Lesson 9: Ephesians 4:17-24. A New Way of Thinking.
So I tell you this and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer WALK ( live) as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Proverbs tells us: As a man thinketh in his heart so is he. ( Proverbs 23)
Proverbs 4:23 tells us: Above all else guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it come the issues of life.
What you think affects how you behave. What you hold in your mind affects not only how you behave- it affects your health, your attitude, your contentment in life. And what you think about God is the most important thing in your life.
To harbor unforgiveness gives root to bitterness which can spoil ones life and the lives of those around them, as surely as the bad apple in the barrel. It also creates health issues, just as anxiety, fear, and hatred do, which have been linked medically to heart trouble, high blood pressure, ulcers and other disorders. Forgiving another person- even who has wronged you or who will not forgive you- is to free yourself from a burden that can only weight your life down.
So in this section Paul tells us how we ought to live our life now that we are new creatures in Christ. He admonishes us to no longer walk as the unbeliever does. How does the unbeliever walk or live? He lives according to his thinking- which Paul describes as futile. If what we thinks affects everything about our life- then wrong thinking, no matter how much the worlds culture accepts it as right will result in living a life that is futile- a life that is frustrating and meaningless. A life spent always searching for something that will bring meaning into their life- enjoyment or pleasure- but never discovering the secret to contentment. Futile is defined as useless or vain. Here is what I call this type of thinking good for nothing.
First understand what it means to be saved, to experience salvation- be born again. It does not mean God improved the old nature. We become new creatures and old things are passed away. It was an amazing transformation, as amazing as that transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly. The butterfly did not become some type of weird hybrid flying caterpillar with wings- it became a new creature. Only God can do this.
That is why Paul proclaims in Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ ( past tense- accomplished fact), nevertheless I live, ( a present fact),and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, ( exchanged life); and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Do you believe this?
Do you believe God is who He says He is?
DO you believe God can do what He says He can do?
Do you believe you are who God says you are?
Do you believe Gods word is true?
If you answered yes to these questions then you are in position to walk in the newness of life and put off the old and put on the new.
Understand this fact- you do not have to crucify your old nature. Your old nature has already been crucified. Gods word , which we believe is true tells us this fact is accomplished.
What we have to do is reckon it to be true..
We have a new nature. Our old nature is passed away and all things are becoming new. We have a new mind that must be renewed and transformed- capable of understanding spiritual truths.
We have a new attitude, a new will, a new heart, a new source of power, new knowledge and an understanding of absolute truth that can set us free. We are now citizens of heaven and Gods own children. We inherited all this when we were born into Gods family. But let me caution you- we also inherited Gods enemies. The world, the flesh and the devil.
Here is your Scripture that describes what occurred: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.(Romans 6) This is a God Thing!
So does this mean I will not sin after being saved and becoming a new creature? No. Why do we still sin after we become Christians? Paul describes the condition in Romans 7. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my flesh. For I have a desire to what is good, but I cannot carry it out. You see I am a new creation in Christ. But I dwell in a sinful body of flesh, a filthy coat of humanness. This filthy clothing continues to contaminate my living at times. I sin less but I am not sinless. I am not perfect yet and will not be until my new creation resides in a glorified body. Sin does not reign over me- but sin does reside in my flesh. So I have to put off this old filthy clothing and put on the new clothing of Christ righteousness.
Do you know how you live the Christian life? Paul tells us in Colossians 2:6-7- So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live(walk) in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faiths as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.
How did you receive Christ Jesus as Lord? How were you saved? Paul told us in
Ephesians 2:8-9- by grace are you saved through faith… By Grace- Gods enabling power through faith- believing He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.
So if we are going to walk in the newness of life. What is the first step? Believing the old nature is dead. That is putting it off. Why would you want to put on those old filthy stinking clothes after having been cleansed?
The second step is to put on the new clothes the clothes of righteousness. Then we just keep on walking- reckoning( counting) what God said He has done- He has done.God has crucified our old nature and given us a new nature, a new heart and a new mind which can be transformed and allow us to have this mind in us that is in Christ Jesus.
My understanding is I do not have to continue crucifying my old nature- it has already been crucified. What I have to do is keep reckoning or counting it as true that it is dead and in that condition it has no power over me . I live and can choose not to sin according to His power that is at work within us.( Ephesians 3:20)
We are dead to sin and alive to Christ. Remember as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. That is why the battle is for the mind and thus why God supplies us with the weapons that are mighty that have divine power to demolish strongholds. With Gods weapons we can demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient. ( 2 Cor 10) The battle is for the mind. Someone who professes to be a Christian but says I tried- but it does not work is saying God s provisions and Gods power is not sufficient. A direct contradiction of Gods word- who said among other things Nothing is impossible for God. And I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me. Or said Apart from me you can do nothing. He also told us my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ( 2 Cor 12)
I have said all of this to make it clear living the Christian life does not start with actions- it starts with a new way of thinking which leads to a new way of living. That is why Paul says the thinking of the unbeliever is futile- good for nothing. And why as believers we must renew our minds and transform our thinking with the Word of God. It is replacing the old thinking of our old nature with new thinking a new attitude based on the truth of Gods word. If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. ( John 8: 31,32)
Now the unbeliever prides himself or herself on being a rational person. Man was after all created in Gods image and has the ability to reason. Man has learned a lot, has developed a lot of clever inventions and discovered many worthwhile things that have benefitted mankind. Of course everything that man has developed or discovered was placed there by God.
This unbeliever cannot understand spiritual truths and since he/she cannot understand them- they are foolishness to them. They believe the stories of the Bible and creation and Jesuss death, burial and resurrection are a myth, a story based on superstitions and that by not believing them the world can become better off. We may have some things that are better, but is there anyone who looks at the world today and thinks we are better off?
Now Paul describes the process and conditions, the cause and effect that futile thinking of unbelievers leads to.
- Futile in their thinking. Thinking themselves to be wise- they became fools. Ever learning but never coming to the truth.
- Understanding becomes darkened. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him,but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1)
- Became separated from God alienated because of the ignorance that is in them.
- The ignorance that is in them because they hardened their hearts. So the Holy Spirit says: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts in rebellion. ( Hebrews 3) Light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil.( John 3)
Man is his own worst enemy. He clings to error- he refuses light. The part of his being which was intended to function as the key to his life- his spirit, is dead in sin and trespasses.. It needs to be born again not of the corruptible- the things of this world, but of the incorruptible seed- the Word of God which is able to save. That is the power of the Gospel! Yet man hardens his heart when he hears the word of God. The world system, the devil and our flesh work in concert to keep the heart hardened to Gods word and ones eyes blinded to the truth.
But Paul says in Romans that man is without excuse. Man is born spiritually dead and therefore ignorant and alienated from God. But he remains there because of the hardness of his/her heart to the Word of God. Do you what hardens the heart? Continuous sin petrifies the heart of a person until their consciences become seared, they are blinded to the truth and cannot see the light of the gospel. If a person continues to refuse Gods offer- or come to the light- there comes a time when the Spirit will no longer strive with that person. In the meanwhile, the enemy of mankinds soul continues to confirm mans refusal- society or the world at large agrees and the flesh of course goes blindly along refusing the light of God and preferring darkness. Thus the world the flesh and the devil combine to keep man in the dark and harden their hearts.
Watch what happens next in this tragedy that is occurring all around us: 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. ( Ephesians 4:19) A hardened heart is a calloused heart. Just as a person who works with their hands doing rough manual labor, their hands develop hardened callouses desensitizes them. Our consciences and hearts can become they way- losing all sensitivity to right and wrong. When this happens, a person is on the verge of being unable to respond to the convictions of the Holy Spirit.
They continue to develop almost insatiable appetites for sin and turn their backs on God in order to fulfill their sinful desires. They walk away from the light. They want to think their own way, the lost worlds way, do their own thing and in the process their hearts become hardened and they become desensitized in the process. You see this type of heart in the parable of the sower and the seed. It is the hard packed soil by the wayside, the seed, which is the Word of God bounces off of its hard surface and the bird which is the devil comes and snatches it away lest it take root.
We live in a society that has decided what the standards of morality are without believing the truth of Gods word. Therefore immorality becomes a way of accepted life. Behavior that was not tolerated or was done in secret is now celebrated and in the open. Do you realize that in 1940s early 50s when Swedish actress, Ingrid Bergman became pregnant out of wedlock her movies were banned from the USA? Did you realize when Gone With the Wind was being made in 1939- a group of pastors met with the producers and director and pleaded with them not to use the word damn in the movies ending? Their argument was this would open the floodgate for all types of profanity- at which the producer said that would never happen -and yet today we cannot go to a movie with a PG 13 rating and not only be exposed to profanity- but nudity and all types of sexual innuendo.
It is clear- the ways of God and the ways of the world we live in today are not compatible. And what John wrote 2000 years ago is as relevant today as it has ever been for Christians. John wrote- do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ( I John 2) The world is not referring to the people of the world- but to a society, a culture that is controlled by the devil and does not believe in God or His word.
But remember- you were once dead in sin and trespasses in which you used to live and followed the course of the world. But thank God, when we heard the word, we did not harden our hearts.
And now we are to cast the seed, we are to walk in such a way, that others will see the truth and gospel in action.
We are to be salt in a world that is decaying.
We are to be light in darkness.
We are to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ( Jesus last commandment in Matthew 28)
His last command is our first priority.
Remember what his first words were to John and Andrew? He first ask them: what seek ye? What are you looking for? Then Jesus told them: Come and see. It is still the same- the Lord stands at the crossroads of the broadway and the narrow way and asks the same question. What are you looking for? Whatever it isI can supply it. Come and see.
What I do not understand is the hatred people have for the Lord Jesus.
What has He ever done, except die for their sins.
What has God done that makes a man write a book entitled God Isnt Good Anymore?
What has God done to that man besides creating Him? Giving him life and an opportunity to spend eternity with Him, plus lead a life of purpose in the here and now.
And to do that- God let His Son die for that man. In fact on the cross, His Son asked His Father to forgive that man for he knows not what he does.
Ignorance- that comes from hardening his heart when he hears Gods word
Let Him who has ears hear what the Spirit says.
Today if you hear His voice- do not harden your hearts.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.