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Oct 24 2021 - How to Live like Christ

Today we have some very practical things in today’s message – but we can’t forget the three main themes we have been talking about through Ephesians

The themes are “In Christ Identity” – We can’t deal with anger if we don’t know our ‘in Christ’ identity.

Christ’s Victory over Evil – like with our speech and other instruction here – through Paul’s instructions on these things, we participate in Christ’s victory over the forces of evil.

Unity in Diversity – removing the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles.

Ephesians 4:17-18 17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

Now here is what is funny – who is he talking to? Gentile Christians! And he tells them, don’t be like those Gentiles! That WAS you – but is no longer who you are! In Christ, you Gentiles are a new people! A new RACE – we would use the term race, but they had no concept of that at that time. They would use ethnicity – and that’s how they would have divided, but it deals more with heritage. You are a new race – a new nationality! Do we see ourselves that way? We are not WHITE in this church! That is simply not our identity. We are not of this nation – you have got to change your thinking on these things – but that is hard to do! No longer do you categorize on these identities, Paul is saying. In Christ, everything has changed entirely.

Paul lays into the Gentiles – Futility – Darkened, Excluded, Ignorance, hardness of heart. We need to understand that that was us! Even if you were raised in a Christian family and prayed the Jesus prayer at 3 years old, THIS IS WHO YOU WERE! It is important to remember that so we understand that we are wholly new – wholly different! You are not that anymore! You are nothing like the world of people who live around you!

And we say – no, I am a lot like the people who live around me! But Paul is saying – Jesus doesn’t want that!
19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way,

Sensuality and impurity – what comes to mind? Sexual immorality. That is not a full understanding – that would only be part of it – the key is in the next word – with greediness. Sensuality may be better translated as indulgence in excess – not just sexual indulgence. The constant desire for more is what it implies. Maybe it is more money – or more things – a materialistic lifestyle – or more food – Gluttony – maybe it is pleasure – wanton pleasure. Sure sexual pleasure is one thing within that realm. Entertainment. Amusement. Substance abuse. There are so many things – and we just want more –

Power. Control. We could go on. Those things are not bad in and of themselves. We live in a world of money. Sex has its place as a good thing. But it comes to contentment.

Our tendency is to look at sexual immorality as the root cause of all problems – but it is just one in a package.

People say the sexual revolution of the 60s ruined this country. But indulgence of greed was just beginning as well.

We can’t expect transformation – when we hold onto all the others.

Throughout the Bible – sexual immorality/gluttony/excess/greed – these are all tied together. You might find that you have a problem in ONE (or more) of these areas! – but Paul is saying – don’t live like them in this area.

19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way,

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

In the old life that you live – lay it down. Put it off. It is a clothing metaphor – they would have understood – take off your dirty clothes – who you were – your old identity – and put on this new identity in Christ. The rest is dirty laundry and needs to come off.

In order to do this – we need to understand how our former manner of life still impacts us today. Where are my clothes dirty? What do I need to take off? So there has got to be a time of looking for that. Don’t spend all of your time there and go into guilt – but recognize that we all are wearing dirty clothes that need to come off.

One thing we do – we put a Christian label on our dirty clothes. Greed – We put this label on it – Christian stewardship. That is really important – but you can see how easily it can get into materialism. Every program I’ve been through – you can see it as wanting more stuff, because of our hearts.

Selfish ambition – can turn into ‘growing our ministry’. Yes, that is important – but it cannot be done to conceal ego.

Control issues become doctrinal purity – but with the wrong motive, it is just legalism and fundamentalism – and is just putting a Christian name on dirty clothes.

Judgmentalism – we call it ‘righteous judgment’ – a nice Christian name for me judging and condemning others.

It boils down to our hearts and motivation – but when we see these, we need to recognize them for what they are – dirty clothes that needs to be exchanged for putting on Christ.

23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

So, we take off the old – and not just leave it off – but put on the new. Sometimes I think we – this is not simply behavioral modification.

A long time ago, I went through a Christian counseling program – they talked about taking off and putting on – but it sometimes becomes behavior modification.

New self would be better translated – putting on a new man – and that man is Christ. We are not just changing our behavior – we are a new creation -and we are learning to live as that true identity – which is a new creation in Christ. You are not THIS – you are THIS.

We think we are this, but we are ‘this’ – now live this, because that is truly who you are. Yes, you will have behavioral modification. And yes, you can change a lot of things by pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, but only the grace of God being poured out in us can make us like Christ – not behavioral modification. This seems subtle, but it is huge.

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor,

There is no argument here – then he says:

for we are members of one another.

And this gets back to the theme – speaking truth because you belong to one another. People were speaking falsehoods of one another – destroying community – creating division – and Paul is saying – NO! This is what it means to be in Christ with one another.

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

We can say – Good! Instruction on anger! Yes, but it is all tied into what Paul is talking about in this community – all tied in with our identity in Christ – not just simply about behavior.

Be angry – can be translated – In your anger, do not sin.

There is significant debate on what this means – and there is good stuff on both sides of this. There is an anger that is right and good – righteous anger. But there is another side that says that righteous anger is only for God. You can argue that until the cows come home – whatever that means. Either way – we can learn – that anger is a natural emotion that occurs – in community – when we feel wronged. You will be offended when you try to live in the community of the church. And the good news? You are going to wrong and offend people! It happens both ways. It also happens when our will is thwarted. In community – you will have your will thwarted. Think about in marriage – you will have your will thwarted! If it doesn’t happen, something is broken!

Paul makes it clear though – it is dangerous! It leads to sin – so you have to get a grip on it – and fast! Before the sun goes down!

Even if we think – there is righteous anger – you still have moments to deal with it. Any anger that runs long-term is unholy, no matter what the cause of the anger! Ongoing anger can NEVER be righteous – it is very clear in this passage.

27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Giving the devil an opportunity will destroy US and the community. Anger destroys families – anger destroys churches. Anger is destroying our country! Yes? Yes!

28 He who steals must steal no longer;

Here is another no-brainer. Good and practical! But not just ‘don’t steal cars’! But rather:

but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

What is possibly happening – this church community is really weird in Paul’s day. They did not have charitable organizations and food pantries – you were out of luck – left alone to die and starve. There weren’t government programs – the church just jumped in to take care of people. And the government saw it and said – we have got to do something – so the first governemental social programs were started by the Romans! There are letters you can read!

And people started TAKING. But Paul said – wait a minute – you are a new person – and you need to become someone FOR the community – sharing to those in need.

This is how we participate in Christ’s victory over the dark forces – and when we think of that – I don’t think we think of THIS! When the church takes care of people – it says to the world, ”You don’t know what you are doing! You are losing! You are under the wrong gods!”

And the world begins to come to the church and victory is taken and we participate in that victory that has been taken!

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

This is a word for our world. Unwholesome – ROTTEN – speaks of rotten food – it smells awful. 15 hours of power outage, and some of us had rotten food that had to be thrown away Wednesday morning. Don’t speak rotten words – but only building up – giving grace to those who hear. Our words need to be a gift of grace! Wow! How much that would change things! How transformative that would be if you spoke words that gave grace to others. This stuff is so real and practical – and it is time for Christians to live this way – not like our former way of life – not like ‘the Gentiles’ live. Would we say that the Gentiles of today have words that are wholesome? Don’t engage in that talk – cease from it!

This explains it:

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

Bitterness comes from being injured, insulted, wounded, or offended. When we let these things fester, we become bitter and build up wrath and anger – and it comes out with clamor, which is arguing, accusations, disputes, malice, hatred – and it all just builds up – and it becomes who we are. Paul is saying – put it all off, because it is not who you are. Then he tells us who we are:

32 Be kind to one another,

That is what we need – kindness. Be kind to people. Even those who mess up what you are trying to do. Be kind to them. Their lives are hard and they have struggles too.

tender-hearted,

How many tender-hearted people are out there? We need a church and community that is known for tenderheartedness. I know this sounds wimpy – but then you are calling jesus wimpy – and you probably don’t want to do that!

forgiving each other,

Wouldn’t these change things? Radically transform our world? It won’t happen in our world, but it can happen in the church because we are in Christ.

just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

We will close with this last verse – and I don’t know why this is broken up this way -

Ephesians 5: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

2 and walk in love, (how?) just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

That’s the gospel. Christ loved us and gave His life for us. Now what do we do? We imitate Him. We love and give of ourselves for others.

Let’s pray.


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