Summary: You don’t have to live like many of those around us are living—in despair and fear and shame. You can have a new life. You can put on a new self.
So…Live On Another Level
Pastor Jim Luthy
You’ve pursued understanding and received grace. So what?
That’s a great question: "So what?" We’ve reduced it to be the question of the lazy and uncooperative: "So?"
But the truth is, people who make a difference ask that question. I was at a Godfathers restaurant with a few other families after church, playing a rather sanctified game of pinball, when one of my brothers in Christ—John—noticed my son Connor choking on a piece of hard candy. Although he didn’t ask the question audibly, I’m grateful that he asked himself, "so what?" The answer to his question: so grab the boy and dislodge the candy. He might have saved his life.
When you or I are confronted with the facts of a matter, we would do well to ask, "so what?" The right answer to that question is always the right course of action. That course of action might be inaction, but it is the right course of action nonetheless. Got it?
So, if you have pursued understanding and sought the grace of God, then there is a right course of action. That course of action is what Paul uncovers in the rest of the book of Ephesians. That right course of action is living on another level.
I cannot understate, though, the value of the foundation Paul has already laid. If we were to have at our disposal only those passages of Ephesians from chapter 4, verse 17 and on, the Christian life would be a senseless burden to us, a new list of laws we would inevitably fail to follow. Consider these words:
"Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor."
"In your anger, do not sin." (Yeah, right!)
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth."
"Be kind and compassionate to one another." (Obviously written before freeways, traffic laws, and creative gestures.)
"Be imitators of God." (Which is a whole lot different than, "Act as though you are God.")
"Live a life of love."
"Among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed…"
"Live as children of light."
"Do not get drunk on wine."
"Submit to one another…"
"Wives, submit to your husbands…"
"Husbands, love your wives…"
"Children, obey your parents…"
"Fathers, don’t exasperate your children." (Okay, whatever that means. But can I duct tape them to the wall for just a couple of hours?)
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters…"
And finally, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
Ha! After reading that list and checking it twice, I have no time to be strong in the Lord. In fact, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. If I need to follow this list, and then, finally, be strong in the Lord, let me tell you, strong in the Lord is just plain never gonna happen.
But, if we understand what Christ has done for us and we have received his grace, this list is not a burden but a joy. Obedience to this list is our act of worship, to be sure, but it also is the outpouring of his very life in us. If we love him, we will choose to obey his commands. But if we have him, we will be able to obey his commands.
So, live on another level!
"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. They are (implied: as you once were and ought not to be) darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." (4:17-19)
Paul is telling us, as sure as he told the church in Ephesus in that day, that we are no longer to live like we used to live. Paul screams at us from the pages of Scripture, "Don’t live on the familiar level!"
You see, those on the familiar level do not have understanding. They are darkened in their understanding. We don’t need to live in that old familiar way. God has shed light on our understanding. We understand we are blessed. We understand that we can know Jesus and he is our prize. We understand that we are God’s workmanship, created to do good things. We understand that we have a part in the great drama of God’s story. We don’t have to live like the lights aren’t on! Yet so much of the time we do. So much of the time we hurry and worry to avoid pain and we strain to grasp every ounce of pleasure out of this miserable life as though we have no idea that God has greater things in store for us.