The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

For Christ’s Sake



“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God

for Christ’s sake

hath forgiven you” – Ephesians 4:32 KJV

 

Christian, why do you do what you do? Christian, why do you pray what you pray? Christian, why do you think what you think? Who we are is determined to a great extent by what we do, what (or if) we pray, and what we think. The way we answer these questions will determine whether or not we are genuine “Christians” or whether we are “tares among the wheat” (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). These are important questions. They are important for three reasons, or because of three dangers we face.

First, we have an adversary whose calling card is deception and lies. The devil is the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and he is out to murder you physically, mentally, and spiritually. He wants to take you to hell with him for an eternity. His strategy is to delude you and deceive you to act and think in ways that will lead you to hell.

Secondly, we are born with a sinful nature. “Behold, I was brought through in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Those are the inspired words of David. Even this man after God’s own heart was lured into adultery and murder by his sinful nature. He knew just how true it was that human beings are birthed with a sinful nature. We don’t have to be taught how to sin. It comes naturally to us.  

This sinful nature gives us a propensity to think and act as if the universe revolves around us individually. This sinful nature actually puts us at war with God (Romans 8:7-8). The sinful nature promotes prideful ways in our thoughts, words, acts of life and even our prayers. To be proud puts us on the opposing side of God and robs us of His grace and provision (1 Peter 5:5-6). Apart from God’s grace we are destined to frustrations, futilities, failures. Apart from God’s grace we will never experience our true purposes in life, the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).

Thirdly, we live in a fallen world which is the devil’s playground. Those living outside of a personal saving eternal relationship with God in Christ are literally “under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). The “world” seeks to lure us away from God. The “world” wants your devotion. The “world” wants your love. This is a serious danger to the Christian. The apostle John was inspired to admonish us, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“But he who does the will of God abides forever.” Isn’t that what we desire. We want to abide forever. We often get sidetracked and sucked into the diversion of the delusions of the devil. We get divested of being any good by any standard by that enemy within, our selfish sinful nature. We get dumbed down by the ways of the world. How can we avoid these pitfalls and obstacles to our abiding “forever” with the Lord? The answer is, by living according to “the will of God.” How can we live according to “the will of God”? How can we maneuver this minefield of life and its many challenging choices? I believe the answer to that critical question can be boiled down to a simple but utterly profound phrase of scripture. That phrase is “for Christ’s sake.”

The phrase, “for Christ’s sake” comes from the King James Version of Ephesians 4:32 which states, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God

for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” The New King James Version of this verse simply translates this phrase as “even as God in Christ forgave you.” I don’t want to get sidetracked into a debate over translations at this point. I would only say that for the purpose of this study I prefer the KJV translation of this verse.

 

Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” is central to the practical section of this inspired letter to the Ephesians. The first three chapters of this letter are devoted to the wealth of doctrinal truth we have in Christ – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). The first three chapters speak of God’s predestined plan of salvation in all its varying descriptions and parts (Ephesians 1). Then it speaks of the disclosure through the gospel of the creation of the Church (Ephesians 2-3). The Church is God’s instrument to bring together Jew and Gentile in Christ. The Church created in Christ is the answer to all the disunity and enmity found in this world.

 

In Ephesians 4-6 we come to the practical section of this letter where Paul instructs us on how to live in light of the wonderful blessings we have in Christ. He begins the section by calling Christians to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1). Ephesians 4:32 comes at the end of chapter four. It concludes the first salvo call to walk worthy of our calling by pointing us heavenward to God. All that we have been blessed with in Christ and in particular our forgiveness for all our sins, is done by God “for Christ’s sake.” God doesn’t reconcile, adopt, seal us with the Spirit, or save us because we were handsome or beautiful in some way. God doesn’t bless us because we deserve it in any way. No, God looks to the cross of His dear only Son Jesus. The Father sees His Son’s shed blood and atoning sacrifice. Then He looks at us in our pitiful state. And finally, for those who repent of their sins and open their heart to receive Jesus as Savior by faith, He forgives us, “for Christ’s sake.” Our blessings and salvation, all of God’s provision for us in any way and in every way, is all contingent on and focused on the cross of Jesus. It’s all, all of it, about Jesus. To that we should be praising God and worshipping Him “for Christ’s sake.”

 

And that is exactly what Paul is inspired to direct us to do. Chapter five begins with the words, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Apart from God we live with the stench of sin on us. It’s a putrid smell and an ugly aroma. But when we look to God and be “imitators” (Greek mimētēs) or imitate, follow, His ways, to us it becomes like a holy deodorant or precious eternal perfume. Coming to Jesus is the great life clean up. The idea of being an imitator of God is to act out the example God has set for us. That means just as God has “for Christ’s sake” forgiven us and acted toward us, we are to follow that pattern and act in life “for Christ’s sake.” Do you see how powerful this calling and phrase is, “for Christ’s sake”?

 

The phrase “for Christ’s sake,” points us to a Divine motivation, a Divine justification. God forgave us “for Christ’s sake.” God blesses us “for Christ’s sake.” All that God does for us is in light of the phrase “for Christ’s sake.” “For Christ’s sake” therefore, is a statement of purpose. “For Christ’s sake” defines what God does and provides us a key to understanding why God does what He does. And if we are to be imitators of God, we too must live according to this holy phrase. “For Christ’s sake,” provides us with life purpose. “For Christ’s sake” is the measure that justifies and gives meaning to all we do. This phrase is a guide for our thought, words and deeds. This holy phrase sets the parameters for the meaningfulness of what we do in life. No matter how mundane the life act is, when it is done “for Christ’s sake,” it takes on a holy eternal purpose and makes a deposit in our eternal heavenly account. This phrase, “for Christ’s sake,” should be at the core of our being, the measure of who we are.

 

Living “for Christ’s sake” should motivate and direct us in all that we do, pray, and think. Whatever we do should be guided by the question, “How should I proceed ‘for Christ’s sake’?” When we pray we should be guided by the question, “Is what I am praying for, ‘for Christ’s sake’?” In regards to our thoughts we are instructed, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). It is with the phrase “for Christ’s sake” that we take every thought captive to obey Jesus. “For Christ’s sake” is the filter through which we gauge what thoughts are and are not of God. Through this phrase we win the battle of the mind. “For Christ’s sake” therefore, is the justification and substantiation for all we Christians are, think, and do in life.

 

So, what does life lived by the holy phrase “for Christ’s sake” look like? The answer to that question can be found no further than the immediate context in which the phrase is found. “For Christ’s sake” is the linchpin, the hinge upon which all of life for the Christian swings. Really, the entire Bible could be viewed in terms of “for Christ’s sake.” “In the volume of the book it is written of Me” it states of Jesus (Hebrews 10:7). So, from now on when you prayerfully study God’s word pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into understanding about how “for Christ’s sake” what was inspired was written in regards to exalting Jesus. For now, we will look to the immediate context of Ephesians for a summary of life lived “for Christ’s sake.”

 

First, Christians should live in unity with each other “for Christ’s sake.” Paul follows his call to walk worthy of our calling by directing believers to humbly “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6). This doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t recognize our differences as Christians. We are different, even in the body of Christ. There is room for denominations. The Church is made up of churches. I prefer to be non-denominational. But it would be self-defeating to look down on people in denominations. The only part here for us is that, despite our differences, “for Christ’s sake,” we should be “bearing with one another in love.” Remember that in your next doctrinal debate with a brother or sister in Christ. Remember to not let your differences hinder your love for one another. Remember that “for Christ’s sake.”

 

Second, Christians should be spiritually mature and speak God’s truth in love “for Christ’s sake.” Paul continues by speaking of spiritual ministry gifting (Ephesians 4:7-16). The purpose of the Church is that those Jesus has gifted for ministry should all work together in the Spirit “till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). The objective is spiritual maturity for all believers “for Christ’s sake.” This is discipleship “for Christ’s sake.”

 

The purpose of the Church is to provide an environment where those of ministerial offices such as apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, and pastor-teachers work together “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12) “for Christ’s sake.” One office should not be vying for prestige over another. There shouldn’t be carnal competition. There should be humble service “for Christ’s sake.” No foundation other than Jesus can be laid (1 Corinthians 3:11). One plants God’s word, another waters it, but increase comes from God (1 Corinthians 3:7). “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). We are all “one.” No one is greater than the other. The mega church pastor shouldn’t be looking down on the smaller church pastor. God is the One who has brought the growth. If you take credit for God’s work, you very well find yourself disqualified for service. “Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). The only One being glorified should be God. That’s what happens when the Church and its churches are functioning optimally “for Christ’s sake.”

 

The standard by which all should live by and submit to is “speaking the truth in love.” The objective and fruit of “speaking the truth in love” is so that all in the Church can “grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). “For Christ’s sake” we should speak the truth in love, even if it convicts some of sin; especially if God’s truth convicts of sin. “For Christ’s sake” we cannot compromise God’s truth. We should never speak God’s truth harshly without love. But we should never compromise God’s truth for fear of offending someone or making waves. God’s truth, His word, is what sets us apart from the world, the flesh and the devil. Without God’s truth, we lose our identity. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). “Sanctify” means to be set apart for God’s use. The truth of God’s word is what sets us apart and defines who we are. It is God’s truth-full word that helps us to know what to do and be “for Christ’s sake.”

 

Third, we should live differently from the world “for Christ’s sake.” Paul says, “you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17). “Gentiles” here is a reference to unbelievers. Paul then catalogues a series of worldly practices for the Christian who lives “for Christ’s sake” to avoid as well as alternatives to live by (Ephesians 4:17-32; and 5:1 – 6:10). The following is a list of these things. This list is by no means exhaustive. It is merely summarized here to give you some scripture based instruction about what it means to live “for Christ’s sake.” Here are some things for Christians to avoid and their alternatives “for Christ’s sake”:

 

1.      “No longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened” (4:17-18) – we should be informed “for Christ’s sake.” We should not be cloistered or isolated from the world or so preoccupied with our lives that we aren’t aware of what is going on in the world or what God is doing around us “for Christ’s sake.” Jesus called us to be “salt” or to bring flavor to a tasteless world. He called us to be “light” in the darkness (Matthew 5:13-16). You can’t be those things in isolation from the world. We are to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:14-19).

2.      Don’t be “alienated from the life of God” (4:18) – we should flourish in and be associated with living for God “for Christ’s sake.”

3.      Don’t’ be “being past feeling” (4:19) – we should not be dependent on feelings but live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). But that doesn’t mean we should be emotionless or without empathy for those around us or toward God “for Christ’s sake.” Be empathetic toward others and live with a passion for Jesus “for Christ’s sake.”

4.      Don’t be lewd, unclean, greedy (4:19) – We should live modestly, in heart purity and generosity toward others “for Christ’s sake.”

5.      Do “put off” your old man sinful ways and “put on” Christlikeness and holiness (4:20-24) – live holy lives “for Christ’s sake.”

6.      “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” by lying, raging, stealing, speaking in unedifying ways, being bitter, wrathful, angry, living chaotically or rioting, speaking evil, maliciously (4:25-31) “for Christ’s sake.” Live with a holy life of order and spiritual scriptural structure in your life, “for Christ’s sake.”

7.      We should be kind and tenderhearted toward one another, forgiving each other “for Christ’s sake” (4:32).

8.      There are things that we should “let it not even be named among you” “for Christ’s sake”: “fornication and all uncleanness” – sexual activity outside of marriage; covetousness -  lusting after what others have; filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting or joking; instead we should give thanks; idolatry, being deceived by empty words; things deserving of God’s wrath (5:3-7).

9.      Don’t walk in darkness but in light and seek out what is acceptable to God “for Christ’s sake” (5:8-10).

10.  Don’t fellowship with unfruitful and dark things of this world but rather “expose them” “for Christ’s sake (5:11). “For Christ’s sake” we should expose darkness wherever we are and wherever we find it. In our families, in the political arena, in the workplace, in secular society as well as in the Church, we should be light bearers “for Christ’s sake.” (Caution: Just remember, we should follow the leading of the Spirit in how and when to do this always acting in love as we minister the truth of God. Otherwise we will only serve to be disruptive and contrary to the cause of Jesus. Always ask, “Is this ‘for Christ’s sake’ or for the sake of my personal opinions or proclivities?”)

11.  Don’t be involved with things that would shame you if discovered and tarnish God’s reputation by association “for Christ’s sake” (5:12-13).

12.  Wake up spiritually “for Christ’s sake” (5:14).

13.  Be aware of what is really happening around you. Redeem your time “for Christ’s sake” (5:15-16).

14.  Don’t get drunk on the things of this world but rather be continually filled with the Holy Spirit and devoted to worship and thanksgiving to God “for Christ’s sake” (5:17-20).

15.  Live in an attitude of mutual submission “for Christ’s sake” (5:21).

16.  Live according to God’s prescribed roles for a man and a woman in the marital and family relationships “for Christ’s sake” (5:22 – 6:4). There is no male-male or female-female marital, or other LGBT connections provided for in scripture. We need to abide by and live within the parameters of God’s word of truth, “for Christ’s sake.”  

17.  Work “for Christ’s sake” whether as an employee or as an employer (6:5-9).

18.  Understand you are in a spiritual war and your battle is not against people but against the devil and his minions and fight on “for Christ’s sake” (6:10-12)

19.  Put your spiritual armor on daily and stand for the Lord “for Christ’s sake” (6:10-17).

20.  Pray always “for Christ’s sake” “in the Spirit” “for all the saints” that we would all be bold in our witness and represent Christ well even if it means we are imprisoned (6:18-20). When we pray we should always ask ourselves, “Am I petitioning the Lord ‘for Christ’s sake’ or my sake?” The scriptural promise is, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22). That’s another way of saying, if we pray “for Christ’s sake,” we can be assured we will get what we are praying for.

 

All that we do, think and pray for, all of it should be guided and empowered by the phrase “for Christ’s sake.” Think of what would happen in the Church and through the Church if in all its quarters Christians revived the truth of doing all “for Christ’s sake.” Think of what would happen if we imitated our Heavenly Father and forgave others and treated others and thought thoughts and prayed prayers all “for Christ’s sake.” “For Christ’s sake” is a phrase of God’s truth that could change the world. “For Christ’s sake” is a phrase that would lift up Jesus and draw all people to Him. No devil or demon, no worldly way or enemy, no sinful thought or inclination of the sinful nature can stand before the Spirit led and empowered objective of living “for Christ’s sake.” Christians, “for Christ’s sake” is the way of revival. “For Christ’s sake” is what can save a nation, our nation, our world. Let’s seek the Lord in heartfelt prayer and ask Him to lead us and empower us, to make us what we need to be, to do what He calls us to do, for His glory, “for Christ’s sake.” That’s a prayer He will always answer. And oh, I can’t wait to see His answer. God bless you all, “for Christ’s sake.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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