2013-02-10 Five Reasons for Christian Holiness | Ephesians 4:25-32
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Please be seated.
Five Reasons for Christian Holiness
In verse 1 of chapter 4 we are told to live in a manner worthy of our calling. We have seen in this chapter that as the body of Christ, in order to reflect the unity and purity of our head, who is Christ and a member of the God-head, we too are to live together in unity and purity. As we saw last week, living pure lives together is a matter of following through with what Christ enabled us to do for the first time at our conversion – putting off the old man in repentance and putting on the new man in faith – like taking off an old smelling sweatshirt that was suitable for working out in the yard and putting on a fresh clean one that is suitable for wearing in the house.
Today, we begin a section that tells us specifically what to do – what we are to take off and what we are to put on in its place, and we are given clear reasons why we should do so. Each could be a sermon in itself, but for the sake of brevity, I will seek to point out what they all have in common.
And that is, what we are to take off – the old life – is primarily self-centered and what we are to put on – the new life – is primarily is Christ– and others- centered.
And therefore the reasons we are given focus primarily on preserving the integrity of the relationships among the members of the body of Christ. Christ is glorified when his body maintains its unity and purity in relationships with one another. I’m motivated by reasons. Give me a good reason and I’ll pursue something. Here we are given five good reasons to put off the old man and put on the new man in order to glorify Christ who has graciously called us together into his body.
Belonging to the same body
The first reason we should put off the old and put on the new is because we belong to the same body. See verse 25.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Lies or secrets are often a means to provide or protect one’s selfish needs. When a pastor or church leader or church member maintains a secret affair or embezzles church funds or perpetrates some other kind of lie – when the truth comes out – people are hurt, some more than others. 1 Cor 12 reminds us that if one member suffers all suffer…
Conversely,“if one member is honored all rejoice together…” Truth-telling is a means of caring for the body of Christ. It is evidence of trust in God and one another to preserve or protect or provide what we need. When I tell you the truth about myself, I do so because I trust that you have my welfare at heart because you care about the integrity of the body of Christ.
Giving no opportunity to the devil
The second reason we should put off the old and put on the new is to discourage the participation of the devil among us. Look at verses 26-27.
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
After Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness we are told in Luke 4:13 the devil departed from him until an opportune time. John 10:10 calls him a thief “who comes to steal and kill and destroy, and 1 Pet 5.8 he is our adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Apparently, anger that is accompanied by sin, along with unresolved anger, provides an opportunity for his interference between us. Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse or a friend and had a third party inject themselves into the conversation? Most of the time it doesn’t help because they tend to take one side or the other.
Anger tells us that something needs to change. By assertively expressing our anger, and by resolving our anger in a timely manner, we resist the devil’s interference between us. We are not seeking to gang up on the other person through aggression or dragging out the fight.
What does it mean to not let the sun go down on your anger? What it means for a married couple is that we should at least reach a point of agreement before we go to bed about when and where we will seek to find resolution to our anger. What it means for members of a church is seeking to resolve the issue as soon as possible. You don’t live in the same house, so you have to arrange a time and place to meet, and have time to think and pray through the issue on your own. But sooner is better to keep the devil at bay.
Sharing with the needy
The third reason we should continue to put off the old and put on the new is so that we might have something to share with those who are needy among us. See v 28.
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.
In God’s kingdom, the needy are provided for by God’s abundant provision, sometimes directly, but most often through his people. The Israelites were commanded to care for the needy among them. In the NT church immediately after the day of Pentecost, we are told in Acts 3:44-45 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And later in chapter 6 when it was discovered that some of the widows were not receiving their share, the apostles appointed deacons to see that it was properly. In 2 Thess 3:10 Paul discouraged laziness and encouraged work when he wrote, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”
The old way of life is self-centered. It provides only for its own needs by stealing either because of laziness or greed. We are tempted to steal perhaps from the office where we work thinking, “they’re such a big company, they won’t miss some of these, they have so many; or I’ve worked so hard and long for them – with so little pay – I’m entitled to some of these, they owe me; or perhaps fudging on our taxes with fictitious deductions or unreported income thinking they’ll never miss my little bit.
But the new way of life is others- and Christ- centered. It is like the poor woman at the temple who gave all she had. She trusted in God to provide, and if necessary, through her community of faith. The new way of life in us makes us like those of whom Jesus said, “as you did it to the least of these my brothers you did it to me?
Grieving not the Holy Spirit
The fourth reason we should put off the old and put on the new is so that we might not discourage the participation of Holy Spirit among us. See vv 29-30.
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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
What does it mean to grieve the Spirit? It means to cause him to withdraw his blessing. We see this in Isaiah 63:10 where we are told the Israelites “rebell[ion] [in the desert]…grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.”
How does our language cause this to happen? Foul language is “corrupt” or “rotten” language as Jesus referred to corrupt or rotten trees which bear bad fruit in contrast to the good tree which bears good fruit. Corrupt language is often motivated by a desire to impress others with one’s worldliness or badness, and is not concerned with its negative effect on others or on the Spirit of unity or purity. So the motivation is to build up oneself in the eyes of others.
By contrast, language that characterizes the new life in us builds others up, is sensitive to the person’s situation, and its purpose is to express grace or unmerited favor to the hearer. Foul language discourages the working of the Spirit among us, while language that edifies allows him to continue his work of blessing.
I received an example of such edifying words in a card dropped off anonymously one day when I was a very young Christian. It quoted Isaiah 49:16 See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. That made my day!
Forgiving as you have been forgiven
The fifth and final reason for putting off the old and putting on the new is gratitude for the cancellation of our debts.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander are characteristics of a person who is still focused on himself living in bondage to unforgiveness. Remember with me Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant in Mat 18 (23-35). A servant who owed ten thousand talents but was unable to pay was graciously forgiven the debt by his king. However, when the same servant found one of his fellow servants who owed him only a hundred denarii, was unwilling to forgive the debt and threw him in prison until he should pay. When the king learned of what the first servant had done, he summoned him and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The new life, by contrast is enabled to be focused on others and is characterized by kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness because we have acknowledged the extent of our own sinfulness, and have gratefully received the forgiveness of God in Christ. Because of what Christ has done for us we are full of Christ’s forgiveness which flows over to others and we can freely pray as Jesus taught his disciples in Mat 6:12 “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…
Thank you Lord, for enabling us to live the kind of life you lived…for capturing us by your holy calling…… for empowering us to put off the old man and put on the new in practical ways among us that you might be glorified by your body here on earth.
The Potter’s Hand
I know for sure
All of my days
Are held in Your hand
Crafted into Your perfect plan
You gently call me
Into Your presence
Guiding me by
Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord
To live all of my life
Through Your eyes
I’m captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart I know You’re drawing
Me to Yourself
Lead me Lord I pray
Take me mould me
Use me fill me
I give my life
To the Potter’s hand
Call me guide me
Lead me walk beside me
I give my life
To the Potter’s hand