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Ephesians 4:17-32
Series:  A Letter of Grace and Life - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 19, 2020

We are studying through Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.  This morning we are at Ephesians 4:17.  Let me read the passage for us and then we’ll go back and unpack.


Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 


But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another,  tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


Let’s think about how what Paul writes about here fits into the big picture of Ephesians.  The first half of Paul’s letter is about who we are in Christ because of God’s grace.  What God has done for us in Christ.


Then Paul began writing about what that means in the day to day of our lives.  Paul began by challenging us that - what that looks like - needs to be genuine - the real deal.  Who we say we are needs to match up with how we’re living.


In other words - if we say we’re saved by grace through Christ’s work on the cross then we ought to be living life in a way that demonstrates that’s really true of our lives.  So Paul has been opening up what real life in Christ looks like.


Which is what he’s opening up here. 


So, here’s the big picture of where we’re going this morning:  When we’re living life - because of God’s grace and our trusting in Jesus as our Savior - our life is going to look way different that what we see going on around us in people who are distanced from God’s grace and living without trusting Jesus as their Savior.


Life in Christ is different - and it ought to look that way.

Let’s be careful - before we get into Paul here - let’s be careful.  That difference isn’t so we can act all arrogant and superior to other people.  That wouldn’t be the kind of - by God’s grace - life in Christ that Paul is writing about anyway.


Living different is because of what God does in us and through us which is a life that is way better than what we’d be living without God.  And that isn’t about bringing glory us but about bringing glory to God and attracting others to the gospel so they can live that life by God’s grace also.


Paul begins - verse 17: Now this I say and testify in the Lord,


Which is Paul’s way of saying, “I couldn’t make this up.  No amount of human reasoning would come up with this.  It’s a God thing.”  Straight from the mind and heart of God.


Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, 


Gentiles here meaning nations - the peoples of the world.  I’m saying this to you so that you don’t live like everyone else in the world lives.  Which is - in the futility of their minds 


Let’s slow down and make sure we’re understanding what Paul means by, “in the futility of their minds.”


Do you ever look at our society - maybe even all the stuff that’s happening in the world - all the conflicting ideas and concepts that are thrown at us from all over - and just wonder at it all?  There’s so much confusion and hurt around us.


Even in times like we’re in right now - which are times of crisis that are like other times of crisis only maybe more so.  When we all need to pull together - some are - most aren’t.


Humanity prides itself in our ability to reason - our growing knowledge of things - our understanding of things - all that we’ve been able to devise and create.  We point with great pride to our technological achievements - our modern society - our systems of government and law and commerce.


The forward progress of humanity and our ability to manipulate the world around us.  What humankind has done is impressive - clever - startling - provocative. 


But with all that there’s a nagging question that sits in the back of our minds.  Just kind of sits there and thinking about it bothers us.  Maybe you’ve asked this question yourself. 


Here it is:  Why - with all this advanced technological society that we’ve built - with all this forward progress - why do things seem to be getting worse?  Why are abuse and promiscuity and perversion so prominent in our society?  Why is the moral fabric of our society unraveling?  Even with the world shrinking - why can we never seem to come together.


The answer is offensive.  Paul is blunt.  Man - priding himself - or herself - in our own knowledge and reason - is only an exercise in futility.


Phillips paraphrase puts it this way:  “For they live blindfold[ed] in a world of illusion.”


Apart from God’s grace and Jesus Christ the world is deluded into thinking that we got it - when we don’t.  In fact, we’re only making things worse.


Paul writes that God’s people are not to live caught up in that futility.  We 

must no longer walk as the Gentiles do


We must live different.  Crucial that we do. 


John writes - 1 John 2:15:  Do not love the world or the things in the world - that includes how the world thinks and does life - If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  Loving God and thinking like the world are diametric opposites - two totally different and opposite things.


James writes - James 4:4 (NASB)  “...friendship with the world is hostility towards God.”  Thinking like the world thinks puts us in direct conflict with God.


The Bible describes a world a war - Satan waring against God and God’s people - demons and angels - a spiritual battle that we’re a part of - a spiritual battle with eternal consequences and some brutal realities that we’re living through today.

Jesus said, “That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15 NASB)


If we follow Jesus Christ our fundamental outlook on life must be different - dramatically changed from how we used to look at life. 


Christianity is not a different set of moral ethics or a different religious tradition among many.  Christianity is a radically different - diametrically opposed - revolutionary - unique perspective of life which comes direct from the mind of God.


It comes with meaning and purpose and value that glorifies God and attracts others to Him.


We must live different.  Crucial that we do. 


Verse 18 - Paul gives a description of the world’s mindset:  alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 


First, They are darkened in their understanding, 


Dark is dark.  Pitch black.  Being able to see nada.


Truth is light.  Ignorance is darkness.  That’s the metaphor.  Right?


Man without God hopelessly groping around in the dark.  Stumbling in the dark.  We’re blinded.  We don’t see things as they really are.


Man apart from God sees the things of God - what’s good is considered evil - and the Satan inspired things saturating our society - evil is called good. 


Paul goes on with his description:  They’re alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them,


Ignorance meaning making the choice to be ignorant about God. 


God is something ignorant people created to explain what they didn’t understand and to help them cope with what frightened them.  But we’re more enlightened.  We don’t need God anymore.   


due to their hardness of heart. 


Give a thousand monkeys a thousand iPads and given enough time they’ll type out all the great works of literature.  Heard that?


All we need is enough time.  Eventually we’ll work out all the answers to all our problems. 


Rather than stopping and looking at this honestly - turning to God - humankind just urges the monkeys to type faster.  Put more monkeys on the job - trying to find a way out for us.  But, the faster we type - the more we move away from God - the darker and emptier life becomes.


Over time we just become more hardened in our attitude towards God.  The answer can never be God.


They have become callous - a word in Greek that has the idea of no longer feeling anything.  We feel nothing for others.  Only ourselves… maybe.


callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 


Sensuality tied to greed and the pursuit of impurity - perversity.  Sex that’s about me and whatever I define sexuality to be.  Sensuality that demonstrates a heart level attitude that’s focused on gratifying me, myself, and I.


Pulling the world’s mindset together.


The Austrian psychologist Carl Jung, wrote, “Those psychiatrists who are not superficial have come to the conclusion that the vast neurotic misery of the world could be termed neurosis of emptiness.  Men cut themselves off from the root of their being, from God, and then life turns empty, inane, meaningless, without purpose.  So when God goes, goal goes.  When goal goes, meaning goes.  When meaning goes, value goes, and life turns dead on our hands.” (1)


Without God we got nothing.  Life is futile.


Verse 20:  But that is not the way - the way of life - that you learned Christ!—assuming - if indeed - that you have heard about Him and were taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, 


Meaning what you heard and understood and what you were taught was solid instruction - what you learned from that was that the truth about life is found only in Jesus Christ.


Let’s explore that.


Abraham - the father - is directed by God to sacrifice his son - the only hope for the promised nation and blessing.


Moses - the fugitive - is directed by God to return to the country where he’s wanted for murder - to the land where his people are the slaves - to demand their release from Pharaoh.


God directs an army to march around a city blowing trumpets.


A young shepherd boy - with a slingshot and a few rocks - takes on an armed to the teeth battle hardened warrior.


The young queen comes before the mightiest tyrant on earth without being sent for to plead for the life of her people that the king just ordered to be massacred.


The Son of God gives Himself up for crucifixion.


Living that way makes no sense to the world we live in.  But that’s living by the truth we have learned and been taught.  The truth that is found only in Jesus Christ.


Paul writes to the Corinthian church - 1 Corinthians 1:27:  “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…  (1 Corinthians 1:27-30)


Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)


To live different we need to learn Christ.  Which is to live by His truth.  In His Light.  Which will seem strange to those around us and we will get push back.


But that is the life which is radically different than what’s being lived by those who are marching with futility lock step into the darkness.


How that happens Paul describes starting in verse 22. 


First it means that we put off our old self.  The part of us that belongs to our former way of doing life which was corrupted by deceitful desires.


To put off means to cut out and cut off.  To kill it.  Dead. 


There’s the story of a boy who thought he would teach some sparrows to sing like a canary.  So he put the sparrows in a cage with the canary hoping that the canary would give the sparrows singing lessons.  A while later he came back to see how things were going and he found the canary chirping like the sparrows.


If we give ourselves over to the attitudes and actions of those around us - if we entertain the sins of our past - if were not willing to do some serious cutting out of sin - we’re going to get dragged back down into the world.


Let’s be honest - Christians aren’t exempt from getting sucked back into where we came from.


What do we desire?  What captivates our attention?  What are we using to find fulfillment in life?  To find happiness?  Satisfaction?  To fill voids and meet needs?


Tech?  Sports?  Sex?  Porn?  Alcohol?  Drugs?  Approval?  Name your poison.  The philosophies and wisdom of the world says we need this stuff.


Paul warns us, “Its deceitful.”  All of this promises so much and delivers nothing.  Recognize it for what it is.  Emptiness.  Futility.   


Then, Paul says - verse 23 - we need to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.


“Renewed” in the Greek way of putting things is in the passive.  Meaning it gets done to us.

The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ as our Savior - first the Holy Spirit enters into us and makes us alive spiritually towards God. 


Then the Holy Spirit begins to renew our minds - transforming us from thinking like we thought - thinking like the world - to thinking with a mind and will in tune with God’s.


Passive meaning that the Holy Sprit does it to us as we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit doing it.


Then Paul says - verse 24 - we need to put on the new self which is created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.


What he’s talking about is not for us to become some pious - stiff lipped -starchy - pickled in embalming fluid - religious people that talk in King James English - who look down our noses at everybody living in the world.


What Paul’s writing about is really becoming whole as a person.  Healing and fulfillment at the deepest level.  Living life rightly before God in the fullness of our potential.  Becoming the men and women that God has created us to be.


Exploring that.


Years ago I took a WSI - Water Safety Instructor class - a class for people learning to be swimming instructors and lifeguards.  That wasn’t my goal - being a lifeguard - but compared to taking a regular PE class it sounded a whole lot more interesting.

One day - part way through a class period - as we were treading water for what seemed like an eternity - we discovered one of our fellow students at the bottom of the pool drowning.


As someone drowns their lungs fill with water.  Not a good thing.  When we rescue that person - start to do CPR - there’s a point where the water comes out of their lungs - hopefully.  They kind of regurgitate the water as they struggle to breath.


The point of the water coming out is not to empty the lungs.  It’s to create space - to get the air into - so the person can live - can begin breathing again.


Part of putting off is letting go of those things that drown out the voice of the Spirit - the destructive things that we’ve filled our lives with.  To reject them - to create space - openness.


Putting on is learning to listen to the Spirit as He speaks the words of truth of life in Christ into our hearts and minds.  The Holy Spirit is waiting for us to put off the old so He can rush in with the new. 


When we do that our minds begin to change - renewal begins to take place.  We begin to experience the new life that God has for us - guided by His discernment and wisdom. 


While Satan is constantly using the things of this world to deceive us - constantly telling us that we’re less than we are - constantly trying to confuse us and drag us into the world’s downward spiral into darkness - God intends for us something completely opposite - this new self - this new wholeness of life in Christ - that Paul is writing about.


Verse 25.  “Therefore” - because you are in Christ - live different.  Verse 25 - here’s what different looks like.


having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 


Lying is a pretty basic to being human.  Isn’t it?  Most of us don’t go to a school to learn how to lie.  It comes pretty naturally.  


Lying goes all the way back to the Garden - “Did God really say that?” 


We deceive ourselves.  We deceive others.  We live in a society where people don’t trust each other.  There’s a cynical expectation that we’re being lied to or that we’re suppose to lie to others.  We’re a society of posers.


When we lie or bend the truth our marriages suffer - our relationships suffer.  As a church our relationship and ministry and witness suffers.  We’re just going along with the world going down.


Paul writes, “put away falsehood.”  Don’t go there.  Reject it.  Instead - speak truth.  That’s practical.  If we’re speaking truth then we’re not lying.

Paul writes we’re to speak truth with our neighbor.  Neighbor meaning as close as the person social distancing 6 feet away.  That’s where the neighborhood begins.  Speak truth to your neighbor.  Why?  Because we’re members of one another.  That’s close. 


Because that’s wholeness of life in Christ.


Verse 26:  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.    


There is such a thing as righteous anger.  Jesus throwing the businessmen out of the Temple.


In reality most of us are a long way from righteous anger.  Justifying our anger as righteous is pretty risky.  But we also need to be honest.  We do get angry.


All of which gives Satan an opening to turn us against each other.


Paul - very practically:  God’s people don’t let the sun go down on our anger.  Meaning we don’t hold on to it.  We don’t let it rattle around inside of us - filling us with bitterness - tearing us apart and damaging our relationships.


God’s people deal with anger.  We resolve it - quickly.


That’s different to what’s around us.  Speaking truth - honesty.  Dealing with what angers us.  Resolution rather than ongoing division.  


Verse 28:  Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 


Stealing is stealing.  Whether that’s taking something that were not entitled to or hanging on to something God intends for someone else.  And we’re not immune to that temptation.


Where and when we live - the focus being on what’s about us - the general idea is to take care of ourselves.  Whatever the cost.  Whoever gets hurt.  Just don’t get caught.  And if you get caught.  Blame someone else.


Paul - very practically - Paul emphasizes giving not taking.  The actions and attitude of generosity.


The word “labor” has to do with physical effort.  Paul is encouraging Christians to work hard so that we can help each other.  The focus is on others.  Not us. 


One of the great joys of being Creekside is seeing all the fruit and veggies that get put out in the lobby - people sharing with each other what they’ve worked at producing.  That’s what Paul is writing about.


Verse 29:  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,


In Greek the word for “corrupting” describes rotting fruit.  Talk that leads to decay and death.


So much of what gets said these days seems to be someone building themselves up by tearing someone else down.  And seemingly most people cannot put together a complete sentence without using at least one swear word or one derogatory use of God’s name.


That all is just like rotting fruit - death and decay.


Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, [speak] only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.


Very practically - speech - Paul reminds us - is a gift of God.  It comes with God given purpose.


Our words are to build others up - according to what fits the moment.  Words that extend grace to others.


Meaning that - from our perspective when someone deserves to be leveled - we don’t.  Or when we could be talking behind someone’s back to our advantage - we don’t.


Our words express forgiveness - love - encouragement - compassion - understanding - what builds into others and lifts them up.  What helps others move forward in their relationship with Jesus.


That’s living different.


Verses 30 to 32 are Paul pulling together what goes on heart level in order for us to - in Christ - live different.

Verse 30: 
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 


“to grieve” in Greek means... “to grieve.”  To cause pain.  It grieves the Holy Spirit when we’re pulling away from God rather than opening ourselves up to what He desires to do in and through us.


Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit seals us.  Meaning this is about the work of the Holy Spirit in the day-to-day of our lives as we’re the day-to-day process of getting to heaven.


Hold onto this:  The Holy Spirit loves us.  The Spirit’s desires is for us to open ourselves up to His work in our lives.  Down deep where we need it. 


The more we surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit we begin to open our inner selves up to God’s attitudes - His character - God’s mindset and way of doing life - so that the Holy Spirit begins to produce the life of a follower of Jesus in us and through us.


Paul’s pulling it all together point number one:  Living different is living yielding to the Holy Spirit.


Second - verse 31:  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.    


Bitterness is a deep seated feeling of resentment towards others - feeling like we’ve been treated unjustly. 


Wrath is inner boiling temper.

Anger is the desire to strike back.


Clamor wants to just verbally level somebody.


Slander is to speak with disrespect - words that shred other people.


Malice - is an evil desire to hurt someone.


Paul writes - “put them away from you.”  Don’t go there.


Paul’s pulling it all together point number two:  Living different is rejecting anything that smacks of ungodly behavior towards others.


Then verse 31 - instead:  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.


“Kind” is being good - gracious.


“Tenderhearted” is gut level compassion. 


“Forgiveness” following the example of how God - in Christ - forgave us.


Paul’s pulling it all together point number 3:  Living different is to demonstrate heart level godly behavior towards others.  


Processing all that…

Have you noticed how easy it is for us to go from having learned about life in Christ because of God’s grace being shown to us through Christ - to slide from that into the deception and futility of thinking that somehow we’re suppose to make life in Christ happen by our own futile efforts?


And who in the world is going to be attracted to life in Christ when we’re stumbling around in the dark just like everyone else?  And why would we want to a part of that?


Paul began in verse 17 by saying he could never have come up with this on his own.  He’s testifying of the Lord’s work.  And Paul ends by pointing us back to the Holy Spirit. 


Life different in Christ isn’t about us.  It’s a God thing.  God that we need to yield ourselves to.


People need to see what God will do in and through someone who is totally yielded to Him.  To see the reality of what life in Christ is all about.


And as we long for that ourselves we need to be praying for and encouraging each other to yield and to be open to God at work in us and through us for His glory.


In Christ.  Live different.  Because of God and for God’s glory alone.





1. From a sermon by Ray Stedman, “Darkness Of Mind”


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.