The Calling

Friday, July 19, 2013, 5:37 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me this morning with the song “My Heart’s Desire” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ephesians 4:1-24 (NIV):

A Life Worthy (4:1-3 NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Paul wrote this letter to the corporate church in Ephesus. The church is the body of Christ, the family of God, consisting of true followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ. Yet, as we read through the New Testament, it becomes clear that in these gatherings of the church there existed among them false brothers and sisters, pretenders, and/or those who were misled by false teaching to a false hope in Christ, and/or those who did the misleading (cf. Mt 7:21-23; Jn 10). And, this is true of the gatherings of the church today, as well. I see four possible groupings of people within our local church gatherings: 1) Those who make no claims at all to belief in Jesus Christ, 2) Those who profess faith in Christ, but who have not truly come to know him, 3) Those who were once passionate for Christ but have since drifted away from their pure devotion to Christ and are in great need of revival, and 4) Those who are walking in the Spirit of God in faithful obedience to their Lord and creator.

Thus, this book of Ephesians, especially this fourth chapter, challenges us to make sure we truly know Christ and that we are in true (genuine) relationship with him, and/or that we are walking in the truth we have been taught, so that we are becoming mature followers of Christ. Paul, thus, urged these who called themselves followers of Christ to live like they said they believed. And, this is where the rubber meets the road (the moment of truth). Yet, this is not works-based salvation, as some would have you believe.

When we believe in Jesus Christ we do not become puppets on a string. We daily choose to do what is right and to follow the truth we have been taught or to go our own way (See Lu 9:23-25). So, daily we must make the choice to yield control of our lives to our Lord and creator Jesus Christ, and to choose to cooperate with his work of grace in our hearts and minds in transforming us into the image of Christ. So, it is not us doing this in our own flesh nor is it us trying to earn God’s grace, but it is us responding in faith and love to the grace he has already provided for us, by us allowing him to work his life, will and purpose in and through our lives. Thus, we would be living a life worthy of the calling we have received, because we would be living in surrender to the one who gave himself up for us so we could be free from slavery to sin and free to walk in his righteousness in his power within us.

Now on the subject of unity and peace, let me say this. Many church leaders (and government leaders) today are stressing “unity” and “peace,” but what many of them are teaching is not unity in the Spirit, but unity with the teachings, thinking and goals and objectives of humans, i.e. with man-made religion. As well, their calls for peace and unity mostly have to do with not rocking the boat, not making waves, conforming to the ways of this world so as to make peace with the world, and the dilution of the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to make everyone comfortable and the gospel more palatable to the listener. Yet, we should never sacrifice truth and conviction for conformity with humans for the sake of unity. Our unity should be in Christ and in conformity with his will and purpose for us.

Every Wind of Teaching (4:11-16 NIV)

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Christ gave us certain gifts and parts of the body of Christ to equip us for service to our Lord, for our encouragement, edification and sanctification, and so that we, as the body of Christ, might be united in our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord, and so we might become mature followers of Christ. These gifts and body parts do not exist solely within those who call themselves pastors or ministers of the gospel, though. These gifts and functions exist throughout the body of Christ, and exist within males and females, and within the very young to the very old. So, we should never despise those messengers of Christ to the body of Christ who are not “official” workers in a church or who do not have seminary degrees. A seminary or Bible college degree is not a requirement for spiritual giftedness. In fact, sometimes it is a deterrent, because too much book knowledge can sometimes block the Spirit’s voice and can inhibit us from exercising our God-given spiritual gifts. Yet, we should always exercise discernment, and we should test everything against the word of God.

There are many false gifts and false teachers, too, which is why we must exercise spiritual discernment and we must test everything we hear against God’s word. There are those who teach falsely out of ignorance, but there are many more who teach what is false by being cunning, deceptive, manipulative and scheming. So be wise! Don’t believe every wind of teaching that passes your way. Just because it looks good and smells good or even tastes good does not mean it is not loaded with arsenic. Much of this false teaching is emotionally driven and thus many unsuspecting person falls prey to its trap. So, if something grabs you emotionally, check it out against God’s word, comparing scripture with scripture, because many false teachers love to pick scriptures out of context, even excluding other verses in context in order to get people to believe their false doctrines. So, make sure the “truth” you are believing is consistent with the teachings of Christ and the word of God, and that it is consistent with God’s divine nature and character.

So, we need to speak the truth in love to one another so that our fellow believers in Christ are not led astray by what is false, and especially so that they don’t just follow whatever wind of teaching happens to be in vogue at the time. And, this is not the responsibility only of the evangelists, prophets (those with the spiritual gift of prophecy), pastors and teachers, either. This scripture makes it plain that we each have a part in the mutual encouragement and strengthening of one another in the faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is how the body builds itself up in love – as each part does its work. So, we should never say to a part of the body of Christ “We don’t need you!” or “Go someplace else where you would be a better “fit” or “We’ll even help you find a place where you would fit better.” What would be a better fit than the true body of Christ? It is our culture which divides the body of Christ into particular people groups, but this is not the way Christ intended the body to operate.

The Way You Learned Christ (4:17-24 ESV)

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. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

I believe this passage of scripture should be one of the key gospel passages used in evangelism and in the sharing of the gospel, because it teaches us how a true follower of Christ comes to know Christ, not just to know about him, but to have intimate and personal relationship knowledge of him. As well, it teaches us what is not involved in true genuine faith-knowledge of Jesus Christ (cf. Lu 9:23-25; Ro 6; Gal 2:20, et al). And, this is very critical that we understand this teaching.

Many are teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ absent of true repentance and absent of obedience to Christ. Again, repentance and obedience to Christ are not works of the flesh, but are gifts of God and are the working of the Spirit in the life of the believer, but only as the person yields control of his life to the life of Jesus Christ to live within him, and to live and work out his life through him. So, when this word teaches us that we must put off our old self (sinful and selfish), to be made new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of Christ, this is not works-based salvation, otherwise scripture would be teaching us what is contrary to scripture. So, if this is what Christ taught us that we must do (cf. Lu 9:23-25), which he did, then there must be a way in which we do this in obedience to him without it being works of our own flesh in order to find merit with God and/or to earn our own salvation. So, the only way this can be accomplished, I believe, is through us yielding our lives over to Christ for him to work his will in us, which means we cooperate fully with his work of regeneration and sanctification in our lives.

What we need to understand here, and this is critical to our salvation, is that a gospel that does not teach this is not the true gospel. Jesus said we must die if we want to live, and he said we must do this daily, and that we must follow him in obedience if we want any part in him. We do not come to know Christ in a way in which it leaves the option open for us to continue living the way we lived before we came to know Christ, i.e. in sinful passion and desire ruling our lives. True faith in Jesus Christ submits to the Lordship of Christ, follows the ways of Christ and his truth, and hungers after the things of God, denying the self-life and worldly and sinful lusts, passions and desires on a daily basis. This does not mean a true follower of Christ will never sin again or that he or she could never slip back into his or her old ways or that he or she will now live a life of absolute perfection. This is obvious by the teachings of scripture which encourage us regularly to keep forsaking the things of this world and to continue in the faith. Yet, again, we do this in the power and working of the Holy Spirit of God within us as we daily surrender to his Lordship and to his plan and purposes for our lives. Then all the glory belongs to God. Great is HIS GRACE living and working his will and purposes for our lives within us! Amen!

My Heart’s Desire / An Original Work / June 29, 2013

Based off Rm. 10; Lu. 9:23-26; Ep. 4:20-24

Loved Ones, Oh, my heart’s desire
Is that you might come to Jesus.
Many appear zealous for God,
But they do not trust in Him.
They have not submitted to the One
Who saved them from their sins;
Not forsaken their sins,
Nor have they obeyed their King.

The word of the Lord is near you:
The word of faith we’re proclaiming:
That you must confess your faith
In Jesus as your Lord and King:
Believe in Him as your Lord,
And follow Him where’er He leads.
Share the gospel; be a witness,
And meet others’ needs.

Beautiful are the feet of those
Who bring the good news of Jesus:
Anyone who would come to Him
Must deny himself today;
Die to sin and self, and
Let the Spirit transform you in heart;
Put on your new self in Jesus,
Yielding to the cross.