Peninsula Community Church
Ephesians – “What You Think will Determine What you Become.”
February 1, 2015
Ephesians 4:17-24 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
In the passage before us, today, Paul contrasts the old way of living with the new way of living. Paul uses the art of contrast to compare our thought process prior to accepting Christ and our thought process after accepting Christ. It is for that reason that I have entitled this message “What You Think Will Determine What You Become.”
Paul begins with the proclamation that the church of Ephesus was not to walk as the Gentiles were walking. Please note that the term “Gentiles” was mostly used in the New Testament to denote those who had not accepted Christ as their personal Savior and those who had rejected Christ. Paul was not antiGentile, he was simple using their lifestyle, which was well known to the Jews and those new to Christianity, as an example of how not to live. To clarify this, Paul lists the key issues that defined the Gentiles way of life in order to contrast their way of life with the life of one who is a passionate follower of Christ.
The Gentile way of life or the old way of life is characterized by certain qualities which need to be reviewed to understand what is revealed in a life not focused on Christ. The first quality to be considered is that the Gentiles were futile in their minds. This futility of mind led to a darkening of their heart and of their understanding. The result was an alienation from God. In other words, rather than being a friend of God and being in right relationship with God, the Gentile thinking caused division which set individuals in a position of being enemies of God and in being disenfranchised in their relationship with God. Alienation is probably the most difficult outcome of a life not focused on Christ. Alienation has been defined as the state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved. Spiritually, this affects our fellowship with God and with one another. It affects our peace. It affects our hope. It is affects our vision for life. It affects everything we do and say.
As we read this passage, we cannot help but hear the echoes of Romans chapter one. Paul in writing to the Romans confirmed that a failure to honor God in one’s thinking and in one’s way of living leads one to futility, darkened hearts, and loose lifestyles. What is exposed here, in these two portions of Scripture (Romans 1 & Ephesians 4), is the pattern of a downward spiral that is initiated when one fails to acknowledge God and the truth of God in their lives. How does this process begin? It begins with a rejection of God or at least it begins with an obstinance against the will of God and the purposes of God. The hardness of one’s heart leads to the darkness of one’s mind, which leads to the deadness of one’s soul, which finally leads to a total loss of control in other aspects of one’s life.
To better understand this process, let’s look at two of the words used by Paul. These words are “futility” and “hardened.” The word futility means empty. It means to be void of understanding and of godly wisdom. A second word here is darkness which results in a hardened heart. The problem is that a hardened heart prevents the penetration of God’s word into our lives. The result is defective reasoning capabilities. In other words, the one who has been hardened cannot process that which is right or that which is reasonable. In essence, the result is that one does not care about life and so they begin to live a kind of moral purposelessness.
The idea portrayed here is that of one who has hardened arteries and the blood flow becomes restricted to and from the heart and/or brain. The result is that life giving oxygen is not allowed to travel to the vital organs which are negatively affected in ways that are not always readily revealed or noticeable. If not corrected, the passageway can become totally blocked causing a heartache or stroke depending on the point of blockage.
The callousness and hardness of one’s heart results in the removal of any boundaries to guide them and to protect them. Additionally, they become greedy to the point that nothing satisfies them. Money, sex, drugs, and fame never satisfy the individual in such a state. They need more and more to try and satisfy their desires and the longing of their physical and emotional desires. They gain more, but they are not satisfied which requires gaining more which satisfies less and then they want to gain more, only to find that they continue to be dissatisfied. It is a vicious cycle of wanting, getting, and not being satisfied. This continues until one is cut off from God’s supply and from His presence.
I love the language here in this passage because it provides a turning point and opens the door to hope. Paul says the Gentiles use to live this way but this is not the way you have been taught. What Paul is saying is that you have been taught differently so you now have the opportunity to live differently and to live life to the fullest. As believers, we have a different set of paradigms that now guide and direct our steps. In Paul’s writings to the church at Corinth, he emphatically proclaims that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Here is a fact that is indisputable whether we truly grasp the truth of it or not. We are new creations. We look different. We act different. We live different. We think different.
Paul expands this idea by stating that while we are a new creation in Christ, we must also recognize that we are called to put off the old man which belongs to the old life and the old man is corrupted through its deceitful desires. The visual is of one who is wearing old tattered garments which have been stained by soil and dirt that life has dished out. These garments are filthy.
The old man or self is defined by two descriptive phrases. The first phrase is that of the former way of life. This is the life that has been described here thus far. It is a life that is lived in futility and darkness. The second phrase defines the old way of living as being motivated and corrupted by way of one’s deceitful desires. In other words, the whole basis of their previous way of life was founded in a weak or misguided paradigm. The motivation of their actions was from a basis of their deceitful desires which comes from their hardened hearts and darkened understanding.
Two actions which require a response are presented here. First, we must be renewed in the spirit of our mind. Once again this scripture echoes Romans 12:1-2 where Paul challenges the church to be transformed by the renewing of one’s mind. This is a daily ongoing process of renewal. It involves daily Bible reading. It involves daily meditation on what God is saying to the church. It is taking action on those Biblical truths we learn and begin to understand.
The second challenge is to put on the new man which is created after the likeness of God. The concept presented here is that we get to enjoy ongoing renewal. What does this renewal look like, it looks a lot like God. You see we are commanded to put on the new self which is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. How is the new self created like God? We are like God in terms of being created in righteousness and holiness.
Here is the point being made. By taking off the old man and putting on the new man, we begin to be conformed to the image of Christ. What image is that? It is in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness. From the beginning of time, man was created in the likeness of God. We see this in Genesis 1:26. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Paul in Romans 12:1 also reminds us that we are being transformed into His image and not being conformed to the world’s image. There is a huge difference between the two. We choose to focus on one or the other. Do you choose conformity or transformation?
So how are you doing? What are you wearing? What are you thinking? It makes a difference. The putting on and taking off process is an ongoing process. When we are motivated to live or act as we did before Christ, we can take off that soiled garment and put a new garment that is fashioned and formed after the image of Christ. We remove the filthy garments and put on the garments that speak to our new identity and way of living. That is Paul’s goal in these verses.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
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