I have heard a lot of reasons over the years to do good things and live a good life: it will benefit you in the long run, God commanded us to, good things come to those who do good, God blesses the righteous, you can’t go to heaven unless you follow God’s commands for your life… The list goes on and on and on. Most of them have good intentions and some of them have good theology. However, most of them lead to more guilt than freedom, some of them are nothing more than legalism or prosperity gospel, and just about all of them give you a quick burst to do good but then leave you exhausted, frustrated, and disenchanted with false expectations and dwindling motivation.
Ephesians 5:1-2 gives us a different reason. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us”. As we understand the true nature of the Gospel: God loved us so much He sent His son to die for us so that we could be with Him for eternity (See John 3:16) this should be the only motivation we could EVER need! Motivation that sets us on a marathon race right alongside Jesus with the Holy Spirit guiding us the whole way and God visibly at the end running toward us. Why do good and live a good life? Because you’re loved. More than you’ll ever understand. Live out of that love. Love others out of that love.
I consistently point back to my Freshman year of College as a turning point in my life. I had grown up going to church and developing faith in God but in College I began to fall in love with God and make sense of a faith that was my own. As my faith grew I naturally was drawn into a deeper relationship with God but I also very naturally began to become a new person. I drove the speed limit even when it was painful, I loved and encouraged everyone I met, I patiently waited my turn, spoke words that blessed those around me, engaged with those that were on the outside, let kindness and generosity lead me to places I wouldn’t have gone before, and my example led several of my friends at college to ask questions about Jesus and join me to church in an attempt to understand why I was different. Ephesians 4 has already convicted us that we are the body of Christ now in the next section, 4:17-30, that being part of the body of Christ requires a different way of living. It requires a lifestyle that is productive and generous, full of truth and peace, kindness and compassion, love, and forgiveness. Because as the Body of Christ we were made to be righteous and holy. Our example and they way we treat each other will be the way we represent Christ to the world.
It amazes me to think about how talented God has made His people. Christ came and saved us, brought us into relationship with God. “Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”. Check out Ephesians 4:9-16 to see how God has unified us for a reason. He gave us these incredible gifts and talents so that we could come together. So we could unify and become the body of Christ. As we work together we build each other up. As we work together we share the Gospel of Christ. As we work together we serve God, speak the truth in love, and grow to become the mature body of Christ who is head! That’s amazing isn’t it?! This is our desire as a church to come together under the name of Christ to glorify God and then go out and spread of word of His glory to the entire world! The message we’ve heard so far throughout Ephesians is the message God is spreading throughout Lufkin and Texas and the United States, and the world. And He’s using us to do it!
Ephesians 3 ends with great encouragement concerning the love of God through Christ and even a powerful prayer Paul prays over the church. Paul takes this encouragement to lead directly into the next part of his letter that moves us to living “a life worthy of the calling you have received”. Paul expects us to take action! What action? To be completely humble, gentle, patient, to bear with each other in love. To do everything possible to keep unity and peace.
These aren’t strong actions. Most of these almost seem more like inaction. They bring to mind sitting back and being steamrolled, ignored, even taken advantage of. But Paul is clear that focusing on peace and unity is living into the calling God gave us! Look at any story in the Gospels about Jesus and you’ll get a perfect idea of what it looks like to live into this calling. And Jesus is NEVER steamrolled. He lifts others up through mercy and grace, He stands up for injustice through silence and peace, and He gently guides sinners to conviction and repentance. The times we see Jesus react with anger and judgement are the times when someone is using the name of God to divide, create anxiety, justify a high position, or even take advantage of someone. Choose to live into your calling today through peaceful humility that leads to unity!
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
This powerful prayer is poured out over the Ephesians in 3:14-19 after Paul reveals to them the incredible freedom and confidence we have in our relationship with God. Make this prayer personal to you! Speak this prayer over your family. Share it with a neighbor or on Facebook. Be reminded that “Christ… dwell[s] in your heart through faith”!
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21