Sunday, June 23, 2013

Walk Worthy

When one learns to operate a car, that person learns about the laws governing the operation of a vehicle. The basics of how to move the vehicle are learned first, so that when put into practice, the student driver attains the level of awareness one must have in order to make the vehicle an extension of their own body, so that all movement is both defensive as well as changes at the speed of thought. The driver is taught to treat other drivers on the road with respect and courtesy, to announce intention well before the action so that everyone sharing the same stretch of road can change coarse accordingly. The lessons include facts that there are laws to be obeyed, and everyone on the road must follow those laws or pay the penalty for their violation.

But rare is the driver that adheres to practicing those lessons and who converts them into good habits, regardless of what the rest of the driving community is doing. After a while, expediency works against good habits, especially when no consequences are apparent. Rare is the driver who consistently practices obeying those laws when they constantly witness with their own eyes people successfully exploiting them (i.e., no accident occurs and no police officer happens by). By and large, drivers behave as though such rules are in place, not to be obeyed to the letter, but to be circumvented by any means they can escape with, in the most expedient manner to suit that driver’s desires, most of the time at the expense of everyone else sharing that stretch of road.

I am reasonably sure we have all seen this in different forms result badly over the years, from someone having a very bad day to someone having their very *last* day.

The question is, what tends to happen to those drivers who experience discourtesy, and outright violation of law, on a regular basis? When people routinely rubberneck the person in front of them to the point where they might as well be riding in their trunk, or change lanes without signaling as though the road were theirs alone, or roll through stop signs because, well, that involves actually stopping and who has time for that?... What does the average person in the world end up doing when everyone on the road is *supposed* to be in agreement with one another about how they will conduct themselves, but there is no immediate, visible consequence of violation of the law?

The average person takes hold of that moral hazard, and begins to exploit it, *just like everyone else around them*. Why should I obey the law if no one else needs to? No one else signals, why should I? No one else is doing the speed limit, why should I? Everyone else is rolling through that intersection when the red octagonal sign on the corner means nothing else but STOP, why shouldn’t I do it, too?—I’m entitled to the same thing everyone else gets, so excuse me while I roll on through here just like the car in front…

Good habits must be maintained despite the presence of moral hazard in the actions we commit.

I have not at this point said anything that we do not already know… so what does this example of good and bad habits have to do with Ephesians 4?


Ephesians 4: 1-6

1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received,


The speaker, Paul, has been speaking to the Gentiles in the previous 3 chapters of the blessings of God upon all who both *heard* and *believed* the message of the Gospel, how He chose us in Him, before the world was founded, through the blood of His Son; the riches of God’s grace, given according to *His* choice and purpose. He spoke in the *past tense* in chapter 2, how we *were* dead in our sin, how we *previously* walked according to the ways of this world, how we *previously* walked in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our thoughts.

Those attributes were described in the past tense, even when he said, “we were all by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You were saved by grace!”

After saying all of that, he now establishes who he knows himself to be in the eyes of God. Having already called himself “the least  of all the saints”, he does not indentify himself by anything he has accomplished under the name Saul of Tarsus. He does not say “therefore I, Pharisee of Pharisees” or, “Therefore I, who mastered the law at the feet of Gamaliel the Elder.” He had no credentials to identify himself to these members of Christ’s body except “the prisoner for the Lord”.

Despite all of his great accomplishments, he was given to know his place. And it is not a pleasant one to any flesh.

Prisoner for the Lord. Literally, the words translate from the Greek as “a captive in bonds, for the Lord. I saw that and at first it brought to mind a man bound at the ankles and wrists in contemporary terms, before I remembered what happened to Saul of Tarsus.

He was on his way to Damascus as a man with great authority and wielding fear and persecution, suddenly knocked onto his back and blinded, and had to be led in that blind state by the hand the rest of the way to Damascus. He then had to wait in complete darkness for three days, eating nothing, drinking nothing. A slave of God, named Ananias, is dispatched by the Lord and given charge to (first) overcome his fear of Saul’s well known actions of seeing slaves like himself killed, and (second) see Saul’s sight restored, baptize him, and see him receive the Holy Spirit. Saul is seized, thoroughly subjected to a Will stronger than his own, and God says to Ananias in Acts Chapter 9 that “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” While the Bible does not reveal why or how his name was changed from Saul to the Romanized “Paul”, it is clear that the man known as Saul of Tarsus, after encountering Jesus and being made His prisoner, became Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ.

Where have we heard of details of changes like that forced upon a human life?

That looks a lot less like a contemporary prisoner in an orange jumpsuit, and more like a captive slave. There are no rights assigned to this man in his new status, no promise of fair treatment. No established ending in this life to the term of his imprisonment. This is freedom revoked. This is a man identifying himself as the property of the Lord.

In Paul’s first letter to Corinth, he said speaks plainly to this state of ownership.


1 Corinthians 6:19-20


Do we live as though we do not belong to ourselves? Do we live as though we know our place as mercifully purchased property? Do we recognize that to belong to our selves is to be dead? If the Master has not purchased us, we are dead in our own propensity to violate the law to serve our flesh. Do we walk this life as people aware of this fact, let alone worthy of His calling upon our lives?

We see the difference spelled out in the life of Paul. In the Book of Acts, we read that all of the followers of The Way, as followers of Jesus were called before the derogatory term “little Christs” or Christians, became the norm in the Roman Empire, were terrified of Saul of Tarsus. When he came to Jerusalem after encountering Jesus and becoming one of His slaves, Peter and John and the other disciples were afraid to meet with him, because they knew his reputation as a hunter and persecutor of Jesus’ followers. It was not until they saw Jesus within Paul, when he spoke so boldly to the Greek-speaking Jews in Jerusalem about Jesus that they attempted to take his life, that they recognized him as a brother in Christ and put their fear of him away.

Back to Ephesians 4… He is now urging those who have heard and believed the message of the Gospel “to walk worthy of the calling you have received”. He is personally admonishing and exhorting them, as a man who was put in his place, to do what the redemption of Christ’s blood allows the recipients of God’s grace to do, to walk worthy, to literally conduct their lives in a manner becoming of the divine call made by the Lord Jesus. Walk worthy. You were dead. You once walked as the world walks, breaking the law because it was expedient, because you obeyed yourself and held yourself in higher esteem than what God called you to, as the rest of the world does. But God, great in mercy, chose to save you. Walk worthy of His calling as adopted sons and daughters. That is an action to be done continuously and faithfully, as Paul wrote to Corinth in his second letter to them.


2 Corinthians 13:5


The verse there has two polar opposite terms in Greek at both ends of it. Literally, Paul was saying to the church in Corinth, prove yourselves--show to yourselves by self-examination that you are in the faith. Recognize that Jesus Christ is in you in the way in which He showed His disciples, unless you are a fraud, a counterfeit, a fake. Unless you fail the test. To fail the test is the opposite of proving that you are in the faith. Walk worthy. Make faithful practice of not walking after fleshly desire. Make faithful practice of not carrying out, but rejecting the inclinations of your flesh and thoughts. Walk worthy, as a bound captive walks before the Master who not only owns His life and holds it in His hands, but promised, with words that never lie, that you were bought by an act of supreme love and mercy, and as a result of the price paid will never be taken from the very hands that formed you.

So despite the moral hazard of living and breathing on Earth among the walking dead, among those who are completely unconcerned with any notion of obeying any god but the god of self, we who are set free from slavery to sin but mercifully bound captive to the Living God by His grace, must walk worthy of the calling.

In verse 2 Paul describes what that walk looks like. The attributes of the one who walks worthy eliminate the ability of moral hazard to exist, because they strip all focus from the individual and his or her wants, and focus instead entirely upon the mandate of Christ to love one another.

We then walk in humility because we are always aware of the fact that we were given such grace despite our wretched unworthiness, and truly know our place and harbor no vestige of ourselves.

We are gentle because we have been broken by the truth and are being reshaped into the image of the Lamb, the Only One deserving of praise and glory who walked upon this earth as the Son of Man, but Who became sin so that we might be given pardon when we only deserve death.

We walk with patience, accepting one another in love, because we recognize Jesus Christ in one another, just as the disciples saw Him in Saul when he spoke, and we recognize that apart from Christ we are made of the same materials as they are, and the only difference between those whom God loves and those whom God hates, is God and His purposes, and not anything about us separate from the work of His Holy Spirit. I don’t want to be accepted for who I am; I want to be accepted because our Lord and Master is visible in me despite who I am, despite this cracked, unworthy vessel He has purchased and made use of for His glory.

We walk diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us because, knowing our place as His bought property, knowing that we are saved from wrath so terrible that God’s Son was crushed so we would not be, we don’t want the false peace that the world offers any longer.

The Greek word for peace used here, eiréné (i-ray'-nay), is a beautiful word. Its root is from eirō, "to join, tie together into a whole") – properly, wholeness, i.e. when all essential parts are joined together; peace (God's gift of wholeness). This is the peace that bonds us together in Him. The “unity of the Spirit” means the harmony from sharing likeness of nature with the Lord. Compare that with the completely opposing attributes of what Paul says about the nature of children under wrath in Ephesians 2 that I have been speaking about, and you get what the world calls peace; living in fleshly desire, and carrying out the inclinations of flesh and thoughts.

We as followers of Jesus are to diligently keep the harmony from sharing likeness of nature with the Lord, given to us by the Holy Spirit, with the peace that bonds us together in Him. Through his death on the cross, he took our nature as children under wrath and received all of God’s wrath for our sin when He was without any sin, never broke a single command from His Father, and giving us instead not what we deserve, but likeness of nature with *Him* through the Holy Spirit.

That is the most beautiful thing I have ever read. The world does not even pretend to offer anything close when it speaks of peace. It doesn’t know the meaning of the word.


When the world extends peace through conformity and friendship with it, the world lies, because how can something that is all for self offer anything which requires loving sacrifice? The world can at rare moments offer acts of benevolence, but it is always for a selfish reason; ultimately to look after one’s own objectives, to feel better about one’s self, to appear benevolent for the sake of fickle appearance, are the most altruistic motives the world can muster for whatever “good” it manages to put forth in the name of peace. Even in war, a man might lay down his life for his country, but why was his country at war in the first place? James answered that question in Chapter 4 of his epistle.


James 4:1-10

1 What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from the cravings that are at war within you?

2 You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask.

3 You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.

4 Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

5 Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously?

There is the crux. There is the source of why we experience any reluctance to walk worthy of the calling we have received, why we don’t want to live as bought slaves, why we even dare want heaven as long as God leaves us alone to be ourselves. We are not content to keep the harmony from sharing likeness of nature with the Lord, given to us by the Holy Spirit, with the peace that bonds us together in Him. Our flesh is in direct opposition to it. Every single war has started because someone wanted something he didn’t have and decided he was entitled to it. We heed the cravings that are inside us, we still want to live in our fleshly desires with the rest of the world. We still want to carry out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, when we are told in Galatians 5:24 that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” That is extremely important. When we belong to Christ, our passions and desires have been crucified with Him. If when we look at our passions and desires, we treat it like a national flag and upraise it, we need to repent and ask God for forgiveness, because we are behaving as though we don’t belong to Him.


We desire, and do not have. We have convinced ourselves that we are entitled to have what we desire. The country’s foundation is on that principle; the pursuit of that which makes *us* happy is a documented, inalienable right. With that sense of entitlement in our fists, we will pursue what we desire, but because we desire and do not have, and we want our desire more than we want to obey God, we will, by the nature of our flesh, transgress God’s law to obtain our desire, seeing no immediate consequence for doing so.


Consider it for a moment. There are desires we hold in our chests and have clung to them for years, yearning for something we don’t have and have reasoned that we are entitled to have. We have carried them in our hearts for so long that we do not realize that we have placed that desire upon the throne of our hearts, which is idolatry, and God has commanded that we are never to supplant His rightful place as the sole occupant of that throne. We are to love the LORD our God with *all* our heart, mind, soul and strength. But now our long held desire has taken the throne. When we are made aware of this fact--*that* is the time to examine ourselves to prove that we are in the faith. Do we then prove ourselves faithful by repenting of our idolatry and obeying God, or counterfeit by obeying our desire and hoping God does not hold us accountable for our decision to disobey Him?


Every instance in the Bible where God chooses to allow His people to have things which do not honor Him has been cause for those people to fall upon their faces and cry out to Him for mercy when all is said and done.


When we have the gall to ask God for these things and do not receive it, it is because our motives are wrong. God’s glory and honor, pleasing Him and Him alone, are not are goals. Pleasing ourselves, making our *selves* happy, is.


James calls those of us who do this faith-LESS. The Greek word translated as “adulterers” in English, pronounced “moichalis” is defined this way;


“As the intimate alliance of God with the people of Israel was likened to a marriage, those who relapse into idolatry are said to commit adultery or play the harlot; hence, moichalis is figuratively equivalent to faithless to God, unclean, apostate: (James 4:4)”


James is saying in clear language that to espouse the world’s way of doing things, pursuing the selfish desires of our own hearts instead of pursuing that which glorifies God, is harlotry. It is filthy, and nothing filthy will be touched by God. It is betrayal of God in the way a wife betrays a husband and a husband betrays a wife. That is the heart of the matter. To be the world’s friend, to walk according to the ways of this world, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, is to be God’s enemy. It is to prove oneself unworthy in the test. And the tests of faith will come, sometimes by the minute. Every trial and test is designed to prove ourselves in the faith.


Seeing the sin upon examination is not enough. Awareness of our sin is but the first mercy of God upon a soul. Repentance, the act of rejecting the sin we are now aware of and turning 180 degrees away from it and toward God with consistency, in faithful obedience, is the second.


“Nothing is pressed more earnestly in the Scriptures, than to walk as becomes those called to Christ's kingdom and glory. By lowliness, understand humility, which is opposed to pride. By meekness, that excellent disposition of soul, which makes men unwilling to provoke, and not easily to be provoked or offended. We find much in ourselves for which we can hardly forgive ourselves; therefore we must not be surprised if we find in others that which we think it hard to forgive. There is one Christ in whom all believers hope, and one heaven they are all hoping for; therefore they should be of one heart. They had all one faith, as to its object, Author, nature, and power. They all believed the same as to the great truths of religion; they had all been admitted into the church by one baptism, with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as the sign of regeneration. In all believers God the Father dwells, as in his holy temple, by his Spirit and special grace.” --Matthew Henry

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