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III. V. 28 IN THE ARENA OF OUR WORK
Intro: For the last few weeks, we have been looking into Pauls callings to the Ephesian believers concerning their responsibilities, as new believers, before the Lord. The challenge of verses 25-32, can be summed up as follows: You have been saved by the grace, so you should live a live that is consistent with who you are in Jesus Christ.
When God saves a sinner, they are immediately changed by the power of God. The old man of sin is put off, v. 22, and a new man of righteousness is put on, v. 24. The idea that is being put forward here is clearly stated in 2 Cor. 5:17, where the Bible says, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. When we are saved, we become a new creature. We are born again, John 3:3, 7, and a brand new life begins.
In 2 Cor. 5:17, Paul uses the phrase in Christ. This is somewhat of a favorite expression of Paul, because he uses is some 130 times in his epistles. In the Greek, this phrase is known as a locative of sphere. A locative tells us where something is. The sphere speaks of a things location in relationship to other things.
So, when the Bible says that we are in Christ, is means that we live within the sphere of Christ. In other words, Jesus Christ is that which surrounds us. No matter where we go, we cannot step out of Jesus. You can step out of a circle, but you cannot step out of a sphere. A sphere surrounds all that is within it. In like manner, Jesu Christ totally surrounds all those who are in Him.
When you consider our location with regards too the area of our security, we are eternally safe because we cannot step out of the sphere of Christ. No matter where we run we still within His sphere and we cannot escape from Him.
When we consider our position within the sphere of Christ with regards to our daily walk, it reminds us that every step occurs within the sphere of our relationship to Jesus Christ. Every action, every thought, every dead should be considered in the light of who we are, Whos we are and where we are. Because we are in Christ, that is ever within the sphere of His presence, His influence and His will, we conform every area of our lives to His will. Simply stated, because we are in Him, we should live like we are in Him.
In verses 25 and 29, we saw that we are to be different In The Arena Of Our Words. We are saved, and the reality of our salvation should show up in our speech. In verses 25-26 we saw that we are to be different In The Arena Of Our Wrath. Since we are saved, we are to demonstrate that salvation by controlling our tempers.
Today, we will go further in this passage and see that we are challenged to be different some other arenas of life. Notice these arenas with me as we continue to think about The Results Of A Transformed Life. If we have been transformed by the power of God, that transformation will show up in our lives each and ever day we live.
1. THERE IS A PROHIBITION - Let him that stole steal no more - Paul uses the image of a man who was a thief and who comes to Jesus for salvation as his illustration of how repentance and salvation completely changes ones life. Here is a person who had no scruples about talking that which belonged to someone else and using it for himself.
This person is lazy and greedy. They want that which others have labored to obtain. They want the finer things of life, so they take what they want to fulfill their selfish desires, and they do so with no thought for what their actions cost their victims.
Evidently stealing was a real problem in that society. It was easier for many people to make a living by taking from others than it was for them to work a job. By the way, stealing is still a big problem in our society. About 5% of what you spend goes to cover business losses from theft. Approximately $140 billion of material and time is stolen from employers every year. Those are 1989 figures, the problem is far worse today. Over the past decade shoplifting rates have increased dramatically. A paper given at an American Psychological Association symposium on employee theft presented a breakdown on the 8 billion dollars that inventory shortages cost department and chain stores every year. Of these losses, 10 percent were due to clerical error, 30 percent to shoplifting, and a shocking 60 percent (sixteen million dollars a day!) to theft by employees.
One of the reasons for this is that we have become and entitlement society. We have been trained by parents and the government to live with our hands out for everything we want. No one wants to work anymore, many want the government to give everything to them. Many never stop to think that someone has to pay for what they are taking. Those who refuse to work and live on the government dole or on handouts from others are just as much a thief as the man who waves a pistol in a tellers face and robs a bank. Of course, there is a difference in the level of the theft, but the principle is the same. If you take from others because you are not willing to work it out yourself, you are a thief. I realize that some people need help. I am not referring to them. I am referring to those who are too lazy to get out and make an honest living.
Even in the church there are areas in which we steal from others and never bat an eye.
A child who takes a few dollars from a parents wallet is a thief.
Pocketing the extra change a clerk gives you by mistake is stealing.
Failing to report income to the IRS is stealing.
Padding and expense report is stealing.
Lying about an insurance claim is stealing.
Overestimating and estimate, thus causing a customer to pay more than necessary is stealing.
Failing to pay a debt is stealing.
Claiming more hours that one worked is stealing.
Failing to quote and author in a published work, or a school paper is theft.
Not honoring God with the tithe is theft, Mal. 3:8-10, Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (By the way, our failure in this area is one reason we do not enjoy the manifest power and presence of the Lord in our lives and churches.)
One of the reasons we Christians sometimes have problems in this area is because we do not understand what repentance is all about. Many seem to think that salvation begins and ends with accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Many church people no longer understand that repentance is a prerequisite to salvation. Any never get a handle on the truth that salvation is a conversion. And, conversion implies a change of behavior and beliefs.
It seems amazing to me that the Lord would have to spell it out, but Paul is called to write that those who are saved are expected to be different.
Now, understand this, you might not be a thief, but there may be other areas in your life that are out of line with Gods will for His children. Paul could have mentioned homosexuality, adultery, lust, lying, cursing, or any other moral or spiritual failure, but the principle is still the same. The sins of the old life must not be allowed to follow you into the new life. The actions and attitudes that characterized the old man of sin, must not characterize the new man of salvation.
The general principle here is that, since we are saved, we are expected to live like we are saved. We say the Lord has changed us, and we are to live like He has changed us!
Paul said it this way: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christs have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit, Gal. 5:22–25.
John said it like this: He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked, 1 John 2:6.
Here is how Jesus Christ put it: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul, Matthew 16:24–26?
1. There Is A Prohibition
2. THERE IS A PRESCRIPTION - but rather let him labor, working with his hands that which is good - Instead of living by taking from others, the believer is to labor to earn his keep and provide for his family. Instead of giving ourselves to that which is evil and sinful, we are to give ourselves to that which is good.
Gods plan for humanity is that those who are able should work. According to the Lord, if you are able to work and refuse to do so, you have forfeited your right to eat. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother, 2 Thes. 3:10–15. The church is supposed to withdraw fellowship from any man who is too lazy to work and provide for his own needs and for the needs of his family.
Ill. 1 Tim. 5:8 says, But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. This verse teaches us that we are responsible before God to work and provide for the needs of our own households. That is, we are responsible for those closest to us. Spouses, children, parents, friends, etc. There are cases where sickness and other disorders prevent some people from working a job. In those cases, we must make exceptions, and we must help provide for the needs of those who are in need. If we dont do that, this verse does not teach us that we lose our salvation, but it does suggest that we are guilty of living like a lost person. We are guilty of being heartless, uncaring ands self-centered. We have an obligation to care for those God has placed within the sphere of our lives.
Since I have been saved, I have heard people joke that work is part of the curse. The idea is that work is part of our lives because Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden. Actually, the Lord gave Adam a work assignment even before he sinned. Gen. 2:15 says, And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Work is not a curse; work is a blessing! When sin entered the world, it brought with it the idea of weariness and toil. Gen. 3:17-19 speaks of it like this, And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
After the flood, part of that curse was removed, And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for mans sake; for the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done, Gen. 8:21. Man was worked the ground and it yielded bountiful crops to feed a man and his family. The same is still true today.
No work is not a curse; work is a blessing! To have the mind, the strength and the ability to work is a gift from the Lord. There are times when we grow weary in our work. There are times when we want an easier life. There are times when we might look for a new occupation. But, we are commanded to work, and it is a blessing to be able to do so.
The word labour carries the idea of working to the point of exhaustion. It seems that God is not just in favor of work, but He is in favor of hard work!
Regardless of what kind of work you do, you need to realize that it is spiritual in nature. You should see your job as a gift from the Lord. And, you should use your job as an opportunity to glorify God every day. Here is Pauls challenge to workers: Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free, Eph. 6:5–8.
That job you have been given is your platform to glorify the Lord. If you will do as verse 6 says, and do the will of God from the heart, God will bless your labors.
The whole point of the second part of this verse is that we who are saved should be different. Before we met Jesus, we gave ourselves over to the will of the flesh and the devil. Now that we have been converted, we are to give ourselves over to the Lord. Before we were saved we used the mind and the body to do evil. Now that we are saved, we are to use the mind, the body and the spirit to do things that honor the Lord. Any other use is a misuse of that which belongs to the Lord.
Consider 1 Cor. 6:19-20, which says, What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods. When we use the mind, spirit and body to commit sin, we are guilty of stealing. We take that which belongs to God, and we use it for our own selfish desires. If we are saved, we must change.
1. There Is A Prohibition
2. There Is A Prescription
3. THERE IS A PROPOSITION - that he may have to give to him that needeth - The final part of this verse speaks of a secondary reason for us to work for what we have instead of taking what we want. The primary reason is that we are saved, and a changed life will manifest itself in new ways of living. The thief will no longer steal, but he will work. The liar will no longer lie, but he ail speak the truth. The adulterer and the homosexual will abandon sexual sin. The foul-mouthed sinner will experience a change in vocabulary.
The second reason we are to work with out hands is so that we might have the resources to help others who find themselves in need. When we steal, we are manifesting our own selfishness. When we steal, we are serving self. However, when we work and take part of what we earned and give it to others, we are demonstrating that God has worked in our hearts to cause us to love others like He loves us.
When we work and give instead of taking what we want from others, we display a total change of attitude about possessions. We reveal a total change of heart when we take what we have labored to acquire and freely give it to meet the needs of others!
Giving to those around us who are in need is a demonstration of the love of God working through us to touch others for His glory.
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this worlds good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him, 1 John 3:16–19.
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works, James 2:15–18.
We honor the Lord by doing what He tells us to do. We prove our love for Him by keeping His commandments, John 14:15. And, He has given us His commandment in this area. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just, Luke 14:13–14.
Paul carried out this common in his relationship with the church of Ephesus. He speaks about it in Acts 20:33-35, I have coveted no mans silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
The church in Macedonia also exhibited this same giving spirit. Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God, 2 Cor. 8:1–5.
We honor the Lord and we prove that we are saved!
Conc: When we are genuinely saved, the reality of our salvation will be seen in the way we live our lives.
We will demonstrate it by turning away from the old life of sin.
We will demonstrate it by displaying a new life that does what is right and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.
We will demonstrate it by loving others and being a help and a blessing in their lives.
That is the essence of the verse before us today.
How does this verse speak to you today? Have there been some areas that have been addressed that challenge the way you are living right now? If so, bring those things to God and allow Him to make the changes that were necessary in your life.
Lets all ask the Lord to help us honor the principle behind this verse. Lets ask the Lord to help us be the new creatures He saved us to be.