Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 22, 2000
Many professing believers do not live lives set apart unto Jesus Christ. They live in the same manner and with the same goals as anyone else in the world. They love the world and the things in the world and by that demonstrate that the love of the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15). That is a good cause for to question their salvation and examine themselves to see if they really are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). God has given commands. The true believer in Jesus Christ will desire and strive to obey them.
What are the essential commands of God? Jesus answered that question in Matthew 22 and said that the foremost command was “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The second is like it – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Only the true Christian has the desire to set themselves as sub-servant to God. Everyone else strives to manipulate God to get what they want. Even the works of righteousness to earn salvation is so that God will have to grant them salvation. The true Christian throws himself on the mercy of God based in Christ’s sacrifice and considers all his good works as only that which is fitting of an unworthy slave who has only done what they ought to do (Luke 17:10).
It is also only the true Christian that can love their fellow man in the way commanded here. Everyone else seeks to manipulate people to either get what they want or avoid what they don’t want. It is the Christian that is to consider others more important than themselves (Phil. 2: 3) and then rejoice in having the lesser position.
If these things are not part of your life or at least the desire of your heart, then one of two things may be true. 1. You may not yet truly knows the Lord Jesus Christ. You may not yet understand the gospel message. I will explain that message in a few minutes. The other possibility is that you are saved but have just not progressed that far in your sanctification. You are not as set apart to God as needed to put His kingdom and His righteousness first in every area of your life.
God’s command for man is to be holy just as He is holy. It was commanded of the Israelites (Lev. 11:44f). It is commanded of us who are Christians (1 Peter 1:16). We are to live in a manner separated from worldliness – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16) – and set apart unto God.
As Christians, we are to walk worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1). Why? Because we have been changed by Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 5:17 tells us that if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. We have a new identity in Jesus Christ. Sadly, many who proclaim to be Christians have been given a false gospel that does not even mention this change of identity. They have heard a message that has been twisted and reduced into something like this: God loves you and had a wonderful plan for your life, but man is separated from God by sin. Jesus Christ came and died so that you can go to heaven and not hell. All you need to do is believe in Him.
That may sound nice on the surface, but there are some glaring problems due to the fact that it is centered on you, and not God, and most of the terms are left undefined. Who is this God? What is He like? What is His authority? What is this wonderful plan? What is the nature of this separation from God? What is sin? Why does it separate you from God? Who is Jesus Christ? What makes Him different from other men and other historical religious figures? Why would His death make any difference in my life? What does it mean to “believe” in Him? Are there any other ramifications to this belief?
To even briefly answer those questions is to change the focus on what salvation is all about. God is the one that created all things for His own pleasure and purposes. He is omniscient, omnipotent, holy and just. He is the sovereign one who has the authority and ability to carry out His will in all things. You are one of His creatures that has rebelled against Him. You personally sin every time you fail to live according to His commandments and thus you are under His just and holy condemnation. However, God has chosen to love you and make a provision for penalty of your sin so that you escape its eternal penalty of death and be brought back into a relationship with Him. Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, became a man that He might live a perfect, sinless life and then willing die as the substitute payment for man’s sin. He then rose from the dead proving that He has authority over sin and death. He is now in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father where He intercedes for us and where He is preparing a place for us to join Him. God graciously grants forgiveness of our sins through our faith in Jesus’ Christ’s atonement for us and imparts to us the Holy Spirit that we might live in righteousness.
That is the true gospel and the focus of its message is God. You are simply the recipient of His Grace through Jesus Christ. Salvation is not from eternal hell but from sin. Going to Heaven and escaping Hell is a consequence of being saved from sin. The purpose of the gospel is the glory of God by making you a vessel of His mercy (Rom. 9:23). The ramification of the gospel in a true believers’ life is a radical change in every respect. You who were once dead in trespasses and sin have been made alive in Christ (Eph. 2). You are no longer your own, but have been bought with the price of His blood (1 Cor. 6:20). You have been set apart unto Christ and are now in the process of being conformed into His image (Rom. 8:29). Every Christian should say along with Paul in Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
How God wants us to live – Ephesians 4:17-32
Paul calls all true Christians to live worthy of their calling by Jesus Christ. 7 This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus. 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in [the likeness of] God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
A summary of the Christian life is found in the three infinitives of this passage. We are: 1. to lay aside (vs 22), 2. to be renewed (vs. 23), and 3. to put on (vs. 24). These are not imperatives/ commands to be carried out, but rather statements of fact. These things happened at conversion, so living according to them should be normal for the believer.
We lay aside the “old self” – our former manner of life. “Lay aside” means to “strip off,” as in taking off filthy clothes. The aorist tense indicates Paul is referring to what happened when you came to Christ. Your filthy garments of sin were taken off and you were clothed with Jesus’ righteousness.
If you continue living in accordance to your former way of life, you demonstrate that either you are deceived about your salvation and you and that you have no new nature, or that you need to quit putting on your old filthy clothes.
You would not come came home all filthy dirty, take a shower and then put on the same dirty clothes! Getting all cleaned up and putting on after-shave or perfume is not going to make a bit of difference if you put on the same old smelly dirty clothes. In the same way, if you have been made alive in Christ, why put on those old grave clothes and go back to hanging out at the cemetery of trespasses and sin? You were made alive? Do you really want to get back into that coffin with all the decay inside it?
Your mind was also affected when you were saved. God took away the blindness and gave you the Holy Spirit so that you might understand His word (1 John 2:27). You were given a moral capacity that those without Christ cannot have regardless of their intelligence (1 Cor. 2). Now there is still some work on our part, but the change has come. Just as you were sanctified (1 Cor. 6:11) and are being sanctified (1 Thess. 5:23) your mind has been renewed (Eph. 4:23 and is being renewed by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
To use a computer analogy, you have a new operating system, but you still have to get the old stuff off the hard drive. Delete the old programs and install the new ones. Your new operating system will not work well with the old programs. Do not to be “conformed to this world,” but be “transformed rather by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Use the new mind Christ gave you and fill it with His word and learn how to put it into practice. We are to be about the business of “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:15).
The idea of “putting on the new self” is not “new” in the sense of repaired or re-manufactured, but new as in a different species or character. Verse 24 tells us that our new self is in the likeness of God and created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. The NIV actually translates this a little better saying, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” with the emphasis being that it is actual righteousness and holiness as opposed to being self deceived as is the old self (vs. 22).
Righteousness deals with our relationships with other people while holiness refers to our relationship with God. In both areas the Christian is to reflect the character of God. You were given the ability to do this upon salvation though we still fight against the principle of sin that remains in these bodies of flesh. That is the conflict Paul describes in Romans 6 & 7. We are new creatures, but we must not let “sin reign in [our] mortal bod[ies] (6:12), we must not “go on presenting the members of [our] bod[ies] to sin (6:13). Our fight against sin is real and will continue throughout our earthly life. If there is no struggle, there is no new nature. At times we may become weary in the battle, but the Holy Spirit is present to empower us to continue on, and over time we should become more like Christ (Rom. 8:29).
In verses 25-32 Paul gives five very practical examples of what it means to walk as a new creature in Christ. New creatures should behave as such. The apostle John put it bluntly in 1 John 2:4, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth his not in him.” It should be normal that Christianity brings about a radical change in the individual.
FROM LYING TO TRUTH
25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one [of you,] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.
Lying is common to mankind and has become the mark of our society. One commentator even suggested that we have become so dependent on lying that if everyone in our society started to tell the truth our way of life would collapse. I don’t know if that would happen, but it sure sounds good to me. It’s an election year, imagine if the candidates told us the truth? Imagine buying products or signing a contract without a lot of fine print to read?
Lying includes telling direct falsehoods, mixing the truth with error, exaggeration to deceive, cheating, breaking promises, flattery and sham excuses. It is also telling only part of the truth with the intent to deceive. The Bible states that those who are characterized by lying “will be thrown into the “lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). They are marked by being children of the devil, who is the father of all liars (John 8:44).
This does not mean that true Christians never lie, but it does mean that lying is not to be part of their daily life. Lying should not define their character, and they are genuinely repentant when they do lie. Christians are to “lay aside falsehood,” for it is part of the “old self.”
Christians are to be marked by “speaking the truth, each one with His neighbor.” A quote from Zech. 8:16. We are members of each other, so lying hurts others and ourselves. Consider the consequences if your various body parts lied to each other. Your foot said it was hot when it was freezing and you developed frost bite. Your hand said it was cool when it was actually hot and so it got burned. Your eyes said the road was straight when it was actually crooked so you drove off it. Such is the damage when believers lie to each other. We need each other. We depend on each other. We must tell each other the truth.
However, let me add this caution. You are not required to and you should not to tell everything you think and feel. We shall see in verse 29 that we have other considerations before we speak. “Speaking the truth” does not include “telling people off” or dumping our emotional garbage on others. It simply means that what we say is unqualified truth. The body is built up by speaking the truth in love.
FROM UNRIGHTEOUS ANGER TO RIGHTEOUS ANGER
26 Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
A popular but erroneous belief is that Christians should never get angry. Here we find that there are times that Christians should be angry, but that anger is to be qualified and limited. We are not to sin in our anger and we are to deal with it quickly lest we give the devil an opportunity to lead us into temptation.
The anger spoken of here is the same as in Psalm 97:10 & Proverbs 8:13 where the righteous are told to “hate evil,” or Psalm 69:9 which was lived out in Jesus Christ when He drove out the merchants and money changers from the temple because they had turned God’s house of prayer into a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13).
Righteous anger is not a momentary, boiling over rage, but a deep-seated, determined and settled conviction. Righteous anger is not a fiery flashing temper, but the hot coals of indignation. James 1:20 says the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God for it is based on selfishness and is undisciplined. It seeks to vindicate itself and its quest is revenge. Righteous anger is based in the holiness of God and the love of others. It is sacrificial in nature and leaves revenge in God’s hand (Rom. 12:19).
Righteous anger is what we feel when we see great evil or injustice done – a child abused by an adult; a sleazy character who entices girls into prostitution; a defenseless village massacred by enemy forces. It is the anger we should feel when God’s name is taken in vain and His character defamed.
The anger is further defined here by its restrictions. Be angry, but do not sin. Do not let the emotion move you into violating God’s standards yourself. It is right to be angry over abortion clinics and the evil that goes on within them, but it is sin to respond in any way that does not reflect godliness . That includes not only shooting and bombing, but ungracious speech too!
In addition we are not to let the “sun go down on our anger.” Anger that is not dealt with quickly turns to bitterness. That gives the devil an opportunity to feed that anger with evil – self-pity, pride, vengeance, defensiveness and other selfish sins.
FROM STEALING TO SHARING
28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have [something] to share with him who has need.
Stealing not only includes the obvious like burglary, robbery, embezzlement, shop lifting, etc., but the more acceptable forms – pilfering from work – even pens, pencils’ etc., doing personal business on company time or just wasting company time. The ways to steal are limited only by the imagination of man. Those who know Jesus Christ are not to steal.
The alternative to stealing is working, and by that labor we are to provide for ourselves and those who have legitimate need. We are responsible for ourselves to “work with our own hands” and provide for those dependent on us. If we do not, we deny the faith and are worse than unbelievers (1 Tim. 5:8). Those who refuse to work are not to even be given anything to eat (2 Thess. 3:10-11). Those who have legitimate need – widows without means of support, orphans, those physically incapable of providing for themselves, etc., are to be assisted out of the charity that should be in the heart of every Christian. We labor in part in order to be able to extend that charity.
FROM UNWHOLESOME WORDS TO WHOLESOME
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] that it may give grace to those who hear.
Unwholesome refers to that which is corrupt or foul like rotten vegetables and spoiled food. Foul language from out of the mouth of a Christian is contradictory to the new life in Christ that is within him. There are no excuses for profanity, vulgarity, off-color jokes and such. As Paul adds in Col. 3:8 we are to “put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech.”
Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth is a reflection of what is in the heart (Matt. 12:34), so it is no wonder that non-Christians speak in that manner. The only cure for it is the change the Holy Spirit brings to the heart and mind to fill them with that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise-worthy (Phil 4:8). The Christian’s speech is to be guided by the three characteristics mentioned here: Edifying, Appropriate and gracious.
1) We speak only “such a word as is good for edification.” Our concern is building one another up in Christ. This includes encouragement, appreciation, motivation and at times, correction. It is always the truth spoken with genuine love. Ask yourself before you speak if what you say will genuinely help build the other person’s faith and help him become more Christ-like.
2) We also speak “according to the need of the moment.” In other words, we speak appropriately and the appropriate time. This takes discernment, wisdom and at times, patience. Prov. 25:11 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” Prov. 15:23 adds, “A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word!”
3) We speak in order to give grace to those who hear. We need to be more concerned for how what we say will affect the other person than simply getting something off our chest. Even when confronting sinners, Jesus presented God’s grace and offered hope of forgiveness.
There is no excuse for believers to be obnoxious or call people that offend us names. If you must call them something, call them PINOGAMS – a Person In Need Of Grace And Mercy. Speak to others as Jesus would, for you belong to Him and have His Spirit living inside you.
FROM VICE TO VIRTUE
The final characteristic change in the Christian is going from vice to virtue. Vs. 30-32, 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Skip verse 30 for the moment and look at verses 31 & 32. There is quite a contrast between those who truly live for Christ and those who do not. When we do not live as we ought, sin rises up in us and grows just as in the non-believer. The selfishness inherent in all sin leads to bitterness, wrath and anger, and these in turn inevitable lead to the outward display of them – clamor and slander.
Bitterness is spirit of irritability that keeps a person in perpetual animosity, in a smoldering grudge. *Wrath is the wild rage of the passion of the moment while *Anger is more internal, more subtle, a deep feeling. The outcome of these are clamor, slander and malice. *Clamor is the loss of control in public outbursts and is the sign of wrath. *Slander grows out of bitterness and is the defamation of those considered your enemies. *Malice is the general term for evil that is the root of all vices. The Christian must put all these things away from him and instead put on the virtues listed in verse 32.
Be kind to one another instead of bitter. Gentle rather than irritable. Amiable instead of full of animosity. We are to be tender-hearted instead of wrathful. We have compassion for others rather than hate, the fruit of which is forgiveness for others because of the forgiveness we have received from Christ.
If you exhibit the kinds of things Paul has mentioned here, then you grieve the Holy Spirit. (Footnote: Emotion – the ability to grieve – is an attribute of personhood and a strong argument for the personality of the Holy Spirit. A force cannot be grieved).
Tragically, these vices are too often found in believers, which is why Paul’s grammar here is actually a command to “stop grieving” the Holy Spirit. All sin is painful to God, but sin in His children breaks His heart. We stop grieving the Holy Spirit when we live according to our calling in Jesus Christ. A calling to which the Holy Spirit has sealed us to the day of redemption.
We speak the truth in love rather than lie.
We have righteous anger, but we control it and do not let it lead us into sin.
We work hard seeking to provide for ourselves and others out of the charity of our heart rather than steal.
We guard our mouths and keep them clean from unwholesome, rotten words. Instead we seek to build up others with appropriate, gracious words.
We put off the vices of bitterness, wrath and anger which lead to clamor, slander and malice and instead put on the virtues of kindness, tender-hearts and forgiveness.
In doing these things we please the Lord rather than grieve the Holy Spirit. In doing these things we live according to our calling; in harmony with being the new creatures God has made us when He saved us; in agreement with the new life we have in Jesus Christ. We demonstrate that we have sanctified souls.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) List out all the scriptural commands given. 2) Discuss with your parents how you are doing at obeying these commands and how to do better.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What are the essential commands of God? Why can’t a non-Christian obey these? How is a person changed when they believe in Jesus Christ? What conclusions can be drawn if a person does not change after professing belief in Jesus? The three infinitives of Ephesians 4 summarize the Christian life. What does it mean “to lay aside the old self”? “To renew your mind”? “to put on the new self”? What is the difference between righteousness and holiness in Eph. 4:24? Define lying. What does the Bible say happens to liars? Is it ever right to lie? What does it mean that we are to “speak the truth.” What restrictions are there to doing that? What is righteous anger? What are the signs of it compared to regular anger? How should the Christian deal with their anger? How do you deal with your anger? What is meant by “unwholesome words”? What are the three guides to speaking wholesome words? Which of these is most helpful to you? What does P.I.N.O.G.A.M. stand for? What grieves the Holy Spirit? What are the contrasts between the vices of verse 31 and the virtues of verse 32? Define each term. Which of these virtues do you need to work on? Describe your plans for growing in Christ?
The Commands of God
The Change in the Christian
A False Gospel
The True Gospel
Your Identity in Christ – Gal. 2:20
The Charges of God – Ephesians 4:17-32
Summary of the Christian Life
Lay Aside the Old Self (vs. 22)
Be Renewed (vs. 23)
Put on the New Self (vs. 24)
Practical Examples (vs. 25-32)
From Lying to Truth
From Unrighteous Anger to Righteous Anger
From Stealing to Sharing
From Unwholesome Words to Wholesome
From Vice to Virtue
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