Our church has been working through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This letter has always been a source of great comfort to me. Ephesians, as a book, can be divided in several ways. However, there is a clear division from Ephesians 4:17 forward. From there on, the Apostle makes plain what is so often denied by many in our world: being a Christian changes every part of our lives.
The Christian faith makes ethical demands. To put it more simply, God expects His people to resemble His Son. This can be difficult, especially in our day, because many people who call themselves Christians really have no interest in looking like Jesus. But reflecting Christ is not a secondary detail for Christians according to Scripture. Because it is such a crucial element of the Christian faith, God makes plain not only that His people should look like Christ, but He also makes plain what that Christ-reflecting sort of life is to look like.
One of the more important points to be mentioned is that God’s demands upon His people are chiefly calls to reflect Him. God does not establish an arbitrary set of rules. The commandments which God gives to His people are a reflection of the character of God. This is most visible in the Ten Commandments, often called “the Law” in Scripture. It is this very moral law which is written on every human heart.
With this in mind, we are drawn then to consider God’s own words from Leviticus 19:2 and see how they are just as true for the people of God today as they were in the Old Testament. Moses wrote, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2 ESV) Notice again that God’s call to holiness is never a simple “because I told you so.” God’s call for holiness is an invitation to be like Him.
In a world so draped in sinful cloth and spiritual rebellion, the idea of pursuing a holy life appears utterly absurd. But only holiness is expected from the people of God. We are not called to seek to live as we see fit, and then get cleaned up for church. The gospel is intended to transform every ounce of our lives because Christ is at work within us.
Such an ethical demand does not come to a neutral environment. There are countless alternatives being preached to you every single day. The unbelieving world is going to present its own alternative rules to live by. The unbelieving world has its own code for what constitutes character, for what is good, for what is right, or beautiful, or just. However, without God, without the unchanging foundation of His word, all the secular arena can provide is a momentary expression of what they believe. This in turn will be subject to the judgment of future generations who will in turn claim its insufficiency and need for alteration. Such an ethic lives as the flavor of the week, which will only last until something new comes to devour it and take its place. And the pattern will persist until Christ returns. Why will this be the case? Because it has no firm foundation to undergird it.
It is not coincidental that as the Lord Jesus concludes His great Sermon on the Mount that He points us to a specific image. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)
The Lord Jesus raises a warning for every human heart to heed. Life apart from Him is doomed to fail. The lives of Christians and non-Christians may have many similarities, but it is the unshakable foundation which is the determining factor. A life apart from Christ is guaranteed to fail.
Therefore, we must flee to Christ for help and strength. We cannot live a perfect life. We show everyday that fail to keep God’s commands. But what we need is a Savior who, not only keeps the Law in our place, but empowers us by His Spirit to see real transformation in our everyday lives. Christ came, not only to die in our place, but to empower us to put our sin to death daily.
So what is guiding your life today? How are you determining what is right and what is wrong? Are you willing to call a spade a spade? Are you willing to stand with Christ on the truth even when it’s unpopular? Your life is going to reflect your god. May it be the God-Man, Christ Jesus the Lord.