Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Ephesians
With my incredible love of the Book of Ephesians, especially the first two chapters that speak about the greatness, majesty, and divine pleasure and good purposes of the Lord in saving us, some of you may be surprised at my verse choice from this beautiful Letter written by the apostle Paul to the Church at Ephesus.
I deliberately didn’t pick a verse from the first two chapters, especially the first chapter, because I have written about a number of these same topics (grace, the Lord’s eternal decree in saving us, God’s sovereign grace, His pleasure and good purpose ordaining us to salvation) in previous verses. I can always say much more on these ostentatious and astonishing topics, but I thought that I’d take some time to discuss verses that deal with some other important issues of the Christian faith. Today’s verse – Ephesians 4:29 – was chosen because of the providential circumstances that arose this morning from a friend Taylor’s Facebook post. After she posted this inspirational saying I was inspired to expound on this thought a bit more during my devotional time with the senior adults during our monthly senior adult luncheon held today.
Here was the post: “Anyone can find the dirt on someone. Be the one who finds the gold”. And then this Bible verse reference was tagged on to it: Proverbs 11:27. Now, I will admit, although I am pretty well acquainted with the Word of God, I couldn’t remember what this particular reference said, so I had to look it up for myself, and this is what it said,
Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes
to one who searches for it.
My friend’s post was basically a loose paraphrase of this verse, but I believe it was pretty accurate, and it really moved me. Do I look for the gold in people (positive), or am I more interested in the dirt (negative)?
Some people, for whatever reason (but we’ll boil it down to man’s sinful heart, and mankind’s neurotic tendencies brought about by sin, parental upbringing, and other adult role models during the formative years – coaches, teachers, religious leaders, older peers), can only look at the bad or the negative in a situation or in other people. Because of this negativity – pessimism – critical spirit – they are constantly looking at the bad, and for the bad in people and/or situations, and as a consequence their own personal life and attitude tends to be pessimistic, negative, and critical of others (and themselves!).
They are the ten spies who came back from scouting out the Promised Land and said, “Yes, the land is flowing with milk and honey, and the grapes are gigantic, but we are mere grasshoppers compared to the giants in the land. We will be devoured!” Whereas Joshua and Caleb replied, “Yes, the people are big, but our God, who promised us this land, is MUCH BIGGER”. Unfortunately, the Israelites listened to the grumblers and the complainers and revolted. Only Joshua and Caleb made it into the Promised Land. As the verse in Proverbs said, the whiners searched for evil (negative report) and received trouble, but Caleb and Joshua sought the positive/good, and they received favor!
I know that the scriptures are clear when they speak about mankind’s propensity towards selfishness, as we see here in Jeremiah 17:9, “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”, but man’s depravity is most concerned with fallen man’s inability and natural abhorrence to love and worship the Triune God on their own. This is why we need divine grace – the impartation of Christ’s perfect life – into our life so that we will be forgiven, and then be enabled to love and worship the Lord God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
So, even Christians – unfortunately – can be negative, pessimistic, and downright nasty at times when it comes to dealing with other people. They are either nasty, or just pessimistic – or what Saturday Night Live would call a ‘Debbie Downer’, and I’ll add the male counterpart – ‘Davy Downer’.
Now, we’re all going to have bad days, and sometimes during those bad days we may get a bit melancholy and gloomy about people and situations, but my concern here – and with the verse in Ephesians that I will soon get to – is the spirit of negativity that we see everyday, ESPECIALLY on Facebook and other social media when it came to this past election, and with what remains to be a source of conflict for many people in regards to politics in America.
I mean, can people get any nastier? It’s awful! But that once again, shows us the intent of man’s heart – to lean towards the mean, selfish, unkind, insult, cruelty, etc. And sadly, this negativity can be seen in people who have received the Lord’s transforming and repurposing saving grace, which just doesn’t make sense.
THAT’S WHY Paul wrote what he did here in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. In the preceding verses, Paul reminds the Christians that since they have been called to salvation by the eternal decree and grace of God for His mysterious purpose and pleasure, then we are truly NOT the same people we were before. BUT because we still live in our not-as-of-yet-perfected flesh (our mind and our body) we, as Christians, may at times act like who we are no longer!
Paul tells us to ‘put off’ those old ways – we aren’t that way any longer. You don’t have to park in the same ‘regular employees parking lot’, and go to the same assembly line position you had in the past (nothing wrong with working on an assembly line – this is just an illustration!) – because you have been promoted to the executive offices, with your own office, and your own parking space. Quit acting like you have your old position – it’s not yours any longer!
So, in chapter four Paul is telling the Christians – after considering all of the amazing things THE LORD DID – in saving us (Chapters 1, 2 and 3) – to live like who WE REALLY ARE now, and stop being fooled by our flesh (mind and body) that still think they have to behave a certain way. Paul tells them to be humble and gentle (no longer selfish and harsh); to be at peace with people (no longer fighting against people); work together with other believers so we can mature in the faith (no longer seeking our own way); be angry appropriately (don’t be angry selfishly and hold a grudge); be generous givers (no longer steal from others); and then to the verse we are focusing on today – Ephesians 4:29, “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”.
Many believe that “unwholesome talk” is about cursing, cussing and swearing, and that is certainly a part of it, but when you read the entire verse in context you realize that Paul is talking about the attitude of pessimism, negativity, insults, and the like, and we know that because the rest of the verse tells us to instead “speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.’
Paul is saying that when we use bad language, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, when we are negative about our president, our leadership, our pastor, our parents, our spouse, our friends; or about changes that have been made that are ‘different’ than what we are accustomed to, or other decisions made by others, then we are not building people up – we are instead tearing people and circumstances down – and that doesn’t help anybody. So, back to the verse my friend Taylor shared with me as a variation of Proverbs 11:27. Here’s the quote again: “Anyone can find the dirt on someone. Be the one who finds the gold”.
It’s easy for you and I to get ‘in the flesh’ and find and spread and contaminate even more, the ‘dirt’ about someone or about a situation, and when we find the dirt and spread it around, all we do is make others and OURSELVES dirty! But if you work (by God’s grace and Spirit that lives within you, if you are a believer) on sifting through the dirt and focusing on the gold that is within the person or the situation then you will find favor – God’s favor.
Although all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all people are created in God’s image and for that reason we can love, care for, encourage, be gracious to, pray for, be kind towards, and merciful to anyone we encounter – and any situation we face. And in doing so we will be building them up, and maybe even helping them see their need for Jesus Christ.
Again, I know that because of our upbringing and the general sin of this world, some folks are more pessimistic than optimistic, and it is my prayer that your heart would be transformed by God’s grace through a relationship with Jesus Christ so that you can see the world with His eyes and by His Spirit, which will dramatically change the way you look at people – even people that usually rub you the wrong way.
And if you know Christ already, then my challenge to you is to ask yourself sincerely and honestly: “Am I a Debbie or Davy Downer for Jesus?” If so, I just have to be sincere and honest with you: there’s something wrong. That’s not who we are to be. How do I know that? Because THAT’S NOT HOW JESUS IS, and according to Galatians 2:20, my life is His life. If you are part of the Downer family, be of good cheer, because you aren’t beyond forgiveness and spiritual growth, because that’s what God’s grace and His indwelling Spirit wants to do in all of His children – conform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).