I often grieve because I observe the tragedies created in people's lives through misperceptions. These people do not know that the core behaviors of their lives are based on misperceptions. They sincerely think they are functioning on basic truths they hold dearly. Thus they function on a misperception as though it were a truth, and they are totally confused by the consequences of their behaviors.

Allow me to share a specific example. Suppose we randomly go into every neighborhood of Fort Smith. We ask a thousand people the same question, and ask for a simple, understandable answer. The question: "What does it mean for a person to be a devout Christian?"

Would you care to predict how many different answers would be given by a thousand people? Likely the most prevalent answer would be, "A devout Christian is a person who goes to church regularly." "Regularly" might mean to some several times a week, and to some every Sunday morning, and to some one Sunday morning a month.

Some would answer that question by associating devoutness with belief in a theological perspective. "People are devout Christians if they believe ... [the theological position would vary with the people answering.]

Let me give my prediction with what we would not hear. I would predict we would rarely hear an answer that would connect being "a devout Christian" with daily human behavior. I readily confess I might be wrong. However, I would be surprised if many of that thousand people would give answers that connected deep religious conviction with the way a person lived every day.

In the past few weeks we have discussed how much we lost when evil became a part of the human reality. We discussed what transformation is. We looked at some examples of transformation in scripture.

This evening I want to examine the Christians in Ephesus from the perspective of transformation. I want to begin by reading Ephesians 4:25-32.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

  1. Before we talk about the text we just read, I want to call three things to your attention.
    1. First, I want you clearly to understand my objective. I want you to see "the forest" before you focus on "the trees."
      1. I am going to do my best to challenge you to see the general picture before you get lost in details.
      2. I am convinced that is what commonly happens to Bible students.
        1. They become so absorbed in details that they get lost.
        2. They put things together that are not even discussing the same situation because they can call everything they put together "scripture."
        3. Details are essential, but we need to see "the big picture" before we examine the details--or we will misinterpret the details.
    2. Second, I want you to notice two verses.
      1. Chapter four begins with this statement:
        Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called
        1. I, Paul--the apostle to the Gentiles, beg you to pay attention to the way you live.
        2. If you belong to Jesus Christ, it will change the way you behave every day of your life.
        3. If you have heard and accepted your calling to God, do not live in ways that shame and embarrass the call.
      2. Chapter 5 begins with this statement:
        Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children
        1. If you belong to God, you are attracted to God's character and nature.
        2. You want to look like your Father.
        3. You regard yourselves to be His children.
        4. Just like a small child commonly seeks to imitate the Father who loves him, you imitate God.
        5. Live and act like you belong to God.
      3. Third, I call your attention to the structure of 4:17-32.
        1. Verse 17-19 talked about how people who do not belong to Christ lived--that is the way they used to live.
        2. Verse 20 declared that when they heard the message about Christ, they understood following Christ was not about continuing to live as they had lived.
        3. Verses 22-24 emphasized why following Christ produces a change in lifestyle.
        4. Verses 25-32 explained what they need to understand about their lifestyle as Christians.
        5. I ask you to recognize two things:
          1. There was a distinct way of living before they were Christians, a re-creation, and a distinct way of living after they become Christians.
          2. Note Paul intentionally, specifically coupled together these two things: being a Christian, and the way you live--that is fundamental!

  2. Now focus with me on the ways Ephesian Christians lives changed because they were Christians.
    1. Verses 25-32 contain a huge contrast.
      1. "This is how you used to live before you belonged to Jesus Christ."
      2. "This is how you are to live because you belong to Jesus Christ."
      3. These are fairly common problems among first century gentiles who lived in idolatry in societies that were controlled by idolatrous thinking.
      4. Note the contrast:
        1. "This is how people commonly act."
        2. "This is how you act, and you act this way because you belong to Christ."
    2. First, people who are transformed in Christ refuse to be deceitful liars.
      1. Why?
      2. Christ teaches you to see other people as created from God.
      3. People were made in God's image; they do not exist for you to exploit them.
      4. You acknowledge and feel a bond with others, therefore you treat them with respect, not with deceit.
    3. You do not allow your anger to lead you into sin.
      1. How do you do that?
      2. While you will get angry, you will not give your anger a long life by nursing it along.
      3. Your anger will have a very short life.
    4. In Christ, you understand that keeping your anger alive just opens the door of opportunity to Satan.
      1. Our anger creates all types of evil opportunity for the devil.
      2. Hate begins with anger.
      3. Wrath begins with anger.
      4. Ill-will begins with anger.
      5. Vengeance begins with anger.
      6. Jealousy and anger are so intertwined it is impossible to separate them.
    5. Christians do not support themselves by stealing.
      1. Please note that some of the Christians in Ephesus existed as professional thieves prior to conversion, and some of them continued to steal as Christians.
      2. Paul said it is not possible to be transformed by Jesus Christ and to steal.
      3. Accept responsibility to support yourself honorably!
        1. Get a job! Work!
        2. In your work do what is good--do not just make money any way you can make it because "a person has to live."
        3. In Christ the objective of your work is more than supporting yourself, more than prosperity.
        4. A primary reason for a Christian working is to help those who cannot work.
    6. Christians are careful about their words, are careful about what they say.
      1. They do not say things that insult God.
      2. They do not say things that hurt other people.
      3. People are built up by what these Christians say--their words help people.
      4. Christians say what is appropriate for the situation.
      5. The hearers receive grace from the words of a Christian.
      6. People are drawn to God through the speaking of a Christian rather than being led to resent God.
    7. Christians refuse to behave in ways that work against God's influence in their lives.
      1. One of the purposes of the Spirit in our lives is to encourage us to surrender to God's purposes and ways.
      2. If we act in ways that encourage evil in our lives, we grieve the Spirit which God gave us at baptism to encourage us.
      3. Christians refuse to make God's work in their lives harder!
      4. Paul said to these first century Christians that possessing God's Spirit was proof they belonged to God, and that God was serious in His commitment to redeem them.

  3. If the Ephesians Christians were transformed in Christ, what would their Christian life look like?
    1. First, they would not behave like people who did not know and had not come to Jesus Christ.
      1. They would not be a bitter people (resentment would not control their behavior).
      2. Wrath, and anger, and confusion, and slander would not be a part of their motives or their conduct.
      3. They simply would not be a hateful people who held anyone in contempt.
    2. Instead:
      1. They would be kind to other Christians (people who were not Christians might refuse them opportunity to be kind).
      2. They would be tenderhearted--their compassion and sympathy easily could be touched.
      3. They were always ready to forgive those who hurt them. They would not "hold something against" another Christian.
      4. Their example was nothing less than God Himself.
        1. Jesus Christ showed them God.
        2. Because of that, they did something very uncharacteristic for their age--they were as devoted to forgiving others as God was devoted to using Christ to forgive them.

Letting God call me to Him through Christ changes everything. It changes me as a person. It changes the way I live in an evil world. That is the essence of transformation. The purpose of being baptized into Christ is far more than developing a correct belief system. The primary purpose of being baptized into Christ is changing me and the way I live.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 22 August 2004

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