Ephesians 4:25-32 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
We begin the New Year by going back to Ephesians picking up where we left off before Christmas. The verses just before those we are focusing on today tell us that our lives were radically changed when we came to know Christ. We have put off the “old man” and instead have put on the “new man”. For this New Year we should let that truth come alive by the way we speak and act.
When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden they had a unique, personal, relationship to the living God. They were naked, without shame and unafraid. They walked and talked with God in the cool of the day. However, sin came into the world through their rebellion against the one rule that God had given them.
When we were born, we were born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, as a result of their rebellion, the image of God was corrupted in them. Their moral purity was lost. Their sinful character no longer reflected God’s holiness. The human race is still in God’s image but that image is distorted. From the time of the Fall until the birth of Christ there was no one who perfectly reflected the image God. When we become Christians certain changes began to happen in our lives. One big change is…
We have put away lying. Let’s look at Colossians 3:8-10. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
To say that we have put away lying is not to say that we cannot lie. In fact it is very easy to fall back into our old habits. One of those old habits is distorting the truth. We have put off the “old man” with all of his sinful attitudes.
Lying is wrapped up in a whole basket full of negative characteristics. We’ll talk about them more later on.
Since we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…
We are more than friends. It is important to recognize that we are not just a club. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:26-27. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
This characteristic is largely missing in the Christian church today. In many congregations there is no personal contact with the other members of the body. We should support and encourage one another because we have been brought into a unified body without regard to race or economic condition. When one of us suffers to some degree we all suffer. It’s easier to identify with, “if one member is honored”, then we can rejoice together. The church of Jesus Christ is his body on earth. Each of us, if we have repented and placed our faith in Jesus, are members of the body.
I know that it is difficult to let down the emotional walls that surround us but we need very much to put aside our differences and share in the common grace that God is given all of us.
One thing that must happen is…
Anger must not rule our lives. Let’s look at James 1:19-20. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
We were given two ears and one mouth. The implication is that we should listen at least twice as much as we speak! We should be quick to listen. When we respond we should engage the brain before we speak. We must make every effort to control anger. Anger is not a characteristic of God’s but it is very much a characteristic of the human race. In the gospel records there is only one reference to Jesus being angry. Jesus was in a synagogue where he saw a man with a withered hand and it was a Sabbath. He knew that this was an opportunity for the synagogue rulers to condemn him for breaking the Sabbath rules. When he saw how hard their hearts were he looked at them with anger and grief (Mark 1:1-6). That is the kind of anger that Paul speaks of when he says that we are to “Be angry and do not sin”. We certainly must not let anger carry over through the night into the next day. I’ll come back to this in a few minutes.
Honest labor should characterize us. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
Paul is commending the church at Thessalonica because they take seriously that God has taught them to love one another. Part of that love for each other is living a life at peace within the body. A peace that reflects itself in minding one’s own business and working with one’s hands to provide for the needs of others. The outside world should always see the church as a group of people who help one another at the same time avoiding dependency.
Not only should we quietly labor in love but…
Our words should always build up not tear down. Let’s look at Colossians 4:5-6. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We are to speak in such a way that we encourage and strengthen the faith of others. We should build one another up and avoid words that hurt others. When we speak we should always be gracious. Earlier in the Colossian letter Paul had said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)
Jesus used the reference to salt in our makeup. He said, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness, how are you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50) I take this to mean that we are to not be bland or tasteless but rather we are to be spicy, salty in our speech. We live in a world that seems to want everyone to be meek and mild-mannered. We are surrounded with an ungodly culture and need to speak up. We are to speak the truth — well seasoned — in love, filled with grace. We are to be wise in our words. We need to give the outsiders the truth in such a way that they will seek to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we live our lives on this earth…
We should not grieve the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at an Old Testament example. The nation of Israel had been brought out of Egypt under the hand of God in a movement called the Exodus. Because of their rebellious nature they spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Isaiah saw it rightly as recorded in Isaiah 63:10. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.
When they rebelled they grieved the Holy Spirit. “Grieved” is a love word. When people are rebellious or offensive they can cause us to be angry but not grieved, unless we love them! When we observe someone we love living in rebellion against God we are grieved and God is also. That generation who died in the wilderness did so because of their rebellion and God’s turning against them in becoming their enemy. When we grieve God we are in danger of having him turn against us. We need to be careful in our attitude and actions. When we rebel against God he will not — cannot — bless us. He has to allow us to suffer the consequences of our bad behavior.
One of the greatest problems in our human society today is the problem of anger. We tend to think of anger as a psychological problem. We need to recognize it as a sin problem that will lead to serious negative consequences.
We must control our “anger issues”! Let’s look at Proverbs 14:29-30. Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
The person of great understanding is characterized as slow to anger. That simply means that he or she is showing a godly characteristic. Throughout the Old Testament God is spoken of as being slow to anger.
Anger is one quality of life that opens the door to the enemy. Our anger becomes a way for Satan to get in and wreck havoc. Wrongful anger can give opportunity for the demons to exercise negative influence in our lives. Ungodly anger stirs up all kinds of emotions that are contrary to God’s plan for us.
If we’re going to follow in the footsteps of Jesus…
Kindness should characterize our life. Look at his words in Luke 6:35-36. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Our Father is, without a doubt, kind in his treatment of all men. He is merciful and we are also to be merciful. God’s kindness toward the ungrateful and evil serves a purpose. In the letter to the Romans we are told that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance not to cause us to rest in a false sense of security (Romans 2:4). Since we have been redeemed by repenting of our sin, and turning in faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, God intends that we should continue to grow in grace and our relationship to him. When we are born again we receive a new nature that causes us to be more like God — to be renewed. Our character becomes more and more like God’s character. As we shed our “old man”, becoming more and more like Christ, changes in our character become obvious. One characteristic is…
Being forgiven allows us to forgive. Unforgiveness is an area that Satan rules. Let’s look at Colossians 3:13-15. Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Our Lord Jesus says, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Unforgiveness is not pleasing to God nor is it helpful to us! Many times we hold back forgiveness while waiting on the other person to change. I praise God that he does not forgive in that manner. If God chose to wait until we acted forgivable we would have no hope in this world or the world to come. We would be cut off from God. No, I’m not saying that we lose our salvation. I’m saying that God will distance himself from us until we forgive others.
Many times we suffer needlessly because we have pushed God out of control of our lives. God will withhold his blessings on us until we are willing to allow our characters to be shaped like his.
We need to have God’s character in our life. In order to see some aspects of his character I quote from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology p 166, “God rejoices (Isaiah 62:5). He is grieved (Psalms 78:40; Ephesians 4:30). His wrath burns hot against his enemies (Exodus 32:10). He pities his children (Psalms 103:13). He loves with everlasting love (Isaiah 54:8; Psalms 103:17). He is a God whose passions we are to imitate for all eternity as we like our Creator hate sin and delight in righteousness.”
When we come to God in repentance and faith we need to put aside everything that allows Satan into our lives. We need to be saved from ourselves! Our goal should be to be like Jesus! Is he your Lord and Savior? Today can be the day!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society