Love does not demand a change. It does produce one, however. God is unsurprised at how we come to Him. He positions us in Him forever. Don’t miss grace and enter into bitterness. Forgive and be free. (Ephesians 4:25-27; Acts 7:57-60)

Speaker(s): John Love
Sermon 12354
11:00 AM on 8/14/2022

 

P. Love –

Okay. Be seated. Unless you want to stand up the whole time! Good morning. Yes, there are a few of us heading out to the Poconos to camp today. That’s just so we can get one good night sleep before we don’t get any sleep the next six
nights! No, I’m kidding! Praise God!
Open your bibles to Ephesians 4 this morning. (Prayer). We’re in Ephesians 4 and just a quick thought. I remember
one of the first times that I saw this when I was shopping. I was at a clothing store, and I found this item.
And I could not believe the price tag, okay. I mean in a good way. I was just shocked. This is incredible. I
even asked someone who worked in the store, is that the right [price]? Yes. Thank you. I brought it up. I
paid for it and I thought to myself, I just got the deal of my life.

And then I got it home. And then I saw an additional tag that was attached to the item. Two horrific
words: “As Is.” As is. Then I realized, what have I gotten myself into? What did I buy? What’s missing? Of
course, there were all kinds of deformities and buttons were missing. I mean it was, it was “As Is.” But I
did not see that tag.

Here’s the interesting thing: when you and I came into this world, guess what we came in wearing? An
“As Is” tag. Obviously, our parents ignored that tag. I know if mine had seen it they would say, can we
get a different one? Can we get a trade in? It’s impossible. Think about it, you even see cars. After that
experience, you have some wisdom, you have some more understanding.

Now when you see that tag, wait a minute. What’s wrong with this? Now when you see an automobile
for sale and it looks good and you see written on the sign, “As Is.” What’s wrong with the car? It doesn’t
run. Oh, I see. But you still want to see it? Yeah, as is.

Imagine a couple coming to the altar. They’re coming to the altar, and of course, we know this that love
is blind. Absolutely blind, right? So, they come to the altar and you don’t see any flaws in the other
person. You don’t see any idiosyncrasies. No! Even if someone tried to explain to you, you know they do
have – no way! And if anything, they come with a tag that says “As Is” but you know I’ll deal with these
issues. You know that some day they will be gone. You know that someday I will overcome them.
But the fact of the matter is, it might not happen. Some of us today are still “As Is.” Don’t misunderstand
me. We’ve got new hearts. We’ve got a new nature. We’ve been born of God. The seed of Christ is in us
and once salvation happened and then once sanctification began and it’s still going as long as we are
alive. Sanctification still happens. But still, I don’t think God ever removes that tag that says “As Is.”
Praise God he loves what he finds “As Is.” That love has the power to change us, amen! We know
something. Even after we became born again, we realized something. Look we possess no inherit power
to change. We don’t have it. We look for it.

We hope we find it shortly after we do say “I do” at the altar
and we start to see things in our partner and we start to hope that’s going to change. I’m sure it’s going
to change. That’s going to be different. A little bit more time. A little bit more patience. But maybe it
won’t. We are “As IS.”

But God loves that about us. Again, God’s love – P. Stevens used to say it from this pulpit all the time.
God’s love does not demand a change. It produces one. His love. That’s the love of God, right? We could
all say it. God loves us just the way we are. But he loves us so much, he ain’t going to leave us that way!
We can’t change but God will change us. And that’s our hope.

So, we are in Ephesians the 4th chapter and think about it. Before the Apostle Paul speaks to the
Ephesian believers and talks about the Christian walk. What do we mean when we use that phrase?
What is the Christian walk? It’s our daily lives, right? It’s just life. And somebody once very appropriately
said, that’s the challenge of life. It’s so darn daily. It is. It’s every day.

So, before we, before God ever addresses our Christian walk, our Christian experience, the outworking
of all that which he has put in us, he reminds us early in the book of Ephesians. He starts out by saying to
us I want you to know this. I’ve called you. I’ve chosen you. I’ve adopted you. I’ve accepted you. I’ve
forgiven you. You are the object of my love. That will never change. God’s never going to be surprised
about something that he finds out about our lives. Isn’t that good news? Cause we get surprised when
we find out some things about other people’s lives. But God says it’s not going to surprise me. It’s not
going to surprise me. It might surprise you. It might surprise you what we find in ourselves, but God says
I knew that was there and did not stop me from calling you and choosing you and making you my child.
And that’s how the book of Ephesians begins.

In the second chapter he says, by the way, not only have I loved you, adopted you, predestined you,
chosen – all of those amazing things that we read about in Ephesians 1. But then he says I have taken you and
placed you in my Son and the good news about being placed in Christ and having our eternal position in
him is that is unchanging as God himself is. That position is never in jeopardy. It’s amazing. It’s never in
jeopardy despite our lack of Christian behavior. Despite our lack of mercy extended to others. Despite
our sinful struggles that we wrestle with on a daily basis. God says your position is never going to
change. I’m seating you in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. That’s where we stand in the eyes of God.
Then the book of Ephesians goes on. It keeps reminding us of all of these blessings.

In fact, it’s the first chapter in the third verse that is says he has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And we spend most of our lives unfolding the nature of all of those blessings. And
we marvel. That’s what church is all about. A place to gather where you can hear again and again and
again how much you are loved. How God made you his choice and that’s never going to change. And the
grace that is available to all of us. Even God forbid where sin abounds in our lives, what does the
Scripture say? Grace does much more abound. It’s incredible this gospel of grace. Then Paul gets to the
fourth chapter. And he says listen. In light of all that God has done on your behalf, in light of the fact
that he has taken you and placed you in his Son, and that is as unchanging and unalterable as God
himself is. In light of these great truths, finally he says won’t you consider walking worthy of this great
vocation wherewith you have been called.

Then he begins to describe in detail what that walk is like. It all begins in vs. 23 and again he says, you
need to be renewed in the spirit of your mind. I think sometimes that’s what church is all about. We just
come together so we can be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Everything we hear in church together
with the Body of Christ counters the spirit of the age, the spirit of the world system. That needs to be
confronted and countered every step that we take in life. That’s why we gather so regularly. That’s why
we come together so consistently. Because our minds need this constant renewal. It happens through
the work of the Spirit. He says you just keep putting on the new self, vs. 24-28. We love this next verse,
vs. 29. That’s beautiful. If there was ever an earmark of our ministry I would say that it would be this.
I remember one time going to Connecticut.

We were speaking at a men’s seminar. Actually, it wasn’t the
seminar. It was just to bring me up there so that he could introduce me as the guest speaker that would
be happening weeks later at a camp up in New York state. I’ll never forget it because he introduced me.
He’s part of a church, Greater Grace World Outreach in Baltimore. And he said this to his own
congregation, it is the greatest church I have ever been in in my life. He said that to his church. I wanted
to go up to him and say, then why aren’t you in it? He said they are the most edifying, encouraging
group of people I have ever been around in my life. As he kept saying this, I’m looking at this people
looking around. I guess we’re chopped liver! And he was describing our ministry. And that is the truth.
We don’t tolerate corrupt communication. Amen. We know the kinds of words that God has spoken to
our hearts that make a difference. Gracious words. Kind words. Undeserving words and all of those
words which are words of life have made a difference in each one of us. No corrupt communication but
only that which edifies and ministers grace to the hearer. Vs. 30-32. Great instructions.

The reason why I want to focus on these last few verses here in the fourth chapter is because God gives
us a prescription to be free from bitterness through life. Because I don’t know about you, but when this
journey comes to an end and by the way, every journey comes to an end. Every journey. Our journey
comes to an end. But when it does, I want to be free from bitterness. If you are not free from bitterness,
then you got all kinds of mental notebooks you are trying to keep track of. You got to keep track of the
people that hurt you. You got to keep track of the people that have wounded you. You got to keep track
of the unkind words that were spoken to you. You got to remember all of these things. You know what?
That is like a burden so heavy to be carried through life that all of us, we all just need to put it down.
So, the prescription here. Paul is saying to this church, get rid of your bitterness.

I want to be able to reach the end of my life. And like Joseph to be able to turn to each of his brothers and say to them yeah, I know what you did to me. I know the evil that was in your hearts but I’m not focused on that. I’m
focused on the goodness of God. I keep looking to the one who took even what you did and it was evil. I
love the fact that he didn’t say, oh, what you guys did to me that was nothing. I know you all had a bad
day and you figured you were going to kill me! So, you threw me into the pit. You sold me as a slave in
Egypt and you lied to your father and said I was dead. I understand. That happens to me all the time!
No, he said that what you did was evil, but God meant it for good.

We all want to reach the end of this journey and be able to say my life is just about concluded and there
is no bitterness in my soul. There is no mental notebook about somebody else’s sins or failures or hurts or wounds that they directed toward me or anyone else. We don’t want to be those kinds of people that
end up going to a cemetery. I’ve seen this happen. I’ve witnessed this where someone was standing
over a grave of a loved one and they were screaming at them. Why did you do that to me? My life has
never been the same. My life is ruined. That’s bitterness. And even that person is gone and the
bitterness still remains.

I think that’s why the writer to the Hebrews in the 12 th chapter and the 15 th verse reminds us that when
grace is available and praise God it’s always available to us; don’t miss it. But embrace it. Appropriate it.
But if you miss grace, you won’t open the door to bitterness. That just cannot be tolerated in our lives.
In this 4 th chapter of Ephesians, it’s like Paul’s way of saying to the church and to all of us, it’s time to
grow up. Because this is what being a grown up believer is all about. We don’t allow those things that
once dominated and ruled our lives and controlled us and had dominion over us to do it any longer.
We know that the cross has set us free. We know that the Spirit, the Holy Spirit liberation has taken up
his residence in our soul. It’s freedom that God wants us to keep moving toward, not bondage. So, he
writes what he writes. We know this. We have all heard it.

People say it even in our culture today. You and I we’re never more like God than when we what? When we forgive. Isn’t it true? You know what it’s like. We’ve all experienced it when we’re forgiven we know what happens to our souls. Peace fills our hearts and this restoration, reconciliation and then when we forgive others, we know sometimes it
might not even be received but we know it’s the right thing to do. And we sense that we are set free,
delivered in our souls. Liberated in our hearts and minds. There’s nothing quite like it.
I think spiritually speaking, learning to forgive is like growing up as a believer. It’s something that we all
have to do. Our emotions on the other hand, they would love to tie us up, hold us down. Our emotions
have a way of kind of checking our resolve to forgive others. But God tells us it’s time to grow up. What
do you do when you grow up? You start doing things you don’t like to do, right? I mean what are some
of the things? We don’t like to get up in the morning, right?

Sometimes I don’t like to get up in the morning but the grown up in you says you know what? You got to get up. I mean you got to go to work. I just don’t feel like going to work. I’m sure my boss will understand that fully and completely when I tell him. When I get there and I’m five or six hours late, I didn’t feel like coming in on time. That’s fine. I
understand how the emotions work. So, pack them up. You’re fired!
We can’t afford to make our journey depend upon our emotions. So, we need the Holy Spirit. That’s
what Paul is talking about. The spirit of our minds are being renewed. God himself is in the process of
renewing our minds, and it’s the Holy Spirit that’s going to move into our lives and help us clean up
some of the closets in our souls. Because maybe the rooms are looking good but how about the closets?
How about the secret chambers of our souls? Have we given God access to those parts of who we are as
well? We all have to deal with the hurts and the wounds and maybe the residential anger that’s deep
within our hearts. How do people do it? I think there’s a few ways they do it.

The first way is repression. They repress it which is the worst thing you can do. The best thing God tells
us to do in Prov. 28, it says just confess whatever it is that you know isn’t right in your life before God.
Because if you cover that, if you conceal that, if spiritually speaking you sweep that under the carpet,
then you miss out on the very thing you need which is the mercy of God. It says in Prov. 28:13, “He who
covers his sin does not prosper.” Maybe sometimes we think well, it’s not really a sin. It’s just me
remembering the pain they caused me. The hurt that they brought into my soul. The anger that I think
about every time I see them.

Well, that’s sin. Don’t sweep it away. Don’t try to cover it. Don’t try to hide it because we don’t have the
means of covering our sin, amen, which is why we needed a Savior. Then confess it. Listen to these
words: “and you will receive mercy. Mercy is what we need. Mercy is needed now more than ever
before in our lives. Don’t push those hurts. Don’t take those wounds and try to repress them because
you could almost say it this way: those things need to surface. Sometimes that’s what God does. He
allows them to surface.

I’ll never forget reading about one brother. This is a true story. I might have shared it with you before,
but one day while his wife was out shopping, he was home. He got angry about something. He went into
the bathroom in his bedroom and he just slammed the door. There was a mirror hanging on the door of
the bathroom and it shattered into a million pieces. He was like, oh, great. And by the way, it was a
preacher. He was like I can’t let my wife see this.

He figures he’s got enough time to go to the local hardware store and he gets another big mirror and he
covers the other one that has been shattered. He says I got to do this because I don’t want her to know.
He had all this rage and anger. Maybe some of it was even directed toward her. So, he gets it covered.
He thinks, wonderful. She’ll never know.

She comes home. Oh, you have a new mirror? Yes, isn’t it beautiful? Oh, that’s nice. Well, one night, a
few nights later, he’s sleeping. And in the middle of the night, that mirror that he put up to cover his
mistake came down. Shattered into a million pieces. Yeah. And she was like, what was that? She goes in
and she realizes not only did that mirror break but the one that was there originally was also broken.
What is that?

That’s when he broke down and he said, I got to tell you. I was just so angry and so mad, and he just
realized when that happened this was God’s way of saying, listen. I don’t want you to cover this up. I
don’t want you to repress it. I don’t want you to hide it. That was just the illustration, but everything in
your soul don’t repress it. Bring it to me. I can cleanse it. I can heal you. I can deliver you. I can make you
whole. I can make you new. I can change you.

And he just wept and he confessed to his wife and he said to her, the next service I preach at, I’m going
to share this. So, he did. But he realizes I’m taking a little bit of a risk. I get into my pulpit and I express to
my congregation that I have rage and anger in my soul. So, he did it.

And then afterwards he greets people after the service. Anybody that wants to come up and talk to me
that’s fine. He realized a lot of men lined up and they wanted to talk to him. Some of them were the
elders in his church and he was like, oh no! I knew I shouldn’t have told them.
So, they come up and they came up one by one and said, pastor, I punched a hole once and I put a
picture over it and I covered it. He said one after another, they all came up and told him how they tried
to hide their failures. He said it was liberating. Don’t depress or rather repress anything in your soul that
God wants to surface. And the only reason why he wants it to surface is so he can remove it. So that he
can cleanse it. So that we can be free. Because if we don’t guess what happens? Those emotions that
are attached to whatever it is we are trying to repress will become toxic in our souls. Poison us. That’s
the whole root behind bitterness. It’s a form of poison.

And you know. Some people think no I’m so bitter. I’m so angry. I just want them to be hurt. We drink
the poison and we wait for them to die. Who ends up being troubled? Who ends up being more hurt?
We do. Thank you. Thank you for your honesty.

Because of the words and the hurt and the anger and all of these are repressed, that’s where the roots
of bitterness begin to cause trouble in our souls. So repressing anger, it leads to bitterness. It can lead to
missing out on the grace of God. That’s our answer. Every time, it’s our answer. Relationships that are
wounded, hurt, troubled in the Body of Christ we hear all the time about church splits. We hear all the
time about people leaving this church and that church. Let me tell you the reason why. They can tell you
their reason but the real reason is that people refuse to receive the grace of God and then become good
stewards of it. It’s that simple.

I know you could say, what we really need to do is Matthew 18. We need to go to our brother that’s offended
us and go to him alone and hope that he will not receive your forgiveness because then you can go get
another brother who doesn’t like it and then together go to him. And then hope that he won’t listen to
you. And then you can expose him from the church and treat him like an outcast and then at the end of
it all say, that’s what I hoped would happen anyway. How about just giving people grace?

P. Gary shared about it in the 9:00 service. He said somebody came up to him and said, you know I’ve
always had a problem with you. I’m assuming that that person reached a point in their lives where they
just said it’s got to be grace. I’ve been forgiven. I need to forgive. God doesn’t keep a score card of my
sins. I shouldn’t keep a score card of somebody else’s sins. If God marked iniquity, which one of us could
stand? None. No one. We’ve all failed. We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all missed the mark.

I told you I once had a guy after service came and everyone is so thankful for the message. And then one
guy said can I speak with you? Sure. He pulled me aside and said, I have hated you for a long time. I’m
not sure how you are supposed to respond to that! You just think, are you going to kill me right now? He
went on to say but God has dealt with me. I was like praise God! That’s awesome! Then he said let me
tell you why I hated you. I said, no! No, no, no! I want no knowledge of your sin. I don’t want to know

you after the flesh. If you tell me the reason why you hated me, you’re going to create a reason in my
heart to hate you back. And even though you’ve come and confessed it, I’m going to remember that!
How do we know if we are repressing something in our souls? Maybe there’s a couple of ways. We
become dis-appropriately angry about the little things because the anger that’s in our souls kind of wells
up and spills over. We’re very sensitive. Very touchy. Maybe we complain about everything. We can find
negativity in everything. Some people find optimism in every opportunity. Other people find in
opportunity great challenges but we find what? We find something negative and it ends up defining who
we are. Then we become very oversensitive, very defensive. Listen, repression is not the way to deal
with it. Neither is rehearsing it. This is so detrimental, so dangerous to our souls.

It’s like we keep the moments of hurt, the moments of betrayal, the moments of unfair treatment,
hateful words – it’s almost like you kind of cue them up like you would if you were taping something.
Taping a television program or movie. You kind of cue it up to the right spot where you want it to start.
You have music in your car and there’s a particular song you enjoy and so you cue it up.

That’s like the way that some people deal with these issues in their lives. They just wait to see that
person and then they hit the play button. And it all comes back. Everything is rehearsed. Constant
reminder of what they did and how much it hurt. It just turns up the heat. Turns up the resentment.
Gives the devil here in Eph. 4 an opportunity or a foothold. Do you know what a foothold is? It’s an
opportunity, a place that the devil can use to gain access to all of the rooms of our souls.

He doesn’t need much. He doesn’t need much. In fact, someone said that the devil’s favorite tool is just
a little piece of wood like in the form of a wedge. Just a little triangle. And someone said, Satan why is
that your favorite tool? That’s all I need. If I can just get that wedge and put it within their hearts just to
give me an occasion. Just to give me an open door. Just to give me an opportunity. That’s all I need. I can
poison their souls if I had that opportunity. It might just be a little discouragement. It might that
somebody didn’t treat me very well when I went to church. It might be a wound from years ago. It might
be a loved one that treated me unfairly. It might be anything. And then what happens? All the negative
emotions that follow can only mess with our minds and actually trouble our souls. It’s so true.

I got to share this with you. There was an article written in the New York Times several years ago.
Researchers did this. They studied it and they said they gathered a wealth of data strongly suggesting
that chronic anger is as damaging to the body that it ranks up there and can even exceed the damage
done by cigarette smoking, obesity and a high fat diet. It’s as powerful a risk factor for early death than
any one of those things and even greater. Wow.

Think of the relationship problems it can create, destroying a marriage, intimacy in marriage, unresolved
anger toward a parent, a child, the workplace, a church. So, what’s the answer? Repression doesn’t
work. Rehearsing it doesn’t work. Well, God says here’s the answer. Release it. Let it go. Get rid of it. It
doesn’t mean you make light of it. It doesn’t mean you downplay what they did.

To go back and use the illustration of Joseph. He didn’t mince words. He said what you did was evil. He
didn’t sugar coat it. He wasn’t trying to say to your brothers don’t beat yourself up. It was evil. It was
pure unadulterated evil. But God overrules the evil.

Listen. Our lives, we are not living at the expense of what others say about us, do to us or think about us.
Our lives are in the capable hands of God and he can rule and actually turn what people mean to do us
harm into something that is good and can glorify his name. People don’t get the last word in our lives.
They don’t define us. They don’t tell us who we are. They don’t tell us what our future is going to look
like. All of that and so much more belongs to God himself. He does it.

I want to turn over in closing to Acts the seventh chapter. This is the story of Stephen when he spoke to
the nation of Israel. Listen to the words that he shares. Vs. 57-58 in this great message that he preached.
This is when they are stoning him. His message was so convicting. He preached a message but he
summarized like 2,000 years of God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. It was incredible. Vs. 57-58. Saul
of Tarsus, which many scholars believe that’s where his conversion began. Vs. 59-60. As he said this, he
went home to be with the Lord. That’s Stephen’s way of saying my final moments could be characterized
by bitterness but I will not let it happen. Lord, forgive them. Stephen did the same thing that Jesus did
on the cross. Offered them God’s forgiveness.

I love it because he didn’t say to the people stoning him, I want you to know something. I forgive you. It
wasn’t enough. He wanted them to know that the Lord had forgiven them. Just the same way – we
might say to someone listen. I forgive you but do you know even more than that that God has forgiven
you? Do you know that Jesus Christ loves you? Do you know that you came into this world with an “As
Is” tag but that didn’t change God’s mind in terms of calling you and wanting you to be a part of his
family? You need to know that. It’s God’s forgiveness.

When we live in grace, it doesn’t mean that we give up what people have done to us. It means we give it
to God. You see. You say I just want to forget it. I just want to leave it somewhere. No, no. Give it to
God. God will do the same thing with the wounds, the hurt, the pain as he did with your sins. He will
take them away forever and you’ll be free and we’ll be liberated. We’ll live a life that is free from
bitterness. It just comes down to this. We just loosen our grasp of what people have done to us and
receive God’s grace not only for ourselves but for them. We can forgive others because God has for the
sake of Christ has forgiven us. We bring it to God. We go to him in prayer often.

Sometimes prayer becomes the release valve for all those feelings of bitterness, anger, trouble, even
wrath. Again, repression won’t get it done. Going to a psychiatrist for the rest of your life might not get
it done, right? I mean sometimes psychiatrists can help people say I think I finally understand where
your pain and anger is coming from. It’s this person. They identify the person that has caused it. For
God’s sake. You pay all that money? We could have done that. I know that. Then what are you going to
do about it? I can’t help you after that. I just need to tell you that they’re the problem.

They’re gone. They’re dead. Then you better go to the cemetery and yell at them. Well, that’s not going
to work. You need real freedom in your soul. You need the forgiveness of Christ. You need your mind to
be renewed. You need the seed of God to take root in your soul so that it replaces the seeds of
bitterness because none of us can afford to go through life with bitterness. That’s the one thing I want
removed. There’s probably a whole other list of things I want removed from my soul, but at the top of
the list I’m telling you it’s bitterness. It’s bitterness. I want it gone.

So, we can get to the end of our lives. Joseph could look at his brothers as he is dying in Egypt and say you know what? It’s so good that we are together. It’s so good that forgiveness has reigned in our lives. It’s so good that God has brought us together as a family again. And do me one more favor brothers. Yes? Yes? When the day comes when
God delivers us from Egypt, take my bones out of here because if you keep my bones in Egypt, maybe I’ll
remember what they did to me. No, take me out. No bitterness. No anger. No resentment. Put it all
away. You say how can it happen? Just keep coming. Just keep drawing near to God. Keep having your
mind renewed. Keep trusting the work of the Spirit. We can’t do it but God can. If we make ourselves
available, he’ll do it. Amen.

 

Please enjoy these sermon notes from the messages preached at Greater Grace Church in Baltimore. These notes are provided to aid in your study and understanding of the Word. Note that these notes do not represent complete, word-for-word transcriptions. Also, they may contain omissions as well as some errors in spelling and structure, etc., as we attempt to provide them as soon as possible. Our hope is that these notes serve as a way to help you search and connect with messages on related subjects and passages. Thank you for your interest in the ministry of Greater Grace