Ephesians: Describing the Changed Life

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey and today it’s a privilege to continue a series we are in about the book of Ephesians.

I want to start with something a little silly.  I’m always amazed by people who have the ability to draw.  Eric Post and Shari post – really amazing artists – but I don’t envy the job that a police artist has – they are trying to draw a picture of a person they’ve never seen by listening to a witness describe the perpetrator – and although certainly there is nothing funny about crime- sometimes the results of the police sketch artist are rather interesting.

  • Like this one for instance. I’m imaging the artist drawing and then saying – are you sure the guy looked like this?  And the person says – you nailed it!  And the police artist says – okay – send it out.  People were kind of busting on this artist until they caught the criminal – and guess what?  Nailed it!
  • Have you seen this guy? Apparently he was last seen in Area 51 – remember how there were people who were threatening to break into Area 51?  They caught this guy trying to break out of area 51.
  • Here’s an interesting story out of USA Today – apparently they were on the lookout for this guy– I guess he was doing mushrooms.   Glad they found    It’s me Luigi!
  • Lastly – I don’t like to brag but I’m not bad with a pencil and a sketchbook myself – and so recently the Gretna PD called me in to help crack a case – there’s been a suspicious looking guy seen walking around the older part of Gretna recently – a real menace – so let me know if you happen to run across this guy.  (Click to next picture when I say – “ok” – for one second and move on)

It’s not always easy to describe someone – it’s not the easiest to paint a picture of what this person looks like.

The passage that we are looking at today is Paul’s attempt to describe some of the practical changes that will occur in the life of a person who has come to faith in Jesus.  They will look different – they will act different than they did before they thought highly enough of Jesus to trust Him with their life.

And so – if you say you have made the decision to follow Jesus – the only question before us today is…  Is Paul describing me?  (If not, what am I going to do about it?)

We’ve noted in our series here on the book of Ephesians that this letter has been broken up into 6 chapters.  And the book is rather neatly divided into two sections.  The first three chapters leans toward the instruction of Christianity – it’s more theological in nature.  The last three chapters though deal with the practice of Christianity.

So this morning we’re going to read Ephesians chapter 4, verses 17-32.  And I’ll read from the new Living Translation.  And we are going to read a practical description of the kind of person who has placed their faith in Jesus.

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. 

Now it’s interesting that Paul says – don’t live as the Gentiles do – remember that he is writing primarily to Gentiles – Gentiles are non-jewish people.  So if he’s writing to Gentiles – why would he say, don’t live like them?

Well, Paul is doubling down on his claim that in Christ – we are new humans.  Through faith in Jesus – we become a new humanity.  We are no longer what we once were.  We used to be Jewish we used to be Gentile- we are now a new kind of humanity.

And so what is the gist of what Paul is saying here?  The first description of this new human?  they don’t look like anything they used to look like.  They don’t look at all like they once did.

Everything about them is different.

I mentioned last week about Kanye West – and his supposed conversion to Christianity.  And I listened to an interview that James Corbin had with Kanye on an airplane – and it’s worth your time to listen to him.  But James Corbin asks him point blank – what do you say to the people who say they don’t believe you’ve changed.  They don’t believe your faith is real.  That you can really be different.

And his answer is simple – and profound.  He says – would you agree that there is a difference between being asleep and being awake.  And being dead from being alive.  I was once dead – and now I’m alive.  This by the way – is very similar to the blind man that was healed by Jesus – who appears before the religious court and simply says – all I know is – I was blind and now I see.

The world is watching to see if the change in Kanye is real or not.  But your world is looking at you.  And if it’s true – he and we will begin to look more and more like this description.   He will be a new human and will not go back.

Because before Christ – We were hopelessly confused.  Our minds were full of darkness.  We had little is no sense of shame – these things are descriptions of our life before Jesus.  And they are in our rear view mirror.  We will not go back.  Out with the old, on with the new.

Now let’s look at some of the specifics that Paul begins to lay out for us – and by the way – these things that Paul speaks about are all things that Jesus brings out in the sermon on the mount.

And this is Paul describing to us the changes that will occur – it’s a description of a new kind of human.

  1. Am I the kind of person who no longer needs to manage my image?
  2. Am I the kind of person who does not nurture anger?
  3. Am I a generous person?
  4. Do I use my words to build people up?
  1. Am I the kind of person who no longer needs to manage my image?

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.  (Jesus tells us to let our yes mean yes.) Be people who keep our word and don’t seek an advantage over others by the way we use our words.

Make no mistake – we tell lies and half truths in order to manipulate other people.  We want to conquer them – or trick them into giving us what we want – or to create an illusion of ourselves they believe.  Like the Wizard of OZ, we hide behind these lies hoping that the real truth about us will never be discovered.

The word Spin doctor is a word we will hear more and more of next year as we enter into a presidential election year – but though that term is relatively new – the first spin doctor was the serpent in the garden of Eden.  Who used God’s words in such a way as to manipulate Adam and Eve.   Did God say you can’t touch the fruit?

And ever since then we’ve kind of adopted that into our lives – where we are often the kinds of people who are our own spin doctors.

See – here’s why it’s important we see this as a description and not a law.  If Paul is giving us a law – then we end up using words that are technically correct but misleading in every way.

Here’s a classic example that every parent will sniff out – your son or daughter is going to a party.   You ask – will anyone there be drinking beer?  Beer?  Probably not beer.  Now what does that mean?

Now that kind of double speak goes on all the time in politics – and it also happens in our own lives – we use words to manage our image.

For instance – have you ever said something like this…  Oh that reminds me – I was watching Ellen the other day – I was watching Ellen the other day – Not that I usually watch Ellen.  I just so happened to be – I was in Cabela’s – buying ammo for my Pew Pew  and it was on the tv – anyway…

I could spend the rest of our time here on this subject alone because there’s no end to the illustrations.

But the new kind of human?  Knows how much they are loved by God – and knowing that they are accepted by God as they are – means that really, it doesn’t matter whether you think very highly of me or not.

So the question is this:  Is Paul describing you?  Are you free from the need to manipulate others with half truths and lies?  If not – what do you do?  You give the Holy Spirit permission to make it bother you enough – Lord I want to be a person of integrity.  I don’t want to be duplicitous.  Please alert me when tempted and give me the strength to be honest without fear of another’s opinion of me.  Help me be true and authentic and real.

Remind me Lord, that YOU are my shepherd.  And that you will lead me and guide me.  Help me to be free from the universal temptation to manipulate others.

  1. Am I the kind of person who does not nurture anger?

26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

The primary role of anger is to alert me to an obstruction to my will.  It immediately raises an alarm – that I will not get my way.  Anger is a result of a wounded ego.  It’s an emotion.  And if that’s all I allowed anger to become, then there’s more likely a chance I can wave off that anger without allowing it to be embedded in my soul – where it becomes over time something much more insidious and destructive.

But most people can’t wave off anger – and so – many people are simmering with anger – they walk around about 2 degrees from boiling over at any time including now.

Anger is so destructive to our souls and others, that it is one of the very first issues that Jesus deals with in the new human.  He says – you think it’s good enough that you haven’t killed anyone – but inside of you there is a poisonous brew of anger and contempt and scorn that corrodes humanity.

And so Jesus begins his sermon by asking if we could imagine becoming the kind of person who doesn’t have to thrash about at the slightest perceived sleight?

How about we become instead a new kind of human – the kind who can wave off anger instead of indulging and nurturing our anger and contempt for others.

This is not an easy thing to do and will make you stand out in a world that seems to be addicted to the adrenaline rush of rage.

It’s not easy because I’ve never met anyone who was angry who didn’t feel completely justified in their anger.  They have every right to be angry.

But here’s the thing – if a follower of Jesus prays as Jesus taught us that Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven – then why would we so quickly freak out when MY will is thwarted?

Fundamentally, and philosophically, anger is not at home in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Is Paul describing you when he describes a person who isn’t controlled by anger?  Are you the kind of person who can wave off minor annoyances?  Are you able to quickly deal with anger, or do you allow it to germinate and poison your soul?

What do you do if not?  We pray and ask the Holy Spirit to make us aware of our reactions.  We ask Him to show us the reason behind the anger – and that takes courage.

The reason anger is so universal is because it is so easily explained and justified.  But if we ask the Holy Spirit – to teach us why we are so angry – it will eventually bring us to the heart level – where real and lasting change needs to begin.

We bring whatever it is that’s eating us up before the Lord and we pray – Lord help me to become the kind of person who doesn’t allow anger to control us.  Father, please don’t allow this anger to simmer in my heart.

  1. Am I a generous people?

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.

One thing you have to appreciate about the teachings of Jesus and Christianity – is that it really isn’t a book of rules.   Jesus didn’t leave heaven and come to earth, live, teach, love, die, be resurrected from the dead  – in order to create a new set of rules.   Frankly, there is nothing new about the rule to not steal.  It’s one of the ten basics.

But the goal isn’t that followers of Jesus would be famous for not stealing.  Instead, one of the markers is – they are generous people.  They use their wealth to demonstrate love and care for others.

Now – this church is a generous church.  We are giving away more than 10k a month to care for people in need both here, in our church and town, but also – in Haiti and Mali and togo and elsewhere.

But I do think Paul invites each of us to ask ourselves whether we are generous people.  It’s one thing to say I have generous friends.  But is Paul describing you when he describes a follower of Jesus as being a generous person?

Now don’t get religious – it’s typical to ask – How much must I give away in order to be considered generous?  And the New Testament does not answer that – because again – it’s not interested in parsing out percentages – because frankly – ten percent might be a huge stretch for some people to give away – while ten percent might be nothing for someone else.

So the New Testament simply says – that a person at home in the Kingdom of heaven will become a generous person.  And it invites us to insect our budget to see if we are actually generous or we just think we’re generous.

Generosity requires careful planning.  You have to be intentional about budgeting money for the sake of generosity.

Are you a generous person?  If not, why not?  Are you afraid that you cannot trust God to provide for you and so you will hang onto what’s yours?  Do you not trust us or any other charitable organization on the face of the earth?  Listen – I get it if you are new to Journey and you think we’re trying to manipulate you into giving us your money – and if that’s how you feel you better not give anything to us.  But I would also say that if you are unable to find even one charitable organization in the world that’s worthy of your trust?

Then – you might not like me saying this but if don’t give money to people in need because you can’t find one charity worthy of your money, then the issue is that you’re greedy.

Now practically speaking – if you need help establishing a budget – we offer classes called Financial Peace university – by Dave Ramsey – and we’ve had dozens of people go through it here at Journey – including my wife and I – and I’ve never heard anyone say to me – that was a waste of time.

You can learn how to become better managers of what God is giving you – and it’s helpful.  The next class is starting….

Paul is describing the person who’s life has been changed through faith in Jesus.  Is he describing me?   Is he describing you?

  1. Am I the kind of person who no longer needs to manage my image?
  2. Am I the kind of person who does not nurture anger?
  3. Am I a generous person?
  4. Do I use my words to build people up?

We will use our words to build people up rather than tear people down.

29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

This doesn’t require much comment.  Again, the issue isn’t whether or not we ever use a curse word.  Frankly, I’ve been around little old church ladies who are able to cut people to ribbons with a look!  Without ever uttering a swear word.

I remember in high school when I first came to Jesus my youth group and an entire different lexicon for Christian approved curse words.  You couldn’t say the F word but you could say frickin. So I could say – that fricking idiot – I hope he dies in a one person train accident – but it’s okay – I didn’t curse.  No sin here –  I’m sinless!

Silly, right?  But the bible is clear that our words are connected to our hearts.  It’s from the over flow of the heart that the mouth speaks.  And so, if our heart has been infused with the love of God, it will be less likely to squish people with contemptuous words, however well crafted to avoid swear words.

Instead – because we see in others that they are created and loved by God we will find every reason to build one another up with our words.  Use them to bring life and healing and communicate love and respect to one another.

Paul finishes up this chapter with these words…

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Lord, help us to be these kinds of people.  Lovingly Convict us when we aren’t.  Thank you for your patience as we are a people who are under construction.  And these passages inspire us to imagine that we can become these kinds of people in this kind of world.  Amen.

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