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DAY 1 – “Just As Christ”
Ephesians 4:32 – 5:2
In our verses this week, Paul gets very practical, giving the church in Ephesus a series of instructions to help them as they form a new community marked by their love of Christ. The core theme can be found in 4:32-5:2. How do we know how to love one another? We follow Christ. We are kind, compassionate, forgiving, loving, and sacrificial, just as Christ was this way with us.
This phrase, “just as Christ” is used two times. Jesus is our example. We can imitate the way of Jesus because we participate in the life of Christ.
How do children learn to navigate the world? One of the major ways is that they look around them and imitate what they see. (This can sometimes be cringe-worthy, as many parents know, when you first see your sweet child doing or saying something that they shouldn’t and knowing that they learned that word or habit by watching mom or dad!) Often, children show excitement for the hobbies or preferences of their parents. They cheer for the same sports teams, or they follow you around, wanting to know about work and hobbies.
We are God’s children, and we observe him and learn to love like him. Love isn’t just a feeling. It isn’t a warm and fuzzy mood that we take on. Instead, as Paul tells us here, it is action. It is a way of walking out. And it is sacrificial. God’s model of love is a love that pours itself out for others.
How do you feel when you read these verses? What response is God asking of you? How are you doing at imitating your heavenly father? Ask God to help you to follow his model of love.
DAY 2 – Lies and Truth
Lying comes all too easily to us. In his book, The Liar in Your Life: How Lies Work and What They Tell Us About Ourselves, professor of psychology Robert Feldman says that we lie about three times in the average 10-minute conversation. According to his research, some of us are lying much more in these sorts of daily interactions, as many as 12 lies in 10 minutes!
It can be all too easy to brush off the notion of lying. We explain our lies away, calling them “white lies” and insisting that they are little and inconsequential, and we certainly didn’t mean to hurt anyone! We insist to our bosses that we’ll get on that task right away. We tell creditors that that bill will be paid tomorrow.
Paul took lies seriously. Lies can destroy a relationship. Lies break down trust. And so, he tells the Ephesians to put off falsehood and speak truthfully to one another. Speaking truthfully isn’t always easy, and Paul knew that. But the consequences of lies are grave. When we lie to one another, we are destroying the new community and the relationships that God wants us to have. We are choosing to present a false version of ourselves rather than letting others really see us.
Notice Paul’s justification for not lying: Because we are all members of one body. Lying breaks down relationships. A group of people who are always lying to one another can never be a true community. Lies destroy trust, and trust is fundamental to a family, a new community. Lies, no matter how inconsequential we think they might be, break down the body of Christ.
What do you think lies do to the body of Christ? Do you tell lies? Do you “bend the truth” to show others a better side of yourself ? Ask God to help you become a person who easily tells the truth.
DAY 3 – Anger
Ephesians 4:26, 30, 31
Anger is all around us. We are a culture filled with outraged people. From cable news programs, to reality television, to road rage, to social media, we see anger surrounding us each and
every day. Just look at the words that Paul uses in this passage: anger, rage, bitterness, brawling, slander, malice. They could very well describe the type of anger we find ourselves swimming in each day. It’s really easy to be around that each and every day and let it affect us, too. Sometimes we can become that type of person—bitter, angry, brawling, and full of rage—without fully realizing it.
This passage is full of warnings to us. Paul says that anger gives the devil a foothold. It’s like a burglar prowling around a house full of windows and doors that are closed tightly and locked, and finding just one window with a tiny crack. It’s enough. It’s just enough of a foothold for him.
Perhaps you justify your anger. Maybe you think your anger is okay. Maybe someone has really wronged you. Or maybe you think the other person is so bad, so terrible, that you are justified
being filled with rage all the time. Perhaps you justify indulging your anger, listening or watching things that stoke your anger, because you think your position is correct.
Notice what Paul does not say. He does not say to keep a little rage if it’s justified. He does not say that a few forms of malice are okay. Instead, he tells us that our unchecked anger grieves the Holy Spirit. Our disunity and unchecked anger causes God sorrow. It leaves space for the enemy to work in our lives. It turns our sisters and brothers, with whom we should be working for unity, into our enemies.
Are you angry? Are you filled with bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice? Do you indulge in things that stoke your anger? Do you enjoy feeling outraged? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart. Ask forgiveness for causing God sorrow. Ask God for the wisdom to know how to deal with anger wisely.
DAY 4 – Burglars to Benefactors
I love to ask children what they would like to be when they grow up. If you ask, you’ll get some amazing answers. A race car driver. A ballerina. An astronaut. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
At some point, as we get older, many of us change our perspective on work. Rather than dreaming, work becomes something we dread. We make jokes about feeling the “Sunday scaries” when we know that the weekend is coming to an end and the work week is ramping up. For a few of us, we dislike work so strongly that we might try to gain wealth from illegal or unethical means. There were apparently some thieves, or former thieves, in the community of Ephesus.
But Paul does not seem to have a negative outlook on work. He commends people for doing something useful with their hands. He tells those who gained wealth by illegal means to change their ways. And not only do we change our ways for our own benefit, but through hard work we can also help others. A former thief can work hard, gain money, and then use it for others who are in need. As John Stott says, “And none but Christ can turn a burglar into a benefactor!” Paul is so radically community-minded. We don’t work just to support ourselves or gain a bunch of stuff. We work to help others. Next time you are feeling a bit negative about work, change your perspective to be like Paul.
Do you think of work as a means to help others? Does this help to motivate you when you are feeling negative about work? Who can you bless this week through your work? Ask God to give you his perspective on work, money, and serving others.
DAY 5 – Words That Bring Life
Proverbs tells us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Speech has the power to destroy. We have all been on the receiving end of words that just rip us apart, that play into our worst insecurities, that make us doubt ourselves. We’ve also all been on the other side of those words, carelessly saying something to someone that tears them down, making them feel less than all that God made them to be. Paul tells us, “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.”
What are some examples of unwholesome talk? Things like insults, lies, labels, put downs, gossip, negative speech, critical comments, and slurs are all unwholesome. The other kind of talk, which we describe as edifying, is the exact opposite of this. It is speech that builds up, encourages, and is filled with kindness. It is speech that sees people as valued, loved, and seen. Another verse in Proverbs describes rash words like sword thrusts. You can’t just unstab someone once you thrust a sword into them. Similarly, it is so difficult to take back hurtful words.
Paul, once again, has a focus on Christian community. He knows that words, insults, and gossip can easily tear community apart. Our conversation is a powerful tool that we can use to either build up or destroy the community that God is attempting to build. We have a choice in how we will use this powerful tool.
Have you ever experienced hurtful speech? How did this affect you? How did it affect your relationship with that person? Have you ever experienced edifying speech? What was that like? How did it make you feel? Who can you encourage today? How can you use your words to build up others? Ask God to help you become a person who encourages others rather than tearing them down.
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