A sermon adaptation from Ephesians 4:17-32
Paul’s words at the outset of Ephesians 4 begin to shape the community of gathered Jesus followers to live differently in the world. Paul lays out the five gifts used to help the church reach full maturity (4:15) and then, with verse 17 and following (all the way through 5:20), begins to lay out why it is so important. What happens in this large section (4:17-5:20) is essentially the same message branded two different ways. The first section (4:17-32) gives the negative side failing to live up to this calling.
The world, Paul tells us, (as if we need a reminder) is cruel, divisive, and self-centered.
The message from the world is that we need to look after our own good: Exploit whomever you need to so you can get ahead. Live a life of pleasure. If it feels good, do it. Enjoy life and all of its sensualities.
I even had a friend in high school that said, “I figure if I’m going to go to hell when I die, I might as well enjoy it along the way.”
Society, media, advertisements, and television all tell us how to look better, feel sexier, be smarter, get richer, and be a person of influence that can exercise our will on others.
We’ve become so shaped by the world’s values that we neglect what God has to say about us (see Ephesians 1-3).
And when we talk about using the gifts of the spirit, it has a terrible outcome.
Apostles start new ministries so people can praise all the good things they’ve done.
Teachers share the Word to show how smart they are.
Evangelists bring people to faith to brag about how many people they’ve brought to faith.
You get the idea.
When we use the gifts of the Spirit for our own good or advancement we attempt to mix two Kingdoms that generally don’t mix well.
God gifted empowerment with worldly passion leads to what I call black-eye faith.
Except Paul makes clear that it’s not our own image that we hurt, it’s God’s.
When we say we love God but live differently, we shape people’s perspective on God and they end up farther from him than when we started doing anything with them in the first place.
Paul’s words are literally, “Stop making the Holy Spirit sad.”
Practically, he warns us: “If you’re going to meet as a gathered body and use your God-given gifts to advance your own purpose, God would prefer it if you’d just not meet at all.”
Makes the whole arguing over the color of the carpet thing seem kind of silly, doesn’t it.
The church, God’s called out gathered community of people, is the one place where we live by a different set of values, expectations, and beliefs. When we pursue our own good, instead of the good of others, we not only reject God’s shaping of us, but negatively shape a watching world’s perspective of Christ and give him a black-eye.