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Summary: 33rd in a series from Ephesians. Once we’e experienced the new life in Christ, there is no way we ever want to go back to our old life.

In April 1969, the Beatles released a song with some ties to Tucson. I know that Steve Ponzo, and maybe many of the rest of us, are familiar with these lyrics:

Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner

But he knew it wouldn’t last.

Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona

For some California grass.

Get back, get back.

Get back to where you once belonged.

At the time, Paul McCartney’s wife, Linda, was living in Tucson and Jojo’s was the name of a popular bar here, thus the ties to Tucson. But the passage that we’re going to look at this morning is certainly the antithesis to the chorus of that song which urges Jojo to “get back to where you once belonged.” In fact, I think that if we were to write a song based on the writings of another Paul, it might be titled “Get Back? – Never!” Let’s read our passage out loud together:

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. 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. 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.

Ephesians 4:17-19 (NIV)

In the previous verses Paul had just finished describing the need for the body of Christ to mature so that they could grow up into the Head, Jesus Christ. He wrote about the importance of developing both their vertical relationship with Jesus and their horizontal relationships with others. But now he is going to change course a bit. He is warning his readers not to return to what they were like before God reached down into their lives and made them part of his family. You’ll remember that Paul had previously described that way of life at the beginning of chapter 2:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)

That certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of life anyone would want to return to, but obviously Paul had some concerns that some of his readers were in danger of doing exactly that. When Paul writes “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do”, he is exhorting his readers to never go back to the kind of life they experienced before they committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

Although Paul’s writing in these verses is not exactly a “how-to” manual on how to avoid getting “back to where we once belonged”, he certainly gives us enough insight about how that can occur that we can develop some principles that we can apply to avoid doing that. Although I’m sure there is much more here, I want to discuss five principles that will help us from going back to what we once were.

HOW TO AVOID GETTING BACK:

1. Remember the futility

In verse 17, Paul writes of the futility of the thinking of the Gentiles. Remember that Paul is writing here to believers, primarily Gentile Christians. So when he uses the word Gentiles here, the context makes it quite clear that he is referring to unbelievers. In addition to the passage we just read from the beginning of chapter 2, Paul goes on a little later in that chapter to ask his readers to remember the futility of their life apart from God:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.

Ephesians 2:11-12 (NIV)

Those verses certainly describe a life of futility. The word “futility” is the very same word that we find in the Greek version of the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Ecclesiastes where the writer of that book describes the futility of living a life apart from God. There, that same word is translated meaningless, vanity or futility, depending on which translation you use. Those are all good words to describe the emptiness of a life apart from God.

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