Across our nation in the coming weeks there will be a number of roadside “ride checks,” where police officers will assess the blood alcohol levels of holiday drivers. They are located randomly to ‘catch’ the widest range of drivers and to enforce legal standards which sadly are often ignored.
In Ephesians 5:1-7 Paul is establishing a “walk check,” where professing Christians are assessed for their tolerance of sin. His list and embedded warnings call out a range of behaviours, many of which are ‘excused’ with the responses – “That’s just the way I am.” “Oh that? That’s no big deal with God, is it?” “Everybody does it….” “I’m not as bad as …..”
Take a look at the list –
1) sexual immorality, any kind of impurity;
3) obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I’m sure it is longer than most of us prefer. Sexual immorality? We kind of expected that one. But greed? Obscenity? Sure, but foolish talke or coarse joking.
What do these verses teach us about God’s standards?
1) God describes His people as ‘holy.’ In essence, they are set apart for God and are committed to Him. His standards have replaced their standards. They accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Master and Saviour of their lives and now they live under His authority. They call Him ‘Lord’ and demonstrate that they have grasped the lifestyle implications of this faith affirmation.
2) God’s standards articulate with precision sinful activities which are improper and out of place. God draws a ‘zero tolerance’ line and calls His children to conformity. “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person–such a man is an idolater–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
3) God’s standards are often tampered with by those who ‘claim’ to represent Him. Note the warning about possible deception with empty words. ‘Misery loves company,’ the old proverb reminds us, and sinners are more ‘comfortable’ when they persuade others to lower their standards in disobedience.
Failing the ‘ride check’ test has serious but usually temporary consequences. Failing God’s ‘walk check’ test has eternal consequences. May the Spirit of God equip us with the grace of God so we say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldy passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:12)