Summary: 44th in a series from Ephesians. How followers of Jesus differ from unbelievers in the way they respond to sin in their lives.
In his book, Listening to the Voice of God, Pastor Roger Barrier shares the account of how he was led by God to preach a one sentence sermon one Sunday morning. The account in the book focuses more on how that was an act of faith on his part than it does on the message itself. But the message itself was actually a very accurate summary of what Paul writes in Ephesians 5:5-6. Here is his one sentence sermon:
It is not possible to be content with your sins and really be a Christian.
Before any of you get your hopes up too much, my message this morning will not be a one sentence sermon. Even our passage for today is two sentences. Let’s read them out loud together.
For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Ephesians 5:6, 7 (NASB)
This is one of those passages that we can either look upon with dread or delight. At first glance, this passage can certainly create some fear in our lives. We look at our lives and recognize just how vulnerable we are to immorality, impurity and covetousness and we see the serious consequences to those sins.
But as we examine this passage in more detail this morning and understand it more fully, I think that we’ll find that it is indeed a source of great joy for those who are followers of Jesus Christ. The difference between delight and dread boils down to the difference between a lapse and a leap. Let me explain:
1. There is a difference between a lapse and a leap
In our Tuesday morning Bible study, Denny shared with us a thought from his seminary days that well-known pastor Adrian Rogers was also fond of using:
Unconverted sinners leap into sin and love it;
Converted sinners lapse into sin and loathe it.
Every one of us in this room this morning is a sinner. And I think I would be on safe ground if I were to presume that every one of us has at one time or another in our lives been guilty of the sins that Paul has just described in the previous two verses that we looked at last week. In fact, let me take it even one step further. Unless you just became a follower of Jesus Christ very, very recently, I think I’m safe in saying that you have probably committed these very same sins – sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness - since you became a follower of Jesus Christ.
But in this passage, Paul is very clearly writing about those who live a lifestyle that is consistently characterized by those sins and not those who occasionally fall into them. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul very clearly described the difference between those two groups:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
Galatians 6:7, 8 (NIV)
For those who are sons of God and have the Holy Spirit living in them, they will live their lives to please God. And when they do lapse into sin, they will be convicted of that sin and loathe it. They will be sincerely sorry for their sin and not just sorry that they got caught. They experience the kind of hurt and pain that David went through before he confessed his sin to God.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Psalm 32:3, 4 (NIV)
On the other hand, those who are sons of disobedience will leap into sin because they live to please their sinful natures. They will love their sin because they love self more than they love God. That’s why Paul calls the covetous man an idolater. Someone who lives a lifestyle that is characterized by trying to please his own selfish desires has made a god out of self and is therefore an idolater.
Paul was warning his readers against those who were apparently trying to deceive them into thinking that they could still pursue the immoral lifestyle that was totally acceptable to their culture and still be followers of Jesus Christ. He is making the point that that kind of lifestyle is totally incompatible with being a follower of Jesus Christ. Christianity and immorality are like oil and water – they just don’t mix.