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08.16.09 Ephesians 5:8-20 Spirituality is Wisdom Sermon Scraps

by on August 19, 2009

This sermon ended up being about living as children of light. But before it evolved into that, it led in these directions consistent with the original title: spirituality is wisdom.

Verse 9 says the fruit of the light consists in goodness, rightness, and truth. These are the light meters by which we measure the reflection of God’s presence in our lives. How much in our living is good, is right, and is true?

Some people will respond, “That depends on how you define good, right, and true.” And going further, others will say, “Since it depends on individual determinations, it’s meaningless. What’s good for one is not good for another.” And cynics will add, “Self-serving interests will always bias the determination of good towards the ego. All this amounts to is a call to self-affirmation using the religious language of enlightenment. It’s an invitation for people to justify their ego-stroking conclusions with an appeal to God’s will.”

Ephesians gives three boundaries to the runaway self-justifying ego. The first is spiritual discernment. The second is service to the community of faith. The third is the foundational attitude of thanksgiving.

(1) In the immediate context, Ephesians calls its hearers to discern what is pleasing to the Lord, to discerning God’s will, and to live according to wisdom. It’s true that two people can arrive at two contradicting conclusions about what God wants them each to do. It’s also true that God is free to guide individuals in contradictory directions.

But there IS a standard for the Christian, and as intuitive as some may accuse it of being, it is to live in submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Christian, and really any truly religious person, cannot claim to know God’s will before submitting in prayer and discernment to the Spirit’s leading. Living in light of what is good, right, true, means living in constant awareness of the Spirit’s presence and in communication with God in prayer.

(2) Throughout Ephesians, the author calls us to reconciliation and mutual service. Using the archetype of Jew and Gentile, Ephesians identifies the lines of separation that are overcome in the new human community established in Christ. Ephesians 4 outlines the source of our ability (the Spirit), and the goal of our ability (maturation together as the Body of Christ).

Ephesians 6 identifies some of the author’s contemporary social divisions that are overcome in Christ and by the power of the Spirit. These are archaic and must be read for principles, not practices; (that slaves and wives are to be equally submissive to masters and husbands tips us off to this point). Living in light of what is good, right, and true, means being a positive participant in the upbuilding of the community. Tearing apart the Body of Christ is not good, right, or true.

(3) Finally, what is good, right, and true can only be discerned in a spirit of contentment and thanksgiving. This is because when we are in a posture of discontentment and entitlement thinking, our egos will struggle to determine what it would take for our lives to be more good, right, or true. And left unchecked by (1) the Spirit, (2) the community, or a discipline of (3) thanksgiving, our egos will win that struggle. And when our unchecked egos win, we settle for less than what is good, right, and true.

Wisdom is determined spiritually. Spirituality is wisdom. We are called, equipped, and given the path to living for what is good, right, and true. 1 Cor. 1:30 says Christ is our wisdom. We are called to emulate his life in dependence on the Spirit, in community with others, and in thanksgiving.

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