Sermon: Living Obedient for the Good of the Church (Ephesians 4)

Living Obedient  for the Good of the Church

 

Ephes. 4:25-32 (ESV) 

    Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  [26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  [27] and give no opportunity to the devil.  [28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  [29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  [31] Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  [32] Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The Apostle Paul begins to open up for us the proper behavior of a truly born again person.  Last time we were in the Book of Ephesians, we looked at putting off the old self and replacing it with the new self that has been created in Christ Jesus.  He taught us in this passage that we are to no longer live as Gentiles do.  In other words, an unbeliever lives a certain way and a believer lives a certain way.  The way they live is based on the ideas and worldview they have.  If one is an unbeliever he/she does not have the Holy Spirit residing within them, they cannot obey from the heart because their heart is darkened and they cannot understand the things of God.  We however, as God’s children, born again to eternal life have been given the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit living within us is the key to living a godly life.

Romans 8:9 (ESV) 

    You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 

If we are living in the flesh we will continually be in sin.  If we walk in the Spirit we can accomplish the things presented to us in this text.  Living by faith is the key.

I want us to see the difference between obedience fueled from passion for Christ verses obedience fueled from selfish motives.  One can obey in the Spirit and one can obey so he won’t get caught. There is a big difference. There is an obedience that benefits the one accomplishing it, and then there is an obedience that benefits others.  The Lord is teaching us that we should be obedient for the good of the church and for His glory and if something good happens to us in the process then that’s great.

There is nothing that pleases God more than to see His people living in the realm of faith. To live in the realm of selfishness grieves the Holy Spirit.

Proper motivation for holy living is: It’s much better for the church and it pleases the Lord.

1. Speaking the Truth to Build Up the Church (Ephesians 4:25 & 29)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another…[29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  [30] And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.   

As we begin unpacking these verses, it’s important that we see God’s side of the command, not to lie or speak falsehood. 

Rev. 21:8 (ESV) 

    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

John 8:44 (ESV) 

    You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

When we lie, we are speaking the language of Satan.  It’s not to say that Christians are incapable of lying.  What we should notice is that liars will not go to heaven.  Someone who has a heart that has a constant flow of lies springing forth shows that their heart is unregenerate.

An unbeliever lies because it’s their way of looking out for their best interest.  It’s their way of manipulating the circumstances to their benefit.  As believers, we must not speak in these ways.  As believers, we speak the truth and know that whatever happens to us, God is pleased that we trust Him for the results. 

Luke 6:45 (ESV) 

    The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

We learned from the Book of James that our tongues are tattle tails.  They reveal what is really deep within the dark reaches of our hearts.  So, the Scriptures plainly teach that if we claim to be a Christian but constantly are lying then our claim is probably also a lie. 

Now the flip side is this.  Just because a person is truthful does not mean they are Christians.  We must be careful in this.  We can get caught up in the mindset of fundamentalism.  This way of thinking goes like this, if I don’t cuss or lie and if I’m honest with others then I’m a Christian.

I can be honest or I can lie both with selfish motives.  However, God’s going to tell us that one test of genuiness is that our speech edifies the Church.

let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

…[29] Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

As believers we went from liars to truthfulness in our speech.  The truth we tell must also build up one another not tear down.  By the words we say we can become channels for God’s grace to flow.

It’s important that we tell the truth in an appropriate way, As fits the occasion.  Telling the truth means that we do it with godly wisdom.  To tell the truth may mean that we don’t tell everything we know but sometimes we hold back.  Everything we say is true but out of love we may need to not tell everything. 

An example of this is when we are dealing with a brother or sister’s sin.  We speak very clear and loving with them but when we speak with others we must refrain from sharing.  So telling the truth is to be done in a way that promotes edification among the church members.  Our truthfulness takes another step to building up the body.  When this is done the Lord is glorified.  Our speech is to be an encouragement to the Body of Christ.

The biblical principle taught here is that being truthful is good but it must also build up the church.

2. Seeking Reconciliation to Build Up the Church (Ephesians 4:26-27)

[26] Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. 

As we continue the Lord wants us to take a look at the danger of anger within the church.  He says, Be angry and do not sin.  By this statement we see that it’s possible to be angry without sinning, but it’s extremely tricky.  Our danger is that we become angry in the midst of a fallen nature.  Anger is to be a motivator toward godliness.  As Luther was angry at the false teachings of the Catholic Church, it was a motivator for him to help correct the heresy.  There is the account of William Wilberforce who used his anger against slavery in England to motivate his fight against slavery.  Anger in itself is not sinful if it’s directed at things like injustice and false teaching. 

Mark 11:15-18 (ESV) 

    And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  [17] And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”  [18] And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 

Being angry at the right things is really a sign of spiritual health.  We need to be careful.  Most of the time we’re not angry at this kind of stuff, we’re angry because something didn’t work out right for us.  We’re not angry because the Lord has been made little of we’re angry because we’ve been made little of. 

When we become angry for the wrong reasons, we must act quickly before Satan has an opportunity to exploit our sin. 

 do not let the sun go down on your anger,  [27] and give no opportunity to the devil. 

In the church we may at times become angry.  Someone may say something wrong to us, someone may do something wrong to us.  We must act quickly.  The principle the Lord has for us is to deal with our sinful anger quickly.  A good rule of thumb in the church is to not let a day go by without confronting the anger we may have against a brother or sister in the church. 

To let anger progress is to commit sin. 

Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 

    “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Often when things happen we are afraid to speak with the person about it.  We wait too long.  Have you ever put off speaking with someone and then when you finally got up enough courage you blasted them rather than talked to them.  The reality is there is never a comfortable time to speak with someone about something that your’re angry about but do it anyway.  Seek the Lord’s help and then seek reconciliation.  The church is a body of reconciliated people.  The Lord’s command for us in this text is to seek it quickly before Satan gets a hold of it. 

We go from lying—speaking the truth—building up the church

We go from being angry—to using our anger to motivate reconciliation within the church.  We seek to help the brother or sister see that they have perhaps spoken wrongly or acted wrongly and in so doing the whole church benefits.

The biblical principle taught here is that anger must not only be gotten under control but that it must drive us toward reconciliation with our brothers and sisters to build up the church.

3. Giving to Build Up the Church (Ephesians 4:28)

[28] Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The Lord shows us three areas to work on as believers.  Our speech, our attitude and now He shows us another area that we must work at as we seek godliness…our possessions.

The first step was that the Lord saved us.  We went from stealing to not stealing.  We went from being a thief to not being a thief. 

The command, Thou shalt not steal, comes to us from the Old Testament.  It should be very clear that the Lord does not like it when His people steal.  Stealing is a sin.  It would grieve the Holy Spirit if we were to take something not ours.  Stealing comes in various forms.  A person can outright take something belonging to someone else.  A person can steal from their employer by making a ten minute break a twenty minute break. 

God tells us Let the thief no longer steal.  If someone is called a thief, their life is a life of continual stealing.  In other words, their reputation is that of a thief.  Then the Lord saves them.  Now they’re different.  They are changed and no longer steal.  Instead, the Lord tells us this person is to labor, doing honest work with his own hands, the hands that at one time took things that didn’t belong to him now work to provide those things honestly.  This is a mark of one converted.  The thief becomes a hard worker.

Like any good thing however, a person with sinful nature may seek to meet their sinful needs by working hard.  A person can set up an idol of their job.  They can spend endless hour working rather than spending time with their family.  They can work to purchase things that are in fact idols.  So, working hard with their hands can even become a sinful endeavor.  The Lord shows us how to keep things in perspective.  The former thief should not work to have things but to share things.  Rather than taking he should be giving.  The lost person may take from someone and make them needy but when this person is indwelt with the Holy Spirit this taker becomes a giver.  He looks around the church and sees needs and meets them with the abundance that the Lord has blessed him with.  One way to safeguard yourself from the idol of materialism is to use your abundance to give to the church to help others.

Do you struggle with hoarding things?  Try giving. 

Here’s an example of a church that was made up of former takers that now are givers: Look at the godliness that is exhibited by their giving.

2 Cor. 8:1-5 (ESV) 

    We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,  [2] for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,  [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints- [5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 

We can tell the truth for our glory.  A great way to tell the truth for God’s glory is to build up the church.

We can be angry and sin not.  We can also be angry and use that anger to challenge a brother or sister and to seek reconciliation for the building up of the church.

The biblical principle is that working hard by itself is not enough; the self-centered thief who used to take must now earn his money and give to build up the church. We can work hard and not idolize our possessions as we lovingly give to build up the church.

It’s not enough to just tell the truth or not be angry or to work hard rather than stealing all these things must be done to build op the Body of Christ.  When we do these good things for the building up of the church we are honoring the Lord and growing in godliness.

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