You Must No Longer Walk as the Gentiles Do

Ephesians 4:17-24
March 10, 2019
Abraham Hong

 

As we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we prepare for the kingdom of the new heavens and new earth, we are comforted by a most wonderful truth: We cannot lose our salvation. God saved us. God will persevere us to the end. Our salvation belongs to him and him alone. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, we cannot totally or finally fall away from the state of grace. In the spirit of Romans 8, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. What a wonderful truth. When all of this is over, we will surely see Christ face to face. There is absolute certainty and assurance and conviction and hope for us who are believers in Christ. Nothing can change this. Because God is God. Praise be to our God!

But we who are believers in Christ can fall into grievous sins. This is a very sad and difficult truth to face. As we wait for the return of our King, we can be tempted by the enemy or by the world to disobey the commands of our Lord. Sadly, there may be times in our lives when we walk in our old non-Christian ways. Sadly, there may be times when we go back to our former manner of life, a life without the Lord Jesus Christ.

But Jesus loves us. And, this morning, he speaks to us clearly, personally and directly. Our King tells us that we must no longer walk as the Gentiles do. The word “Gentiles” works in this text as a poetic synonym for non-believers. It’s poetic because Paul’s letter was addressed to the church in Ephesus, who were still Gentiles in terms of their blood but no longer Gentiles in terms of their walk. Dear brother or sister in Christ, Our Lord Jesus says to you this morning that you must not walk as non-believers walk.

We need to hear this. The reason why Paul takes the time to describe the heart, the mind and the will of the non-believer is because we can fall back into non-believer tendencies in our lives. So let us consider the heart, the mind, and the heart of the non-believer. And let us pay attention to our hearts and minds and wills as we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and prepare for the kingdom of the new heavens and new earth

First, brothers and sisters, pay attention to your heart. The non-believing heart is hard and callous. Do not go back to a heart like this.

When you first learn how to play the guitar, your fingers hurt like crazy. The reason why is because the guitar strings rub and dig into your fingertips when you push down on them to make chords. But if you keep playing that guitar, then eventually your fingertips start to get calloused. The skin starts to get thicker and harder. Your fingers start to get used to it. For some it looks ugly and for others it looks cool. And soon enough, there is no more pain when you play.

If you like to play the guitar, then having callouses on your fingers is a good thing. But if you have learned Christ, then having callouses on your heart is a terrible thing. A heart that is hard is a heart that is not sensitive to sin. There is no sharp pain when a person knows that he or she has disobeyed the Lord. There is only thickness and numbness and stubbornness. And you kind of just get used to sin. This is a very bad thing.

Do not go back to this. Do not go back to the old way of having a heart that is hard. Listen to this good news. God has given you a new heart. He removed your old heart of stone. And he gave you a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). So be thankful. But also be warned. Take good care of yourself so that you will not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Do not harden your hearts before God (Hebrews 3:14-15).

Second, brothers and sisters, pay attention to your mind. The non-believing heart is futile, dark and ignorant. Do not go back to a mind like this.

In Acts 17, there is a story about Paul and his visit to the city of Athens. Athens was a city of great learning and philosophy. But when Paul spoke about the gospel of Christ, the Athenians didn’t understand him. Some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” And others mocked Paul when he talked about the resurrection. There was a futility of their minds. There was an emptiness and a foolishness and a lack of satisfaction in their minds as they attempted to make sense of everything and determine truth on their own. There was also a darkness in their understanding of things. The eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22-23). If you have the truth of the gospel, then there is light in your life. But if you do not have the truth of the gospel, then there is darkness in your life. They did not have the truth of the gospel of Christ. And finally there was also an ignorance in them. But this ignorance is not due to a lack of knowledge. This ignorance is a willful and sinful ignorance. For what can be known about God is plain to them. And they are without excuse. But when they hear the truth of God, they suppress it. They reject it. They ignore it (Romans 1:18-20). All of this is a very bad thing.

Do not go back to this. Do not go back to the old way of having a mind that is futile, dark and ignorant. Listen to this good news. Our minds are being renewed (Romans 12:2). Our minds are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). And God has made you all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5). By God’s grace and love… we know the truth, and the truth has set us free (John 8:32). And finally, the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:22). What you know and believe in your mind about the salvation of Lord is ultimate wisdom. So be thankful. But also be challenged. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Third and finally, brothers and sisters, pay attention to your will. The non-believing will is given up to sensuality and greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Do not go back to a will like this.

A will that is given up is a will that walks toward sin instead of walking away from sin. It is a will that just doesn’t care anymore. It is a will that doesn’t put up a fight. It is a will that is falling deeper and deeper into a downward spiral of sinfulness. A will that enjoys sensuality is a will that is committed to sexual immorality and falls for the temptation for the lusts of the flesh. A will that is greedy to practice every kind of impurity is a will that delights in lawlessness and unholiness. All of this is a very bad thing.

Do not go back to this. Do not go back to the old way of having a will that is given up to sensuality and greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Listen to this good news. You may admit what Paul admitted in Romans 7, when he says, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” But Paul declares, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” In other words, God helps us. God helps you (Romans 7:24-25). The Lord gives you the will to do his will. And the Holy Spirit dwells in you. And his fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and… self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22-23). God strengthens you so that you can indeed love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). So be thankful. But also get fired up to do good works. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).

Highland, let us be a church that has soft and fresh hearts. Let us be a church that has minds filled with the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. Let us be a church who has the will to fight the good fight and do good works.

At the end of the day, this is about walking. As we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we prepare for the kingdom of the new heavens and new earth, we walk. And so we have these questions. Where are you walking to? And who are you walking with? If you are walking in the counsel of the wicked, if you walk without Christ, then stop. Turn around. And go to Christ - either for the first time, or for the countless time. If you are walking in the way of the righteous, if you walk with the Lord, then keep going. Don’t turn around. And whether you’re taking your first steps of faith or you’ve been at it for years and years, praise the Lord.

And remember that we walk by faith, not by sight. We are strangers and exiles on the earth. But we see and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Walk well, brothers and sisters.

End


Summary of Sermon

We who are believers in Christ can fall into grievous sins. Sadly, we might go back to our former manner of life and walk in our old non-Christian ways.

But Jesus loves us. He tells us that we must not walk as non-believers walk. And he brings to our attention our hearts, minds and wills.

First, let us pay attention to our hearts and not go back to hearts that are hard and callous. Let us be sensitive to sin. For God has given us new hearts.

Second, let us pay attention to our minds and not to back to minds that are futile, dark and ignorant. Let us know the truth and the wisdom of Christ and his salvation. For God renews our minds.

Third, let us pay attention to our wills and not go back to wills that are given up to sensuality and greedy to practice every kind of impurity. Let us strive for holiness and obedience. For God strengthens our wills.

This is about walking. May we walk well. Where are you walking to? Who are you walking with? May we walk in the way of the righteous. May we walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions for Discussion & Sharing

We who are believers in Christ can fall into grievous sins. What are some temptations to sin that we face as we wait for the return of Christ our King?

The Lord brings to our attention our hearts, minds and wills. In what ways might your heart, mind and will look more non-Christian than Christian? In what ways do the glorious truths of the gospel of Christ encourage you to grow specifically in your heart, mind and will?

At the end of the day, this is about walking. Where are you walking to? Who are you walking with?