptic things by a man named Demas. We know very little about Demas, having loved this former world. I’d like to write a book one day called Demus, the Way of the World. He didn’t want to follow Paul and his mission anymore. He wanted to go the way of the world. I believe Demas was saved. I believe the Disciples who followed Jesus were saved, but they didn’t take on discipleship, being a student, being identified with Christ, wanting to grow in Sanctification, or wanting to learn more. We might define it. It’s hard. It’s unclear, but a Disciple. Lloyd and Bill like the word self feeder. You can open the Bible and feed yourself. You can read it without being provoked, or being made to. You want to be in the Word. You want to pray. You don’t necessarily feel guilty and have to pray, you want to pray. You’ll stop throughout the day and pray. You want to read. You want to grow. You want to learn more. You can’t not learn. That’s a student and that’s a Disciple. None of us were always that way. Something happened in our spiritual journey where we said, “I want to grow. I want to know more. I want to be the person Christ wants me to be.” That’s how I would differentiate the call to be a Disciple and that’s where we’re shedding some things of life off because you can’t do everything and follow Christ as a Disciple. It’s incompatible. So I would differentiate the call. So first the prophet, and then the call to Christ, the big call, and third, the call to Discipleship. All that to say the calling he’s referring to here is the call of Salvation. Live in a manner worthy according honoring, accustomed to, what you were called. Live like your Salvation. Reflect your Salvation. So we have a new life in Christ. His Spirit indwells us and we’re called to be a different people.
Now he’s going to explain this manner in the verse 2. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love. Let’s look at them briefly one at a time. Humility was a term in the Greek mind of that day: Loathe. They didn’t like the idea, to be humble. That was subservience. That was lower than humanity and they didn’t like that word, but Jesus’s bond of turning the world on it’s head. Philippians 2:8, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Luke 14:11, Everyone who exalts Himself will be humbled, but He who humbles Himself will be exalted. Humility is a trademark of the believer in Christ. Humility is putting others as more important than yourself. Someone showed me this link months ago called People of Walmart. We can have a support group. How many of you have actually looked at the website. Be proud. Be brave. Own your sin. Raise your hand. I looked at it for a long time and it’s really kind of grotesque, isn’t it? It’s just kind of wrong, right? The People of Walmart. I was looking at that and laughing along with some other people. I won’t identify them. Then it struck me; I’m not any better than any of these people I’m making fun of. I was convicted! Humility is a funny thing. Pride is a spiritual cancer. Pride has metastasized in our brains and in our hearts and we think we’re important and interestingly enough it’s one of the few things God hates that’s so clearly identified in the Bible. God hates pride! Humility is the antithesis of pride. Humility is seeing others as more important than yourself. If you’re like me, gentlemen, when you come home those remote controls belong in your hands, and only in your hands, and always in your hands. One of the reasons I have so many of them and haven’t consolidated them into one is because I don’t want people to know how to use all that stuff. (Laughter). It’s mine baby! It’s my chair. It’s my mail. They’re my remotes. It’s my news program. Leave me alone. Consider others more important than yourself.
Secondly, gentleness. Here it’s really self importance, technically. To be gentle is to be aware that “I’m not that important.” It’s a close cousin to pride, but the way gentleness is used in the Bible is: I’m not that important and even though I’m strong I can control my power. We think of gentleness in a lot of ways. It’s not sheepishness. This is not a person who’s a wimp or a person who is cowering. Again, don’t necessarily raise your hands. Some of us (I have been), have been very guilty many times of putting on the power suit, literally and metaphorically, to go into a meeting. Whether there’s been a problem, or trouble, or dealing with some employer we’ve contracted, or if I’ve got to fire somebody, I can put on a power suit and I can go in there and I can control that room. Some of you alpha folks know exactly what I’m talking about. I can go in any situation and control that room. That’s not gentleness. My youngest daughter, since she was a little tiny pixie rode horses. Now, I’m not afraid of horses but they’re big animals and they weigh a whole lot more than me and they’re a whole lot stronger than me and from what I understand they’re pretty smart animals and they know if you’re apprehensive, or if you’re anxious, or if you’re afraid of them. They know that kind of stuff. Mostly girls ride horses. What is that about? It’s like Beauty and the Beast, you know. Here’s this little tiny girl who controls this horse with a bridle bit and this horse is massive in its strength. My wife has on a handful of occasions, browbeat me into going on a dude ride with our family and the ranch wrangler comes out and looks at me and says, “You ever ridden?” I say, “No, I’m an idiot.” Then they give me the oldest, biggest horse they have. It’s impossible to do anything wrong with it so that neither he nor I get hurt. That animal is no less powerful because it has a bridle, bit and saddle. Its power under control, isn’t it? It’s domesticated. It’s trained. You watch the muscles on those animals like under a sheet just ripple with strength. They’re amazing animals, but they’re gentle to a person who knows how to handle them. Gentleness is power under control. It’s “I’m not that important.” It’s used of an elder in II Timothy 2:24,25 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, and, Listen! with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition. With gentleness. In Galatians 6:1 You who are spiritual, restore such a one with a Spirit of gentleness. I’ve been in meetings with some of our elders and sometimes they’re unpleasant meetings. We’re dealing with some pretty sad situations and I’ve seen some elders who are masters at wisdom and gentleness asking the right questions. I’ve gone into meetings wanting to put the power suit on and control this thing and make a decision and be done with it and I’ve watched an elder come in and just ask one question and dismantle the whole bomb. It’s masterful. Strength under control. Gentleness. That’s a characteristic of a Godly man; a man who is able to teach, patient when wronged, and can go in and gently disarm that situation and love a person who’s hurt, who’s hurting, or bad things have happened to him or her. Living a worthy life, worthy of our calling means first that we’re humble. Secondly, that we’re gentle. Thirdly, that we’re patient.
Patience of course, is the ability to endure provocation, to sit and wait. The King James language was long-suffering. Great word. Long-suffering. You can suffer a long time. We have a support group here today. It’s called the impatient group. Hi, my names Michael. I am very impatient. Who will raise your hand with me? I am very impatient. I hate to wait. I have a hard time with incompetent people. Some people aggravate me. I get aggravated. I pushed wrenches in a former life and so you don’t want me as a customer if you don’t want to shop because when I bring my vehicles in I know as much as they do about my cars. I say, “I want this done,” and I come back and they say, “Well, we tested and did this and this.” I say, “No, no, no. I wanted this done.” “We had to test it.” “I didn’t authorize you to do that; I said to do this.” Then they strike my bill. They don’t want me as a customer because I know a lot about their subject. The problem with that is I can play that poorly. I can abuse that information. We want to be a patient person as opposed to a controlling person or an impatient person. In I Thessalonians 5:14, Paul tells us, “Be patient with everyone.” Aww, come on, Paul. Can’t I be inpatient just once in awhile? Be patient with everyone. A great point. You can’t make your flesh better.