Sunday, December 4, 2011
By Colleen Podmore
We live in relationships. We are related in terms of the human race. We are related as Christians in the family of God. We live in relationship with God. The Bible says that God is a Spirit. How do we relate to God as a Spirit? We can’t see him, we can’t touch him, greet him. He is spirit (John 4:24).
Often God is portrayed as a father, but maybe this is not a good image especially if you did not have a good relationship with your human father. God can be portrayed as a grandfather – benevolent, kindly a bit like Santa Claus just waiting to give us what we want when we ask for it. Grey hair and beard but a bit impotent, not really the Almighty Creator of the Universe.
Sometimes God is portrayed as a lover who woos us, pursues us, as a husband, as a friend, a comforter and a counsellor.
These are all human images to help us relate to God.
He can also be like inanimate objects, being described as a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a strong tower implying strength, and reliability.
How do we relate to God? Is God a man or a woman, a myth, a legend, a dead man?
And conversely, the way we relate to God reveals how we see ourselves. If God is a father, then we are children. If he is Commander, Lord, then we are warriors, servants, slaves. In a recent exhortation Hayley used a verse that described us as prisoners; does that mean God is like a jailer?
We live in relationship, we don’t live according to a set of rules and regulations - do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. This kind of attitude constantly asks the question - Have I done enough? Am I good enough? Does God really love me?
I like the analogy of the fenced paddock verses the free range with an oasis in the middle. Stock comes to the oasis out of free will because there is water there, shade and shelter. Our Christian lives are not bound by fences. Paul says in 1Cor 10:23 that, “Everything is permissible.” We return to the Living Water which is in Christ Jesus to the oasis of peace and shelter that is found only in relationship with Jesus because that is what sustains us, not because we have to but because we want to! We are in a relationship.
Last week, Tyrone brought us a timely message from Ephesians 4:22-24. Paul says that believers are taught – it is something we are required to do – to change our lives, to put off our old ways of acting, to stop doing the things we used to do before we came to Christ. Old attitudes, wrong ways of thinking, bad actions, things that God says are not in keeping with His character. Now that we belong to Him, we want to be like Him, we want to reflect His glory and not be lead astray by our own deceitful desires, the things we want to do.
Paul says we are to be made new in the way we think, once the old has been taken off there is now room for the new, which will lead to a lifestyle of true righteousness and holiness.
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 become new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV.
This is separate to what God has done for us because it is created. It is something we do, in order to move closer to God. We already have a future and a foundation in Christ, every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3), and the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph 1:4), Hallelujah. Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I heard on the radio the other day a comment about grace (Bob Gass ‘Word for Today’ Radio Rhema 855am). The speaker made the observation that there are two responses to grace, one is to respond by working hard to create a Holy life, pleasing to God, the other is to just scrape by. Which one am I? We are in a relationship, let’s work to please God.
So how do we ‘put off’ this old self and ‘put on’ the new self? Paul goes on in the rest of the chapter in Ephesians 4 and into chapter 5 and half of chapter 6, to tell us how we are to do this! It’s that important, it’s no secret or mystery, it’s written in black and white.
Eph4:25 stop lying
Eph4:26 stop anger, don’t hold onto it; don’t give the devil an opportunity to turn anger into bitterness, resentment, envy, jealousy
Eph4:28 stop stealing
Eph4:29 stop unwholesome talk. This includes criticism, sarcasm, bad language, innuendo, derogatory statements, negativism....
You know what it is like when you are with someone who does these things. How do you feel? It kind of shuts you down doesn’t it, something is not right. Any relationship you might have with the person is broken. You could describe your relationship as ‘quenched’, like a bucket of water thrown on a fire, the fire goes out.
Paul says in Eph 4:30, ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit’ - some versions have quenched.
How do we quench/grieve the Holy Spirit? He is like a silent witness to all we say and do; our attitudes and actions. We have invited Him into our lives to guide and lead us. Is He comfortable or uncomfortable in this relationship? Do we need to bow our heads and say sorry, confessing our wrong doing, our sin, in order to restore the relationship with Him?
Nothing can separate us from this relationship that we have with our God.
‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39 NIV