A few weeks ago I preached at Leesville Road Baptist Church here in Lynchburg. I've posted my sermon notes below if you want to see them. Comments are welcome! Thanks for reading!
it Real: True Righteousness and Holiness (or, What an “Authentic” Christian
Kevin asked me to speak, I asked him if he had a topic in mind. He mentioned the idea of “authenticity” in
the Christian life. But as I looked in
Scripture for a place that dealt with this topic I seemed to come up
empty. So, I did a quick search for the
synonyms to the word “authentic.” I
found a host of words: true, genuine, and
valid, among others. The one that struck
me was the word “Real.” You see, our
society today puts a premium on the idea of “keeping it real.” This idea means the opposite of being “fake”
or “inauthentic.” Let me
illustrate: I have a picture of John
Wayne in my office, and it has an autograph on it. I often have people ask me: “Did John Wayne really autograph that
picture?” Well, not really. You see, it is a reproduction of a picture
that was “genuinely” autographed by John Wayne.
In other words, it isn’t “real” or “authentic.” It is a fake.
(cf. Elvis impersonators, famous people “look a likes”)
That brings me to our passage
today. The letter to the Ephesians is
written to a church that is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Paul is writing to them to describe what the
“real” church is like in relation to Christ, the head of the body (which, of
course, is the church). In v 17 of
chapter 4, Paul starts a teaching section in which he encourages the Ephesians
to “put off” the old way of like and to “put on” the new life in Christ. In verse 24, Paul tells the Ephesians to put
on the “new man” created in the likeness of God in “true” righteousness and
holiness. Like 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul reminds
them that in Christ they are a new creation, old things are passed away, and a
new way of life has come. In Christ,
they are “real” or “authentic” and no longer fake. In the verses we want to consider today, Paul
outlines what this “new” or “true” life looks like, what comprises a “real”
life of righteousness and holiness. Paul
gives us 5 items that describe the “real” or “authentic” Christian life. These 5 items are given to us with the
following aspects: Something to put off, something to put on, and a reason for
doing these things. They appear to be
something that has been a problem for the Ephesians, but Paul offers an
“authentic” way to deal with these issues.
With that in mind, let’s read Ephesians 4:25-32.
v. 25 “Real” Truth—Authentic Christians Tell the Truth: The sentence
starts with “therefore,” tying the information in the next few verses to the
material that precedes it. Paul is
saying that “since we have this new nature, we ought to exhibit it in the way
we live.” Paul says that “authentic”
Christians put off lying; they should speak the “truth;” because what we say
has an effect on the church.
Lying is “Saying
something that is not true in a conscious effort to deceive somebody.” It is
deliberate, a willful misrepresentation of the truth. If I eat the last cookie, and someone says, "Are there any more cookies?" I would be lying to say "Yes." On the other hand, if someone made more cookies and replaced the one I ate, I would not be lying. Here's another example: If I didn't want to share the cookies, and I said "No" when asked, then I'd be lying. Lying is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth with the inted to deceive someone.
Christians should be truthful. We should not operate in pretense. Ephesians 4:25 (from The
Message) says: "What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no
more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all
connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to
yourself." When someone asks “How are you
doing?” what do you say? Do you respond
with a “Fine” even though things are falling apart around you? Do you pretend to be something you are
not? "Truth" speaking should not be done
in an effort to protect our selfish pride or our personal space. On the other hand, this is not permission to
tell people “what you really think” in an effort to “make your point.” That is also selfish.
This is about keeping the integrity of the
church in mind. What you say reflects on
the character of the body and bride of Christ.
How are you doing? Remember Ananias
and Sapphira? Their speaking falsely led
to problems for the church (and for them).
What we say also reflects on God’s character.
He wouldn’t lie, and when we do we do not reflect well on him.
Let our speaking be with authenticity, with
truth, with integrity and not selfishness.
This week, keep it real by speaking truth to one another. Put selfishness aside, speak the truth. A Real Christian speaks truth.
Of course, true righteousness and holiness doesn’t stop with the truth,
it also has an impact on how we treat each other. The next item addresses the issue of
vv. 26-27 “Real” Anger—Authentic Christians Get Angry, But . . . Paul now tells
us that Authentic Christians don’t let anger lead them into sin; they work to
quickly reconcile with others; because if we do then we won’t give the devil a
We have every right to be
angry at the sins committed against us, but we do not have the right to let
that anger fester and become a grudge.
In other words, anger is not necessarily a sin, but how we respond to
our anger may be. When we let our anger
lead to sin, we give a place to Satan kind a beachhead (remember WW2). If we allow our anger to fester, Satan can
take advantage of it (think of Cain or Moses—Kadesh Barnea. Read the example from Yancey’s What’s so Amazing about Grace?).
Unresolved anger led to bitterness
and led to the destruction of a family.
Just imagine what it can do to the church. Let us live authentic lives this week, let
our anger be real but not lasting. Don’t
let Satan get a spot in our lives. Real Christians get angry, but
they don’t give in to bitterness or sin.
But Paul doesn't stop dealing with relationships, rather in the next verse he addresses the goodness of labor and being selfless.
v. 28 “Real” Work—Authentic Christians Work Hard Paul says that Authentic Christians do not
steal; they work hard to do good so that they are able to bless others with the
fruit of their labor. I doubt that many
of us actually have a problem with stealing, but you realize (of course) that
stealing isn’t necessarily taking property or stuff that isn’t yours,
right? Stealing from each other could be
as simple as withholding from our brothers and sisters what they need (1 John
3:16-18; James 4:17). Another point—God
created us for work. He didn’t create us
to sponge off of others or to live a life of ease. We ought to work so that we can use the
results of our labor to meet needs. Let
us work at the jobs God has given us, and let us use the results of that labor
to help those in need. Real Christians don’t take from
others (they aren’t selfish), but they work to give to others. Continuing in the theme of relationship, Paul next addresses the issue of real communication.
v. 29“Real” Communication—Watch What You Say
verses tell us that God is concerned about the words that come out of our
mouths. Why? Jesus says that “out of the abundance of the
heart the mouth speaks.” What’s inside
us often comes out (whether we like it or not).
Authentic Christians do not engage in corrupt or evil conversation; they
speak words of encouragement; so that they can bless those who hear.
Our words have power: they can build up or they can tear down. If we want to be “real” Christians, we should
avoid coarse or corrupt language such as innuendo, demeaning comments, or
intentionally offensive statements.
Christians should speak fitting words for the moment, words that build
up, words that create an environment of blessing and encouragement. Be careful little mouth what you say!
Let us temper our speech with grace, let us
seek to build up instead of attack or tear down each other, and let us walk
like him in whose image we are made. Real Christians don’t tear down,
they build up. Now Paul goes from offering advice to meddling in our affairs when he addresses the issue of forgiveness. Here the "real" need for selflessness and humility arises!
vv. 30-32 “Real” Forgiveness—No bitterness Here Paul reminds us that
Authentic Christians do not grieve God’s Spirit; they demonstrate God’s love to
others by forgiving; because that what God did for us. Paul tells us to put away a) unresolved anger
and bitterness (a poisoned soul), b) wrath (angry tempest) and clamor (loud and
abrasive speech), c) evil speaking (slander and gossip), and d )malice (evil
intentions toward others).
The point here is this:
don’t bury anger but rather deal with it.
Let us learn to live gentle lives with grace towards one another. Let us be sensitive to the needs of others. Let
us forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgives
us. How did Christ forgive us? He died for us! Philippians 2:3-8. To serve someone requires humility, to die for someone requires us to be selfless. How far are we willing to go to forgive? Will we go as far as Jesus?
Real Christians don’t blame others for their problems, they
don’t carry bitterness or malice towards others. Like their Lord, they are willing to lay down
their lives in order to see others receive the grace of God and the power of
God to be new creatures. Real Christians do their best to
help others know God as they know God.
So, how well do you know God? How
well is his image shining in and through you?
5:1-2—Imitate God, Love like Jesus
1. Authentic Christians do not
hang on to resentment, anger, hurt feelings, but rather they speak truth, they
love, and they encourage one another.
This week find someone who is in need of building up, go out of your way
to make it happen. Encourage, encourage,
2. Authentic Christians do not
regularly throw temper tantrums and pout.
They develop grateful hearts and work to bless others.
3. Authentic Christians do not
use loud, abusive, and profane language.
They speak words fitting for the moment and that reflect the true
righteousness and holiness of God.
4. Authentic Christians are kind
and treat others as Jesus treats His Family.
If with God's help we can accomplish these things, who wouldn't want to be in our church family?
Labels: Authentic Christianity, Ephesians4:25-5:2, keep it real, true holiness, true righteousness