IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Live A Life Worthy Of Your Calling

Date: Sep. 23, 2007

Author: Bob Henkins

Ephesians 4:1-32

Key Verse: Ephesians 4:1

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Recent headlines reported, “Britney Spears has been ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week, as her custody dispute gets messy,” and “Dan Rather sues CBS, Viacom for $70M,” and last but not least, “Senator Craig resigns over airport bathroom sex sting.” Role models, hardly. Yet they are in positions of influence and many people look up to them and even want to be like them. In this chapter Paul urges the Ephesian Christians to live a life worthy of the calling they received. We may think, “it doesn’t matter how I live, no one cares what I do.” But consider this, St. Paul was old and tired not to mention in prison. What could he do against the mighty Roman Empire? But through Paul’s life example, even in prison, the Roman Empire was changed within 150 years with the gospel. One man's life of faith in Jesus is so important. From this passage, let’s learn from Paul how to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

I. A Call to Unity (1-6)

In this chapter Paul gives a call to unity. But in our world, especially here in America where everyone seems to be individualistic, how can we maintain unity? In verse 1-6, we see three points Paul makes to help us keep our unity in Christ.

Firstly, live a life worthy of the calling. Let’s read verse 1. “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Here Paul urges the Ephesians and all Christians to live a life worthy of the calling they have received. God used Paul to establish the Ephesian church during his third missionary journey. The church began to grow and take root. As they grew and more and more people came to Christ, many problems arose. As with any group when you spend more time with each other and develop deeper relationships, more of our sinful nature is exposed. What was worse, some in the church did not repent of their old bad habits and others acted like spiritual babies pouting when they did not get their way. In addition, they did not forgive, but held grudges and gossiped about each other. Paul was deeply concerned about the health of the church and its influence upon non-believers. So Paul admonished them to life a life worthy of the calling they have received.

Many people receive different callings. For example some are called to serve people, like the Peace Corps. or politicians. Others may be called to “serve and protect” like the police. And some may be called to serve medically like physicians. Whatever it may be, to receive some kind of high calling is a great privilege. For example if someone is called to serve their country as an athlete representing their country in the Olympics is a great honor. But this honor comes with great sacrifice. Many athletes begin their training at childhood, in hopes to be chosen as an Olympian. These kinds of callings are great, and we need them. But there is a calling that is higher than all others and this calling is the best privilege.

So what is the calling Paul is speaking of? It is the calling to be a child of God and a member of the body of Christ. It is to be part of God's world salvation plan. When we become a Christian, our Lord gave us rights, privileges and honor. We were once spiritual orphans but we were “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:5) We were once spiritually poor, but He granted us “the riches of his glorious inheritance.” (Eph 1:18) He blessed us in the heavenly realms with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (1:3) And in ages to come He will pour out “riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:7) Based on all that Jesus has done for us, Paul urges us to live a life worthy of such a high calling. The Lord expects us to act like members of His Body--to make His goals and objectives our goals and objectives. He expects us to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.

The root of the Greek word “worthy”, is translated as of equalizing or balancing the scales. Thus, a Christian's lifestyle ought to be equalized with his identity. There ought to be perfect harmony between who you are and how you live. In other words, Christians must “talk the talk,” and also “walk the walk.” Christians must live like Christians. Our circumstances shouldn't affect how we live as Christians, no matter how bad they might be. The worthy walk may lead to prison and death, as it did for Paul, but it should never change our commitment to live a life worthy of our Lord. How can we live a life worthy of the calling we have received?

Secondly, be humble. Look at verse 2. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Paul said “Be completely humble.” He did not say, “Be somewhat humble.” He said, “Be completely humble.” I used to hold the wrong view of what it means to be humble. It doesn't mean to put ourselves down so as to develop an inferiority complex. Humility is the all-inclusive principle. Humility produces greater virtues. When we take a closer look at verses 2&3, we see that there is a progression: humility leads to gentleness, which in turn leads to patience and from patience to love, which finally leads to unity. Humility is foreign to us because our world exalts power, pride, and money. Throughout history, and even our society today has tended to view humility as a weakness. But according to the Bible, humility is the virtue of the righteous, while pride is the mentality of the ungodly. 1 Peter 5:5a says, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

Our Lord Jesus is the perfect model of humility. Look at verse 9&10 “What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.” If Jesus ascended, logically it means that he must have descended. This is also known as the incarnation of Christ and can be found in John 1:14a, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The incarnation is God becoming a man. He did this to be a friend and savior to all sinners. Some say it may be compared to us taking the form a cockroach in order to help cockroaches, but somehow I don’t think that quite captures it, although it gives us a starting point. Jesus displayed complete humbleness by obeying God’s will to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Phil 2:8 says “…he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!” As sinful human beings, we have a difficult time giving up anything. Not only do we want to try and hold on to everything, we want to ascend over others. But Jesus gave up his heavenly glory to be born in the most humble way, as a baby in a manger. Jesus became flesh, with all of its weaknesses, to become a friend to sinners. And in the end, Jesus gave his life for his creation.

Paul did not just say, “humble yourself.” He said, “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” How can we be completely humble? The best way is to think about Jesus who humbled himself before terrible sinners. During Jesus' earthly ministry, he practiced humility. One example is with the Samaritan woman. She was bitter and sorrowful because of many failed relationships. Maybe she was a bit like the troubled Britney Spears. Jesus was the Messiah, she was a dirty sinner. But Jesus humbled himself in order to be her friend. He said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” In this way, he opened the door to her heart and introduced her to the living water welling up to eternal life.

Dr. Billy Graham may be the most famous Christian of the 20th century. He has preached the gospel to more people than anyone else in history. He is indeed an influential man of God. But whoever has met him, whether president or pauper, is awed not by his towering presence, but by his genuine heart felt humility. When Hilary Clinton was interviewed by ABC News, she said freely, “Billy Graham is the only man who understands both my husband and I.” May God bless us to look at Jesus, until God enables us to be completely humble and gentle. May God enable us to practice humility and reach out to many students this new school year.

Thirdly, make every effort. Look at verse 3. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” A major tragedy of man is his inability to be truly united with others. For instance, it seems that Democrats and Republicans can never be one, because they can not agree upon anything. There also seems to be a lack of unity between older and younger folks. The older people think that younger people do not respect or obey their seniors, while younger people think that older people do not really listen or understand them. Even families who should love each other can’t stay united, as attested to by the high divorce rate. Man’s lack of unity also creates problems among believers in the church. This is the reason Paul says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.” No matter how hard we try, we may still fail. This is because of our mountain high pride that always insists that “I am right, and you are wrong!” It is nothing but a lack of humility, gentleness and patience.

If this is the case, how is unity possible? It is only through the bond of peace. Our Lord Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the bond, or glue, of peace that keeps us one in spirit. Unity cannot be achieved by human desire or effort, many have tried and failed. Peace and unity are only possible when we come to Jesus with a repentant heart and acknowledge Him as our Lord. So, Paul reminds us that only God can unite us, for there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

II. Everyone is a part of the Body (7-16)

First, discover others' gifts, not their weaknesses. To be truly united in Christ, we must make every effort to deeply respect one another from our heart. But fallen man’s bad habit is that he loves to point out the weaknesses of others and then highlight them with a bright yellow marker. It is because fallen man spontaneously sees others’ weaknesses without even trying. Then he spreads destructive rumors with great sadistic joy and exaggeration. This is a universal problem, which unfortunately also happens in church. This invariably causes divisions within the church. Therefore, in this part, Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to use the same intensity to see the God-given gifts and virtues of others, and not their faults and mistakes. Look at verses 7,8. “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” By Jesus’ death and resurrection he set free those who had been captives of the devil. He ascended to his throne on high. He gave spiritual gifts to the captives he set free. What are some of these gifts?

Look at verse 11. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” When Jesus ascended into heaven, he poured out his Spirit upon the church with blessings upon each person. Some have the gift of apostleship, with missionary zeal to reach the lost. Some have the gift to be prophets, who have keen spiritual insight. Some became pastors with the gift of shepherding others. No matter who he may be, each person has a gift. Some even have hidden gifts. Recently, I realized my wife has the gift of faithfulness and prayer. Since we have been married she has prayed for us each night and she has maintained daily bread each morning. Instead of focusing on the weaknesses of others, we must try to discover their God-given gifts and virtues, and pray for them and help them to develop their gift for the glory of God. Once, the disciple Simon Peter was known as a man of sand. He was proud, boastful and highly emotional. But Jesus saw his gift and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (which, when translated, is Peter).” (John 1:42b) Jesus called him Cephas, which means the “Rock.” Jesus saw his gift as a great teacher and leader for the early church. When I look out in the audience I see so many with various gifts. I see Mary with her quiet persistence and kindness and Tim with his commitment and enthusiasm, and Ping with his gentleness and humbleness to name but a few.

Second, build up the body of Christ. What is the purpose of these gifts? They are to build up the whole body of Christ. We are to use our collective gifts to serve the work of God. Look at verses 12&13. “…to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Paul says that we must grow until we become mature. Unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God are marks of maturity. Divisions among God’s people are a mark of childishness. The goal of our growth is unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus the Son of God, until we attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Look at verse 14. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” Infants are immature and gullible. They are full of curiosity, especially about toys and cartoons. An infant in Christ is moved by every convincing speaker; he sometimes becomes confused by the deceitful scheming of crafty men who try to destroy the work of God. Christians should not remain in spiritual diapers. Peter said that new Christians crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it they may grow up (1 Pe 2:2). The milk is God’s word. We must study the Bible diligently and obey its teachings. This is how we can mature in Christ. When we grow up we can speak the truth in love; we can support and build up the body of Christ.

III. Developing a Christian Lifestyle (17-24)

In these final verses, Paul mainly encourages the Ephesians to develop a Christian lifestyle. To do this, we need to put off the old self and put on the new self in Christ. In verses 17-19, Paul insists that Christians must no longer live like unbelievers or Gentiles, especially in the way we think. Our thought world or what we think about is very important. These days we are bombarded by all kinds of dark images in all kinds of media channels, especially the internet. Satan tickles us to just enjoy sinful thoughts and desires just once. But sin has a terrible wage. When we allow our thought world to be captured by sensuality and impurity, our hearts becomes hard. Then we are darkened in our understanding. Soon we harden our hearts towards God and become ignorant and numb to sin. Sinful desire grows until it becomes an unquenchable and destructive urge. These days we grieve over the lack of moral standard and spiritual order in our nation. How can we restore the moral standard and spiritual order of this nation?

Let’s read 22-24. “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; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” These days, people spend a lot of money on makeovers with expensive Botox injections and plastic surgery. Though they may look a little better on the outside, their inner person may still be quite ugly. But the Bible has the least expensive beauty secret. What is it? We must put on the new self in Christ Jesus (Ro 13:14). When we know Christ, God’s truth is planted in our hearts. Christ rules our thought world, and gives us a new attitude towards others, ourselves, and the world. We can put on the new self through daily repentance, prayer and deep Bible study. We can put on the new self when we live a life of mission by helping others to know Christ. When we do, we become new and more beautiful and younger every day.

There is so much in this chapter. In verses 25-32, Paul teaches us additional advice how we can be a good influence to others. We must not lie, but speak the truth in love. We should not get angry or else the devil can get a foothold in our hearts. We must resolve grudges before sun down. Lastly, we should not steal. We should work hard with our hands, not to take, but to give to others in need.

Paul said in verses 29-30, we should discipline our mouths and say things that are only helpful in building others up. We are all guilty of unwholesome talk. We may curse loved ones, our irritating bosses and even our dog. But what we say is very important. As James said the tongue can be used to praise or curse (James 3:9,10). Our words should be limited to words that build up others. When bitterness, anger, slander or a grudge against someone is in our heart, the words that come from our mouths grieve the Holy Spirit and hurt others. We can build up others by our speech when we remember Christ who forgave us. Let’s read verse 32. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

If the Bible is the complete guide to life, then this chapter is a cheat sheet for living a life worthy of Christ. In this passage, Paul urges us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received by giving us a lot of practical advice. But basically, we can summarize it in that we have grow more and more to be like Jesus, especially in his humility. Then we will be gentle, patient and united in the love of God. Today, Paul urges us to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. No one is worthy of this high calling, even so God still gave it to us. So we ought to do our best to live up to this standard. May God bless each of us to put off the old self and put on the new self in Christ.

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