The Church has Issues: Ephesians

Pastor Travis Norton
23 September 2020
Wednesday morning worship
Ephesians 4:17-30 
 
They were stealing for crying out loud
when we say the church has issues 
we’re talking about some very basic things 
Like Christians should obey the commandment 
that says thou shalt not steal 
Paul has to write to the Ephesians 
that Thieves who are now Christians 
must give up stealing 
But he goes beyond just what they  
need to stop doing 
He says that they should instead 
work honestly with their hands 
so as to have something to share with the needy 
There’s a whole other sermon there 
about the point of work being not just to provide for yourself 
but to share with others 
But for this morning 
we are just going to focus 
on the fact that the early church was so messed up 
Paul had to tell them to stop stealing 
I like this series on the church has issues 
because it makes me feel better about the issues 
the  modern day church has 
Well, maybe not better, 
but I take some satisfaction in knowing 
that those early Christians struggled just as much as we do 
At least our congregations 
aren’t full of thieves 
(that I know of) 😊 
Paul insists on something 
that maybe the early Christians weren’t aware of 
He insists that they need to change the way they live 
that they can’t keep living like the Gentiles 
The word gentile just meant  
non-Jew originally 
or the nations 
We would probably say Non-Christians today 
or even more simply 
call on Christians to act differently 
than everyone else 
Christians are supposed to live a unique kind of life 
following the values espoused by Jesus 
We should be known for being a bit strange 
for standing out from the crown a bit 
because we have standards that others don’t follow 
Paul names some of them 
here in Ephesians 
Christians shouldn’t lie 
we shouldn’t misconstrue the truth 
we should put away all falsehood 
When we get angry 
we shouldn’t use our anger as an excuse 
to misbehave 
And we should aim to resolve the conflict 
before the day is over 
No evil talk should come out of our mouths 
but only what is useful for building up 
Do you hear that 
Paul goes so far as to say that Christians should talk different 
We should be known for using our words 
for the purpose of building people up 
encouraging them and giving them grace 
Christians should not harbor bitterness or wrath 
we shouldn’t be known for arguing or slander 
There should be no malice in our hearts 
no wishing ill of anyone 
Instead we are to be kind 
tenderhearted and forgiving 
These are just some of the things 
that Paul urges the Ephesians to correct 
Now we may not have a problem with thievery 
but how many of us have bent the truth? 
How many of us have used our words 
to tear down instead of build up? 
How many of us have been unkind 
or hard hearted 
We have issues too 
don’t we 
Sometimes Lutherans have been particularly  
guilty of this particular issue 
We emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace 
that we can’t do anything to save ourselves 
And that is good and right 
we are unable to lift a finger to save ourselves 
God has done all the work  
in Christ Jesus on the cross and in the resurrection 
Even the Holy Spirit 
is the one who gives faith 
for us to believe and receive Christ 
However, that doesn’t mean 
that we shouldn’t put forth any effort 
into living a life worthy of the salvation we have received 
At issue here is the difference 
between justification and sanctification 
Justification is the act of salvation 
where our sins are forgiven 
and our assurance of salvation is secured 
We are saved by Grace through Faith 
as it says in Ephesians chapter 2 
Not by works so that no one can boast 
 
But then there is sanctification 
which is the process by which the Holy Spirit 
makes us a Holy, Set apart people 
In justification there is no growth 
you are transferred from being outside the kingdom of heaven 
to being inside the kingdom of heaven 
You are either saved or not saved 
there’s no in-between or back and forth 
That is not the case in sanctification 
 
There are indeed some Christians 
who are better Christians than others 
Not in terms of salvation 
but in terms of how their lives reflect 
the commands and expectations of Jesus 
now that’s a bold statement 
and you can argue with me after the service if you’d like 
I might like that actually 
But stick with me for a minute 
 
We are saved by pure gift of God 
but once we are saved we are expected 
to grow up and mature in Christ 
God expects us to get better 
 
to get better at holding our tongue 
and letting our words reflect the one we follow 
to get better at being honest 
telling the truth, even when it’s hard 
to get better at being generous 
sharing with those in need 
from the wealth we’ve built with our honest work 
to get better at forgiving 
those who have sinned against us 
God is at work in us 
 
That famous verse from Ephesians 
chapter 2 vs 8-9 about being saved by grace through faith not by works 
Is followed up by chapter 2 verse 10 
“for we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works 
which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” 
I was thinking about this life we are upposed to live 
as something we improve upon every year 
to offer a better gift to God and our neighbor 
some of you may know  
that I’m an amateur woodworker 
I’m learning how to create furniture 
from wood, mostly cheap lumber from Lowes 
I made this Adirondack Chair 
from $100 worth of Cedar 
But I’m not sure I improved upon the value 
of the wood 
I’m proud of this chair 
glad to sit in it on Saturday mornings and read the paper 
with my coffee sitting in the wide arms 
But it is far from perfect 
there are so many mistakes 
In the arms you’ll see six holes 
even though there are only three screws 
because I had to adjust the arms as initially they were too close together so that only my kids had small enough butts to fit 
 
On the back you’ll see a big piece of pine 
and multiple screw holes where I had to experiment many times 
to get the seat secure enough it wouldn’t break when you leaned back 
One arm is rougher than the other 
because I traced and cut the pattern on the wrong side 
The back is square 
and the whole thing unstained 
because I got so fed up with all the mistakes 
I just quit and said good enough 
But is it good enough? 
it makes me happy 
but I wish it were better 
Our lives are like this chair 
 they are meant for us to enjoy 
but they are also meant to be a gift to God and our neighbor 
And for that reason 
we can never stop growing and improving and perfecting them 
Everyday we get a chance 
to try again, to do better, to honor God with our lives more perfectly 
that’s not meant to dismiss what we did before 
God will always use the imperfect things of our lives 
to bring goodness and value to the world 
We don’t try to be better to earn anything from God 
we try to do better to improve our thanksgiving for what God has done for us 
Verse 30 says 
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, 
with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption” 
What does it mean 
to grieve the Holy Spirit of God? 
I think it simply means to give up 
and prevent the Spirit from doing the work the Spirit 
wants to do in our lives 
The Holy spirit is the one 
who is sanctifying us 
the one who is working on us to make us more like Christ 
Let’s let the Spirit do his work on us 
on our hearts, on our mouths, on our minds 
until our lives reflect the truth about Jesus 
Our salvation is not dependent 
on how well we live a life that imitates Christ 
But wouldn’t it be nice 
if our lives were lived 
so that people saw Christ in us? 
I think we’re all pretty good 
and I know I see Christ in you 
but we’re unfinished 
so let’s let the Spirit finish His work in us. Amen? 
 
 

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