Devotions on Ephesians 4:1-16–Building Up the Body of Christ
July 24-30, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1).
Thirteen year-old Becca was back-to-school shopping with her mom and two of her friends. As young teenage girls do, Becca and her friends were giggling, texting, running from shop to shop looking at various outrageous outfits and having a good time. The girls were not as serious about shopping as Becca’s mother was. In exasperation, Becca’s mother pulled Becca aside and said in a loud whisper, “Would you just stop it and act your age! We have a lot of shopping to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it.” Julio, a seventy-six year-old retired factory worker was playing with his two grandsons. The three were engaged in a hard fought game of soccer. Calling a time out, Julio collapsed into a chair next to his wife and poured himself a glass of iced tea. Julio’s wife shook her head at her exhausted husband. “You should really act your age, Julio,” she admonished. “You are not a young man anymore.”
Neither Becca nor Julio liked what they had been told. Becca was acting her age, but she was not acting like the respectable young woman her mother wanted her to be. Julio might not have been a young man, but even as an old man he did want to play a game of soccer with his grandsons.
Paul admonishes his readers to live lives worthy of their calling. He’s not telling them to be something they are not. Not in the least. Paul is encouraging his readers to remember who we are. We are children of God and followers of Jesus. By our words and actions, we are witnesses to God’s love and grace. Our lives have been transformed and we are new creations. We have been called to live in the new rather than revert to the old.
Lord, may the new people you have made us on the inside be apparent by our words and actions on the outside. Amen.
Tuesday, July 24, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“With patience bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Henry couldn’t hear and had the annoying habit of asking questions that had already been answered. A couple members of the congregation mumbled under their breath that they wished he would sit down and shut up. Carlota was a very organized person. She had no time for people who were unorganized. Unfortunately, in her opinion the pastor was quite unorganized. Carlota had very little respect for the pastor. A young, single mother tried to corral her four and six year-old boys during a worship service. The boys were good most of the time but on two occasions they caused a disruption. A few members of the congregation stared at the young mother unapprovingly.
It’s tough when we are ridiculed for our faith or when the validity of our faith is questioned, because of what we have said or done. Living week in and week out in the fellowship of other Christians, though, can be one of the biggest challenges we face. It is almost impossible to “put up” and be patient with some of the other Christians. An old bumper sticker might be helpful. It read “PBPWMGITWMY” (Please Be Patient With Me, God Isn’t Through With Me Yet). None of us are perfect. The Holy Spirit is working in all of our lives but we are not finished products. Because of this let’s cut each other some slack and let the Holy Spirit do her work.
Lord, forbid that our lack of patience would harm the body of Christ. Bind your people together in love. Amen.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“Making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
Peaceful coexistence has not been the hallmark of the Christian church. In fact, it has been quite the opposite. Not long after Jesus’ ascension, the Church was split between the circumcision party and the Gentile Christians. One thousand years later the Church split between the East and the West, in part because of an argument over whether the Holy Spirit was given by the Father only, or by the Father and Son. The Reformers fought over predestination and Christ’s presence in Holy Communion. Today we have arguments between pro-life and pro-choice, and a division on gay rights. Everyone thinks God is on their side and Satan is inspiring their opponents.
Followers of Jesus may never be of the same mind. We can, though, celebrate that we all are children of God and that we follow one Lord. We can make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by admitting we are a broken people, forgiving the unforgivable and loving the unlovable. Peace begins by a unilateral action of love and grace.
Lord, let there be peace on earth and in the church, and let it begin with us. Amen.
Thursday, July 27, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7).
n optical illusion is characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality. In other words, our eyes “lie” to us and trick our brains. One popular optical illusion picture is of an old hag, or if you look at it another way, a young woman. Another picture is of a chalice or two faces looking at each other. At times, you can change what you see by altering your perspective.
Most of us look at life through the lens of “cause and effect.” We see that we have worked hard and have accumulated material things. Other people haven’t worked as hard as we have and have less wealth, older cars and smaller homes. There’s another way to look at life, though. Paul encourages his readers to see life through the perspective of grace. Life is not the result of hard work, rather it is a gift. What we have is a gift. Who we are is a gift. A loving and generous God has graciously blessed us with overwhelming gifts of grace.
One perspective encourages a life of pride and self-centered selfishness. The perspective of grace cultivates true humility, an attitude of gratitude and words of thanksgiving and praise.
Open our eyes, Lord, so that we may be overwhelmed by the sight of your grace. Amen.
Friday, July 28, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“To equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
Binh was a talented young man, who through hard work graduated at the top of his class in law school. Escaping the poverty of his childhood, Binh worked hard and became a partner in a large law firm. Along with his career advancements came material wealth. Binh was living the American dream—work hard and be all that you can be so that you can enjoy the fruit of your labor. It took a severe automobile accident and months of therapy and recovery for Binh to see things differently. Binh was amazed at how several of the healthcare professionals walked the extra mile to help him in his recovery. Friends, neighbors and co-workers surround his family with love and care. By the time Binh returned to his office, he understood that the meaning of life was not found in getting, but rather in giving.
As followers of Jesus, we are talented people. We are blessed with talents, though, for a purpose—so that we may encourage and equip our brothers and sisters in Christ, and build up the body of Christ. The blessings that we have received have been given so they may be shared—so that others may hear the good news of what Jesus has done and experience God’s love and grace first hand.
Give us the will, Lord, to share the blessings that you have poured into our lives. Amen.
Saturday, July 29, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“We must no longer be children tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).
Casey had a couple of his grade school friends over for an afternoon of play. The three boys and two girls flit from one activity to another. One time, Casey’s mother saw the group riding bikes. The next thing she knew they were playing video games, which was then followed by watching the first twenty minutes of a movie. The group moved on to board games and Legos, and ended the afternoon consuming massive amounts of ice cream.
To Paul, many of the early Christians reminded him of children as they embraced one doctrine after another. Since grace was a foreign concept to them, they were attracted to the works righteousness of the circumcision party. There was also speculation about when Jesus would return. People would believe one thing and then the other. In exasperation, Paul exhorted the early Christians not to act like children and be blown about by every wind of doctrine.
As followers of Jesus, our faith is not based on the doctrine of the day, but rather on some essential truths. Among these truths are: Jesus is Lord. We are saved by grace through faith and this is not a work but a gift. We live to share God’s love and grace with those who are our neighbors and the focus of our lives is not to get to heaven when we die, but to spread God’s kingdom in the here and now. In the light of these truths we live, love, serve and praise.
Jesus, help us so that our lives reflect the eternal truths of your teachings. Amen.
Sunday, July 30, 2017–Building Up the Body of Christ
“Into Christ, from whom the whole body [is] joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped” (Ephesians 4:16).
Akihito and his family were enjoying a week in the mountains skiing. Toward the end of the third day, Akihito and his son decided to go down a challenging black diamond slope. Though he was tired, Akihito thought he could still handle the slope and he would make it his last run. Half way down the mountain, the tip of Akihito’s ski caught a drift of snow. The ski twisted to the right and Akihito found himself tumbling down the mountain. When he finally came to a stop, he tried to stand up and gather his equipment. A searing pain shot through his leg and Akihito realized that his knee could not sustain his weight. Once the Ski Patrol got him off the mountain, he learned that he had torn some ligaments.
We have sung the little ditty, “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone.” The song is only partially true. In reality it is ligaments that connect the knee bone to the thigh bone and the thigh bone to the hip bone. Without ligaments and tendons, we’d be a quivering mass of flesh and bones—unable to do anything else but quiver.
That’s Paul’s point. Jesus holds everything together. Jesus gives meaning to our lives. It is through Jesus that we have a relationship with God. Jesus provides us with motivation to serve, and it is Jesus who binds us together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our focus is on Jesus who binds everything together.
Lord, we thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for what you have done to bind us together, so that we can share your love and grace. Amen.