November 21, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 4)

Submitted by Sandra L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)

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.

“Our goal is not enjoyment; it is productivity so that we can give. We do not exist for ourselves, but for relations with other people and with God. […] In failing to be productive we fail to live up to our vocation as humans. Possibly the strongest witness Christians can make is to become givers. The concern is not about giving money, which is at most ancillary to the text. The concern is working to benefit others.”[Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), p. 258.]

  • What should motivate me to “labor” and to develop myself to do “honest work with [my] own hands?”

Laboring and engaging in work is something I know is good and something I ought to do, but I often don’t think about it in terms of benefiting others, giving to others.  My focus and aim is usually on getting things done, and especially during times of stress I want to be efficient and productive, feeling like I accomplished a lot, or at least making sure I’m not dropping the ball.  But the focus of work in this passage is very different from mine.  I’m called to work and be productive, to engage in hard work so that I can “have something to share with anyone in need.”  It’s seeing my life and my responsibilities in relation to someone else, and not simply something that I am called to do and take care of.  It’s also seeing more than the task at hand but seeing it from a relational angle.

  • Are there some ways in which I end up “stealing” by the way I approach labor and honest work with my hands?

I think there are many times where I approach work with the attitude of just wanting to get it done, without going through the harder work of thinking things through or even looking for ways to improve upon what I have already done.  My overall attitude of “it’s good enough” compromises on the opportunity to truly build up those around me, as I miss out the chance to make things better for the next time so that people can learn from my mistakes.

Especially as someone who is older at this church, and being the recipient of much training and equipping, I need to be someone who looks to help and equip others, and going through the harder work of thinking through things, looking for areas of improvement.  “Stealing” as I approach labor and honest work with my hands usually comes in the form of taking shortcuts, not thinking through things to completion, or not taking on the harder task of owning something completely.  It’s stealing because it’s robbing from others, whether it be someone having to re-do a task I was responsible for because of my lack of foresight or thoroughness.  Or it can be just my laziness and not wanting to see problems I have to fix and pretending like things are ok when I know they are not, and hoping no one will notice.  In the end it steals others of their time and resources, as it could have been spent on other things, and ultimately it robs myself.  I rob myself in building the inner character of doing hard things or dying to myself.

Ephesians 4:29–31 (ESV)

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.

  • What sins of speech are listed here?

Sins of speech are corrupting talk, clamor, and slander.

  • Evaluate my speech based on these exhortations. 

I think especially in today’s culture of being hypercritical and vocal about discontentment, I can find myself getting into the pattern of complaining or grumbling.  Sometimes I am not even aware that I am engaging in this kind of talk and discussion but after the conversation is over and I have time to think about it, usually my heart feels polluted by the kind of sentiments I have voiced.  It also takes on another momentum, where because I have voiced some kind of complaint it becomes bigger in my own mind.  I think this is why the Bible warns against any corrupting talk, because it really can direct my heart, my emotions and ultimately damage the relationships I have in my life.  As I voice some kind of corrupting talk, it becomes real and the pile up of bitterness and discontentment can start.

  • What should the goal of my speech be?

The goal of my speech should be good speech so that I can build up others, and that it may give grace to those who hear.  What does this mean?  It doesn’t mean providing false flattery or empty words of compliments, but it means being able to properly praise and appreciate things, to model and demonstrate gratitude to those around me.  It means actively looking for ways to build someone up, whether through edifying conversations, encouragement or wisdom, etc.  It means thinking about those around me instead of being so tuned into my own emotions or likes or dislikes.  The focus turns from what suits me and to looking for ways to build someone else up.

Ephesians 4:31 (ESV)

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

  • Reflect on the words: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

The words, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” tell me that there are ways to either grieve or please the Holy Spirit of God.  God is not some kind of mute and distant figure that is far removed from me, but my heart and actions can actually affect him in one way or the other.

  • What does this tell me about the role of sin, or the role of obedience in the life of a Christian?

This tells me that there are things that I can do that can either grieve the Holy Spirit, or on the flipside, please the Holy Spirit.  This passage shows me that speech plays a big part in potentially grieving God, and this makes sense.  Our words have a huge impact on those around us.  As I think about my childhood or youth, I still remember distinctly some words that were spoken to me that really hurt me.  Even though it was such a long time ago, it is crystal clear in my mind and the kind of effects it had on my life were huge.  Although God is a redeeming God and can redeem even the most horrible things we have done, there is something about spoken words that is detrimental, as they cannot be taken back or erased from reality.  I think this is why we can potentially grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  Just like a parent who would be grieved if her child was made fun of or was the recipient of mean and cruel words, God is grieved when he sees his children scar each other with corruptive language.

Personal Prayer

Dear heavenly father,

Thank you for your truths that help me grow as a minister and as a human being.  Through the gospel I have received the knowledge of what grieves and pleases the Holy Spirit of God, and I am thankful that there are things that I can do to please the spirit.  Through many years of being at our church, I have learned the value of  hard work with older brothers and sisters modeling the labor of love so that others can benefit.  You have given me so much guidance and instruction on the patterns of my speech, whether it be through correction from others or self-reflection.  I am thankful that I can be someone who can actually build up someone instead of tearing down those around me.  I see that through the gospel the trajectory of my life has changed so much, and my life has truly been blessed through your instructions and warnings

Submitted by Jay P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:28

  • What should motivate me to “labor” and to develop myself to do “honest work with [my] own hands?”

My motivation to do good work should be, of course, because God has saved me and desires to use me to bring others to salvation as well.  Additionally, it’s so that I may have something to share with anyone in need.  All the hard work that we as a church do is so that someone may be blessed and come to know the Lord.  So, whether I’m working on setup/takedown for worship services, babysitting kids, cleaning, doing admin-related work, or making effort to care for others, it’s so that someone may receive the Gospel or come to experience God’s love through my labor.

Ephesians 4:29-31

  • What sins of speech are listed here?

Corrupting talk, clamor, and slander. The commonality of these speech-related sins is that they all tear down or arouse anger in the targeted party.  It doesn’t build up anyone.

  • Evaluate my speech based on these exhortations. 

One type of speech I often find myself doing is boasting about what I did well, albeit somewhat subtle.  I carefully craft my words so that they don’t seem obviously boastful but only give a hint. I do this because I want to look special, significant and respected.  My desire to become valuable by such cheap method is so deeply ingrained in me since I was young that it still comes out so naturally even today.  The end result of such speech is that it builds up no one except my own ego.

  • What should the goal of my speech be?

My speech should be used “for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  This could be through words of encouragement, lifting up prayers of blessing for others, expressing words of gratitude to someone through whom God blessed me in one way or another, speaking the truth in love, etc.  I remember sharing a prayer request with my peers and feeling so encouraged when they committed to pray for me.  There is so much I can contribute to building up others if I commit to bless others even just through my speech, like sharing one thing I’m thankful for about the person when we celebrate someone’s birthday.  I’m not really good at this, but I do commit to really use my speech to bless the people around me.

Ephesians 4:31

  • Reflect on the words: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”
  • What does this tell me about the role of sin, or the role of obedience in the life of a Christian?

My sin can grieve the Spirit, which means that what I do actually matters to God.  He takes me that seriously enough to be affected by my sin. It’s the same kind of grief that my parents would feel if I go astray and engage in foolish activities.  If God were an impersonal dictator, he would not be grieved but would probably execute me when I go against his law.  However, the fact that God would even grieve at what I have done shows that He is a personal God who cares about what I do and that He somehow has the best interest in mind for me and a certain vision for my life.  It would certainly also grieve my heart if my children were rebellious and did whatever they wanted and engaged in self-destructive behavior.  Why?  It is because I have a vision for them. I want them to be the best they can be. I want them to be godly people who love God and people. To see them going the wrong direction would truly sadden me.

The flip side of sin is obedience to God.  God delights in my obedience, not because He is on some kind of a power trip but because I’m moving toward the direction of His vision for me, which is to become like Him and share fellowship with Him.  To obey Him voluntarily means that I trust that His way is right and good and that I want to please Him.   Sometimes, I may not have the heart to obey because I’m too tired and just want to give in to my fleshly desires to be comfortable. Obedience is not always fun, but I will reap the joy of it down the line.  Toward that end, I want to commit to keep pushing myself against what my body tells me but, out of trust, and obey how God wants to mold me.

Submitted by Seungsoo L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:28

  • What should motivate me to “labor” and to develop myself to do “honest work with [my] own hands?”   

My motivation to “labor” and to develop myself in honest work ought to be so that I can share with anyone in need.  The world’s mantra is to be as successful as possible.  We are taught from an early age to build up our skills set and to become as successful as possible in order to make our “name” great.  But this verse states that we ought to labor to do honest work so that others will benefit from it.  To be honest, initially I would want to work for my own benefit.  I think the “rat race” that everyone runs often times catches me off guard and I start to think how I need to build for my future and the future of my family.  It’s so easy to fall into that mindset and thinking.  Yet as I have learned over and over through my involvement at church—it is indeed is far more blessed to give than to receive.  When I try to bless myself through my own efforts, then the returns might be there but when I give of myself for the service of others, God truly blesses them.

  • Are there some ways in which I end up “stealing” by the way I approach labor and honest work with my hands?  

The ways that I can end up “stealing” in the way that I approach labor and honest work would be when I know that God has blessed me with something—it could be financial cushion, growth in maturity/knowledge of the Bible, or specific blessings to my family–but failing to reflect upon how God has been so faithful to me especially during this time of thanksgiving.  As I saw through how God has been moving amongst us in all our ministries at the Thanksgiving Retreat, I have this responsibility to first recognize that I have so many things to be thankful for.  Also, I have the responsibility to reciprocate that blessing to others.  I’m called to be a blessing to others as I’ve received so much through being part of ministry.  As I have received so much by being part of this church, I’m called to labor and work to bless those who are in need not just financially, but to be that mentor to the small group guys as well as other younger brothers in our home group.  When I fail to love others, or recognize others needs, then that’s when I’m “stealing” and not fulfilling my role.

Ephesians 4:29-31

  • What sins of speech are listed here?

The sins of speech listed are “corrupting talk,” bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.

  • Evaluate my speech based on these exhortations. 

When communicate or express anything to others that are not beneficial for their edification, it is corrupting talk.  I can banter about trivial things that are not relevant and more importantly not beneficial to others who hear.  I can joke just because I want to enliven the atmosphere, but if I’m not thinking about the people hearing it and how they would take it then I can stumble them.  I also need to be careful since my talk can be colored by bitterness when I feel like I’ve been treated unfairly.

  • What should the goal of my speech be? 

The goal of my speech should be to build up the person.  And so that it gives grace to those who hear.  I ought to always think of my ‘audience’ and think before I say whatever it is to determine if it will build them up, encourage them.

Ephesians 4:31

  • Reflect on the words: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” 

The Holy Spirit of God makes his presence greater in my heart as I trust in His Words. This happens when I’m convicted by His truth.  And as my heart changes when I sin against God by saying something that I regret or cause another person to stumble because of my speech.  Those are the times that I’m grieving the Holy Spirit of God.  I’m reminded again just how important it is to watch my speech as it has the power to either build up or to tear down.  Even if I say something in jest, it can potentially hurt that person.

  • What does this tell me about the role of sin, or the role of obedience in the life of a Christian? 

God purposely puts his commandments in the Bible for our benefit and for us to thrive in our walk with God.  He doesn’t put random words in The Bible.  God wants me to have a life to the full and in order to do so I need to fully obey God’s words.  If I do not obey them, then sin will inevitably take over my life.  Whenever I’m faced with a choice to make I need to think about what God would command in that situation.  The role of obedience is to protect me from the pitfalls of sin.

Personal Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for your reminder for me to fully obey Your Words of Truth.  I see clearly now that You call me to a life of obedience for no other reason but to save me from my sins.  I know that by being careful about my speech I can avoid mistakes that I will stumble others and also myself.  You also call me to be a person that works for the benefit of others.  You’ve given me this amazing privilege to serve others in ministry and to become a blessing for others as I’ve been blessed so immensely by the body of Christ.  Please help me to become a person of obedience.

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