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For Further Reflection:
- Read 4:1-6. God has already knit all of his children together spiritually as one bodyin Christ (v. 4-6), and now we are called to live in a way that is consistent with that spiritual reality (v. 3, 13). The visible unity of Christ’s body displays a core attribute of God: our triune God’s oneness. The high calling of God’s church is for us to become more and more like him in his oneness. How have you experienced the oneness of Christ’s body (the church) as a present spiritual reality, and to what extent have you experienced Christian unity as a lofty goal that the church has to intentionally work towards (vv. 3, 13)?
- Read 4:7-16. When Christ descended into our low estate and then ascended back on high, he swept away all that which enslaved us and left behind a treasure trove of gifts which has equipped the church for its immensely high calling of growing and serving and upbuilding Christ’s body into the unity that Christ has already forged for us. Each of the five gifts mentioned are gospel-intensive roles within the church which build upon each other’s work: apostles are sent out to the ones who are far off, prophets then deliver the good and sharp Word of God, evangelists are there to help people see that word as good news, shepherds are those come alongside and lead people out from darkness and into gospel living, and teachers are there to ever expand people’s knowledge of our infinitely good and loving God. All are essential and overlap. Together, they will ground the church in the gospel as its prime doctrine in the midst of other doctrinal winds so that we can constantly be speaking the unifying, lifegiving truth of the gospel into each other’s lives. How have you seen God endow your church with these five gospel-centered leadership roles, and how have you seen these ministries knit and sanctify the church towards its full stature in Christ? Who in your church (including yourself) has which gift, and how can you support and join them in their work?
- Read 4:17-24. Christ, by knitting us together with himself and each other through these five gospel dispensations, leads his people in an actual exodus from their past lives of futility, ignorance, alienation, hard-heartedness, corrupted desires, and sin, and into the re-creation of their whole selves into the likeness of God. As he enables us to truly put away all those things which once captivated and blinded and killed us, so we must truly allow ourselves to be set apart and embrace the abundant life and calling he has called us to. On a scale from 1-10, 10 being the most pure behavior and 1 being the least, how would you rate the church today? According to vv. 20-24, what is the process of moral education that is needed to improve the situation, and what is your part to play in this process?
- Read 4:25-32. Here are nitty gritty specifics of what it looks like for an empowered people to start living up to their high calling by centering themselves around their new identity in Christ: they will naturally turn from falsehood to truth, from retaining to releasing anger, from stealing to working and sharing, from evil to gracious talk, from bitterness and malice to tenderheartedness and forgiveness. To which of these areas of sin are you most vulnerable, and how are they symptoms of a shallow belief in the gospel? How does your identity in Christ affect the way you want to live?
- Read 5:1-7. You cannot hold to the old patterns while being woven into the new fabric of Christ at the same time; something will tear. God has opened up himself for us to imitate; Christ and his sacrificial love is the supreme pattern into which we are being drawn. If we retain the old ways and remain enamored by the lesser things, if all we can talk about are the lesser things, then we will end up closing ourselves off to the glorious inheritance that God has prepared for his children, and we will experience the tearing of our lives from God’s as wrath. How would you counsel someone who is struggling to break away from a certain pattern of sin in their lives? How is the gospel of Jesus a far better thing to give a sinner than the “gospel” of a self-help regimen?
- Read 5:8-14. The light of Christ shining into our lives transforms us into light itself, and brings forth all sorts of good fruit. In the darkness is only barrenness, futile efforts, and death. We, being transformed into light by Christ’s light, are to expose those dark places to the light of Christ. We expose the futile deeds of darkness, not by taking part in them nor even by focusing our talk on them, but by focusing our talk on Christ and how he frees us from such things. How has your reception of Christ’s light led to you becoming Christ’s light? What are ways we can “expose” the unfruitful deeds of darkness (v. 11) without even “mentioning” them (v. 12)? What are some of the most beautiful responses you have seen when you speak Jesus into the dark deeds of another person?
- Read 5:15-20. We are to be gospel-wise people who intentionally live against the flow of the evil days in which we find ourselves. As we acquaint ourselves more with the beautiful heart of God, we will find ourselves turning from the numbing frivolities and excesses of our times to embrace the eye-opening joys of the Spirit. The fruit of such an alert joy will be a united and indomitable lifesong of thanks to God from the church. What specifically does it look like to stay joyfully and fruitfully alert to the good things of God in these evil days? How have you been tempted to turn your eyes to mind-numbing frivolities in response to all the evil, and what has helped you sing your most persistent and durable songs of thanks to God? How have you been able to interweave your song with your brothers’ and sisters’?