Lifestyle Changes II
New practices in Christ. (Ephesians 4.25-5.2)
Pastor Terry Inman
Lifestyle Changes II from Ephesians 4.25-32 is all about new practices in Christ. Last week Pastor Don talked about new attitudes. Attitudes, thoughts or mindsets determine our practices. (Proverbs 23.7) says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. That is why it is so critical that we fill our minds with the truth. Our beliefs determine our behaviors!
In today’s selection Paul talks about three new practices in Christ, truthfulness, peacefulness and resourcefulness. I like to state things in the positive but he actually instructs these believers to get rid of lying, stealing and fighting and replace them with these new practices.
So we begin today’s e-mail with the Practice of Truthfulness.
Paul begins with his favorite connective word, “therefore” each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Eph.4.25 (NIV)
In last week’s passage Paul was talking about shedding our old life with its stinking thinking. He said, “be made new in the attitude of your minds and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” “Therefore” Paul says, “Put off falsehood.” The expression is not, “stop lying” but stop “the lie”. We are to think, speak and live truth.
Last week Mary and I spent the a few days in North Carolina, with Chester and Betsy Kylstra the founders of “Restoring the Foundations” ministries. They were here earlier this year to train our staff and ministry leaders to facilitate healing prayer sessions that we call “Issue Focused Ministry”.
It is a biblically integrated model for healing and freedom that is designed to address four areas. Our family history, its harmful influences and past sinful patterns, our destructive beliefs and God’s truth, our emotional hurts and spiritual pain, and our freedom from bondage and oppression.
Mary and I experienced the extended 36 hours of integrated ministry called the “Thorough Format Ministry” It deals with these same four areas. It covers not just one issue but all life issues. It was rather extensive and intensive. We believe it is strengthening our intimacy with God and each other. It is also helping clarify vision for our ministry in the years to come.
I think one of the most powerful parts of this healing model is the second step. The Holy Spirit gently exposes the false beliefs we have formed from past experiences and replaces them with God’s revealed truth.
For instance for years I acted out of a false belief that I couldn’t really get too close to people because in childhood I had to abandon so many meaningful relationships due to the itinerate ministry of my father. God gave me a new belief. He has filled the void left by all those separations.
I am now free to experience healthy long-term relationships.
Paul calls this “renewing your mind”. To the Corinthians he writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12.2 (NIV)
Earlier in this chapter Paul mentions the lifestyle of deceit. In verse 14 he referenced, “deceitful scheming” and in verse 22 “deceitful desires”.
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 men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. Eph. 4.14-15 (NIV)
Dishonesty is a sign of immaturity and insecurity. When I was a child I developed a bad habit of not telling the truth. I learned at a very young age to avoid conflict by being less than truthful. I learned through very painful experiences that truth ultimately has better consequences.
Now most Christians wouldn’t think of outright lying we just don’t always speak and live the truth. We may speak the truth but not always in love.
Paul used the word deceit again in verse 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. Eph. 4:22 (NIV)
The first thing we have to learn is to stop lying to ourselves. When we believe lies we tell lies and we live lies. “Deceitful desires” are longings or cravings that we think will bring satisfaction but in fact they only make us more needy. Here’s an example. I will be happy if everybody likes me or I will be happy if I have what other people have.
If people do not perform according to our expectations than we falsely feel rejection. That lie becomes “nobody will ever understand or accept me”. Then we set people up to fail us and reject us. It’s a deceptive cycle.
These lies often come from deficiencies or disappointments that have caused us to form a distorted or deceptive view of reality. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us lies we are believing and practicing.
Psalms 51.6 says, Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. The bible says the, “truth will set us free”!
Once the lie we are believing and living is revealed we then need to replace with the truth. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil. 4.8 (NIV)
Paul says, “speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. We are the “body of Christ” we belong to Christ and we belong to each other. So we can enjoy the security to live in total honesty! He does not say speak truthfully “to” each other but “with” each other. The church of Jesus Christ should be marked by mutual authentic openness.
Secondly Paul calls us to the practice of peacefulness. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Eph. 4.26-27 (NIV)
He is quoting from Psalms 4.4 “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” The Hebrew verb ragaz is, “to tremble with fear or rage” This is anger that is out of control.
Some of us think peace is the absence of conflict. But real and lasting peace typically requires some conflict, hopefully constructive conflict.
Anger is inevitable in relationships. It is sinful anger that we must avoid.
Both untruth and unresolved anger give the devil a foothold. “Foothold” is the ancient Greek word, topos. It means space or place. We get our word topographical from it.
Dishonesty and destructive anger give the devil some room in our relationships. If we resolve our anger correctly we make room for God. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Rom. 12.19
Practicing peace is all about healthy and helpful communications.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Eph. 4.29-30(NIV)
Unwholesome is “bad or rotten” communications, words that defile. It is garbage: trash talk! It’s not just using bad language but words that bring decay and deterioration as apposed to helpful and constructive words.
Unwholesome talk includes malicious gossip and slander. Anything that injures others and sparks dissension is covered by this expression. It hurts people but even more critical--it also hurts the Holy Spirit.
As a reminder of how serious this offence is Paul adds, “don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom your were sealed for the day of redemption” This takes us back to the benefits we have received in Christ.
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it, found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life. Eph. 1.13-14 (MSG)
The last thing you want to do is offend God’s Holy Spirit who is living and working in us now. His presence guarantees our entitlement to all God’s promises now and in the future.
Building up the Body of Christ is one of Paul’s primary themes. Unwholesome talk hurts the Holy Spirit. It destroys the body. We are only to say what is helpful, needed and constructive, what builds up the body!
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Eph. 2.21-22 (NIV)
In chapter 4 God gave gifted leaders “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”… 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. Eph.4.12,16 (NIV)
Trash talk offends the Holy Spirit who is helping us build Christ’s body! The opposite is practice is peacefulness. It shapes us into God’s image.
Next Paul lists six specific sinful expressions of anger that we must get rid of. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Eph. 4. 31 (NIV)
There is a progression to anger when it’s not addressed. “Bitterness” is a deep seeded resentment. It is a toxic poison that destroys relationships. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Heb. 12.15 (NIV)
Buried bitterness leads to open “rage”. The word means “breathing hard”. You’re about to explode when your heart rate goes way up. Some people are the slow burn type others are the blow up type. Both are destructive.
If bitterness and rage goes unchecked or unresolved it moves to the next level. “Anger” here is acting out in passion and retaliation. Then it gets even more descriptive, “clamor” is an uproar or verbal abuse. “Evil speaking” is a word for blasphemy. It is to vilify, slander or malign.
Finally “malice” is anger with evil intent. It is hatred that turns wicked. That’s why John says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” 1John 3.15 (NIV) It’s obvious Satan gets a “foothold” with anger.
Practicing Peacefulness is totally the opposite of sinful anger. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4.32 (NIV)
Being “kind” in the face of injury is grace. Showing “compassion” is to be understanding, sympathetic or tenderhearted. “Forgiveness” is releasing or rescuing others from their debt to us. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”
In Matthew 18 Jesus told a story about a man that would not forgive his brother’s small debt. Then the man’s master turned him over to debtor’s prison for his huge debt. Then Jesus said, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18.35 (NIV) Forgiveness from the heart takes time!
Forgiveness isn’t easy. It is costly. We have to give up our anger. When we do, we evict Satan from our space and make room for God’s grace.
Let’s wrap it up with the final Practice of Resourcefulness.
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Eph. 4.28 (NIV)
First stealing takes many forms. Falsehood is stealing the truth from one another. Sinful anger is stealing peace from one another in the body Christ. It is destructive. Satan is a liar, a thief and a destroyer. Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10.10 (NIV)
Instead of stealing Paul says we need to be working and contributing. This is also about bodybuilding. He says we need to do productive work not just to meet our own needs but so we will have something to share with those in need. We share truthful, helpful words and meet helpful needs.
We practice truthfulness because we are members of one another. We practice peacefulness to build, bless and benefit one another. We practice resourcefulness to share with those in need. We don’t do it because we are so nice but because we are in Jesus Christ!