walk this wayThroughout the course of a sermon series titled “Learn to Discern” our church learned that that discernment is not just a spiritual gift given to a select few. It is in fact a skill learned through the Word by the working of the Spirit through each of us as we mature in faith and as we learn to overcome sin. To discern is to hear the truth, to understand the difference between good and evil, and then to act upon that information by making wise decisions and acting in obedience to the truth. Discernment is proved by the way we walk, that is, by the way we live our daily lives. With that in mind I want to review several paragraphs of text from Ephesians 4 and 5 where we are told how it is that wise, maturing, discerning disciples of Jesus Christ are expected and empowered to walk in their daily lives.

We start by looking at Ephesians 4:1-6:

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Here in this text we find Paul beginning the practical application in the Book of Ephesians. As was his custom, he usually would write a letter to a church or group of churches and address sinful issues and conflicts and false doctrines at the beginning. Then as he would explain sound doctrine and correct errors he would spend the rest of the epistle explaining very specifically how this sound doctrine would work its way out in the lives of those who took his word, and God’s Word, to heart. Paul would expose false doctrines, build on the foundation of truth in the gospel, and then show the reader what this sound doctrine would look like when it was lived out.

Paul had been very specific in the truth and sound doctrine that needed to be reiterated to the church at Ephesus and now in chapter 4 he is getting practical telling them how sound doctrine would affect their daily living. In verse 1 he says that those reading and hearing the epistle should walk worthy of the calling with which they had been called. So our first lesson in living is actually an opportunity to learn how to walk. The first steps we take in the Christian life are to be steps worthy of our calling.

Those of us who have been saved, who are converted, who have been regenerated by the power of the Spirit through the Word of God and as a result repented of our sin and turned to Christ in faith, we have been called to new life. What a calling this is. It is a calling from death to life, from sin to forgiveness, from lawlessness to righteousness. It is a call from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God. It is in fact a call to adoption. This is the calling with which we have been called, the effectual and irresistible call of the gospel of grace.

As we hear and understand, as we learn the truth, and as we do the truth, we walk worthy of this calling. This is expected because we are empowered to walk this walk. It is the walk and the life of a disciple of Christ. To walk in a worthy manner is to walk in “lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love.” It is to walk in a manner that is suitable, or in a way that matches our calling. There is no hypocrisy here. We are what we seem to be and we seem to be what we are. No playing, no fraud, no deceit. Transparent honesty and realism. The Christian should indeed be a person where what you see is what you get.

To walk then in a worthy manner, a life that suits our calling, we must walk in lowliness. This means that we walk in unassuming humility . Both parts that make up the meaning of the word lowliness here are important to understanding the whole concept. To be unassuming is so absolutely difficult and yet so absolutely necessary if we are to be humble. Just think about that for a moment. What usually happens when we make assumptions? Seriously. When we assume we usually miss the truth or even worse, obscure the truth. Once someone is a victim of our assumptions they will be defensive and trust is hard to rebuild once it is lost.

Further, this is unassuming humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. It is being selfless. It is putting self to death for the sake of others. It is putting others first. Esteeming them as better, serving them, submitting to them. It is difficult, too, but humility is necessary if we are to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

Matched with this lowliness, this unassuming humility, we also find that to walk worthy is to walk in gentleness. This is a meek, gentle courtesy. How many people do we know that are courteous? It is a lost art, is it not? Too many today, even in the church, have lost all sense of manners, propriety, etiquette, and courtesy. Being gentle is at the root of being a gentleman, or a gentlewoman.

Men, are we gentleman? Women, do you truly carry yourselves like ladies? This is essential for believers, for to behave in a rude, harsh, crude manner is to act contrary to our very nature in Christ. While we may yearn for days long lost where manners were expected and taught, it is not enough to yearn for those days. We must reclaim this aspect of Christian living. We must not let the world around us dictate to us how we will relate to one another. We must be gentle and well mannered. We must, for this is simply an outworking of sound doctrine and love.

If all we do is to be for God’s glory and if all the Law is summed up in loving God with all we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves then what room is there for a lack of courtesy in any relationship, in any acquaintance, in any arena of life? We should be model citizens in this regard. If we have not been taught manners, find someone who can teach us. Those of us who have been called to new life in Christ should be well above crude, ill mannered living.

As we walk in lowliness and gentleness we are also to be long-suffering. Ah, what a phrase. Steadfast endurance, especially when relating to other people. It is necessary. It is a fruit of the Spirit. It is invaluable to be able to suffer long. This is a combination of patience, hope, love, and sacrifice. The word in fact means to offer a large sacrifice. Yet again, in today’s world, we don’t seem to know what it means to sacrifice, much less to suffer for any length of time. We live in a microwave society where fast food had better be fast and fresh and 30 seconds is too long to wait for dinner to be zapped, heated through, and thoroughly enjoyable.

If we are to be humble and gentle, we must also be long-suffering. This is accomplished by laying our expectations aside. For a lack of patience, a lack of respect and good manners, is ultimately just a lack of self denial. We have expectations and when others do not meet them we get irritated, angry, hostile, and bitter. Long-suffering leaves no room for any such behavior, motive, or mood.

Finally we see that we must walk in a way that we bear with one another in love. What a thought. We bear with, which means it may be a burden. We bear with one another within the Body with love. Literally, in a relationship founded upon unconditional love, we put up with each other.

Have you ever had a person in your life that you just had to put up with? Well, if your attitude was one of begrudgingly tolerating that person then you were not bearing with one another in love. There is no mere toleration here. It is an embrace of another person fully with unconditional love as a decision of our will, no matter what that person says or does.

Novel idea. But the truth is that if we merely tolerate someone then in reality we have placed ourselves above them in our own minds. Instead, we see that to walk worthy of the calling is to walk in a position of unconditional love and service to others in the Body of Christ.

Is this not how the church is built up? Further down in Ephesians 4 we read that pastor-teachers have been given to the church so that the church might be equipped for the work of ministry. That word “ministry” is the word we usually translate “deacon.” It means to serve. The ministry is truly service. It is serving God and each other, putting them first, denying self, and loving as we have been loved.

Next we will see how this worthy walk enables us to walk in unity. Without lowliness, gentleness, long-suffering, and unconditional love there can be no true lasting unity. And any unity that promotes self above others or refuses to sacrifice for each other is actually not true unity. But more about that later.

(tomorrow: Walk in Unity)