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Walking In Our Father's Footsteps - Part 6

Tom Pennington • Ephesians 4:25-5:2

  • 2009-08-09 AM
  • Ephesians
  • Sermons


I first heard my father-in-law speak about the famous volcano Pelee. Maybe you've never heard about Mount Pelee. It's a volcano located on the island of Martinique. That historic volcano began giving its warnings on May 5th, 1902. Because of the importance of the coming elections there on the island, the politicians assured the people that this was a false alarm as there had been many before, that nothing would come of it. But there were continuous warnings both from the scientists as well as from the volcano itself. It was on a Sunday morning like this, May 8th, 1902, that Pelee exploded in a violent eruption.

One author describes it like this,

"At 7:52 a.m., the upper mountainside ripped open and a dense, black cloud shot out horizontally. A second black cloud rolled upwards forming a gigantic mushroom cloud and darkening the sky for a fifty-mile radius. The initial speed of both clouds was later calculated to be over 420 miles an hour. The horizontal pyroclastic cloud hugged the ground and sped downward toward the city of Saint-Pierre, appearing black and heavy, glowing hot from the inside. It consisted of super-heated steam and volcanic gases and dust with temperatures exceeding an estimated 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In under one minute, the pyroclastic cloud reached and covered the entire city, instantly igniting everything flammable that it came in contact with. In less than one minute's time after the volcano erupted, the entire population of the city of Saint-Pierre (at the time, some 30,000 people) were killed."

In fact, in the entire city, there were no survivors except for one man, one man who was held in a cell below the level of the streets. This man had been condemned to die and was there awaiting execution. For three days before, showers of cinders had fallen and completely blocked the window of his cell and that's what protected him from that pyroclastic cloud and the blast. That cloud swept across the city out into the harbor. All the ships that were near the city itself were immediately incinerated. I've seen several photographs that were taken shortly after this eruption, and if you've seen photos of Hiroshima or Nagasaki after the atomic explosions there, that's what this city looked like, absolute, complete, and utter devastation.

As I thought about that volcano eruption this week, I thought what a graphic illustration of the destructive power of our attitudes. You see, our attitudes, like the magma and gases within that volcano, often sit and simmer and boil beneath the surface of our souls. And then, in a moment's time, they come spewing out, destroying everything in their path. That's how Paul describes them in the passage that we come to this morning in Ephesians 4. Again, let me remind you of the context. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul says I want you to live in a way that's worthy of your new position in Christ. And then he sets out to explain what that looks like in the rest of the letter. To walk worthy, we must walk in unity, he says, in chapter 4:2 through 16. If we're going to walk worthy, we must walk in new life, 4:17 down through verse 24.

And now we find ourselves in the middle of a third section about how to walk worthy of our new position in Christ, and that is to walk in love. That's the theme of Ephesians 4:25 down through 5:2. Walk in love. Paul summarizes the theme of this paragraph down in verse 1 of chapter 5. Look at it with me.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love.

If we want to walk in a way that's worthy of our new sonship to God, then we must walk in our Father's footsteps. We must imitate Him and live a life of love.

Now Paul gives us, in this section, five illustrations or examples of how to imitate God by walking in love. We have already studied four of those examples. Let me remind you of them.

In verse 25, we learned don't lie; instead, speak the truth. God always speaks the truth. We must speak the truth as His children as well.

Verses 26 and 27, don't get sinfully angry; instead, resolve your conflicts. God seeks us out. He's the One who initiated reconciliation with us. We're to imitate Him in that way.

Number three, don't steal; instead, work hard and be generous. We learned that in verse 28. We need to get a whole new mindset about work and about resources. They're not merely for us. We are not only not to take from others. We are to work hard to be able to give to others who have genuine need.

Last week, we saw the fourth of these illustrations. Don't tear down with your words; instead, build others up in verses 29 and 30. Don't tear others down; but instead, build them up. Words have tremendous power. We saw that last week, and we're to choose them carefully.

This past week, a couple of people shared some interesting insights with me about last week's message. One person gave me a card with a stick figure that had been hung by the neck you know, like in the children's game Hangman, you know, the word game Hangman? And there was another stick figure standing nearby, and that stick figure has a balloon coming out of his mind that says, "Words will never hurt you, huh?" Think about that a moment.

Also, one of my daughters reminded me this week about something that she had said when she was much younger. Sheila had gotten onto her and her sister about how they were relating to each other, how they were speaking to one another. And she had taken her to the text we looked at last week, Ephesians 4:29, and reminded them of how we were to speak to each other. And then just to make sure they got it, Sheila, like any good teacher, reviewed and said, "So, are we supposed to tear each other down?" After just a moment's thought, with all the genuineness she could muster, one of my daughters said, "No, Mom. We're supposed to tear each other up!" Hopefully, you got the message better than that last week.

Today we come to the fifth and final example of how to act like our Father, how to walk in love and it's this. Don't harbor sinful attitudes; instead, be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving. Don't harbor sinful attitudes; instead, be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving. Look at verses 31 and 32 of Ephesians 4.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

These two verses have to do with the sinful attitudes that you and I can harbor in our hearts toward others and how we express those attitudes outwardly. We have to be especially vigilant, especially careful, with our attitudes when we speak because whether you like it or not, when you speak, your attitudes are on display for everyone to see. Have you ever found yourself saying, "Boy, that guy has an attitude." How did you know that? You knew that because we can discern attitude in a couple of ways. Obviously, we can discern attitude by what someone says, by verbal communication. You can pick it up in the content of what they say. But you can also pick it up nonverbally. You can pick up a person's attitude when they're talking by the tone of voice they use, by their body language, whether they're sighing or rolling their eyes or snorting or looking amazed or looking disgusted. All of those things communicate (what?) attitude.

Let me illustrate the different attitudes that can be communicated through both tone and body language using just one English word, the very simple word, "okay." Okay is a good word, could be used wonderfully, but you tell me what attitudes are communicated if I say the word "okay" like this. "(Sigh) Okay." Or "Okay!!" Or I roll my eyes and say "O… kay." Or I look disgusted, "Okay." Or angry, "Okay!" All of those things you picked up, attitude, the same word, simply by tone and body language, facial expression. We communicate our attitudes. Where do all those expressions of attitude begin? They begin in the heart. The words you choose, the tone that you use, your body language, all betray what you're thinking in your heart. So, if your attitudes are bad (guess what?), your communication will be as well.

And so, in verses 31 and 32, Paul goes to the source of our bad communication. He confronts our bad attitudes and how we express them. And he tells us then what to replace those bad attitudes with. So, Paul begins then by identifying our bad attitudes and their expressions. Let's look at our bad attitudes together. Verse 31, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice."

Now let me just say, when you read that verse, don't think about somebody else because this is who we all are by nature. Before Christ, we all were like this without exception. You know, I understand society puts this nice little veneer, we live in Texas and everybody's friendly and nice. That's not an accurate description of the human heart. That's not how people really are. That is a façade. It is a veneer. Unbelieving people are like verse 31 describes. If you doubt that, just pick up the Dallas Morning News or the Star-Telegram and read a little bit about the local politicians.

Or better yet, go on the internet to one of the websites that just puts things like news, just innocuous articles about news, and then read the comments that people post. When people think there's a degree of anonymity, maybe you've been tempted to do this, when they think that nobody's really going to know who it is or care, then you see the heart, and they just pour out this bitterness and hatred and anger and viciousness. That is, my friends, who we are by nature.

You remember what Paul described to Titus in Titus 3:3? He says, "… we … ourselves [this is how all unbelievers are] were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our lives in malice …, hateful, [and] hating one another." That's a description of humanity. That's a description of all of us apart from grace.

Now when you look at verse 31, all of those are sinful responses to others that come out of us, that grow in us either in response to real wrongs or perceived wrongs, could be either one. Every person we know, understand this as we begin this morning, every person that you know, whatever relationship you have with them, every person you know will sin against you. There's not an exception. And, here's the rest of the bad news, every person that you know you will sin against as well. The problem is that because we are fallen by nature, we add sin to sin so that when somebody sins against us or we think they've sinned against us, rather than dealing with that in a right and godly way, what do we do? We sin in response. We choose any number of bad attitudes and their reactions. And Paul lists them here.

The first bad attitude that Paul warns us about is bitterness, "Let all bitterness.…" Aristotle called this attitude "the resentful spirit that refuses to be reconciled." It's a kind of hardness that harbors resentment, and particularly resentment about the past. William Barclay writes, "Many of us have a way of nursing our anger to keep it warm." You ever been there, brooding over the insults and the injuries which we have received? This word "bitterness" describes a person, and it's true of all of us at one time or another, who nurses his or her resentment and keeps a list of wrongs. This is part of human fallenness. You remember in Romans 3 when Paul wants to indict all of humanity and say we're all guilty before God? He includes this. He says we all have a mouth full of bitterness.

Unfortunately, the person who is bitter toward others begins to show it. That hardness that's a part of their souls that eventually expresses itself outwardly in their demeanor, in their appearance, in their words, in their tone. They'll become hard and harsh, even toward people who weren't the primary object of their bitterness. You can spot a bitter person if they've lived with it long enough. Everything is sour. Nothing is good. They see the negative in everything. They are eaten up with bitterness. Eventually, they become cold, hard, harsh people who alienate themselves from everybody, even those they think they love. And this is easy, folks. Holding onto wrongs is easy because it is natural. It is human.

By the way, this is a particular temptation in the relationship of marriage. In fact, if we were to turn to Colossians, in Colossians 3:19, Paul says to spouses, be careful "not to become embittered against your spouse." Why is that a temptation in marriage more than any other relationship? Because guess what? You know more about that person than any other person, and they know more about you. They've seen more of your sin than any other person has seen. You have sinned against them more than any other person. And so, there's a real temptation in marriage to become embittered.

People keep a list and I've seen this, even in some marriage counseling. People keep sometimes a literal list, and often times a mental list, of past grievances. Let me just ask you this morning. Do you have a ready list of mental grievances of the times a particular person has sinned against you? When I lived in California, I had a friend who called it gunny sacking. You remember those burlap bags? And he said you know, it's like people take and every time somebody sins against them, they shove it down in this bag. And then an argument comes along and they've got a ready supply of ammunition. They reach into the bag. And you remember when you …! And what about the time you …! Listen, if you keep such a mental list of people's wrongs against you, then by Biblical definition you are bitter. And if you nurse that bitterness, it will come out, often in the next sinful attitude that Paul describes.

Look at the next bad attitude he confronts, wrath. The word translated "wrath" comes from a Greek word that means "to burn." This word is also translated "'rage," "'angry temper," "outburst of anger." This is, as the Roman writer Seneca called it, an emotional explosion, an emotional eruption. This is the person who explodes, that is an outburst of anger. They go from seeming calm and quiet, and in a moment's time when something doesn't go their way, there is an outburst, there's an explosion, an eruption. Galatians 5:20 says this is one of the deeds of the flesh and those who are characterized by this as a pattern of life will not be in heaven.

You can see an example of this kind of thing in Acts. Look at Acts 19. Acts 19:28. You remember in Ephesus when Paul showed up, there was a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of the little goddess there they had the temple for. And he stirs up the crowd. He says listen, if we let this guy stay in here, he's going to mess up the deal we've got going. He's going to ruin us. Verse 27,

"… [There's a] danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, and … that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and … she'll … be dethroned from her magnificence." [So, what happens? Verse 28,] When they heard this, they were [here's our word] filled with rage [they went from quietly listening to this man make his speech to an outburst of anger, and in their case[, they began crying out, … "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" The [whole] city was filled with confusion, … they rushed … into the theatre, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia."

I've been in that theater in Ephesus, and I can picture that scene. In a moment's time, there's this outburst, this eruption. Let me ask you. Do you frequently have outbursts of anger in one or more of your relationships? If so, understand this. Every time that happens, it is a sin against God.

There's a third bad attitude Paul identifies here. It's the word "anger." Now let me warn you. This can be a little confusing. This is different than the word "wrath." However, the Greek word that's translated as "anger" here is often also translated "wrath." So when, if I can give you a little help, when you see in the New Testament in your English Bible, when you come to the word "wrath," it could be either of these words. It could be for the word for "outburst," the word "wrath" we just looked at, or it could be this word "'anger." Now Seneca said this particular Greek word that's translated "anger" here refers to a "settled, gnawing hostility." This isn't the explosion.

This is a slow, simmering burn. You see, some people blow up when they get angry. Others clam up. They allow the anger to live in their hearts. They just let it steep. They let it seethe inside their souls. But left unaddressed, it eventually does what? It becomes the explosion.

It's like a volcano. The magma and gas continues to build below the surface, sometimes as far down as a hundred miles below the surface of the ground, but it has nowhere to go but up. And so eventually, it can only stay there and seethe so long and eventually, it explodes to the surface.

The word "anger" describes the steady, slow sort of lava buildup happening inside the mountain or inside the soul. The word "wrath" describes the sudden eruption. But if you let anger, this slow, simmering boil, grow in your heart, it will destroy you. You cannot hold fire in your soul and not be burned.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what this looks like. How does this slow boil, simmering anger look? I think several weeks ago I mentioned to you the story of Ahab and Naboth. Ahab was a king, you remember, in Israel, and he wanted Naboth's vineyard, which was near his palace. And Naboth believed rightly that the Old Testament said the land should be kept within families, and so he refused to sell it. Well, Ahab didn't have an outburst. He didn't explode all over Naboth. Instead, he had anger, this seething, slow boil.

Let me show you how it demonstrated itself. First Kings 21:4, here's what this kind of anger looks like. "… Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth had spoken to him; for he said, 'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers' [and here's what he did]. He lay down on his bed … turned … his face [to the wall] and ate no food." That is an expression of this kind of anger, that slow boil anger. It clams up and lets it just seethe.

Now this kind of anger that clams up toward the person they're angry with sometimes will express itself in other ways, not toward that person maybe, but it's like a pot simmering on a stove. If you've ever watched a pot simmering with a lid on it, you know it's coming to a slow boil, something's happening inside you know, and occasionally the lid will tilt just a little bit and something will escape. This person is like that.

When a person holds this kind of slow boil anger inside, it'll sometimes be ventilated in unusual ways. Sometimes this person will delight in privately carrying out their anger, maybe against some object, a pillow, or the wall, or whatever it is. Or sometimes to carry out their anger, they'll actually injure themselves. Or they'll push themselves beyond all limits, exercising strenuously or something else as an expression of that anger that's pent up inside.

But the bottom line is whatever path your anger takes, and we all struggle with anger, don't we? Whatever your path your anger takes, whether you're prone to blow up and sort of let it all out, or whether you're the person who clams up and keeps it in the heart, we must not let it continue in our hearts. Instead, we have to deal with it. And we have to deal with it quickly. You remember what we learned back in verse 26? "Don't let the sun go down on your anger." Don't go to bed, don't let a day end, without dealing with the source of the anger and resolving the conflict.

The fourth sin that Paul mentions is not so much an attitude as it is a sinful expression of an attitude. It's clamor. Now that's not a very helpful word because it's not a word we use very often. I don't talk about my kids clamoring. Because it doesn't sound like a sin we commit very often, we kind of skip right over it and say, "Whew! Good, we can move on to the next one." But literally, the word "clamor" means shouting. In this context, it refers to all angry yelling and shouting. William Hendriksen, the renowned commentator, says, "It is a violent outburst of a person who has completely lost his temper and begins to yell at others."

Again, there are Biblical examples of this. Look at Acts 22. Acts 22:22, you remember Paul is making his speech to the Jews there on the temple mount. And he says at the very end of his speech, he's trying to assure them that he really doesn't mean any harm to the temple, and he says God is going to send me to the Gentiles. And as soon as he says that, verse 22 of Acts 22, says, "… they listened to him up to this statement, and then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!' And as they were [here's our word] "crying out" [they're yelling in anger, and because there's no stones or anything up there on the temple mount, it's just smooth pavement,] … they're tossing dust into the air [whatever they can get]." They're physically as well as verbally expressing their anger.

Over in Acts 22:23, the same thing happens among the council, the Sanhedrin.

You remember they get into a debate because of Paul over whether or not there's a resurrection. And verse 9 of, of Acts 23 says, "… there occurred [and here's our word] a great … [yelling] (a great shouting match)." You've seen some of the pictures from other countries where you know, the, the, the houses of Parliament or Congress aren't quite as reserved as ours can be. And, and I mean that's what broke out here. They're yelling at each other "and some of the scribes stood up and began to argue heatedly … And a great dissension develops."

So, this word then, is describing raising your voice in an argument, yelling, shouting in anger. If you find yourself often raising your voice or yelling at your spouse, your kids, your parents, your friends, understand that you need to deal with your heart. It's coming out of bitterness and wrath and anger. Yelling is merely the expression of a foul attitude that lies in your soul. It's merely the lava and ash that comes flying out of the volcano's eruption when it erupts. And it's forbidden in our communication with one another.

The fifth word is not an attitude either. It's another expression of the sinful attitudes that reside in our soul. It's the word "slander." Literally, the word is "blasphemia." You recognize the English word "blaspheme?" Now that's a little confusing because when we use the English word "blaspheme." it's only about God, but the Greek word is broader than that. We could call this verbal abuse. It's verbal abuse. It includes name-calling. It includes, and by the way as

Christians, can I just stop here and say sometimes we use, can be tempted to use vulgar words in our attacks on others, but often times we use words that aren't vulgar, but words intended to hurt every bit as much. "You are so lazy. You are good for nothing" and you get the idea. That's what this word includes. It's verbal abuse, name-calling, vicious sarcasm, belittling someone, in any way attacking the person either to their face in the heat of argument or to others after the argument is done.

You see an example of this in Saul, the first king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 20:30, Saul's anger burned against Jonathan because Jonathan was siding with David. And he said to his own son, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!" Now that doesn't sound quite as bad to us as it would've sounded then. It was very similar to a vulgar expression that's used today. He allowed himself to slip into blaspheming, to slander, to verbal abuse as an expression of his anger.

By the way, Paul in Romans 3 deals with this as well. He comes to the fact that when you want to talk about our "fallenness," it always involves this. Romans 3, when it's indicting all of mankind, says our mouths are full of cursing. Not only bitterness, but cursing, that is, slandering, attacking other people because slander grows out of the hatred of the heart. Most of us will never murder someone, but we can all always be tempted by its heart form, hatred, and its verbal form, slander, attack, name-calling, belittling, assault on another person with our words. Paul says don't use words to tear down or to tear up, to verbally abuse another person, but instead deal with the hatred that's in your heart that produces it.

You can see this in the next word, the sixth word he uses, malice. It's usually translated "evil." In this context, it refers to "hateful feelings." It is delighting in hurting another person. That's what malice is in this context, the delight to hurt someone else. Have you ever wanted just to hurt somebody with your words because you either couldn't or wouldn't hurt them physically? So instead, you decide to do it with your words. Bitterness, anger, whether outbursts or an angry heart, and malice, the desire to hurt someone, those are the wrong attitudes that poison our speech. And those sins express themselves as silent hostility, we just clam up, or angry shouting, we yell in anger, or verbal abuse, we hurl invectives at the person who is the object of our scorn.

Notice what Paul says about all of this. Verse 31, "Let all [of these things] be put away from you." Let all, that is, there should be no exceptions. Every time these sins show up in our relationships, it is sin. And Paul told us not to put up with the slightest trace of these things, and not to put up with any kind or form of them.

Let me ask you. Is your interaction ever characterized by sinful expressions like yelling, name-calling, the bad attitudes that Paul lists here, bitterness, outbursts of anger, clamming up and seething anger, desire to hurt somebody? Does one or more of those describe your relationship with your spouse or your parents or your kids or your friends? Listen, if you find yourself living in verse 31, how do you change? How can you stop? Let me tell you. You cannot do it by the sheer force of your will power. You know that. Jeremiah 13 says, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then [if that can happen, then] you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil," who have the habit of doing evil. It's impossible humanly speaking.

But here's the good news. Christ can, by His Spirit, change us. You believe that? You can be a different person. How? How does He change us? As I've told you many times before, God is not going to deliver a spiritual zap to you. Don't sit around waiting for God to do that. You have to pursue obedience to what we're commanded to right here. He expects you to work hard at change and then He will do what you can't do and that is change you in the process. Now what should you do? Well, remember the context of these commands.

Back in 4:21 to 24, we learned the process of sanctification. We're to put off the habits that are a part of the old life, the old person we used to be. We are to be renewed in our thinking and we're to put on behaviors and attitudes that are in keeping with the new person we are in Christ. That's what you're to do. The way to change from those sins in verse 31 is to let the Word of God you hear me teaching, even this morning, change your mind about those sins and about what you ought to be and then actively work at putting those things off. When you catch yourself, stop. When you've done it, seek God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of the person against whom you've sinned. And you continue to change by putting on something else. What? The right attitudes.

As the Puritan Thomas Chalmers said, "There is power in the expulsive power of a new affection." The expulsive power of a new affection, I like that. You love something else more and it expels the old. It's like every winter on one of my oak trees in, in my yard, there are dead leaves that hang on there the entire winter. I mean, we could have those howling winter winds and those leaves hang on there. They're still there. So how does the tree get rid of them? When it begins to sprout new growth, it pushes those dead leaves off. That's how it is with us. We get rid of the old by replacing the old with these new attitudes.

Let's look for a moment at the attitudes we ought to foster and promote, the right attitudes. Verse 32, "Be [or become] kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." The word "be" is actually, literally in the Greek text, "be becoming." In other words, this doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey. Be becoming a person like this. Look at the one he begins with, be becoming kind. To be kind means to show a sweet and generous disposition. It's a heart that doesn't delight in hurting others, but in helping them and doing them good. Kindness is ultimately an expression of love. You remember in the love chapter, First Corinthians 13, it says, "Love is [what?] kind." If you love someone, you will be kind.

This attitude of kindness also grows out of grace. Where there's no grace in the heart, there will be bitterness and wrath and anger. But wherever there is love and grace together, there will be kindness. You see this in God. Look back in Ephesians 2. You remember this passage? We were dead. Verse 4, God had this great love with which He loved us. Verse 5, He had grace toward us and He saved us in that grace. Therefore, verse 7, in the ages to come, He's going to show His grace to us in (here's our word) kindness in Christ Jesus. Where there is love and grace, there will be kindness.

So how can you become kind? First of all, make sure you're a Christian. Galatians 5 says kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit. You can't produce this on your own, but if you have the Spirit, this will be growing in your soul. Secondly, determine to obey Paul's command. Seek to do this, to put off those other things and to be becoming a person who treats others with kindness, who delights in doing good to them. And become a person who delights in loving others and being gracious toward others because if you really love someone and you delight in doing them good, that's grace, even when they deserve the opposite. Then you will be kind to them.

There's a second attitude we have to put on. Verse 32 says be becoming tender-hearted. It's a very rare Greek word. It's used by the father of medicine, you remember the, the Greek guy Hippocrates, to describe the healthy function of the intestines. You say what does that have to do with anything? Well, the Greeks located the emotions with the digestive organs. So, this word came to refer to being emotionally disposed to someone, to feeling for someone from the depths of your bowels. That's why it's translated here "tender-hearted." It means compassionate, sympathetic. In 1 Peter 3:8, it's translated as "kind-hearted." It's the opposite of hard-hearted.

We used to be hard-hearted, we learned back in chapter 4 a little earlier. Now we're to be tender-hearted not only toward God, but toward people. You know what tender-hearted looks like. You've seen a mother holding her newborn child. She's tender-hearted toward that person, compassionate, sympathetic. Is that how you treat the people in your world? Not just the cute little kids, but the kids that get a little older or the adults in your world. Do you still treat them as a person with a tender heart?

There's a third right attitude we should put on. Not only be kind, be tender-hearted, but we are also to be becoming forgiving, forgiving each other. Colossians, the parallel passage, provides us with the context for this command cause in that verse, verse 13 of Colossians 3, it says be, you know, "… [Be] forgiving … whoever has a complaint against anyone…." So, we are to exercise this quality when we have or believe we have a legitimate beef against someone else. We think they've sinned against us or they have sinned against us. Maybe we both just blew up at each other or maybe we both just clammed up toward each other. Or perhaps we yelled at one another or maybe we stooped to name-calling. Maybe we just wanted to hurt each other.

Paul says when that happens, there's only one thing to do, forgive each other. You say wait a minute. I don't think you know how badly this person sins against me. Well if you think any sin against you justifies a lack of forgiveness, look at how Paul finishes the verse, "just as God in Christ has forgiven you." Does anything that person has done to you rise to the level of what you have done to God and what you have been forgiven of? No, it doesn't. And Paul says, then forgive.

In the New Testament, we're told to forgive because God has forgiven us. We're told to forgive as a test that God has forgiven us. Did you know that? On a number of occasions, we're told that if we don't forgive, it's a sign that we haven't experienced forgiveness from God. And we're told to forgive in the same way or how God forgives. That's what we're told here. "Forgive just as God in Christ has forgiven you." How did God forgive you? Freely, there were no strings attached. Generously, wholeheartedly, eagerly.

When you expressed repentance toward God, what did He do? He was eager to forgive you. It's pictured in the parable of the prodigal son as God runs to meet that prodigal. Is that how you respond to the people who've sinned against you? As we read in the psalm this morning, if you're going to forgive like God, put their sins from you as far as the east is from the west and don't bring them up against them again forever. Forgive as God has forgiven you. It's a pretty high standard.

Now folks, remember the context in which these two verses occur. It's in the context that we are to walk in our Father's footsteps. We are to imitate Him and walk in love. So how does our Father manifest the attitudes we've talked about this morning? Well, think about it for a moment. Is God ever bitter toward us? Does He ever resist reconciliation? No, He's eager for it. Second Corinthians 5, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself." He sought us when we didn't want to be sought. Is God ever sinfully angry with us? No, never. Does God ever lose control and yell at us or slander us? No, He doesn't even accept the devil's just accusations against us. Does our Father harbor one sinful attitude toward us? No, He's by nature (what?) kind.

Luke 6:35, "… love your enemies, do good, … lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." Romans 2:4, "… do you think lightly of the riches of … [God's] kindness? [Don't you know] that … God['s kindness is intended to lead] … you to repentance?"

God's kind even to His worst enemies. Maybe you're here this morning, and you don't know Christ. Listen, God has been incredibly kind to you. And that kindness is intended to drive you to Him in repentance and faith. God's kind. Ephesians 2:7 tells us He's going to shower us who know Him with kindness forever. He's tender-hearted, compassionate. He's gracious. He loves to do good to those who deserve evil.

He's quick to forgive where there's real repentance. In fact, let me take you back to Psalm 103 that we read together this morning. As we close, I just want you to see this. This is how God is. Psalm 103, He is the antithesis of those sins we saw this morning, and He is the personification of those attitudes that Paul demands we have. Psalm 103:8, The LORD is compassionate. He's tender-hearted. He's gracious. He's slow to anger and abounding in unfailing love. Verse 9, God doesn't hold a grudge. He's easy to be entreated. Verse 10, He doesn't deal with us according to our sins or reward us according to our iniquities. He's not into bitterness and sinful anger.

In fact, He's into forgiveness. Verse 12, He removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. He has compassion on us as a father does on his children. He remembers that we're just dust. Listen, God is everything Paul urges us to be, and He is nothing that Paul urges us not to be.

We are to be kind, tender-hearted and forgiving because our new Father is like that. And we are to walk in His footsteps. "Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love."

Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for how straight Your Word is with us, how it pulls no punches, how it attacks the sin in our lives, how it sets before us a very practical road to change. Father, we thank You for this passage that we've studied together this morning. We acknowledge to you, O God, that all of us can be tempted to and can house within our souls those attitudes, harbor those attitudes that are destructive and ultimately come exploding out and destroying everything in their path.

Father, forgive us. Help us to be like You, our new Father. And Lord, may we put those old things off as completely inappropriate to the family we now live in. And Father, may we instead be people who are becoming kind, who are becoming like You, tender-hearted and who are quick to forgive when we are wronged. Father, forgive us for acting like the people around us in the world. Help us instead to act like You.

And Father, if there's anyone here this morning who sees them self in those sins that Paul identified, who lives life like that, Lord, I pray that this would be the day when they would come to You and find You quick to forgive if they're willing to turn from their sin and embrace Christ. Lord, thank You that You are eager and quick to forgive a person like that. May this be the day they seek You and find You when they seek for You with all their heart.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.