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CHANGING THE WAY YOU LIVE

Ephesians 4:25-32
19th October 2003

During this week many adult swimming coaches went back to school. They are learning what is appropriate and what is non-appropriate behaviour. Australian Swimming's leading coach, Greg Hodge, has been banned from contact with any of the sport's elite athletes or coaches, after a young swimmer accused him of inappropriate sexual contact. Members of Hodge's family call Emma Fuller, who made the charge, "paranoid".

Hodge has been ordered to have no contact with members of Australian Swimming squads while this matter is being investigated. Fuller claimed on Channel Nine on Monday night that Hodge would kiss her a lot and put his arms around her as a child. Hodge said yesterday: "I'm not going to deny that I would give her hugs and kisses, but we were her carers for 14 months. Any reasonable person in that situation would give your child, a 12-year-old girl, a cuddle and kiss on the cheek."

In all sports there is an expectation of behaviour change in the relationship between adults and children. Sexual abuse and harassment complaints against coaches are rising and will continue to increase due to new child protection policies adopted by sporting organisations. However coaches are confused over what constitutes inappropriate contact with junior athletes. Many coaches are saying that it is not worthwhile being a coach because they are really confused about what behaviour is inappropriate. Coaches' behaviour is being changed midstream. Older coaches have had 15 to 20 years where they did not worry about this sort of thing and now it is right on the agenda. School teachers and ministers of religion have already been so schooled.

A few weeks ago, during Education Week, people were invited to come to schools to see what has been happening in the Department of Education and Training. Education is not something that is kept for children or teenagers. It is for the whole of life and includes vocational skills. Education is needed so we can live.

The great 19th Century educational philosopher, John Ruskin, said: "Education does not mean teaching people what they do not know. It means teaching them to be-have as they do not now behave." Education teaches us how we ought to relate with people and act in all our associations. It does not commence and end in school. It starts in the womb of the family, and continues through the family and friends around the family. It is greatly influenced by good teachers and curricula, by the friendships we share, the media and all other inputs into our lives. Our environment teaches us how to behave.

Different pressures make us behave in different ways. Behavioural sciences help us understand why we behave as we do. Once, as a child, I was given a clockwork motor for my Meccano set. It used to drive the pulleys, belts and wheels for my model crane and other models. I was intrigued by how the motor ran. So, after I had wound it up, I started to undo the screws that held the plate on one side of the motor. I wanted to see how the gearwheels work. Suddenly, as I loosened the side plate, loops of steel sprang out and gearwheels flew into the air. I could never get that clockwork motor back together again. Sometimes when untrained people delve into the lives of people to see what really makes them tick, great damage can be done.

Every adult has a behavioural pattern because he or she has learnt it. Christians, likewise, have to learn how to behave. Sometimes there is a remarkable conversion and a person changes completely overnight. But for most of us God starts with a miracle, but from then on we have to learn how a Christian acts. Paul knew that the Christians at Ephesus had to learn how to behave. He listed a whole lot of difficulties that they might face - immorality, sexual impurity, deception, alcoholism, marriage breakdown, parent/child relationships, trouble with bosses, personal weaknesses, spiritual decline. He also looked at behavioural problems, attitudinal problems that need to be changed. He mentions five:

Ephesians 4:23 "Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, 24 and you must put on the new self, which is created in God's likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy. 26 If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. 27 Don't give the Devil a chance. 28 If you used to rob, you must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor. 29 Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. 30 And do not make God's Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God's mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. 32 Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ."

1. LYING.

v25 "No more lying, then! Each of you must tell the truth to the other believer, because we are all members together in the body of Christ." He issues a command "No more lying." People before their commitment to Christ lie. But once you become a Christian: "No more lying, then!" Paul does not give an alternative such as: "Do not lie...except when you can get away with it." He simply says, "No more lying!" He does not specify white lies, black lies, grey lies or little lies. He simply says, "No more lying!" Then he adds: "Each of you must tell the truth to the other believer." Christians must be truthful. It means to so live your life that people see you are a person of trustworthiness and integrity. Why? Paul says "...because we are all members together in the body of Christ." Once you, as a member of the body of Christ, start lying to another, all social intercourse, contact and trust breaks down. Paul says simply that lying is out.

2. FUMING.

v26 "If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin." Not all anger is bad. Anger is justified when an injustice being done. There is righteous anger, being angry with the right person, in the right place at the right time. But when you get angry, "do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day." When anger burns within, your body releases adrenalin into the bloodstream and peptic acids into your stomach. That can induce stress related cancers. More people have been killed by their own anger than have been killed in war. For your health's sake, Paul tells you not to remain angry all day. But there is also a spiritual reason. "Don't give the Devil a chance." Anger is an opportunity for the Devil to nullify your Christian witness.

3. STEALING.

v28 Paul says simply that "If you used to rob, you must stop robbing and start working, in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor." It is a commandment of God. It has never been repealed. Taking what does not belong to you does not only mean things, other people's property, money, possessions, spouses, but also other people's good names or reputations. One of the worst ways of stealing is to take a person's character by gossip. "If you used to rob you must stop robbing..." "Start working" instead. The alternative lies in honest work. Work has a therapeutic value. So long as you sit there and live on the support of the government or anybody else, (provided you are fit and able) you are not doing any good for yourself.

We encourage everybody, except those with a legitimate reason by way of ill health, to seek work because we believe that in the dignity of labour there is therapy that helps you become what God wants you to be. Paul gives two reasons: "in order to earn an honest living for yourself and to be able to help the poor." To earn an honest living for yourself and to help others in need. What you are worth is what you have given to other people. Right through Scripture is a concern and command from God that we ought to work, to earn our own living, and then from what we have, give to other people. "It is more blessed to give," said Jesus, "than it is to receive." A mean person and a Christian are a contradiction of terms. What we earn enables us to live, and what we earn enables us to give. It is better for yourself and others if you earn and give. That is why our church helped 42,000 people last year towards work or vocation education to prepare them for work.

4. MALIGNING.

To malign a person means to be nasty. It means to hurt people with words that cut and hurt. v29 "Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you." You may think harmful things but stop yourself from saying them. Instead use helpful words that build up and do good. There is a theological reason, "And do not make God's Holy Spirit sad." Why sad? Because the Holy Spirit helps us speak to praise God and help other people. When you use hurtful, harmful, derogatory, mean words, you hurt the heart of God. Others judge us by our words and see whether God is in us or not. Your nastiness hurts other people, it hurts you and it hurts God.

5. RESENTING.

V31 "Get rid of all bitterness, passion and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort." Clean out the rotten expressions you have. v32 "In-stead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ." To be kind is love in words; tender hearted is love in feelings, forgiving one another is love expressed spiritually Christian love in action. Learn to behave. Get rid of all lying, fuming, stealing, maligning and resenting. All of those things hurt others, yourself and God. Some might ask, "How can I learn to behave like that, to know what Christ wants me to say or do? How can I learn to be really Christian in my behaviour?" There is only one way, and that is by spending time in the presence of Jesus Christ through reading His Word day by day. Just being in the presence of the Master will make all the difference to your behaviour.

A Chinese boy wanted to become an expert in carving jade. He went to a famous jade master and asked if he could apprentice himself so he might learn all about the qualities of jade. The master agreed, and taking a piece of precious jade, put it in the student's hand, "Hold that in your hand and feel it." Then he talked to the boy about life and death, about this world and the world beyond, about how he should live and about how he should get on with his family. After a long time he said to him, "Now, give me back the jade. Come back tomorrow." The next day he took another piece of jade, put it in his hands and said, "I want to talk to you today about philosophy, truth and goodness." Again, he talked to him for a long time. The boy sat there feeling the jade in his hands. The next day the master gave him another piece and talked again about the great truths of living. This went on day after day, week after week. At last the boy became very impatient. "I came to him to learn the truths about jade, and all he does is talk about life and death. I came to learn about jade, not to listen to all this talk about behaviour." The next day his jade master took another a piece of jade, placed it in his hands and started to talk to him when the boy interrupted. "This is not jade," he said. Without realising it, he had already learnt the nature of jade, because he spent time with his master, and because he handled what was precious.

Do you want to learn how to behave? Sit down with the Master every day. Take His Word into your hands and listen to what He has to say about life and death, about family and relationships, and you will discover soon that you are handling something that is precious, and you have discovered that in listening you have learnt how to behave and how to change the way you live.

REFERENCES.

  • Sydney Morning Herald. "A good touch and a bad touch: where to draw the line." October 16 2003 By Peter Munro
Wesley Mission, Sydney.