EPHESIANS # 9
TEXT - Ephesians 5: 3-20
Signs of the NEW Life, Part 2
Sigmund Freud wrote in the introduction of his work- A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis- that each of us has areas in our lives are like nature parks of big cities. Parks are separate from the urban landscape, with trees, rocks, and wildlife, preserved so that the citizens will have a little piece of the old life to wander through to remember how it used to be. (As quoted by Ray Stedman)
We do this with parts of our lives, resisting change, going back to old patterns that we find comforting despite knowing, in some other part of our mind, that complete change is needed! Have you set aside some part of you, resisting the work of the Holy Spirit?
“Put off your old self ... put on the new self created to be like God in holiness” Ephesians tells us.
In our text for this morning, we continue to learn about the transformation the Holy Spirit desires. What does the new life look like? The words are pointed and practical, and when we embrace them, helped by the Spirit - we are become beautiful in the likeness of Jesus.
This passage is not scolding us as if we were bad children! God offers us a restoration to the dignity, beauty, and purpose for which He designed us. It’s as if He is saying, “Don’t live that way. It’s not worthy of Me and certainly more than I desire in you. Grow into my grace.”
The text is introduced by these verses which we have read in previous weeks:
Ephesians 4:1 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:17 (NIV) So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
In the first half of this message we were challenged -
Don’t be hostile!
Don’t steal, instead, be productive!
Speak to build up!
Invite God’s presence, don’t grieve Him.
Imitate God. Live lovingly!
There are 4 directives here that revolve around one core choice.
“Be Filled With The Spirit!”
Who doesn’t like to make things better, to learn a skill, to develop some ability, to perfect an art?
The Christian life of beauty does require choices but it is not a self-help project.
It begins with a birth in the Spirit, our spirit born again by the power of God.
It continues with a baptism of the Spirit, a renewal that start from the inside out.
It is ongoing, like a fountain that overflows, an artesian well that is replenished constantly.
What does this filling with the Spirit mean?
Is it an experience of high emotion? Is it some moment of ecstasy? It may include those experiences, but how it happens is best understood from a conversation that Jesus had with a thirsty woman at a well in Samaria.
Her life was broken. She had burned through many relationships looking for love. She was a social outcast, who felt unworthy. When she came to draw water from the well Jesus spoke to her, breaking the two taboos - speaking to a strange woman in public and addressing a Samaritan! "Give me to drink," (John 4:7). She is suspicious! "You're a Jew and I'm a Samaritan. How is it that you, being a Jew, ask drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (John 4:9 RSV).
Jesus quickly stepped over the social issues and invited her to something wonderful. He said,“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" (John 4:10-11, NIV)
Then he tells her -“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14, NIV)
There the filling of the Spirit is described for us by none other than the Lord Himself. The beautiful life of Christ is ONLY POSSIBLE when we return - day by day - to drink from His Presence, to love Him, worship Him, inviting Him live IN US.
Romans 8:7-11 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God?s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
So, what choices are there for us to make as we walk worthy of the Spirit?
1. Live Purely!
If you want to provoke laughter among the pseudo-sophisticates just mention the word - purity. Everybody knows that the real mature people, those who really get life, are slightly bored with sex. They readily ridicule those of us who believe that sexuality is a gift of God that belongs only within the boundary of the marriage covenant. “What silly prudes,” they mock!
• As long as we protect ourselves from sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, there is no harm in having a friend with benefits, is there?
• Being one of the boys means we leer at women, send pictures on our smartphones, and joke about our weekend exploits. We laugh along with the comedians who seem not to have any subject available to them except for sex.
But, the Scripture requires that we live differently. "Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God." (Ephesians 5:3-4, NLT)
Why? There are a couple of reasons that the Bible gives us -
First is that lust and materialism simply cannot be tolerated in the lives of those who claim to be disciples because they involve false worship! They substitute Self for Christ.
Second is impurity steals dignity and beauty, turning us into an object instead of a valued person.
2. Live as a light! re-read v. 8-11
Christians are both enlightened by Christ and lights for Christ.
We are no longer subject to the confusion that causes people to do stupid, self-destructive things. We do not stumble around in the murky darkness of sin, harming ourselves because we are tripped up by our depravity. We are ‘light in the Lord.’
The Word defines what that means.
The fruit (evidence) of being enlightened includes goodness.
Christians are to be upright, solid, reliable people.
It includes righteousness.
This means we live in a way that is approved by God, that we are keep a relationship with God that is whole. Guilt and shame are past tense for the Christian who is both made righteous by Christ’s sacrifice and who brings that righteousness into his day to day choices.
It includes living in the Truth.
More on that as we go on.
The other part of living as a light, means that we reflect Christ’s light into our world. It is not our own radiance that shines, but His. I love the phrase - ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay,’ (2 Cor. 4:7). We are like the moon. It is just a big rock! But, when the sun shines on it, that pocked rock, reflects the light to the earth. Christians reflect Christ’s light into the night of life. What happens? The reality of sin is revealed, exposed for what it is by the bright light!
3. Live wisely. Re-read v. 15-17
Christians shape the world where they live! They refuse simply to react to life as it happens. Instead, with the insight of the Spirit, they make choices that change destinies.
I love the story of Joseph, told in Genesis.
His brothers hated him, sold him into slavery in Egypt. But, did he react with bitterness? No, he took the opportunity to do well and became manager of a rich man’s household.
Potiphar’s wife desired him and tried to seduce him. He refused her and was falsely accused of rape and sent to an Egyptian prison. Did he collapse in self-pity? No, he started to transform the prison and became the director there.
He helped a man find justice and expected the man to present his case to the Pharoah. Instead, the man promptly forget all about him? Did he thrown in the towel, start drinking too much, and rail on people’s failures? No, he trusted God and remained faithful.
One day Pharoah had a dream that nobody could interpret and the man suddenly remembered Joseph’s wisdom. He told Pharoah about a prisoner who might help. Did Joseph fearfully refuse to take risk by showing up in court? No, he boldly trusted God that this was the opportunity he needed.
And, after 20 years of disappointment, he finally became the vice-regent of Egypt, a position he used to save the nation and his own extended family!
Do you see the opportunities that exist?
"God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths." (1 Corinthians 2:10-13, NLT)
Know and live in the WILL of God. "Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants." (Ephesians 5:17, The Message)
It is not, as some may tell you, difficult to know His will. It begins with obedience to the things we already know - be loving, be truthful, be forgiving, be kind, be gentle, be patient. And, from there we come to understand the will of God in more specific areas of our individual lives.
4. Live in the Spirit! re-read v. 18-20
Don’t miss what is implied here. Paul knows that life can be difficult. He counsels us that in those moments when we are overwhelmed by our situation, broken by sorrow, feeling like there is no future - that we make a choice for life. “Don’t get drunk,” the Word says!
The broad directive teaches us not to escape life’s hardships by involving ourselves in empty diversions.
Christians are not to be party people, buzzed on too much wine, juiced on coke, or pursuing meaningless pleasure. The of that is something the Word calls debauchery. The KJV says, “life of excess.” The original text is a word that means - wasted, empty, or abandoned.
Drinking your way around trouble, trying to out-laugh your problems, attempting to erase pain with pleasure - will only lead to regret, stupid and sinful decisions that pile up, one on top of another.
Instead Christians turn to the Spirit! In Him they find joy that gives songs for the night. Oh, what a contrast in life. Intoxicated, making a fool of one’s self or full of God’s Spirit, singing His praises.
"Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ."
(Ephesians 5:18-20, The Message)
On this Palm Sunday morning let’s remember the story of ancient Jerusalem who welcomed Jesus with shouts of ‘Save us.’ They rejoiced that their king had arrived... except they did not really understand who he was, his true mission. They only wanted more food on their tables and less troubles with the Romans.
He intended to save the world from sin!
We welcome Christ, too. Are we only seeking relief from today’s troubles or are we looking for true salvation from sin, life that begins now and ends in Heaven?
Walk worthy of the high calling given to His disciples...
In the Light,
In wisdom, and
In the full joy of the Spirit.