Elon, North Carolina
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!— 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. (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV).
Today, we come to a very important passage in the Book of Ephesians. It does not look that important. Today, I want to look with you at five truths about the Christian life that stand out in this passage. These are five truths that every Christian should know.
Five Powerful Truths about the Christian Life
1. The Christian life involves radical change
The Christian life is a life of radical transformation. The Christian life involves radical change. Paul knew a little about radical transformation. His life was radically transformed when he became a Christian. He went from a persecutor to a preacher. He went from a murderer to a missionary. If you have become a genuine Christian, your life should be different as well, radically different.
You can’t go from being spiritually DEAD to being spiritually ALIVE on the inside without a change on the outside. You can’t go from DARKNESS to LIGHT without a change in your life. You can’t go from being a child of the devil to a child of God without some RADICAL changes.
If you become a new creation in Christ and get a new heart, there will be some changes. Change will look differently to me than it will to you. We all come to Christ from a different background. If you come to Christ and used to be a bank robber, your life will change a little different than if you used to be a drug addict or a stripper but, no matter what our past, all of us will experience some kind of change in our life after we come to Christ. If there are no changes in your life, you are not saved.
There are some people who teach that you can get saved and not have any major changes. They teach that once you are saved, it doesn’t matter how you live. You are saved. you are forgiven. You are going to heaven anyway. Some use the doctrine of eternal security as a license to sin. They use grace as a license to sin. That is a doctrine of demons. That is a doctrine from the pit of hell. Paul didn’t teach that.
He did not teach that it doesn’t matter how you live. Paul did not say, “once you are saved, you can live any way you want.” He said, once you are a Christian “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). That is the positive way to put it. Live consistent with your calling as a Christian and as a follower of Christ. Paul tells us how we should live and how we should not live.
We saw last week how Christians are not to live. We are not to live in vanity. We are not to live in darkness. We are not to live in alienation from God. We are not to live lives of spiritual ignorance. We are not to live with hard hearts. We are not to live lives of sexual immorality. We are not to live lives of greed. We are also NOT to live like the Gentiles (Ephesians 4:17).
We should live different and think different than the way we used to live before we became a Christian. We are not to live the way the rest of the unsaved world lives either. This is not just something that Paul taught. This is not just something found in the NT. It is in the OT as well. The OT and the NT says exactly the same thing.
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must NOT do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must NOT do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do NOT follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow MY decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep MY decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:1-5 ESV).
This is a passage not read too much in church today. Wherever they went, the Jews were not to live like the pagans around them. They were not to live like the Egyptians and they were not to live like the Canaanites. They were to follow God’s laws instead and this included in the area of sexual practices. They were not to do exactly what everyone else was doing around them, not matter how popular or how prevalent it was.
“‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord. 7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her. 8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father. (Leviticus 18:6-8 ESV)
The whole chapter reads like this. This is the very issue that we face today. We are tempted to think and act the way the world does. We are tempted to be conformed to this world. This is not just a problem for Christians. It is a problem for entire churches and denominations. They are tempted to fit in and conform. It is a sign of the end-times when the church begins to compromise with the world.
The sad fact is that some churches do not say anything about premarital sex and having their members shacking up. They don’t make an issue about adultery or homosexuality. It’s a private matter. They even ordain people to the ministry who are living in open sin. They even have adopted the world’s definition of marriage and gender.
It is not just liberal churches. Even many Baptist churches in the Bible belt do not really practices church discipline. Do you live different from the unbelievers around you? Do you live any different from people who do not believe in God and do not follow Jesus? Is there any clear discernible difference?
2. The Christian life involves a new identity
What is all of this talk about the old man and the new man? The expressions “old man” and “new man” occur in three of Paul’s letters (Romans 6, Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3).
Who is the old man? Paul is not talking about the old guy in the church (one of the deacons) and he is not talking about your father. When you become a Christian, you get a whole new identity. You are not the same person you once were. You may once have been a murderer but once you get saved, you are no longer that old person. You are different from the inside. You become a saint (Ephesians 1:1).
The old man represents who you were before you became a Christian. It refers to your unregenerate self. Once you become a Christian that person is gone. The new man refers to who you are as a saved person. On March 18, 1976, the old Alan Lewis left and a new Alan Lewis took over. When we become born again, we become a new man or a new woman. That is a new identity. Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
3. The Christian life involves a new nature
This is interesting. We do not just have a new identity, we have a new nature. We become a new man or a new woman because we have a new nature inside of us. We have a new heart inside us. We have the Holy Spirit living inside us.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:5-6 NIV)
When was the old man crucified? That happened at salvation. We did not do it. God did it. It was crucified. It is rendered inoperative. We do not have to be slaves to sin anymore. It was crucified but it is not completely gone.
We have a new nature but the old nature is not completely gone, even though it was crucified. Otherwise Paul would not tell us to put it off. There would be nothing to put off. It must be still around. The new you should not resemble to old you.
4. The Christian life involves new clothing
This is a little strange. It deals with how Christians should dress and what they should wear. It deals with the Christian wardrobe. As Christians we need to wear the right clothes. It seems strange for Paul talking about Christians changing their clothes.
Paul has used a lot of metaphors in Ephesians. He has used the metaphor of bodybuilding. We talked about Christian bodybuilding. He has used the metaphor of the Christian life as a walk. He is not describing a long walk down a road. It is a description of the Christian life. Now, he uses a completely different image and metaphor. It deals with clothing. Paul now uses a fashion metaphor to describe the Christian life.
Paul deals with the Christian’s wardrobe. He deals with our spiritual wardrobe. Paul is not dealing with clothes for the body. He is not saying that Christian must wear certain kinds of clothes. He is not saying that we all need to wear suits and ties.
Paul is not dealing with clothes for the body. He is dealing with clothes for the soul. He says to take off the old dirty clothes you are wearing and put them away. Do some laundry or get rid of them and put on some clean new clothes.
Clothes represent actions. They represent behaviors. There are certain clothes we should have in or wardrobe as Christians and there are certain clothes we should not have in there. You may have watched the TV show “What Not to Wear.” This is like the show “What Not to Wear: Biblical Edition (or Spiritual Edition).” This section tells Christians how to dress for success, spiritual success.
5. The Christian life involves replacement
This brings us to a very important topic. How do people change? How do people change their behavior? How do they change? Many people do not know the answer to that question. It involves replacement and there are several examples of this in the text.
First, you replace Satan with Jesus. Before we were saved, we followed the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). Now we follow Jesus. After describing how the world lives in Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul says, “But 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” (Ephesians 4:20-21 NIV).
A changed life begins by coming to know Christ personally. That is how it starts. He doesn’t say, “You have not so learned ABOUT Christ.” He says, “You have not so learned Christ.” Many learn about Christ but never learn Christ. They never know him personally. When you get saved, you have to have a personal encounter with Jesus. That is what salvation involves. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they KNOW you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV).
Learning Christ is a little different from learning physics or chemistry. It is a little different than learning just information and facts about Jesus. We should have a Christ-centered education. We are all in the school of Christ. Jesus is our classroom. He is the subject of our teaching. You learned Christ.
Jesus is the theme of the whole Bible. In whom are hidden ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3 NIV). If we are a Christian, Jesus is our teacher. He is also the teacher. You heard Christ. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 NIV).
Second, we are to be renewed in our mind. We are to be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23). Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).
How do we do that? We replace all of the garbage we hear out in the world with the truth that we are told in God’s Word and renew our minds with God’s truth.
Three, we are to replace dirty clothes with clean clothes. We have to put some things off and put other things on. Before you can put clean clothes on, you have to take the dirty clothes. We have to do both. We have to take the dirty clothes of and we have to put clean clothes on. One is positive and one is negative. Paul mentions this in Ephesians and Colossians.
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. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 PUT ON then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these PUT ON love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:5-14 ESV)
The Replacement Principle
That brings us to a powerful principle that deals with the Christian life. It comes right out of this passage. It is called the replacement principle. Some people are all negative. They are all critical. They are all judgmental. Some preachers focus on the negative.
Some preachers are all positive but other preachers are all negative. They shout and scream at you. They give a list of don’ts. If you want to be spiritual, then don’t do this and don’t do that. Don’t cuss. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t have sex before marriage. Don’t go to movies. Don’t dance. Don’t play cards.
What’s wrong with that approach? Some of those things are not even wrong necessarily (drinking, dancing). It all depends on the context. They can be wrong but they are not always wrong but some of the things on that list are wrong (e.g., swearing, premarital sex).
Here is the problem. All of the experts will tell you that if you want to get rid of a bad habit, you can’t do it cold turkey. You cannot expect it to leave by sheer will power. It takes more than will power to change a bad habit. It takes more than will power to change an addiction.
To break a bad habit, you have to replace a bad habit with a good one. You have to replace it with something else. You can’t eliminate a bad habit without replacing it. You can’t do it in your own strength. You have to do it in the power of the Spirit who lives inside you.
God doesn’t just want certain things to be removed from your life. There are also things He wants put in. The Christian life is not just about abstaining or separating from certain influences. It’s about filling that void with something that glorifies God. This is something that we have to do repeatedly. It is not a one-time act. Paul gives some examples of the Replacement Principle right out of Ephesians 4.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)
We are to stop lying and start speaking the truth. We are to PUT OFF lying and to PUT ON honesty and truth-telling. Replacement!
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28 ESV).
We are to stop stealing other people’s things and start working for our own things. We are stop taking other people’s things and we are to start giving our own things to others. PUT OFF stealing and PUT ON sharing. Replacement!
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 ESV).
We are to stop using a foul mouth. We are to stop using our lips to curse and swear and start using them to praise God. We are to PUT OFF bad words and we are to PUT ON good words. Bad language needs to be replaced with God’s language.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV).
We are to stop being mean, nasty and angry and to start being kind, gentle and tenderhearted to people. We are to PUT OFF bitterness and holding grudges. We are to PUT ON forgiveness. Replacement!