It’s time to open our Bibles this morning. Why do we do that? Sunday after Sunday, it’s the same. We never deviate – every Sunday we open the Word of God.
One reason we do that is that the Word of God completes us. Peter tells us to crave the Word like newborn infants crave milk. The Bible grows and matures us. It shapes and molds us. As we open the Word week by week, we are slowly and steadily brought to completion in the fulness of our redeemed humanity.
This morning we are in Ephesians, chapter 4.
You have been called. To be a Christian is to be called. To be known and wanted. To belong to something bigger than yourself. To be a Christian is to represent the name of Christ.
Paul tells us: don’t just call yourself a Christian, live up to the name. Pay the price, put in the work of honoring the name by which you are called.
There are values packed into this statement that are all but lost in the late modern world.
Loyalty. Faithfulness. Conscientiousness.
The world tells me to above all else be true to myself.
Ephesians calls me to forget myself.
It calls me to lose myself in exchange for a calling that will saturate my life with enduring meaning, purpose and fulfillment.
Paul rejoiced in his chains because he knew it gave him the opportunity to win honor for Christ. When fellow prisoners and guards saw this man so committed to Christ that he would gladly surrender his own freedom for the sake of Christ, Jesus was exalted and honored. When he was beaten and roughly thrown into a cell, others watched as he responded in kindness and prayed for those who hurt him and asked what kind of man is this Christ?
This doesn’t always happen does it? If you were to ask the average non-church going person to tell you what they think of when they hear the word Christian, it won’t always be an honorable image will it?
We cannot control the big picture narrative of our culture, but we can control what we do with our own walks. We can live lives of authentic commitment to Christ, we can live lives of integrity and humility and radical unity.
We can shape the narrative in our own circle. We can live lives worthy of our calling tomorrow in our own offices and cul-de-sacs and class rooms.
F.F. Bruce reminds us that
‘Those who have been chosen by God to sit with Christ in the heavenly places must remember that the honor of Christ is involved in their daily lives.’
The importance of our calling is evident in the New Testament.
We are called to belong to Jesus. (Romans 1:6)
We are called into fellowship with Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
We are called into God’s kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
We are called to be his holy people. (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2)
We are called to be free. (Galatians 5:13)
We are called to heaven. (Philippians 3:14)
We are called to repay evil with blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)
We are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We are called because of his purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:9)
What are the implications of our calling? What should it look like if we are living lives worthy of our calling?
According to Paul there are 4 qualities we should exhibit:
1. Humble (lowly)
2. Gentle (meek)
4. Bearing with one another in love.
What is humility?
Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself, but rather not thinking of yourself at all.
“True humility is not putting ourselves down but rather lifting up others. If we concentrate on lifting up others, putting down ourselves will take care of itself. As we go through life exalting Christ and others, then genuine humility will be inevitable.” -Jonathan Edwards
Isn’t this what Paul is saying in Philippians 2:3-4?
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)
True humility is not, in reality, a loss of stature. It is not a loss of honor. It is a lifting up of the other.
“It is not a weak man’s surrender, but a strong man’s rejection of selfishness and determination to be actively concerned with the needs and interests of others.” L.O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.
C.S. Lewis describes this view of humility in an interesting way:
“The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither but have everything else (God, our fellow humans, the garden and the sky) instead.” -C.S. Lewis
When we seek to humble ourselves as an individual act, as a work, the itch of self will always be present.
This is why a growth project based on works can never truly succeed.
The gospel allows us to forget ourselves. Because salvation comes by grace and not works, because the spotlight is on the work of Christ and not our own works, we no longer have to think of ourselves.
We are free, and in that blissful freedom we are at liberty to see others and lift others by our efforts.
A humble Christian who looks to bring honor to Christ and to their neighbor lives a life worthy of their calling.
The Greek word is better translated as meek. It is one of the most misunderstood virtues. We think of meekness as docile, timid, limp.
If you look the word up in Webster’s dictionary, there are two very different senses of the term.
- enduring injury with patience and without resentment
- deficient in spirit and courage
The first sense of the Word is the Biblical sense.
Here’s how a Greek linguist explains the word:
“Meekness denotes the humble and gentle attitude which expresses itself, in particular, in a patient submissiveness to offense, free from malice and desire for revenge… [ it is ] controlled strength, the ability to bear reproaches and slights without bitterness and resentment; the ability to provide a soothing influence on someone who is in a state of anger, bitterness and resentment against life…the word indicates an obedient submissiveness to God and His will, with unwavering faith and enduring patience displaying itself in a gentle attitude and kind acts toward others, and this often in the face of opposition.”
Too many of us despise meekness because we have confused it with weakness.
Christ himself is meek.
“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.”
A meek person does not retaliate, not because they are weak, but because they are strong. Because they are strong enough to master their own emotions, they are strong enough to see the needs of others.
“It is strength that accommodates to another person’s weakness.”
“that genuine concern for people in their need to be loved, accepted, and treated with dignity”
Erickson, R. J.
To see a picture of meekness, imagine a father with his newborn child. His arms are strong, yet they are sensitive to the weakness they carry.
This is what God is like.
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
Isn’t that incredible? God, in all of his world creating power, is sensitive and gentle with us in our weakness.
And He calls us to the same. He calls us to be gentle with those caught in sin.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”
He calls us to be gentle with those who disagree.
“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,”
2 Timothy 2:25
He calls us to be gentle with those who don’t believe.
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
1 Peter 3:15
At the end of the day, he calls us to be gentle with everyone
“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.”
The Greek word here is a compound word: makro-thumia. The words are long and temper. To be patient is to have a long fuse.
As Albert Barnes observed, “No virtue, perhaps, is more frequently demanded in our intercourse with others.”
William Barclay wrote “as the Greeks used it, usually meant patience with people. It is the ability not to lose patience when people are foolish, not to grow irritable when they seem unteachable. It is the ability to accept the folly, the perversity, the blindness, the ingratitude of men and still to remain gracious, and still to toil on.”
One commentator said that the work makro-thumia might also be translated as “large emotions,” signifying wells of endurance that will not dry up, no matter how much is drawn from them.
How do you get that?
A man asked a pastor to pray that God would make him patient. The pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said, “Lord, please bring suffering into this brother’s life.” The man pushed the pastors hand off his shoulder and stepped away, “what are you doing pastor?”
The pastor replied, “well, haven’t you read Romans 5:3? We rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces endurance or patience.”
Some of us are in God’s gymnasium right now, being trained in patience.
Does anyone here have someone in the home that is trying your patience?
A boss or co-worker who provokes and irritates you?
I’ve been talking with my sons lately about the training God has specially prepared for us in my home through the challenges of our little one.
If you want to help someone gain physical endurance, what do you do?
You take them to the gym and you make them work until their muscles and lungs fail. At the point of failure, when the muscles begin to tear and a magical thing begins to happen, the individuals muscle cells strengthen and grow larger to handle the increased resistance and the connection between the nervous system and the muscles becomes more coordinated and fine tuned.
Something similar takes place when you experience resistance spiritually and emotionally. When your patience is tested, when it faces resistance and fails, a spiritual process takes place. In the midst of that training, your spirit grows stronger and as you seek the help of God, your connection to the Holy Spirit becomes more coordinated and fine tuned.
When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are.
As God teaches us patience, he wants us to be fully present. When your baby has woken you for the 4th time in the middle of the night and you are exhausted and can’t stand to listen to that cry for one more second, God is in that moment and he wants you to be there.
He wants to meet you there and learn from Him. He wants to teach you in that moment about His patience.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
1 Timothy 1:16
The Christian church is an extraordinary miracle: a community of people who have bound themselves to something higher and greater than their individual selves. A group of people united by a calling, who are bound to love one another with all humility and gentleness and patience.
It all comes from our Savior.
“What an astonishingly wonderful statement! The One Who made the worlds, Who flung the stars into space and calls them by name, Who preserves the innumerable constellations in their courses, Who weighs the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, Who takes up the isles as a very little thing, Who holds the waters of the ocean in the hollow of His hand, before Whom the inhabitants of the earth are as grasshoppers, when He comes into human life finds Himself as essentially meek and lowly in heart. It is not that He erected a perfect human ideal and accommodated Himself to it; He was that.”
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown