Text: Eph. 4:1-32
The 4th of July always reminds us of our freedom as a people. It is a great celebration of independence. Unfortunately, this word “independence” has come to mean something that our forefathers never meant it to mean.
Today it means “no one tells me what to do, I can do whatever I want, I’m Independent.”
To our forefathers however, the idea of Independence was more like Inter–Dependence than our modern idea of it.
This is also true spiritually. One of the reasons American Christianity is in trouble today is because we have a false idea of what it means to be a Christian.
We think being a Christian is like being an American … we are independent, we don’t answer to anyone but God and no one can tell us what to do. (although actually if this were true we would not be independent, we would be interdependent),
The Bible never supports the idea that we are supposed to be independent! Actually, this is the concept of Evil! Satan got Eve to think and act Independently from God or her husband, sin resulted! Satan himself acted Independently from God; and it was his downfall … the drive for independence is built on a foundation of sin and evil!
The Bible teaches Interdependence … we are not alone, and we don’t grow alone … we are built together as a Holy Temple, upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. Nothing good happens spiritually with independent Christians … it is a contradiction in terms! There is no power in being independent.
Illustration: A man went to an asylum for the criminally insane. He was a bit surprised to find that there were three guards to take care of a hundred inmates. He said to one of the guards, “Aren’t you afraid that the inmates will unite, overcome you, and escape?” The guard said, “Lunatics never unite. Locusts do.”
Christians should unite. If we don’t, we don’t know where our power is.
The Bible clearly teaches that Christians are interdependent, never independent. We must not only be in a right relationship with God, but with one another as well. There is no power to the Christian life lived alone.
- Our First point, two posts ago, speaks of: “Union”
- The Second post, in yesterday’s post, looked at point two: “Useful”
- Now the Third post will focus on: “Understanding”
Clear-Minded (Ephesians 4:17-24)
Because Paul has made this principle of Inter–Dependence so clear, because This Is God’s design, he states here, (Eph 4:17)“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind”
- Paul insists that they think this way from now on!
- Why is this important?
- To prevent arrogance
- To develop accountability
- To help them mature
- To have purpose
- To experience God’s power
- To challenge those who live in sin
- The Gentiles are given over to fulfilling every kind of impurity, to satisfy Self.
- The sinner, by nature, lives an Independent life, and it results in damnation, just like Satan!
The believer must stay clear minded about spiritual truths … we are connected inter-dependently.
- So Paul tells us to “put off the old man” … the one that acts selfishly to fulfill its own desires, AND
- To put on the “new man, created to be like God…” to act in connection to both God and our brethren.
Think about it… most of us sin when we get alone, or act alone, or when we break our connection with the body of Christ and join ourselves with the wicked.
When we are Inter-Dependent we have greater resources to draw upon than when we are independent, this Inter-Dependence means help from many sources; when we are dependent on only self, we will be very weak and experience loss!
Illustration: One spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs. “I’m sorry,” the waitress said. “I can’t bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken.”
At first, I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen – orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice.
The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it.
Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food – but that many Christians haven’t grown enough to know how to get it for themselves.
Conditioning (Ephesians 4:25-32)
Paul finishes this chapter by emphasizing the Inter-Dependency of our lives as Christians:
- (Eph 4:25) “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
- This is followed with instructions on dealing with anger in the body, resolving issues of brokenness between one another, with the purpose of: (Eph 4:32) “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
- We cannot afford the luxury of acting alone, everything we do is for others and not just self.
The natural tendency is for Us All to demand our own way, that others leave us alone, that no one tells me what to do. These are All sinful expressions of a fallen nature!
- Such independent attitudes and actions are Not consistent with being part of the body of Christ.
- Paul says to “grieve not the holy Spirit of God.” How do we do this?
By only caring about what we think and feel, by ignoring what God wants and what others need! By acting independently, we grieve God’s Spirit because we make ourselves into gods.
Illustration: I met a young man not long ago who dives for exotic fish for aquariums. He said one of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. He explained that if you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium. Sharks can be six inches long yet fully matured. But if you turn them loose in the ocean, they grow to their normal length of eight feet.
That also happens to some Christians. I’ve seen the cutest little six-inch Christians who swim around in a little puddle. But if you put them into a larger arena – into the whole creation – only then can they become great.
How independent are you? How inter-dependent are you?
Make a “Declaration of Inter-Dependence” for your life in Christ!
True “freedom” is not an escape from responsibilities to do whatever I want.
True freedom comes when we understand that we are Not Independent, but Inter-Dependent.
I’m never free alone, only as I am connected to Christ and His body … am I free!