Summary: A call to repentance of the specific sins Paul mentions
Put It Off ¡V Eph. 4:25-5:2
Steve Simala Grant ¡V Oct. 20/21, 2001
Some sermons are a whole lot easier to preach than others. Sermons about the character of God, about His love and faithfulness and awesome power are a whole lot easier to preach than those about sin, especially ones that get as specific as today¡¦s passage. And yet that is the great value of preaching through a whole book, like we are through Ephesians ¡V you can¡¦t skip the parts that are less comfortable and more confrontational ¡V you are forced to examine the whole truth of God¡¦s word.
One of the things that makes it difficult to preach sermons like this is the feeling that I am a hypocrite ¡V that I am talking about living a life of holiness and obedience when I have struggles and battles with sin in my life just like you do in yours. I worry about standing before you and coming across like I have it all together, like I don¡¦t struggle with any of these issues, when the truth is that I do. So please, accept these words as coming from one fellow struggler to another. Understand that I preach to myself as much as to you. The advantage I have is that I have spent this week preparing for this service, and come having prayed that God would purify me and make me holy and then that He would speak to each of us.
A second thing that makes it difficult is that it is easy to get bogged down in the sin issues. To get focused on those instead of on God ¡V to focus on the struggle instead of the victory, the dirt instead of the power to cleanse ¡V the discouragement in the moment instead of the hope in tomorrow. And so I want to begin by reminding all of us of two things as we jump into this passage: 1. that God has given us the incredible gift of complete forgiveness provided we confess and repent; and 2. that God has given us the power through His indwelling Spirit to live holy lives and to see sin defeated in us. God does not desire us to muddle through life, lurching from one catastrophe to another, one failure to another, one source of pain to another. No, God¡¦s desire for us is that we are free. I want us all to remember that as we jump into Ephesians 4:25-5:2. The point is freedom ¡V free from sin, free from the consequences of sin, free to live holy lives in relationship with the God of the universe!
Eph. 4:25-5:2 jumps into the middle of a section. It begins with the word ¡§therefore,¡¨ which is always a clue that we had better look back a bit in order to understand the context.
The unit of thought began at verse 17. There are two important sections leading up to today¡¦s passage, the first being vss. 17-19, where Paul commands us to ¡§no longer live as the Gentiles,¡¨ and expands on what that means. Vss. 20-24 provide for us a contrast to living as the Gentiles, and there Paul tells us that we need to do three things: first, ¡§put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires,¡¨ second, ¡§be made new in the attitude of your mind,¡¨ and third to ¡§put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.¡¨ The language is of ¡§changing clothes,¡¨ of replacing the sinful, dirty garments with garments of true righteousness and holiness.
That context is especially important in order to understand what is happening in these verses. Paul has just told us to ¡§put off our old self,¡¨ now he starts to get specific for us about what that means. He spoke generically in vs. 22, now he gets specific and lists a number of things ¡V sins ¡V that characterize our old self and that need to be ¡§put off.¡¨
And before jumping into that list, I want to remind you that this ¡§putting off¡¨ is a cooperative effort between us and God ¡V it is a partnership. God has a role to play, and so do we. Have you ever been praying about a particular sin in your life and asked simply that God would take away every desire and temptation so that you could live a holy life? All of us have; and yet I would hazard a guess that very few of us experience a positive answer to that request. We want God to do it all, without any effort on our part. That is especially common with things that we are addicted to, let me pick smoking as an example ¡V how many Christians have wanted to quit and have prayed for instantaneous deliverance? The converse is also true, that we cannot do it on our own ¡V again the smoking analogy works if we think of all the people that have simply resolved to quit in their own strength and have failed. We can¡¦t do it on our own, and we can¡¦t do it without God. What are those roles? I believe that it is only in God that we have to power to change and to ¡§put off¡¨ sin, and that we have a responsibility to surrender to God¡¦s power and cooperate with God¡¦s power in any way we can. And as we go through the list I¡¦ll get more specific with how we can cooperate, for now I just want us to remember that it is something God and we do together.