Tag Archives: Ephesians

Is the Spirit of God at Work in Your Church?

19 Feb

I’ve found that people ask all sorts of different questions when you talk to them about church.

Sometimes the questions they ask seem like funny questions. Sometimes they’ll ask you questions that seem like good questions. And sometimes they’ll ask you questions that at first seem like funny questions but in reality are pretty good questions.

Like, sometimes people ask, “Is the Spirit of God at work at your church?”

Now, that can seem a little bit like a funny question because what pastor is ever going to say that the Spirit of God is not at work at his church? Certainly not a pastor who’s concerned about what the Bible has to teach.

On the other hand, though, it can be a good question. It’s not just a funny question. It can be a good question for a whole lot of reasons. For starters, we are desperately dependent on the Spirit’s work. We, as a church, desperately need the Spirit of God to be at work.

We cannot accomplish anything that matters as a church apart from the Spirit of God’s work.

The Bible would be an incredible burden to us as a church if we came week after week after week and the Spirit of God was not at work in this church.

Take a book like Ephesians.

Ephesians would be an incredible burden on our back because all throughout this book Paul’s been describing God’s great goal for us as a church and how God is calling on us to live as a church and it’s huge, really.

Think in your mind throughout the book of Ephesians.

Paul has told us things like, “God has a great plan of presenting us to himself holy and blameless and above reproach.” He’s told us even in chapter 5 that we are to be imitators of God which is a shocking command.The Apostle Paul has told us as a church that we need to be like God and he’s exhorted us in chapter 5 as we’ve studied this chapter, to be radically different than the people around us, specifically, you remember, he’s called us to be sexually pure. He says there shouldn’t even be a hint of sexual immorality in the church and he’s told us to turn from greed and he’s told us that our conversation needs to be different. Then he goes on to say in verses 15-17 of chapter 5 that we are to make the most of every opportunity. He acknowledges that the days in which we live are evil, we know that, and Paul says, “In evil days, because the days are evil, we need to grab hold of every single opportunity we have as a church to glorify God and to do people good.” He tells us we are to understand what the will of the Lord is, understand what God wants for our lives and all of this is very exciting: to be holy and blameless, to be like God, to be different than the world, to know what God wants for my life, to make the most of every opportunity.

It’s all very exciting but it is kind of overwhelming when you start to think about it because how in the world are we ever going to be able to do all of that?

I know me and I know a little bit of what God’s like, how am I going to be like God? I know us and I know a little bit of what the world is like, how are we going to be sexually pure? How are we going to stand before God holy and blameless and above reproach? How are we going to accomplish all these different commands that Paul describes for us in the book of Ephesians?

An important part of Paul’s answer is found in the work of the Spirit in terms of our everyday holiness. It’s found in what Paul talks about when he describes in verse 18 the importance of being filled with the Spirit. An important part of the way, as one man puts it, that “we fulfill God’s great purpose for our lives and for our church is by being filled with the Spirit continually” which is why this is a pretty good question.

Is the Spirit of God at work?

Because if the Spirit of God is not at work doing this in us, the whole rest of the book of Ephesians cannot be fulfilled. If the Spirit is not at work in this way, if as someone has said, if you could somehow delete verse 18 from Ephesians 5 about the Spirit filling believers, then everything else in this book would become legalistic and actually pretty much impossible.

The problem is not with people asking you, “Is the Spirit of God at work?”

The problem instead is sometimes with the way they try to go about answering it because they’re often looking to things as proof of the Spirit of God’s work that are very different than what Paul described as evidence of the Spirit of God’s work.

This is one of those questions there can be a whole lot of confusion about.

What does it mean for the Spirit of God to fill a church? What does it look like in a church, in a community, when the Spirit of God is really at work?

There are a lot of people who are answering that question in a way that’s very different than how the Apostle Paul does. In the next several posts, I want us to look at Ephesians 5, and what we will see is that one of the primary proofs that the Spirit of God is really at work in a church is when the lifestyle of believers in that church and the relationship of the members of that church are being radically transformed from what they were before they were saved, to something that looks a whole lot more like Jesus Christ.

In other words, as we look at our church and we ask, “Are we being filled with the Spirit of God the way we should?” what we’re going to see we need to look for, what we need to look at, is if we as a people are delighting more and more in Christ and experiencing more and more joy in Christ and becoming more and more like Christ Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

The difference

3 Nov

On Sundays we are beginning to look at Ephesians 4 and Paul’s instruction to believers regarding how they should live. In other words, Paul’s discussion of what some might call Christian “virtues.” It is important as we study these characteristics to understand the difference between what Christianity teaches and what every other form of morality teaches. Martyn Lloyd Jones suggest several essential differences between Christianity and any and every form of pagan culture or collection of pagan virtues:

1. The first important difference is to be found in the reasons that non Christians give for living their own type of life. They invariably isolate their conduct and behaviour as something in and of itself…The reason why the Christian does not do certain things, but does do other things is always in terms of the Lord Jesus Christ!

2. These pagan systems…always presume natural ability; obviously, because they come and tell us to pull ourselves together, to conform to the pattern. They are presuming that we have the ability and power to do so. Because of that, it is generally a kind of teaching that only appeals to a certain type of person…Non-Christian teaching has nothing to offer failures. If a man is unable to respond to it they just denounce him and leave him; they cannot understanding him.

3. Moralities and ethics, divorced from the Christian faith, for the reasons I have been giving, minister to self-satisfaction and pride.

4. Non-Christian systems really leave the old man and the old nature quite untouched. They merely whitewash the surface a little and conceal the foulness that is within.

5. Worldly moral systems simply hinder and put a brake upon the great outbreaks of vice and the coarse manifestations of vice, they do not really deal with the vice itself.

6. Non-Christian systems really deal with nothing but repression. They know nothing about expression. They are negative, they lack freedom. But Christianity has both. You stop doing one thing, you do the other.

7. Non-Christian systems are always cold. It is the coldness of artificiality. It is all the difference between a rose blooming on a branch in your garden and an artificial rose. They look very much alike at first…but oh! that artificial thing! it is cold, it is dead, it is hard, there is no warmth about it, there is nothing that really attracts when you get near it. And that is true of all the merely moral, ethical systems. You cannot really get near people who are merely moral and ethical, there is a coldness about them; they are self-content, they are very perfect, but you do not get sympathy out of them, there is no warmth, they do not encourage you, they do not sympathize with you. But when you come to a Christian, what a contrast! He is warm, he is human, he is sympathetic, he is approachable, he is encouraging, he is not for ever standing on his dignity, he can forget himself, he can enthuse, he is governed by a principle of love, which is found at the centre of his life and radiates from him. He is not always watching and observing himself on the outside, there is spontaneity, this principle, this blessed principle of life. He is what he is by the grace of God, and because the grace of God has been able to do this for him, he makes you feel that grace can do it for you also.

Darkness and Light, An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17, p.205-10