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  MASTERY OF THE EMOTIONS EPHESIANS 4:17-29: “When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down.” (v26)

Remember that when you talk of emotion, your emotion is like a box that contains such things as anger, excessive happiness or gladness, jealousy, envy, hatred etc; so these are the things in your character and attitude that you need to take control of so that they are not used for your detriment. An emotion is a feeling such as happiness, love, fear, anger, or hatred, which can be caused by the situation that you are in or the people you are with. The words of Lord Jesus’ second beatitude; ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’ as seen in Matt. 5:4, contains a truth with which today’s social scientists would concur. Most psychologists and psychiatrists agree that being aware of our emotions is one of the first steps towards experiencing good mental, emotional and spiritual health. You see, whenever we are unwilling to face and feel a negative emotion it implies that we are not in charge of it but that it is in charge of us. God doesn’t want us to be mastered and controlled by our emotions but rather when our emotions come up, the Lord God Almighty expects us to draw upon His resources contained in His Holy Spirit so that we are able to live life well, sound and in line with His Will for creating us. In the Church I have come across some who say that if you are feeling overwhelmed or in low spirits and downcast then you should pretend that you are happy and contented-its well we say whereas it is not well in reality. In time, they claim, the disruptive feelings will disappear and will be replaced by a sense of joy. But Christians are people for whom pretence is totally unacceptable. So why do we pretend saying it is well when it is not? When our stomachs are churning with grief, sorrow or hurt, instead of pretending that we are not feeling the pain, we can come before God with a prayer something like this: ‘Lord, right now I am hurting so much I do not think I can endure it. I feel like screaming, running away or even hitting someone. [Yes, be honest.] I don’t want to feel like this, Lord, but I do. Thank You for loving me as I am. Help me now to handle my feelings, this part of my emotion in a way that glorifies You and honours Your name.’ In this way you have not denied your emotions but have opened them up to the Father and asked for His help. Being real, sincere and honest in His presence is part of the mourning process that the Lord Jesus is talking about in this Beatitude. It has worked for me and you will find out it will also work for you too if you open up to the Lord Jesus because He wants to know how you feel. So always pour out your mind to Him but realize He commands respect and reverend in your approach to Him.

  THINK DIFFERENTLY EPHESIANS 4:17-32:

Let us read Ephesians 4:17-29; 17 So this I say and solemnly testify in [the name of] the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the heathen (the Gentiles) do in their perverseness [in the folly, vanity, and emptiness of their souls and the futility] of their minds. 18 Their [e]moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded. [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willfull blindness) that is [f]deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature]. 19 In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand]. 20 But you did not so learn Christ! 21 Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], 22 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another. 26 When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 29 Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it.

  Introduction:

Have you ever met your doppelganger? A doppelgänger is someone who looks like you or look-alike but isn’t related to you. This is an example of a doppelgänger. In Ephesians Paul calls the church the body of Christ as seen in Eph 4:15-16 “15 Rather, let our lives lovingly [b]express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). 16 For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.” So my question for us today is who does our church body look like? Who is our church’s doppelgänger? Who is our church’s look-alike? There are only two options: the world or Christ. If we look like the world we will look and act like the non-believers we see around us every day. We will talk like them and think like them and value the things they value. We will mirror their lives. Or, if we look like Christ, we will talk and think like Christ who looks completely different from the world. The Apostle Paul who wrote the letter to the Ephesians is asking the church at Ephesus the same thing. Who do you look like? Do you look like the world or do you look different, like Lord Jesus? Whose are you? Who own you? The world or Christ? Remember that we said the other time that you will only know who you are when you are able to know whose you are! if you are ruler or a lover of worldly things, then you are of the world but if you are a lover of the things of Christ, then you are of Christ. Here’s what’s at stake… Everything. If we claim to be Christians but the world is our doppelgänger, we look and talk and act like non-Christians, we might not be real Christians at all. But if our doppelgänger is Christ, if we’re becoming more like Christ over time in our thoughts and actions, then we are on the right path. Let’s take an honest assessment of ourselves today. Let’s get real. If we look like Christ, wonderful, praise God. But if there are ways we look like the world, let’s repent and return to following Lord Jesus Christ. WHAT DOES THE WORLD LOOK LIKE? (EPH 4:17-19, 22) In the first three chapters of Ephesians Paul talks about all the grace God has given believers. For example, if you are a believer, God has forgiven you of your sins as seen in Eph 1:7 “7 In Him we have redemption (deliverance and salvation) through His blood, the remission (forgiveness) of our offenses (shortcomings and trespasses), in accordance with the riches and the generosity of His gracious favour”; He has adopted you into His heavenly family as seen in Eph 1:5 “5 For He foreordained us (destined us, planned in love for us) to be adopted (revealed) as His own children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the purpose of His will [[a]because it pleased Him and was His kind intent]—”; and He will treat you with grace and kindness forever as seen in Eph 2:7 “7 He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus” . Now in the second half of the letter Paul gives a playbook for how God’s grace should change our lives. And he does this partially by contrasting us with how non-believers think and behave. THINKING: IGNORANT/HARD-HEARTED, SELFISH/DECEIVED (V17-19, 22); 17 “So this I say and solemnly testify in [the name of] the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the heathen (the Gentiles) do in their perverseness [in the folly, vanity, and emptiness of their souls and the futility] of their minds. 18 Their [e]moral understanding is darkened and their reasoning is beclouded. [They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is [f]deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature]. 19 In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand]. 22 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion”. The word of God lets us know that there is something about the way non-Christians think and act that is very very wrong. Right now the Bible is saying that anyone not saved by Christ thinks incorrectly or foolishly. Their minds are darkened. They are blinded to the truth. Their worldview is wrong. To be quite frank this is incredibly offensive. But just because something is offensive doesn’t mean it’s not true or should not be said. Why do people think in this wrong way? Paul gives us two reasons in verse 18. 1. Ignorance – They don’t know the truth of the Bible and Lord Jesus as seen in Acts 3:17 “17 And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance [not aware of what you were doing], as did your rulers also”, 17:30 “30 Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent ([a]to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins)”. Gentiles in our passage really mean non-believers. But does that mean they’re off the hook? Off the hook means no longer in difficulty or trouble. 2. Hard-hearted – They are wilfully hardening their own hearts. They don’t want to know or receive the truth. Romans 1:20-23 says, “20 For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], 21 Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and [c]godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves]. 23 And by them the glory and majesty and excellence of the immortal God were exchanged for and represented by images, resembling mortal man and birds and beasts and reptiles.” The summary is that all people can see God’s power in creation but they reject Him anyways. Do you now see the reason why men like representing God with all sorts of images, because they try to use their own reason to want to represent or figure how they feel God looks like. Simpleton means a foolish or gullible person. Dr. Jonathan Haidt is a world-renowned social psychologist who specializes in moral theory. Put simply, he looks at why people believe the things they do. After years of looking at why good people disagree on core moral and political issues, he learned that people typically believe certain things because they first want to believe them. In other words, desire precedes belief. Then, after believing it, they find rational reasons to support their belief. A rational person is one who likes to do things based on logic, as opposed to impulse. Logic means reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity. Impulse is to act on a feeling or thought. But the thing that anchors the belief is not primarily rational arguments. It’s the desire to believe the thing in the first place. Non-believers believe the wrong thing because they want to believe the wrong thing (“desire precedes belief”). But how does Paul say non-believers think? 19 In their spiritual apathy they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand]. 1. Selfish – The world is greedy for more. My good is the ultimate good. My happiness matters most. Individualism and self prioritization are as high as ever. It doesn’t matter if it hurts others. Me first. This is the way many people wants things to be, very selfish! 22 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 2. Deceived – The world keep repeating what they see as their truth until it becomes fact. To a worldly person there’s no ultimate truth, just individual truth. Their minds deceive them. What does wrong-thinking lead to? Impure actions are described in Ephesians 4:19b ACTIONS: IMPURE (V19B); Verse 19b says “they have become callous and past feeling and reckless and have abandoned themselves [a prey] to unbridled sensuality, eager and greedy to indulge in every form of impurity [that their depraved desires may suggest and demand].” Callous means showing or having an insensitive and cruel disregard for others. Look at that word ‘that their depraved desires may suggest and demand’ We are living in the midst of an ongoing sexual revolution that is redefining marriage, sexuality, and gender from what God designed each of these things to be. But Paul is actually saying this is nothing new. When we don’t have Christ we don’t desire to live lives of holiness or purity but self-fulfilment, which the world often searches for in romance and sexuality. What’s the outcome? Verse 18a says “They are] alienated (estranged, self-banished) from the life of God [with no share in it; this is] because of the ignorance (the want of knowledge and perception, the willful blindness) that is [f]deep-seated in them, due to their hardness of heart [to the insensitiveness of their moral nature].” A mind that rejects Christ leads to a life rejecting Christ which in turn leads to a rejection of eternal life in Christ. The end result of all these Christ rejecting life is disaster, eternal separation from God’s grace which is why you see a lot of people swimming in troubles and difficulties. The mind-set is incredibly important. What we think and how we think really matters because they are what determine our actions. Now if you think Paul is being tough on non-believers you’re right. But let’s not forget the point of this passage. In verse 17 Paul says to the Christians “17 So this I say and solemnly testify in [the name of] the Lord [as in His presence], that you must no longer live as the heathen (the Gentiles) do in their perverseness [in the folly, vanity, and emptiness of their souls and the futility] of their minds. You must no longer live as the Gentiles do. Paul is writing to new converts in Ephesus and explaining to them how God’s grace should change their lives (and ours) in real and tangible ways. But today God’s grace is no longer changing us rather we tend to see God’s grace as our right, something that God must do for us, no longer realizing that it is an unmerited favour, which is wrong! As believers, how’s our thinking? Have we learned the whole truth of God’s word or are we actually ignorant of what it says? Have we ever hardened our hearts to ways of God which we should be listening and obeying to? Have we ever selfishly put “me first” or “my favourites first” or “my family first” or even “my church first”? Have we ever lied? I don’t mean an outright lie, but just a slight changing of what really happened to make me look better than I should and the other person looks worse than they should? I think if we’re honest with ourselves as a church we’ll see we’ve done all these things. But what’s the alternative?

  WHAT SHOULD BELIEVERS LOOK LIKE? (EPH 4:20-32);

Taking from the word as seen in verse 20, 20 But you did not so learn Christ! As Christians we are supposed to look and think differently. Maybe some of you are familiar with IBM. They have an office in Littleton just past Kimball Farm. Did you know that for a long time their slogan has been “Think”? This is why they call their laptops ThinkPads. They want to “take everything into consideration.” So you know what Apple did in the late 90s to differentiate themselves from IBM? They came up with the slogan, “Think different.” This slogan actually helped turn Apple into the huge success it is today. Apple wanted to stand out against its competitor, not blend in. As Christians, we have to stand out against those who don’t follow Christ. We have to think and act differently than follow them in their worldly way of thinking. Our slogan wouldn’t be “think different” it would be “think differently in Christ.” Our thinking comes from… THINKING: CHRIST’S TEACHINGS, RENEWED ATTITUDES AND MINDS (V21-23); 21 Assuming that you have really heard Him and been taught by Him, as [all] Truth is in Jesus [embodied and personified in Him], 22 Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]” What is the primary way we as Christians change the way we think? By focusing on the teachings of Christ Jesus. By reading and studying and being taught God’s word, the Bible. As we learn the teachings of Christ we re-learn how to think and navigate life. Thom Rainer writes in Who Moved My Pulpit?: …too many leaders do not take time to read the Bible daily. Brad Waggoner, in his book The Shape of Faith to Come, presents a fascinating study about spiritual maturity. The essence of the study is that the most mature Christians have one common trait: they read the Bible daily. This is why our By-Laws say that both our Elders and Deacons “are to practice personal times of devotion and prayer.” A love for the Bible can’t just be one of our core values in name but in practice, and it has to start at the top with our leadership. As part of his interview process for Elder for example we asked Bari how often Mark reads his Bible and prays and she said “every morning.” But this shouldn’t just be an Elder thing. This should be an everyone thing. We all need to spend time in God’s word and prayer every day, meditating on critical life issues as they unfold because through them we will be able to see God’s mind-set as different from the way we wants things to be. If everyone at House of Joseph Ministries Inc, the Elders, the Deacons, every member and attendant start reading the Bible and praying daily (or most days), we as a church would grow spiritually, we would be much more unified, and many of our conflicts and squabbles would disappear. God’s word will renew our attitudes and minds and our actions too will be renewed and things will begin to appreciate for good for us. It will help us think differently in Christ. As our thinking is renewed how does that change our actions? ACTIONS: REPENTANCE AND TRANSFORMATION (V25-32); As we encounter God’s word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit we begin to recognize our own sins and to confess them to God. Repentance is both a turning away from sin and a turning to God as seen in Acts 3:19 “19 So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of [d]reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord”. Repentance is both negative (stopping the bad) and positive (starting the good). Instead of reading the passage for us again I’ve gone through verses 25-32 of Ephesians 4 and pulled out the traits of the old self Paul calls us to stop and the traits of the new self (the positives) Paul calls us to begin. The old self is the person we were before Christ got a hold of our hearts and the new self is who I am becoming in Christ. • Falsehood vs speaking truthfully – Our old self would be okay with speaking partial truths that make me look good and the other person bad. But the new self, who I am “in Christ,” isn’t afraid to speak truth even if it makes me look bad. • Sinful anger vs sinless anger – The old self uses anger to get its way but the new self is angered by the things that anger God (unholiness, sin, injustice). Righteous anger is rare and it is brief. It ends at sunset. • Stealing vs sharing – The old self takes advantage of others to get ahead. The new self works honestly and hard and shares what it has with those in need. • Unwholesome talk vs talk that builds others up – The old self tears others down. The old self can’t wait to tell others what “that person” said or did. The old self makes excuses for this, “I was just venting” or “I was getting advice about how to handle the situation.” But in our heart we know it’s gossip. The new self works hard to speak positively about others. The new self goes above and beyond to lift others up with words. Even if those words involve correction they are spoken in love. • Bitterness vs kind, compassionate, and forgiving – The old self gets bitter and resentful and all the rest when life doesn’t go its way. But the new self is kind, and compassionate, and forgiving even when others don’t deserve it, even when it’s not fair, even when it doesn’t make sense. So let’s just take a moment and be honest with ourselves. Are these not the things we do? As a church body do we look more like the old self or the new self, more like the world or more like Christ? If we’re really honest with ourselves I think we should admit there has been anger, and unwholesome talk, and bitterness and slander in our church. Not all the time, but enough for the word to get around that people aren’t happy either with the leadership, or someone else in the church, or you name it, we’ve probably gotten angry or spoken poorly about it. The reason I’m bringing this up today is because Paul brings it up and I’d rather be a part of a church that talks about its issues in the daylight than whispers about what’s wrong in the darkness. When we shine Christ’s light on our sin it gives us an opportunity to repent and say “We’re sorry. We need grace.” And it also gives us the opportunity to hold each other accountable. If you have a complaint with someone, go and talk to them. If you need advice from a friend, or an Elder or Deacon, they should give you advice but then they are responsible for holding you accountable to speak directly with the person you have a problem with. So if someone comes to you and begins to criticize or badmouth someone else in the church, listen to them, pray with them, and tell them, “Alright, you have one week to talk with the person you’re upset with or I’m going to schedule the meeting between you and them.” We must put our unwholesome talk to death for the sake of our church family. But I also want to encourage us because I also see the new self too. I see people speaking truth to each other even when it’s hard. I see a lot of people working really hard and sharing what they have. The recent cooperation of all members of HOJ both far and near for the Annual thanksgiving is a beautiful example of hard work and sharing. I see many acts of kindness and compassion and I personally have experienced forgiveness for my mistakes. I see the new self here, and I know that through the Holy Spirit the new self will win. So what’s the outcome of a renewed mind, repentance and transformation? OUTCOME: RIGHTEOUSNESS, HOLINESS, GOSPEL (V24, 32) ; 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. 32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.” When we confess our sins and turn once again to Christ He works on us and in us to produce righteousness and holiness and grace. I’m preaching this sermon, “We Need Grace” because that is exactly what we need. And that’s what we have in Lord Jesus. We can forgive because Christ has forgiven us. On the cross Lord Jesus paid the penalty for our sins so that we can live. He died so that we don’t have to die in our sins but through repentance and faith can receive eternal life. On the cross Christ took our old self, crucified and killed it, and through His resurrection we have a new self as seen in Gal 2:20 “20 I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me”. Now we’re just learning to live like that new self, learning to show kindness and compassion and to forgive. Every day we’re learning to think differently in Christ. And that’s my closing big idea. Think differently in Christ.

  

Father Lord, I long not to be controlled by my emotions but to recognize and understand them. Teach me this art of living a new life. Lord Jesus You lived so well. Now that You lives in me, please Lord grant that I shall live well too. In Your name Lord Jesus I pray and ask it. Amen!