EPHESIANS-SERIES NR 8
Theme: Keen to improve
Scripture: Ephesians 4: 17 -32
We don’t improve our lives so that God can be pleased with us and in that way we become His children! God makes you His child based on what Jesus did on the cross – without your assistance. And He makes you turn about and place your trust on that. And in that way His Spirit enters your life and changes you. The result of that is that you will/can/shall henceforward live your life differently every day. Yes, a Christian lives a life different from the unsaved person, but not to gain or remain in God’s favour, but because he CANNOT do anything else for he has been made a new creation by the power of the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit.
That is the way one must understand Eph 4: 17-32, otherwise this passage will sound like a couple of moralistic do’s-and-don’ts that could just as well fit into the Muslim religion or whatever other legalistic religious system.
No, in chapters 1-3 the Apostle particularly explained how God has saved us with the death and resurrection of Jesus – without any desire from our side to will/can/want (to) change our lives.
But in chapters 4-6 he is explaining the practical way that salvation impacts our daily lives. A saved person SHALL live/speak/behave differently, have a different attitude and conduct, etc. In 4:17-32 he lists a good number of practical things that we should take particular notice of.
For TWO reasons we should take particular notice of those (verses 17, 30):
A (v 17: “You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking”.) That is the Lord himself speaking through the Apostle. What Paul is asking them to do, is what the Lord God is asking! Paul is writing, what God is writing. We must not underrate it.
B (v 30: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption“). The Holy Spirit lives in a child of God and His indwelling is the hallmark (“seal”) that a person is truly God’s child. But if the person behaves/lives in an unholy attitude, it is in conflict with the indwelling Holy Spirit! Remember, His Name is the HOLY Spirit. Behaviour that is unholy, is an insult to the Holy Spirit and makes Him sad. That is the 2nd reason why we should attend closely to what is written in this passage. If we do not do that, it will lead to the Holy Spirit being grieved/insulted.
Let us now look at verses 17-24: Why CAN true Christians not live in the same way as other people? Why can the Christian child at school not live/do the same as the non-Christian? In the office, at Gym, etc. Why not? Why does a Christian speak differently to the unsaved person? Different vocabulary? Why a different attitude to material things?
Answer: Because the Christian is no longer the same as an unsaved person! As simple as that. In deepest essentials the saved person is not the same as he/she was before. The Bible does not say to the believer: “be different to what you are”. Scripture says: “Be what you are!” In other words: That which you ARE by virtue of your new status in Christ – go and daily live THAT way!
The saved person’s mind is renewed. The saved person is a new person. The unsaved person on the other hand, is still sitting in the lost condition in which all people are born (verses 17-19): a) Thinking is corrupt and leads to nothing, b) darkened in their understanding, c) separated (estranged) from the life of God, d) perverse persistence in ignorance, e) free of all sensitivity, and f) continual lust for sensuality.
Indeed, that is the spiritual condition of ALL people if they do not come to faith in Christ. (In Greek: An increasingly darkening state). That is exactly why a person must be RECREATED by God to see the Kingdom.
Exactly because of items A-G above, the unsaved person’s life is completely without meaning and substance and leads to nothing. His mind is focused upon things that have no true value. Before the Throne of judgment, the unsaved person will discover just how meaningless the things were that he had focused upon.
But, the saved person – whose mind is renewed – now has a totally different value system and for that can no longer live like the unsaved.
The non-Christian’s understanding and insight is however darkened. Therefore do unsaved, undelivered scientists look at God’s most wonderful creation, but do not see His hand in it. All people are like that by nature, deadened of heart and ignorant of the life of God. Ignorant by nature. You do not become that way. You are that way from birth. Your spiritual eyes are absolutely blind and your spirit is hardened and dead. Like stone. You cannot respond when God speaks to you. You cannot make the choice to come to faith. You are not able to understand spiritual matters. What gives you pleasure is what YOU want, that satisfies YOU.
Look at the TV programmes people watch – that they tolerate inside their houses, what standards, what language. Feed their minds with that. The same person who does not curse or slander the Lord’s Name, allows that in his home through TV or online. The same person who would not dream to be unfaithful to his wife, enjoy watching it on TV. Finds it entertaining. How very interesting that many confessing Christians enjoy watching TV soapies that are saturated with the works of the flesh (Gal 5: 19-21). That the living God is against these things, apparently does not make any difference to a lot of people. That shows how corrupt and absolutely depraved is the unsaved person’s heart and mind. But the Christian is no longer like that and cannot live that way any longer.
What the Apostle is saying here, is that the renewed Christian must BE what he/she essentially already IS. “You have 10 million rand in your bank account – therefore stop begging for scraps and live like a millionaire. “
Remember, the Christian has learned his behaviour from Christ himself (v 21)! The Christian knows Him as a Person and learns from Him. That is essentially what being a Christian is: Intimacy with/ love for/ trust in a Person! By Him you would never have been taught the behaviour of verses 17-19, a) Thinking is corrupt and leads to nothing, b) darkened in their understanding, c) separated (estranged) from the life of God, d) perverse persistence in ignorance, e) free of all sensitivity, and f) continual lust for sensuality.
What is it then that we have been taught by Him? That which you already are must determine your behaviour. Put off your old self (v22). Continuously. Lifelong process. That which you no longer are, must be put aside when it raises its head. Do not make peace with sin in any form. Do not indulge it. Ask the Spirit to teach you to hate it passionately. Also, do not become discouraged with your struggle against sin, because – in principle – you are a new person (2 Cor 5:17).
That is what continuous repentance is. You are no longer the old sinful person you used to be – therefore – consciously break with him whenever he comes to the fore.
On the contrary, you are now new in your spirit and mind and you are a new person made in God’s image – therefore – be that in all circumstances. Live holy and according to the will of God.
What it literally says in the Greek:
A) Verse 22: Break with the old sinful nature once and for ever with a once-off act – the way you remove your soiled clothes and then it is done, and…
B) Verse 23: Your spirit and your mind continuously have to be renewed. There comes a day when your eyes are opened (once only) and you break with the old nature by faith on Christ – like when a man realises that he does not have to live from scraps because he has 10 million rand in the bank. But afterward, he daily has to resist and struggle against sin (continuously).
Example: The believer comes to a once only point in his/her life of break-with-the-old-nature, but afterward struggles with, and resists the old nature on a daily basis to be able to again sit on the throne: things like lies/anger/slander/brawling and bad language/bitterness/malice, confronts you in season and out. In faith you must struggle against it, and consciously choose to live out of the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.
Verses 25-32: Specific practical areas of life where a Christian lives differently from a non-Christian:
A. Lies in every form (v25): All kinds of falsehoods. Half truths. Exaggerations. To only leave an image in another’s mind that is different from the reality. The result is devastating.
B. Sinful anger (vv26-27: Getting angry is not wrong. It is indeed an emotion that the Lord has made. Our Lord Jesus himself became angry on occasion, but He was angry at the things His Father was angry about. Any other kind of rage is wrong. But even the right kind of anger must not last longer than the same day. We must not cherish it or brood over it, because then bitterness comes and the devil gets a foothold. The day of anger must also be the day of conciliation and peace.
C. Stealing (v28): To obtain/acquire something except by a) working for it, or b) receive it as a gift. Money from the Lotto is also a form of theft, because thousands of people’s money is taken to give to another person or organisation.
In the place of all these unethical ways of procuring things, one should rather work honestly and consider sharing with others. Not get, but give. That is the first purpose why the Lord has given us the ability to earn money – in order to give.
D. What you speak (v29): Speak only that which can edify/build people up. Avoid cursing/dirty language at all cost. Remember that the Holy Spirit is HOLY and very sensitive. Do not grieve Him. Not tolerating TV programs where there is crude language, or the Lord’s Name is used in vain. Even though it is a brilliant movie – turn it off, or walk out of the theatre. Avoid/hate it at all cost.
E. Bitterness (vv30, 31): How readily does bitterness and resentment-towards-others not take hold in us. Even among members of the same family. That is connected with verse 32… forgive, forgive, forgive… 70 X 7 times…
F. Forgiveness (v32): At times I have sat with people and helped them to forgive other people – particularly people from their childhood who had done them harm. Yes, one can even forgive people who are already dead. Often one is released from thick chains who have held you bound for years, when you consciously reach a point to forgive the way the Lord have forgiven you.
That means to release people – whom you have sentenced to prison – with a conscious decision. The same as God in Christ has done with you, if you are a Christian.
We should actually daily live with the attitude of forgiveness. We must continuously forgive people in Jesus’s Name. People on the roads who make us angry, or on TV-news. The way the sovereign God has acquitted me from unnumerable of sin and blame.
That is the list of practical matters the inspired apostle mentions. I will not add to it.
Have you and I truly broken down before the Lord because of our sins? And do we still break down on a regular basis? Do we know what it is to be convicted by the Holy Spirit? Do we know the purifying work of the blood of the Lord Jesus in our lives? Do things disturb us? Do we have a sensitive conscience?
Does it disturb your conscience when you – at the office – have walked off with someone else’s pen and did not return it? Does the Spirit then convict you of theft? Think of David’s remorse after he had cut a mere corner off Saul’s robe – and that while Saul wanted to kill him (1 Sam 24:5).
Does it disturb your conscience when you are wasting precious time watching TV? Or when the common profane language – that is so generally spoken among our people – is used? Do you and I know what it means to seriously and truly walk with God?
A holy life is a SIGN that a person is truly born again (Eph 1:4). The deep desire to live a holy life, to conquer sin. The worry and remorse about sin. Then to quickly repent and ask for His help. The sensitive conscience and trust in Him. The smallest matters taking me back to the cross again and again and again. The anxiety to do better. Do you and I know this striving for holiness? Then the fullness of the Spirit will take ownership of us.
Translated by Marthie Wilson