Ephesians 4:17-24

I have been struck by the quandary: Do I drive at the mission, trying to reach out to everyone by whatever means? OR Do I wait on God in hope that He will intervene and act?

Both of these have their negatives.  When I am driven by responsibility, I have an attitude that If I do all these things, then God will be pleased with me, and He will grant success. When I am waiting for God to do everything then I easily sit in complacency, expecting God to do everything – Don’t do anything because one day there will be a miracle.

It occurs to me that whenever Christ was presented with one of these ‘either-or’ situations (Do we pay taxes to Caesar or not?) He responded with a new principle that showed each as being poor shadow of the whole. So, maybe there is an underlying principle here that I have been missing?

This leads me to think about Ephesians 4:17-19

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

Futile thinking really strikes a chord. We are desperate to achieve results in our attempts to advance the Kingdom of God. In this desperation we throw ourselves remorselessly at new methods, and tried and trusted methods alike. When I look at the Christian movement, I see an immature youth trying and trying, while all the time failing to understand that they are missing a key element of the puzzle. There is a considerable degree of frustration, while at the same time loudly proclaiming that this next idea will solve the problem.

The very nature of the frustration says that we are trying to do something that is beyond us. We cannot let go, because nothing is impossible with God. To let go would be to admit that God is not the God we think Him to be. Since our identity is caught up with declaring that this God is with us, letting go requires a degree of humility –

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

My futile thinking that I can fix the problem, or that I can sit back uninvolved and wait for God to come and do it all for me exposes the reality that I am darkened in my understanding.

What is the cause of this separation from Him who is the Way and the Truth and the Life? We have hard hearts. This is quite a challenge. It is not a failure of our methodology, it is a failure of our discipleship.

When I am driven by methodology I am certainly not experiencing the peace of God. I have in fact allowed the method to become an idol, and am sacrificing my soul on its altar.

When I am sitting back in complacency expecting the Lord to do everything in independence of me, I have forgotten the imperatives of His word to go out in His mission, and have hardened myself to the needs of the people around me and by implication I have hardened myself to the call of Christ who gave His life for them.

19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

When I am hardened towards God, for whatever reason, then I lose sensitivity towards Him. I lose the sensitivity that would help me to value what He values. This hardness gives me the freedom to ignore key aspects of the life of God in order to focus on what I think is important, or on what my culture claims is important.

My hardness of heart gives me freedom to indulge in spiritual greed. This greed could be a greed for Spiritual experiences, it could be a greed for souls, it could be greed for the affirmation of valued people, it could be greed for the opportunity to make a contribution, it could be any number of apparently good things, things which will be approved of by those in my spiritual circle.

Jesus said, ‘How can you believe when you accept praise from one another, but make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.’ John 5:44?

The solution to the hardness of my heart is not through trying harder, but through a return to the life of God, and this comes through surrender. It comes with a willingness to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus.

I must come to Jesus the one who started the great commission by saying,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28:18.

It is His commission and He has all authority. When things are not going as we expect, then I must look to Him. It may be that He does want me to persevere against all odds, but this perseverance is done with Him in the certainty that as I go with Him, He is achieving His goal in the attempt.

I must go with Jesus who ended the great commission,

“… and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

Living in the light of this promise does not involve giving up and watching from the stands while He does it all. It asks of me to be mindful of Him and to follow His lead. If He is sitting in the stands then I sit with Him. If He is intervening, then I intervene with Him.