Sunday, June 24, 2012

Touching Base! Part 169

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 8
Are you horizontally challenged? – Ephesians 4:1-6

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Your relational health is a reflection of your spiritual health.

Take a minute and think about the above statement. Agree or disagree? What the statement is saying is that a great barometer in how someone is doing in their walk with Christ can be at times seen in the health of their horizontal relationships. Paul would say this statement is true, not only true but crucially true, significantly important for the individual Christian and the corporate body.

Text: Ephesians 4:1-6.
How do we see this big idea surfacing in our text?

#1 Relationships are connected to the inner life. v1
How do we see this connection in this verse?

Worthy - "Worthy" (axios) is literally "bringing up the other beam of the scales" and hence indicates equivalence. Paul is insisting that there should be a balance between these two beams.What are these two beams?
The context would clearly indicate that the beams are referring to calling which he mentions and practice which is what Paul is talking about in v1-6.

Calling - Ones calling has just been described in the previous chapters. We have been redeemed from what we were, to being His child.

Practice - Paul has been talking about doctrine in chapters 1,2 and 3 now he is turning a corner and focusing in on practice. The Ephesians’ are to see to it that they practice what they preach, that their experience measures up to their standing in grace/calling. The beams are to be in balance- calling and practice.
Verse 2 goes on to define what practice looks like but let’s pause here before we move on.

Note that Paul could have said several things that tied in with our calling. He could have said that those who are called need to bring up the beam of bible study, prayer, fasting, serving the poor etc. But note specifically he focuses in on the beam of relationships.

When God deeply touches our lives (calling) he wants to deeply impact our relational style (practice), patterns, and habits.
Sometimes we need to make real radical breaks with relational patterns we have embraced that are anything but godly. We are just like our mom or dad or... but not just like Jesus.

I think when you see a church wrestling with relational health the first question is not- What do they need to learn about better communication skills? I think the first question is, what deeper work of God do they need to experience in their individual hearts? Remember your relational health is a reflection of your spiritual health.
This can be applied in all our relationships- marriage, friendships, siblings, etc
Note there is a very high standard Paul sets for relationships because of the very deep work of God that has been done and is going on in our hearts. This is why Christian communities should be the healthiest communities in the world. But are they?

#2 Relationships are channels for Christ’s character to be revealed through you. v2
Now Paul gets very specific with what the practice of relational health looks like. Note that v2 does not represent an exhaustive list but for the context, were attributes of relational health that needed to be mentioned.

Humility - an expression of Christ character, but this may have not been what we grew up with.
Humility means the lowliness of mind which springs from a true estimate of ourselves—a deep sense of our own moral smallness and demerit. We see this in 3:7 Paul- less than the least.
I love the statement- “true estimate of ourselves.”
When you read chapters 1, 2,3 and get a true understanding of who you are and all God has done, and that without Christ we would be dead in our transgressions and sins- how can that not make one humble? Sheer grace!
Understanding the grace we received pulls out of us arrogance, pride, smugness, resulting in a true estimate of ourselves.
How many of our relational challenges would be solved if everyone involved in the conversation had a true estimate of themselves?
How much more quickly would we move towards reconciliation, healing, and hope and peace?

Gentleness - an expression of Christ character, but this may have not been what we grew up with.
This refers to “domesticated strength” or reclaimed strength, like a trained animal. The KJV translates it “meekness.” Wild animals have been tamed to serve man. God does not want to break believers’ spirits but channel their energies for His purposes. This is one of Paul’s favorite metaphors for the Christian life (cf. I Cor. 4:21; II Cor. 10:1; Gal. 5:23; 6:1; Col. 3:12; I Tim. 6:11; II Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2).
Gentleness can shape how I say what I need to say.
Gentleness can shape when I say what I need to say.
Gentleness can shape why I say what I need to say.
Gentleness can challenge me to check my heart at the door so that I don’t come into the relational context barbed and prickly.
Anybody in your life challenging your gentleness?
Anyone in your life tempting you not to practice domesticated strength?

Patience - an expression of Christ character, but this may have not been what we grew up with.
Patience (makrothymia) or clemency is a characteristic of God himself. It can mean steadfastness in the endurance of suffering but more often in the NT it describes reluctance to avenge wrongs. Let God deal with it in his timing.
Maybe this is the greatest test of how deep and thorough the work of Christ has gone into my soul.
A willingness to let it go! Some of us have not let it go and the result, we are all wrecked up inside.
Our desire to get even is making us really ugly.

Bearing with one another in love - an expression of Christ character,but this may have not been what we grew up with.
Patience finds its expression in loving forbearance (Col 3:18). To bear with another (literally, "hold him up") is to put up with his faults and idiosyncrasy, (a peculiarity of constitution or temperament: an individualizing characteristic or quality ) knowing that we have our own. Love is a recurring theme in Ephesians. The four graces Paul recommends here are all aspects of love and exemplified to perfection in Christ (Philippians 2:2, 5).

As you look at these four characteristics, are these flowing out of you into your relationships?
Which one is easily blocked?
What is the work that God needs to do in you so that these characteristics flow from you into all your relationships?

#3 Relationships (healthy) require a lot of work. v3
Would there be anyone who would disagree with #3? Can’t imagine there is. As a Christ follower this is often where rigorous faith is needed. Spirit filled faith! Note what Paul says.

“Make every effort” - It speaks of a determined effort. It has the idea of exertion in it.
“Keep” is tēreō (τηρεω), “to keep by guarding, to guard by exercising watchful care.”
Unity must be aggressively, continually, individually pursued! V2 partially tells us how.
The "bond of peace" (syndesmos) strengthens rather than hampers. In Colossians 2:19 Paul uses it with reference to the ligaments of the body and in Colossians 3:14 figuratively of the love that holds Christians together.

One of the greatest investments people can make in the body of Christ is to make every effort to ensure relational health. It is a shame on the church and can become a disgrace when the church does not exemplify excellence in this area. Of course there are times where we can make every effort and still be left with broken relationships. At those times we need to rest before God knowing we have done all we can do. That is all God expects.

Finally and quickly note v4,5,6. Not only does our calling demand that we work on relational health but there are two other issues Paul raises. We are one body and there is one Spirit. This is what we have been called to this is what we need to uphold.

Are you relationally challenged in the church, in life? For the sake of your calling, for the glory of God and for the unity of the church, make every effort to walk in health. Your relational health is a reflection of your spiritual health.


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