DO NOT TURN BACK TO THE OLD LIFESTYLES
By Lay Pastor Agus Mulyono
Johor, Sunday, 9 September 2018
As made known by our Pastor and elders, the year 2018 is reserved for the study of the Letters to the Ephesians.
And so far we have come to Ephesians 4: 1-16. It is worth noting that the Letter to the Ephesians comprises 2 major parts:
Ephesians 1-3 feature a doctrine/ teaching.
Ephesians 1 points out our positions as believers in Christ. We were chosen before the creation of the world so that we would be holy without blame before Him. At the outset, Jesus Christ chose us to be children of God blessed with spiritual gifts in heaven. Not only that, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit that guarantees us to fully obtain the redemption to be His own as His Bride. The Lord also gives the believers power to overcome their struggles in life. In other words, if we live in Him, we will have the power to cope with all problems we face. So, we have no reason to back down and lose the battle because He has given us the power of resurrection to win out over all kinds of problems.
Ephesians 2 signifies the resurrection power of Jesus that amazingly raised us who were once dead in sins. He gives us power, spirit and motivation to do good deeds that God has prepared for us for the sake of the building up and unity in the Body of Christ. We, the Gentiles, were once godless and hopeless because of our sins and transgressions. Besides, we did not partake in the promise of salvation. But now, we are united with the Jews in Christ Jesus, and the wall of separation and enmity has been torn down. He is the cornerstone of the well-constructed Body of Christ where God lives in the Spirit.
Ephesians 3: 20-21 expose God’s ability to do things much more than what we can think of and need, especially in the ministry and the building process of the body of Christ.
Ephesians 1-3 form the foundation / base of Ephesians 4-6 which serve as the application of this doctrine. The teaching / doctrine we know is the foundation of our lifestyles in the society, our positions in the Lord, the way we know and stay faithful to Him and our power in Him. Introspection: How do we position ourselves? Do we put one foot in the old lifestyle, committing sin and transgressions and the other in the new way of life, trying extra hard not to commit the same sin ?
Ephesians 4-6 shine on the application of the doctrine on a daily basis in the communities and among the members of the body of Christ.
Whether we realize it or not, how we live in the society is grounded on our positions in the Lord. If we know Him well, we will make an effort to know what pleases Him and what His will is. In this way, we will pay careful attention to our behaviors, speech and actions. Aside from that, we will live our lives and have full confidence that we will get on top of all our struggles thanks to His resurrection.
Ephesians 4:1-16 speak of unity and maturity. The Lord gives offices to equip holy people for the ministry and building up of the body of Christ. This grace is the base or the foundation of unity. Please note that the unity never takes shape without spiritual maturity. On the other hand, spiritual maturity never takes place without unity in the body of Christ.
We will grow to spiritual maturity if we stay humble. This will enable us to take and give, to take and give advice, to love and to be loved, to give priority to others and to surpress our ego for the sake of unity and building up of the body of Christ. So, it is clear that the process of spiritual maturity is not an individual effort. Rather, we need people around us to help us grow mature.
Instead of one individual, the body of Christ also as the Heavenly Bride comprises a lot of members with various behaviors, attitudes and functions united by one Spirit, namely, the Holy Spirit. Admittedly, as we worship and minister together, there is friction among us. After all, the love of God and the Holy Spirit will guide us to see the friction through and grow to full maturity according to the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4: 17-24 remind us not to turn back to our old ways. The old ways may refer to godless lifestyles.
The phrase ‘not knowing God’ is mentioned twice which shows how important the knowledge of God is. The Apostle Paul began the 17th verse with the phrases, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord…” to show how seriously he urged the Ephesians not to live like the godless again. Why? Because they were spiritually mature and united in the body of Christ. His urgent message also applies to us today. He wrote it because he saw that the Ephesians tended to turn round and head for the old ways.
The born-again believers who do ministry should stay alert in order not to get easily influenced by the godless around them. Don’t we often get adult contents on our gadgets day in, day out?
Cheating is a commonn practice today, not to mention corruption at the commune level at work. These are all the practices of the godless people.
Great ministry, gifts and awesome annointment do not guarantee a person’s knowledge of God unless they show God in their daily actions, speech and life. Otherwise, their activities serve as a means of bringing them self-content when people take them for a good and pious figure.
Our knowledge of God speaks of our relationship with God and how much we know what He has in His heart as well as what He desires. It takes spiritual maturity to get to know Him by submitting ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit every time.
How do we know God? John 15:4-5 write, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
The fruit that a person bears shows that he really knows God. Without Jesus, we can neither do nor produce anything. And whatever we do is fruitless. In other words, we may actively serve Him in any ministry. But if we do it without really knowing God, He will find our ministry meaningless. We just show off our abilities because God gives us capibilities and expertise to do something. Galatians 5:22-26 state that walking close to God will bear 9 types of fruit of the Spirit. An example of a person who knows God is David. He devoted all aspects of his life to God and God became the center of his life (Psalm 63:9).
Moreover, the Apostle Paul showed a clear-cut distinction between a person who knows God and one who doesn’t. The characteristics of a person who does not know God are:
- They live in the futility of their minds because God does not lead them. They think about things that are not from God. They think in the wrong way. They guess, make plans but fail in the long run. As long as their way of thinking is against God’s mind, they will achieve nothing.
- Their understanding is darkened. Because they do not walk in God, their darkened understanding contradicts the understanding of light. They do not live according to His will and also stay away from the fellowship with Him. Introspection: How close are our relationship and fellowship with God? Do we spend quality time with Him?
- They are stubborn. A stubborn person knows that he is guilty but finds it hard to admit his guilt and even will not do it. Ironically, someone may live a successful life due to his supperb capabilities and expertise. But his knowledge of God hits rock bottom because of his stubborness. In fact, the Lord reveals Himself through a lot of things – daily happenings, His creation, people around us, our conscience and so forth. But a stubborn person prefers ignoring all of these. Introspection: Are we still stubborn? What makes us obstinate? Position, wealth, ingenuity or our fame? We should learn to be gentle and open to constructive criticism even from someone whose social status, we think, is lower than ours.
- Their felings are dull. They are insensitive or dead. Foolishness and stubbornness make a person insensitive. Consequently, they give in to lust (on purpose). Even though they know the truth, they intentionally keep on sinning beyond control and even take pleasure in it. Illustration: We know that smoking is not good for our health. A boy first smokes in secret for fear that his parents might catch him redhanded. Over time, his worry gradually lessens. As he is growing up, he takes it easy when smoking in public. In the same way, when we commit sin for the first time, we feel restless. But the more we sin, the less restless we become. At some point later, our sinful practice turns into a habit. Our feelings are callous with time and we eventually feel guilty no more.
How do we, being new men, keep ourselves from turning back to our old livestyles? We need to avoid godless people because they stand in our way, preventing us from knowing God better. We should submit ourselves to His guidance and join the process of unity in the body of Christ. To make this possible, it takes spiritual maturity in partnership with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. That way, we will be ready to be the Heavenly Bride of Christ.