It is a marvellous thought: as a Christian I can come into the presence of God with boldness and confidence, because of Christ and my faith in him. There is nothing to fear from God, because of what Jesus has done, if we believe in him. But, writes Paul here in Ephesians 4, that doesn’t mean we have an excuse to live as wantonly as we desire. We can have such confidence because of our adoption into the family of God; we have been called by God to be his people. And if God’s people, then we are called to be like God: holy and loving. Rather than giving me licence to live immorally, Paul begs the Ephesians and us to live lives worthy of God’s calling.
What does that mean? It means being humble, patient and gentle. It means making allowances for other Christians out of love – love that comes from God. It means making every effort to keep ourselves united with the Spirit. (Which means, I think, allowing the Spirit to guide us into Christlikeness in thought and word and deed). We are to bind ourselves together with peace. As God’s people, we are part of the one body, formed by the one Spirit. We have been called to the one glorious hope for the future. We know but one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is but one God and Father – who is over all, in all, living through all. The very “one”-ness of God and the gospel and the church are to define our lives!
True – Christ has gifted us all differently. And in particular he gifted the church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers: those who are called to equip God’s people to do his work; those who are to build up the church: Christ’s body. Paul highlights these gifts because he knows that this side of eternity, we all need guidance as we strive to live lives worthy of God’s calling. We need leading and encouragement and teaching to build us to such unity in faith and knowledge of Jesus, God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord. And what is maturity? It is measuring up to the complete standard of Christ. Such people aren’t easily led astray by false teaching; the mature recognise mutton dressed as lamb. The mature speak the truth in love – and grow every moment more and more like Christ. He is the head of his church, he brings his body together perfectly with each part doing it’s special bit so that the whole church is healthy and growing and full of love.
So what? Are pastors exempt from this? No! I as a pastor am to point people to Christ always (not that I am perfect; I am far from that) – but I too need constantly to be pointed to Christ. I need to be having others building into my life; speaking Christ into my life; encouraging my faith.
I need people to keep challenging me – as Paul does the Ephesians – to no longer live “as the gentiles do”. I’ve been a Christian for pretty much as long as I can remember. But I still know the lure of “living as the Gentiles”. But this lure is like that of an angler-fish. All it ultimately offers it’s hapless victims is sin and death. Or, as Paul puts it, a mind full of darkness and a life that deliberately wanders far from the life that God gives.
As a Christian, let me rather cast off my old sinful nature – and former way of life that is corrupted by lust and deception. We all have things to cast off. And in its place, let me allow the Spirit to renew my thoughts and attitudes. Let me listen to the “still, quiet voice” of God as he calls me to Christ-likeness. And in so doing, let me put on the new nature that is mine in Christ. Let me be like Jesus – let me be like God: truly righteous and holy.
Lord, please make me more like you. Help me to effectively point people to you, and help me also to allow them to guide me as I seek to follow you. Thank you that because of Jesus, I need not fear your wrath. But please keep forming Christ in me. Please.