The People You Like Best (Eph 5:21 )
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The People You Like Best
What an ordinary Christian acts like when they’re filled with the Spirit
The fruit of being filled–Ephesians 5:21, part 3
Who do you love to hang out with? What kind of person do you most gravitate to? I guaranty you, the kind of person you love being with, and the kind of person every single one of you wants to become is the person Paul describes in Ephesians 5:21. Have you ever thought, or actually spoken out loud, “Why can’t I be more like them?” Maybe parents said, “Why can’t you be like your brother/sister?” Have you asked yourself, “Why is it I like being around this particular person–why do I actually enjoy this person so much?”
The best spouse, the kindest friend, the parent you love, the children you want to spend time with are the ones who fit the description of Ephesians 5:21. And amazingly, the attractive qualities you and I want to have, and the desirable qualities you and I are drawn to in others are true of every genuine Christian who is filled with the Spirit. If you are filled with the Spirit, you will be this person, and if you are not in the Spirit but in the flesh, you will not be this person. That’s why it’s so important to be filled with the Spirit.
Turn to Ephesians 5–in the second half of Ephesians, Paul is telling us to practice our position. In saving us, our Lord has done things to us and for us, and now in Ephesians 4 to 6 transformed Christians will live different. Paul uses the word “walk” to describe our new lifestyle. We’re to walk worthy, different, lovingly, shining light on the Gospel, and wisely–and the biggest part of walking wise is to be being kept filled with the Spirit.
Look at 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” Paul starts with a comparison–being drunk is compared to being filled. Both are commands—one) don’t be drunk, and two) be being filled. And both “being drunk” and “being filled” have results. Continually being drunk leads to a lifestyle of dissipation, and being filled with the Spirit leads to a unique lifestyle which is found in every Christian who is genuinely filled.
Being filled with the Spirit results in four distinct outcomes described in verses 19 to 21, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Here are four major consequences that are true of the normal everyday Christian who is saturated with the Spirit of God. We’ve looked at three of those outcomes, and today we will look at the last one. Just like a drunk person will manifest dissipation, a filled Christian will manifest . . .
#1 The communion of praise first to our own hearts
Verse 19a, “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”
#2 Public praise in song in worship
Verse 19b, “singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord”
The Greek connects singing and making melody, so when you are filled with the Spirit you will both desire to sing with the voice and make melody with instruments. We found last week in verse 20 that being filled also results in . . .
#3 Expressing heart-felt thankfulness for all things to God
Verse 20, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father”
Thankful Christians believe God is the author of blessings and life, and therefore don’t take credit for things, but see their lives as better than they deserve, and getting more than they deserve. As a result, they can give thanks not only for blessings, but for an unknown future–even for painful trials. Those who are filled with the Spirit are thankful for everything, and they express that thanks to the Father through the Son who gave them life, and also gave them new birth. If you are filled with the Spirit, you will be thankful. Finally, those who are filled with the Spirit . . .
#4 Maintain humble and dependent relationships with others
Verse 21, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Whoa–we don’t like that word “submission”, do we? Submission makes us feel like someone is controlling us—“submit to me.” To submit makes us think we’re giving up—give up, submit. We think to submit to others is to lose the game–our team submits. But as genuine Christians today, I hope you will learn to love the word submission, and learn to love to submit to one another. Why?
One: Submission is a main quality of the Godhead
To think badly of submission is to think badly of our God–in fact, to choose not to submit to one another is actually to refuse to act like God does toward Himself. We worship a triune God–God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit . . . three persons, yet one God. Yet within this perfect eternal relationship, there is authority and submission. The Spirit submits to the Son and Father and the Son submits to the Father. Each person is totally equal, completely God, yet the different persons of the trinity submit. It is this perfect relationship that all relationships are based upon–equal in essence but different in function.
As Paul is about to discuss the right function of women in the church at Corinth, he uses the trinity as the model of submission. He says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” God and Christ are equal, but God is the head of Christ and Christ submits to the Father.
Just like that, men submit to Christ and wives submit to their husbands. Not to submit is to live contrary to God’s character. Not to submit is to mock God Himself. Not to submit is to malign God’s very person. To submit is to be like God Himself–that is why we should esteem, love and value the act of submission.
Two: All of God’s design for order is based upon submission
The practice of submission, of relinquishing our rights to another person, is also found in government. Look at I Peter 2:13 to 15, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
Plus the practice of submission is how the church functions in such a way as to reflect God’s character. Paul says in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
The organizations God has created and ordained can only function to God’s glory through submission. Our church and our government are based upon submission. To dismiss submission is to violate God’s sovereign rule in our nation and in our church. Not to submit to others is to violate our responsibility to both our nation and our church. And one more reason (though there are more) to value submission is . . .
Three: All our relationships are based upon submission
Hopefully you’ve not failed to notice what immediately follows verse 21–marriage is based upon submission in the remainder of chapter 5. Parenting is based upon submission in chapter 6. Slaves and masters, which can be applied to employers and employees are based upon submission in chapter 6. All the relationships found in the first century household and in your household today are based upon submission.
And Paul is affirming that the way we treat each other in the body is based upon submission in verse 21. All godly relationships are based upon submission. And all those who are filled with the Spirit will submit to one another. And how you treat one another tells you who you are. But what does this mean practically? Who is Paul describing here? Don’t miss the down to earth picture here of those who submit.
These are the people who are easy to get along with–they are nice. These are the people that other people really want to be around. People actually desire to be with this kind of people, the same way people wanted to be with Jesus. It is because those who are subject to one another are the people who are flexible–not about sin, but flexible about life in general. As you grow in Christ, you should become more flexible–not tolerant and accepting of sin, no. But you should become more flexible. On things that don’t matter, it doesn’t matter.
Let me pick on FBC for a minute. Some might say, “I don’t like the dress code. I don’t like meeting in a school gym. (You could fix that by donating a building or property.) Why doesn’t Chris wear a robe?” I tell you why I don’t wear a robe, because I am not a Jedi Knight, that’s why. But what’s our goal–to become more like Christ. As you deal with people, what should be your goal for them? To grow closer to Jesus Christ–so do a meeting place or Jedi robes make you closer to Jesus? No? So they don’t matter.
So much of what we do in our lives is not to submit to others. Just try deciding where to go to lunch . . . one wants pizza for lunch, someone else wants Subway, another wants a nice salad, but I want Panda orange chicken—yes! So we don’t submit to each other. In order to get along, one of us must die to our desires. Sadly we war, we struggle, but we really need to die. So you want Mexican food–if I die, I say, “I don’t care.” If you can put up with the consequences of beans, I am good, I submit. It is not about Mexico food, it’s about submitting to others.
Some of us are so willing to submit we can’t make any decision—“What do you want?” “I don’t care, whatever you want.” Sometimes Jean and I say to each other, “Love me enough to tell me what you want today.”
“Okay, I won’t drink out of the milk cartoon–I was trying to save you from having to do more dishes, but I will submit.”
Who is going to drive? Who cares? Just stay on the road and don’t get in a wreck, that’s all I care about. Filled Christians are submissive.
Consider the un-submissive person. Are you the edgy person–the person who challenges everything, who always brings up the contrary view, who can’t seem to get along with others? If that is you, you are not a submissive person, and you are not filled with the Spirit.
Ready for a bad seminary comment–ready? Maybe you’ve heard it said–the ministry is great except for the people. That’s not funny, but it does contain a measure of truth. I train men for ministry–when I do, I teach them to love the sheep, sacrifice for the sheep, don’t mess with the sheep, even though sheep sometimes bite. That doesn’t mean you have to constantly surround yourself with people you don’t like. I am getting to the point in my life I want to hang around Christians who I like. Sometimes we think because we are Christians, that we have to be friends with people we actually do not enjoy being around. Sure, we have to love everyone, but do you have to hang with everyone?
Have you ever thought about the kind of people that you like? I like people with flaws, but they know it. People capable of great evil and sin, but they are afraid of it. People who know they’re gifted, use it for His glory and know they are not very good at much else. People who are in process, and know they haven’t arrived. People who keep confidences and don’t talk about you, except to appreciate and affirm. People who live by Christ’s righteousness and know they don’t have any righteousness of their own. People who will correct you in brokenness. People who are real, fun, like to laugh, don’t take themselves too seriously, but love the Lord and can’t wait to get to heaven. People who aren’t critical, negative, hurtful, harsh or bitey, but people who are encouraging, supportive, protective and loving.
Paul says the same thing here in a simple and direct manner in verse 21. People who submit to each other, learn from each other, grow with each other, appreciate each other’s strengths. People who are soft toward each other, caring, loving and supportive.
FBC has a lot of this kind of people–amazing to me. There are so many people here who are a joy just to hang with–people you could actually go on vacation with and still like each other after you got back. I know you might be shocked by this kind of talk from a pastor, but this is exactly what Paul is describing here.
If you want to become this kind of people, you are welcome here. If you are not but begin to repent, you are really welcome here. But if you don’t want to change from being a bitey, un-submissive person, let me say this to you. We know you are here so we can all learn to love unconditionally. We know you are here so we can all grow to be more selfless. We know you are here so we can become more like Jesus. But maybe, just maybe, the Lord will reveal to your heart today this key truth, and that is this—you are a pain. Stop it!
People who don’t live submissive have forgotten why Christ died for them, what Christ did for them, who they were and currently are–the worst sinner they know. And people who don’t live submissive are not filled with the Spirit. And churchgoers who don’t live filled with the Spirit are in the flesh, and if they are characteristically living in the flesh, they are not saved.
So much trouble is caused in churches by un-submissive people, and there are only two possible reasons for the trouble–only two options. One, they are not saved—or two, they are not filled with the Spirit. Because all true Spirit-filled people will live out verse 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. So in verse 21, true Christians are likable because . . .
First Christians have a heart to be submissiving
What does it mean that Spirit-filled Christians are submissive to one another? It means to relinquish one’s own rights to another. The word subject means to rank yourself under. The word was used by the military to describe a soldier who placed himself under his superior officer. You can picture a soldier standing in line in his squad, submitting to and remaining under the authority of his superior officer.
The heart of the issue is a person who is no longer an individual, but now is a member of that platoon. All of them together now are a body of men, a team of men, who listen to and follow the commands and instructions of their superior officer.
Have you ever talked to a recruiter? They are so nice–they will talk to you about the skills you will learn and the money you will get for college, and the jobs you will be qualified for when you’re finished with the military. Recruiters are positive, encouraging and inspiring. But once you get off the bus at Basic, everything changes. They scream at you, they abuse you, they yell at you and belittle you. You are no longer a person–they own you. You lose your individuality. You function as a squad–you eat together, sleep together, function together, lights out together, get up at the same time. You march together, chant together, shoot together, fight together—everything.
As a man in submission, you are under authority, under the commands of your superior officer and under the laws of your government. If a soldier begins to act on his own, independently of others, not by the commands of his officer, then he is guilty of insubordination. This is the word Paul uses here–to be under the authority of one another. And God’s never-wrong Word says . . . when you are filled with the Spirit, you are going to voluntarily submit to each other. You’re going to set aside your rights, needs and desires and work together as a team to follow the orders of our commander.
But notice some of the differences between the role of a soldier in ranking himself under, and you as a Christian being subject. Since every word, every nuance of grammar in the original documents is inspired by God, God’s very Word, let me show you the meaning of each word. Look at verse 21–God reminds us, “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
How do you become someone whom others like the best? How do you become a truly likable person? Look carefully at verse 21. The word “and” reminds us that this submission is connected to the context. People you like are those who . . .
One Live dependent upon the Spirit
Paul makes it clear–once you’re genuinely in Christ, Ephesians 1 to 4, then filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18, you will be submissive. Whereas a soldier ranks himself under because he must submit to authority, a Christian submits because he has the third person of the trinity indwelling him, and creating in him a desire to follow his Lord. A big difference is a soldier submits because he has to, and Christians submit to each other because they have a heart that wants to.
We want to please our commander, like 2 Timothy 2:4 says, “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” True Christians want to please our commander, and we please Him by submitting to each other. Notice the phrasing of verse 21 when it says, “be subject”–truly likable persons are those who . . .
Two Live being submissiving
Like the other participles that describe the fruit of being filled with the spirit in verses 19 to 21, be subject should have an “ing” on it. Like speaking, singing, and thanking–it is also being submissiving. Spirit-filled Christians have an ongoing desire to rank themselves under–an ongoing desire to be submissiving. It’s not a one-time, or occasional, or when they like it, or if they agree, but a continual willingness to rank themselves under all the time.
They are likable because they are consistent–they are always willing to rank themselves under others in the body. Not merely at church, or when others can see, or around their Christian friends–but even when they’re with that difficult person. Somewhat different than a soldier is that likable believers . . .
Three Live submissiving to one another
The hearts of likable Spirit-filled Christians are to be ranking themselves under not only their Lord and His Word, but Spirit-filled Christians also are submitting to each other. The filling of the Spirit totally changes the way we deal with each other and completely alters the way we treat each other. This is crucial–genuine Christians want to listen to each other, defer to each other, heed each other, care for each other, learn from each other, and do what is best for each other.
Genuine believers actually love helping each other, serving each other, ministering to each other, actually doing what others want over what they want, doing what is best for others even though it costs them. There is a desire to submit to one another.
When I was on the program staff of Hume Lake Christian camps, we would teach the counselors to have the ten kids of their wagon sit all around them, not strung out on one side or the other, not just in front or behind, but encircling them. That way if any one of their 4th, 5th or 6th graders acted up, they could reach out and touch them. Without having to say something or disturb anyone else from listening to God’s Word or hearing the Gospel, they could just touch them on the shoulder and help them control themselves.
Every time a counselor grabbed a shoulder, they got one of two responses–a submissive, broken, I will do what you want response, or a resistant, shake you off, don’t tell me what to do response. How the kids responded to that tender touch from an authority told us a lot about the heart of that child. And how you respond in submission to others tells you a lot about your own heart. Finally, our motivation is slightly different than a soldier in verse 21, since the genuinely likable person lives to . . .
Four Defer to each other because of Christ
“Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” We are to defer to each other because we fear Christ. Wait a minute–I thought our relationship with Christ was based on love. It is. But there is also an element of fear too. What are we to fear? We are not afraid because we have to work hard to earn our salvation, or because we might lose our salvation. We’re not afraid because God is going to punish us or make things difficult for us if we don’t get serious. There are two things that should cause us some fear.
1 Remembering your salvation is tested by how you treat others
Those who don’t submit to others, those who don’t defer to others, those who disagree, bite, tear down others are difficult to get along with. We also need to consider that how we treat others may indicate a life that is not saved. Remember what John says in 1 John 3:10, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” Or read 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
We live in a culture where it is expected for people to treat each other horribly, impolitely, selfishly and rudely. But once we are in Christ, we are to love each other and submit to each other. Love is to sacrifice for others–not merely for your immediate family but your church family, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Submissively is to listen, heed, help, minister, defer to and follow your brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the midst of telling us how to treat each other, Peter tells us to fear God. First Peter 2:17, “Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” Paul shocks us with this challenge in Philippians 2:12, “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.”
Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling? If you are not honoring, loving or submissiving then there is reason to fear, for you may not be a genuine Christian. Are you willing, desiring, wanting to be submissiving or not? Never forget, Jesus did suffer and die for your brothers and sisters in Christ–how could we not die to self for them as well? We also fear
2 Remembering to make your life count in others for eternity
You don’t get a second chance to make your workplace, school or neighborhood an outreach ministry to share the Gospel with non-Christians. You don’t get a second chance to use your giftedness in the Church to point to Christ and build up other Christians. The Bible challenges us to fear how we use our lives. We are here to impact other lives for the glory of God. We must make our time here count, Christian.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10 to 11, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men . . .” Every single genuine Christian here will individually stand before Christ and be rewarded for what we did with our lives.
What are you doing with your life for Christ? Do you fear wasting your life? What are you doing that will matter for eternity. What matters? Only one life soon past, only what’s done for Christ will last. What matters? When non-Christians become Christians and when Christians become more like Christ–to be used of God to make as many people like Jesus Christ in the shortest time possible.
A direct result of being filled with the Spirit, a direct result of depending on God the Spirit moment-by-moment will be Christians who first have a heart to be submissiving. These are the Christians you like because they are flexible, they don’t make issues, they are focused on Christ, the salvation of the lost and the sanctification of Christians–they only care about what matters. Those who are filled with the Spirit get along with others, because the only things that matter to them are the things that matter for eternity. What are some ways that Christians show a submissive heart?
Second Christians demonstrate submissiveness
If you are submitting to one another . . .
One You won’t be selfish or self-centered
Selfish people have a difficult time ranking themselves under other believers because all they think about is themselves, their rights, their preferences, their hurts and their desires. Watch two-year-olds at Disneyland who want anything instead of their parents showing them the wonders of Dismal land, the tragic Kingdom–they resist, fight and rebel in order to get what they want. Here the parents are trying to show their kids more and better, but all the little one wants is his way. We can be the same–we want what we want, so we complain, whine, grumble and criticize anyone and anything that stands in our way.
I have seen the opposite this week. I’ve been sick for over three weeks, and this week was hit hard–my wife cared for me, served me, fed me, watched over me. I had some guys I was to meet with, and every one of them said, “Hey no problem, I understand, I will catch you after you get better”–totally selfless acts, and wow was I thankful.
Someone asked George Mueller the secret of his service. He said this, “There was one day when I died, utterly died.” And as he spoke, he bent lower and lower until he almost touched the floor–died to George Mueller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will–all died to the world, it’s approval or blame.
Submissiveness is the foundation for all true, strong relationships. Marriage is not 50-50. Marriage is not even 100-100. A great marriage is based upon 100-0–all you and none of them. Selflessness, dying to self and serving others is the only way to submit to one another. We submit to one another in the fear of Christ, because Christ submitted to the Father’s punishment, because Christ submitted to God’s wrath for sin, because Christ submitted to death for us. We can submit to one another as Paul re-affirms in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” If you are submitting to one another, though you’re an individual . . .
Two You won’t be individualistic
Like the Marines, you are a part of the team. There are no “only children” in God’s family–no solo saints, no lone-ranger Christians and no Rambo, John Wayne individualists. It is tough to think of your spiritual life as a community since we live in our individual homes, automatic garage doors and walled yards. Yet as a Christian, you are part of a body, part of a team, part of a building and part of a flock. And when you are filled with the Spirit, you will be submitting to each other.
Paul makes that very clear in Philippians 2:3 and 4, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The moment you are individualist, you’re wrong. It is not all about you and Jesus, it is about Christ, your brothers and sisters, and God’s purposes. It is not about you and me, but us and we. Are you a corporate Christian or individualistic Christian? Only those who realize they’re community will submit to one another. If you are submitting to one another . . .
Three You will not be self-assertive
Self-assertiveness is the very opposite of what Paul is saying. To be self-assertive means you are not being subject to one another. When you’re filled with the Spirit, one of the consequences will be a heart that desires to subject ourselves to one another and not assert our wants above the will of God and above the needs of others around us. What does James 4:1 to 2 say? “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have.”
Conflicts in your marriage, conflicts with your parents, conflicts with brothers and sisters occur because one party wants the upper hand–they want to control, to dominate, to get their way, to run the show. You’ve seen it, and possibly you’ve done it. But someone who is filled with the Spirit doesn’t fight for the top, he fights for the bottom. She doesn’t want to be over others, but to rank under. He doesn’t want his rights, but to defer his rights. This is why submissiving makes us so likable.
Have you ever noticed when you are submissive, how it affects and changes people around you? Today it seems the service industries are all prepared for a fight, to argue, to disagree, and it is fun to watch them respond to a submissive, agreeable heart. I am at a restaurant that is booked solid, but trying to get a table for my family anyway, but I’m not being pushy, pressing, but amiable, doing what they want me to do, following their directions exactly, submitting to their will. I was not doing it to manipulate, but because it is the result of being filled with the Spirit. I was depending on Him and His fruit through me resulted in submitting to others–God graciously gave us a nice table.
Can you remember the last time you were headed for an argument with your spouse, and before things got rolling, someone submitted? Often the argument goes away. Some of you are wondering how come your friendships are all messed up–you argue too much with others and you can’t get along with your roommate. It could be because you are self-assertive, and certainly it is because you are not submissive. When you’re submissive, you will not be self-assertive, you will defer to others, come under others, love others and listen to others. How likable are you? If you are filled with the Spirit, you will submit to one another.
Let’s pray–with your heads down and eyes closed, allow me to pose two final questions for your meditation.
1 Are you truly a child of God–are you really saved?
To be submissive of heart, you must be filled with the Spirit. To be dependent upon the indwelling Holy Spirit, you must be saved. You cannot live the Christian life in your own strength. You can’t live like the God of submission unless He has submitted you. You do not have a relationship with the true God of Heaven unless you have submitted to Christ and His work.
You must not depend on anything you have done, but only submit to all that Christ has done. You will depend on His sacrifice on the cross for your sins, believing that He took the punishment that you deserved for your sins, and can give you a new heart, a new life, and transform you from the inside out. You will no longer pursue living life your way, but repent, following His way described in His Word. You will submit to Him because He will give you a heart that wants to submit, and the Spirit living in you gives you the power to submit.
No true Christian lives their life merely for themselves–they live for Christ, and passionately pursue His priorities. Are you truly saved? If not, today is the day to turn to Christ. Talk to an elder, mark your card, speak to the friend that brought you, but turn to Christ.
2 Are you truly filled with the Spirit?
If you are, you will commune, sing, give thanks and submit to others. The Spirit’s filling is what is missing in the Church today. Not the wild expressions seen in some churches, but a people who are saturated with the Word, aware they cannot do anything without Him, take all sin seriously, and passionately serve their gifts and share the Gospel with the lost. The Spirit is growing stronger in our midst. The Spirit is more present in our church than ever.
My prayer is that all of us together and each of us individually will pursue being filled with the Spirit more and more. He will make you more like Christ, He will make you a more submissive person, and He will make you into a likable person. Let’s be filled with the Spirit