JCC / March 22, 2020
All throughout church history, during times of uncertainty and crisis, the community of believers rose to the occasion and became lights in the darkness. Love overcame fear. Serving each other while others fled testified to the reality of God in their lives. We are faced with this challenge in our current situation with the coronavirus. As we continue on with studying the book of Ephesians, may the Lord show us how we should live.
17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
How did the Ephesians/Gentiles walk (lifestyle)? What were they thinking?
Ephesus was the center of Diana worship (idol worship). Through that worship, there was prostitution, filled with sensuality, fornication, and impurity. That was “normal”, and people all over the world came to participate. It filled their values and thinking.
Ephesus was also the banking center of the world. People were greedy for wealth, status and power. This blinded them to the true God. They were hard and callous people. Paul says they were “excluded from the life of God”.
We are in the same situation. Many around us have become hardened and they do not know God. Paul came to bring the light of the Gospel to those who were lost and without hope. And by God’s grace, many believed. Their lives were transformed in Christ.
20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
20しかし、あなたがたはキリストを、このようには学びませんでした。21ただし、ほんとうにあなたがたがキリストに聞き、キリストにあって教えられているのならばです。まさしく真理はイエスにあるのですから。22 その教えとは、あなたがたの以前の生活について言うならば、人を欺く情欲によって滅びて行く古い人を脱ぎ捨てるべきこと、23 またあなたがたが心の霊において新しくされ、24 真理に基づく義と聖をもって神にかたどり造り出された、新しい人を身に着るべきことでした。
Paul introduced them to a new and better way; the way of Christ. The old self was being corrupted. Jesus himself said he was, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Our default mode is to go back and do things in the flesh. But there is a better way. Paul tells the believers to “put on the new self”. In other words, become like Jesus. Be godly. It doesn’t mean we become perfect. When we fail, we confess and repent. It means that Christ will now become the center of your life. In the past, it was the flesh, the self, that was at the center. The truth may not be politically correct, but it is right in God’s eyes.
Ephesians 4:25 -32
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
25 ですから、あなたがたは偽りを捨て、おのおの隣人に対して真実を語りなさい。私たちはからだの一部分として互いにそれぞれのものだからです。 26怒っても、罪を犯してはなりません。日が暮れるまで憤ったままでいてはいけません。27悪魔に機会を与えないようにしなさい。 28盗みをしている者は、もう盗んではいけません。かえって、困っている人に施しをするため、自分の手をもって正しい仕事をし、ほねおって働きなさい。 29悪いことばを、いっさい口から出してはいけません。ただ、必要なとき、人の徳を養うのに役立つことばを話し、聞く人に恵みを与えなさい。 30神の聖霊を悲しませてはいけません。あなたがたは、贖いの日のために、聖霊によって証印を押されているのです。31無慈悲、憤り、怒り、叫び、そしりなどを、いっさいの悪意とともに、みな捨て去りなさい。 32お互いに親切にし、心の優しい人となり、神がキリストにおいてあなたがたを赦してくださったように、互いに赦し合いなさい。
So how should it look? What should we be doing?
Remember, it’s not about human effort. Pray that the Holy Spirit would work in your heart to transform you into being more like Jesus. It’s relying on God to do the impossible and trusting Him to work in and through you. Look at some differences that Paul pointed out.
- Don’t lie. Speak the truth in love. There are so many falsehoods. Keep with the truth.
- Be angry, yet do not sin. Righteous anger is fine (against child trafficking, murder, abuse, stealing, etc.), but do not let the anger cause you to sin or harm others. Anger gives the Devil an opportunity to take advantage of your feelings, or a foothold, in your life. Don’t allow it. Forgive. Let go, trust God.
- Don’t steal. That means no looting when times get hard in a lockdown. Appeal to the church believers for help. Work hard and share.
- No foul language. Use language that builds others up, not criticize or put others down.
- Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. If you know it is sin, STOP. We can actually grieve God. He still loves us. But if we love Him, we should want to stop. Ask God for help.
- Forgive. Let go of bitterness, anger, slander, and malice.
- Be kind. Be tenderhearted. FORGIVE, just as Christ has forgiven you. We forget. That is why we need each other to help remind us.
Put on the new self now. In a nutshell, it is God-centered, then other-centered. It lifts others up, not tear them down. May we shine in the midst of the coronavirus and craziness that may come up during this time.
God Bless each and every one of you.
(the above is a sermon summary provided for us by Richard Nakamura, who was scheduled to be with us this coming Sunday, March 22nd. Thanks Rich!)