There was a young girl who loved eggs, eggs for breakfast, dinner and tea. Her egg obsession gave her parents a great idea for a birthday present, they bought her a couple of chickens. For a few a weeks the girl was happy with her supply of fresh eggs but then she ordered something on line with the remainder of her birthday money. The parcel duly arrived and the girl took it out to the chicken coup and opened it from of her chickens sitting on their eggs. It was an Ostrich egg, she held the egg with a gleam in her eye and said to her chickens, “now look at this and try harder!”
I have been reading Ephesians for a sermon on Sunday and I have to say that its left me at times feeling a bit like those chickens looking at an ostrich egg, feeling intimidated and inadequate. I feel that way when I come across statements like these
” …. put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:24
” … Be imitators of God, … ” Eph 5:1
I look at myself, I think of all my many faults and failings and I read Paul calling on me with all other Christians to “be like God” and “be imitators of God” and I feel intimidated and inadequate. I think I am as likely to become significantly like the God revealed by Jesus Christ as a chicken is to lay an egg the size of an ostrich’s. It would be all too easy for statements like those made by Paul to the Ephesians above to drive ordinary Christians to despair and depression. The New Testament paints an incredible picture of what God wants to do with the life of those who surrender it into his hands. Perhaps nowhere is this incredible goal more clearly described than in 2 Cor 3:18 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, …”
I don’t know about you, but whenever I read those words I can’t help but think that I am pretty sure that I am not a promising candidate for being transformed into the image of God with every increasingly glory. My life seems, to me at least, a very unlikely vehicle to me for displaying God’s glory.
Thankfully my reading of Ephesians hasn’t just left me feeling intimidated and inadequate it also left me feeling inspired. I feel inspired to reach for the goal that God’s Word has for me, to become someone who can increasingly become more like God in my attitudes and actions. That inspiration hasn’t come because all of a sudden I have become a lot more optimistic out my innate abilities to make spiritual progress towards being more Christlike. I am inspired by one little phrase in Ephesians which holds out the most incredible hope for those of us who want to experience the transformation God’s Word says we should experience.
Here it is, “be filled with the Spirit” Ephesians 5:18 NT scholar Gordon Fee has a wonderful book about the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Apostle Paul called GOD’S EMPOWERING PRESENCE. When Paul says we are to be filled, to come under the control of the Holy Spirit, he understands the Holy Spirit as God’s personal empowering presence in our lives. In that book Gordon Fee says that this imperative, this command is the key to all the other imperatives Paul has been making in the book of Ephesians, like those we looked at above. In other words the way someone like me can become like God in holiness and righteousness and imitate and reflect God in character and life is not through “trying harder” but through being filled by God’s empowering presence. The “secret” to transformation is that God’s Spirit empowers us to live the life God’s Word calls us to.
In the Old Testament God’s Spirit was given to special people for special occasions or tasks. This led to a certain frustration among God’s People as they knew through God’s Law what He was calling them to be and do, but just like the chicken in our story, they felt inadequate and incapable of doing what God was commanding them to do and become consistently. Prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah looked forward to a new era for God’s people when God’s Spirit would be given to everyone and so empower and enable God’s people to become reflections of their God.
This Sunday is Pentecost, the day we remember that God kept his promise made through Ezekiel and Jeremiah and others. On the Day of Pentecost He poured out His Spirt not on a few of God’s people but on all of God’s people. Its because of Pentecost that Paul says to all of us, me included and you too, “Be filled with the Spirit.” Be filled and empowered by God through His Spirit so that you can be and do all that God calls on you to be and to do.
Now there are lots of controversies around being filled with the Spirit, when does it happen? what are signs it has happened? etc. I want to side step those issues and emphasis the inspiration that comes from realising that we can be filled with God’s Spirit. If like me you have been feeling a bit inadequate, feeling like you are not able to be what the Lord wants you to be, remember he commands and invites you “be filled with the Spirit.” To surrender your life to the Spirit and learn to be dependent on Him. That’s at the centre of what Pentecost is all about.