Christ and Your Walk

How Personal Change Works
Ephesians 4:17-24
Matthew Raley (6-24-12)

I once read about a couple who rented an RV and learned that it had cruise control.  The man was suspicious that the cruise control might not work, so he waited until they were traveling on a flat, straight road before trying it out.  After he set the control the couple got up and went back to the kitchen to have breakfast.

Many Christians have a “cruise control” concept of their spiritual and ethical lives.  They think they can set the course of their lives with one prayer and then let go and let God. In today’s sermon we are going to focus on a key element of personal change: the step-by-step decisions that make up our “walk” with Christ.

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Relating to God

How Personal Change Works
Ephesians 4:17-24
Matthew Raley (6-17-12)

How do you respond when you are disrespected, or when someone refuses to accept you as you are?  We tend to respond with anger because the most important thing to each one of us is that we be respected.  Yet somehow we do not extend this prerogative to God.  We think of him more as a bureaucrat, someone who approaches everything evenhandedly and impersonally.  We act as though his wrath is wrong.

God’s attributes – his righteousness, justice, holiness, to name a few – are not abstract but personal. In today’s sermon we will learn that if we want to understand how personal change works, we must first come to grips with the personhood of God and our personal animosity against him.

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Using Your Grace-Equipment

Christ’s Body in Motion
Ephesians 4.15-16
Matthew Raley, (5-27-12)

Our fictional character, Alexander the Ephesian actor, has been studying to create hymns that will build up his fellow Christians, not just the Greeks but the Jews as well.  He has been immersed in the Psalms and listening to Jewish cantors sing, trying to learn what lyrics and music can bring the two groups together.  His first effort has failed. The people were not moved by his hymn. They were confused by this Greek trying to sing like a Jew.

Sitting with the Jewish cantor, Simon, afterward, Alexander asks him to correct his singing.  Nothing they try works.  Alexander just can’t sing like a Jew.  Finally, he has an idea. “Simon, would you sing my song?” At first Simon doesn’t want to sing it. It’s Alexander’s hymn, a Greek hymn.   But eventually Simon sings it in his Jewish manner, growing more comfortable with the song as he feels how Alexander has joined the truth with the tune.

The next Lord’s Day, they sing the hymn together. Simon sings a verse as a Jew, then Alexander as a Greek.  This time, the people get it.  Alexander had created a hymn that could be sincerely sung by either Greek or Jew—it just couldn’t be sung by a Greek trying to sound like a Jew.  The people start singing all sorts of other songs in the same manner and new way of worship was created.

In today’s sermon we learn how this kind of creation happens continually in the body of Christ.  Christ changes your identity, transforms your character, and then creates a role for you in his body.  You perform your role with other believers performing their roles, and a new thing emerges that no one could have predicted.  New things come to life when believers repeat the action Paul describes in 4.15-16, “speaking the truth in love.”

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Finding Your Grace-Equipment

Christ’s Body in Motion
Ephesians 4.15-16
Matthew Raley (5-20-12)

Alexander the Ephesian has a new identity in Christ.  He no longer serves Dionysus.  His new identity has exiled him from the theater and the Ephesian ecclesia, but has created a new role for him in the ecclesia of Christ.  He now composes hymns for the church.

But there’s a problem: Christ’s body contains Jews who were hostile to the idolatry he had led so well.  He used chant and lyrics to excite his Greek fellow-citizens to ecstasies that included false worship and immorality. Truth be told, he loved his power.  It brought him honor and wealth. If Alexander does in the church exactly what he did in the theater, it will bring shame to Christ, not least because of the selfishness in his artistry.

So, Alexander explores the Jewish Psalms, and rethinks his own art piece by piece.  He listens to a Jewish brother named Simon sing.  He learns the imagery of biblical poetry, studies the history of the Father’s work in Christ.  He also experiences how the Lord cares for him.  He prays over his wife for the safe delivery of their baby, refusing to make any offering to Artemis.  When she delivers the boy safely, she too converts to Christ.  Alexander is ready.  When he stands in church and sings his new hymn to Christ, putting all the fruit of his new knowledge and experience into it, the people are confused. He feels like a clumsy apprentice actor.

When Paul described the body building itself up in love in Ephesians 4.15-16, this is the kind of thing the Ephesians might have thought about. The real process of discovering our grace-equipment in Christ is hard. It involves the confrontation of our selfishness. In today’s sermon we will explore this process, using Paul’s statements in Romans to illustrate.

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Your Grace-Work

Christ’s Body in Motion
Ephesians 4.14-16
Matthew Raley (5-13-12)

There is nothing more striking about Saul of Tarsus than his cruelty. He tortured, imprisoned, and even killed people.  But after he is struck blind by Christ on the road to Damascus, Saul encounters a man named Ananias, who not only heals Saul’s blindness but treats him tenderly in the process.  That is how the grace-story of Jesus Christ specifically met Saul.  It changed his identity.  From a “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” Saul became Paul, the ambassador to the Gentiles.

Our character Alexander the Ephesian has had a similar experience.  He was devoted to Dionysus: he made poetry, plays, and music to honor him.  When his identity changed, he could no longer make his living this way.  So his skills as an artist were also converted to Christ.  He had the challenge of making new art forms for the new community of believers. That involved dealing with Jews who previously hated his art.

In today’s sermon we will see that the process is the same with each one of us.  Our identities are changed by God’s grace, and that change creates a new role for us in Christ’s body.

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Grace Equipment

Christ’s Body in Motion
Ephesians 4.15
Matthew Raley (5-6-12)

Alexander the Ephesian has come to believe Paul’s message and has begun living according to his new identity. He refuses to participate any longer in the Dionysian orgies, or to honor Dionysus during festival processions. Because of this he can no longer be an actor. His wife is pregnant, and enraged because he will not pray to Artemis for a safe delivery. He is shunned by the ecclesia of Ephesus, and now only participates in the ecclesia of Christ.

Alexander’s new identity is creating a new role for him in Christ’s body. He is now being paid to adapt the Dionysian hymn forms for the worship of Christ, composing new words and chants to tell the grace story of the Father.

Everyone in the body of Christ has a new identity. In today’s sermon we will see how each one of our identities changes when we receive the grace of God, and how we are equipped by his grace for specific roles in Christ’s body.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to technical problems with master recording, Pastor Matt’s sermon has been edited to eliminate 5 to 9 second gaps in the content.  What you will hear is an abridged version of Pastor’s sermon which he approved for publication on the web.  Most of the edits restore the original logic and train of thought.  However, in spite of our best efforts there are two sentences (one near the beginning and one at the end) that could not be fixed and begin in the middle of a thought.  Nevertheless even those are intelligible enough for the listener to understand the idea.

Published in: on July 2, 2012 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment