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What Does Jesus Do? He Personally Cares For Each of His Children
Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.[a] 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means "Be opened!"). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
If you had to lose one of your 5 senses, which one would you choose to live without? Sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell. My wife and I discussed it, and I think we both settled on taste. It would certainly be devastating, especially for a couple of foodies…. But I think living without a sense of taste would be a little easier to manage than losing some of the other senses. It’s not impossible to live without the other senses… there are people who do it. But I do think it would be easiest to live without taste. And maybe I’m wrong on that, but after knowing what life with sight is like, I think it would be hard to part with sight. And I think to live without touch would be quite dangerous. To live without hearing, I feel like that would be difficult to adjust to. It would be lonely... Hearing is our gateway to relationships and entertainment. And then smell… you could maybe live without smell pretty easily… but if you were to say smell, then you’d lose your sense of taste as well… so I figured it’s better to cheat the system and say I’d rather lose my sense of taste and then keep my sense of smell. I’m not 100% sure it works that way, but no matter.
But above them all I think hearing would be one of the more difficult ones to lose. Helen Keller said this, "Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people." Sight and hearing are quite valuable to us. Of the 5 senses, we spend a lot of money, energy, and research on making sure that those 2 remain useable: sight and hearing. We use glasses, contacts and laser vision to preserve our sight. And we use things like hearing aids to preserve our hearing. And losing sight and hearing gradually as we age is different than what seems to have been the case with the man in the gospel for today. We’re told this man was deaf and could hardly talk. It doesn’t expressly state it, but it seems like this was something this man has been dealing with since birth.
Jesus takes this man aside and heals him. In just a second we’re going to get to the details of how Jesus healed him. But first, let’s make sure we don’t let the day and age we live in undercut Jesus’ miracle. We live in the most medically and scientifically advanced day and age ever. Between the surgeries and devices we have in our day and age, we are able to slow or better a number of medical problems. Here Jesus wasn’t using science or a medical practice that was way ahead of his time. Jesus, the one who was there at the creation of the universe, and has power over the wind and the waves, truly healed this man with a touch and a word. And I know we know that… but it’s good to remind ourselves of it because of the medically advanced age we live in. Some of the things we do with technology in today’s world almost seem miraculous. The miracles Jesus did, truly are miracles. The miracles Jesus did were an exercising of his power as God.
All of Jesus miracles were unique. But the way he goes about performing this miracle is quite unique, especially if you consider all of the details surrounding this miracle. So these people brought this man to Jesus and asked him to lay hands on him. And so many times we do have an example of Jesus healing by laying on hands or with a simple touch… but here he does things a little differently. Jesus individualizes this miracle for this man. You might say he personalizes it for him.
Let’s think about the details of it now. I want you to imagine for a moment that you are deaf, and that you cannot speak hardly at all—like this man. My guess is if you were deaf and could not speak, being in a crowd of people would be one of your least favorite places to be. A lot of the cues we pick up when we communicate with others require hearing. You can generally tell if someone is happy or upset by looking at their face. But it’s important to hear tone of voice as well. It was probably difficult in and of itself for this man to communicate with a single person, but imagine how it would feel to be in a crowd. He would have been unable to communicate with those around him. He could easily have gotten lost. If he had gotten separated from his friends, he wouldn’t even be able to hear them when they called out to him. I would imagine being in a crowd was a stressful situation for this man. So we see the personal nature of this miracle before Jesus even heals him. What does Jesus do?
Verse 33, "He takes him aside, away from the crowd." Being in that crowd, I would imagine this man was struggling to interpret all the stimulus what was coming to him. But then Jesus takes him aside, away from the crowd. I bet that man didn’t have trouble interpreting what was going on. The man that the crowds had been paying attention to had taken him aside. Now it was just him and Jesus. It was clear that Jesus was giving this man his full attention.
In so many of his miracles, Jesus speaks with those he is healing. He addresses them or says something them to test them. But Jesus knows it’s different with this man… we see the personal nature of the miracle once again as Jesus touches the man’s ears. Then he touches the man’s tongue… the two defective senses of this man. I can only imagine the man was watching Jesus intently…his every action and movement—reading his non-verbal signs. My guess is he had an idea of what might be happening.
Then Jesus looks to heaven and in a very non-wordy way (once again personalized right? No words needed for this man who can’t hear)… he just says "Ephphatha!"
Do you ever forget that your Savior is a Savior who cares about you personally? I know I do. I’m going to list 3 different reasons we forget that Jesus treats us in the same personal manner that he treated that man who couldn’t hear or speak.
Firstly, we fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus isn’t concerned with the day to day in our lives. How often don’t we fail to bring the concerns of our daily lives to him? Jesus cares when you had a tough day at work. He cares when the family pet is not doing well. He cares when there is friction in your relationship with someone else. He cares about your money troubles… He cares about all the day to day, and he wants us to bring it to him in prayer. There is nothing that he considers too trivial. He is a Savior who cares about you personally.
Secondly, we fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus doesn’t care about us personally when he doesn’t do what we perceive to be the best thing… or when he does not answer our prayers in the way we were hoping he would answer them. Maybe you have something you’ve been praying about for a long time—maybe it’s not even a recurring prayer for yourself… maybe it’s for someone else. You pray and pray and pray for this one thing—for that other person yet it seems like God never hears and never answers in the way that you hope he would. Or maybe you’ve even answer and bring about an outcome that you might consider to be the exact opposite of what you were hoping for. It can be especially hard for us to remember that our Savior is a Savior who cares about us personally when we’re experiencing something like that.
And finally, the third thing that can cause us to forget that Jesus cares for us personally….trials. And boy, I think trials are probably the toughest one on this list. When we face trials, we so easily become wrapped up in fixated on the pain and the dull outlook of the situation that Jesus’ personal love and care for us can start to take a backseat before we even realize it. When we face trial, we can’t help but wish Jesus would take us aside from the crowd and metaphorically speaking touch our ears and tongue… touch the thing or situation in our life that is causing pain and problems and just fix it. Sometimes we wait and wait and wait and pray and pray and pray any yet we still don’t get to see it. We don’t see him bring about the resolution we were hoping for.
I’m sorry to inform you, that I don’t have any kind of magic silver bullet for you today to help you remember, regardless of circumstance, that your Savior cares for you personally. But we do have a couple things we can talk about that will help us to keep that perspective a little better.
Firstly, If your Savior cared enough about you to take care of the BIG problem, you can be sure he’s also aware of the "not quite so big problems." What are we talking about here? Well the BIG problem was sin. Because of our sin, we deserved death… both physical and eternal death. Each of us deserved death… each person on earth as we are all born sinful. That was the BIG problem. But Jesus took care of that BIG problem on the cross, where he took your sin—each and every one of them—and paid for them through his death and resurrection. Talk about a personal miracle. Jesus paid for each of your sins. In love, Jesus gave up his life and took care of that BIG problem and if he was willing to give up his life for you, it’s silly to think that he would suddenly stop caring about us.
Secondly, as frustrating as it can be…. We have to remember, and ask God for the strength to, in faith, accept the fact that we don’t get to see the big picture. Not seeing the big picture can be tough. We’re typically on this earth anywhere from 60-90 years. And I think most of us would admit that indeed, those 60-90 years go by pretty fast. But if you were to place those 60-90 years on God’s timeline, you’d hardly be able to see them. They’re just a blip on his timeline. He can see the whole thing from beginning to end and he is weaving it all together for the good of his children….but we don’t get that privilege. But we do get to rest assured That he is working out that whole timeline for the good of his children, so that each of them might end up by his side for eternity.
Jesus attends to each of us personally. Sometimes that can be hard to see in the moment. And sometimes his personal care doesn’t look the way we hoped it would. But we can trust that he is caring for us personally, and working things out for the best of his children.
Today we’ll close with an illustration of that. There was a man who had a wife and two children. One of his children was about 12 and the other was about 5 when he found out he had cancer. You can bet that family prayed for healing and prayed for the best case scenario. But the cancer was terminal and the man passed away after a difficult 5 year battle. If you had asked that family, as they were going through that, if they could tell that their Savior was caring for them personally, I would guess there would by many days they would have said no. But their Savior was caring for them personally, even if they couldn’t see it—even if he wasn’t touching their ears and tongue. And God had the big picture in mind, and was orchestrating all of it for their good—even though it didn’t feel like it at times. And as all of that story unfolded, God actually had you in mind as well and he knew well in advance that he would be weaving you into this story… If that man, my father, hadn’t died of cancer, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you as your pastor today.
What did Jesus do? What does he still do? He cares for each of his children individually and personally. We don’t always get to see him placing his fingers in our ears—we don’t always get to see him touch our tongue. But in faith we know and trust that what he says is indeed true. He cares for each of his Children. Amen?
Your Identity in Christ: A Warrior
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Your Identity in Christ: A Mirror
Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:21-31
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Have you ever been in one of those conversations where people are giving advice on how you know you’ve found the right person to spend your life with? Maybe you were the one receiving the advice, maybe you were the one giving the advice. And I’m sure you’ve heard all the canned answers (not that they’re bad answers, they’re just the typical ones)... "They’re someone who shares your faith." "Someone who is head over heels for Jesus." "Someone you can see yourself spending every day with for the rest of your life." Over the years there was one that really stuck out to me… (And I can’t remember who said it.) The person said, "If you find a woman who will stick with you, who will forgive you for all the boneheaded things you do, and who is able to talk you down when you’re about to do something extremely foolish, then you should do everything you can to convince her you’re worth marrying." And of all the pre-pre-marital advice I have heard… I have found that one to be one of the most insightful.
Now gentlemen, I’m going to ask you to be honest and just a little vulnerable in a second… We’re going to do a hand raising exercise, and so as to embolden you to own up, I’m going to let you know before the fact that I will be raising my hand… So here we go… Gentlemen, could I get you to raise your hand if you can point to times in your life where you have done something boneheaded or foolish? So there you have it ladies, look around… Us guys need you to help us keep our cover. We need you to help us look good. And while I say that as a somewhat humorous way to start off what has become a very charged topic in our culture, we’re going to see today that there is some Biblical truth to it.
Let look at the first few verses from our 2nd reading: 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
We’re going to have to spend a minute talking about that word "submit". It has become become a dirty word in our culture. I’d say that in our culture—and indeed in our own minds—when we hear that word "submit" it brings to mind some negative things. I’d say this word has come to be associated with negative images of status, hierarchy, power of position, and domination. And before we go pointing the finger at feminists—or any other group for that matter—as being the sole reason that this Biblical concept has become such negative thing in our culture… we need to be ready to admit that there are many in Christian circles who have misapplied these verses….and in doing so, have enabled the mistreatment of women—be it emotional or physical abuse. That is certainly not what God has in mind when he uses that word "submit". God never intended the Scriptural principle of roles of men and women to be a doctrine that is used to oppress women. He never intended it to be a doctrine that suggests that women need to remain in a certain place and complete a certain list of tasks. He never intended it to be a doctrine that suggests that women are supposed to just sit there and take emotional or physical abuse. He never intended it to be a doctrine that gives men permission think of women as less valuable. Those are all horrible perversions of this doctrine.
Let’s think through this… Gentlemen, would you ever look at a lady—be it you wife or any other woman—and tell them that they are in any way a less valuable member of the body of Christ? No, of course not. And if you would, then there’s a problem because that’s a wrong way of thinking. In cases of emotional or physical abuse, there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. My prayer is that those of us in the church (and indeed it’s our job) would step in and come to the aid of those that are in emotionally or physically abusive relationships—especially if it’s happening here among us. And in regard to the abuser in those situations, we are to come down on them as hard as rocks with God’s law, because God does not promote those things.
So we talked about how this doctrine has been misused and abused… but how are we to properly understand it? Let’s start by kind of reclaiming the Biblical definition for that word submit. The definition we’re going to go with is a "gentle yielding", respect, and honor. And that "gentile yielding", respect, and honor serves as a beautiful, powerful and attractive witness opportunity for everyone who sees it. It’s a powerful witness too because when you live that way, you are modeling the relationship between Christ and the church. And that gentle yielding, respect and honor has the power to change hearts.
We saw it in our 1st reading (1 Samuel 25:2-35). Abigail was stuck between two men who were acting extremely foolish. Her husband Nabal had ignored David’s request for help, and even worse, acted like he didn’t know David. He insulted David. And wouldn’t you know it, David starts acting like his pride was hurt. He gets vengeful and starts making some boneheaded threats. "May God deal with me ever so severely if I don’t kill every single male in Nabal’s household!" This was the man who had been on the run from Saul. David had been anointed as the true king, but Saul was still acting as king. Saul was jealous of David and so he pursued David with the intent of killing David. But David valued life. He had multiple chances he could have killed Saul, but he didn’t. And so that same David, God’s chosen king, now was about to bloody his hands with a senseless and vengeful act of violence. And so Abigail acts. She sees that her husband is failing in his role… and she sees that David is failing in his role and so she herself approaches David. She doesn't insert herself into this situation with the intention of shaming or alienating. Rather, with an attitude of gentile yielding, respect and honor she inserts herself in between these two men who are failing in their roles. And her gentle yielding, respect, and honor leads king David out of his pride and helps him see the error of his ways. She makes king David look good. She keeps him from looking like a fool and starting his reign off with this horrible act. Abigail is a beautiful and powerful example of how this gentle yielding, respect, and honor can diffuse a situation and bring about a change of heart. It is indeed a powerful witness tool.
Now gentlemen, we are by no means "off the hook" in all of this… let’s listen to the HUGE calling that we are given… We read verse 25, and then 28-30. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her….28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. So gentlemen, you are supposed to be Christ to your wife. And might we also make the application for those of us here today who aren’t married… we are to mirror Christ’s love, service, and self-sacrifice to every person we come in contact with. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. There are some pretty big implications in that verse. Christ could have looked down from heaven at humanity and said what a bunch of hopeless sinners. But he didn’t. God could have wiped us out and started over. But he didn’t. Rather Christ gave up his rights. He came down to earth, took on human form, and dedicated himself to a life of service...healing the sick, comforting the broken, feeding the hungry, washing the feet of his disciples… and then he gave up his life for us. Never once did Christ use his role as head of the church to demean, or cut down, or oppress, or ignore, or abuse. In his role as head of the church he served and gave up his life. Gentlemen, you living as Christ—mirroring Christ—is the lynchpin of this Biblical concept of roles of men and women. This may be too bold a statement, I’ll let you judge for yourself… But I can't help but wonder, if men in the Christian church throughout the world had always done a good job of being Christ for their wives, and mirroring Christ’s love to everyone they interact with, if this might not be the divisive topic in our culture that it is today. Gentlemen, may God help you live as Christ and mirror his love.
Often times in our circles we hear 3 purposes of marriage talked about: Children, companionship, and sex. But let us not miss this one in front of us today… one that may indeed be more important than the rest: The relationship between a husband and a wife is to mirror the relationship of Christ and the church. And when, with the help of God, we do a good job of mirroring that relationship between Christ and the church, it is indeed a powerful witness tool...because people don’t act like this naturally! The world around us asks, what can I do to promote myself? What can I do to make sure I succeed? How can I get ahead in life? (Or so often, when you find someone asking the question, what can I do for you?...there’s strings attached.) When we live up to roles God has laid out for us as his children, it looks bizarre to the world. Ladies, when you gently yield and show respect and honor it catches the world off-guard and makes them want to know more. Gentlemen when you act with the same attitude of Christ—self-sacrificing love, kindness, and patience—it catches the world off guard and makes them want to know more.
Just one more closing illustration of this. It was the gospel for today (Luke 7:36-50). A woman came to Jesus while he was at the house of a pharisee, and I would imagine, was surrounded by many other pharisees. The woman is described as having led a sinful life. And we can be certain that the religious leaders of that day and age were failing in their roles. They had become wrapped up in outward appearance… trying to make sure that their culture saw them as holy rollers. They failed to show love, mercy and forgiveness. And you can bet that they were failing to be Christ for not just this woman, but really they were failing to mirror Christ to anyone period. But this woman drowns out all the cultural noise and norms and she just goes to Jesus her Savior. And begins to cry. She kneels down and washes his feet with her tears and pours perfume on his feet. I can't help but wonder if any hearts were changed in that room that day. Whether they were or not, I doubt anyone in that room ever forgot what they saw that day.
May all of us follow that woman’s example. Men, sit at the feet of Jesus because in doing so, God strengthens us to mirror Christ in everything we do and for everyone we interact with. To show love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and service. And when we fail to do just that, may God help us to see it quickly, and own up to it so what we can step back and ask for forgiveness.
And ladies, may God use you to be the powerful witness tools you are. My prayer is that there would be men in your life who are Christ to you. And when there’s not, or should a man fail to be Christ to you, I pray that God would lead you to sit at the feet of Jesus your Savior and ask for his guidance and strength.
May we model the relationship between Christ and the church. May God strengthen us to live as mirrors of Christ’s love. Amen.
Your Identity in Christ: Spirit-Filled
15 Consider carefully, then, how you walk, not as unwise people, but as wise people. 16 Make the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk on wine, which causes you to lose control. Instead, be filled with the Spirit 19 by speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (singing and making music with your hearts to the Lord), 20 by always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (EHV)SERMON:
Today we’re going to see that living out our Spirit-filled identity happens in two ways: Firstly, We live out our Spirit-filled identity when we let the joy about what Christ has done for us fill our hearts and let it flow out in our actions and our worship. And secondly, we live out our Spirit-filled identity when we consider the way we walk...namely, when we seek to walk closer to God. So...It really is a bit of an interesting identity in Christ that is placed in front of us today. What does it mean to be Spirit filled? What does it not mean?
To answer that question, we’re going to start by looking at the last half of our verses today. We’ll circle back around to the others later. We’re going to begin in the middle of verse 18. And as we read these verses again, I want you to try to visualize them in your mind.
Be filled with the Spirit 19 by speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (singing and making music with your hearts to the Lord), 20 by always giving thanks for everything to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." What mental picture came to mind? When I think about these verses, there’s a certain energy to them. An overflowing joy. Being Spirit-filled deals with both an inward expression of joy, and an outward expression of the joy we have in Christ. And Paul has been planting in our hearts the joy we have in Christ for the last 5 and a half chapters. Christ paid for every sin of yours on the cross and now God does not hold your sin against you. Rather, you are his child. You are a member of his household. You’re a new creation. No matter what your life circumstance, all of those truths remain. Those truths are the reason for the joy and thankfulness in our hearts.
Today Paul tells us to have joy in your heart regarding what Christ has done for you. And you have permission to express that joy as well. And when we do express that joy, it encourages our brothers and sisters in Christ.
These verses have some pretty clear overtones of worship. And so we’re going to get to talk about worship today. And it’s worthwhile to spend a little time on it because worship is a bit of a sensitive topic amongst Christians today… not just in our church body but in every church body. And that’s why we’re going to approach it delicately and think about it with a level head. But before we get into it, let me tell you where we’re not going with this…I’m not about to suggest that the way we worship is in any way unpleasing to God. I’m not about to suggest that you need to express your inner joy in a way that makes you uncomfortable—the joy you have in your heart and the way you express it is pleasing to God because you are his child. But I AM going to suggest, that you shouldn’t suppress the joy and thankfulness you have in your heart when it tries to flow out. And I AM going to say that, God-willing [and this is my prayer every single day], should our churches grow, we need to be aware before the fact that as we reach out to people of other cultures and backgrounds, their outward expression of the joy in their hearts might be different than ours… and that’s OKAY.
Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about. My 2nd year of Seminary, I preached a couple of sermons at Garden Homes Lutheran church in Milwaukee. It’s an ethnically mixed congregation in our circles. More often than not, the music is non-german and isn’t accompanied by the organ. A whole slew of instruments are used. It’s lively. People say amen in the middle of a sermon when something resonates with them. There’s a gospel choir. And none of that is wrong. In fact it’s God pleasing. They’re living out their Spirit-filled identity, speaking God’s Word to one another, making music with their hearts and voices, and giving thanks to God.
In my third year of schooling when I was working with one of our churches in DC...There was this big white man that would come to our contemporary service. He didn’t come from a Lutheran background. He would sit towards the front. He too would say AMEN when a point resonated with him. In addition, he enjoyed holding his hands up when he really got into a song. Similar story in the WELS congregation I was in from 7th grade on...There’s a Jamaican woman. She says amen. She holds her hands up. And all of it is okay. It’s pleasing to God. They’re living out their Spirit-filled identity, speaking the Word of God to one another, making music with their hearts and voices, and giving thanks to God.
You have brothers and sisters in Christ around the world—like in Africa for example—who believe the same as you do when it comes to the doctrines of the Bible but worship very differently. I’m sure if you took just about any American WELS Lutheran and sat them in the middle of one of their services, they would think they had walked into a Pentecostal service. But that would be very very far from actually being the case. They’re confessional Lutherans who are dancing and singing and praising God…and all of it is okay. It’s all pleasing to God. They’re living out their Spirit-filled identity, speaking the Word of God to one another, making music with their hearts and voices, and giving thanks to God.
You see, as we live out our identity of being Spirit-filled Christians when it comes to worship, God is not concerned with what instrument is used. The organ can be used to praise him. The piano can be used to praise him. The guitar, the drums, stringed instruments, wind instruments, horns… they can all be used to praise him. God also does not prescribe a way in which we are to let the joy in our hearts flow out into our actions. Singing a hymn with all your might in 4 part harmony, saying amen in the middle of a sermon, holding your hands up, dancing… it can all be done to the glory of the Lord. None of these things are superior to another in God’s eyes. But here’s what God does care about… God cares about content. Verse 17 said, "Understand what the will of the Lord is."
When God’s Word is preached and taught in it’s truth and purity, it’s pleasing to Him. When we take time to ask, well what does God’s Word truly say? It’s pleasing to him. When we take time to ask, How does God’s Word apply to my life? It’s pleasing to him. And the better we know God’s Word in it’s truth and purity, the more our joy in Christ will grow. And the more that joy in our hearts grows, the more eager it will be to flow out. And remember, our goal today was not to prescribe a particular way that that joy needs flows out, but to show that it’s okay to let it flow out naturally. And in the short time I’ve been here, I have already seen the joy in your hearts flowing out. It happens both in worship, and outside of worship. It happens when we put in the effort to be a part of one another's lives. It happens when we take the time to listen to and encourage someone that is having a tough time. It happens when we are patient, kind and loving with one another. It happens when we serve one another—when we consider one another's needs before our own. It happens when we treat one another as equally valuable members of the body of Christ. It happens when we give thanks to God for everything.
So as we opened we talked about how living out our Spirit-filled identity happens in two ways: Firstly, We live out our Spirit-filled identity when we let the joy about what Christ has done for us fill our hearts and let it flow out in our actions and our worship. So we talked about that...and now we’ll close with the second way... We live out that identity when we consider the way we walk...namely, when we seek to walk closer to God and ask him for strength to help us do so.
And now we’re going to circle back around to the opening verses because they illustrate this point, "Consider carefully, then, how you walk, not as unwise people, but as wise people. 16 Make the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
When Paul says, "Consider how you walk..." there’s a good chance he has the Proverbs in mind. Numerous places in Proverbs speak about the path that we walk in life. And the path we walk in life has profound implications...whether it be what Proverbs calls the way of the fool—a path leading away from the Lord, or the way of the wise—a path that walks with the Lord. In our immediate context, Paul mentioned the sin of drinking too much as one of those deeds found on the path away from the Lord. But just a few verses before today’s verses he uses a much more general term. He calls all things found in that way of foolishness "deeds of darkness." And admittedly, even as Christians, walking in the way of the wise can be a struggle. You’ve heard me refer to Romans Chapter 7 a number of times in this series—that inner struggle the Christian has between the old sinful person and the new person… That’s because a lot of Ephesians has to do with sanctification. When we’re speaking about sanctification, we’re not talking about salvation. Your salvation is complete. It was completed on the cross when Jesus paid for your sin. But now, because we are both saint and sinner, remaining on the path of the wise—walking with the Lord—will be a daily battle. That’s because our old sinful person loves to make us look over at that other path—the path of sin—and trick us into thinking that it looks like fun. It looks like the easy path to walk. And that sinful person loves to make us forget that ultimately, everything that is found on that path brings us no lasting satisfaction or fulfillment.
Walking on the path of the Lord brings lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. So how do we learn to better walk on that path of life? Paul says it in verse 17: "understand what the will of the Lord is." Walking on the path of the wise, walking with God, is wrapped up in coming to know his Word better because that is where he reveals his will to us. So it’s happening right now. It happens every week as we come and seek to more deeply understand and experience the joy we have in Christ. It happens as we come and let that joy flow out in our worship and in our interactions with one another. It happens when we take time to study his Word at home and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
May God strengthen us to live out our identity in Christ as His Spirit-filled children. May God strengthen us to walk closer to him as we seek to better know his Word. May the joy about what Christ has done for us fill our hearts—may it flow out in our actions and our worship. Amen.
Your Identity in Christ: A Dearly Loved Child
4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice. 32 Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
5:1 Therefore, be imitators of God as his dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (EHV)
I’d say a common human struggle is to keep things in perspective. And as Christians we’re not immune. Sometimes that struggle to keep things in perspective can bleed over into our spiritual lives. There’s a concept I want to speak about that is at times the culprit for our loss of perspective.
When it comes to the world of Art… there is a phenomenon that artists will occasionally talk about. The term for it is visual lethargy. Here’s the simple definition for it: the more you see something, the less you actually see it. I’ll explain what it means a little more… Now, if I were to tell you to picture a beautiful scene, what would it be? It’s different for all of us. For some of us it’s a beach where it’s warm and sunny year round. For others of us we might picture a breathtaking view of a metropolis…like if you’ve ever taken a water taxi ride in New York and can see the whole city before you… beautiful. For others of us maybe its a mountain range or something like the grand canyon. And still for others, maybe it’s being in the middle of the deep deep woods—the northernmost parts the United States, or maybe up into Canada or in Alaska… wherever it may be. But I want you to imagine for a moment, that the beautiful place that just popped into your mind was where you live. I know, it would be great, wouldn’t it? But if you lived there… and saw that beautiful sight day in and day out, eventually you would start to see it less.
It happened to me just last year. I was in my last year of schooling. The seminary that pastors in our circles attend is in Mequon (north of Milwaukee). We lived in St. Francis (south of downtown by the airport). So every morning, on my drive to school, I would drive over the 794 bridge (for those of you who know the roads). For those of you who don’t… It’s a huge bridge and when you’re going north and you get to the top of this bridge, there before you lies a beautiful picture of downtown...you can see it all. It’s magnificent. (my wife will tell you I’m a sucker for any good view—whether it’s nature or man made—i love it all). Anyways, I got to drive over that bridge every school day. But the longer I spent driving over that bridge, the less I actually saw and appreciated what was before me… and it’s not because it changed in any way. But it’s because as we grow familiar with something we tend to let it kind of fade into the background. In my case I would just drive past that view without remembering to appreciate it because I’d be consumed in my thoughts or, I don’t know, thinking about what needed to be done that day…
That’s visual lethargy. It’s a concept that is almost just begging us to draw out some spiritual parallels. Do you ever find yourself falling prey to a kind of spiritual lethargy? Maybe you have known the truths of God’s Word for a long time… but have we heard them so many times that we begin to just kind of drive by without appreciating them? We might all be able to point to times where this has been the case. Maybe some of us here today are wrestling with that.
I bring this up because when we fall into that spiritual lethargy, that’s when we begin to lose perspective. The truths that Paul has placed in front of us today are beautiful. They have profound implications. They are powerful. And their beauty and power never changes. But my guess is, that for some of us, they are truths that we have driven past many many times. But today, by the grace of God and with his help, may we remember to appreciate them as if we were coming to understand them for the first time. And, of course, if they’re truths that are indeed new to you, let’s enjoy them for all their worth. In the verses before us today, Paul helps us to regain our perspective.
When we read the list of things that Paul tells us to get rid of, did it get to you? “Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another…” We can all point to times where we have lost perspective and found ourselves acting in anger. We can all point to times where we have lost our perspective and NOT treated one another with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. And Paul understands this well. Paul is the one who wrote the famous section in Romans 7, the good that I want to do I don’t do. But the evil I don’t want to do, this I keep on doing. What a wretched man I am. Paul’s speaking about life after becoming a Christian. Until we get to heaven, we’ll still have to wrestle and battle that old sinful person that lives in us. And that old sinful person is going to try and cause us problems, every day. Even as Christians who know full well who we are in Christ and what he has done for us, we’re going to have to fight to rid our hearts of the bitterness, of anger, and of the divisive spirit that our old sinful person loves so much. Our old sinful person loves it when it can cause the anger and bitterness that comes from our hearts to spill over into our relationships...whether work relationships or family or friends or even our relationships here, with your brothers and sisters in Christ. That old sinful person loves it when, rather than talk through things with one another, we get angry and bitter towards one another over silly things like worship preferences, or differences in opinion, or things that ultimately are minute details and have nothing to do with our ultimate goal and purpose of carrying the message of Christ into our communities.
But Paul goes on… and he’s going to give us the beautiful and powerful truths that shape our perspective as Christians. And even if we’ve heard them before, it doesn’t make them any less beautiful, or any less true, or any less powerful. They’re the lens through which we view life. “God in Christ has forgiven us...be imitators of God as his dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us...”
We’re going to talk about 3 beautiful and powerful truths in that section…. Number 1. “God in Christ has forgiven us.” God, in Christ has forgiven you….me. The most unforgivable of characters. How easy it is to forget the depth of our depravity and sin. How easy it is to read over what God says about what we deserved as sinners and just kind of mentally skip over it. We were on death row. And the temporary death we were to experience in this life wasn’t even the scary part… it was the eternal death and separation from God that was the scariest part... We deserved eternal death. The evidence of our sin was stacked against us. There was NOTHING we could do about it. But God in his kindness, compassion, and love did something about it on our behalf. God did the impossible—saved us from the eternal death row on which we sat by sending his Son to die in our place. May that reality, of God’s incredible love for us always remain as beautiful and powerful to us as it truly is.
Beautiful and powerful truth number 2… You are God’s dearly loved child. And I think this one is kind of central… it’s why I went with it as the theme: your identity in Christ: a dearly loved child. It’s central because that phrase “dearly loved” is just so loaded, and it draws from the verses around it. The verses around it show the extent of God’s love for us as his children. We just talked about the phrases before it… God, in Christ, has forgiven us. That’s God’s love for you. Never has a more perfect and pure of a love been experienced than God sending his Son for us while we deservingly sat on eternal death row as sinners. God made sure the adoption price was paid so that you might be his dearly loved, blood-bought child. You are God’s dearly loved child.
Then the verse that comes after it once again shows just how loaded that “dearly loved” phrase is and it’s our third beautiful and powerful truth... Walk in the way of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. Jesus, in an equally amazing show of pure and perfect love, gave himself up for us on the cross. He took our sin upon his own shoulders. In love, he was willing to suffer death and punishment for our sin. He suffered in our place. In the span of a couple sentences we see both God’s love for us, and Jesus love for us. We are indeed, his dearly loved children.
With the help of God, may we keep these potentially well-known, yet profound truths in mind...because by taking time to step back and marvel at them anew, God strengthens us to do the impossible. He strengthens us to keep the outlook and perspective on life that Paul is speaking about in these passages. When God’s love for us and Christ’s love for us remain the lens through which we view life, being imitators of God happens naturally. Walking in the way of love happens naturally. Treating each other with the same kindness, compassion, and forgiveness with which we ourselves have been treated by God, happens naturally. May God strengthen us to do the impossible… to live in the perspective change that his love brings to us… to live as who we truly are in Christ: his dearly loved children. Amen
Your Identity in Christ: A New Creation
17 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. 18 They are 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
If I were going to guess, I’d say there’s not a single one of us that walked in the door this morning without bringing with us some baggage. And this morning I’m going to the baggage that us humans tend to carry around with us into two fairly simple categories: The first kind of baggage we like to carry around is our feelings of guilt and shame. The second kind of baggage we like to carry around is our pride.
Here’s why I have divided it into those two categories and why I can pretty confidently say that every single one of us is carrying at least one (maybe both of those bags around with us). You remember the story of the prodigal son, yes? It was a parable that Jesus told. I’ll just briefly recap... There were two brothers. The younger brother came to his father and asked for his share of the inheritance. (That’s essentially like saying dad, I’m done with you, I wish you were dead, give me my inheritance so I can leave.) And so his father gave him his share of the inheritance. And the younger son...the prodigal son set out and and just blew through the money that his father had given him. He used it to live life up in extravagant and even in promiscuous ways. When he ran out of money he had to find a job. So he’s working with a pig farmer. And one day he finds himself looking at the pigs food longing to eat it...and that’s when he comes to his senses. He says he would rather be a servant back in his father’s house than be here craving pig slop. So that prodigal son went home. And my question for you… What kind of baggage did that prodigal son carry back home? Exactly. Feelings of guilt and shame.
When the younger brother finally gets home, his father sees him while he’s still a long way off and comes running to meet him and hug him...and he throws him a welcome home party. He slaughtered the fattened calf because his boy had come home. In today’s world that’s the equivalent of no expense being spared. But now, here comes the older brother. He hears the party going on and has no idea what’s going on. He finds his father and his father says, "We’re celebrating because your brother has come home!" What does the older brother do? He gets mad. He gets angry. He starts saying things to his father like, "Now hold on, I have always been faithful to you and done what you ask, I would never ask for my half of the inheritance and run off like your younger son! And here you are throwing him a party? You’ve never thrown me a party!" So… what kind of baggage was the older brother carrying around? Exactly…. Pride.
It’s a brilliant parable by Jesus that really sums up our existence as sinful humans. My guess would be that you can relate to one of the brothers more than the other. But regardless of being able to relate to and identify with one more than the other, I would guess that we could all point to times where we find ourselves acting like both brothers.
So boy if you walked in without any baggage this morning, we should chat after the service because you either (A) are ignoring the 18 wheeler load of baggage you’ve been hauling around or (B) you’ve got it figured out, and I want to know how you do it… Because I admit it, I’m just as human as you are, and I too walked in with baggage this morning.
The reason I bring up our baggage this morning is because the text we have in front of us today is a difficult one for us to read when we approach it with the feelings of guilt or shame or pride that we’ve been carrying around. For those of us who walked in carrying our feelings of guilt and shame, this passage almost just makes us feel worse because here Paul is telling us not to live like those who don’t know Christ and yet here we are still struggling with the same old sins…. For those of us who walked in carrying our pride, this passage probably feels falsely uplifting for us. We read what Paul says and point the finger at ourselves and say YEP! THAT’S ME! I wouldn’t ever dream of living the way Paul is speaking about, and shame on those who do! And so us who walk in carrying our pride are at risk of missing the point entirely, kind of like the older brother.
So let’s read it again and I’ll make a few comments as we go through...
Eph 4:17-24 - 17 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. 18 They are 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. [He doesn’t say so right here… but Paul does expand on the concepts of giving oneself over to sensuality and impurity and greed a little later. When he gives those broad categories he later tells us what he’s thinking and it’s really a pretty inclusive list…. He’s got on his mind things like: lying, anger, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, gossip, sexual sins as defined by God, coarse joking, greed. Really it’s a pretty inclusive list. So Paul says, "You must not live like those who do not follow God. You must not chase after sin and let your sinful desires control you. Have nothing to do with those things."]
Then Paul goes on...20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Paul wants us to hand our baggage over to Jesus as we think about these verses today. And we know that because of everything Paul has said in Ephesians up to this point. Over the last few weeks Paul has been working on both those of us who tend carry around feelings of guilt and shame, and those of us who tend to carry around our pride. For those of us who carry around feelings of guilt and shame...Haven’t you found it rather impressive how positively Paul has been speaking to us up to this point? He has used all kinds of imagery to build us up. He’s called us children of God. He’s called us members of his household, blood-bought stones in his temple, and builders of the body of Christ. And as we’ve gone through those uplifting and encouraging identities in Christ, maybe you’ve occasionally found yourself thinking… man, sometimes I really struggle to live like a child of…. Sometimes I really struggle to live like a member of his household. Sometimes I really struggle to be one who builds up my brothers and sisters in Christ with every word that comes out of my mouth. And It’s true. We struggle. But here’s what Paul has been doing so far in Ephesians. He has been addressing our primary identity. In Christ, your primary identity is a child of God. Your primary identity is member of his household. Your primary identity is an encourager and builder of the body of Christ. Formerly our primary identity was that of condemned sinner. But the day you came to faith, all of that changed. Now when God looks at you, he doesn’t even see your identity of sinner, because Christ paid for that sin on the cross. When God looks at you, he sees you for who you are. He sees your primary identity: his child, a member of his household, one who encourages and loves one another.
And for those of us who tend to carry around our pride… once again, Paul has been working on us for the last 3 and ½ chapters….remember everything that Paul has said up to this point. He has made it clear that we played absolutely NO ROLE in gaining the status of child of God or member of his household. We are powerless to change our identity from that of sinner to that of blood-bought child of God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit worked together to make that happen. So how could we ever let it become a source of sinful pride? We had nothing to do with it!
So by the grace of God, let’s set down our feelings of guilt and shame and or pride. Remembering that we, purely by the grace and work of God, are his forgiven and blood bought children, let’s read and think about the last 4 verses again.
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
So here we see it again, Paul is addressing our primary identity. It’s only by the power of our new identities that we can agree with Paul here. You’re right Paul! I don’t want to live that way anymore. I don’t want to be enslaved to any form of sin any longer. And you’re not. You are no longer a slave to sin. Your salvation is complete. You’re a child of God whose inheritance is eternal life in heaven...but, now there is daily work to be done.
Paul goes on (I’m switching translations here because I think this translation has rendered one of the greek verbs a little better….22 As far as your former way of life is concerned, you were taught to take off the old self, which is corrupted by its deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed continually in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new self, which has been created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness. (EHV)
The better rendering of the verb comes in verse 23 there… "to be renewed continually in the spirit (or attitude) of your mind. There is is, Paul gets it. It takes a continual renewing of what he calls the spirit or the attitude of our minds. As humans that are both sinful, and yet also forgiven, we have a constant battle that is going on within us. And that’s why we’re so inclined to run back to our former way of life and dabble in it. We’re almost eager to run back to our sin or pride but it never leaves us feeling the way we hoped it would, and before we know it we’re once again carrying around our baggage. It takes a continual renewing in the grace of God for us to remember our primary identity and hand our feelings of guilt, shame, and pride back over to Jesus.
When you came to faith, you became a new creation. The new self was put on through faith. For many of us that was at different times in our lives. For some of us it was baptism…. Like we got to see with Harper and Paisley today. For others it was later in life… but whenever it was, that new creation is your primary identity. But the work of being continually renewed is not a one and done kind of thing. It is a continual process that by the grace of God takes place day by day, and even hour by hour and minute by minute sometimes.
You know what one of the strengths of Alcoholics Anonymous is? 4 of the steps that they have those in recovery do is regularly have to do with taking a thorough moral inventory of what they have going on in their hearts and minds and of the wrong actions and wrong ways of thinking. The reason it’s so helpful is because if they don’t regularly assess and deal with the things that cause feelings of guilt and shame or overconfidence and pride, those things will inevitably build up and lead them right back to their drug of choice.
And I always think it’s silly when someone looks at an addict and thinks to themselves, "Wow, my life is in much better shape than theirs." Because that’s usually not the case…. The harmful habits of someone who isn’t addicted to a substance just manifest themselves in different ways. How often don’t we neglect to ask God to help us do a moral inventory so that rather than picking up and carrying around our shame or pride, we can just hand it over to him as soon as we become aware of it.
May God help us, to live as the new creations that we are. May he strengthen us to rest in his grace every minute of every day. May he make us aware as soon as we start carrying around our shame and pride so that we might hand it back over to him. Although we will struggle, and sometimes we will live like we’re the younger brother, and at other times we’ll live like we’re the older brother… may God remind us that when we’re speaking about our primary identity, we are neither. We are his child. We are new creations that are being continually renewed by the message of his love and grace found in Scripture. Amen
Your Identity in Christ: A Builder
SERMON TEXT: Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work
There are many companies that are starting to dedicate a lot of time, money, and energy to bettering the employee experience. Reason being, is that there has been a fair amount of research coming out about the work atmosphere. There’s a whole hoard of statistics but I’ll just kind of simplify it and say this: studies show that billions are lost to extra healthcare costs and decreased productivity at workplaces where the environment is negative and stressful. Where as, they’re finding the opposite to be true for places that invest in their employees and are very mindful of their work atmosphere and environment. More productive. More creative. More driven. Less sick days. Less health issues….
While the church is not a business, I think there are some things that can be learned from this shift of business practices. And in fact, I think a case could be made that the importance of workplace atmosphere is not a new concept. We’re going to see Paul talking about it today, not with the same terminology, and not within the context of a business, but within the context of the body of Christ.
Today I want to start with the last verse first. Because everything that comes before it is leading up to it. This last verse here, verse 16, it’s our goal, its the pinnacle of our existence as a church: "16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." So right there, we have the identity in Christ that we are considering today: a builder. The body of Christ grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work. And so when you think builder, well you could picture construction worker here if you wanted, but Paul is using imagery again. Maybe it’s better to think, "encourager." Have you ever had a friend who is down in the dumps for some reason or another, and you encourage them. You pick them up and get them back on their feet. You build them up. That picture of the body of Christ building itself up in love as every part does its work is an inspiring picture, isn’t it?? Every single person doing their part to encourage one another, to show love to one another, to be there for one another, to help to one another…. Who wouldn’t to be in a place like that, right?
As we go through our verses today, we’ll keep that end goal in mind. In the verses leading up to it, Paul is going to tell us how we get there. And it has to do with workplace atmosphere, or… if you’ll allow me a pun… it has to do with our Christ-motivated "churchplace" atmosphere.
Paul starts off by urging us to, "live a life worthy of the calling we have received." So right away, before we even get started, it might be helpful to note that, really for the entirety of the verses in front of us today, we will be dealing in the realm of sanctification. At the Seminary they tell us to never leave big words like that hanging. So, quick recap: Justification has to do with the process of your salvation. Jesus dying on the cross for your sin, and through faith you receive the benefit of that work of his. So as you stand before God, you’re justified. God does not see your sin because Jesus has taken it away. You are no longer guilty. Justification is complete. It’s done. It’s cartain. There’s no if, ands or buts about it. But sanctification, that’s different. That’s life after salvation. In our Christian lives we desire to know God’s Word better. We strive to do a better job upholding his law and all he commands… NOT because that’s how we get to heaven, but because we know that what he tells us is good and right. His commands were given to us in love… not in spite or anger.
So… here’s an easy way to figure out if a particular section or even phrase your reading is gospel or law… if it has to do with justification or sanctification. If whatever you’re looking at says, "do this" then it’s probably law—it probably has to do with sanctification. If whatever your looking at says, "this has been done for you" then it’s probably gospel—it probably has to do with justification.
So when you hear Paul say, "Live a life worthy of the calling you have received." What is it, law or gospel? "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Justification or sanctification?
Right. So here were speaking about life as a Christian (sanctification). And thank God… because I don't know about you, but when I look at that list, It’s immediately apparent that I fail to uphold it time and time again. There’s not a day that goes by that I don't just utterly fail when it comes to that list. You probably don't have to go very far back either to think of a time that you’ve failed to do these things perfectly. Maybe even this morning we have already failed. Completely humble, gentle, patient… bear with one another in love….be one who seeks to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. And it’s so convicting because it’s not just a matter of outward actions… it’s also a matter of the heart. Pride, harshness, impatience… all those things originate in here… It doesn’t matter if you’re one of those who does a good job of keeping your cool on the outside.
Here Paul is expecting us to remember who we are and what we have in Christ. On the cross, Christ paid for every single time you’ve been impatient, harsh, and prideful; every time you’ve been one who creates strife rather than one who seeks to keep the peace. That includes times in the past. It includes the times you’ll mess up today. And it includes all future blunders. Paul knows full well that we can’t keep this list perfectly as sinners. Paul’s the one that wrote that famous discourse in Romans 7… "What I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, this I keep on doing."
And yet, with all confidence, Paul tells us to do these things. It’s because Paul is not expecting us to look within ourselves for the strength to do these things. He wants us to look to our Savior for the strength to move forward with these attitudes.
Right before our verses for today, Paul had another prayer, "(3:16-19) 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he would strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner self, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 I pray that you would be able to comprehend, along with all the saints, how wide and long and high and deep his love is, 19 and that you would be able to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled to all the fullness of God."
We are capable of creating this "churchplace atmosphere" that Paul has set in front of us today… not because of our own strength, but because we are strengthened by Christ himself who dwells in us. And the longer we stay grounded in that self-sacrificial love of Christ, the more deeply we come to understand that self-sacrificial love of Christ, the more naturally we simply reflect it and overflow with it because we are filled to the brim by it.
And then Paul goes on to give us a reason we strive to maintain the "churchplace atmosphere"... "(4-6) There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." All of us here are on the same team. It’s not pastors team. It’s not the elders team. It’s not this member or that members team. It’s God’s team.
Paul then goes on to speak about some of those that God has given us to help us in this process of maintaining a Christ-motivated churchplace atmosphere as we build up the body of Christ: "11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
And indeed, we give thanks for all those listed. We hear terms like apostles and prophets and we think of the characters we find in Scripture that God used to bring his Word of salvation into the world and build up the body of Christ. Then we hear words like pastors and teachers and we think of those people in today’s world. Maybe you think of the pastors and teachers that have been a part of your life. They have sought to build you up. They have sought to equip you. They have sought to prepare you for works of service. They have sought to walk alongside you at your faith matures. And so this is certainly a prayer of mine, that by the grace of God I might be one of those pastors for you, the people of SL & NH & OYC and for the communities of Kenosha and Racine.
But Paul doesn’t for a second leave us to think that the pastors and teachers are the only builders. It takes everyone’s involvement to build up the body of Christ takes every part being involved. You too are a builder. In the verses we just read, as you are equipped for and as you perform acts of service, you too are taking a part in the building of Christ’s body. And you too play a vital and important role. Now we’re back to the last verse that we started with today, "16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." The body of Christ grows as each part does its work. Building up the body of Christ is not a one-man show. It takes that whole team participating and actively striving for and seeking that churchplace atmosphere that Paul laid out for us: gentleness, patience, humility, bearing with one another in love.
A couple weeks ago in India, in a division on the north side of what is called Greater Noida, a 6 story building collapsed and killed 9 people. It caused a fair amount of uproar because it was something that could have been avoided. The building project was rushed, cheap materials were used…Safety guidelines weren’t followed... There’s testimonies from the workers about the poor working conditions. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided.
As we think about how our congregations move forward and reach out into the communities around us, I think there are some spiritual applications to be gleaned from that story. Inspired by the love of Christ, let us think about how we go about building up the body of Christ. Firstly we fall on our knees before God and ask for forgiveness for the times we have been lazy or relied on ourselves as we seek to build up the body of Christ. And we’re all guilty of it because we’re sinners. When we rely on ourselves the building project goes awry. An atmosphere of selfishness and self-interest is created. Impatience, greed, pride and hostility take root and breed. Our focus is no longer outward: What can we do both in our midst and in the communities around us to build the body of Christ? Rather it becomes an inward focus: what can I do to build my own kingdom here on earth? What can I do to protect myself and my own self-interests? And while our building may not literally come crashing down, our efforts are hindered and crippled.
But by the grace of God each day is a new day. Each opportunity is a new opportunity in which we might strive for that churchplace atmosphere Paul speaks about.
Here’s a quote I came across in preparing for this sermon that struck me. It’s a secular quote from an architect and designer by the name of David Craib. He said, "Design should never say, "Look at me!" It should always say, "Look at this!"
That quote is just begging to be spiritualized, isn’t it? By the grace of God, may we keep that concept in mind. This church is not about us. Our outreach efforts are not about us. The goal is not to say, "Look at me!" It’s to say, "Look at this!" Look at our awesome God. Look at the love he pours out on each of us in Christ. Look at the amazing things he has done for us! We’re not a congregation that strives for humility and gentleness and patience because it makes us feel better at the end of the day. We are a congregation that displays these things because we ourselves have been filled to the brim with Christ’s love and we are overflowing with it. May Christ strengthen each of us as we live out our identities as builders in him. Amen
Your Identity in Christ: A blood-bought stone in God's temple
Ephesians 2:13-22 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the LORD. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Your Identity in Christ: A Timeless Child of God
Ephesians 1:3-14 New International Version (NIV)
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 hea]">[a] predestined us for adoption to sonshipb]">[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 hec]">[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In him we were also chosen,d]">[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
Your New Pastor and You: The Care and Feeding of Your New Pastor'
Exodus 17:8-16 8The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up-one on one side, one on the other-so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. 14Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven." 15Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16He said, "Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the LORD, the LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."
Philippians 1:3-11 3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God.
How to Sleep Even in the Storms of Life? Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me
Mark 4:35-41 35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" 39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Becoming a father is not so difficult; Being a father is very difficult!
Ephesians 5:21-6:4 New International Version (NIV)
Instructions for Christian Households
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
6 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
The SUPER Victors!
Romans 8:31-39 31What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.
The Lord is With You Mighty Warrior
Judges 6:1-16 New International Version (NIV)
6 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count them or their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
7 When the Israelites cried out to the Lord because of Midian, 8 he sent them a prophet, who said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 9 I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”
What's So 'Blessed' About Assurance?
Romans 8:14-17 14For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Pentecost: Words Matter
Genesis 11:1-10 1Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth." 5But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." 8So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9That is why it was called Babel-because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. 10This is the account of Shem's family line. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.
God's Word - A Word NOT Just for Mothers
Part One: God’s Word – A Word NOT Just For Mothers
1 The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.
2 Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!
3 Do not spend your strength on women,
your vigor on those who ruin kings.
4 It is not for kings, Lemuel—
it is not for kings to drink wine,
not for rulers to crave beer,
5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.
6 Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
7 Let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Part Two: Love + Response-Ability
Ephesians 4:22-23 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Ephesians 4:25-28 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Part Three: Love + The Master’s Last Word
‘You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You’John 15:9-13 9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
John 15:17 17This is my command: Love each other.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
10If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love.
11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14You are my friends if you do what I command.
15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last-and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
17This is my command: Love each other.