The next stop in our journey through the book of Ephesians talks about the importance of moving forward in our knowledge of God…
“Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:14).
This is important because a Christian who doesn’t know what the Bible says and means makes an easy target for the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming as one Biblical version translates this verse(1). You see, the words cunning, craftiness, and deceitful scheming paint a word-picture that originally carried the idea of a gambler who took advantage of others through cheating and deception. In a similar way, it’s also possible for “religious” people to make something sound like a Biblical teaching when it really isn’t.
This means that people who don’t grow in their understanding of God’s Word are open to deception from false teachers with ideas that may seem OK on the surface but are really opposed to what the Bible actually says. Or they may become a target for religious groups that claim to be “Christian” but really aren’t. Or they might be weighed down by the difficulties and problems of life and simply drift away from God because they have no real knowledge of the encouragement that God provides in His Word.
However, the person who knows what the Scriptures say and mean will be a strong, mature person and not weak or easily deceived like a child. Some other characteristics of a strong, mature Christian are found in the next few verses…
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ… Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:15, 25 NIV).
These characteristics are so important that The Doctor gave them studies of their own and you can find out more by following the links above.
“If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need” (Ephesians 4:28 CEV).
It’s not uncommon to hear people justify themselves by saying, “I’m a good person because I don’t steal things” or something like that. However, the kind of attitude that God requires goes beyond simply not doing something (like stealing) that we shouldn’t do in the first place. A real Christian goes further than simply not stealing- he or she works so they will have enough to give to others in need. Unlike the person who works only to make money and buy a lot of stuff, a genuine, God-honoring person works so they will be in a position to help others who are less fortunate as the need arises.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
“Unwholesome talk” means language that is rotten, corrupted, bad, or worthless. Jesus also spoke about this subject when He said, “I can guarantee that on judgment day people will have to give an account of every careless word they say” (Matthew 12:36 GW). A Godly person knows that it’s important to watch the things they say, especially since every Christian represents Jesus to others that they meet. A good way to avoid problems in this area is to ask God in prayer each day to help you speak in a way that honors Him and benefits others.
“And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30 NLT).
To bring sorrow refers to the grief or suffering that one person causes to another. So what brings sorrow to the Holy Spirit? Well, that list includes some of the things that we’ve already looked at; things like lying, uncontrolled anger, stealing, and bad language. All these things bring sorrow to God’s Spirit and interrupt the kind of relationship that God wants to enjoy with people. Here are a few other items that grieve the Holy Spirit…
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31 NIV).
Bitterness is an attitude that can develop whenever someone keeps on thinking about some sort of wrong that has occurred to him or her. When this happens, Hebrews 12:15 warns us that a “root of bitterness” can develop like a stubborn weed. You see, the more that someone dwells on something wrong that has occurred to them, the angrier they can eventually become.
Once this happens, it’s not unusual for that anger to express itself in unhealthy ways that dishonor God- that’s when you start to see things like rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice begin. OTOH, people who are connected to God through Jesus are able to control those emotions though the ability that He provides and respond like this…
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
When you think about the wrong things that we have done to God and compare them to the wrong things that other people have done against us, it should become a whole lot easier to really forgive others. Since God has forgiven us, we must follow His good example and forgive those people who have done wrong to us. Remember that it costs very little to forgive someone who has done something wrong to you but it cost Jesus His life.
Ephesians chapter five talks a little more about how a Godly person interacts with the world and we’ll look at some of those things when we get together next time.