Walking as Christians

Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge IS4086RF-00002343-001you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Have you ever heard a statement like this? – “Jesus and the ideas he talked about sound great, I’m just not so sure about all these Christians.” Ours is a world desperately seeking Truth. Take any social context or issue (marriage, family, crime rates, teenagers being prescribed drugs so they can feel “normal”) and the broken human condition is clear. Any honest search for Truth can only lead to the reality of Jesus, but those who search are often confused by their experience with Christians.

My purpose is not to lay guilt on anyone, but to illustrate the depth of our position, and the purpose of Paul’s writing in Ephesians. He starts by saying, “therefore,” a reference to his earlier point, namely, that Gentiles are equal heirs in the promise of Christ. From this radical statement that surely shocked his audience, Paul then says in 4:1 that the Church is supposed to be a picture of this all-encompassing love.

We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” and act with “all humility and gentleness.” When people enter our sphere as co-workers, friends, or neighbors, this is the picture we ought to project. And it’s not a matter of performance, either. Down to the deepest fiber of our being, we need to understand that Jesus chose his Church to represent Him. There is no plan B. Furthermore, the picture we are painting with our lives is one that the world longs to see!

This is not a spectator sport, ladies and gentlemen. Be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit” is no light statement. With diligence, we much each master our impulses , tempers, and die to our Selves a thousand times in order that when others see us interact in congregations, in our homes, and in our different social circles, the cumulative thing they take away is Jesus. And it will require everything we have to give.

———-  After paying close attention to what Paul is calling us to do as Christians, is there anything you need to change about the way you present yourself in front of others as you represent Christ?

 

*This devotion by Jeremy Bunge first appeared in January of 2011

A New Walk

Ephesians 4:17-24  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.  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, 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.

Have you ever had a stellar coach or mentor who always had an encouraging word? That’s what Paul gives us here in verse 17. (As an aside, he does use the word “therefore,” again, referring to his previous statements. We would do well, then, to keep the big picture in mind through this entire chapter – the radical love of Christ and his rescue mission to every religion, and how the Church is supposed to represent that. ) Paul, in affirmation with the Lord, claps us on the shoulder and says, “You have new life! You no longer have to wake up every day feeling lost, like so many others do. Now go reach them with your inner light!”

In verse 18, Paul contrasts the life of Christ with those who walk in futility, “being darkened in their understanding.” The picture here is a room full of dark, thick, inky black smoke. Stumbling and flailing, people who are your neighbors and co-workers attempt to find their way across the room. Is there a window or doorway? Is there even a destination or purpose? We who have the life of Christ within us have the smoke cleared away, if only we will trust and hold tight to Him.

For this reason, we are encouraged to “lay aside the old self” and be renewed in the “spirit of our minds.” Think in layers for a moment. Your mind is the foundation, followed by attitudes, and manifested in behavior. Some days we have to set aside the old self several times in one hour! But it is our destiny to see through the smoke, to live with true understanding, so that we mature and walk as Christ would walk. Exactly what the specific results of that new walk may look like are too numerous to list here, but grasp the picture Paul is painting and make it your banner today.

———-  Are there any behaviors or attitudes that you’re holding onto and not laying aside?

Worshipping false idols

Habakkuk 2:18  What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols!

As we look through the Old Testament of the Bible and see many examples of idol worship, it’s easy to arrogantly think that we’ve come so far from that way of life.  It seems so silly that someone would fashion an idol out of wood or bronze and then worship something that they had just created.  We know in our minds that God is the one worthy of worship as the Creator, but still we do worship the created.

Don’t think that this is true today?  How about extreme environmentalism where man worships the earth, which God created?  Or how about trusting in money to get you everything you want from position to health to security?  Some of us even worship our own children, building our entire lives around their little needs and wants.  We do worship idols that aren’t worthy of our full devotion.  There’s nothing wrong with taking care of the earth, earning money, or loving your children.  All of those are good things.  But when they are the main focus of our lives, they are our gods.

Habakkuk rightly points out the absurdity of putting our trust in and directing our worship towards idols we’ve created and expecting them to better our lives somehow.  Only God Himself is worthy to be praised and He deserves our full attention and devotion.

True love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

It’s clear in God’s Word that love is of the utmost importance.  What’s less clear in today’s hyper-sexual, idolatrous society, is just what true love really is.  We know we should love each other, but what does that look like?

The answer to this question lies in a scripture that is very often quoted in wedding ceremonies and very seldom remembered in marriages.  The apostle Paul, again emphasizing just how essential love really is, points out a few key characteristics of love.  Take the time to get familiar with these verses and begin to apply them in your relationships.

It’s worth noting that one thing Paul never says about love is that it’s an emotion or a feeling.  There’s never any focus on how you feel about the other person, just how you treat them.  Keep that in mind as you think about the nature of love and think about it more deeply.

———-  Which of the characteristics of love seems to make the least sense to you based on what you have always thought about love?

He hears us

1 John 5:14-15  And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Joshua prayed with confidence because he knew that God would hear his prayers.  God had told him earlier that He was on Joshua’s side.  The apostle John also knew the value of approaching God in prayer with confidence.

If we know that He hears us, we know He’ll grant us all that we ask accordingly with His will.  To pray according to His will though, we must be daily in His Word, seeking Him.  When we’re in close communion with our heavenly Father, we’ll know what we can ask for and expect to be heard.  With that, we can ask with confidence.

Knowing that our Father loves us and cares for us makes a world of difference as we approach Him.  Thankful hearts, knowing that He hears us, make it all the more likely that we’ll ask according to His will.

———-  What are you asking God for right now?