By Sandy Simpson
On November 25, 1895, a cornerstone of ice was laid in Leadville, Colorado, the beginning of the largest ice palace ever built in America. The town was not doing well financially; the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 had ended its glory days as a silver-mining center. In an effort to keep their city alive, the citizens staged a winter carnival. On New Year’s Day, 1896, the town turned out for the grand opening. The palace, which cost more than $40,000 and measured 450 feet long by 320 feet deep, covered more than three acres. The towers that stood at the entrance were 90 feet high. Inside was a 16,000-square-foot skating rink. But there was no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. The thousands of visitors who came to see the spectacle spent very little money because the ice palace and the hopes of the town melted away in a spell of warm weather. (Today in the Word, July, 1995, p. 7.)
Most of the time the thinking of man is futile, but we don’t recognize it until it becomes obvious. As Christians, we now understand that our thinking was futile until we were introduced to Jesus Christ and His Word.
Eph. 4:17 ¶ So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
Going back to the last study, Paul continues by saying that the grace gifts of servant leadership were given to guild up the body of Christ to maturity so that they would not be blown about by every wind of doctrine, but would be brought to unity of the Faith. This was taught to them and us so that we will no longer live like we did when we were sinners. Those who are living in sin without believing in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord have their minds darkened.
Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
This is talking about the universal human condition. The evidence of God is everywhere in creation, but people refuse to acknowledge God. Even further, they refuse to acknowledge His Son. But the problem Paul is addressing here is people who claim they follow Christ but live like the unsaved. This is particularly a problem today in the churches. Because many churches no longer preach the true Gospel and certainly don’t bring people to maturity in Christ, there are many who call themselves Christians who are not really saved to begin with. There is also another group according to the Bible. There are those who began as believers, but fall away in the time of testing or due to having their faith chocked out by the worries of this world.
Luke 8:13-14 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
They fall away. They do not mature. This is the problem Paul is addressing.
Eph. 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
Unrepentant sinners in the world do not understand reality. They are separated from God. Why? Because they have hardened their hearts. Even if God has convicted them of their sins they still choose to go their own way. We have free will and can choose to either repent of harden our heart toward God.
Hebrews 4:7 Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
God is not willing that any should perish, but they perish because they refuse to hear His voice, and instead harden their hearts. We need to be careful as believers that we do not return to the state of unbelief through hardening our hearts. That can happen and that is what Paul is warning against.
Eph. 4:19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Those who harden their heart have lost the sensitivity of their conscience that God gave them. Their conscience has been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 4:2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
When you burn your finger or any part of your body real bad, you lose the feeling in that part for a time until the body can repair itself. But if you sear your conscience there is no repair for it because how do you get back a good conscience? The only way is to repent and turn to Christ, but if your conscience is not operating you will never hear His voice.
Those whose consciences are seared don’t care about holiness or what is right, so they give themselves over to every disgusting sin that enters their minds. Not only that, they lust for more and more. This is always true for unbelievers, but those who claim to follow Christ can also give themselves over to sensuality. One way that is pervasive in our time is through looking at pornography on the Internet. I believe that this is a huge problem among the younger generation today. But indulging in this sin causes people to lust for more. It takes them further and further away from the Lord until there is no turning back. There are other enticements. Alcohol, drugs, sex, dirty movies, gambling, partying, fighting, sinful thinking, gossip, slander, false teaching, the love of money, the need for power. These are all deadly traps of the enemy that cause people to lust for more.
Eph. 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
When we come to know Christ, we come to know righteousness. It is not that we experience complete righteousness in ourselves immediately, but we come to know what righteousness is in Jesus Christ, and he imputes (credits, deposits, puts) his righteousness in our account. He then begins a process of sanctification, setting us apart to righteousness through the teaching of the Holy Spirit in our lives in very practical ways. We learn to avoid the traps of sensuality and follow the example of Christ.
Eph. 4:21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
Eph. 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
When we gave our lives to Christ, he taught us truth about ourselves. He continues to teach us truth. The first truth is that we are sinners saved by grace. We must immediately begin the process of putting off our old self. Our sin nature we are born into because of the sin of Adam and Eve that is passed down genetically and spiritually to every human being, is continually being corrupted by sensuality, our deceitful desires.
Why are desires “deceitful”? Because our desires fool us into thinking they are good, when they are really evil. This is probably the biggest area of temptation and deception of the devil. The devil never tempts people by making them feel bad. He tempts by making people “feel” good. But feeling good is not necessarily a good thing. All the things I listed above make people feel good. There are even things that have crept into the churches that make people feel good that are really deceitful desires. Things like being slain in the spirit, falling down, and experiencing all kinds of weird manifestations in your body. This feels good and is why many keep going back over and over again to experience them. But since slain in the spirit is not biblical, it is an opportunity of the devil to fool people who have given themselves over to their old self which is being corrupted by deceitful desires. Always keep in mind that the enemy tempts because he knows we have deceitful desires. He uses that avenue to gain control over us and take us away from the Lord, if we are believers. Guard against that. How do we guard against that? By putting on the armor of God. Paul covers that at the end of this letter.
Eph. 4:23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Eph. 4:24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
If you are saved you have been made new in your attitude of mind. That is the gift of God. We cannot do that on our own. He has to renew us, give us the new self. But notice that we must “put on the new self”. We must accept and wear that new self because as long as we live we still have the old self to contend with. There will be a constant struggle between the old self and the new self from God. So we must put that new self on daily. We must take up our cross daily and follow Christ, dying to the old self.
Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the
sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds
of the body, you will live,
Your new self, created by God, is created to be like God who is righteous and holy. We must put that new self on each day as we struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. But the Holy Spirit is there to help us and give us the strength to resist the devil, our sinful old self, and the temptations of the world.
Eph. 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Now Paul gets to the practical ways to put on the new self. Stop telling lies. This is a universal problem, as has become a universal problem in the churches. Christians pass around stories all the time that they have heard without checking to be sure they are true. They exaggerate and fabricate. They lie. But the Bible is quite clear that if you consistently live a life of lying you will be judged.
Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
Lying is listed last. This is significant. That is because every sin is usually tied to lying in some way. Lying to our neighbor, lying to God, lying to your self. We need to put on the new self that is in the Spirit of truth and deal truthfully with everyone, especially those in the body of Christ.
Eph. 4:26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
This is a lesson I learned early in my marriage. A few times when I was younger I used to go to bed angry after a fight with my wife. What that did was weaken my relationship to her. The Lord taught me that I needed to not go to bed angry. It can affect your relationships, your health and your spiritual life. Learn to forgive, tell the person you are sorry, and agree to work things out the next day. There is a place for righteous anger especially when it comes to injustice, false teaching, others being hurt physically, emotionally or spiritually. There is a time where it is right to be angry at what the devil is doing, angry for the sake of Christ. But it is not good to go to bed angry. Calm yourself. God will take care of the problem His way. Don’t be controlled by anger, especially if you find yourself hating people because of it. We are not to even hate our enemies.
Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Eph. 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
You can give the devil a foothold in your life through unresolved anger. But you can also give the devil a foothold in other ways. Anger is only one way to give the devil a foothold. What is a “foothold”? The best way to describe it would be in terms of a mountain climber. When you climb up mountains or cliffs you are constantly trying to find a good place to put your feet to hold you firmly in place. A bad foothold will crumble and maybe even send you to your death. A good foothold will keep your foot in place so you can continue to climb. It is the same with the devil. If he gets a good foothold in climbing your life, he can then continue to climb. You can give him that foothold by harboring unconfessed sins.
Eph. 4:28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
Paul gives very practical advice. To stop the devil from getting a foothold in your life through your stealing things, get a job. Then you can pay for the items you used to steal and even share with others. My daughter Carissa currently works at Macys. She has told me of how much stealing there is going on at their store. People are just walking out of the store left and right with merchandise but the employees are not allowed to stop them. By the time they get word to the security people the thief has usually already left. Shoplifting is a very big crime in the islands. But kids would be much less likely to shoplift if they had a job. It would take up their time, and they would have money to spend.
Eph. 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
This may be the #1 problem in the churches. Gossip. If you are talking about someone, check to see if you are doing so to put him or her down. If you are talking about someone, or someone shares with you, then it should be for the purpose of prayer or helping that person in some way, not to slander him or her behind his or her back. Slander behind people’s backs does not work for long in a small island because it isn’t long before it gets back to the person you were talking about. The problem is that by the time it gets back it has usually been blown out of proportion or changed. Did you ever play the game of forming a long line of people and having the first person whisper in the next person’s ear something like “John is going down to the river? Meet him there at his boat.” By the time this message gets whispered from person to person it usually comes out different on the other end … something like “Joan is running a fever. Greet her with a note.”
Be careful that what you say about others is for their benefit, not tearing them down. If a person needs rebuke for private sins, then speak to that person yourself if that is what God leads you to do. Public false teaching is another matter. We are to reject it and warn people publicly away from it. That is not gossip; it is obeying God’s Word. But talking about people behind their backs hypocritically can only give the enemy a foothold.
Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
By doing these kinds of things we not only give the devil a foothold, we grieve the Holy Spirit living in our new self. I believe that if we kept this in mind always, it would keep us from sin. Next time you are about to do something you know is sinful, think about the Holy Spirit living in you. We have to understand that the Spirit of Christ lives in us. We strain that relationship when we disobey Him. This is not something you want to do. The Lord is long suffering but there is a limit to his patience. I don’t know where that limit is but I have seen it in the lives of characters in the Bible as well as people I have known.
Eph. 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
So these are the types of sins we need to rid ourselves of. Yes, Christ will forgive our sins if we confess them. But we must confess them and repent of them, turn away from them. That is our job. He doesn’t say that God automatically gets rid of all our sins if we continue to commit them. Our sins are forgiven in Christ if we repent, but we must still turn from continuing in them. We must get rid of bitterness toward people. Bitterness leads to revenge. We must get rid of rage and anger. Anger that has turned to rage is not good anger. We must get rid of fighting. We must stop slandering people by gossiping about them. We must get rid of every form of malice. What is “malice? The dictionary defines it as:
… The intention or desire to cause harm (as death, bodily injury, or property damage) to another through an unlawful or wrongful act without justification or excuse.
… Wanton disregard for the rights of others or for the value of human life.
… An improper or evil motive or purpose.
Malice is then the end product of bitterness, rage, anger and brawling. What happens then is we can end up planning or carrying out harm against others. This is a big problem in the islands, and it all starts with bitterness and anger. If you continue in bitterness and anger you will give the enemy a foothold where he can get you to proceed to malice.
Eph. 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
So how can we put on the new self and avoid the pitfalls of those sins we just covered? By being kind and compassionate to one another. By forgiving one another just as Christ has forgiven us. One thing that struck me one time when I was listening to people in church pray the Lord’s Prayer was how dangerous it is to repeat that prayer without thinking. Think about it. We pray without thinking the words: forgive us our debts (or sins) as we forgive those who are in debt or sin against us. This is a dangerous prayer. We are giving God the condition that He can forgive us as we forgive others. I think we need to think clearly before we just easily pray this prayer without thinking. How many times do we not forgive others and yet expect God to forgive us? We need to practice what we preach. We need to do unto others what we expect God will do for us.