Wednesday, October 30, 2013

 

Keep it Real: True Righteousness and Holiness (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)



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!  

Keep it Real: True Righteousness and Holiness (or, What an “Authentic” Christian Looks Like)
Ephesians 4:25-32 (5:1-2)

Introduction—When Pastor 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.  

1. 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 anger. 


 
2. 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 foothold.   

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. 

3. 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.

4. v. 29“Real” Communication—Watch What You Say  These 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!  

5. 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?  

Conclusion—Eph 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, 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? 

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