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Feb 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 15, 2015 – Ephesians 4:32-5:2

The Heart of Everything

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 4:32-5:2

Intro: A thought occurred to me a couple days ago

I haven’t worked through it yet, so I’m not certain it’s true
– however, it does have some biblical support

It has to do with authentic spiritual communities
– first, how they are formed (whether monasteries, home groups, churches, etc.)
• people who find themselves drawn to God are also drawn together
◦ like lines converging on a single point
• attempting to satisfy our thirst for God we meet others who share a common  devotion
– then, the community drawn to God becomes as crucial to our development as One who draws us
• a spiritual community provides us the first opportunities to live what we learn
◦ to practice it with real people

. . . for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 Jn. 4:20-21)

• What I’ve learned on Wednesday and Thursday nights:
◦ that how God works with you is as helpful to me as how he works with me

I’ve taken a step backward

I wasn’t happy with how I finished last week
– the last verse in chapter 4 is too profound to treat lightly
• in fact, I doubt my ability to do it justice
• but at least we can benefit from simply spending more time with it
– these two verses may be a summation of the essence of this whole section
• like the way Jesus sums up all the law and prophets in two commandments (Mt. 22:34-40)

In verse 17, Paul began writing a negative checklist
– this could be characterized as the do’s and don’ts
• but notice he begins verse with “Be” – a shift in emphasis:
◦ from “what we do” to “who we are
• the doing is automatic to a thing’s being
◦ e.g., an orange tree automatically grows leaves, blossoms and oranges
◦ Jesus said that a person is known by what he does (Mt. 7:16-20)
– “Be” is “become” or as A. T. Robertson has it, “keep on becoming”
• we cannot instantly change ourselves — for example, into “kind” people

John Chapman observed that the beginner is not “expected to show at all a high degree of perfection. God does not show the soul all its faults nor all it has eventually to give up. It gives up something, and in time He will ask more. Meanwhile, it has faults which are obvious enough to others, though probably not to itself.”

“Tender-hearted” is a move inward

Tender-hearted is a reference is to internal organs
– the fragile and protected parts of our bodies
• biblical writers used this language in an attempt to express our deepest human feelings
◦ an important question to ask when in anxiety or depression:
“Where do I feel this in my body?”
◦ the poets who wrote Psalms could locate such feelings
• in this case, Paul is referring to deep feelings of empathy

Empathy is the ability to enter feelings of another person

◦ we may tend to shut this off (cf. 1 Jn. 3:17), perhaps out of fear of what it may cost us
◦ but God never asks us to give what we don’t have
– Paul looks for this deep feeling of empathy in the Christian community – Php. 2:1
The tender heart expresses itself in forgiveness
• Jesus gave an example: Mt. 18:21-35
• Paul’s more radical example, “just as God in Christ also has forgiven you”
– there are experiences that make forgiveness easier
• e.g., full healing or entering a new life-situation
• but we cannot force our way into it
◦ we have to allow God to grow it in us
◦ forgiveness by will-power is artificial and hollow

Notice how Paul has worked his way through the do’s and don’ts
– and in bringing us to the heart of the issue, he brings us directly to God
• in this way, he transitions into the next big idea

“Therefore be imitators of God”

For now, Paul stays with the theme of being or becoming
– “imitators” – from the Greek, we get our English word, mimetic
• in visual arts, mimetic is a life-like representation
– “beloved,” agapate – “children who are loved”
• as such, we are to “walk in love” (agape)
◦ like a child walking along the shore, trying to step into his father’s footprints

The prophecy of Malachi begins with a dialogue in which God makes a statement, the people respond with an objection, and then God gives evidence for his statement
– his first statement is, “I have loved You,” and they object, “How have You loved us?”
• the answer that God gave in Malachi is different from the New Testament’s answer

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us . . . (1 Jn. 3:16)
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 Jn. 4:9)

• Christian love is defined by God’s love – it gives
“For God so loved the world, He gave . . .”
• regarding Jesus as offering, sacrifice and fragrant aroma,  it’s worthwhile to investigate how these apply
• but more generally, Paul creates a context of worship
◦ a different picture of worship than usual concept
◦ loving actions as worship

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Heb. 13:15-16)

• that last line captures the significance of the “fragrant aroma”
◦ goal of worship: offering is to be pleasing and acceptable to God
• so here is a community that brings God pleasure

Conc: There is something about this section that makes me uncomfortable

I think, because these passages in Paul’s writings sound like “rules”
– that was the very problem of the old system
• and Paul’s told us, “It doesn’t work, so don’t go there”
◦ not that the rules are bad or offensive
◦ in fact, they’re good – we agree that the rules accurately capture how we ought to live
• but we don’t go to the Bible looking for rules, we come looking for God
– Paul has burrowed down through the particulars to God
• this is the divine simplicity: not making hundreds of commitments to hundreds of commandments
◦ (like Israel’s “Amens”), but only one commitment to one commandment
◦ and in that commandment, all the others are fulfilled

Other that “rules” we can think about passages like this:
– as a working out of the indicatives and imperatives
• the indicatives are statements of fact, like we have been “seated with Christ in heavenly places” (Ep. 2:4-6)
• the imperatives (commands) are about making it real, so then doing is a path to becoming

Helmut Thielicke, “The reason why the promise of justification is always followed by claims and ethical appeals is that I am still becoming . . . . I have to learn how justification relates to all aspects of life.”

◦ to become a person who walks in love, I begin walking in love in specific acts
– as a way of getting to God by removing from my life everything that is anti-God
• we turn from this and that until all we’re left with is him

I am sure you’ve noticed it’s easier to hold thoughts of God, easier to believe when we are here in community than it is on Monday morning
• that’s because God did not mean for us to reach the goal he has for us by a spirituality that is exclusively internal
• it is in community that we begin to learn how to externalize Christian spirituality
◦ and the more we practice, the greater our growth in love, trust, and lived experience

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