Listened to a talk by Chris Wright from Langham partnership from the Cape Town 2010 Conference (see http://conversation.lausanne.org/en/conversations/detail/11556 if you are interested). His basic premise was that one of the greatest inhibitors to the world wide spread of the gospel is the lack of obedience and the idolatry of the church - Jesus body. He reviewed how this happened to Israel in the Old Testament and how we are sliding into idolatry of various forms (my comments: position, building projects, ways of doing church, etc.).
I have been reading and studying in Ephesians 4. The precursor to this section is chapter 2:
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We, as a collective group called the church, are a dwelling place of God. We are a living, growing vibrant dwelling where God lives through His Spirit! THAT is amazing!
He then comes to chapter 4. I found it interesting that in this chapter he jumps between a couple of main themes - personal issues and living within the community of the church. I think what he is trying to teach me is that the statements relative to personal issues; the charge to change personally and live a life worthy of the calling your have received (4:1), is only useful when placed in the context of the church community. Paul instructs us to personally change so that we can have a positive, building, life giving impact on the community of believers.
Note a couple of examples:
28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
The directive is to stop stealing. Why? He does not say so that you will be a better testimony (although that is true). He does not say stop stealing so that you will not get in trouble with your boss or be arrested (although this might also be true). He says not to steal so that you can contribute to the community; so that you can share with God's people who are in need (see Romans 12).
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
The directive is to not "waste words" (unwholesome talk) but only speak life giving words. Why? To build up, to benefit those that hear you. To strengthen the community around you.
If you read through this chapter, you will see how Paul jumps from personal directives that will help a person be more holy, to the reason for this: building up the community called the church. We are to be holy, so that we can help others. Period. We are not to be holy so that we can gain some advantage; so that we can curry some favor with God: we are to be holy so that we can help others be holy so that the "temple of God"; the dwelling place of the Spirit of God; his church; will be beautiful.
Just think of how attractive that would be to a world who is looking for hope, for love, for grace, for spiritual direction. Just think if we really set our minds to being holy and then intentionally looked to build others up, how drawing that would be!
Again, I find that God is calling me to change my mindset from me, to others. Again I see that the purpose for my holiness is not me, but others. Again I see that the path of blessing is giving and not getting.
You would think that I would have that one down by now.........