Summary: If you’ve received the grace of God return the favor to everyone else.
Let’s begin this morning with a little check of your vocabulary. Can someone give me a defining of the word nag? If someone accuses you of nagging them, what are they trying to tell you? Nagging is when you tell someone something that they already know. And you tell them over … and over … and over … and over.
Nagging can really get on your nerves, but sometimes you can learn from it. Back when we lived in the parsonage of our first church, the parsonage landlord (for lack of a better title) taught me many lessons about lawn equip with a little nagging. I knew it was vital to check the oil in the mower, but I was inconsistent in actually doing it. Wayne, the parsonage landlord, reminded me once to check the oil before mowing. I guess I was too sloppy because he eventually nagged me by telling me what I already knew a second time. This time, however, he added a motivating comment: “It’s cheaper to add oil than replace the engine.” He did nag me, but he didn’t do it in an accusing demeaning way. As a result, I listened and never forgot that lesson.
As we turn to Ephesians we find Paul nagging his listeners. He counsels them to do 4 things that I’m positive they already knew. But Paul was an effective nagger. He was an inspired nagger because with the nag he provided motivating comments to get the Ephesians to follow through.
Remember that Paul planted the church at Ephesus because of their potential to influence the Roman world. They were located at the crossroads of the empire. The Ephesians were positioned to share their faith in Jesus Christ with a lot of people. But Paul knew that their verbal witness would only be as strong as the extent to which they lived out their salvation. He wanted the Roman world to not only hear the good news through them, but to see it lived out in the church. The primary place to demonstrate faith was in connection to fellow believers. To accomplish this they needed a deep commitment to one another and to living the holy and righteous life made possible through Christ.
To impact their world, to live out their faith, to grow spiritually, to please the Lord with their lives the Ephesians needed to develop what I call an enduring and maturing community. To reach their redemptive potential in Christ certain transitions needed to happen in individual lives and the church as a whole.
Transitions that Create Enduring and Maturing Community
The application I’m going to share with you is wider than just the church. You can apply these ideas to all of your relationships and you will develop deep, strong friendships or maybe gain more friends if you want more. These ideas will work for small groups, Sunday school classes, and families. I’m certain you could apply them at your job or school and you’d see enduring and maturing community develop among people who are committed to one another.
Paul’s first nag is easy to understand. In fact, you already know it. That’s what makes it nagging.
Replace dishonesty with sincerity
“The Leo Burnett advertising agency did a nationwide telephone survey a few years ago on lying, cataloging when we lie, how we lie, and why we lie. The results were interesting.
“Ninety-one percent of all Americans confessed that they regularly lied. Seventy-nine percent had given out false phone numbers or invented new identities when meeting strangers on airplanes. One out of every five admitted that they couldn’t get through even one day without going along with a previously manufactured lie. Guess what the survey revealed that we lie about the most – our income, our weight, or our age? It’s our weight! Which is kind of funny, as that’s the one truth no lie could ever conceal. In second place was money, and third was our age. There was also a contender that came in fourth: our true hair color.
“Now here’s what I found most intriguing about the study: People no longer seem to care about lying. We accept it. It doesn’t bother us. We don’t get upset anymore when someone exaggerates, falsifies, fabricates, or misrepresents the truth. We live in a day when we’ve been bombarded with erased tapes, tampered evidence, illicit cover-ups, padded resumes, and exaggerated ads – to the point that we’ve pretty much given up on truth being a viable enterprise. The study found that in the past, people thought lying was wrong. Now, almost half of all Americans say it isn’t.”
James Emery White, You Can Experience an Authentic Life (Nashville: Word Publishing), 121-122
According to Paul, falsehood is the death of community. Here’s his take:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25