Reference: Ephesians 4 v 25-28
Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 2 July 2017
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We are now well into the second half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Having established the truth that he wants the believers to get hold of, Paul is now well into the second half of his letter in which he spells out how he wants the believers to behave. Belief always leads to behaviour. If I believe a car will drive safely, I may get unto it. If I believe a surgeon knows what he is doing I may allow him to put his knife into me if I need an operation. So Paul has been telling us that he intends us to live a new and different life to the life we lived before we were believers.
The question is: what does this new life look like?
What is interesting here is that this life has to be lived in community. Spurgeon says “there is nothing so unchristian as the solitary Christian.” God intends us to live the Christian life in community. You are intended to be a part of a body. And what follows is about how that community work – what God’s new society looks like.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone 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.
Every aspect of God’s society has its origin in the nature of God. We bear God’s name, and, because of our new birth, we are partakers of his nature. Therefore the way we are as a community is a reflection of what He is like. His Holy Spirit working amongst His people produces various characteristics. And as we co-operate with Him, so his character is reflected amongst His people.
So what does this look like?
1. A People of Truth
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.
God is a God of truth. One of things that God can not do is lie. Everything about Him is truth and there is no truth apart from Him. The devil is the father of lies, and so it is not surprising that a world separate from God does not value truth. The 2016 word of the year was “post-truth”. Post –modernism claimed that there was no absolute truth. Post truth takes it a step further. It says that we know what the truth is – but we don’t care.
In a society that operates like this, what are God’s people like? We are a people of the truth. We believe truth, we sing truth we speak truth. And truth governs our relationships with one another. What else would you expect from a people who bear the name of their creator?
So we do not manipulate, flatter and deal falsely with one another. Is that what people see when they engage with us?
2. A People of Forgiveness
“In your anger do not sin”. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
The text seems to suggest that it can be OK to be angry. And indeed it is – if we are angry about the things that God is angry about. But often the things that upset us are that we think we have been wronged. We have been ignored, overlooked, misunderstood – and we are upset, irritated, angry. It is this that God is saying we must deal with.
Are you upset with anyone today? Here is the deal: it is you that has to deal with it. The advice to not let the sun go down when you are angry is a well known saying. The longer we allow the irritation to fester, the worse it becomes. It gives the devil a foothold. It divides churches and it kills your soul. When people mix with us, do they sense a group of people with resentment and irritation with each other? Or do they see a group of people who , like God, overlook offences, forgive each other and keep short accounts with each other? Such a community is irresistible.
3. A People of Givers
Anyone 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.
This deals with the person who has made a career out of stealing. Obviously, that is unfitting for a Christian, who is encouraged to settle down and work. But there are less obvious applications. What about the employee who throws a sickie? Or the boss who withholds rights to a worker? Or the person who claims benefits when they could be working? Thus list goes on. The implication is obvious: there is no place for any of this amongst God’s people.
We are not takers – we are givers. What a contrast this is with the world There is a culture of taking, of entitlement, of rights. Believers look for an opportunity to give to society, to one another, and want to make a contribution, not take what they can get.
A society that reflects the character of God – truth, forgiveness and serving. What could be more evangelistic?