Ephesians 4 - August 20, 2006
Good morning. Join me in turning to the book of Ephesians, chapter 4. We have been going through this letter of Paul the Apostle, written to Christians in the town of Ephesus, the capital city of Turkey or Asia Minor as it was known back them. We mentioned that chapters 1-3 deal with doctrine, and chapters 4-6 deal with duty. 1-3 deal with who we are, and 4-6 with how we live. We look at 1:3 and we see the key idea: we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms. In the OT in the book of Joshua, the Jews have already been given the promised land, but they still need to go in and claim it. Here in Ephesians, we see that we have already been given every spiritual blessing, but we need to live them out in our lives. In chapters 1-3 Paul talks about what these blessings are. Now in chapters 4-6 he talks about how we live them out in our lives.
We saw last week in verse 1, Paul says Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. In our terminology today, Paul would be saying, Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make sure your life “measures up”! Make sure that your life lives up to the standard of Christ. Paul goes on in chapter 4 to give us keys for building UNITY within the body of Christ. He reminds us that as Christians we have UNITY. And he explains what that means. He writes that we are UNITED in IDENTITY (that’s WHO we ARE) but UNIQUE in MINISTRY (that’s WHAT we DO). We have UNIFORMITY in the FOUNDATION of the GOSPEL, but we have INDIVIDUALITY in our FUNCTION, using our GIFTS.
So that brings us today to the second half of chapter 4, as we look today beginning with verse 17. The first 16 verses talk about UNITY, but now Paul goes on to talk about PURITY. Unity has a focus on the community as a whole. Purity has a focus on the individual Christian. Here in chapter 4 we see the MODEL. In chapter 5 we will see the MOTIVE. Let’s look today and see what God has to say to us about Purity.
Read 4:17-5:7, Pray.
Let me tell you where we’re headed today. In talking about purity, we’re going to talk about the OLD lifestyle, and then we’ll talk about our NEW lifestyle. And the key thought we want to come away with is this:
Right Thinking Brings Right Actions. It’s a principle that plays out in everything we do in life. Right thinking brings right actions. If you think rightly about your money, if you view it as being God’s, you then take right action and seek to honor God with all you have. If you think wrongly, you will view it all as belonging to you, and you will use your money foolishly. If you think rightly about your job, and realize that you are to do everything you do as unto the Lord, you will be a model employee. If you think wrongly, you will look at your job only as a means to a paycheck, and your work will be sloppy and unenthusiastic. Right Thinking Brings Right Actions.
Paul wants us to think rightly about our lives, so that purity will be seen in everything we do. All aspects of purity involve relationships with people. We live out holiness in a world of real people. And Paul calls us to a different way of thinking which will lead to a different way of acting. We are called to a different standard than the rest of the world lives by. Let’s see what Paul says. Look in verse 17.
Think about when you were growing up - the things your mother or father “insisted” on you doing - brushing your teeth before bed, washing behind the ears, calling home if you were going to be late. Those are the things that became ingrained in us, the things we do without even thinking about, part of our character. Paul insists here that as Christians we no longer live like the Gentiles. By the name “Gentiles” Paul is really referring to all those who are not Jews, and in our day today, the better expression would be that we should no longer live like the unsaved. There is a totally different lifestyle that the unsaved have. Or, it SHOULD be totally different. The truth is that we USED to live like that. But now that we are Christians, we should not live like that any more. There is to be a very different way of thinking and living.
Let’s look at what the OLD lifestyle was like. The lifestyle of the unsaved: they are . . .
Dumb - Dark - Dead - Dense - and Dirty. It might sound like some people you know. Paul says, you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. The unsaved have a different way of thinking that leads to wrong actions. Paul says their thinking is amiss, it is “futile.” It is dumb.
The unsaved are “dumb” - their thinking is futile - it fails to produce godly understanding and moral living. The mind of the unsaved do not lead them to right thinking. They think that their sinful behavior will bring them joy and happiness. They think by leaving their spouse and marrying someone else they can have a great commitment. They think that by taking alcohol or drugs they will escape from all their problems. But it only magnifies the problems. It’s like the old anti-drug commercials used to say, “Why do you think they call it DOPE!” The unsaved are dumb. They are also DARK.
Verse 18 says “they are darkened in their understanding. . .” 2 Corinthians 4:4 says The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. They have blinders over their eyes and they cannot see the futility of the way they are living.
They are DEAD - vs 18 continues: They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God - They are spiritually separated from God. Every unbeliever is spiritually DEAD - there is no life at all in him. Now this is not politically correct. There are those who like to say “We all have a spark of good in us, a little bit of God in all of us.” But that’s just not true. Paul has already taught this earlier to the Ephesians: we WERE DEAD - but we have been made alive by our God. Every unbeliever is DEAD, because they face eternal separation from the one true God.
They are DENSE - vs. 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. They are morally insensitive - they are apathetic about their sins. The word for “hardening” is the word for having a callous - a large, thick, solid patch of skin.
I used to play soccer in high school and college, and I had several spots on my feet covered with callouses. The skin grows hard and you don’t feel. The word also has the idea of petrification, turning to stone. When you go out west you find petrified wood - wood that after lying in the ground for centuries turned as hard as stone. That is what unbelievers are like. They sin so much there is no longer any conviction - they have “seared” their consciences. They no longer feel bad about anything they do.
Unbelievers are also DIRTY. Verse 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. Because their lifestyle is apart from God and they no longer feel convicted about wrong, they LIVE to indulge their passions, their desires, their lusts. They continually need to indulge more and more. Sin is like that. It’s very addictive. It is never satisfied. What you think today is a harmless habit is really Satan’s attempt to slip a noose around your neck. You think you can stop any time you want, but you find you need more and more. The chain smoker, smoking 3-4 packs a day, started out just smoking one or two to look “cool” or to calm her nerves. The alcoholic started out with just a few beers at parties. The man hooked on pornography started out with a few so-called “innocent” glances at a playboy magazine, but Satan leads him down a road of unsatiable lusts and soon he is spending hours a day with all kinds of extreme sexual voyeurism. The unsaved leads a dirty life. They are Dumb - Dark - Dead - Dense - and Dirty.
But now notice what Paul writes in verse 20 - You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. This Gentile lifestyle, this way of life for unbelievers, is NOT to be the lifestyle of the Christian. And that is a KEY! Right thinking brings right action.
Satan is a liar and a deceiver. He wants to get us to THINK wrongly. He knows if he can get us thinking wrongly we will just naturally follow with wrong actions. If we will believe that God won’t care about a few little lifestyle choices we make, a few bad habits, then Satan has already won the battle. We cannot allow ourselves to think that our sins don’t matter. They DO! We do not live for Christ when we live for the world, the flesh, and the devil. We saw back in chapter 2 these 3 prey upon us, but we WERE dead - we have been made ALIVE, and the only power Satan has over us now is the power we give him.
Paul goes on to remind us the truth - what we have been taught to do in verses 21-24. read 21-24.
Paul says we put off the old ways - change our thinking, think rightly about things - and put on new ways. He gives us a visual word picture here. He uses the picture of taking off old dirty clothes.
I’ve had some jobs where I got very dirty. I’ve worked on the railroad, and came home covered with dirt, grime, grease, creosote, you name it. In fact, one guy I worked with went out to a laundromat because his mom wouldn’t let him wash his clothes in her washing machine.
I’ve worked in the Hershey Chocolate Factory, and you come out and all your clothes are stained with chocolate syrup or powder. They smell like chocolate.
I’ve worked with insulation, where you have fiberglass fibers all throughout your body, making every inch of you itch: You start to sweat, and the fibers cut your forehead when you wipe off the sweat.
We used a chalky insulation that would leave dust all through your clothes: you touched them and a cloud of powder came out: sort of like Pigpen in the Peanuts comics.
Now, think about stripping off all those filthy clothes in a pile on the floor in the entryway. You walk carefully to the bathroom, get in the shower, and after 10 minutes you are all fresh and clean. Well, maybe 20 minutes. You walk back out, see that pile of clothes, maybe you smell the chocolate, or see the fiberglass fibers, and you want to sweep them into a trash bag. You want to put gloves on to handle them. That is the picture we find here. Paul says the “old ways” are corrupt - a word used to describe rotten fruit. It’s stinky, smelly, and repulsive.
We are new Creations in Christ Jesus: old things pass away and all things become new. Yet, this passage is written to Christians. Often we find ourselves falling into the same old snares we used to live in before we came to Christ. It’s like we’re fresh and clean, and we walk out to put those grimy, smelly clothes back on. Paul tells us to strip them off. Maybe a better picture might be a mother who takes a messy diaper off her baby, wipes his behind, and puts that messy diaper back on. We think: HOW REPULSIVE! Yet we do the same thing spiritually when we return to our old way of living.
The command for us to to put off the old self - the sin nature - don’t live doing those things any more. Stop it! Just say NO! Do whatever it takes to change so that you are not living like an unsaved man or woman.
And once again, the key is right thinking. Right thinking brings right action!
Paul says in verse 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds. The phrasing here really means a “continuous inward renewal” of your mind. To change the way we act, we need to change the way we think. We can hear a good sermon, make an emotional decision, and walk the aisle and make some quick changes: throw out your liquor, turn off a certain show you watch. But to make a lasting change you need to change your thinking. That’s what repentance truly is: the word literally means to change the way you think.
Anyone can go on a diet and lose 4-5 pounds in a week or two. But lasting weight loss demands that you change the way you think about eating and exercise. It’s the same spiritually. We need to change the way we think to start thinking about sin and lusts the same way God thinks about them. And when we think rightly, right action will come: we will “put on” the new nature and start living a life of holiness and righteousness.
So once again, where are we: Paul writes about purity - we are called to holiness, a life lived to please God, not ourselves. Paul says don’t live like the unsaved - Dumb - Dark - Dead - Dense - and Dirty - but change your thinking. Put off the old nature and all its actions just like you take off dirty clothes. Be constantly renewing your mind and think rightly. And when you do, you will “put on” certain traits that characterize your life. Paul now goes through a list of 6 Areas of Lifestyle Change for the Believer.
Here are 6 things that are to be different about us as Christians. We say that our lifestyle is to be different. Paul now gives us specific areas where we need to act differently as Christians. He tells us the old way of living, he tells us the way we should live, and he tells us the reason why. Write these 6 areas down, and do a personal inventory of your life to see how you measure up. The first is in verse 25. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
1. Don’t lie - instead we are to tell the truth. It’s easy for us to excuse this away so quickly. “I always tell the truth - I don’t have a problem with lying.” But lying refers to all types of dishonesty, both in word and in deed. A lot of children learn dishonesty from watching their Christian parents. All it takes is three letters and we can all put this into perspective: IRS.
What do you declare on your tax return? Do you report the income you earned on that part-time job where you were just paid cash? How about the things you buy over the internet out-of-state that you pay no sales tax on. Do you report that on your Michigan return to pay the sales tax? It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, it is the law. And we are called to complete honesty.
Even in the church there is a lot of lying, a lot of deceitfulness that makes its way around. We are not truthful with one another. Paul reminds us that the reason to be truthful is that we are all members of one body. Lies destroy fellowship. Unity must be built on trust, and trust comes by the truth. When we are not honest with one another, we hinder the true unity of the body that God desires.
How are you doing with Honesty? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How honest are you?
2. Don’t sin by your anger - instead we are to deal with anger as it happens. The reason: Satan will use our sinful anger as a way to get a foothold in our life. And where Satan gets a foothold, he seeks to make a stronghold. Is anger an issue you need to get victory over? Verse 26 - “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
Instead of letting anger lead to sin, Paul tells us to do four things to deal with it:
•identify the source of anger - ask yourself the question “why am I angry?” There are times we should get angry. Is someone profaning the name of your Lord? It should make you mad. Is someone boasting about their sinful actions? Get angry! But don’t let yourself get angry because of selfishness or pride. Someone says something that offends you. Someone does something you didn’t like. Get over it! The first step to dealing with anger is to identify why you are angry. Second,
•deal with it quickly - don’t let it grow. Don’t let the sun go down meant deal with it right away. Anger left unresolved will grow and fester. It will harden you and make you bitter and destroy your spiritual life. When you see anger in your life, do what is necessary to deal with it quickly. Third,
•get it in the open - take whatever steps are necessary so that you are not hiding your anger. There is nothing wrong with letting others know that you were hurt or upset by things that they did. We live in a society that more and more is telling us we all have to accept one another and everything that everyone does. That’s not true! If you are angry, get it in the open, and then seek to be reconciled with the other person. Fourth,
•don’t let Satan exploit it - Satan would love to use your anger as a way to control your life. But when you confess the sinful anger, when you bring it into the open, and when you resolve the matter with the other person, Satan will get no foothold in your life.
Once again, How are you doing with Anger? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How angry do you get?
3. Don’t steal - instead work so you can help others. Verse 28 - He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. When you steal, you HURT someone else. The typical answer is “I’m not hurting anyone” - but you are. When you take someone else’s money, it means they don’t have that money to buy the things they need. So, instead of hurting them by stealing from them, we are to HELP others by working so we have money to give to meet needs. We see the early church came together as one body and there were NO needy persons among them. Because whenever any of them had a need, those who had houses and lands would sell them and bring the money to the leaders of the church to distribute. We are to care for one another.
Most americans work so they can take care of themselves - to buy the toys they want - so they can retire at 50 and play golf every day. But God says we are to work so we can help others. This is a different way of thinking than the world has. And we need to be intentional about living this different lifestyle.
Once again rate yourself: How are you doing with Stealing? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How do you work to meet the needs of others?
4. Don’t attack with words - verse 29 - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Instead of attacking with words, and tearing others down, we are called to build others up with our words. Words are one of the most powerful weapons we have. And like any weapon, it can be used for good or evil. Paul says our words should
•build others up - it should encourage and affirm them. Psychologists tell us for every negative comment we receive we need 8 other positive comments to counter the negative impact of that criticism. And many of us live daily facing attack and criticism and verbal abuse. As Christians, we are not to attack others, but to build them up. Words are to
•be appropriate - it says “according to their needs” - there are some things that just don’t need to be said. If your wife comes home from the hairdresser and says, “how do you like my hair honey?” - remember - don’t lie - but you don’t need to say everything you are thinking. Words should
•bring grace - it says our words should benefit those who listen to them. When we are done talking people should feel that listening to you was time well spent. There are some people who whenever you talk with them you feel like you wasted your time. Our words should have a positive effect on others. Finally, our words
•should be spirit-led - when we are in a difficult situation and need the right words, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words. When the boss wants you to do something that’s a little questionable, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in giving an appropriate answer. When someone wants to talk with you about their criticisms of another brother or sister, pray for the Spirit’s guidance.
Why do we control our words? Because evil speech grieves the Holy Spirit!
How are you doing with you WORDS? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How do you build up others with your speech? next,
5. Don’t be bitter and unkind - instead be compassionate and loving. And the reason: because Christ has been so forgiving of each of us. Verse 31 - Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Paul launches into a list of several wrong attitudes:
bitterness - is smoldering resentment - anger left to grow unrestrained in our hearts. It comes from refusing to forgive others.
rage - people who explode, people who respond in a violent eruption
anger - The word anger in the Greek is the word for "slow burn" ... it’s the word for the slow boiling of an anger. It’s when you get angry about something and pretty soon it just starts to build up and you clinch your teeth ... and there’s a burning inside you that just boils.
brawling or clamor - physical fighting with fists, or a bold assertion of supposed rights and grievances
slander - blasphemy - to misuse someone and say untrue things about them
malice - it’s when maybe you don’t boil, you don’t explode ... but you push it down and you develop a desire to hurt others; you become vicious.
Instead of all these wrong actions, we need to be compassionate and loving. The reality is that we live with a race of fallen people, and people will hurt you and misuse you. We can choose to respond in all these ungodly ways, or we can choose to forgive them. But remember, you have been forgiven a debt FAR GREATER than you could EVER repay.
How are you doing with FORGIVENESS? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How are you doing with having right attitudes towards others?
6. Don’t be obscene about sex - and this is one that is prevalent everywhere in our society. Jump forward to verse 3 of chapter 5 for this one: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. On to verse 6 - Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
We live in a sex-crazed society. It’s all around us. And once again, our key thought for today, right thinking brings right action - if we think immorality, impurity, obscenity, sexual joking is ok, it will lead us down the road of immorality. If you think it’s OK to lust after someone as long as you don’t touch them, pretty soon you will be touching them and more. We CAN NOT allow ourselves to think that sexual immorality is right or good. That is satan’s LIE! The TRUTH is that sex is something that we should be thankful for! Sex in it’s proper context, is good and right and pure. Within the bounds of a committed marriage, sex is to be enjoyed to its fullest extent. But we never want to bring sinful patterns of thinking into our enjoyment of our sexuality. The reason: God will pour out his wrath and judgment on the sexually impure.
How are you doing with your SEXUALITY? Rate yourself from 1 - 10. 1 needs immediate intervention, 10 means you’ve got this one under control. How are you doing with having right attitudes towards sex?
Concl: With all of these sinful traits, we have seen what the world is like, what the unsaved man or woman lives like, and we see how differently we have been called to live. We are called to holiness and purity. But these are not just vague concepts, but specific actions and ways of thinking. We need to intentionally live according to the pattern that God has set for us. We choose how we will live. How will YOU live? Our actions are based on our thoughts: Right thinking brings right action. If you are struggling today because you have seen yourself on the wrong side of any of these issues, I would encourage you to start by changing your thinking: search the Bible to see what God has to say about these issues. Many passages talk about them, not just these few verses in Ephesians. And start with the commitment that whatever God says to be true you will believe. When we truly believe something is right, we will start living that way.
May we each live out our faith in our lives this week. Let’s pray!