I don’t swear but that’s not good enough

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4 v 29

Tony Campolo famously is said to have begun speeches to Christian audiences with this opening: “First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a s—. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said s— than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

The word ‘unwholesome’ is the translation of a word which means rotten, decaying and literally ‘putrid’.

The Apostle says ‘Put off your rotten talk.’

Ever since I can remember swearing was a sin. That’s all well and good if you remain in the same nation and in the same culture. But what happens if you move out of that and use the same acceptable word? A Britain going to America or vice versa will soon realise that words mean different things!

The unacceptable language when I was growing up is acceptable today.

Let’s go further back.

In 1866 a famous French poet, Charles Baudelaire was being tended by nuns after having a stroke. All he could say was the word ‘damn’. Today if someone said that word we wouldn’t do what the nuns did and after several ‘damns’ said this proved he was satanically possessed and had him kicked out!

So it cannot be just the words that are putrid. Though at any one given time in the culture we find ourselves certain words are rotten.

Paul clearly says in the whole verse which we will get to tomorrow. Put off and put on.

You may pride yourself on never swearing. That’s not good enough.

Even if you have switched the word to a more gentler word and use it to bring someone down then it is unwholesome talk.

Examine your words today. How much is criticism? How much belittles? What about the way you say things? The tone?

This week a leader recalled their deep hurt to me when they approached a National Christian leader many years ago with his friend simply to say hello. This leader was so proud of his friend and was looking forward to introduce him to this ‘man of God’. However, they were deeply hurt by the offhand and negative response from the ‘man of God’ that years later the leader was telling me how it still hurts. I was able to help him. But the ‘man of God’ hasn’t spent years carrying the disappointment of hurting someone because of foolish and unwholesome talk.

If God places you in a new position then there is a new vocabulary of heart and mouth to learn. You have to watch your mouth. You have the possibility to bring great harm. What was acceptable before may not be so now.

I wonder if we carried a voice recorder around with us for a whole day and then play it back what we would discover?!

During lockdown I have been dealing with a lot of conflict management on zoom. There is a beautiful button called ‘mute’. Maybe we should use it more often?

I work to give

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4 v 28

In the context of putting off stealing and putting on work the Apostle gives the reason.

  1. It is an assumption that if you can work you must work. There isn’t an option. If you must steal you must work. The greatest entrepreneurs are those who must work to survive. They grow fruit and vegetables, they make crafts and they do all manner of things around the world in order to provide for their families.
  2. Do something useful. Value your work. No matter what your hands find to do today, this is not a secular job as in the sense that it is away from God’s divine opportunity or appointment. You are working for God. It is useful.
  3. Earn not only that you can survive of course that is the result but earn so that you can share with those who are in need so that they don’t resort to stealing. Earn to help. Earn to provide not for yourself but anyone in need. This is the theology of work and giving coming together in this one sentence.

I am work-tired and it’s right to be so.

In the put-off and put-on section of this letter, the Apostle is contrasting a number of values. Instead of stealing you must work. Put off stealing and put on working.

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work … Ephesians 4:28

The word he uses is Kopiato. It means to work hard, to feel tired by working hard.

Paul says get like that. Get work-tired.

It doesn’t matter what the work is whether you are retired and you are tending your plants or you have just started in a new job as an apprentice and you have your whole work life ahead of you. Get tired from your work.

Get up early. Whether that is to pray or to work. I first began getting up early in my first church. It was a farming community and the families in the church were all awake before the sun rose for work duties. As their Pastor I felt obliged to get up when they got up. They taught me well!

There is a lot of talk about the need to rest. But you can only rest after you have worked. Otherwise it isn’t rest. Some people have rested for so long even to move is tiring and then some people cannot move because they are suffering and would love to trade places with those who cut corners, finish early, do as least as possible.

Have you ever heard someone say to you, “I’m so tired” in a negative way like there has been some scandalous persecution broken out on their lives? All along you are thinking ‘But you haven’t done anything?!”

Work/life balance is so important, but the first word is crucial because otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for balance.

We were created to work, to pour our whole energy and passion into whatever our hand finds to do.

I have the privilege of being on a board of people who pre-select candidates for ministry. I love it. I love looking through their profiles/CV’s and spending time with them in the 24 hours that we are with them. I am not as interested in whether or not they are gifted or how attractive their personality is. These are good things to look for. So is character. I get all that. But I want to know if they get work-tired. If they’ve been down the pit for 12 hours a day I know that when they get to 66 years of age they will be prepared to run a youth club in their church simply because there is a need to do so (as one of my loved Pastors does).

I wonder what would have happened if Adam replied to God’s request for him to work the garden, “Sorry God it’s not my gifting.”

Work-shy people have hid behind gifting for too long and nothing gets done.

I remember when we used to do many maintenance days at the Church and I would invite all the church members to come and work. Those who had already done 40 hours hard work that week would be the first to respond. One member said because their gifting was intercession they would stay at home and pray for us who worked! You can imagine perhaps my response!

At the moment my son is having his garden landscaped. It is easy to see through the daily pictures of the garden that the hired gardener has been working. It is easy to tell if every service provider you can think of is working hard. What’s the service like? I can tell if a Pastor is working hard by visiting their church. The Apostle will go on to talk about the fruit of our labours and why we should work-tired. The fruit is really important. There will be no impact, no fruit and no results without being work-tired.

So as you go to work today whatever it is and wherever it is you are going to get tired from doing it and that is good. You are an image of God. This is true discipleship. Let the work of God work through you today.

I do not steal

It seems such a childish behaviour or it seems like this is too foundational, too obvious for the Apostle to mention. Irrelevant because it has nothing to do with us.

But he brings his list, a total of 50 commands in the context of putting off the old nature and putting on. But this is not just a list to remember rather Paul is teaching a new way of life. So for example as we have already seen Paul says, “Regarding anger, don’t let it lead to sin, don’t stay angry and don’t give the devil an opportunity to exploit that anger.” The Apostle does the same with stealing: “don’t do it but rather work so that you can give.” Let’s look at this over the next couple of days …

“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer” Ephesians 4:28

  • Some people seem to steal for fun

I remember a family friend, an ‘uncle’ who wasn’t an uncle. His name was Jock. A lovely man he was. There are 3 things I remember as a child. He was really happy, he loved smoking pipes and I loved the smell of them, he seemed to have hundreds of pipes hanging on the walls of his home and a third memory came about after he died. In his wardrobes and drawers of his home were unopened goods from every shop you could think of. Also price tickets of goods stuck on the wardrobe doors. These unopened products clearly he didn’t need or want, he just did it for fun.

Some people view stealing as a game against the establishment. If they can dodge the tax, borrow something without returning it, get something on false pretences then they have got their trophy. They have beaten the odds and won the game.

  • Some people seem to steal out of desperation.

The word in this verse is Klepteto where we get the word Kleptomaniac from. I don’t think my ‘uncle’ had this problem because most kleptomaniacs are depressed, struggling from the burden of this mental health condition. He was far too happy.

But there is a lot of desperation in our world. Some steal because they have to eat or their children need to eat. I’ve been in some of the poorest nations of the world where this is so. It is indeed desperate. But the problem is all over the world.

A few days ago in The Independent newspaper an article revealed a desperate but beautiful story.

“Three New York City Police Department officers have been praised after they paid for a woman’s groceries when she was caught attempting to steal the goods.

The moment at a Manhattan Whole Foods was captured by a fellow shopper, who snapped a photo and posted it on Twitter.

The image shows the woman burying her head in her hands, while the three officers stand around her at the cash register, paying for the food.

“I know that the police make split second decisions each day, so for the police to pay for the woman’s food without hesitation was powerful,” Paul Bozymowski, the individual who took the photo, told The Independent. “It was incredibly moving to see such a genuinely kind moment.”

The officers have since been identified as lieutenant Louis Sojo, and officers Esnaidy Cuevas and Michael Rivera, who said during a press conference that officers all around the city act in this way frequently – but that these actions are rarely seen.

During that press conference on Friday they said they were heading into the store to when they were told by security guards that the woman was stealing food.

“I asked her, ‘What’s going on?’ She told me she was hungry,” Mr Sojo said. “So, I looked in her bag. I decided – we decided – to say ‘We’ll pay for her food’.”

He added that they were not expecting the reaction they received.

“You know, I’ve been doing this for 22 years. This is not the first time I’ve paid for food. This is not the first time they’ve paid for someone’s food,” Mr Sojo said. “We don’t go out and do it all the time, but, you know, when you look at someone’s face and you notice that they need you, and they’re actually hungry. It’s pretty difficult as a human being to walk away from something like that. We weren’t raised like that. So, it’s the right thing to do.”

“When I posted the photo, I certainly didn’t think it would get this amount of attention. I’m happy it is,” he said. “If the story can inspire others to be generous and kind, then that’s good for all of us.”

  • Some people seem to steal because they have a heart issue.

Jesus said stealing comes out of the heart (Matthew 15:19).

In Judges 18 (in those days when Israel did not have a king) the Danites enter into the home of a young Levite. The tribe have low morals and yet decide they want to worship. But in order to worship they enter Micah’s house and steal his gods. It is like deciding that you really want to worship God with a musical instrument so you steal someone’s guitar to do it. You may have the right motive and attitude but go and do the most stupid of things and then feel justified.

A motive is not always more important than the action. A theft doesn’t seem wrong when it is done for the right reasons. It is a heart issue.

Sometimes possession seems more important than working for it or to have a clear conscience. We can justify almost anything.

But stealing stops you from the joy of working and giving of which the Apostle will explain.

I keep the door shut

“ … and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4: 27

Can you imagine a newspaper article or a news bulletin about your own church which looks like the one below?

This was released just 2 days ago on the BBC website:

“Five people have been killed after attackers stormed a South African church, reportedly amid an argument over its leadership. South African police said they had rescued men, women and children from a “hostage situation” on the outskirts of Johannesburg on Saturday morning. They have also arrested at least 40 people, and seized dozens of weapons. The church’s leadership has reportedly been the subject of infighting since its former leader died in 2016. Police had previously been called to the church following a shoot-out between members in 2018.”

Now if that was not shocking enough, here comes the name of the church! The International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Hmm!

 Do you think that possibly the devil may have got a foothold in that church?!

A foothold is an opportunity for the devil (whose name means dia = accuse and ballo = throw) to throw false accusations and no better place for him to do this than in the opportunity of anger. Here it is fertile ground for the devil to get a foothold to begin his work of division and devastation. Anger that leads to sin opens the door for the devil to exploit and make things so much worse. It gives the devil the legal right to be there.

While visiting in Haiti, Dale A. Hayes heard a Haitian minister illustrate to his congregation the need for total commitment to Christ.

The minister told of a man who wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man badly wanted the house but couldn’t afford the full price.

After much haggling, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the asking price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.

After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So, the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned.

Soon the house became uninhabitable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.

The Haitian minister’s conclusion: “If we leave the devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ’s habitation.”

Just one nail, is it there? Get it out. Don’t leave any room for any foothold.

I am angry but not for long

Recently our vacuum cleaner broke down. We had it for 10 years. However only perhaps 10 years ago we would have gone to that shabby back street shop, just off the high street, where there would be one man in a shop jammed full of anything and everything needed for a repair and within a few days the cleaner would be brand new again.

Not today.

In fact we now have TV programmes focused on the ability to repair things.

So we got rid of the vacuum cleaner and bought a new one. Which seems to be what people do with their friendships now. They don’t repair they just get rid and get a new one. Jesus taught us to go get things resolved quickly. Paul says it this way:

Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26

The Apostle has already said in your anger do not sin. Now he says on the day of anger let it also be a day of reconciliation, stop a process that is already in process.

Wherever we turn we find anger. You will see it today wherever you are in the world.

Bear with me as I tell a joke! I was undecided about it but felt it right in a devotion about anger!

A young girl who was writing a paper for school came to her father and asked: “Dad, what is the difference between anger and exasperation?”

The father replied, “It is mostly a matter of degree. Let me show you what I mean.”

With that the father went to the telephone and dialled a number at random. To the man who answered the phone, he said, “Hello, is Melvin there?”

The man answered, “There is no one living here named Melvin. Why don’t you learn to look up numbers before you dial them?”

“See,” said the father to his daughter. “That man was not a bit happy with our call. He was probably very busy with something and we annoyed him. Now watch….”

The father dialled the number again. “Hello, is Melvin there?” asked the father.

“Now look here came the heated reply. “You just called this number and I told you that there is no Melvin here! You’ve got a lot of nerve calling again.” The receiver slammed down hard.

The father turned to his daughter and said, “You see, that was anger. Now, I’ll show you what exasperation means.”

He dialled the same number and when a violent voice roared “Hello?!” in answer, the father calmly said, “Hello, this is Melvin. Have there been any calls for me?”

Back to it: the truth is you may have been hurt and it doesn’t matter the size of that hurt it can become a stumbling block to your life. It is like having stone in your shoe it can seriously damage the way you do life.

Here are some thoughts:

  • The longer you stay in anger the longer time has to ruin that relationship beyond repair.
  • The longer you stay in anger you say to God I don’t trust you to get the justice I deserve (so we hold out for another day after a restless night’s sleep) compared perhaps to the culprit who may not even know you are angry with them who simply trusts God who looks after the whole universe as well as their life whilst they get a restful night’s sleep.
  • The longer you stay in anger the longer you look less like God who poured out his righteous anger onto Himself on the cross.
  • The longer you stay in anger the less happy you are.
  • The longer you stay in anger your life remains paused for longer and the less effective and productive you become for God.

We will become angry and maybe some will be angry today. But we must do all we can to keep it in the day. Life is too short to be ruined by anger.

I try not to be angry

“Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy.” Aristotle

Ephesians 4: 26 ““In your anger do not sin”

Our society has become more and more easily offended. Are you on a low heat ready to boil up if the unexpected suddenly happens? It’s a popular position to be in.

Or maybe you’re angry right now.

Are you angry? Remember this …

“Moses take the staff, speak to the rock and water will come out for the people.” That was the instruction but Moses was thoroughly tired of the people of God. He had justification to be angry. If only the Apostle could have told Moses beforehand that when angry make sure you do not sin.

Moses took the staff and gathered the people at the rock. He looked at the people and something happened … anger came to the surface and he said “must we do this?” Of course the answer was “Yes because God told you to do this!” But Moses turned his attention from God and focused on the people. In anger he raised his arm and struck the rock twice.

 This outburst of anger, of playing God, ended his destiny.

 Anger will keep you locked up until justice is done.

 Anger can lay undetected for a long period of time.

 Anger nullifies your position of being right.

 Are you angry?

 The Academy Award-winning movie Forrest Gump has been viewed by millions. There is a line worth noting. The scene has one of the central characters, Jenny, returning to her old home after her father has died. The old farm house is dilapidated and abandoned. As she reflects on the sexual abuse that she endured as a child, she is overcome by rage and begins throwing rocks at the house. The photography is powerful as it shows her rapidly reaching for rocks and then violently throwing them at the house. Jenny finally falls to the ground in exhaustion and the scene closes with Forrest Gump sympathizing, “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.” Many of us struggle with anger. It can stem from a variety of reasons, and some anger seems very justifiable. Yet, unresolved anger leaves us reaching and crying out for more rocks. The rage is never satisfied, and contentment is never found. Through the power of Christ we can find the strength to speak into the solution and not strike the problem. Moses struck the rock as if he was striking the people.

 How you get your results is very important. Did you do it God’s way or your own way?

 Some leaders bully their congregations and berate them from the pulpit for all kinds of reasons. Little do they know that their people may arrive in the promises of God but they themselves may not.

 How is always more important.

 Are you angry? Let it go today.

 It’s not worth it.

It’s far better to not be angry because sin and stupid decisions are not far behind.

 A man was dying in the desert. As he stumbled over a sand dune he was greeted by a man selling ties. The dehydrated man begged for water, but the salesman said he only had ties. In frustration and anger the weakened man continued on his journey for survival. In an hour he reached an isolated restaurant in the middle of the desert. Was it a mirage? As he drew closer, he saw it was real. He was ecstatic. With renewed energy he ran for the door. He was stopped at the entrance by a security guard who denied him entry. The guard said, “I’m sorry, sir, but you need to wear a tie to eat here.”

Be careful: what you may be angry at today could make perfect sense tomorrow.

I speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

.The tradition of swearing the above oath when you take to the witness stand probably goes way back to Roman times and was very common by the 13th century in our English courts of law. People who didn’t tell the truth were not penalised for perjury until the 16th century. Prior to that the thought of God’s vengeance coming upon those who perjured themselves was enough to stop the liars.

The Apostle says we must put on truth-saying.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25

Over the last decade with the rise of the internet there was the opportunity for accurate, incorruptible journalism. At a click of a button we could fact-check the facts! This was a new era of honesty. It hasn’t turned out like that has it?

We have new words like ‘fake news’ emerging because world leaders tweet about it all the time.

Recently a UK TV station, Channel 4, brought out statistics that show only 4% of the UK population can spot fake news as fake! Are we so gullible?!

Let us be people of the truth. Truth takes longer than fake but that is the journey we need to be on.

We need to be honest to God because He is Truth; honest to ourselves because living a lie is means you never have the freedom to be who you are and as Paul says honest to one another

If you are afraid to speak the truth then you don’t deserve to be in the position to speak it.

Bono, U2, in 2017 reflecting on the impact the Psalms has had on him over the years and why he believes Christian musicians should be more honest said this, ““I want to hear a song about the breakdown in your marriage, I want to hear songs of justice, I want to hear rage at injustice and I want to hear a song so good that it makes people want to do something about the subject … (the Christian artists who are afraid to sing the honesty of the Psalms) are not giving expression to what’s really going on in their lives because they feel it will give the wrong impression of them.”

People’s perception of us has overpowered our willingness to speak the truth because of the establishment of pride at the centre of our lives.

You may lose friends. You may be dismissed. But the only way to be free is to speak the truth. That is in regards to God, to yourself of course but also to as Paul has already told us to do it in love, to speak the truth to a friend.

Do you have a friend who will be truthful to you?

You wouldn’t dream of leaving your home without first washing, would you? You would never go to a friend’s house stinking to high heaven because you couldn’t be bothered to have a wash that day, would you?

The problem is people who don’t wash get used to their own smell. Their stinky, pongy, stainy smell becomes to them naturelle. Everyone needs someone who will say ‘My friend, I love you so much I need to tell you, you stink.’

People have friends who speak the truth behind their backs but thank God if you find a friend who will speak the truth to your face.

Your best friend is a friend who will wound you to keep you.

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted

When my children were small I hurt their feelings, I made them cry, I didn’t break them but I wounded them so that today they are in a position to become all that they can become.

I put off Falsehood

In what appears to be the first category of 50 commandments which I would label simply ‘Truth’ the Apostle calls for us to put off falsehood.

This is not a list that Paul has made from what he necessarily sees in the Ephesian believers but what he sees in the old man. He is saying as we put off the old man and put on the new man make sure firstly you put off falsehood. Take it off, don’t live like that. This is not who you are.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood …” Ephesians 4:25

  1. The temptation to be less than who you are.

Towards the end of his letter he will write of the principalities and powers that wage war against our lives. Their task is to do the direct opposite of Paul’s commands. The accuser of your life wants you to put on your old man and put off your new man. His accusations will wear you down until you truly believe you are who he says you are.

Are you not fed up listening to what the accuser tells you who you are?

How did sin originate?

It was because Adam didn’t know who he was and he tried to become someone he was never meant to be.

The Accuser came to him and said, “If you do this you’ll be like God.”

Adam should have said, “You stupid snake, I’m already like God. Why try and become what I already am?”

But he didn’t, he became what God hadn’t intended.

The new man is crushed and goes to prayer and instead of adoration and worship it is, “Oh God, I’m in a valley of the shadow of death, I’m dirty, I don’t feel like I’m a Christian anymore, I’m useless, I’m a sinner, you’re angry with me, I’m not going to heaven. Amen.”

We become what we are not simply because we have not put off falsehood.

When Jesus was being led through the streets of Jerusalem he was carrying a board around his neck which was written in Latin for the Romans to understand, Aramaic for the Jews to understand and Greek which was the universal language of the Mediterranean world. “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews” was a sarcastic endorsement by the Romans of Jesus’ kingship. This is a defeated king.

But Jesus’ accusers wanted it say ‘He claimed to be …”

Your accuser is continually demanding you carry a sign that declares you to be false:

“He saved others but he can’t save himself. You can help others but not yourself.”

“He trusts in God let God rescue him.”

If it’s not to remind you of your limitations the accusation will come as God is limited in working in your life.

“Let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him.”

Your purpose is wrong. The path you are on is not right, change it and we will give to you. That is the accusation and the temptation.

  • The temptation to be more than who you are.

Many are on a mission today. A mission of wanting to become someone, trying to make a name for themselves.

Ever heard something like this being announced? “The greatest, the most amazing, the most influential, decisive, the best anointed, the fabulous, the charismatic, life-changing servant of God is in the house today!”

Joseph Smith boasted that he did more than Jesus to keep a church together.
“God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet . . . ” (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409).

“Boasting is the outward form of the inner condition of pride.” John Piper

Social media has many statuses of ‘humble boasting’. See how many you can spot today!

The desire to get attention for how small we are proves we are in fact not small enough.

When you become small, you choose to become hidden, you decide to promote others and you take your name off things so that it looks like you were not there.

Influence is small for it to be influence. The influencer is not seen, only the one that has been influenced. If God exalts you to a higher platform then the battle is how to become small when more people can see you. It is easier to become small when you haven’t ever done anything. Trying to become small after achievement is another thing. The task is to become small with a big God in your life who does big things through small seeds of faith.

So put off falsehood, either to be less or more than who God says you are.

I Am being formed in Christ and Christ in me.

This coming weekend more church buildings will open up, others will open in the next few weeks and some much later. Most Church leaders are wondering how many will return. I am wondering when they do return what kind of church will they be. Will the year of a scattered church produce the fruit that is so needed? Will there emerge a holiness of God in our hearts and minds as well as behaviour? Will Christians stop church-hopping based not on a ‘leading of the Lord’ but simply because their humanity has been challenged in a variety of ways?

The Apostle in prison writes a long list of commands. From 4:25 to the submission passage in 5:22f there are 50 commandments which can be put into 12 categories. We will get to each and every one of them.

But before we do that it is imperative to approach the list with the background of what Paul has already written and most importantly this:

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

4 v25 Therefore each of you must… and the list begins.

But that is for tomorrow.

For today I want us to look at a verse that will come up in the middle of all the do’s and don’ts of our behaviour:

 “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (5:14)

The inspiration for the formation of Christ in our lives is in this one sentence.

Where is the quote from?

Many attribute it to Isaiah. Paul has been used to referring back to that prophet already and will do so again. In 2:17 he quotes the prophet in that God will heal the racial divide of His people; in 4:30 when not grieving the Spirit of God and later the imagery of the soldier in 6:14-17 he takes from the prophet.

The inspiration and the empowerment to be able to achieve the 50 commandments are found in Isaiah 26:19 and 60:1.

Both passages speak about why the people of God went into exile and how they will return. The prophet gives lists of the sins of people which would exile them but then reveals how God will come into the battle for His people, they would be purified, the idols defeated, the Redeemer will come to Zion and establish a new covenant and will dwell with the people. The Light of His presence will emanate from His people as their lives are transformed.

Paul knew that and so did the hymn writer who wrote: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” For that is where the quote originates based on Isaiah. Was it Paul who wrote that hymn? Maybe. But he certainly knew it and so did the people who read his letter.

What were the other lyrics? Certainly we can understand what this lyric was meaning. It is a beautiful sentence. Set in the heart of 50 commandments the majority of which relate to our behaviour with one another.

Here is another hymn, the majority will know this:

Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Can you imagine Christians experiencing this? Can you imagine a different Church post-lockdown?

Can you imagine a Church that does not grieve the Holy Spirit (4:30) set in the context of how we treat one another?

Can you imagine a Church that copies God and loves like He loved us at the cross (5:1-2)?

Can you imagine a Church which pleases the Lord (5:10)?

Can you imagine a Church that knows the will of the Lord (5:17)?

Can you imagine a Church filled with the Spirit (5:18)?

Can you imagine this for you?

A few days ago I hosted a meeting of leaders where my leader, Chris Cartwright, the General Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal Church was speaking. Whilst he was coming to a close I wrote a prayer based on what he had spoken. I then closed the meeting with the prayer. It is this:

Hear our prayer:

We want to move not drift.

We want to step into purpose not be stuck in the default.

Renew us for radical mission.

Reform us to unlock the possibility.

We commit to the pathway of the gospel.

We commit to carry the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We come down from the victorious mountain to the valley of compassion.

And as we do we ask for the renewal of the 5-fold ministries so that the lives of men and women, young and old, are equipped and the body of Christ is built.

We are in times of:-

Clarity so open our eyes

Urgency so open our doors

Flexibility so open our stubborn hearts

Opportunity so open our understanding

This is YOUR time

This is HARVEST time

This is the SPIRIT time

This is OUR time.

We are ready to change

We are ready for a new Kingdom positioning

We are ready for the advance

You call our name and we say YES to your call.

Amen.

My desire is for that prayer to be answered; for the formation of Christ to be seen and known in our lives and for the Churches to emerge transformed from this lockdown season.