On Feb 8, 2015, pastor Darin preached from Eph 4:17-32, Learning Christ.
In this text, Paul gets into a controversial truth: when you come to faith in Christ by God’s grace, you will by necessity change. The grammar of this is of eternal significance––get it wrong and we perish: we change because Christ has saved us--Christ doesn't save us because we have changed. To paraphrase the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, we are saved through faith alone in Christ alone apart from works; however, we are not saved by a faith that is alone: there will be a necessary change in your life when you receive Christ—you will not and cannot be the same. And Paul insists that this change is not optional, and he shows how God works in your whole person over time to bring about change in three areas:
1) Your thoughts: v. 17 - Paul says we must not (he insists!) live as Gentiles (unbelievers) with minds of futility (thoughts characterized by meaninglessness).
2) Our actions: v. 19 – our lives should be characterized by a thirst for purity, not impure sensuality.
3) Our desires: v. 22 – God is at work to change our desires and to turn from deceitful desires that promise good, but end in lasting bitterness. In his Screwtape letters, CS Lewis shares the dialogue between a demon and his nephew Wormwood and their strategy to use deceitful desires and pleasures that give "An ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure…"
With these things in mind then, the main idea of the sermon is that our lives must reflect the change that necessarily comes to those who believe in Jesus. There are 3 things to see about the change God wants to bring about in our lives:
1. What this change look like
a. Verses 25–32 describe life in relationship with others played out in community: 1) not falsehood, but speak truth; 2) angry, but not sin; 3) no corrupting (rotten) talk, but edification and giving grace; 4) not bitterness and malice to one another, but live a life marked by kindness and giving and receiving forgiveness. Dig deeper: Paul doesn’t just tell us to stop doing the wrong things, but to stop and replace them with the right things.
b. Verse 25 - we are members of one another. Paul wants to see members of the church live this way. Dig deeper: You were created for community, therefore you must resist isolation and be intentional in connecting to community.
2. Why this change is so hard
a. Verses 26–27 – When we allow anger to govern to us, refuse to forgive others, etc., we give a strategic foothold to the devil and his minions to wreak havoc in our lives—unresolved anger invites demonic activity in our lives. An ancient Jewish commentary puts it well: “Anger and falsehood together are a double-edged evil.”
b. Verse 30 – do not grieve the Holy Spirit – When we are cavalier about change and want to walk in anger and bitterness, change is very hard. Dig deeper: The way we combat evil is by working for resolution. How? See Phil 2:12-13 – God works in us by His Spirit to give us an influx of His grace for this. We must not resist.
c. Christian growth in its essence is when your desires become aligned with the Holy Spirit’s desires. We delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). God’s change culminates in a change of desires. Dig deeper: examine your desires and renounce ungodly ones, and pray for godly ones, and then walk in them.
3. Where do we get the power for this change?
a. Verse 32 – forgive as God forgave us in Christ – the power for change comes through the power of Christ and His work on the cross which is poured out upon our lives. In our daily lives as Christians, we keep going back to the cross and appropriate by grace through faith in Christ the forgiveness we have in Him, and He works in us to change us so that we mirror Christ and become more like Him, truly and authentically forgiving others as we have been forgiven in Christ.
b. Conclusion: It all goes back to the Gospel. As we contemplate the person and work of Jesus, we begin to say: “I can’t believe how much You forgave me!” “I am amazed by Your grace and mercy toward me!” “I want to live in a way that pleases You!” When that comes over you, you are empowered to live the life of change that God outlines in our passage.