This past Sunday I preached a sermon at First Pres for our ongoing series entitled "Putting It All Together" which is a series about Spiritual Transformation. In this message I addressed the notion that spiritual transformation is an essential aspect of the Christian life. As followers of Jesus Christ we will be transformed. Here is the transcript of the sermon...
Read Ephesians 4:17 - 24
A few years ago there was a TV show called Extreme Makeover Home Edition. This television show was about people coming together to assist individuals and families who were less fortunate, facing hardships in life or individuals who have given much to their communities by doing renovations to their existing homes or rebuilding new ones for them. Those who are picked receive a surprise visit from a world renowned design team who is headed up by Ty Pennington who wields a megaphone and barks out orders to the team to motivate them to get the job done. When the show first aired the team went to homes that were in major deplorable. Some conditions of homes were hazardous and downright dangerous. The team would come in and renovate the home by making the necessary repairs and upgrades so the house would be livable once again. Over time the show changed from home renovations and improvements to complete demolition and rebuilding a brand new home in its place. Hundreds of volunteers from the community would come to the work site and assist in building a completely new home in a week’s time. The new homes were much larger and efficient than the previous home.
I have always felt this show served as a great analogy of what transformation can look like in a person who is a believer in Christ.
This morning we will be spending some time in Ephesians 4:17 – 24 and we look at how transformation is something that all believers go through. It is God’s plan for every Christian.
The Old You and the New You
The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians in the passage that was just read reminding them that they who were once dead in their sins are now newly alive in Christ. He reminds them of the necessity of transformation and begins by showing them what transformation is not.
Verse 17, 18 – Paul writes, “You must no longer walk as the Gentiles (unbelievers) do…” He speaks of the former ways of life. One author suggests that if we could change the word “Gentiles” to “Americans or some other relevant label we would have little difficulty bringing verses 17 – 19 into our contemporary situation, for they are like a mirror.” Paul reminds us that believers should not walk in their former depraved state. Humanity is desperately wicked, walking in rebellion and in need of a savior.
In our depraved state we are alienated from God. We do not acknowledge him nor have any regard for him in our minds or heart. Our hearts are hardened to him.
Verse 19 – The sinful and depraved person is hard and callous towards God and is not submitted to him. This person lives by his sensuality and impurities. Unbelievers live for the pleasures of flesh and pleasures of the world. Sensuality has become their god. They have completely submitted themselves to their own lusts and pleasures.
This unfortunately has become the way of life for many. Their belief is, if it feels good, do it. They do not want boundaries and they believe that they are free to live as they choose and nobody can tell them otherwise. They will pursue their misconstrued idea of happiness at any cost without regard of who they hurt in the process. The depraved unrepentant sinner is void of God and full of self.
Verse 20, 21 – “But that is not how you learned Christ…” Paul is saying, “Since you are now a follower of Jesus you are not supposed to live the way you used to live.” You once walked in meaningless self-indulgence, but now you are called to walk in the truth and obedience of Jesus Christ.
The sad truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of people who profess Jesus as their Lord and yet continue to walk in their lustful, depraved and futile ways.
Verse 22 - “Put off the old self…” Think of the old life like an onion as Christians peel off the old self (sinful self). The way they used to live is no longer the way they live their lives today. They shed themselves of the former ways of life. The sinful life they were once enslaved to is to be discarded and thrown away like an old pair of smelly shoes.
Why is this? Because their old ways are not the ways of God; they are the ways of a godless, self-centered world and they all were once subject to and loved it so dearly. The old life does not belong to God it belongs to world which is vain, deceiving and corrupt.
Verse 23, 24 – “be renewed by the Spirit… and put on the new self.” This is the transformation process we are speaking of throughout this series. We are called to shed the old and put on the new. This new life is crafted after the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness. This transformation process is described in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is one of the most beautiful illustrations of the new life in Christ. Paul writes to the Corinthians that if anyone considers themselves to be a follower of Jesus then He has become a new creation. The old ways of living are gone and behind us the new has come. What I find most beautiful about this transformation is in becoming a NEW CREATION.
The new creation is not a better version of the old self. I do not become Jeff 2.0, I become a completely new creation transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Jesus is now evident in my life. One who has been transformed by the power of the Spirit is indeed a changed individual. People will notice the difference by the way you act, talk and treat others. I believe the true litmus test for the Christian is evident in their transformation. If there is no transformation then there is no new life in Christ. Unfortunately many who have proclaimed Christ as Savior have fallen prey to the natural enemy of transformation and that is complacency. Christian pastor A.W. Tozer writes, “The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth (transformation). Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.”
I think it is safe to say that we have all struggled with complacency in our lives. I know I have. Maybe some of you are struggling today or you may not even realize you are living in complacency. But I am reminded that Jesus did not save us so we would sit. He saved us so we would continually grow, and go out and be a representative of Him to the world.
I think what may linger in the minds of many is, “If the old life has passed away does this mean it will no longer affect me?” The answer is no. No matter what has happened in your past, your former self will always be etched into your lives. There is no way the past cannot be part of your life. Who you are is deeply connected to your past. However the past no longer defines you nor has control over you. You have been freed from the old self and now a new creation in Jesus Christ.
One of the challenges when I was a new believer was “putting to death the sinful things of the past”. The old self haunted me. I struggled daily (and in some areas continue today) with the sins of my life as a non-Christian. The Bible constantly reminds me that I am a “new creature” and the sinful things I used to do have passed away. I pray every day that God will deliver and protect me from this battle of the old and the new. In Colossians 3:5 the Apostle Paul tells the Christians in Colosse to put away all the sinful things that lurked in them. The words “put to death sinful things” also means to mortify or kill the sinful things in our life. Matthew Henry, a Bible commentator, wrote this, “(We must) mortify them (sinful things), kill them, suppress them, as a weed or vermin which spread and destroy all about them… It is necessary to mortify sins, because if we do not kill them then they will kill us.” Our battle against sinful things is a battle that is fought daily. The old and new self are constantly battling one another. Yet we must be encouraged because the new self is empowered by the Spirit of God and He gives us the ability to put to death the old self so we can live transformed lives for His glory.
Do you struggle with the old self? Do you find that the new you sometimes doesn’t really feel like a new you? Have you even put off the old self and put on the new self in Christ?
These are deep questions to be answered and prayed through. I challenge you this week to take these to the Lord and ask him to empower you through the Spirit to live the new life in Christ and put away the former ways of life so you can live as a fully transformed child of God.
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.