February 19, 2017

Live Who You Are - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Ephesians Scripture: Ephesians 4:17–24


Live Who You Are-Part One

Ephesians 4:17-24
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith

Last week my wife and I celebrated our Valentine's Day and went to a Christian concert in New York City. Rather than drive into the city immediately after church, we opted to take the train. Yet as we were preparing to return home on Monday morning, sitting in Penn Station, I couldn't help but notice the sad sight of homeless men going from garbage can to garbage can digging through the trash, looking for anything that might be beneficial to them.

Let's pretend Julie and I chose to take one of these individuals home with us. We give him a clean room, new clothes and good food throughout the day. Everything is in place, all at our expense, where he can begin to start living as a decent human being.

Yet one day when we come home from being out we notice that he dressed himself in his former rags, refused to bathe and chose the neighbor's garbage cans over the stocked refrigerator that we freely offered him. We'd be surprised. We'd assume there is something mentally wrong with him. We'd question why he preferred his old lifestyle over the new.

In the spiritual domain this is a significant problem for Christians as well.

As Paul transitions from teaching us how we can have a church that honors Christ in verses 1-16 (which I believe God used to produce a lot of fruit among us), He now begins God's commands specifically to us as individuals. Verses 17-24, today's material, is the introduction and general overview to the specific commands. Our main point, the big picture idea is once we come to Christ we are given a new nature. We are a new creation. God expects us to live our lives in light of that.

Today's outline is very simple. First we must "Put off the Imposter." And second, we must "Put on the Reality." And today I believe we are only going to get through the first point.

1. Put Off The Imposter (verses 17-19)

Let's begin with "Put off the Imposter."

Ephesus, and most of the cities in ancient Greece for that matter, was known for their widespread immorality. Idolatry, hedonism, sexual sins were commonplace. One pagan Greek philosopher (Heraclitus) once referred to Ephesus as "the darkness of vileness." He said, "The morals were lower than animals and the inhabitants of Ephesus were fit only to be drowned." This is the world where the new Christian coverts emerged from. Not much different than our society today. We must always see the church as a small island of often-despised people existing in a cesspool of paganism.

The problem for the new converts in Ephesus was the fact that this is all they were ever acquainted with. Then add to their comfort and familiarity with that lifestyle with the reality that the flesh desires and the world pulls and the devil tempts to keep dragging us even as Christians back into that lifestyle. And when that happens, you have a serious issue that all Christian must deal with. When we come to Christ we must make a complete break with loving the things that God hates.

So how is Paul going to convince his readers (and us) that we need to abandon our former way of living and continually live a life that honors God? Answer: He's going to remind them of who they were and how it contrasts with their now newly created position in Christ.

Verse 17, "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk."

Gentile simply means non-Jewish. Almost all of us in this room are Gentiles. Yet when it is used in this context, Paul is referring to behaviors that characterize people who do not know God. Here he is saying that Christians should no longer "walk" (live our lives) as the Gentiles do, but rather verse 1, we should "walk in a manner worthy of [our] calling."

So before Paul articulates the walk now expected of believers, he is going to paint with dark colors the walk of unbelievers, the walk of all of us before we came to Christ. It's intended to be hopeless to convince us of the foolishness we must have if we'd ever chose to return to it. So let's take a brief biblical look at the life of an unbeliever.

First, verse 17, the mind of an unbeliever is futile. Futile means something fails to perform its desired result. Something futile is something empty and worthless. In Romans 1 Paul talks of unbelievers being "futile in their speculations" (Rom. 1:21).

The irony! You have the Greek culture that prided itself on philosophy and reasoning and Scripture says their thoughts are nothing but futile.

For example, Christians revert back to futile thinking when they love treasures on earth more than treasures in heaven or care more for their child's accolades than the spiritual state of their soul or desire the approval of the world more than the approval of God.

I am not implying that all in this world is futile. What I am saying is when our thoughts become primarily focused on ourselves or the trivial or the temporary, we are thinking like an unbeliever. Remember what Paul and Barnabas said to the unbelievers in Iconium ? "We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them" (Acts 14:15).

There is a lot more to come, but do you see what Paul is doing? Before he gets to the things God expects from us (which will dominate the rest of the letter) He tells us who we no longer are. To simply tell us what we must do without a change of how our mind thinks will be ineffective. We honor Christ with our actions not simply out of duty, but rather because our entire way of thinking has been transformed from futile thinking to godly thinking. As He will say in verse 23, we have been completely "renewed in the spirit of [our] mind." Christianity is always cognitive before it is experiential.

Let me give you an example. With a couple of our children there came a time when they ingested something that prompted us to call poison control. One was self-medicated cough medicine and the other was excessive toothpaste. Thankfully they were both fine. A two-year old doesn't know any better. But what if my now teenaged daughters did the same, our response would be, "What in the world were you thinking?"

The same applies for the believer. As an unbeliever we didn't know any better. But now our minds have been renewed. So when we act like a pagan following the same aims, standards, pleasures and general way of processing life as we once did before Christ we have to ask the question, "What in the world are we thinking?"

In verse 18 the mind of an unbeliever is mentioned again. Paul says they are "darkened in their understanding." Later in verse 18 we see another defective way of thinking. He says they are "ignorant" which makes them (verse 18) "excluded from the life of God."

Are you beginning to see the contrast between the believer and unbeliever? They are diametrically opposed and it all begins with what Paul has been hammering home in the way we think. Brothers and sisters when God saved you He gave you a new mind. The mind is what steers the ship. The mind governs the emotions and holds them in check. The mind directs our actions. It's being once blind to biblical truth, but now alive to understand and accept it. It's once living for self, but now living for God and others. How great is our Christian mind? In 1 Corinthians 2:16 we read that "we have the mind of Christ." Use your Christian mind!

Last week my daughter was interviewed by the high school newspaper on her position of sexual relations before marriage. She provided a great biblical answer and the reasoning behind it. Yet we also noticed in the article that some other "religious" students were also inquired - one a professing Catholic and the other a professing Jew. Both also said it was wrong, but their reasoning simply was, "It is against my religion." Mindless!

If our children are living their lives with that as our only safeguard, holding on to their morality will be a duty-bound, guilt-driven obligation. They will go through life like a rock climber, clinging for his life with one finger on a bolder as his body dangles over a 500 foot precipice.

The hope we have as parents is to lead our children to Christ and then engage in the never-ending process of discipling them to use their now Christian mind to process every decision for themselves in Christ. That my friends is the key to effective parenting and that is where many Christian parents fall short by either enabling a worldly mind in their children or providing nothing more than and Christian list of do's and dont's . How many verses in Proverbs do you need that warn you against raising a fool?

Why Christians have been given the mind of Christ and then still process the world and lives their lives like the world is beyond my understanding. And we are all guilty! Maybe there are just a lot of legalists out there that don't want to think for themselves and prefer a checklist set of rules, many of them man-made, over the freedom to honor Christ from their hearts.

According to verses 17 and 18, before Christ your mind was futile, darkened and ignorant. Why continue to live that way? My friends, if we can understand our new nature in Christ and get the processing up in our heads correct everything else falls into place.


How do you resolve with conflict?

How do you react in a trial?

How do you treat your enemies?

How do you treat all people?

How do you choose what entertainment to watch?

How do you show your children what is most important in life?

How do you understand your role in the church?

How do you view the purpose of marriage?

How do you guide conversations with believers and unbelievers?

How do you understand abortion?

How do you share Jesus with others?

How do you evaluate purchases?

How do you make decisions regarding alcohol?

How do you perceive spiritual warfare?

How do you perceive other religions?

How do you perceive other races?

How do you act on the workforce?

How do you speak to others?

How do you control your actions and emotions?

How do you maintain joy and peace?

How do you deal with loss?

How do you see the value of prayer?

How do you view the essential role of the church?

How do you view persecution?

How do you determine who to please?

These are many of the issues Paul will hit in the remainder of Ephesians. Do we have answers to these questions? And moreover, how to we arrive at those answers and specifically why from a Christian perspective do we believe those answers are correct?

One thing I can promise you, your answer as a Christian will and should be different than the answer from an unbeliever. If you don't believe me, the next time you are in a group of unbelievers I challenge you to start sharing what God has recently taught you in His Word. Talk about your views of protecting the unborn. Tell them your ultimate desire in parenting is that your children with come to know the Lord. Inform them how you feel about Hollywood, politics, marriage roles, drunkenness, disciplining your children, so called "gay marriage," personal accountability, sin and giving your hard-earned money to the Lord. Talk about your desire for purity and modesty and repentance and holiness and look for their response. Tell them other religions and their good works are useless and the only hope they have for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ because only He paid the price to remove their sins and grant total forgiveness. The difference between you and them is called having and developing the mind of Christ. It is futility, darkness and ignorance verses purpose, light and wisdom. Aren't we as Christians called "aliens" in the Scriptures? Do you see why?

So what leads to someone's ignorant mind as it relates to the things of God? The biblical answer is a hard heart. How does someone get a hard heart? According to Romans 1, God gives us over to our own devices and desires when they reject Him. And according to our passage in verse 18, when we reject God we harden our own heart, verse 19, and give ourselves over. We saw that with Pharaoh in the Bible. Which is it? Both! God hardened his heart and Pharaoh hardened his own heart as well.

And the more one's spiritual heart gets hard, the more it will be unresponsive to the truth and thus increasingly insensitive to the things of God. Basically the more people reject God, the harder their heart becomes. It's the initiation into the downward spiral into greater depravity.

In verse 19, Paul in describing their hearts uses the word "callous."

We know what a callous is. It results from overused skin that hardens and is no longer sensitive to pain. Weightlifters when they first begin often develop nasty blisters in the upper palm of their hands just below each finger. Not long after the skin in that area becomes rock-hard. A hard shield is created and the area that grips the bar is no longer susceptible to any discomfort.

Likewise, God has created us with a heart to hear His Word, obey His commands and love Him with all of our might. But the more we reject His voice and suppress His truth, the harder and more calloused our hearts become. Progressively we get to the point where our hearts become spiritually insensitive to the things of God. And as that happens, our minds get increasingly foolish and darkened. We lose conscience and moral restraint and we plunge ourselves into all kinds of degrading activities regardless of the consequences. We get in bondage to the lies and will live in whatever agony comes our way rather than even consider God's way to be the recourse we need.

It reminds me of an ancient Greek story that I read this week. A Spartan youth stole a fox, but then came unexpectedly on the man from whom he stole it. To keep his theft from being discovered, the boy stuck the fox in his clothes and didn't move a muscle while the frightened fox chewed away at his body. Even at the cost of his own flesh, the young boy would not own up to the fact that he was wrong.

Paul in Romans 1 gives it from the biblical perspective. Listen to how God gives over those who reject Him. Listen to what happens as their hardened hearts plunge deeper into sin.

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men 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, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through 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 speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them" (Rom. 1:18-32).

Reject God and God gives us over. Reject God and we give ourselves over. The result is the same - a hard heart leading to a darkened mind leading to progressive evil.

In verse 19 of Ephesians 4 we see the same as Romans 1, but in an abbreviated form. "And they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness" (Eph. 4:19).

It's throwing off God and living life for self, pursuing the base living that the dark mind of futility thinking it will bring us fulfillment.

Unbelievers only seek to gratify the cravings of their warped way of thinking. Verse 19, "sensuality" is absence of any moral restraint, unbridled self-indulgence. Verse 19, "impurity" is contrary to who God is and what He defines as pure. And what do both of these have in common? Total self-indulgence with a total disregard for God and others. Or as Paul says in verse 19, "greediness," which is an idolatrous lust for personal pleasure at the expense of others that is never satisfied.

Therefore if you are an unbeliever in Jesus Christ, this is God's description of your mind. You can be offended or you can turn to Christ for complete forgiveness and a new mind that is redeemed of God.

And if you are a believer, remember who you are in Christ. You are a new creation. Live in light of that reality whereby every decision you make is guided by your new nature. Think with the mind of Christ in submission to Holy Scripture.

other sermons in this series

Jul 30


Three Final Thoughts

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:18–24 Series: Ephesians

Jul 16


The Believer's Spiritual Armour - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:14–17 Series: Ephesians

Jul 9


The Believer's Spiritual Armour - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Ephesians 6:10–13 Series: Ephesians