Ephesians 5:15-21 – A wise and spirit-filled life


Ephesians 5:15 – 21.




There are few, if any, people who would disagree with the statement that the increase in knowledge in this century exceeds all the knowledge of the previous centuries put together. Scientific and technological advances in this century have been astronomical. There are also few, if any, people who would dare to suggest that common-sense wisdom, not to mention moral and spiritual wisdom, have increased the same amount!


There is a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom –

ILLUS.: We have a friend – who you could not possibility know – who is a consultant Psychiatrist and spends her life trying to solve others problems yet she herself has been married and divorced twice with a child from each marriage and has a very strange and confused view of life – academically she is absolutely brilliant yet she lacks wisdom.


The Bible often mentions “fool”, as opposed to wise, however the word “fool” does not mean stupid but rather a fool is someone who lives life with no regard for God.          Psalm 14:1

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” …(NIV)


This is a spiritual foolishness – it is possible to become more educated and more foolish at the same time. Foolishness comes from trusting in human knowledge to the exclusion of Divine knowledge.


The Bible defines wisdom by linking it to the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (NIV)


The Book of Ecclesiaties is the teacher’s attempt to find meaning and purpose in life and after careful study and experimentation with every aspect of life he concludes that it is all meaningless AND the only meaningful thing is ultimately this:- Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (NIV)


In scripture wisdom is not simply clever philosophical debate and opinion – wisdom is linked to conviction, i.e. knowing God, as well as behaviour.



Ephesians 5:15-17

15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.(NIV)


When Paul uses the phrase “how you live” he is referring to behaviour / conduct.


In the light of a Christian’s new life in Christ they are to take care as to how they live – we take a great deal of trouble over the things that are important to us. Jobs, homes, hobbies, families, etc. How much more should we be careful about our spiritual well being – NOT that family, home, job, and hobby are unrelated to our spiritual life – we are whole people – BUT the mark of a wise person is someone who takes trouble over their Christian discipleship!


In these verses Paul gives us basically two pointers as to how to life carefully:-


– Careful use of time and opportunity

– Clear understanding of God’s plan and purpose


  1. a) A Careful use of time and opportunity. v15-16.


The KJV translation of v16 was “redeem the time” and the word for redeem does carry the meaning of buying back or in the context buy up might be a better rendering and so the NIV “making the most of …” is a good translation.


In Greek there are two words for time “kronos” – chronological time – and “kairos” – opportunity time. The word in this verse is kairos – opportunity. BUT we must not fall into the trap of thinking that this does not include chronological time.


Time is a gift from God – every minute is a gift from God. There is a great amount of inequality in the world BUT there is one thing that we all have equally and that is time.


When this moment is past it is past and it cannot be recovered – it is gone forever.

We cannot make more time, we can only use the time we have. God knows the beginning and end of our time on earth – we have no control over that BUT we do have a responsibility to maximise the time he has given us.




I have only just a minute,

Only sixty seconds in it,

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.

Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,

But it’s up to me to use it,

I must suffer if I lose it,

give account if I abuse it.

It is only just a minute,

But eternity is in it.



We need to be aware that Paul is not simply talking about Time Management – In Western society we live by the clock – “Time is money” we are told! Our lives are planned and very busy – sometimes so busy that we have no time for people!


BUT is it not people that the gospel is about – If we are too busy for people then we are too busy!

Are we aware of the people and their needs – so that when opportunity comes to minister to them we are not so task oriented that we miss the opportunity – we miss the moment!


When someone has been bereaved they do not need a 3 point sermon on the theology of death – they need someone to listen to them reminisce about their loved one or to just be there.


If we are going to have opportunity to minister to each other and to shared the gospel with our friends we need to give time – often lots of time. People are not machines that we can turn on and off – If we are not giving time the opportunities are not going to come.


ILLUS.: Two Zulu lady evangelists who worked in a squatter area – most of the time they sat at the water-point and talked to people. The whole community had to come there to get water – what do you think the topic of conversation was – the living water that Jesus gives.


These two ladies saw an opportunity and grasped it with both hands.


Paul reminds his readers that there is another reason why they need to grasp every opportunity – “Because the days are evil” –

It was not easy for the early Christians and not long after this letter was written it became even worse. Christians were burned as torches and thrown to the lions. There was no time to mess around – tomorrow might be too late.


We may not live in such obviously desperate times in England – although some do in other parts of the world – however, that can lull us into a false sense of security. Life is very fragile and we must live every moment so that it count for eternity.


All I am will sing out as a praise song –

every note, every tone is for you;

whether days will be hard or be easy

I will live every moment for you.


A wise Christian values time – “Life is too short for us to do everything we want to do; but it is long enough for us to do everything God wants us to do.”


  1. b) A clear understanding of God’s plans and purposes. v17


The wise are not those who wilfully follow their own desires but rather those who seek to follow God’s will.

Jesus is the perfect example of one who knew and followed the will of His Father.

John 4:34

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (NIV)


In the Garden the night before he was crucified Jesus prayed – Luke 22:42 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)


Then He taught his disciples to pray “Father … May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


There is nothing that is more important for the Christian than to know and do the will of God. Those who are wise will seek this more than anything else.


NOW — there are some areas where it is quite plain what the will of God is.

I can’t go to God and ask him if I can steal from my employer – or if I can commit adultery – or if I can cheat in an exam — these things are quite clear from the Bible. God has said “Do not steal! Do not commit adultery!”


So in term of what we call the “general” will of God it is quite plain what we can and can’t do.


BUT when it come to the particular will of God I must tell you that I find it one of the most difficult areas to understand. Who should I marry? Should I change jobs? Which Church should I go to? …..


This is a huge subject but let me make a few suggestions that I hope will help.

  • Decisions must be made within the boundaries of God’s general will as revealed in scripture. So who should I marry – clearly not someone who is not a Christian.
  • Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living within them – the Spirit guides us, prompts us, leads us, ….
  • The advice and counsel of mature Christian leaders and friends
  • Common-sense – God has given us brains and we need to use them – I

ILLUS.: Marriage – before Janet and I got married – I was uncertain as to whether or not she was the right girl for me to marry. I sat down and made a list of all the pros and cons – I was studying for the ministry clearly I had to marry someone who was in agreement with the direction of my life – a missionary life!!


There are some things that I really don’t think we need to bother God with – whether we eat ice cream or jelly I don’t think is something that we need to pray earnestly about. I don’t think God really minds which we have. Whether we drive a Ford or a Vauxhall I don’t think is an issue. It could however be a matter of pray and seeking God’s will as to whether or not we have a car at all!!


Knowing God’s specific will for my life is not easy – but as we grow as Christians, as we learn more of God’s word, as we mature and our minds are renewed by the scriptures and the Holy Spirit we begin behave more and more like Jesus.

Romans 12:1-2

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)




Paul now moves from knowing God’s will to being filled with the Spirit. And the two things are , of course, very closely linked.

Ephesians 5:18 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (NIV)


Paul is using drunkenness as an illustration and as with all illustrations this one is also limited. When a person is drunk he is often out of control and will sometimes do things that he latter cannot remember doing.

The Bible always condemns drunkenness – it does not say that you cannot drink alcohol BUT that you must not get drunk.


Paul is not saying that a person filled with the Holy Spirit is out of control on the contrary one of the fruit of the Spirit is indeed self-control.


The point Paul is trying to make is this:- a person who is drunk is under the influence or control of the alcohol. And in a similar way the person who is filled with the Spirit is under the influence or control of the Spirit. And it is here that the comparison ends.


Dr. M. Lloyd-Jones, who was a pastor and a medical doctor, writes under the heading ‘The Stimulus of the Spirit’, “Wine – alcohol – … pharmacologically speaking is not a stimulant – it is a depressant. Take up any book on pharmacology and look-up ‘alcohol’ and you will find, always, that it is classified among depressants. It is not a stimulant. Further it depresses, first and foremost the highest centres of all in the brain. …. They control everything that gives a man self-control, wisdom, understanding, discrimination, judgement, balance, the power to assess everything; in other words everything that makes a man behave at his very best and highest. What the Holy Spirit does, however, is the exact opposite. If it were possible to put the Holy Spirit into a text book of pharmacology, I would put him under the stimulants, for that is where he belongs. He really does stimulate … he stimulate our every faculty … the mind … and the intellect .. the heart .. and the will. [Lloyd-Jones “Life in the Spirit”]


Drunkenness has a dehumanising effect – people will do things when they are drunk that they would never do when they are sober.

The Holy Spirit makes us more human, because he is making us more and more like Jesus.


Before we say anything more about the ‘Filling of the Spirit’ we need to distinguish it from the ‘Baptism of the Spirit’.


We do not have time to deal with it in detail – I believe that every Christian is baptised in the Holy Spirit and that Spirit-baptism takes place at conversion and is not a subsequent experience. [I am not denying that Christians may have subsequent experience of the Spirit BUT I would not call it Spirit-baptism]

On a number of occasions in the Gospels and once in the book of Acts we read that John the Baptist baptised with water but after him one would come [Jesus] who would baptise with the Holy Spirit

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 13 For we were all baptised by [with or in] one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (NIV)


Paul makes it clear in Romans 8:9

9 …….And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (NIV)


Every Christian has the Holy Spirit in them otherwise they are not Christian – and remember that the Holy Spirit is a person not an it. Thus you can’t get a bit of the HS at conversion and the rest of Him some time later.


However the filling of the Holy Spirit is to do with being under the control and influence of the Spirit. To put it another way – Not that we get more of the HS but that he has more of us – more control – as we grow in Christ and the knowledge of his Word and are sensitive to his prompting in our lives AND OBEY what he teaches us so we are being filled with his Spirit.


There can be and should be time when we are overwhelmed by God’s Spirit – when we feel very close to God – these are very real experience.


[recommend “Baptism and fullness” – John Stott]


Four things to note about this phrase “Be filled with the Spirit”

  • – it is a command this is not an optional extra we can add to our faith if we choose – it is a commanded to be obeyed.
  • – it is for all Christians – It is not for the spiritual elite – [the words are in the 2nd person pl.] you (pl).
  • – it is to be received we can not fill ourselves with the Spirit only God can do that so how then can it be a command if we can’t do it. : there are many things I can’t do but I have to co-operative in order for them to be done to me. Having an operation in hospital.                     We must co-operative with God so that his work in us can be effected.
  • it is ongoing – the tense is present and continuous – it is a day by day ongoing filling –


So we need to look at our lives and ask “How am I doing spiritually?”

Are you growing?          Or are you relying on your past experience?

ILLUS.: The evidence of a good marriage is not the love a husband and wife had in the past – There are thousands of couples who 10 years ago were head-over-heels in love 10 years ago who are now divorced – A good marriage is not based on some future love we may have BUT on present love and devotion to each other.


How is your relationship with Christ now?


The word for “fill” is that same word sailor use to refer to the wind filling the sails. As the wind fills the sails the ship is carried along on the water.


Maybe your life is in the spiritual doldrums because instead of hoisting the sail and allow the Holy Spirit to fill your life you are down in the depths of the ship rowing like crazy and going no where!!


The question is ‘How can I be filled with the Spirit?’

In a parallel passage in Colossians we read this – Colossians 3:16 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (NIV)


This is a parallel passage to Ephesians 5 – and here instead of commanding the Colossians to be filled with the Spirit Paul tell them to Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly – To be filled with the Word [scripture] is to be so saturated by God’s word that we being to think like God – because his words and thoughts have become part of our lives.


Well that doesn’t happen by putting the Bible under your pillow at night – We can easily say “Well God if you want to fill me with your Spirit then here I am!” It takes effort to be a Christian

– it takes time

– discipline

– study of the Bible

– prayer [it is tough I find prayer very difficult because there are always many other things that I should be or would like to be doing]

– fellowship with other believers

– worshipping God together

– being accountable to each other and to God [we are not free to do our own thing – we belong to the body of Christ, the church and we must constantly take into account how our thoughts, actions, way of life impact the rest to the people in the Church – you are not a free agent]


It is these practical things that are evidence of whether or not you are being filled with the Spirit – How is your Christian life from day to day? In the home? In the office? at school/college?


{The sermon outline goes on to deal with v19-21 BUT we will have to come back to that for part 2}


I believe that one of the reasons why Christians feel weak and defeated and feeble is because we are content to live on Spiritual scraps. We have become so used to a secular lifestyle with a thin Christian veneer that we no longer have an appetite for God and for his Word! We want the best of both worlds! BUT you can’t have that!!


ILLUS.: Rwandan Christian man who lost his wife and children in the war “I did not know Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had!”


Being filled with the Spirit is not some highly emotional esoteric experience BUT the unqualified, no-strings-attached commitment to Jesus Christ!

What we need is not more emotional worship – that will be a result of spirit-filled lives – what we need is God’s forgiveness and cleansing and filling….


O Holy Spirit breathe on me

And cleanse away my sin,

Fill me with love within


…Take all my pride from me,

Give me humility


….make me new,

Make Jesus real to me,

Give me his purity…

…Give me your power today,

To live for you always,

O holy Spirit breathe on me.

[Norman Warren]





Ephesians 5:15 – 21




  1. a) Includes a careful use of time & opportunity (v15-16)


  1. b) Includes a clear understanding of God’s plan & purposes (v17)




                  Being filled with the Spirit …

                         is a command

                        ‚ is for all Christians

                        ƒ is to be received

                        „ is ongoing             [v19]


Includes …

       our fellowship

      ‚ our worship

      ƒ our thanksgiving

      „ our submission                       [v20-21]

Ephesians 5:1-14 – Be like God!






5:1-14 still come under the section ‘Living as children of light’ [NIV]. In chapters 1-3 Paul focused on the new live a Christian has in Christ – What we are in Christ – and now in chapters 4-6 he is focusing on the practice of the Christian life -how we should live in Christ.


He focused in the first half of ch. 4 on unity – now he is dealing with purity – in actions, words and thoughts. Having already urged his readers to refrain from certain things and to pursue others – don’t lie but tell the truth, don’t be angry and sin, don’t steal but share ..


Chapter 4 ends with Paul exhorting us to be kind, compassionate and forgiving – as God has been to us. Of course there are no verse and chapter breaks in Paul letters – so when he begins to think about what we should be like he ends up saying BE LIKE GOD!


Look at v.1-14 under two sections Living and children of love and living as children of light.


  1. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LOVE. [v. 1 – 7]


There therefore of 5v1 refers back to what has just been said. Kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness are characteristics of God who is LOVE. He is therefore the example to follow.


  1. a) The pattern to follow.

Ephesians 5:1-2

1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (NIV)


The Greek word for ‘imitate’ is mimetes from which we get our English word ‘mimic’. Just as children copy their parents we are to copy our heavenly Father.


We know from our own families that children not only often look like their parents but grow up to have the same attitudes and mannerisms.


How is it possible that we can imitate God? In what ways does Paul mean this? He can’t mean that we can do some of the things that God has done – we can’t create out of nothing – we can’t forgive sin in the way He does – we can’t secure salvation for anyone ….


We can imitate God’s characteristics – not to the level of his – his is infinite and we are finite – he is perfect and we are sinful even when we have been redeemed.


One of the greatest evidences of God’s love is his undeserved forgiveness The presence of forgiveness is always evidence of the presence of love. It is God’s willingness to forgive us in spite of our sin that shows how much he loves us. And our willingness to forgive others is an indication of how much or how little we reflect the character of God.


“ …. forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us …”


Is there that attitude in you that says, “I can never forgive So-and so for what the did to me / or to my family…”


If we are to reflect the character of Christ then our attitude needs to be that of Christ when he was being crucified “Father forgive them they don’t know what they are doing…”


Maybe you are saying “I don’t have that kind of forgiveness in me” TRUE! Naturally this kind of attitude is not possible. It is only as the Holy Spirit helps us to appreciate the depths of God’s forgiveness for us that we will be able to extend that forgive to others.


Forgiveness and love are inextricably linked – Christ’s willingness to forgive is seen in his self-giving. self-sacrificing love. Not a romantic love nor a friendship, brotherly love which are mainly based on feelings – but a giving love in spite of feeling or lack of feelings.


Christ has shed abroad his love in the hearts of his people and he expects us to exhibit that love, not only to those that we like but even to our enemies. Christians talk much about worship and praise to God as an offering to God.


BUT here is a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God – our much singing and praising counts for little unless it is accompanied by acts of selfless love towards others people. Lovelessness in a Christian is more that just a failure or shortcoming. IT is SIN! – it is a wilful disobedience of God’s command and a disregard for his example.


Sacrificial love for others becomes a sacrifice acceptable to God.

This is the pattern to follow.


  1. b) The practices to avoid.

Ephesians 5:3-4

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (NIV)


Throughout this chapter Paul has touched on various sins. Here he now focuses on sexual sins. Remember the context of the Ephesian Church – Ephesus was a City known for is sexual promiscuity. The Temple to the sex-goddess Diana [Artimus] – every kind of sexual perversion imaginable took place in Ephesus.


He focus not simply on the sexual acts but also on the words and thoughts that go along with sexual sins.


Paul has talked about how Christians should have self-sacrificing love – here he shows the opposite – the self-indulgent lust that is evident in those who have rejected God’s love. Not that every unbeliever is as debased as this – he is showing an extreme opposite to God’s love.


The word for immorality come from porneia from which we get the word pornography. Porneia together with the word impurity covers all sexual activity outside its God-ordained context of a loving marriage relationship.

The word greed carries the meaning of “coveting” – the 10th commandment – why coveting – because there is nothing more degrading than the coveting of someone else’s body for self-gratification.


Love should be a giving for the benefit of others – this kind of lust is the using of others for selfish desires. Our society is saturated with this kind of attitude – I have a right to satisfy my own sexual desire – it this is not true of our society why then is the sex industry so prosperous?? Why have we seen the launch this week of two sex channel on satellite TV – Fantasy and playboy? They would not do it if there wasn’t a market for it.


Studies show that it is not just metal disturbed perverts who watch this stuff but Mr and Mrs Public.


Paul says we are to avoid such things – not just the acts but also the words and attitudes as well.

Avoid course joking, silly talk and filthy language. I enjoy good comedy but there is very little that one can watch with out there being overt or covert vulgarity. Double meaning and innuendo is part of so many programmes. Some as simply blatantly vulgar.


While we need to avoid these things we not fall into the rap that Christian have fallen into in the past – that of making out as if sex is dirty. Sex is wonderful gift from God – he created it to be valued and enjoyed and we must not allow Satan to deprive us of God’s good gifts. BUT it must be between husband and wife only. Any sexual activity outside of marriage is unacceptable.

BUT let me add that is not unforgivable. And if you have fall in this area God can and will forgive!


Rather than abusing God’s gifts – including sex – we need to thank him for them and not joke about them. “To joke about them is bound to degrade them; to thank God for then is the way to preserve their worth as the blessings of a loving creator.” Stott p.193


  1. c) The punishment to expect.


Ephesians 5:5-7 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a man is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (NIV)


There are many reasons in the Bible as to why Christians should abstain from immorality. We are created by God, we belong to Christ and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and not Paul adds another reason – God’s judgement of sin.


Those who are continually involved in immorality may feel quite secure and have no fear of judgement whatever BUT that is a false security for they will not escape detection, conviction and judgement forever.

The kingdom of God is a righteous kingdom from which all unrighteousness will be excluded.


Those who continually and habitually follow these kinds of practices cannot claim to be members of God’s kingdom.


1 Corinthians 6:9-10

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)


Such things should not characterise the children of God.


We need to be careful in our application of Paul’s teaching here. He is not saying that a person who has had a single immoral thought is thus disqualified from heaven forever. If that was the case then no one would get to heaven!!

For those who fall into sin and who subsequently are convict of there sin and repent there is forgiveness [1 John 1:9 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (NIV)]


In Paul day there were the beginnings of the teaching of gnosticism – dichotomy between body and spirit and only the spirit is important so what you do with your body doesn’t matter.

What Paul has in mind here are those who without shame or penitence pursue immoral and impure lives to the point where their desire are idolatrous – such people will have no part in the kingdom of God.


In the light of this do not be partners with such people. Not only must we not practise immorality we must also not be deceived into tolerating such things.


Paul does not mean that we should never talk to such people but rather is warning that we should not participate in these things with them. As Lot and his wife learned in Sodom, if you share in there practices with them you run the risk of sharing in their doom.




Paul goes on now in these verses to give another reason why Christians should live holy and pure lives and not get involved in immoral practices. He has given a future reason viz. the coming judgement of God against all ungodliness and sinfulness.

He now gives past and present reasons. The difference between what Christians once were and what we are now in Christ.


These verses are contrasting darkness and light -this symbolism is used often in scripture. Light representing that which is good and pure and godly – in fact God is light.

Notice that Paul does not say that they were in the darkness and are now in the light – this is true as we see in other places in the NT – BUT Paul says they were darkness and are now light. Not only has their environment change BUT their lives have changed from darkness to light.


Life in the darkness is described in Ephesians 4:17-19

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (NIV)


A Christian is no longer darkness but light and must therefore live accordingly.


  1. a) The character light demands.


Ephesians 5:8-10

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. (NIV)


In John’s gospel Jesus described himself as the light of the world John 8:12

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NIV)


And in Matthew’s gospel he said the following Matthew 5:14

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. (NIV)


For light to be light it must shine – Paul calls it FRUIT of LIGHT.

Goodness, righteousness and truth. It is perfectly justifiable to ask a Christian for evidence of their faith. There must be fruit. What good is an apple tree that never bears any apples. It is all very well have a wonderful testimony about your salvation in the past BUT what about NOW?


Assurance of salvation cannot be reliably determined by what happened in the past. “I sign a decision card at a Billy Graham rally in 1963!” SO WHAT??!!

Where there is life there will be evidence of life! Are you growing? Are you showing fruit?

Jesus said a branch that bears no fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire.

ILLUS.: Travelling on through Airports you usually have to go through security and your luggage is x-rayed. If you have nothing to hide you have no fear of this procedure.


Similarly Christians should not be afraid to be examined under the light of God’s word or the critical eye of the world. Unless of course we have something to hide.


2 Peter 1:5-11

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (NIV)


  1. b) The corruption light exposes.


Ephesians 5:11-14 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper,rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (NIV)


While the light produces the fruit of goodness and truth the Darkness is unfruitful, unproductive and barren. So instead of participating in that darkness these things should be exposed – show for what they are.


When the church of God behaves as light as it should do then it exposes those things which are unfruitful and shameful. It is easy to hide in the dark but not in the light.


The reason why Christian often shy away from this role is because it is very unpopular with those who practise shameful things.

We throw up our hands in horror and tut-tut about violence and explicit sex on TV, and a host of other things BUT what do we do about it? Have you ever complained to the BBC or ITV?

It is all very well bemoaning the state of our society and our country but Jesus said that his people were to be SALT and LIGHT – Salt was used to stop food going bad – it is the nature of meat to go bad unless it has a preservative in it. When meat goes bad we need to ask “Where is the preservative?” When society goes bad we need to ask “Where is the Church?”


On a personal level – We don’t have to walk around being critical – but by our lives are we affecting others. By saying no to the crooked business deal! By excluding yourself from smutty conversation! By refusing to get drawn into unkind gossip! – these things shed light in the darkness.


ILLUS.: Janet – midwife. A Doctor told a smutty joke in theatre and the others nurses [ not Christians] rebuked him for telling it in front of Janet.


When the light shines things are shown up for what they are

ILLUS.: In Middle East – shops dark – products taken outside to see if any defects.

Car windows – look clear until the sun comes out!!


Exposure have a negative connotation but Paul now gives the positive and ultimate reason as to why light must shine.

It is not just judgmental and condemnatory – Jesus came as the light of the world not too condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. There is an evangelistic purpose – the only way for darkness to go is for light to come.

ILLUS.: You can’t switch off the darkness you can only switch on the light!

The hope is that as people are exposed to the light – Jesus – they will see their need, repent and turn to Christ from salvation.


This is why Paul adds:   “Wake up, O sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”

By nature we are all spiritual asleep – death in transgressions and sin – living in spiritual darkness from which Christ comes to rescue us.

Conversion is nothing less than waking up, rising from the dead and being brought out of darkness into the light of Christ.

Proverbs 4:18 The path of the righteous is like the first light of dawn,shining ever brighter till the full light of day.


May God’s Holy Spirit enable us to live as Light!



Ephesians 5:1-14




  1. a) The Pattern to Follow [v1 – 2]






  1. b) The Practices to Avoid [v3 – 4]

        immoral & impure acts, words & thoughts


  1. c) The Punishment to expect [v5 – 7]

        no place in God’s kingdom




  1. a) The Character Light Demands [v8 – 10]

        goodness                     }

        righteousness       } pleases the Lord

        truth                      }


  1. b) The Corruption Light Exposes [v11 – 14]





… BUT Jesus gives life to anyone who repents!

Ephesians 4:12-16 – Body building






In our last study of the previous verses we looked at Christ as the one who gives gifts to the Church. Not only does he give gifts to individual people but he gives gifted individuals to the Church.

Paul emphasises that it is Christ who gives these various gifts 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,


Paul leaves us in no doubt as to the origin of these gifts nor that these gifts are plural indicating that the leadership of the Church is not the responsibility of one man. The leadership of a church should a team effort and it is for that very reason that we at Binscombe have Elders and Deacons. The gift of pastor does not create a separate office above the other elders – pastor is not a title it is a function. Within a church the size of Binscombe we need more than one person with the gift of shepherding [pastoring]. No one person can care for a congregation this size – not only is it impossible but it is also unbiblical.


There should always be a plurality of leadership within a Church under the Lordship of Christ.


Christ gives gifts of leadership for a reason and Paul develops this in the passage we come to now.




12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up [NIV]


The KJV puts it like this:

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

The KJV is very misleading and portrays the role of the leaders in a three-fold way:   a] perfecting the saints

b] doing works of service

c] edifying the body


The result of such an interpretation is that the leaders have the SOLE responsibility for the ministry of the church – this has gone a long way in the past to contribute towards the model of the Church where there is a strong distinction between clergy and laity.

Ministry then becomes what the minister does.


If we look at the NIV there is no comma after God’s people – this is the correct translation. If you have a comma in your Bible after the word People or saints in v.12 then cross it out, it should not be there.


The task of the leaders is not to do all the work themselves but to train and equip all the members to work in service for God.


So what is the model of the Church? – It is not a theatre where the leaders perform on stage an everyone claps [or boos] at the appropriate place. In some churches, sadly, the services resemble a performance rather than a time of worship.

Nor is the Church like a football match with 22 people in the pitch desperately in need of rest and 30 000 on the terraces desperately in need of exercise.


The task of the leaders is to train and equip the members to do the work of the ministry. To go back to a sporting analogy the role of the leaders is like that of a player-coach. Not a manager who sits in the stands and never gets into the game. But a player-coach who is training and doing. Teaching not only verbally but also by example.


There is an admonition here for those who are into leadership – esp. paid leadership [avoid full-time] – there is no room for a hierarchy of leadership that leaves the members in an inferior position. Nor is there room for the kind of one-man-band type minister where all ministry is in the hands of an individual who denies the people of God their rightful ministries.


The point that Paul is driving home in this passage is that every member of the Church is a minister. It is the role and responsibility of the leaders / teachers to train and equip the members for ministry.

Thus our church letterhead should look like this:-


Binscombe Church

Barnes/Loseley Rd Godalming Surrey GU7 3RF











Elders: John Bennett – Alan Davies – Gray Robinson


Deacons: Marion Davies – Paul De Vere – Helle De Vere – Roger Hall – Mick Howley – Antony Lucas – Stephen Owen – Philip Wakeman – Reg Woodhouse


Ministers: All the members


People would find such a letterhead strange but it would be entirely biblical. There is more to being a member of God’s Church than attendance at the Sunday morning service.


While it is the responsibility of the leaders to train, it is the responsibility of the members to be equipped. During the week every member should be engaged in a definite “ministry” — whether it is comforting the sick or bereaved, teaching, neighbourhood evangelism, child-minding for a single-Mum or a couple who need a break, cutting the hedge and the grass, inviting a friend or neighbour in for tea, giving a lift to someone who is without transport, giving a gift to someone in need ……. the list for ministry is endless.


All spiritual gifts a re service gifts. They are not given for selfish use but for unselfish use – i.e. for the service of other people.


In writing to the Church in Thessalonica Paul is critical of those who are not working – not because they can’t work but because they won’t ..


2 Thessalonians 3:11

11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. (NIV)

The purpose of this training and equipping is so that the body can be built-up. It is for the benefit of all – ” for the common good”. There are some gifts that Paul says are more important – the higher or greater gifts – primarily teaching gifts. This is not because the individual is better than another BUT because there is nothing that builds up the church like the Word of God thus teaching is vital.


Maybe you feel that your spiritual life is boring and dull – you feel ineffective – you are not sure what your gift is. What steps are you taking to find out? Unless you are involved with others no one will ever be able to say “I really think you have a gift for this or that!” So some of the things you try may not be your gift but if you never try how will you know. Very often the thing that God burdens a person for is the thing that they are gifted to do.


ILLUS.: Ed and Mel have a burden for the young people and they are clearly gifted in that area.


Another important thing to remember is that the effectiveness of our gifts is very much dependent upon the quality of our spiritual life. If you don’t spend time if the study of God’s Word and prayer, if our relationship with God is not right how can we expect God to bless our ministry.


There is clear responsibility on the leadership and on the members – all exercising our gifts so that the Church may be built up.




13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him …..




In his high priestly prayer shortly before his death, Jesus prayed for his disciples and one of the things he desired was that they “be one” – that there would be unity between them.

The slogan “United we stand divided we fall” is used in many situations and it is no less true within the church of Jesus Christ.


I often feel that we as churches in the West are in far greater danger of disunity that those Christian who live in areas where they are persecuted and harassed because of their faith.


ILLUS.: I remember being in Turkey in 1988 and meeting many Christians from all sorts of tradition. Armenian, Turks, Arabs who were RC, Orthodox {Greek and Armenian} – never once was I asked if I was a Baptist or Anglican or Charismatic … Those divisions were unimportant – We were fellow believers.


If Satan can’t attack the Church from with out then he will attack it from with in and one of the most effective tools in disunity. When a church is preoccupied with its internal problems it has no time for evangelism and missions or for caring and comforting. BUT only time for criticism and whinging!


We saw in v. 3 that unity is a given but that we need to work hard at maintaining that unity.

It is a unity that is held together by a common faith in Christ and a knowledge of Him. Not simply and intellectual knowledge but a heart-knowledge.

This unity can and should grow – the more we grow in faith and in the knowledge of the lord Jesus Christ the more united we will become. When disunity occurs the first place we must look is into our own hearts.




Maturity is the goal. Jesus wants us individually and corporately to become like him. This phrase become mature, is use to refer to a full-grown, physically robust man. He does not want us to remain babies – he wants us to grow up.


Babies are lovely but when babies don’t grow parents become extremely worried and take them to the doctor. Babies are designed to grow but in order for them to become mature adults they need to be fed [and they need to eat] they need training, nurture, love and discipline. The goal is for them to become fully functioning adults.


In the spiritual sense we need to grow and the goal is to become like Christ – he is the standard – he is the standard for the individual Christian and for the Church as the body of Christ. In one sense we can never be mature to the fullness of Christ because we will never be perfect this side of heaven, however, a high degree of maturity can be attained in the here and now.


Well, how is that possible? Not sitting around hoping to grow up but wholehearted striving to serve one another and the kingdom of God in general. It is in our serving one another and working together that we grow.


ILLUS.: One of the best ways to gets to know someone is working at a task together. That is why when people go away on a work party – or there is a particular event that they are working towards – it is often in those situations that we learn about and from each other.


Some of the best times of fellowship I have had with others is not while is a worship time but in a work time – doing some task together.





14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.


When there is unity and maturity then there will be stability. The picture in Paul’s mind is that of a ship on the high seas blown here and there by every change in the wind. Sadly there always seem to be those Christians who are easily led astray – when something new comes along that seems exciting and offering some new experience they run after it like children after the Pied Piper.

Immature Christians are the most gullible. It is amazing how many people will follow misdirected, corrupt and even heretical leaders.


ILLUS.: Remember the Jones Town affair of the 1970’s – the group who followed Jim Jones and eventually committed mass suicide in a South American jungle. Most of those people came from within the Church.


What were their churches teaching them – or probably not teaching them? The Jones Town affair is extreme – What about New Age – what about materialism – Are we mature enough not to be tricked and conned into accepting some of these beliefs.

False belief or heresy is very subtle – Paul recognises that here by the use of the words craftiness and scheming – heresy is not a denial of the truth, just a distortion of the truth.


ILLUS.: JW’s – Jesus Son of God but not God the Son. i.e. he is a created being not eternally God.

Or the Bible contains the Word of God – not all is the Word of God.


Paul speaks about stability in a negative way – he now goes on to speak in a positive way.


Charity [love]


v.15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him


The Church grows by truth and love – “speaking the truth in love” is a slightly narrow translation of the Greek phrase. The Greek makes no reference to our speech – Lit., it means “TRUTHING IN LOVE” – in other words maintaining, living, doing the truth.


We need people who at all costs will maintain the truth – certainly in our day we need that – but sometime such people are conspicuously lacking in love.


ILLUS.: I was involved in one church where a group became obsessed with a particular brand of theology – the would sit in the front row and make copious notes of the sermon with the express purpose of tearing it to pieces. They thrived on arguing with anyone who did not agree with them. They split the Church.


Then there are those who are so concerned about maintaining brotherly love that they will sacrifice even the central truths of the Christian Faith so as not to upset anyone and we end up with a watered down, wishy-washy gospel that is hardly recognisable as the gospel.


Both positions are unbalanced and unbiblical. Paul calls for a holding of both in tension. TRUTH IN LOVE. Peter says the same thing is a slightly different ways

in 2 Peter 3:18 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Unity, maturity, stability and charity are the ingredients for Attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.




grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The human body is an amazing machine – with all its blood vessels and ligaments, bones and muscles – so too is the body of Christ.


The emphasis in these verses is on the whole body made up of many parts – The whole depends on the individuals parts each fulfilling the function for which they were designed.


From time to time someone will say to me “Why doesn’t the Church do this … or that …” The Church is not a nebulous body out there somewhere – the Binscombe Church is us – we are it.

We belong together because we belong to Christ.

And we are to grow together and build together. That will only happen when every part is doing its work.


ILLUS.: Briefly look at the way the Church grew in ACTS 2

SEE OHP – [1] they received the word gladly. v.41 [2] they were baptised. v.41 [3] they were added to the church. v.41 [4] they were instructed by the church leaders. v.42 [5] they continued in fellowship with the church. v.42-46 [6] they reached out into the community. v47. [7] they grew in numbers daily v.47.


OHP “How the Biblical Church grows!”


OHP “Normal Church life!”




Ephesians 4:12 – 16




                                TO THE CHURCH [v12]

      to train and equip for service

      so that the whole Church can grow



                        TO THE CHURCH [v13-15a]

      Unity     – in faith & knowledge of Christ

      Maturity – to the standard of Christ himself

      Stability – in the face of false teaching

      Charity  – “truthing” in love



                        TO THE CHURCH [v15b-16]

      belonging together }    

      building together          }    

      growing together          }    

                  Christ causes the ultimate growth

                  Christ exercises the ultimate authority


                              … each members must work




Galatians 2:20 – How best to understand myself



Mark 8v34; Galatians 2v20




There is no topic that interests us more than ourselves. In the last few decades there have been more books written, more courses run and more programmes presented about the ‘self’ than probably any other time in history. We are supposed to have a greater understanding of psychology and the ‘self’ than any previous generation yet we are more lonely, experience more broken relationships, have more emotional illnesses, etc.


With all this information about ‘self’ you would think that we would have a clear and balanced view of who we are. Yet there seem to be an increasing number of us who suffer from a low self-image or have an inflated self-image.


There are many that suffer from a low self-image – “I am a worm mentality!” “I don’t like myself!”

Sometimes there appears to be no reason other times the reason can be apparent – a deprived childhood, a recent tragedy of being unwanted or unloved. The pressures of a modern competitive society don’t help. Financial pressures, racial and sexual prejudice, job stresses, can undermine anyone’s confidence. Depersonalising people as numbers in a computer doesn’t help self worth very much either.


An over-reaction to this depersonalising of individuals is the movement in the opposite direction that elevates the ‘self’ to levels approaching deity.

“Be yourself! Express yourself! Fulfil yourself!”


The philosophy is that if we believe in ourselves enough, then we can be whatever we want to be. This belief in ‘self’ has risen to religious level where self is the object of worship.

Those who promote this view hold to the belief that human nature is intrinsically good – [Eric Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May, Carl Rogers] – self-potential, self-fulfilment, self-actualisation, self-awareness, self-assertiveness etc.


John Piper quotes a limerick about self-absorption that goes like this:

There once was a nymph named Narcissus,

Who thought himself very delicious;

So he stared like a fool

At his face in a pool,

And his folly today is still with us.



Many Christians have sort to substantiate this view by quote Jesus words the we are “to love your neighbour as yourself”

But such a view is a false impression of what Jesus meant, for three reasons:

  1. Grammatically – Jesus never spoke of three commands Mark 12:30-31  The First command30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (NIV) Jesus knew that we naturally do love ourselves and that we should at the very least “do to others as we would have them do to us” [Matt.7v12] “Self-love is a fact to be recognised and a rule to be used not a virtue to be commended”- John Stott.


  1. Linguistically – the word for love is agapê – this means self-sacrifice in the service of others. It can’t possible therefore be self-directed. We can never talk of self-love as agape love – it is a nonsense!


  1. Theologically – Self- love and a preoccupation with self is portrayed in the bible as sin. 2 Timothy 3:1-5  1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (NIV)


How then are we to think about ourselves so that we do not too low a view of ‘self’ [self-hate] or too high a view of ‘self’ [self-love]?


Paul gives us a clue in Romans 12:3 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, … [have a right estimate of yourself in relation to God]


The cross of Christ – it teaches us about self-denial and self-worth!




Jesus’ invitation is very clear – Mark 8:34

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (NIV)

Jesus had just told his followers in v.31 that he must go to the cross and now he tells his followers that they must take up their cross – daily!

He goes on to explain that if a disciple is not willing to take up his cross daily then he is not worthy of the name.


For us the cross has become a religious symbol – in the first century it was a symbol of execution. Every criminal condemned to execution would carry on his back his own cross to the place of execution.

John’s gospel tells us that Jesus “carrying his own cross, went out to the Place of the Skull”.


What does Jesus mean when he says “Take up your cross and follow me”?


To take up your cross means to go to your death. Jesus clearly does NOT mean that we are to die to pay for our sins. That Jesus did and we can’t repeat that.

Bearing our cross is neither a difficult husband nor a cantankerous wife!!!


Does Jesus mean martyrdom? It seems unlikely as he says ‘anyone’ – it is too broad.


Self-denial is not simply denying myself life’s luxuries like chocolate, fancy cars and luxury holidays [it may include these]

It actually means denying or disowning myself – renouncing my right to having my own way if indeed I have such a right in the first place.


Paul – Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

Paul is saying “I no longer live for myself – I have die to myself – I now life for God”

Galatians 5:24 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (NIV)

My natural appetite to satisfy my pride and myself are to be put to death on the cross in order that I may more fully follow Christ.


Confusion can be caused because when the NT refers to death and resurrection with respect to the experience of believers it does so in three different ways, viz. legal, physical and moral.

  1. LEGAL – when a person believes in Christ he/she is rescued from the power of sin and brought into new life in Christ. By union with Christ we share the benefits of his death [forgiveness of sin] and his resurrection [ the power of new life and freedom].

I have been crucified – died to my old life – I now live for God – raised to new life. This is a Christians legal standing before God – it is called justification by faith.


  1. PHYSICAL – in 2 Cor.4:9-10 Paul talks about “carrying about I our bodies the dying of Christ so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our bodies” – What does he mean? In Paul’s case, and with many Christians today, there was the threat of physical death through persecution. BUT added to that there was the physical frailty and mortality of life itself that is common to all people.

We are all in varying stages of decay and dying – BUT for the Christian who has the resurrection power of Christ we are being daily renewed.


  1. MORAL – This is the death to self – taking up your cross, denying yourself, living a crucified life. To begin with we come to Christ in repentance and faith but then we continue to deliberately “put the old nature” to death. Our old life [old nature] is that which was controlled by sin and our fleshly desires. Our new life [new nature] is that which is spiritual and controlled by the Holy Spirit.

Our old nature wants us to be selfish and satisfy our natural desires while the Holy Spirit wants us to live totally for God and others.


Someone who is crucified had abandoned any personal future plans. A condemned criminal took up his cross under duress. The disciple of Christ takes up the cross, willingly and out of love for the master.

It is a continual attitude of saying to Jesus and my Lord “Not what I want but what you want


READ – Romans 6:1-14 {NLT}


What we have said about the ‘self’ so far is true. However, while our human nature is sinful, it is not worthless.

When we say that human nature is sinful in every area we are not saying that it is wholly as bad as it can be BUT that it is not wholly as good as it should be.   [J I Packer]




Denying ‘self’ must be balanced with affirming ‘self’ [not to be confused with self’ love]


There is no way that reading the NT we get the impression that Jesus had a negative attitude to people.


  1. His Teaching – it is true that Jesus condemned the evil and ugliness of the human heart BUT he placed a high value on human life. Matthew 6:26 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (NIV)

People are the crowning glory of God’s creation and therefore of infinite value – we are made in God’s image!

ILLUS.: A young Black American who had endured discrimination and suffered from feeling of being inferior had these words on a poster in his room “I’m me and I’m good ‘cause God don’t make junk”.

It may not be good grammar but it is good theology!!


  1. His Attitude – When we see how Jesus dealt with people there is no way we can conclude that he considered anyone worthless. On the contrary he went out of his way to honour those the world dishonoured. He welcomed little children – he gave hope to Samaritans and Gentiles. He touch lepers – his friends were the despised of the day like tax collectors, prostitutes. Wherever he went he acknowledge the value of human beings and loved them – and in loving them further increased their sense of self-worth.


  1. His Mission – Why did Jesus come? “Not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” Nothing more clearly shows how much value Jesus place on people than that he was will to die for them. When we look at the cross we see the true worth of a human being.

As Wm Temple said “My worth is what I am worth to God; and that is a great deal, for Christ died for me


In the Cross of Christ we have a picture of the incredible worth and value of the human self but also a picture of how to deny or crucify the ‘self’.

How are we to reconcile these two views of the self?


We are complex creatures – we are created in the image of God – but because of the Fall [sin] that image is damaged / defaced. It is that fallen self / sinful self that we are to deny, to crucify, to disown.


There is much that we are to value: the ability to reason, to love, our artistic and creative abilities, our family life, our sexuality both male and female, our awareness of God and the ability to worship, etc. All these things are part of our created humanness. Yes these have been polluted by sin BUT we can still positively affirm the good – and so we should. After all Christ came to redeem it!


On the other hand, what we are to deny / turn away from is our moral perversity,

our irrational thinking, our blurring of sexual roles, our lack of self-control, our lack of love in family life, our bad behaviour, our laziness, our pollution and damage of the environment, our proud individualism, our refusal to worship God his way. All this and much, much more is part of our human fallenness. It was this that Christ came to destroy all the bad / all the sin.


Every person is both created and fallen BUT for the Christian there is a further dimension. We are created and fallen and also redeemed!


Because of redemption there is more to affirm and deny.

Christians are not only created in God’s image but also re-created. ‘If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation’. Every aspect of our being and character is being renewed. Becoming a Christian is a transforming experience – it changes our self-image.

If you are a Christian and you suffer from a poor self-image if you are one who feels worthless or useless and unloved then be assure you are of infinite value and worth to God – Jesus Die for you!


The hymn we sang ‘Beneath the cross of Jesus’ is a lovely hymn but it has one line of bad theology:    And from my smitten heart, with tears,

Two wonders I confess, –

The wonder of his glorious love,

And my own worthlessness.

NOT worthlessness BUT unworthiness! Unworthy we are but not worthless – we are of great worth because we are created in God’s image and redeemed by God’s Son.

I am of Great value because I am love by God.


If through redemption there is more to affirm. There is also more to deny.

We certainly must deny ourselves in areas where things are sinful in themselves.

BUT there is a deeper level than that. Christians are called to follow Christ – indeed that is what the name Christian means.

Jesus, whose humanity was perfect and not fallen, denied himself.

Philippians 2:6     6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (NIV)

Jesus enjoyed all the glory of heaven but he did not selfishly cling to it. He gave up his privileged status, he gave up his glory – it was his by right BUT he could not retain it and at the same time fulfil his destiny as God’s Messiah.

Jesus denied himself and went to the cross – willingly.


That same principle is called for in his followers. Jesus calls all his disciples to follow him in costly service. Paul did – he gave up married life, financial support, comfort and security – he denied himself these things not because they are wrong in themselves BUT in order to fulfil Christ’s calling.

There are many Christians today who give up marriage, prosperous careers, and comfortable homes in order to serve Christ in the inner city, in foreign countries, in identifying with the poor, etc. Not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with marriage, a good career or a comfortable home but because there is a higher call / higher cause.



Sixteen years ago my Home Church in SA sent Nancy McElroy, a single school teacher who was then in her late thirties, to Kenya with Africa Inland Mission to work amongst the Masai. The Masai are a nomadic cattle people numbering about half a million. They live in the area south of Nairobi within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, located in neighbouring Tanzania. For fifteen years Nancy has lived and worked amongst the Masai. She is the only foreign missionary who speaks Masai fluently and she has a love for the people that is powerful.

Nancy picked us up in Nairobi the day after the SIM conference and we made the torturous three hour journey over terrible roads to her little home in a Masai village in the heart of Masailand. Just before sunset we turned off one dirt road onto another dirt road onto another dirt track, and in a few minutes arrived at Nancy’s home — a tin rondavel, a store room, a classroom, an outside bathroom in which you stand and splash water over yourself from a bucket, and a longdrop toilet! Her Masai co-worker, Ngoto Tino, and her family live right next door in typical Masai huts. We were met by Ngoto Tino, half a dozen little Masai kids,
a skinny, mangy Masai dog and several hens with their chickens. It wasn’t long before the African sun painted the sky pink and purple, and by the time we had unloaded the 4×4 night had fallen.

Inside Nancy’s little home lit by a battery charged by a solar panel on the roof we prepared our evening meal of Kenyan vienna sausages and fresh salad and rolls, with canned peaches for desert — all purchased that morning in Nairobi. As we ate, Nancy informed us that it was caterpillar season and that caterpillars from the tree above her house dropped onto her roof and sometimes found their way through the holes in the roof. While we were eating supper several fell ontothe table and onto the floor around us. At one point I exclaimed, “There’s a
caterpillar in my salad!”

Around the table that evening Nancy poured out her heart to us. This term has taken its toll on her health. Living with the people and eating their food has resulted in her suffering over the years with typhus, typhoid, malaria, brucellosis, ulcers, T.B., parasitic amoeba, and chronic bronchitis. She is currently unwell, suffering from recurring fever with aches and twitches at
night which rob her of a good nights sleep, and looks much older than her fifty three years. She is on medication at the moment (in fact she has been on antibiotics most of this term) and is coming home to SA for home assignment in June. She hopes to complete two more terms amongst theMasai before she retires.

Her greatest concern, however, is not for her health but for the health of the little Masai churches, consisting mostly of women, that she has been instrumental in establishing throughout the region. In recent days some of those churches have been invaded by young men teaching a brand of wild charismatic doctrine. Women are not readily listened to in Masai culture, and the few men in the churches are too weak to stand up to these young
heretics. Confusion is reigning, and what Nancy has taken years to build is in some cases being torn apart by error and extreme.

The following morning Nancy took us to a school where she taught a Scripture class. (By the way, the children from her village walk 10 kms each way to school each day, and they have to walk up to 5 kms each way to get water because they haven’t had rain in the area since last June.) Nancy teaches Scripture at three schools each week and leads six Bible studies a week.

Later that morning as we were on our way through the bush to visit a lady who Nancy has considered to be a pillar in one of the churches, we were met by a young evangelist pushing his bicycle. He informed Nancy and Ngoto Tino that that same lady had called the witch doctor to her home to help them. Nancy was shattered. We sat in the 4×4 under a thorn tree
and discussed what to do. It was amazing to listen to the godly Biblical wisdom of the illiterate Ngoto Tino. After praying we set off, and not far down the road we met the witch doctor and the woman’s husband, confirming what had been said. Upon arrival at the woman’s village Nancy and Ngoto Tino confronted her but she denied it. They could tell that she was lying.
Another disappointment. Another reminder of the reality of the powers of darkness. Another reminder that missionaries are engaged in spiritual warfare. Another reminder of our need to pray.
We don’t need to go to Africa to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ – there are more than enough opportunities in the UK. [But don’t rule out Africa, or anywhere else!]

Maybe for some it is pursuing a prosperous career in order to serve the cause of the gospel better NOT to feather your own nest.

We need to spend a whole sermon on self-sacrificing service and love.


How best to understand myself?

I have both dignity and depravity! Dignity because I was created and have been re-created in the image of God. Depravity because I am fallen and sinful and rebellious.                  The self I must affirm is my created redeemed self.

The self I must deny is my fallen / sinful self.


Where do I learn to evaluate and understand myself correctly?

Only as I stand before the cross of Christ.

The cross tell me how much God values me, for Jesus loved me and died for me.

The cross tells me how sinful and ugly I am, for it cost Jesus his life.


Standing before the cross we see simultaneously our worth and our unworthiness, since we perceive both the greatness of his love in dying and the greatness of our sin in causing him to die” [John Stott]



  1. Christianised self-absorption.

False love of self.

Jesus does not tell us to “love ourselves” – Mark12v30

              For three reasons:    * Grammar

                                                * Linguistics

* Theology


  1. Denying Self.

“deny self, take up [your] cross & follow me” Mark 8v34

“I have been crucified with Christ …” – Phil.2v6

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the 

  sinful nature” – Gal.5v24


      Death & resurrection has three applications

to the Christian’s experience.

  • Legal
  • Physical
  • Moral


  1. Affirming Self.

Jesus affirmed the value of people in

  • His teaching
  • His attitude
  • His mission

“My worth is what I am worth to God, and that is a great deal, for Christ died for me”Wm Temple


I must deny my fallen/ sinful self …

…  but affirm my created redeemed self