Ephesians 4:1 ~ “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
The fifth commandment states, “Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God gives you,” is the only commandment with a promise. This commandment is a statement of purpose and intent for all believers. The purpose behind this statement is to teach children from when they are young that their first responsibility is to “honor” their parents. The intent of the command is to teach children from the earliest of stages of their life that they are to be intentional about the things they do in life.
This seed sown into the hearts, souls, and minds of children grows as they develop and mature into adulthood. The value of teaching children to “honor” their parents is a transferable commodity that pays dividends throughout life. Children who learn to “honor” their earthly parents’, who they can see can make an easier transition to understanding the value of honoring their heavenly Father whom they cannot see. We must first learn to honor those who are over us at all levels of life, before we can embrace the idea of giving honor to Him who is overall. The same way children are encouraged to live their lives so as to be pleasing to their parents’, believers are commanded to be intentional about living lives that honor and please God and reflect the presence of Christ in their lives as well.
Today, we want to begin to look at what a life that honors God looks like. Today, we will focus on only one characteristic so as to give it a full treatment. In verse one of Ephesians chapter four we read, “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” One of the first questions we must answer is what calling have we received? The answer is found in Ephesians chapter one verses four and eleven. In verse four it says, “For he (God) chose us in Him (Christ) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.” In verse eleven is says, “In Him (Christ) we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him (God) who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His (God) will.” OK, before God created the world God knew that people would go off course and their lives would become mired in sinful and destructive ways of living that would lead us to become separated from God. With this foreknowledge, God made provisions through Jesus Christ for our return to Him. God’s plan not only included restoring us to relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, but also giving us a blueprint and guidelines that would enable us to pattern our lives after Christ. Thus, the call to accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior is also a call to pattern our lives after His and in doing so, live a life that honors God. In essence, we received the call when we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior. To put it succinctly, God says, come back to me through Jesus Christ and then live your life after the pattern of Jesus. Do not live like you are on earth, but live like you belong to the kingdom of heaven.
The statement, “Live a life that is worthy of the calling you received,” is a reminder to the church, the Body of Christ, and all believers “Live your lives so as to be consistent with the will, plan, and purposes of God.” A life that honors God will exhibit this characteristic. What I have referred to, as a statement is really more of a command or a challenge to elevate or raise our level of living so that it is consistent or in accordance with the lifestyle we have been called to live – like we belong to God’s kingdom.
It is important to keep in mind that God does not call His people to do something that God has not made provisions for them to carry out. Therefore, God has provided us with guidelines and a blueprint. In fact, not only has God given us written guidelines, but God has also provided us with a living blueprint. The written guidelines can be found in God’s Word. In the Word of God we are provided with examples of those who have gone before us (The Old Testament), and the words of Christ and the examples of those who followed Christ (The New Testament). God has also provided us with a living blueprint in the life and witness of Jesus Christ. In Christ we have the living embodiment of what it looks like to live in accordance with God’s will, plan, and purposes. Christ acts as our role model as He models for us how to elevate our living so that our lives bring honor to God.
Some would say at this point, that is a tall order. How can we do this today when even those who went before us struggled? Before Jesus was crucified he promised His followers that He would send a helper and the purpose of this helper was to give them the power to do the things that Jesus had taught them. The same helper that Jesus offered to disciples back then is available to us today. The helper that Jesus was referring to is none other than the Holy Spirit. As believers allow the empowering presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit to lead, guide, and direct us we will realize that it is only through the divine power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to live lives that honor God and reflect the presence of Christ in our living. In a nutshell, God offers us some homework help through the Holy Spirit. When you help children with their homework depending on where they are, sometimes you guide them by showing, direct them by pointing things out, and in other cases you simply do it for them until they get it. In each case the child is being empowered and grows in knowledge and understanding. The Holy Spirit operates the same way, He shows us through God’s word and the words of Christ. He points things out by aligning us with more mature believer’s who instruct us in the ways of godly living. When all of that does not work, He gives us patient saints who are full of the spirit to take us by the hand and say do it this way.
OK preacher, if it is so simple how come so many people struggle? The short answer is the “human will.” Notice that the command is preceded by “I urge you.” This is literally an appeal, God through the biblical writer, the apostle Paul, is appealing to readers or strongly encouraging them to do and adopt this lifestyle. We must remember that God does not compel or force a person to do anything. God always gives people a choice. The thing that is overlooked in most cases is that with choices are consequences. In other words, there is a precipitating reaction for every action we take or have taken.
Here is what we know, God promises to be with us, bless us, and help us to accomplish His will if we commit ourselves to receiving and living out the calling God has placed on our lives. If we do this, we will live in and experience God’s perfect will. This does not mean that we will not face challenges, issues, obstacles, or have to overcome some hurdles. What is means is that for those who commit themselves to doing it God’s way, God will provide the help we need to overcome whatever we face in the person of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, God will also back off should we choose to do it our way. In this case we will experience God’s permissive will. The permissive will of God is where God removes His covering from us and allows us to personally experience the effects of our actions and potentially whatever life has to throw at us. Literally, we are on our own and left to sort things out and work things out for ourselves. Why? Because we made the decision to reject God’s offer and do it our own way.
Personally, I have experienced both sides of the coin. Living in God’s perfect will is not easy, but as with anything else it takes practice. The more you and I strive to do it the easier it becomes. It becomes easier because we realize that we do not have to do it alone and that we have a helper to rely on in the person of the Holy Spirit. The more we rely on the Holy Spirit the less we rely on ourselves and the less likely we are to step outside of God’s will, plan and purposes for our lives. Living in God’s permissive will is extremely painful. The truth is that we cannot control anything that life or other people do. Therefore, without God’s help we are essentially at the mercy of life and the whims of others. One of the things that helped to crystallize this for me was Romans 8:28 ~ “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Here’s the deal, in God’s perfect will things will always work out for us. Even when something horrible happens ultimately it works out for our good. Of course, as we are going through it we cannot see the good, but in time we look back and say, “wow, if that did not happen then I would not be where I am today, or have what I have, or know what I know today.” On the other hand, in God’s permissive will there is no guarantee that things will work out. We have to live with our anxieties, fears, worries and concerns. Who wants to live like that, never knowing what is going to happen or how things are going to work out? The promise of Romans 8:28 is if we do it God’s way ALL not some, but ALL things will work out for the good.
Now that we have a more fulsome understanding of what God expects from us, I would like to draw from two examples in scripture that illustrate how we can apply the principle of honoring God to our own lives. I would like to lift up the children of Israel and Moses as the two examples for life application.
The children of Israel chose to play both ends against the middle. When they were in trouble they called out to God and promised to live as God prescribed. When they did, God provided for their every need. When they were hungry they received manna and quail from heaven, when they were thirsty God provided water from a rock, during the time they were in the wilderness the soles of their shoes did not wear out and they continued to move closer to the realizing the promise that God made to them. They even acquired things they did not earn or necessarily deserve. Before they left the house of bondage, they received gold and other valuables that did not belong to them.
As things were going well for them their success went to their head and they began to forget God, taking credit for what they did not do for themselves, and complaining about the path that God had chosen for them. They took back the power of choice. They decided that it was better for them to start making their own decisions and charting their own course for their lives. What did God do? God backed off and when God did, they began to experience all kinds of difficulties, marching around in circles for forty years, and generally became dissatisfied and unhappy with the quality of their lives. Ultimately, those who left with Moses never saw what God had promised them.
• Our choices will either lead us to the fulfillment of God’s promises or make sure we never see them in our lifetime.
Moses was God’s appointed leader for the children of Israel. Like the children of Israel, when Moses followed God, God also provided for his needs. Moses received guidance and direction in every situation. In the battles that he led the nation in God provided him with divine assistance. God even revealed Himself to Moses, His plan of promise, and raised up others to help Moses lead so that he did not have to do it all by himself.
Moses though, had two glaring character flaws. He suffered from insecurity and he needed an anger management program. Insecurity stems from doubting our ability do and accomplish more than we trust in the action or power of God. Anger is the result of allowing what others say and do to negatively affect us and take us out of ourselves. Now, before we go any further, let me say that while all people have insecurities and get angry we have a choice in whether or not we will give our insecurities and anger expression and how much. Moses made a conscientious choice to allow these things to dominate him and his life. As a result he forfeited his right to experience God’s promise to him.
• We must be careful not to allow the actions of others or our own feelings of inadequacy to cause us to dishonor God.
In any situation we feel used, taken advantage of, overlooked, or even threatened, we must ask ourselves where are these feelings coming from? Are they from God or from within me? People will always be people, but God’s people must always strive to honor God by living a life worthy of the calling they have received. Moses took his eyes off of God’s promise and started paying too much attention to what the people where saying and doing. Literally, he lost focus and let go of the promise. In order to receive something we must stretch out our hands, open our hearts and minds, and embrace it and then hold on to it. Attached to the calling God extends to us are some promises. Promises are intended to give us something to look forward to, and if we hold on to the promises of God and look forward to their fulfillment in our lives we will be more inclined to live our lives according to God’s plan for us.
Through Jesus Christ, God calls us to partner with Christ and pattern our lives after His. As we do this Christ then sends the Holy Spirit to help us raise our level of living so that it is in accordance with God’s will, plan, and purposes and reflective of our belonging to God’s kingdom. This leads to a life that is more fulfilling and ultimately pleasing to God. This is not something we do once and forget about it, but daily we must commit ourselves to partnering with Christ and patterning our lives after Christ trusting and depending on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us and not operating in our own power.