But last week, we were covering Ephesians in Open Arms Fellowship and I was convicted by my own words. "God is no respecter of persons" indeed. Whenever you teach or preach - watch out - it just may be coming back to you!
Here's the lesson:
Paul Instructs the Ephesians About the Fundamental Christian Life
“Tell the truth.” “Don’t go to bed angry.” “Forgive and forget.”
We’ve all heard these kinds of moral platitudes growing up in America. This is actually not true in other lands where the Gospel has not been proclaimed, or any place where Christ is trivialized. They were - and are - great words of wisdom.
But they are nothing more than empty platitudes, equivalent of ‘play nice and don’t hit,’ if we do not have a solid supernatural fact backing them up. A powerful reason born from God to do as we are commanded: to forgive, to not let anger get a hold on us, to not strike back – verbally or physically.
That reason is found in the last verse of this passage: we forgive each other because God forgave us. We don’t ask for pay back or get revenge because God paid for our evil and our wicked behavior at the cross of Calvary.
We are blood bought. We are precious and so are all who call on Christ. We don’t have a right to judge one another harshly. "Who are you to judge another's servant?" demands Paul in Romans 14:4. Once we are in a group, and that hurdle is crossed, we tend to erect standards for others and critique them. Christ (and Paul) sternly warns us not to do that. "Judge not lest you be judged!" is a fair warning for each Christ-follower to focus on Christ, and trust Him to judge fairly – alleviating us of the need to 'fix' our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and permitting us to focus on loving them just as God loved us: beautifully, radically, crazily and consistently.
Read in the round
Ephesians 4:25-32 (NIV)
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
26 "In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
28 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.
29 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.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.
1) We are commanded to do several things in this passage. List them. Question: Do they sound passive or pro-active to you?
2) When we speak, Paul says it should not be harmful, but helpful (verse 29). Why is this important? (cf. Prov. 18:21, James 3:1-12)
3) How does Paul argue that forgiveness and compassion are required? (See verses 25, 27, 30, 32) If we do not forgive, what does this say about ourselves? Secondly, what consequences follow? (Mt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35)