Rafters (1/14/17)

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What’s your honest answer to this question: Am I living up to my fullest potential as a Christian? For example, even though I don’t understand everything written in the Bible, am I being obedient to the verses I do understand? Am I compliant to the leading of the Holy Spirit in me? Is Jesus the most important thing in my life?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, why not? Perhaps it’s because we’re not living as we were created to live. To help understand what I’m talking about, let’s look at penguins again.

A group of penguins on land is called a waddle. The term comes from the way penguins walk. To “waddle” is to “walk with short steps and a clumsy swaying motion” (Oxford Dictionaries). Last week, we talked about how there are instances where our walk with Jesus is filled with short, clumsy steps. At times, we’re waddlers. This is why we need to love and support one another. But, at this point, we need to wrestle with something. Are we really supposed to be waddlers?

There’s a word which describes a group of penguins in the water. Do you remember what that word is? A group of penguins in the water is called a raft.

This is important because penguins are created to be at their fullest potential in the water – not on land. Once they’re in the water, they become graceful and dynamic swimmers. On average they spend 75% of their time in the water. This means 25% of the time they’re waddlers but 75% of the time they’re rafters.

In some ways we humans are similar to penguins. We aren’t created to be waddlers all the time. We’re also supposed to be rafters.

How does this happen? Penguins don’t change themselves so they can go from being clumsy waddlers on land to being graceful swimmers in the water. What changes is they go from being in an environment that doesn’t allow them to thrive to being in one that does.

According to Ephesians 4:17-32, this is what happens to us when we change environments. It says, 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 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.

29 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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Verses 17-24 in this passage describe two drastically different settings in which we can live – living for ourselves or living for Christ. The environment we live in determines whether we’re Christian waddlers or  Christian rafters.

According to vss. 23 – 24, waddlers give in to deceitful desires, live by the harmful attitudes in their minds and try to fulfill their sinful desires. They do this because of futile thinking and hardened hearts towards God.

Rafters are different. They put off their old sinful ways, replace bad attitudes it their minds with Godly ones and live for Christ. They’re able to do this because they’ve allowed Christ to change their thinking and give them hearts for God.

Ephesians 4:17-32 says two things that have to happen for us to go from being waddlers to rafters. The first one is we have to learn how to live for Jesus and then do it. He doesn’t force us to stay away from sin and love others if we choose not to do these things.

The truth is many people who claim to be followers of Christ choose to ignore his teachings and the leading of the Holy Spirit if they interfere with the things people want to do. This isn’t Biblical. Even though we’re not longer bound by the Old Testament laws and rituals, the New Testament is clear that followers of Jesus are to live by a stringent moral code.

Ephesians 4:25-32 says that if we’re followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to quit speaking falsehoods and always tell the truth; quit sinning when we’re angry; quit stealing; work hard; share with those in need; replace any unwholesome words we speak with words that build people up according to their needs; quit grieving the Holy Spirit; get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice; be kind and compassionate to one another and forgive each other. We do this because in Christ God forgave us.

If we’ve accepted the salvation Jesus gives us, these are the expectations God has for us. They aren’t optional. The sad part for us is these are only eight verses of what God expects from us. There are many more in the Bible.

The world sees when we claim to be Christians but choose to ignore the teachings in the Bible and waddle through life. Bono, the lead singer for the rock group U2, represents how many people view us. He said, “Christians are hard to tolerate; I don’t know how Jesus does it.”

It isn’t a good witness for the name of Jesus when Christians have this reputation in the world. As bad as this is, this type of judgment isn’t what we have to fear. The world doesn’t judge us.

However, God does. Romans 2:5-11 says, But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.”

If you died right now and had to stand before God in judgement, would the way you’ve lived your life, the way you’ve treated God and others and the way you’ve been obedient to the teaching of Jesus show that you were a true disciple of Jesus? Not, would it show you went to church? Not, would it show you read the Bible or gave money? Not, were you a good person? If you died right now, would judging the events of your life show you knew Jesus and strived to live according to his teachings? If the answer is “no” and nothing changes between now and the moment you die, you’re going to have real problems on Judgment Day.

If we stopped right here, it would be pretty depressing for most of us because we know there are areas in our lives where we haven’t let Jesus in. We’d leave here vowing to try harder all the while knowing it wouldn’t make a difference because we’ve tried harder before – and failed.

The second important point we find in Ephesians 4 is where we find hope. Verses 20-21 says, 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”

Everything we’re called to do as Christians is because we’re in Christ. What does it mean to be in Christ? The Apostle Paul, who wrote Ephesians, tells us in another letter he wrote, the book of Galatians. Galatians 3:26-28 says, 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Through faith in Jesus, we’re “clothed” with Christ. We’re no longer Jews or, what we are, Gentiles. We Christians.

How does happen? Paul also writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Christ changes us from sinners into saints. This reconciles us to God. We become his children. Our sins are forgiven and we have salvation.

However, as children of God who have Christ living in us, God has high standards for how we’re supposed to live. We have to choose to be obedient to the teachings in the Bible because his Son has redeemed us and is now living in us.

So, again, how do we go from being waddlers to rafters? By accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and doing what he says.

This is who we were created to be and what we were created to do.