The last article was a challenge to mature in our faith by being trained and equipped in the Word of God so that we can serve others. This process is what brings spiritual maturity in a Christian’s life. If we do not mature in our faith then we become stagnate and it is not fun to be around something (someone) that is stagnate. An immature person in the church is easy to spot. Just look for the one who always wants to be served instead of being the first to serve others. This lesson will help us demonstrate our faith on a daily basis, especially to the people who are around us (friends, family, coworkers, etc). As I have said before, God does not call us to have faith in Him and then have that faith remain something private and personal. Our faith is to influence every aspect of our lives, especially our character and attitude and the relationships that we have with others (both inside and outside of the church). I was speaking with some friends of mine the other day and we reached the topic of public schools (I was visiting with current and former public school teachers). The conclusion was that there was a disconnect between Christian theory and practice. The majority of the students (they, themselves, claim) are Christians yet they live like pagans. They understand the theory yet there is a huge gap between the theory and the practice. In order not to reach this state, God has given us His Word to teach us how to “practice what we preach” or in other words, live out the theory that we claim to know. The answers are found in Ephesians 4:17-24.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
You must no longer live your life as a pagan, being controlled by the lust of the flesh and sin. This may seem simple yet it is very profound. What does Paul have in mind when he says “no longer live as the Gentiles”? Let’s take a look at the meaning of the word “Gentile” in its original language. The Greek word that is translated “Gentiles” is “ethnos” which is where we get the English word “ethnic”. The literal meaning of the word is “a large group of people with the same nature”. The Bible says that all people are born sinners and remain controlled by sin until they repent and accept Jesus Christ, being set free from the power of sin by the power of God. Jesus says that few will find this path (even if many “confess” to be Christians today). The proof is in the pudding as we say. Those who live like the Gentiles or nations or majority of mankind, are controlled by their sin nature. Even if they want to say no to sin, they are slaves and must obey their master. If you look around, you will notice that we are surrounded by a “majority of people with the same nature” that is, a sin nature. When we come to Christ, we still have the sin nature but the difference is that we are no longer controlled by that sin nature. So, if you claim to be a Christian then God commands you to no longer be controlled by your sin nature. What does a person who is controlled by his sin nature look like? I am so glad that you asked.
- It all begins with the mind. Their minds are futile, as verse 17 says. The word futile means “good for nothing, depraved, useless”. In the eyes of God, a person who lives like a pagan, being controlled by the lust of the flesh and by his sin nature, is useless to God. God wants to use each and every one of us yet we have to be in a position to be used. He will change us and place us in that position yet we still have to choose to remain useful to Him, by not being controlled by sin and its desires. If you go to church and know all the theory yet do not practice that theory, then the Bible says that you are useless to God. I do not know about you, but I want to be used and useful to God, therefore, I choose not to live controlled by sin and its desires. God is the One who set me free but I choose to be useful on a daily basis. What about you, is there a disconnect between your theory and practice? Do you live like a pagan, controlled by sin and its desires, or do you choose to obey God, daily?
- If the mind is futile then the heart will be hard. A person with a hard heart can see the truth and the truth can smack him in the face and he will still choose not to believe it. Pharaoh witnessed miracle after miracle yet he had a hard heart and because of that he would not allow God to use him for good. He was used by God yet because of his choices he had to pay a heavy price (not only him but his entire society). Hardness of heart and futility of mind have a terrible impact on your life and also on the lives of the people around you. That is why God directly confronts sin and calls us to do the same. Sin leaves many victims in its path, both innocent victims and guilty ones as well. What kind of heart do you have? How do you respond to the truth of the Word of God? If there is a disconnect between your religion and lifestyle then you need to take a hard look in the mirror and make a decision. Will you remain in your current state with a hard heart and useless mind or will you accept the truth and allow God to change you?
- It starts in the mind and ends with actions. Every action that we take is a direct result of what is in our minds. If our minds are futile and our hearts are hardened then our actions will be sinful. Those who are controlled by sin and its desires live a lifestyle full of sensuality and every kind of impurity. The word sensuality literally means “unbridled lust” in the area of sexuality. Sex is a gift from God given to a man and his wife yet those who are controlled by sin, take sex and remove it from the bonds of marriage (unbridled it) and turn it into something disgusting and dirty. Since they have no limits, there is no shame and they will do absolutely anything. God reveals what they do in the pages of the Old Testament. There are such things as adultery, prostitution, pedophilia, bestiality, incest, homosexuality, etc. The internet today, is filled with all of these forbidden acts and many many men (and women) are slaves to pornography. Are you controlled by a porn addiction? Many “church members” are addicted to porn (I have personally counseled many). As a true follower of Jesus Christ, this cannot be. You cannot be with God and with sin at the same time. Sensuality does not have to take place only in a physical sense. It usually consumes the mind way before it reaches actions but the two will eventually intersect. Do you live our sexual fantasies in your mind (maybe even “clean” ones)? The “innocent” fantasy will always lead to more and more until it ends with actions and terrible consequences. God wants us to avoid those consequences and that is why He has given us His Word and teaches us how to live by It.
The key to success or change of lifestyle is to be taught the Word of God.
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus
In order to live out Christian theory first you have to be taught what the theory is, from the Word of God of course. When we hear the Gospel and accept it there is a transformation in our lives and lifestyles. Once we have been transformed, we are babies in our faith and we need the milk of the Word of God to help us grow. Usually, people who have a disconnect between their religion and their lifestyle, are people who accept the message of the Gospel yet are never taught and led to spiritual maturity. Are you maturing in your faith or are you leading a lifestyle that will cause you to be a 1 year old Christian with 50 years experience? If you have always lived as a slave to sin then you first need to hear the message of the Gospel that is found in the Word of God. When you accept the message then . . .
You will be transformed.
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness
You have to take off your sinful lifestyle. God has given you the ability to do it and you must make a choice to remove it. You will be set free from your slavery to sin, that slavery which was corrupting you, which was deceiving you (telling you to just try a little and then pulling you the rest of the way, deeper and deeper into sin). Once you take one off (the old way of life) then you are to put on the new way of life. You take on the character of God being righteous (correct in all that you do) and holiness (set apart from the rest of the world, no longer walking as a slave to sin).
Has your life ever been radically transformed by God? Have you ever been set free from your slavery to sin? Do you say no to sin and temptation on a moment by moment basis or do you disgust yourself by continually committing the same sins over and over again, swearing that you will never do it again? I have been there. I know what that is like yet I also know what it is like to have the power to say no to sin. You can have that same power in the person of Jesus Christ. I pray that you will accept it and use it on a daily basis.