The following is a summary of the sermon I preached on Sunday, January 8, 2017.
Part 1 of Deep Love. Ephesians 4:30-32
January 8, 2017. The Cornerstone Church.
Stuart Wilson has found a lost city. Fifteen years ago, he took his life savings and bought a 4 acre field in Wales. And began digging. So far, he and his team of volunteers have unearthed the remains of 8 houses from the 13th century.
Trellech was an ancient industrial city - making military equipment. It used to have a population of 10,000 people. But then it was attacked, abandoned and buried. When he bought it, it was a farmer’s field.
Guess why Wilson thought the city was there. Moles! Moles were digging up the land and pushing pieces of medieval pottery up through the mole holes.
We have all buried stuff in our lives - hurts, disappointments, regrets, - all kinds of painful memories that accumulate under the surface year after year. They sit there waiting. Then, when we’re in an argument with our friend or brother or parent or spouse, all the buried hurts get pushed up to the surface as bitterness, anger, or abuse.
The Bible shows us how to heal past hurts so that they don’t get buried and they don't boil over. We can work towards positive, happy, and healthy relationship, if we follow the teaching in Ephesians 4:30-32. The Bible teaches a simple three step problem-solving process:
REMEMBER - REPENT - REPLACE
A. REMEMBER - verse 30.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” - Ephesians 4:30
When we trusted in Jesus as our God and Savior, he made a covenant with us and sealed it with his Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance from God (Ephesians1:13). The Holy Spirit of God is present and powerful in our lives. He is living and active in us. You might look at your relationship mess and say it’s impossible for this to ever get better. But nothing is impossible with God. The Spirit will help us if we let him.
The Spirit of God heals our hurts. Isaiah 61:3 paints a beautiful picture of God restoring his people after a season of sinful rebellion against him. The Lord works in their lives to ... "to give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." I love the Holy Spirit. He is the God of new life and fresh starts.
The Spirit of God heightens our relationship skills:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control …” - Galatians 5:22-23
The Spirit puts these characteristics into our lives. It’s not natural. It’s supernatural. Even if you’re by nature angry, he can make you peaceful. He can make you patient and kind and faithful and so on. These are essential "skills" for creating healthy relationships.
Remember the Holy Spirit is present and powerful in your life. Don’t work on your problems on your own. Trust in Jesus. Welcome the Holy Spirit. Let him help you.
B. REPENT - verses 30-31
“Repent” has a bad reputation and is misunderstood. But it just means “make a change.” Can we agree that we need it - we need change?
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, … 31 Let all bitterness (resentment) and wrath (rage) and anger and clamor (shouting) and slander (abusive) be put away from you, along with all malice.”
Relationships fall into predictable, destructive cycles:
The Unhealthy Conflict Cycle: Bitterness over past hurts and disappointments leads to seething internal anger. When a problem comes up, that anger boils over into rage and shouting and abusive language. And finally, you hate each other.
For example: June and Jack have been married for six years. It’s January and they’re having their annual “discussion” about the credit card bill. Both of them dread this because it always leads to a fight. It’s starts out about money, but soon June and Jack are flinging past hurts and disappointments at each other. And they’re shouting and insulting and clenching teeth and fists. What a mess.
Unresolved conflict grieves the Holy Spirit. It breaks his heart. And when the Spirit is grieved, he withdraws.
“Israel rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” - Isaiah 63:10
The principle here is: The Spirit will NOT help us to fight with each other. We’re on our own for that. Therefore, we must make changes because we need the Spirit’s help.
In some ways, this is the toughest step, but it is absolutely necessary for healthy relationships. Make the decision to change. Choose to do what it takes to resolve conflicts and to heal your relationships.
Nothing’s going to change until you decide to change. It starts with you.
C. REPLACE - verse 32
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate), forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
The third step tells us what and how to change. Verse 32 tells us to replace all the hurts, frustrations, and disappointments in our relationships with love and forgiveness.
The Monday before Christmas, I forgot to take out the trash. Everyone came home that weekend. There were six of us in the house and there was more trash than normal because of special meals, gift boxes, and so on. The trash was piling up in the bin and on the garage floor. It was a stinky mess waiting for the next Monday trash pickup.
To break the unhealthy conflict cycle, we must TAKE OUT THE TRASH. We cannot have loving relationships if we hold onto all those hurts, frustrations, and disappointments. Don’t let them pile up and stink up your relationships.
How in the world, can we love and forgive people when they hurt us? Answer: take it to the cross. Take out the trash and dump it at the cross. The key is at the end of verse 32: “as God in Christ forgave you.”
We’ve all failed God in so many ways. But God came to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, who loved us and showed us compassion. God took all our sin, shame, failures, and guilt to the cross and dumped it there.
God does not bury his hurts. He takes them all to the cross. And that’s what we must do too. Let Jesus pay for them there. Replace the unhealthy conflict cycle with love and forgiveness at the cross.
Conflict is natural - you don’t have to work at it. It’s part of every relationship. On the other hand, conflict resolution is NOT natural at all. It is absolutely supernatural.
The Holy Spirit is present and powerful here right now. He’ll help you take your relationship hurts to the cross and leave them there.
Take some time right now to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. If you’ve never trusted in Jesus as your God and Savior, that is the first help the Spirit wants to give you. Then, ask him to help you follow the three steps: remember, repent, replace.
Pray to him right now.