How can your neighbors or co-workers tell that you're a Christian? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks at how God wants us to make a difference in our world by how we live our lives. We're featuring one of Alistair's most popular messages from the last twelve months, a message titled, Walk in Love. I invite you to turn with me to Ephesians and to chapter 5, and we'll look just at the first two verses. Let me read them, and then I'll pray. 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. Father, we humbly pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to speak and to listen, to understand, to trust and believe, to obey your Word, and to be brought into a life-changing encounter with you, the living God, as a result of our turning to the Word itself. Help us to this end, we pray. For Jesus' sake.
Amen. Well, as we come back to our study in Ephesians, let me commend to you the possibility of reading through, for example, in Acts chapter 19 and into chapter 20 as well, to give you a little bit of a reminder of something of the context of Ephesus itself. It's very important for us as we study the Bible and as we read, for example, a letter like this to remind ourselves that it was written to real people in a real place at a real point in history. And the environment of Ephesus into which Paul went as a proclaimer of the gospel was a really daunting environment.
I think we're sometimes tempted to believe that if we could just go back to the first century, it would really be quite tranquil and inviting. In actual fact, Ephesus itself was a city that was fascinated with magic, it was drawn into all kinds of occultish practices, and it was a city where sexual immorality actually abounded and was virtually unrestrained. And so it's important that we have that as a context to remind ourselves that Paul is calling on these people to live radically different lives in a framework that challenges them just about at every point. When you read Acts chapter 19, for example, you realize that Demetrius, who was head of the sort of guild of the silversmiths—that guild making little effigies of the temple of Diana or the temple of Artemis—and he was clever enough to realize that if this message of the gospel were to take hold in Ephesus, then it would shut down their business. Because their business was directly related to reinforcing the notion that the great mother of the earth—namely, Diana or Artemis, as she's variously known—that this great mother of the earth was supreme and needed to be paid attention to. And along with that, other deities and divinities, and into town comes this individual who says, No, none of these things have any value or are valid at all.
There is only one God, and he has made himself known supremely in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as a result of that, a complete riot unfolds, and Demetrius is at the heart of it, and a sort of sensible town clerk finally gets it all stabilized for a little while. It's a great record, and I encourage you to read it. It's quite funny in parts, as it describes the fact that one group was shouting one thing, another group was shouting another thing, and most of the people didn't even know what they were shouting about at all.
So when you see this on TV and you say, Wow, you realize that there's really nothing quite new under the sun. Now, what Paul is actually doing here is he is saying to these individuals—and he's been doing this largely since the beginning of chapter 4—he's saying to them, to those to whom he writes, You are in Christ, and you are in Ephesus. Now, I want you to live differently, because you are different.
I want you to live differently, because you're different. So he has begun chapter 4, urging them to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they've been called. In other words, the conduct of their life is really going to make an impact in the community. In verse 17 of chapter 4, if you recall it, he says, I testify in the Lord that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds.
In other words, you are going to make an impact by the very way in which you live your life. Into chapter 5, and he's on the same story. He's going to say to us now, Walk in love. Down in verse 8, walk in light. Down in verse 15, walk in wisdom. So love, light, wisdom, truth, and so on, so that the community might realize that Jesus is alive and well. Now, let's be really, really clear that this is not just kind of passing advice that can be buried in antiquity, something of relevance to these folks who were around a long time ago and a long, long way away from here. If that were the case, why are we even studying it?
No. What we understand is this—that because this Bible is God-breathed, what we have here is not simply the pattern for the believers in Ephesus but for all believers in all circumstances and for all time. And we this morning gather in a context that confronts us with a culture that is increasingly fragmented, increasingly alienated from one another, increasingly broken up and brokenhearted. And in that context, the message of Ephesus—and not least of all, these next two chapters—speaks with a compelling urgency. We will, if God spares us in the next few weeks and months, be looking at what the Bible says concerning what it means to be a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, a parent and a child, what it means to live within the civil jurisdiction of law, what it means to live our lives in the awareness of the fact that the real battleground is not physical but it is with spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, and so on.
And so I say to you, read ahead, read, think, pray, and let's anticipate all that God has for us. In one of Robert Harris's novels Conclave, one of the characters, Cardinal Scarvizzi, makes an observation in the context of meeting with a group of priests. And he says to these priests, We do not need a church that will move with the world but a church that will move the world. We don't need a church that will move with the world but a church that will move the world. Now, that, of course, is the message of Jesus, isn't it? Jesus said, Father, I do not pray that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one, so that even as I was in the world, so they now are in the world. And as John picks up on that in his letters, and he essentially says that the way in which an invisible God is made known in the world is through the visibility of Christians who live in love with one another and who express that love to those who are actually the enemies of God. Now, here we are, and Paul is right there, right at the heart of all of this. And he begins with a striking and unique exhortation.
Look at it. Therefore, be imitators of God. He means exactly what it says. The word in Greek is the word which gives us our English word mimic. Mimic God, he says.
That's what I want you to do. You say, Well, where did Paul come up with this? Well, he understood what Jesus said at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. You remember what Jesus said?
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. The striking exhortation. It provides, if you like, the conclusion to chapter 4, and it provides the foundation to chapter 5.
As you know, I find J. B. Phillips' paraphrase helpful, and I usually read it alongside my other English texts. And he begins chapter 5 by writing, As children copy their fathers, you as God's children are to copy him. As children copy their fathers, you as God's children are to copy him. I've quoted the Paul Overstreet song before, I'm seeing my father in me, that's how it's meant to be, and I find I'm looking more like him each day. I notice I walk the way he walks, I notice I talk the way he talks, and I'm starting to see my father in me. If you doubt it, the grandmother, she will say, you're sitting, you cross your legs in a chair just the way your father does.
In fact, I walked into the room, and I thought it was the father. How wonderful would it be if people were to say that in relationship to God as our heavenly Father? That is what Paul is saying here. I am going to outline for you, he says, certain family characteristics.
And these family characteristics will provide evidence of your sonship or the fact that you are both as sons and daughters God's children. Now, let me reinforce this, because otherwise, if you're listening to me, this could very quickly go wrong in the way that I fail to communicate or you fail to hear. Paul is not writing to well-meaning people who are seeking to live upright and moral lives and who are glad of a little encouragement. He's not writing to a group of people who are operating on the Santa Claus is-coming-to-town routine, who are trying to be good for goodness' sake. That message abounds in pulpits across North America this morning. There will be people sitting in church, and they come into church, they're aware of the fact that they're rascals, they're vagabonds, or they're self-satisfied rascals, and as the vicar continues, eventually they say, Oh, I get it.
It's the same as last week. He just says to us the same thing every time, Try and do your best, get out of here, and be good for goodness' sake. And of course, they know in their hearts that they're not good, and they haven't been doing very good at all.
Paul is not doing that. That's why chapter 5 comes after 4, which comes after 3, which comes after 2, which comes after 1. And he has started in chapter 1 by addressing those who, according to the immensity of the grace of God, have been adopted into God's family. They were once not in that family.
By grace they have been placed in that family. By the time he gets down to about verse 13, he says to them, And you have heard the word of truth, which is the gospel of your salvation. You've heard it.
You've believed it. You've been sealed with the Holy Spirit. And so he says, It is to you that I write these exhortations.
In other words, the commands are commands. They are also made possible because of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, conforming the believer to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I suppose in earthly terms, it is possible to adopt a child and for that adoption to go through in all of its technicality and in all of its legality and yet not yield within that relationship the kind of love that one might have anticipated or hoped for.
Unlikely, but possible. Vital to see here that this relationship with God is neither simply legal or technical, but it is distinctly wonderful and, if you like, emotional. You are God's beloved children. His beloved children.
This is terrific, isn't it? God loves his children. As I have driven around this week, particularly, I think, at the beginning of the week, I saw the school buses re-emerge from their garages. Out they came, lumbering out these big yellow things. And they've always filled me with a peculiar sense of something. I always view them as taking my children away from me. I never saw them… I loved when they came back at about four o'clock, because they deposited again.
You could have them back. But as I drove around, I think it was partly just me, you know, sort of reading myself into circumstances, but I was at one particular stop sign, and as I looked across, I could see a mother and what looked to be the first time on the bus character just there. And so I was, aw, aw, aw!
Like it hard, I want to roll the window down and say, It's gonna be okay! But I think I was right I think I could see a lot of what was in there. Here's the thing. You understand if you're a parent.
But let me tell you this. Our love for our earthly children does not even compare to the love of our heavenly Father for us. His love for us is infinitely greater than the greatest, deepest, most profound love that I can feel for any one of my children—that when he looks upon us, he does not cause us needless tears. That even—and I read Lamentations this week, if you're tracking with Murray M'Cheyne, so did you—and I was struck again by the fact that when you find that great statement concerning God's mercy, which is new every morning, and his faithfulness and so on, where does it come? It comes in the middle of just a horrible passage about everything breaking, collapsing, falling down, being opposed, everything just dreadful!
Dreadful! And it says, But the mercies of God are new every morning. New every morning is the love, my wakening and uprising prove, through sleep and darkness safely brought, restored to life and power and thought. And do you ever sing that yourself? You say, I drove along 306 in the darkness this morning. You say, What a miracle, Father, you woke me up again.
Thank you. He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, and he hears me when I call.
He doesn't need a baby monitor from one side of the house to the other. We are his beloved children. Now, you see how vitally important it is that we allow that to settle in our minds, because he's now going to work out for us something of what it will mean to be an imitator of God. If somebody immediately, taking this first exhortation, said, Excuse me, Paul, how does that work? Be imitators of God as dearly beloved children. He said, Well, let me tell you what it means.
Here we go. Walk in love. He says, As you walk around Ephesus, as you walk into the fellowship of God's people, as you walk into the swimming pool, walk in love. This is how you imitate God. Peterson, in his paraphrase, which we know as The Message, puts it like this. Watch what God does, and then you do it. Like children who learn their behavior from their parents, mostly what God does is love.
So keep company with him and learn a life of love. It's wonderful, isn't it? It's very clear, straightforward. If we wonder then about the nature of walking in love, we could reverse into chapter 4.
That would save us from going wrong. If I walked in love, what would it involve? Well, just look at verse 32. It's on the top of my page.
It may be on the top of yours. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, because that's how God in Christ has treated you. So in other words, Paul is not giving a little phrase here for people to pour into it whatever they want, so that you could have a little conversation over coffee.
So what does it mean to you to walk in love? Well, I was thinking this, I was thinking that. No, I was thinking the next thing. No, there's nothing vague and sentimental about this. It's not about try and get a feeling in your tummy.
No, it's gonna get far more demanding than that. It means to walk in a manner that is worthy of the calling to which you have been called. That's the start of chapter 4. So there is a way that you can walk, there is a way that you can talk, there is a way that you can live that will then set forward the honor and glory of God. And this is demanding, and it is a command, and it is not an option. That's important for us to understand as well.
It's a command, and it's not an option. You see, we understand this with our children. You send your children to a birthday party when they're small, and you say to them, Now, look, when you get there, make sure that you look the person in the eye, make sure that you say thank you to them, and make sure that when the party's over, you thank them again, and then you come home. Now, can you do that? The child says, Yes.
And then you've got no control over it at all. Because your family honor is now at stake on the shoulders of that little rascal that you've just sent off to the party. And something of the nature of my family is represented in my child. So God the Father, through the Spirit, via the apostle Paul, says to the church, Walk in love, you're my beloved children. And realize this, it is an amazing privilege to be my child, and it brings with it a phenomenal responsibility.
Because the world now is going to make deductions about the nature of God himself on the expressions of the children of God. And so, again, this notion of walking in love is of vital importance. And so, notice that he does not leave it hanging. Beloved children, walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.
This is of crucial importance as well. In other words, the love that Paul says is to be displayed is a love which he defines. And Paul does this all the time.
Check it. Paul defines the love of God almost always in terms of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that the whole focus of the love of God is there. Augustine said, The cross is the pulpit from which God preaches his love to the world. Therefore, when Paul says, I want you Ephesians and all who come after him, including ourselves, to walk in love, he defines it in terms of Christ's love for us. In addressing the Divinity School at Yale in the 50s, James S. Stuart, the Presbyterian preacher from Edinburgh, talked about a harmlessly vague and a hopelessly accommodating Christianity. And he said, It will accomplish nothing anywhere, anytime, except to undermine the very gospel itself. There is nothing hopelessly vague or accommodating in this. Paul is saying, I want you to walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.
Plural. What he's doing there in Ephesus is essentially what he has done in writing to the Galatians. Because remember, in the Galatians, he speaks in very personal terms. And he says, The Son of God loved me and gave himself up for me. And that was a great wonder to Paul. And if you're in Christ, it will be a wonder to you as well.
Each one of us is called to live radically different lives so that when others look at us, they see Jesus. We're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. We'll hear the conclusion of this message tomorrow. If you've been enjoying listening to these Encore 2022 messages from Alistair, I want to recommend the USB that contains his most popular teaching from the past. This is a collection called 10 Years of Favorites. It's our most comprehensive compilation of Alistair's teaching. It includes 123 messages on a wide range of topics. 10 Years of Favorites is perfect for popping in the USB player in your car so you can listen to God's word being taught while you're on your daily commute or on a road trip.
You can purchase 10 Years of Favorites for just $5. You'll find it in our online store at truthforlife.org slash store. And don't forget about the current book we're recommending. It's titled Read This First, a simple guide to getting the most from the Bible. This is a book that Alistair highly recommends as an excellent tool to help you get a deeper understanding of the truth of Scripture.
There are questions at the end of each chapter that make Read This First perfect for personal or small group study so you can start applying the lessons to your Bible study right away. Request your copy of Read This First today when you give a donation to Truth for Life. You can tap the image you see in the mobile app or visit us online at truthforlife.org slash donate. And if you'd like to purchase extra copies of Read This First for your Bible study group or your church library or to share with others, you'll find them in our online store. They're available for purchase at our cost while supplies last. Visit truthforlife.org slash store.
I'm Bob Lapine. We hope you can join us tomorrow as we finish the rest of today's message, Walk in Love. We'll learn how we can imitate Jesus in our day-to-day lives. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-14 01:05:54 / 2023-03-14 01:14:39 / 9