November 26, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 5)

Submitted by Chris P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:3-5

  • In what ways are the three sins that Apostle Paul points out in these verses–sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness–reflected in the culture around me? 

Our culture is so full of it. It’s in the media, it’s online, it’s in the attitude of teenagers, it’s in the music, it’s in the billboards, it’s in TV shows…. Our culture really sells the idea that sex is fun, it’s just physical and that there is nothing wrong with crossing sexual boundaries. In the media, sexual immorality is seen as edgy and even funny. In TV shows, everyone is sleeping with everyone else. Just recently when I went down to LA, I was so shocked at the billboards that were in LA next to the freeways. Billboards advertising gentlemen’s clubs, strip clubs and the likes were wide out in the open where so many children would pass by. Each of them shouting the ideals that how women are just objects and things to gawk at.  In San Francisco or in any major city, when you are with kids, it’s scary to take a wrong turn through the city as you’re trying to make your way to the freeway because if you turn down to the wrong part of the city, you might pass by a red light district that have immoral ads displayed in public. In Taiwan you couldn’t go four blocks without seeing some night club, strip club, or some obscene billboard advertisement for beetle nut stand with a scantily clad girl outside trying to attract customers inside. It’s sick and it’s everywhere.

The more that I hear different families stories and the more people that I meet and talk to, the thing that I see is all the destruction that sexual immorality is causing everywhere. Families where fathers have cheated, and even some mothers who have cheated. It’s not so uncommon nowadays. Families being torn asunder because of one man’s decision to follow his evil desire. It’s so common and it’s everywhere.

In my experience with college students, some students have expressed many regrets. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being morally loose, and doing something that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.  You hear about the bar scene, the club scene, the party scene and it’s all really about the same thing. Just trying to find that person to score with, to meet and talk to a pretty girl or a good looking guy and evaluating one another based on fleshly criteria.  This is the society that we live in.

  • Think about the words “must not even be named among you.”  What does this tell me about how different the early church community in Ephesus must have been from the surrounding culture with the giant temple of Artemis (with all its immorality) dominating the city?  How does this apply to the church today, and to me, as a Christian?

The early church in Ephesus also had the same problem that we do. Right there in city was the giant temple of Artemis and all the temple prostitutes. Sexual immorality was everywhere. Yet Apostle Paul tells them that sexual immorality must not even be named among them. In some ways the society that they lived in might have been even worse. Most people would not have thought anything wrong with you if you went to see prostitutes at the temple. It could have been seen as something spiritual. But to them, Apostle Paul is saying that THIS must not even be named. The Christians were called to be so different from their culture. They were called to be radically different and fight against the culture. They would have seemed weird to others around them for restraining themselves. Yet to this degree, Apostle Paul calls them out to be different from the dominant culture of the city.

This applies to the church today in that we also are called to be different from our culture where sexual immorality is so readily accepted. It must not even be named among you. We need to take drastic measures and take steps that would look radical in the eyes of the world in order to be set apart and to not go along with the dominant culture of our society. Guy/girl relationships are one such area where Christians need to be radically different in because this is the arena in which such sexual immorality will happen. When the world looks at it, it may be strange, but we need to be radical in trying really guard what is precious.

“Sexual immorality must not even be named.” The implication that it has on me is the same that it has for the church. I need to take drastic measures even if by the dominant culture of the city I may seem weird and strange. One area that I see this in my life right now is this very loose culture around me when it comes to friendships between guys and girls. The way that people approach guy/girl relationships now a days is that “we are just friends” and they are open to just building relationships with the opposite gender. At school, I often see guys who are married going out for lunch with a female classmate. This is something that I WILL NOT DO. It may seem strange to others, but this is NOT going to be a boundary that I’m going to play with.

  • Think about the words: “proper among saints” (v. 3) and “out of place” (v. 4).  What do these words tell me about norms and standards for my behavior?

The norms and standards for my behavior is no longer the same as for the rest of the world. For everyone else, the norms and standards are based on what our culture says. For the rest of the world, the norm at my age is to concentrate on my career and work myself to set my career in motion. For the rest of the world, the norm at my age is to concentrate on my relationship with my wife and really indulge myself in it. For the rest of the world, the norm at my age is to shut the rest of the world out and be indulgent on myself. But the phrases “proper among saints” and “out of place” show me that the norm for me is no longer the standards of the world, but that my norm and my standard will be the word of God. What is proper and what is “in place” in my life is now determined by my Christian identity and that norm is determined not by the rest of the world, and it is not determined by even other Christians in the world. The norm and what is proper is now based on God’s words and God’s idea of how I ought to live my life.

  • Note the prominent place of thanksgiving in this passage.  What has been my experience with thanksgiving as a source of securing my identity as a child of God in the midst of a culture saturated with immorality? 

The rest of the world is chasing after themselves. They are chasing their fantasies, their dreams. They are living for sensuality, pleasure, comfort. They are all living to please their fleshly desires. When I’m not thankful towards God, what I often find myself comparing myself with others.  Without thanksgiving, I waver in my heart and think that I’m missing out. When I’m grumbling about something, when I’m feeling anxious and afraid about something, I lose sight of God. The different idols start to grow in my heart and it starts to consume my thoughts.

When I think back to my Christian life and thinking about this question, I could really see that connection between ingratitude and different sins taking a hold of me. When I’m greedy for more and discontent, SINS take hold of me. When I see properly all that I have received in my life and I’m thankful and content, those are the times when sins and idols lose their grip on me.

  • What are some things for which I can thank God today?

This past weekend, as I was writing different thank you cards for some of the people in my life I was really overcome with a lot of emotion and thankfulness to God for the so many people that god has placed in my life to love me. Just thinking about the Sunday Worship message from Mike about how in the end of your life it will all be about love and relationships, I feel so richly blessed. I know that it didn’t have to be this way that God has surrounded me with so many people who care for me and love and so many people that he has given me to love. I know that though I haven’t lived long, already God has richly blessed my life–people who hold me dear, who speak the truth to me, who hold on to me when my heart is going wayward, people who guide me, people who inspire me, etc. I know that I have been loved so much. That is one thing that I can thank God every day for.


Submitted by Robin C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 5:3-5

  • In what ways are the three sins that Apostle Paul points out in these verses–sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness–reflected in the culture around me? 

Sexual immorality is the center of media these days and the ripple effects are prominent.  Well known featured films and TV shows have sexual immorality at their center.  We’d be hard-pressed to find a teen or older film that didn’t have an element of sexual immorality. It pervades media, it’s the center of attention among celebrities, and people even openly joke about pornography.  And thinking about the college campus, sexual immorality is common and considered mainstream, the norm and “everyone does it and it’s not big deal.”

In continuing to think about the college campus, impurity is present in the area of sexual impurity and also in the use of their bodies.  People engage in drug intake whether it’s smoking or binge drinking.  Internet is highly used for downloading questionable media material.  And women are into wanting to look seductively attractive and so walk around scantily dressed seeking impure attention.

In the college culture, people are covetous over grades, over the life they want of comfort or luxury, over romance, over just wanting to have a good time and live it up.  They are covetous towards the people who seem to have things easier, are smarter, are prettier, and so on.  They covet a life that’s different from what they have.  They want the thrilling life, want the luxurious life, want the comfortable life, want the life of ease and no hardship, want the life of not feeling any pain.  In the process, considering others and consideration for relationships takes the backseat.  When the focus is on something that people covet, people only become those who have what they want, or those who can get them what they want.

  • Think about the words “must not even be named among you.”  What does this tell me about how different the early church community in Ephesus must have been from the surrounding culture with the giant temple of Artemis (with all its immorality) dominating the city?  How does this apply to the church today, and to me, as a Christian?

The early church of Ephesus must have had to really change their perspective and mode of response to sexual immorality after being steeped in a culture of widespread and blatant immorality. This tells me that the church of Ephesus must have looked pretty radically conservative compared to the city’s prevalent culture of immorality.  They must have stuck out like a sore thumb, must have received a lot of ridicule and mockery as a result of holding on to their values that were so different.  The church must have had to set definitions and boundaries down in order to uphold this command – that the words must not even be named among them.  They were being called to absolute holiness.

Today, as our world and culture gets deeper into culture of immorality, this means that in the church, we still need to uphold the calling to be holy and that not one of us would be named with these three sins.  It means that the church today is called to be radically different from our surrounding culture just as much as the church of Ephesus was in the middle of Ephesus.  We will have to relearn our values, learn to have disposition of fighting for holiness, learn to put in place the right and holy boundaries in our lives after having been exposed to such fuzzy, compromised, broken boundaries of holiness that we grew up with in this culture. It means we’ll have to also look out for others in the church to maintain holiness.  As the verse addresses us as whole “among you.”

For me as a Christian, this means to have to accept and put up with the kind of ridicule and mockery and also misunderstanding that I get as someone who doesn’t engage in these culturally accepted immoral practices.  It means that I will get ridiculed for it as being part of a church that determines to be countercultural, to value holiness and deny the culture’s immorality.  It means that as a part of this church body, I need to be alert that I myself repent of and do not engage in such sins and also to be alert for others to turn them away from such sins.  This means that I have to do away with the default mentality I grew up with of being independent, individualistic and separate from others–watching out only for self and no one else.  As a Christian and part of the body of Christ, I am bound to the members of this one body and need to care about each brother and sister and the holiness they are called to and that they would be spared also of reaping the damaging consequences of such immorality.

  • Think about the words: “proper among saints” (v. 3) and “out of place” (v. 4).  What do these words tell me about norms and standards for my behavior?

These verses show that the norms and standards for my behavior are that of the saints. It tells me that God looks upon me with the higher vision and greater standards of the saints.  My standards are no longer the standards I had put in place for myself.  They are no longer the standards that the world feeds me.  They are no longer the standards of even my parents or closest friends. The standards for my behavior aren’t determined by such things any longer but by my new identity in Christ that I am considered a saint by God (not because I am one on my own, but simply because I am in Christ) and so His standards match that of the identity of a saint.  This is something I really have to get used to, to learn, to calibrate and to live by.

  • Note the prominent place of thanksgiving in this passage.  What has been my experience with thanksgiving as a source of securing my identity as a child of God in the midst of a culture saturated with immorality? 

In a culture saturated with immorality, lacking gratitude can lead to a lot of thoughts that sound like, “why do I need to restrict myself in this way?  Those people look like they are having a lot more a fun, they look a lot freer.”  Attitude of ingratitude can lead into thoughts of just being ungrateful for this new life in Christ and focusing on the boundaries, focusing on what I shouldn’t do.  Not acknowledging the many things to be grateful for can also lead to feeling a sense of downward spiral in the midst of failure, of self-pity over failures and shortcomings which can give way to wanting to be freed from such emotions that are associated with living this life that’s set apart.  In response to such sentiments, giving thanks for the blessings I’ve received and the abundance of life and love and guidance I’ve received from God has eradicated the negative emotions that are the breeding grounds for moving towards a life of immorality that the culture keeps throwing at me again and again.  As I express and recount my gratitude for how God brought me out of immorality that I was in, I’m more secure in my identity as being saved by God, being a child of God and then have greater strength to resist the temptations immorality.  As I express my gratitude for the blessings God has given me in this lifetime, I become grateful for the boundaries that made it possible to receive and experience those blessings to the fullest.  And then I become grateful that God gave me those blessings because He counts me as His child–it’s not out of what I have done or merited, but purely out of His graciousness as our Father in heaven.  And then that posture of gratitude ahs solidified my identity as a child of God and also made me grateful and desiring of the good boundaries and holy standards God has placed in my life.

  • What are some things for which I can thank God today?

I thank God for my salvation, that He came to me even though I was rebellious, immoral, angry, ungrateful and rejecting Him blatantly.  Still God had patience and had mercy on me and brought me to knowing Him and receiving salvation.  I’m grateful for the good boundaries He placed in my life.  Though I rebelled against my father many times, I’m grateful for his place in my life as stern protector as he kept me from going down many wrong paths.  I’m grateful for how God has brought me to this church where I am learning about the fullness of joy and life in following Him, in repenting of my sinful ways in order to live a holy life, and being able to do this with so many people who are examples of humble people who’ve embraced this identity as saints and teach me how struggle and repent of my sins to also embrace this identity I have as a saint.  It’s not easy, as my sinful nature wants to be individualistic, wants to be rebellious, and has been steeped in uncouth culture for majority of my lifetime.  I’ve had to learn from God and His people about how to unpack and live out this identity in being His child.  But I am so grateful to do it with the people here, how they bear with me and speak truth to me, how they pray for me and have vision that I may fully embrace that identity.  I’m grateful for the redemption that God has given me in giving me this identity as His child, in seeing me as a saint because I’m in Christ, and how the standards of holy living have given me true freedom from the enslavement to sin that used to hold me.  Now there is redemption and freedom from that sin and I’m so grateful to experience God making these things new.  I’ve been privileged to see Him make things new in other people’s lives as they have shared their testimonies and now their life is a testament to being freed from sin.  I’ve been privileged to see how God is making things new in the lives of the people we are ministering to.  I’m so grateful to just get to witness this and even be used in different ways for towards this larger plan and vision that God has.

Personal Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, thanksgiving is a practice that requires me to be deliberate and take time to be thoughtful and reflective.  Often times my emotions just aren’t naturally geared towards being grateful, but more towards self-pity or critique.  But it’s so true that being grateful and giving thanks battles against sinful nature that is wedded to self-focus.  It’s so true that being grateful reorients my heart to being more rooted in my identity as Your child, and such rootedness stays the influences of worldly and fleshly culture.  Lord, I pray to continue to make it a practice and disposition of mine to be grateful for the many blessings You have graciously given along with my identity of being Your child.

Lord, in holding onto and obeying Your standards for holiness, I pray to uphold them, for the conviction and steadfastness to be countercultural.  And as we are called as a church to be holy, I pray for us all to watch out for one another and to spur one another on towards lives of holiness.  I remember when I first became Christian, I had to become countercultural, and it was difficult at that time as I had been assimilated with the ways of the world for so many years.  But the church and my leaders helped me to understand Your standards for holiness and to keep to them.  With my peers we helped each other, watched out for one another, were each other’s sources of accountability and prayer.  My leaders continue to cast a greater vision for my life in teaching me how to abide by You and the new identity I have in Christ.  I thank You Lord, for these and pray that it will all carry on in gratitude and embrace of our identity in being Your children, called to live to the holy standards of that identity.  Amen.

Submitted by Josh W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • In what ways are the three sins that Apostle Paul points out in these verses–sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness–reflected in the culture around me? 

Sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness are strongly reflected in the culture of the Berkeley campus, and college campus life in general.  While walking or driving through the streets of Berkeley after a given Friday bible study, I often find myself wondering what might be happening behind each of the windows I pass by: dorm windows, apartment windows, fraternity windows.  It would be naïve to think that it’s all moral and pure behind each of those windows.  I think there would be much sexual immorality: people giving their bodies to someone that isn’t their spouse. There would be much impurity: people watching moving images of other people in the addictive and lucrative industry of pornography.  People’s minds are being polluted and distorted, people are being drawn in, trapped, and enslaved by this addiction.

Along with the prohibition against sexual immorality and impurity there is also the prohibition against covetousness.  Covetousness, or greed, is not being satisfied with what has been given to us.  For the single college student, this covetous attitude leads to the desire to cross sexual boundaries.  I remember when I was single, I was blessed with this community where I could grow in God’s word, I was blessed with Christian peers, I was blessed with leaders who were willing to disciple me despite my proud attitude, I was blessed with good work to do as a Christian on campus.  But rather than be satisfied with the lot in life that God has so generously provided, I would covet.  I would desire, seek, fantasize after what was not mine at the moment: dating and marriage.  It’s in this debilitated state of wanting something that is not yet ours that most of our college culture exists, and where the temptation for sexual immorality and impurity is at its strongest.  Unable to appreciate what we’ve already been blessed with, people covet, dabble in the impure, and eventually are involved in sexual immorality.

  • Think about the words “must not even be named among you.”  What does this tell me about how different the early church community in Ephesus must have been from the surrounding culture with the giant temple of Artemis (with all its immorality) dominating the city?  How does this apply to the church today, and to me, as a Christian?

When I think of words that must not even be named among us, I think of cuss words and words that we would not want to expose our children to.  I think about the culture surrounding the early church as something so shocking that it would do something like openly teach these words to their children.  On the other hand, the early church community in Ephesus was supposed to be so different, that they couldn’t even name these things that were not only being done in the immoral surrounding culture, but were being done with no sense of wrong.  A common response to any reprimand about immoral behavior is: “what’s the big deal?”  What’s implied by that response is the comment: “after all, everyone else is doing it.”  I think Apostle Paul’s challenge to be morally different from the surrounding culture applies to us pretty directly in our modern context: immorality IS a big deal, and as Christian’s we can’t just be lax about our moral standards just because everyone else is doing it.

The church is called to be different from the surrounding culture, to adopt the standard of keeping such a strict boundary against sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness that these things should “not even be named” among the church.  These are not matters that are to be taken lightly.  We need to keep our distance from this kind of immorality, just as we would want to keep our children distant from bars, nightclubs, and any kind of sexual immorality or impurity.  That’s the level of vigilance that we need to adopt within the church: to take the sexual immorality and impurity that our culture deems perfectly normal, and make it a very big deal.

Personally, this means taking measures like installing internet accountability software like Covenant Eyes on my laptop and on my phone.  It means avoiding spending time alone, and it means making sure that my monitor is turned towards the window or door.  As a minister, I need to help college students who live in the middle of a sexually immoral and impure culture adopt the same vigilance against sin that Apostle Paul exhorted the early church community in Ephesus.

  • Think about the words: “proper among saints” (v. 3) and “out of place” (v. 4).  What do these words tell me about norms and standards for my behavior?

The norms and standards for my behavior should NOT be the surrounding culture that values sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness.  Rather, the norm of right and wrong should be “what is proper among saints,” and what is “out of place” for the saints.

I think about the inconvenience and monetary cost of installing Covenant Eyes, of taking preventative measures to protect myself from impurity.  Rather than go through all this trouble, I might be tempted to say what the surrounding culture says: “what’s the big deal?” and just let things slide. But the norm and standard isn’t the culture, it’s what’s “proper among saints,” and what’s “out of place” for them would also be out of place for me.  A mental exercise that I go through is thinking about what would be proper or out of place for my leaders, and asking myself: “what would they do in this kind of situation?”” and allow that to be the standard.

  • Note the prominent place of thanksgiving in this passage.  What has been my experience with thanksgiving as a source of securing my identity as a child of God in the midst of a culture saturated with immorality?  

In the midst of a culture saturated with immorality, being thankful for what God has given me protects me from sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness.  It’s when I remember the awesome gift of salvation, when I remember the amazing privilege of ministry that I’ve been entrusted with, when I remember how I’m richly blessed with relationships, that I am able to be filled with thanksgiving, being confident about my identity as a child of God.  I know that I am loved, and I don’t have to covet after anything that isn’t given to me by God already.  I know that what God has already given me is good, that the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me, and I don’t need to seek after the illegitimate sources of satisfaction that our culture is engaged in.

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