Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 3, Lesson 11

Lesson Eleven

Surrendering to Godly Behavior

Text: Ephesians 4:17-32

The parallel between God's concern for our well being and a father's concern for the well being of his child is profound.

A child neither knows nor understands what is in his or her best interests. The ideal diet is pie for breakfast, candy for lunch, and cake for supper with an assortment of junk food for snacks. Why? The ultimate reason is obvious to a child! It tastes good! The ideal wardrobe is sloppy casual. Sloppy casual is appropriate anywhere anytime. Why? The ultimate reason is obvious to a child! It feels good! The ideal schedule: sleep as late as you wish and stay up as late as you want. Why? The ultimate reason is obvious to a child! It feels good!

To a child the most important consideration in all matters is personal feelings. The most important pleasure is "feeling good." To a child, "heaven on earth" exists when everything that occurs within a day causes him or her to "feel good."

Adult parents look at the children's ideals, reasons, and criteria and smile [with a tinge of jealousy]. While feelings are important in some considerations, they are unimportant in other considerations. In every consideration, a caring, loving parent determines what is in the child's true best interest. Often the child's desire for immediate "good feelings" must be ignored.

"Feeling good" is not the immediate concern when vaccination time arrives. A child does not want that needle pushed into his or her body. The short-term effect of many vaccinations is that the child does not feel well. But it is in the child's best interests to be vaccinated.

"Feeling good" is not the immediate concern when an appendix is infected. Surgery hurts. Pain is a certainty. Hospital recovery is not a visit to a theme park.

"Feeling good" is not the supreme consideration in homework. The older the child becomes, the more homework he or she has. The more homework he or she has, the more time it requires. The more time it requires, the harder it gets. At some point, homework ceases to be fun and becomes an undesired necessity. At that point homework totally disregards having fun.

And the child moans and groans because he or she "feels like a slave!"

Yet, parents take children for vaccinations, allow doctors to perform appendectomies, and require their children to do homework. Why? Loving, caring parents seek children's best interests. Children must trust loving, caring parents even when it does not "feel good." Later, when children become mature adults, they appreciate their parents for not allowing childish feelings to determine important decisions. They realize they are blessed because their parents were concerned about their true best interests.

God is both our grace-filled Master and loving Father. As Master and Father He is always concerned about our best interests. We, like young children, do not understand. We, like young children, are concerned primarily about feeling good. We, like children, want God to base His concerns and expectations on our desires.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Christian behavior. We think it is in our best interests for God to allow us to do anything that "feels good." Behaviors such as loving our fellow man, being compassionate and merciful, extending forgiveness, returning good for evil, and being a peacemaker seem to disregard feeling good.

Read Ephesians 4:25-32.

  1. What should Christians do with deceit (verse 25)? What should they do with truth? Why?

  2. What should Christians do with anger (verse 26)? Why? Explain how anger can produce sin.

  3. Explain how we can provide the devil opportunity (verse 27).

  4. What three things should the converted thief begin to do (verse 28)? Instead of stealing from people, what will he begin to do?

  5. What purpose does the Christian have in the words he or she uses? (verse 29)? What guide does he or she use to determine what will edify? What does he want the one who hears to receive?

  6. What will the Christian not do (verse 30)? What do you think that means? What connection is made between the Holy Spirit and the day of redemption?

  7. What negative emotions will a Christian drive out of his or her life (verse 31)?

  8. What positive emotions will a Christian welcome and nurture in his or her life (verse 32)?

  9. Why does a Christian behave in this manner (verse 32)? This standard is based on personal experience. Explain how that is possible.

A child and a slave share a lot in common (see Galatians 4:1-5). Neither are free. Neither can do as they please. Both are under the oversight and control of someone else.

True, we are God's servants. However, our God has never exploited or abused us. We are God's servants, not for His benefit, but for our benefit. The only way that God can rescue us from ungodliness is to take control of our lives and teach us how to behave.

The American Christian lives in an entertainment/recreational/"feel good" culture. Pleasure regulates our lifestyle, the use of discretionary time, the use of a significant amount of our money, and our methods of relaxation. Pleasure is among the highest criteria for determining desirable behavior. Increasingly our culture regards "self-sacrifice" and "self-denial" as evil concepts. Increasingly our culture demands instant gratification produced by irresponsible conduct. Indulgence without consideration of consequences is considered a noble ambition.

The only way that a person will devote himself or herself to godly behavior is through the act of surrender. This surrender is not sustained by a fear of hell or a dread of death. While it begins in a profound awareness of eternal accountability, it matures into profound respect and appreciation for God. As the Christian's awareness of God's love matures, he or she cherishes godly behavior (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Speaking of spiritual reality, Paul said when we were children that we spoke, thought, and reasoned like children. Spiritually, when we became adults, love moved us to put away childish speech, thought, and reasoning. The spiritually mature servant surrenders to godly behavior.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 11

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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