Because of who God is and what He has done for us in Christ, we who trust in Him must be and do something too. We cannot stay the same.
Jesus gave His life on the cross that our sins might be forgiven and that we might be brought from spiritual darkness to light, death to life. So we must repent of our sins, turn and leave behind all wrong doing. We are called to live a new life worthy of our Saviour.
In this 1st century letter to the Christian Church in Ephesus and beyond, the Apostle Paul declares we have been saved by God’s grace, we are already considered God’s children with our places reserved at His heavenly table. We are described as being ‘in Christ’. He is described as living in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
Because we are God’s ‘workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’, we cannot and must not continue to think and act as people do in the non-Christian world. Our hearts are inspired with new beliefs. Our minds are being renewed with fresh ways of thinking so naturally these will result in a change of behaviour.
The first section of ch 4 speaks of our calling to unity as followers of Jesus. We are called to belong together, serve in a variety of ways, mature in our knowledge of Jesus and practice love in all our relationships.
Our readings today speak of how a calling worthy of the Lord Jesus requires not just harmony in fellowship, but personal purity. We will want to be holy because God is holy. We will want to imitate our Lord and Master in how we think and act.
Paul describes the tragedy of worldly thought patterns here, how someone could be highly qualified in various ways yet without God their thinking is limited, ‘darkened’ and ultimately ‘futile’. In Romans 1 Paul speaks of human beings ‘professing themselves to be wise’ but in fact becoming immoral ‘fools’.
Foolish not to acknowledge the original genius Creator. Foolish to abandon His moral guidelines. Foolish to settle for the idols of self-worship and self-gratification, living as if these temporary pleasures and honours were all that matter.
Thinking the world’s way we end up deceiving ourselves and one another and experiencing a hunger that cannot be satisfied. Separated from God, people suppress conscience and often fall into corrupt and abusive practices.
By contrast, those who know and follow Jesus are living in the light of God’s revelation with the benefit of the Spirit of Truth.
Christians don’t imagine we are better than others. It’s just the Light of Jesus is shining in our hearts and minds, humbling us with grace, enlightening our path with a little godly wisdom and love. We’re leaving behind our old prison clothes and getting to wear a new outfit of freedom. We’re learning the joy of imitating Christ!
The Apostle suggests a number of examples here of what this means in practice. Let me summarise them under 4 headings:
Our foundation and starting point are a deep reverence for the Lord our God. He is the Almighty Creator of all things. He has given us life, loved us and chosen us before the creation of the world. He gave His Son to be our Saviour and His Spirit to be our Sanctifier and Guide. See how naturally Paul speaks of Father, Son and Spirit through this section about human attitude and behaviour. Spiritual and practical, not separate but very closely and firmly linked. God is not just a refuge and source of comfort, He is the inspiration and guiding principle in everything we do. He is the fixed reference point in every choice we make.
The knock-on effect of reverence for God is secondly respect for His creation. We won’t abuse our neighbour made in God’s image or the environment which reflects His glory. We are learning to give people and things their God-given value.
Reverence and respect need to be expressed through a healthy practical restraint. Here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty – Paul warns against spiteful attitudes, hateful, mocking talk, inappropriate sex and substance abuse. We’ll be careful not to get drunk, lose control, lose our temper and do foolish, wicked things.
Observe how the old, corrupt things are being replaced with new positive ones. Instead of greedily stealing what isn’t ours to have we’ll work gladly and share generously what we’re given. We’ll not let our frustration provoke us to a destructive outburst but channel our indignation where it is valid into positive action. Instead of abusing or neglecting the poor of the world we will open our hearts to the compassion of our Master and open our wallets and purses to the joy of charitable giving.
Far from being a dour, miserable, controlled lifestyle which is often caricatured, the holiness and purity described here are beautiful, liberating, rewarding!
And so, saved by God’s grace, trusting in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit we are learning to live in the joy of the Lord. Reverence. Respect. Restraint. And rejoicing. Instead of cursing our mouths are filled with thanksgiving and blessing. Instead of complaints, gossip and criticism we laugh and sing.
We thank our Heavenly Father for adopting us as His children.
We thank our Lord Jesus for dying for our sins.
We thank the Holy Spirit for indwelling and helping us, leading us in this truth that is setting us free.
We give thanks that in a world that is often hideously dark, we are walking in the light of Christ and His love.
And it’s really good!