In a Nutshell…
Read the passage here.
Today we wrap up our series on Ephesians. There’s actually only a few verses left in the letter which are Paul’s final greetings and blessings. There’s not much to say about that (obviously) so it’s a good opportunity for us to review some of the things we’ve talked about.
Now Ephesians is a pretty short book – only 6 chapters – but there’s an awful lot contained within. It’s easy to miss because you can read through the book (probably) in an hour. But it’s worth noting that people spend entire careers studying one book. Which is to simply reiterate that there’s an awful lot going on – but for our purposes, we can summarize that and focus on just a few things.
We began the series talking about a quote from Eugene Peterson, during a course he taught at Regent College in which, he says [as Christians, particularly Evangelicals] we are often better at getting people saved than we are at helping people live saved lives. The question then, as we have worked through this book has been, how then do we live this saved life.
Over the course of my life, I’ve been to a lot of events at which there is an altar call. Typically, at the end of a service or evangelistic meeting, the preacher/speaker invites people to the front (the altar) to receive Christ/be saved/become a Christian. Certain denominations or churches have a lot of these. And the question that has to be answered, following an altar call, is “now what?” The answer is usually the same:
- Read the Bible
- Attend a church
- Stop sinning.
This is obviously good advice. It’s impossible to be comprehensive in a context like this (an altar call), so this is a good starting point. But it always seemed to me to be lacking.
Now I hope that it’s obvious that reading the bible, attending church, and being a good person do not make you a Christian. Likewise, there are plenty of Christians who don’t read their Bible particularly a lot (though you should) or attend church regularly (yes, you should do that too) and who aren’t particularly good people (what are you going to do?).
The Great Commission is not, Go into all the world and get people to say the sinner’s prayer. It’s not even “Go into all the world and get people converted.” It’s, Go into all the world and make disciples. (actually, remember that it’s probably “as you are going, make disciples”). In a nutshell, a disciple is not a convert, it’s not even a student. A disciple is someone who lives like you live.
So what does Ephesians tell us about how to live? Obviously, we can’t rehash everything we’ve talked about over the past 4 months (nor do we want to – this is where we remind you of the importance of reading, and studying, the bible). But let’s review a couple of key points:
Our starting point, the place where we’ve tried to stay rooted is Ephesians 4:1 which tells us:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…
Our walking is determined by our calling and our calling leads necessarily to our walking. To walk worthily means that our walking (living) has to fit, it has to have balance, it should live up to the calling.
So, to what have we been called? We have been called to new life.
(2:1-5) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh m and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
From the beginning, ever since humankind’s fall, God has been working to restore His creation. To redeem that which was lost. To restore that which had been damaged. In Christ, this has been realized. It’s not something we could do by our effort or ingenuity. It’s not something we can grasp. It’s something that God and God alone does and is doing. Our calling is, by grace alone, to take part in God’s redemption.
Therefore, because of God’s desire and intention to restore all of creation, we have been called to community:
(2:19-22) 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Or to put it another way, inasmuch as we are called, we become part of a community – we become part of the people of God. We are not random, disconnected individuals who happen to believe in (more or less) the same thing, and who happen to be (more or less) in the same place at the same time. And this isn’t a metaphorical or a symbolic thing. It’s a thing that actually happens. That we actually become brothers and sisters – part of a family; part of the family of God.
Therefore, we enter a new reality. We no longer allow the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell us how to live. Without the gospel, we have no choice in the matter. We live according to the ways of the world and we find ourselves fighting for things, competing for position, struggling for relevance, and searching for answers in a world that, without God, simply cannot provide them.
(2:4-5) 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Now, because we have entered into new life, because we have been saved by grace, because God has made possible for us a new way, therefore walk – walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
Again, one of the key points that Paul makes is that this happens in community. We are saved into a community and, therefore, it only makes sense that the living out of the Christian life also happens in community. We spent several weeks talking about how holiness happens in community, discipleship happens in community, and love and grace happens in community. In other words, the walking is not alone. As much as we want to think of Christianity as a private, personal thing, it’s really not. We are all working it out together. We are working out this salvation, this resurrection life together.
And of course there are things that we are individually responsible for. There are things that we each need to work on about ourselves. We each need to seek to know Christ on a personal level. But we don’t have to do it alone.
So What Now…?
This is why church, the individual churches, our church is so important. And this is why it’s so important that we are thoughtful and biblical about how we do church. It’s why we can’t just do things because we have always done it. And why we don’t just run to the latest and greatest in ministry advancement.
And how we do church is not about the programs and ministries – though these can be important. It’s important that your pastor teaches from Scripture faithfully. It’s important that we gather together and worship together and that worship isn’t entertainment, it’s not spectacle, it’s God-directed and it’s God-honouring. It’s important that we raise up our children according to know and love God’s word. It’s important that the things that we do enable us to grow up together.
But church doesn’t happen when we make an announcement that it’s happening. Church happens when brothers and sisters gather together over a cup of coffee or a bag of caramels and talk about the struggles and victories in their lives. It happens when we help each other move. It happens when we raise a barn together (or a gazebo). It happens when we encourage each other or when we admonish each other in love. It’s what happens when we each demonstrate the love and grace of Christ and point each other to God.
And it happens not because we do it perfectly or even if we do it particularly well. It happens purely because Christ has bound us together by what He has done for us.
Church is the expression and embodiment of this life that we live together. A resurrection life that is defined, not by the wisdom of the world, but by what Christ has done for each of us and for all of us. My encouragement and hope is that we don’t wait for the programs, policies, and events that we think make up church. Rather that we would continue to work out what it means to live life – a Christ life – together. That together, we would walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.