Why do parents have to be the first to change? What does that change look like? Join AMBrewster for this three part study in Ephesians 4 where he helps Christian parents fulfill their call to the glory of God.
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I’m sure excited to start this study today; I want to jump right into it, so the only thing I’m going to do by way of introduction is give honor where is honor is due.
I want to thank Ryan and Kim for not only making today’s episode possible, but also for being a kind of inspiration for this series.
Ryan, Kim, and I have a unique relationship among the other TLP listeners because they also sent their son to Victory Academy for Boys.
I have been able over the past year to watch God do a powerful work in their family. I believe — if you knew them the way I do — you would agree with me that they are a wonderful, practical example of the Truth we’re going to study in this three-part series from the book of Ephesians.
They both realized early on that if their family was going to change, it had to start with them, and though they would be the first to tell us all how imperfect and flawed they are, I personally witnessed them taking seriously God’s call on their lives to be intentional, premeditated, disciple-making, Ambassador Parents.
And I’ve also witnessed the glorious change that’s taken place in their family as a result of their humble submission to God.
Now, do they still have a long was to go? Yes. Is their family perfect? No more than yours or mine. But I praise God that He works in and through us for His good pleasure and that we’re able to study that process over the next three episodes.
And as we study you may feel annoyed that you can’t write something down as you’re listening to this podcast in the shower or while driving to work, but don’t worry! We have free episode notes and show transcripts available on our blog, Taking Back the Family, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything.
So, without any further ado, let’s jump right in.
This is going to be sprint-like study through Ephesians 4, verses 1-32. I say “sprint-like” because we won’t really be able to do the passage expositional justice in just three 20-minute podcast episodes, but we’ll do our best.
And in addition to that, we have to do a quick flyover of the entire book of Ephesians to understand the importance of chapter 4.
So, here’s the trajectory of this series:
And all throughout we’re going to see how real family change must be preceded by this personal change.
So, here we go!
When it comes to the book of Ephesians, we could say that chapters 1-3 are the root that bears the fruit of Ephesians 4-6, but Ephesians 4 is the first step to realizing the joys of Ephesians 5-6.
So, here’s a quick overview of those chapters:
Chapter 1 talks about the spiritual blessings in Christ. This should sound familiar to you from our “Parenting in Christ” series. Paul ends the chapter by praising God for the personal change the Gospel wrought in the lives of the believers in Ephesus.
Chapter 2 then expands on the intricacies of the Gospel. It’s in this chapter that we’re reminded "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” During the second half of this chapter Paul once again draws a distinction between who the Ephesians used to be versus their present unity in Christ.
Chapter 3 starts with an exultation that Paul was chosen by God to be a minister of the mystery of God finally revealed to all men and a prayer for spiritual strength that “according to the riches of [God’s] glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Paul really loves the Circle of Learning we discussed in our “Teach Your Children to Learn” series because many of his letters start by focusing on the knowledge and understanding of doctrine and then move to the wisdom part of the circle by applying that doctrine to everyday life.
Ephesians is a perfect example of that. Chapters 1-3 summarize much of the doctrine of the book while chapters 4-6 apply those Truths by showing us how we’re to live in light of them.
And so it’s no surprise that Chapter 5 starts with a call to walk in love. Second only to loving God is loving others. And then the rest of chapter 5 specifically describes what that love looks like between husbands and wives.
In chapter 6 we see what that love looks like between children and parents and bondservants and masters. And the chapter ends with a detailed overview of the life of a believer by sharing the gorgeous metaphor of the the Armor of God.
But chapter 4 is the necessary hinge between the doctrine of the first half and the spiritual maturity and success of the second.
Chapter 4 is all about The Goal of the believer’s personal unity in the body of Christ, The Source that provides them the resources necessary to achieve that goal, and The Fruit that is produced when they head toward The Goal by utilizing The Source.
And today our focus will be the Goal.
Now, before we dive into the Scripture, I need to explain how I’m going to approach this chapter.
Normally, I like to work through a chapter verse by verse and allow it to unfold to us as God originally wrote it. And that’s a wonderful approach.
However, the three themes of Goal, Source, and Fruit are so clearly defined in the passage, that they can be easily focused on one at a time. What I did was go through the passage and highlight the verses according to whether they focused specifically on the Goal, Source, or Fruit.
Now, people may read it a little differently than I, the highlighting isn’t inspired, but the Truth we’re going to read is. I just want you to know that I’m going to be jumping around in the passage in order to pull out the themes, and then we’ll put the passage back together as we go.
Okay, so what is The Goal of personal change? Let’s star with this . . .
1. The Call to Pursue the Goal is Urgent.
Verse 1 contains an impassioned plea from Paul to the Ephesians, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” And verse 4 includes “just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.”
This word “call” is a huge doctrinal reality that refers specifically to what Systematic Theology calls “God’s effectual call.” This call includes the gift of faith and Holy Spirit empowerment to receive salvation by grace.
But we can’t truly understand the call unless we truly understand salvation. I saw a cartoon recently that pictured two booths. One of them had “John 3:16” written on it and had a huge number of people queued up at the booth. The second booth had “John 3:16-21” written on it, and no one was lined up at that booth.
You see, there’s this thing called “easy believeism” that leaves us with the idea that God expects us to accept His free gift of salvation, and once we ask Jesus to be our Savior, there’s no further expectations on us. We can live how we want, we can segment our lives into the sacred on Sunday and the secular every other day of the week, and we should never have to have anyone question our salvation because we “asked Jesus into our hearts.”
If we only read John 3:16, it’s easy to come away with that idea. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” All we have to do is accept and live eternally.
But . . . verses 20-21 (as well as tons of other passages in Scripture) say this: “20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
We could spend so much time on this, but — to suffice it for now — our call is salvation, but our salvation is not merely a contractual agreement to keep us out of Hell, our salvation is an introduction into a life in Christ that results in our conformity to Christ.
And that’s what we see in Ephesians chapter 4. God, through the pen of Paul, is entreating us to accept the call.
So, let’s apply that to us. Have you accepted the call? If you want to see change in your family, it’s going to have to start with you. That means that you have to accept the call of God in your life. You have to accept that God has called you to follow Him and — in the process — leave the darkness of your present self and enter the light of Christ.
Now, you may say, “Aaron, I think I’ve done that, but what does it look like to leave the darkness and enter the light?”
Well, Paul is going to explain what that looks like.
2. The Consummation of the Goal is Christlikeness.
Now, in Christian circles, I think the word “Christlikeness” is tossed around so often and defined in so many ways that few people really have a working and practical understanding of what Christlikeness really is.
So, my using that word to describe what it means to move from the dark to the light may not be that helpful. So, let’s get more specific.
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but God would have us live exactly like Christ. We need to do the same things He did in in the same ways He did them for the same reasons He did them in the same power He did them.
And this is not merely a call to imitate a man, this is a call to imitate the God-Man. That means that Christlikeness is Godlikeness.
I Peter 1:14-16 reads, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”
That’s a big, huge, gigantic, infinite goal!
So, on what does Paul want us to focus in this passage?
Well, first, let’s see how he describes his own participation in this call. Verse one introduces him as a prisoner of the Lord. We talked about that concept in our “Parenting in Christ” series. That would be a great followup to this.
But then he goes into more detail. In verse 13 he says, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 15 we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
Our goal is unification with Christ and His followers that can be defined as maturity. And just in case we’re tempted to force our own understanding on the words “mature manhood,” he further defines it by saying “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 15 we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
And then Paul gets even more specific in verse 22-24 when he says, “22 put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and . . . put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Like I said at the beginning, we could take weeks talking through the deep spiritual Truths and ramifications and cross-references of these beautiful realties, but for now, we’re whetting our appetites for the glory of our responsibility in Christ.
Our call is to renew our minds. That’s seeing our ourselves the way God does, being grieved by our sin, and seeking His help. Then, through His power, we are to move from the darkness (aka: put off the old self) and move to the light (aka: put on the new self). And what does that new self look like? It’s created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness and measures up to the stature of the fullness of Christ.
So, what about you? Are you actively involved in this process? I know you’re not perfectly like Christ. No one on earth is. I called this point “The Consummation of the Goal” because we won’t truly be like Christ until we’re glorified in God’s presence, but — for now — we are to be maturing little by little into His image through every situation of life God puts in our path.
If we want to see Christ-honoring change in our homes, we must be becoming more like Christ month after month, year after year.
And then, and only then, can God use us in our family’s life to help them follow His call.
And, that’s our last point for today.
And . . .
3. The Consequence of the Goal is Helping Others with the Goal.
Let’s go back verse 4: “4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
This verse is not only talking about our unity with Christ, it’s hinting at our unity with each other as we all are working on the same process of conformity to Christ.
We could say that the consequence of you and your kids working toward the same goal is unity, love, and communal movement toward the goal.
Check out the bookends to verses 13 and 15 we studied a few minutes ago. “12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 15 we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
When we are unified with the head, Christ, we will also be unified with the various other parts of the body which are unified with the head. And when they’re all unified and being conformed to Christ properly, they will build each other up in love.
And, like we studied in “The Four Family Loves” series, love is wanting and working toward God’s best interest for the one loved.
The very best thing I can do for my family is help them become more like Christ.
So, how about you? Is your conformity to Christ causing your love for your kids to grow and encouraging you to help them become more like Christ in all that they do?
As we start this study about “Change Starts with Me” we see that the goal is for us to urgently be maturing in our Christlikeness and assisting our family members to do the same.
This is one way change needs to start with us.
Please share this episode. These Truths are so incredibly important; every Christ-following parent needs to be taught them and regularly reminded of them.
And next time we’re going to discuss The Source of this change. Paul goes into fantastic detail concerning The Source, and there’s much for us to learn. So I look forward to continuing this study with you.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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