This sermon is number 19 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 19
"Change Your Clothes!"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
The book of Ephesians and chapter 4, Ephesians and chapter 4, and we're beginning to read from verse 17. We have already been studying through verses 1 and we finished at verse 16 last week. You'll remember that this is one rolling sentence in the Greek - the original language of the New Testament Scriptures. Paul has been discoursing about the church of the living God, and what it means to be among a company of people which make up one body. Then we saw, two weeks ago, that in that one body of many people there are individuals who have been given individual gifts - not all people are given the same gifts, and so on. We looked last week as Paul specified a list of four, not so much gifts given to people, but gifted men that are given to the church of Jesus Christ. We looked at the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastor-teachers last week, and we saw the challenge of the word of God that all of us have a gift. The way that the body of Christ will be edified is if we all use our gift in the body.
Now we look from verse 17 through to verse 24. Paul again, almost repeating his phrase in verse 1, says: "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness".
I've entitled my message this evening: 'Change Your Clothes!'. We live in a fashion conscious society. In fact it's got carried away with, I believe, in the society that we live in. People are so fashion conscious. Indeed, day by day, through the television and through magazines and newspapers, we're bombarded by two photographs in particular: one is 'before', and the other is 'after'. There is this comparison that is always made in relation to fashion, and various things in society, that we look at a person before society has got to them, before fashion has added something to them, and then we see a photograph of a new person, a new man or woman, after fashion has dealt with them. The whole point of this fashion is that you can have a 'new you' - you can be a new person. You can have, as they say, a 'makeover', and you can be changed and begin to feel different inside, and people around you - your husband, or wife, or your family, or your work colleagues - can begin to look on you in a different perspective and light because it's a new you!
Of course, people have fallen for that lie - but you know, there's little bit of truth within that idea of fashion. We are looking at 'clothes' this evening in the word of God, in a spiritual sense. If I can borrow the poet William Blake's statement: 'This', that we read of in this passage of Scripture, 'is a mantle for the divine soul'. We are not reading about clothes that we put on our physical body, but we're reading in this passage - whether we are saved or unsaved - about clothes that cover, that mantle, the divine soul. This is, if you like, the divine wardrobe of God. It is what God sees on the unbeliever and, indeed, what God wants to see upon his regenerate child. The difference between these garments and the garments that we see around us this evening, is that this is not fashion. This is not a style that passes away, it is eternal, it never ever changes. Just as our physical garments, with age and with time, wear old and go out of fashion - the difference with these garments is that the longer we have them and the longer we wear them, the greater they become and the better worth they are.
What are our clothes as children of God? I believe there's a lot of confusion about this today within the church. What marks you and I out as being the children of God? In the eyes of others how can they tell that we are the children of God, that we have been changed, that we have been converted, we are regenerate, that we have dwelling within us the life of Almighty God? What is it? Is it our appearance? Is it the way we dress? Is it the length of our hair? Is it anything to do with the outward appearance? Well, God's word would tell us that may have some bearing on the way that people look at us, but that is not the way God judges whether a man or woman walks with Him. 'Man', He says, 'looks on the outward appearance, but God looks upon the heart' - now that doesn't mean that the outward appearance is unimportant, but in the divine wardrobe it is not what God goes by to discern a child of His.
What else could it be? Is it tradition? Tradition is a good thing when it is a good thing, but tradition as we see it in the word of God - and specifically within the gospel records in relation to the Pharisees - is seen is something that does not add or help the word of God, but it is seen as something that smothers the word of God. Tradition, generally speaking, if it is not the tradition of the apostles and the prophets that we have within the word of God, is man made. Tradition can be a good thing, but tradition - I say it - a lot of the time is a bad thing if we are shackled with it. So tradition is not necessarily the way that we are known as the children of God.
Is it our words? Is it the cliches that we use? The statements and the phrases, the language that we speak? A lot of people think that. They stand in the prayer meeting and pray certain phrases, pray certain formulas of prayer, and they talk or witness in a certain way. I'm not decrying all of that, but some people fall into the trap of believing that by using the language of the Christian you will be seen to be a Christian. It reminds me of the little story of a wee boy who lived on farm. One day the Pastor visited the farm, and the wee fellow didn't realise that the Pastor was sitting in the living-room. He was sitting in a seat that couldn't be seen by the little fellow as he ran into the living-room. He ran into the living-room, and he had a rat in his hand, and he was holding it up by the tail. He said: 'Daddy, Daddy, look what I caught! I saw it crawling around the corner of the barn, and I got a plank and I hit it over the head with the plank! Then I grabbed it and I threw it against the barn wall, and then I took it and I kicked it is hard as I could...'. Just as he said that he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the Pastor sitting on the seat. Then he said: 'And Preacher Sir, after that the Lord called him home'.
Now, isn't that what we behave like at times? It depends who's listening, it depends who's looking. That little child has great wisdom for us tonight, because we believe that by standing in the prayer meeting, or standing in the pulpit, or standing on a street corner, or giving out a tract, that we are making ourselves in the tradition of Christianity - that that is the divine wardrobe, that that is how we judge whether we're living rightly before God in all righteousness and in all holiness. Look: that may have some bearing, but that is not what we find in God's divine wardrobe as we look at these words tonight.
We do well to note the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Libertines in the New Testament, and the Christians. The Pharisees and the Scribes looked at the outward appearance, and deep down - whether they would admit it or not - believed that the outward appearance, legally speaking, would affect the inward heart. They believed that by doing things outwardly, that it would affect their inside. The Libertines, that you find Paul writing against in the book of Romans and in the book of Galatians some of them, believed that you could do as you liked - 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?'. They believed it didn't matter the way you behaved, or the way you lived, as long as you were alright inside, as long as God had dealt with you in your soul. Those two are errors! In many things in the New Testament we look for the balance, and the balance of Christianity is not the outward appearance of the legalist affecting the inward, or not the Libertines - inward and no outward - but it is this: the heart being dealt with by Almighty God, by His Spirit, being regenerate. The fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, being placed into his heart at conversion, and therefore the inward soul affecting the outward man - that must be the order! If we fall into any other trap, we fall into the pharisaical camp. Many are falling into that camp today.
Now what does Paul want us to realise in this passage of scripture? Well, he wants you to realise, as he's been saying throughout this whole little book, your position in Christ - the things that you have. The key verse of the whole book is how we are blessed in heavenly places, heavenly realms, with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. The fact that we are now in Christ, we have salvation, we have been blessed in so many ways that we can never utter or understand, and he wants us now - and we've looked at this - he's told us about the blessings in chapters 1 to 3, and now he wants us to live out, to walk in, that blessing.
What does he want us to walk into this week? Well, he wants us to put off something, and he wants us to get on something. Paul is telling you and telling me, to get rid of the garments that characterise our old life of sin - get rid of them! He wants us now to put on the new garments that speak of life - in other words, as he says in the book of Philippians, you've to forget those things that are behind and press on for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He's echoing the words of the Lord Jesus when He said that if a man puts his hand to the plough and looks back, he's not fit for the kingdom of God. He is telling us to leave the past behind, to go forward - and effectively what he is saying is: you need to change your clothes!
The first thing he says is to take off the grave clothes - verses 17 to 19. He starts off with this phrase that we've seen already at the first verse of chapter 4 that we're reading, he says again in verse 17: 'This I say therefore'. 'Therefore', and I hope that you get the message that when you see 'therefore', you ask 'Wherefore?' - ask why he is saying that. It shows what has come before, the verses and the doctrine and everything that he has been laying down in chapters 1 to 3, and now right throughout verses 1 to 16 in chapter 4 - that is what he is pointing back to: 'Therefore, in light of what I have been telling you, I want you to do this'.
What has he been saying throughout the previous statements? Let's turn to chapter 1, chapter 1 and verse 4, and we spent a week early last year, just after Christmas last year, looking at this little verse - verse 4. Talking of predestination and election: 'According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love'. Why has He chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world? He has chosen us that we might be a holy and peculiar people before Him - that is what he has been saying. Then in chapter 2 we saw how he showed us how we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and he lifts us up to the pinnacle, the mount, and looks down at where we've come from and tells us where he has brought us to. Then chapter 3, we look about the message of reconciliation, how there's no Jews or Greeks any more in the ethnic sense, but we've all been joined together in Christ. The barriers of separation have fallen down, and there is one new man - one new people, one new society and race.
Now, chapter 4, he goes into more detail about the body of Christ. How the body is to behave with one another. How the body is to behave with regards to the gifts that God's Holy Spirit has given to them. Now he comes here to emphasise to these people that, if you're in the body of Christ, you are to be a holy people. The word 'ecclesia' is the word for 'church' in the New Testament, and it literally means 'called out ones'. A group of called out people, an assembly of humanity that has been called from something to something. What have they been called from? The world, isn't that right? They have been called out of the world, and called to the holiness in the salvation of God that we read of in the New Testament.
There's a statement that's often bandied about from pulpits, and in conversation, and it's this: that some people are too heavenly-minded for any earthly use - you know that one. Well I have never met anybody that's too heavenly-minded for any earthly use. All I meet within the church of Jesus Christ, and at times when I look into my own heart, is someone that is too earthly-minded for any heavenly use. My friend, that is the problem today, that is the problem that we face: God's people are no longer peculiar people, they are no longer a holy sanctified band of believers.
Now we looked, in our first week in this new session, at how Paul in the second half of Ephesians, from chapters 3 to 6, is mirroring practically what he has laid down doctrinally in chapters 1 to 3. So, looking at verses 17 to 24 that we're looking at tonight, what is he mirroring in the first half of the book? Let's look at it, chapter 2, this is what Paul is mirroring, verse 1: 'And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience'. Now look at chapter 4 and verse 17: 'This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind' - do you see the connection? Chapter 2: 'You were dead in trespasses and sins' - now the practical aspect, chapter 4: 'I want you to walk now worthy of the life that you have been quickened with in the Lord Jesus Christ'.
You see that the second half of Ephesians has all to do with this little word 'walk', and we learnt that the word 'walk' typifies and is a metaphor to describe our conduct day-by-day, as we live out our life here on earth for Christ. It is our practice, it is the way we think, the motives we have, the emotions that we exercise - how we exercise our will day-by-day in the choices that we make. Everything that is to do with life, this word 'walk' typifies it. Now, what is Paul saying? 'You're now in the body of Christ. You have now been gifted by the Spirit of God with either one, or many, gifts. You are to edify, and should be being edified by, those believers within the body and their spiritual gifts. Now that you are in this holy body of Christ, you've got to stop living ungodly'.
In 1 John chapter 2 and verse 6 we read these sobering words, that we as New Testament Christians are to 'walk as he walked'. The Lord Jesus Himself, in John 13:17, says: 'If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them'. You see, that's like a commentary on the whole book of Ephesians, chapters 1 to 3: 'If ye know these things' - and we do know them, in fact we know them too well, we could recite them off pat. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, says to us tonight: 'If ye know them, happy are ye if ye do them'.
We are not to imitate the dead. We looked in great depth at what it means to be dead in trespasses and in sins, and it's something that we are born into. It is something from original sin that we are inactive, unable to help ourselves in all our sinfulness - and we make that worse, we put it in concrete, by the very fact that we begin to live, by choice, in our trespasses and in our sins. Paul is saying: 'That is not the way you or I are to walk in Christ'. You're not to walk - look at verse 17 - 'as other Gentiles'. The word 'Gentiles' in scripture always means something that is ungodly, a people who are unregenerate, a pagan nation. Paul says: 'You are no longer to live with the old wardrobe'.
The old wardrobe is still in fashion here, isn't it? It's always in fashion, in fact it's getting more and more in fashion - and we are having a revival today, in Ulster, of sin. A revival of sin! Sins that were forgotten about, sins that we had said could never be committed again in humanity, are being committed at the very moment that we speak and sit here. In Ulster, in East Belfast, we have a revival of sin! We are to have nothing to do with it. You only have to look at the tabloids, and they testify that the world is hard, the world is dark and dead, and absolutely reckless with regards to other human beings, and even in their own lives. Paul's clarion cry to the church of his day, and to the church of Jesus Christ today, is this: 'Forsake it! Leave the world!' - why? Because it has vanity of mind, verse 17, the second half: '...the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind'. That word 'vanity' in the Authorised Version would be better translated 'a mirage', 'an illusion'.
These people are deluded, the folk in the world, those without Christ, those who have never been regenerated in their hearts, are unbelievers who are intellectually unproductive. You say: 'Well, you go to university, and you look at some of the cleverest men in all of society, and you couldn't apply that to them - that they're intellectual unproductive!'. Could I not? One of the greatest passages, and indeed commentaries, on this passage of scripture is Romans 1 - I want you to turn with me to it tonight. You can see great parallels in this passage to the passage that we're studying. Romans chapter 1 and look at verse 22, the sinner - the classic example of the sinner: 'Professes themselves to be wise, but they became fools'. Paul put it to Timothy in his letter, 2 Timothy 3:7: '[They are] ever learning, but never ever able to come to the knowledge of the truth'. That is the society in which we live, we have more learning than ever, more universities, more further education, yet man today has more questions than he has ever had! The more he learns, the further away the truth becomes to him. I believe, and I categorically say, that man is intellectually unproductive when it comes to the things of God. When it comes to spiritual things, when it comes to moral things, his rational processes of mind fail him every time - he can't produce morality, he can't produce spirituality by his thoughts, by intellect. The more he studies these things, the irony is there is a vicious circle, that things are reversed - and the more he tries to be holy, the more he tries to be moral, it backfires upon him. He can't produce spirituality or morality.
Young people, I pray that God will teach you that lesson. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 2, for as you sit in the lecture theatre and you listen to a man with more letters behind his name, than there are letters in his name, and it's almost as if he speaks the words of God. He is infallible, no-one - and certainly not you - would argue with him. I want you to understand that that man, if he is un-Christian, if he is a Gentile pagan, if he's never been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, that man has no spiritual insight whatsoever. That man may tell you there's no God, he may tell you your Jesus Christ is an imposter and a magician, he can tell you all he likes - but he has no spiritual knowledge whatsoever. Look at this passage of scripture, verse 14: 'But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'.
I happen to agree with A.W. Tozer when he said that he abhorred those in the church that put a scientist in the pulpit, and a lawyer in the pulpit, because they are clever - to prove that Christianity is right. Now, don't get me wrong, there is a place for apologetics, there is a place for intellectualism - but what I want to get across to us that will be, I believe, for our spiritual good, is to realise what Paul is teaching throughout the whole book of Ephesians and the whole book of Romans. It is this: salvation is a spiritual revelation! As such, you will never rationalise a man into the kingdom of God, you will never argue him in - but a work of the Spirit of the living God must be done in his heart - why? Because he is in the vanity, the futility of mind, that Paul describes in this verse. His life is empty, it is purposeless, it is fruitless. He has much intellectual activity, but no progress whatsoever. It's as if he's chasing bubbles all of his intellectual life, punching shadows, but he neglects the thing that is most important: the spiritual. But why does he neglect it? Because he cannot do anything else!
That vanity of mind that misses everything spiritual, leads to the second point: darkness. The vanity of thought leads to darkness of understanding. The commentary of Paul again, in Romans 1 and verse 21, if you look at it (keep your finger in Romans 1 by the way) is this, as one translation puts it: 'Thinking, they become futile, and their foolish hearts are darkened'. They think, their thinking is futile - it is vanity, as Paul says - but the more they think about spiritual things, the darker they become, because their thinking is futile and their foolish hearts become darkened. Och, there is a lie that goes about in Christian theology, and has done for many centuries so far, that there is a divine spark in the soul of every human being - and that all you need is the Gospel or the grace of God to blow wind on the innocent soul of a little child, or the soul of a human being who has spent many years in sin, but that sin is trodden underfoot by that little divine seed and spark. Nonsense! You'll not find that in the word of God, in fact you find the opposite in 1 John 5 and verse 12: 'He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life'! That shows the awful situation of the human depravity of all mankind, for his futility of mind leads to the darkness of his understanding.
Inevitably it leads, thirdly, to his alienation from God Himself - for darkness in scripture indicates separation. You will know the verse that 'darkness has no fellowship with light', the light cannot have fellowship with darkness, and therefore God - as Paul says - has no fellowship with Belial. Therefore, to be in the dark because of the futility of your mind means to be separated from God, and that is because of the ignorance of truth in your life that has been made concrete by a wilful ignorance! Men look around them at creation and they will give every A to Z explanation of it but God! The heavens declare the glory of God, the earth and everything in it shows forth His handiwork - and creation tells the little Pygmy in the jungle that there is a God, but modern intellectual man in Ulster can't believe it! He has wilfully made himself ignorant to creation.
Then there is the voice of conscience - and every time his conscience shouts at him that something is wrong, he goes to every intellectual length to prove that this thing is permissible, this thing is right. And what happens is: the futility of his mind brings the darkness of understanding, and eventually it brings his alienation and his separation from God. The further and further away from God he goes, the more separated he is. You see when man rejects the light of God, he becomes alienated. That is the reason - I'm giving you the reason tonight, from the word of God, why we live in a society, even in our little land, where evil is called good and good is called evil, where dark is given for light and light is given for darkness - that is why it is possible: because men and women outside of Christ are blind!
That's Paul's next point, that the futility of mind brings darkness of understanding, and then alienation from God, and it is precipitated in a rain of blindness, ignorance! J. B. Phillips translates this beautifully, he says: 'They live blindfolded in a world of illusion'. Men and women are wilfully blind. Romans 1, Paul's commentary, verse 21 says that - they think themselves into futility, and their foolish hearts are darkened. They wilfully walk into sin, and more and more they are cemented into their intellectual and spiritual darkness. But that was not always so, for their forefathers knew the truth, but they decided to go their own way. They decided to reject the light and because of that, over years and years and years of rejecting God's light, they have become blind in their ignorance, and eventually they become hard within their hearts!
It's an interesting study to take a concordance of the word of God, and go through and look at the references to the hardened heart, or the hardening of the heart. The Greek word for 'hardening' is the word 'porosis' (sp?), it is the word that you get 'porous' from, which means 'a stone harder than marble itself'. That's where we get the expression 'a heart of stone', and men and women have hearts of stone because they think they know everything in the vanity of their mind, and therefore their understanding is darkened, they are separated from God, and in their ignorance of wilfully rejecting God's light and truth they become blind!
If you look at Romans chapter 1, we see how this all begins. I encourage you to beware if you are an unbeliever outside of Christ, rejecting the Gospel, if you're a backslider living in your sin, or a Christian trifling with sin, please note verse 18 of chapter 1: 'The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness'. Now what does that mean - 'To hold the truth in unrighteousness'? It's like the wee boy who wanted to smuggle his little puppy into his bedroom for the night. When he was just getting the puppy into bed he heard his Mum and Dad coming up the stairs. Quickly he grabbed the little pup, threw it into the toy box and sat on the little, and began to talk to his Mum and Dad as if nothing was happening - ignoring every moment the 'thump, thump' of the little puppy's head on the lid.
That's what man is like, the 'Thump! Thump!' of conscience, the 'Thump! Thump!' of creation, the 'Thump! Thump!' of God's law, they ignore to their own peril - until what happens is: the mechanics of unbelief kick in! That wilful rejection of God's light becomes a hardening of the heart. So much so that in John chapter 12 verse 39, we read this of the Pharisees who wilfully blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, who was revealing to them their Messiah - that at that point in time: 'They could not believe'! Now don't change it to 'would not' - you're not allowed to change it! They could not believe! He goes on to say, John, that it is a fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy: that God blinded their eyes and closed their ears - why? Because they wilfully rejected the light of God. What a peril to be in!
What does it lead to? It leads fifthly to the numbness of sensuality, when you no longer can believe, why? Because you are insensitive to God's call, and also because you have become insensitive to your sin. W.C. Wright puts it well when he says this, concerning being insensitive, listen: 'When conscience is at first denied there is a twinge of pain, there is a protest that can be heard - but if the voice is silenced, presently the voice becomes less clear and clamant. The protest is smothered, the twinge is less acute, until at last it is possible to get over the pain'. Indeed, that's how Bishop Mole translated this little verse: 'having got over the pain' - I call it the anaesthesia of sin, how sin numbs us. The vicious circle that the more you become entrenched in your sinful attitudes, the less you feel your sin and your conscience is pricked by the sin - so much so that eventually you become apathetic to your sin, and it leads eventually to your deeper sin!
So much so that, if you look at chapter 4, in verse 19 it says they are 'past feeling'. They are no longer able to feel the pain, and they have given themselves over to lasciviousness. They get to such a stage that they don't feel their sin any more, that they just willingly throw themselves unreservedly at their lust. That's how you explain the vileness that men and women are dabbling in today - it's because they've closed off all thought and voice of God from them. They've given themselves, as McDonald says, it is as if they are carrying on a trade or business in lewdness and sinfulness. That's what that statement means: giving themselves, wholeheartedly living for the business of sin! The word 'lasciviousness' literally means 'sensuality'. Vice that throws all caution and restraints to the wind and flaunts itself. That's what we're living in today, sin that flaunts itself, sin that will cry from the highest rooftops the most immoral things that a man should never even utter of his lips, never mind commit! But they are proud of it!
It betrays the total depravity of mankind, for there we have the impurity of their lust, sixthly, because men are behaviourally depraved. Romans 1:28 says that, they are proving by their works and denying God, they are giving themselves - and the more they give themselves to sin, increasingly they lose all moral restraints especially in the area of sexual morality. What we see around us today is that greed is linked with lust, as Paul does in this passage: 'All uncleanness', all lust, verse 19, 'with greediness'. Why is greediness and lust linked in the Scripture? You can see it in chapter 5 and verse 5 he links lust and greediness as well - do you know why? Because lust is insatiable! I'm sure most of you will know that, the evil cravings which are pleasant and promising in anticipation of a great pleasure, but when they bite in they are hideous, disappointing in all retrospect as we look back at them!
I have written at the back of my Bible, because I'm a terrible sinner: 'David, remember that your sin always leaves you dissatisfied'. It's amazing how the devil can blind you before you sin, into how pleasurable this is going to be, how great it's going to be - and then after you sin you're left, and I can say this honestly from experience, you are left feeling absolutely filthy! Isn't that right? You might say: 'Well, I've never reached the extremes that we read of here' - do you know why you haven't? One: the grace of God, and secondly: the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit. Do you know why the man on the street can say: 'I've never delved into those particular sins'? Do you know why he can say it? Because of the common grace of God, and because of the influence of the Holy Spirit that resides within the church of Jesus Christ. If it wasn't for those two factors the whole world would be in more chaos than it is now! If that is possible.
What does Paul say? He says this, look at it: 'In the name of the Lord', verse 17, 'I implore you' - it literally means 'I insist' - 'that you take off your grave clothes, that you no longer live in this light and this kind of life. Because if you do so, the cross and the blood of Christ is lessened, it's not needed - you must learn to walk in Christ'. Look at verse 20: 'Ye have not so learned Christ'. It's interesting in verses 20 and 21, look: 'ye have not so learned Christ...ye have heard him...ye have been taught of him'. You've heard Him, you've learned Him, and you've been taught of Him - and all those three expressions are to do with teaching, to do with a scholar learning from a teacher. That tells you and I that salvation - listen - is not a profession, that is the beginning of salvation but salvation is a learning process. [You can] take and deduce from this here tonight, that if you're not learning as a Christian there is a question mark over whether you are a Christian!
It is a growing process, it is a growing process where the subject, the teacher, the atmosphere, is the Lord Jesus Christ. As Patrick in the fifth century put it: 'It is Christ with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort, Christ to restore me' - and as he goes on it's the atmosphere of learning, being taught, and hearing the word of Christ, that's what it's about! It's not about learning doctrine. Doctrine is important, but if you learn doctrine regardless of the person of Christ you're wasting your time. Everything is in relation to a Christ-centred personal Gospel in the Lord Jesus - everything! The preacher that is preaching Christ the way he ought to be will have an invisible Christ in the pulpit, there will be an invisible Christ in the aisles and in the pews as the word of God is preached in the power and glorifying Christ - if it is done in that way.
Put off those old clothes, and begin to walk - look at verse 21: 'as the truth is in Jesus'. You notice he says 'Jesus', and Paul - in fact I even slipped up as I was reading it at the beginning of the meeting - because Paul so often says 'Christ Jesus', but here he says 'Jesus'. Because 'Jesus' was His name of incarnation, and what Paul is saying here is: 'You have looked at the Gentiles, their way of life with all their vanity of mind and darkness of understanding, separated from God, blind in their ignorance, numb in their sensuality, impure in their lust - but if you look to Jesus, that man who was born upon the earth in the likeness of sinful flesh, that man who was tested in all points like as we are yet without sin, in Him was no sin. If you look to Him, don't look at Adam like some of the cults do - 'Adam' in Hebrew means 'man', and they are looking to man - but look to the God-man, look to Jesus the truth is in Him'. Christian, throw all your doubts out, throw them all out. Anthropologists look for the origin of man, but they'd find it in Jesus if they would only look. Cosmologists look for the origin of heaven and the universe, astrologists look for the stars, but everything is to be found in Jesus. All the truth of heaven, hell, salvation, life, death, everything is to be found in Jesus - for He is the one who said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'. As 1 John says: 'He is the true one', He is the truth personified.
So therefore, verse 22: 'Put off', strip away, repent. Oh, we don't have time to deal with all this tonight, but I fear at times when I preach about repentance to believers, there are people sitting in the pew saying: 'Well, I repented when I was saved'. I would ask the question whether you're saved if you're asking that question - for I don't read about this modern day evangelical profession of faith in the New Testament. Do you know what I read about? I read about a man with a cross who said this: 'Day-by-day you take up your cross and follow me' - day-by-day. That means daily you repent, daily you get before Him, daily afresh you commit your life to Him - and if you cannot bring yourself to repent because you repented at some time in your past, you cannot be following Christ and you certainly cannot be living a holy life!
We need to get back to the Lord Jesus. Paul said: 'I die daily'. The church of Jesus Christ today doesn't need more doctrine, there's doctrine coming out of their ears. I'll tell you what it does need: it needs to put off those old grave clothes, and put on the new clothes of life. What are the new clothes of life? One: a renewed mind. What is the renewed mind? You read about in Romans 12 and verse 2, being renewed by your mind - and salvation is not just something that renovates, it's not a reformation of morals, this is something that takes control and changes the person. A new creature in Christ Jesus - as 2 Corinthians 10:5 says: '[We are to bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ' - every thought! This is meant to change your mind! Is that not what repentance is? A change of mind, a change of mind about sin, a change of mind about your home, a change of mind about your wife, about women in general. A change of mind about the business, a change of mind about the way you're going to spend everything that you have - all the money, all the energy, all the time - is it not a change of mind?
God knows the church needs a change of mind. The Lord Jesus prayed to His Father in John chapter 17 and verse 17, and He said these words: 'Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth'. Do you want to renew your mind? You know there's times, and I'm opening my heart to you tonight - and there's a danger when you do this that somebody will just stick something in it - but there have been times when I have sinned, and I have almost been physically sick at the thought of it. That means a renewing of the mind is needed, and we need a renewing in our mind so that we can see sin more, that we aren't deluded about it in our lives. I was thinking about this today in the study, and as I was sitting on the chair I even looked at the library and I thought: 'There's sin in that library!'. There's sin in the library! There's sin in my sermon somewhere, there's something wrong I'm sure. There's sin in almost everything, and God knows we need a renewing of our mind!
There is a revival of sin at large, and the more God shows us our sin, the more we need a renewing of our mind, and to come before Him by the word of God and prayer - 'Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth'. We need to get into the word of God, we need to get to prayer in order that we put on the new man, and put the old self to death! Oh, positionally, you look at Romans 6, he is dead. He died when Christ died and was buried and rose again, you got your new life - that's positionally, but practically you've to reckon him dead every day or he'll raise his head.
Secondly, it is a created righteousness. One author says: 'It's a task not to weave but to wear'. You don't make this righteousness up you know, you just wear it. You just take it as a gift from God. What Paul is saying here, you notice when he says about this righteousness, look at verse 24: '[the new man, which] after God is created in righteousness' - he is speaking of our responsibility to other men and women. He's talking about the second table of the law in Exodus 20 - those things that are responsible to other people. Then he talks about true holiness, the last words of this verse, he speaks of the first table of the law, the first five commandments, verses 3 to 11 of Exodus chapter 20. In one he's talking about a responsibility to other men, in the other he's talking about our responsibility to God. He's crying to us to show the righteousness of God toward one another, and to show true holiness before God in our lives.
I know and I'm sure that when I'm preaching on these things, someone says: 'You're setting the standard too high'. Listen: I'm not setting the standard, God's setting it. He tells you to walk worthily in true holiness. You remember Lazarus, lying in the grave four days rotting - do you remember? The Lord of life comes, and with one word: 'Lazarus, come forth!' - he came forth! What did He tell them? 'Loose him, and let him go'. Do you know what we need in the Iron Hall? Do you know what I need in my personal walk? I need to cry to the Holy Spirit to give me the strength and the grace to put off those old grave clothes, and to put on Christ. Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh.
Let us pray, and let's look into our hearts and analyse what is there, and ask God that He'll take us into His school - the school of Christ - and that He'll begin to take those things out of our hearts, and renew our mind, and enable us to live lives of righteousness and true holiness in His sight. For He can do it, for it is God that worketh in you to do and to will of His purpose.
Lord, we pray like old M'Cheyne prayed: God, make us as holy as sinners can be. Not for our glory, but for Thy glory and for the extension of Thy kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the nineteenth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "Change Your Clothes!" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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