Summary: Paul tells us in the second half of chapter 4 that we need to let Christ sand us way down to the bear wood, in order to cover us with His way of thinking and acting.
I like to see a nice new coat of paint on something - like this bench we had outside on our patio. The problem is - in order to have a nice coat of paint I had to strip off the old - but I was lazy. So when I painted the new coat on, the old paint underneath began to chip and peel and push the nice new paint off.
That’s kind of how it is with us - when we come to Christ sometimes we just paint a fresh coat over our old selves and call it good. We go to church, sing the songs, say "God bless you" and think we are righteous. But when someone rubs us the wrong way, or says something we don’t like - suddenly that new coat of paint comes chipping off and the old person underneath rises to the surface and attacks back.
But Paul tells us in this second half of chapter 4 that we need to let Christ sand us way down to the bear wood, in order to cover us with His way of thinking and acting.
We’re going to break this up into three sections: 1. Why the way of the world doesn’t work, 2. what happens to those who think like the world, and 3. why coming to Christ makes us new through and through. Then we’ll finish up the chapter looking at the new character the Lord is putting on us.
Why the way of the world doesn’t work
17a So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord,
The Greek word rendered: "insist" means "called as a witness" So Paul might be saying: "I want to go on record as a representative of the Lord" This isn’t just an idle suggestion - an optional route.
Many people think that once they become Christians then pretty much anything goes. You’ve got your "fire insurance" that’ll get you to heaven so you can pretty much sin all you want. That’s pretty foolish - and a person like that might want to think about whether they really know the Lord at all.
Someone who knows Jesus will want to become like Him.
Paul shows us how worldly thinking affects us:
17b that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Many Christians are indistinguishable from those in the world around them. How about you? What would someone who didn’t know you, but watched your life and listened to you speak say about you? Would they suspect that you are a Christian?
Paul says to give up the "futility of their thinking." It really means "empty headed" Man makes up all kinds of stuff about himself and about God - and because he puts complicated labels on it and writes lots of books and have advanced courses about it - that it must be something special. Don’t get me wrong - there’s nothing wrong with learning - in fact, I hope that’s why you are here today. But learning without faith is foolishness and empty headed because it relies on man’s wisdom to outthink God.
Isaiah 47:10 Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ’I am, and there is none besides me.’
But Jesus said "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." Without God there is no real truth.
Watch what we have: hardened hearts, leading to ignorance.
"darkened in their understanding" is an interesting phrase. "Darkened" means "to obscure," and "understanding" is a compound word from "thinking" (as we saw in 17b) and a word that means "to apply".
So when you take a heart that is hardened against the Lord - 2 Corinthians 3 says there is a veil over a person’s understanding until they come to Christ - this leads to ignorance (the opposite of thinking as in 17b). So a person who lets man’s wisdom rule will be obscured from the proper application of thinking - he won’t think right, even when he thinks he is thinking right. Light driving 65 in a heavy fog by trusting you know the way.
A hard heart (the word means callous) comes when a person repeatedly rejects the loving invitation of God to accept His Son Jesus. As we’ll see in a second- this kind of person loses "sensitivity".
I’m reminded of Pharaoh - 7 times Pharaoh hardened his heart, 7 times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. You eventually get what you want. The more you fight God the harder it will be to break through.
And the ultimate end is that you are "separated" from the life of God. It’s the word "alien" or "non-participant." We all need the life of God - John 1 says "In Him was life, and that life was the light of men." Our source of physical life is God - and our source of eternal life is God.