By Randy Keene
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Minor Hill
Focal Passage: Ephesians 4:17-32
In Ephesians 4, Paul takes an opportunity to spend some time on how important it is for the church to draw strength from encouraging one another. I love encouragement by others. Some of you have been an encouragement to me as I have been writing these Sunday School lessons.
I try to encourage people in my walk day by day, but it takes a conscious effort. People need encouragement, just like they need air and water. I love Proverbs 27:17 which reminds us, “Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another.”
In our study text Paul exhorts the church to put away sinful habits. He calls us out from the way we used to be to the person in Christ we now are. Once they stopped their empty thinking they could be filled with the mind of Christ. Some of the Ephesian members had hard hearts which caused spiritual ignorance to the point that those outside Christ would develop a spiritual callousness to the gospel.
As a result some were given over to a place of promiscuity and had no one to blame but themselves. Life outside of Christ is, like Paul described, a life of emptiness.
The heart that is calloused toward God has gotten there because of the love for sin. A relationship with Jesus would change that condition and give the believer a new fresh outlook on continued living in sin. In short Jesus changes our desire to sin. I’m not sinless but I do sin less now that I am a born again believer.
The Bible says whatever a man thinks that shall he be. Paul knew that the church would have to renew its mind in the Spirit. Old habits and old ways must be replaced by new ways and new habits. God’s will for His children is to live in righteousness and purity practiced day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Being untruthful and ungodly anger are not signs of a Spirit-filled life.
Too many times we just give the devil an opportunity. We need to be far more careful with words toward one another, encourage instead of discourage, love instead of hate or even dislike. The writer of the LifeWay commentary closes with a great comment, “The standard of treatment for others is the way Christ has treated us.” Well said.
In my prayer journal I have written to remind me just what this lesson is trying to teach us. I wrote these words, “God help me to love others unconditionally as you have loved me.” That helps me put things into perspective as I go out for the day. People are strange, weird even. But this study ought to remind us all God loved us while we were yet sinners.
Be careful of your words. Once they leave your mouth, they can never come back. Remember the old man is dead and in Christ you are a new creation. God is with you always to help and to guide.