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…Healing for a Chronically Ill Culture!
The first three chapters of Ephesians reveal a number of incredible features of our calling as believers in Jesus Christ. Point after amazing point is made, detailing what the Lord has done in us and for us through the gift of Christ. For just a taste of what is revealed in those first three chapters let’s read this introductory passage (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Afterward, based on the strong foundation of God’s provision in our lives, the next three chapters unfold details related to what we are to do with what we’ve been given! What this amounts to is… an alignment of calling and practice! What actually begins to happen is the result of a basic transformation through which the incredible resources available to us actually change how we relate to our world.
These changes develop into a “culture” that more accurately reflects the Kingdom of God. As more and more people begin to develop and share their giftings in serving others…more of Jesus is seen in our community! This cultural shift overflows into our homes and workplaces until we realize that we are actually becoming functional missionaries to the culture of our day.
A scholarly work from 1977 brilliantly highlights the strategic effectiveness of what I have just outlined. It is the amazingly poignant masterpiece authored by Dr. Francis Schaeffer, a noted Christian thinker and philosopher of his day. He wrote a profound and astoundingly prophetic book speaking to these issues. He posed the question framed by his title in a world awash with a major spiritual awakening in the ’70s and ’80s. In 1977 he published his landmark work entitled, How Shall We Then Live?
He approaches a major theme in his book from the standpoint of history, detailing how relativism and a lack of moral absolutes break down societies (sometimes even those who are experiencing exciting spiritual renewal) and leads to hopelessness. In addition, he addressed two major dangers he saw emerging:
He warned that individuals caught up in those two lifestyles would be conditioned and vulnerable to giving themselves over to an authoritarian government if they believed it would provide those two things.
He then suggested the kind of conditions that would be likely to bring this about:
(Remember, he proposed these conditions from his perspective as a student of history!) None of these things were on the horizon in the western world at that time, yet they are common themes today, coming at us constantly, in the form of policies, problems or predictions!
If the Apostle Paul had been looking for a title for the last half of Ephesians, he could have appropriately chosen
Dr. Schafer’s title… “How Shall We Then Live”. The principles Paul set down really lay out a master plan for reforming our lives and our world by instilling the culture of the Kingdom of God! The brutal truth is, waging a constant fight against the ungodly and harmful aspects of our culture alone will not yield what we might hope. On the other hand, following the path Paul laid out in the following chapter prescribes a form of assistance that is sure to make a significant contribution to a chronically ill culture. This miracle cure is… “replacement therapy!”
Ephesians Chapter 4
v.1 “walk worthy of the calling…”
Our lifestyle should be of sufficient weight to balance the beam between profession and practice. Paul begins this section of the book by identifying the criterion by which we should be weighing daily decisions…God’s culture and our calling! Every Christian is considered to have this calling and it should be the overriding influence in all we do!
v.2 Four landmark “graces” that show evidence that we are developing a balance between our calling and practice (lifestyle):
1) “humility” “low mindedness” a direct contrast to the arrogance
2) “gentleness” “considerateness” restraint born of strength
3) “patience” “clemency, the reluctance to avenge wrongs
4) “bear with one another” “put up with another’s faults and inadequacies” …
”in love” notice that all these are all expressions of “agape” love in action…this is the mark of God’s culture!
v.3 “endeavoring” “make every effort” to keep them
“unity of the Spirit” “a profound oneness made possible by the Holy Spirit”
“bond of peace” although this phrase alludes to the love of God that holds Christians together, “bond” is a medical term used to describe the way ligaments hold bones together
v.7 Each one of us is carrying parts of God’s nature (gifts) which are intended for distribution!
v.11 He specified certain leadership gifts that are intended to operate in ways that are critical to the functionality of the church.
v.12 “equipping the saints” this term indicates two main benefits experienced by individuals within the church:
1) “recovered wholeness” as in the setting of a broken bone so that it mends
2) “discovered function” here teaching, encouraging and exhorting are involved to bring gifts vested in individuals forward so they can be utilized to edify (build up) the church
v.13 “until we all come”
1) “to the unity of the faith” going the same direction/common goals/ individually contributing
2) personally, growing in relationship and knowledge
3) to a mature stature in Christ
vs.14-15 “we should no longer be children”
“No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love.”
“speaking the truth” actually translates “truthing” or “doing the truth”, this kind of fundamental concern for the truth is the secret to maturity individually and corporately in the church
v.16 This amazing verse tells us that Christ’s body (the church) is literally, as the NEV puts it;
“held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when every part is working properly, makes the whole body grow so that it builds itself up in love”
This is the counter-culture the Kingdom of God offers for those of us bold enough to pursue it. Reforming the culture is not likely to happen to any great degree by simply pointing out what’s wrong with it! We do have the obligation to counter the obvious anti-Christ orientation of our present society and spirited debate has its place. But our voices are unlikely to be heeded if our actions do not project the essence of love and practical wisdom of Jesus. If we live out the passage, we have just studied we will go a long way toward building bridges toward troubled places. And by the way, there are millions of God’s children out there who are literally dying to find the life these verses promise!
Let’s all remember this:
“People are most likely turn their back on the ways of a troubled culture when they observe a more desirable one!”
No government will ever be able to offer a decent substitute for what the church has been called and equipped to do!