Saturday 7 August 2021


Ephesians 4 v 25/end.

This morning I want to turn with you to the reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians Chapter 4.  Paul was talking about the importance of unity and maturity as two aims of the Church and now moves on to show purity is necessary for those who belong to the Church. 

     He is writing to new Christians who have converted from paganism, so is anxious to show they have to behave and live in a totally different way from the past.  They have to leave their old way and turn to Christ’s way. 

     In this passage, Paul gives practical examples of how Church members build up Christ’s body based on what is true of them as Christians. This is a continuation from previous verses dealing with Christian living. He contrasts the heathen way with the Christian one. He writes, ‘I INSIST you no longer live as non believers’.

     They were separated from God, their lives were dark, they had hard hearts,  they were insensitive and they were concerned with empty things.. 

    The word Paul uses is likened to a stone harder than marble, meaning they were so insensitive, so hard,  they could not feel goodness.  They sinned at will. 

     The process of sin is gradual.  No person becomes a great sinner all at once. At first it is regarded with fear and horror.  Some regret and remorse enters the heart, but as this continues there comes a time when it loses all sensation, and shameful things are done without any feeling.  The conscience which once found such things unacceptable, now finds them acceptable.

     People abandon themselves to every kind of unclean conduct; the lust of desires and shameless wantonness.  Like a drug it can get so much a hold on a person that they lose all sense of decency and shame.  That sort of life can be dominated by sin so that people become like beasts. 

     There is a desire to possess, a desire for things which others have, and if they can’t buy then steal.  They will be ready to sacrifice others for themselves, don’t get in my way.  Desire to have what there is no right to have, and are not prepared to legitimately earn.  People don’t care who gets hurt in the process   Paul saw hearts which did not recognise any wrong in their actions.

     People do not see themselves as doing anything wrong or shameful today.  We see vast sums of money being wrongly taken from employers, justifying it on the grounds of wanting pleasures they see others having. 

     Drunken youths making fools of themselves.  Women shedding their dignity and inhibitions to be doing what men do, and to the worst excesses of their male counterparts.      

   Men dressing and acting as women and parading in city streets.        

     Not everyone lives a decadent life in the non Christian world, but there is a direction in which every life can head without God in their life.  All life has to progress.  There has to be a sense of purpose and truth, a sense of decency and modesty. 

     Becoming a Christian is a radical life change.  A Christian must live their life as required by Christ, so we put off the old ways and put on the righteousness God gives us. 

     Paul says put off your old way of life as you would put off old clothes.  He sets before them the highest standard in the world.  He is warning of what Christians can slide into if they don’t change.

     Paul spells out the things which must be banished from the Christian life.  The   followers of Jesus Christ must stand out in life and be known for being truthful and having integrity.  No lying, yet we see from the highest public offices of government, blatant lying and deceit. Sometime by men and women who like to inform us of their Christian credentials.         

     You can lie deliberately, or without intention, through carelessness or exaggeration.  Truth demands a deliberate effort.  It is so easy and tempting for people to elaborate a story to create a greater effect. 

     Sometimes of course we tend to tell in an exaggerated way out of kindness.  I recall often being asked if I liked the cakes  a particular lady made, and like a good Vicar said they were lovely.  It would have been totally ungracious of me to say they tasted like sawdust.  Imagine what domestic disturbance could be caused if a man told his wife what he really thought of her new dress. 

     There is the lie of silence.  Keeping silent when we should speak out, so giving the impression that by our silence we approved some action which one actually knew was wrong; or failing to rebuke when it was necessary to do so. 

     Then Paul gives the reason for being truthful.  A body can only be healthy if all senses are working properly.  If the brain tells the hand something is cool when it is hot, pain will be caused.  If we as Christians are one body, all must be true and faithful to each other; deception impairs the work of Christ.    

     Paul talks of anger.  There is however, a right and wrong anger.  To be angry as part of a fractious nature, or to get upset at trivialities, is wrong.  Some anger is not only right, but essential.

   The anger of William Wilberforce led to the end of slavery.    

      The anger of Lord Shaftesbury led to the end of inhumane working conditions. 

     Jesus got very angry at the moneychangers in the Temple and went about with a whip. 

     There is a need for greater anger among Christians.  We compromise sin in a way God never does.  God hates sin and  so should we, and we should speak out.  I get angry when I see clergymen/and now women, speaking on radio or television, stating we must reinterpret the Bible to meet current attitudes to morality.  We owe it to our Lord, as our duty, to challenge these liberals for trying to set their own agenda on the Church, by changing Scripture to their thinking. 

     No amount of reinterpretation would ever convince me it was acceptable for a Bishop to divorce his wife, abandon his family, so as to go and live in a relationship with another man, and in so doing knowingly and willingly cause a whole disruption and schism in the worldwide Anglican communion without any regret whatsoever. Indeed, he expected everyone to accept and support him.

      There was an exhibition in Glasgow, where the Bible was put on display and people were invited to write comments on the Bible, defacing it where condemnation was made of homosexual practice.  Despite protest, the organisers refused to withdraw. Although ultimately they were forced to cover the Bible in a glass case and let people write their comments on paper to be attached to the Bible. Noticeably they refused to put the Koran on display. 

     Now compare our response to that of Muslims in Pakistan, who burned Churches and attacked Christians when it was falsely alleged by militants that the Koran had been CRITICISED by Christians. 

     Equally important however is the situation when two people in a Church don’t get on.  It must be dealt with at once.  The longer it is left the more bitter it becomes.  All need to have the grace to say sorry and be forgiving.  Don’t give the devil the opportunity.  An unhealed breach causes dissension and strife, for two people at odds can cause a war to develop.  Remember too, reputations can be murdered over cups of tea or coffee.

     Be honest. That means no stealing, but also give a fair return for what you are given.

     No evil talk; that means no foul language.  Today on our television, foul language of the worst kind is commonplace.  The comedian who won the award several years in succession for favourite comedian trophy, relies on foul language and content.  What a verdict on society. 

     Two of the greatest comedians ever, were Bob Hope and Jack Benny, neither of whom ever made a rude joke.  Ricky Tomlinson, himself an actor and comedian, once stated  that our greatest comedians of the past would be a failure today, for they were always clean in language. 

     So Christians should speak in a manner which will help others, and not degrade them or themselves.  Don’t be insulting either, use words wisely.  Dennis Thatcher once commented,’ better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt’   It is so easy to have an outbreak of passion, revealing anger which flames like straw.    

     Paul sums it all up in a few words, be kind, be concerned with the feelings of others, don’t show bitterness in your heart or nurse grievance.  Pray God will teach you to forgive and forget.  Love your enemies.  As one cynic remarked, ‘love and be kind to you enemy, it will make him mad’.  Have love and care for others. 

     There is much good in this country, but there are things which desperately need to be put right.  The Church is the only body which can do that.  You are  the Church.  Speak out and speak up for your Church…  Let it be known what a glorious body it is, and we have a glorious Saviour to follow.  It may be polluted by a few members but the vast number are good people who love the Lord.

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