One of the problems with serving the world is that it's full of deceit: It never satisfies because it usually prompts us to live our lives based on how we feel. However, since we are a new race and a new creation and since the old is gone and the new has come, we should not base our lives on our feelings but on truth.
Believed the Truth? Received the Life? Then Walk in the Way.
Getting a Grip on What it Means to Love God
Believe What He Has Done, Be Living Like He Has Done It
The Blueprint of the Church, part 2
The Blueprint of the Church, part 1
A Reasonable and Right Response to His Radical, Redemptive Love
The Divine Dimension of Love
The Breadth, Depth, Width and Height of Puppy Love
A Suffering Steward in a Cell: What was True of Paul Ought to be True of Us
Things into Which Angels Long to Look
Father, thank you for this book that does not leave us adrift in the sea of opinions of men, being blown here and there by every wind and wave of doctrine. We are people who have truth. The truth that will set us free. Not truth that will set us up for failure and disappointment, but truth that will fill us with peace.
Peace not as the world gives, but peace of God, which is never rattled, which is never wanting, which is never hoping for anything more because everything that he has is sufficient. You have given us that in your book. You have given us that specifically in the one to whom the book points, Jesus Christ.
It's him who we worship, not our Bibles, but the God of this Bible, the God of Jesus Christ who came and gave his life for us that we might know you and be delivered from darkness, that we would be called by your name and delivered from shame. We thank you that those of us who have responded to this truth are people of God, saints every one.
It is that truth which causes us to praise you. It is that truth which makes us fall deeper and deeper in love with your letter to us, that we might begin to think with the Spirit of the mind of Christ that we would no longer be slaves to our flesh, which seeks to destroy us. We thank you, Father, that we are people who are set free. We study your Word to be further encouraged to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called. In Jesus' name, amen.
Look with me at Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 1. If you will remember, there is a therefore here. It is the first of several therefores that will follow. These therefores all flow out of chapters 1 through 3. A legalist would run to chapter 4 and begin to preach. Paul didn't see fit to do that. In this book, in Colossians, in Romans, and in other epistles, he first sets you up, grounds you, and establishes you in truth.
Then he said, "Therefore, because this truth is in you, you are now set free. Therefore, live in such a manner that you would be set free. You are a people who are no longer under the curse. You no longer need to hide from one another behind masks, behind fronts. You no longer need to be self-absorbed so that you can be self-important, so that you can be self-loved.
You now are loved by the God of the universe so that you can be others-centered. You can no longer be naked and ashamed, but you can go back again into the garden and begin to seek God as he has sought you." It says you as people who were dispersed, who were formerly way out there, now you've been brought together by what Christ has done.
He tells you in verse 3 to be diligent "...to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." We are to be a unified people. We are a body. If you remember with me now and look back. He spent in chapter 4 in verses 7 and following what the church should look like. In verses 1 through 3, he tells us how to walk. In verses 4 through 6, he says you are unified, and he gives us seven ways in which we are unified.
We are going to be the perfect picture of unity. That we are all pulled back into our Creator. That we are all full. We are joined, we are going to find out in verse 16, by the love of the Spirit of Christ. We are no longer self-centered. We are others-centered. He goes through. He says the church is going to be able to do this (the very thing that I command) because though you are unified, you are not uniform.
You are each specifically gifted that the body might operate in a way that the head would be glorified. Luckily, we are not all chins. We are not all elbows. We are not all hands. We are not all calf muscles. We are everything that is necessary for the body to grow into maturity. He says though you are unified; you are diverse.
Every individual believer has been given a gift that you might perform what you need to perform. So that every piece would be joined together by the joints and ligaments, specifically, by the circulatory system of the blood of Christ that you then would be grown up into a healthy body, that the body would not become disproportionate, that we wouldn't have a huge bicep and a little forearm because somebody has been disobedient.
Every single individual, according to the measure that they have been given, would perform the task that they need to be performing. Again, some of us would go, "I'd love to be a bicep. I'd love to be a pectoral, a big old muscle." We have plenty of gluteus maximuses in here. We don't need any more of those.
Seriously, we all want to be something bigger. We are encouraged and reminded that God does not reward you based on the size of the part that you are called to perform. He rewards us based on how we perform, however small our part is. If you are a fingernail on the pinky finger, be a good fingernail on the pinky finger.
If you don't, we will be deformed. We'll have a vulnerable part of our body. We won't be able to operate as God has us operate. We will be deformed. We'll be retarded as a people. He tells us how we're to grow up. Last week we looked at five things that he says make a church great. It's on the back of your Focus. They really should go in order.
The first one is that we're unified in the faith, that we have a book that we agree with. When someone says, "Who is Jesus?" We would respond in unison. We all have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not that we just know about him, but we know him intimately. We have experienced a relationship together. We would grow into the full measure of a mature man. We would begin to look individually and as a body like Jesus Christ.
I was going to say this last week and didn't. I should be able to come in here and say, "This is a body by Jesus." You all know that brother on that TV show, Body by Jake? He would never have given that T-shirt to an old Elvis. That would've been a body by jelly donut. He never would have had Elvis walk around with that T-shirt on.
You have to ask yourself, would Jesus want us wearing his T-shirt? Would he want us walking around "Body by Jesus"? Would we be "Body by Jealousy," "Body by Jethro Bodine," or whoever else? Would we be "Body by Jesus"? Would we walk around full of the love of Christ? People could look at us and go, "That person, that body has been worked out by the one who can train people and change people like nobody else." Body by Jesus.
That ought to be our jersey. That ought to be what we wear. There is the old story. I didn't share it because it's so familiar. I'll do it very quickly. A young man was in Alexander's army who had defected. He had run away. He was AWOL. He was brought before Alexander. He was laid down there before the great conqueror.
Alexander looked at him. The mother came up just before Alexander was about to pronounce judgment on him that he should be killed and said, "Please spare the life of my son. Years ago when I became pregnant with him, we knew of you. We knew that you were great and a deliverer and a mighty conqueror and were one who was esteemed throughout our nation. Because I loved you, I named him after you. This son is named on behalf of you. Please spare his life because I loved you."
Alexander the Great looked down at that young man. He picked him up and looked him in the eye. He said, "Son, when people hear that Alexander has run from battle, they will not know whether it was you or whether it was me who has run. Your name carries mine. You either change your name or change the way you're living" and Then sent him back. Would Jesus walk in here and tell us to change our name? Or would he say, "You all just keep living like you're living?"
There are many of you who are part of a body of Christ that is cause for great glory to be had. There are others among us who are not doing what we ought to do. We don't have a body by Jesus. We have a body by jelly donut that's oozing out everywhere and is full of mess. Body by Jesus. We ought to grow to the full measure of a man. We ought to be spiritually mature. Everyone ought to begin to look like Jesus Christ.
The fourth thing is we ought to be grounded in truth. We should not be blown here and there. We know that we have a standard as I begin the very lesson tonight. The fifth thing is that we speak about that message in love. We don't go forward with a baton to smack people over the head. We speak the truth in love. Do you remember that?
The last thing… We didn't really touch on it. It really isn't a separate point, but I'll use it to segue to where we're going tonight. Look at verse 16. It really is this: Where there is maturity, there is cooperation. There is not competition; there is cooperation. There is no jealousy among us.
What is the first thing that is true about love? Love is patient. The very thing that we don't like to do is be patient with a body. When somebody in this group offends you, if somebody hurts you, the first thing you do is you run down the street to another great church. You go over here and worship. There is not very much diligence among us to preserve the body of unity that he has built.
There ought to be great patience. Love is patient. He says to be longsuffering, in verses 1 through 3, in our care for one another. "… [Be] diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." That he has established. Christ died that we might be unified. "Love is patient, love is kind…" Love is not arrogant and does not boast. Love is not jealous.
There should be no jealousy among us, but cooperation as we work as the fullness of Christ to glorify the head. You will remember that we are people who come out of the truth in verses 1 through 3 who are the fullness of Jesus Christ. Let's go through it again. There are seven different ways in Scripture that we are told that we are the fullness of who he is.
He is the foundation. We're the temple. He is the vine. We are the branches. He is the High Priest. We are a kingdom of priests. He is the last Adam. We are a new race. We are the fullness of Christ. There is more. He is the bridegroom. We are the bride. We are the fullness of Jesus Christ. Finally, he is the head. We are the body. That is the last picture.
Because we are the body and we have been given specific gifts. Some of us are operating a certain way. Let us be diligent to use our gifts. They are not toys for us to play with. They are tools for us to build with. They are never for our own selfish gain. They are always for the good of the body. The hand doesn't exist for the sake of the hand.
The hand exists to feed the face that the body might be strong. The hand exists to pick things up, to operate in union with the body so that the head can be glorified. How are we doing? You're going to see your second therefore tonight. Look at it with me. "This I say therefore…" I want you, because all this is true… You are mature people. You look like this.
Your church is great not because you have a good teacher, not because you have good worship, not because you have a neat building, not because you meet at a good time. You are a good church because you are unified in those five things. In the faith, the knowledge, the maturity, the truth, and you speak that truth in love.
"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart ; and they…" Those Gentiles that are all that I just said. They, "…having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
What in the world is Paul saying? This is a difficult little text. The reason it's so difficult is because it's one of the most difficult parts of your Bible compressed into…what is it? Eight verses. It is Romans 5 through 8 compressed right there. It is Colossians 3 tucked away into eight little key verses in Ephesians. That you might know the great truth of who you are in Christ.
He is coming at you. He is telling you again what you ought to be considering who you are. Again this is a great response. That therefore really throws you back to chapter 4, verses 1 through 3. "...to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…" That therefore throws you back to all of chapter 1 through 3, that you have been delivered from shame, called out of darkness, called by his name. You're the people of God; therefore, you need to be different.
You are not, it says in verse 17… Let's pick it apart little bit by little bit. I "…affirm together with the Lord…" What Paul is saying here is this is not just the opinion of man. Paul is writing to you …I'll just say this, because sometimes you're going to be reading in 1 Corinthians and you're going to come across a passage where Paul says, "This I say, not the Lord." He means that he is not saying this contrary to the Holy Spirit who is guiding him as he writes. What Paul is saying there in 1 Corinthians is that Jesus never taught on this.
What you will find is most of the time when Paul taught, he took the acorn of truth that Christ planted, and he grows it into the oak tree. You have the manifestation of truth in Jesus Christ. You have the explanation of that truth in the epistles in the New Testament. Paul is explaining and teaching more about what Christ's heart was.
Paul is saying two things. First you need to know that this was not just Paul writing from a jail cell. This was a man who understands that God is using him and the Spirit of God is working through him. This is an apostle who Christ has given as a gift to the body. A gifted man that the church, once the prophets are no longer necessary, because the apostles will give you God's Word.
The Holy Spirit will teach them and lead them in all truth, Jesus said, so that you can have and abide with that truth. You will no longer need the truth spoken immediately from men because you'll have it spoken immediately through the written word even as it was established and taught to us through the living Word, Jesus Christ. The Word of God would be given to us. Paul is saying, "Here it comes. I'm saying this for the Lord."
He's expounding somewhat on what Christ taught, but he is also letting you know that this isn't just his opinion. "…I…affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind…" That word futility. What it really means is that they lived…
That word futile is in vanity. It is resultlessness. It is kind of a tough word to say. Gentiles walk in futility. They walk and they are in love with that which produces no result. It is resultlessness that they pursue. I have before me a copy of the Humanist Manifesto. The second one was actually written 40 years after the first in 1973.
This is their claim. This is the world without God. They believe the world is self-existing. There is no God. No deity can save us. We must save ourselves. Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological sanction. They're saying it's up to you to decide what is right because we don't need a God to tell us.
They're not saying not only are we stuck with the best opinions of men, like Plato did. They're saying that is good because there is no God. As a 1933 humanist still believes that traditional theism, especially faith and the prayer-hearing God, which we will worship again next week and all through the week with the way that you live, assume to love and care for persons, to hear and understand their prayers and to be able to do something about them is an unproved and outmoded faith. Reasonable minds look to other means for survival. So they sign.
As these guys are expressing a desire for man to go deeper into the opinions of men, they can just say, "Let's just get real knowledge. Let's go deeper. Let's rewrite what is true with every new book that comes out, with every new theory that comes down the way. It is not a wind or a way that is pushing us to and fro. It is pushing us more toward ultimate truth." The only problem with that is if you look back over history, we don't keep moving forward. We go forward. Then we go way back. Then we go way back to another failed system. Then we go to another failed system.
There's an article that I pulled from a Newsweek long ago. Meg Greenfield wrote this in 1984. She talks about the divisiveness of Christianity, of who we are. People who believe that we have a book that is from God that talks about who he is that we might not be blown about, waiting for the latest issue of the Dallas Morning News and the latest bit of truth from Dear Abby that we might know how to handle our problems around the Thanksgiving table.
She says if Christians would just loosen up… She says, "I long for ancient Rome where the people regarded all the modes of worship as equally true. The intellectuals regarded them as equally false. The politicians regarded them as equally useful. What a well blessed time. I think we could try to emulate the laid-back spirit that Rome reveals."
Excuse me, Meg. What happened to Rome? Does anybody remember? Rome was destroyed. How was it destroyed? It was destroyed from within. It was licentiousness that these people chased after. It was the destruction that they brought on themselves with the disintegration of the family, with the lack of trust in their fellow man, and with the constant spiraling of leadership that brought them to their knees.
This great power, this blessed city that was not built in a day was destroyed by the very men who built it because these men were self-absorbed and self-centered. They were pursuing resultlessness. They got what their futility will bring them every time. That's destruction. She says, "I long to go back to the days of Rome." Guess what?
She has gotten her wish. Because you continually have in our society men who scoff at a standard of truth, the very standard that we were founded on. Though not all men were believers, all men believed there was a standard of truth. The Founding Fathers that we know wrote when men abandon the basic Judeo-Christian ethic, that we as a nation are doomed to fail.
We cannot govern ourselves unless we agree, basically, that this is the book. This is the standard by which we might live. We're going back to the days of Rome. One person said this. "At the front of every history book ought to be stamped this expression, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'"
Boy, if that could be stamped on the cover of an American history book, especially in the twentieth century. Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do. Actually, that is contrary to what Paul writes in Romans. Let's flip there to Romans, chapter 1. Turn there with me. There's an old proverb which is a good one that meets us here. It says this. "He who rides a tiger must make plans for dismounting."
We are on the tiger of human knowledge. We are on the tiger of tolerance. We are on the tiger of pluralism. Boy, it sure feels good at election time. It sure feels good when you're in an office. It sure feels good when you're around the Thanksgiving table. Everybody wants to get along the way they say we should get along.
Can't we all just understand that we're different? Whatever we're going to pursue, we'll pursue. If you are committed to speaking the truth and speaking it in love, you cannot remain silent. Because you have to speak up because though they're riding that tiger of comfort, there is going to be day when you have to dismount.
When you do, you have to make plans for dismounting that tiger. If you can see, there are spiritual pictures which God gives us all over the place. He gives us. He's the master Teacher, so there are object lessons left and right. In the Old Testament, he used the object lesson of leprosy to teach us about sin. He also taught us the object lesson of what happens to man as he turns away from God.
The wages of sin is death. That death is given to us now in a physical picture. When we as men turn from God and say, "We do not need you. We don't need your counsel. We don't need your instruction. We can live, as it were, on our own without your leadership, without your instruction, without your relationship."
He said, "Fine, but you shall no longer eat of this tree, which is the tree of my provision for you. I did not mean for you to die, but you will now die in a physical sense, which is going to be a picture of your already spiritual death." From the moment that every baby and child is born in this world, he begins to die. Though he grows stronger, though he grows to six feet, four inches, he is growing to die.
There is not a child that is born this day that will not be born to die, because he is a physical picture of a spiritual condition which rests within him, because he is a part of an anthrōpos, a race, that is fallen. As long as we are identified with that first Adam and he is our head, we are the fullness of who he is. We are the fullness of sin.
For years as a society we have expressed the fullness of the first Adam. Paul is arguing that you as a people are a new anthrōpos, a new race, a new people, a people of God who now are no longer dying, but he says to you what he said to Lazarus. Come forth, loose him, let him out and undo him, untie him.
You are to go from the graveyard of sin to the throne room of grace. You are now living. You are a new race from the new Adam. What you have here in Romans, chapter 1, is a picture of a people who have not prepared to dismount this tiger. They know they're riding it. They love the ride. It is kind of fun to ride a tiger. There is going to come a day when they have to get off it.
They had better prepare for the dismount. Foolish men scoff and they go, "I'll just enjoy the ride while I'm on the back of the tiger. When I fall, I'll run." Here is what it says in Romans about them. Let's read a lot together. Look at verse 18. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth…"
Singular. There is truth. "…in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." Everybody knows truth. Look at verse 20. "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
We've talked about that. Psalm 19 goes into that further. You can look at the order of the world. You can look at the greatness of the cosmos. You can look at the brilliance of the human body and go, "This is not an accident. There is something behind it." Every single creation, every single race of man, anthropologists tell us, "Look for something bigger than them."
Except for one group of people who after doing that for a while, even though verse 21 says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile…" Same word. They invested in that which is resultless. "...they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…"
I've shared this before. I'm going to throw it out right now. If you can measure all knowledge from the beginning of time in inches and feet, from the beginning of time until 1845… Now follow me on this. If you could measure all knowledge in inches and feet, if you'd stack it up from the beginning of time until 1845, that knowledge would be one inch.
From 1845 to 1945, all the knowledge that we've assumed recorded in books to better our society would then stack three inches on top of that. You have four inches of knowledge. From 1945 to present if you stacked up knowledge, the advancement of our world on our research and what we've come to know and understand, would be the size of the Washington Monument.
We're advancing in knowledge. We are full of knowledge, but it's a knowledge which leads to destruction, it's a knowledge that is full of futility. Ultimately, the reasoning of men and the study of men and the knowledge of men is resultless. It will not get you what you look for. There is nothing wrong with knowledge.
But it's a knowledge that if you trust in it and in it alone, if there is not someone else who speaks into us, if we say, "There is no God. He is not there and he does not care. Therefore he does not matter and we are left to ourselves," you are chasing after foolishness. Because you are a dying creature. You are related to your first head, and he is a dying man.
We have all kinds of knowledge. Thoreau said this. "We have improved means now to an unimproved end." With all the advancement of knowledge in the 1800s, Thoreau wrote that we have an improved means to an unimproved end. Professing to be wise, we become fools. Look what happens.
It says in verse 23 they, "…exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore…" Verse 24. Here is what's going to happen. "…God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." I will give them a physical object lesson. I will give them a picture of their foolishness. Watch this.
"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural…" Look at verse 27. "…and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."
He is not, I believe, speaking of AIDS there. AIDS certainly is a consequence to some people who participate in that lifestyle, but that is not specifically a prophetic picture of AIDS. There are diseases in every form of life. There are cancers of every kind. There is heart disease of every kind. We are all dying men. We just all choose a different instrument of death.
Some of you do in the parlor with a rope. Others of you do it in the kitchen with a wrench. Every single one of us is choosing an instrument of death, because we are a dying people and God gives us over. One thing specifically that God does here to let them know the foolishness of what they are choosing as they become passionate, we're going to find out, about every form of lust and immorality.
What is the eventual destiny of a race that chooses to neglect the natural function of a woman? What happens to a society if you took and invested and said, "Let's just let the men be with the men and the women be with the women"? Extinction. It becomes an object lesson, a physical picture of a spiritual condition. We are going to extinguish ourselves, whether it is through your election to choose a homosexual lifestyle or any other form of rebellion.
Unless you get too pumped up, Christian, or you in the flesh who doesn't struggle with that particular problem, read on. Because look what it says. "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind…" Okay. How can we get more depraved than what we just read?
Here we go. "…to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips…" Do you want to stop when I get to you? "…slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents…"
Bingo. For all of us if you weren't hit up until then…bingo. Some of us have this idea that certain sins are the grand sins of the world. We would think that, "Boy, God is going to save them for last to show where ultimate rebellion really leads." Do you see what he leaves for last? It's not one that you and I would choose. It's what you and I are all a part of.
He wants us to know that we, apart from God, are headed for resultlessness, futility, vanity, a vapor. It will cause our destruction. Even as the eventual extinction of a race will come through a homosexual lifestyle, so will the eventual extinction of a race come that is full of insolence and evil and disobedience to parents and a mockery of their values.
It's happening in our country today, and Meg Greenfield longs for us to go back to it. "Professing to be wise, they became fools…" Look what it says in verse 31. They are people "…without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful…" They are bent on destruction. He says that now in verse 32. "…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
Is that not true of our society? Not only do they do them, but they say that is good! I have to read you this. This came out of the Dallas Morning News. When you have what is mentioned in Micah, chapter 3, verse 2. It says when you call evil good and good evil, you have a problem as a people. It is happening in our society. Another man said it this way. "When a small man casts a tall shadow, you know it's near the end of the day."
We have small men casting large shadows in this country. They are becoming exalted. We are putting them on every channel that we can that our children might model them. We are publicizing them in every which way. We are voting anybody who is not like them out of any position of leadership.
This is the Dallas Morning News, September 19. Confessions of a Straight Girl: "At a meeting last week of the lesbian and gay congressional staff association in Washington, D.C., Marsha Scott, who was appointed recently by President Clinton as White House liaison to the gay and lesbian community, admitted that she is straight.
Upon which, reported Roll Call, Robert Raben, aide to Representative Barney Frank, D-Mass., said, 'We admire your courage in coming out as a straight person,' upon which Scott said (in jest), 'I am so ashamed.'" When you call that which is good evil and that which is evil good, you have a problem, God says.
When you pervert justice, when you distort what is right and what is wrong, you have a problem. When you have small men casting long shadows, you know it's the end of the day. If it's not the end of the day for this world, if we don't change something as a people who pursue resultlessness, futility, it will soon be the end of the day for us as a country, at least as we know it. Jump back to Ephesians.
Recently, there was an article in Men's Journal. They went and asked men who the five different athletes, if they could be any athlete, they would choose to be. You might imagine the number one man that other men would like to be was Michael Jordan. Number two was Cal Ripken. Number three was Troy Aikman. But Michael Jordan won by a long shot.
It's interesting. Michael Jordan has a new book out or somebody wrote about him. It's called Rebound. The guy who wrote that book about him was talking about some things that Jordan has said. This week I was talking to a friend of mine about sports and our effort to find meaning there in that futile lifestyle.
He was talking about how he experienced, specifically in college game, how that wasn't going to give him that life that he longed for. It was a lie. As he got there finally with his naivety and thought that he was going to be finally full and find some sort of acceptance and purpose, he found it was empty. He said, "You know something? Jordan found the same thing. It just took him three titles and three MVPs to do it." Eight scoring titles.
He left it because he knew that life wasn't there. Guess what? He went back because he forgot. I'm not sure that's the only reason he went back. Michael Jordan simply says this in his book Rebound. It's futile. "These men who want to be like me…?" Not specifically responding to that survey, but he says, "If they want to be like me, they can choose to be like me, but not just for a day. No. They have to choose to be like me for a year."
Do you know what Michael Jordan is preaching right there? Sin, gang. It's razor wire wrapped in velvet. It feels so good. It is so soft to the touch. It is so alluring. It makes so much sense until you put your weight on it. It feels good for a day, but eventually it's going to wear itself through. It's going to show you that it is futile. It will not give you life. It will take it from you.
It is resultlessness. What this book is about to tell you… This is a great passage to be studying before we all go home for Thanksgiving. What the book is begging you to do is to be different. As you go home, it's a book that's good for this man to read before he goes home for Thanksgiving.
It's begging me to be different, to not go home and base my happiness and my acceptance or let them think that I'm basing my happiness or my acceptance on my wit, on my wife, on my work, on my wealth. That I'm not basing my acceptance on anything but Jesus Christ. Because anything else is futility. What will your people see in you?
Will they see a body that is full of the peace of Christ? A body by Jesus? Or something else? He is begging as you go home as an ambassador, an alien, and a stranger to look different. He is going to tell you why. "So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God…"
All that he is saying there when he says they are "…excluded from the life of God…" or alienated I think in the NIV, is that they are separated from true life. They have abandoned the fount of living waters. When God rebuked the people of Israel in Jeremiah, chapter 2, he said this.
"I have a problem with you. I have never seen a people like this before, a people who I have given spring water to that you have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and you have chosen for yourselves cisterns, broken cisterns that give no water." That's what he says the Gentiles have done. They have gone after futility.
They've invested their lives in it. They're darkened in their understanding. It's something which has happened that is in the past-perfect tense. It is something which has happened in the past, completely imperfectly, which has an effect on their future. They have decided that God is not necessary in their lives and, therefore, they are alienated from God.
God is the giver of life. If you are alienated from God, you are dying. Not only is your body a physical picture of a spiritual condition, but your very life, Michael Jordan says, is a picture of that. "Hey man, you can get three rings. You can have three Porsches. You can have three girlfriends. It's futile."
Do you know who else wrote this? King Solomon, who walked away from his God for a time. He came back and said, "Vanity of vanities. All is vanity except for one thing, and that is to know God, and that from whence I came is that to which I shall return, because everything else leaves me thirsty. I will not forsake again the fountain of living waters. I will not go to broken cisterns that hold no water."
Paul is encouraging you as a bunch of Christians to do the same. Do not return to broken cisterns that hold no water, but you stay connected to Jesus Christ. Don't be alienated from life. You've been given life. Rejoice in it. You know what it was like in the grave. How foolish. Had Lazarus come forth and said, "Hey, this is great. Let's go home." Jesus says, "Time to go to bed." He says, "I have to go back to the tomb. Where are my bandages to rewrap me?" "No, brother. You're no longer dead. I've brought you from the grave."
There wouldn't have been a person alive that wouldn't have mocked Lazarus if he said, "No, I'm going back to the grave. I'm a dead man." No, you're not a dead man. Don't live like it. Look what he says. Verse 19. "…they, having become callous…" That word callous is exactly what it means. It means they have become hard of feeling.
I was going to bring a pen up here. I have calluses on my hand. I could take pens and I could literally run them into my hand pretty deep. It won't hurt if I do it on a callous. I can do it over here where my flesh is soft and sensitive and you're going to jump. There's going to be blood that comes out. There are parts of my body which are dead.
Paul is arguing that there are a bunch of people out there who are dead. They have no feeling. You go, "Why wouldn't they come back and respond to this?" The answer is because they are dead in their trespasses and sins. So were you, Ephesians, chapter 2, says. Let's keep reading. "…they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality…"
Let me just tell you this. They have given themselves over to sensuality. What that basically means. It is a Greek word paradidōmi, which simply means this. Didōmi is to give. Para means to come alongside. They have given themselves to come alongside. They have sold themselves as slaves. They have given themselves, presented themselves to that form of lifestyle.
The lie is that they're free. Paul is saying they're not free. They are slaves to their flesh. They can't do what they want. They are not their own master. They are always slaves. They are slaves to the lust of their flesh. That word sensuality, you can let your imagination run wild. It contains everything. Paul is saying these people are slaves.
In our society we would say they have sold themselves down the river when they didn't need to. They have sold themselves, the Gentiles have, those who do not know God. That's what Paul means. They have sold themselves to every form of sensuality. "…for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness."
I love… What's the NIV say? With continual lust for more. That they never get enough. That's exactly what Jordan is saying. This isn't it. You guys have heard the story. I repeated of Rockefeller. They asked him, "How much money is enough?" His response was, "Just one dollar more." Just one perversion more.
You never find somebody who walks out of a strip bar, who walks out of a sexually addictive lifestyle who says, "Finally, that's enough." You never find an alcoholic who goes, "That's it! That was enough drunken binges for one lifetime." They always look for something more. It's killing them.
"But you did not learn Christ in this way…" That doesn't mean he did not learn about Christ. That is not what it says. It means literally you did not learn the Christ. You did not learn the Messiah in this way. You are different! Do you catch what he is saying? You're not people of the lie. You're not in darkness. You haven't sold yourself down the river to sin.
In fact, it's just the opposite. You have been bought with a price. So he says because you haven't learned Christ in this way "…if indeed…" **He implies there that you have."…you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus…"** Then he gets to this part that is really the clearest picture of Romans 5 and 8. Follow this with me.
He says, "…** that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self…"** the old anthrōpos, that you are no longer of the first Adam. If you are a fullness of the first Adam, you become the fullness of sin, which leads to death. You are a new people, a new race it says, that Jesus Christ in Romans 5… Here goes Paul saying that Jesus Christ is the last Adam.
He is the Father of a new race of people. All who identify with him are a new creation. This is 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ…" If you have come to learn Christ. This is the only place it's used in the New Testament. If you have learned him, then you are no longer who you were. "…the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." Now watch.
This is very difficult stuff here, but it's the key to your spiritual life. He says, "If you have learned Christ, and I believe that you have, then you individuals don't go back to worshipping the resultlessness of the temple Artemis. Don't go and give yourself to every kind of infidelity and every kind of senseless life meaning that you can get in the city of Ephesus. You have more."
He says, "…you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit…" Do you catch that? One of the problems with serving the world is that it is deceitful. It is the lust of deceit. It is never, ever satisfied. The thirst will never stop being in your gut. It's what Jesus said. "I can give you water that if you drink of it, you will never thirst again."
Everything else out there is like sugar water. It quenches your thirst for a moment, but then that Coke wears off and you're thirstier than you were before. You know how a man dies in the middle of an ocean, on top of salt water? If a man drinks all the water that is around him in the middle of an ocean, do you know how he dies? You die of dehydration when you drink salt water.
That is a perfect picture of the deceitfulness of sin. You have an ocean of things to participate in around you, but if you dip your cup in anything of this world, you will literally die of thirst. That is why Jesus said, "Drink of this fountain. This is not a broken cistern which holds no water. It will not dehydrate your system. It will give you life. You will never thirst again."
Paul is saying, "You have tasted of this water. Look like it! Throw away that old self, which was lusting after deceitfulness that comes with any kind of life apart from Christ." Look what he says. He says right here that you, "Therefore…" in verse 25. I want to stop right there. I don't want to go on.
I want to tell you that he is going to beg you in verse 25 and following. There are going to be four or five different areas that because this is true of you, you then should look different. Go ahead and read ahead. As soon as you go home, you'll find that your speech, your emotions, your actions, and your attitudes among other things should be different now that you are a Christian.
Flip with me very quickly to 1 Corinthians 2. This is why… Here comes yet another object lesson. When Jesus would say, "You need food or you're going to die." But remember what Jesus said when Satan confronted him and tempted him in the desert? He said, "Listen, I don't live by bread alone, but by every word which comes from the mouth of God. If I don't feed my spiritual man, my new man, then that will die as well."
He lived in the very Word of God. What we have to do is not just feed our physical selves. We are careful to do that. He says, "Feed your spiritual self because you are spiritual men." You will put on the spirit of the mind of Christ. That is your new man. The word for new in the Greek there is not new in the sense of time.
It'd be like if I had a box of Tide here and it got empty. I said, "Hey, give me some new Tide." If my wife handed me just a new box, there would be nothing new. It would be new in the sense of time. But if I said this other Greek word which Paul uses for our new man… It's a word that means new in the sense of it's a whole new order.
It is new and improved Tide. They'd be quick to put it on the box. That's what Paul says. You're not just a new man in the sense of time. It's not something that has just happened philosophically to you. You have become a part of a new order. You who were dead have been made alive. That is a fact.
Paul begs you to believe it. Then he begs you in chapter 4 and 6 of Ephesians to respond to that fact. It is not feeling. It is a fact. It is lived on by faith because you as spiritual men are now in tune with spiritual truth. Look at 1 Corinthians 2. This is where we end. It says this in verse 10. "For to us God revealed them [truth] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God."
We can't know how to think like God. We will continue to chase after futility unless God gives us spiritual truth from his Spirit. Look at verse 12. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…"
In other words, that you would then begin to think differently, that you wouldn't think with the mind of the old race that chooses to drink of the salt water of the world which leads to resultlessness, but that you would drink of another fountain. Here's what it says. "…which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom…" Professing to be wise leads to foolishness. "…but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words."
I think better than thoughts and words, it is spiritual thoughts or, if you will, spiritual truth with spiritual people. That the reason that this book makes sense to you, the reason you won't walk out of here tonight scoffing at it is because God has done a work in your life. God alone has done a work in your life.
Now you are sensitive to the things of the Spirit because you are no longer dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2. God who is rich in grace and mercy has delivered you from the grave and established you in him. It is written, if you look back with me now… Go to Ephesians 4 one more time. This is a fact that you are spiritual people. You are spiritual men.
A natural man doesn't understand these things, if you would read on in 1 Corinthians 2. A spiritual man does. Look at Ephesians 4 for the last time. Let's read that one verse. Look at verse 24. "…and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God…" Now watch these words. "…has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."
Those words, gang, are stating a truth that God has accomplished with his death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has taken you as a believer in Christ, and you have been created no longer according to a truth that is deceptive but a truth that is really life giving. Jesus said in John 8:32, "…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'"
Then he says thy word is truth. Sanctify them in it. He says, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Not that which is futile. All that Paul is saying is, "Therefore, believer, because he has done this in your life, it is an accomplished fact."
The Christian life, as it says in Galatians, chapter 5, is faith working its way through love. If you'll go back to Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 16, it says that the whole body is held together. It is the circulatory system of the Christian body. It is love. The joints are combined together by the Holy Spirit which indwells each one of us.
You who are a new race, that you have a new Spirit which controls the mind… It is not a new philosophy. The Holy Spirit indwells you, the Bible says. That Spirit then will begin to be what operates you. A natural man cannot understand these things. God's Word goes out just like TV waves go out, but they're a TV set which is turned off. They cannot pick it up. You were formerly like that. God turned you on by grace. I can't tell you any more than Ephesians told you. That he chose you. You accepted it. You were taken from futility and you were given life.
Let me tell you what you need to do. If I took Caleb… Some of you guys know Caleb is my dog. I've used him up here before. If Caleb was a dog that I didn't love, but let's say I beat him. I beat him repeatedly. I took him for the eight years of his life. Every time I said Caleb, I followed it with a kick. He knew my voice. If he didn't listen to my voice, I would kick him twice.
If you walked up to me and said, "Todd, I want that dog." I said, "You can't have him. I love beating him." You said, "No, I want to have that dog. I'm going to pay you so much that you can't say no." Let's say you met my price. Even though I hated him and loved to beat him, you met my price or you went beyond me. You had means to get Caleb from me that I couldn't stop. Caleb became your dog. He was no longer Todd Wagner's dog. Now he was your dog.
He is a new dog by fact. He is your property. He has been set free from the bondage of a wicked owner. He is sitting in your front yard. If he's not careful to get to know you, if you're not careful as a master… You would try to spend time with him. You'd call him. You'd want to put him in your lap. You'd hold him. You'd rub his ears, and you'd start to speak truth to him and tell him how you love him and how you care for him.
If Caleb was a foolish dog and he wandered away from you and sat in his front yard, it could be a year and I could walk by. When he would hear my whistle and my voice, what do you think he is going to feel? He is going to feel everything in his body wanting to go back to that one who destroyed him.
He is going to want to go and get somebody to kick him, because he's going to go, "That's my master. That feels like what I should do. That feels like where I should go." The Scripture says, "Caleb, you need to live by faith. You can't understand in your little dog world what has happened in human transactions. That man in that house who loves you has bought you. You are a new dog.
You are no longer bound by that voice. You are no longer compelled to be beaten. Now you have life. You have water in your bowl and food in your dish. You have a master who will comb you and brush you and pick the ticks off you. Do not listen to that wicked man down the street, though everything in your being is moving in that direction." The righteous shall live by faith.
Gang, as Christians we no longer respond to what feels good when somebody incites me at home. They'll do it this Thanksgiving. My parents, my family are professionals at it. They get these tapes. They're going to hear that. I'm working hard to love my sister in my flesh, and I fail. When I go, "Hey, it's not what feels right in my flesh. I'm a new man.
The love that I receive from Christ is now in me to give to my sister, to give to my brother, to give to my parents. It's not what feels right. The righteous shall live by faith. I'm renewed in the Spirit of my mind because I have been led to righteousness and life, Ephesians says." Therefore act like it or your family is going to scoff at your Messiah.
They're going to say, "I don't know where I find life, but it's not in your Jesus because you're as out of control in your flesh as I am. You're as enslaved to your work, wit, wealth, and women as you were before you met this Jesus." Paul begs you who were living in Ephesus amidst all the sin and filth in the city to not go back to the temple of Artemis and worship there even though it feels right, your neighbors are doing it, and it looks fun because it's futile.
By faith, you know that you're worshipping a God who is far greater than the temple, which has since been destroyed. You will live as an alien and a stranger in that land, abstaining from fleshly lust which wage war against the soul. Not because it doesn't feel like you should, but because you believe as a spiritual man who has received spiritual truth that you should.
Do you understand what Paul is writing here? Do you understand why he begs you to not go back to your former lifestyle and look for hope in the things that the world offers? It's because the world will think then that Jesus is not the answer to their need. He wants to use you. If you are a Christian, Satan cannot affect your eternal destiny, but he can use you to affect another's.
He'll do that by making us Christians who should have body by Jesus look like body by jelly donut or body by jealousy. They'll say, "I don't know what the answer to the world's problem is, but it's not Jesus, because the people who say they know him are as screwed up as we are." Let's pray.
Father, we want to be a people who live by faith and respond to your truth, a people who live not according to what feels right in our flesh, but respond to spiritual truth which is given to spiritual people, that your Holy Spirit has done a work in our lives. You've taken those of us who were formerly dead in our trespasses and sins, that were children of disobedience, sons of wrath, and you have made us new.
You, being rich in mercy because of your great love for us… You loved us even while we were dead in those sins. You made us alive with Christ and saved us by grace. We want to believe that. We want to respond to that. We cry out like the father did earlier in the Gospels. He said, "Father, we believe. Help us in our unbelief."
Help us to move forward and to struggle with this truth and to believe what you have written. We have been created now in righteousness and holiness. We are no longer a slave to lust or deceit. We no longer are darkened in our understanding. We are no longer excluded from the one who gives us life.
May we choose not to go back to our former master, our flesh, the world, and Satan the god of this world, whose voice sounds so familiar, whose pull is so strong. May we believe that a transaction has happened in a realm that we cannot understand. We have been ransomed. We have been bought with a price. Now we are no longer a slave to sin. We cannot sell ourselves down a river because you have bought us in heaven.
We would then diligently live in a way that people would see the full measure of maturity of Jesus Christ in us. and this Thanksgiving at our table, our family would look at us and go, "What has happened to you who were formerly dead, but now there is a life in you which is unexplainable?" We would tell them of you. O God, may we be a people who live in such a way that people would see you for who you really are. May we be a people who live in such a way that they would see Jesus for who he really is.
Most people are desperately looking for answers to such age-old human dilemmas as violence, greed and racism; not to mention personal pain and disappointment with our own duplicity and lack of fulfillment. In this series on the book of Ephesians, Todd Wagner challenges us to open our eyes to the truth that Christ has called us to be part of a completely new society called the Church. Our highest calling then is to be men and women whose lives have been regenerated and empowered through faith in Christ. Our 21st century challenges are not unlike those faced by followers of Christ in first century Ephesus. The Apostle Paul, author of this letter to the Ephesians, emphasizes that the problem with the Church then and today is not that God hasn't given it everything necessary to be successful in its mission. Rather, our problem is like that of a wealthy miser who dies of starvation rather than dip into the abundance of resources at his disposal. Allow yourself to be challenged and encouraged by this ancient letter that adroitly analyzes the plight of Christ's bride, the Church, and then paints a vivid portrait of what we can - and indeed do - look like as His redeemed people. This volume covers Ephesians 3:1 through Ephesians 4:32.