Jag fick privilegiet att för andra gången i mitt liv predika i min underbara församling Mosaik. Jag talade utifrån Efesierbrevet 4 om hur ett rättfärdigt och heligt liv fyllt av goda gärningar ser ut, om hur gråtande Mariastatyer kan främja kyrkans enhet och om att det finns ett samband mellan hur vi lever och hur det går i det andliga kriget mot mörkrets makter.
I had prepared an English translation for my sermon filmed in the video above, and will publish it below for all international guests of this blog:
A life full of good works – sermon by Micael Grenholm, Mosaik March 20th 2011
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul talks a lot about lifestyle. Christians are to live a righteous and holy life, filled with good works. And what I found when I was reading Ephesians for this sermon is that we shall do this not only because it benefits our fellowmen but also because there is a strong connection between our lifestyle and spiritual warfare. There is a relationship between, for example, how much you give to the poor and how successful you are in casting out demons.
In Ephesians chapter 4 verse 1 Paul writes: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” A righteous and holy life is not optional, is not a bonus-thing. Of course, we cannot be saved in doing good works (Eph 2:8-9), we cannot compensate for our sins with doing some good as well, the only way we can get eternal life is handing over our sins to Jesus and letting Him take our punishment on the Cross. Then we will receive eternal life with God. But since this is the greatest gift a man can get it becomes absurd when Christians live as everyone else. We have to live “a life worthy of the calling” we have received.
What does that life look like? “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (vv.2-3). Note that unity is a good work, just as humbleness, gentleness and patience are. And it is a unity of the Spirit. Paul stresses the importance of this unity, saying: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (vv. 4-6). There is one body and one Spirit. There are not several churches – because there are not several holy spirits! There is one Holy Spirit of God that fills one body of Christ – the church. That is why we should make every effort to keep “the unity of the Spirit”. And because it is a unity of the Spirit, charismaticism – when we let the Holy Spirit perform signs and wonders among us – is vital in ecumenism – the unity of the church.
I have been reading a book titled Healing Today written by our good friend Marc Dupont who will come to our church next month and our good friend Mark Stibbe whom I know many of us want to invite in the future. This book contains a chapter where Mark Stibbe discusses some models of healing prayers. He writes mostly about John Wimber’s Kingdom model and the Pentecostal faith model, but he also mentions some healing models that are not so common among protestant Christians. He writes:
“To take one example from my own life, two years ago I found myself teaching in a vibrant Charismatic church in Perth, Western Australia. The church has grown to about three thousand and is a dramatic example of the power of God. Yet the thing I remember most about that visit was not the meetings in church but being taken by the senior pastor to a small house on an estate outside the city. There the mother of one of the church leaders had a statue of Mary that was weeping oil. With my own eyes I saw this and indeed videoed it. The University of Perth had asked if they could examine the statue and had inspected it for a week. When they had finished, they could not arrive at an explanation as to why this statue was weeping fragrant oil. That was their way of saying that science could not explain this phenomenon.
What was interesting here was that the statue clearly had some association with divine healing. The mother in question had set up an altar in her front room with a Cross at the centre and the statue of Mary to one side (so as not to obscure the central importance of Jesus). By the time I visited, thousands of Roman Catholics had made pilgrimage to this room and hundreds had been challenged to get right with God and return to him. Others had received significant healing. One six-year-old girl, who had never spoken in her life, on visiting this makeshift shrine, had her tongue released to speak for the first time in her life. That occurred the week before I visited.” (Healing Today, pp. 51-52).
This has happened before in the Catholic and Orthodox church. One of the most famous cases is when a statue of Mary in Syracuse, Sicily, wept between August 29th and September 1st 1953. A scientific commission analyzed the tears and it turned out that they had the same chemical composition as human tears, and the statue was solid without any hidden mechanisms. The commission stated that the phenomenon was scientifically inexplicable.
We need to tell people about this! However, I have met many of my fellow Protestants who are deeply skeptical about this, not because of the evidence – because that is indisputable – but because they cannot grasp that God should do a miracle that has association with the Virgin Mary. This is based on prejudices and misunderstandings. God has done Mary-connected miracles before. He let her become pregnant. I think that it is problematic that Catholic and Orthodox Christians give so much attention to Mary, but when such an undeniable proof of the existence of God occurs, which leads to that people become saved and healed, I do not oppose God’s work, I bless it.
This is what being ecumenical is about: blessing what God does in other denominations, but never compromising the truth. Let’s go back to Ephesians chapter 4 and look at verses 15 and 16: “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” The goal of ecumenism is not to come up with a compromise of doctrines that most Christians can agree on, on the contrary, we shall always speak the truth – in love. Doing this, we will support the true goal of ecumenism: that the whole Body, every single Christian, will grow up to the Head, Jesus Christ, and become like Him. And then we need support from all the ligaments in the Body. Our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters not only have a huge stock of scientifically evidenced miracles, they also have a lot to teach us about confession. And I believe we have a lot to teach them about evangelism and mission. Let us support each other and not oppose each other! And if we are to do this, if we want to see the whole church become like Christ, the church cannot live as the Gentiles.
“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. 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. 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. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (vv. 17-21)
Reading this, I believe many are thinking “It seems like the Gentiles were really bad guys when Paul lived! Fortunately, they’re better off now.” Paul’s clear-cut line between Christians and non-Christians seems strange for many of us. But the reason why there is not a radical difference between the Gentile lifestyle and the Christian lifestyle is not that the Gentiles have improved but that the church has become corrupt. If we take a close look of how the Bible describes a righteous and holy life and then look at the Western lifestyle today, there are huge differences. Some examples:
I cannot understand how it is not only legal but morally acceptable in our society to buy products that have been produced in horrible circumstances, creating poverty, suffering and misery.
I cannot understand why there is not a public revolt against the impure and greedy mix of luxury, sex, alcohol and violence that is pumped out in the media, labeled entertainment.
I cannot understand why, while we live in one of the richest countries in the world, we give less than one percent of our mountain of wealth to the poor.
I could give many more examples, but the point is that Gentiles in various aspects live contrary to the will of God because they are darkened in their understanding and have not accepted the teaching of Jesus. Paul shows above that there is a connection between the teaching you receive and the way you live. Let’s say that a Christian wonders how many shirts he should have in his wardrobe. First, he reads the Bible: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11). Then he listens to Western society: “Buy three, pay for two!” When the Christian listens more to society than to God, he ends up with fifteen shirts in the wardrobe all the while poor people are lacking clothes, thus living like a Gentile.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (vv. 22-24). When we received Jesus in our hearts, God created a new self in us (2 Cor 5:17) that is righteous and holy like Him. The old self is sinful and corrupted, but the new self is sinless and eternal. This is important to remember as we continue with looking at different good works Paul exhorts us to do in vv. 25-32. Some of you may feel “This is impossible for me to live up with, I am so sinful.” That is only partly true; your old self is sinful. God wants you to be renewed, to put on the new self, and He will gladly help you with that. We will pray for renewal after this sermon.
All right, let’s start with virtue no 1: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (v. 25). When I look at a person, my eyes send signals to my brain saying that a person stands in front of me. If they send signals saying that a penguin stands in front of me, there is something really, really wrong with me. Likewise, when a Christian lies to another Christian, there is a severe disease in the body of Christ. We shall always speak the truth, and never exaggerate.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (vv. 26-28). When anger comes, we shall immediately quench it, so that we do not give the devil a foothold. This is an example of the connection between lifestyle and spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6:14 we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness, and as John Wimber points out in his book Power Healing, the term righteousness is only used elsewhere in Ephesians concerning good works. For victories in the war against evil we not only need “spiritual” things like fast and prayer, we need righteous and holy lifestyles as well!
“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.” (v. 28). As pastor Hans pointed out two weeks ago, Paul speaks to the pastors of Ephesus in Acts 20, and there he says: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” I think one of the major reasons for Western Gentiles living unholy lives is that they have a receive-perspective. According to contemporary Western thinking, the aim of work is profit, to make money. According to the Bible, it is “doing something useful” to get “something to share with those in need.” Why is steeling wrong? With a pure receive-perspective it is not. The thief invests a lot of time and energy in stealing and gets salary for it, with some profit. The problem is that he does not serve others. We have to take back the Biblical give-perspective if we want the horrible unfair trade, devastating the lives of so many, to end.
“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.” (v. 29). Let everything you say be helpful and beneficial. This requires that we should rather spare our words than saying something that can turn out to be “unwholesome”. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 10:19). You will be remembered for what you say, not for what you don’t say.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (vv. 30-32). Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. He is not a toy, which God has given us to throw around and conjure a healing there, a crying statue there. The Holy Spirit is a person! And if we are full of bitterness, rage anger and other impure things, He will get sad! He will get grieved. Again, there is a connection between our lifestyle and the spiritual realm. If we want revival to break forth with even more power of the Holy Spirit, we must ensure that we do not grieve Him.
So let us say “Come, Holy Spirit!” asking God for forgiveness if we have grieved Him and praying that He will help us put on our new selves and live righteous and holy lives. The same Spirit that gives us supernatural gifts helps us bring forth fruits of love, joy, peace etc. according to Galatians 5:22-23. We both need gifts and fruits if we want revival to come. Paul exhorts us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving. If we want people to realize that God is kind, compassionate and forgiving, we should seek to be that as well, and let Him perform signs and wonders among us. Ephesians 5:1 states: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” We are his beloved children, now we have to live a life worthy our calling, following His example. Jesus lived and lives a righteous and holy life. Let us do the same. Amen.