Lent #1 – 2011

This sermon was recorded at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on March 13th, 2011.             To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Eph 4.

EPHESIANS 4    —   THE GOSPEL OF RESTORATION

In this first Sunday in Lent we are asking God to heal our broken relationships – both where we have sinned against others – and where we have been sinned against.  Often when we talk about these things, we tend to think of them as counseling issues – psychological issues.   But Paul talks about our relationships with others in the church as a calling – an expectation that is on those who claim to follow and know Jesus.

LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING.

The Expectation of the Cross:  What is our calling?   What does it mean to say that we have a calling to live a certain way?  If we want to understand this we need to look at the cross.

We believe that Jesus, the Son of God, became a human being.  He lived like a human being.  He served people, taught them the truth about God, and then allowed himself to be arrested, tortured and crucified.  He did this so that he could bear my sin and your sin and be punished for it so that we could be forgiven by God – shown love and favor by God.  Then He was raised to life by the Father and now he is beside the Father pleading our case when we fail and sin.  We believe that Jesus gives us the powerful Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and gives us the power to turn from sin.

What does it mean to believe this?   It means that I am a fan of what Jesus did.   I think that his becoming a servant and dying because he loved me is noble, is great, is praiseworthy.  It means that I have this attitude towards Jesus: I want to give my sins to you so that you can pay the price for  them and give me the love and favor of God.  It means that I believe that only God can give me the power to live a new life as I trust in Jesus.

But, there is also an expectation.   If I believe in what Jesus did – if I receive what Jesus did on the cross… then how unworthy would it be of me to then turn on other people and show contempt, hatred, bitterness?   If I lived like this towards other people – that would be like a denial of what Jesus did – like saying, I want God himself to die for me while I live like the devil towards others.

Live  Life That is In Keeping with The Cross!  If we have received the kindness and patience and gentleness of God at the cross where our sins were forgiven and our names were written in the book of life  – then we should live like those who have been shown great forgiveness and favor.  Paul has some practical points here…

~ Be Completely Humble and Gentle:  We don’t need more information on this.  You and I have had multiple opportunities this week to not demand our way – to not treat others in a harsh or thoughtless way.  What we need is to recognize that God is completely humble and gentle towards us.  Ps.103 – He is not treating us as our sins deserve or rewarding us according to our iniquity (waywardness).  He is patient and bears with our sin.  He is waiting for us patiently to turn from our selfish ways – in the meantime he is gently correcting us and showing us kindness.

~ Bind Yourself to Other Believers in Peace:  Have you ever purposely put yourself in a situation you knew you would not be able to get out of?  Ever been tied up?   That is the image of binding yourself to another.  The whole idea of being tied up is that your options are taken away.   So Paul says, Make every effort to keep the unity that God’s Spirit desires and creates by binding yourself to one another in peace.  In other words, stop having the choice to go your own way and do your own thing and be against or at odds with others.  Give up the right to be offended and angry and distant.

STOP LIVING LIKE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE GIFT OF THE CROSS!

vs.17ff – Turn From the Futility and Darkness of an Evil Mind:   Look at the Words of the Apostle…  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  Look at what Paul is insisting on in the Lord…  that we not live like people who are blind to the cross – that we not be hard hearted about the cross – that we not live like those who have no sensitivity to these things.   In other words, how can we live like people who have never known the mercy of God through the cross of Jesus?  Vs.20-24 – That… is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ … You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

HOW TO PUT ON THE NEW SELF AND LIVE OUT THE GOSPEL OF RESTORATION.

Speak Truthfully – Stop Lying:  Look at verse 25.  What do you think these people were lying about?   Why does Paul add that they are all members of one body?   Because they aren’t speaking the truth about who they are – the things they struggle with – the fact that they are all still sinners.  Instead they are trying to hide their sins and impress one another with how spiritual they all are.   They are making the church into a place for nice people – not a place of healing for sinners.  That is futile – dark – hard hearted behavior.   That is a denial of the cross.   We should be able to talk about our struggle with sin and how we are praying for and finding repentance and new life.  Nice people and sanitized churches create spiritual death.  Where we are living out the Gospel of restoration, we can all admit that we are struggling sinners learning a new way of life.

Stop Creating Rifts in Your Anger:  Be angry, but don’t do it in a sinful way.  What does it mean to “give the devil a foothold”?  It means that when I get angry and pull away – when I get angry but don’t tell you and instead stew and get resentful and sullen – I create a rift in our relationship – something that pushes us apart so that we can’t talk about it and can’t work it out or find forgiveness.   And where that rift is created, Satan can get in and start working.   He builds up the accusations in my mind against you.  He creates a distorted picture of you and of the situation and I get angrier and more distant.

In your anger, go to the one you are angry with  – close the gap by talking to them  truthfully and finding forgiveness and restoration.

Stop Speaking Poisonously About People:   The unwholesome talk here is talk that tears down and accuses others.  Because Jesus came and spoke to us about God’s grace and God’s holiness – because he is speaking to the Father right now on your behalf – your speech about others should be gracious – should build up.  In fact, note:  when we accuse and tear down those for whom Jesus is speaking, and for whom he died – we set ourselves at cross-purposes with and grieve  the Spirit of God.

Be Kind and Compassionate:   Malice is “ill will, vindictiveness and vengefulness, malignant, evil intentions”.  If you have received grace at the cross, then malice, bitterness, angry rage and fighting are unworthy – the very opposite of the kindness and compassion shown to us by God through Jesus on the Cross.

Live a life worthy of the cross.  Be kind and compassionate.  Recognize that others are sinners, just like you and that they need to be shown the same forgiveness that you need to be shown.   Forgive in the same way that the Lord forgave you and do not treat others as their sins deserve.

This morning, as we begin this season of Lent, we are moving towards Good Friday (Jesus on the Cross) and Easter (Jesus Risen).  As we move towards the cross, our sin is exposed and we recognize and confess those areas of our lives where we have sin so that we can find healing at the cross.  So, as we move towards Good Friday, let’s turn to Jesus and ask for grace and conviction to be dissatisfied with our sin – so that we can find forgiveness and grace to live a new life.

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