Sermon: Thinking and Living Christ (Ephesians 4:17-24)

Thinking and Living Christ

 Ephes. 4:17-24 (ESV) 

    Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  [20] But that is not the way you learned Christ!-  [21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  [22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Introduction-

When challenged with the thought of dying for the Gospel, Paul replied:

Philip. 1:21-26 (ESV) 

    For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  [22] If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  [23] I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.  [24] But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.  [25] Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  [26] so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

In other words, if God grants life to Paul then he will see fruit for his labor; souls will hear of and believe in Christ. If God takes Paul on home, then it’s better for Paul. What I want to look at today in our text from Ephesians is how did Paul “Live Christ”?

As we learned earlier, one must believe properly in order to behave properly. We also learned together that the first three chapters of Ephesians undertake the task of teaching us truths about God and about ourselves. Now Paul moves forward having laid down the foundation of what a Christian should believe, to how a Christian should live.

As we move forward, we are also entering into the realm of sanctification. What is meant by the term sanctification is, a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.-Wayne Grudem

To see this text clearly, we need to understand the whole of salvation. The first part we call justification. This is when God brings us to life and implants the Holy Spirit within. God declares us righteous through the work of Christ alone. We might use the phrase, John was saved today.

What our text is teaching us is that salvation doesn’t end there; getting saved is just the beginning. Now we must take the free gift of God’s grace and work at truly being a child of God. We take the truths of Scripture and with the help of the Holy Spirit begin the task of making them a part of who we are. We develop new ways of thinking, and new ways of living. This is as vital as getting saved. There is a partnership set in place at justification. God determines to do whatever is necessary to preserve us as His children and we must promise Him that we will do whatever it takes to persevere to the end.

I want us to briefly look at some Scripture passages that show us both God and man working to accomplish this part of salvation:

God’s Part…

John 6:38-40 (ESV) 

    For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  [39] And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Philip. 1:6 (ESV) 

    And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

Our Part…

John 8:31-32 (ESV) 

    So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

Col. 1:21-23 (ESV) 

    And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,  [22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,  [23] if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We could do this all day long with many other texts of Scripture but I think you get the point. It’s so important that we look at all of Scripture on any given doctrine and compare. Allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Allow the easily understood texts to govern the more difficult ones.

I wanted to spend a few minutes on this because it will help us see later what our responsibilities are in this area. Please, listen…this is as much a part of salvation as any other part. If one does not persevere, one will not reach heaven.

How can I do my part to grow in Christ-likeness? How do I think and live Christ?

1. Do Not Think and Live as Unconverted People Do (Ephesians 4:17-19)

    Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  [18] They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Here the Apostle’s logic goes like this, You have been given a new nature to comprehend spiritual truth, you have been taught right beliefs, now it’s time to live accordingly. It is true that how you live shows what you believe about God. The original readers of this letter were Gentile converts to the Christian faith. They are told not to live as they once lived or as they see others who don’t know Christ living. To be unconverted is to possess spiritually bankrupt mind which leads to being morally bankrupt. Why do unconverted people live a life of sin? Here, we’re told that is all has to do with their thinking, which is a result of not possessing the Holy Spirit and the new self. The natural man (one without the Spirit) follows his natural impulses because his thinking is wrong. His fleshly desires govern his actions. He doesn’t have a new mind and a proper belief system given to him in which he can make right decisions.

Remember, it all starts in one’s mind. For the believer, true knowledge of God must come from the Scriptures and made accessible through the Holy Spirit. This leads to right living. For the unconverted person, there is no right thinking leading to proper living because there is no capacity for it.

the futility of their minds

They are darkened in their understanding

alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them

Wrong conduct flows from wrong ideas about God.

Futility of mind means that they have for so long believed wrong things that they cannot understand anything meaningful and real. Their thinking is futile. Not only can’t they really think clear thoughts concerning God, they don’t understand even if you explain it to them, their understanding is darkened. This lack of truth about God has alienated them from God. They worship a god they’ve created in their minds. It’s an imaginary idol they worship.

Much of this stems from their love for sin and a lack of love for God. They use right words but their actions truly tell what their condition is.

due to their hardness of heart.  [19] They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Here, hardness of heart refers to the conscience. The conscience acts as a safeguard against sin. It’s the human warning system. Like in a plane when you’re getting too close to a mountain and the voice on the radar say pull up…pull up. Unconverted people have a conscience but many have seared it or have hardened their hearts so they cannot sense right from wrong. Once this happens God often times gives them up to their own desires.

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) 

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  [19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  [20] For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  [21] For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  [22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    [24] Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,  [25] because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

A form of God’s wrath is that He simply removes the divine restraints and allows people to go the way they wish to go.

For believers it’s so important that we don’t harden our hearts or disregard our conscience or ignore the Holy Spirit. When we are involved in sin we must repent immediately. When we sense the leading of the Holy Spirit, act quickly. Stay tender toward the leading of God by listening and following very quickly.

2. Think and Live What You’ve Learned (Ephesians 4:20-21)

[20] But that is not the way you learned Christ!-  [21] assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,

Learning Christ properly means one will live Christ. So many folks today sit in churches and listen to sermon after sermon and teaching after teaching but it does not result in walking in Christ. It results in academics or head knowledge. The scribes and Pharisees had head knowledge. For example, they knew where Christ was to be born and other details but it did not result in their obedience. They were puffed up with knowledge. If one doesn’t put to use by application the truths of the Word they are not obeying the Lord.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to remind the church there that living the Gospel is as important as knowing the Gospel.

1 Cor. 4:16-17 (ESV) 

    I urge you, then, be imitators of me.  [17] That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 

The Christians who had Knowledge of Jesus and shown the way in which to live are said to have received Christ

It’s so important to make this connection that Paul also writes…

Col. 2:6 (ESV) 

    Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 

3. Remember, You Are Converted (Ephesians 4:22-24)

[22] to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Here, the Apostle is reminding these young believers what has already taken place in their lives and to live accordingly. These verses are not commands but gentle reminders that this is the reality

A. Put Off Your Old Self

At conversion your old self has been put off. You are a new creation in Christ.

Salvation is transformation. The idea that one can be saved and still remain like he was before is not biblical salvation. There is an initial change and there is an ongoing change. The Holy Spirit is working and has put off your old self at conversion. Now it’s up to us to live accordingly.

2 Cor. 5:17-19 (ESV) 

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  [18] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  [19] that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 

B. Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Minds

Before, our thinking was corrupt and our minds were unable to think Christ’s thoughts. We had a pagan worldview not a Christian worldview. At conversion God gave us a new way of thinking. Our minds were no longer darkened and futile.

1 Cor. 2:16 (ESV) 

    “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

In order to live out the Christian life, our minds must be made new. At conversion we are given the capacity to think like Jesus. Now I’m not saying that we possess the special attributes like He does, but we are given divine thinking. Through the Holy Spirit, we can understand Scripture, we realize there are more important things than us, we are given a completely new grid on which we think and believe. Our minds are renewed at conversion but we still have a ways to go.

The question is how do we further renew our minds? The answer is very simple and one you’ve no doubt heard before…The Bible.

As we take in the Scriptures on a consistent basis our thinking will be more in line with God’s thinking.

Romans 12:2 (ESV) 

    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What we see in our text this morning and in this one is that salvation is transformation and that this transformation is brought about by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and the intake of the Word.

James 1:21-22 (ESV) 

    Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

    [22] But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 

1 Peter 2:1-2 (ESV) 

    So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  [2] Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation-

From these and others we could look at transformation is in direct proportion to Bible intake. As we read the Word, God is changing us and making us more like Jesus. This change is what salvation is all about.

The idea is that we are new but not yet all new. We are righteous and holy, but not yet perfectly righteous and holy. At conversion we became all that Paul speaks of here but not yet perfected.

C. Put On the New Self

As Christians we are new creations in Christ. Paul says that the old person has passed away. We are given a new nature created after the image of God. This new nature is not where sin comes from. Another thing to understand is that we’re not dual-natured. We’re not a dichotomy made up of two natures. As believers we have our new nature and our corrupted fleshly bodies.

Romans 7:21-25 (ESV) 

    So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  [24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

It’s this struggle between our new minds and our sinful flesh that produces the longing we have to receive our glorified bodies. That is why once our bodies are changed we will no longer commit sin. Our bodies and our minds will be on the same page for all eternity.

To put on the new self is to allow your renewed mind to control your sinful unredeemed body.

Romans 6:12-13 (ESV) 

    Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  [13] Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 

From birth our outer person has dominated our behavior. We did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. When we met Jesus in a saving way something happened to us. Our corrupt fallen inner person was put to death and we were given a new spiritual nature. But the inner person is still used to being dominated by the outer person. As Christians, it’s time for us to change all that. It’s time that our inner person be strengthened by the Word and Spirit to overpower the sinful outer person. We must be putting to death the reign of sin in our lives.

We must be thinking and living Christ for His glory and our good.

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