The Ruling Principle for All Relationships

Ephesians, Volume 3

Todd WagnerMar 16, 1996
Ephesians 5:21

In This Series (9)
Our Adversary, Our Armor, Our Obligations
Todd WagnerApr 28, 1996
New Relationships with Each Other Because of Our Relationship with Him
Todd WagnerApr 14, 1996
God's Will and Way for His Glory and Your Good in Marriage
Todd WagnerMar 30, 1996
The Ruling Principle for All Relationships
Todd WagnerMar 16, 1996
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 2
Todd WagnerMar 3, 1996
Be Filled - Not Fooled, part 1
Todd WagnerFeb 11, 1996
How Do You Define Love? The Divine Way or the Deceiver's Way?
Todd WagnerFeb 4, 1996
Walking in the Light: What it Looks Like and Why We Do It
Todd WagnerJan 14, 1996
A New Life Resolution for a New Year
Todd WagnerDec 31, 1995

Father, we come to you again, and we thank you for just the opportunity to encourage each other with worship and encourage each other with just a sincere love. I pray, Father, we would do more than just have casual conversation of encouragement and smiles but that would be really the pattern of our lives.

Tonight, now, we go to your Word. As we said earlier, we don't want the world to influence us. We want the Word of God to direct our steps. We want to come now, and the right act of worship is to respond correctly to who you are as you have revealed yourself in Scriptures, so we come again tonight to remind us of how we should live in right response to you. I pray in Christ's name, amen.

We've talked the last two or three weeks about this one little phrase in Ephesians, chapter 5. What's it mean to be filled with the Spirit? What is the mark of being filled with the Spirit? How do you do it? There are two places in Scripture we are specifically told that Jesus did something for an example to us. Now we know, if Christ was God in the flesh, which is what we have traditionally held as a church, if he is the Word of God made flesh, then we know that not only what he said but everything he did is inspired, and we can learn from it.

There are two places specifically the Holy Spirit saw fit to record in the Bible for it to say, "This he did as an example for you." In fact, once, it's Peter speaking, and he says, "This was done as an example for you." The second time is earlier to John 13, and Jesus said, "I have set you an example…" The first one I mentioned by Peter comes in 1 Peter, chapter 2. Don't turn there. I'll simply tell you what it says.

It's in a section that deals with how you as a believer should go under or bear up under suffering, and it talks about how, when you are treated unjustly, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you because you are of the same ilk as Jesus, and Jesus was treated unjustly. It says, in fact, that you should bear up under suffering the way Jesus did. It says he suffered this way as an example for you. The first place I want to make a point tonight is to tell you that, if you're going to do things God's way, one of the things you're going to need to do is learn to suffer.

It is an example to suffer for the way you act when you act in accordance with what the Bible says. In fact, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…" It's a fact, so you should suffer as a Christian somewhat. The world should hate you. It should see you as an enemy because the world is countercultural to what you are about. You are an alien and a stranger, an ambassador from a foreign land.

The other place is in John 13. We may look at it briefly together a little bit later, but it's when Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples, and he says, "I have set you an example…" He did what only a servant did, so the example that was left is the example of a suffering servant. When you put those two together and you combine the two places, one where the Lord himself said, "This is an example. Do this," and the other where Peter said, "He did this as an example for you," the one thing a Christian knows he should be about is to be a suffering servant.

What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? I've told you before that I think Satan is absolutely thrilled to death if we focus on the gifts, if we think that the evidence that we are filled with the Spirit… Again, I'll give you two synonyms for that. One is to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, and the other one I mentioned was that you should be filled with the wisdom of Christ.

To be filled with the Spirit and to be filled with the wisdom of Christ and knowledge of his will are synonymous, that you should transform yourself by the renewing of your mind…again synonymous. That's what it means to be filled with the Spirit. By the way, I'll just make a little comment right here. When it says be filled, it is something that happens in the present.

If you are a person who is walking in the Spirit, which is what every one of us as Christians wants to do, how do you walk in the Spirit? Well, again, I'll tell you, just like it says in Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, "You put one foot in front of the other, and soon, you'll be walking out the door." Walking is something you do step by step, moment by moment.

If you say to somebody, "They are in a good marriage!" What you mean is that, right then, there's love and devotion that is evident in that relationship currently. You don't say, "You know what? When those two were younger, when they were engaged, when they first got married, I've never seen a couple so in love." What you're saying then is, "That was an ideal relationship." We don't want anybody to say that about us as Christians.

Likewise, you don't sit there and say, "You know what? If that couple would just begin to treat each other the way that people who are in love should treat each other, I mean, that would be an unbelievable relationship because look at all the dynamics that are there!" You would say, in that case, what there is, is hope for a good relationship.

We don't want anybody to have to say that one's life could only be characterized as a Christian as being there is hope for that individual that they could be all that God intended them to be. It's great that hope is there for us as Christians and for you in your marriage and for you in all your relationships, but what you want somebody to be able to say to you when you're married is, "That is a good marriage," meaning that love and devotion are present.

What you want somebody to say is that that person is filled with the Spirit. That doesn't mean you acted according to what God would have you do yesterday. It doesn't mean that you could tomorrow. It means, right then, you are characterized by being devoted to what Christ would have you be devoted to, that you are renewed. You're not thinking as you would think. You're thinking as God would have you think, and you are filled with the attitude of Christ, the knowledge of his will. That's what it means to be filled with the Spirit.

I think Satan would absolutely love it for you to again be convinced that, if you are filled with the knowledge of his will, what you will do is slide into a closet or, in public, stand up and speak in an ecstatic language that nobody could understand, that nobody could interpret; that he would love for you to laugh hilariously, that he would love for you to give a word of knowledge and he would love for you to speak in prophecy and think that and that alone is evidence that you are filled with the Spirit.

Well, I am grateful for the gifts God has given us, but we are a congregation that markedly focuses not on the gifts. We use the gifts as God makes them known among us, and every single one of you has gifts. I doubt seriously (I just don't see it happening) that any of you have any of the miraculous gifts as they are revealed in Scripture, but by the way, it says that…

I'll just say it this way. We are a body that doesn't focus on the gifts. We're a body that wants to focus primarily on the fruits. Jesus says you're going to know a tree by…what? Its fruit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at you and know you are filled with the Spirit when those things are manifested in your life.

I will tell you this. Satan can reproduce the gifts, especially if the gifts are not being done the way the Bible says they should be done. One of the major problems I have with the issue of (again, I'll share with you honestly) the whole prayer language thing and speaking in tongues is that anybody can do what Christians say they're doing when they're speaking with the "…tongues of men and angels…" That's a place they'll go or to Romans 8, where they speak in groanings. A person who is not filled with the Holy Spirit can speak in a language you can't understand.

What was an act of God revealed in the Bible was that, when these men stood up and gave praise and glorified God and his mighty acts in a language they previously had not known, the people out there knew it or in some cases where no one out there knew it, somebody else was given the ability to interpret it, and when they did it, every time they spoke, they spoke in a way that magnified and glorified God.

In fact, if you want to look (I know we're not here tonight to talk about speaking in tongues), Isaiah 28 in verses 13 and following made it clear that, when that happened in Jerusalem, it was a sign of judgment to the Jews, specifically as, "The reason there are foreign tongues in your land is because you as a people have rejected God."

Initially in Isaiah that was going to be because the Assyrians were going to come down and wipe you out and later the Babylonians, so you were going to hear somebody not speaking in your familiar dialect next to you, but they're going to be telling you about how they're going to tear your head off in Assyrian.

Later, what you have is that these men were in your land. They were preaching about how you could have a right relationship with God, not in the Hebrew dialect or, in that day, the Aramaic dialect so you might know it. It was to say, "You rejected God, so it's the Gentile who needs to know, so I'm going to speak in the Gentile's language because you rejected God, and as a sign of judgment, which started when Jesus spoke in Matthew 12, I'm taking the mantle, the keys of the kingdom from you, and I'm passing them on to another nation, a nation that will be faithful with them."

Boy, Satan can get you fooled. He can have you use… There are certain miraculous things that Satan can do that, if you think that's evidence of being filled with the Spirit, I may not argue with you that you're filled with a spirit, but I would have a problem with you on what sprit you claim to be filled with.

I will tell you, though, how you can know for sure that, if you are acting this way you are not filled with the unholy spirit but that you are filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Turn with me to Ephesians 5. Let's just look at it. We're going to finish up through verse 21 tonight, and this is a prelude to where we're going to go the next 2 or 3 weeks.

You're going to get in a little section here next week with me that everybody loves to talk about. It is the issue of men and women and their roles in relationship. After husband and wife, you come across parent and child. After that, you'll come across master and servant or employer and employee, if you will.

We have to lead up to it again tonight, so reading with me it says in verse 18, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation…" It's the issue of control. It's the easiest way to remember it. "Don't be controlled by wine. Be controlled by the Holy Spirit." "…be filled with the Spirit…" When you are, this is what should happen. "…speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord…"

By the way, do you know that Christian faith is one of the only faiths that has the kind of singing we do? The Christian faith is a singing faith. I know a guy, a good friend of mine, Ramesh Richard who is a prof down at Dallas Seminary. His father came to faith by Christians singing to their God just like we spent an hour and a half doing last week.

So many of y'all were encouraged, even as I was, to have just an hour and a half of good, uninterrupted worship, to just go, "Man, that was just good to hear people singing praises in many different ways and many forms, creatively worshiping our God." It is an amazing thing how that draws people. "What are you guys so happy about? What are you so excited about?"

Ramesh's father was walking down the streets of India, and he heard a bunch of folks singing, and he stuck his head in to see what they were so happy about. It just so happened they were happy that they'd come to know a God who loved them enough to come and humble himself to take on the flesh and to live a sinless life, who died the death of a sinner that they may not have to, and that made them sing.

They were filled with joy, not because their circumstances were much better off than anybody else in their specific cast in society in India but because they knew ultimately there would be a God who did not distinguish based on your past and your family heritage but distinguished based on how you responded to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were singing, and it drew men to them.

Look at the next one. We mentioned this. Verse 20: "…always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…" You should be a thankful individual when you're filled with the Spirit because you know that, no matter what's gone on has come through the hands of a loving God who works all things to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

The thing I love about the book of Job and we forget so often is that Job never cursed the Chaldeans, the people who came and ransacked his wealth and slaughtered his children. He never cursed the Babylonians, but he knew exactly where that stuff came from, and in the midst of it, he sought to stay still before God.

He wasn't thrilled about what happened, but at first, he just threw himself at the mercy of the Lord, and he said, "God, I don't see how you're in it. I don't see what you're doing or how this could be for good, but the fact is, it came through your hand. This is not me being jumped in a dark alley by a bully because my bodyguard fell asleep. You're in this. Because of the fact that I know you are loving and you are wiser than me, I will be thankful, not because I see what you see but because I know who you are, that the ever-present why is best and only answered by the Everlasting Who."

I love what Spurgeon said. "God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand [can't see what he's up to] we must trust His heart." Boy, there's probably stuff in your life going on this week where you can't trace God's hand. You have no idea why God's doing what he's doing in your life, why he's allowing that junk, that pain, that temptation, that defeat, that anger, that whatever it might be the world's pouring out on you. You don't know why it's there. I would just ask you tonight to trust his heart if you can't trace his hand.

There are things that I can go, "Man, this is obviously of God. God is in it." My wife has been out of town for three days. She's going to be out of town for two more days doing some retreat stuff she was committed to, and I can see God's hand in the person who has been available to me to help me with my kids today.

It's obvious to me that that's good and from God. There are other things, though, where sometimes I go, "I don't see how God is in that," but I can be thankful, knowing that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. Now catch this next one in verse 21.

It says, "…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." What this little section here does… He just spilled out to be filled with the Spirit, and then you'll be joyful. You'll be thankful, and you will be a servant to others out of reverence or in right response to Jesus Christ. You will follow his example. What this is right here… What we're beginning to look at is the ruling principle for all relationships.

You know, there is a word… Kind of like, when you look at Fonzie on Happy Days, I remember Fonzie had trouble with two words. He could not say, "Sorry," and The Fonz could not admit he was wrong. He just couldn't get the words out. Finally, Richie got him to say, "I'm wrong" and then later "I'm sorry." The Fonz had a hard time with that.

We have a hard time with a word that's going to show up now a bunch in the next 20 verses. The word is submit, especially those who speak with a little bit higher pitch than I do. You're kind of like The Fonz. You go out there, and you go, "I'm supposed to subm… to a man. You have to be kidding me!" I want you to know that, before it gets into verse 22, verse 21 comes before it. Read it with me. It's great insight. "…and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ."

That word subject is the same word that appears in verse 22 that men love to abuse in a relationship. Look at verse 22. "Wives, be subject to your own husbands…" Wait a minute. Back there in verse 21, it just got through saying that we are to be subject to one another. Let me just tell you, what you're going to have starting in verse 22 and what we're going to look at next week is wives and their husbands and what God intends for a marriage relationship to be.

That right there in verses 22… Write down three words. Those three words are this: order, form, and (then I'll give you an S) structure. What he's got from 22 down is the structure of how marriage will work. This is the structure of how a parent-child relationship will work. This is the structure of an employer-employee relationship. This is the form of it. This is the order that is there, but it is not… What 22 and following talk about is the necessary order for there to be harmony, and you have to have order.

I need to tell you this. The rule, though, for how you handle the order is this. This is how you operate. It's verse 21. This is how you function. There's your F to go with form. The function is in verse 21, and the Spirit who you carry out the structure with is first expressed in verse 18, where it says, "…be filled with the Spirit…" In the form God has ordained, in the structure God has ordained, in the order God has ordained, you will operate, you will function, and your Spirit will be that of mutual submission in the fear of Christ.

Let me give you a little picture of this. Some of you guys are like me and you drive sometimes out in the country, and you'll sometimes come along to one of those very narrow bridges, a one-lane bridge, and often when you do, you get to one side, and you'll see…what? You'll see a yield sign. Won't you? You'll drive through that one way, and if you ever look back in your rearview mirror, what sign do you seen coming the other way across that same bridge? It's also a yield sign.

It is a yield going this way, and it is a yield going that way. In other words, don't just worry about yourself, but you need to be aware of what the other person is doing, and you need to yield to them, that neither of you has the right of way but you both are subservient to each other. That is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. When you know you're filled with the Spirit, you are going to put yourself in subjection in love to another person. That is the Spirit and the mind of Christ.

I'll tell you, Satan can reproduce a lot of things, but that is one thing he will never, ever, ever duplicate. He will for a moment. By the way, one of the tactics of a cult is they will do what is called love bombardment. They will drop a love bomb on you. When you first get around a cult, they will make you feel so loved and so accepted that you'll never have thought that any group could ever be more of God than this.

"I mean, I've never felt so part of a group before in my entire life." You'll hear people say that about cults again and again and again and again, but you watch what happens if you don't adopt the beliefs of that society, of that culture. They will drop you like a hot potato. You'll find that that love was not indeed a sincere, mutual, submissive love. It was a manipulative love. It was the shimmer on the angel of deceit that disguised himself as an angel of light, but eventually, it wore off.

Don't be impressed by just a quick blip of a love bomb that's dropped at you. Boy, I'll tell you what, ladies, you're going to find some men who are going to make you sometimes think they are just God's gift to you, that they are the man you've been praying for, but you'd better be careful that it's not just a love bomb that they're dropping on you to fool you to get you to the altar so they can pull back now and have you submit.

See I talk again and again to guys when I do some premarital counseling. I talked to a couple not too long ago who just frankly shared. I said, "You know, what are some things you think are going to change once you get married?" He looked, and he said, "I think we're going to have to stop going two-stepping so much," and the fiancé went, "What?" "Well, we just aren't going to be able to go out as much two-stepping like we've been doing." She goes, "That's where we met."

He said, "Well, let me tell you something. I'd never been two-stepping before in my life, but my friends told me you were there, and I went there to meet you. I knew you liked to two-step, so I went out there and started two-stepping with you." "What?" she said. They sat there, and she in disbelief looked at this guy and said, "You mean to tell me that you don't just do this. This was not just…" "No, that was a love bomb, baby, and it… You know, the explosive has done gone off, and I got you in."

It's so funny how sometimes we can quickly be taken in by that, but Satan will never, ever, ever model for you a sacrificial servant's love over a period of time. He won't do it. Jesus said in John chapter 10 (I'll just read it to you) in verse 11, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them."

Jesus said, "Not so with me. I'm the good shepherd. I'll lay down my life for you." Do you want to know how you can know for certain that a person is filled with the Spirit? Are they acting in mutual submissiveness in the name of Christ? Are they not taking into account their own personal interests but also the interests of others?

Let's just read it simply in Philippians, chapter 2. Just flip just a little bit to your right, and let's read this classic passage together. Let's just read for a while. It says there in verse 3, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…" That is Ephesians 5:21 appearing again in your Bible. Look at verse 4 now.

"…do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…" Be filled with the Spirit. Have this attitude in you. Renew yourself by the transforming of your mind. Do you see how this is not as mystical and as difficult as we make it out to be sometimes? It's tangible. It's for you.

So many times, people go, "Well, how can I know what God wants me to do?" That is why he has given you his Word, and that is why you must learn what he has said so you can think like he thinks so you can act like he acts. "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…" It says in verse 6:

"…who, although…" Here comes the example. "…He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled…" Watch that word.

"…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling…"

What's that mean? If you don't do it, you're going to go to hell? No. It is the exact same thing that appears in Ephesians 5:21, where it says, "… [submit] to one another in the fear of Christ." It's the same words, "…in the fear of Christ," in other words, out of respect for him that you might do what he left you here to do, that you could be what God intends for you to be.

It is that he might look at you and go, "My faithful servant, my son who I've left to go and do things that are pleasing for me and of me that people might be drawn to me." We'll show you that in just a little bit. That's the attitude of God, and the one way you can know you're filled with the Spirit is when you act as a servant who suffers as a servant and when you don't look out merely for your own personal interests but you yield-yield.

It is the complete antithesis of how you are taught to drive in Dallas, Texas, which is looking out for number one. I'll tell you what. I told you about deceitful love. Deceitful love in the world is sold as lust. God says, "No, this is sacrificial love." Deceitful love in the world is expressed as selfishness, and God says, "No, it's not selfishness. It's selflessness. It's serving others."

There's a woman who was a faithful Christian worker living in London, England, and a guy was over there, and he watched her. He said, "What in the world motivates you to be so kind and diligent in your Christian service?" She said, "Well, I'll tell you what. About 30 years ago, I was living in France, and I was a Jew. The German Nazis were on my tail, and we were going from house to house, and they were about to catch us.

We were at one house, when a little widow, an old lady, a French Huguenot, came up, and she walked in the house, and she said, 'The Nazis are almost here. You must go.'" She said, "As a little girl, just as a Jew who was defeated and sick of running, I said, 'I'm sick and tired of going. I will go no further. They're going to find me anyway.'

The widow said, 'They will not find you. Give me your papers, and I will wait here for them.' She said, as a little Jewish girl, she looked at this old Christian widow, and she said, 'Why would you do that?' She said, 'It is the least I can do considering what Christ has already done for me. Go now in peace.'"

That lady went off, and she later adopted the faith of that widow who she tracked down and found out after the war had died in a concentration camp six months later in her name as a Jew. She said, "That love attracts me. That love motivates me." She said, "The love that you're seeing me now pour out is the love of Jesus Christ that lady first modeled for me. It is the least I can do for these children knowing what Christ has done for me, and, yea, that much more."

Satan will never, ever duplicate that. He'll give you a blip of it. He'll try and fool you with it, but he is not about humility in doing what is good for others. He is about self…self-promotion. We need to be in service and subject to one another, and it's not an easy thing to do. The easier thing to do is to be concerned about what works for you.

In fact, turn with me to Isaiah 14. I'll show you who the father of the I behind all that is. To get to Isaiah 14, go to Psalm and take a quick right there to Isaiah, chapter 14. When you think about what God tells you to do, the ruling operative command for all relationships (as I told you before that this is the ruling principle for all relationships) is that we should be submissive to one another in the fear of Christ.

I have to tell you, as a dad, as I am not just able to go to Ally… The very first verse we taught my little girl who can speak and we'll teach our other little girl is Ephesians 6:1. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." That's the very first verse we taught my little girl, and we review it with her regularly. She'll say to us, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right."

I have to tell you. I don't just run to Ephesians 6:1 like an abusive dad and just because I'm in a bad mood say, "Ally you do what I tell you to do because the Bible says that you are submissive to me." No, I have to go back to Ephesians 5:21. Last night at 1:30 when my little 2-year-old comes walking in my room and she tells me about her need, I don't say, "Ally, I told you not to leave your room. I told you not to come in here and to wake your daddy up."

I literally, because I knew I was going to teach in this, lay in bed, and I just said, "Father, I pray that, right now, in mutual submission to Ally, my little girl, you would allow me to consider what her needs are right now." I just prayed that, and her need was get back to bed so I could get back to bed.

At 2:30, my 15-month-old decided to cry, and I lay there, I promise you, in bed, and I said, "Father, I pray that I would not do what I want to do right now but that, out of mutual submission, I might ask myself, 'What is best for this child?' and that you would direct me in what to do right now." I, like a good parent, laid there, and I prayed. I said, "I'm going to let her lie there and cry just for about three or four or five more minutes so that she doesn't think that, every time she wants her way, she's going to get her way."

I laid there, and she cried for three or four minutes, and back to sleep she went. I walked in there and check in on her after that. Everything was fine. At 5:30, my 2-year-old comes walking back in, and I kid you not, I did not say, "Listen, Ally, what did I tell you at 1:30? What did I tell you before I put you to bed?" I just said, "God, what is the need of this little girl at this time, and how can I minister to her, not as one who has the right to lord it over here but as one who, in the fear of Christ wanting to live as he would live, seeks her best interests?"

Understand this. Seeking another person's best interests does not constantly mean you do what they want you to do every time you do it. Do you want to hear my opinion? I clarify this because some people may disagree with me, and I can't go to the Scriptures and absolutely validate this, but where it talks about turning another cheek, people ask me all the time, "Are you somebody who's really going to stand there and let somebody whack you up side the head six or seven times and keep turning your cheek left and right?"

In fact, I have a good friend who's here tonight who I love to put him in ethical situations and ask him, "What would you do if this were the case?" Sometime ago, I said to him, "If you were in the car with your two little girls… Let's say they were older. Let's just say now they're 16 and 14. You're with your wife, and some guy swerves in front of you.

You just maintain your composure (which you can tell it's a mythological story already), but you maintain your composure. You don't honk at him. You don't make any obscene gestures of any kind, but you just kind of go. The guy gets up there at a stoplight ahead of you, and he waits for it to go from green to red.

Then he runs it and leaves you sitting there. Then traffic has you catch up with him again, and this guy just starts cussing you for no reason. Then he gets out, and you roll your window down of the car because this guy's yelling at you. He walks over, and he reaches in, and he punches you in the face. I said, "What would you do?"

He turned to me. It was a great answer. He said, "I would turn around to my daughters, and I would turn to my wife, and I'd say, 'You see, this is what happens when a young man grows up without ever having any discipline, so because I love this guy, your father's going to have to discipline him right now.'"

It sounds funny, but I'll tell you what, if that's what really he felt like he should do… I'll tell you, when it says in the Scriptures, "'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord," I don't believe… Catch when I this. I don't believe Christians are to be the world's punching bags. I do not believe you're doing somebody a favor when they punch you in the jaw and you go, "You have to hit me again on the other side now," and then again and again and again.

That's not loving. That person's beating you up. That person's raping you. That person's taking advantage of you, and to let them continue in that pattern is not the most loving thing for them. They need to know that is not an appropriate way to treat people. I do believe you have the right to restrain them from evil.

Now where you cross the line, in my opinion, is when you begin to go, "I'm no longer restraining. Now, I am punishing. Now, I am judge and jury and executioner." When you start to do not which is right for them to stop them and restrain them from evil but when you begin to go, "Now that I've restrained you from evil and you're good and hog-tied, watch this," that's a problem.

I love this story. It's Saint Patrick's Day, so I'll tell you this story of an Irish preacher. The guy actually was a boxer. He came from Ireland. He came over here and was a boxer for a number of years, and he just got convicted that that was a brutal sport and he shouldn't do it anymore. He became a believer, and he went back to his native Ireland to minister, and he went to where the ruffians hung out. He walked into a bar, and two guys started giving him a hard time because he was wearing his little clerical collar and were just making fun of him.

He remained silent and didn't say anything. They kept abusing him. They had a few more beers, and finally, they came over and they shoved him a little bit. The guy still suppressed his anger, and lo and behold, one of them reached up and just jacked him on the right jaw. The guy had a tough chin, so he stood up, and he tapped his cheek on the other side. The guy hit him on the other cheek, and he said, "The Lord gives me no further instruction." Then he decked the guy.

Now I would tell you that guy crossed line. He didn't act filled with the Spirit, but it's good to laugh. It's good to be reminded that you're not the world's punching bag, Christian. I am convinced of that. The way you respond, though, is not, "What do I feel like doing right now?" Sometimes, you're going to be the one in control, husband. Sometimes, you're going to be the one in control, parent. Sometimes, you're going to be the one in control, employer, and you can punch the guy, but if that is not what they need…

There are times, when a child, it says, does not need to be spared the rod, but if you're doing it as a parent out of anger because you're bigger, you have a problem. Husband, there is a time for you to fulfill a role in marriage, but if you do it because you are the man and you're throwing some Scripture to a woman without asking what is best for her, you're out of line. Mutual submission in fear of Christ is the rule. What the world wants you to do is to think with an I, not with a "What's best for them?" In fact, it's been well said, and I'll read you this.

"Humanism says, 'Be capable; believe in yourself!' Philanthropy says, 'Be generous; release yourself!' Education says, 'Be resourceful, expand yourself.' Greece said, 'Be wise, know yourself.' Religion says, 'Be holy, conform yourself.' Epicureanism [or Hedonism] says, 'Be sensuous, enjoy yourself.' Materialism says, 'Be satisfied, please yourself.' Psychology says, 'Be confident, fulfill yourself.' Pride says, 'Be superior, promote yourself.' Asceticism says, 'Be inferior, suppress yourself.' Atheism says, 'Be wise, worship yourself.' Jesus Christ says, 'Be a servant, think of others.'"

It stands in contrast to every other 'ic, 'asm, or spasm that comes down the line. He says, "You, don't think about you. You be like me and think about them, and that is the bond through which you will have godly relationships." I'll give you my two cents worth and what I believe about compatibility tests. I think it's good for you with other people to understand what tendencies are.

I do not believe the Scriptures would tell you that, because this person is this on the Myers-Briggs scale or this person is this on the Taylor-Johnson or this on the DISC test, you guys are not compatible. In fact, you give me two people who sociology tells me should fit together hand in glove, and if those two people are not committed to Ephesians 5:21, they are going to conflict.

You give me two sinners who are compatible in the world's eyes, and it will not be long where there is a war, but if you give me two people who are as different as night and day, you give me a nightingale and a morning dove, you give me somebody who's a vegetarian and one who's a carnivore, and you put those two people together and they live by Ephesians 5:21, and you're going to have harmony in marriage. When you have people committed to holiness and what is good for you and mutual submission and respect, you have a great relationship.

Let me show you what the world offers. Look at Isaiah 14. It's talking here about the king of Babylon back there in verse 3. We'll begin there, and we'll skip down there for a little bit, but even as there are places in your Old Testament which we can go to and see that there's a type of Jesus Christ here, many people believe that, what is being explained here as Isaiah prophesies about the king of Babylon, is that he is the type of the Antichrist, a type of the Devil.

In other words, you see what is true of the king of Babylon is also true of the Devil and what was true of him when he was cast out of heaven, is what's going to be true of the king of Babylon when he's cast out of his kingdom. Let me just read with you here and show you why people think that. Look at verse 3. Verses 1 and 2 just set it up by saying, "Hey, Israel, there's going to be a day when God is going to move against these wicked people. Hang on. Let God act." In verse 3, he says:

"And it will be in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved, that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say, 'How the oppressor has ceased, and how fury has ceased! The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, he scepter of rulers which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution.'"

Boy, you have a picture of ultimate evil there. Don't you? Couldn't you make a case easily that this is an individual who has definitely subdued the world with his evil, which is what was true of the king of Babylon and is true of the king and the Prince of this world, Satan. Jump with me to verse 12. See if you have a little picture here that sounds familiar to you. It says:

"How you have fallen from heaven, o star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations!" Do you know somebody who's done that? I do. I've done business with him. Look at verse 13. "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High.'"

Now just make a little quick study of verses 13 and 14. What word appears five times in verses 13 and 14? You have just the opposite of what Jesus Christ did in Philippians 2. Jesus Christ did not say, "I will exalt myself to greatness." He said, "I will descend myself into greatness and let God exalt me."

Do you want to know what it means to be filled with the Spirit? It means to descend into greatness in mutual submission in the fear of Christ, which means in right response in reverence for what Jesus Christ has done for you. It is the young Jew in England who says, "In view of what Christ has done for me, this is the least I can do."

Now let me just tell you and encourage you. We do not have a God who wants you to not be great. He desires that you experience greatness. Turn with me very quickly to Mark, chapter 10. He wants you to be great, but what he has a problem with is the means through which you would pursue greatness.

You'll pursue greatness the way I'll pursue greatness…I. When I think of a great relationship as a kid growing up, it was always like this. "Oh man, would I love it if I had a wife who did this for me, and she looked like this for me. Me, me, me, me, me." That is how I dreamt of a great relationship.

"Oh, I'd love to have children who responded to me this way, who made me look like this as a parent. Oh, I'd love to have an employee who made me great who made me rich who made my workday easy, so I could be great or my life would be great." What the Scriptures say is, "No, Wagner, I don't mind you wanting to be great or experience a blessed life, but you're not going to get it with I. You're going to get it with them."

In Mark 10, it's interesting where this shows up. It starts in verse 32 when Jesus and his disciples were on the road, and he's sharing something that's kind of sensitive. He's sharing the fact that he's going to go, and he's going to go to Jerusalem, and he's going to be delivered up, as he says in verse 33, "…to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles."

In verse 34, it says, "They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him…" In fact, you're going to have an example of a sufferer right there for you. In verse 35, totally moved by the awful fate that's going to befall their Savior, James and John say, "Hey, if you're going to get bumped off, somebody's going have to take your spot. Why not us?"

"James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, 'Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.' And He said to them, 'What do you want Me to do for you?'" What a great response. "They said to Him, 'Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.' But Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?'"

In other words, "Did you listen to me back there in verse 34?" They both responded very quickly and said, "Oh, yeah. We're for it." By the way, he was gracious enough to let them do that. One was beheaded. The other was exiled, but look at verse 39. "They said to Him, 'We are able.' And Jesus said to them, 'The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.'"

Now listen to this. It's going to get even better because the compassionate response of Christ was unbelievable. He didn't do what I'd have done. He didn't grab them by the scruff of the shirt and go, "Are you kidding me? Who are you to ask if you can sit here and sit here? That is the most out-of-line remark that I've heard from anybody who's been around me my entire 33 years I've been on this earth. You can't ask that!"

You know what he said? "That's a great desire. I can't believe nobody's asked me that until now. You should want to be near me because that's the best place to be, but James and John, the way you think you're going to go about getting that is not the way to go about getting that. Let me tell you how." It's an amazing thing about our Jesus, the way he responds right here. It's not a rebuke. It is a time of instruction, so let's be instructed. Look at verse 42. He says:

"Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, 'You know that those who are recognized as rulers…'" See husband, see parent, see employer or master. "…their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even [me, as an example] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give [my] life [for others] ."

Do you want to be filled with the Spirit? That's it, and Satan will never duplicate it because it is the antithesis of I. You know, we'll do so much with the cross. We will preach about it. We'll sing about it. We'll write about it, but very rarely will we take it up. Our society has lost view of this principle which is the preview of all God is going to use to set up how you have order in marriage, order in parent-child relationships, order at work.

He says, "Do you want to do it well? Do you want to do it with harmony? This is the operative Spirit. This is the rule which permeates relationships, yield-yield, submit-submit. Don't lord it over them. Don't seek your own best interests but seek theirs." Our society has gotten so far away from this. I'll share with you with this true story of a woman. She walked into a jeweler in Denver, Colorado, and she said, "I'd like to buy a gold cross," and the guy said, "Well, do you want a plain one or one with some guy hanging on it?"

It's amazing. Isn't it? "Some man hanging on it." Do we even know why? It's an example for you and me. "If any man wishes to follow after me, let him take up his cross daily, deny himself, and follow me." That is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. It's a difficult calling, but it is the calling to greatness.

A guy went up to his pastor and said, "You know, you've been talking a lot about theology, and I guess it all comes down to the basin." He said, "Y'all talk loud about basic theology. You should be talking about basin theology." His pastor said, "What do you mean, basin theology?" He said, "Well, the way I see it. We all have a basin, and what we do with it's going to determine whether or not we are about what God says we ought to be about.

I mean, look at Pilate. He had the chance to acquit Jesus Christ on the night before he was turned over, but he took his hands in the basin, and he used them to wash his hands of any association with him. He was concerned about him. Then you take Jesus with the same basin, and he used it to serve others."

What are you doing with the basin? Is it something you can get in there and wash your hands of guilt, trying to rid yourself of shame and the conviction of the Holy Spirit which is calling you to a life of self-sacrifice? See, this is not a popular message, but it's the key. I can't get into how you act as a husband and as a wife without spending a whole week on, "This is it." Mutual submission in right response to Jesus Christ…that is the key.

Just turn to your right a little bit to 2 Corinthians 4. I have to warn you that, if you commit to this kind of lifestyle, this is what awaits you. Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 4. Go past Acts and Romans, and you're getting close. We are called to clothe ourselves in humility. We are called to have the humility of Christ. If you look at pride, in the center of pride is I, and you don't want that I in your life. In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4, verse 5, it gives Paul's model.

"For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake." Here's our message. Jesus is Lord, and we're your servants. Verse 6: "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…"

In other words, he doesn't have angels coming down here ministering to other people because, with angels, people would go, "Man, those angels are great. They're servants. Look how wonderful they are." No. He takes selfish humanity, and he changes our hearts. He changes our perspective, and he uses us to serve people so nobody can get the credit but Jesus Christ.

I have to tell you, I am a me pleaser. I'm a me-first pleasure seeker. I love me, but Jesus Christ has changed my heart, and as he has taken the scales off my eyes and shown me that living for me doesn't gain me what I'm seeking after, I'm now getting to live as a right response to what he's done for me. As I renew myself and transform myself with his Word and as I fill myself with his Spirit which indwells me, God gets the glory. People go, "What is in you?" I say, "You really want to know? It's the love of Christ, and it's the least I can do given what he's done for me."

It says (you need to know this) in verse 8 that we are afflicted in every way, that we are perplexed, and in verse 9 that we are persecuted and that we are struck down. You need to know, if you decide to live the way Christ calls you to live, it will not be easy. It is a cross. It's an instrument of death. It is the way he defines love. When you get together and try and define love and you go anywhere else but a cross, it becomes meaningless and pagan, so this is what awaits you.

This is what awaits me, but I also want to leave you with this and encourage you with this. There are several verses. Write them down. We don't have time to turn there. First Corinthians 15:58 (listen to the key words): "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain…" It's not in vain. Hold onto that.

Everybody just turn with me to Galatians 6:9-10, because you need to know it won't be easy, but you also need to know it will be worth it. It will be worth it. Galatians 6:9-10 says, "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith."

First Corinthians 15:58 says, "It's not in vain." Galatians 6:9-10 says…what? We shall reap. There will be a day when we shall be free. Then turn to Ephesians, and we'll end where we started. He set up this entire section about relationships by telling you mutual subjection to one another is the way to do it, and you need to know that is not easy. It's difficult.

He goes all the way through this section, and then in Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 7 and 8, he says this, "With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free." This he will receive. It is not in vain. We shall reap. You need to know, if you want to be a servant, it will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I'll close with a story that's true of a guy who was a missionary serving overseas in Africa. In fact, while he was serving there, he lost his family. He became sick and lost his wealth. It was time for him to come home and furlough and be at rest back in the States, and it just so happened that he was on a ship that was also occupied by the current president of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt.

When they got to harbor in New York, they got there, and this missionary, as he got ready to walk off the ship, saw scores of people, bands, and reporters. There was a parade waiting to happen to welcome Teddy Roosevelt also back from Africa, who had been there on a safari. The missionary sat there, and he said he looked out at the scores of people who were there to welcome a man back from his vacation, to welcome him home from his playday, and he said in his journal that he was more than a little discouraged.

He wrote, and he said, "God, what is this? I have labored diligently and faithfully for you. I have taken up my cross. I have denied myself. I have followed after you, and I come back, and there's not a single soul to welcome me off this ship. There is not a single trumpeter out there for me. There is not a single person to encourage me and to give me rest, yet, this man comes back from vacation, and they welcome him home with a party."

He says, as he sat there becoming bitter in his heart, it is his testimony that these words came to his mind: "My son, you ain't home yet. You ain't home yet." I've said it before. The immediate payback of living for Christ is not very good, but the retirement plan is out of this world. Are you going to live for today or as Jesus Christ did with an eternal perspective? It is not in vain. We shall reap, and he will repay you what is yours. Let's pray.

Father, it is so contrary to our nature to live as you lived, and that is, frankly, why you had to live the way you lived and die the way you died, because we are not a good people. We are a selfish people who want to exalt ourselves and worship ourselves and, frankly, suffer all the consequences of it and not care, but you love us despite the fact that we choose self. You look down, and you see the state we're in as a result of that.

While we were yet sinners, you demonstrated your love for us by going on a missionary journey yourself, humbling yourself, taking on the same form we did and running into the same temptations we do, yet without sin, that you might go to a cross as a man who owes no one anything, that you would pay the wages of sin, and that you would suffer death that those of who owed that debt would not have to pay it.

God, we are so grateful for the grace which is available at the cross, and we are so grateful for the privilege of getting to be earthen vessels who have no glory except for what we contain, the Spirit of Christ, a regenerate heart that no longer lives for us but lives for others. May we do not what humanism, atheism, or hedonism says. May we not do what philosophy, psychology, materialism, asceticism, legalism… May we not do what any of them say. May we do what Jesus says. May we be a servant and do even as he has done.

About 'Ephesians, Volume 3'

Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ.  Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 5 and 6.