The New Me
The New Me
In Ephesians 4:11-16 the Holy Spirit sets out before us an excellent path that will result in:
- Maturity and personal growth: 4:13,15
- Unity and solidarity with other likeminded believers: 4:13
- Real and useful knowledge that will benefit us, not only for the rest of our lives, but for eternity as well: 4:13
- Stability on a foundation of truth that does not change: 4:14-15
- A life lived in the context of love, even patient love for opponents: 4:15
- Fulfilling my purpose here: 4:16
- Becoming an important and necessary part in the family of God: 4:16
“So this I say”: 4:17
Paul resumes the exhortation that is mentioned at the beginning of this chapter (4:1-3) and reminds all of us that Jesus is speaking through him (“affirm together with the Lord”). Paul is speaking to Christians who had been in the world (2:1-3), and reminds them and us that the world outside of Christ is acting out what are futile thoughts.
“In the Futility of their Mind”: 4:17
“What is immediately noteworthy is the apostle's emphasis on the intellectual factor in everybody's way of life. He thus refers to their empty minds. Scripture bears an unwavering testimony to the power of ignorance and error to corrupt, and the power of truth to liberate (John 8:32), ennoble and refine” (John Stott, p. 175-176). One's conduct is determined by what one really believes in their own mind (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 7:20-23). Hopefully most of us have learned the lesson that the thoughts we allow to live in our minds are not just harmless and inert things. What we think will ultimately determine how we treat others, whether or not we take care of ourselves, how we treat a spouse, how we raise children, and where we will end up in eternity.
“Darkened in their Understanding”: 4:18
This would include being clouded in our discernment and judgment.
“Excluded from the Life of God”: 4:18
“Cut off from” (TCNT). “Having no share in” (Wey). Compare with Ephesians 2:12; Colossians 1:21. This was a self-caused alienation (Ephesians 2:1-3; 4:19). They were not born alienated from God. If you do not have Jesus, then you do not have Life (John 14:6). Being cut off from God involves also being cut off from all His spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), including His mercy, forgiveness and grace. This is a real scary place to be.
“Because of the ignorance… because of the hardness”: 4:18
Barclay reminds us, “No man becomes a great sinner all at once. At first he regards sin with horror. When he sins, there enters into his heart remorse and regret. But if he continues to sin there comes a time when he loses all sensation and can do the most shameful things without any feeling at all. His conscience is petrified” (p. 152-153).
- Remember, ignorance can be chosen (Romans 1:28).
- Another way of describing a hard heart would be to call it a closed mind. A mind closed to the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible or the truthfulness of what Jesus did and taught.
“And they, having become callous”: 4:19
Observe that these individuals were not born past feeling, rather over time they had “become” like this. Whether or not we remain people who are sensitive to truth and to the needs of others depends upon what we value. If we value only ourselves and instant pleasure, we will become insensitive people. I need to remember that when I run into someone who is callous, such is not a genetic or personality trait, as if some people are just naturally born callous and another’s are born with sensitive hearts. Rather, when I encounter someone who is past feeling, I am in the presence of someone who has made themselves such.
- In the Old Testament God spoke of those who could no longer blush (Jeremiah 3:3; 6:15; 8:12).
- Being past feeling is not merely someone who is crude and vulgar, it can also include the person who is simply apathetic to spiritual truth or a relationship with God.
- We live in a world where people attempt to sell us on the idea that while they do not serve God, they are still very caring, sensitive people with tender hearts. What I have found is that the longer you are around such people, the real picture emerges. They will do things for others, but there is a hardness that is developing in their lives at the same time. Such reminds me of a book I was reading recently in which the author was sending money to help bail out his friend who was caught transporting illegal drugs and at the same time expressing his anger toward middle-aged American tourists in RV’s, saying that they all deserved to die.
- Sadly, we often think that being callous only applies to someone who is a killer. Yet being insensitive to God and His truths is a far more accurate definition of being callous.
- Jesus noted the same truth. Being a great friend and helping those who help you isn’t any real proof that you are a caring or sensitive person, even sinners do as much (Matthew 5:47).
“Have Given Themselves Over To”: 4:19
Here we see the process by which one becomes dull or hardened to spiritual realities.
- Becoming hardened is a choice and it happens when we simply allow or give ourselves permission to yield to sinful and selfish desires any time we want.
- Basil defined the word “sensuality” as “a disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline.” “Vice that throws off all restraint and flaunts itself, unawed by shame or fear, without regard for self-respect, for the rights and feelings of others, or for public decency” (Bruce, p. 356). Observe how once a person starts down the road of “I want to do what I want to do”, or “pleasure is the end-all of my life” that “every kind of impurity” is possible. As a result our potential to go deep into sin and depravity should scare us, and keep us very close to God and far from the edge.
- Once we go down the road of instant gratification, “I want to feel good right now, I don’t want to wait”, we are unleashing a monster that will not be satisfied, no matter how much pleasure we feed it. We will greedily devour people, relationships, time, money and everything else that stands in our way.
For a moment observe how the two roads described in this section end. One results in unity, community, stability, knowledge, truth, maturity and working for something that is much bigger than ourselves (4:16). On the other path, we end up isolated, self-absorbed, greedy, hardened, insensitive, and all into ourselves, which just happens to be a very dark place.
“But you did not learn Christ in this way”: 4:20
The life of self-indulgence is not the life that Jesus taught.
“Corrupted by the lusts of deceit”: 4:22
While the new life is all about honest self-examination and living in the light of God’s truth, the dangerous thing about the old life is that it is maintained by lies. The whole life rests upon a foundation of falsehoods.
“Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind”: 4:23
Yet, even after a life of darkness, the mind can be renewed. Notice the emphasis on the “spirit”. We can use our minds to manufacture a constant stream of dark and selfish thoughts. Or we can use our minds to think great and noble things (Philippians 4:8). The choice is ours. Renewal is within your reach!
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017