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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians chapter four as we come to take a last look at Ephesians 4:25-32. 25 to 32. We’re going to take time and read the text ones more. We looked at verses 17 to 24, out with the old. Then we are looking at verses 25 to 32, in with the new. Here we are at the beginning of 2023 and we’ve got this wonderful passage, out with the old and in with the new. We’ve got to put our life apart from Christ in the rear-view mirror and we’ve got to look through the windscreen of our new relationship with him and drive down the road of obedience, further and faster. So let’s stand in honor of God’s word, Ephesians 4:25-32. Therefore, putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor. For we are members of one another.
Be angry and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer but rather let him labor working with his hands what is good that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice and be kind to one another. Tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God and Christ forgave you. So reads God’s word, you may be seated. Welfare worker was sitting at her desk looking out the window at some children that were playing ball in a vacant lot. And she happened no, no, no, out of the corner of an eye, a badly crippled little boy. He was sitting on the sidelines watching the children play.
Intrigued by this, she went down and engaged the little fellow and discovered that he had broken his leg after being hit by a car. He had not been taken to the hospital. His family couldn’t afford the medical bill and so the little fellow’s leg had fixed itself but in a crooked manner. With compassion, this woman set up a meeting with a famous physician who had agreed to do the operation for free. And so the bone was rebroken and properly set and after some months of rehabilitation, the little boy was running as well as the other children playing in the vacant lot. The welfare worker was proud as you can imagine, of helping this little boy get back onto his feet. And years later, she was telling the story told women’s club and she said this, “Would you like to know where the boy is today? He’s in the state penitentiary.”
She said, “I was so busy helping him to run. I forgot to teach him how to walk.” As we return to Ephesians 4:25-32, we find Paul busily teaching the Ephesians how to walk. How to walk worthy of their calling in the gospel. This is where we are in chapter four. It all began with verse one. I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. The letter has shifted focus from gospel indicatives to gospel imperatives. Chapters one, two and three are all about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, what God is doing in us through the Holy Spirit and what God intends to do for us in the ages to come. And then we pivot to gospel imperatives, that means gospel commands. Now that we have new life in Christ, we’re to lead a new life and our walk through life ought to be different. There’s a before and there’s an after.
Look at chapter two and verse one. You, he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked. According to the power of the prince of the earth, the spirit who now walks in the sun’s of disobedience among whom you once conducted yourselves and lusts over your flesh and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. But now, they’re to walk. They’re to walk in unity, verses one through six. They’re to walk in their new self, verses 17 through 32. They’re to walk in love, chapter five, verse two. They’re to walk in the light and they’re also to walk in wisdom, chapter five verse 15. See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools but as wise redeeming the time because the days are evil. See before their conversion to Christ, they walked according to the world and it’s dictates. Now in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, they walk according to the word and it’s dictates.
I do appreciate this concept or metaphor of walk. One commentator Ian Hamilton said this, “The word walk is not merely a synonym for live. Rather it highlights the deliberate step by step character of our lifestyle choices.” The Christian has a distinctive walk that is distinctive, deliberate, thought through pattern of living. I like that. Every step we take in life from the moment we get saved is now different and deliberate hanging on every decision we make. And every choice that’s before us is this question, what would God have me do? Is this right or is this wrong? Will this glorify him? Will this advance his kingdom? Well, I be happy about this decision on the day of judgment and you put one step in front of the other deliberately, walking circumspectly, wisely and that’s where we’re at here. And we are returning to this passage verses 25 to 32 in chapter four, where Paul has encouraged them to walk according to their new self. Put off the old man which was attached to your former life. Renew your mind and put on the new man created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.
Now, this metaphor of putting off and putting on, shedding some things and adding some things, are focused on several areas. Words, wrath, work, worship, wounds. That was my outline. Words, wrath, work, worship, wounds. We covered the first two, words and wrath. We’re told in verse 25 to put off lying and put on truth. We’re told in verse 29 to put off unhealthy speech and to put on speech that imparts grace to the hearer. Then we looked at wrath. We’re not to be angry, we’re not to let the sun go down on our wrath and we’re not to open the door through unrighteous anger for the devil to mess with us and mess things up for us because of anger. So now we’re picking up. The next one is work. Put off and put on regarding work, verse 28. Let him who stole, steal no longer. Put that off. But rather let him labor working with his hands. Put that on what is good that he may have something to give to him who has need.
God’s work in us through Christ will shape and transform our workplace and our workspace. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is as good for Monday morning as it is for Sunday morning. Christianity is as comfortable wearing a pair of overalls, an apron, a doctor’s coat as it is clerical robes. It invades the workplace and the workspace. And what we have here is a description of a Christian. One aspect of a Christian, but nevertheless, the description of a Christian. A Christian according to Ephesians 4:28 is a person who gives themselves to honest and hard work. Who doesn’t steal and who seeks to have enough to give to those who don’t have enough. That’s a Christian. Let’s unpack that. Let’s start with the negative. Let him who steals, steal no longer. The disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ does not steal, is not involved in theft, embezzlement, whatever the case might be. In all of its forms, stealing is forbidden. Exodus 20:15, you shall not steal.
And the Lord Jesus picks it up and repeats it in Matthew 19 verse 18. Just in case you think the law doesn’t apply to the New Testament, Christian, for it does. There’s a universal condemnation of any form and all forms of stealing in the Bible. What would that look like? I’ll give you some things to think about. This isn’t exhaustive but I think certainly when we read here, you know what? Let him who steals, steal no longer, that means you don’t take what doesn’t belong to you, ever. And you don’t keep what you borrowed from a friend or family member. You might want to go home and check your cupboards and your garage, just in case you forgot to give it back. That means you don’t cheat on your taxes. It means that you don’t steal time from your employer who’s paying you to work for them, not evangelize, not catch up on some emails during work time. That’s stealing. You’re stealing time.
You’re not to take what belongs to the company, even if it’s a rubber bond or a clip or a pen. It’s not yours. And you’re not to rob God of your tithes and your offerings because that’s Malachi, he says, “Why do you rob me?” And here’s the interesting thing, you’re not to withhold good if it’s in your ability to do it. That’s a form of stealing. See, there’s the sins of commission, doing what you ought not to do. And there’s the sins of omission, not doing what you ought to do. And when you’re withholding good, if it’s within your power to help a brother or someone in your circle of influence and you don’t do it, it’s kind of a form of stealing. Because you have kept back what they could have since God gave you to bless them. And I’ll say that here’s what’s interesting. This is in the present tense, which means it must have been a real temptation.
In fact, it’s almost like Paul is saying, “Stop, you’re stealing.” Which seems to infer there may have been a real temptation among some Christians there to steal. Some of them may be in the very act of it and Paul says, “No. It’s against the moral law of God, it’s against Christian ethics, against love of your neighbor. You don’t do that. It’s a bad testimony to the church.” Because remember, there’s many in the Christian church came from low income backgrounds. The early church was blue collar, not white collar. And they didn’t have much and maybe they had less through persecution and ostracization in the society. Maybe some Christian businessmen were carrying on old practices of cheating their customers. You know what? They didn’t get the full pine. They were a ninth or two short of grain or whatever it might be. Paul is saying stop all of that because that belongs to your life outside of Christ, not your life inside of Christ.
By the way, we need to hear that. You know shoplifting is now a $61 billion deficit on our economy? That’s breathtaking. $61 billion of stuff is stolen from stores in America. The national retail Federation said that violence associated with store thefts has risen dramatically. Like retailers, top law enforcement officials placed some of the blame for the crime surge on widespread lessening of penalties, aka California. You know Proposition 47 in 2014 went on the ballot and right now in California you can steal $950 worth of stuff and it not be a felony? Which people are doing. You’ve seen the videos, they know it. They can walk into a CVS or whatever store and they will steal last than $950 worth of stuff. And you know what? The security guards won’t touch them, the police won’t be called because it’s not worth it. Although it closes CVSs in low-income neighborhoods and hurts people.
It’s ridiculous. It’s godless. It’s lacking in moral fortitude to encourage people to steal $900 worth and slap them on their wrist. And then we wonder why we’ve got $60 billion, there’s stuff being stolen. We could go on. $40 billion worth of stuff stolen from businesses by employees. It’s shocking. But let’s get positive. Here’s what Paul says. Let him who stole steal no longer but let him labor and work with his hands that which is good. Just circle that word labor at least in your mind. That’s a strong word in the Greek. Paul uses it for gospel ministry in places like Acts 12:20 where he exhausts himself. This is a word it means to work to a point of fatigue. Just want to encourage you. Have you come home from work recently where they double down on what they expected from you and you come in the first thing you say to your spouse or your mother or your friend, “I’m exhausted”?
Well, God be glorified, brother. God be glorified, sister. Because God is glorified in that. God wants you working and laboring to a point of exhaustion. Get some sleep and make sure when you get a day off you use that to recharge your battery. Six days will you labor, in the seventh rest. You work hard, you stop, you refuel. You work hard, you stop, you refuel. You work hard. Because God made us for that. The Christian is unafraid and unashamed of hard work. I hope that’s the kind of Christian you are. Unafraid and unashamed of hard work. I hope you’re not a loafer. I hope you’re not a scoundrel. I hope you’re not a sluggard because that’s no testimony for Jesus Christ. Jesus worked hard. His greatest work was the cross. That was hard. Jesus said, “When you put your hand to the plow, don’t turn back.” And so you and I need to be unafraid and unashamed of hard work.
I’ll read these for you. Write down First Thessalonians four verse 11 and Second Thessalonians 3:10-12, just in case you haven’t read this recently. Here’s what Paul says, “I want you to aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, to work with your own hands as we have commanded you.” What does it mean to lead a quiet life? It doesn’t mean monastery, it doesn’t mean vows of silence. It means you know what? Keep your head down. God’s watching. Leave your house in the morning to go to work and come back at night. Don’t rabble-rouse. Don’t poke the culture in its eye unnecessarily. Just keep your head down. Put in a good day’s work. Take care of your family. Be a good neighbor. Benefit your street and your community. God’s blessed. Don’t be a busybody. Don’t be an activist, stirring stuff up.
And then you go to Second Thessalonians, you’ve got an even greater challenge of Paul in the light of some prophetic fervor and people were too spiritual to be of any earthly use and they were retracting from everyday life and waiting for Jesus’ immediate return and Paul says no. He said, “Look, you know us, we worked and labored night and day that we wouldn’t be a burden.” That’s a good word. Christians are not burdens. They’re not burdens on their family and they’re not burdens on society and they’re not burdens on their church. They’re self-starters, they’re hard workers, they’re active. They pursue careers and ministry and life. Paul did. We’re not a burden but then he goes on, “I hear some of you are becoming burdens to the church in the name of prophecy and spirituality.” No. Look at verse 10. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this. If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.
Now there was no social services back then, but I think Paul’s even saying within the church which had benevolent funds and they helped people. Paul said, “Hey, if you’re in the church and you don’t work and there’s no good reason why you’re not working, the church isn’t giving you a thing.” In fact, in our benevolent fund, we work hard at making sure those who truly need it get it. It’s not Christian and it’s not God glorifying to underwrite laziness. If you’re unemployed, we want to know why. Is it genuine? Is it circumstances? Is it disability? Then our heart’s for you. But if it’s laziness, a lack of motivation, nothing. Because work is the mark of the disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul says, “Hey, I hear that some of you walk disorderly, not working at all.” Challenging, isn’t it? Something we need to hear. Do you realize that 7 million American men between the ages of 25 to 54 mostly too old to be in school and too young to retire are neither working or looking for it? Think about the drag that is in our economy. That’s the purpose, right?
Economy requires if we’re going to keep up retirement and social security, then that workforce that has worked hard and earned those benefits need to be replaced by another workforce that’s working hard until they retire. But that’s not what’s going on in America. Entitlement, social services. Out of control. There’s no reason to work if the government gives you enough money not to work. One wonders why government would want to give its people enough money not to work, maybe control. In fact, that amounts to 12% of all men in those of primary working ages and that’s not accounting for 2 million who are looking for work and can’t find it. Let me read from a great theologian called Bernie Marcus who founded Home Depot. Not really a theologian, but I’ll tell you what, he’s in line with biblical theology here. I just read an article by his on thedailywire.com where he shreds young and woke generation for laziness and he asserted… Don’t be offended. His words, not mine. Office people who are among the least motivated the work.
He said, “Those companies across the nation are facing difficulties attracting and retaining young people in particular.” He attributed the phenomena to the rise of socialism on a prevailing sense of entitlement. I’m going to quote him here. Quote, “They don’t want to work.” I realize this is generalizing, but given those statistics, this is worth hearing. “They don’t want to work. Nobody wants to work anymore, especially office people. They want to work three days a week. It’s incredible. How do you have a recession when you have people that don’t want jobs? They’re entitled, they’re given everything. The government in many cases, if you don’t work, gives you as much money as if you did work.” End quote. In fact, within that article a statistic is given. An analysis from the committee to Unleash prosperity found that federal supplemental unemployment benefits, food stamp expansions, child tax credit payments and other benefits offered in the aftermath of the lockdown-induced recession could exceed 120,000.
And think about that. Not that you may get all of that. But should you qualify for every government assistance that’s there, you could potentially make $120,000 a year. Anybody agree with me that’s nuts? That doesn’t help an economy. That doesn’t breed strong hardy citizens who are responsible. In fact, another think tank found that unemployment insurance and expanded medical subsidies can exceed the national median income in nearly half of the United States. What does that mean? If you’re on the lower end of the workforce that the government can give you in half of our states more than you’d be paid? So why work? Well, if you’re a Christian, we have every reason to work regardless of what the income is because work is God-honoring. It’s what God created us to do. Look, indulge me for a minute or two here. Because look, we’ll spend half of our waking hours during the day at work. That could be housework, child rearing, office work, faculty work, student work, whatever. And we’ll spend a third of our whole life in some employment.
So I need to know and you need to know where does my Christianity intersect with that? Because when the alarm goes off in the morning or your cell phone rings and it’s time to get up, you know what? Let’s get up with some purpose and passion because we’ve got a theology that the culture doesn’t give us because they’re just handing money out like sweets and they’re breeding a generation of indolent, lazy, irresponsible people, but the Christian is different. Here’s four things quickly. I’m only going to throw them your way. We were created in the image of a working God. We were created in the image of a working God. Let us make man in our image and according to Jesus in John 5:17, my father works until now and I work. That’s the first and second persons of the trinity. They work. God worked for six days and then took joy in what he worked. Work precedes the fall.
You ever hear this idea? You know what? Work is a curse. It’s the result of the fall. If you listen to the supposed experts at Davos this week, and there’s one state I saw on a news feed that’s trying to get down to a four-day week, that’s unbiblical. You realize that? There’s nothing in the Bible about getting down to a four-day week. Six days shall you labor. The week is about working and exercising dominion on the earth, creating under the creator. But you see, there’s this idea and it’s attached often to socialism and communism and state government that you know what? Work is bad and we’ve got to get rid of it because it’s a curse. Well, it has been cursed and it become more frustrating certainly. But work proceeded to fall, Genesis 2:15.
Mine was put into the garden to tend it and keep it and he was told to exercise dominion over the earth. That’s a good word for an environmentalist. God put us on the earth to exercise dominion over it. We don’t bow and worship it. We certainly act responsibly and proportionally. But the oil in the ground and the gas in the ground and the trees in the forest are ours to cut down and drill and suck up so we can build society and civilization. Work is an index to spirituality. First Timothy five verse eight. If you don’t work and provide for your own, you’re worse than an infidel. Don’t tell me you’re a Christian and be unemployed for no good reason. It’s not cool. Jesus isn’t happy. The word of God doesn’t endorse that kind of lifestyle. The word of God wants us up in the morning and pursuing dominion on the earth, subduing our laziness, subduing the earth around us and creating and building an art and science and construction.
Second Thessalonians three verse 10, a life not marked by hard work where you end up being a burden and you draw from others’ kindness and goodness, that’s a disorderly life, when there’s no good reason to do that. Certainly there’s qualifications, we understand that because we talk about the person in need. And we ought to work with a priestly perspective. This was the fruit of the Protestant Reformation because medieval Christianity under Catholicism had moved towards that the best life was the contemplative life. That if you were really fortunate you’d be in the monastery and in the clerical robes and you’d be living a quiet life and meditating. And the Protestant Reformation comes along and goes, “No. Under Jesus Christ, the great high priest, we are a kingdom of priests and everything you touch can be used for God’s glory. You can have sex to God’s glory. You can raise your family to God’s glory. You can build a car to God’s glory. You can construct an office to God’s glory. You can design planes to God’s glory.” It’s marvelous. It’s wonderful. It brings a passion and a perspective to life.
We need to rediscover this passion for work because we’ve got a theology of work created in the image of a working God. God put us on the earth to work and he has made us priests unto himself. We don’t be like the guy who went to the welfare offices and asked for some help and said he had a medical condition. And when they asked him what was the nature of his medical condition, he said, “I’ve got eye problems.” And they said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, I just don’t see myself working.” And that’s where a lot of people are. I came from the home of a working man. My father was proudly blue collar, a union man worked in a dirty factory. He worked in a cigarette factory for many years and it bothered him as a Christian and he wrestled with that. But you know what? In those days, there wasn’t a lot of choice. There was several big factories and employers in the city and you either got a job there, you didn’t have a job.
And so for many, many years he worked at Gallaher’s in Belfast. And I have many memories of my father and he’s still alive and we love having him. His faithfulness to my mother, his commitment to the local church. He was a deacon for many, many years at Rathkeale Baptist. He was a lover of his neighborhood. I remember in the early troubles watching my father go out with man and patrol our neighborhood to protect us because the troubles were spreading over in civil conflict. But one of the other memories I have of him is most mornings and when I got to work myself, we were almost left at the same time. Just heading out the door in his dirty overalls or maybe my mom had washed them. He got a little plastic lunch box with some sandwiches in there and off he went to do a job he didn’t particularly like.
It’s one thing my father taught me. Sometimes you got to do the job you don’t like to get the job you do like. But one thing is you don’t sit around until things are perfect. He did that for over 50 years. You do the math. My dad worked at 15, left school at 14. Basic education. He always laughs at people who tell him that they can’t understand the King James Bible. He says, “Well, I didn’t get much of an education but I can read it.” But he went to work and he left us a model. A Protestant work ethic. The working man in his overalls living to God’s glory in the grime and the dirt of the factory. Love that. I find that heroic. I’ve exceeded him in ways in my life and he takes pride in that. And we seek to repay him in any way we can to thank him for all of that. There’s that kind of generation that lay down so that the next generation could reach higher. That’s where we’re at. That’s Christian. That’s beautiful. And by the way, remember prohibition command and motivation? There is a motivation here.
Go back to Ephesians four. Ephesians four. Now you want to work with your hands so that you may have something to give him who is in need. Why do you work? Well, you have to. So you’re kind of saying that work’s unnecessary evil. That’s not Christian. Well, I work so that I can buy myself stuff. I’m actually not sure that’s Christian either. Certainly not the priority. That sounds like he who has the most toys when he dies, wins. Very materialistic. No, you work so you can provide food and your family can eat and you provide the basics for your family. Then you take an element of what you make and give it to the Lord’s work. Giving, tithing, proportionate. Giving wherever you’re at, that’s biblical.
And then here’s what Paul said, “I’m hoping after you’ve taken care of your family, you save the little which is wise according to the book of Proverbs, you give to the Lord’s work. I’m hoping you have enough to give to those in need.” Let’s challenge ourselves. Beyond what we give to the church, just recently, have we given anything to the needy of our church or our benevolent fund or someone on your street, your neighbor, someone in your family? It’s challenging, isn’t it? I don’t want to give you the impression my dad’s perfect because he’s not. You’re listening dad? He had his faults. But another thing amazed me about my dad was working class, he tithed and still we had enough. And they had an envelope and it would come out when pastors were visiting because he hosted them as deacons or it would come out for a neighbor and he’d take something out of the envelope and give to somebody in need or just to bless them. I saw that many times.
It’s amazing to me. It’s almost like that jar of flour in the Old Testament, just his envelope never ran out. How is that? Beautiful. Let’s get the two more things quickly. We’ll deal with this one quickly and the next one. With regards to worship, this is verse 30. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Now that’s why I call it worship. We live to worship God who exists in three persons, father, son and Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the third person of the blessed Holy Trinity. He’s fully God, but he’s distinct from the Father, distinct from the Son. He’s co-eternal, co-essential and co-equal. If you know your theology. And we’re being told here not to grieve him, this is abrupt. It’s blunt, isn’t it? It’s First Thessalonians 5:19. Don’t quench the spirit. Paul has talked about the Holy Spirit throughout this letter and he’s talked about him indwelling the church and making it a house for God. He’s talked about his gifts distributed to build up the body. He’s talked about the Holy Spirit illuminating our mind so we understand the word of God.
There are many, many ministries of the Holy Spirit and many of them are touched on in the book of Ephesians and its point is you know what? He’s the helper. You’re not helping yourself when you grieve the helper. Don’t do that. You’re shooting yourself in the foot. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit because he is not indwelling you and he’s the seal of God upon your life and he’s not leaving you until you’re safely in heaven on the day of redemption. Why would you make the comforter uncomfortable? That doesn’t make sense. Write that down. Why make the comforter uncomfortable? That can’t be good for you to grieve the one who’s your helper to grieve the one who’s your comforter. By the way, two things here about this word grief. That means that the Holy Spirit’s a person. Sometimes listen to the Charismatics and those in the Pentecostal movement and just not them. But generally the Holy Spirit is described almost like an it. A source of power, a force field. But he’s not, he’s a person with feelings and mind and will and intellect and you can hurt him and grieve them.
You can’t grieve energy, but you can grieve a person. And the word grief it’s a love word. See, you have to love someone before they can really hurt you. You have to care for them before they can really grieve you. See, you and I can anger our enemies, but we can only grieve our friends. And no, no, that’s an implication. The Holy Spirit loves us and cares for us and he’s God’s gift to us. He’s a comforter. He’s a helper. Don’t grieve him. How does that happen? We can grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore his presence because he indwells us. Chapter 2:20-21. We can grieve the Holy Spirit when we tear at the church’s unity because it talks about the unity of the spirit. Chapter four verses one to six. We can grieve the Holy Spirit when we feel the minister through our giftedness chapter four verses seven through 16, and we can grieve the Holy Spirit if we do any of these sins here mentioned. Stealing, speaking lies, being unkind with our words, being bitter, evil-speaking, angry, unkind, not tender-hearted.
It was John Starkey said, “The Holy Spirit is always grieved by unholiness.” Another good little statement. By the way, a sidebar. If you make him uncomfortable, you make yourself uncomfortable. And I hope you sense that. I hope you know when you’re out of sorts with the Holy Spirit. I hope you know when you’re at a place where you’re not enjoying God’s blessing. You feel the grief of grieving him or at least that becomes apparent through his work in your life. Tony Evans is a good word here. You may sin the same, sin you sinned as a sinner, but you can’t sin the same way as you did when you were a sinner. Before Christ, we sinned blindly, brashly, ignorance, dark mind, past feeling. But now in Christ, sin upsets us because it upsets him and if we upset him, he’s going to upset us.
So just as a little barometer of the reality of God’s work, I hope you have a growing sensitivity to sin and you know when you grieve the spirit. Because prayer isn’t the same, the study of God’s word is a greater slog, you don’t sense his blessing. You don’t see an effectiveness in your ministry. Dave Dole, when he was in staff here, he’s now in the Baltimore area. He had lactose intolerance. We’d go out to lunch and we soon learned that David could not eat dairy or wheat products. I mean, technically he could but he shouldn’t. And once in a while he did. Or if you’ve got that, something’s in the food, you didn’t realize and all of a sudden your stomach upset. And you know what? It’s uncomfortable. Later that day or in a day or two, your stomach will send the message. You’ve been a bad boy. And I’ve often thought about that because David could eat wheat and he could eat dairy, but it’s not worth it. The lactose intolerance tells him it’s not worth it. And I think that’s the same when it comes to sin.
As believers, we’re capable of sin. Paul wouldn’t be telling us not to do this if we weren’t capable of it, but it’s not worth it. The Holy Spirit acts like that lactose intolerance within us. He’s holy and when we do the unholy, it creates a reaction that makes us uncomfortable. Quickly. Want to just mention this idea. By whom you were sealed for the day of redemption, that would remind me that the Holy Spirit will never leave me. I hope you believe that. I think that’s one of the great verses along with Ephesians 1:2-14 on eternal security. Here at kindred he believed that believers are secure. I think it was Vernon McGee who said, “I believe in the eternal security of the believer and I believe in the insecurity of the make-believer.” I get that. I like that quote. Right, David? It’s good.
So I believe in the eternal security of the believer because indwelt by the Holy Spirit until the rapture, and then we’ll see of the sin no more. But while he will not leave us, he will become withdrawn within us. As we quench him and grieve him and his blessings are withheld and the fullness of his presence is not known. Just be aware of that. He’ll never leave you, but he can come withdrawn within you and you’ve got the guard against that. You don’t want that happening. It’s like relational strain in a home. We’ve all experienced it. If we’re married any length of time, you have a spat with your spouse and they’re still in the house, but they have withdrawn to the bedroom and you haven’t talked for about two or three hours. And if you don’t work on that, it lasts for a day or two and it’s horrible. And it’s just pure sinful stubbornness that we don’t address it. But there’s a relational strain. We’re still in the same house, but one of us is withdrawn emotionally, even physically. And that’s kind of what I’m talking about.
The Holy Spirit won’t leave the house, but there’ll be a relational strain and he’ll withdraw his presence and power in our lives manifestly. And we don’t want that and we got to fix that. Last thought with regards to wounds, verses 31 to 32. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. Be kind, tender-hearted, forgiving. With regards to wounds. We’re talking about wounds within the church, probably more likely here, certainly within the family. We’re talking about being bruised and hurt by a believer or someone close to you in a relationship. And Paul says, “You know what? There are certain attitudes.” He gives us six vices that add fuel to the fire. I’m just going to run down them.
Bitterness, put it away. What is bitterness? It’s a resentful spirit which refuses to reconcile. It’s a brooding, grudge-filled attitude. Two, wrath. That’s an outburst of passion. It’s a quick temper for selfish reasons. Three, anger. The word speaks of a subtle deep-seated agitation, a sullen hostility. If wrath is a hand grenade and anger is a ticking bomb. Clamor. That’s loud assertions from an angry man or an angry woman. It’s yelling at someone. It’s a verbal beat-down. It’s shouting at one another. It’s making sure that your grievance is heard most loudly. Evil speaking. You get that? That’s the word for slander. Speaking against someone to their hurt, their reputation. That would include lying, gossiping, spreading rumors. Malice, it’s a bucket word. It’s all-inclusive. It encompasses all of the other nasty stuff. But he moves from six vices that add fuel to the fire of friendly fire within the church, to six virtues that put the fire out.
But before I go there, just very quickly. I do appreciate Paul’s realism. Leon Morris, help me here. Certainly in all of these admonitions, you’ve got the present tense. You who steal, steal no longer. Paul has an awareness that Christians are capable of lapsing back in the behavior that belongs to the old man and the old life. He’s got no illusions about his converts. They are capable of lying. They are capable of being unkind and bitter and unforgiving. They’re capable of stealing and therefore by the grace of God and the exercise of spiritual disciplines, they’re to make sure that doesn’t happen. But I love the realism. And every pastor and every elder and every deacon and every leader in a church has a certain realism about converts, which makes us patient, gracious, firm.
Love this story. I’ve told you before. The pastor was out doing his rounds on his bicycle. He bumped into a little fellow trying to sell a lawnmower. And he asked him how much he wanted for the lawnmower because the pastor needed a lawnmower. And he said, “Well, you know what, I just want enough money to go and get myself a bike.” So the pastor’s mind started whirling. He said, “You know what, I need a lawnmower, you need a bike. Why don’t we swap?” And the little fellow said, “Well, I need to take your bike for a ride, make sure.” And he takes it around the block, brings it back. He says, “This will do. You can have the lawnmower.” And the pastor says, “Well, I’m going to test your lawnmower like you tested my bike.” And so he starts pulling on the cord and he can’t get it started. And he turns to the little fellow. “This thing doesn’t work.” He says, “Oh, it works. You just got to keep pulling. And once in a while, maybe you just give the thing a kick or cuss at it.”
And the fellow says, “You don’t realize I’m a pastor, I don’t cuss. It’s been a long time since I cussed. I wouldn’t even remember how to cuss.” The little fellow looked at and said, “You keep pulling that cord and it’ll come back to you.” Now, the point of the story is certainly not to make a joke out of sin, but there’s a realism there. It can come back. And that’s why you got to work hard by the spirit of God to put off and put on. And what you got to do is put on kindness, tender-heartedness, that’s self-explanatory. That’s a disposition of mind that leads to actions that seek the advantage of another. Tender-hearted means that you identify with people. There’s this resonance almost like across the strings of a piano that just reverberates and someone’s pain reverberates with you and you feel for them. God wants that. Be tender-hearted, be kind and be forgiving. Not easy when someone has hurt you, when you’re being grieved. This means to deal graciously with someone to give them what they don’t deserve. See, they hurt you, so what they deserve is punishment, retribution, payback.
No, you got to be gracious. Why? Well, you’re a Christian. Didn’t you get the grace of God? Didn’t you go to Calvary with a big boatload of sin, dump it at the foot of the cross and you were told it’s forgiven? Wonderful. But you see, given that to someone else, that’s a challenge. But Paul’s challenge, he says, “Forgive one another because God has forgiven you in Christ.” Go to the cross. Look at what God did. It’s hard. C.S Lewis was right. Forgiveness is a beautiful word until you have someone to forgive. And I’ll guarantee you, there’s someone in your life you need to forgive and it’s going to be hard because your first rationale is, but Pastor, I need to tell you what they did and there’s no sign of repentance. But you can still forgive them hoping for full reconciliation someday. But you can’t go around life carrying a bag of stones of grievances.
No, you got to forgive even as God has forgiven you. There’s a lot of dirty Harry in all of us, more than Jesus sometimes. Not terrible. But dirty Harry shows up and not Jesus. Were you’re going to even the score? You want them to meet your day? And Jesus is saying, “Look at my wounds, my hands. Look at the way I’ve forgiven you. And you know what? We’re here to spread the gospel and the church is antithetical to the culture, so I need you to forgive others.” Then he teaches that in the Lord’s prayer. Here’s what he said and here’s what I want you to pray. Forgive us this day our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Crossed the line and did something unbecoming and unholy and hurtful. Because you see as we close, here’s the way some Christians are living. And I think periodically we’ve all done this, myself included. We live like this.
Raise your hand. Lord, I’m a sinner. I need your forgiveness. But we don’t extend it to others. And Jesus says, “That can’t be. We need to live like this.” Lord, thank you for your forgiveness, your grace. And now prompted by the cross and powered by the spirit, I’m going to take what you give me and I’m going to give it to others who don’t deserve it. It’s going to be costly, it’s going to be painful but I’m going to go through that because Jesus went through that for me. And Lord, would you forgive my trespasses because I’m about to forgive them their trespasses. And you’ve got this beautiful circle going on.
Don’t be a spiritual Dead Sea of God’s grace. We’re going to be at the Dead Sea, God willing, if the fighting doesn’t flare up and keep going later this year. And if you’ve been to the Dead Sea, it’s got an inlet, no outlet. That’s one of the reasons why it’s dead. It’s got no fish, no life, salt and sulfur. The Dead Sea. One inlet, no outlet. Some people’s lives are like that and it produces death. And it’s not life as God planned it. You can’t let the grace of God in and not let it out. You can’t be a spiritual Dead Sea. Father, we thank you for your word and we pray that this… Let’s be honest, this kick in the teeth by Paul, this specific calling out of sin in the church at Ephesus has been challenging, but refreshing and calling us to a transformed life.
Lord, help us to put off the old and put on the new. Help us to go another mile of obedience so that the old conduct is in the rear-view mirror. And help us not to let it catch up where we behave badly, and we offend your holiness, and we fail to love our neighbor, and we torpedo our testimony and we grieve the Holy Spirit, which can’t be helpful since he’s the helper. So Lord, help us not to all allow falsehood to put on truth. Help us not to speak unwholesome words, but put on not which is edifying. Help us to stop stealing in all of its forms and work with our hands up which is good. Help us to help the helpless. And Lord help us as a community of believers to work hard at forgiveness because forgiven people are forgiving people. In Jesus name, Amen.