Now This I Say and Testify in the Lord

Ephesians 4:17-24
March 3, 2019
Abraham Hong

 

Sometimes people think about the past. And sometimes people believe that their lives back then were better than their lives right now. Sometimes people have a longing or an affection for how things once were. And sometimes people wish that they could go back.

Psychologists have a word for this. The word is nostalgia. Nostalgia can be described as a remembering of the good old days. A sentimentality for the past. A dream of a life that was once simple and carefree. Nostalgia.

It’s a very real and powerful thing. And a lot of it comes down to our childhood experiences. We miss the feeling of playing outside with our friends in the summertime until the setting of the sun. We miss the idea of having sleepovers. We miss the almost religious ritual of Saturday morning cartoons (or whatever it was that you did every Saturday morning).

It’s nice to think about these things. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with being nostalgic. But there is one thing that believers in Christ are not nostalgic about. We are not nostalgic about our old selves. We are not nostalgic about our former manner of life. We are not nostalgic about who we once were apart from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In today’s portion of Scripture, our Lord commands us that we are not to walk in the way that we once walked. And our Lord declares to us that the old self has been put off and the new self has been put on.

We need to hear this. And the reason why is because we might be tempted sometimes to think that our lives back then without Christ were better than our lives right now with him. We might fall into moments sometimes of longing or affection for sin and disobedience and rebellion against God. We might sometimes consider all the suffering and persecution that comes our way as a result of our faith in Jesus and dream of a life that was once simple and carefree.

Brothers and sisters, this kind of nostalgia really happens. And it is not good.

A vivid example of this kind of nostalgia is the story of the Israelites in Numbers 11. God brought his people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And he was leading them through the wilderness to a land of promise (this was all a beautiful picture of our salvation in Christ and the promised new heavens and new earth). So the Israelites had a brand new life. They were no longer slaves. They were free.

But the very sad and insane thing is that they did not like their brand new life. And instead, they grew nostalgic for their life of old. They wept and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” And with that, the Israelites, in a moment of sadness and insanity, actually wanted to go back to Egypt, back to a life of slavery.

Brothers and sisters, this kind of nostalgia really happens. Store owners who repent and believe in Jesus Christ might miss the profitability of having their businesses opened on Sundays. Married folks who are united with Christ might miss the idea of being single, without realizing that they are actually missing the idea of being self-centered, self-serving and self-loving. College students who are trying to make things happen in their campus ministries might miss their days in youth group when there was much less drama and conflict with people. Sons or daughters who are drastically disowned by their families because of their repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ might miss their home. Brothers and sisters, you might go through things like this in your life. Perhaps some of you right now are having this kind of nostalgia in your life.

But dear church, you cannot go back. You cannot go back to your old ways, to your old life, to your old self. And the next several sentences are probably the most important sentences in this sermon. When I say that you “cannot” go back, I’m not saying that you must not go back. I’m not first giving you a command. When I say that you “cannot” go back, I’m saying that you are not able to go back. I’m first giving you a truth.

You cannot go back to your old ways, to your old life, to your old self… because you are dead to sin. Because you are alive to God in Christ Jesus. You are a new creation. You cannot go back because you have received a different walk, a different journey and a different destination. Everything is different now for you. You cannot go back because you are with God now and he has given you a new heart. You cannot go back because your old self has been put off, because your spirit of your mind has been renewed, and because you have put on the new self. You cannot go back because you have learned Christ. You know him. You are united with him. And he loves you.

The word nostalgia comes from two greek words: nostos and algos. Nostos means “return home.” Algos means “pain.” So the word nostalgia literally means homesickness. If we go with this dictionary definition, then a fascinating thing happens when we know that cannot go back. Our homesickness of the past is put in reverse. And now instead of being homesick about the past, we become homesick of the future. We think more and more about the future. And we believe that our lives in the future will be much better than our lives right now. We more and more have a longing and an affection for how things will be. And more and more we wish that we could go there.

The Bible has several words for this. Faith. Heavenly-mindedness. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Dear Highland, let us be nostalgic and sentimental about a time that we do not yet know and a place that we have not yet seen. Let us dream of a life without sin or death or tears or pain. Let us be homesick for our true and final home. And even though you and I have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ in the individual sense, the church has already witnessed him in his life and death and resurrection and ascension in the corporate sense. And now we are waiting for his “return.” Therefore, we do miss Jesus. We are homesick for him. And, I dare say, he is homesick for you too.

End


Summary of Sermon

Our Lord commands us not to walk in the way that we once walked. And our Lord declares to us that the old self has been put off and the new self has been put on.

We are not to be nostalgic about our old selves, about our former manner of life, or about who we once were apart from Christ.

We need to hear this. We might be tempted to think that our lives back then without Christ were better than our lives right now with him. We might fall into moments of longing or affection for sin, disobedience and rebellion against God. We might consider suffering and persecution that comes our way as a result of our faith in Jesus and dream of a life that was once simple and carefree.

But we cannot go back. This is not just a command. This is a truth. We are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. We are a new creation. We have a different walk and destination. We are united with Christ and we have learned him.

Let us instead be homesick of what lies ahead for us. Let us be nostalgic and sentimental about a time that we do not yet know and a place that we have not yet seen. Let us dream of a life without sin or death or tears or pain. Let us be homesick for our true and final home. And let us be homesick for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

Nostalgia is a longing or affection for the past. What are some people, places or things in the past that bring nostalgia to you?

Believers in Christ may be tempted to think that their lives without Christ were better than their lives with him. In what ways has this kind of nostalgia challenged you in your walk with the Lord?

The word nostalgia literally means “homesickness.” In what ways can we grow in greater homesickness for the Lord Jesus Christ and the new heavens and new earth?

Our Lord commands us not to walk in the way that we once walked. And our Lord declares to us that the old self has been put off and the new self has been put on. What are some things that God is calling you to walk away from? What are some things that God is calling you to put off and put on in your life?