Inside and Out

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
17 March 2019
Lent

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Series — Re:Lent – A Time to Give Up

[sketch notes & talking points]

+ INTRODUCTION

Sermon Text — Ephesians 4:25-5:1

Last week we started a new mini-series called called Re:Lent. A Time to Give Up.

The goal of the series is to help us give up our sins for the Lord and give up ourselves to the Lord.

A few weeks ago we explored the gracious work of the triune God in Ephesians 1. We learned the truth about the doctrine of election. That God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Why? For what purpose? “That we should be holy and blameless before him.”

For the next few weeks we will learn how to live as God’s chosen people and become holy and blameless before the face of God.

Put another, we will learn how to live in the family of God as children of God. This means learning to love God with our heart, mind, soul, and body.

Last week, we learned that our minds must be renewed by the Spirit of Christ.

This week we will learn that our bodies must be renewed as well. Ephesians 4:25-5:1

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

As you recall, St. Paul is calling on us to put off the old man and to put on the new man. To put off the old man requires us to get out of Adam. To put on the new man requires us to get into Christ.

Now, as we follow the flow of the text, we hear Paul calling on us to think, feel, and act in ways that are “consistent with our new identity in Christ” (Thielman).

As we put off the old man and put on the new man, we must consider the ways we use our mouth and hands. Not only that, the way we use our hearts.

This text reminded me of a children’s song I heard back in the day.

O be careful little tongue what you say
O be careful little tongue what you say
For the Father up above
is looking down in love
So, be careful little tongue what you say
O be careful little hands what you do
O be careful little hands what you do
For the Father up above
is looking down in love
So, be careful little hands what you do

O be careful little heart whom you trust
O be careful little heart whom you trust
For the Father up above
is looking down in love
So, be careful little heart whom you trust

 

To our doctrinally sophisticated ears, this song might seem simplistic. Some might even say moralistic. But it is deeply theological. It is our sermon text in a nutshell!

The love of the Father motivates our sanctification — it moves us to give up our sin for the Lord, and to give up our self to the Lord.

As St Paul says, we must be reformed and transformed from the inside out. Not only in our minds, but in our bodies — in our mouth, hands, and heart.

This is where putting off the old man and putting on the new man move from the general principle to the specific practices.

MOUTH

The old man uses his mouth —

to lie, deceive, trick.

to corrupt, curse, condemn

to spread false teachings

Ever since the Garden of Eden, when the serpent deceived Eve, and she seduced Adam, we have been lying to ourselves and to one another in thought, word, and deed (See Genesis 3). We’ve been telling half-truths, omitting facts, fudging details, embelishing stories ever since.

A verbal lie is any false message we proclaim with our mouths; a visual lie is any false image we project with our lives. See Rom.1:18, 25; Col.3:9

The motives behind lying, deceiving, and tricking vary. Mostly, we do it out of self-interest, to help ourselves in some way, to make ourselves look better.

Not only that, we mix corrupting talk with our lying speech.

Corrupting Talk — Greek “sapros” means rotten, putrefied.

Any language, speech, or words that corrupts the attitude and content of our conversation. It may include our concept of foul language, but it is not limited to a list of four-letter words.

The serpent introduced corrupting talk into the world in the Garden of Eden. The language he spoke with Eve was subtle and crafty. On the one hand it was as safe for the whole family; on the other hand it was as seductive and sinister as liberal theology of any mainline denomination.

Sitcoms and Censors in the 1990’s = fewer four-letter words, more suggestive, more double-entendre.

More to the point, based on the context of Ephesians, I think what Paul has in mind here is false teaching.

[Note — Biblical descriptions of corruptive speech — falsehood (Eph.4:25); different doctrine, myths, endless genealogies, speculations (1 Tim.1:3-4);  demonic doctrines (1 Tim.4:1), silly myths (1 Tim.4:7), irreverent babble (1 Tim.6:20; 2 Tim.2:16); foolish and ignorant controversies (2 Tim.2:22); filthy speech, foolish talk, and crude joking (Eph.5:4).]

The new man uses his mouth —

to speak the truth

to build others up

to give grace, not grief / to spread the good news

Truth – We speak the truth of Christ to one another because we are inter-connected — we are members of one body. We speak the truth to remind each other of the law and the gospel. We speak the truth in love in order to edify and encourage one another.

The truth refers to verbal and visual realism. Zech.8:16-17; Eph.4:15; 2 Cor.13:8; Gal.4:16

Edifying TalkGreek “agathos” – constructive conversation. Any language, speech, words that consecrate the attitudes and content of our conversation.

As Fits the Occasion – All truth is God’s truth, but under the circumstances some truths are more relevant than others. A spiritual man knows that a word aptly spoken encourages and edifies others. There is a time for everything under heaven. A time for wisdom, instruction, advice, and a time for rebuke, warning, correction.

Give grace — The new man communicates grace with others. Christian speech must be seasoned and flavored with the grace of the gospel (see Col.4:6).

More to the point, based on the context of Ephesians, I think what Paul has in mind here is true teaching.

[Note — Biblical descriptions of constructive speech — gospel (2 Cor. 4:13-15); confession (Rom. 10:10; 1 Tim. 3:16); sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:11-13); sacred writings (2 Tim. 3:16); spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:12); grace (Col. 4:6); even satire (Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:8).]

HANDS

The old man uses his hands —

to strike others (anger and clamor)

to steal

to sloth about

Theft – There are more ways to steal than taking things that do not belong to you.

People steal by not working as they ought to work; by not giving/tithing as they ought to give/tithe; by not paying bills as they ought to pay; by not sharing their personal resources as they ought to share; by robbing others of joy; by withholding love and forgiveness.

Specifically, what Paul has in mind here is working hard, earning your keep.

The new man uses his hands to

labor

work

share

Labor – To work and labor is divine. God our Creator worked for six days and rested on the seventh. God our Savior worked for our salvation.

Work is hard but it is not bad. Although it is made more difficult because of the sin-curse, As it is written, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” — hard work is actually a blessing and reward.

Men and women who work hard in offices, fields, labs, et all are worthy of honor; women who work hard at home are worthy of honor; and ministers who labor in word and doctrine are worthy of double honor. See 2 Tim.2:6; Acts 20:34-35; Col.3:23-25; 2 Ths.3:10-12

HEART

The old man uses his stony heart —

to generate bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander along with all malice.

bitterness – the resentful spirit that refuses reconciliation (Foulkes); irritable state of mind that keeps a man in a perpetual state of animosity (Reineker & Rogers); the word also means harsh (Morris).

wrath/rage – superficial and temporal passion; it explodes in volcanic bursts; it flashes and fades in a moment. (tantrums)

anger – deep-flowing wrath; the heart is like an unstable nuclear reactor; the molten core melts down and the result is lethal.

clamor/brawling – shouting; ranting and raving; “the loud self-assertion of the angry man who makes everyone hear his grievance” (Foulkes).

slander – speaking evil of someone; insulting others

malice – evil, the fuel source of the other vices

The new man uses his new heart and spirit —

to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving

kindness – useful, worthy, benevolent.

tender-hearted – in contrast to hard-hearted (Eph.4:18).

forgiving – freely exercise grace.

Sum: be imitators of God, as beloved children.

Notice that anger is the one vice mentioned in this text that comes out of our mouth, our hands, our heart. It is deftly woven

We all know that anger can wreak havoc and cause serious damage.

In his book Steering Through Chaos Os Guinness explains that “the deadly sin of anger is the most widely acknowledged of the vices.” (115) and “Anger typically simmers, boils, sparks, smokes, smolders, explodes, blazes, scorches, and devours. It is ‘the Devil’s furnace’ — the sin that stokes the others sins and inflames their potency — the deadly sins in a scorched earth mode.” (118)

From the beginning of human history, anger has proven itself to be a deadly sin that leads to destruction and death even among God’s people.

+ Cain was angry when God rejected his sacrifice, so he took his brother out into a field and cut his throat. Anger led him to murder his own brother. (Gen 4)

+ King Saul was so angry when he heard the crowds singing David’s praises that he looked for a way to kill David. (1 Samuel 18)

+ Jonah was angry when God spared the city of Nineveh. And he was angry when a worm chewed the plant that gave him shade. In fact, he said he was angry enough to die! (Jonah 4)

You get the point, right?

More times than not, anger leads people to do “terrible horrible no good very bad things” to each other — with their mouth, their hands, and their heart!

You see this in your own life and experience and I see it in mine.

You have hurt others in anger, and you have been hurt by others in anger. And so have I.

Since we are called to imitate God we must be “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” just as God is. (See Ex.34:6-7).

Now, we were elected by the Father in Christ before the foundation of the world “that we should be holy and blameless before him” with the help of the Holy Spirit.

So what happens if we do not follow God’s rules for his family? What happens if we fail to do everything the Father called us to do?

What happens if we imitate God imperfectly?

What happens if we use our mouths the wrong way, our hands the wrong way, our bodies the wrong way? What happens if we use our hearts the wrong way?

What happens when you mess up — when you give in to sin rather than give up for the Savior?

What do you do when you think, speak, and act like the old man, like someone who is sealed for a day of condemnation, instead of someone who is sealed for the day of redemption? 

What do you do when you make the Holy Spirit feel sad because of your sin?

Your response depends upon your faith and understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ?

Elisabeth Elliott put it like this:

Religion says: “I messed up. My Dad is gonna kill me.”

The Gospel says: “I messed up. I need to call my Dad.”

Why would you call your Dad when you mess up? Why would you call your Father when you sin?

Because the gospel of God’s grace says, “God in Christ forgave you.”

When the old man (in Adam) sins, he feels naked and afraid. He is filled with guilt and shame, fear and anger. He tries to cover himself and cover his tracks. He hides from God and from others.

When the new man (in Christ) sins, he feels guilty and fearful. He is sorry for his sins. He turns around and seeks help. He confesses his sins to God and to others. He tells on himself and brings his sins into the light.

In Christ, the new man is forgiven.

The Father does not kick you out of his house or put you out on the streets just because you messed up. No!

He calls you home and pulls you in close; he binds your wounds, dries your tears, and brings you to his table.

He forgives you because of what Christ has done for you. He gives you grace upon grace to help grow up in Christ, to help you become like Jesus, holy and blameless in his sight. He sends the Spirit to show you the right way to use your mind, your body, your heart.

The Spirit moves you to relent, to give up your sins for the Lord and give up yourselves to the Lord.

Here’s something important that I forgot to tell you last week:

All you baptized Christians are children of God, by adoption not by accident.

The Father loves you. Jesus is on your side. The Spirit is for you.
God is relentless in his pursuit of you.*