Live Who You Are - Part Two
Scripture: Ephesians 4:17–24
Live Who You Are-Part TwoEphesians 4:17-24<<br /> Sunday, February 26, 2017
Pastor Randy Smith
News article from November 17, 2009.
Well, if he didn't have hedge clippers, then he had no alternative. Two men (who prefer that their names be kept confidential) in Cambridge, New Zealand hauled a lawnmower into the sky with a crane in order to trim [the top of] a hedge: The man had expected a real hedge trimmer to turn up on Sunday to mow the hedge, but when he didn't his mate arrived with his crane and a ride-on mower. The next thing he knew he was being hoisted up on top of the two-meter high hedge. "We were supposed to get all dressed up in our Mooloo gear and show people that this is how the Waikato boys mow their hedges." The unusual sight bemused passing motorists. One passer-by, Bart Dinger, said it was a classic case of Kiwi ingenuity. "A kiwi classic - jandals and all," he said. One of the pair is being treated for a broken hand that resulted from the stunt.
I found this article on a Google search; however the one I was looking for was a story about an episode I saw on a real-time Emergency Room television show. A man came into the ER bloodied from the elbows down as he tried to trim his bushes by holding up a conventional lawnmower.
Lawnmowers are not built to trim bushes. Ice picks are not designed to clean your teeth. Blow torches are not made to dry your hair.
Did you know that God has also made you for a specific purpose? And this purpose is definitely not to live as the master of your soul. If you do, there will be consequences.
Just before I began to write this sermon last Friday, I read the "Grace Quote" that arrived to my inbox earlier in the morning. It said:
This is what sin is all about. Sin is all about promising us satisfaction, but it never keeps its promises. It can't, because we weren't made to satisfy ourselves. No, all sin does is blind us to the truth... We were made to find our satisfaction in a loving relationship with God, but sin convinces us to spend our lives in a self-loving relationship with ourselves. The tragedy is that in the end it doesn't even work. Sin leaves us bitter, empty, and filled with regret. Worst of all, it leaves us outside the love of God, the one thing that could have satisfied us. It leaves us exposed to His righteous anger that was provoked by our decision to love anything and everything except Him, the one and only who was worthy of our love (Michael Lawrence, It Is Well, p. 105-106).
You ever wonder why there is so much violence, dissatisfaction, hatred, depression, regret, bitterness, emptiness in the world? It's not the environment one was raised, their economic standing, their education degrees or even their self-esteem. The problem is that God has created us to find ourselves in Him.
Yet when a person thinks His own way, does things only for his own pleasure and pursues his own destiny, he cuts himself off from God. Scripture teaches this. We learned about this last week. Let's take a minute to review verses 17-19.
1. Put Off The Imposter-Review (verses 17-19)
When a person rejects the Lord he progressively hardens is own heart (verse 18). As his heart becomes calloused and insensitive to God (verse 19), his mind becomes futile in its thinking (verse 17) with his understanding being darkened (verse 18). As God's common grace is withdrawn, he gives himself over (verse 19) to the never-satisfying direction of godless living. The created pursuit of God is replaced with a pursuit of idols, especially the unbridled sensual desire to fulfill one's lusts and pursue impurity of all kinds (verse 19). And while none of this ever quenches the passion for fulfillment, the greediness for more (verse 19) often at another's expense only intensifies.
You see, what Paul is about to do for the rest of this letter is give God's commands as to what He specifically desires from us as His children. But a command without any explanation and hope for success lacks motivation, makes the observer at times question its significance and provides obedience that often results only from sheer duty in fear of consequences.
Therefore, before God's commands are mentioned we have this short section in chapter 4 that provides the explanation of why we should obey God. Why we should we desire to obey? Why is obedience is in our best interest? Why does our obedience honor God Himself? And especially for today's lesson, why is our obedience natural for Christians?
This is the main point of the sermon: We obey God because obedience is in line with our new identity in Christ.
2. Put On The Reality (verses 20-24)
Let's go to the second point, the new material in verses 20-24.
So according to verses 17-19, at one time before Christ we had hard and calloused hearts. Our minds were darkened and our thinking was futile. We were given over to sinful actions that only brought unwanted consequences. We were excluded from God just like the rest of fallen humanity. However, that is not true for us anymore.
Verse 20, "But [a word of sharp contrast] you did not learn Christ this way." In other words, how can we not celebrate the divine miracle that happened within us? How can we not desire to live contrary to the way we once did? How can we not burst free from our bondage and experience the liberation of a regenerated heart and the new mind of Christ that enables us to live fulfilling lives for the glory of God?
How can a Christian now with a new identity and Master still enjoy living like the world? It makes no sense and God finds it offensive. James 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
It makes no sense to love the world and process as we once did when verse 20 teaches us that we have "learn[ed] Christ." And if we have truly "learned Christ" should we not think and feel and love and live and act in the very way He did? Moreover, have we not welcomed Him into our lives? Is He not our Lord and Master? Have we not, verse 21, "Heard Him?" Did we not hear His call to salvation and gladly accept that on His terms that we would no longer lives for ourselves but for Him? Have we not, verse 21, "Been taught in Him?" Do we not read and hear His Word on a regular basis that calls us to live out the Gospel, keeping Him in the forefront of our minds as we pursue His nature (which is now our nature) to be made more evident in our lives?
Christianity is not just about blindly following a bunch of rules. Christianity is about following a Person and living out our new nature in Christ while delighting in Scripture.
Let's say you see a guy bending over and licking up water in the street gutter. He barks at fire hydrants and chases cars. He publicly urinates and goes around smelling the backside of other dogs. So unhuman! What an embarrassment! It should be more offensive when a believer still delights in acting like the world.
Do you see the contrast with who you were with who you now are?
Before your pursuit was self-gratifying sinfulness. Now your pursuit is God-honoring Christlikeness. Before your mind was given over to futility (verse 17) and deceit (verse 22). Now you mind is given over to truth (verse 21 and 24). Before you heart was hardened (verse 18) and your mind was darkened (verse 18). Now you're your heart is softened to the things of God and your mind is renewed (verse 23). Before you delighted in sensuality and impurity with greediness (verse 19). Now (and I am getting way ahead of myself) you delight in "righteousness and holiness [and] truth" (verse 24).
So, verse 22 and 24, "in reference to your former manner of life you lay aside the old self…and put on the new self."
Now we'll break this down, but what Paul is specifically talking about here is what has happened to us the moment we came to Christ. We'll look at some application in a few minutes, but based on the grammar (all of these are not imperatives but infinities) they are intended to be a reminder of what we now have as a result of our salvation in Christ. Verse 22 - The old self was permanently destroyed. Verse 23 - Your mind has been renewed. Verse 24 - You have been recreated into the likeness of God.
This is now your newly created position before God. If you are in Christ, there has been a complete transformation of your life. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Cor. 5:17). You are a new person. There has been a dramatic change. Because of what Christ has done for you, the old was put off and the new has now been put on.
The imagery intended is that of putting off dirty clothes and putting on clean clothes.
Think of the "old self" as the old clothes - dirty, outdated designs, stained beyond cleaning, threadbare, ripped. If you talk with my wife she'll tell you that I am notoriously bad at getting rid of my old clothes. They look horrible, serve no purpose, but still I find difficulty parting with them. Even though I haven't worn a shirt for years, I think there will come a time that I will want it. It's the same for the Christian. We want to cling to our old nature. Thankfully God crucified it for us. Though we still try to put those old clothes back on, we must remember they have been burned in the incinerator of regeneration.
Paul already put it into theological terms for us in 2:3. "Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
Here in 4:22, he says the "old self" is "corrupted." Think of it as decay that will lead to death. He also says the "old self" is given over "with the lusts of deceit." Didn't Jesus say, "The truth will make you free" (Jn. 8:32). The "old self" was in such bondage to deceit it had no desire to hear the truth and thus be set free with the truth. Again this shows that only God has the ability to call a person to Himself . Apart from His electing grace we would have no hope.
Then verse 23 says that God saved us. He changed our way of thinking. He "renewed [us, the verse says] in the spirit of our mind." Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
God renewed and transformed our thinking that made us open to the truth. He regenerated our hearts that made us desire Christ.
And that resulted in God putting off the "old self" and (verse 24) "put[ting] on the new self." The new self is not a renovation of the old self. The new self is an entirely new creation that is now right with God, able and built to display the holy qualities that belong to God. Paul said it like this in Colossians 3:10. "The new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." Your new self, your new nature, fallen Adam now recreated, is made (verse 24) "in the likeness of God" whereby you have now become a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). In the eyes of God you are positionally clothed with the very (verse 24) "righteousness and holiness" of Christ.
So if I just lost you though all of that let me slow it down and leave you with two very practical points to consider.
Number 1, if you are a Christian you are a new person. You have a new nature with a new identity. You have a new power. As a result you have new desires and new ambitions. You now serve a new Master. The essence of the Christian life is not merely following rules out of resentful duty. The essence of the Christian life is now living in light of who you really are as a recreated and renewed, dearly beloved, holy and righteous child of the living God. You are not an immovable rock. You are now a supersonic rocket ship that can travel anywhere in the universe. The spiritual capabilities to follow God!
And number 2, because of Christ's work on the cross we can embrace the fact that He has taken our sin and given His righteousness to us. We know that we must be positionally righteous, clothed with Christ's righteousness if we ever desire to have any fellowship with God. We understand that God promises to love us and forever be for us because He sees us with the very righteousness of Christ. The Scriptures promise that.
Yet we also know, if we are honest with ourselves, that we often do not feel very righteous. We may be perfectly righteous in position, but we don't feel perfectly righteous in practice. Bottom line: We still struggle with sin.
Therefore, because of who we are in Christ we must forever be in the process of putting off the old and putting on the new. Heaven is about us being made fully righteous like Christ. Our goal in this life is to pursue our new nature and what one day we will fully become. So if your new nature is Christ and one day you will be made fully like Christ, it only stands to reason that you remaining days here on earth will be to turn from sin and become more like Christ.
A good way to think of this is to go back to the clothing imagery. We all struggle with various sins. That's the old clothes. When the Holy Spirit (whose job is to make us more holy/Christlike by the way) reveals sin in our lives through the Word of God, our minds are informed (Rom. 12:2), our hearts are grieved at our offense against God's being and our wills (now with the ability to do so) are moved to put on the new clothes of righteousness. We call that repentance.
God has taken off our old garments and has given us new garments. That was a one-time event that applies to our nature. But we in cooperation with the Holy Spirit we must forever be in the process of taking off our old garments and putting on the new garments as it applies to our actions.
"So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).
Putting off the old and putting on the new. That is where Paul is going to go for the remainder of the chapter.
Let me give you a sneak preview: Verse 25, put off lying and put on speaking truth. Verse 26, put off unrighteous anger and put on righteous anger. Verse 28, put off stealing and put on working. Verse 29, put off unwholesome words and put on edifying words. Verses 31-32, put off bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice and put on kindness, tenderness and forgiveness.
Keep discarding the remnants of the old self because the new self longs for the holiness and repentance for which it was created and for which it is now destined.