- Take Off Lying - Put On Truth (verse 25)
- Take Off Sinful Wrath - Put On Righteous Anger (verses 26-27)
- Take Off Stealing - Put On Sharing (verse 28)
- Take Off Doubtful Conversation - Put On Holy Edification (verse 29)
- Take Off Hot Heads - Put On Warm Hearts (verses 30-32)
We're turning to Ephesians chapter 4, and we're finishing - God willing, if time permits - this whole chapter, and hopefully by next Monday evening we'll be into chapter 5. We're going from verse 25 this evening, chapter 4 and verse 25 - and remember, please, the context that Paul brings to us already, we're not going to take time to read up to verse 25. So, remember that the context - and this is very important - of these verses that we're about to read is within the idea that Paul is bringing to us of the body of Christ, which is the church of Christ, being edified by the gifts and the abilities that the Spirit of God has given to that body. A body that is one body, not divided into different schisms and sections, but yet within that body it is made up of individual believers given individual gifts by God. We all have at least one gift - and therefore those gifts, we saw in the final verse, verse 24, of last week, that all these gifts are put together to edify the body in one new man, and to walk in true righteousness that has been given from God, and true holiness.
So, in that context we begin to read verse 25: "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister", or serve, "grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you".
Last week we looked at those verses that were telling us to walk as Christians within the church - taking off the clothes, the old clothes of the old nature, and discarding them, leaving them for good, and putting on the clothes of the new man, the new creatures in Christ Jesus that we are meant to be. To start to live the life that God wants us to live in Christ Jesus. The message last week was to 'Change Your Clothes', but Paul always, like every good preacher of the word of God ought to do, takes doctrinal truth and applies it, practically speaking, to everyday life experience. So Paul is moving from his doctrinal thesis that we all are to take and discard our old clothes, put on our new clothes, and now he tells us what those new clothes are - as I've entitled it, what the wardrobe of the Spirit of God is, the clothes that He wants us to wear.
Now, the key verse of this passage - I believe - is verse 30, look down at it: 'And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption'. So that is the foundation of verses 25 to 32, everything is built upon that premise. 'What I'm going to tell you', Paul is saying, 'is that everything you do here, if you do what I tell you to do, you will not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. But if you fail to do what I'm telling you to do, the Holy Spirit of the living God will be grieved with you'. I think, perhaps, in practice much of the church today believes in a duality of a Godhead. What I mean by that is: two in the Godhead - Father and Son. Oh, they adhere to the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - but in practice, in everyday church life, all you hear mentioned, perhaps, is the Father and the Son - and that is a defective theology. Now mark that! It is a defective theology, and when you have a defective theology you get a defective life!
That's what this book is all about, the first three chapters: doctrine, the last three chapters: behaviour. Yet it's all mingled together, but the point that Paul is getting across is: it's not just what you believe, but it's what you behave - the way you behave from your beliefs, it must be affected by it. I feel, I really do feel, that many born-again believers are missing out on the ministry that the Holy Spirit of the living God has for them. Arguably speaking, now think about this, I believe that the Scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the blessed Trinity, is the one part of the Godhead that we are to have the most to do with in this dispensation! That's what the Scriptures teach, but the fact of the matter is: He's the least mentioned within the age of grace.
A few Lord's Day mornings ago we looked at John chapter 14, the departing words of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'Let not your heart be troubled'. They were troubled because He was going, but He told them: 'I will come to you' - and He meant within that statement, not just the fact that He would come in the second coming, but He told them: 'I will send another comforter, another advocate'. That word 'another' we learnt, in Greek, means 'another of the same kind'. 'I'm leaving you. I your strength, I your encouragement, I your comforter am going away - but I will send another one unto you, and the works that I did He will enable you to do greater works'. But the fact remains that many would say, and I would happen to agree, that the Spirit of God remains a stranger within His own church. He indwells the believer, He baptizes the believer, He fills the believer, He anoints the believer, He seals the believer, He teaches the believer - Jesus Christ said: 'He shall lead you, guide you, into all truth' - and He even teaches us how to pray in times that we cannot pray (in the book of Romans we have already read that last week, Romans 8), He teaches us to pray and at times He even prays through us. Yet - if I can say it without being irreverent - He is the 'Cinderella' of the church.
Evangelicalism, especially in our little land, is a knee-jerk faith. It's knee-jerk in its reactions - for instance: because the church of Rome worships and idolises the Virgin Mary, we throw her out and forget all about her. Because the charismatic movement idolises in a sense - to the expense of the other two Persons of the Trinity - the Holy Spirit of God, and because they are attributing to the third Person things that I believe are from the devil himself, we decide: 'We'll not mention the Holy Spirit at all, and we will ignore His works within the life of the believer'. Isn't that right? You know sometimes, and let me say this categorically: I love the Holy Spirit of God, I love Him! - and I'm not ashamed to say that. I know there are times that I preach about the Holy Spirit of God, and I know that some of you think I'm going charismatic or something, I'm going Pentecostal. When the Holy Spirit is mentioned as if He is a living reality in the life of a believer, as if He really exists, as if we have a personal relationship from day-to-day with Him - you look, and you think: 'He's getting like Benny Hinn! The next thing he'll be rolling around in the pulpit, barking like a dog!'. My friend, listen: the Holy Spirit is real! We ought to be cultivating day-by-day a personal, literal, experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit of the living God!
Yet I feel the reality is this, just as Paul came to the Ephesian disciples and said to them: 'Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?'. Their answer back to him was: 'We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Spirit'. Is that the way we feel, or is that the way we behave? 'The Holy Spirit in my life?' - think about it, the Holy Spirit in your life. How could you pinpoint the things that the Holy Spirit, at this moment of time, is doing actively in your life? Can you think of anything specifically? Is the emptiness in your Christian life the emptiness of the ministry of the Holy Spirit? It could all be encapsulated in this question: are you grieving the Spirit, or are you pleasing the Spirit?
To that end, Paul gives us the ways that we grieve the Spirit, and the ways that we please the Spirit. He's giving us the ways that we can know that He is not grieved in our life, that He is within our life - and if we cultivate that relationship with Him, He will come into our life in the fullest sense of that phrase. Therefore let's look at this, what is Paul's formula - as it were - for knowing the presence and fullness of the Holy Spirit in our life? The first thing he says is this, look down at your sheet: take off lying, and put on truth. Verse 25: 'Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another' - put away lying. What is a lie? A lie is something contrary to the truth, but we could go further and say that a lie is something contrary to the truth with the intent to deceive. There's intent in it.
What I mean is: if you ask me the time at this moment, and I said: 'Well, it's half past six', because my watch had stopped - I'm not telling you a lie, I just haven't realised my watch has stopped. But if I tell you it's half past six because I don't want you going to the Bible Reading, and I know it's half past eight almost, that is a lie. Usually it is a lie because there is an interest of mine by telling you that untruth. In Exodus chapter 20 and verse 16 we have the holy law of God, and we are told there: 'Thou shalt not bear false witness' - I love that rendering. 'Thou shalt not bear false witness' - it doesn't say 'Thou shalt not lie', because that narrows it down in our minds to telling 'black lies' or 'white lies', and to saying something that is blatantly untruthful. That is not the commandment of God, it is 'not bearing false witness'.
As we look through the word of God, especially in the persons of the Pharisees and the Scribes, we find that this was a commandment that was remembered in the temple and forgotten in the street. This is the whole point of Paul's little book: the things that you remember in the temple of God, don't forget in the street! He wants to make us realise, this evening, that when truth is spoken the Spirit of God works, but when lies are spoken the devil himself works. The word of God tells us that no lie is of the truth, but at this moment of time in the church, and even in the world (and that's where we're getting it from), there is an epidemic of falsehood abroad. Even in advertising, think about it, you look at the television screen, and ladies you're told that if you wear 'Impulse' that you'll be walking down Royal Avenue and all these men will be running after you with a bouquet of flowers, isn't that right? Now, don't all be going tonight and buying 'Impulse', but you know what I mean. That's what we're led to believe, we're led to believe that anything, from a new toothbrush to taking out a certain insurance plan, will really improve our lives in some way. That is falsehood, that is not the case, and in reality we all know that - but falsehood has become the norm within society, it is ingrained and we don't even realise it now because we are so used to falsehood! We've become desensitised to it!
It reminds me of the story of the baker who suspected that the farmer who was supplying his butter was short-changing him with regards to the butter, and wasn't giving him the amount that he needed. It was confirmed week after week as he weighed that big lump of butter, and he found that it was lower than the weight that it ought to have been. So he went to the police and he reported him and got him arrested! They brought him to the magistrate, and the judge for some reason just threw the whole thing out of court. It came to light why that happened: the wee farmer said, 'Well, I don't have scales at home. So what I do is I take a one pound loaf of bread that I buy from the baker, I put it on the other side of the scales, and it weighs it out right for me'! Now, that's the world that we live in, isn't it? Everybody's doing everybody else, isn't that right? We can become so used to falsehood within the church of Jesus Christ, that when it happens we don't know how to deal with it, we maybe don't even recognise it!
What is lying? It's not just saying untruths, not just blatant black and white truth or lie - do you know what it is? One: it's being doubled-tongued. It's saying one thing and doing another. You might want to call it hypocrisy, the word 'hypocrisy' comes from the Greek which means an actor that used to stand on the stage with a mask, and he used to put it up and down and pretend he was something that he was not. That is a lie - you are a liar if you're pretending to be something that you are not. What else is it? It's putting your personal preference on a particular fact - we all do this, don't we? We put our particular embellishment upon the facts, and sometimes we withhold facts that we don't want other people to know, to create a better light and aura around us of what we are and what we can do. Personal preference with regards to facts. There's an emotional interpretation, as well, on facts that we can give. Someone tells you a story, don't they? And then you tell it to someone else, and you add a little bit onto it, a little appendix: 'Now that's what I heard, but this is what I think...' - that's lying. That's lying, because you don't know whether that's a fact or not - and if you're not dealing in facts, my friends, you're dealing in lies! That's it.
Exaggeration, that's lying. When a preacher says that he had 600 at a meeting, and the hall only holds 400, that's lying. Exaggerating the facts to make someone look better in the light of those exaggerated facts. It's not just blatant lies, it's all these subtle things that the devil will get into our lives, and get into the church of Jesus Christ, and he will smother God's Spirit - that grieves God's Spirit! Putting your embellishment, 'Chinese whispers', until the story has changed - that grieves God's Spirit! I want to say this, very seriously: hell is prepared for whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. That's what the word of God teaches! Now, I don't mean if you've ever told a lie you'll end up in hell - we've all told lies. But what that verse means is this: that if your life, at this moment, is continually controlled by lies - hell is for you! For the Christian life is to be controlled with truth - and I warn all of us tonight, and I warn myself, that the first sin that was judged publicly by God Almighty in the early Christian church was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira: lying!
Therefore, Paul says, take off lying and put on truth. The Christian is not to lie, the Christian is not to be involved in being economic with the truth, or half truth, or colouring, or embellishing, or exaggerating the truth. The Christian is to deal with fact - his 'yes' is to be 'yes', his 'no' is to be 'no' - his word must be absolutely trustworthy. Truth is the debt the Christian owes to all men - all men! The reason - and I want you to note that in all these things that Paul gives us this evening, he tells us a thing to put off, and he tells us a thing to put on, and then thirdly in the verse he gives us a motivation for doing so. In verse 25 the motivation is: 'for we are members of one body' - put off lies, put on truth, why? Because we are members of one body, we are neighbours of one another, and it's unthinkable that the members of a body should lie to one another, brothers and sisters should lie to one another, or exaggerate, or embellish, or be found in gossip - it's unthinkable! It's as unthinkable for one Christian to lie to another, as for the nerve in the body to deliberately send a false message to the brain, or for the eye to deceive when there's danger coming to the body - it doesn't make sense, sure it doesn't? Why? Because the body is to be working together for the edification of the one body.
John McKay said it well: 'A lie is a stab into the very vitals of the body of Christ, this is so because a lie is a stable shaft from the kingdom of darkness'. My friend, do you want to stick, like the centurion, a spear into the side of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, live like a liar, for it will cause pain to the body of Christ. That is what grieves the Spirit, but we - listen! - are meant to be free from falsehood!
Secondly, he says: take off sinful wrath, and put on righteous anger. Now this is a difficult verse to understand, verse 26: 'Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath', verse 27, 'Neither give place to the devil'. Now, 'angry' - when is anger right, and when is anger wrong? Well, anger is sin when that anger is motivated by an emotion of malice, jealousy, rebellion, resentment, vindictiveness, hatred. Because of personal pride a person decides, with all or one of these emotions within them, to be angry with another person - and the seed is pride within their breast, that is when it is a sin. Paul says: 'That anger, let not the sun go down upon that species of wrath'. What did the Lord Jesus say? He said in Matthew 5: 'Agree with thine adversary, while thou art in the way' - why? That very day, don't let the sun go down on your wrath, get this thing dealt with as quickly as you can - the reason being that the all-seeing eyes of the Saviour could see in the hearts of men and women when they continually put off reconciliation with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It festers, and festers, and festers, and gets worse! That is why He said in Matthew chapter 18: 'Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone'.
Jesus said that when we have sinful anger with another we are to do two things: confess it to God, and confess it to our brother. Sadly that is another New Testament practice that has gone down the tubes, and this is very serious, because Jesus Christ the Son of God - and I want you to note that He is saying this - says that unholy anger is the first step of murder. He said it now! It is murder within the heart, Jesus Himself said that Satan was a liar from the beginning - that's where you get the lies from - and also that he was a murderer from the beginning, why? Because he hates God, and he hates the people of God, and when he finds a so-called believer where there is a spark of bitter anger he adds full fuel to the fire! Why? Because he wants to burn down the building of God.
It's easy to put out a match when it's first struck, isn't it? But once the whole building is burning down it's very very difficult. Unconfessed sin of temper is the devil's breeding ground. In verse 27 you can see that, and I want you to note that every single thing I am saying is from the word of God: 'Neither give place to the devil'. Lies, and false anger and hatred, are the foothold for the devil's operations. Now let me ask you a question: does the devil need the help of the church of Jesus Christ? Does he? I think he's doing a good enough job of opposing God as it is, without our help! The devil here, the Greek word for the devil, is the word 'diabolus' - it's a double-meaning word, in other words it can mean the devil, but it can also mean one who is prone to slander. One who is prone to slander - the devil is prone to slander, and it literally does mean the devil here, but it can also have this meaning of one who is prone to slander. If you think of the devil, go through the mentions of the devil within scripture, if you go to the book of Revelation he is described as 'the accuser of the brethren', the slanderer of the brethren, the one who throws things, accusations, at the children of God about their sins. Paul is saying, the Holy Ghost through Paul: 'Give no place to the slanderer!' - meaning the devil. Everyone that is slanderous is fond of him.
Crimes of passion are to be forbidden within the church of Jesus Christ, and they must stop. There is no excuse for it - do you know why? Because lies and false sinful anger discredits the testimony of Jesus Christ, it stumbles the unsaved coming to Christ, it sows discord among the brethren, it harms the person and individual, and eventually it may harm them physically. One paraphrase puts it like this: 'If you are angry don't sin by nursing your grudge', why? Because that sin will poison your whole spirit, and it will enter into your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and He will be grieved.
What is righteous anger? Put off false wrath, sinful wrath, put on righteous anger. The Bible says God is angry, in fact Psalm 7 says God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 2 verse 12 says: 'Kiss the Son, lest he be angry with thee'. The Father is angry, the Son is angry, and there are times when the Holy Spirit is angry - but all of that is righteous anger, and we are commanded - listen! - commanded to be angry in the anger that God has! When God's name is at stake, when God's name is not vindicated within His church and within His creation, we are to be angry - we are to be like the Christ of God when He goes into the temple and turns over the tables of the money-changers. We are to have the zeal of His house eating us up!
Now, don't ask me if it's easy, because it's not. It's a problem for a sinner saved by grace to know when their anger is sin and when their anger is righteous. What can start off as being anger that is righteous can end up as anger that is sin. Aristotle, who was not a believer, said this: 'Anyone can become angry, but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy'. Thomas Boston, the puritan, said: 'What may start as proper anger becomes pride, and then evil in itself, and can become dishonourable to God being a vomit of a proud heart unmeekened in spirit'. Another puritan concluded the whole matter by saying: 'I am determined so to be angry as not to sin' - I am determined to be angry and sin not - 'Therefore the way I will do it is to be angry at nothing but sin'! There's the key: if you want to be angry and sin not, be angry with everything that is sin.
He tells us 'put it away' - do you know what we need today in the church? We need a baptism of holy anger, we need to be angry again for the Lord - like the Psalmist, to love the Lord and hate evil. We need to be like Wesley, and like Wilberforce, who looked at personal experiences of individuals - Wilberforce looking at the slaves, and being angry at the things that were going on in humanity. We need to be angry at it, that's what the Lord was angry at when He went into the temple! The Pharisees were ripping the ordinary people off, and He was angry at it! You need to be like Luther and Calvin, angry at the church of Rome and any other false church - not just the church of Rome, many Protestant churches that are leading perishable souls into hell! We need to be angry, angry and sin not.
Now look, if we don't put off sinful wrath, and put on righteous anger, we will grieve the Spirit of God. D.L. Moody tells the story of how he went with Mr Sankey to take a mission, and they were there a week, and they preached the gospel night after night - which is not unheard of for us - and there wasn't a soul saved. Of course Moody, the soul winner that he was, began to ask questions. He said: 'I feel I am beating the air', and one night he stood up in that and meeting and he said: 'Perhaps in this building someone is cultivating an unforgiving spirit'. All of a sudden, in the view of the whole congregation, the chairman of the committee left the platform and walked out of that building - his words had hit the mark. He had had trouble with a man for six months, and before that meeting ended he came back to Moody with tears in his eyes, and he said: 'Mr Moody, I'm glad you came tonight, and I'm glad you said what you did'. That night the enquiry room was full.
Lying and sinful wrath grieves the Holy Spirit. Thirdly: take off stealing, and put on sharing. Verse 28: 'Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth'. Now it's interesting, you might think: 'Why does Paul need to tell Christians not to steal?'. Well, most of the prisoners - in the day of Paul's day anyway - were in prison for stealing, because what they couldn't beg for food they had to steal. That's why you find, in the book of Titus chapter 2 and verse 10, that Paul told Titus to encourage slaves not to purloin their masters, but to live honourably before them. It was a great temptation for people in their poverty to steal, and that tells me that believers can still, and do, sin! Paul wouldn't be saying all of this unless that was the case.
What he is encouraging us to do is, daily, if the problem is stealing, to reckon ourselves dead daily to sin. Isn't it funny that Satan was a liar from the beginning, Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and Satan - the Lord said in John 10:10 - was a thief from the beginning! He turned Judas into a thief. He turned Eve, the first woman, into a thief - taking the fruit of the tree - and in turn, Eve turned her husband, because of him, into a thief! He's still doing it, yet the law of God says in Exodus 20 and verse 15: 'Thou shalt not steal'. It can come the form of grand larceny, to non-payment of debts, to not working the hours that your employer wants you. It can be plagiarism, copying something pretending it's your own. It can be false measurements, it can be falsifying expense accounts. It can come very subtly in padding out claims, in inadequate income tax, borrowing and forgetting to give back, using your employees time for other things.
Many of us say: 'Why are you talking to me about stealing?'. There was a meeting on one occasion when a man stood up and he began to tell the rest of the gathering: 'I want to tell you all here tonight that I am standing on redemption ground. I'm high on redemption ground!'. As he rambled on another wee man stood up and he says: 'Well I want to tell that man to get down from the redemption ground, because he's not standing in redemption ground, he's standing in a pair of shoes that he bought off me and he still hasn't paid for them'. Now friends, that's practical, isn't it? That's where the leather hits the road, when we are living what we are saying, when we are doing what we are reading, when we are not stealing. This blew my mind, this statistic that I read this week, that in America 16 million dollars a day go down the drain because of shortages in department stores caused by employee theft - 16 million dollars a day! You don't think that's a sin? Well, maybe if God moved in your life it would be a sin, and it might be a sin in mine too - for when God moved in Ulster, and in Belfast, they had to build a new barn in the shipyard for all the men that were getting saved through Nicholson, who had to bring everything back that they had stolen! When God works in your life there's no sin that's too small.
It's interesting that this is one of the sins that grieves the Holy Spirit. What do you do? Put off the stealing and put on the sharing. Now this is remarkable, because the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer doesn't just enable you to keep the negative of the commandment, 'Do not steal', but it enables you to keep a positive. Not only are you working for a living, but you're working for a living and somebody else's living - you're working to help those that are in need, it is a positive thing. William MacDonald says: 'Only the positive power of grace can turn a thief into a philanthropist' - isn't that right? Turning a man who steals for a living into a man that shares with others who need, a man who works for other people, to give to the church of Jesus Christ. Not a lazy man - God never called a lazy slob, never! For laziness and stealing grieves the Spirit.
Fourthly, take off doubtful conversation and put on holy edification. Verse 29: 'Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers'. Now in Greek that phrase 'corrupt communication' often means filthy communication, suggested stories, off-colour jokes, profanity, obscenity, vile language - but here it has a wider meaning than that. It means some conversation and language that is worthless, talking about frivolous things, empty things, idle chatter, profitless talk. The Lord said: 'Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh'. It's interesting, the parallel in Romans between the mouth of the unbeliever and the mouth of the believer. You have in Romans 3 that the mouth of the unbeliever is full of cursing and bitterness, yet in chapter 10 the mouth of the Christian confesses Christ Jesus as Lord.
You have a description of Saul walking down the Damascus Road, in Acts chapter 9, and where is he going? He's going to kill Christians, breathing out cursings, and threatenings, and murderings. Yet the next time you find Saul, who is now Paul, the disciple cries: 'Behold he prays!' - huh, powerful! From cursings and threatenings to praying, because that is what the power of the Holy Spirit can do in the life of a man! He can change the mouth from spewing forth decaying talk and conversation, to edifying the church of Jesus Christ. There was once a fable told of a woman who took poison in little drops. She didn't take a big lot of it, but day-by-day she took into her system a spoonful by a spoonful, little by little, until that poison filled her whole body so full of poison that her very breath would wither the flowers. There are so-called Christians like that, aren't there? They open their mouths, and it is a sepulchre of death.
That is not to mark the child of God, we are not to talk about other people - no - if we have nothing good to say we ought not to say it at all. Do you know something: people think that because something's a fact they can relay it. If some brother falls into sin, and they're telling another brother about it, they think that's legitimate because it's truthful. It's not legitimate, even if it is truthful! St. Augustine, a great man of God, hung a motto over his dinner table on his dining-room wall, do you know what it said? 'He who speaks evil of an absent man or woman is not welcome at this table'. I wonder how many friends he had?
Edifying, that's what we're to do. Put away doubtful conversation and edify - we find that word three times in the chapter: verse 12, verse 16, verse 29. The Greek word means 'the act of building up', you're to converse, to cultivate, and to contribute growth within the church of Jesus Christ. You're to build up, this is how you won't grieve the Holy Spirit - and indeed verse 30, our key verse: 'Grieve not the Holy Spirit', is in connection with false talking and empty talking. I remember a wise man years ago, when I was starting the Lord's work, gave me this and I wrote it in my Bible: 'Any fool can wreck a church, but it takes godliness to build one up'. Isn't that right? Any fool can wreck a place, but my friend it takes godliness to edify the building of the church of Jesus Christ.
In verse 30, this is the way we won't grieve the Holy Spirit: by putting away lies and taking on truth, by taking off sinful wrath and putting on righteous anger, by putting off stealing and putting on sharing, by taking off doubtful conversation and putting on holy edification. You know that word 'grieve' the Holy Spirit, do you know what it literally means? To 'pain' the Holy Spirit! To cause sorrow to the Holy Spirit of God! It's ironic that it's the exact antithesis of offensive talk. It is a sensitiveness that is pictured in the image of a dove: one move and it's gone. The Holy Spirit is sensitive, and He is a person, not an influence. He is a person that can be grieved by your behaviour - why? He is grieved like any person is grieved when they love you, when they see someone whom they love not walking in the way that is pleasing to them, they're hurting themselves! They are grieved, and He is grieved! The ministry that He longs to do in edifying and building up the body of Christ, He can't get doing it because He's doing a ministry of discipline in our lives trying to restore us to what we ought to be. That's the fact, because we're grieving the Holy Spirit.
Fifthly and finally: take off hot heads, and put on warm hearts. Verse 30 to 32 - grieve not the Spirit, verse 31: 'Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you'. He's collectively putting together a whole gamut of sins of temper and tongue, and he's telling us to put them away! That word 'put away' has the sense of a word picture, some commentators believe, of a landlord putting out an undesirable tenant. What does he speak of? Bitterness - look at it, verse 31 - what is bitterness? It is smouldering resentment, unwillingness to forgive, a harsh feeling. Wrath, what is it? Bursts of rage, violent passion, temper tantrums. Anger: grouchiness, animosity, hostility. Clamour, what is it? Loud outcries of anger, brawling, angry bickering, shouting down opponents. Railing, what is that? Insulting language, slander, abusive speech. Then he says malice: wishing evil on others, spite and meanness.
Do you know what Ivor Powell says about that verse? Listen: 'When carnal people send fires of dissension through the assemblies of Christ, the work of years can be destroyed in moments, and the cause of Christ immeasurably hindered. To be content, Paul urges the Christians to expel the troublemakers.' - now this is what he says - 'A fence on the top of a cliff is better than an ambulance at the bottom'. We are to put on holy, warm hearts. In verse 32 he says kindness: unselfish concern for others, a desire to be helpful at personal sacrifice. Tenderheartedness: sympathetic affection for others, compassion for others, an interest in others and a willingness to bear their burdens. Thirdly, forgiveness: to pardon the offences of others, to overlook personal wrongs against oneself, not to harbour a desire for retaliation. And therefore, with all these things, putting them out and putting on godliness to build up the body!
Let me ask you a question: are you, or am I, personally in my life, or corporately in the life of this assembly, grieving the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God? If you are, put a stop to it! For then our members will be edified, then Satan will not have a foothold in this place, then this place will be built up, and the Spirit of God will not be grieved and He will smile upon this place. Adoniram Judson was the pioneer missionary to Burma. He was sitting one day in his home, and his wife was reading out the paper to him - there was a report in it about him. He was a man of God in humility and in godliness of every kind. She said: 'Adoniram they say in this paper that you're just like one of the Apostles'. He didn't like that, and he turned his wife and he said: 'I don't want to be like one of them, I want to be like Christ'. We will be like Christ when we put on the wardrobe of the Spirit of God.
Now, let us pray and bow our heads, and analyse our hearts in the light of the mirror of the word of God - and ask ourselves: 'Am I', don't apply it to anybody else, 'Am I grieving the Holy Spirit in my life and in life of this assembly?'. You know, the presence of God, as I said yesterday, above the tabernacle was seen in the smoke and in the fire - and when it was gone it meant that the children of Israel were being disobedient.
Oh Lord, give us again that fire. Give us again that witness from on high that God is with us, that His name will be glorified, and His arm will be bare in salvation. That His cause, and His heart, will be primary in our hearts and our lives, and that we will seek after God. Holy Spirit of God forgive us, and grant that we may grieve Thee no longer. Come, for we are the temple of the Holy Spirit now, and come and make us Thine abode again. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twentieth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Wardrobe Of The Spirit" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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