I’ve done my share of cleanup – houses, yards, vehicles, rooms… I’m sure we all have! As Paul presses home the application for the church in Ephesus he exhorts them to address a number of areas in daily living. Having experienced the grace of God, the converted sinner wants to see the power of sin broken through the work of the indwelling Spirit. Shall we wait passively in a ‘let go and let God’ posture, or shall we rather, with God’s help seek to be obedient in specific areas which His word addresses.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionates to one another, forgiveing each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
1) Unwholesome talk –
My uncle Forde, on occasion, used to quote for me a poem I believe he learned in school. Here it is –
“If you your lips, would keep from slips,
Five things I now declare.
OF whom you speak, TO whom you speak and HOW and WHY and WHERE.”
A simple exhortation to recite a more challenging one to obey. Zero tolerance is God’s accepted standard for unwholesome talk. No excuses for ‘slipping up,’ getting ‘carried away in the moment,’ or ‘expressing oneself in a moment of frustration. The only thing worth hearing from you or me is what is edifying. I learn the ‘needs’ of others by intentionally asking God to make me ‘others-centred’ and then I speak into those needs with words of truth spoken in love.
2) Grieving the Holy Spirit –
Some Christian groups, in reaction to others, fear to even speak of the Spirit of God. Let’s not ‘back into our positions,’ but rather study carefully what the entire corpus of Scripture teaches on the person and work of the Spirit of God. He seals every believer, confirming God’s transformative grace in their lives. Now that He indwells us, we must seek not to grieve Him through some sin of commission.
Well might we sing prayerfully, “Spirit of God descend upon my heart, Wean it from earth through all its pulses moves…..” or “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me…. Melt me, mould me, fill me, use me…..”
3) Eradicating evil attitudes and actions –
It is time for a major overhaul, a major character cleanup. Let’s rent the largest dumpster we can find and clean out the trash in our lives. Get rid of ALL bitterness, ALL rage, ALL anger, ALL brawling, ALL slander and ALL malice. Just how much have we been storing up through sinful resonses to difficult life circumstances? Whatever the quantity, Paul exhorts the entire congregation in Ephesus to dig it out, pry it apart, cast it all out of their lives. Drop all the outstanding grievances you have. Offer forgiveness to those who have offended you and model a response which is God-like.
God forgave your sins. God acted in kindess and compassion towards you while you were in state of rebellion against Him. In view of all HE has done, reflect that same selfless, sacrificial love in your relationships with others. Will this be easy? No! Is is essential? Yes!