Characteristics of the Walk, #3
Walking Worthy!
The Lowly Walk, Part 5
Ephesians 4:2
 
As you know, we are currently studying the opening verses of the 4th chapter of Ephesians where we find an encouragement, (actually the Apostle Paul is begging his hearers), to walk worthy of the calling with which we are called. Listen again to his heart as I read these first six verses.
 
Now in my estimation, this text is extremely important because it reveals a basic truth that we need to consider.  In fact, it is essential that we understand this basic truth or we will be frustrated in our Christian walk.  We need to understand that first and foremost, the Christian life is not a matter of what you do.  It is a matter of who you are.
 
That is the very heart of Christianity.  But unfortunately, most of us want to describe our life as a Christian in terms of what we do.  Ask most people if they are a Christian, and they will respond by saying, “I was baptized at such and such place at such and such time” or “I go to church or read my Bible and I don’t cheat and lie and I try to keep the 10 Commandments”.  Of course I am a Christian.
 
But it's interesting to me that when Paul talks about walking worthy, he never mentions an action or a good deed or attendance at church.  All he talks about is attitude. That tells me the worthy walk is not so much a matter of what you do as it is of who you are. There are plenty of people who can do the deeds and not be the person.
 
That's the hypocrisy that the Bible talks about. In fact, Jesus said when judgment time comes, there are a lot of people who will want to talk about all the stuff they did.  But the problem is Jesus didn’t know them.  Acceptance into heaven is not based on what you do, but who you are.
 
And unfortunately there are many who are depended on the fruit of their actions or activity to be acceptable when instead God is looking for the fruit of the Spirit.
 
So when Paul talks about the worthy walk, he starts with attitude and talks specifically about five characteristics that will be seen when a person is walking worthy of their calling and that’s what we see there in verses 2 and 3.
 
Now we’ve already spent four weeks just looking at the introduction and calling and the first of those five characteristics that are listed there regarding the worthy walk.
 
The first one is all lowliness.  We took two weeks to develop that thought and probably should spend much more time than we did.  But the worthy walk begins with total humility. It begins with being aware of ourselves and who we are in light of Christ and God.
 
It is the foundational thought, not only of this text, but of the Christian life.  No wonder Satan tempts us to be proud.  That’s why we took the time to look at all those areas where we are tempted to develop pride.
 
 
Tonight, I want us to go on to the second characteristic.  It’s found there in verse 2 also and it is the word
 
- Gentleness
 
I think I mentioned to you at some point that there is a progression to these words. One produces the other or builds upon the other.  To put it in positive terms, we could say that humility produces gentleness.  Or if you prefer to phrase it negatively, then you cannot have meekness without humility. You will never find a combination of pride and gentleness.  Gentle people don’t run around full of themselves. They are mutually exclusive.
 
Where there is humility there will inevitably be gentleness.  Where you find gentleness there will be long-suffering.  Where there is long-suffering there will be "forbearing one another in love," and where those occur there will be the "keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." This is a progressive thing development of a walk that eventually arrives at unity and peace.
 
So what is gentleness, or as some translations say, meekness?  It's interesting to see how the world defines it, because the world doesn't understand it. Most people think of meekness as a deficiency in courage or spirit.
 
Now the reason the world doesn’t understand it and detests it so much is because it is a characteristic of God.  In fact, if you remember it is described in Galatians 5 as the fruit of the Spirit.
 
And when genuine gentleness is produced by the Spirit of God it is a valuable virtue.  In fact, it is a critical virtue if we will have the mind of Christ. In fact, Paul is telling us we cannot walk the worthy wlak without developing this attitude.   But the attitude of human meekness apart from the energy of the Holy Spirit is seen by the world as cowardice or timidity or lack of strength.
 
But that's not the Bible term. So I suppose my goal tonight is to make sure we understand what the Bible means when it talks about gentleness.  And I want to go about that, first of all by developing something of a definition.  Then I’ll give you some Biblical examples, and close with some practical ways you can tell whether or not you are gentle.
 
First, let's talk about
 
1. A Definition of Gentleness
 
One of the more practical ways to define something is to think in terms of what that thing isn’t.  That is especially helpful with gentleness doesn’t seek revenge.  It doesn’t retaliate or seek to even the score.  It’s not vindictive.  It doesn’t harbor bitterness or resentment.
 
If we were to define it we might say it is a quiet willing submission to God and others.
 
It’s used in secular language to speak of a soothing medicine like a tranquilizer or something that calms and soothes the spirit. It is used also of the light, cool breeze that would waft across a warm hillside and cool and refresh the people there.
 
They also used it to describe people who were friendly or tenderhearted or pleasant or mild as opposed to those who were hard, rough, coarse and violent.
 
The term is used at least twelve times in the New Testament.  I’ve already mentioned the fruit fo the spirit in Galatians 5.  Paul instructs Timothy to follow after gentleness, along with righteousness, godliness, faith, love and patience.
 
Meekness is a mild, quiet, gentle, pleasant spirit; it is a soothing, non-vengeful, non-retaliating, non-vindictive, non- bitter, non-reacting, non-defensive, non-self-assertive spirit.
 
It is used also to speak of a wild colt that has been tamed and brought under control so it’s power and energy can be useful. In fact, one of the most common definitions you will hear is that meekness or gentleness is strength or power under control.
 
Don't you think for a moment that gentleness is indifference or cowardice or weakness or a fearfulness. It is not. It is not impotent, it is not cowardly. Jesus was not impotent and nor was He cowardly, but Jesus was gentle.
 
Let me tell you something, did you know that you have the right to get mad? Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry.”  “Just don’t sin in doing it”.  That tells me there's a certain kind of anger that isn't sin.  What is that anger?
 
 
 
It’s being angry for the right reason.  You can be angry for the right reason or the wrong reason. In one case it is power under control, in another case it is power out of control.
 
Gentle people control that strength of anger and stat in control of it.  People who get angry at everything and are out control know nothing about gentleness.
 
Now when I was a student of philosophy they taught me about a guy named Aristotle.  You may have heard of him.  I think he lived out there around Wilson somewhere.
 
Now Aristotle was a secular philosopher but I think he gives us some help when it comes to understanding gentleness.
 
Aristotle believed that the virtues of life or we might call them the right attitudes of life were found in the middle of extremes.  On the one hand, you have a deficiency.  On the other hand you have an excess and in the middle was the goal or the virtue.
 
He illustrated that in a lot of different ways.  For instance courage is the virtue in the middle between cowardice, which is the deficiency of courage and foolhardiness which is the excess of courage. A person who is too courageous is going to get himself killed because of his foolishness and on the other end is a person who is nothing but a sniveling coward, and in the middle is the virtue which is courage.
 
Aristotle said, “Generosity is the virtue between selfishness and wastefulness.”
In regard to gentleness of meekness, he said, “Meekness is the virtue in the middle between indifference, unconcern, weakness, cowardice, and excessive explosive anger." Meekness is in the middle. In fact,, he said, "The meek man is angry on the right occasion, with the right people, at the right moment and for the right length of time."
 
Power under control. Gentleness doesn't mean you back away from confronting sin and it doesn't make you cease to condemn evil. It is strength or power under control.
 
But that’s not enough.  It is not just strength under control.  It must be under the control of God to operate correctly.  Gentleness is when I take the anger or passion that is in me and submit it to God so that it only responds in a way that honors God.
It’s not about what angers me or offends me.
 
If I’m responding just because I’m offended, then I may still respond incorrectly.  But gentleness is when the anger is about that which offends God and not me.
 
If somebody wants to step on me that's all right.  If somebody offends me, that's no big deal.  If somebody does something to me, that doesn’t really make any difference.  If I have a spirit of gentleness, there is no retaliation, there is no revenge, there is no self-seeking. I seek nothing for myself.
 
But when God is maligned and is the center of the offense, then the lion that is within me roars.  That's righteous indignation.
 
And we need to understand that gentleness is that quiet spirit that is non-defensive, non-retaliating, non- vengeful, non-self-seeking except when God is dishonored.  Then it is that same spirit that stands up and roars and exercises its power. It is a holy indignation under the control of God.  It reacts when it ought to react at the right time, for the right reasons and for the right length of time.
 
Jesus had it.  The same Jesus, meek and quiet spirit Who would sit a child on His lap and bless him is the same Jesus Who confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, blistering them up one side and down the other, calling them whitened sepulchers full of dead men's bones.
 
The same Jesus who said, "I am meek and lowly at heart”, the same Jesus of whom it was said, “He came riding on the colt, the foal of a donkey, meek and lowly”, the same Jesus who “did not open His mouth before His accusers”, the same Jesus Who was beaten and spat upon and mocked and ridiculed without ever seeking revenge was the same Jesus Who, when God the Father was dishonored, walked into the temple, made a whip and started whipping men and throwing tables over and knocking over chairs and spilling money and chasing animals, and said, “Get out of here! You have turned My Father's house into a den of thieves and it is to be a house of prayer.”
 
There He is, whip in hand cleansing the temple. But when His own temple, His body, was defiled, hanging on the cross with nails driven through His body, ripping with blood and spit and sweat and they were mocking Him all He had to say then was, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they do."
That's gentleness.  That's power under control.  And I’ll tell you what I find interesting:  Jesus never reacted to that which came against Him only that which came against the Father.
 
When they came to capture Him in the garden, it would have been so easy for Jesus to have just cleaned house.  He had the power, if He had wanted to, to call the angels of heaven to His aid. In fact, He said, “All I’ve got to do is pray and instantly God will send 75,000 angels to my defense.”
 
Do you know how powerful that is? In the Old Testament, one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians all by himself.  Jesus said, “With one word to my Father, I can have 75,000 angels here in the blink of an eye.”  But He didn’t do it, not in defense of Himself.
 
That’s gentleness.  Gentleness will take a whip and defend God against those who desecrate His name, but refuses to lift so much as a finger to revenge itself.
 
How opposite of us.  Somebody says something about me that's critical or judgmental and the hair rasies up on the back of my neck and I begin to plt and plan on how I’ll take revenge.
 
Somebody does something to you, whether intentional or accidental, and the first reaction we have is to make sure we get what’s coming to us.
 
But gentleness is when we get to that place where we can say and mean it, “It’s no big deal.  It doesn’t matter what happens to me because I’m not important.”
Gentleness says, “The only thing that’s important is that God is honored because I’m nothing.  There is nothing left of me to be offended.”
 
Well, I hope you can come up with some kind of definition or meaning out of all that.
 
Let me show you some
 
2. Some Illustrations of Gentleness
 
We’ve already looked at Jesus.  Let me give you some human examples.  One of the best examples is David.
 
In 1 Samuel 24, you find David running from Saul.  Now David knew he had been anointed king and he knew God had rejected Saul and it was only a matter of time until he was on the throne.
 
But David and his men were hiding in a cave.  And all David had to do was kill him.  One shot in the heart and it would all be over.  David knew he had the right to reign.  David knew that Saul had chased him all over the place and tried to kill him, tried to destroy the wonderful love relationship he had with Jonathan, tried to devastate his whole life.
 
And he had every right to take revenge.  An average man would have pounced on that opportunity and  hated what Saul did to him.  In fact, I wonder how David kept from convincing himself that God had put Saul there just so David could kill him.
 
 
 
But David didn’t do it.  In fact, David went over to Saul, took his knife and cut a piece of his robe off, just so Saul would know he was there, and could have done it, but didn't do it.
He had the power.  He had the right.  But his power was under the control of and submitted to God.
 
Later on, in 2 Samuel 16, we meet a boy named Absalom.  He is David’s son and he’s about as evil and rebellious a boy as you will ever find.
 
He tried to depose his own dad and ascend the throne in his place.   In fact, David had to run for his life. He becomes the laughingstock of some of his own people because he ran from his own son. And during that time one of Saul's men by the name of Shimei found David and he started to curse and mock David and throw rocks at him.  Can you imagine treating the king that way?
 
David’s nephew, Abishai, was all of that happening and said to David, “You just give me the word and I'll chop his head off.”
 
David said, “Let him alone.”  That's power under control. He was never vengeful for himself.  He sought nothing for himself. He would stare down giants and led the armies of God to defend God’s name, but he wouldn't touch one person for his own sake.”
 
That’s gentleness.
 
I think the greatest Old Testament illustration of meekness is Moses.  In Numbers 12, Moses is described as the most meek and humble man alive.
 
Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of Moses, I sure don’t think of little Julius Milquetoast running around hiding behind rocks. I think of fearlessness and boldness and confrontation and conviction.  I think of a great dynamic powerful leader. I think of Charleton Heston!
 
He is one explosion of passion and anger after the other.  Early on, he’s killing an Egyptian for abusing a Jew.  He walks right into the presence of pharaoh the greatest monarch existent in the world, gets nose to nose with him and syas, “God said for you to set His people free.”
 
In Exodus chapter 32 he finds Israel in idolatry, throws a fit and he smashes the law of God.  He is a bold, combative, explosive individual that the Bible describes as the meekest man that ever lived.
 
Why? Because his strength was never in defense of himself, but in defense of God and what was right and holy.
 
And it is that attitude, that character trait that Pual has in mind when he writes to these Ephesians and says, “If you are going to walk worthy, you’re going to have to be gentle and meek.”
 
That same attitude that was seen in Jesus and David and Moses is what God is looking for in us.
 
So in closing, let me ask you, as I’ve asked myself  some questions.  It’s time for
 
3. An Examination for Gentleness
 
 How do you know if you have gentleness? Let me suggest some practical questions and you can just examine yourself.
 
  • Do you exercise self- control?
 
Is your anger, your power, your energy always under the control of the Holy Spirit? How do you respond when somebody offends you?  “He can't do that to me!  Who does that guy think he is?”
 
When, when your wife says something to you that could start an argument, are you more than willing to oblige?  Do you jump right in there, defending yourself? Or are you always under control?
 
A person of gentleness will exercise power under control.
 
Second question:
 
- Are you angry only when God is dishonored?
 
What makes you mad?  Is it only when God is dishonored and no other time?  I know folks who get upset and angry over the silliest things!  But we are to be angry only with things that dishonor God. And unfortunately, when we get angry over other things, we are the ones who are dishonoring God.  I know some folks who could care less that God is dishonored.  You just better not cross them!
 
But the things that make us angry ought to be the things that mar His reputation, that despise His name, pervert the Word of God, that destroy His plan for mankind.
I don’t mind telling you I get angry over false doctrines and false teachers.  I get angry over those who would claim to know Christ and do not.  I get angry over those who claim to be servants of Christ and don’t serve.  And calim to be called to lead and they don’t.
 
We ought to be careful to exhort and encourage and live in love and humility, but we have every right for the lion to roar when God is dishonored.
 
Third question,
 
- Do you respond to the Word of God humbly no matter what it says?
 
James 1:21 says, "You are to receive the engrafted word with meekness."
 
When the Word of God confronts you, do you respond by saying, “Dear God, here’s what Your Word says, and I submit to it and I do it gladly and expectantly because I want to walk worthy of my calling?
 
Or do you resist it and try to explain it away or just simply ignore it?  You see, the Bible says, if we know to do right and don’t do it we’re sinning.
 
Fourth question,
 
- Do you seek to be a peacemaker?
 
Gentle people do. They are not stirring things up; they’re trying to make peace. Right here in our text we read, "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.  They will see God.”
 
Paul said, “As much as is possible, be at peace with all men.”
 
That's what gentleness does.
 
If somebody falls do you condemn them and gossip about them and talk about them behind their back?   If they do something wrong are you the first one on the phone or Facebook to blab about it and stir things up?
 
Or are you the one who is describe in Galatians 6:4 where it says, "When a brother's taken in a fault, you restore such an one with meekness."
 
Gentle people don't start fights.  They end them. They don't start arguments; they finish them.
 
Another question:
 
- Do you receive criticism without retaliation, whether it's right or wrong?
 
Can you take criticism? I’m not talking about whether it’s right or wrong.  I’m talking about your response to it.  In fact, sometimes it might be right and we don’t want to admit it or hear it.  And it might be that God has sent it our way as His messenger.  Can you take it without retaliating?
 
Gentle people can.
 
 
 
One final question,
 
- Do you have the right attitude toward the unsaved?
 
Peter says, "We are to give an answer to every man that asks us the reason of the hope within us, with meekness and fear."
 
It’s so easy for Christians to get smug and arrogant with our faith.  We are so critical of lost people and how they act and live, especially if they are members of our family.  In fact, sometimes we have attitudes about lost family members we would never have about the general population.
 
That is not a sign of gentleness. In my estimation someone who is lost and blind ought to be pitied rather than criticized. And as I child of God, I have the responsibility of letting them see the very life and attitude of Christ.
 
How dare I be offended by the words or actions of a lost person for whom Jesus shed His blood?  How dare I look down on them as if I’m got more of a right to be saved than do they?  Who do we think we are?
 
Well, those are some questions that might help you. Do you have self-control? Are you angry only when God is dishonored? Do you respond to the Word humbly no matter what it says? Do you always make peace? Do you receive criticism without retaliation whether it's right or wrong? Do you have the right attitude toward the unsaved?
 
 
That's what gentleness does. And if I’m going to walk worhy of my calling then I must have the attitude of my Savior.
 
The one who made the world, the one who flung the billion galaxies into space, the one who calls every star by name, the one who preserves the innumerable orbits in their courses, the one who weighs the mountains in a balance and the hills on a scale, the one who takes up the islands as a very small thing, the one who holds the waters in the hollow of His hand, the one before whom the inhabitants of the world are as grasshoppers, this one says, "I am meek and lowly."
 
Can you do less? 1 Peter 3:3-4 says that we are to have "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”
 
May God help us to humbly develop a spirit of gentleness.
 
Let's pray.

 

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