Scripture: Ephesians 4:17-32
Central Theme: Pursuing Change
Objective Statement: We can pursue change by living out three expressions.
- Expression #1– “Out with the Old”. V. 17-22
- Expression #2- “In with the New”. V. 23-25
- Expression #3- “Embrace the Process”. V.26-32
On Monday morning, February 2008, every sports page in the world heralded the New York Giants’ astonishing Super Bowl upset over the undefeated New England Patriots. And the big story within the story? Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin pulled off the shocker with…nice. Entering the season with his boss grumbling, “He’s our coach this year; we’ll see what happens after that,” Coughlin decided he needed a leadership makeover. Jackie McMullen of the Boston Globe reported an incident that took place on media day, seventy-two hours before the big game:
A boy no more than eight or nine years old was handed a microphone…and he made a beeline toward Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin, who spotting the junior inquisitor leaned over in an almost grandfatherly fashion and tenderly attended to his question.
“I hear you’ve been a lot nicer this year,” said the child.
“Who put you up to that?” Said the coach to gales of laughter.
After going 8-8 in the 2007 season, Tom Coughlin met with his veteran players. They told him he yelled too much, communicated too little, and listened barely at all. Veteran player Michael Strahan calls the change “a transformation, sometimes I barely recognize him.” (Boston Globe, January 30, 2008)
Tom Coughlin spent three years trying to change his players. It didn’t work. So, he decided to change himself. And that’s what changed his players. Now they’re all sporting Super Bowl rings.
- It’s amazing what happens when transformation takes place.
- Have you ever studied the life cycle of a monarch butterfly?
- The mother leaves a larva- the egg- on the bottom of the milkweed plant.
- The baby caterpillar is born and immediately starts eating. They eat one thing… milkweed.
- They grow 2000 times their size by eating.
- Then they attach themselves to a twig and shed their caterpillar skin to become a chrysalis or cocoon.
- Finally, they emerge transformed into something entirely new. Instead of inching along on leaves eating milkweed, they fly around and eat nectar.
- In fact, did you know that these butterflies migrate each year from northern North America to roughly the same forest in Mexico.
- This migration takes multiple generations going one way, but only one going another.
- One generation that is reproduced doesn’t have one hormone. This makes it able to grow much larger than its parents, and live 8 times longer so they make the trek in one generation. This lack of hormone also keeps them from reproducing.
- What is amazing is that eventually they do make that hormone and they do reproduce and die.
- They have two internal clocks that help them know the time of day and the time of the year. They also have an internal compass that literally orients them one direction in the migration south and the other in the northern migration.
- Today we are going to talk about change.
- It’s one thing to see it in butterflies, but how do human beings change.
- We saw how that happens in some ways last week.
- God gives leaders to help mature the members of the body so that the body can function and grow.
- All of this is within the context of living out who we already are.
- Paul has told us that looks like being unified.
- Unity can only happen as believers mature.
- Believers maturing involves changing.
- How does that look at the individual level?
- How can we pursue changing in who we already are?
We can pursue change by living out three expressions.
Expression #1– “Out with the Old”. V.17-22
(17) This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
- Paul uses this word “walk” again to describe a way of living.
- The word is used in some form 8 times in the letter.
- It is such a telling picture of the practicality that Paul wants to bring about by the truth of the theology of chapters 1-3.
- Walking is something we do every day.
- It begins our decision making every day. We get up and go.
- We make decisions about what we will do or not do.
- It is closely associated with how we live.
- We are told here not to walk as other gentiles walk, “in the vanity of their mind”.
- He had already talked about our “walk” in the past back in 2:1-3, and notice he mentions the walk associated with the mind there as well.
(1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
(2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
(3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
- When you see that he talked about who we used to be in these verses, you understand that he is calling us to live in association with who we are now and not how we used to be.
- What did that look like?
(18) Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
- They are living the way they do because they do not know the truth of how to live.
- There is blindness in their heart.
- Because of that they are desensitized to sin.
(19) Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
- People who are not in Christ are morally desensitized.
- Some give themselves over to “lasciviousness”. This word means lewdness. It means a negligence in restraint. Giving yourself over to base and filthy things.
(20) But ye have not so learned Christ;
- You are in Christ.
- This is not who you are.
- This is who you were.
- This is who you would be if you had not been saved.
- Christ calls us to live differently because we are different.
- We are his kids. We bare his name. We have His Spirit.
- Godly leaders are to be equipping us and helping us to mature so that we live according to that identity and help others to do the same.
- That is what we are learning in Christ.
(21) If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
- I love this statement.
- “If”…”then” statements show a condition and a result.
- “If you want to have abs you can see, then do push ups.”
- “If you say you can cook, make me a steak”.
- “If you are in Christ and have learned from Christ…
(22) That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
- Here is the first step in the process.
- Put off.
- Take off.
- Take out.
- Get rid of.
- What? “The former conversation of the old man”
- Why? “It is corrupt”- it’s dead. “according to deceitful lusts”.
- Why are lusts deceitful? Because lusts/temptation/living in the flesh can look like it brings life.
- Don’t believe me? Look at any advertisement for alcohol. The product always looks like it will make you have fun, enjoy life, more sophisticated, more desirable to the opposite sex… It doesn’t show the pain of alcoholism, the guy laying in the gutter, the child born that was unwanted, the baby that was aborted, the girl that was abused… That’s what drunkness and lasciviousness brings.
- It looks like life, but it brings about all kinds of death.
- But it’s not just alcohol and drunkenness.
- We must put off anything that we put our identity in that competes with our first identity.
- We are in Christ.
- Your kids can become an idol.
- Your job can become an idol.
- Money is the root of all kinds of evil.
- There is a way that the world lives- there is a way that the gentiles walk- there is a way that they think that is in opposition to what we have learned in Christ.
- We must put off those things.
- But it is not enough just to put off, take off….
- We must take another step.
- Remodeling a kitchen starts with taking out the cabinets and the old appliances.
- The problem is you still have to cook.
- He is saying “stop thinking this way”, not “stop thinking”.
- He is saying “stop living that way”, not “stop living”.
- We have to get out with the old, but then there must be…
Expression #2– “In with the New”. V.23-24
(23) And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
(24) And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
- After we put off the old we must put on the new.
- As we are taking off the old, we must be putting on the new.
- Here he says, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”.
- Nothing is different until we think differently.
- That is why Paul just spent 3 chapters explaining who we are in Christ, explaining our identity in Christ, and talking about all of the resources we have in Christ.
- The hope of His calling
- The riches of our inheritance
- The greatness of His power to us.
- As we think differently, we can act differently, and got can change our character from the inside out.
- This is why he says, “that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”.
- It’s a process that must start with the new birth. God has to create this in you. Salvation is called regeneration. It comes from God. Yet we partner with God and submit to him for this process to happen.
- Now the whole reason Paul is talking to them is that there is a decision to make.
- He is saying, You are in Christ. This is who you are. Now act like it.”
- How do we act like it? We partner with God in His process to mature us.
- He uses His Word and His people to help us to think and act differently.
- It takes a decision to put off the old man and the old way of thinking and living.
- It also takes a decision to put on the new man, the new way of thinking and living.
- Out with the old.
- In with the new.
- Does this sound familiar? We studied it earlier this year for 6 weeks.
(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
(2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
- So, what does this process look like?
- That leads us to this next section that I call…
Expression #3– “Embrace the Process”. V.25-32
(25) Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
- Do you see it?
- Put off lying.
- Put on “speak ever man truth with his neighbor”.
- Why? “We are members one of another.”
- What happens to him affects me.
- Our relationship should matter to me.
- Lies do not unite. Lies separate.
- Think differently about lying.
- No one really gets away with lying. Why? It changes your relationship with the person you lied to and brings them harm.
- That matters because we “are members one of another”.
- Lies also affect our relationship with God.
- Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
- We have not learned lying from Christ!
(26) Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
(27) Neither give place to the devil.
- Now this may be the one where you say, “Ben, I don’t see put off and put on here.”
- I would disagree.
- Here we are told to “be angry, and sin not”.
- Anger in and of itself is a powerful emotion and is not on its own a bad emotion.
- There is a righteous anger that is not only permissible but expected.
- There is an anger at evil that the righteous must have.
- Yet even righteous anger can turn into bitterness if it is not properly stewarded.
- We put on righteous anger when it is necessary. We put off anger causing us to sin, and giving a place to the devil. We don’t give Satan the chance to use our anger to sin.
Theft and Greed
(28) Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
- What are we putting off? Theft!
- What is the only thing that can work instead of theft?
- Labor allows for the ability to live off of what you make and do for other people.
- When you labor there is something that is produced. When you produce then you are able not only to take care of yourself, you can use what you produce to help others that are in need.
- So we are putting off theft. We are putting on hard work and generosity.
(29) Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
- What are we putting off? “Corrupt communication.”
- When something is “corrupt” it brings death.
- Something that is “corrupt” tears down. It degrades. It doesn’t help. It hurts.
- What are we putting on? Good communication. Communication that is “to the use of edifying”. Edifying means to build up. It means to bring life.
- So, the question must be, “Is this communication building people up? Is it helpful? Or is it causing drama? Is it hurtful?”
- “Are these words that I’m saying, or typing, or texting, or posting building up or are they tearing down? Are they bringing life or are the causing division?”
- Sometimes things that are true can still corrupt. The truth can be used in such a way that it tears down instead of building up.
- Remember what authentic ministry looks like? He said it in verse 15. It looks like “speaking the truth in love”.
- What should we put on? Speech that “ministers grace unto the hearers”. What is grace? Unmerited favor. Giving someone something that they don’t deserve.
- In verse 30 Paul gives some indication as to why we should be careful about our communication.
(30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
- The Holy Spirit indwells and seals the believer. This is what we were told in Ephesians 1:13-14
(13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
- Why would he tell us not to grieve the Holy Spirit?
- Because the Holy Spirit is indwelling a body that produces corrupt communication.
- We grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not submit to the Holy Spirit.
- And He has promised to indwell us and seal us unto the day of redemption.
- Put off corrupt communication, and put on grace filled communication.
(31) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
- Do you see the “put off” language here. “Put away from you”.
- What do we put away?
- Bitterness- a festering and growing internal unforgiveness and smoldering anger.
- Wrath- rage and revenge
- Anger- A different word for anger than the one used in verse 26. This one has connected to it violence, where that one had the idea of frustration and exasperation.
- Clamour- chaos, arguing, fighting, drama
- Evil speaking- slander. Saying hurtful and untrue things about others in public.
- Malice- a general term for evil
- What do we put on?
(32) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
- And what is our motivation? How must we think differently? “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”