Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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16 Proactive Peace – Part 2

Ephesians 4:1-3

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

In the first three chapters Paul taught the essential truths of wealth, we’re blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit. Now as we come to chapter four we have to ask whether our behavior match our beliefs? Does our walk match our words? As Paul uses the word walk he paints a picture for us of both progress and purpose. Our relationship with Jesus involves going somewhere, taking the next step with the Savior. Before Jesus Ephesians 2:2 reminds us that “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil.” Our purpose was pagan, there was no real progress, we simply drifted from darkness to darkness. Wherever the winds of this world and wickedness blew we wandered. But now through Jesus we are called to pursue a path of purity. So let me ask you, where are you going and how are you living? Does your life reflect His righteousness? It’s not what we look like but how we live that matters. It’s not a matter of presentation but of perspective. It’s not an issue of appearances but of attitudes. Paul had a right perspective, he lived with passionate purpose, selling out his life for the Savior and preaching to us from prison. After calling us to a life of action Paul now focuses our action on our:

  • Attitude

To walk worthy of the name of Christ is not only a matter of action but also of attitude. Paul says that our attitude in life must: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” The first attitude Paul addresses is humility, having an appropriate opinion of ourselves. This means looking at our lives through God’s grace, choosing not to see ourselves as anything less or anything more. When it comes to attitude we need to be alert and pay attention lest we fall into pride. Pride wants to puff up, to give us an inflated sense of status, so that we see ourselves as superior to others. And because pride is preoccupied with self and its own strength it causes us to settle into a smug self-reliance that ruins our relationships. It encourages our ego leading to an attitude of arrogance. We need to starve out self by creating a hunger for humility. Are you being wary and watchful against the predator of pride? Someone once said that “Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it.” There is a story about a young seminary student in Scotland. He was highly gifted and a leading student in the school. Because of his reputation and excellent grades, a local church invited him to teach one Sunday morning. Since he was a rising star in that denomination he entered the pulpit with great pride and expectations. When he stood before the congregation to preach, he was overtaken with fear and stage fright, unable to say a word. He began to cry and weep and ran out of the church humiliated. A sweet saint followed him out and caught up to him. She shared these insightful words with him, “Young man, if you had only walked into the pulpit as you came down, you would have walked down as you went up.” Next we are called to walk in gentleness, which is the same word that is often translated as meekness. Meekness is power under control for the benefit of others. Greek uses of the word give great insight into its meaning, it was used to describe a soothing medicine, a colt had had been broken, or a soft wind. Each of these situations describe power and strength under control. Jesus modeled meekness for us, calling us to learn from His leading in Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” We are called to have our emotions under control, this doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings it means we don’t follow our feelings, we follow the Father. Paul now points us to patience, which means to persevere through tough situations and times. It is literally the idea of being long-tempered, bearing injuries patiently without lashing out or seeking revenge. It is the principle of handling adversity without overreacting and maintaining a level head. Paul is not talking here about being patient with circumstances, this is people patience, and when we exercise people patience we practice the art of relationship. Being honest and admitting first that we are imperfect people helps us to see the need for people patience. Patience provides a way for us to both process our weaknesses as well as the space we need to see each other’s strengths. In 2 Corinthians 6:6 Paul says that we “approve ourselves as ministers of God… by patience” Learning to patiently bear the insults and injustices which threaten to hurt us is an immense challenge. Especially when we consider our current culture that teaches and trains us to look out for and after self. We tend to focus on our rights over relationship, we respond more based out of fear than freedom, because we want to make sure that no one takes advantage of us. Yet Jesus taught us in Luke 6:29 that we need to be long-suffering and patiently bear injustices without seeking revenge in anger: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” We all have faults and failings and if we don’t learn to patiently forbear with patience we will constantly be at each other’s throats. How much more peaceful would our lives be if we would learn to stop being short and getting under each other’s skin and simply serve each other with patience. How much more of a happy home would you have if you were a little more long-suffering? Last but not least we are called to an attitude of love. Love is the key to being long-suffering, I Corinthian 13:4 says “Love suffers long and is kind.” Love protects us from being legalistic and looking at the letter instead of the spirit. It frees us to stop focusing on the failures and flaws of others and just love. So often our ability to love is limited because we divide and thus diminish our energy between trying to love and…. . Without love we quickly dismiss the real needs of others and jump to justify our judging mentality. By making allowances for faults we let people be human, which not only brings hope to the heart of our relationships, but also lets us handle the heart hurts with healing. Are you loving lavishly or are you leaning on legalism? Loving lavishly doesn’t mean that we don’t speak the truth; it means that we don’t throw the truth. Truth is the vessel but love is the channel that carries it. So often we try to launch truth into people’s lives when there is no love to bear and bring it. We launch truth into a dry dock and wonder why it’s a disaster. When it doesn’t float we falsely surmise that it sank because the sinner we sent it to scuttled it. Yet the reason for our truth tragedy is that we failed to launch it in love. Truth is weighty, it can displace the darkness but it needs love to support and sustain it. It needs the currents of love to carry it carefully lest it hurt the heart instead of heal. Don’t let truth run aground around you, launch it in love and let its currents carry it home to healing. Is there any area that your attitude needs attention in? Do you have a problem with pride that needs the healing that only humility can bring? Are you being gentle and patiently loving or repeatedly running over people in your hurry to live your life?

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15 Proactive Peace – Part 1

Ephesians 4:1-3

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beseech you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

The first three chapters of Ephesians deal primarily with Christian doctrine where the last three chapters deal primarily with Christian duty. To say it another way Paul starts with our calling and concludes with our conduct.  When it comes to our Christian life the Word of God always starts with our wealth in Christ and then our walk in Christ. So as we come to chapter 4 we are admonished to walk in, Unity (4:1-16), Purity (4:17-5:17), Harmony (5:18-6:9) and Victory. (6). Today we have a tendency to focus more on our wealth than our walk, partly because we want a simple, easy, care free Christianity. We want the comfort of a feel good not the conviction of guilt or the reminder that we have a responsibility to live right. We want all the wealth of the Lord’s blessing without the walk of the Lord’s burden. But authentic Christianity weaves together our wealth and walk, doctrine and duty, riches and responsibility, salvation and service, calling and conduct, conversion and a cross. So as we come to chapter four we need to pay attention to two important words, “therefore” and “beseech.” When we see a “therefore” in the Bible, we need to ask and understand what it is there for. This “therefore” ties together what Paul has been teaching with the truth that he is about to tell us. He is telling us that we need to base our walk upon our wealth. This therefore ties together what Paul had just proclaimed in Ephesians 1:3: “God has blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.“ with what we are to practice in Ephesians 4:1, that because of God’s great blessing we are to “Walk worthy of our calling.” Second we see the word “beseech” this is more than pushing and pleading, this is Paul in love urging us to live for God’s glory. Paul could have said, “in light of doctrine I demand that you do your duty.”  But this is our response of grace, it a “I get to not I have to”, it’s a response to relationship not rules. First we need to see that this is a call to:

  • Action

When we are saved we are called to be active for the Almighty, to excitedly.

Authentic Christianity acts according to the Almighty, its excitedly engaged in eternity. Yet so often we see the saved slip into a sedentary spiritual life, where instead of being active they are apathetic. Paul is pointing us to a life of power and purpose, he is challenging us to choose to live for the Lord to continue in our calling. When Christians talk of a “calling” they tend to minimize the message by focusing on a specific vocation, being called to preach, the mission field or a music ministry for example. And while these are specific callings, there is a higher, holier calling and that is to be a Christian, a child of the King. The calling to be a Child of the King is the highest honor and the greatest grace God could bestowed on us. II Timothy 1:9 Paul says, “God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” We need to remember that God does the calling, we are not the caller, we are the called. God calls us by convicting us of sin and convincing us of the sufficiency and supremacy of Christ. Today we want to believe that we can come to God in own time and on our terms, rather in His time and on His terms. Yet the truth tells us that He holds both the time and the terms in His hand because His Son was traded for our sin.  To put our calling into its proper perspective we need to hear how Paul refers to this calling in other epistles. He calls it “The high calling” in Philippians 3:14, “The heavenly calling” in Hebrews 3:1) and “The holy calling” in II Timothy 1:9.  There is no calling on earth more desirable or dignifying, more special or significant than being a son or daughter of the King. It means to be a joint heir with Jesus Christ, an ambassador of the Almighty. This is not just some nice position, it is a noble one, a position of prestige and honor, but do we see it as a position of privilege or as a pain, is it praise or a problem? When Paul calls us to walk worthy of our calling, he is saying that we have been called to the highest position and we should live a life fitting and suitable to such a position. As Christians we are to carry the name of Christ, not drag it in the dirt. We should represent His rule, and present His plan of peace in the way that we live life. What Jesus are you presenting to people? What plan of peace are you presenting, the world’s or the Words?  Which child do they see, Christ’s or the carnal? So often we forget who we really are and whose we really are, so Paul gives us a passionate appeal to come back to our calling, to walk in our wealth and not the world. This means that we are to stop being passive start proactively pursuing His peace. There is a story about a man who fell into a pit and could not get out. A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you, down there.” An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.” A Pharisee said, “Only bad people fall into a pit.” A self-pitying person said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit!” An optimist said, “Things could be worse.” A pessimist said, “Things will get worse.” Jesus seeing the man took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit. What about us are we going to put our salvation to service and share the saving plan of peace, or just offer pity or worse yet live life in our own pit? Have you responded to the call to act, to stop being apathetic and start engaging in eternity? Who do you need to help out of the pit, what if you were to extend the hand of healing and offer God’s plan of peace to the people in your life?  We have been extended the highest calling in this life, to live for the Lord, to extend His holy and helping hand to a hurting world. It’s time to stop sitting around taking God’s grace for granted and get on with our calling as Christians, to live out our lives for the Lord.