Who Am I 8) I Am New

I Am New

Text: Ephesians 4:17-24

 

What were you once like? For some of us if we were to look back into our past all we’d see is just a younger version of ourselves. But for many of us what we once were is a lot different than we are today. A lot of things have changed in our lives. And the same can be true spiritually? How have you changed spiritually? What was the old you like before you met Jesus, and how have you changed since? Maybe you look back and all you see is someone who was spiritually less mature. Or maybe you look back and see someone who was spiritually lost, and now you’ve been found. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you look back and see how over the years your faith has slowly been ground away almost to nothing. As Paul looks at our spiritual condition he wants us to remember three things: Firstly there was an old you, and that old you keeps on trying to reassert itself. Secondly, in Christ you have been made new. And thirdly, you need to get rid of that old you and live the new life that you have in Christ. As Christians we aren’t just old broken people who have been forgiven, rather we have been made new, we are new people. The goal of this sermon is that you will be able to say ‘I am new! I’m not that person I used to be, and I’m not going to live like that person anymore, instead I’m going to live a new life!’

 

1) The Old You

So let’s start with the old you, because that’s where Paul starts.

a) I’m serious

Actually Paul starts with, ‘17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord... (Eph 4:17a)’ Paul wants us to listen to what he is about to say, in fact he insists on it. This is really important stuff. And he insists we listen based on two things. Firstly, his own authority, ‘It’s me Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who’s telling you this stuff!’ And if you don’t happen to be all that impressed with Paul’s credentials, he insists on the Lord’s authority. This stuff comes from Jesus Christ.

b) Don’t walk that way

So what is Paul so insistent about? He says, ‘17 …that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do... (Eph 4:17b)’ In the Greek it’s basically ‘no longer walk as the Gentiles walk.’ There are two ways of walking, you can walk God’s way, or you can walk the world’s way. You can walk according to the Spirit or you can walk according to the world. The Gentiles walk in a worldly way, and Paul is insistent, ‘Don’t walk that way!’ Don’t live the way they live.

c) It’s Foolish

So why shouldn’t we live the way Gentiles do? Why shouldn’t we walk that way? Well I want to be as blunt as possible, because it’s ffolish! Paul has six things to say about the way the Gentiles live.

i) Futile

Firstly, he talks about ‘17 …the futility of their thinking. (Eph 4:17c)’ Our old way of doing life, is futile. If you want a literal translation Paul is saying ‘Don’t live like these Gentiles because their minds are empty.’ This is the blank vacant look sort of way of doing life. It’s the ‘let’s not think too hard about what we’re doing or why!’ sort of living. It’s not that people don’t think, it’s just that they haven’t learnt the lesson of Ecclesiastes, that without God everything is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. All their thinking is a waste of time, it’s futile.

ii) Darkened

Secondly, Paul says, ‘18 They are darkened in their understanding… (Eph 4:18a)’ You all know the difference between light and dark don’t you. When it’s light you can see clearly, you can see the details, you can see a long way. But in the dark you can’t see clearly, everything seems indistinct, you can’t see what’s right in front of your nose. And that’s Paul’s point, they don’t understand because they can’t see, their minds are darkened. Elsewhere Paul tells us that ‘4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ... (2 Cor 4:4)’ There is a spiritual darkness that blinds these people, they are like people walking around in the dark, which isn’t too bright (excuse the pun).

iii) Separated

Thirdly, they are separated from God. Paul says, ‘18 …[they are] separated from the life of God… (Eph 4:18b)’ God created us to live in relationship with him, we are wired for God. And if we are plugged into God we receive eternal life, because God is the source of life. But if we are disconnected from God we face eternal death. There is nothing worse than being separated from God because it means being separated from life. Why would you want this old life? It’s not really life at all, it’s really the broad road to damnation. It’s not a smart way to live.

iv) Ignorant

Next, Paul calls them ignorant. The reasons they are separated from the life of God is ‘18 …because of the ignorance that is in them… (Eph 4:18c)’ When Paul calls the Gentiles ignorant he isn’t suggesting that it’s because they don’t know, but because they don’t want to know. In Romans 1 Paul says, ‘19 …what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Rom 1:19-20)’ God has made it crystal clear, but because of our sinfulness we ‘suppress the truth. (Rom 1:18)’ We choose ignorance instead of truth.

v) Hardened

Next, Paul calls them hardened. Their futile thoughts, their darkened understanding, their separation from God, their ignorance is all, 18 …due to the hardening of their hearts. (Eph 4:18d)’ The Greek word describes the process of petrification, of wood turning into stone. The Bible often talks about how people’s hearts become hardened against God (Ex 7:13; Zech 7:12; Mt 19:8). Again Paul wants us to see how foolish this life is. Like a kid who refuses to eat desert just to make a point, so we harden our hearts against God even though he has our best interests at heart. Even though God loves us we reject him. Even though God wants to save us and give us life, we prefer our brokenness, we prefer this body of death as Paul calls it in Romans 7. The old life was a life of hard-heartedness.

vi) Insensible

Finally, Paul calls them insensible. He says they have ‘19 …lost all sensitivity... (Eph 4:19a)’ This word describes the process of skin becoming calloused. In the same way our lives can become calloused. We see those images of starving children on the TV and it no longer breaks our heart. And the same is true of sin. It used to upset us when people blasphemed, but now we hear it all the time and it doesn’t affect us anymore. Or gossip used to make us uncomfortable, but now it’s a way of life. We get used to sin, our hearts become insensitive, calloused.

Paul wants us see the downward path of evil. We harden our hearts towards God, we choose ignorance, our understanding darkens, our thinking becomes futile, and our hearts become callous. Living separate from God is a downward spiral into futility, darkness, ignorance, hardness, and insensitivity.

d) It leads to foolish living

But Paul wants us to see that this old life isn’t just about faulty logic, it’s not just a problem with our philosophy of life, it leads to foolish living. Paul says because they have lost all sensitivity, ‘19 …they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Eph 4:19b)’ John Stott writes, ‘Hardness of heart leads first to darkness of mind, then to deadness of soul, and finally to recklessness of life. Having lost all sensitivity, people lose all self-control.’ Once you no longer care about God why should you care about people, or care about how you live? Why shouldn’t you just do whatever makes you happy? Our world is just as consumed by sensuality and impurity as the Gentile world was in Paul’s day. We are just as defined by the desire for more as people were back then. Without God there’s just this world, this life, and our desires. That’s the old you.

Now you may feel that’s a little extreme, you probably don’t see the old you quite like that. But three things: Firstly, you may not see yourself like that because you can’t see properly. Sin has an amazing way of distorting how we see ourselves. Secondly, you may not see yourself like that, but God does. God sees us much better than we see ourselves. In fact, God sees into our hearts where sometimes so much of this stuff is buried beneath our shiny exteriors. And thirdly, this is exactly what we would be like apart from God’s grace. Maybe you’re not quite this bad because God is holding you back. Or maybe you were never quite this bad because by God’s grace you grew up as part of God’s covenant community, or because the Spirit has been at work in your life for most of your life.

But the point Paul wants to make is that there is an old you, there is a you that wants to live separated from God, whose thinking is futile, whose understanding is darkened, who prefers ignorance, whose heart is hard and prone to callousness. This morning our first point is: Beware the old you. That old you, no matter how old it may be, can still influence the current you.

 

2) Jesus Christ

So how do you go from the old you to a new you? How do we go from this old life without God to the new life with God? The answer is Jesus Christ. Paul says, ‘20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. (Eph 4:20-21)’

The Truth is in Jesus

While futility, darkness and ignorance are part of the old life, the truth is found in Jesus. We only come to understand the truth in Jesus Christ. While the Gentiles thinking is futile and their understanding is darkened, Jesus brings truth, he helps us think about ourselves and about God in a way that is right, rather than futile. Jesus helps us understand the truth about ourselves, that we are sinners, that our sin separates us from God, and that unless it is dealt with we will be forever separated from God. Jesus helps us understand the truth about God, that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die in our place, that he sent Jesus to pay the penalty for our sin, so that we could be reconciled with God and receive eternal life. The truth we find in Jesus is that God saves sinners, that God gives eternal life to those who trust in Jesus. And Paul unpacks that truth using three words.

a) You learned of Christ

Firstly, he says you learned of Christ. The NIV talks about how we ‘came to know Christ.’ The turning point in our lives came when we learnt about Jesus Christ, who he is and what he did for us on the cross. Jesus is the centre of the Gospel.

b) You heard Christ

Secondly, Paul says you heard Christ. Note, it’s not ‘you heard about Christ,’ rather ‘you heard Christ.’ Paul is saying that people were actually hearing Jesus speak through the teachers in Ephesus. For us today we actually have Jesus words to us in the Bible. We get to hear Jesus speak through the pages of Scripture. When people teach us about Jesus from Scripture, it’s like Jesus is teaching us about himself.

c) You were taught in Christ

Finally, Paul says you were taught in Christ. Jesus is not only the teacher and the teaching, he is also the context in which the teaching is given. We are connected to Jesus through the Holy Spirit and the Spirit helps us understand the truth about Jesus.

Basically Paul is saying that there was this old us and then Jesus came along and he changed everything. Jesus has opened up our eyes to the truth. Because of Jesus our thoughts are no longer futile, we can now think in a godly way. Because of Jesus our understanding is no longer darkened, we have come to understand the truth. Because of Jesus we are no longer separated from the life of God, we have instead received eternal life. Because of Jesus we are no longer ignorant about how to be saved, we know that all it takes is faith in Jesus. Because of Jesus our hearts are no longer hardened, instead they have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus we are no longer insensitive to sin, instead the Spirit convicts us of sin and leads us to repentance. Have you discovered the truth in Jesus? Have you learned about Jesus? Have you heard Jesus speak to you through God’s word? Have you been taught in Christ? Only Jesus can change your life. Only Jesus can deal with the old you.

 

3) The New You

But Jesus didn’t just come to deal with the old you, he came to make us new. Just like Gentile darkness leads to a continual lust for impurity, so the truth leads to an entirely new life. When you accepted the truth about Jesus Christ, when you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour you became a new person. The challenge isn’t to be new, the challenge for us as Christians is to live the new life, to walk in the new way.

a) Put off your old self

Paul starts off by saying, ‘now that we are in Christ we need to put off the old self. Paul says, ‘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; (Eph 4:22-24)’ That old you, that guy that thought futile thoughts, who didn’t understand, who was ignorant, who had a hard heart, who was calloused, who was separated from the life of God, that guy is dead. You don’t have to walk around in rotten clothes anymore, take them off. That person was on a downward spiral, he was being corrupted by deceitful desires. We thought living however we wanted was fine, but it wasn’t, it was leading us to destruction. We thought doing life like everyone else worked, but it didn’t, it just lead to pain and broken relationships and regrets. The old self has got to go. We don’t have to walk that way anymore.

b) Renew your mind

Instead, we need to remember that in Christ our minds have been made new. Paul says we are ‘23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (Eph 4:22-24)’ In Jesus our thinking doesn’t have to be futile anymore, we can think new thoughts. Our minds aren’t darkened anymore, we have seen the light of the glory of Jesus Christ. We aren’t ignorant anymore, we know the truth. We don’t have to believe that stuff that belonged to our old life anymore. Elsewhere Paul says, ‘5 …we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)’ Don’t think like the world thinks, instead think like God thinks. Take your thoughts and say, ‘That’s the old way of thinking, that’s futile, that’s darkened, that’s ignorant, and I’m not going to think that way anymore. I’m a new person now and I think in a new way.’ About our thoughts Paul says, ‘8 …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8)’ Think in the new way of the Spirit, not the old way of the flesh, you have a new mind, use it.

c) Put on your new self

Paul’s point is that in Christ we can put on our new self. Verse 24, ‘24 …put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)’ The old self was being corrupted while the new self is created to be like God. The old self was dominated by lust and impurity, while the new self is dominated by righteousness and holiness. The old self was being corrupted by deceitful desires, while the new self is about the truth that is in Jesus. From the corruption of the old life we are recreated new in Jesus Christ. From the lust and impurity of the old life we are made righteous and holy. From the deceit of the old life with its futility, darkness and ignorance, we now know the truth in Christ. Paul’s point is that our new life, our new way of living, should be consistent with who we now are in Christ. It’s like our wedding day, the bride walks in with her father, and walks out with her husband. She’s no longer just a daughter, she’s now a wife, she’s a new woman. Or if you join the military, you might walk in with messed-up hair and thongs, but you walk out with a crew cut and a uniform, you’re a new man. Every morning when you put on new clothes remind yourself to put on your new self. When you walk out of your bedroom, or your house, walk in the new way, in the way of Jesus.

 

This morning I want you to remember that if you have accepted Jesus Christ, the old you is gone and you are a new person. Your thoughts no longer need to be futile or your understanding darkened, because you have been taught the truth about Jesus Christ. You are no longer ignorant about the truth. You are no longer separated from the life of God, because in Christ you have a new life, you have received eternal life. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour it’s proof that your heart is no longer hardened towards God. In fact, the Bible says you can only call Jesus Lord if your heart has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In Christ you are no longer that old person, so put off the old way of thinking and be made new in the attitude of your mind. In Christ you are no longer the old you, so put off the old way of living and put on the new you created to be like God in righteousness and holiness. Every day remind yourself that in Christ I am new. Amen.

Blog Stats

  • Total posts(400)
  • Total comments(1)

Forgot your password?