Monday, November 14, 2016

Lifestyle of the Righteous and Faithful

The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:17–32:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
I note especially verse 17 "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do..."

Few words are subject to more adjectives than the popular term lifestyle. Almost every day we hear something about a healthy lifestyle, an expensive lifestyle, a Hollywood lifestyle, etc. A popular television program many years ago touted the lifestyles of the “rich and famous.” In this Pauline passage from the book of Ephesians, we’re looking at a passage that describes a distinctively Christian lifestyle.

In vv. 17–19 the apostle Paul speaks insistently that we no longer walk (behave, live, lead a lifestyle) like the world around us. In verses 18 and 19, he gives us a very vivid description of a culture that disregards God and His Word. It is futile, dark, alienated from God, ignorant, and blind. In verse 19, it is described as being “past feeling,” The Greek word means to lose the ability to feel shame or embarrassment. Our culture has given itself over to lewdness (behavior completely lacking in moral restraint, usually with the implication of sexual licentiousness) “to work all uncleanness with greediness.” This description is played out for us each night when we turn on our televisions. But the Bible warns that God intends for us to be responsible moral and spiritual people, but we are living in a world that no longer tolerates moral restraint or biblical values.

In vv. 20–24, Paul tells us that when we become Christians, something different happens within us, something that separates us from the world and gives us a distinctive lifestyle. Paul goes on to describe the change in terms of wardrobe. At Calvary, we take off the old, sin-splattered rags of self-righteousness, we are bathed in the blood of Christ, and we put on a new wardrobe of holy living.

Verse 25 begins with the word, “Therefore,” indicating that in light of the world around us and the change within us, there are now some demands upon us. God expects a certain lifestyle from His people. In the remainder of the chapter, five areas are dealt with:

A. Our Morality (v. 25). We are to be people of integrity.
B. Our Mood (vv. 26–27). We’re all bound to become angry from time to time, but we must be careful about how we express that anger and how long we stay angry, otherwise we’ll give the devil a foothold in our lives.
C. Our Money (v. 28). We must never come by one cent in a deceptive or dishonest way. Christians are to be hard-working people, earning money with the express purpose of sharing some of it with others.
D. Our Mouths (vv. 29–30). The word “grieve” is a strong and emotional word. Paul could have said, “Do not displease or disappoint the Holy Spirit.” But the word “grieve” conveys emotional suffering and deep sorrow. When we engage in unwholesome talk, it causes emotional suffering and deep sorrow to the Holy Spirit who lives within our hearts.
E. Our Magnanimity (vv. 31–32). Is there someone you haven’t forgiven? God has forgiven you of all your sins in Christ; should you not also reflect His compassion and forgive your enemy?

In view of the world around us and the change within us, these are the demands upon us in terms of our morality, our moods, our money, our mouths, and our manner, our magnanimous hearts. As it is put elsewhere in Scripture: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1–2).