July 11, 2021
Does the gospel make any difference in how you live today? Does the fact that God saved you when you could not save yourself, make you more thankful? Or do you still feel like God owes you a living or is holding out on you?
Or let me ask you this: If you’ve been forgiven of much, do you find that you are quick to forgive when you’ve been wronged? Or do you still find yourself getting angry and even judging someone when they don’t meet your expectations?
Or how about this one: Has the reality that God has made you a part of His family, made you more accepting of others who are not like you? Or do you still find yourself keeping people at arms-length who are different from you?
And finally, has coming to know Jesus, who is so much greater than you, and who actually came to serve you, given you a new attitude toward serving the undeserving? Or do you still keep an inner list of those who deserve your respect or not?
Are you more thankful, quick to forgive, more accepting and more gracious now that you’ve been the recipient of God’s grace? Or do you still want God to work for you and fix the people in your life who have wronged you?
You see, it’s one thing to receive blessing after blessing from Jesus Christ, and have those blessings transform you into a thankful, kind and generous person. But it’s quite another thing to have God open the floodgates of His mercy and grace to you and still act as though God owes you a living, still think others deserve what they’ve got coming and still do nothing to help them. So, let me ask that initial question once again: Does the gospel make a difference in how you live today?
Now why do you think I’m asking that question? Well, one reason I’m asking this question is that there’s still much confusion surrounding the gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many people think that if they just pray a prayer to receive Jesus, they’ll be forgiven and given a ticket into heaven. And if you’re one whose been taught that, let me just say it: “You’ve been short-changed.” The gospel was never meant to be used as a hoop to jump through so you can get into heaven. It’s so much more than that.
The Gospel was given to you to remove your sins so you could be made right with God. The Gospel was given to you so you could become part of God’s forever family. The Gospel was given to you so you could know God personally as your loving Father. And the Gospel was given to you so you might embrace His Calling to a new way of living. So today as we return to our Rock Springs Reboot series, we are going to look at how being called by the gospel calls us to be a gospel living people. And where we see our calling is spelled out for us in Ephesians 4:1-3. So, if you brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to turn there so we might begin to grasp our calling as a people saved by grace. Allow me now, to read this passage for us:
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3
Now I want you to notice something before we begin unpacking the truths in this passage. And what I want you to notice is this: When Paul urges us to live worthy of the calling we have received, this is not a command; it’s an exhortation, it’s an appeal. It’s not something we have to do, it should be something we would want to do, because of what’s been done for us. We should naturally want to honor the calling we’ve received. I’ll give you an example. Two weeks ago, hundreds of athletes gathered at the University of Oregon to see if they could qualify for the honor of representing the United States at the Olympics. Almost every athlete who qualified were ecstatic. They fulfilled a life-long dream. They were proud to wear the American flag. However, when it came time to honor those who qualified for the women’s hammer throw, something happened that made the news. All the attention was on the third-place qualifier. Why? Because of how she responded when it was her turn to honor her calling as a newly minted member of the Olympic team. How did she respond? She turned her back on the flag. All the attention was diverted from the first and second place qualifiers who were thrilled to represent the US. Why? Because she chose not to live worthy of the calling she received. Caused quite an uproar.
So, the idea is simple really: If God has called you to a new way of life with Jesus, then you don’t have to be told to live in such a way that honors the One who called you, you just need to be reminded of your great calling and then encouraged to live accordingly. That’s what Paul is doing here. He’s reminding us to live our lives in accordance with the calling we have received. So, let’s look at that now.
What is that calling? Well, there are many parts to our calling. First, our calling begins by responding to the voice of God. That’s how every call of God begins.
God spoke to Abraham and called him saying: “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3 Abraham heard God’s call and believed. He obeyed God’s call and became the Father of Israel. And today the blessing promised to Abraham is being fulfilled through the the offspring of Abraham. For through the line of Abraham, Jesus was born. And today anyone who trusts in Jesus, enters into God’s blessing that was promised to Abraham.
God also spoke to Moses. He spoke to Moses from a bush and called him to lead God’s people out of captivity in Egypt. And although Moses was reluctant to obey the call; God promised to be with Him every step of the way. So, Moses obeyed God’s call and through him, God delivered the nation of Israel from captivity in Egypt.
In fact, throughout the Old Testament there were numerous occasions where God spoke and confirmed His covenant with Israel. God spoke directly, He spoke through dreams and visions, He spoke through the Prophets and even spoke through a donkey. But today, God speaks through His Son: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son. Hebrews 1:1-2
Listen to how Jesus speaks to us: Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27
Jesus invites: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus calls: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
So then, God calls us to respond to the good news found in Jesus. God calls us to believe in Jesus. God calls us to receive the salvation Jesus secured for us by dying in our place on the cross for our sins. God calls us to come to Him and find forgiveness, freedom and life with Him. So, now if you hear His call through the good news of Jesus, we obey His call by putting our trust in Jesus and following Him. Our calling begins by responding to God’s voice, by trusting in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Secondly, our calling is established as we rest in the riches of His grace to us in Jesus. That’s what the first three chapters of Ephesians is all about. If you take the time to read these first three chapters and look at all the blessings God has given you in Christ; every blessing arises out of the riches of God’s grace to us in Jesus. Here’s just a brief overview of some of those riches that now belong to anyone who has trusted in Jesus:
- We are chosen in Christ (Ephesians 1:4) What this means, is that God has always had His eye on you. You’ve been the apple of His eye before time began. Out of His great love, He chose you to be holy and blameless in His presence so you could know Him and experience His great love forever.
- We’ve been adopted through Christ (Ephesians 1:5) His adopting you through Jesus is how God made it possible for you to know Him. If you have trusted in Jesus, you now have a Father who loves you like He loves Jesus. You are His beloved. He will always be for you. He will always take delight in you. He will always watch over you. You are His.
- We have redemption in Christ (Ephesians 1:7) You’ve been redeemed. You were bought with a price – the blood of Jesus Christ. So you’ve been set free, not just from the punishment of sin, but from slavery to sin. You are now free to be all God created you to be. What a blessing of God’s grace.
- We have an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11) You are a coheir with Christ. Everything that belongs to Jesus now belongs to you. And that means…
- We have a future with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) We’re going to be seated with Christ in the heavenlies as trophies of God’s grace. I don’t know what that all means, but I am certain it will make any earthly trophies pale in comparison. But again, because God’s Word says this has already taken place in eternity where God is not bound by time, this tells us, that in Christ, our future with Him is secure forever. Now, that too is amazing grace.
- We have peace in Christ (Ephesians 2:14-17) Again this is such a blessing. We have peace with God because Jesus is our peace. Never again will we be separated from relationship with God by our sin. As a result we have the ear of the Father forever. We can access the throne of grace whenever we have need. What a blessing. And finally,
- We have the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:17-19) Jesus now lives in us by His Spirit and has given us to strength to comprehend the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God. That’s mind-blowing grace.
God gives us all this and more when we answer to call of God. He gives us all the riches of His grace in our relationship with Jesus Christ. He gives us life. He gives us an eternal family. He gives us a relationship with Him. He sets us free. He gives us hope and eternal security. He gives us peace and He fills us with love. We’ve truly been blessed in Christ. We’ve been blessed, you see, to be a blessing. Which leads me to the third aspect of our calling that our text today addresses:
Thirdly, our calling is authenticated as we live out a life of grace with one anotherAllow me to read our text again: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 Here now is where the Gospel is to make a difference in how we live – how we are to relate to one another as God’s people. Here now Paul lists four ways God’s grace to us is meant to help us impart His grace to others. And the first way is this:
As we walk in humility: Because God has accepted you and adopted you, you now have infinite value and worth. You can rest in the riches of God’s grace to you in Jesus, you’re free from having to prove yourself, promote yourself or seek the approval of others. Therefore, you are free to recognize the value and worth of others.
This is how Jesus lived. He didn’t have to prove himself because He was secure in His Father’s love. Therefore, he could humbly serve anyone. He was free to love the unlovely and touch the untouchable. He was free from having to be somebody, so he could associate with anybody. He was friends with prostitutes. He ate dinner with tax-collectors. None of them deserved the King of heaven in their home. But that did not matter to Jesus. Because He was humble, He was able to see value in every single person, and that allowed him to serve them with dignity and worth.
Isn’t that what all of us crave? We just want to be valued. And when we are not valued we feel the need to prove our worth. But God’s grace to us removes this need. We’re valued just as we are warts and all. When we live in the approval of God, we are free from seeking the approval of others. We can treat anyone with dignity and respect, even if they don’t deserve it. That’s grace. When we walk in humility and consider others as better than ourselves, we can give them the value and worth their hearts crave. And when we do that with one another, when we treat one another with dignity and respect – we don’t just show the world the difference God’s grace makes in our lives – we also create the harmony God desires to see among His people. We create unity. So that’s the first way God’s grace to us is meant to help us impart His grace to others – as we walk in humility. Here’s the next way:
As we walk with meekness: Flowing out of humility, meekness values you and treats you with respect and dignity, even if you are wrong. You see, meekness is power under the control of God. Meek people are considerate of others. There is NO HARSHNESS or threat in the tone of a Christian who is meek. That’s why this way of living is also described as being gentle. And it’s connected to God’s grace to us when He removed our condemnation. Instead of judging and condemning us, He adopted us, and as such He is gentle with us, as His children.
You can see why this is such a gracious way for us to relate with one another. Because we all continue to mess up. We all continue to sin. But God no longer condemns us. He is gentle with us. Therefore, meekness creates a safe and caring environment where no one is ever harmed. This was the heart of Jesus. He calls himself gentle and lowly of heart. And this what ought to characterize people who been adopted by grace. When we are gentle and respectful of people, even when they are wrong – we give them grace. God’s Church is never going to be full of perfect people but imperfect people. Therefore, God would have us be gentle with one another when we fail. This is an area where God is working on me. Sometimes my tone is harsh when I’m trying to get something done. My tone is harsh when I get impatient. I don’t want to be that way. I want to be gentle, meek, like Jesus, so that I treat everyone the way Jesus would – that I would create a safe and caring environment in my family and our church. So, as you can see, meekness is closely tied to patience. Meekness is especially needed to temper our natural impatience with people. And that leads us to the next way God would have us live with one another. We impart grace to one another…
As we walk with patience: Patience values people enough to give them room to grow, time to fail and space to learn. When we are patient in this way, we give people grace. Again, this flows out of God’s grace to us. He could have punished us for our sins, but He withheld His justice toward us out of love. I’m reminded of what Bob Goff said in his book Love Does. “Remember to love difficult people, you’re one of them.”
So, this is the long-suffering that endures the annoyances of difficult personalities and refuses to make people to measure up to standards of behavior in order to be accepted. Instead, we throw out our behavioral agenda for everyone, and let God work to change them. Then when this kind of grace takes hold in a community like ours, failure is never criticized, and when someone does blow it, we don’t give up on the person, but love them through their sin or failure. This is how we are to be a blessing with one another. And when impart grace in this way, we protect the unity God has given us in Christ. Patience allows people room to grow and fail. And that way of living this new life of grace is closely connect to the last way we impart grace to one another:
As we walk in love: A more appropriate translation of this phrase might read, “putting up with each other in love.” The Christian life is a life of putting up with other people, and this tolerance finds its ability and motivation in love. If God loved us when there was nothing in us to love, then we impart His grace when we do the same for one another.
And since Paul speaks of this as something we are called to do with one another, I’m reminded that God put all of us sin-marred rejects together in one family. And as such, there will be times when we will offend, hurt or disappoint one another. There will be times we will fail one another. But the way of grace is the way of love – Like Peter says, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8. The picture of this forbearing love is throwing a blanket over the sins of others, not to justify them or excuse them, but to keep them from being defined by them. That’s how gracious people treat one another. They never condemn. They put up with failures and sins because that’s what God does with us. He puts up with us and NEVER gives up on us.
This is what living the Gospel looks like! God’s grace is meant to transform us into a people who impart grace to one another.
When we walk with humility, we impart value and respect to one another.
When we walk in meekness, we do no harm to one another.
When we walk in patience, we love people through their failures.
And when we walk in love, we never give up on one another.
This is how God would have us walk worthy of our calling.
This is how the gospel is to make a difference in our lives.
For when we live out the gospel like this with one another, we protect what God has given us – our unity in the Spirit! And we become a family of God characterized by grace: A family where everyone’s valued! A family where everyone is safe! A family where failures are believed in! A family where no one gives up on anyone. This is our calling. All because of God’s grace to us in Jesus.
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing! Let’s pray.