It’s always interesting to me the way that things ‘go’ during a sermon that I didn’t necessary expect. For one, I was really uncertain how to close the sermon yesterday. I had a few thoughts written down but nothing seemed to settle in my mind about it. Then, when I was working through the prep all week, the sermon never seemed as somber as it was during the service. It’s Sundays, like yesterday, that remind me (happens often) that the Holy Spirit meets with His people corporately in a very unique way. See, there’s one thing to reading this sermon to myself in my office. It’s quite another to preach it, to God’s people, with the Holy Spirit encouraging and convicting His people, as a group. That was obvious yesterday.
The other thing about yesterday that was really powerful was the way our congregation responded to the work of the Spirit. Normally, we will use two songs at the end of the service to respond to the Lord. But yesterday, there was a sense that some needed a longer time to “do business with God”. Instead of singing, we prayed and then asked the congregation to be dismissed to the foyer and allow the sanctuary to be used for people to pray, deal with the Lord and talk with others about the challenges they’re facing. Our church responded with sober reflection and quiet fellowship outside the sanctuary to allow others to respond. It was a somber, holy moment and I’m very grateful that our folks understood the need of the moment. Thank you, CLF!
Things I left out:
- I didn’t have much time to get real practical with Paul’s exhortations to: put off the old man, be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man. The reason I didn’t get practical is because I had a burden to see these exhortations as distinctly Christ-centric (see vs. 20-21) and make sure that we don’t get into some rote ritual about doing something. My desire, and I think Paul’s in Ephesians, is for us to see that there is power in Christ to put off the old man, that Jesus has made it possible for our minds to understand His truth, and He’s given us His Holy Spirit so we can walk in a brand new way. We don’t have to obey our sinful passions because Jesus is alive! So, more than specifics on “how-to”, my hope was that we would see why this is possible. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to live like we used to live. As to specifics on dealing with habitual sins, this blog post from Desiring God is really helpful: https://tinyurl.com/y38dzbhj.
- I didn’t think it was necessary to cover the fact that if we are believers in Jesus, this text emphasizes that means that Jesus is our Lord and Master as well. Far too often there’s a dismissal of the sin of Christians by saying, “well they haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord, yet”. This text reveals that is a false dichotomy. It’s impossible to receive Christ as Savior and not as Lord. What this text does reveal is that sanctification (the process of growing as a Christian) takes time and will involve steps of growth. When we trust in Jesus, we are submitting to His rule. And our obedience to His rule will happen sometimes and in other times it won’t. In those times of disobedience, we must confess and repent of our sin. Paul implies in this text that Christians will stop living in their old ways of doing things that are driven by sinful desires.
- When we read Ephesians 4 and Romans 1, we can see similar things. Some have read these texts and look to something in the future or they think of nations who reject God and see the natural fall of those lands. While those things might be true, I think what we’re seeing in these texts is what was really going on in Rome and the way many were living. It was sensual, immoral and sexually deviant. Very possibly the worst in world history. But those lists, as I mentioned, show us the natural digression of human depravity. And I must admit, this list doesn’t look like the non-Christian friends I have. Doesn’t mean that I haven’t interacted with some who are like this, it’s just not the average run-of-the-mill non-Christian that I meet. Most are kind-hearted, love their community, and want the best for their families. They are “morally-good” people. That’s why I think Romans 1 and Ephesians 4 are so important. We’ve got to see that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It’s very difficult to see this when there are still remnants of Christian culture floating around. But, as culture and people continue to harden their hearts to God, this digression naturally takes hold. It is a scary thought.
- Finally, I spent some time on this, but it’s worth repeating…this text was written to Christians to stop living like the immoral world around them. Friends, this is why Christian unity and Christian love are really important. It burdens me to see people who treat others in the church, no differently than the sinful world treats others. It concerns me to see Christian people who treat their Sundays no differently than the sinful world treats it. I think most of us at CLF aren’t spending our days in immorality or all manner of immorality, but I pray that we see ourselves as distinctly set apart for Christ’s work. This means that in every corner of our heart, we should want the Lord to investigate and clean, for His glory. For the most part, it is a joy to watch God work through our church in this way. The members at CLF have proven through the years to be people who love Jesus deeply, are committed to demonstrating and declaring His gospel, and want to walk in holiness and righteousness. But, over the course of the last 5-6 weeks, the Lord seems to be stirring us once again. In the texts we’ve covered, He’s calling us to Christian love and church unity; to treat each other with humility and gentleness; and to use our gifts and ministries (together) for the sake of bringing all things under the authority of Jesus. So, if you find yourself not at church regularly, please evaluate why. If you find yourself separated in relationships with others, please pray for reconciliation and make steps “towards” people, not away from them. If you find yourself being critical of others, take time to look internal first. I find that there’s enough sin in my own heart to deal with that I don’t have time to deal with others:). And lastly on this: let’s immerse ourselves in the work of the gospel and people so deeply, that it will create a natural accountability to walk rightly before the Lord.
Quotes I left out:
- “Over against the darkness and ignorance of the heathen Paul thus sets the truth of Christ which the Christians had learned. Scripture bears an unwavering testimony to the power of ignorance and error to corrupt, and the power of truth to liberate, ennoble and refine.” Stott, J. R. W.
- “It is a pity that rsv translates the phrase you heard about him, for there is no preposition. Paul assumes that through the voice of their Christian teachers, they had actually heard Christ’s voice. Thus, when sound biblical moral instruction is being given, it may be said that Christ is teaching about Christ.” Stott, J. R. W.
- “A contrast is set up with the ‘not so’ of v. 20 and indicates that the truth, as embodied in Jesus, was the norm by which the readers had been instructed in the gospel tradition of Christ, and so was wholly at odds with the Gentile lifestyle depicted in vv. 17–19.” O’Brien, P. T.
- “Charles Hodge explains their language: ‘What is here called “the old man” Paul elsewhere calls himself, as in Rom. 7:14 “I am carnal” … or “the flesh” … as in Gal. 5:16, 17 … It is called “man” because it is ourselves.’ Further, our former self and our new self are vividly contrasted with each other: ‘As we are called to put off our corrupt nature as a ragged and filthy garment, so we are required to put on our new nature as a garment of light. And as the former was personified as an old man, decrepit, deformed, and tending to corruption, so the latter is personified as a new man, fresh, beautiful and vigorous, like God …’ i.e. created in his image.” Stott, J. R. W.
- “First, this entity is a new creation effected by God himself: the verb ‘create’, here used in the passive, refers to the divine creative activity (cf. Eph. 2:10, ‘For we are his [i.e., God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus’). By definition the new creation is the work of God himself, and therefore the ethical qualities of righteousness and holiness which explain what is meant by the phrase ‘like him’ are also thought of preeminently as God’s creation. As such, the new person stands in sharp contrast to ‘the old humanity’ that is perishing (v. 22).” O’Brien, P. T.
- “In all this teaching the divine and the human are beautifully blended. In the command to exchange our old humanity for a new one, Paul is not implying that we can bring about our own new birth. Nobody has ever given birth to himself. The very concept is ludicrous. No, the new humanity we assume is God’s creation, not ours. Nevertheless, when God recreates us in Christ according to his own likeness, we entirely concur with what he has done. We ‘put off’ our old life, turning away from it in distaste, and we ‘put on’ the new life he has created, embracing it and welcoming it with joy. In a word, recreation (what God does) and repentance (what we do by his grace) belong together and cannot be separated.” Stott, J. R. W.
- “two solid doctrinal foundations for Christian holiness which Paul has laid. They are like two roots from which holiness sprouts and grows. First, we have experienced a new creation, and secondly, in consequence, we have received a new mind which is constantly being renewed. Moreover, the two are organically related to one another. It is our new creation which has given us a new mind; and it is our new mind which understands our new creation and its implications. Since it is a new creation in God’s holy image, it has involved for us the total putting away of our old fallenness and the thankful putting on of our new humanness.” Stott, J. R. W.
- I really meant what I said yesterday at the beginning that we, as Christians, need to stop being “shocked” about the sinful stuff that goes on in this world. By that, I don’t mean, stop being bothered or concerned or burdened. I mean acting like we “just cannot believe that people would do such things.” We should be shocked that people “don’t do” such things. The grace of God has retrained evil from being as evil as it could be…now that’s shocking.
- I also believe that we have to start seeing much of our evangelism and work in the world as more long-term than we do. Opportunities, like yesterday’s PRIDE Parade, arise at different times. However, more often than not, the regular, faithful witness and friendship of Christians with non-Christians. We all want revival…we all want the instantaneous, one-time gospel-sharing moment, when people repent (like Pentecost)…it’s possible…however, the most normal, regular way that God advances the gospel…is through regular people, like you and me, loving our neighbors enough to tell them about our faith in Jesus and serving them as true friends. Don’t be discouraged when people don’t respond to Jesus…keep loving them and serving them.
- Finally, many of you have asked me how coaching Docs has been. Well, on the baseball side, I have really enjoyed it. Working with Jeremiah Robbins has been awesome. We see the game in a similar way and I’ve learned a ton. As you know, I love coaching young men, so that has been amazing. The guys have been really responsive to what we’re teaching them and I’m really proud of them. It is a unique opportunity to use something I enjoy for the good of these players and the glory of God.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here