03 September 2018

Awake, sleepers!

Ephesians 5.1-20.

Too many Christians have this unhealthy attitude of once we’re saved—once we’ve said the sinner’s prayer and decided we’re Christian now—there’s nothing more we need to do. The entire work of salvation was achieved by Jesus, so all we gotta do is sit back and let heaven come to us. ’Cause if we do try to act Christian… well, it’s a sign we don’t really trust that Jesus did all the work, but a sign we still think we’re saved by our own good karma. So such people won’t even bother to act Christian. Functionally they’ll have the same pagan lifestyle they always had—but the difference, they insist, is they believe in Jesus. That makes ’em Christian.

Rubbish, wrote Paul. If you’re Christian, you act like your Father. If you act like pagans, you’re clearly not God’s kids, and won’t inherit his kingdom.

Ephesians 5.1-5 KWL
1 So, like beloved children, become mimics of God.
2 Walk in love, same as Christ also loves us,
and gave himself as an offering for us, a sacrifice to God with a pleasing aroma. Lv 3.5
3 Porn, everything unclean or greedy—don’t even bring it up among you; it’s inappropriate for saints.
4 Obscenity, stupid talk, hurtful humor: They’re not for you. Thanksgiving instead.
5 If you know anything, know this:
No porn, uncleanness, nor greed—in other words idolatry—
none of these things have an inheritance in Christ and God’s kingdom.

Because Christians get nervous about these items which disqualify us from the kingdom, sometimes we define them broadly, and don’t allow ourselves to do anything which remotely sounds like them… and sometimes we define them really narrowly, and grant ourselves plenty of loopholes. Both extremes are foolish, so let’s not indulge them. Here’s how I define those words.

  • PORN (Greek porneía, KJV “fornication”). Any inappropriate sexual activity—namely promiscuity, or anything going on between you and someone you shouldn’t be having sex with. Like someone else’s spouse, someone under someone else’s authority, prostitutes and slaves (and I should mention they’re frequently the same thing), family members, and anyone the state bans you from having sex with. And since monogamy is a requirement for Christian leadership, polygamy’s also out.
  • EVERYTHING UNCLEAN (pása akatharsía, KJV “all uncleanness”). Few Christians nowadays bother to pay attention to ritual uncleanness, and many will insist Paul totally didn’t mean that in this passage; he meant sin. Wrong. If Paul meant sin, he’d’ve wrote “sin.” He meant cleanliness. Paying no attention to the cleanliness of yourself, your surroundings, nor your food, is a sign you don’t care about the sensibilities of others, including God. Christians are supposed to give a rip.
  • GREEDY (pleonexía, KJV “covetousness”). The desire to have more; frequently the desire to have more than anyone else. Anybody who won’t control their urges, especially when it’s at the expense of others.

And I should pause in this list to mention there are those Christians who interpret verse 5 to mean only greediness is idolatry. Nah. Anything we prioritize over God becomes an idol, and if you’re fixated on your sex life—even if it’s marital sex!—it can easily become an idol. As can an unclean lifestyle. Mammonism and avarice are really obvious cases of idolatry, but there are plenty others.

  • OBSCENITY (aiskhrótis, KJV “filthiness”). Stuff which we should find embarrassing, which other people are totally embarrassed by. Again, if we don’t care about other people’s sensibilities, we’re missing the Holy Spirit’s compassion—and possibly missing the Holy Spirit himself.
  • STUPID TALK (morología, KJV “foolish talking”). Not necessarily when we’re talking about dumb stuff, like which Star Trek captain was the best. (Benjamin Sisko.) But when we’re talking like dummies. When we’re trying to defend an idea we don’t wholly understand, or pretend we know what we’re talking about when we don’t. When our arguments have no logic to them, or we’re willing to make stuff up in order to win. When we appeal to rage instead of reason. God gave us our brains, y’know. Not using ’em means we’re not loving the LORD our God with all our minds.
  • HURTFUL HUMOR (eftrapelía, KJV “jesting”). Certain dark Christians lack joy, and therefore have a damaged sense of humor, or none at all. To them, anything funny is wrong, and that’s how they misinterpret this verse, especially with the way the KJV put it. But set their fruitlessness aside. The Greek eftrapelía means “well-twisted,” which can refer to a witty response, but more accurately refers to a sarcastic response. Some jokes are meant to sting or wound, and that’s inappropriate for those whom Jesus has commanded to heal. Mt 10.8 Good humor is a form of joy; warped humor is a form of anger, and we always need to watch out for anger.

The self-defense mechanism is a hard instinct to fight, which is why there are always gonna be those Christians who insist, when they’re caught doing any of these things, “Oh, they’re not that bad; God can forgive anything, you know.” Yes he can. But Paul had this to say about that.

Ephesians 5.6-14 KWL
6 Don’t you be deceived by empty words in defense of these things:
God’s wrath comes to the rebel children, 7 so don’t become complicit with them!
8 For once you were dark; now you’re light in the Master.
Live as light-children, 9 for light’s fruit is in all goodness, rightness, and truth,
10 fruit proving what is acceptable to the Master.
11 Don’t have any relationship with worthless dark works! Expose them instead.
12 For the secret things they do are shameful—even to speak about.
13 All is exposed once the light shines, 14 for the light shines on everything.
Thus it’s said, “Awake, sleeper, and rise up from the dead ones, and Christ will shine on you.”

If we’ve got evil, fleshly behavior in ourselves, we need to scrub it out, and stop making excuses for it. Snap out of it. Awake, sleepers!

Pay better attention to your behavior.

Anyone who treats Christianity as if it’s mere afterlife insurance, and doesn’t bother to adopt the lifestyle of grace and righteousness, is squandering their life. Seriously. Jesus came to give us an abundant life, Jn 10.10 but irreligious Christians assume he was only talking about heaven, not the present. And not because they’ve studied the bible and reasonably came to that conclusion, but because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s the laziest, easiest way for them to be Christian. They needn’t change at all. They can be the same jerks as always, and go to heaven anyway.

But again, they don’t believe this because they’ve checked the scriptures. Because the scriptures are pretty clear they’re not guaranteed heaven. No fruitless person is. Ga 5.21 Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve come forward and said the sinner’s prayer.

Hence Paul told us, via the Ephesians, to not be morons about this.

Ephesians 5.15-20 KWL
15 So watch carefully how you walk!—not like fools, but like wise people,
16 redeeming the time, because these days are evil.
17 For this reason don’t be ignorant, but understand what the Master’s will is.
18 Don’t get drunk on wine—that’s what unsaved people do
but be filled in the Spirit, 19 singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves.
Be singing and making music in your hearts to the Master.
20 Be always in thanksgiving for everything
in our Master Christ Jesus’s name to God the Father.

God needs to remain foremost in the Christian’s mind. We’re alive because of him; we’ll live forever because of him; therefore we gotta start living for him now. He takes priority. And this priority starts by thanking him for everything we have, everything he gives us. Especially as we’re only meant to keep what he gives us.

In Ephesus, pagan rituals involved a lot of drinking. Not just because wine is fun—and in moderation there’s nothing wrong with it—but because it’s what pagans do instead of seeking God-experiences. After all, if there’s nothing to experience, all you really have left is getting drunk. Yes it’s kinda sad—and it’s totally unnecessary for us Christians. If you’re getting high to forget your troubles, you’ve turned to the wrong thing. That’s why it’s especially sad to watch Christians make such a fuss about wine, drinking, getting their buzz on, and revelry: Shouldn’t they know we have access to far, far better? We have the Holy Spirit! Why resort to the pathetic, sloppy substitute of inebriation?

Pagans then and now would get drunk and sing. Paul recommended we sing too. But instead of singing silly songs or naughty songs, spiritual songs, which uplift fellow Christians and praise Jesus. Not necessarily church music; Christian popular music does just fine. I may rant about its content sometimes, especially when we try to sing it in church and it’s not suitable for that environment. Still, our joy in the Lord oughta produce songs of praise and thanksgiving. You wanna sing? Sing that.