Good morning everyone. I have been having a lot of fun with Twitter recently. It is amazing the amount of encouragement one can get with being connected to so many Christians from around the world. It is definitely a global Church now. She has always been global but now we can actually feel close globally. We are continuing with Ephesians 4.
As we look at these last two paragraphs of Ephesians 4 we need to keep the rest of the chapter into focus as well. I do not know if you can recall everything we looked at in this last week so I will try to bring in what I can within the restraints of this forum of communication. The important thing is to keep all of this within the context of the Body of Christ connected and growing into maturity. If you can imagine all of us connected together and helping each other mature together with the help of our trainers, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, then you will notice something interesting about these two paragraphs.
Look at how much has to do with how we impact other people:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 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. vs. 25-28
I know that going after the lost is our prime mission but if the family is weak then how can we look to building healthy relationships with the lost? We can't. We first have to learn how to love and care for people within the Church and then we can turn our attention to loving the lost. Our behaviour and attitude says a lot about what we think about the Body, our fellow believers. There are certain behaviours that destroy and others that build up.
Paul warns us off of lying to each other. Nothing destroys relationships faster than lies and deceptions. We are suppose to be open and honest with each other because within the Body there is acceptance, love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. If we can't be open and honest here then we are doing something wrong; we do not have the love of Jesus.
Anger is another thing that destroys relationships. Don't dwell on your anger. Find forgiveness for believers quickly. Deal with it. Don't let the enemy use your anger to cause division and long term trust issues. If we have the love of Jesus, love and grace should cover any offense against you.
Did you notice that Paul did not only say do not steal but also that we need to work. The reason we need to work is so that we can contribute. Even the work is not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others. Stealing obviously is a negative factor in a relationship. Taking from people to benefit your own needs is selfish and damaging. Working, in order to contribute to the needs of others, is relationship building and gives us a real sense of belonging, being part of something significant.
Now look at the second paragraph:
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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. vs. 29-32
I am sure you are beginning to see it now, those behaviours that destroy and those that build. Our words can do both so we are told here not to use the words that destroy but instead to chose to use only words that build up and help people. Consider who is listening around us. No matter the situation there are always ways to approach it in a manner that does not destroy a person and leaves them feeling good about being part of the Body of Christ.
One of the most important contributors to behaviour that unites instead of divides is our obedience to the Spirit. Do not grieve the Spirit, do not ignore him, and instead grow sensitive to him, doing what he guides us to do. It is amazing how he wants to use us to encourage others with the actions he guides us to take and the words he gives us to use; to build up and not to destroy. How do you know if the words someone uses is from the Spirit or from themselves? Ask yourself, have I been left feeling better after this conversation or worse? Did I just experience being built up or torn down?
Then all the negative emotions are listed; bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, all forms of malice. These do not belong in the Body of Christ. If they are there then the love of Jesus is absent. There is no getting around it. The love of Jesus overwhelms all of these negative things and leaves no room for them to enter in. If you are having problems with any of these then you are letting go of your experience of the love of Jesus and you need a refreshing. We need a refreshing every day. Only the experience of the love of Jesus can change the root in us and drown all these negative things.
With the love of Jesus as our root we are filled with love for others. Compassion and forgiveness run deep within us and compel us to respond in the positive to our fellow believers. It causes us to accept each other with gladness, even with all of our faults. When we offend each other forgiveness is quick. When a believer is hurting or in need the love of Jesus stirs up the compassion in us and we respond.
My concern is that we are willing to put all of our energy and love into the lost but when it comes to the forgiveness of each other we have no thought. Why would the lost want to come into such an environment? Until we learn how to love and forgive our brothers and sisters we are not qualified to go after those who are lost because we may still be lost ourselves. Honestly, after experiencing true forgiveness through the love of Jesus how could we not do the same for each other?
Come on Church, let's get renewed in the Father's love for us so that we can be everything we need to be in the Body; so that we can be builders and not destroyers. Imagine what the Church would be like if every believer had this level of maturity and understanding. It starts with you and me.