Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Paul gives us this opening sentence here in Ephesians 4 to introduce his message on what it means to live a life worthy of the calling we have received in Christ. He helps us understand what it means to live up to the calling we have been given as disciples of Jesus. We’re not talking about being part of a club where you just pay dues and show up to meetings once-in-a-while. We’re not talking about throwing our name behind an organization or sponsoring something from time to time. When you join up with Jesus it isn’t like joining the Rotary Club, the PTA or a fraternity or sorority. The calling we have received in Christ supersedes every other affiliation and pursuit. It is a high and holy calling and not simply a social relationship or obligation. It demands our all. It calls us to reorient our lives, to restructure our lives, to follow the principles of the Kingdom of God instead of being grounded to the things of this world. As we look through Ephesians 4 we begin to understand just to what we have been called.
- First of all, Paul establishes that We are called to develop a Kingdom mindset.
To follow Jesus in a worthy manner, it will involve a change in our mindset. When I think about a new mindset, I think about the shift that took place in the way I thought when I got married. I got married on my 29th birthday, so I had been a single adult, living on my own for several years. At 22 I went to the Middle East as a missionary. At 24 I moved to Kentucky for seminary. At 26 I moved to Cincinnati and began full-time ministry. I had left my parents’ home at age 18 and had lived “on my own” since that time. I had developed some ways of being and ways of doing things as a single person. I had a single mindset. I didn’t have to consider what anyone but myself wanted to eat. I didn’t have to consult anyone else about how my money was going to be spent. I didn’t have to include anybody in the equation of how I would spend my time, but when I fell in love with my husband, it was no longer “I” but “we,” and it required a change of mindset. I had to start thinking in some new ways. That might be one of the greatest challenges a couple can have, the development of this “we mindset.” It takes daily effort.
When you become a Jesus-follower, when you accept the call to discipleship, when you embrace that you are called not only to salvation but to transformation and a new way of thinking, you’ll start to think about things in a new way. There will be new things to consider. You won’t continue to think the way you thought before you became united with Christ. There will be new things to consider, holy things, sacred things, Kingdom things. Pleasing God will become paramount.
The world would tell you to do what makes you happy, to live to please yourself, that “YOLO.” You only live once, so do you. Do what feels good. As long as that is a person’s mindset, their behavior will naturally be defined by their feelings and their fleshly impulses in any given moment. Paul says that living a life worthy of our calling in Christ will involve a putting off of our earthly way of thinking and will involve receiving a new mindset. Look at his words beginning in verse 17:
17 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. 18 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. 19 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.
Yikes! How does a person get to the place that they are indulging in every kind of impurity and are full of greed? Paul says it starts with futile thoughts. The word futile means, “Incapable of producing any useful result; pointless.” A worldly mindset will not produce any useful result. A worldly mindset will lead to a pointless life. People without a Kingdom mindset will live for the moment, but when the moment is over, it’s over. There is no fruit from it. There is nothing to show for it. There is nothing positive produced by it. There is no lasting effect. There is no satisfaction or fulfillment. I don’t want to live a pointless life!
Not only is that person’s life pointless because their thoughts are futile, but they live separated from God. How does that happen? I mean, if you aren’t thinking about God or what pleases Him or what He wants for your life, you aren’t going to be connected to Him. You will live separated from the fellowship and comfort that comes from knowing Him, and you will be disconnected from the power and wisdom that come to us as we receive ongoing revelation from Him. So, Without Christ, our mindset is futile, which makes our lives fruitless (pointless) and unfulfilled which leads us to do what we know to do which is to indulge our fleshly appetites to a place where our existence includes gross, impure, and greedy behaviors. (FUTILE, FRUITLESS AND FLESHLY-Say that ten times fast.)
Paul says, what we train our minds to think about will determine if our lives bear fruit or if they breed fleshly immorality. He goes on to say in verse 20:
20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
If you are going walk worthy of the calling you have received, you’re gonna need to ask God to make you new in the attitude of your mind so that your life isn’t pointless but purposeful according to God’s designs, so that you begin to value what is righteous and holy and desire those things instead of deceitful and corrupt things. You have been created to be like God in regard to righteousness and holiness. You are called to a Kingdom mindset.
- You are called to have Kingdom Mouth. As you grow in your walk with Jesus, you will want to talk the way He did. You will have a desire to please Christ with the way you speak. Ephesians 4:2 and 3 tell us to be completely humble, gentle and patient. Aren’t those attitudes tied to the way we talk to people? He goes on to say in verse 3 that we should make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. If we are going to accomplish that tall order, there are times we are going to have to muzzle our mouths. We are going to have to discipline ourselves to stay quiet.
Paul says in verse 25 that we are only to speak the truth. Not our truth or a version of the truth, but the truth. We are all members of one body. We are in this together. Why would anyone want to become a Christian if they witness Christians talking poorly to each other or poorly about each other? In verse 26 Paul addresses anger that leads to sin. How many relationships could still be intact today if people would have learned to master their mouths? The verse that follows these verses about what we say is verse 27. It says, “Do not give the devil a foothold.” Paul says you can actually invite the devil into your life, into your relationships by the way you talk.
I think one of the devil’s favorite things to do is to get involved in people’s conversations and communication. Seriously. He loves to set traps, to bait us into disagreements and offenses and too often, we fall for his schemes. We need to quit helping the devil out.
And that’s not all Paul had to say about what we say. Look at verse 29: 29 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.
Swear words have no place in the mouth of a believer, and they don’t belong on our social media either. Sometimes I wonder if everyone actually knows what profanity is, like if they know what the cuss words are, because I see professing believers sharing memes on Facebook that have cuss words in some of the content. I know they aren’t sharing the meme for the cuss word. They are sharing it for the sentiment, but I’m still often scratching my head at that. Speech has become so casual that I’m not always sure everyone knows what the cuss words are. I thought about typing up a list to pass out, but then I thought, “That’s probably not the right handout to put on the lobby table for everyone to pick up.” If you aren’t sure what words are cuss words, see me after. I will spell them, and you can write them down! No one could make an argument that swearing and talking poorly to people is walking worthy of the calling.
So, Paul says, if you are going to walk worthy of the calling, you will develop a Kingdom mindset, you will possess a Kingdom mouth, and third:
Paul says that when you seek to walk worthy of the calling as a disciple of Christ,
- You are called to a Kingdom ministry. You are here for purposes beyond making a living, beyond having meaningful relationships, beyond getting an education, beyond enjoying sports or other hobbies, beyond physical pleasures, and beyond getting to the beach a few times a year. You are here for a God-ordained purpose. Verse 7 and 8 say that God has given you grace gifts that are to be used in His service.
Look at Ephesians 4:11: 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service.
Verse 12 goes on to say as we work together that the Body of Christ, here at TVCOG, is built up. Just by using your gifts and talents in service to the Lord, you are contributing to the health of this body. Verse 13 says as we serve, we strengthen the unity that is here. Every time we do a large outreach, I love watching our church members meet each other. Literally, every time we put on an event, y’all get to know each other as you work together. It is a completely different experience than coming in and sitting down and looking at the back of the person’s hair in front of you or looking at the back of the person’s head in front of you, whatever the case may be. When you work together, you find out you went to the same high school ten years apart or that you both played the saxophone in the marching band or that you are actually third cousins! You learn about each other’s lives and stories and those connections make us stronger as a Body. You begin to take an interest in each other’s lives and can more effectively pray for one another and support each another when you know each other. Working together creates that environment. Paul says in verse 16 that every part of this body is supposed to do their part. What part are you playing?
But our service in the Kingdom isn’t just about serving in the walls of this building or on this property or when we are doing something together out in the community. Walking worthy of the calling you have received means you share that calling with the people in your life. I’m glad we are a busy church when it comes to outreach, but hear me, no spaghetti dinner, no fireworks display, no back-to-school carnival can replace the power of a personal witness for Jesus. You are called to proclaim Christ to those around you. You are called to do the ministry of Jesus where you work, where you live, in your family. You and I are called to transform our community by sharing Jesus with people one-on-one.
There is no valid excuse for not witnessing to the salvation you have received. None. “I’m shy” is not a valid excuse. “I don’t know enough about the Bible” is not a valid excuse. “I don’t want to come across the wrong way” is not a valid excuse. “I’m too young or I’m too old” are not valid excuses. “No one will listen to me” is not a valid excuse. “I don’t not what to say” is not a valid excuse. If you want a script, I’ll give you one. If you want personal one-on-one evangelism coaching, I’ll make it happen. If you want suggestions about where to start, let’s talk. If you need creative ideas, I’m full of them. And let me tell you, there is nothing more thrilling than leading someone to Christ or being part of that journey with them. Nothing.
If we stopped all programmed outreach here, if we never did another blood drive or clothing giveaway, if we never offered anything fun for families or youth, if we just had 100 people who would each lead someone to Jesus every year, before long, this entire community would be transformed. Often, our prayer team that meets on Wednesdays at 11, prays for a harvest of souls. We pray for revival. I think that is right praying for sure, but while I was away this week, this thought came to my mind, “Is it right to pray for a harvest of souls if we aren’t intentionally planting seeds?” If we want to reap souls, we have got to till the soil, plant the seeds and pour some water routinely on them. We can’t expect a harvest in our families if we aren’t planting any seeds. We shouldn’t expect a harvest in our workplaces if we aren’t planting any seeds. We ought not expect souls in our schools if we aren’t planting any seeds. If we want to reap something, we need to sow it first and believe for it second. It is God’s desire for His church everywhere to grow, but my friends, churches are closing left and right. I fear many believers have given up on transforming culture and are content just to try to escape it. Lord, forgive us. If I asked you to write down the name of one person you have witnessed to in the last month, could you write one down? Walking worthy of the calling mean being an active Kingdom witness.
Well, finally, Paul says that walking worthy of the calling means
- We are Called to Kingdom maturity.
Paul says you are to grow in Christ. You are to mature in Christ.
Look at verses 13-15: until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
The fastest way to spiritual maturity is to become preoccupied with the Word of God. It has never been easier to be in the Word daily. There are 24 hours in the day. Surely you can find ten minutes every day to be in the Word. You can download the Bible app and literally listen to a devotion on your way to work. Listen to it while you put your makeup on or as you wind down for bed. You need to be in the Word somehow, every day. Do you have challenges every day? Do you have decisions to make every day? Do you face battles every day? Then you need the Word every day. It is food for every day and every facet of your life.
Go to Crosswalk.com and look up a Bible study on any topic you want to study. Come to Sunday School! It is so good for you! Be here on Wednesday nights when we go deeper in the Word. You can record Jeopardy and watch it when you get home. You can fast-forward through the commercials and still be in bed by 9 pm. Take advantage of special classes that we offer. Tune in to TVCOG Monday Night Meditations at 9 pm on Facebook. Pastor Kim just started the group! Ask some co-workers if they want to get into a study with you at lunch once a week. I’ll give you suggestions of studies that would be good. You can re-read every Sunday sermon on our website. Use them for your weekly devotions. Psalm 1 says that the person who meditates on the Word of God, day and night, will be blessed.
God has been too good to us, done too much for us for us to decide we aren’t interested now in what He has to say. The primary way God speaks is through His Word. He speaks by the Spirit and through His people, for sure, but the primary way He speaks is through the Word. What does that say about our desire to hear from Him if we don’t have a desire or time to read it? You can’t leave out the Word and walk worthy of the calling. Young people, the sooner you get this and incorporate it into your daily lives, the better off you will be!
The Word has cleansing properties. It will be the way the Kingdom mindset comes to you. Reading the Word will impart to you the thoughts of God. You will start to think things you have never thought before. Ideas will start to pop in your head that would have never happened before. You’ll have ideas about how to order your life that will make you more efficient and effective. You’ll be more joyful and more peaceful. I promise. Things will start to click spiritually. The Word provides us with discipline and accountability. It is like a mirror that we can hold up to see ourselves and to see God correctly. The Word of God is the voice of God, speaking to us today. As we read it, we will gain strategies for evangelizing the world around us. It is indispensable. Don’t relegate it to a coffee table or reading that you will pick up if you have time to get around to it.
I want to walk with Jesus in a manner worthy of the calling. I want my mind and mouth to be governed by the Spirit of Christ. I want to assume responsibility for the Kingdom Ministry that God has for me so that I have a part in leading people to Jesus, and I want to grow up in Jesus. I want to know Him more fully and be like Him more and more with each passing day.