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Living Right in Desperate Times

March 2013
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Bridge-pass with care“Awake, O Sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). The Apostle Paul was writing to the Ephesian believers in the church at Ephesus about living as children of light in very desperate times, and the message is every bit as relevant to us today as it was to them back then. We live in desperate times, just like they did, and the people needed to pay attention. They needed to awake up from their spiritual lethargy. So do we . . . .

“What spiritual lethargy?” you ask? Let’s read and find out from Eph. 4:17-5:16:

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

“That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

“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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Having been a part of the organized church in America for much of my life, we can get so wrapped up in the Christian subculture that we can’t even see the deception that has entered our lives because the culture around us has invaded so much of what we say and do in many churches. Read back over those verses above s-l-o-w-l-y before you decide you’ve got all the bases covered and can move on. Here’s a few items to look at:

1. Giving ourselves over the sensuality and indulging in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more (4:19): Are we involved in sex outside of marriage (or even thinking about it?), porn, greed, power, status, never being satisfied with what we have and coveting what others have? Do we seek after everything our culture offers us and has it taken God’s place in our hearts and lives?

2. Putting off falsehood and speaking the truth to our neighbors (4:25). Are we really honest with each other and our neighbors or just trying to make sure we put on a good outward image. Do we speak deceitfully to them or do we speak the truth in love?

3. “In your anger, do not sin” (4:26). Do we even know what this really means? “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (4:26-27). Anger, if left unattended, can turn into bitterness and seeking revenge (a lot of passive/aggressive behaviors stem from unresolved anger).

4. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only that which is helpful for building others up according to needs that it may benefit those who listen” (4:29). Do we gossip about others? Do we tear down others with our words and actions, especially behind their backs? This verse is not just referring to swearing, it’s about slander in it’s worst forms. The Apostle Paul had some very serious words to say about this in Romans 1:28-32.

Nothing changes if nothing changes5. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God . . .” (4:30). Do our actions and attitudes reflex pride, meanness, wrath, and malice towards others thus quenching the Holy Spirit in our own lives?

6. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (4:31-32). This instruction couldn’t be more clear.

7. Regarding the culture we live in and are constantly being influenced by in our work lives, home lives (TV, internet, etc.), and out in our schools and communities, our own lives should not have “even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving” (5:3-4). It is very clear that “no immoral, impure, or greedy person . . . has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (5:5).

8. Do not be deceived by empty words (5:6). Empty words are everywhere and in all levels of our society, both inside and outside the church. Pay careful attention to what you listen to and put it to the test by what the Bible has to say. Don’t just go along with the crowd. Seek God for His wisdom (James 1:5) and His answers.

9. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (5:11). We can be easily deceived by empty words and lifestyles if we just follow the crowds or the latest celebrity type to arrive on the scene. Seek God, and do your own homework. Get to know Him and what He has to say (from the Bible). We live in perilous times. Don’t be deceived.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us to “wake up” (5:14) and rise from our dead state, so that Christ will shine on us. And he tells us to “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (5:15-16). The days have always been evil back then and even more so now.

As I read those verses I clearly recognized myself in some of them and I’m sure you do, too, if you are honest with yourself. And now is not the time for excuses. It’s time to get very, very serious if we call ourselves Christians. In many Christian circles we tend to sugarcoat everything to the point where we gloss over everything with “nicey-nice” talk (when we aren’t gossiping about others) and sin just doesn’t seem to matter anymore as long as we keep up the outward appearance of being Christian.

Folks, Christianity is not whitewash; it’s very serious business and a matter of the heart–and Who we belong to (Jesus Christ)–not a matter of “looking good” on the outside to win some kind of “brownie points” with God and others or going along with the crowd and doing whatever we want to do while asking God to bless it.

The church at Ephesus is one of the seven churches Jesus Christ addresses in Revelation 2-3, specifically in Rev. 2:1-7. Let’s read what He had to say to that church:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

The church in Ephesus had worked hard, persevered, hated evil, and had not grown weary, but in the midst of it all they had forsaken the love they had at first for Jesus Christ. And Jesus told them that because of this they had fallen far from Him. He told them to repent and to do the things they did at first (by loving Him first and foremost and not replacing that love with “Christian activities”). And if they did not repent He would come and remove their lampstand from it’s place among the other churches (the seven churches mentioned in Rev. 2-3 are also called the seven lampstands–see Rev. 1:20). This is very, very serious business.

If we call ourselves Christian and yet allow anything to replace Jesus Christ as having first place in our lives and our hearts, we have fallen far from Him. And we need to repent and put Him back in first place. If you’re not sure about this, ask yourself this one question: Is there anything in your life right now–job, title, status, money, possessions, relationships, sex, any addictions; your position in the church, at work, or in society; how others view or regard you, or how you view yourself–literally anything–including your own life that you would cling to instead of trusting Him with everything. If He asked you to give up anything on that list, would you do it? The rich young ruler Jesus talked to in Mark 10:17-27 couldn’t do it, and he walked away.

Jesus said we must count the cost of following Him (Luke 14:25-34). In this age of easy believism nothing much is ever said about counting the cost of being a follower of Jesus Christ. I like how The Message Bible states Luke 14:25-34:

“One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’

“Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

“Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

“Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

So the question is, do you love this world more than you love Him? There is nothing in this world that can hold a candle to really knowing and loving Him . . .

Nothing . . . .

YouTube Video: “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (1971) by Traffic (Steve Winwood):

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Photo #2 credit here

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