Ephesians 4:17-24 “WHAT IS YOUR PATTERN?”
“What is your pattern?” I asked one of our members this question when I was visiting her the other week. “What is your pattern?” She was knitting a blanket – lots of brilliant colors, a very complicated design. It was turning out to be a very nice looking project. “What is your pattern?” I asked her. She showed me a book that was put together by some talented artists and designers. “Here is my pattern,” she showed me. And there it was, right there in the book.
What about you? As you knit together your life, what is your pattern? No one is 100% original – everyone copies everyone else to some degree. As you make decisions in your life, as you choose the things you say and the things you do – what is your pattern? Whom or what are you copying?
I just heard the other day that many students going back to school don’t want to buy clothes for school until after school starts. Do you know why? It’s because they first want to see what everyone else is wearing. They want a pattern they can copy before they buy their clothes for school.
What is the pattern for your life? We learn from the Bible today that there is one pattern more popular than all the others, and that pattern is the world. “I will do whatever the rest of the world is doing,” most people say. “Whatever the world says, whatever the world does, whatever the world thinks, that’s how I will be.” Many people live their lives that way. It’s not too difficult to find out what the world is thinking and saying and doing. The television is a good resource. Announcers on the radio also tell you what’s going on. Your friends and relatives and coworkers that do not worship Christ are good worldly resources. If you are planning to pattern your life after the world, you are surrounded by examples.
But if you are a Christian, than the world cannot be your pattern. That is what our Scripture lesson for this morning teaches us. Look at verse 17: “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.” The Apostle Paul wrote these words to Gentile Christians in Ephesus. They had just recently come to faith in Christ. The question for those Gentile Christians was, “Now what? Now that I am a Christian, how should I live? After what should I pattern my life?”
Don’t live like the rest of the unbelieving, Gentile world, the Apostle Paul told those Christians in Ephesus. And here’s why, verse 18: “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God.” Darkened in their understanding – the world at that time had no real concept of what was right and what was wrong, what was moral and what was immoral. They were darkened in their understanding, and the reason why is because they had no life with God. Here we are told that they were “separated from the life of God.” They had no relationship with God, no faith in him, no connection with him. Why not? Look at the second half of the verse:
“Because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Those unbelievers were ignorant – ignorant of God, and as a result, ignorant of right and wrong. And it was all due to the hardening of their hearts. These people had heard the Word of God. They had had opportunities to repent and to put their faith in Christ. But they refused. They rejected. They hardened their hearts against the living God, and as a result, they were darkened in their understanding of right and wrong. (Isn’t this starting to sound like our world today? It will sound even more like our world today as we get into the next verse…)
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.” Instead of having Christ as its God, the world at that time had Sensuality as its god. The culture at that time was very focused on sex. The people at that time indulged in every kind of impurity, and they continually lusted for more.
Remember, we are talking about the days of the Bible. The Roman Empire at that time had no concept of the true God. Immorality was its god. And that’s why the Apostle Paul urged those Christians in Ephesus to not pattern their lives after the immoral world that surrounded them.
Is our society today any different? Not really. We may have more technology than those people did back then. We may have more ways of seeing and hearing and reading about immorality than those people did. But our society today really isn’t any different. Our country today has lost its sensitivity to what is moral, and what is immoral. Our country today seeks to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. One needs to look no further than network television to see that sex is god in America today. The fall lineup of television shows, the commercials - “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.” The Apostle Paul was writing about our world today.
What about you? Are you patterning your life after the world today? “Oh, no,” you might say, “I would never do something like that.” But you and I are affected by the world more than we probably know. Have you lost your sensitivity to sin? Does sin bother you, or have you grown used to it?
There once was a man who worked in very hot, humid conditions. Every day, the temperatures at work would reach between 120 and 140 degrees. But he was used to it. One Saturday afternoon in August, his neighbor came up to him and said, “What do you think about this heat?” The man looked at his neighbor and smiled – it was only 85 degrees. “It doesn’t bother me,” the man said. “I’m used to it, because of my work. I actually like the heat”
Are you getting used to sin? As you change the channel on your TV? As you listen to your unchurched friends and relatives say things that are way off? As you see the advertisements that “push the envelope”? Are you getting used to sin? Are you losing your sensitivity to sin. In fact, sometimes you even like it.
We all must confess to Jesus Christ that we have patterned our lives after the world more than we would like to admit. We are attracted to impurity, to immorality. We must confess that we’re used to it, and there’s a part of us that even likes it. And unless something is done, that part of us will eventually drag us away from God, and into hell for an eternity.
How thankful we are that something has been done. Jesus Christ came into this world. He never allowed himself to become polluted by impurity of the world. He never patterned his life after the immorality of the world. In fact, he was disgusted by the he saw.
That’s why the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is such an amazing thing. How amazing, that a pure and holy God, Jesus, would allow the dirt of the world, the sins of the world, to be placed on him. How amazing, that Jesus Christ would allow himself to be blamed for the impurity of the world. But that’s exactly what happened at the cross. Jesus became your sin, and he gave to you his righteousness. He became what he was not, and made you to be what you are not. Because of Jesus, you are now pure in the eyes of God, holy, righteous – Jesus has made you that way by his death and resurrection.
This is what makes Christianity so incredible, so hard to believe – to know that you are forgiven, that you are clean in the eyes of God, because of Jesus Christ – to know that you are a new person because Jesus has made you new. What an amazing thing! That’s why we pattern our lives after Christ, and not the world. Look at verse 20: “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” We pattern our lives after Christ because in him we find the truth. The truth about what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, what is holy and unholy. The more you learn about Christ, the more you understand the truth about these things.
With Christ as our pattern, we do al we can to get rid of the sin in our lives. Look at verse 22: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.” Put off the old self. Now that you have been forgiven, now that your sins have been washed away – put off the old self. That part of you that loves the world, that loves sensuality and impurity. Throw that part of you away. The part of you that loves money and is materialistic – throw it away. That’s the old self. The proud part of you. The part of you that loves evil. Throw it away. Jesus Christ has forgiven you of those sins. Now it’s time to leave those sins behind.
And then verse 23, You were taught… “to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” When you came to faith in Jesus Christ, God created a new person inside of you. And that new person is patterned after God: “created to be like God, in true righteousness and holiness.” That’s the new you! Instead of having the corrupt and perverted world as your pattern, you have God as your pattern. Christ is your pattern. The Bible here is encouraging you to be the new person that God has made you to be.
You are a Christian now, and that means that there is something inside of you that’s just dying to come out. It’s a person who is pure, who has very high moral standards. It’s a person who is repulsed by all the sin you see in the entertainment industry. It’s a person who wants to serve God with all of his or her life. It’s a person who is spiritual, and not materialistic. That’s the new person inside of you. He knows who Jesus Christ is, and wants to know him better. He wants to be like him in every aspect of his life. He wants to be righteous and holy every day, not because he has to but because he wants to.
That’s the new person inside of you, created in your heart when you came to faith. Patterned after God. Filled with joy because his sins have been taken away. Can you feel that person inside of you, just wanting to come out? This morning, God encourages you to be that person. Put off the old self. Don’t pattern your life after the warped world in which you live. Pattern your life after Christ. Be that new person, that God has made you to be. Amen.