"If You Have Heard Him" Series
Contributed by Clark Tanner on Jul 27, 2003 (message contributor)
Summary: We need a renewed mind to see ourselves as newly created in the likeness of God, then put on the new man daily. (# 18 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
We should begin by reminding ourselves that Paul was writing to people who had come out of paganism. They were not from Israel, they had not worshipped in the Temple as Jews, they had, most of them, come out of idol worship, and had come to a belief in the one true God as a result of the Apostle’s teaching.
So when Paul describes here in this chapter, the condition of those still in paganism and doing the things that those in the pagan religions do, he is describing their former condition. Therefore we know that they not only understand what he is talking about, and who he is talking about, but they themselves are reminded of what coming to Christ has rescued them from, and Paul’s words of exhortation would, thereby, become cause also for rejoicing.
Just scanning down from verse 17, we see a dark, and dirty snapshot, if you will, of the world these Christians have come out of, and believer, we should just once in a while, stop and remember that the past Christ rescued us from was in many cases, no less dark and no less dirty.
They walked in futility of mind. They hadn’t a single productive thought, in the sense that there was no Godly thought or thought of God in them. Their mind being darkened, they walked in the darkness of rebellion, hardness of heart, callousness, sensuality, impurity, greediness… a list that speaks of unrestrained lust and pursuit of self and the passing pleasures of sin. Entirely self-absorbed, looking after the flesh and groping after the comforts and entertainments of the world, like unreasoning animals, living by instinct and ruled by the stomach.
And I want to assure you that this is not a description that is reserved for mobsters and muggers and prostitutes and drug pushers; the people of the night and of the street whose very existence is one of living off the pain and loss of their victims.
No, this description just as aptly includes the clean, finely dressed, manicured and socially refined businessman and businesswoman found in the highest echelons of commerce. It includes the wealthy and the famous and the beautiful. Because it is not a definition that is based on social status or financial position or political rank. It is of the soul; it is a definition of sin and its wages, and it applies to every man woman and child apart from Christ.
C. S. Lewis covered the topic very effectively when he wrote:
“The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint… but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.”
But this picture of evil and debauchery has a sad element to it. We have to grieve for them, and for those all around us today who are still in this darkened state that defines the unsaved person.
Because there is one phrase in this description that should cause us the greatest alarm when we think of it, and for the person who has not come to Christ and hears it, the words should strike fear in their hearts for their own eternal future and extract from them the cry, ‘what must I do to be saved?’…
…and that phrase is “excluded from the life of God”.
Their thoughts are futile. Their understanding is darkened. But horror of horrors, they have no life! And this is how they walk; as those who have no life!
Now I’m going to go on from here and leave you with your own thoughts about that, and let the Holy Spirit speak to you about your own commitment to asking God to give you divine appointments, and looking for opportunities to tell the Gospel to those He puts in your path.
But now that he has painted that picture fresh in their thinking, he brings home a brilliant contrast and says, “But you did not learn Christ in this way…”
Well what does that mean? You did not learn Christ in this way. What is he saying to them?
He’s saying that that old way of walking is diametrically opposed to anything they’ve learned of Christ.