November 22, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 4)

Submitted by Cathy P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:25-32

“…In each example a negative prohibition is balanced by a corresponding positive command. It is not good enough to put off the old rags; we have to put on new garments. It is not enough to give up lying and stealing and losing our temper, unless we also start speaking the truth, working hard and being kind to people.” [John R.W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, The Bible Speaks Today Series (Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity, 1979), p. 184.]

  • List all the positive and negative things that Apostle Paul lists here. 
Negative Positive
Put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires Put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness
Put away falsehood Let each one of you speak truth
Do not be angry and sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger Give no opportunity to the devil
No longer steal But rather labor, doing honest work with his own hands
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths But only speech that is good for building up, as fits the occasion, and that gives grace to those who hear.
Do not grief the Holy Spirit of God  
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  • What sins listed here am I particularly prone to?

I am particularly prone to falling into anger.  I easily become impatient and fall into the sin of becoming angry and upset, whether it is my husband, my children, the people on the road, or the checkers at the supermarket line or stores who frustrate me.  What anger does is it gives opportunity for the devil to get a foothold in my heart.  When I lose my temper, and furthermore, I brood in my anger so that the “sun goes down on my anger” – in other words when I dwell on it excessively so that I miss the opportunity to let it go, resolve it, or say sorry in a timely manner, it leads me to fall into a deeper discouragement and despair over my sins.  This in turn makes me fall deeper into a sense of cynicism and hopelessness.

I am also prone to the sin of letting “corrupting talk” come out of my mouth.  It’s not that I say any curse words or bawdy jokes, because I have grown up in the church for many years so I have learned not to say those things.  But here, “corrupting talk” seems to indicate the opposite of speech that are “only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”  And that is where I repeatedly fall short.  I notice a lot of the speech that I use is generally critical and disparaging of people.  I tend to use more negative and sharper criticisms even if that is not exactly what I meant.  I have noticed this and have tried to change in this area more and have gotten better over the years, but it is something that I have to continue to work on.  I have to really use my speech for building up others and also to fit the occasion with the ultimate goal that it may give grace to those who hear.  This may mean even if I will sometimes need to use harsh and critical words to correct someone who is going astray in sin, the goal in my speech should always be for the good of building up and fit to the occasion.

  • What virtues listed here particularly inspire me?

The virtues that inspire me here is, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  In NIV, it says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  But what really strikes me from the ESV version is the same word, “compassionate” being used with the word “tenderhearted” instead.  The word “tenderhearted” evokes another type of imagery in one’s mind more than just “compassionate.”  Compassionate evokes mainly pictures of pity or sympathy, and although that also is a beautiful picture of God, it is not as nuanced as tenderheartedness.  When you think of a “tenderhearted” person that person usually cannot remain angry or cold towards someone who has wronged them for a very long time.  Instead, that person is so quickly and easily moved to compassion and kindness towards the offending party.  In fact, the dictionary definition of “tenderhearted” is described as “easily moved to love, pity, or sorrow.”  Throughout the Bible, this is the description of God that comes up again and again.  He is so gracious towards sinners and so easily moved to love, pity or sorrow over His own creations’ sins:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.  (Hosea 11:8)

 

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.  (Psalm 103:13-14)

This is one virtue I really want to grow in.  As I live life and serve doing ministry, I want to become a tenderhearted person just like how God has been and how my leaders have been in my own life.  My inclination is to withhold kindness towards those who offend me by keeping a cold distance or harboring a grudge against those who cause pain in my heart.  I want to protect myself emotionally from further hurts by being distant.  However, what I have seen in God is even when I had many warped thoughts about him, and at some points even railed at him because of my own anger, He did not withhold His kindness from me by continuing to bring His word and His people to me, and even working through circumstances in my life.  I have seen the same kind of kindness and tenderheartedness in my leaders.  Even when I said some really hurtful things, I saw how they reached out to me again and again, wanting to make sure that I understand that they still cared about me and they wanted to embrace me.

  • What can I learn about the nature of Christian life from the fact that for every prohibition there was a positive exhortation?

Christian life is not simply about willful resistance towards sin.  In fact, God knows how we are formed, and how weak we are to resisting sin.  He knows that the only way we can resist sin is not simply to remove sin in our lives and leave ourselves in some empty vacuum, but it is through replacing these sins with virtues.  We are told to “put off” the negative things of our characters by “putting on” different virtues.  I remember when I was taking Survival Kit 1, Kelly, who was teaching about Christian growth likened it to taking off dirty, smelly clothes and putting on brand new clothes every day.  There are both things that needs to happen each time.  It takes daily proactive obedience to commandments of God and the things He calls us to do, in addition to deliberate avoidance of sin in order for us to grow as Christians.

Another thing that is interesting is what we are to “put on.” Verse 24 says, “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”  We are to put on a new self that is created after the likeness of God.  C. S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity, we are to “pretend” to be the sons of God–the good kind of pretending that children do to imitate the parents they so love and admire.  In that way, I am to put on the likeness of God daily in my life.  Although sometimes I do not feel like a child of God as I struggle against my temper, selfishness, pride and such, I am to act deliberately like the child of God through forcing myself to be patient when I rather be angry and blow up, give my time and energy when I rather be selfish, and remain quiet when I feel like my pride and defensiveness flares up.  In the process, I find that I actually gain patience, self-sacrifice and humility.

  • Reflect on “something to share,” “only such as is good for building up,” “give grace to those who hear.”  How much of this is a concern to me as I live my life?

“Something to share,” “only such as is good for building up,” and “give grace to those who hear” all clearly imply that we are to live a life of building others up in the community of believers.  In other words, one of the biggest aims of “putting off” our old selves and “putting on” the new self is to become a member of God’s household that builds up others and can contribute positively.  Unfortunately, many Christians see their salvation and membership in the church as something that is self-serving.  It is for their enjoyment and fulfillment that they go to a church.  If a church no longer fulfills them or meets their needs, people easily and rather quickly leave the church.  But here, the scripture says that we are to be those who give – have something to share, build others up and give grace to those who hear.  We are to be completely other-centered in how we are to grow in our faith.  This is a concern that is growing deeper for me as I grow in my Christian growth.  During our annual Thanksgiving Retreat this year, I was really struck by what an amazing grace and privilege it is that as I grow older, I grow in my understanding and joy of being part of the body of Christ.  Especially as I went through a lot of personal ups and downs this past year, I saw in a deeper way people’s love and commitment to me.  I also saw my own indispensible part as a member of our church not so much for what I can contribute as much as what I can be graced to make myself completely lost in something bigger that God was doing through our church.  And to my surprise and joy I find that my little life becomes that can be filled with something to share, building up others and speak words of grace to those who hear.  It’s truly like five loaves and two fish offered up to God multiplying into something greater.

Submitted by Ken H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:25-32

  • List all the positive and negative things that Apostle Paul lists here. 
Positive Exhortations Negative Prohibitions
Speak the truth with one’s neighbor, for we are members of one another Falsehood
Do not let the sun go down on your anger (i.e. making peace and resolving all disputes with one another) Anger and giving the devil a foothold
Honest work  share with anyone in need Stealing, dishonest gains
Speaking good to build one another up, to give grace to those who hear Corrupting talk
The Holy Spirit had sealed our lives for the day of redemptions Grieving the Holy Spirit of God
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice
  • What sins listed here am I particularly prone to?

One of the more serious sins that I have struggled with the most and I am most prone to is my short-temper and being easily frustrated and irritated with others.  I have really experienced this sin in my life as “giving the devil a foothold” as it really affects all the precious relationships in my life, and has the potential to sow the seeds of distrust and hostility in my relationships that I do care a lot about.  I am thankful that, over the years, there have been many leaders and friends who are willing to speak the truth in love to me so that, instead for me to remain in my infantile state, with my emotions and temper being so easily swayed by my own selfishness and deceitful desires, I am able to be corrected and have learned to catch myself in these situations to not allow my emotions to get the best of me and to have the devil gain more foothold in my life and relationships.  I am thankful to God that He does not leave me alone and has given me opportunities to repent and to work through this issue with many leaders and friends who have helped me so much in this area, and encouraging me and exhorting me to continue to struggle, and to pray for me and alongside with me on this issue.

  • What virtues listed here particularly inspire me?
  • What can I learn about the nature of Christian life from the fact that for every prohibition there was a positive exhortation?

The fact that for every prohibition there is a corresponding positive exhortation tells me that living out a Christian life, and being a Christian, is not a static sort of thing.  Being a Christian is more than a cultural or a religious label being formally associated with the name of Christ and with other fellow-believers.  Rather, in Christ I am called to “put off my old self” and whatever that belong to my former ways of life and deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:22), making concrete decisions and choosing to live act out my faith in obedience to God.  And by following the positive exhortations here, and do so out of obedience to God, my mind and heart are to be “renewed in the spirit” (Ephesians 4:23) and my new life to be created after the likeness of God (Ephesians 4:24).  This means that as I live out my Christian life, when I am facing my own sins, actions and thoughts that are contrary to God’s will for me, I need to submit to corrections and strive to live out the positive exhortations listed here.

The fact that for every prohibition listed there is also a corresponding positive exhortation also gives me tremendous amount of hope and strength.  This hope and strength is not found within me.  Rather, these are hope and confidence that some of these nagging sins and characteristics in my life can be changed and replaced by characteristics of Christ, and replaced through concrete actions and choices that I can exercise.  God gives me this hope and confidence that I am not some hapless victim of my own sins or bad circumstances, but rather someone who ought to learn obedience and God’s ways, so that my life and my character can mature and change to become more like Christ.  This process of transformation is something I have witnessed not only in my own life but in the lives of so many brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.  As we resolve to put off the self-centered identity of the old self and the sins that entangle with our lives, I see all around me the evidence of God working through so many of my brothers and sisters, so as a church we grow in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness to do His good work in serving and ministering in various capacities, impacting our community and others.  During this thanksgiving season, I am so thankful and inspired to have so many in my midst who are able to live out these positive exhortations as examples and inspirations for my own life so that I may also live out this life to strive for true righteousness and holiness.

  • Reflect on “something to share,” “only such as is good for building up,” “give grace to those who hear.”  How much of this is a concern to me as I live my life?

Central to the positive exhortations given by Apostle Paul is how living out the Christian life is not only an individual endeavor, but that living out such life has relational impact in the community of faith.  Apostle Paul wanted his readers to be mindful of their fellow brothers and sisters, for any negative prohibition can have the negative impact that mars and influences others in the community.  Likewise, acts of obedience to Christ also have impacts on the community, in strengthening and giving grace to one another, and building one another up.  Apostle Paul’s exhortations here then instructs me to have a sense of responsibility and concern toward others, and especially those in the community of faith, because how I live my life has a direct effects on others.  For example, my short temper-ness and impatience can directly affect the atmosphere of gatherings, setting poor examples for the younger ones in my midst, and create tensions and conflicts in the church.  Likewise, when we decide to give my time and resources to serve, these endeavors can result in spurring and encouraging one another to also share their time and resources to build up the community of faith.  Again, I am thankful that during this thanksgiving season, I have experienced and witnesses so many in my midst who have served as an example of living out their faith in such a way to strengthen the community and God’s ministry and services: all of our church plants and mission teams and staff who have sacrificed their the familiarity and comfort of their home surroundings to go afar to spread the gospel; the leaders and older brothers and sisters who had sacrificed their finances and careers to build up our churches in the early days; and all the people who serve in church’s tech teams, sacrificing much time and energy in the backgrounds so that we can have wonderful worship services and programs.  I am thankful for their sacrifices and examples, and I strive to do the same as I remember them during Thanksgiving.

Personal Prayer

Dear God: thank you for showing us and exhorting us to putting away our old self-centered ways and all of the negative characteristics of sins, and giving us the choice and the opportunity to follow the examples of Christ, Apostle Paul, and so many others who have gone before me who serve and give selflessly in their lives.  These examples are strengthening and inspiring to me.  Help me to take my sins and struggles more seriously so that my sinful actions and words will not affect those around me in this community of faith, and I pray that you may help me to follow the examples of those who have gone ahead of me in sacrificial giving of their time and resources.  In this thanksgiving season, I pray that I will remember your exhortations, as well as the many concrete faithful lives that I can look to and remember, and to commit to live a life that can also serve to pass on the gospel message and the wonderful values that you have bestowed to our lives.

Submitted by Carmen H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:25-32

List all the positive and negative things that Apostle Paul lists here. 

Negative Positive
Put off the old self (v. 22) Put on the new self (v.24)
Former manner of life, corrupt through deceitful desires (v. 22) Being renewed in the spirit of your minds, created after the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness. (v. 24)
Put away falsehood (v. 25) Speak the truth with his neighbor (v. 25)
Anger (v. 26) Do not sin (v. 26)
Steal (v. 27) Labor, doing honest work with his hands, sharing with those in need (v. 28)
No corrupt talk (v. 29) Building up, as fits the occasion, giving grace to those who hear (v. 29)
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (v. 30)  
Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander, malice (v. 31) Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (v. 32)

What sins listed here am I particularly prone to?

I am prone to being swayed by deceitful desires, falling for the lies about what makes me happy: physical, mental and relational comfort, taking care of myself and my family rather than to pursue the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, a life of surrender, servanthood and sacrifice. The deceitful desires promise short-term fulfillment while obedience to God promises reaping eternal joy.

In addition, I am prone to corrupting talk. I am not a person who can articulate well and I have blurted out so many things that are offensive and hurtful to others, revealing my sinful nature within: carelessness, being inconsiderate, lack of empathy, lovelessness.  Rather than speaking the truth in love, I find myself just speaking the truth without love, my bluntness, words of annoyance and irritation can hurt others and tear down relationships. Also, in my silence, I miss out on the opportunities to build up others and encourage others. I am also prone to impatience, anger and irritation, revealing my self-centered nature and pride within, wanting things to go my way and getting angry when life doesn’t go my way, when the timing of things are not according to my timing.

What virtues listed here particularly inspire me?

The virtues listed here that inspire me is speaking the truth with my neighbor and speaking to build up, as fits the occasion, giving grace to those who hear. Rather than holding back my words, be more of a quiet person I already am, keeping my thoughts to myself, I can actually use words to encourage others and build others up. Instead of using words to criticize and cutting others down, my words can give grace to those who hear. More than the words I speak, the virtue that inspires me is the renewing of the spirit of my mind, to become in the likeness of God, pursuing true righteousness and holiness. Often my mind is stuck in my own little world, being consumed by my “to do” list, what I need to do, what I should do, rather than pausing to appreciate what God has done for me, to unpack the “every spiritual blessing” God has already lavished onto me and out of this gratitude give. I constantly need that renewal of the mind for me to fully appreciate how grand the Gospel is, how big God’s heart is for others, and how small I am, instead of being stuck with my own shortcomings. I can focus out of myself, to give thanks to God, to notice the needs of others and share.

What can I learn about the nature of Christian life from the fact that for every prohibition there was a positive exhortation?

From the fact that for every prohibition there is a positive exhortation, it shows that the nature of Christian life is that abundant life that Jesus promised to give (John 10:10). The life of a sinner leads to destruction, filled with deceitful desires, deceit, theft, anger, corrupt talk, bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice. The new self being ushered by the Gospel is filled with the renewal of the spirit of the mind, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness, words of truth, sharing, filling other people’s needs, words to build up others and to give grace, kindness, forgiveness. It is the transformation of the old self to the new self. It gives me hope even as I see myself as a sinner, there are ways in which I can actively battle my sin. There are others who have exemplified this kind of transformation. While there have been times I feel hopeless, frustrated and cynical about the sinner that I am, I can have hope that this is the kind of vision God has for me, to become more into his likeness. Apostle Paul brings up very concrete actions, I’ve witnessed others who have taken these kinds of active steps to put off their old selves, and it encourages me to put on my new self as well.

Christian life takes practice. I will not become a saint overnight, but through practice, I can grow into my new self, to become someone who is “created in the likeness of God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

Reflect on “something to share,” “only such as is good for building up,” “give grace to those who hear.”  How much of this is a concern to me as I live my life?

Much of this passage is related with the use of words. The importance of words is not something I consciously think about, and I don’t think very much about the words I speak, whether they cut down or build up, this is the extent to which I am still self-centered in my ways. At times I am self-conscious about my words, yet when I keep my thoughts inside, whether words of encouragement, words of thanksgiving, words of appreciation, sharing words of how I experience God, I miss out on the opportunities to build others up, or give grace to those who hear. My self-consciousness and insecurity can hinder God from using me as his instrument and agent of love. As this is the season of thanksgiving, I can take time to reflect about the people in my life who have not been too shy or stingy to share, the sisters have been a source of encouragement to me, to help build me up when I feel down and showed me grace with their words and action, and take that time to express my gratitude to God and appreciation for the people in my life. As I’ve been a recipient of so much, I need to continue to grow to share with others, to notice the needs of others and build others up. I confess that much of my world is still tied to what I need to do and being a task oriented person, feeling good about myself when I get stuff done. As God blessed me with so much, I can pause, embrace interruptions, notice and prioritize the needs of others over my own needs, take the time to meet their needs, share my time and resources.

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