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The Call To Change

"17 So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
Good Morning Beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day
Thank you for joining us
There are many within the Christian community that view the terms "ministry" or "service "with a narrow mind. If it most often perceived as teaching a Bible study class, being a greeter, or volunteering in some capacity. I believe that we can get a better of idea of what Paul is thinking about if we spend a moment looking at the words "ministry" and "service."
Ministry is most generally thought of as one who teaches the Word of God, as in the preacher. And service as a word that described menial service such as waiting on tables. While both those are necessary, that's not what the apostle Paul is talking about in his letter to the Ephesians.
However, I believe that if we truly want to determine what Paul means by service, or ministry, all we need to do is to look to the life of Jesus, who is our example. I'd like to encourage you, for a moment, to think about how Jesus ministered to others. Sometimes He met physical needs by healing people or feeding them. Other times, He met emotional needs by teaching and comforting. However, even when He did all of those things, His primary purpose was to deal with the spiritual needs of people. Jesus realized that people often wouldn’t be ready to deal with their spiritual needs until they first had their physical and emotional needs addressed.
I believe that if we look at ministry, or service, in that light, we begin to realize that all of us can be ministers in our everyday lives. Everything we do to help meet needs in the lives of others for the purpose of revealing the manifold wisdom of God in our world is ministry. Furthermore, I believe the biggest issue for most of us, is that we just don’t view what we’re doing as ministry.
For some of us, being a minister doesn’t require us to change what we’re doing as much as it requires us to change why we’re doing it. Some of you are out there serving others every day. However, I'd like to point out, that if you’re doing it so that you’ll gain recognition from the pastor or others or simply feel good about yourself, I don’t believe you’re being a "minister," even though you're serving others.
Jesus, Himself warned us in Matthew 6:2-4, "So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."
But if you’re out there meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of others, so that the wisdom of God would be made known and manifest, then believe me, you’re "doing ministry" and God is working through you! And I’m here to do everything I can to help prepare and guide you to do that service and ministry.
Now, for those of you sitting on the sidelines, Christianity is not a spectator sport. It is team effort and participation. God has a purpose and plan for every single believer. For some, it's a prayer warrior. For others, it is to be His hands and feet. And others of us, it's to teach the Word of God. And believe me when I say, none is any more or less valuable in the Kingdom of God.  
Let us bow our heads in prayer.
Heavenly Father,
Again, we give thanks to You for this power truth, preserved in Your Word. Thank You for the clarity and discernment to speak it confidently and boldly. Father, thank You for helping us to understand that it is indeed, a bold text. Lord, I pray that we would not be unloving in speaking truth to those who do not yet know the truth, but that we boldly speak truth, in love and with compassion, remembering that apart from Christ, we were all lost, condemned to eternal separation for You. Remind us that we ourselves, have done nothing to earn our salvation, to not hold ourselves higher than another, but that we have all been leveled before You when kneeling at the foot of the cross.

Help us to faithful servants, joyfully serving the needs of others. For serving the least of them, we're are serving You. Help us to love what You love and hate what You hate, not only in others, but ourselves. For we are all sinners, saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone. Thank You Father, for Your grace, of which we are so undeserving. Thank You Jesus, for sacrificing Your all, for loving us, even before we loved You.
In Your precious name

Today's Message: The Call To Change

Paul had just finished describing the need for the body of Christ to mature so that they could grow up into the Head, Jesus Christ. He wrote about the importance of developing both their vertical relationship with Jesus and their horizontal relationships with others. But now he is going to change course a bit. He is warning his readers not to return to what they were like before God reached down into their lives and made them part of his family. I believe that many of us, who claim Christ, should also heed his warning.

Open your Bibles with me to the rich and rewarding fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians, verses 17-24, as we make our way through these wonderful final three chapters 4, 5 and 6. I believe that we will be tremendously blessed by the marvelous portion of the Word of God.

To get this set in our minds, I'd like to invite you to follow along with me, as I read to you from Ephesians 4:17-24.

"So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
Paul says in verse 17, "So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds."
When Paul writes "that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk", he is exhorting his readers to never go back to the kind of life they experienced before they committed their lives to Jesus Christ. Paul is telling us to walk worthy, it's a different walk. We are to live differently than the world lives. That's the point he's making here. There is some debate whether or not the text was "Gentiles also walk," or "other Gentiles walk" in the original manuscripts, so whether it is or not, we're going to include it for our purpose, because I believe it's at least implied here, although there is quite a bit of debate among commentators, if its implied or not. 
I believe that in calling us not to walk as the other Gentiles do, he is summarizing the last 16 verses, that Christ has uniquely gifted us as members of His body, because of all He has given us, we are therefore to walk in a way worthy of those gifts.

Although Paul’s writing in these verses is not exactly a "how-to" manual on how to not go back to where we once belonged, he certainly gives us enough insight about how that can occur that we can develop some principles that we can apply to avoid doing that. Although I’m sure there is much more here, we'll look at five principles that will help us from going back to what we once were.

So, how do I walk worthy? Well, first of all, not walking as the other Gentiles walk.

Paul writes of the futile thinking of the Gentiles. Remember that Paul is writing here to believers, primarily Gentile Christians. So when he uses the word Gentiles here, the context makes it quite clear that he is referring to unbelievers. I'm sure you recall that Paul says in chapter 2:11-12, to ask his readers to remember the futility of their life apart from God. "Therefore remember that previously you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the people of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

Those verses certainly describe a life of futility. The word used for futility, "mataiotés," is the very same word that we find in the Greek version of the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Ecclesiastes where the writer of that book describes the futility of living a life apart from God. There, that same word is translated meaningless, vanity or futility, depending on which translation you use. Those are all good words to describe the emptiness of a life apart from God.  

Our spiritual memory is a lot like our physical memory – the older we get, the harder it is to remember things. For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, we tend to forget just how futile our lives were apart from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe that it’s helpful for us to occasionally take Paul’s advice and remember the futility of that life as a great motivation for us to ensure we don’t go back to where we once were.

Paul tell us to recognize the process. In this passage, Paul clearly describes a process that results in a life of futility. Just as our spiritual maturity is a process that doesn’t happen in an instant, going back to where we once were usually doesn’t happen all at once either. It's a gradual process. So it’s helpful for us to understand the process that leads to a life of futility.

And though Paul describes the process very clearly here in Ephesians 4, he goes into even more detail in one of his other letters, Romans chapter 1. Romans 1:18-25.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible mankind, of birds, four-footed animals, and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity in the lusts of their hearts, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."

If we look at this passage in Romans 1, along with the passage in Ephesians 4, we can come away with a pretty good understanding of the process that leads to a life of futility.

By revelation, which is the process in which God reveals Himself to us in some way. As Paul points out, that could be through His creation, but the primary means of God’s revelation of Himself is through His Word. And it is that Word that contains truth. Once that truth is revealed, every one of us has to deal with it. And if we don’t accept that truth and adjust our lives to that truth, it leads to the second step in the process.

Rejection! As Christians, we don’t have a hard time recognizing that unbelievers have rejected the truth of God. However, I'd like you to remember that Paul is writing here in Ephesians to Christians and he seems to be warning us against doing the very same thing. Unfortunately, as I’ve discussed with you on numerous occasions, surveys and studies consistently reveal that many of those who claim to be Christians reject some of the basic tenets of the gospel. We live in a culture that provides us with so many choices that we can pick and choose from and sadly, that mentality has infiltrated the pulpits and the modern church. However, I boldly tell you, Christianity is not a smorgasbord, it's not a Baskin-Robbins where I can just choose from more than 30 flavors and reject all the others.

Beloved, that's just spiritual ignorance, which is the next step in the process leading to a life of futility.
Rejecting the truth of God leads to spiritual ignorance. And that spiritual ignorance gets reflected in our actions. Sometimes I think that we unwittingly push unbelievers away from our churches because we expect them to speak and act like Christians. 
Paul makes that clear in I Corinthians 2:14-16, let me just read that to you. 
"But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. But the one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is discerned by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."
Believe it or not, it happens to believers. Once we choose to reject the truth of God, we begin to develop spiritual ignorance in our lives as well.

Which leads to the next step in the process, which Paul tells us about in verses 18 and 19, hardened hearts.

"being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."

The Greek word "pōrōsin," translated "hardness" means to cover with a callous or blindness. Before the days of computers when I had to write a lot, I developed a very thick callous on the inside of my middle finger where the pencil or pen rubbed against it when I wrote. In fact, although it’s not as noticeable today, it’s still there. That callous became so thick, that it actually prevented me from having any feeling on that part of my finger. I could poke that callous with a pin and not even feel it. Not that you would appreciate that information, however, it does serve to accurately describe what Paul is speaking about here.

That is exactly the picture that Paul is using here. The more that we reject the truth of God and the more that we become spiritually ignorant, the more calloused, or hardened we become, the harder our hearts get. And the more calloused they get, the harder it is for us to even sense just how far from God we have fallen.

And that leads to the next step, complete separation from God. Complete separation from God. Eventually, the hardening of our hearts leads to a complete separation from God. Again, this is something we can easily see in unbelievers who want absolutely nothing to do with God. However, I'd like to point out to you, that same potential danger also exists for all of us as followers of Jesus Christ. Because the more hardened our hearts become, the more difficult it is for us to even sense the separation that results from us turning away from God. Therefore, I believe that we must frequently "keep our ego in check," to ensure that this does not happen! Because if we don't, once that process begins, we're well on our way to separation from God. We must continually yield ourselves to God.

Or we will inevitably take the next step which Paul describes in of being given over to our own desires. This is a very dangerous step in the process. If we don’t break this process somewhere along the way, we will inevitably come to the point where God will just turn us over to our own sinful desires. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4, we come to the point where we have completely lost all sensitivity to the point that we no longer even care if others even see us live that sinful lifestyle. In my lifetime, I have seen this occur with a number of people who began serving God, had a successful ministry and finished in being given over to their own desires, leading to destruction. 

Unfortunately, the church is not immune from this kind of openly sinful behavior either. It’s sad to see that those who call themselves Christians have come to the point in there lives where their own selfish, sinful desires completely rule their lives.

One of the most notorious instances, which I'm certain that many of you remember, is Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who began the PTL Ministry. And they're certainly not the only ones, over the years, I have mentioned numerous others. Sinful behaviors that were once limited to being lived out in secret are now flaunted publicly. 

We can observe this in the lives of unbelievers. We know it is certainly not a pretty picture. But by understanding the process, we can take some concrete steps to short-circuit that process so that we make sure that we don’t end up where we once were. Or worse.

These last three principles can help us to break out of this process. Does anyone happen to know the next principal? I'll give you a hint, Paul describes it the his letter to the Romans.

We must renew our thought life. This whole process gets started with what we think. That’s why Paul wrote Romans 12:2-3. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."

In other words, this whole principal of learning, and teaching, and mind, and knowing, as opposed to ignorance – is the issue of the mind, that's is the issue. We know that! Proverbs 23:7 teaches that, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is."

The point is, as Christians, we have to think different because when we think different we will act different. Salvation, beloved, and I just remind you of this, salvation is first a change of mind. It is a change of mind; it is a new way of thinking, of acting. It's a new thinking process. Unsaved people can’t think right. Salvation is a change of mind, a new thinking process. And a change of heart. 

Paul says it in verse 20: "But you did not learn Christ in this way." And you have been told enough about that so you understand that Christianity is cognitive before it’s experiential. It is a new way of thinking that draws us to God. We think different about our sin than we used to think, we think different about God than we used to think, we think different about Christ than we used to think, we think different about what we ought to do with our life than we used to think, and that new thinking process brings us to salvation, and salvation is a change of mind. That’s really what repentance means, thinking differently about our sin and turning away from it. The sinner's thinking is one of self-centeredness. It's about what they want, their right, what makes them feel good. It's self-centeredness! 

And can't we see that dominating our culture so clearly in the world today? "I'm going to live my truth," "My rights," "What I want.." And if we don't want to end up where we started, and conform to the pattern of this world, then it all starts with our thought life. We have to renew our minds daily. We must change our way of thinking. One of the biggest issues of our current culture, is there is no absolute truth. Truth has become whatever a particular individual believes it to be. You have yours and they have theirs, and no one possess the knowledge of real truth. They are deceived by their human condition.
Everything in the life of the unregenerate is empty, it's useless, nothing really matters, because there’s really nothing of substance there at all. 
The best illustration of this can be seen in the book of Ecclesiastes. Where the wisest man, the richest man, the man with the most women, the man with the most power and prestige, in the world sums it all up this way, "Futility of futilities, says the Preacher, "Futility of futilities! All is futility." Are you getting this? He says it's futile.
And in his second book, Ecclesiastes 2:9-11, he says " Then I became great and increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. My wisdom also stood by me. All that my eyes desired, I did not refuse them. I did not restrain my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor; and this was my reward for all my labor. So I considered all my activities. Why? which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold, all was futility and striving after wind, and there was no benefit under the sun."
And let's be honest, you can't really go around telling people to their face they're ignorant, when in fact, they're technically educated. No society in history has ever been much more educated than our society today. More people have more degrees than any other time in history. Yet Paul tells us in II Timothy 3:7, "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." Why? How can that be? Because the world has a natural inability to understand the things of God. They believe themselves to be wise, they are wise in their own eyes and yet they're foolish. Those of the world are not only self-centered, whose thinking is useless but they're ignorant.
Just because we are followers of Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that we are immune to going that far. In fact we probably all know fellow believers who allowed their consciences to be seared and eventually ended up at a place where they were so ruled by their sin that they no longer tried to hide it and they needed more of that sin – both in quantity and intensity – in order to satisfy their selfish desires.
God has given us a conscience to help us understand when we are violating his standards. That’s why when people commit acts that are wrong, they try to do them in a manner that no one else will discover what they are doing. Even the unregenerate sinners, the unbelievers are not usually so brazen as to commit their sin right out in the open, at least not at first. It is their uninhibited self indulgence that is committed without shame and without concern for what others think or how they are affected. Because when we consistently violate our conscience, it becomes "seared" and it will no longer operate properly.
Having the understanding darkened, being blinded. It's a perfect participle, which means something that happened in the past, with continuing results. 
And in II Corinthians 10:5-6, Paul tells us, "We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete."
How do I take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? As thoughts come into my mind, I have to evaluate those thoughts and determine whether they are in fact consistent with Jesus, the truth, and with His Word. If my thought meets that standard, then I allow that thought to enter into my mind and I allow myself to dwell on it.

If that thought is not consistent with Jesus and His Word, then we must reject it. However, that’s only the first step. I then have to replace that thought with something that is consistent with the truth. Unfortunately, our culture urges us to "look out for number 1 "Paul has consistently emphasized throughout his letter that the church is a body where every member is a part of that body for the overall good of the body, not only for themselves. Obviously we all individually receive many benefits by being an integral part of that body, however, the body does not exist to serve our own needs, it exists to serve the purposes of the Head of the church, Jesus Christ. That's the purpose of the body of Christ.

Marilyn Monroe was once reportedly asked if she adhered to a faith. Her answer: "I believe in everything – a little."

So I guess that we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in the last Barna Group survey that asked people about absolute truth, only 22% of the participants agreed that "there are moral truths that are absolute, meaning that those moral truths or principles do not change according to the circumstances."

However, if you think about it, those who claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth make scores of decisions every day on the basis that they believe some things are true and some are false. We all do. I will not turn on a light without believing in the reality of electricity, or drive a car without believing in the effectiveness of the combustion engine. No one flying in a plane through mountainous terrain would want to be directed by a pilot who did not believe in the truth of his instruments. No one undergoing heart surgery would want to be operated on by a surgeon who did not believe that things about the heart were true and some not true.

But for some reason, when it comes to religion, we tend to believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly. We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

So in verses 20 and 21, Paul is going to wrap up this discussion by clearly pointing out to his readers exactly what, or, perhaps more accurately, who, determines which of those two paths that we end up on.
There's an old saying, perhaps you may have heard it. It says "Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you are willing to pay."
"But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus"
At the end of verse 21, Paul uses the words "the truth that is in Jesus." Hopefully, you still have your Bibles open to the book of Ephesians. I mean, why wouldn't you, we're not done just yet, right? And some of you haven't dozed off yet. So, I'd like to quickly read through the Book of Ephesians and see if you can tell me how Paul uses the name of Jesus differently in the last part of verse 21 than he does anywhere else in the rest of the letter.
Anyone have an answer? This is the only place in his letter where he uses the name “Jesus” without connecting with "Lord” and/or “Christ." Every other time Paul refers to Jesus, he calls Him "Christ," "Lord," or some combination of those titles along with the name "Jesus." Here, he simply uses the name that God gave his Son at the incarnation. I think that’s very significant. I believe the point Paul is making here "Truth" is a person. Jesus is truth. By using the name Jesus, without referring to Him by his titles of Lord or Christ, Paul is referring to the historical Jesus as God in the flesh. So when Paul refers to the "truth that is in Jesus," he is proclaiming that the sinless, spotless life that Jesus lived while He was here on earth is the demonstration of the truth that resided in Him. We tend to think of truth as a concept or a principle, but the Bible is clear that truth is a person – Jesus. 
The apostle John testified to that truth at the very beginning of his gospel in John 1:14. "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

However, even more persuasive is the testimony of Jesus Himself in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me."
There are some people who seek truth in religion. But religion can’t change lives. Religion can't save you. I believe that is why Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders of his day. The kind of religion they were dishing out was one based on rules and regulations that were intended to insure their power and influence, which actually put people in bondage, rather than set them free. But the truth leads to freedom, not bondage.
In John 8:31-32 Jesus teaches us "If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
That kind of reminds me of a conversation Abraham Lincoln once had with one of his detractors:

Lincoln said, "Well, let’s see how many legs has a cow?" "Four, of course," came the reply disgustedly. "That’s right," agreed Lincoln. "Now suppose you call the cow’s tail a leg; how many legs would the cow have?" "Why, five, of course," was the confident reply. "Now, that’s where you’re wrong," said Lincoln. "Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg." 

In other words, without acknowledging that Christ is the Lord. And so when you give Him your life, and you say, "Rule my life," then you fall under the truth, and rather than being ignorant, because now you know the truth. And in knowing the truth, you have been set free. 

In verse 21, Paul says "if indeed you have heard of him," so how had Paul’s readers heard Jesus? It’s entirely possible that some of them had heard Jesus in person, but it seems that Paul is probably referring to two groups of people he had described earlier – the apostles and prophets. It was those two groups who were primarily responsible for proclaiming Jesus. They were the ones who described the life of Jesus and proclaimed His words. And by doing that, it was if the listeners were hearing Jesus directly.

However, today, it is the work of the apostles and prophets, the Bible, has the very same function in our lives. We read the Bible and Jesus is revealed to us, we hear Jesus, through the Holy spirit. But not everyone who hears Jesus has their life transformed. In order for that to occur, we must respond properly to that revelation. By submitting to Him, receiving Him as our Lord and Savior.

Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

Jesus said that His sheep, listen to His voice, but notice they have to do one other thing – they follow Him. Sadly, not everyone who hears Jesus' voice is willing to make that commitment. There comes a time in all of our lives, when Jesus is revealed to us, we have to make a decision to follow Him. However, if we truly want our lives to be transformed, there is another step that we need to take. Obey His teaching. 

In verse 21, Paul writes that his readers also "were taught in him..." I believe that’s where the second two groups of people that Paul mentions in verse 11 come in – the evangelists and the pastor/teachers. Their role, especially that of the pastor/teachers, was to take the Word of God and to continually teach it to the followers of Jesus so that they would not be spiritually ignorant and so that they could apply it in their lives.

I know that many "Christians," attend church service out of a sense of religious obligation. But that won’t transform your life. Others attend church for the fellowship and listen, there is nothing wrong with that. But fellowship alone won’t transform your life either. And I have heard that some show up to learn what the Greek words mean, to have an intellectual understanding of the Bible, but let me tell you this, won’t transform your life.

In verse 22, Paul tells us "that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit"

Lust refers primarily to sexual sin, it describes any uninhibited indulgence that is committed without shame and without concern for what others think or how they are affected. And as Paul points out, once a person gets to that point they live a lifestyle that is characterized by deceit and a continual lust for more. This is not the only place in his writings that Paul uses the picture of taking off something that we no longer want to characterize our lives and to put on something new that is consistent with our new life in Jesus. Obviously, it's important enough to bear repeating.

We begin to get a sense in which Paul is indicating that the concept of taking off the old and putting on the new is a completed action which took place in the past. In other words, it is a picture of our position in Christ. But that same construction could also indicate actions that believers are to carry out in their lives. That would be a description of our practice. Within the context of his entire letter, but particularly chapter 4, Paul doesn’t require us to choose between the two interpretations, but rather incorporates both of them in his thinking.

Verse 23, "and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds."

While verse 22, clearly contrasts between the old and the new. Verse 23 is the transition that gives us some guidance on how we take off the old, the life we had before Christ and put on the new, the life we now have in Him. There is nothing more miserable to be around than a sinful Christian. How do I know? Because I've been around them. We know first hand what it is to be corrupt, we've seen the results of deceitful lusts. We were all miserable sinners until Christ called us to Himself. When I look back at that time in my life, it's almost unrecognizable to me. I mean like, "Wow, I can't believe that was me!" I am so grateful for the transforming power of Jesus Christ. That in no ways implies that I'm perfect now, I am not. Far from it, but I'm most certainly closer than I have ever been. All Thanks to the Holy Spirit, working within me, transforming me into the image of Christ.

The Greek word Paul uses, "apothesthai." means to lay aside or to put off. It was used to describe runners in the Olympic Games, who would literally cast off all their clothes and run nearly naked in the stadium, so they weren't weighed down. So what are we to cast off? Everything that corresponds to our former way of life – all the things that Paul has previously written about in his letter. The futile thinking, the spiritual ignorance, the hardened hearts, the lack of shame and continual lust for more sin. That futile way of life has been corrupted by our own desires. Rather than focusing on the desires of God, that former way of life was dominated by our own desires. 

Paul has already made it very clear in his letter that our relationship with God through Jesus Christ is totally and completely the work of God. He is the One who has chosen us, through Christ, He redeemed us and with the Holy Spirit, He sealed us. All we did was accept these gifts of His grace.

In verse 24, Paul draws some interesting comparisons between laying aside the old and putting on the new. "and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

 The old self corresponds to our old ways and former way of life, while the new corresponds to God.

Remember Ephesians 1:9-10, when Paul said "He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He set forth in Him, regarding His plan of the fullness of the times, to bring all things together in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth."

As we look at that verse we discover that God’s plan is that one day, through Jesus Christ, that creation will be restored to its original perfection. And part of that perfection was that man was made in the image of God. Obviously, today, none of us here are even close to being like God, but, as we’ve seen frequently, the new man is involved in a process of becoming a little more like Him each day. 

We must fill our minds, daily, with the right stuff, the Word of God. Whatever is consistent with Jesus teachings, fill our minds with those things. Shifting our focus from the things of this world, focusing our thoughts on those things that are eternal. The things that are above.

In Closing...

Jesus certainly taught His followers to focus on the eternal. He told them not to worry about food and clothing. He exhorted them to lay up treasure in heaven. He told them not to worry about those who could hurt them physically, but rather to fear those who would destroy their soul.

In Colossians 3:2, Paul tells us to "Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth."

It’s amazing to me how John’s description of the things of the world, in I John 2:15-16, so closely tracks with Paul’s descriptions in Ephesians. "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."
I John 1:9-10 says that "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Only God can do the work of renewal, we can either choose to facilitate that process or hinder it. God will not force His way into our life for the purpose of renewing our mind. We have to allow Him to have access to our mind so that He can do the renewing. As we’ve seen, one way we do that is to make sure that we put the right stuff in our minds to start with. I believe that another way we allow God to work is to spend time with Him in prayer.
As I have stated many times before, we must approach Him with the right kind of prayer, not the kind we see in many Christians today, when He is some kind of genie, waiting to fulfill our latest wish. The purpose of prayer is to allow God to enable us to see things from His perspective. Not the other way around. And when we approach prayer with that attitude, God is able to renew our minds. 
Let the Word of God expose our sin, and let our prayers be the catalyst that cleanses it...
May it be so...
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name

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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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