Main Text: Ephesians 4:17-24
17 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. 18 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. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 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.
As we continue our verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter study through the book of Ephesians, let’s remind ourselves of a few facts:
- Historians do not refute the life and death of the Apostle Paul.
- Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell to the early church in Ephesus.
- The Christians in Ephesus faced many of the same faith challenges that we do today.
- The beginning of Chapter 4 started a new theme for this letter. The first 3 chapters emphasize how we have been made new. From the beginning of Chapter 4 to the end emphasizes why we have been made new: to live new.
Since we have received salvation and every spiritual blessing in Christ, and since we have been made new and our identity is now first and foremost in Christ, therefore we must “walk in a manner worthy of the calling…” (Ephesians 4:1-6).
Sin is a struggle for anyone trying to follow the life and teachings of Jesus and who is committed to a relationship with Him. Paul was no exception. In Romans 7:15, he wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate”. Sin is rebellion against God and those in authority over us. We love to make the rules and live as if God doesn’t exist. We love to think we are the center of the universe. The problem is that the pleasure of sin is fleeting (Hebrews 11:25). Sin leads to physical and spiritual death. Sin separates us from each other and leads to broken relationships.
Sin is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives there is no way we can fix ourselves. God’s wrath towards us was a reality. Thankfully, in addition to God’s justice and wrath against sin, there is his incredible mercy and love for us. He sent His own son who died in our place for our sin and rose from the grave conquering Satan, sin and death, the adversaries lined up against us. When we ask Jesus to forgive our sin and to be in charge of our lives, our sin is taken away. We begin a relationship with God and we find our relationships with one another being restored.
The balance of our lives (after receiving Jesus) becomes enjoying God’s amazing love for us that we don’t deserve and doing the good works the Bible talks about in Ephesians 2:10. These are acts of thankful worship prepared by God in advance for us to do. We are to live lives of gratitude to God for his grace.
The problem is always sin
Is my sin warping my thinking? (verse 17) When we sin, it warps our mind. It twists our thinking . Sin leads to wrong thinking patterns. We start doing things that are blatantly wrong but in our minds we don’t see a problem. We justify our actions, habits, and hang-ups. We shift blame to others. How is your pressing sin warping your thinking? Is it making you think and do stupid things? Are you blinded to reality?
Is my sin darkening my mind? (verse 18) Not only does sin warp your thinking but it also darkens the thoughts of your brain. No one that is deep into an addiction though he or she would ever get there. You just started sinning, and sin drags your life into darker and deeper stuff. Soon what you consider normal is not what you would have considered normal only weeks or months before. Sin slides the line between right and wrong in your mind.
Think about the particular sin you wrestle with. How is it darkening your mind? How is it taking you to new and darker levels of sin? How is it taking what you clearly knew was wrong and making it acceptable in your mind? Sin does that. It darkens your thinking.
Is my sin separating me from God? (verse 18) When we sin, it separates us from God. Sin makes God feel distant. When we sin, we tend not to read our Bibles. When we sin, we find excuses to not go to church. When we sin, we try to avoid our Christian friends. When we sin, we are just like Adam and Eve and we hide from God. The more we sin, the more we avoid God. Is that true of your most urgent sin? Is the sin that the Holy Spirit brought to your mind today making you run from God? Does God feel distant?
Is my sin blinding me to its consequences? (verse 18) When we sin, we will suffer. Every sin has consequences built into it. The problem is that sin blinds us to its consequences. We only see the sin. We don’t see where it is leading. There is always cause and effect. How has your sin made you ignorant of its consequences? Where is it going? Sin blinds you to its end results. Do you see where it is leading?
Is my sin giving me a hard heart toward God and others? (verse 18) Sin leaves our hearts hard. We become stubborn. We won’t listen to others. We become un-teachable. We become intoxicated with our own desires and hardened towards the desires of the Spirit. We won’t forgive others or ask them to forgive us. Often we will not humble ourselves and admit we are wrong. Are you experiencing that?
Is my sin leaving me insensitive to the pain I am causing God and others? (verse 19) Sin makes us calloused. The word here literally means we lose the ability to feel pain. When we sin, at first we are heart-broken. We are grief-stricken. We can barely look at ourselves in the mirror. The conviction of the Holy Spirit just dominates our lives as we are broken and wounded. The longer we continue in sin, the duller we become to the Holy Spirit’s rebuke. The conviction of the Holy Spirit becomes a minor irritant, rather than a sharp pain.
Have you become insensitive to the pain you cause God through that sin? How has your sin left you insensitive and uncaring to the pain you are causing others that you love? Sin does that. It leaves us insensitive and uncaring. It is serious stuff.
Has my sin led me to lose control? (verse 19) The key word here is sensuality. This word is often used of sexual sins. It means to be controlled by our lusts. It means to lose control of our thoughts and impulses. It means to have no brakes in our lives and to be driven by pure instinct. Sin leads us to lose control of ourselves and to destroy ourselves. Martin Luther called sin the ultimate form of cannibalism. It is consuming yourself to death.
What about your sin? Are you now controlled by it rather than in control of it? Call it what it is, “my sin.” With Jesus, my sin can change.
The Solution is always Jesus (verse 20)
Do I know Jesus? (verse 21) The goal of our lives is to enjoy Jesus. It is to worship Jesus. It is to be satisfied in Jesus. It is to know and love Jesus. The goal isn’t to have lots of information about Jesus. James 2:19 tells us that even the demons have lots of information about Jesus. They have more information about Jesus than we do. They don’t submit to Jesus. They don’t love Jesus. They don’t want to be close with Jesus. The goal of life is not to be informed about Jesus but to be close to Jesus. It changes things.
There can be no victory over sin apart from Jesus. If you don’t know Christ, the Holy Spirit is not in your heart giving you affections for Christ that can be cultivated.
Am I growing in Jesus? (verse 21) If the goal of our lives is to be moral and have the basic information about Jesus, that would not be a bad answer. However, the goal of our lives is not to be moral. It is to be close to Jesus. Preaching the Gospel to ourselves is a necessity.
Am I letting go of my old lifestyle that leads me toward sin and replacing it with a new lifestyle that leads me toward Jesus? (verse 22-24) There is an old lifestyle we need to put off, and a new lifestyle we need to put on. It is like changing clothes. There are old clothes with holes and stains in all the wrong places and there are clean clothes we need to put on. Paul said we have to take off the old ways of thinking, our old habits and practices that lead us toward sin and replace them with new thinking habits and a lifestyle that leads us toward Christ.
Some things in our lives aren’t leading us toward sin but they are leading us to live ineffective and unproductive lives. The Bible tells us to be careful of wasting our lives this way (Ephesians 5:16; 2 Peter 1:8). Pursue Christ wholeheartedly.
Put on the new self!
Apply to Life
This week, as you reflect on the message, think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing and fellowship as you open God’s Word together.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Ephesians 4:17-24
How would you summarize Paul’s main emphasis in this section?
What does it mean to have ‘hardness of heart’ or to be ‘callous’ or to give ourselves up to what Paul lists in verse 19?
How have you experienced a hardness of heart in your life? What caused your heart to grow tender again?
Take a moment to share a time when you had to put off the ‘old self’ with its desires and put on the new self.
What does it mean that our new self is ‘created after the likeness of God’? How is this ‘new self’ really our intended self, according to God’s design?
Where else in Scripture do we see the idea of being created in the likeness of God?
What does it mean to be made in the likeness of God?
Reflect on your life: Do you live as though the Gospel is true? In what ways yes (rejoice in those) and in what ways no (repent of those). Take a moment to repent of sin, confess Jesus and praise God for what He has done in your heart and life through Christ.