Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect. You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God. Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that. –Ephesians 5:1-7, Message
Often in my studies and preparations for sermons and Bible studies, I like to use various versions and even paraphrases of the biblical text. I have to be honest and say that my favorite paraphrase is Eugene Peterson’s, The Message. As I began my quiet time with the Lord this morning, I opened my Bible App on my phone (YouVersion) and I was utterly amazed by the Scripture that immediately popped up. I don’t recall having looked at this passage in recent days, but apparently God wanted me to read His message for me.
This particular section from Ephesians begins with, “Watch what God does!” I really love that question because our focus (at least for my church folks) is not always on Jesus. Now I recognize that we have a multiplicity of things that hound us for our attention, and like me, you are aware of the idols in your life that do absolutely nothing but lead you down a path to spiritual ruin and sometimes physical death. But I think a statement that I heard recently went something like, “Christians must move beyond belief in a historical Jesus and begin to place their full faith and trust in a contemporary Jesus.” You ask, what does this mean? I’m so glad you asked.
In my faith tradition (Baptist), I have long believed that we focus too heavily on teaching to deliver information. We know lots of Scripture and we believe the Bible. As one recently said, “We believe the Bible from Genesis to the maps in the back.” But we must consider how the knowledge we possess is transforming our lives. Is it possible that we believe in a biblical Jesus without acknowledging Him as Jesus today? Could it be that we are distracted from watching to see what Jesus is doing because we’re not sure that “Jesus DOESN’T change – yesterday, today, tomorrow, He’s always totally Himself.” (Hebrews 13:7, Msg)
So, I said the message was for me. Yes, this Pastor/Preacher needs to make a decision. And you may need to consider the message for yourself too. It’s not a one-time choice, but rather a daily decision. Is the Jesus of the Bible still alive today? Was His ministry on earth pretty much for those in biblical days? Do His teachings in Scripture relate to our contemporary lives? Or, has God created us and simply said, “make it in this life the best way you can and I’ll greet you at the Heavenly gates when you die.”
Pray for me if you will, pray for yourself, pray for our churches, that we might become increasingly aware of what Jesus is doing all around us. Pray that we as His people will become more focused on the goodness of God and His transforming power at work in each of us – and increasingly less distracted by the rapidly changing culture around us.
Carlyle Hall, Jr.