Summary: As the Church we are to be distinctive from those around us
There is the old saying “When in Rome.” The idea of course is that if you are a particular area or with a group of people you act like they do. If you are with a sophisticated people you act sophisticated. If you are Red Necks you act like a Red Neck. If you are among Pagans then act like one. Whatever you do don’t stand out. From the world’s way of thinking that is how you succeed.
Of course it is those who stand out who are successful. But really the saying should bother us because it is wicked. That way of thinking is opposed to Christ. In a human way of thinking conforming gets you noticed, liked, and it opens doors.
Jesus was killed because he did not conform. Conforming to the way of the world is fatal.
This is said because the Ephesians were Gentiles. They were surrounded in Ephesus by some very wicked stuff (17-19).
First it would be easy to conform because the opposition to the Church was fierce. Ephesus was a meeting place for many religions, it was a great center of Emperor Worship, many their practiced Magic Arts and everyone held in high regard Diana. Paul really caused problems for this city by bringing Christianity to the region (Acts 19).
There was a lot of temptation around them. But Paul is saying you be Holy. You be different than these other people.
You need to think differently, you need to understand more, and have an open heart and mind to the things of God.
Naturally when you tell people to act a certain way you need to tell them why. Why do we have to act this way?
This is true as Parents. “Because I said so” is not always the best answer.
Martyn Lloyd Jones “Our conduct should always be to us something which is inevitable in view of what we believe….If my Christian living is not quite inevitable to me, if I am always fighting against it and struggling and trying to get out of it, and wondering why it is so hard and narrow, if I find myself rather envying the people who are still back in the world, there is something radically wrong with my Christian life.”
James Boice “Therefore, if I am failing in the Christian life, what should trouble me is not that I am failing or that I have a problem but that I have failed God and him important purposes for me.”
So Why Are We to be different?
You are different because you have been to the school of Christ. Paul is beginning to get very practical. We live holy lives not only because of our adoption into Christ family but because we have been educated by Jesus. “You were taught” to be different.
John Stott “When Jesus Christ is at once the subject, the object, and the environment of the moral instruction being given, we may have confidence that it is truly Christian. For truth is in Jesus. The change from his title ‘Christ’ to his human name Jesus seems to be deliberate. The historical Jesus is himself the embodiment of truth, as he claimed.”
So we have learned from Christ and because he allows us to have a personal relationship with him we honor him by giving our lives over to him.
Basically this all leads to us being different from the people around us. We are always wanting to do that in the world. We are to be Counter culture people.
What is it about American society in general that has led to the creation of certain sub-cultures; certain’ counter-cultures’ through the years? In the 1920’s there were the flappers whose outrageous dress and provocative dancing embarrassed the older generations. In the 1950’s there were the greasers- who sought to be different by rocking to Elvis Presley, riding loud Harley Davidson’s, slicking their longer than normal hair back with some sort of oil and generally frightening any man with a daughter old enough to go out on dates! In the 1960’s there were the ‘flower children’ who sought to be different by sticking flowers in their hair, tie-dying their brightly colored t-shirts, sowing American flags to the seats of their faded blue jeans, listening to the Beatles, growing their hair even longer and promoting ‘love’ not war. The 1970’s saw counter-cultural movements such as disco; the 1980’s- break dancing; the 1990’s gangsta rap . . . and on and on and on.
What’s so interesting about each of those movements within our popular culture is that in their beginnings they were extremely counter-cultural, yet when we look back over those periods of time, they sometimes define the culture. Its hard to sustain a purely counter-cultural movement, because just as soon as reaches a certain popularity, it has become so cultural that it is no longer ‘different’ or counter cultural. Are you with me?