Lifestyle Changes III
the Benefits of Being in Christ. (Ephesians 5.1-20)
Pastor Terry Inman
The last couple weeks Pastor Don and I have talked about new attitudes in Christ and new practices in Christ. Today we will look at new patterns in Christ. You can tell what people really believe by how they really behave.
We have just two more weeks left in this e-mail series from Ephesians. Next Sunday we talk about Paul’s “Family Plan” for couples, parents and children. The last Sunday of this month we will talk about the “Battle Plan”, how to face the enemy in the full armor of Christ.
The Gentile followers of Christ in Ephesus were raised in a pagan Greek culture. They did not have the same history of moral values like the Jews. The two groups were now one in Christ. Both had to make some Life-style changes, in Christ. Their attitudes, and their practices would undergo a total transformation. This would mean all new behavior patterns. Their lives would now be re-shaped in Christ.
Paul said it this way to the believers in Corinth. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5.17 (NIV) New attitudes, new practices and new patterns!
He made the same point to his readers in Galatia. “Neither circumcision (being Jewish) nor uncircumcision (being a gentile) means anything; what counts is a new creation. Galatians 6.15 (NIV)
Race or religion may give us some cultural identity but being in Christ gives us a new form or pattern of life. “My dear children…I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4.19 (NIV)
When we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and we receive Him as our Lord and savior, we experience a total life-change. It is more than accepting a creed it is a radical conversion of thought and conduct!
In today’s passage from Ephesians 5.1-20 we can breakdown Paul’s discussion of new patterns in Christ into two simple divisions. He talks about living in love and living in light.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph. 5.1-2 (NIV)
The only way to live a life of love is to become a copy-cat. Imitate God. We are His children. We need to grow up to loving be just like Him. Paul describes what this kind of love looks like. Jesus loved us and gave himself up for us. This love is not just some good feelings it is sacrificial.
Paul uses “sacrificial” language to describe it. Christ’s love for us was a “fragrant offering”. It was pleasing or acceptable to God. It was also a sacrifice. A sacrifice offering involved a slain substitute to atone for sin.
Love is the acceptable and sacrificial offering of ourselves to God and to one another. Jesus who is our model said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13.34-35 (NIV)
We are all very familiar with John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
1John 3.16 expands this love a bit further. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”
You have heard me quote my brother-in-law Dr. Richard Foth who says, “Love is the accurate estimate and adequate supply of another’s need.”
The Apostle Peter as a unique way of describing this life of love. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1Peter 1.22 (NIV)
We cannot love sincerely without loving deeply and we cannot love deeply with out loving purely. This sacrificial definition of love is radically different than the self-centered notions of love in the Greek culture.
So Paul elaborates on this life of love. It is not anything like the eroticism of that culture and unfortunately our culture. He contrasts love with lust.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Eph. 5.3 (NIV)
“Immorality” (porneia) is any form of sexual gratification and exploitation that is outside God’s intensions for healthy marital intimacy. It includes things like pornography, pre-marital promiscuity, adultery, and homosexuality. I could go on but I think most of us know what’s immoral.
“Impurity” (akatharsia ) is a word for anything mentally or physically unclean. Paul mentioned this earlier in Eph. 4.19 (NIV) “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
This verse also mentions “greed” (pleonexia), the continual lust for more.
This would certainly include sexual addictions. Sexual deviance is like any other kind of addictive behavior. It becomes less satisfying and more degenerating as it progresses in a downward spiral.
To the Colossians Paul wrote, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3.5 (NIV)
Ritual prostitution was common in the Greek temples and was certainly a form of idolatry. However any kind of sexual immorality can be idolatry because we choose to ignore God’s provision and seek our own gratification. We make sexual gratification our God.
Some people want to explore what they can get away with and still be a Christian but Paul is pretty clear here. He says there shouldn’t even be a hint of sexual impropriety among God’s “holy” or pure people.
A life of love is also void of indecent communications. “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Eph. 5.4 (NIV)
“Obscenity” (aischrotes ) is filthy talk.
“Foolish talk” (morologia ), is stupid talk.
“Coarse joking” (eutrapelia) is twisted talk.
The opposite of this are expressions of praise and gratitude. Paul also mentioned this earlier. “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. Eph. 4.29 (NIV)
There are consequences for loveless sex and lifeless words. "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. Eph. 5:5-7 (NIV)
Satan allows some people to think that because they are not getting caught or experiencing any immediate consequences that God is somehow making special allowances and permitting their sin. Paul makes it clear “God’s wrath comes” is in the present tense. It may not be politically correct to say but sexually transmitted diseases are consequences.
To live in love is to live free of sexual impropriety and verbal indecency. Now lets move on to Paul’s second theme of living in the light.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Eph. 5.8-10
Here’s another black and white, night and day contrast. We were not just living in darkness we “were” darkness. Now we “are” light in the Lord. So Paul says, Live as Children of light.
God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1John 1.5 (NIV) James says He is the “Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1.17 (NIV)
As God’s children we need to be consistently bright. Light produces visual effects. “the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth” Here’s another list of three. These are the positive effects of light.
“Goodness” is being good and doing good.
“Righteousness” is being right and treating people right.
“Truth” is being real and saying it straight.
Paul adds to this short list, “find out what pleases the Lord.” The expression “find out” has to do with the testing or examining metals. Authentic Children of Light live for God’s approval not man’s.
Paul continues this metaphor on the properties of light. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. Eph. 5.11-14 (NIV)
It’s not people we expose but deeds of darkness we expose. We don’t need to talk about the secret and shameful things people do. We just need to let our light shine.
Paul throws in a familiar poetic line possibly from an early hymn. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Eph. 5. 14 (NIV)
People living in darkness are dead to Christ. Living in the light can wake them up to rise in Christ. Who are you shinning on right now?
Paul concludes this discussion of living in love and light by contrasting it wisdom and foolishness. Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Eph. 5.15-17 (NIV)
Making the most of every opportunity is a translation of something more like, “buy back time” because time is short and the days are evil. Don’t waste time in foolishness, be wise, live in love, and live in light.
Paul makes an application to one very common thief of time, life and love.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:18-19 (NIV)
Living full of the Spirit is the key to living in love and living in the light. Speaking and singing expressions of praise and thanksgiving fills us up.
There are psalms that express our deepest needs and feelings. There are great hymns that remind us of God’s truth and faithfulness and there are spontaneous spiritual songs that come from our heart. In the original language it actually says, “strum your heart’s strings” to the Lord.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs 4.23 (NIV) Fill your heart with the Spirit and you will live in love and live in light! These are the new patterns of our life in Christ.