Thursday, October 08, 2015

Paul's Guide to the Christian Life

Years ago, a prominent minister once had a very eccentric man in his congregation who was trying to be a zealous Christian. Unfortunately, the man usually did the wrong thing. The man was a barber. One day he was lathering up a customer for a shave. He came at the man with a razor in his hand and said, "Sir, are you prepared to meet your God?" The customer was scared out of his senses, jumped up and fled the barbershop with lather on his face! (Pause, esp. if the congregation laughs) In the reading we just heard from Ephesians 5:15-20, Paul gives general instructions about how Christians are to live holy lives. He calls on Christians in Ephesus to imitate the life of Christ, and he calls on us to do the same thing today. For example, we must take advantage of every opportunity to do good works. Just as Christ emptied himself of his deity to come to earth to minister to us, we are to empty ourselves of our worldly lives and habits to serve others. As believers we must live our lives very carefully. We must put each step of our lives exactly where it belongs. The path of Christian living and holiness isn't always clear until we study God's Word. Our lives must be seen as constant conversations with God. In order to discern his holy will, we need wisdom, especially in our sin-filled world. The only way to gain that wisdom is to study God's Word all of the time. When we understand what God wants us to do we can go out into the world and share both the Good News of the Gospel and Christ's love to a hurting world that desperately needs to hear words of hope and see those words put into action. As children of God, we are to imitate God. We are to do what God would do, including loving our enemies. We are to be active participants in worship, and not merely spectators. We want to move in and out of God's plan for redemption, but it can't be so. We must expose the darkness of our sin-filled world to the light of Christ's love. We must use the wisdom of God's Word to make our conduct consistent with our faith. Sometimes it's easy for us to allow our eagerness to get in the way of common sense. Sometimes we are in a situation where emotions are high, such as after the death of a loved one. It's at times like this when we feel the need to say something about Jesus, but that would be a mistake. The best way to minister in that situation is simply to be there and love the person who is experiencing loss. That does not mean that we are to curb our enthusiasm for spreading the Good News. We have much to do and not enough time to do it. God has numbered our days. Because our lifetimes are limited, we need to view each day as a precious gift to be lived wisely and according to God's will, which is laid out in the Bible. Wine is a short-lived ecstasy that is destructive but the Holy Spirit is a genuine ecstasy that is creative and uplifting. It's no secret that bars and taverns draw more people than the church. In fact, most sinful, earthly pleasures draw more people than the church. These earthly pleasures give short-term pleasure and long-term pain. The vitality of the Holy Spirit brings permanent pleasure and meaning. It truly lifts people out of themselves into a higher mood in which they can commune with God and understand his will. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We have to depend on him every minute of every day. We are to make the most of our time on earth fulfilling God's purposes. We must take up every possible opportunity for worship and service. In other words, we must continually live under the Holy Spirit's influence by letting God's Word control our lives. Just like a person drunk with wine gives control of his/her life to inebriation, the Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit gives over control of his/her life to the Holy Spirit. The command is in the present tense, which indicates that being filled with the Holy Spirit is not a once-for-all experience but a continuous one. Spirit-filled Christians exhibit the characteristic of speaking, singing, making melody with instruments, giving thanks and submitting. To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with joy and gratitude. The only way to be filled with the Spirit is to eat what wisdom and the bread of life (aka Jesus) have set before us. Once we are filled with the Holy Spirit we have to pay attention to how we spend our time. We must spend our time on eternal things instead of spending time on worldly things. We are to spend our time imitating God by doing God's work in our world. We must do God's work with a sense of urgency. We are living in a time between the start of God's reign and its completion when Jesus returns. We must have a sense of urgency because Jesus could return at any time. During this time, our duties to God must include singing and thanksgiving. Our Christian faith is not to be used to escape the world. It is a sanctuary for strength and renewal, but it is also a staging ground for the battle against the forces of evil. We can't relax our witness or lower ourselves to the moral standards of our world. We must never take our eyes off of Jesus. We need to tread carefully in our sin-filled world so that we won't stumble and fall. We need to take each step cautiously, and we need to take each step with Jesus by our side. In order to discern God's will, we must not neglect prayer, Scripture reading or worship. Through these we listen to the Word, and we talk with the Lord and with others who are talking and walking with God. As we go through this process, we clarify God's will. Life is short. In fact, it could end at any time. It is so short that when we get to heaven we might be amazed that our lives went by so quickly. There are timeless moments that must be lived right now. These moments can be as small and precious as smiling at your waiter or waitress in a restaurant or saying "God bless you" to the grocery store cashier. We must make the most of every moment of every day, and the best way to do that is to love and serve God in each and every way each and every day. Everything we do in our lives is a chance to bring the mind of Christ to bear on the reality of our world. The only way to do this is to think ahead to what's happening next in our lives and stay in a prayerful frame of mind. We must learn to understand the mind of Christ so we can let his thoughts, words and teachings guide and direct our decisions and actions. He can even use our problems as opportunities for us to trust him more. Before we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, we must want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must remove anything that hinders us from being filled with the Holy Spirit. Being with the Holy Spirit is to be under his control moment-by-moment. If we want our lives to count for something, we must make God's will a main priority in our lives. Our world needs to know what God wants us to do. God wants us to live our lives with purpose. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, our lives will reflect the love of Christ. Faith begins when we know God's will. Without understanding God's will, we can't have faith in what he wants us to do in our lives. When we understand his will, we are wise. The way of wisdom involves a life filled with the Holy Spirit. It involves adopting the attitudes of joy, gratitude, humility and respect. It's a way of life defined by showing God's grace and mercy to others. Just think of how much better our world would be if everyone loved God and loved people. As the old song goes, what a wonderful world it would be. Article Source:

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