Living in Response to the New Covenant
Topic: New Covenant Passage: Ephesians 4:1–4:1
Out in the working world, the business world, people strive for years to attain a certain title or position or level of income. And, I think most people view Christianity the same way; they view it as climbing the ladder of success, striving to gain spiritual recognition, status and acceptance. But God does things radically different. FIRST God gives you the title, the position, and the riches of his grace, THEN he says, “Now go LIVE in a manner consistent with what I have given you. Ephesians 4:1 Paul says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you HAVE received.” (ESV I urge you to WALK in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.) You are commanded to live on the basis on something you ALREADY have received.
The book of Ephesians begins by saying “God HAS blessed us...with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” NOT that he WILL bless you, or MAYBE he will bless you. He HAS! God HAS forgiven you, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon you. God HAS brought you into his household. He already calls you saints and sons. He calls you his dearly beloved children. Now he says,... LIVE as such! Live as saints and sons! NOT in order to BECOME those things but because you ARE those things. Live like people who have grace and forgiveness and love lavished upon you! NOT to GAIN those things but because you HAVE those things.
Watchman Nee wrote a book called Sit, Walk, Stand, based on these 3 key words from book of Ephesians. First, we have been raised up to SIT in the heavenly realm, then we are to WALK in a manner worthy of our calling, and finally we are to STAND firm in the day of evil. And the order is important. FIRST, God “made us to sit with him”.
“But God being rich in mercy because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He takes you as a sinner, a moral failure, an offender of God, a breaker of God's laws, a spiritual outcast, alone and without God in the world, and he makes you ALIVE and SEATS you right there next to him, “in Christ”.
As Christ is seated at the Father's right hand, so are you! You are right there with God seated next to him, in Christ! You have arrived. You made it. You made it to the top of Mt Everest. You are, in this sense, already in heaven, at the very pinnacle of spiritual heights! What can you do to get more spiritual than being seated with God in heaven? What can you do to get more accepted? What can you do to get closer to God? You can't get any nearer, you can't get any more privileged.
Everything starts with sitting down to enjoy what God HAS done for us. You start with the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. You start with the highest spiritual status imaginable, seated with him. You START with the full measure of love, acceptance and forgiveness; you start with the riches of his grace, with sainthood.
You are not striving, hoping that God MAY receive you. Those are your rock-solid possessions ALREADY. Your daily walk is then inspired by the riches of his grace. Your daily walk flows out from this full measure of acceptance, from the immensity of his love which you already HAVE.
Watchman Nee makes the point that most Christians try to walk before they sit. We try to do things for God in order to be able to sit with God. We try to make points with God to win a seat. We try to do enough to gain God's favorable opinion. But Christianity starts, NOT with trying to do something, not trying to attain something, but by being given a seat next to the Father,... in Christ. It starts by sitting. For “Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE!”
Before we emphasize good works and doing things for the Lord, we must first, in a sense, relax and sit down to discover and enjoy being chosen, blessed and honored in Christ.
When the prodigal son came home, was he first given a list of chores to do? Was he first told to go work in the fields? My Bible says the Father brought out the best robe in the house and put it on his son and put a ring on his finger and said, “Bring out the fattened calf! Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. So they began to celebrate”. Serving the Father WILL come. But the Father said first “we had to celebrate and be glad”.
Before we become workers for the Lord, we have to learn that the Father celebrates over us. We have to learn that he is glad to have us home! We have to learn that he has brought out the best robe and put it on us, that he has put a ring on our finger and sandals on our feet and he has brought out the fattened calf for us. In the terms of the gospel, “he as blessed us with every spiritual blessing!”, “he has lavished upon us the riches of his grace”. ONLY AFTER WE ARE CLEAR ON THAT ARE WE REALLY READY TO SERVE HIM.
But then, how are we to live in response these enormous blessings of the New Covenant? Verse 1 says we are to walk in a manner “WORTHY” of our calling. The word worthy literally means having the same weight or value. Our walk (the way we live life) should have the same weight or value as our calling. IE they should match! There should be a sameness about your calling and how you live. People should look at you and say “that person lives like a saint”, (or at least something like a saint). Or “there is something about that person's life that matches their heavenly calling”.
The idea here is that you are to live in a way that measures up to the VALUE of your salvation. What value do you place on your salvation? What value do you place on your complete and total acceptance with God? What value do you place on the love of God? On being made alive with Christ when you were dead in your sins and an object of wrath? ….. Live in a way that shows the value of that! Wayne Barber said, “The value of your salvation is going to determine how you live”. Or we could say, the value you PLACE on your salvation will determine how you live. There is a lot of truth in that! How you go about living your life is, in measure, a reflection on how radically blessed you believe yourself to be in Christ... or not!
When something has value to you, you respect it. So in a sense Paul is saying, out of respect for your calling, this is how it is appropriate for you to live. Out of respect for who you have become by the grace of God, out of respect for the riches you have received, out of respect for the being seated with the Father in Christ, this is how you conduct yourselves. It means that you so HIGHLY VALUE what God has done for you that you are careful to show that.
As I recall it was Peggy Noonan who said, when Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, he made a decision that he would never go into the Oval Office without putting on a suit-coat, out of his respect for the Office of the Presidency. He understood there was behavior consistent with the honor of the Office. Paul is saying in Ephesians 4:1, “there is behavior consistent with the honor of the office of being a saint and a son! You and I are to live in a manner that is consistent with the office and the riches we hold.
The entire book of Ephesians preaches this message to us so clearly! Chapters 1and 2 tell you all that you have received as a sheer act of grace: sainthood, every spiritual blessing in Christ, son-ship, the forgiveness of sins, made objects of his love, chosen to be holy and blameless, predestined to be to the praise of the glory of his grace, made alive with Christ, raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, brought near to God through the blood of Christ.
Chapter 3 prays of realization of these truths, that we could grasp all this through a work of the Spirit in our inner being. Chapter 4-6 Address the question: How should people who have received such blessings live? So that is what we are going to teach about for the next several weeks: How then should we live? It says there is a certain way we should live..and there is!!
A couple of things we need to be clear on: One: How we live is not some kind of payback! It IS a response, but not a payback. It is not like someone invites you over for dinner and then you invite them over for dinner. First: It is not possible that you could ever pay God back for all the status, wealth and love he has given you. Second: Grace is a gift and Paul makes the point in Romans that if you work out of obligation it is no longer a gift! You live in this manner worthy because of who you are now, what you have now, and where you are going now. As Ephesian 5:8 says, “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord, walk as children of light.
Second: These instructions are for those who are have NEW LIFE, for people who have Christ living in them. If even one person here does not have the new birth and a new heart from God, we are not trying to tell you just to be a better person. Living this NEW LIFE is not for DEAD people. Dead people cannot walk no matter how much they are urged, pushed, prodded. No matter how much pressure or guilt is put on them they WILL NOT LIVE THIS WAY. A person who resists living this way, who consistently does not live this way, who does not really desire to live this way, MOST LIKEY NEEDS TO BE SAVED.
But those with NEW LIFE from God, will find that this new way of living MATCHES their new heart. None of us will find it easy, but this new manner of living corresponds to what you now WANT to be! These instructions for living correspond to what the Spirit is already empowering you to to do. These commands line up with your new self.
Third: This is a weighty instruction, to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. Paul beings by saying, “As a prisoner for the Lord, I have something to say to you”. He identifies himself in this way to show his apostolic authority which gives great power to what he has to say. AND, it also gives great power to his words by showing that he himself has taken these matters so seriously as to land himself in prison for it. He is willing to walk the walk. And words from someone like that always carry great authority.
Paul goes on to say, “I urge you!” I beseech you or appeal to you walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. This is important! Your walk does matter! Living in unity does matter. How you speak to your wife or husband does matter. How you do your job at work does matter. The kind of language you use does matter. The way you treat people does matter. Your attitudes do matter.
Beginning with chapter 4 of Ephesians, the Holy Spirit tells us, through Paul, how we are to treat each other, how we are to speak; he tells neighbors and church members how to live in light of our heavenly calling. He tells parents, husbands, wives, children, employers and employees, how to LIVE in light of our heavenly calling.
So what are the specifics of this life that is worthy of the Lord? We are going to break that down over the next several weeks, but in general I will say this: We are to live a supernatural way, in a way that is different than the way we used to live, in a way that is contrary to our old human nature. We are to behave and respond in a way that often goes counter to human reasoning and human feelings. We are seated with Christ in a heavenly place and we are to walk in a heavenly way in this world. It is not a natural walk, not a walk of man-made rules. Our walk does not follow human counsel but the counsel of the Spirit of God!
As we see in the rest of the book of Ephesians, we are not called just to be respectable, good moral people. We are to do that! But we are called to love people with the very love of God, to forgive others just as we have been forgiven, to keep the unity of the Spirit, and to be filled with the Spirit, to sing and make melody in our hearts, to live in submission to one another out of reverence for Christ”. It is no longer life on a human plane. It is life on a higher plane. It is to be a heavenly life lived on this earth and in this world, in all of our relationships!
Many people view becoming a Christian as me, finally learning to do the right things, and now that I see the right things to do, I see how others are not doing the right things so my life is all about seeing to it that my relatives and friends and my spouse all to the right thing too. BUT...The Christian life is NOT just a call to BE RIGHT AND TO DEMAND THAT OTHERS BE RIGHT TOO. It is a call to be heavenly and show others my heavenly reaction and response to them and to life. We are called to show people Christ!
WN “Nothing has done more damage to our Christian testimony, than our trying to be right and demanding right of others”. Our standard is much higher than that! Primarily We do not have something to demand of others, we have something to give others. We give grace to others like we have been given grace, love to others like we have been given love, forgiveness to others like we have been shown forgiveness, patience toward others like God has shown mercy and patience with us. We go beyond what is right or fair to what is “like God”.
Three: Our walk is not something unreal, or mystical. Parts of our relationship with God are mystical, spiritual, or experienced in the Spirit. But your walk is as plain as the nose on your face. It shows in every word you speak, in every conversation, in every attitude! You can't be walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, and have it NOT show! This is something people are to see! I can imagine that some are thinking, “you mean I have to be perfect?” No we are not perfect, but we are on the path to perfection.
But...never forget! …. all of this comes out of our position of sitting with the Father in Christ. When you are at rest, knowing your status of love, acceptance, and salvation, then your walk will come very naturally.
One: There is a place for strongly urging people to live in certain way. Paul did this. If we are good pastors and elders we will do this. If you are a true friend you will do this. If someone loves you enough to urge to live in a manner worthy of Lord in a certain area of your life don't say, “hey man, give me some grace” or “don't put me under law”.
Two: In strongly urging people to live in a certain way, we should always set before them the great realities of our salvation. We don't JUST tell people what they should be doing: “you need to get your kids under control”, or “you better stop watching that stuff”, or “stop talking like that”. We love them enough to talk about these things, but we do that along with reminding them of who they are. You say, “You are a man of God, woman of God. Here is how a person with your place in the kingdom of God does these things”.
When I was a little boy, I remember sitting next to my cousin Craig at a family reunion down at my grandma Henry's farm in Indianola. And during our pot-luck dinner Craig thought it would be funny to put a scoop of home-made ice cream on top of his brothers head. His dad saw what went down. I have a very vivid picture burned into my memory of my Uncle Merrill yanking Craig up out his seat at the picnic table and suspending him in mid air by his arm. And as he carried him towards grandma's house, he spanked his bottom hard with his other hand all the way across the yard and into the house. I knew what a spanking was, but I had never seen anything like this and it kind of left me in a stake of shock!
It is easy to have an Uncle Merrill response when we see Christians do something wrong. It is easy to think that people just need a good kick in the pants. And sometime people do need a rebuke! But along with that they need to be reminded of their calling.
Three: Your basic purpose for life is right here in Ephesians 4:1. In the face of trials, in the face of evil, in the face of worldliness, in the face of human pride and arrogance, in the face of relationship problems, in the face of world problems, in the face of hurt feelings, in the face of disappointment, in the face of financial disaster....here is what you are to do, “live a life worthy of the high and holy and heavenly calling to which you have been called”. This is a goal and a vision for your life is big enough, so all encompassing, that will captivate your heart, it will fill your days and years with purpose.
Your purpose in life is not to win, not to get your way, not to have the best life for you, not to be right, or to be proven right. Your vision for your life is to increasingly understand and appreciate the great realities of your salvation, …..and then go live in a manner consistent with your glorious calling. That will keep you absorbed for the rest of your life.
Four: Go to the scriptures to find out what kind of living is consistent with your calling. Don't look at how other Christians you know are living who may not care that much about pleasing Christ. Don't say well if they can get by with living that way, I can too. The scriptures not only tell us how blessed we are in Christ, they also tell us how to walk in a manner worthy of that blessing. Allow the Bible to call you to that higher plane on living, speaking and thinking that is fitting to saints and sons of God.