Have you ever met someone who claimed to be a Christian and lived a life contrary to the way a Christian should live? If I had a nickel for whenever I met someone who claimed to be a believer but talked, acted and lived life that was in complete disregard for God I would have a lot of nickels. I have found over the years that saying you are a Christian and being a Christian are often two different things. Now, I don’t say this to be or sound self-righteous, judgmental or condemning, because on one hand I am frustrated with people like this because of their hypocrisy. They clearly are not living the life a true believer in Jesus Christ should. Yet, on the other hand I am saddened for them because they have chosen to live this way in darkness, and they are blind to their ways and fail to see the true blessing of what it means live a life that is fully alive in Jesus Christ. Now, I cannot say with any authority or confidence that people living this way are not Christians, but I can say with confidence that they completely miss the true value of walking in the newness of life in Jesus Christ.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been going through our series called On Fire which focuses on the Spirit-filled life in Christ. My hope and desire is to describe, talk, and lead us in the process of becoming a fully on fire believer who is walking in and experiencing the Spirit-filled life in Christ. So far, I have shown how the process begins through the resurrection process of going from death to life and now from old self to new.
Today we will spend our time Ephesians 4:17– 32 as we will look at how the spirit-filled life in Christ becomes a reality to those who believe. In this passage the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians reminding them that they who were once dead in their sins are now fully alive in Christ. He reminds them of the necessity of transformation process, and he begins by showing them what transformation does and does not look like.
Ephesians 4:17 - 32
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 continue to walk in their former depraved state. Humanity at the core is desperately wicked, we walk in rebellion to God, and we are in desperate need of a savior.
In our depraved state we are alienated or separated from God. We do not and cannot acknowledge him as Lord and Savior nor do we have any regard for him in our minds, hearts, attitudes, and actions. We 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 according to his sensualities and impurities. Unbelievers live according to the pleasures of flesh and the pleasures of the world. Sensuality has become their god. They are enslaved to their own lusts and pleasures.
This is the way of life for many. Their mantra is, “if it feels good…do it.” They do not want boundaries, they justify their sins, and they believe that they are free to live as they choose, and nobody can tell them otherwise. They will pursue this 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 – Paul now declares a glaringly truthful statement, “But that is not how you learned Christ…” He says, “Since you are now a follower of Jesus you are not supposed to live the way you used to live.” He says you once walked in meaningless self-indulgence, but now you are called to walk in the truth and obedience of Jesus Christ.
The unfortunate 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 – Paul exclaims, “Put off (or throw off) the old self (sinful nature) …” Think of the old life like an old dirty, wet, smelly shirt and cast it off and throw it away. Don’t bother washing it, just throw it away and burn it. The way you used to live is no longer the way you live your life today. Shed yourself of the former ways of life.
Why? Because Paul tells the Ephesians that their old ways are not the ways of God; they are the ways of a godless, self-centered world that they all were once subject to and loved so dearly. The old life does not belong to God it belongs to world, which is vain, deceiving and corrupt.
Verse 23, 24 – He exhorts, “be renewed by the Spirit (let the Spirit renew) … and put on the new self.” This is the transformation process. We are called to shed or throw off the old self and be renewed by the Spirit and put on the new self. 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.”
Verse 25 – “Therefore” (What is it there for?) Since you are now fully alive in Christ, brought near to God by the blood of Jesus, renewed in your mind by the Spirit and you have shed the old nature (no longer walking in the former ways) and put on the new self we are now called to put aside falsehood and speak and live in the truth to and with one another. We are now (in Christ) people of the truth so we must speak truth to one another and live according to the truth. This includes refraining from speaking lies and living in lies because we are one body, and we should not deceive one another. We must be upright, have integrity, be open and honest with one another and not hide behind the mask of deceit, corruption and falsehood. Living in the truth can be hard for many because on one hand it requires us to be transparent and vulnerable with one another (and this does not come easy for many) and on the other hand we should have genuine concern and care for each other regardless of our life situations (this can be tiresome).
Verse 26, 27 – Not only are we to be truthful and transparent with one another, but we are also told not to be controlled by our anger. We should be angry, but sin not. That statement seems like a paradox. Can one be angry and still not sin? Or better yet what is Paul implying we do here? Some have suggested that this statement is more of a warning from Paul than it is a command. D.A. Carson writes, “It is not an encouragement to righteous anger (indeed all anger is condemned in 5:31); it is a warning, ‘If you become angry, beware! You are at sin’s door!’
As followers of Jesus, we must hate sin; it should in fact, anger us because it is the one thing that separates us from God. Sin is the wedge that has been driven between God and man and when we see others enslaved to sin it should anger us.
If indeed we are to be angry and sin not what does this look like? I think the best example would be found in John 2:14 – 16 when Jesus cleanses the Temple of God. This was not an uncontrolled tirade; it was a disciplined anger aimed at leaders who were profaning the name of God in the house of God. We should be angry at the sin that corrupts, divides, and separates us from a righteous and Holy God.
Being angry and not sinning is definitely a fine line to walk. Anger can be and usually is unhealthy and unrighteous because it is directly related to the old self and should not rule the true believer’s life. I like how John Walvoord writes, “The way to prevent such sin is to “keep short accounts,” dealing with the anger before the sun goes down. The reason is that the devil would like to intensify a Christian’s righteous anger against sin, causing it to become sin itself. This then gives the devil a foothold (lit., “a place”), an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin. Then anger begins to control the believer rather than the believer controlling his anger.” We all know that unchecked or unresolved anger is dangerous and can lead to full blown bitterness and eventual hatred. We must not be controlled by anger and this is done through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
THE 180 LIFE
Verse 28 - 30 – Since you are a new creation you now walk contrary to the way you used to walk. Paul uses the example of a thief who once stole for a living is now to work hard for his wages in order to make a living for himself. This kind of person would have made a 180 degree turn in his life.
The new life affects all aspects of our lives. We no longer do what we did before. As Paul points out the new life affects the way we speak. He says that we no longer use corrupt talk but words that are edifying and build others up. The NET bible translates the word corrupt as “unwholesome”. The original word means “to cause decay”. Thus, these are words that destroy or tear down others. This includes negative or harsh criticism, words spoken in anger, bullying, lying, and verbal regurgitation. We need to be careful, and we must allow the power of the Spirit in our lives as we use our words because they can be more dangerous and harmful than physical weapons or beatings. A person who is a new creation in Christ bridles his tongue (as James talks about). The old nature uses words as a weapon to tear down and harm others. Since you are a new creation your words are meant to build up and edify; not tear down and destroy.
The new life also does not grieve the Holy Spirit. Grieving the Holy Spirit means that we hinder the work of the Spirit by living contrary to the Spirit-filled life. The person I described in the introduction of this message is the kind of person who grieves the Holy Spirit. When one proclaims Jesus as Lord and instead lives a life contrary to his claims will cause division in the church, he will dishonor Christ, he will use his words to hurt others and he will live a sin flaunting life, and this grieves the Spirit.
Verse 31 - We are to put aside or put away or take off the following…
All of these cause division and hurt the body of Christ thus grieving the Holy Spirit. They are not supposed to be part of the new life in Christ. These are all part of the old life.
Verse 32 – Instead the person who has the new life in Christ is kind. He/she treats people with kindness, dignity and serves other’s needs. He is tenderhearted, gentle, patient and sympathetic with others. He is quick to forgive which means he doesn’t hold on to wrongdoings that have been done to him and he is willing to show forgiveness to those who seek it from him. God has forgiven you (even when you didn’t deserve to be forgiven) so you and I must learn from his example and forgive those who don’t necessarily “deserve” our forgiveness.
As a way to conclude I want to give five actions (which really are just a review) to help us become fully alive in Jesus Christ and to live the Spirit-filled life. There is nothing earth shaking here, just some practical steps to help us become the people God calls us to be.
When we become new creations in Christ, we become fully alive in Jesus Christ. I want to challenge you today to evaluate your life as a new creation in Christ. Are you living as a new creation? Are you allowing the Spirit of God to work through you and being intentional by showing kindness to people around you; by being tenderhearted to your coworkers and family; and by showing forgiveness to those who seek your forgiveness? The last part may be difficult because there may be people God is calling you to forgive that you may not want to or think you can forgive (this is why it is important to allow the Spirit to give you the strength to do it). It may not come right away but continue to ask God to help you become the person who is new in Christ who is intentionally living a fully alive life for Jesus Christ.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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