Joyce Meyer - Ephesians 3 Bible Study
I really want people to study the Bible, not just read it, but study it. And the first three chapters of Ephesians are all about how much God loves us, the grace of God, his mercy, his forgiveness, our inheritance in Christ, who we are in Christ, and that has to be the foundation of our walk with God. Before we ever get around to teaching people how to behave right, we must teach them who they are in Christ. And so, I try in my teaching to keep a good balance of that. I teach a lot on behavior, do this, don't do this, but I always work in who we are in Christ because if you try to teach people how to behave without them knowing how much God loves them and that his love for them is not based on their behavior, if that's all we teach people, which a lot of religious organizations are very guilty of that and it just frustrates people no end.
If we teach people right, then they can have a great deal of success and growth in their relationship with God. How many of you want to really grow up, mature, and be the person that God wants you to be? Well, good, you're in the right place this morning. Now, I was pretty astounded this morning when I counted them, but just in Ephesians chapter 4, he deals with 16 different behaviors, 16. Now, we may get all 16, we may only get 12 but thank God for tonight. And he doesn't let up in chapter 5 or chapter 6 so if you really want to grow, this is the place to be, this morning, tonight, tomorrow morning, but remember, God loves you. I'mma keep throwing that in there so everybody can just stay comfortable.
John 14:15, very simple little scripture, but so powerful. "If you really love me, you will (obey) my commands". I love that. "If you really love me," Jesus said, this is Jesus talking. "If you really love me, you will obey my commands". And I think it's even proper to say to whatever degree we are obeying God, it's to that degree that we love him. Now, I believe that our love for him can grow and as it grows, we will find new levels of obedience in our life. And how many of you have figured out that many times if you're gonna obey God, it's gonna require some kind of a sacrifice on your part to be able do that? But here again, God's not trying to take anything away from you. You gotta give up something to get something. You can't have what you want and keep everything ya got. Let me say it again, you can't have what you want and also keep everything you've got. You can clap, that's okay. I thought it was good enough for a clap.
Now, this scripture does not say, "If you obey me, I will love you". That's not what it says. What it says is, "If you love me, you will obey me". We have to go back to chapters 1, 2, and 3. God loves, he chose us while we were still yet in sin and so far away from God that it was absolutely pathetic. He came and got in the middle of our mess and he offered us a relationship with him. We did not deserve it. We can never deserve it. God is good and the fact that he is so good should make us also want to be so good for him. Amen? God's goodness should provoke me to want to be good for him.
Now, why is this so important? Well, in Ephesians chapter 4, verse 1 Paul said, "I therefore the prisoner for the Lord," and we've already noticed that he keeps saying that over and over. "I am a prisoner for the Lord". And I guess if he's saying it that often, we should take notice that Paul was willing to suffer in order to bring us the messages that we hear today. Anytime you want to do something good, now listen to me, anytime you want to do something good for somebody else, it's gonna cost you a little something. You think it doesn't cost me anything to do this? It absolutely certainly does. This is my life. This is what I do. But you know what? You know what God gives me back? Man, I got peace. I've got joy. I feel fulfilled. You know what? I could die tonight and say, "Man, I have had a great ride. I have had an awesome life". I can stand here right now and tell you that I don't look back and regret anything.
I mean, there's some choices I made I wish I wouldn't have made but I feel like I'm doing what God wants me to do, but it takes a sacrifice to do it. And I remember all the years when I wasn't doing what God wanted me to do and I was unhappy and blaming everybody else, and blaming Dave, and blaming circumstances, and blaming, blaming, blaming. And it wasn't everybody else, it was me. It was me. And until we take responsibility for where we're at, and where you're at may not be your fault, but if you stay there, it is your fault. Amen? "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk and (lead a life) worthy of the divine calling to which you have been called with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God's service".
Now, 2 Corinthians 5:20 says that we are ambassadors for Christ, that we are his direct representatives in the earth. And listen to this, that God is making his appeal to the world through us. I don't know about you but that, that's kind of awe inspiring to me, that God is going to get to other people through us, through me, through you. You say, "Well, Joyce, I'm not a preacher". Yeah, you are, really, you are. You may not do it like this, but you are. Your life is preaching at work. Your life is preaching in your neighborhood. Your life is preaching in how you relate to people every place that you go. Your life is a sermon. And Christians are Christ followers, that's what we are. When Jesus said, "Follow me," he spoke to the two greatest words for leadership that we will ever hear. All a leader really needs to do is be an example for other people to follow.
Paul said, "Follow my example". Wow. I wonder what people would think if I stood up here and said, "Listen, if you just follow my example, you're gonna be doing everything right". Well, you'd probably think I was full of myself and maybe I would be, I don't know. But Paul said that, "Follow my example". Well, you know what? I think honestly, we all should be able to say that. We all should be able to say, "If you follow my example, you're gonna be doing what God wants you to do". You know, one of the songs that we sang earlier, and I notice people kind of had a good response, "Let my deeds outweigh my words". And I think that's so important.
You know, talk is cheap and what we say can affect people but if we say one thing and do the opposite, it actually has a very negative affect on people and that's one of the reasons why, "Religious, religion and religious people," in many instances have really turned people off because they can act like they're too good to even speak to anybody else that's not like them. And just the very fact that they do that is a message that doesn't minister Christ's character to them. So, it's very important. I think there's a lot of things that are important that we don't think are important anymore. I think it's important that we take care of ourselves and do the best we can. I think it's important that we look our best when we go out and we... Well, I better be careful. I'll get myself in trouble.
You know, I know I come from another generation but and I guess whatever you're born into, you just don't get over it, but you know I just, you know, everybody's casual today. Well, maybe that's well and good, I don't know, but our morals have gotten kind of casual too. And so, we need to make sure that it doesn't drift over into everything in our lives. I think instead of being casual, we need to be careful. The Bible says be careful about how you behave, and be careful about your thoughts, and be careful what you do with your time, and be careful the words that you speak. You say, "Boy, this is sounding like a full-time job, this Christian stuff". Well, it is. You can't just serve God with 10% of your time and never do it right. You gotta get in, get out, or get run over, amen? And that's a good word for today, get in, get out, or get run over but stop sitting on the fence being Lukewarm. If we're gonna follow God, it's time to follow him with our whole heart.
Matthew 21:18 and 19, "In the early dawn the next morning, he was coming back to the city, and he was hungry". This is Jesus, Jesus was hungry. "And as he saw one single leafy fig tree above the roadside, he went to it but he found nothing on it but leaves seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves. He said to it, never again shall fruit grow on you! And the fig tree withered up at once and died". Well, you know, I used to say I felt sorry for this fig tree because I didn't understand why Jesus cursed it just because it didn't have what he wanted it to have. But the thing about the fig tree is it had leaves and when a fig tree gets leaves, it's supposed to have fruit and I think a lot of Christians have leaves and no fruit. Amen? We go to church. We've got a bumper sticker. We hang a cross around our neck. We know a little bit of Christianese language.
Come on. We've got our headphones, you know, we take our Bible to work. But fruit, love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, meekness... Those are the things that the world needs to see. Do you have proper fruits that back up your claim of being a Christian? Do you examine the fruit of other people to see if they're the real deal or are you merely impressed by what they say? Nothing leads to deception quicker than being impressed by what somebody says and not paying any attention to the real fruit or lack of fruit in their life. Verse 2 talks about attitudes that are proper for the Christian.
Ephesians 4:2, "Living as becomes you with complete lowliness of mind (humility), meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another". Well, to be honest, that could keep most of us busy for the rest of our lives and we're only in verse 2. Now, I can quickly go through here and tell you what have been some of the weaknesses in my life. I was pretty selfish for a long time. Selfish Christian, selfish preacher, "What about me"? And then the Lord finally said to me, "You can't be selfish and be happy".
Can I tell you today, you can't be selfish and be happy? If your life's all about you, you're not gonna be happy. Thank you for the ten people that like that. Gentleness, that was a real difficult thing for me to come by because I had a real harsh, hard father and because of being sexually abused, I had a hardness on my heart. And so, things just came out of me, plus I've got a real aggressive nature and a deep voice and so all that combined, I had a hard time sounding sweet. I mean, it was just challenging. And patience, of course, is still something that I'm, hmm. Hmm. But hey, thank God I'm not where I used to be. I'm not where I need to be but I'm so glad I'm not where I used to be. Amen? And some things I'm real patient with. I mean, I really, I can wait on God now. I've even learned to be fairly patient with myself. But, I tell you what, man, if I don't feel good and somebody's not moving as fast as I want 'em to. It's like, whoo. We had something funny happen last week.
Well, you know, it's kind of sad, but it's funny. We were in another city and I was on my way to speak at a college there. And we had to cross the railroad tracks and there was the thing blocking off the railroad tracks was down and all the lights were flashing but there was no train, no train, no train, no train, no train. And I mean, we had this huge long line of traffic. Well, we finally understood this thing must be stuck because people are turning around in droves going back the other way. So, we had to turn around, take a different route. Well, now I'm thinking we're gonna be late. Well, there's nothing that I hate worse than being late for one of my own things. I just can't stand to get to these meetings late. I feel responsible and I wanna be here to make sure that everything is happening the way that it should be happening.
So I can get a little bit testy if it looks like I'm... How many of you have little buttons that can be pushed? So, Dave is very good about stopping to let people in, because he's like, nice. So, here I'm like... And this guy's trying to pull out of a side street and Dave's slowing down. And I said, "This is not the time to be nice". And he's been teasing me about that ever since. "This is great, you're on your way to preach and this is not the time to be nice". So, let me just say if you still got a ways to go, I get it. I'm with you. I totally understand. Humility is so important. I guess humility is probably the cardinal virtue.
If there's anything that we really need to pray for, make a special point of study, Andrew Murray says you're never gonna walk in humility if you don't pray for it, and study it, and really work with the Holy Spirit to have it developed in your life. And humility is, it's the opposite of pride and pride is the root of all sin. That was the sin that Lucifer committed. "I will, I will, I will, I will". And so, we need to learn more about humility and keep that in our hearts at all times. And, you know, there's a four-part series that we could do on humility, but we don't have time to do that today. And so, let me just say this, a humble person never thinks that they're better than other people. They just don't think like that. And they remember that they have weaknesses too but for the grace of God, there go I.
And we're very good at whatever we're good at. We judge other people who are not good at what we're good at but we forget, and that's covered in chapter 4 too, that everything that we are good at is a gift from God. It's not something we just have ourselves. It's something that has been given to us and this is why thankfulness is so important. "Thank you, God, that I have the ability to do this but I know that it's your grace. Help me not to be impatient and haughty with people who can't do what I can do". And I love it when people humble themselves to do something that they really wouldn't have to do. That's showing that they don't think they're the end all of everything and there's so many things that we can do that will let other people know.
Like my husband, he sits in every one of these meetings and Dave laughs at my jokes although he's heard them a thousand times before. He knows what I'm gonna say half the time before I say it. And I don't know if he is or not but the man looks really interested all the time. I mean, he honestly looks interested. And I think that, that says a lot about character. See, what we're looking for today is character in an age of image. Today, everything is about image. "How many people are on my Facebook? How many people responded to my tweet"? Boy, now we've got periscope and Snapchat and I mean it just keeps going on and on and on. I, you know, I got lost at the selfies. I can't, I mean I cannot stand around and take pictures of myself all day. It just doesn't work for me. It just doesn't. Besides that, I end up looking like I've got a real... I mean, I've tried a few times and it just does not turn out right. Amen?
I love to see people who have a servant's heart and now listen to me what I'm gonna say, and who do things that will make other people feel better. Let's do things to make other people feel better. You know, there's a lot of speakers that don't show up during the worship. I'm always in our worship, always in our worship. I will not sit in the back room during worship. I'm here to worship God. The worship helps prepare me for the preaching and a lot of places where I go to teach they'll say to me, "Well, what time do you want to go out"? I say, "Right now. I want to be there. I want to be in the worship". See, if we're only showing up somewhere just to do our part... I'm not here just to come out on the platform and be the big star. I'm here to participate with everybody else in worshiping God and learning and growing. Amen? And that's important.
Dave's always here right from the beginning. Once in a while when he goes out on Friday night and signs books, people keep him a little bit longer but he's always, always, always in here. You know, one of the most important things that we see about Jesus is found in John 13. He washed his disciples' feet. It says he took off his garment and he put on a servant's towel and when he was finished, he laid aside the towel and put back on his garment. And there's such a message there. We may have a cloak of authority and we may have a cloak of importance or whatever it is, but we need to be willing to lay that aside sometimes and put on a servant's towel and then when we're done doing the menial thing God wants us to do, you can put it back on and walk in the thing that you're called to do. Thank you, somebody likes this.
All right, patience, wow. We're only in verse 2. I'm in trouble. Being patient with the timing of God is so important in our lives. The Bible says the patient in spirit is better than the proud. And listen, James 1:4, man, we've heard this and heard it but this is a mouthful. "Let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be people perfectly and fully developed with no defects, lacking in nothing". This scripture's saying that if a person can ever become fully patient, they'll be a mature person lacking in nothing. You know what that means? If I'm completely patient, I'm happy no matter what's going on in my life. Wouldn't that be cool?