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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Well, let’s take our Bibles and honor God’s Word by standing, Ephesians 4 verses 17 to 24. It’s that time of the year, out with the old and in with the new. It’s the beginning of the year. And I’ve taken that idea and called my message Out With the Old because here’s a passage where Paul is going to challenge you and me to put off the old man and put on the new man. That is to distance ourselves from our old life and the conduct that marked it, and to embrace this new life in Jesus Christ and the transformation that will go on and must go on as professors of the Lord Jesus.
Listen to these words, out with the old, Ephesians 4:17 to 24. This is Paul, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts, who being past feeling have given themselves over the lewdness to work all uncleanness with greediness, but you have not so learned Christ. If indeed, you have heard him and have been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus, that you put off concerning the former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness.”
We pray that God will bless the reading of His word and that the spirit of God will help us to understand it and obey it. You may be seated. Well, Ephesians 4:17 to 24, I love the story of the church father and African theologian, Augustine. The story centers on an episode in his life where he is walking down a street, minding his own business. He’s now a Christian, but one of his old mistresses saw him. See, before he came to Christ, he lived a rather profligate life and he was in a sexual relationship with this woman long before he came to Christ, and she espies him. She is not sure if he doesn’t see her or if he’s ignoring her, but she shouts, “Augustine, it is I.” And he keeps his head down and keeps going. She doesn’t understand it, so she shouts a little bit louder, “Augustine, it is I.”
Now, I think he knew who she was, understood the past relationship. And at one point, he stops, turns around and says, “But it is no longer I.” Love that story. See, he’s quoting Galatians 2:20, “I’m crucified with Christ, and it’s no longer I that live it, but Christ that lives in me and the life I now live. I live by faith and belief and trust in Lord Jesus. But it is no longer I.” Love that story because it demonstrates what Christianity does in a person who embraces and experiences the power of its message. What does it do? It changes people. It transforms people. People who come to faith in Jesus Christ are a new kind of person.
The old screwed up self is dead, and they have become altogether different people in a relationship to Jesus Christ. It’s kind of like they’re born again as Jesus says, or in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17, if any man is in Christ, that means if any man has come to trust Christ is now in a relationship with the one who is living and raised, he’s a new creature. And the old has passed away, and the new has come. If you don’t know this, let me tell you that the lives of Christians are made up of two parts.
There’s the part lived apart from and without Jesus Christ, and there’s the part lived in Christ, with Christ, and under Christ. There’s the part where self and sin dominate, and there’s the part where righteousness rules. There’s the part where me matters most, and there’s the part where Christ becomes all in all. There’s two parts to a Christian story. There’s the part without Christ, and there’s the part with Christ.
See, the Christian has two birthdays. That’s why that makes complete sense. There’s the part of our life lived after natural birth, separated from God, alienated from the life of God, lived in futile thinking. And then there’s the part that’s lived after new birth with the Spirit of God dwelling within. Now, our lives are governed by the Word of God, and we live with the purpose and the passion of seeing God’s image and God’s glory reflected in our lives.
Every Christian has lived two kinds of lives, the one before Christ and the one after Christ. For a time here at Kindred, we enjoyed the company of a young man by the name of Danny. Life has moved him on, but when he came to Kindred, he was an ex-con. I loved Danny’s story. I spent some time with him. And one of the things he told me was that one of the first things he did when he got saved out of prison was he went down to that tattooist and had some clothes put on a nude woman on his arm.
That seems a very small thing, but it’s a very big thing. It was one of the early evidences that Danny was changing. In fact, he told me that one day his son looked at all the tattoos on his dad’s arm, and he asked him about the tattoos. And you know what Danny said? “That was another life, son. That was another time. That was another man.” Isn’t that beautiful? That was another time, another life, another man. But your daddy’s a different kind of man. He’s a follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t you love it? That’s gospel transformation, and that’s what we’re dealing with here in Ephesians 4:17 to 24.
Here, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to live in contradistinction to the surrounding culture and apart from the lifestyle they once lived, the lifestyle that characterized their pre-Christian past. Look at verse 17, “This I say, therefore, and testify on the Lord that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk.” Look at verse 22, “Put off concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” He wants them to live out their new identity in the Lord Jesus. It’s the case of out with the old and in with the new.
Now, let’s put this text in its context quickly. Verse 17 is picking up on the thought of verse 1. Remember, we said that chapter 4 and verse 1 is like a tipping point, a turning point in the book. We’re moving from gospel indicatives to gospel imperatives. There’s only one command in the first three chapters of this letter, and it was called To Remember. But the first three chapters of this letter is all about what God set out to do in Jesus Christ, the plan of God for us, to save us and adapt us, and indwell us, and use us for His glory.
We who were once dead in our sin, He has now made alive because of His great mercy. And having talked about what God has done, Paul now goes on to talk about what we ought to do in response to what God is doing, what we ought to work out, what God has worked in, Philippians 2:12 to 13. So Paul tells them, “You know what? You need to walk worthy of your calling.” You understand your calling? You understand what God called you to, what God did for you in Jesus Christ? Now that you understand something of the gospel and its import and its implication, here’s how you ought to live the life that God has given you as a gift.
And so verse 17’s picking up that thought. Therefore, there’s another therefore. It echoes chapter 4 and verse 1. In terms of walk, Paul uses that word 32 times. We’re to walk according to our new self in Christ, verses 23 to 32. We’re to walk in love, chapter 5 verses 1 to 2. We’re to walk as children of the light, chapter 5 verses 3 to 14. And we’re to walk with wisdom, redeeming the time, chapter 5 verses 15 to 16, which involves being filled with the Spirit, developing a Christ-centered home, working at work as unto the Lord, and standing bravely and boldly in the evil day.
That’s where we’re at, therefore. Now, let me just underscore this. This is a serious exhortation. Look at verse 17, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord.” I like NIV, “This I say, and therefore, insist in the Lord.” Paul’s acknowledging that the source of his words is Christ, which means that they have authority. He’s testifying in the Lord under the Spirit. And, therefore, he has every right to insist that those who profess to be Christians in Ephesus live in this manner.
So let’s look at this passage. If you’re taking notes, there’s three headings. In verses 17 to 19, we have what I call the rejection. That is the life we are meant to reject. Then we have in verses 20 to 21 the recognition that Christ has taught us to live in a different manner. And then we have the renovation, verses 22 to 24, the kind of life that God is going to develop and create in us, and our response to it, the rejection, the recognition, the renovation.
Let’s look at the rejection. This is verses 17 and 22, “We are to reject the life we lived before Christ. Therefore, I say, I insist in the Lord that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk.” Verse 22, “Put off your former conduct.” Once you’ve decided to follow Jesus, the Bible says, “There’s no turning back.” The world behind you, the cross before you. That’s what Paul’s at here.
Jesus talks about that in Luke 9, doesn’t he, in verses 59 to 62, “When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t turn back. I you do, you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.” The Christian life is all about moving beyond your broken past and into a transformed and transforming future. This idea of no longer walking as the rest of the Gentiles walk, we want to tie it in to chapter 2, verse 11, where we learn that most of the Ephesian believers in that church came out of a Gentile background. He’s basically saying, “You need to leave that old lifestyle behind, the lifestyle that was shaped by the culture and the values of your friends and the philosophy of your universities.”
You’ve got to leave that all behind because Jesus’ way is different. Now, the city was known for its material wealth, status, entertainment, pagan worship, occult and sexual immorality. Ephesus was a city of grandeur, greed, and godlessness. And out of that context, or into that context, Christians emerge. The church at Ephesus comes into existence, people who had been born again, people who had found new life in faith through Jesus Christ because they were once dead in their sin. But now, they’ve been made alive, Ephesians 2, 1 through 10. They have a new status. They are now part of a new society.
And according to John Stott, they are now called to live to a new standard. That’s where we’re at. Chapters 1, 2, and 3 have reminded us they have been given a new status. They are now part of a new society called the church, the counterculture, the outpost of heaven, the kingdom of God, and they’re now to live to new standards.
Now, Paul goes on to describe Gentile life. Paul goes on to describe pagan culture. And he does it in very stark terms, which is called some to react against this passage and say, “You know what? This isn’t true of everyone or every culture.” Not every culture is demonstrably futile in its thinking and darkened in its thinking, and ignorant and blind, and lewd, and unclean, and greedy.
Well, here’s what I’d say about that. I like what John Stott said, “Just as there is a typical Christian life, there is a typical pagan life.” And that’s what Paul is describing here. Just generally speaking, those without Christ, the life apart from Christ is marked by this stuff, ignorance, insensitivity, and temperance. That’s what marks the fallen soul. That’s what marks the fallen society. And you don’t always see the depravity of man and all its depraved manifestations, because sometimes there’s great common grace, and there’s gospel restraint.
But what we’re going to hear from Paul here described is certainly a typical pagan life and certainly a lifestyle where God is rejected. And the gospel is not at work. Three things about this lifestyle, a lifestyle that you and I must reject. Number one, ignorance. Did you notice that verse 17, “That you should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk in the futility of their mind”?
If you scroll down to verse 18, there’s an ignorance about them. Now, the ignorance doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent, or they’re not smart. But while they may be good at science and they may be good at economics and they may be good at medicine, they’re not good at life. Their thinking processes and their worldview and their perspective is futile. It’s empty. It’s weightless. It’s meaningless. That’s what Paul’s saying. They have a mindset, remember, that has refused, willfully refused, the revelation of God while they’re in creation, conscience, or Christ.
And, therefore, they remain ignorant of what God wants them to know, which would mean that they’re ignorant of what is just and right, and beautiful, and purposeful, and significant. See, the man who does not know God cannot think properly. He may have a PhD, but he cannot think properly because the fear of God is the beginning of true wisdom. But you see, they’re ignorant, darkened in their mind, living in the shadow lands according to CS Lewis.
And the man who does not know God cannot think properly, which means things in his life are out of place, which means his life has a sense of disorder. This is an outlook that has missed its true purpose and has given itself to lesser things. This would be Ecclesiastes. Futile thinking leads to futile living, which leaves you with this conclusion after all that you’ve done, it’s all vanity. It all adds up to hill of beans. It’s nothing. There’s no weight to it, no substance to it. I don’t find joy in it. Right now, death seems a better experience in life. That’s what Paul says. Remember, this is a typical pagan lifestyle. Not, every unsaved person or a man apart from Christ will show this.
But when gospel restraint is removed, when conscience is silenced, when God is rejected and his word is mocked, this is what starts showing up, futility, emptiness, a sense of lack of meaning. Thinking apart from God, a worldview divorced from the Bible, creates a hole in the soul through which purpose, meaning, happiness, and a sense of shalom drains away. Listen to these words by the atheist philosopher, Quentin Smith, “The fact of the matter is that the most reasonable belief is that we came from nothing, by nothing, and for nothing. We should acknowledge our foundation in nothingness and feel awe at the marvelous fact that we have a chance to participate briefly in this incredible sunburst that interrupts without reason the reign of non-being.” You want to depress yourself? I’ll read that to you again.
What about Leonard Woolf, publisher, writer, editor at The Nation, a very liberal-leaning magazine? “I see clearly that I’ve achieved practically nothing. The world today and the history of the human anthill during the past five to seven years would be exactly the same if I had played ping-pong instead of sitting in committees writing books, and memoranda. Therefore, to make a rather ignominious confession that I have in a long life ground through 150,000, 200,000 hours of perfectly useless work.”
This is a very smart man, but whose life is marked by futile thinking. There’s an emptiness. See, when you remove God and His will and His word and His wisdom, you empty your life of meaning and purpose. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is right, life without Christ is always empty. It’s always vain. It takes from you, it takes out of you, and it leaves you at the end with an empty husk. It leaves you exhausted with nothing to lean on, nothing to be proud of, and nothing whatsoever to look forward to.
Watch movies, read magazines, listen to the influencers, and that kind of thought permeates American society and the West, which has increasingly rejected the Bible, God’s Word, which leads secondly to insensitivity. Life before and apart from Christ is a life marked by insensitivity, hardness of heart toward God, people, life, and things of eternity. Look at verse 18, you need to reject the Gentile lifestyle, the pagan world, because it’s marked by ignorance, futility of mind, dark understanding, alienated from the life of God, ignorance, because of the blindness of their heart, who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness.
This willful rejection of a knowledge of God leads to living in the shadows of a darkened mind, void of the light of God’s insights and will, which then grows into a calloused and calloused look at life. This phrase, “blindness of heart” in the New King James, is a heart of stone. This is a Greek word that speaks of arthritis. It speaks of a bone that has been broken and then is joined and healed. But the callous, the bone becomes harder. This is his word.
And Paul is saying, “You know what? When a man is ignorant of God, willfully ignorant of God, when a man gives himself to a worldview, devoid of meaning and purpose, he becomes calloused and cold and hard.” The more people sin, the less they care about moral and spiritual things.
In fact, we read here about they get to a place where they’re past feeling. Again, this is typical. We’re not saying this is true of everybody. It may not describe your neighbor and I, but this is generally true of cultures and people divorced from God, ignorance, futility, emptiness, lack of meaning. And they become calloused and without feeling towards God and the things of God, Romans 1:21 to 23, Romans 1:32. Listen, the wider we open the door to sin, the tighter we close the window of opportunity to see and know God.
The more we listen to the voice of temptation, the more we silence the voice of conscience. And when you silence the voice of conscience, which is a God-given needs to knowing wrongdoing. That means that you don’t know wrongdoing, which means you never see yourself as a sinner, which means you never seek a Savior. That’s what’s going on. This is the sequence that Paul is taking us through. Be warned, the more you sin, the more you will sin, and the less your conscience will impinge upon you. It’s a bit like muscle memory.
Sports athletes have muscle memory. They practice a thousand free throws, and there’s a muscle memory there that allows them to do that when it needs to be done. And one of the commentators said that sin can be like that and sin has a muscle memory. And the more you sin, the quicker you sin, and the better you sin, and you begin to sin without any sense of impunity. Be very careful about the process of the hardening of your soul and your spirit.
In fact, as I thought about that, I thought about Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3 verse 1. There’s different renderings of the text. There are different versions, and some of them go like this, “In the last days, difficult times will come.” There’s other translations, “In the last days, harsh times will come.” When men will be lovers of themselves rather than of God, and they’ll be violent and brutal and unthankful and disobedient to their parents, men will be lovers of self and pleasure rather than lovers of God. Are we not there? At least in the West, are we not seeing that increasingly as we throw off gospel restraint, as we deny conscience, as we remove God from any worldview we have? It leads to ignorance, emptiness, and it leads to callousness and hardness.
Society begins to degenerate and disintegrate. People become brutal. If you read 2 Timothy 3, that’s one of the phrases that we read. In the last days, harsh times will come, and people will be brutal. Do you know why people become brutal? When they’re in love with self, they will do violence to anything and anyone that gets in the way of self and the fulfillment of their self-defined lives. They will celebrate the death of anything that keeps them from living their self-defined lives. Can I give you an example of that? The abortion issue. Does anything scream callousness, a hardness of heart, like the present day abortion discussion? There’s no reasoning anymore.
We have moved to a place now in our culture where we celebrate abortion. In 2015, abortion activists started the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion which was a social media campaign with the goal of erasing the stigma surrounding abortion. Women were encouraged to share their experiences online without shame or regret. Many thousands dead. Some of these testimonies were published in a book that, according to its authors, celebrates life and freedom as much as choice.
One OBGYN shared this quote, “Often, when somebody has an abortion, it’s the same celebration. It’s the same joy. It’s the same relief that is present when I’m helping a woman deliver a baby.” I’ll ask you a question, sir. I don’t know where you’re at, madam, where you’re at with Christ, but I’ll ask you a question. Is that not futile thinking? Is that not darkened understanding? Is that not hardness of heart in our culture, divorced from reason and revelation, divorced from the obvious, divorced from the decent, that we’re not a place in our culture where you celebrate the taking of a child’s life, and you call it life, where you celebrate abortion to the same extent you would celebrate the birth of a child. Is that not callousness, coldness?
Just one example of where our culture is going, this is the typical pagan lifestyle. And you know what’s sad about it? We’re going to see more of this in America, the more we reject the Bible, the more we turn our back on our history and our Judeo-Christian world, who you’re going to see greater futility, greater ignorance, greater hardness, greater callousness, greater brutality, which leads to a final thought in temperance. In temperance, this is a sequence of domino effect. Ignorance and sensitivity now gives way to in temperance.
Look at verse 19, it’s kind of dominoes are falling, who being past feeling have given themselves over to lewdness. They’re all in on sin, sexual sin especially. Now, while the word greed here can certainly speak to the pursuit of material wealth, in the context, it seems to speak to sexual appetite and indulgence. Paul’s talking about here the mark of a fallen soul or the mark of a fallen society. They will increasingly give themselves to lewdness, uncleanness in a greedy manner. There’ll be a sexual appetite and a sexual indulgence that will stop at nothing to satisfy every foul desire. There’ll be a shameless pursuit and a parading of sexual sin.
Today, that’s where our culture’s headed. That’s where our culture’s at. Today, we see the flaunting, the parading of lewdness, the celebration of immorality, pornography, drag, the grooming of children, homosexuality, lesbianism, adultery, bisexuality, fornication. Isn’t it sad to see that many overt illusions to sex mark every kind of advertisement, verging on soft pornography?
If I would borrow a phrase from Jeremiah 6 verse 15, it says of those in Judea, “They no longer blush at their sin.” They couldn’t blush anymore. Nothing embarrassed them. I’m amazed when I look at my news feeds or just the headlines that are dominating the lewd stories, people talking about their sex lives and country stars talking about the braveness to take nude photos of themselves, the lewdness, the parading, the callousness, the ignorance, the darkened understanding.
That’s where we’re at because our culture is thrown off any restraint. Now, just one little thought as we move on, and we’ll speed up here, I’ll probably collapse the second thought into the first or just touch on it. But remember that lifestyle we’ve just described, we’ve got to have nothing to do with it. Some of us were involved in it. There was once a time in our life where that marked us. That was our story. But Paul says, “Not anymore.” I insist in the Lord and the implications of the gospel, the indicative now are becoming imperatives. Now that you’re in Christ and Christ is in you, you’re no longer in or off the world.
I need you to reject that. Your new life in Christ increasingly conformed to Christ’s life will make you a nonconformist. Our fathers, our Baptist and congregational forefathers were called nonconformists. You want to be a nonconformist. I don’t mean odd for God. I don’t mean monasticism. I don’t mean putting on a white cloak and heading off to hell somewhere right into the forest. But I’m talking about where the culture is going in its ignorance and its insensitivity and its intemperance. We don’t follow them. And that’s what Peter says in 1 Peter 4 verse 4. Aren’t they surprised that you no longer run with them?
When you get saved, you don’t go to the parties anymore. You don’t get drunk anymore. You don’t sleep with your boyfriend or your girlfriend anymore. You don’t lie. We could go on down the list. You’re different. As Danny said, “That was another time, another life, another man.” Now, we, according to 1 Peter 4 verse 4, don’t run with them anymore. And they mock us for it.
I remember when I got saved, I stopped going to certain things. I was involved in a little bit of bad behavior on a Saturday at soccer games. I ran with a pretty rough crowd in a blue-collar area I grew up in, and I had that disengage, not because I was better, not because I was pompous, not because I thought I was holier than them. It’s just I knew that was behavior I could no longer do and [inaudible 00:31:47] Christian. And I got mocked for it.
I had to ask God for courage to tell my friends, “I’m done. I won’t be there on Saturday. You won’t see me on Tuesday. I’m going to a Bible study and a prayer meeting.” They look at you like, “What?” So you no longer run after them. You no longer squeeze into the world’s mold. Mark Twain tells early in his life he moved to a mining town in Colorado. The city he moved to was wide open town with brothels and bars and every kind of sin on every corner. He said this quote, “I immediately recognized it was no place for a Presbyterian. So I decided not to be one.” Wow. That’s sad, isn’t it? I’ll just conform. I’ll go with the flow. I’ll be the dead fish. Just carry me where you want.”
But that’s not what Christians do. True Christians don’t conform. True Christians don’t go along to get along. They reject the former life that marks life in general. The recognition, let me collapse this thought, that would be just simply verses 20 to 22. But it’s a very simple thought that I probably could have just folded into the last thought. But you, there’s the contrast, we’re back to this idea, put off the old, put on the new. Here’s how people live with futility of mind, darkness of understanding, alienated from the life of God. They’re ignorant of the things of God, blind and calloused and cold and given the lewdness. But you, not any longer.
That’s like that Corinthian passage, where Paul describes all kinds of sin. And he says, “And such were some of you, but you’ve been washed and sanctified and justified.” And so, he says, “Look, but you didn’t learn that from Christ. Christ taught you something different. Christ taught you another way. Christ got you off the broad road that leads to destruction and onto the narrow road of discipleship and devotion to God and commitment to the saints of God and the Great Commission. That’s the road you’re on. It’s narrow. It’ll cost you. But in the end, it’ll be worth it because the broad load leads to destruction, and the narrow road leads to life.
Matthew 11:28 to 29, we put our knacks under the yoke of Christ, and we follow him and he holds the reins of our lives, and we learn from him, right? That’s all I want to say here. Paul is saying, “Okay, you know what? I insist in the Lord that you don’t live any longer the way you once lived. And you know that Christ who’s teaching you what I have taught you, to get off the broad road and onto the narrow road.” But for the time there remains, let’s get to the last thought, the renovation. The renovation, which would be verses 22 to 24. Therefore, put off concerning your old conduct or former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lust and be renewed in the spirit of your mind than you put on the new man.
See, the new life that results from knowing Christ is portrayed here as an exchange of clothes. I love this metaphor. You’ll find it in different places in the Bible. My favorite would be like Isaiah 61 verse 3 where God will give you the garment of praise for the spirit of happiness. Beautiful, isn’t it? And when you get this image of clothes being put off and put on, it’s the idea that change and renewal and transformation has taken place. Judges 6:34 talks about Gideon being clothed with power. 1 Peter 5:5 to 7 talks about being clothed with humility. Romans 13:14 talks about putting off your old life marked by the flesh, making no provision for it, and putting on the Lord Jesus Christ on the armor of light.
When soldiers, firemen, and policemen or astronauts first put on their distinct uniforms, they are taking on new responsibilities corresponding to their new identity. I remember like it was yesterday getting my police uniform in Northern Ireland in the police depot outside Belfast, putting it on, standing in several lines with other men and women, making a pledge to indeed defend British rule in Northern Ireland. And that uniform, putting that on, give me an identity and brought with it a new sense of responsibility.
And Paul’s saying that. He’s taking that image and saying, “There’s the before and the after. There’s the old life and the new life.” And when you receive Jesus, when you put Jesus on, when you added Jesus to your life, there came a new identity with that and new responsibilities. The old man is the life we had as Adam’s descendants, marked by death and separation and alienation from the life of God. And the new man is the life we now have in the new Adam the Lord Jesus who brings life and purpose and joy. Can I say this too?
This is a wardrobe for any occasion. Wherever you are, put on the Lord Jesus. This is fashion that’s never out of fashion. This is clothing that stretches and grows stronger with time. Few things, not going to spend hardly any time on this. It’s what I call the definite decision. There’s three verbs here, put off, be renewed, put on. And I’m not going to get lost in the grammar. There’s a lot of inks being spilled on this issue. These are infinitives, not imperatives in the Greek.
So the argument is by some, and I would be with them, that we’re not being commanded to do this. This is an infinitive. This is an acknowledgement of already what is fact. The grammar conveys this thought, you have put off the old man, you are being renewed in your mind, and you have put on the new man. This was done when we heard the call to come to Christ in the gospel.
If you go to Colossians 3:9 to 10, you’ll get the same idea. This putting off and putting on is in in the past tense. Since you have put off the old life, and since you have put on the new life, renew your mind and pursue Christ. And that’s all. When you and I came to Christ, I hope we had the understanding that we were indeed putting off an old life and putting on a new life, that Christ cleans us as we lay hold of Him. That believers have been made new in an attitude of their minds. They are no longer defined, dominated by futility, deception, obstinacy, or license. They learned from the Lord that the old things are gone and the new things are here.
Look, when I got saved on the 28th of January, 1978, I woke up the next morning, and I sensed things had changed. Now, of course, as one day old in Christ, I’m not going to fully understand all the implications of my decision. I had been brought up in the church, so I knew the gospel. I had that to my advantage. And I remember that kind of mixed feeling of this is awesome, and this is awkward, because now I knew there are implications to the decision last night that are going to change everything about me.
I knew I’d switched sides. I’d crossed a spiritual Rubicon. I knew enough to know that I’d made a decision for Christ, and that decision was decisive. And every decision I would make going forward would be based on that decision, that Christ was now my master and my Lord, and I began to think through the implications of my relationships and my behavior and my attitudes and my activities. And some of that would no longer be part of my life. I hope you understand that’s what happens when you and I come to Christ. There’s this definitive decision, but that definitive decision is followed by a daily discipline.
What began at conversion, putting off the old life and putting on a new life, continues. And it’s accelerated by this constant renewing of our minds. Look at the language of Paul, “Put off concerning the former conduct, the old man, and be renewed in the spread of your mind that you may put on the new man.” Being renewed is a present tense infinitive, which speaks of an ongoing process. So there’s the definitive decision. I come to Christ, the world behind me, the cross before me. The old life is no longer part of the new life. And I accelerate that, that becomes more real to me and more concrete in my life as I renew my mind. That’s the key. Don’t miss that. A renewed mindset, a renewed outlook, it ties into Romans 12:1 to 2, where he says almost the same thing, present your body as a living sacrifice and don’t be conformed to this world, but be renewed in your mind and discover what the will of God is.
And that renewal comes through us interacting with God’s word and God’s spirit as we come to see who we have become in Christ and what Christ is to us and what we’re going to become in Christ and what God wants to do through us and the indwelling presence of Christ. And we begin to replace former thoughts with new thoughts, which affects our behavior in the old life, gives way to the new life. We must replace thoughts of this world with thoughts of the next. We must replace lies that we tell ourselves with truths in Christ.
We must replace accusations of Satan with gospel promises. We must replace worldly wisdom with heavenly insight. We must replace thoughts of self with thoughts of others. We must bring every thought in the captivity to Christ as he begins to capture our thought processes, renews them, which leads to new behavior. In fact, Martyn Lloyd-Jones helps us with this. In his coming in Ephesians, he says, “When Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, they were officially free from many years of servitude, but some continued to live as if they were still slaves. The president’s proclamation gave them legal standing as free citizens. It was a done deal. They were no longer slaves, but out of habit, out of a particular way of thinking, many of these poor people still lived as slaves.” And they needed to be helped to live in accordance with the new facts. They need a renewed mind, which will bring about a new heart and bring about a new life.
Same with us. You and I have been declared free. We’ve been given a new life in the proclamation of the gospel, and we need to make sure we’re not living according to our old way of thinking. Finally, the divine design, the divine design. So you’ve got the decisive decision, which leads to a daily discipline, which is based on a divine design. The new man in Christ, the new self, is according to verse 24, created according to God. This is a divine passive. God does this in grace through the gospel by faith in his son. And its product is righteousness and holiness. That’s the end. You go back to chapter 1 and verse 4. I think we’ve got something similar there, “Just as he chose us and him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
God saved us not to make us happy, but to make us holy. He took us out of the world and put us back into the world as different people, not to conform to the world, but to indeed be an influence for His glory and show His likeness. We’re created, here in Ephesians 4:24, according to God in true righteousness and holiness. We were originally created in this image, sin, spoiled that, scarred that, but that image is now being restored in Christ. Righteousness relates to the horizontal or duty before man, second table of the law. Holiness relates to the vertical and our devotion before God, the first table of the law.
So as the team comes up, let me finish here. This is the parting shot. We’re ending where we began with this idea of transformation. And in verse 24, we’re being reminded that God created us. We’re not his masterpiece. He’s working on us, and he wants us to take on his likeness. He wants us to be righteous and holy. He wants us to comport things to his character.
So as we close, let’s pray in 2023, our conduct will comport to God’s character. And the life we now live, we’ll live it shaped and molded by faith in the Lord Jesus. Have you heard the story of Alexander the Great? Conquered the world at 30. He was a warrior par excellence. One day, he was holding court. He was making decisions of life and death regarding soldiers and those within his kingdom. The walls of his court were lined up by people who are paraded before him to receive his judgment, life or death. There was no appeal, no repeal.
One of the young men who was paraded before him was a young soldier, 18, handsome, blonde, blue-eyed. Initially, Alexander had a favorable impression of him. Maybe, he saw himself a little bit in this young man, but you know what? Those features began to harden and that likeness began to be removed because he learned that the young man had run from the front line and had acted cowardly and had hidden from the fight. And if anything, Alexander the Great couldn’t stand. It was cowardice in the face of the enemy. He was this bold warrior himself. He was the one that led his armies into battle.
And so his countenance changed. His voice became harsher. He asked the young man what his name was, and the young man replied, “Alexander.” Well, by this point, the king had turned red. “What is your name?” The boy began to stammer, could hardly speak his name. The king leapt from his throne, grabbed the lad by his tunic, lifted him off his feet, stirred him in the face, and threw him to the ground. Standing over the young soldier, he said, “Sir, change your name or change your character.” Change your name or change your character.
According to 2 Timothy, “Anyone that names the name of Christ departs from iniquity.” For Christians, it’s out with the old, and it’s in with the new. There’s a rejection and a recognition and a renovation that takes place. I hope Christ isn’t standing over any one of us today, “Change your name or change your conduct.” I hope our conduct comports with the character of God and the intent and work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for our renewed study of the book of Ephesians in this New Year. But thank you for the first half of this letter. And we almost must begin there and remind ourselves that our doing is always premised on our being, that our doing is premised on your actions. We thank you for what we are now in Christ. We’re alive, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We’re your masterpiece, and you’re creating a work of grace through us, and you’ve created us on the good works. And we pray that indeed we would walk worthy of our calling, and that the good works of a good life patterned after the character of God would show up in our lives.
Help us to give ourselves to that process by renewing our mind, by jettisoning, thinking and acting that belongs to a life apart from Christ. And by the power of the Holy Spirit under the instruction of the word of God for the glory of God, help us to set new patterns of behavior. Help us to put in new grooves of thinking in our minds that runs in the direction of righteousness. Lord, may it be said of us that was another time, that was another life, that was another man, but we’re now new creatures in Christ, and the old things are passing away and all things are becoming new. For these things we pray in Christ’s name, amen.