The standards of conduct for God’s children are set by God. They are impossible standards unless God, by His grace, equips us to reach them. We are not permitted to lower them or alter them, but must admit our finite resources and look to Christ alone to be for us what we cannot be in and of ourselves.
In Ephesians 4 Paul, imprisoned because of his commitment to Christ, exhorts the believers in Ephesus to ‘live a life worthy of the calling’ they have received. God has purposes designed for them since eternity past and in time has made these clear through the unveiling of the mystery of His will. Unable to rescue themselves, these sinners have been saved by GRACE alone through FAITH alone in CHRIST alone. It has been a dramatic rescue operation and now standing on salvation’s shore these formerly ‘drowning sinners’ begin their lives as ‘delivered saints.’
Note the three exhortations in just two verses.
#1 – Be completely humble and gentle! I have a Mark Twain desktop calendar which I enjoy glancing at daily. Two recent quotes by this American humorist – “I was born modest; not all over, but in spots” and “I was born modest, but it didn’t last,” remind us of the impossibility of humility. Paul does not urge an ‘increase’ in humility but a complete lowliness of mind. Didn’t Jesus commence the beatitudes with the words “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?”
#2 – Be patient, bearing with one another in love. In Paul’s personal testimony, recorded in print in 1 Timothy 1, he writes of Christ’s ‘unlimited patience.’ Who, but Christ, possesses such a virtue? Our patience runs out at the first traffic light. Our bearing with one another only continues as long as people are ‘nice’ to us. God calls us to a transformation of heart. Others are to be preferred ahead of ourselves. Our little Sunday School chorus nailed it when we were taught to sing, “Jesus and Others and You, What a wonderful way to spell joy!” Now that it’s been a few years since I sang that, I realize the impossibility of that order without the Spirit’s help.
#3 – Make every effort to keep the unit of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Unity is a fragile commodity and seems to be broken with abandonment regularly. The question we must ask ourselves is this – “Is this issue serious enough, biblically speaking, to warrant a break in fellowship?” or are we just insisting that our preferences be elevated to the status of ‘essentials’ in the faith?
Praise God for His Spirit, who begins the process of change as we believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13,14) but does not leave us as we are. He shows us Christ, and then in a remarkable way begins to mould and shape our lives through a variety of methods that we may look less like ourselves and more like Christ.
Well may we sing this day – “Spirit of God, descend upon my heart, Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move. Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art, and MAKE ME love Thee as I ought to love!” Amen and amen!