25 Feb Walk of Wisdom – Ephesians 4-5 (Pt 3)
If you came to Christ later in life, do you remember your life before? Recalling where we came from to remind ourselves that we are different in Christ can be beneficial—here’s why.
EASLEY: Do you remember if you came to Christ perhaps later in life? Do you remember what it was like before you came to Christ? I came to Christ about fifteen years of age. Some of you obviously came to Christ very young, but if you came to Christ later in life do you remember your life before that? Do you remember what it was like? Raise your hand. Let’s get a little survey. Some of us remember it well. If you were four and you trusted Christ, it’s hard to have a debauchery of a life between zero to four. Some of you, maybe. (Laughter). But when you come to Christ as I did in my teens, I left a pretty licentious, drug using, crazy lifestyle and my coming to Christ was a major change in my life. Remembering what we were like in the past, remembering those days if you came to Christ later, is of some value. We have to be careful we don’t go there and live in a place of shame and guilt and never move beyond that, but there is a healthiness to going back to that boundary- to remembering where we have come from and what Christ has done in our lives in a good way. We can remember we don’t live that way anymore; we live differently now because we’re in Christ.
We have been in a series called “The Walk of Wisdom.” We began with four guest speakers and then Bill, and Lloyd, and I chose passages that we have enjoyed personally, and we wanted to teach the concept of living wisely, and living in wisdom from those passages. A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Ephesians Chapter 4 and 5, which has the word “walk” and it occurs five times. We began looking at the first one: To walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. We’ve been called out of a lifestyle to Christ, and we now represent a King. So you and I are to walk in a manner worthy of that calling, and we’re now heirs of a King, heirs of a kingdom,illegitimate throw away children, that by grace through faith can receive Salvation. We were adopted into an inheritance that we could have never dreamt of and given eternal life with Him and as a result of that we’re to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called.
MESSAGE: Today, I want to look at another set of walks. There are five he uses in Chapter 4 and 5. We pointed those out a couple of weeks ago. But I want us to look at this one which really is walking away. Walking away from what we were. The paramount, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we’ve been called, but now we’re to walk away. Look what he tells the Ephesians believer and what he tells you and me. Chapter 4 of Ephesians, beginning at verse 17: Walk away. Know what you were leaving. So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 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; and they, having become callous, giving themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Paul begins insisting, imploring. This is of great importance: no longer walk the way the Gentiles walk. Walk in a manner worthy. Now we’re talking about no longer walking the way you used to walk. This was a culture that was steeped in every sexual perversion imaginable. They were licentious; they had idols that were innumerable. Through Acts and Paul’s writings, and through first century documents, we know that Ephesus was a wicked and immoral, evil, and covetous society. Everyone did what they wanted and what was right in their own eyes. In fact, it’s a lot like the United States of America today. I’m reminded of what Dr. Hendricks often told us, “This is not what God’s Word would say if God was here; it is what God is saying because He is here.” What applies to the Ephesian believer applies to you and me in the exact same way. So he begins by this statement; it’s a topic sentence and we talked about this a couple of weeks ago. Look again at verse 17: Walk no longer as the Gentiles also walk in the futility of their mind, and then he explains the topic sentence in the verses that follow:
Notice verse 18: Being darkened in their understanding. Now we’re talking about the way they’re thinking, their understanding is dark, but this is a reminder. This is changing our mindset. We’ll see this in great detail in this passage. It’s not just changing our mind about something; it’s changing our mindset. This, I believe is the single tension in the spiritual life. How do we live the way Christ wants us to live in a carnal physical world? The tension in the spiritual life is not just doing right things; it’s not just behavior modification. The tension of the spiritual life is knowing God’s Word and God’s Spirit who indwells the believer and being submissive to His power, and also to take the Word of God and let it transform us by His power. We cannot make our flesh any better. We’re not polishing the brass rails on a sinking ship. We need Christ power and His Spirit who indwells us to do this. You cannot do this in the flesh. Yes, willpower and discipline and self motivation are great things, but it won’t change you spiritually. It might get you out of bed and started in the morning. It might get you reading your Bible, but that in and of itself cannot change us; it requires Christ’s Spirit who indwells us. Paul’s going to elaborate on this in this passage in a very helpful way; changing our mindset about how we live the spiritual life. Before we had a mindset, and had a nagging guilt or shame, or a conscious of some kind, but it’s very different now that we’ve trusted Christ. Notice we lived in darkened understanding, in ignorance. Paul writes in a similar fashion in Romans 1:21, For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. I can go back to my “before I knew Christ days,” and I used all kinds of drugs and I’m here to tell you I inhaled and I held it as long as possible. I wanted the full affect of those drugs and I used those drugs indiscriminately, because I was escaping something, and most of the time there was nothing in the back of my mind telling me this was wrong. I wanted to do those things; that’s my sin nature. Coming to Christ, things began to change. Now look at how he describes this darkened walk. Look again, at verse 18: Excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them. Excluded from the life of God. We often hear the quip, “ignorance is bliss.” It does not apply Biblically or theologically. Ignorance is dangerous. Excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them. As a believer, you and I read those words. Those words should be chilling to us! Friends and family, people we love, are excluded from a life with God and it should also remind us from where we’ve come. We’re all dying. We’re all bound to die. We don’t like talking about it. We don’t like thinking about it. It’s reality. Funerals populate our calendar enough to remind us we’re all dying. It’s inevitable. Much of our life is just dulling the pain of the inevitable, dulling the pain that we experience with injustice. When we’re darkened in our mind, all we see is “Well I better do what I want to do, enjoy myself, and be true to myself because in the end we all die anyway so I might as well have fun and do what I want to do.This is my passion, so I need to be who I am,” and all of this sort of rhetoric that’s so part of the American mindset today. But they’re ignorant of God and because of that, they’re locked in death.
Secondly, verse 18, the hardness of their heart. Again,perhaps you remember, before you came to Christ your heart was hardened. I could do things and it did not bother me. I could say very hurtful things and it didn’t bother me. I could lie and it didn’t bother me. When our minds are darkened, we live a lie, we choose to sin because we want to, with no fear of consequences, not even that little conscience talking to us, sometimes saying, “You probably shouldn’t do this.You know better than this. Your mother wouldn’t be happy. You might get caught.” That’s the worst we could ever think or fear. In reality our hearts become hardened. If you’re a parent, when you raise children you see this very early in our kids lives. When they’re toddlers and they’re going to do something and you tell them “ No,” and they give you that look, fully intending on not doing what you just said. It’s a delightful experience. (Laughter). Depravity in your home. You see it right then and there. “Don’t do that,” and they smile and do it anyway and you know right there, that’s human nature. That’s who we are. We’re darkened. We’re selfish. Our focus is hard. It’s tragic when we see it in children, in teenagers, and in college students. It’s incredibly tragic when we see adults do what they want to do because they don’t care. They will do whatever they want to do and they’ll choose to sin. They’ll choose to lie. They’ll choose to hurt other people. They’ll choose injustice and they don’t care because they’re darkened. They’re hard in their heart. When I don’t care about what God thinks, my heart is hard. When I don’t care about what Christ cares about, your heart and my heart is hard. A hard heart has no affection for God. A hard heart has no affection for Jesus. A hard heart is only concerned about self.
Verse 19: We become callous. Having become callous-as if a hard heart’s not bad enough-we become callous. Now, I believe there is a progression. You think of men and women who play stringed instruments. They have to have a certain callous on their fingers. If you’re a craftsman, a tradesman, a runner, or a dancer, you’ve got to have a certain callous on your feet and fingers or you can’t do it for very long. If you lay off running, or dancing, for a while, you have to rebuild a little bit or your feet will kill you. If you lay off playing the guitar, you have to rebuild a little bit or your fingers will kill you. Your fingers or feet will kill you until you get a callous. What is a callous? A callous deadens pain and callouses are good as we mentioned earlier. A calloused heart, though, is a dangerous thing, because what should pierce our heart, what should affect our mind, what should cause us to feel guilty, feel shame in a proper way-to say am I doing the right thing? When we’re hardened in our heart, then our hearts can become calloused and things don’t bother us anymore. We’re dead to that feeling. Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey have written articles and books on this subject, The Gift of Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants, Living With Pain. These are extraordinary writings. Dr. Paul Brand worked with lepers or what he preferred to call Hansen’s Disease. It’s not contagious; it can’t be transmitted. He was one of the leading physicians, who understood it had to do with neuropathic pain reception and that’s why he wrote The Gift of Pain. A leper can be pushing a broom or shoveling all day long and he or she doesn’t know a blisters developing, doesn’t know to bandage or stop to put a glove on. They just keep working and that blister becomes an abscess and ends up in losing fingers. They lose their toes. Many lepers will lose their hands and feet. They’ll lose their eyesight because they don’t know there’s something in their eye. They don’t blink like you and I blink when we have a little irritation so they lose that pain ability and he spent years trying to develop systems that would create pain and Hansen’s Disease feet. How do you create pain in their hand when they don’t feel things that are hot? That can burn them? So he calls it a Gift of Pain because you know when to stop. You know when to put a glove on. You know when to just change the position of your hand a little bit, or working the rake in the yard too often. I swept out my garage yesterday and in about thirty five seconds I was feeling hotspots. I’m such a wimp. I had hot spots on my hand. I have to move the broom a few times because I’ll get a blister in a matter of moments because I’m such a wimp. If you do it all day long and work with your hands, you have callouses. But a calloused heart is a dangerous thing because you no longer feel pain.
Verse 19: Haven given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. The conclusion is that the Gentile way of life is obstinate, is stubborn, excluded from God, your hardened in your heart toward God, your calloused in your heart toward God, you don’t care about anything and you’re given over to practice sensuality. Practice here is an unusual word in the New Testament. Here it means a sustained interest in something. We pursue something because we have a sustained interest in it. Some of us have hobbies. Some of us could spend all day long and never tire of our hobby; that’s a pursued interest. We think of practice like practicing the violin when we’re a kid. Maybe one out of a thousand liked practicing the piano, or practicing the guitar, or practicing the drums. Most of us hate the concept of practice. This practice means a sustained interest in something. The one thing I have a sustained interest in, that’s never gone away, is eating. (Laughter). I could eat all day long, especially things that are supposedly bad for me. I just like to eat. I have this appetite; probably you do too. You don’t meet many people that don’t like to eat. So I have my struggle with eating issues, but I like to eat. It feels good to put fat, and carbs, and sugar, and grease in my veins. Five Guys every six weeks whether you need it or not. It’s a good prescription for everybody. Get that grease in there. What do we practice? What do we have a sustained interest in? Paul says, their sustained interest is in every kind of impurity with greediness. It’s not bad enough that the interest is ongoing, but now they’re greedy toward that insatiable greed, covetousness, and immorality. Peter O’Brien writes, The indecent conduct already described was practiced with a continual lust for more. The pagan way of life was characterized by insatiable desires to participate in more and more forms of immorality. Ultimately, it becomes a vicious circle because new perversions must be sought in order to replace the old. This is why pornography doesn’t satisfy. You don’t look at pornography once. If pornography satisfied our sexual appetites, we’d look at it once and never again, but it’s insatiable and so we need more and more and more substances to give us a euphoric feeling to get away from the pain emotionally or whatever we’re dealing with in life. One time isn’t enough.
I remember one of our children had their appendix taken out and they were given morphine and were laying in the bed saying, “I could get used to this stuff.” It takes the pain away. If you take it for the euphoric affect, you don’t just take it once and go, “Oh, that feels good.” You take it again and again, and what happens is that you have to increase the kinds and the amounts; you experiment. Every sin in life is insatiable and that should remind our mindset that it cannot satisfy. Sin is an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. There are legitimate ways to have sexual intimacy. There are legitimate ways to live in a painful world. There are legitimate relationships that will satisfy in community and not degrade us into sin and immorality. But sin is a deception that, “If I sin, I’ll be satisfied,” and the fact that it’s insatiable proves that it never satisfies and that’s the cycle because new perversions must be sought to replace the old. Well that’s where we were called from. “That’s what we’re to walk away from,” Paul says. Remember, walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you were called. We’re called to be representatives of Christ. We represent a King, an inheritance, forgiveness of sin, freedom from sin, freedom from consequences of our sin. We’re given a new life in Christ. As a result of that, walk differently. Now, he says, “Walk away from, you Ephesians, you Middle Tennesseans, walk away from the things that you were called out of.”
Now watch verse 20, the big change, the new self: But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, that you lay aside your old self, Note the phrase: Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lust of deceit and that you be renewed in the Spirit of your mind and put on the new self. Verse 22: Lay aside the old self. Verse 24: Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Walk away. Know what you’ve left behind. Now we have the new self.
Now notice the verbs learned, heard, taught. Sounds like a schoolroom, doesn’t it? Learned, heard, taught. We learn a subject. You might learn Algebra, for example, and you learn the quadratic formulas, and take tests to show that you’ve learned Algebra. Learning in this context is more about knowing. We don’t learn Christ by taking Christ 101 and 102. This is a relational knowledge. So when he begins in Verse 20, You don’t know Christ in that way. You don’t know Him in the aforementioned sinful, calloused, darkened ways. You’ve been called out of that.
Secondly, heard. You paid attention to it. You understood it. We differentiate when a person’s listening versus hearing. The differential is: Do you understand what I’ve said? It can be an employee. It can be your husband, wife, child, or a friend. You’re talking to them or they’re talking to you. You’re not listening to a word they’re saying. You appropriately say, “hmm hmm.” You can do that all day along. You fain like you’re listening. We’re all experts at that, right? But if you listen and you hear, you understand something. You didn’t learn Christ in that way. You know Him. You heard Him. By the way, we hear Him by the Word, from the Apostolic teachings we call our New Testament, the mind of God in print and we’ve been taught not by Him, but in Him. This is a relational construct here. Look at this: Learn, hear, taught. By the way, they’re not imperative verbs. The best way to explain it would be: these are positional, relationships.