Take your Bible and let’s look together at the fourth chapter of Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 4. We come now to the second great section of this marvelous letter written by Paul to the churches, really, in Asia Minor, one of which was the church at Ephesus.
And we’ve entitled this first section “The Lowly Walk of Our High Position.” It’s a tremendous passage, and we’ll be spending the next few weeks just looking at the first six verses. Its import, and its impact – so rich. We’re going to take our time in gleaning everything we possibly can.
When a person joins a certain organization, or a certain society, he obligates himself to live or to act in accord with the standards of that society. He obligates himself to function according to the aims, and the objectives, and the goals, and the drives, and the purposes of that society to which he attaches himself.
It can be illustrated in many ways. As an American citizen, a person who chooses to live in the United States of America, you obligate yourself to abide by the principles, the standards, and the laws that govern this society.
As a person who is permitted to work in the place where you work, whatever place that is – a business or a plant, a shop, an office, a school - whatever it is where you work, you work there on the premise that you conform yourself and cooperate with the standards, and the goals, and the objectives, and the principles that are a part of that particular organization.
If you choose to join a service club, you obligate yourself to function in reference to that service club in the manner that they prescribe. If you join a secret society - whether it’s the Elks, or the Moose, or the Goats or whatever other things they’ve got – whatever you happen to join, you automatically obligate yourself to cooperate with the standards that make up the organization.
If you want to become a part of a certain cult, a certain athletic team, a certain assembly line, a certain religious order, a certain business – I don’t care what it is, there are certain principles that you pledge loyalty to uphold. That’s the way human society is made. And if you choose not to cooperate, and if you fall out of the line of conformity, you will lose your place within the framework of that organization.
If a person fails to become what that society feels is necessary, if he fails to fulfill its purposes and aims, it – he becomes a hindrance to that society and is dismissed from it, set aside. It can be seen, for example, in our own situation in the government. If you do not conform to the standards of the government, the laws the government has set down, you will be taken out of the society, and you will be incarcerated somewhere where you will no longer be able to hinder the ongoing of the function of society. If you identify yourself with a certain organization in business, and you fail to live up to that expectation that the organization sets, and you fail to conform to their standards of operation, you will be fired. And that’s the way it is in society. You are called upon to function in accord with that with which you identify. That’s just standard fare.
I can’t tell you how many lectures I’ve heard from coaches, through the years, in athletics, that have said, “Look, if you’re not going to do it our way, then get off the team.” Now, that’s a pretty standard approach to anything that we align ourselves with.
The old story of marching along with everybody else in the Army and keeping in step is a part of human society and mentality. Societies - which we identify with socially, economically, politically - demand cooperation and conformity if we are to maintain a place within it.
Now, this can become so binding on people, that it’s amazing what they will do to conform. I’m utterly amazed at how people will become quote-unquote the organization man to fulfill whatever the organization tells them to fulfill if they think it’ll get them a raise or push them up the ladder a little higher.
I’m amazed at the loyalty of some people to the various lodges and secret societies and things that they belong to, and service clubs, so that if they miss something somewhere, they’ll walk across the burning desert on hands and knees, 12 hours in a row, to get to a meeting to make sure they don’t violate the code. It’s amazing how people prescribe themselves into such binding things, but that’s part of human society; we love to belong, because belonging gives us acceptance.
From the time we’re very little, we’re identified with uniforms. We want to be a Cub Scout, not because we like what Cub Scouts do, but because we like to have shirts like other Cub Scouts have, with little things hanging on them. We want to be in the Awana program because we get a little shirt. We want to be a part of the team because we get to wear the uniform. And I’ve been through it with my kids. The greatest day in our house is the day they give out the uniform for the next thing.
Everybody wants to be a part of the team. That’s just part of the human desire to belong and to gain some acceptance and a sense of identity. And it’s amazing how binding it becomes. It can actually trap people in a very bad way.
Let me illustrate that by having you look at the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. The Lord Jesus Christ had done a wonderful miracle in the ninth chapter of John. He had healed a man who was born blind. And He had healed him for the glory of God. And it was a wonderful thing that He had done. The man had been blind all his life. Jesus spit in some clay and made a little bit of mud and put it on his eyes and told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. And he did, and he came back seeing, and it was a wonderful miracle.
And then, of course, the leaders began to try to investigate the miracle. It’s pretty sad when unbelief investigates a miracle. You never get the right results. And they were very antagonistic to what Jesus had done. And, of course, they first of all wanted to talk to the blind man’s parents to find out what they knew.
We come to verse 22, “These words spoke his parents, because they feared the Jews.” What had they said? Verse 21, “We don’t want to answer for him; he’s of age, ask him. He’ll speak for himself.” In other words, they wouldn’t acknowledge anything about how he was healed. They wouldn’t discuss how he was healed. They wouldn’t give credit to Jesus Christ. They wouldn’t give glory to God. They didn’t want to get involved in it at all. And the reason is here. “They feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, He should be put out of the synagogue.” They were so strictured by the desire for acceptance in the society they had chosen, that they would not confess that the sight of their own beloved son had come at the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ for fear they would lose their social status.
Now, that’s a pretty binding thing, isn’t it? They would not confess the reality of the miracle of their own blind son, because they feared they would get – the Greek says unsynagogued, excommunicated. And the thing that mattered most to them was not the truth, but it was belonging to the society which they had decided to identify with.
And people can identify with things that become so binding to them that they literally become blind to the reality of what they ought to know and ought to be a part of. Had they been thinking, they would have immediately wished to identify with the son and with the one who had made the blind to see, for there was the real power.
Over in the twelfth chapter of John, and the forty-second verse, we find a similar occasion. John 12:42. And, of course, the Lord has come and fulfilled prophecy and all of this, and it says in 42, “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but” – and that’s a tragic but – “because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than” – what? – “the praise of God.” The same thing again. They had made such a firm commitment to the society they had chosen, that there was no way that they were going to restrict the function they wanted within that society. They actually damned their own souls to adhere to the code. Incredible. But that’s how it is with man’s willingness to conform to the standards of the group to which he makes his allegiance and from which he gains a sense of identity. That’s the negative.
I can look back in my youth and see myself wanting to belong to fraternities and to certain clubs and athletic lettermen’s clubs. And they made us go through some of the most incredible initiations you can ever imagine, that I wouldn’t even talk about because you wouldn’t feel good if I did.
And you look back, and you say, “Why would I even bother with that kind of thing?” But the drive and the heart of a man is very strong – and of a woman – to belong, to be a part of something. And in the world, it amazes me that when people identify, they lock in, and they’ll do anything to conform. They want to abide by the principles; they want to be what they need to be; they want to get that acceptance.
And you know what happens? When you translate that into the Church, something goes wrong. You get tons of people who come, and a lot of people who want the blessing, and the rights, and the privileges, and the honors. But somewhere along the line, they never make the commitment to conform to the standards. It doesn’t seem to be nearly as binding. And maybe it’s because in all of the world’s things, Satan is in there, holding it together. But in the Church, he’s there trying to rip it apart, and it’s tough to stick with it.
But, you know, the standard isn’t any different. And when you come to Jesus Christ, you enter His Church, the body, you receive His salvation and He gives you all the rights and honors and privileges that come with being a Christian. And then He says, “I want you to conform to My standards,” doesn’t He?
And the New Testament says if there’s anybody in your midst that doesn’t conform to these standards, put them out. If there’s somebody in your midst, 1 Corinthians chapter 5, who’s living in an immoral manner in your midst, put them out. If there’s somebody, in 2 Thessalonians, who is walking disorderly, who is doing what they ought not to do, and they don’t respond to you, put them out. “If there’s somebody” – Paul said to Timothy – “who is teaching things that are not consistent with what we know to be the truth of God, put them out.”
Listen, God has it that way in His Church. He says, “If you’re not going to conform and cooperate with what the Church is doing, then you’re better off to be out.” In fact, sometimes the Lord puts people out on His own. And he said to the Corinthians, “Because of the way you have acted within the Church, some of you are weak, some of you are sick, and some of you have died.”
And in 1 John chapter 5, he says, “There is even a sin unto death,” where the Lord literally excommunicates a believer. Not losing salvation, but being put out of the Church fellowship because they are more of a hindrance than a help.
Listen, beloved, if people can join athletic teams, and businesses, and the Royal Order of the Goats, and everything else, and conform with such rigid conformity; if people can be so fearful of being unsynogogued by the Jewish super structure of their day, that they literally damned their own souls and blinded their eyes to the reality of the Spirit of God. If people can make those kinds of commitments to things that don’t matter, do you imagine that we, as Christians, can make a high-level kind of commitment to walk in the fashion that God has asked us to walk within the framework of His own beloved Church? I think we should, don’t you?
I think that’s what Paul is calling us to do in the last three chapters of Ephesians. He starts out, in verse 1, by saying this, and here’s the heart of the matter, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation to which ye are called.”
In other words, you have, in the first three chapters, the rights, and the honors, and the privileges. And now, in the last three chapters, he says, “Here are the requirements. If you want to be a meaningful part of God’s Church, if you want to be somebody that matters in His Church, if you want to adorn the doctrine of God, if you want to advance the kingdom, if you really believe in this, then here are the standards by which you are to walk.
When you and I entered the Church of Jesus Christ, when we entered the body of Christ, when by faith one day I put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He became my Savior and Lord, in that day I became a part of His kingdom. I became a part of His household. I became a part of His family. I became one of the branches that extends from “the” Branch, the Lord Jesus Christ. I became a part of Him. It behooves me to live up to it.
He gave me the rights, and the privileges, and the honors. He made me unsearchably rich. He gave me, not out of His riches but according to His riches. He blessed me with all of the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. He has set aside the future for my benefit. And in the ages to come, He will pour out His grace and His kindness toward us who believe. He has done all of this for me, and now in chapter 4, there’s a “therefore” here, and I have to turn the corner and say, “On the basis of this kind of promise to me, what are you asking of me?”
The apostle Paul comes through, ringing loud and clear, “Walk worthy of such a calling. This is who you are. Walk in accord with that. Live up to that standard.” The Lord expects us to act like members of His body. He expects us to aim at what He aims at. He expects us to set the goal where He set the goal, to have the objective that is His objective. He expects us to be like Him.
First Peter 2:15, Peter said that the will of God is that we, with well doing, would put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. In other words, we ought to silence the mouth of the critics by the way we live. And I guess that’s why I say this so often. It’s so sad that most Christians don’t walk worthy of their calling.
I remember Dr. Ralph Kuyper saying to me one time, when I was just young in seminary, he said, “The whole Christian life, John – the whole Christian life is simply becoming what you are. It’s simply becoming what you are. This is who you are, and this is how you are to live: living up to who you are.” And he’s right.
In the body of Christ, God expects conformity. Not a conformity to rules and regulations out of fear. Not a conformity to rules and regulations out of legalistic pride, but a conformity to righteousness out of deep love and affection for Jesus Christ. But nonetheless, conformity. I want to do what God wants me to do. I want to be what God wants me to be, because of all that He has done for me. I want to walk worthy. I want to be a worthy son, a worthy child.
A believer calls Himself a child of God. A believer who’s joined God’s family belongs to the heavenly Father, and that says something about how we ought to live. If I’m my Father’s child, then I’ll honor my Father. And a sad failure in our commitment it is indeed not to live up to such an identity.
Philippians 1:27, Paul put it this way, “Only let” – now listen to this – “only let your conduct be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” You see? In other words, match your conduct with the Gospel. The exalted reality of the Gospel demands an exalted lifestyle. And that is precisely the issue we come to in Ephesians 4.
The first three chapters are positional truth, the resources, the riches, the things God has done for us. We’ve been through them all. Absolutely staggering and incredible things. We found that He blessed us with all spiritual blessings. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. He made us to be holy, to be blameless. In love, He even predestinated us. He adopted us. He made us to the praise of His glory. He has made us accepted in the Beloved One. He has given us redemption, forgiveness. He’s given us wisdom, prudence. He’s made known to us the mystery of His will. He has, in the dispensation yet in the future, to lift us up to heights we haven’t even dreamed of, to give us an inheritance that was preplanned before the world began.
He has granted to us the Holy Spirit. He’s given us resurrection power. He’s made us alive from the dead. He’s taken us who are afar off, who are lost, who are cut off, and He’s made us one new man in Himself. He’s given to us the great mystery of the truth of the Gospel, the truth of the Church. And He’s made it possible for us to capitalize on all of this by giving us His Holy Spirit who can strengthen the inner man so that Christ can settle down and be at home; so that we can be filled with incomprehensible love; so that we can have internal fullness, the fullness of God; so that we can know the power that’s in chapter 3, verse 20. And He’s done it all for His own glory. He’s done everything for us.
And simply, pointedly, directly does Paul say, “Walk worthy.” Live up to it. It’s high time that we circumscribed our living to our identity. A great New Testament truth.
Now listen, beloved, the transition here between 3 and 4 is not a random one. It is the typical pattern of Paul to make this kind of transition. It is a transition from doctrine to duty. From doctrine to duty, from precept or principle to practice, from theology to life. It is not a random transition. He doesn’t say, “Well, that’s all for that” – first three chapters – “now I think I’ve got something else I want to say.” It is a transition that is inseparably linked doctrine. Now watch this. Always is the basis of duty. Duty always flows out of doctrine. There can be no living unless there are principles for it. There can be no lifestyle unless here is a theology at the bottom of it. There can be no practice if there are no precepts. Doctrine and duty are linked as closely as the flower and the stem, as closely as the branch and the trunk, as closely as the trunk and the roots. Doctrine and duty.
Notice the word, in verse 1, “therefore.” We know what the therefore is there for – to take us back. It’s the transition, “On the basis of all of this doctrine, therefore this is your duty.” That’s always Paul’s approach. In all of his letters, beloved, he does this. In all of the letters that he wrote the churches, you’ll find these “therefores.”
In fact, if you want an interesting study sometime, just go through Paul’s epistles and study all the transitions where “therefore” appears.
Let’s go back to an illustration of it in Romans chapter 12. Romans chapter 12. Now, we’re all familiar with this great text. It’s one that we know and love. This is what it says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your spiritual service” – or “reasonable” service.” Now, I want you to notice something. He is beseeching people. And he is beseeching them to present their bodies as a living sacrifice. This is duty he’s asking for. He wants duty out of them.
In fact, in verse 3, he talks about the gifts they’re to manifest. Down in verse 9, he talks about the love that they’re to manifest. And then further on, that they are to not be lazy, in verse 11; that they are to rejoice in verse 12; that they are to give to the needy in verse 13; they are to bless their persecutors in verse 14; rejoice with people who rejoice and weep with those who weep to show sympathy, etcetera. All of these are practical things.
Then in 13 he talks about how you’re to respond to the government, how you’re to respond to God’s standards. How you’re to respond to the weaker brother in chapter 14. How you’re to respond to the weaker brother in chapter 15. How you’re to carry out your ministry in chapter 15. Chapter 16, how do you relate to people who help you in the ministry? It’s all practical.
But notice, before he gets into this practical section, he says, “Therefore.” Now, listen to me, in chapter 12 you have the first practical instruction of the book of Romans. The first 11 chapters are theology. Before he ever says anything about what you’re to do, he gives you 11 chapters of doctrine. Notice what he says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, on the basis of the mercies of God.” And what are the mercies of God? They are the great theological truths that he has recited in the first 11 chapters. On the basis of these great realities about God, which mercifully have been extended to you, this is your duty. On the basis of the righteousness of God, the uselessness of law and works, the saving power of faith, peace with God, standing in grace, the promise of glory, the gift of love, the indwelling Spirit, adoption, reconciliation, union, slavery to Christ, deliverance from sin, freedom from judgment, sanctification, justification, glorification, security, unfailing promises on the basis of all of these great mercies of God dispensed to sinful man, therefore, brethren, I beseech you, present your bodies. See? It’s always that. Duty is always a response to doctrines. Behavior is always a response to precept. Life is always a response to theology. And I want you to know this, because I want you to know why we teach doctrine.
People say, “Well, you know, you get into such heavy teaching. You’re teaching doctrine.”
Listen, I have to do that; that’s what God has called me to do, to teach you the principles of life so that you can live life. The therefore is there for a reason. Look at Galatians chapter 5 and I’ll give you another illustration. And we could go to any of Paul’s epistles, really, to do it, but I’ll pick out a couple here. Galatians. In the first four chapters of Galatians, Paul is discussing the liberty of the believer. He is free from circumcision; he is free from the Mosaic code as a way of salvation; he is free from the ceremonial law. It doesn’t mean that God’s righteous moral law has changed at all. But he’s not to look at law as a way of salvation; he’s free from that. He’s free from circumcision; he’s from having to keep ceremonies.
And he said all of this. He said that we have freedom in Christ. That’s all the first four chapters – heavy on that. In fact, he closes out chapter 4, “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” He gives that great allegory of Sarah and Hagar. And then he closes with this great statement, “We are free.” Great thing. Liberated for life, free.
And then immediately his “therefore” comes in verse 1, and I’ll read you the way the Greek renders it, “For freedom, Christ has set us free.” That’s the summary of the first four chapters. “For freedom, Christ has set us free” - now, the next word, “therefore, stand fast and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” You see, the “therefore” is based on the theology of freedom. Therefore, don’t go back to legalism. Don’t go back to that and get tangled up again.
And the in chapters 5 and 6, he discusses the practical aspects of the life of freedom. Look at Philippians chapter 2, verse 1. And don’t worry about the time, we’re not going to get anywhere anyway, so we’ll just – it’s like link sausage; you whack it off anywhere and get the whole thing.
Philippians 2:1, “If there be therefore” – there’s that therefore; he’s giving some great, great theological truths in the first chapter, great realities about Christ and what He’s done in his life, about Christ’s consolation, about Christ’s love, all of these things, and now he says, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any tender mercies and compassions, fulfill ye my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.”
In other words, he says, “Look, if our theology is this, then, beloved, our behavior has got to be this.” See? We’ve got to have a “therefore” based on theology and doctrine to live by.
Look at Colossians chapter 3, verse 5 – well, actually – well, let’s look at verse 5. The first two chapters of Colossians, boy, one of the most exalted presentations of Jesus Christ and the truth of the Gospel anywhere in the Bible. Fabulous statement. The end of chapter 1 is absolutely unparalleled as a statement of the glory of Christ. The only one that can rival it perhaps is Hebrews chapter 1. Tremendous statement about Christ.
And then he goes on to the – into the great truth of how Christ is all in all in chapter 2. And you don’t need anything but Christ; Christ is everything. Tremendous. And then at the beginning of chapter 3, he says, “Look, you are risen with this Christ.” What a great doctrine that is.
You are risen with Christ. You are seated at the right hand of God. When Christ shall appear, you’re going to appear with Him in glory. Do you realize you’ve been exalted to the heavenlies? You have been given a citizenship that is trans earthly, that is up there in the heaven of God, in the heavenlies, as Paul calls them. Do you realize you have ascended beyond? Your life is hid with Christ in God.
And then he says, in verse 5, “Kill therefore your members which are on the earth.” Do you see the point? Clear through chapter 3, verse 4, it’s doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. Finally, “therefore” here’s the duty.
Now, beloved, you need to know this. This is a constant principle of the New Testament. It’s everywhere, basic to teaching principles for living. We are to walk worthy of our calling. We know what He’s done for us. We know who we are. We know the principles. We are to walk worthy.
First Thessalonians chapter 4, verse 1 says this, “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as you have received of us how you ought to walk and to please God, so you would abound more and more.” Now do you get the point? “We have taught you how to walk, and oh I exhort you now to do it.” To do it. You see, first there has to be the teaching. You can’t expect the believer to function on what he doesn’t know. You can’t live a principle you don’t know. You can’t behave in a way you don’t understand. And you must search the Word of God to know the principles.
Proverbs tells us that you’ll know the wisdom of God when you desire that wisdom like you desire gold, like people search for silver. When you search to know God’s wisdom, you’ll know it. The 28th chapter of Job, I was reading yesterday, it describes – the first part of the chapter describes how men will work to mine out treasures. And it talks about the fact that they will go to any length conceivable to get treasure out of the ground.
In fact, let me show it to you. Look at Job chapter 28. He says here, “Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they refine it. Iron is taken out of the earth, and bronze is smelted out of the stone. He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow, and the shadow of death.”
What Job is saying here is it’s incredible that man will literally go down into the pits to find treasure, to find gold. “He’ll uncover the stones of darkness; he’ll go into the shadow of death.” He searches out everything to find silver, to find iron, to find bronze. He talks about, verse 6, “The stone are in the – are the place of sapphires: and it has dust of gold. And there is a path which no fowl knows” – which no bird knows – “and which the falcon’s eye has never seen, and the lion’s whelps have never trod, nor the fierce lion passed by.”
In other words, this stuff – these sapphires, and diamonds, and rubies, and gold, and silver are hidden in places that the animals don’t know and the birds don’t know, in dark places, in deep places. And Man will go to find them there. “And he puts forth his hand” – verse 9 – “on the rocks and overturns the mountains by the roots. He cuts the rivers among the rocks; and his eye sees every precious thing. He binds the floods from overflowing” – he sets up a dam, and then he pans for gold. Man will do anything.
And Job says that when it’s all said and done, you know what he never finds? He never finds the wisdom of God. And then, when you come to Proverbs chapter 2, you hear the writer of Proverbs say this, “When you put as much effort to know the wisdom of God as men will do to find gold and silver, then you’ll know God’s wisdom.” And listen, until you know God’s wisdom, until the basis doctrine is there, you don’t know how to live. You have to know God’s wisdom.
Back to Colossians for a minute, verse 1 – or chapter 1, verse 9, “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will” – now listen – “in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” Paul says, “Oh, I want you to be filled with the knowledge of His will.” That’s in your mind. All wisdom, all understanding. The result, verse 10, “In order that ye might walk” – what’s the next word? – “worthy.” You see again the worthy walk is predicated on knowledge, being fruitful in every good work predicated on knowledge. Strengthened with might predicated on knowledge. Giving thanks predicated on knowledge.
That’s why we teach the Word of God, beloved. That’s why week after week after week I stand here and teach principles of the Word of God. I don’t spend a lot of times telling stories. I don’t spend a lot of time just trying to whip you into emotional frenzies. I just want to teach you the principles of the Word of God so you can live them out. Now, we could do that. We could have sanctified pep talks, and I could come in here and pull out some of my oldies but goodies, and we could tell you all the jokes I know, and we could laugh and scratch the whole time. And we could get all traumatized emotionally. And I could tell you tear-jerking stories, and we could just really have a real emotional bath. And you know what? You’d get all emotionalized. And then 15 minutes later, you’d forget everything you ever heard. There wouldn’t be any principles there.
You know, pastors and teachers weaken the Word of God when they come to people and exhort them about duty, and they’ve never taught them doctrine, because they suck the motive out. They’ve removed the principle. Well, I can illustrate it this way. We’ll assume this. You all drive 55 miles an hour. I say we’ll assume that. Why do you drive 55 miles an hour?
You don’t say, “Well, you know, I was just praying about it one day, and it seemed to be right to just drive 55 miles an hour. So, I’ve just decided I’ll do that.”
No, the reason you drive 55 miles an hour is because there is doctrine, and that doctrine says, “You will drive 55 miles an hour.” Your duty is predicated on that doctrine. Around the first of April, you don’t say to your wife, “Honey, I – wouldn’t it – let’s send a large check this year to the government.” “They’ve done so much for us – the lovely parks that we enjoy.” “The highways upon which we take our vacation, the wonderful programs they have to provide for the needy. This government is so great. Let’s just – let’s several thousand dollars – in fact, let’s borrow to do it, honey.” Because I just – I feel there’s something in me that wants to do this.”
No, the reason you send that in there is because there is a doctrine that says you’re going to send it. That’s one of the rules, and that’s the way it is in the Christian life. You don’t arbitrarily do things. And unless people know the reason, you have a hard time getting them to make a commitment to the duty. You understand? And so, what happens is you can become a sort of a – a sort of theological – not really a theological, but a sort of a Christian cheerleader. And you get everybody in there, and you get them all committed to doing stuff, and they haven’t got the faintest idea why unless you teach them doctrine. You know?
Even when we’re on the radio – we have our radio program now, and the Lord is really blessing – it’s really exciting. We get great mail. People are coming to Christ, and it’s just really great. I got a letter from a guy the other day who was very upset at me teaching doctrine. Boy, he was really – he was rip-snorting mad; two pages worth, single spaced, typed. And he let it all fly about he was angry at my doctrine. “You’re just regurgitating a bunch of lousy theology.” He went on and on, and boy, he let me have it from front to back. And he was a minister. But he went on, and at the very end, his last line was, “Please excuse the typographical mistakes; at least I won’t be held accountable for these in that day.” And then he signed his name.
Well, the Lord used that, and I’m thankful the Lord allowed that to come, because the Lord reminded me that I will be accountable. James 3:1 says, “Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is the greater condemnation.” And you know what I’ll be accountable for? The Lord’s only going to ask me one thing: “Did you dispense to My people My truth?” Isn’t that right? That’s all. And I just – I want to discharge my ministry to the full, and discharging my ministry to the full means that I must teach you the principles of the Word of God.
Now, first I got to get you hear to get you to listen. And then I got to convince you that you ought to operate on those things. That’s God’s calling to me. I’m not interested in getting you to conform legalistically. I’m not interested in getting you to conform emotionally. I’m not interested in intimidating you into that. I feel that my responsibility is to give you the truth of the Word of God and to allow you the responsibility to obey it or not obey it. And I think if we just get in the pulpit and just try to whip people into emotionalism, or we just tell them to do things all the time without giving them a theological reason for doing it, we leave them empty, and we miss the point.
Doctrine, people, is the key to Christian living. People today say, “Well, we just want to love everybody, and we don’t want to make doctrine an issue.” That is the dumbest statement. You know, in fact, down the street – down Roscoe Boulevard, about at Haskell, there’s a little green church with no sign on it that is the Church of L.A. By that – they call it that because years ago, Watchman Nee wrote that each - according to the New Testament, every city had one church. So, that should be still true. And a guy named Witness Lee picked this up and started a movement out of it. And they say there should be only one church in each city. The Church of Los Angeles, the Church of San Francisco, the Church of Pittsburg. You know what I mean? That approach. And, of course, since they have several branches, they all call themselves the Church of L.A., even though it’s in Sepulveda. I don’t know how that works with their theology, but that’s what it is. Anyway, it’s called the Church of L.A.
Well, the book that spawned this movement is written by a man named Witness Lee, and the title of the book is Christ Versus Doctrine. That’s the title of the book. I read the book. And in it he says, “Christ is against all doctrine.” They do not believe in doctrine. And that, of course, is one of their cardinal doctrines. The word “doctrine” simply means principles. One of their principles is not to believe in principles.
You can’t say - and then you have everyone today who comes sort of on the borderline of liberalism and saying, “We’ve got to forget theology and just set it aside and just – we just have to love everybody, and let’s not talk about theology. We’ll just all get together on the basis of love.” It’s a wonderful thought; it’s just not biblical.
Let me show you some verses. Ephesians 4:23. You know, I’ve been reading a lot, in the last few years, about church renewal. And there’s a lot of books coming out on church renewal. Some of them are good and helpful, and I’ve appreciated them very much. But in all of the talk about church renewal, it’s kind of interesting, because there’s a lot of suggestions about how to get the church renewed. We’ve got to renew the church. “Renewal” is the – is sort of the new word, see? And there are suggestions: the way to renew the church is to change the structure. We’ve got to – we’ve got to kick against the traces; we got to get rid of all the old patterns; dump this, get rid of that. We got to do it in small groups; we’ve got to have little groups of interaction and sharing. We’ve got to have it oriented this way, and we’ve got to do it this way, and we’ve got to rearrange the furniture and make people face each other. And we’ve got to get people to spill out their problems to each other. And we’ve got methods and manners and solutions.
And a lot of it is very kind of exterior and superficial. Some of it is more deep and meaningful. But they’re all suggestions of the new methodology for renewal. There’s no methods for it, new ways to do it.
Well, you know something? You can do that till you’re purple. You can reorganize the church every six months for the rest of your life and never know renewal. You can change the furniture all you want. You know, the first principle of Christian education? Move the chairs. You can do that as much as you want. You can reorganize and restructure and reset and change the format and the methods and the plans and the programs till you die and never have renewal, because Ephesians 4:23 says, “You are renewed in the Spirit of your” – what? - “your mind.” If the church really wants renewal, it’ll find renewal when it imparts to the people of God the truth of God so that their minds can know it. That’s the basis of renewal. And then, frankly, it matters little how you arrange the furniture, or what method you use, because you’ve got a whole lot of renewed people, and renewed people are going to carry on the work of the Lord in whatever framework.
But notice it is the mind that is the source of renewal. The renewal that comes to the church comes in the mind, the thinking process. That’s why in Ephesians 1:17, the apostle said, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” In other words, God knows that the heart of the matter is to know His truth in your mind. We must know doctrine, beloved, before we can ever know duty.
Philippians again, chapter 1, verse 9. I just want to make this point solid this morning. And here’s a verse that I hear a lot, but a lot of times people don’t quote the whole verse, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more” – and then they stop there.
They say, “Oh, yes; we must love more and more. And we’ve got to forget about all of these things about doctrine.”
But you didn’t read the verse. It says, “I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that you may test things that are excellent.” See? You’ve got to be discerning. You’ve got to make judgments. You’ve got to know doctrine and theology, or your love is less than God’s love, which is discerning, knowledgeable, makes judgments.
In Colossians chapter 1 and verse 10, he says, “That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work” - that’s the goal – “increasing by the knowledge of God.” The best rendering of the preposition: by the knowledge of God. As you know God, you walk worthy. As you know God, you’re fruitful in every good work. Colossians 3:10, “Put on the new man that is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” To know God, to know Christ, to know His Word – that’s the issue.
Peter says, at the end of his second epistle, chapter 3, verse 18, “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Knowledge, people, knowledge. You’ve got to know the Word of God. You should hunger for it, and you should search for it, and you should seek for it as treasure, the way men will go to the pits of the earth to seek gold and silver.
Paul wanted people to be perfect, mature, complete. Colossians 1:27, he says, “Christ, whom we preach, warning every man, teaching every man, that we may present every man perfect.” We want mature saints.
You say, “That great, Paul.”
Chapter 4, verse 12, Epaphras is praying that everybody would be perfect and complete in all the will of God. They wanted mature, perfect, complete people. And, of course, the answer came in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” You can’t do the good works without the knowledge of the Word of God.
And so, beloved, we teach you the principles. I think one of the reasons Christianity was in so much trouble, it’s kind of coming out of it now, and I think God for the revival and study that’s going on. But a few years back, the reason Christianity was in such terrible straits was because it was so ignorant.
Walter Martin told me one time that the average 90-day wonder out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses could take apart a seminary graduate in 30 minutes because he didn’t know his theology. I’ve talked to seminary students recently, coming from seminaries across our country. I talked to one two weeks ago, in Chicago, who told me he just graduated from seminary and felt that what he needed now was to get some content for his ministry. And that’s a quote. We must know the Word of God.
But the church, for years, has not approached it that way. We’ve gotten all wrapped up in the follies of relationalism, and we’ve missed the point. We’re so busy worrying about relating to each other that we don’t even know what the foundation of a relationship is.
People, you can’t live what you don’t know. Right? You can’t play the game if you don’t know the rules. You can’t live within the framework of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and walk worthy of it unless you know the standards. We must know the Word of God. Paul, bless his heart, he knew so much, and yet the great cry of his heart was, “Oh, that I may know Him.” Remember that, Philippians 3? And James’ great cry was, “That I might receive the engrafted word,” James 1:21. And Peter, “That we might desire the pure milk of the Word that we might grow thereby.” And so it is that the standard of God is the basis of behavior.
Now listen, go back to Ephesians 4 and I’ll close, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called.” Beloved, God is calling by His Spirit for you to walk worthy. Did you get that? To walk worthy.
Now, let me tell you something in closing. You know what happens when you walk worthy? Look at Hebrews chapter 11. You remember the great heroes of faith in Hebrews 11? So wonderful. So wonderful. First there was Abel, in verse 4, who offered to God a more excellent sacrifice. And then there was Enoch. Why, he walked so worthy, one day he took a walk with God and God liked him so much, and their fellowship was so sweet he just kept on walking, and the two of them walked right up to glory, and he never even died.
And then there was Noah. And Noah walked with God for 120 years while he built that boat. And then there was Abraham. And Abraham and Sarah, they walked with God, and they walked a worthy walk, a walk of faith. Then there was Isaac, and then there was Jacob, and then there was Joseph, and then there was Moses. Against the opposition and against the system, they walked with God. And theirs was a worthy walk. They lived up to what they knew.
And then there was Rahab the harlot, in verse 31. And then there were a lot more. Look at verse 32, “What’ll I say more? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David, and Samuel, and the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms and wrought righteousness and obtained promises and stopped the mouths of lions.” Hey, wouldn’t you like to be a part of that crew? Isn’t that a great group to align with?
“Who quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trial of cruel mocking and scourgings, yeah, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. And they were stoned, and they were sawn in half, and they were tested, and were slain with the sword and wandered about in sheepskin and goatskin; being destitute, afflicted, and tormented.” What a group. What a group.
But look at the next line, verse 38, “Of whom the world was not” – what? – “worthy.” Listen, you walk worthy and the world won’t even be worthy of you. Well, let’s pray together.
Father, we come with a great deal of conviction in our hearts to You because we know that such a high calling demands such a worthy walk. We want to live, walk, daily lifestyle, conduct accord – in accord with Your standards. We’ve chosen to belong to Your society, be a part of Your family. We want to be an honor. We want to adorn the doctrine of God. We want to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. We want to silence the critics. We want to live to Your praise. We want to live to Your glory. We want to conform to Your standards out of love.
Help us to walk worthy and so, in walking, transcend this world and be among those of whom the world was not even worthy. That was true of You, Lord, more than anybody else, and we want to be like You.
Thank You, Father, for the fact that we can walk worthy as we are strengthened in the inner man by the Holy Spirit, as Christ settles down to be at home in us, sheds in us His incomprehensible love, as we are filled with the fullness of God, we become able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
And, Father, we know that thus we can walk worthy. So may it be that we commit ourselves to that, and that we study to know the truth so we can live it, we pray in Christ’s name, amen.
God bless you.
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