The Walks of Ephesians

Today let us meditate upon the walks of Ephesians.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

If you are a Christian, then God has created you in Christ Jesus for good works. We are a new creation! We were dead in sins, saved by the grace of God and cleansed by His blood. Through Christ we were raised up to sit in heavenly places, and now we have a God-given purpose. God wants us to walk a new walk…His walk. But just like we are taught to walk by our parents, we are being taught by God to walk in His works. He planned and designed these works from eternity for us.

The Walks of Ephesians

Read or listen to Ephesians 4-5. Meditate today on the walk of the Christian man.

Walk worthy (Ephesians 4:1-16). When we weigh in our hearts everything that God has done for us in Christ (see Ephesians 1-3), it should stir us up to give every last ounce of energy to this walk. Take note that Paul wrote this letter as a “prisoner of the Lord.” He gave every fiber of his being to Jesus. So should we.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.

Don’t walk like the world anymore (Ephesians 4:17-32). Paul makes a clear contrast in the book of Ephesians between our former life and our new life. There should be a distinct difference.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,

Walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-7). As Christ also has loved us. That is our pattern, model and example for love. Follow those footprints.

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8-14). God spoke to our hearts and said, “Let there be light” (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus said we are the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:16). Others around us who are still walking in darkness must see this light (Philippians 2:15). When we walk as children of light, we expose the darkness for what it is (Eph. 5:11).

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15-21). Circumspectly means literally to look all around you. Be careful, watchful and vigilant. We are fighting a war against Satan and the hosts of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). This is not a time to have our heads in the sand, is it?

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.

He who guards his mouth

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23).

Men, today let’s look at all of the passages in this article and see a consistent pattern. God wants us to restrain our lips, guard our mouths, and bridle our tongues. It is a simple but much needed thought for us to consider. In order to live as lights among this dark world, we must learn to develop restraint in our speech.

Certainly, most folks around us fly off the handle and say whatever comes to their minds, but that must not be true of God’s men.

He who guards his mouth

I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence (Psalms 39:1).

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin (Proverbs 13:3).

He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent (Proverbs 17:27-28).

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless (James 1:26).

We will finish with a prayer that is good for all of us to pray. Before we go into that meeting today, pray this prayer. Before we begin to gossip about the boss or a fellow co-worker, pray this prayer. When someone wants to argue politics, pray this prayer.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips
(Psalms 141:3).

He considered me faithful

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service… (1 Timothy 1:12).

Last night, our congregation heard a great short talk from 1 Timothy 1:12 which focused on Paul’s thankfulness to God for being able to serve. Paul was thankful not only to serve God, but also to serve others. Thank you, Nathan, for that lesson!

As I was thinking about that wonderful concept last night, I began thinking of another thing from verse 12. God considered Paul faithful. If you know nothing about his previous life, then this statement is not all that impressive. However, when you read further, you see Paul describe his previous way of living in comparison to God’s abundant mercy.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.  (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

He considered me faithful

Paul’s former life is self-described as blasphemous and violently aggressive in persecuting God’s people. How on earth could God consider such a one to be “faithful” after living a life like that? Yet, God did this very thing. In another passage, Paul gave glory to God’s mercy that his opinion was considered “trustworthy” by God (1 Cor. 7:25).

Would we consider Paul to be “faithful” after knowing his attitude and behavior toward God and His people? Would we even want to hear anything Paul had to say? How can we look past the fact that Paul did every thing in his power to hurt Christians (Acts 26:9-11)? He “breathed out threats and murder” towards them (Acts 9:1)!

You see, Jesus demonstrates through Paul an example of His abundant mercy. This is God’s pattern on display for all time. God is merciful…abundantly merciful. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, anyone can be forgiven who comes to the cross. No matter what you or I have done, we can through God’s mercy be counted faithful. That guy at work whom we think would be the last person in the world to become a Christian…well, remember Paul.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

The Power of Being Properly Provoked

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.  So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present.” Acts 17:16-17

As we read and hear about the violence and hatred and evil around us it is easy to despair and begin to believe that we have no impact in our communities.  If you’re like me, you can get overwhelmed with the ungodliness around you and not even know where to start.  When that happens, I find myself returning to Acts 17 to consider Paul’s approach.

Athens in Paul’s day was a lot like the United States in 2016.  It was considered the cultural and intellectual center of Greece.  Athens was a city of art and entertainment and allowed for just about any expression of thought or religious ideas.  One of the popular philosophies of the day was to seek pleasure and avoid pain for that is the meaning of life.  Sound familiar?  We can learn a lot by considering how Paul approached this city.  Let’s start at the end and work our way back.

 

  1. The Results Belong to God

Acts 17:32-34, “…some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this’…But some men joined him and believed”.  What do you think Paul’s success rate was in preaching the gospel?  What percentage of people who heard his message actually responded and became disciples of Jesus?  I would suggest that the percentage is pretty low.  Far more people heard his message and rejected it than obeyed it.  Why would he keep preaching with limited success and so much failure?  Because his job was to SOW THE SEED, not produce the harvest.  Our job is no different.  Let’s not fail to get started because we’re afraid to fail.  God owns the results.

 

  1. Those Who Happened to Be Present

I’m guilty of it, aren’t you?  We have looked at someone and, often subconsciously, determined they would not be open to the gospel or an invitation to a Bible study.  Paul made no such pre-determinations.  He spoke to anyone who would listen.  Additionally, Paul was where the people were.  He spent his time in the synagogue and in the marketplace because that is where the people were.  It is so easy to turn our churches and our families into little castles and dig motes around them to keep the world out.  We fill our lives and our schedules with Christians and avoid any meaningful relationships with someone outside the church.  And when we are forced to interact with “outsiders” because of some school activity, we are more concerned with what they are doing “wrong” than developing a relationship and teaching them about Jesus.  Our churches and our homes should be less like castles and more like locker rooms, locker rooms where we game plan and prepare ourselves to impact our communities for Christ.

 

  1. Exchanging Thoughts, Mingling Thought with Thought

Verse 17 says that “he was reasoning” with them.  The transliteration of the Greek is dielegeto which literally means “through, from one side to the other” and “speak to a conclusion”.  The idea is that Paul was having a dialogue.  He was exchanging thoughts, mingling ideas, in order to bring them to a conclusion about God and Jesus the Christ.  He wasn’t beating them down.  He wasn’t calling them names.  He wasn’t spitefully arguing with them.  He wasn’t belittling them or projecting self-righteous superiority.  He didn’t post obnoxious, sarcastic, and unkind “truth” on Facebook.  A wise friend of mine once said, “Truth has nothing to fear in the spotlight of careful inspection,” so let’s take a step back and try and have a conversation.

 

  1. His Spirit Was Provoked

The word provoked is paroksyno which comes from two words literally meaning “to come along side” and “a sharp edge”.  The idea is to come up and cut.  It is to stir up emotions, to get upset, to get angry.  What made Paul angry?  The city was full of idols.  How did Paul express his anger?  He went out to where the people were and reasoned with anyone and everyone who would listen.  When Paul looked at Athens he wasn’t overcome by the beauty and the art.  He didn’t immerse himself in the entertainment and marvel at the progressive mindset of the people.  He didn’t see a city full of disgusting sinners that needed to burn in hell.  Paul looked at Athens and he saw people created in the image of the Holy and Mighty God.  He looked at children of God who had abandoned their purpose and defiled themselves in worshiping worthless, powerless, meaningless junk.  He saw people who had “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” (Romans 1:23)  In other words, Paul saw exactly what God saw when He looked at the people of Athens.  Paul realized that God had once looked at him the same way and still showed him mercy and grace.  In looking at the people like God looked at the people, Paul was stirred up and acted with grace, just like his Father.

When we start to despair about the chaos in the world around us we can react in a number of different ways.  We can put up walls and dig motes to keep the world out, hoping to protect ourselves and the ones we love.  We can get angry and shout and scream at the sinful lifestyles of those around us, even trying to pass laws to legislate morality.  We can even try to blend in to the culture so we don’t draw too much attention to ourselves.  Or we can look at the world the way God does, get stirred up, and make the most of every opportunity by teaching the truth in love and showing others the same mercy and grace that God has shown to us.  And when we get stirred up and speak up, some will sneer, some will say “later” and some will join and believe.

Whatever My God says

And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the king’s hand.” Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Therefore please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement.” And Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak” (2 Chronicles 18:11-13).

Micaiah was outnumbered. His lone voice stood against the overwhelming majority of voices in support of wicked King Ahab.

400 prophets with one voice encouraged King Ahab to go to war with Syria. They all said that the Lord will be with him in battle and that he will be victorious.

King Jehoshaphat of Judah also sided with wicked King Ahab. Even though Jehoshaphat was a righteous man, he was rebuked by God for making an alliance with Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:1; 19:1-3). We can commend Jehoshaphat for calling for a prophet of God for advice, but he never should have joined Ahab. This decision to go to war alongside Ahab almost cost Jehoshaphat his life, had not God been merciful to him (2 Chronicles 18:31-32).

Notice what happened after the war with Syria and the death of Ahab.

Then Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned safely to his house in Jerusalem. And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you” (2 Chronicles 19:1-2).

Will we be men like Jehoshaphat?

Will we be men who are righteous, but end up making alliances with wicked people? Are you and I going to be the kind of men who sacrifice our integrity and morals to join ourselves with people who are immoral? It is my conclusion that Jehoshaphat believed the common enemy of Syria justified his alliance with Ahab. However, God did not share that sentiment.

Will we be men like Micaiah?

Micaiah did not cave in to the pressure of the moment. He stood against the tide and spoke God’s words even if they were not popular. Because of his commitment to speaking only God’s truth, he ended up going to prison (2 Chron. 18:25). How could he say God was with Ahab when that was a lie? He could not say that he supported King Ahab, because God told him that Ahab would die in battle.

Will we be the kind of men who say, “Whatever my God says, that I will speak”? At work and in our communities today, will we cave in to the pressure to go along with crowd? Will we stand for truth and integrity, even if the overwhelming majority of voices around us demand otherwise?

Here are the final words of Micaiah, “Take heed, all you people!” (2 Chronicles 18:27). Take heed, men of God.

The Power of Following

I did a Google search on “Leadership” and it gave me 757,000,000 results. I typed “Leadership” into Amazon’s search box, limiting it only to books, and received 181,305 results. It is estimated that US based corporations spent 14 Billion on leadership training last year for employees. Needless to say there is a demand for good leadership and leadership development.

But what about good followers?

In Ezra chapter 9, Ezra has returned from captivity to Jerusalem and received some terribly disturbing news. In 9:1-2 he was told, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations…indeed, the hands of the princes and the rulers have been foremost in this unfaithfulness”. Ezra tells us how this report impacted him and we see it clearly in his reaction and his prayer. “When I heard about this matter, I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled…and I sat appalled until the evening offering.” (9:3-4)
I suggest you read Ezra’s prayer in verses 6-15 to understand the scope of his grief. He begins in verse 6, “O my God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to You”. Ezra speaks of their sin and the guilt of their fathers. He understands the grace God has shown the remnant and the lovingkindness demonstrated by allowing them to return to Jerusalem. Verse 13 and 14 captures the severity of the situation, “After all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and our great guilt, since You our God have requited less than our iniquities, and have given us an escaped remnant as this, shall we again break Your commandments and intermarry with the peoples who commit these abominations?” Ezra concludes in verse 15 with “…we are before You in our guilt, for no one can stand before You because of this.”
If I were to sum up Ezra’s prayer it would sound something like this… “God, we’re guilty. We deserved to be destroyed but in Your love and grace You gave us a second chance and we’ve wasted it. In all our years of captivity, we haven’t learned a thing. How can You do anything but destroy us completely?” Ezra, a great example of leadership in his own rite, seems to be in complete despair.
In chapter 10 verse 1, we see he is praying and making confession and weeping and prostrating himself before the house of God as a large assembly of the people join him.

The Power of Following

All that was just setup, the emphasis I’d like us to focus on comes from chapter 10:2-4. Shecaniah speaks up and says, “We have been unfaithful to our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. So now let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise! For this matter is your responsibility but we will be with you; be courageous and act!” If you have ever been in a difficult leadership position, overwhelmed by failure or weakness, what Shencaniah does should give you chills! Notice a few elements of his response:
  1. He acknowledges truth of the sin or obstacles; he doesn’t just blow it off.
  2. He also acknowledges the reality of the hope of the situation.
  3. He proposes a solution based on the law of God, not a manmade solution.
  4. He doesn’t take the responsibility away from Ezra, he comes along side to help bear the burden.
  5. He calls Ezra to action, “Arise!…be courageous and act!”
The result is that Ezra gets up and acts. Leadership seems to get all the attention and often we long for the power and responsibility of leadership, but a faithful follower can be a powerful force in lifting up a godly leader. As a good friend and co-worker once told me, a good future leader will already be demonstrating leadership in their current role as a follower. After all, aren’t we all just followers of the King?

Reminder

Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me (2 Peter 1:12-14).

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles (2 Peter 3:1-2).

We need a reminder!

Hearing something once is not good enough. Listening to someone preach a sermon about a topic one time will not cut it. Studying something a decade ago will not really help you today, unless you remind yourself of those things you studied. We as humans need to hear things over and over again.

We need to be, as Peter said, stirred up by way of reminder. We can get complacent. It is like when you try to add sugar to cold unsweetened iced tea. You stir it up, but eventually you see the granules slowly descend to the bottom. If you want the sugar in the tea, you have to really stir it up! You and I are just like that.

Peter committed, as long as he was alive, to stir them up constantly by reminding them of Scripture. We must commit ourselves to that same principle. Being reminded of some basic Bible truths should not be something that irritates us or bores us. Even professional baseball players still practice taking ground balls.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you (Philippians 3:1).

Looking Sharp?

What kind of pencil are you? Do you look sharp, or are you the one who actually did the work?

God doesn’t look at the appearance; He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 16:15). He also looks at the fruit of that heart. Contrast King Saul and King David. Saul may have looked like a king, but David behaved like one.

Folks may show outwardly that they are religious (Matthew 23:28), while other Christians are like those dull pencils doing all the work. They are behind the scenes living, praying, studying and influencing for Christ. They may not look “sharp,” but they are doing the work.

A politician running for office can call out all the things that are wrong. That politician may give great speeches on what should be done, but that doesn’t mean he (or she) is actually qualified and capable of doing the job. Looking sharp and doing the work are two different things, aren’t they?

Diligence

Men, take some time and study the word diligent or diligence in Scripture this weekend. The diligent man in the Proverbs get up early, works hard, plans, saves and gives. Meanwhile, the lazy man is still in bed making excuses and bemoaning his poverty (Proverbs 13:4). You will find these two men at the jobsite, at church, in the home and in your neighborhood.

Dull pencils and sharp pencils. Someone always can tell you how to do the trim in your home, and he may sound real smart when he is giving you advice, but his trim is still in the garage. There are people who can list all the ingredients to a cake, and there are those who present you with a completed cake.

Proverbs 12:27 – The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.

Romans 12:11 – not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…

The Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Fruit of the Spirit

Here are some thoughts about the Fruit of the Spirit for your meditation today.

It is a fruit; a result.

Fruit is a consequence. Fruit is a natural function of good soil, good seed, sunlight, moisture and good nutrition. The fruit naturally comes in that environment. Too many Christians are focused on the fruit end, in my opinion. We tell ourselves, “I need to be more loving,” or “I need to be more self-controlled.” Yes, we all do, but our focus should be on the root end, the nutrition, the soil. Into what are your roots tapped?

Fruit: singular. This is a collective noun.

You get all of these fruits, not just one or two of them. It is not that Bob is loving and joyful, but not kind, while John is self-controlled but not loving. Nope. God produces all of these fruits in the life of a Christian who is walking, living and being led by Him (Gal. 5:16,18,25).

It is the fruit “of the Spirit.”

This is God’s fruit, not yours. What is the fruit of humanity left to our own devices? Read the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21 – that is the “fruit” of mankind. It isn’t pretty, is it? Furthermore, God’s fruit is the cultivating of His own character within us. These are His qualities. He is loving. He is kind. He is longsuffering. Read John 15, and notice how many times we are told to “abide” in the Jesus the True Vine. Because we are attached to the vine, we will naturally bear fruit. It is a result of His working, not ours.

How do I practically “live in the Spirit” and “walk in the Spirit”? How do I allow myself to be “led by the Spirit”?

If you go back to John 15, notice verse 7 where Jesus stated, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you…” This is not something mystical or ethereal. It isn’t hard to understand. We have to plant the seed of God’s word into the good soil of our hearts and God will produce His fruit of righteousness (James 1:21). We have to remove the thorns and weeds of worldliness and materialism that “choke the word” and make it “unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). Here are a few more verses for your study and reflection (Colossians 1:5-10; 1 Peter 1:23; 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Does God have expectations of growth and fruit?

He sure does. Read the parable of the vine in Isaiah 5:1-7 and you will see that God planted a vine and expected good grapes from it. Jesus cursed the fig tree in Matthew 21 as a message that He expects fruit. We are known by our fruits, Jesus said simply (Matthew 7:15-20; 12:33). Any branch that does not bear fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire. Any branch that bears fruit, God prunes that it may bear more fruit (John 15). God desires to produce the fruit of His divine nature within your life, men.

Tap into the vine today!

Be Careful What You Ask For

The nation of Israel as a whole was frustrated by the high taxation that existed during Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 12:4). When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took the throne. As a result of pride and bad advice, Rehoboam decided to increase the tax burden on the people. This resulted in 10 tribes rebelling under the leadership of Jeroboam, whom they named as their first king (931 BC).

They wanted change, and they were hoping for change, but the change they got was so bad that Israel never recovered. Jeroboam fundamentally transformed northern Israel. New gods. New priesthood. New days of worship. New location to worship God. I want to emphasize the point that all future kings in northern Israel kept these changes in place until their captivity by Assyria in 722 BC. They sacrificed the long-term spiritual health of the nation for temporary economic relief.

Be Careful What You Ask For!

We as a nation seem to be just as fickle as the people of Israel. One president or party is in power and we get sick of it and go to the opposite extreme: from Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama.

The caution the Scriptures provide is…be careful what you ask for.

  • Do not vote with the “I’m just sick of the current crop of leaders” kind of mentality. You might put yourself in a worse situation than before!
  • Do not vote upon the emotions of the moment or a few good speeches. Because of the emotion of the moment, the Jews killed Jesus and asked for a murderer to be released instead. Look at history to see what happens when the emotions of the moment control the people.
  • Do not vote based on the temporary benefits that your favorite politician promises to give you. What is the long-term cost for those short-term goodies?
  • Have you fasted and prayed before you decided on a candidate?
  • Have you sought the counsel from God’s word before you decided on a candidate?
  • Have you considered the long-term spiritual consequences of your vote?

The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; in the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught…the wicked will return to Sheol, even all the nations who forget God (Psalms 9:15,17).