All posts by Matthew J. Cochran

Matt Cochran's passion is seeing people's lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having served in the Marine Corps in locations all over the world, Matt easily connects with people. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Studies and a Master's Degree in Discipleship Ministries. Above all else, Matt loves being a dad to Colin, Hank and Amelie.

Forget about it

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Revenge is never worth it. Holding a grudge does nothing to help anyone. Bitterness is a cancer that eats away at the soul. God wants so much more for your life.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians deals mostly with unity within the body of believers, so it’s important to note that this refers to forgiving those who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s family. When we don’t forgive our own church family we can’t live the lives that God intends for us. The Church can’t function as it’s supposed to when we live with anger and bitterness towards someone.

Forgiveness, though, is a cure for many of the faults within the Church. Letting go of the hurts we hold on to brings healing that can release all of us from the shackles that we find ourselves in. Jesus didn’t die for our forgiveness just so that we can refuse to show the same grace to the people God’s placed around us. Forget about it. Let it go. Love those who have hurt you and pray for them – and yourself.

This is practice for the future

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Have you ever heard the expression, “you play like you practice?” The idea is that you are only going to perform on game day up to the level that you’ve prepared. It’s often a saying used to relate to sports, but it can apply to business, parenting, marriage, and even walking with Christ. We’re only going to perform when we’re called to a task the way we practiced in the little everyday things.

We’re all called to something by God, but it may be some time before something big is revealed to us. We may have to be faithful in a lot of small things before we actually have something come our way that we see as big. The thing is, to God this all counts. All obedience counts.

We were sealed by the Holy Spirit for a reason. God is conforming us into the image of His Son, and He’s going it one little bit at a time (2 Corinthians 3:18), through the small things we don’t see as significant. Open your eyes to what God is doing around you and through you. Take notice of the small steps of obedience He’s calling you to and follow Him.

God’s people watch their mouths

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

One of the most powerful parts of the human body is really not that big. The tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). We can make someone’s day or we can ruin their day. We can glorify God or we can bring disgrace to Him with the way we speak.

It’s God’s intention that His people would speak life to others, but especially to other believers. The message we send the world with the way we treat others is loud and long-lasting. If we treat each other badly, it doesn’t communicate grace to a world so desperately in need of it. In contrast, when we encourage and build up others, everyone around us can see the grace of God working out in our lives.

Encouraging words are beneficial to the whole body of God in the same way that ugly words hurt the whole body. Our words can either be the poison that leads to a slow death or the medicine that brings healing. If we’re after unity in the family of God, we have to choose our words wisely. We have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us.

May we all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).

A life lived for God is an honest life

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

A new life that comes about after being transformed by God is a life that leaves behind many old things. Habits, hangups, crudeness, lying, stealing…the list goes on.

Some of us in our old lives were thieves, taking anything we could get our hands on just because we wanted it. God’s people don’t live that way, though. We understand that all things really belong to God, not to us. Ripping someone else off doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts our relationship with the Father. He didn’t create us to be thieves.

If there’s one thing that God is not about, it’s selfishness. A deceptive lifestyle that cheats others only benefits the cheater and it’s not what God intends for His people. He’s called us to care for other people, not just ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This means that in our work and in our choices, we should have others in mind. We should be seeking to benefit them so that God can be glorified (Matthew 5:16).

For one of His people to steal is for the world to view God as a thief.  Making an honest living is not just the right thing to do, it shows others how God’s people live and brings Him honor.

Forgiveness takes away the enemy’s weapon

Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 

There are few things our enemy the devil hates more than a unified body of believers in Jesus Christ. He can’t stand to see God working through people who love one another and bear each other’s burdens. His strategy is to divide us.

We’ve all been to churches where there’s disunity. Maybe someone didn’t like the choice of colors for the new carpet or maybe someone got upset because the coffee pot was moved to another location. Whatever the reason, people get angry with their fellow Christians and they begin to miss out on the mission God has for them. That’s exactly what the enemy wants.

But when we forgive offenses that our brothers and sisters in the Lord commit, we offer him no ammunition to use against us. When we put away our anger and instead choose love, we don’t allow him a way in. When we value people and relationships more than things, we take away something from the enemy’s arsenal. We leave him weak.

When we choose to love, it honors God and brings Him glory. That should be our ultimate incentive for treating others well and acting in unity as a church of believers.

Family speaks the truth

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

One of the most loving things you can do for another person, especially one who is your brother or sister in Christ, is speak the truth to them. There are few actions or words that can even compare with just some refreshing truth.

We all know that being a liar is a hard job. When you lie to others you have to keep track of what you told to whom and it makes you worry about getting caught. But honesty, that brings freedom. Speaking the truth to people frees us and lets us know that there is nothing to hide.

It can be really hard sometimes to say what needs to be said, but when you know someone is believing lies it’s always best to let them know what’s real. The biggest liar of all, Satan, tries to lure people into believing that God doesn’t care, that He isn’t listening, or that He’s not good. But the truth is that God is love (1 John 4:8). God cares about His people (Romans 8:30). God is good (Nehemiah 9:31). God is listening (1 John 1:9).

When we know the truth, we’re free from the burdens that lies bring. We can be the burden-breaker for someone else by speaking the truth. It’s what family does.

A new heart means a new mind

Ephesians 4:23-24 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

When you surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, you became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). A major transformation occurs when someone takes this step. Along with that transformation comes a new heart. With a new heart comes new desires. With new desires comes renewed thinking.

The thing about obedience to God is that it all begins with right thinking. If we have any hope of following Christ we can’t do it on our own.  We need His help to obey and we can only know what it is He wants us to do if we have been transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). We have to seek after the truth that’s only found in Him.

At some point in time the truth of God’s Word really penetrates your soul and you just know the truth for what it is. It becomes so clear that you can’t believe that you never embraced this truth before. This truth sets you free! (John 8:32) With a new heart and a new mind there’s a new life, one free from the burdens of this world and from the taskmasters of fear and shame.

A new mind is a clean slate to start over with. Instead of allowing your mind to be consumed by the things of this world, you have the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to fill it with what is right and good and pure.

Have you learned about the real Jesus?

Ephesians 4:20-22 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

This fact of life should be revisited from time to time: Not everyone who teaches knows what they’re talking about. Likewise, not everyone who professes to speak for God truly speaks for Him.

The Apostle Paul uses and interesting phrase in this letter to the Ephesian church. He says “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus.” The point he’s making is that he knows the Ephesians have learned better than to live like the pagans. But what about those in the church who have learned no better than to keep living in sin?

Some will come in the name of the Lord and yet contradict His Word. Some will claim to have heard from God himself and yet present a message that goes directly against His nature. Some will even mock God with their teaching and somehow still claim to be His representative. It’s our job to discern the truth from the garbage.

If anyone teaches a gospel that contradicts the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the grave and that His work on the cross was sufficient for salvation, then they’re not worth listening to. Paul warns elsewhere that even if an angel were to preach a false gospel it should be tossed out (Galatians 1:8).

So how do we know the truth from the false teaching? It’s important to start with getting acquainted with the Bible. In it God has revealed himself and His nature. The Bible is the truth tester. If something doesn’t stand up to agreement with it, then it’s false. If you seek the truth, you will find it.

Trade in your heart for a new one

Ephesians 4:17-19 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

The new birth that comes with following Jesus brings with it a certain transformation. The Bible speaks in many places of the new life, the new self. We are made a new creation after salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the old is made new. We have received a heart transplant as well:And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

It’s only because we’ve received a heart of flesh, one that’s moved toward God instead of being hardened to Him, that we are even capable of maturing and doing His will.  But why do we so often act as though we’re still a hard-hearted nonbeliever? Why do we act as if our lives haven’t been transformed, insisting on living out our old ways?

The Apostle Paul says that those without God act with hard hearts towards Him because they’re ignorant. They don’t know yet of His love and they don’t know Him intimately. But we do! We who have been called and adopted into His family as His very own children know that He is good and we know how to follow Him. So, we ought to do it. We ought to live like the new creations we are, who are being conformed into what God created us to be.

If you haven’t traded in your heart of stone for a heart of flesh, take the step. Do it now. If you have, act like the child of God that you are. Live according to His purpose for you. Give yourself to Him. It’s such a better life than the one you left behind.

The body grows in love

Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

It’s clear throughout the New Testament that God expects us to grow spiritually once we’re His. It’s not acceptable for a professing follower of Christ to just remain a spiritual infant. He must grow into maturity, and we must then help others to do the same.

The Church is called the “body of Christ” many times and this is not to be overlooked. There are very interesting parallels between a physical human body and a church of believers. Every member must do their part in order for the body to function and the body must grow in order to become mature. A physical body that does not grow is not normal and something is wrong which must be corrected. It is also true that without a head the body does nothing. Without a head the body cannot properly grow either.

Look at this in regards to the Church. We can’t grow individually or corporately as a body without our Head, who is Jesus. We can’t expect to become mature if we do it in our own power, apart from His giving of life. Though every member has his or her own function, talent, and calling, we’re all subject to the Head. In Him we grow, in Him we function, in Him we find unity, and in Him we find life.

If His love flows throughout the Church, there is growth. If there is a lack of love, there is no growth. There is turmoil, not unity. There is disfunction, not a living out of calling. But with His love, all things are in order, all things are functional. The body grows in love.