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Walking Godliness, Part 1

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

SERMON POWERPOINT

Stonebrook Pillars:  Walking in Godliness, Part I

During high school, though I had gone to church services most of my life, I grew very disinterested in religion.  I didn’t like it.

Though I didn’t recognize it, I was growing self-deceived, enjoying my sin and not wanting God to interfere with my life.

Yet occasionally when I would get in trouble in some way, I would pray to God for help.

But when I did that, I felt hypocritical and ungrateful.  I looked to God only when I was desperate.  It didn’t seem right. 

Then I went off to college, enjoying partying and engineering school….in that order.  I had close to zero interest in God or church or the Bible.

My main stated reason was that the church…any church… was full of hypocrites.  And I didn’t want to be a part of that. 

But hypocrisy was an excuse on my part to avoid God.  Ultimately, I simply didn’t want God interfering with my life.

A hypocrite is a pretender where I pretend to be one way and believe one thing, but I live a different life.

I am two-faced.  Double-tongued.  I don’t “Walk the Talk.”

No one likes a hypocrite, even though at times virtually everyone has some level of hypocrisy.

God is the only One who walks in perfection.  He is holy.  Perfect.  Consistent.  True.  And in short, we are not.  That is at the core of our problem.  The Bible calls it sin.  That is why we need a Savior.  And you are not your own savior. 

That’s why we need Jesus.  Through our faith in him, he becomes the righteousness that we can never attain to.  He is the forgiver of our sins.

Once we enter into righteousness before God through his Son, we are then called to walk with God.  To imitate God through the power of the Holy Spirit.  We are to “Walk the Talk.” 

We are in Week 5 of a series on our Pillars.  These are our Core Values.  Qualities that we believe are crucial for the Christian life.  Qualities we want in all our lives.  And qualities we hope are exemplified even now in us.  We began on this series in March.  And then we pressed “PAUSE” for 4 weeks for Easter through Mother’s Day.  Today we’re pressing RESUME.

Our Pillar today is “Walking in Godliness.”  What we believe about God and his Son is crucial.  How we live that faith out is also crucial.   The true Christian life cannot and should not separate what we believe about God with how we live.  Both our Talk and our Walk. 

Ephesians 4 (ESV)

Our text today is Ephesians 4.

Vs. 1

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

If we had time to read the first three chapters of this amazing letter of the Apostle Paul, we would realize that here in vs. 1, Paul is making a right turn.

Until now, the letter has been recounting the glory and beauty and eternality of our heavenly calling in Christ.

If we are believers in this Gospel of Jesus, we have a glorious, eternal, heavenly calling. 

In chapter 1, he prays that we would know the HOPE we have in this heavenly calling.

So now here in chapter 4, Paul refers to that calling.   And he says, “In light of that calling, I am urging you….GOD is urging you… to live differently.”  He is imploring us to live in a manner worthy of this heavenly glory and hope that we now have because of Jesus.

The believer in Jesus has a high destiny.

Chapter 1 tells us that the believer in Jesus is chosen.  Beloved.  Adopted.  Forgiven.  Redeemed.  Given hope, true eternal hope.  We have the Spirit of the living God inside us.  And it’s all by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus.  We can boast only in Jesus, not in ourselves.   We have been called into eternal glory by God’s kindness. 

Now here in vs. 1, Paul says, “With all this in mind, you should live differently.”

We can understand this to a small degree from our world.  For example, an Iowa State athlete or coach is a public representative of the university and of all its alumni and fans.  That athlete has something to live up to.  They should represent the school well.  They should carry themselves differently.  People are watching.  A baseline of behavior is expected.

But that analogy gives us only a taste of what Paul is talking about.  Paul is saying much more than you are a representative of a human institution.  You, in Christ, are representing God Almighty.  You belong to him.  You have been promised eternal glory.  You have been called into heaven to be a part of our heavenly Father’s kingdom. 

And Paul concludes:  “Walk in a manner worthy of all that.”

We could say it like this:  Our WALK—our lifestyle— is built upon the foundation of our CALLING.

So now here in the rest of this chapter, we are going to launch in a series of commands, but we always keep this calling clearly in mind.    We must do this constantly.  This is our life source and our motivation.    I can’t emphasize that enough.

With these commands I am going through today, hear me well:  Do not let all this degrade to a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts. 

The outcome is not the only important part.  The motivation…the heart…the reasons… is a critical piece here.

Vs. 2-3

2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In vs. 2-3 Paul gives us the first taste of what our lives will look like as we are “walking in a manner worthy of our calling.

And all these qualities focus on our relationships with one another.

There is much to say about all the character qualities here.  But I will focus on only two of them. 

Humility.  The opposite of humility is pride.  Arrogance.  Looking down on others.

The very heart of God and the nature of God is humility.

Humility is not about denigrating yourself… saying, “I’m such a loser.”  That is still a form of pride where we are focused on ourselves.  True humility simply puts others ahead of himself.

Jesus the Son of God demonstrated humility to the ultimate:  he obeyed his heavenly Father and went to the cross.  The Creator dying for the creatures.  Jesus placed his Father’s will and your salvation ahead of his own preferences. 

So here and throughout the NT, God calls us to imitate him.  He is humble, so we are to be humble.

All of us— if we have any sensitivity at all to the Holy Spirit and our consciences—know how PRIDE lurks in our hearts.

Pride is always there ready to pounce on us.  But our pride will ruin us.  And we will find God resisting us until we humble ourselves.  James 4:6—“God is opposed to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  

The Lord places great emphasis on oneness in the family of God.  Not divisive.  Not at odds.  But working in harmony together with one mind.  At peace with one another. 

And Paul says something intriguing:  He says, “Be eager….be diligent….work hard at it.”

Then he says, “Be eager to MAINTAIN the unity of the Spirit.”

We are already one body and one family, and we are united by one Holy Spirit, who dwells in the heart of every believer in Jesus.  Even if we don’t feel united, we truly are in the spiritual realm.

For our pastor team, this is one of our top priorities.  To be and stay united—to work in harmony—is one of our more frequent prayers.  We put great effort into keeping our relationships strong.  To asking each other honest questions.  To listen well to each other.  I have been a pastor here for 25 years, and we have been diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit.  And the vast majority of the time, we are at peace with one another.  We forgive each other.  We love each other. 

So in light of this glorious, heavenly calling, we can and must work diligently to hold on to that unity.

Vs. 4-6

4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Here Paul calls us to oneness.  Unity.  We have oneness in seven ways.  This is remarkable.  We do not belong to separate bodies.  We are one body, the Body of Christ. 

We do not have different Holy Spirits.  We have the same Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.  We all have the same hope, the hope of eternal life.  We will be together with Jesus for all eternity, so we had better get along NOW.  We have the same Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ.   We have the same Father.

To live in a manner worthy of our heavenly calling, we need to diligently maintain this unity.  It won’t always be easy.  But the rewards in our hearts now and in eternity will be beautiful.

And in John 17, Jesus tells us that such unity is a powerful testimony to the watching world of the unity of the Father and the Son.

Vs. 7-16

Now in  vs. 7-16, one way to summarize what Paul is saying is that God has provided and is “providing for spiritual health and growth.”

That provision comes in part through the Body of Christ.

God has made us one body.  At the same time, God has made each body part unique, useful, and important.  The NT calls them spiritual gifts. 

7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?

10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,

12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

God wants his people….his family….the Body of his Son Jesus….to grow into spiritual maturity.

In their knowledge of him.  In their doctrine…their understanding of the truth about God.  In their obedience.  Their character and conduct.

If we look carefully at this passage, we can’t ignore that obedience in the Christian life is SO much more than checking off a list of Do’s and Don’ts.   Our lives are fully integrated with God and his Son.

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are now PART of God.  We belong to him.

Obedience is so much more than simply following the rules.  It involves faith.  Remembrance of who God is.  Glorying in our eternal hope.  Honoring the God who gave up so much for us.   Loving the Lord like he has loved us. 

Vs. 17-19

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

In vs. 1, Paul called us to walk with the Lord, speaking of it in a positive manner.  “Walk in a manner worthy of your heavenly calling.”

Here in vs. 17, he speaks of this walk with the Lord in the negative:  “No longer walk like the Gentiles do…in the way that you formerly did.”

Look at the list of words that describe the way we lived before God saved our souls:

  • futile
  • darkened
  • alienated
  • ignorant
  • hardened
  • calloused

What a dark, hopeless life we had apart from Jesus.  For most of us, we were ignorant enough we barely understood how bad life was.  We were headed for eternal destruction, and hardly understood it. 

So Paul is saying, “Why would you EVER want to live that way again?”  Really, you want to keep sinning?  What good did that ever do for you?

This is very practical.  Daily I want to remember this.  To dwell on this by holding on to the idea of vs. 1 and vs. 17:

  1. Walk in a manner worthy…   This is beautiful and glorious.
  2. Don’t walk like you formerly did….   This is dark and futile.

We are all walking somewhere in life:  either toward God and with God, or away from him.  We are all living in some manner of character and conduct, even if we’re not consciously aware of what and why.

God is urging us to walk with him and in him.  Walk not in our old ways that led to death.  Instead, walk in a manner worthy of our glorious, heavenly calling. 

Vs. 20-24

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—

21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,

23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The way you formerly lived—the way of futility and ignorance—is not the way of Christ.  You didn’t learn about Jesus that way.   That’s the way of destruction.  Of death.  Of wrath.

To believe in Christ and know him and be taught the gospel is more than simply about being forgiven and adopted.   It includes instruction how we should live in this new relationship with God.  We must line up our conduct and our belief, our walk and our calling.   We could say, “Be what you are!” 

Paul here offers a consistent pattern for our sanctification.  That pattern is to “put off” the old and “put on” the new (vs. 22-24).  To “put off” is like taking off old, dirty clothes.  To “put on” is like putting on new, clean clothes.

This is very important.  And this principle is repeated in Romans 6, Colossians 3, 1Timothy 6, and 2 Timothy 2. 

In a way, this is a picture of repentance.  We turn from our old ways and turn towards the new ways…the ways of Christ.  We repent. 

We are going to see specific examples of this in the remainder of this chapter (and even in Chapter 5). 

Vs. 25-32

Now we’re at another key point in the chapter.  From vs. 25 through the end, God is going to give us some specific instruction on our character and our conduct.  How we should walk with him and in him. 

First, he is going to talk about honesty.  Truthfulness.    

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Notice the contrast:  “Put away falsehood…. Speak the truth.”   Stop lying….Be honest.  We will see a pattern like this in the remainder of this chapter and some in Chapter 5. 

What he has said so far in this chapter?  He is showing us and telling us how to do it.

Vs. 25 basically follows this pattern:

  • walk in a manner worthy of your heavenly calling.
  • stop walking like you used to do before you knew Jesus.

OR,   “Put off” and “put on.”    Basically, repent of your lying.  Be truthful.    

Then notice he gives a compelling call, a reason to do this:  we are members of one another.  We are all part of the same body of Christ (as in 4:7-16).   Paul wants us to ask ourselves, “Why would I lie to another ‘body part,’ that is, why would I lie to myself?”   We are one body, the Body of Christ, and we are to love one another and have fellowship.  Lying simply destroys that oneness that we have (vs. 3-6). 

Vs. 26-27

Next he’s going to talk about our anger.  We all face anger.  Some of us feel it frequently. 

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Paul’s words indicate that there is an anger that is without sin, but when or how?  

There is a righteous anger as exemplified by our Lord Jesus, such as when he drove the money-changers out of the temple.  That is one case.   So not all anger is sin. 

So there should be at least two checks on our anger. 

  1. Are we still in control of ourselves, or are we out of control, e.g., in an explosive rage? 

Are we helping others, or are we tearing them down?

  • Have we dealt with our anger before the end of the day, or did we let the sun go down on it? 

Paul gives a warning:  When we end the day still angry, the devil has an opportunity for temptation and evil.

This is important for any relationships you have.

I know in my marriage, Annette and I have always tried to follow this.  If one of us was angry, we worked hard to get it settled before we went to sleep.  A few times, it was late in the evening, and we were exhausted.  We knew that the conversation could take a while and because we were tired, it might actually get worse.  So we peacefully agreed to get it resolved the next day.  So in a way, we DID get it resolved before falling asleep.  To walk in a manner worthy of our heavenly calling in Christ, watch over your anger, don’t sin, and don’t go to sleep angry. 

Vs. 28

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.

If you are stealing, Paul says, stop stealing.  Sounds obvious, right.  Stealing is obviously a severe moral failure, having been prohibited as far back as the Ten Commandments.

But consider what else he says.

“Go work.  Labor with your hands doing some good, honest work.”

Then consider the motivation for all this:  “That he may have something to share with those who are in need.”

Paul wants much more than no stealing.  He wants much more than even hard work.  He wants us to be generous and meet needs.  To go from a Thief to a Giver…that is a beautiful thing.  From our former walk that led to destruction to our walk in Christ that is reflective of our heavenly calling.  What a glory. 

Did you catch the “put off” and “put on”?  The put off:  Stop stealing.  The put on:  Work, be useful.  And then completely turning theft around, he says, work so that he can be generous, helping others.   Aren’t stealing and generosity complete opposites?  One is walking like they formerly did before Christ.  The other is walking in a manner worthy of their glorious, heavenly calling. 

This is a very beautiful example of how to walk in sanctification.

Vs. 29

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.

The bar for our speech certainly covers rudeness, cursing, vile words, and crude joking (Eph 5:4), plus slander.  Paul clearly says, “Stop that.  Just don’t.”   This is “putting off” our sin.

But our calling from God is actually much higher than stopping unprofitable or even “neutral” speech.  We are to speak only what builds up the body of Christ.  And all this edifying speech should be done at the right time and place, giving grace to each person, “seasoned with salt” (Col 4:6). 

So here is another beautiful example of “put off/ put on” from vs. 22-24.

Vs. 30

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Paul doesn’t tell us specifically what grieves the Holy Spirit.  But it’s alarming to me to know that I can do it.

Because I love the Lord, I don’t want to grieve him.

Notice the motivation he gives to not grieve the Spirit:  In Christ you have been sealed by him for that day of salvation, the day you die and are face to face with Jesus.  In other words, the Holy Spirit lives inside you.  Why would you want to grieve him?

Vs. 31-32

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

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

As we have seen so far, notice the contrast of lifestyle.

Vs. 31 is “walking as you formerly did.”

Vs. 32 is “walking in a manner worthy.”

We must “put off” the one and “put on” the other.  “Flee….run away” from the one, and “pursue” the other.

Summary application

Here is how to apply all this:

  1. Start every day reading God’s Word and praying.
  • Ponder and pray over what kind of “WALK” you want to have that day. 

You are going to “walk” some kind of life each day.

Will we, “Walk in a manner worthy of our heavenly calling,” OR, “walk as we did in my former life” before I knew Jesus?

One life is glorious and beautiful and peaceful.  The other life is dark and ignorant and results in a calloused heart.

We have to ponder this daily.  Our memory fails us, and we forget.  So remember.

  • Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:  “May your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” 

And, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”

  • Search the Scriptures for the “Why’s”.  The motivations to obey.

For example, vs. 25 “Stop lying…tell the truth….WHY?….because we’re members of the same body.”

And vs. 28, “Stop stealing…Work…WHY?… so that you can be a giver.”

There is much motivation in the Scriptures as to WHY we are to walk in righteousness. 

  • Have a humble, repentant heart all day long.  “Put off” the old ways, “put on” the new way, which is Jesus. 
  • Never forget grace.

You will not walk perfectly.  So never forget God’s kindness to save you.  His Son is your Savior because you couldn’t walk in a manner worthy of God.  Jesus is now your righteousness.

Never forget the grace he has shown you.  And rejoice and be glad.  Give thanks with all your heart. 

Conclusions

Obedience to God in our character and conduct is a very spiritual endeavor.  It is a faith endeavor.  Human effort apart from Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit will not cut it.

God is not after us merely checking off a list of To Do’s.  He is not after moralistic living in which we can boast.

He is after a walk with you.  He calls on us to walk….to walk in life with him… to walk in Christ like character and deeds…with eternity in view.  With this heavenly calling in view.

God is worthy of such a life.  He longs for such a life for you and with you.