“…in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
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 4:22-24; 5:1-2 (NASB)
Being a Christian would be a relatively simple matter if all God expected of us was to believe this or that, feel a certain feeling in our hearts, or come church regularly. But something more radical is expected of us.
“Be imitators of God,” Paul tells the Ephesians. Can he be serious? How is it possible for common folk like us, in all our weakness, frailty, confusion, and humanity to be imitators of God? This is too great a burden for us to bear. We can change, but can we change this much? “As beloved children,” Paul says. In other words, Paul does not tell the Ephesians that they should struggle heroically to become who they are not. Rather, he urges them to become who they are, namely, beloved children of God. The changes, the conversion urged upon Christians are not to transform nobodies into somebodies, but to enable the somebodies to live like somebodies.
No one ever told us it was easy to be a Christian. Here is a faith that does not suit our natural inclinations, a faith with so bold a vision that we can spend our whole lives growing to it. It is not easy to act like a Christian, to forgive, to watch our language, to care for others. But the difficulty comes in our being children of God and, like all young children, trying to imitate our Parent in all that we do. This seems far too much to lay upon our small lives at first. But true believers have confidence that, given time and the work of the Spirit, we shall grow to it until that day when it can be said of us that we are imitators of God.
“This is my comfort in affliction, that Your word has revived me.” Psalm 119:50 (NASB)
We must look up to God. His saving help is at hand, but we must look to Him to see it. His miracles are waiting for us, but we must look to Him to receive them. When we stop staring at our problems and look to God, wonderful things will happen. The psalmist gives happy witness: “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). The promise is for all who will turn to God.
“The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 26:11 (NASB)
“I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me.” Galatians 1:22-24 (NASB)
The Damascus road was not the end; it was the beginning of new life. Paul the persecutor became Paul the peacemaker. The one driven by hate became the one motivated by love. Emptiness was displaced by a fullness that poured into the lives of other empty people.
You can imagine the skepticism with which Paul was received by Christian groups. After all, would you want someone who was notorious for jailing Christians to be next weeks honored guest? Paul’s bad reputation had even spread to those who had never met him. A new rumor began to spread, however: “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” Christ had transformed Paul’s life.
Paul had hidden potential within him before he met Christ. Who knows what great things God has in store for you when you give your life to Him.
James E. Lamkin
The Scriptures always record them in that order: grace and then peace. The reason is that the grace of God must be accepted before one can know the peace of God. The fifth chapter of Romans says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Ever time we wander away in sin there is ample grace to cover our sin; there is plenty of grace if we will but accept that grace. Then we can know the peace of God. By faith we are recipients of the grace, mercy, and peace of God.
“Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples are you? He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it again, and immediately a rooster crowed.” John 18:25-27 (NASB)
Simon Peter lived in the real world, where the action was, and so must we. Though we are weak, we have to expose ourselves to situations where we are threatened. Otherwise we would have to live apart from opportunities for decision, courage, and growth. Moreover, we would avoid positive opportunities for service.
Jesus had warned Peter of what he was about to do. This should have led Peter to call on God for help before he faced his crises. But warning did no good. Peter went ahead to face danger–which was commendable; but he went without reliance on God–which led to disaster.
To sin seems the most natural thing one could do under the circumstances. It requires no premeditation. The temptation comes–the sin is the appropriate response. Sin always seems so right! Therein is the destroying treachery: under the circumstances it would seem almost wrong not to sin. But of course, the word “sin” does not come into the picture. For Eve in the Garden of Eden, it was this way: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6). For Simon Peter it was a clear case of self-defense; when asked if he were one of Jesus’ disciples, he denied it–he sinned, and it was so easy to do.
Sooner or later something or someone reminds us that wrong is wrong, that sin is sin. While the pressure was on, while the fun lasted, sin was an illusion. But then one reflects, one considers consequences, one considers God, and the whole picture changes. One little incident–the crowing of a rooster–brought Simon Peter back to a deeper level of reality. Then, so the other Gospels have told us, he was smitten with shame.
Guilt is always with us. The best among us know it acutely; the worst hardly feel it. Its presence or its absence points to a need to work with human beings lovingly and patiently until they find liberating forgiveness and energizing power to live triumphantly.
Faith is a force that is greater than
knowledge or power or skill,
And the darkest defeat turns to
triumph if you trust in God’s
wisdom and will,
For faith is a mover of mountains–
there’s nothing man cannot achieve
If he has the courage to try it
and then has the faith to believe.
Helen Steiner Rice
“Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-5 (NASB)
“Who is a minister?” most of us would respond by describing someone who is paid by the church to lead a congregation. Ministers are people who work for the church on a full-time basis. The laity are all those other Christians who work elsewhere to support the full-time ministry of the minister.
This view of church leadership makes it sound as if a congregation has one minister who is supported by a group of laypeople. But this view is not true to the New Testament picture of church leadership.
When Paul writes to the church at Corinth and says “since we have this ministry, as we received mercy”, he is not simply talking to a group of professional, full-time, seminary-trained pastors. He is addressing the leaders of the whole church, including those whom we often think of as “laity.”
Elsewhere Paul makes it clear that “ministry” includes all Christians. Ministry or service is not limited to those who are paid to do it. It includes everyone who has a share in Christ’s liberating work in the world. Sometimes those whom we regard as laity have better opportunities to perform ministry to the world than those whom we regard as clergy.
I think that we might do better to make a distinction between “ministers”–that is, all of us who are true believers–and “pastors”–that is, all those whom the church calls for the specialized ministry of teaching, preaching, and upbuilding the church. The role of these pastors is to equip the ministers for their ministry. Pastors are those who “equip the saints” (Eph. 4:12) for their ministry in the world.
Unfortunately, due to our fuzzy understanding of ministry, we often thought of pastors who take away the ministers responsibility for serving the world in Christ’s name. We do not have to perform their God-given ministry. We have pastors to enable and support the laity in their own distinctive ministries.
This is much the same as Paul says to the Corinthians when he claims that “we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known to men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!
Never forget that no matter how close we live to God, we will not be rid of the nature of the flesh until death or the Rapture. Do not let some preacher tell you that your old nature is eradicated. When it is, you will crave no more beans, potatoes, steak, and ham. It is not the Spirit that craves those things. You can starve that old nature into subjection–but when you start feeding it again in the least way, it will revive and come to life again. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” John 3:6.
Never forget that the food that feeds one nature will starve the other; that is, the two natures within you cannot be fed on the same thing. The Spirit within you will starve on the things of the world. But the flesh and its lusts will starve on prayer, Bible study, witnessing to others, and testifying for Jesus.
Never forget, you cannot feed both natures at the same time. One will starve while the other is getting fat. Light drives out darkness. Water drives out thirst. Bread satisfies hunger. Truth crushes untruth. Jesus is the Light of the world, the living Water, the Bread of life, and the Truth. When the soul is being fed on the living Word of God, who lives and abides forever, the flesh is being starved.
Never forget that dead as the flesh may be judicially, and dead as you may have kept it practically, it can always be raised from the dead and revived if we forget that it is grace, and all grace, that makes us free from the curse of sin. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Never forget: If we sow to the flesh, corruption follows just as surely as wheat produces wheat. If we pamper the flesh, feed it, entertain it, corruption is to be expected. But if we sow to the Spirit, we shall reap everlasting life.
Always remember there is a Bible way to deal with the flesh–the old man–and conquer it: Reckon the old man dead indeed unto sin. Reckon yourselves alive to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Yield to the Holy Spirit and never make a move, never make plans without His leading. Feed the new man daily with the only diet the new man can live on–the living Word.
Walk by faith and not by sight. You may not understand it–but faith does not ask for an explanation. Faith walks where it cannot see. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith” 1 John 5:4.