Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Church in the Church: We Are One, Ephesians 4:1–6, pt 1

Destination. Do you know where you are going? Do you know how to get there? Are you sure you're not taking something for granted on the way? I recently attended a wedding and reception where a key member of the wedding party was an hour late to the reception. It turns out he took for granted that the route from his home to the wedding would be the best route back to the reception near his home. It cost him over an hour of extra driving. That person, unfortunately, was me!

In this blog I've included the topic of "The Church in Marriage," and now want to give attention to "The Church in the Church." Above is a sculpture that shows two hands crossing a great divide to join forces for a common goal. The Church is much more this than any organization on earth, because it is the only God-made organization since He formed the nation Israel.
Sometimes when we try to "do church" and fulfill God's call in our lives, we forget about how we relate to others in the body. We get so focused on the vertical that the horizontal is forgotten. The Ten Commandments are divided evenly between our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal relationship with others, even though they interact far more than they are divided.
Get this: To God, the way we accomplish His will is as important as doing His will.
Ephesians 4:1–6 says (NIV), "1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
First, in this entry, we will see what to do: live worthy of your calling. Second, in the following entry, we will see how to do it.
The Ephesians had been called to something, and they were instructed to live worthy of it. What is a Christian’s call? This a very important question, because if we are going to live worthy of the call of God on our lives, then we must know what we are trying to live worthy of. Right?
If I had to summarize Ephesians up to this point with one phrase for each chapter, it would look something like this:
Ephesians 1, election, calling for salvation
Ephesians 2, by grace through faith we were (2:10) “created in Christ to do good works.”
Ephesians 3, Paul explains his own role as a responsible called Christian
Ephesians 4, now he urges the Ephesians to do the same—don’t take your election for granted.
v. 1, “live a life worthy of the call you have received,” In other words: Live with gratitude that you did not get what you deserved. What do we deserve? According to the Bible, all mankind deserves death and hell because of our sin (not just sins, but sin itself that is in our DNA). If Jesus had not come and offered Himself for that sin debt, we could look forward to a death far worse than His, and lasting forever. Yet He did, and all who believe in Him and what He has done will be saved from what we deserve. In light of this, we should have gratitude for what He has done. It is this that Paul has in mind when he says to live worthy of what call we have received. For the call was not just to go and do the Lord's work, but it was in conjunction with salvation through faith in Jesus.
Look at the background. Paul wrote this from prison, telling the truth in verse 1, "as a prisoner of the Lord." Why was he a prisoner of the Lord, and not of Rome? He believed that the Lord had called him to that Roman prison and suffering so that people would hear the good news of Jesus. He was right. Acts 9:15–16 describes Paul's call from Ananias, directly from Jesus, "15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” How would you like to have a call like that?
"Yeah, Nate. It's God."
"Yeah, God?"
"I'm going to make you suffer so that people can hear about me."
(dial tone)
You too? Next time we complain about our "lot in life," remember Paul's call. More amazingly, Paul fulfilled his call. Are you fulfilling yours? Driving a car, a job, a house to go home to, family--these are all more than what Paul had and he fulfilled his call. In chapter 3 he ended with a doxology (meaning a praise to God), "20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." If Paul could worship God and fulfill his call with praise while suffering so much, we can worship the Lord with our lives and
In the movie Saving Private Ryan, the captain and his troops all die so that they can send a U.S. Army private named Ryan home to his mother, Ryan being her only remaining son. With his last breath, the dying captain tells Private Ryan, "Earn this." What did he mean? He meant to live a life worthy of the men who sacrificed their lives so he could live. An entire unit of the Army died for one man! Private Ryan is shown as a grandfather with his family at the dead soldiers' graves many decades later. He sobs, kneeling down beside their tombstones, saying how he hopes he has lived a good life. He got it!
How much more should we, as those who God Himself died for, live worthy of the precious Son of God's sacrifice so we could live forever.
Are you living worthy of what Jesus did for you? That’s how we’re supposed to respond. Not floating through life until Jesus comes or we go. Some people have no idea how to be thankful. Sometimes you give someone a card or present and you would think by their response that they were waiting for it! They thought they deserved weekly or daily cards or presents!
We are not saved by good works, but we are saved to do good works.
So, you who are called and saved, are called by God to do something. Live worthily—gratefully!!

1 comment:

Karen Gill said...

I appreciated your examination of Paul's situation. He could not have fathomed that the road following Christ would lead him to a darkened cell. How many questions I would have had! "Lord, if you have equipped me to serve you, why would you keep me locked up in this cell when I could reach so many more outside of it?" or "have I not accomplished the task you set before me? Are you dissapointed in my performance, and this is punishment?" But Paul is not swayed. He has steady faith in his salvation, in his security as a child of God, and in his ability to accomplish God's will even when his current situation may have seemed inefficient. This assurance that Paul exhibited gave him the freedom to focus on his true task, and to be a wonderful witness to the early church! He saw their needs clearly, and called them to unity, knowing that he was indeed united with his Almighty Father. What a wonderful example he was to the early church, and can be to us today. Thanks for your post! ~Karen