Summary: As Christians we're supposed to live a different life than those around us. But how can we do that when we're surrounded with so many temptations to do things we know we shouldn't do?
Back in the 14th century, in the region we now call Belgium, there was a duke by the name of Raynald III. Raynald had a nickname – Crassus. Crassus means fat, and he was fat because he really liked to eat. He liked to EAT … a lot! In the course of time, he had a violent quarrel with his younger brother Edward which resulted in Edward leading a revolt against him. Edward took Raynald prisoner and took him back to Nieuwkerk Castle where he had a special room built around him. He promised his brother he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.
Now, for NORMAL SIZE people, that wouldn’t have been a problem. There were several windows and a door of normal size, and none of them were locked or barred. The problem for Raynald was his size. In order to leave the room he had to lose some weight. But Edward knew his brother’s weakness and he made sure trays of delicious food were delivered to his room each day. Thus, instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter. When Edward was accused of cruelty, he readily replied: “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave … when he so wills.”
Raynald stayed in that room for 10 years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined that he died within a year. He died a prisoner to his own appetite. (from Thomas Costain’s history, “The Three Edwards,” related in Leadership, Spring 84, p. 44)
This morning we read a warning from Paul to new Christians in Ephesus where he urged them: Don’t die a prisoner to your appetites. “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. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!” Ephesians 4:17-20
Now, that’s not the way they “learned Christ” BUT that’s how they grew up. They once walked as the Gentiles did because they were Gentiles, and they lived in Ephesus.
Now, Ephesus was not a backwater town. It was a thriving seaport, proudly referred to as the “Treasure House of Asia.” And it was highly prized by the Romans. They had invested a huge amount of money in building the city up and it was a center of the area, that the Roman Governor would often go there to hold legal proceedings.
But it wasn’t a very nice city. It was home to the Temple of Diana/Artemis - the goddess of fertility. Her temple was a huge structure that could accommodate over 24,000 people and is reckoned as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But because Artemis was the goddess of fertility, the worship there included the burning of incense and the playing of flute music and the whole atmosphere which was designed to arouse the worshipers into an emotional frenzy and engage in shameless sexual behavior (we’ll leave it at that).
Ephesus was also a city of criminals. The tradition in Ephesus, that if any criminal reached the Temple of Diana they were granted asylum for their crimes. They couldn’t be punished, so that’s where criminals ended up living. (https://housetohouse.com/the-history-of-the-church-of-ephesus-in-time-lapse-photography/; and Johnny Hunt’s Sermon: “A Life Commitment To The Great Commission”)
So, Ephesus was an extremely popular city, but also an extremely im-moral city. And that’s where these Ephesian Christians grew up and that’s where they lived. As you might imagine… it would be a very difficult to live a Christian life there. The temptation to do evil things existed on every street corner, and the Ephesians lived RIGHT THERE in the midst of some pretty nasty stuff.
The question arose, how could Christians avoid getting dragged back into their old lifestyles? How could Christians avoid becoming imprisoned in their appetites? These are the same questions we face in our present world.
Well, one way would be to get bad folks to stop doing their bad stuff. I mean if we could just convince people to stop listening to vile lyrics in their music, and going to R-rated films, and engaging in pornography; or convince them to stop sleeping with their girlfriends/boyfriends, or committing adultery/ treating women like sex objects; or if we could convince them to stop cursing, and saying (or writing) mean/hateful things… I mean, if we could just DO THAT well, then being a Christian would be so much easier, don’t you think?