OPEN: Back in the 15th century, bakers would bake their rolls, buns and cakes etc. in 3 rows of four --- and then they sold them batches of a dozen.
Now, these days we have machines that measure the dough and run it through ovens. It’s all pretty standardized. But back then, baked goods were all fashioned by hand, and some bakers found they could make their products smaller (and make more money) thinking the customer wouldn’t being any the wiser. After all - who could tell the difference?
Well, enough people apparently could tell the difference that the lawmakers in London passed laws standardizing the weights of baked goods. To make sure these standards were adhered to, bakers who gave their customers less than what was expected faced stiff fines and jail sentences.
The laws were so strict that no baker wanted to pay the fines or spend time in prison. And many were so concerned that they might accidentally give a short weight to their bread or other products that they often took the precaution of throwing in an extra roll or cake to make sure their customers got the amount required by law.
Thus - to this day, if a baker advertises a baker’s dozen: you get 13 rolls. (Why do Cowboys wear High Heels? Jeff Rovin)
APPLY: Bread - in its various forms - has always been a kind of foundation for civilization. Every society depends on their bread for basic survival and prosperity. That’s reflected by the fact that Jesus spoke of the idea that Man shall not live by (bread alone). And He taught that in our prayers we should ask “give us this day our daily (bread).
The society of the 15th century trusted their bakers with a special and precious commodity. But the bakers abused that trust. And as a result, laws were enacted that made it clear there was a penalty for anyone who misused that trust.
The Bible tells me God has entrusted you and I with a very special gift. A precious commodity. When we became Christians (when we believed in Jesus, repented of our sins, confessed Jesus as the Lord and Master of our lives, and were buried in the waters of Christian baptism) God placed His Holy Spirit inside of our hearts. No one else has the honor of His presence in their lives like we who are Christians do.
And because His Holy Spirit is such a special gift… God gets a little upset when people misuse that Spirit. Here in Ephesians 4 we’re told that we must be careful not to “grieve the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
He’s a gift from God.
He’s yours as a seal – a guarantee of your salvation.
So, don’t grieve Him… don’t abuse Him.
Apparently, this is pretty serious stuff.
ILLUS: Back in the book of Acts, a couple of Christians (Ananias and Sapphira) saw how much praise others were receiving for selling their property and then giving the money to help poorer Christians.
Sooo, they sold some property and gave a portion of the proceeds to the church for the poor.
Now, the church didn’t require them to sell their land. And even then, they weren’t required to give ALL the money from the sale to the church. But when Ananias and Sapphira gave their gift, they lied and said they were giving the entire proceeds to the poor.
Well, the next day the Apostles called Ananias in to ask him about his gift. “Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.” (Acts 5:3-5)
The bakers of the 15th century only faced fines or jail time for their deception. Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit and he drops dead.
(pause) That would make me think twice.
This all leads me to believe that I want to be VERY careful not to grieve the Spirit of God. I may not drop dead because of grieving Him, but I’m pretty sure the consequences would be really uncomfortable.
Now, why was God so upset with Ananias and Sapphira?
What was it about their actions that brought this harsh a punishment?
They abused the God’s trust in them.
They’d tried to manipulate the church in order to get their way.
They tried to fool God’s people into believing they were more generous than they were so that they could receive honor they didn’t deserve.
Whenever someone abuses the trust of God’s people, or tries to manipulate the church to their own advantage… that’s real dangerous. That’s never happened here at this congregation, but if you’re ever tempted to manipulate the church to get your own way… don’t do it.
Now, here in Ephesians 4, we find something slightly different about grieving God’s Spirit. Look with me to Ephesians 4:30.
Here we are warned “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
How do I avoid grieving God’s Spirit?
Verse 31 & 32 continues:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
ILLUS: I once read of a church where there had been a split. Have you ever heard of a church experiencing a split? (Almost everyone raised their hands). Well, this wasn’t like most church splits you’ve heard of… because nobody left.
Something had happened years before that got everybody mad at everybody else and these folks literally chose up sides. One group sat on one side of the sanctuary, and the other sat on the other. They didn’t talk to each other. they didn’t shake hands or hug. And if they looked at each other, it was only to glare in disgust.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to worship in a setting like that? That’s got to be a really uncomfortable atmosphere. In fact, it would literally GRIEVE me to have to worship in a church building where that was happening.
That’s what it’s like for God’s Spirit when we allow feelings of bitterness and anger to dominate our lives. You are the Temple of God. God’s Spirit resides inside of you. And whether you are in a church building or working at the factory, or anywhere… the Spirit is there. And a heart filled with those kinds of emotions is an uncomfortable atmosphere for the Spirit to live in… we literally grieve Him.
In Galatians 5 we’re told to “live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is CONTRARY TO THE SPIRIT, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. THEY ARE IN CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER...” Galatians 5:16-17
So… how would I know if I’m not living by the Spirit?
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: … (among other things) hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions…” Galatians 5:19-20
You see, this kind of mindset grieves the Spirit because it proves we’re ignoring Him.
We’ve been given this marvelous gift - this precious piece of God called the Holy Spirit - and when we allow hatred and bitterness and anger to crowd Him out it’s as if we’ve abused the trust God placed in us when He placed His Spirit in us.
ILLUS: I’m told about a college age class where the teacher was known for elaborate object lessons. On one particular day, he’d placed a big target… and on a nearby table were many darts. He told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry and he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.
One girl drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend.
Another drew a picture of his little brother.
A third drew a picture of the teacher, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing.
The class lined up and began throwing darts, with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. When everyone had had their turn… the teacher removed the target from the wall.
Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus.
A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced out. The teacher then said these words,
"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." (Matthew 25:40)
That’s how serious this issue of hatred and bitterness can for us.
Now think for a minute… is there anybody’s picture that you’d like to throw darts at? (pause)
You know, a lot of people have made me angry.
They’ve hurt me.
They’ve abused my trust.
They’ve done things I can’t stand.
And – what’s worse, don’t seem to care.
They may never ever repent of the wrongs they’ve done me.
You mean I have to forgive them?
I’ve got let go of my anger towards them?
If I don’t want to grieve God’s Spirit within me - Yes.
ILLUS: Voice of the Martyrs tells of a young slave boy named Damare. Though the story didn’t tell what country he was from, it appeared was from Africa. He had attended a church service in his country... and was caught by men who hated Christianity. The men nailed his knees and feet to a board and left him to die. Miraculously he survived and told the Voice of the Martyrs that he forgave his cruel tormenter because Jesus was nailed and forgave him.
That young man deserves a special place in heaven because he’s a powerful reminder to me that most of the grievances I can have towards others are fairly petty. Additionally, that boy understood the power of Paul’s words: “… be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
So, I need to forgive people… how do I know if I’ve done that?
Ephesians 4:26 tells me "Be angry, and do not sin do not let the sun go down on your wrath ."
I’ve got a right to get mad once in a while. It’s a natural emotion.
Ephesians tells us “Go ahead, get angry once in while… but do not sin.”
And how do I know if I’m sinning in my anger?
Answer: If I allow the sun to go down - and I’m still angry - I’ve sinned.
• If that person’s name comes to my mind in my prayers and I would find it difficult to pray for God to be kind to them… I haven’t forgiven them.
• If I’m in a conversation with friends, and they begin to talk about that person, and I want to tell people what a terrible person that individual is… I haven’t forgiven them
• If the person I don’t like enters a room, and I leave because I don’t like them… I haven’t forgiven them.
• And if I can’t leave the room, and wouldn’t be able to talk civilly to them or shake their hand… I haven’t forgiven them.
But why should God be so concerned about that?
Why would it grieve His Spirit when I allow my mind to be dominated by anger and bitterness?
Well… look again to Ephesians 5:1-2
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”
You see (as we mentioned in a previous sermon) the Spirit has the ministry of righteousness. His ministry to me to make me righteous - to make more like God. To make us able to be “imitators of God”. And there is no greater way that we can imitate God than to learn to forgive others their sins against us. In fact, we’re told in this passage that when Jesus forgave us he offered up a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God.
This morning, before I came to church, I took a shower, washed my hair, and brushed my teeth. Why would I do that? I wanted to smell good for you. When we imitate what Jesus did for us then we become offering a sweet smelling aroma to God. We smell good to Him.
But, this actually goes even further than this. You see, God wants us be imitators of Him because He wants to use us as a tool God to use to reach others.
When He wanted to reach mankind in order to change their lives… He sent Jesus.
And when He wants reach into the lives of people around us & change them… He sends US. And the more we learn to emulate Jesus’ forgiveness of us to others the more powerful things we can do for God through our lives.
CLOSE: Melvin Newland tells of a missionary had served for many years in the jungles of New Guinea. Someone asked him "What was it like? Tell us what you found there."
"Found? I found a mission field that looked more hopeless than if I had been sent into a jungle of tigers."
"What do you mean?"
"The people there were so fierce and degraded that they seemed utterly devoid of moral sense. If a mother were carrying her little baby and the child was crying and wouldn’t stop, she would throw it into the ditch and let it die. If a man saw his own father break his leg, he would just leave him to suffer by himself. They had no compassion whatever. They didn’t even know what the word meant."
"Well, what were you able to do?
Did you preach to them?"
"No, not at first. I thought it better to show them my faith by my works! When I saw a baby crying, I picked it up and consoled it. When I saw a man with a broken leg, I sought to mend it.
When I found people distressed and hungry, I took them in, comforted and fed them. Finally they began to ask, `What does this mean? Why are you doing this for us?’
Then I had my chance. I preached the Gospel, and many of them came to know and love Jesus, too."
Our objective - as Christians - is to do the unexpected.
Forgiving others when they hurt us is not normal.
In the world, you shove me, I shove you back.
You hit me, I hit you back.
You hurt me… I’ll find a way to make sure you feel some pain in return.
But what’s abnormal in this world (forgiving others) is normal to God.
He saved us so we could show the love of Christ to people who don’t deserve it.
Not in ways that are calculating and contrived but in a way that actually reflects to love God has shown us. And we want to be commit ourselves to this so consistently that those we forgive might actually ask “Why are you doing this for me?”