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January 17, 2022 3:00 am
In first century Ephesus, the believers. There were surrounded by a culture that was immoral and impure. So the apostle Paul gave them specific instructions for how they were to live today on Truth for Life. We continue a message titled walking in love and this message will discover an unexpected antidote to an ungodly lifestyle.
Here's Alister Ephesians 5 verse one. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God but sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out of place, but instead let there be Thanksgiving for you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous that is an idolater, has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Men father with our Bibles open.
We humbly pray for the help of the Holy Spirit as so that we might not only understand what it says but that we might have a life-changing encounter with you the living God is no way this can happen just as a result of the voice of a mere man. So we look away. Beyond it to you need as we pray for Christ's sake. Then, while the verses to which we give our attention this morning are versus three and four we saw last time when we look at this.
We gathered our thoughts under this simple phrase walk in love, which you will see is right there in verse two, I determined that that was such a good title that I would use it again and call this walk in love to hear and see.
I really spent a long time on thinking what to call things during the we but it is very important that we understand that there is no incongruity between the exhortation and wanted to and then a striking statement in verses three and four. We ended last time by noticing that the love, about which Paul is speaking is a love that he defines in terms of the sacrifice of Jesus and we ended by acknowledging that that sacrifice is voluntary, it is propitiated Terry and it is substitutionary. Christ dies on behalf of sinners and so Paul has opened this fifth chapter by making it clear that the believers in Ephesus are to have life's which are then marked by self-sacrifice and in verses three and four and following. To understand that that means that they have to say no to self-indulgence and it is this issue that confronts us here in verses three and four if if we are tempted to think that the part one of the exhortation is somehow comfortable walk in love.
Sounds nice. It is nice it is actually far more uncomfortable than we realize in that Paul is defining it in clear terms, and expected to debate displayed in that way.
So were not able to invent for ourselves what it means for us to walk in love, and when we come to the second section. If we thought the first was comfortable and we realize that the second I mentioned is actually radical. It is radical it's it's impossible to read verses three and four without saying to ourselves this is as severe and are staring and striking statement and it is for this we must give our attention. That's one of the values of going through the Bible systematically and consecutively it stop you from jumping over parts you might like to skip.
And here you may find yourself in one were going to look at it from three aspects along three lines. First of all, by paying attention to Paul's audience who is Paul addressing here. Secondly, by considering how high God's standards actually are. And thirdly by understanding hopefully that it is only through the gospel that any allies can ever live in this way. So first of all, then let's notice that Paul is not admonishing the culture he is addressing the church okay.
He is not admonishing the culture he is addressing the church and it is of vital importance that we grasp this because I find myself a tendency in coming to verses like this to immediately apply them to somebody else and particularly if we are within the framework of a Bible believing, trusting church to come to verses like this and say what this of course is the kind of thing that our culture desperately needs a lesson on and then we find ourselves assertive, isolating ourselves from the impact of the text, and we dare do that and this is not for a culture that has no interest in God, but rather it is for the church that has committed itself to God. And Paul is making it clear that immorality and idolatry, of which covetousness is a part.
This is immorality and idolatry is not to be part and parcel of the Christian community and of course this was this was very, very difficult for the people in Ephesus because as we've seen, the skyline really of Ephesus was dominated by the Temple of Artemis or the Temple of Diana, and she was the goddess of fertility and so there the culture was filled with all kinds of elements of sexual impropriety that were just endemic to the nature of what it meant to live in Ephesus, the average person in the street would've thought nothing of it. Indeed, many of them as you read acts 19 would've been very happy to buy these little shrines of our team. As of the Ephesians and take them to their home as good luck charms or as reminders to them of how important this actually was, of course, we don't have to stretch too far to realize that while we may not have a great dominating Temple over the cities of the United States of America. Now in the 21st-century. It is clear that we face a similar challenge and so letters the absolutely clear Paul is not condemning the culture he is exhorting the church right that we we make we may wanted to be the other way around. But it isn't the other way around, and he has been making it clear that the recipients of this instruction are those who have been called to be saying it's okay and we've seen from the very beginning of the letter that seems contrary to many popular notions are not a rarefied group of individuals who are canonized long after they've died on as a result of their excessive piety or whatever it might be but rather the way the New Testament uses. It is of those who have been included in Christ to have been set apart from their life as it was in Adam by nature and set apart to a whole new life as it now is in Christ and that's why long before Paul gets to any of these exhortations long before he comes to these imperative statements. This is what is to be he has given to us.
All of these indicative statements so that we might then understand our identity in Christ and on the strength of that realize that there are elements that go along with that because of who we are.
So he is addressing those who are saints and who are described here in verse one as beloved children right that the beloved children adopted into God's family and he really loves his children, we said last time that the greatest most impressive love of an elderly parent for their child does not even come close to the love of God the father. For those who are his own. In Jesus that he loves us how he loved it is with great love, as we sang about it in Fernando's song and the love of God for us. It is something that we need. Never doubt adopted into his family and his beloved children.
As a result of that, there are privileges that we enjoy and their responsibilities that we face. Just as we said last time there is an obligation then to display the family likeness and that is why Paul is using language here that has to do with what is proper what is improper what is appropriate what is inappropriate what is in place and what is out of place. It's almost amazingly antiquated is. I mean, I think.
I think those of urine in the scientific world and deal in the realm of experimentation and deal with the importance of making sure that there are clean spaces and other secure spaces and everything you're very clear how we can put that in there and that shouldn't be in there that would not be the place to put this we couldn't have that there in fact, we understand the nature and the importance of being negative. One of the great concerns of the liver.
We don't like the Bible is so negative. While I find a lot of negativity out there myself as it is very negative response of the culture to tobacco but because that now is perfectly acceptable and James Dean is no longer alive. We can all embrace and feel very good about ourselves, or we can be.
We can we can adopt that but as soon as we come up against something that actually challenges our life and our lifestyle and of course we want to adjust there is that which is proper and there is that which is improper and the same is true in the world of art, and unless, of course, you, you are a postmodern artist, in which case up is down and down is up and is out and out is in and you can put the trees going up or you can put them coming down or sideways up with them anyway you want. If you're an old fogey like me you look at that and go. I don't understand this at all. I thought I thought this guy was out there I thought of that.
The ground was down here I thought the river when there are no no no you don't have to do that no we see that's why years ago was it Rademacher wrote the book modern art in the death of a culture that there is a definite correlation between our understanding of structure in the universe. The nature of the creative handiwork of God and the way in which we give expression to the so in the same way that God is himself holy.
Therefore, the family are to be marked by holiness to so what Paul is saying is that the immorality in the vulgarity and the idolatry is not to be present amongst the community of God's children, and in this we were supposed to be markedly different from our pagan neighbors.
When I was think about what is proper and what is improper. I went to my my noble care which I carry with me all the time and I had with me in England and I put this in after I'd been speaking for a couple of days at the Keswick convention is because of this notion of what is proper and I had I had gone there and on the first day I went in and I was in my jacket and collar and tie and I realized I was the only 1/4000 addressed in that way. And then on the second dated Tuesday, I said well I brought the stuff I might as well wear it so I wore it again and then when I went back to my room I citizens are. This is no good if you can beat them.
You might well join saw the next day I decided to go very much like this and I was like one verse away from stepping up to give my expositions on the sound when suddenly tap me on the shoulder and I didn't see her was passed on this note to me at which reads what is happened to your jacket and tie. We so appreciated the man of God declaring the word of God dressed properly.
Why I get that.
That's why I was dressed properly. I don't dismiss that. But this is far more significant than whether you're wearing attire look at what Paul says, sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, Morrison even be named among filthiness. Crude jokes there are to place out of place. So what you saying is this know you Ephesian believers living in this framework, you gotta make sure that you don't allow the prevailing standards of a godless culture to influence your thinking in such a way that what is morally abnormal. You start to think of as normal that what is morally abnormal. You start to think of as normal and that of course is not a challenge that is lost to us in first century Ephesus. It is a constant challenge for us in our contemporary seeking to follow Jesus. The influence of the thought forms and sexual mores of our day is so prevailing and so impressive and so constant in its bombardment that unless we bring our lives under the jurisdiction of the Bible unless we are prepared to say believe in the Bible for me means I actually believe the Bible and to believe, it means I actually do what it says and I and I try not to do what he says I'm not supposed to do otherwise is just assertive ancient book to be considered undefined blessed thoughts in and keep the parts that you like and get rid of all the bit you don't want, but I can be.
And so it brings us. Secondly, to face the fact that God's standards are absolute and their high God's standards are absolute and their high running is particularly helpful for me to unpack each of these phrases here. I did that in my study, but I I I think we can safely say we get right and in the average. The average 10-year-old can read this and say I understand exactly what he say and so do we.
He is not calling the church to accommodate itself to the thinking of the surrounding culture, but he is actually calling the believers in Ephesus to avoid not just the practice but even thinking about and talking about these things. That's why a city that the standard is incredibly high notice. He's not seen don't do this he seen don't even include this in your interpersonal relationships with one another. Do not allow this kind of sexual nonsense to become the framework in which the people of God engage with one another on these matters. He's going to go on later on and say it is a shame to even talk of the things that are done by them in secret. As a high standard. You're not going to find this really anywhere else, perhaps in sections of Islam. There will be striking statements along similar lines without any gospel, but no it's impossible for us to miss it. Notice what he says, sexual immorality, impurity and coverages must not even be named in the NIV that the translation is, there must not even be a hint of gone banished no later in the chapter is going to describe the pattern of God's covenant of marriage.
Down verse 22 and on. But what he what he's doing here is he is setting aside need.
He is disengaging. If you like. Every kind of sexual sin that works against the covenant of marriage.
And here you see is God's striking standard. The nature of God's purpose in the realm of human sexuality is within the framework of a covenant relationship that is heterosexual that is monogamous and that is lifelong everything and anything outside of that is actually abhorrent to a holy God. The fact that our culture has rejected that only heightens the responsibility of the people of God to save nowhere actually different in the line of demarcation that is being drawn at this point in our culture in the Western world right now is not the expression of our commitment to the exclusive claims of Jesus the authority and inerrancy of the Bible is being tested in the rat in this well in this matter of sexuality and God does not deviate from his standards. I don't want to go through the list as I say the first word there is poor me I and you know that word because it gives us our word pornography. The second word immorality after fascia is a comprehensive term in relationship to all that sets itself against the purity and purposes of God, and finally enough covetousness. Is there a form of idolatry.
Why covetousness is going to do with money. While I suppose it always has to do with money were tempted there but given the context, surely he's thinking in terms of the 10th commandment covered know your neighbors wife, nor his manservant nor his maidservant don't do it.
He says why we have to give this instruction because were tempted to do this is not a relevant information for people that are beyond this, this is not an opportunity for the church in Ephesus to say well this is something we are take out into the community and publish for everybody to pay attention to is no policy policy and listen you declare yourself to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you how works. Let me tell you where it will be seen in a dramatic way.
In Ephesus it will be seen in this realm, the family of God is to be marked by sanctity and consequently we cannot allow ourselves the privilege that were tempted to dirty jokes and smutty information that is part and parcel of those who do not know better will actually do know by don't care what we put in its place, sexual immorality, impurity, this must not be named among you, as is proper among the saints that there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking which are out of place, but instead let there be Thanksgiving as how is Thanksgiving an antidote to all of this when you think it would have said so there should be immorality there should be morality there should be theirs. There should be purity. Of course, but he doesn't used to sit by Thanksgiving.
It's not something that comes intuitively to us.
The idea that the antidote to immorality is Thanksgiving, but that's what the Bible teaches listing to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life will find out more about how this works. As we continue this message tomorrow as Alister mentioned it's a constant challenge in this culture to follow Jesus as he said, unless we bring our lives under the jurisdiction of the Bible. That's why teaching the Bible is our passion for Truth for Life. We know that when God's word is taught.
Unbelievers will be converted. Believers will be established in pastors and church members will be strengthened is also why we are very intentional about selecting books to help you grow spiritually and today were featuring a book that's already considered a classic by so many entitled spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. Most of us realize the fact that spiritual growth is and something that happens overnight, and certainly doesn't happen on its own. The book spiritual disciplines for the Christian life unpacks 10 important disciplines that will help build your spiritual muscles. These include obvious areas like frequent Bible reading, hearing God's word preached prayer and worship, but there are also lesser-known disciplines. Things like solitude and journaling and learning here at the start of a new year. It's an excellent time to get in shape spiritually so request your copy of spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. When you support the Bible teaching you hear on Truth for Life checked the book image in the app or visit us on our website Truth for Life.org/donate.
If you'd rather mail your donation along with your request for the book, spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. Write to us the Truth for Life PO Box 39, 8000, Cleveland, OH 44139. By the way, one way to start working out now is to make it your goal to read through the Bible this year, we've got a plan to help you stay on track with that. It's Robert Murray McShane's reading plan that will guide you through four passages of Scripture each day. By the end of 2022. Read the Old Testament. Once in the New Testament book of Psalms twice could download the reading plan for firstname.lastname@example.org/Bible reading plan or purchase the booklet for a dollar that Truth for Life.org/store and Bob Lapine Christ followers are called to live in holiness and purity, which is a pretty tall order. So how do we measure up. Find out more as we listen tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life for the Learning is for Living