Our worst enemy lives inside of us
We carry around in us a body of death that wants to sin and forget what Christ has done for us. Remember that God brought you to faith and made you a new creation so that you could fight against that old creation and win! If you are looking for happiness in life, find in by walking with Jesus each day. And when you have those moments in time when you have to call yourself to account for your life, look no further than Jesus Christ.
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
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. 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. 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.
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. 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Each year or two many of you have to fill out a self-evaluation form for your workplace – as do I. The way my form reads I am supposed to rate myself in a number of different categories as to experience and preference. To say that I do not enjoy filling out those forms would be a huge understatement. I am guessing many of you don’t like those forms either. We don’t want to sound like we are bragging when we fill them out and we don’t want to look incompetent either. Most people have no idea how to rightly evaluate oneself in the workplace.
It is no wonder then that we have a hard time evaluating our work in God’s kingdom. What grade do I give myself for my service to Christ? Do I grade my experience in kingdom work a success or failure? Where do my preferences for service lie? Don’t forget the lofty goals God has set for each of us. God has evaluated us through the blood of Christ and found us both experienced and preferred in all aspects of his kingdom work! Here is why:
You Are a New Creation
To live holy
St. Paul had spent more time in Ephesus than anywhere else in the Christian church. He wrote this warm letter to the congregation to help them grow to appreciate the grace of God that has saved them. The better we understand the grace of God that was showered on us in our eternal election and the better we understand the grace of God that called when we were dead in sin to life everlasting, the better equipped we are to live as the new creation God has made us to be. To live in any other way is to consider Jesus’ saving work something less than the most important reality in our lives. Remember that you are a new creation. God has made you holy in his eyes.
St. Paul wrote, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” When St. Paul says “that way,” he wants you to realize that you who have come to know Christ no longer live or act like unbelievers. To come to know Christ means much more than becoming acquainted with Christ and his teachings. To come to know Christ means embracing him and his saving work for you by faith. To come to know Christ is to understand that you are a new creation – made holy in the blood of Christ so that you can serve him with your life.
Like the first recipients of this letter, you have most certainly heard of Christ and you most certainly were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus! You are no different than they! You believe the truth that Jesus lived and died and rose again for you. When you came to faith things began to change in your heart and life. You realized that you could not live like the unbelieving world around you anymore. You are different. You are a new creation.
So, St. Paul urges you to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” By the gracious work of God we have a new self. The new self is motivated and empowers us to live life as a new creation. This new creation isn’t something we produced on our own. God created the new self in us. He puts a new attitude in our mind to guide our thinking and our actions in ways far different from the actions of the unbeliever who are guided by their own futility. God continually renews this attitude in us through the means of grace.
This new creation is the restoration of the image of God that Adam lost when he fell into sin. This work of God within us inspires holy living in grateful appreciation for Christ’s work on our behalf. We want to be like God in true righteousness and holiness! As the image of God grows within us we learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.
The work of the Holy Spirit is called “sanctification.” In confirmation classes the children are taught that sanctification means to “make holy.” Sanctification is an ongoing process in the hearts and lives of God’s people. When God made us a new creation by his grace through the gift of faith, he began sculpting us as his new creation. As he causes our faith to grow through the means of grace, the image of God is reshaping our minds and hearts to think and act and live as God’s children. All that we are and hope to be is found in Christ. When we evaluate ourselves in the kingdom of God, we must evaluate ourselves in Christ. He is all that matters to our new creation.
St. Paul said it this way in his letter to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live; but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (2:20).” Remember your identity is found in Christ.
You are a new creation made holy in Christ to live a holy life in Christ. Therefore St. Paul wrote, “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.” At the beginning of this chapter St. Paul wrote, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Now he “insists” on it! Do not live as the Gentiles live!
Gentiles is synonym for unbelievers. Like the Ephesians we had all been unbelievers at one time. That doesn’t matter now. We are completely different people than what we once were. There is no futility, no emptiness in our thinking anymore. The old way of life is done! The old creation lived for pleasure’s sake. His mind was filled with countless thoughts to reach that goal of happiness, but because his thoughts did not include Christ they were empty, futile, meaningless!
St. Paul continued, “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. 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.”
A darkened understanding is confused by sin. It cannot think in line with God’s will. They are strangers to life you want to live. You can’t just blame Satan for such spiritual ignorance. The unbeliever has to accept some of the blame. He makes his heart calloused and hard. He has ignored the natural knowledge of God written in his heart and now has a twisted, perverse approach to life.
St. Paul describes the conduct of unbelievers as “sensuality” and “impurity.” They have no sense of right or wrong and drift from one sin to another striving to satisfy their insatiable cravings no matter what the cost. Almost like a drug addict, the unbeliever cannot get enough of the sinful pleasures that bring only a moment’s satisfaction. Such a skewed way of thinking ultimately leads to misery. He has no comfort, no peace that God alone provides. The loneliness he feels now is a small taste of the eternal separation awaiting him in hell.