Summary: God calls us to be different than the vile, unbelieving culture around us. He offers us power to do that.
Preached August 4, 2003
It’s not easy to be different, you know. You see a young lady with pink hair spiked up like a porcupine at Pizza Hut. Her clothes are black, her eyes are black, her fingernails are black. All is black except for the silver glint of her countless metal accessories. You say to yourself, “She’s different.” No one else in Pizza Hut looks anything like her.
Now, you pass the same girl on Friday night at the coffee shop. She looks the same—hair still pink. However, the girl next to her has pink hair, and so does the one behind her. The one next to her has purple hair, but same idea. You’ve haven’t see so much head color since you went to the parrot exhibit at the zoo. Now, you look different in your kaki pants and button down shirt; she looks like everyone else. The reality is that we all like to be accepted, even in our difference. We don’t mind being different as long as someone else is different with us. It’s not easy to be truly different.
During this past week were you different than anyone else? Did anyone notice that you did not belong? Did you stand out in the crowd? Did you go against the flow?
Whether you like it or not, you are different. Sure, we’re just as foolish, frail, and faulty as the next guy. Different sins, same sinful weakness. Just because people can’t see the lust or hatred struggling in our heart doesn’t make us better than the adulterer and the murderer. But, you’re different because God chose you as his child from eternity. You are loved, forgiven and saved. You’re a Christian, a follower of Christ. You are different than the world around you.
So were you different this week? Did you stand out? Did you go against the flow? Today God tells you, “You are different, so be different!” That’s who you are, so act who you are! He talks about this in our lesson:
Ephesians 4:17-24 17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
A college classmate of mine was sort of wild. For instance, he once had some friends tie him in between two mattresses and launch him off the balcony of the auditorium. I think that was just one of the times he had to be rushed to the hospital for a concussion. Years later, I saw him, dressed nicely, sitting on a couch talking in a quiet and gentle voice. Surprised to see him I said, “Nice to see you, Matt!” The first words out of his mouth were, “I’m sorry.” “For what?” “For what you remember me as.” He was trying to put his old self behind him.
Paul writes something similar in our lesson: “Put your old self behind you. Be different than what you once were; be different than vile, unbelieving culture you came from.” You have to remember that most of the people Paul wrote to came to faith when they were adults; their old life was still very real for them. Those of you who learned about Jesus as adults can understand Paul’s thought more easily. Those of us who have been Christians from infancy have a tougher time relating.
Either way, his point is clear: God commands us to be different than the vile, unbelieving culture around us. Again, verse 19 says, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.” “Indulge” literally means “busy-ness” or “diligence.” The culture around us diligently seeks one thing: self-satisfaction, at any cost, constantly craving the next self-indulgent experience, the next thrill-filled roller coaster ride. If it feels good, do it, no matter how it affects anyone else.
How many of you have seen the movie called “The Family Man?” It’s about this selfish guy who abandons his fiancé for a career and a self-indulgent life. An angel gives him a glimpse of what life would have been like if he had married his fiancé. He shows him how wonderful she would have been and how great his kids would have been. He falls in love with that life, realizing how much more fulfilling it is. I saw an interview with the actor who plays his character. He basically says, “Either life was great; he just had to pick which was right for him.” In other words, as long as you’re happy, you’re doing great, whether you’re living as a family man or a self-indulgent, money-grubbing sexaholic! That’s the way of the vile, unbelieving culture around us!