Ephesians 4:17 NET So I say this, andinsist in the Lord, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in theirunderstanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.
19 Because they are callous, they havegiven themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn aboutChrist like this, 21 if indeed you heard abouthim and were taught in him, just as the truth is in Jesus.
22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in thespirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the newman who has been created in Gods image — in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.
25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood,each one of you speak the truth with hisneighbor, (Zec 8:16) for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin;(Psalm 4:4) do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 27 Do not give the devil an opportunity.
28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need. 29 You must let no unwholesomeword come out of your mouth, but only whatis beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those whohear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, andevil, slanderous talk. 32 Instead, be kind toone another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. 5:1 Therefore, be imitators of God asdearly loved children 2 and live in love, justas Christ also loved us and gave himself forus, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
Christians are to live worthily of the callingby being different from the world around us. Paul‟s challenge calls Christians to holyliving in their minds, speech and attitudes.
What is it about American society in general that has led to the creation of certain sub- cultures; certain „counter-cultures‟ through the years? In the 1920‟s there were the flappers whose outrageous dress andprovocative dancing embarrassed the older generations.
In the 1950‟s there were the greasers who sought to be different by rocking to Elvis Presley, riding loud Harley Davidsons,slicking their longer than normal hair back with some sort of oil and generally frightening any man with a daughter old enough to go out on dates!
In the 1960‟s there were the „flower children‟ who sought to be different by sticking flowers in their hair, tie-dying their brightly colored t-shirts, sowing American flags tothe seats of their faded blue jeans, listening to the Beatles, growing their hair even longer and promoting „love‟ not war.
The 1970‟s saw counter-cultural movements such as disco; the 1980‟s-break dancing; the 1990‟s gangsta rap, and on and on and on. What‟s so interesting about each of those movements within our popular culture isthat in their beginnings they were extremely counter-cultural, yet when we look backover those periods of time, they sometimes define the culture.
Its hard to sustain a purely counter-cultural movement, because just as soon as itreaches a certain popularity, it has become so cultural that it is no longer „different‟ or counter cultural. Are you with me?Well, I say all of that to ask this: What hasbecome the norm in our culture and wheredo we as Christians fit in? Are we „cultural‟ or „counter-cultural?‟
This is what Paul is interested in, in the text this morning. We‟ve been looking at Paul‟sletter to the Ephesians. Last week he turned from discussing a theology of the church to its implications for the Christian. Ephesians 4:1 NET I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called,
Literally, that‟s “walk worthy of God‟s call.” In other words, “You are Christians, so livelike it!” And the first thing he mentioned, live worthily of the calling by preserving unity among fellow Christians!”That is SO important for the body of Christ! There are not hundreds or thousands oflittle bodies of Christ scattered all over the place, NO!
There is one body of Christ, parts of whom meet in different locations because ofgeography, but there should be unity among them, a spirit of love & cooperation! And in today‟s text, Paul continues the same train of thought and says, “LIVEWORTHILY OF THE CALLING BY BEING DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD!”
17 So I say this, and insist in the Lord, thatyou no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. 19 Because they are callous, they have given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
What more horrible picture could be paintedof the meaning of life than Paul does here?“Futility of their thinking”; “darkened in their understanding”; “ignorance”; “hardness of their hearts”; “they are callous”; “given themselves over to indecency for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness!”
Isn‟t this an accurate picture of life withoutGod? And it may as well have been written today instead of 2,000 years ago. It looks just like a snapshot of the 21st century.It strikes me that a lot of Christians get up inarms about the current state of affairs in our world.
Prayer has been taken out of our schools, the ten commandments aren‟t allowed onthe walls, a sixteen year old girl has to have a permission slip to go on a field trip with her class but in some states can get an abortion without even informing a parent, schools can give kids condoms or teachIslam, but can‟t mention Jesus or give them Bibles.
SURE, all of these things are bad . . .they‟re horrible! Our world is really messed up! No doubt about it! But my question is: why are we surprised that the world is behaving like the world? Aren‟t we told in the Bible that the world is in the control ofthe evil one? We‟re even warned that while we have to live in the world, Christians are not to be OF THE WORLD!
Why not? Because we‟re supposed to beDIFFERENT! Folks, the world is going to bethe world! Now, I don‟t mean that Christians shouldn‟t do what we can to change thatwith our influence, but it‟s a reminder of just how desperately our world needs Jesus! The bottom line: this horrible picture is a typical picture of a people that don‟t know Jesus!
Paul‟s message is clear: Life without Jesus is just meaningless! The thinking of the Gentiles was „to no end‟; futile, pointless, meaningless! The wise old teacher ofEcclesiastes understood this thought well. Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterlymeaningless! Everything is meaningless." 3 What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the seais never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 Whathas been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.He seemed to make it his life‟s ambition to seek meaning for his life.
As you flip through the pages of Ecclesiastes you see that he looked in many places: he sought meaning inwisdom, in pleasures, in work, in riches & on and on. But, in the end, this is how he concludes. Ecclesiastes 12:10 NIV The Teacher searched to find just the rightwords, and what he wrote was upright and true. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmlyembedded nails—given by one Shepherd.
12 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study weariesthe body. 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear Godand keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. In the end, the wise old teacher could only find meaning in God! Where are you seeking to find meaning for your life? We look in all kinds of different places even today, don‟t we?
Wisdom of men? Doing what makes ushappy? Our jobs? Status? Wealth? That‟s still where the world is looking. But as Christians perhaps our reaction to thingslike this in the world, shouldn‟t be “Oh my,the world is going to hell in a handbasket!”as much as it should be “Oh, how sad that someone would live this way not knowing Jesus. What can I do to live counter- culturally & to share with them the good news of a better way?”
Because, as Christians, we know... 20 But you did not learn about Christ like this, 21 if indeed you heard about him and were taught in him, just as the truth is inJesus. 22 You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires,
23 to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and to put on the new man who has been created in Gods image — in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.Now, we‟ve got to understand that knowing Jesus is more than knowing „about Jesus‟, about just knowing the facts! Itsabout RELATIONSHIP; about knowing him personally!
That‟s why he came to Earth in the flesh. God had already given us the facts about himself through the Old Law, but in Jesus we have the opportunity to actually knowhim first hand! The “truth” is not facts about Jesus rather the truth is Jesus. Jesus replied, "I am the way, and the truth, andthe life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NET We CAN know truth by knowing Jesus!
Knowing Jesus makes all the difference! Itis transforming; life-changing! We put off the old, cast it aside to put on the new! We no longer walk in the ways we used to walk, that path led to death & destruction! Paul said it this way to the Romans, Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God — what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NET
Some years ago, young kids were goingcrazy for a group of teenage super-heroescalled the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The TV show was a hit based on a Japanese series. Their appeal was that, while ordinary teenagers by day, when called upon, they could transform themselves into powerful martial arts experts for justice.
They would cry, “It‟s morphin time!” By theway, a form of that word “morph” is the veryGreek word (Metamorphoo) that Paul usedin Romans which mean transformation! It‟s not just kids who want to „morph‟ is it? We, too, are to be changed, to be transformed, to “morph” from our former way of life into something new, something different! Servants & representatives of Jesus Christ!
Well, what does this new life look like? It is COUNTER-CULTURAL!25 Therefore, having laid aside falsehood,each one of you speak the truth with hisneighbor, (Zec 8:16) for we are members of one another.Truth DOES matter, especially to a peopleliving in community like the people of God!
Why should we be truthful? Because Paulsays, we are members of one another! Thatmakes sense, doesn‟t it? Communities are built upon mutual reliance. How can we becommunity, be unified, if we can‟t trust, rely on, be there for one another? How can we lean on each other for the spiritualencouragement that we need as Christians, if we can‟t trust each other?
26 Be angry and do not sin; (Psalm 4:4) do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 27 Do not give the devil an opportunity. Anger, in and of itself is not wrong, sometimes we need to get angry! Christians need to be angry at some ofthose things I mentioned that is going on in the world.
Paul knows that anger is one of those emotions which can take hold and overcome us if we let it, like a cancer that infects our soul, and if not removedimmediately can spread and overtake other, healthier parts of our souls, eventually rotting our spirits from the inside out! So, Paul says, take care of your anger BEFORE you give the devil this foothold in your life! Don‟t let it fester!
28 The one who steals must steal no longer; rather he must labor, doing good with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with the one who has need.Notice WHY Paul says a person is to work. Not just so he won‟t be a drain onothers, but so that he might be able to help provide for others!
That‟s certainly counter-cultural: the thief is to become the philanthropist! But a transformed life no longer lives in totaldependence upon others; but seeks to give to others. 29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Like James also says, our mouths, our tongues, our words, are indeed powerful weapons. James 3:8 NET But no humanbeing can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. The word “unwholesome” is also used to describe spoiled fish (Mat 13:48) or rottingfruit, (Mat 12:33) it is “Bad”, “foul” and we may understand it in terms of foul language.
I think it may be better understood asDESTRUCTIVE language; words that hurt. Why? Because Paul‟s concern is that ourlanguage is beneficial for the building up of the one in need; that it give grace to thosewho hear us! How many of us consider how our words might hurt, BEFORE we say them? James says that while men havetamed lots of wild beasts, “no human being can subdue the tongue.”
Notice that this whole list has been about a people living in Christian community with one another! Our lives affect others & our transformed lives should build up others!30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 You must put away everykind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk.
These things hurt the Spirit of God! They grieve Him! They cause him to weep overour sins; over the way we treat one another with bitterness. etc.! 32 Instead, be kind to one another,compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.
Seems to me that this is a key component,not only of living in Christian community, butof preserving the unity that we talked about last week. We‟re not only to be kind to one another,not only to bear with one another, or “put up with one another,” we forgive one another. Given what God has forgiven us of, how could we NOT forgive each other?
5:1 Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children 2 and live in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave himself forus, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. Our character is to be modeled after our Father. Leviticus 19:2 NIV “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them:‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
And again, Paul mentions the underlying, foundational motivation for it all: LOVE. Welive this way because of what God has done for us in Christ. He loved us so much! For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so thateveryone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NET That‟s Certainly A Counter-Cultural way oflife. Life with Jesus is to be Distinct from the world!
Is your life TRULY DISTINCT from the World? Truly Christlike? Do you promote truth & integrity in all that you do, in every area of your life like Jesus did? Are you a person others can trust? Do you treat others differently, like Jesusdid? Do you use your words differently, like Jesus would have you? Do you readily forgive, like Jesus does?
Do you show love, not hate in your actions, like Jesus did? Do you give rather than take, like Jesus does? Do you walk tothe beat of a different drum, that of Jesus‟? The truth is that for all of us, if we put ourlives side by side with Jesus, we all fall wayshort! But God is transforming us more and more into the image of His Son, or at leastthat is his goal. Have you been letting him?
If you don‟t know Jesus, or have a personal relationship with him, you need to. Will you to come to him this morning, turning away from your former way of life and wanting to put on the new man by being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins! If we can encourage or pray for you in any way, please let those needs be known by responding & coming forward during this invitation song.