Conversations Under Construction Ephesians 4:17-32

Introduction Today we are concluding our series on communication. Let’s do a brief review of what we have covered over the past three weeks. In week one of this series, we used a passage from Matthew 12:34 where Jesus said, “From out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” It is not really our mouths that get us into trouble, it starts with the content in our hearts or minds. Week two, we were guided by words from the first chapter of the book of James. James told us to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” (v.19) If were quick to listen and slow to speak were also going to avoid having an anger that as James described “doesn’t work the righteousness of God.” (20) So, we need to be quick to listen and slow to respond. Then in week three, we considered more words from James about the challenge we face in controlling our tongues and avoiding saying things that we regret, displease God, and hurt others. James said, “no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (v.8) So last week we were reminded that demonstrating wisdom with our tongues is an on-going battle. Today we’re going to lean on some wisdom from the Apostle Paul about the content of what we say. Today were going to use Paul’s letter of instruction he wrote to the churches in the area of the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was a church Paul spent a great deal of time doing ministry and coaching up their leaders. Ephesus might be where Paul’s spent his longest time in direct ministry. The key verse for today is found in Ephesians 4:29, but before we get to that verse, I think it would be good for the sake of background or context that we back up just a few verses and begin with Ephesians 4:17. Vs. 17-19, Calling out from a corrupt lifestyle. Paul said, “Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord” v.17: So, Paul is letting the church know this is an imperative teaching that they need to understand and follow what he is about to say. “You must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart.” Gentiles were non-Jewish people and you could not expect anything of decency, because they had been living by their own desires and preference. Paul was reminding the Christians who came out of the Gentile culture, this was a lifestyle that must be a part of their history; not their present life. Paul said, “They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” It was a way of living that was driven by permissive sexual behavior, self-centered, self-gratifying, anything goes type of living. A culture driven by polytheism, the belief in many gods. A common trait of the gods we’re that they were focused on self; not concerned much about others. So, people who worshipped the false gods would do as the false gods did and that was lookout and live only for themselves. There is a purpose in backing up to these words from Paul instead of going straight to his instructions beginning at verse 29. Paul wanted his listeners to know something that we also need to know. • No one is too bad to change. • No one is just stuck being who they are. • The severity in how spiritually lost we were before Jesus doesn’t have to place a lid or limit on how we live for Jesus today. • And following Jesus means we’ll live differently than society as whole. Vs. 20-24 Calling to a new way of life. So, Paul also reminds them of something else before he gives the particular instruction about communication. He reminds them they have and are living into a new calling on their lives. Let’s hear how Paul describes that calling. Vs. 20-24 - “That is not the way you learned Christ. For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lust.” Paul reminds them of a new path in life they are walking. The old life of living and following false gods is over; their new emphasis is following God who cares about others and serves. Paul continues - “And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Paul explains the change in life with the imagery of changing clothes. He tells them to clothe themselves with a new identity that is in the likeness of God or what is holy and pure. REPENTANCE = REMOVE AND REPLACE Once again, we are back to the basic teaching of repentance that is such a key to our growth as a Christian. Last week we talked about this from the passage in James and we said repentance is going to involve remove and replace. Paul says it is like taking the old dirty uniform off when you played for one team, and now you’re on God’s team and you have a new uniform that indicates you belong to him. So, before Paul gets to the point about how we talk as followers of Jesus, he has reminded them and us of how we once thought and lived; but following Jesus leads us into a new way of living. How we communicate/talk is to reflect we are following Jesus. Vs. 29-32 Constructive Communication Now we move into the specific instructions Paul offers on how Christians speak and communicate to others. Paul says, “Let no evil talk proceed out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” V.29 He begins with a prohibition and said, “not to let any evil talk”, or some translations have the word “unwholesome” come out of your mouths. In the Greek language, the meaning of the word evil talk or unwholesome means rotting, something that is rotting like rotting fish. Paul emphasized because of our identity in Christ, we are not to let rotten communication happen – meaning we’re responsible for our words. Rotten words and content come in a variety of forms. Hostility Rejection Gossip Reckless accusations Deception Then Paul shifts from the negative emphasis to the positive. He draws a contrast. Paul says the only thing that is to come out of our mouths is “what is useful (helpful) for building up so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” • Not tearing down. • Not being cynical. • Building up. Listen to some comments from Pastor Andy Stanley on the significance of Paul’s words about building up. Stanley’s words about “stepping up.” 21-24:50 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvK4aNBiq-Y&t=1790s DON’T GRIEVE Paul goes on in verse 30. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” We grieve the Holy Spirit when our words lack godly purposes and only injure; instead of having a constructive purpose. Grieving the Holy Spirit is when what we say causes the Holy Spirit to have a “say what” moment over our words. Then Paul moves into what can be the heart issue, the motivation behind our words that are less than constructive and purposeful. Listen to what Paul says next. Read vs.31-32 “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I want to show one other short clip from Andy Stanley’s message on this passage. He does such a great job explaining how bitterness must be addressed. Take a look. 25:50-29:30 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvK4aNBiq-Y&t=1790s MULTI-TASKING Many of us are familiar with the term “multi-tasking.” Some behavioral researchers are finding people do not multi-task as well as they/we think. We think we can have our attention on multiple focuses and cover all things well, but some research says were not doing as well as we think. You can debate that topic over lunch, but I am pretty sure of this much, Paul is saying followers of Jesus cannot multi-task in the sense of carrying harmful motivations, toxic emotions, and then think the bitterness is not coming out in the ways we communicate with others. Conclusion Often the dilemma for us as Christians is that we have more knowledge of God than experience of God. The passages we have considered over four weeks have given us more knowledge. Let me close with two questions that I hope will challenge us to experience the principles from this series and put them into action. When we think about biblical wisdom that says, be quick to listen slow to speak, let no unwholesome words proceed from your mouth, two questions to consider and answer. “Where do you have work to do?” “Who hopes you get to work soon?” Let’s pray

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