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Live Worthy!

Ephesians 4:1-3

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling
to which you have been called with all lowliness and meekness, with patience,
forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
."

If we were to write this verse -- as to how to walk worthy,
we might have insisted on the greatness of our position and the greatness of our hopes.
Or we might have argued that stateliness of character would be to walk worthy.
Or to walk worthy would be having power and fame so that others might be impressed.
Or that we should be inspired with a passion and zeal for heroic tasks and fortitude for martyrdom.

But instead, Paul exhorts us to humility, meekness, patience, and forbearance.
Paul is saying: "Be what you are!"

Be humble.

The word which is translated "lowliness of mind"
was not used by the Greek people to describe a desirable characteristic.
A person marked with this characteristic would be looked upon as a weakling -- and probably would be today.

But it is not so in the Christian religion.
The one who has come to know Christ and has experienced God's undeserved favor
is characterized by lowliness of mind rather than by high-mindedness.

Humility or lowliness of mind is a thankful sense of dependence upon God,
as opposed to pride and self superiority.
Jesus said, "Whosoever exalts himself shall be brought down;
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted
." (Luke 14:11)

True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too lowly of ourselves.
It makes us mindful of the nobility God meant for us to have.
Yet, it makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.

It is no great thing to be humble when we are brought low;
but to be humble when we are praised is a great and rare attainment.

Augustine said that the first essential of the Christian life is humility and the second and the third.

We are nothing -- God is all!

Humility is developed by prayer, by communion with God, and by the vision of divine and eternal things.
Humility is also developed by the study of God's Word, by meditating on God's righteousness
and His greatness and our unworthiness.
It is nurtured by meditating on the eternal fullness of God and our dependence on Him.
Humility is developed by the the blessings which God has given us in Christ.

We must remember that the horrible and dark destiny which was ours
was the natural and just result of our indifference to God's authority and love.

And where there is humility there will be meekness.

Meekness

Meekness was not considered by the Greeks to be a desirable characteristic.
It is used today to describe a spineless person -- someone that is pushed around by everyone.

But the word which Paul used is a strong and positive word.
It has been used to describe a wild horse that had been tamed.
The horse still had all of its old power and fire and determination, but these were yielded
to the controlling hand of his master who held the reins.
He was a "meek " horse.

Meekness then meant surrendered power and obedient power, as Paul urged his readers to be meek.
He was urging them to yield to the controlling hand of their new Lord all the power
and the fire and the determination that were in them.
These are desirable qualities when they are dedicated qualities.

Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek." (Matthew 5: 5)

Meekness is the opposite of asserting self.
It is not forever clamoring for its rights.

Someone might say: "But the person who is not self-assertive will get nowhere."
Everyone will get somewhere; it is a question of destination.

So meekness is closely connected with the spirit of submissiveness, which becomes the keynote of Ephesians
when in 5: 21 Paul speaks of human relationships.

The person who is meek does not asserted his own importance or authority.
The word is very aptly used in Numbers 13:3 to describe the character of Moses.
This person has every instinct and passion and every motion of his mind and heart
and tongue and desire under the perfect control of God.

So meekness signifies a trustful submission to God, a consequent gentleness,
and a self constraint in meeting the provocations of others.

A person who is meek is acutely aware of possessing no merit,
and even in the worst and darkest hours is conscious of suffering no injustice.
The same temper will show itself in relation to others.
A person who is meek has no personal claim to defend.
This person will be slow to resent insult and injury.

If a meek person resents them at all,
the resentment will be a protest against the violation of divine laws rather than a protest
against a refusal to acknowledge its personal rights.
There will be no eagerness for great position or high honor, or for the recognition of personal merit.
Therefore, if these are withheld, there will be no bitterness or repercussions.

Remember that Jesus said, "I am meek and lowly in heart..."
These twin virtues displace pride, which is the primary barrier in a worthy Christian walk.

Meekness leads to long-suffering.

Long-suffering

The word translated, "long-suffering," means to bear long
with the infirmities and weaknesses of others.
In general usage it described one who would bear long without striking back
in revenge of personal injury or wrong.
This person follows the character of God, who is spoken of as One who is long-suffering with men.
It is Christlike to bear long without striking out at others in vengeance.

As the word is used in the New Testament, it is closely related to the word, "patience,"
and had a meaning which was more exalted than any which it had in non-Christian writings.
The "long-suffering" (KJV) is probably a better translation of makrothumia than patience (RSV)
for it holds out until the broken relation is remedied.
"Love suffereth long..." (1 Corinthians 13: 4)

Long-suffering leads to forebearance.

Forbearance

"Forbearing one another in love"
is for the purpose of explaining the word, "long-suffering."

In the all-encompassing area of Christian love the followers of Christ are to bear
with one another in their weaknesses and in their difficulties as they try to live a life
that is worthy of the calling which they have experienced.

So we are not to cease to love our loved ones, our neighbors, or friends because of their faults
which may offend or displease us.

Forbearance involves all these four qualities and they are possible only through love.
Love is the basic attitude of seeking the highest good of others,
and love will lead to all these qualities. (Vs. 15, 16)

Paul has prayed that his readers may be "rooted and grounded in love." (3:17)
Now he exhorts them to do their part and go on to possess all these virtues in love.

We are not to assume that all Christians will keep all of the precepts of Christ perfectly,
or that all of the baser passions of human nature have been extinguished.

There are and will be times when our Christian brethren will treat us unjustly.
  • They will judge us ignorantly and ungenerously.
  • They will say harsh things about us.
  • They will be inconsiderate and discourteous.
  • They will be willful, wayward, and selfish.
  • They will make us suffer from their arrogance, their ambition,
    their impatience, and their perversity. We must anticipate these things.
    Christ bears with our imperfections and the imperfections of others and with our sins
    and their sins, and so must we.

    In forbearance meekness and love are blended.

    Paul is quick to pass from the principle to the practice and from the doctrine to the life.
    Lowliness (humility) leads to meekness (modesty), which in turn produces long-suffering and forbearance.

    Because we remember the pit from which we were dug, we do not desire the praise of men
    because we know that we do not deserve it.
    But we are patient with the evil accusations of men, etc. knowing that God will balance it out.

    "A Voice is calling me, a Hand has grasped me,
    By cords unseen my soul is upward drawn;
    My heart has answered to that upward calling,
    I trust the Hand that lifts and leads me own.

    I'm turning from the past that lies behind me,
    I'm reaching forth unto the things before;
    I've caught the taste of life's eternal fountains,
    And all my being longs and thirsts for more."

    "Leave your rights and reputation
    In the Master's hand.
    Even though men misunderstand you,
    Jesus understands;
    He can shield and vindicate you,
    Right your every wrong;
    Turn the hate of men and devils
    Into joy and song
    ."

    Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
    Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com