Thursday, July 5, 2012

Touching Base! Part 171

Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 10
Are you experiencing some interference?– Ephesians 4:17-24

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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.

Would you not agree that, in following Christ, there are some issues that we deal with that are just like flicking a switch? We can, by the power and grace of God, experience instant change. However, there are other issues that are like a dimmer switch, not instant but require a process, not quick but sluggish, not effortless but demanding. Such issues could be described as step-by-step, little-by-little, in-by-inch, day-by-day.
Got any dimmer switch issues?

Text: Ephesians 4:17-24
This past Sunday we talked about how we need to choose daily the life God has given us. The crisis of our salvation leads to the process of our sanctification. Note in our key verses (22-24) that Paul is admonishing the Christ-followers in Ephesus to “put off” and “put on”.
Put off - meaning to lay aside a garment. What kind of garment? Paul describes it here in v.23.
Put on - references the day-by-day choices we must make to realize all that Christ has done for us. Note how Paul describes this garment (v.24).

The question that I want to answer is, “what were they taught with regard to their former way of life?” Note Paul states very clearly in v.22 that “class” was in session and they were intentionally taught about this priority of putting off and putting on.
Here are three issues I believed they taught, and talked about, in that port city of Ephesus.

1. Choose new thinking (v.17)
Notice that this issue of thinking is the first thing Paul raises. Thinking characterizes the old garment but not just any kind of thinking, futile thinking, empty thinking, good-for-nothing kind of thinking! I call this “stinkin’ thinkin’” and apparently this kind of thinking was running interference with their new life. Thus Paul needs to insist that they no longer think this way.
We can connect some of the dots in this text and identify some of the stinkin’ thinkin’ that was justifying some of their actions. For example…
- V.25 - Perhaps the lie behind this was that honesty in relationships is not important, and my integrity is not as valuable as getting what I want.
- V.29 - Perhaps the lie behind this was that I can say what I want about people. My tongue is free to flap in the breeze.
- V.31 - Perhaps the lie behind this was that I can harbor my anger and get away with it and not hurt anyone.

Here are some further examples of stinkin’ thinkin’ that can run interference. These are some that people gave me.
- “My worth is rooted in my performance.”
- “What people think of me is more important than telling the truth.”
- “I can never deal with my stuff because people will think I am crazy.”
- “I can walk in my new self and flirt with the old self.”
- “I can stop whenever I want.”

What’s the result? You have Christians thinking in ways that are very contrary to the new “wardrobe” in which God has dressed us. These lies run interference with the new you!
What are examples in your own life of stinkin’ thinkin’?

2. Choose new boundaries (v.18-19)
Note the flow of this text. Thinking leads to behavior but is also rooted in an unhealthy heart. Check out some of the words Paul uses.

Hardness (v.18)- It means literally “the covering with a callous.” Hardening" (gr. porosis) describes a state of petrifaction. It is used medically to denote the callus formed when a bone has been fractured and reset. Such a callus is even harder than the bone itself. Hardness results in losing all sensitivity.

Sensuality (v.19) - relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses or the indulgence of appetite: Note that Paul illustrates this sensuality.
“every kind”, i.e. a life without limits
“continual lust for more.”, i.e. a life without satisfaction

Does this not describe so much of our culture?

A life without limits, and a life without satisfaction.

No doubt Ephesus was a tough place to follow Christ. It required rigorous faith!
Notice in this text how stinkin’ thinkin’ lead to rotten walkin’! I think that in the teaching (v.22) referred to by Paul, that they were challenged to draw new boundaries. New boundaries that were a reflection of new thinking that would result in new behavior, behavior that is consistent with the (v.21) “…truth that is in Jesus.”

I am pretty sure that when these Christ-followers read v.19 they must have thought of the temple of Artemis/Diana. As I talked about on Sunday this was one of the wonders of the world, built in Ephesus, adored by thousands and which promoted sexual engagement with the priestesses as one of the forms of worship. The temple may have been what Christ followers had to draw a boundary around. It may have not been a spiritually “safe” place to be.
What do you need to draw a boundary around?
Discuss the following diagram and talk about healthy boundaries that you have had to set so to encourage true righteousness and holiness v24.

- What would you add?
- Why can drawing boundaries be difficult?
- Who has helped you draw boundaries?
- What has God taught you about yourself in drawing boundaries?

3. Choose new community.

Put yourself in the shoes of the Gentiles receiving this letter. If they were not to live like the gentiles do and if they were not obligated to become Jewish, then what or who were they? They were a new self (v.24)…created to be like Christ Jesus.
Christians constitute a third race that is neither Jewish nor Gentile. And that third race makes up the church.
I have to think that when they were taught with regard to their former way of life to put off and put on, that it included choosing a new community. Get around others that are on a similar journey. If you read chapter 4 you will note that Paul is talking to the community. It is the community that is, together, putting off the old and putting on the new. It is in community that the church is growing into the fullness of Christ and into Christ who is the Head (last week’s message) Community was key to choosing new thinking and setting new boundaries. To read this with an individualistic western mindset is to miss the corporate aspect of all that Paul is saying. In fact one of the ways to improve on the picture above is with the following.

- Who knows what thinking you sometimes do battle with, what thought patterns you need to boundary? Is there a safe community where you can talk this out?
- Who knows you well enough to be able to hold you accountable on the boundaries you need to be setting? Who knows you well enough to offer grace and healing when a lapse occurs?
- Who might benefit from seeing this tool?
- How could you encourage them in their walk with Christ with this tool?


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