Victoria continues our series in Ephesians by looking at how we can put off the old self and live in the new way that God has for us with the help of the Holy Spirit!
Sermon preached by Victoria Giovanelli on Sunday May 16 2021.
Chapters 1 – 3 The wonder of the Gospel. Look what God has done! An then at the start of Chapter 4 we have shifted gears “Therefore”… Chapters 4 – 6 Walking the Gospel. It’s about entering into it!
I really enjoyed Tim’s sermon on the fivefold ministry and how those roles are gifted by God to equip, the saints (us) for service and to grow in maturity! That a healthy community is alive in all 5 of these areas of gifting.
It has led many of us to the question – what is Tim? Haha…
I also love the way Tim unpacked the word “worthy” previous to that in Chapter 4:1 that Paul is now imploring us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. Many of us hear that word worthy and we begin to feel weighted down:
– I will never be worthy
– I will never measure up
– And it’s true you probably won’t – let’s be humble people.
But we misunderstand the word. As Tim explained it is about coming into balance with. Bringing our lives into balance with what Christ has done.
Imagine if I was held in a prison cell for all my wrong doings and then along comes Christ, fights for my freedom, pays for my mistakes, takes the punishment on himself, opens up that cell door of captivity to sin – – you’re free, come live a different way.
– Take off your prison gear and put on these new garments I have for you.
Imagine if I respond,
– “Praise God, thank you Jesus”.
– But what if I never leave.
– I never change my garments, I never get dressed for new life. – I never actually walk outside that cell.
– It’s the world that I know, that I lived in for so long
– It’s the bars through which I see myself
– It’s the behaviours I’ve lived out over and over in repetition for years
– It’s the sin I’m caught up in
– The cell has perhaps defined me, my thoughts, my beliefs, the state of my heart… it runs deep.
But I’d be crazy to stay in that cell. And Paul is saying to us ‘Take off the prison gear’ and dress yourself ready for ‘new life’. But it takes partnership, it takes us doing our part to come into balance with. – It’s not about striving to measure up.
– Christ has done it all – now walk says Paul, in what he has accomplished for you. Enter into the victory of gospel life. – Don’t live a life of captivity to sinful ways that have been paid for! The cell has been unlocked.
We have just spent so many weeks basking in the goodness and the power of the Gospel in Chapters 1-3. “Therefore” says Paul… now walk in the reality of it.
And with this shift of gears we are going to be looking at Eph 4:17-24 today.
17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
So with Verse 17 – Paul starts to get specific on what that looks like to walk in the fullness of what Christ has accomplished.
He kicks off though with a warning… do not walk he says… and he paints a pretty dark picture…
– darkened understanding
– alienated from the life of God
– hardened hearts
– given over to all kinds of ungodly desires
It’s a painful description…
And his statement “the futility of their minds” is kind of offensive – let’s be honest.
The use of the word Gentiles here is rather in the context of those who have rejected God. It’s really an image of humanity after the Fall.
It’s a picture of the old-self which you’ll see from verse 22 we all need to lay aside, Gentile or otherwise.
How do we lay aside the old self because surely, we don’t want to live in darkened understanding or alienated from the giver and creator of
life, from the one who says, “I am love”, we don’t want hardened hearts right?
Sin is destructive. Sin destroys relationships, drives us in the direction of greed, lust, murder, adultery, slanderous words, theft, pride that puffs up and pushes others down, it’s the root cause of oppression and injustice, violence, hatred… who would want any kind of sin ruling or guiding the way we walk and live.
I am pretty sure we could all think of an example of a sinful behaviour from our past, or in our own lives right now that has or is creating a path of damage in its wake. In Christ we find another way to live. In Christ there is freedom to walk a new way.
And in verse 23 we find part of the answer to the question how – be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
– I believe the greatest battle ground most often than not is the battle ground of the mind and heart.
– The condition of our mind and heart shape how we think, how we see the world, ourselves, how we interpret and respond in circumstances.
– Proverbs 4:23 says Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
First I am going to talk about the mind…
Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Paul is helping us through this passage to reconcile a one-time event of transformation with the need for a continual process of transformation.
Verse 23 to be renewed – present tense – emphasising continual action – keep being continually renewed in your mind. Why? Because there is
a lot of renewing to take place, just ask my husband about the state I can get my mind into at times, I’m sure he’s got some stories.
– There are a lot of old ways of thinking we carry that need to be brought into balance with the truth of God’s word. Because thoughts are not always facts.
– There can be ways of thinking that need to be surrendered, repented of and dealt with by the cross of Christ.
– It’s hard to walk a certain way unless you first of all believe in your mind it to be the best thing for you.
– Can I encourage you that God is so good and he wants to Father you into the fullness of your calling and life in him.
He knows we can’t do it in our own strength – so he has given us his Holy Spirit. All you need to do is partner with him, we need to invite him into our thought life.
– Everyday we have thousands of thoughts, emotions, urges, memories and feelings.
– It can seem for some us an overwhelming task to tackle this…
2 Cor 5:10 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
The Devil loves to get into our thought life with all kinds of sneaky little lies.
– He has been up to the same game since the Garden of Eden. – Because if he can convince us to believe the lie it’s far more likely we will act upon it and it will start to shape how we behaviour and live.
When it comes to our minds the greatest weapons we have is to know the Bible, the truth that lives in scripture and the other weapon is the great companion and partner we have in the gift of the Holy Spirit.
My friend Hannah and I use to have this line we would pull out on each other in the midst of conversations sometimes where we would interject with “Stop – that’s a lie from hell”
– For example I might be talking about a situation and say “I’m not sure God will show up for me”
– Little prayer I call: Repent, Renounce, Replace
– Repent “I repent for believing the lie…
– Renounce “I renounce any stronghold that lie has had on my life – Replace “Holy Spirit what’s the truth… his word says I will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5)
– God help me to know your truth and live in your truth
Now, I am no psychologist but one of the major schools of treatment for patients is called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
– And the basic idea is that our thoughts (our cognitive life) affects our feelings and behaviours.
– And so many damaging behaviours and patterns can be caused by toxic thought cycles.
– And so the basic idea is that if we can take thoughts captive and not allow them to dominate our minds, then our behaviours change over time.
– How amazing then that God basically told us to do this 2000 years ago!
– “Take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
So it is amazing to me that while the world has to try and do this in its own strength we have the Holy Spirit to help us.
– So an example. You may have a train of thoughts that are quite bitter or unforgiving…
– So when that little gem of a thought train seems to have you captive!
– Instead why not stop, take the thought captive, and say the Lord’s prayer “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” – You see this is about developing the disciplines of faith that allows the Holy Spirit to work.
Because of what Christ has done our thinking can change… our understanding can change… the condition of the heart can change…
But before we shift gears on to the heart. There is this pivotal moment in the passage that occurs in Verse 20: But that is not the way you learned Christ.
Learned Christ. Not learnt about Christ. Learned Christ. To know Christ. This all happens through relationship with Christ. Not just knowing about him but knowing him. It’s two very different states of being.
You know when you hang out with someone so much that you start finishing each other’s sentences, that you know what they are thinking with just a glance or a nod.
Why would it be any different with Christ. The more time we spend in his presence, investing in relationship with him we begin to understand how he thinks, how he would respond in a situation, and we begin to respond as he would respond, think as he thinks, because we know him, and know what he is like.
Whatever you need to be doing to grow in relationship with Christ – just do it. Go for it. He is the best saviour you will ever get to know.
So let’s talk a little bit about the heart now which is the other major battle ground…
Let me read for you Verse 24 in the message version: And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God fashioned life, a life renewed from
the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.
Transformation starts within, on the inside, in the depths of our hearts where it begins to shape our thoughts, our beliefs, then our character, our hopes, our desires… it’s amazing!
Who you are now on the inside, what has happen to your heart because of Christ and is continuing to happen, should start to come into balance with your external choices, behaviours and actions.
So much damage has been done to the Christian faith because of hypocrisy because of the balance being out of whack between the Gospel message, the person of Jesus Christ and the outward behaviour of the church at times and Christians.
And the only way it’s going to change is with renewal of the heart and mind.
I love the way the passage says as God – , a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you – as God does this.
It’s a work only he can do, and he has and he will, if we are willing to surrender to it. We are not told to be idle in the process – Paul is shifting gears here encouraging us to bring into balance what we say and what we do with the ways of Christ.
25 I (God) will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I (God) will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I (God) will put within you. And I (God) will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I (God) will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Christ – this is what he does! And it’s amazing, and beautiful, and not a chore but a delight.
And he is counting on us to display his likeness to the world.
There is a truth here in this scripture in Ezekiel about Christ’s desire for our hearts to not be harden, hearts of stone, but soft and fleshy. Why?
Because then we can grow, we can be corrected and also I believe because the heart is where we experience life in all its fullness – right?
Hearts become hard because of hurts, wounds, the trials of life, because of experiences.
– Christ wants to soften our hearts, and heal them.
– Because when we experience his compassion, we can be compassionate to others
– When we experience forgiveness, then we know how to go and forgive.
– To experience his love, that we might be love in this world.
I had such a heart of stone due to some pretty big trials I went through in my teenage years. I shut my heart down because to feel was far too painful. But it meant I also didn’t fully experience and feel all the wonderful feelings that life has to offer.
And because of those wounds at times I would leave a path of damage in my wake.
I had a pretty radical experience of God healing those wounds and after the healing of my heart came this incredible experience of my emotions coming back to life.
– Lying in bed and speaking life to my heart
– Grieving, indescribable joy
– It was like the Holy Spirit was awakening all these emotions, and restoring fullness to my heart.
He renews our hearts. He renews our minds. With his help we can walk it out.
And he has called us to this process of transformation so that we might radiate his true likeness in this world.
The phrase we need to grasp is not “because God, we must now”… no but rather
– “because God has, we can”
– “because God, we are”
So, we take off the old and put on the new.
Verse 24 says this new self we are to put on is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
I could preach a whole sermon on holiness and righteousness but let me just say this as I close:
– His righteousness is more than enough
– His holiness is more than enough
– We are being sanctified after his likeness which is mind blowing… – To be sanctified is to surrender, let go of our pride, take off the old sinful ways, lay it down, start there… and put on the new, learn to walk in it.
And I truly believe it begins in the battleground of our minds and hearts.
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
May we enter fully into it. May we faithful walk it out, empowered by the Spirit, full of faith and trust in Him and all that He has accomplished so that we can.
Ministry Time: What is the prison cell of thoughts, attitudes of the hearts, behaviours that you still haven’t been able to walk freely out of? Lay it down today because Christ has come to set you free.