WEEK FIVE, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION
WEEK FIVE THEME: STEWARDSHIP
DAY THREE THEME: TAKE ADVANTAGE
SCRIPTURE: EPHESIANS 4:11-5:21 (CEB)
“He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults — to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ. As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others.
Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part. So I’m telling you this, and I insist on it in the Lord: you shouldn’t live your life like the Gentiles anymore.
They base their lives on pointless thinking, and they are in the dark in their reasoning. They are disconnected from God’s life because of their ignorance and their closed hearts. They are people who lack all sense of right and wrong, and who have turned themselves over to doing whatever feels good and to practicing every sort of corruption along with greed.
But you didn’t learn that sort of thing from Christ. Since you really lisened to him and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.
Therefore, after you have gotten rid of lying, each of you must tell the truth to your neighbor because we are parts of each other in the same body. Be angry without sinning. Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Don’t provide an opportunity for the devil. Theives should no longer steal. Instead they should go to work, using their hands to do good so that they will have something to share with whoever is in need. Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say. Don’t make the Holy Spirit of God unhappy — you were sealed by him for the day of redemption. Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ. Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrifical offering that smelled sweet to God.
Sexual immorality, and any kind of impurity or greed, shouldn’t even be mentioned among you, which is right for holy persons. Obscene language, silly talk, or vulgar jokes aren’t acceptable for believers. Instead, there should be thanksgiving. Because you know for sure that persons who are sexually immoral, impure, or greedy — which happens when things become gods — those persons won’t inherit the kingdom of Christ and God.
Nobody should deceive you with stupid ideas. God’s anger comes down on those who are disobedient because of this kind of thing. So you shouldn’t have anything to do with them. You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, so live your life as children of light. Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth.
Therefore test everything to see what’s pleasing to the Lord, and don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness. Instead you should reveal the truth about them. It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret. But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore it says, ‘Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Chist will shine on you.’
So be careful to live your life wisely, not foolishly. Take advantage of every opportunity because these are evil times. Because of this, don’t be ignorant, but understand the Lord’s will. Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thatnks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submit to each other out of respect for Christ.”
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT UP: God’s ways are different than what we are born into. As our grandchildren are beginning a new school year, it is imperitive that we remember that just “yesterday” they were little babies who were dependent on us and enjoyed time with us to just play and be. But now they are moving on…something we always knew would happen, but how did it happen so quickly! They are still adorable, just more busy and with more distractions. Our time for playing and just being is less and less, but we have our memories and we are making new ones, and it is exciting to watch them launch into their own individual selves with likes and dislikes and personalities and dreams. It is all part of the circle of life!
Something similiar goes on in our life with Christ. But maturing in Christ is not as natural for us as growing up is for a baby. Babies keep growing physically and adding year after year to their life – hopefully maturing all along the way as well – but maturity is not always the norm. Though we grow in stature and age, sometimes we stay close to that two year old inside of us where everything is “MINE” and our favorite word is “NO”!
It is easy as Christians to accept Christ into our hearts and then just be content to just be and play and never grow up in our understanding of what having Christ in our lives means for the world and taking on our role in Christ’s Kingdom. There are jobs for us to take on so that eventually everyone will share the one faith in Christ Jesus. But those roles remain vacant as long as we sit back and enjoy gooey Christianity without digging into the difference Christ makes in who we are.
Peace and love and charity are all grand ideas, but what does it require to become real. Baby Christians must cut their teeth and learn to walk in the example of Christ. Our maturing comes as we learn of Christ and work hard to imitate him in all of life’s ebbs and flows. What happened when Christ felt anxious – what did Christ do when he saw people hungry or mistreated. How did he stay peaceful and without sin. This scripture is clear that we have work to do to transition from Gentile into Christian.
Gentiles do whatever feels right or good in a given moment without care or concern for the consequence or thoughts about their witness. They allow material things and ideals to become their God (idols) rather than seeking God’s guidance in all things. Submitting to the mind and heart of God in all things is adult business and not possible for those who remain immature and prefer darkness and false security. God’s people get busy and submit their every thought, every action and every reaction under God’s hand.
How do we handle life without getting angry? How do we move forward when we feel conflicted inside? God would have us expose all of who we are to His light and find the truths that can launch us forward. Truth can set us free. Admitting our fears and failures and leaving them at the cross sets us free. Allowing ourselves to move into the roles that God has in place for us in His Kingdom is both liberating and joyous…Heaven on earth!
God would have us examine our every part and release all of ourselves him. As we realize those places where we are still babies/Gentiles and release them to our Father, He gently and miraculously matures us into something beautiful and useful – a vessel of light and love. Taking time to reflect and evaluate and let go is imperative in our maturing into the people of God. It takes courage and desire to make Godward changes. Through the Holy Spirit it becomes easier and easier with each step we take.
Vessels of the Kingdom – let it be so!