Sermon Titled “Put On The New Self” (Ephesians 4:17-24) – Sunday March 30th, 2014
- Ephesians 4:17-24 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In Ephesians 4:17, Paul issues a firm directive to the Ephesian Christians; he insists that they stop living like the Gentiles who, separated from Christ, were indulging in all kinds of immoral acts and behaviors. He reminded them that their new identities in Christ meant that they now had a new purpose in life, one which condemned the lifestyles they had previously enjoyed. As such, he urged them to “grow up” in their faith.
Parents, for example, observe and assess the physical and emotional growth of their children, based on either positive or negative indicators. Positive indicators might include normal height and weight increases, as well as reasonable intellectual advancement and an appropriate rate of maturation. Conversely, negative indicators would be just the opposite; stunted growth, slow mental development, and immature attitudes. It’s the positive indicators that parents are looking for, because like it or not, those indicators are the ones that bring satisfaction and relief.
Likewise, the observation of Christians moving on from their old ways and letting go of formerly undesirable lifestyles, is what pleases God. In Ephesians 4 through 5, Paul tells us that we are to “put off our old self” and walk in “unity” and “purity.” Outsiders should be able to look inside the church and see visible signs of both of these; they should be able to see a group of people united in Christ and therefore united in their actions, motivations, and relationships, and pure in the way that they conduct themselves (and not just on Sundays).
It’s not easy though to always “be good,” is it? So how then, does Paul expect us to be pure and without sin when it is inherently human to sin? He encourages us by telling us in Romans 7:17-18, that we are indeed human (and sinful in nature), and as such we will always be prone to “messing up.” But by the grace of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are given the ability to resist temptation and turn away from sin.
Sin, by the way, relies on three major vices to tempt us: power, pleasure, and possessions.These vices are difficult to say no to, and even more so if we distract ourselves from the hearing of His word (by “anesthetizing” ourselves with hobbies and addictions that consume our time and thoughts). As one former drug addict stated, “Where I’m at right now is trying to take what I know, which is that my identity is in/through/because of Jesus, and applying it to my life. That old identity was entrenched in me for so long, I know it will take a while for old ways to be gone and new ways to come.”
Consequently, when we do give in to sin, what are we to do? Acts 3:19-20 says that we are to repent and confess our sins, then turn to God, who will “refresh” us and “wipe away” our sins. The key is to turn from sin, and turn to God. We can choose to live in defeat (separated from Christ), or we can choose to live in victory (united with Christ). If we choose to live our lives for and in Christ, we will feel convicted and remorseful every time we sin, and that’s a good thing.
In his book Who Do You Think You Are, Mark Driscoll says that genuine repentant remorse leads to God’s forgiveness and cleansing. He warns however, that some are prone to moving from conviction to condemnation, and that is not good. Look at the distinctions he makes between conviction and condemnation:
Don’t allow the enemy to turn your conviction into condemnation; that is not biblical and it’s certainly not God’s will for you. His will for you is that you understand that you were created to help fulfill His eternal plan and self-condemnation is not part of that plan.
You can help yourself to stay in line with God’s will by continuously filling your hearts and minds with His truths; in doing so you’ll develop greater resistance to whatever lies and temptations are thrust at you, and you’ll learn how to consistently follow and obey His decrees. In time, as you draw nearer to God, you’ll find that obedience begins to feel like a privilege, because obedience to God’s word is really just doing what God would do, and that ultimately means living in such a way that our words and actions have a positive and loving effect on everyone around us.
The new person we become in Christ, will hopefully reflect, glorify, and draw people to Him! Reject your former life and live the life God called you to live.