So, we just finished reading in Ephesians 4:11-16 about the body of Christ, and how we, the body, need to be equipped for the work of the ministry so that we can encourage one another within the body of Christ toward spiritual maturity and walks of obedience, in submission to Jesus Christ as Lord.
And one of the reasons why this is so important, this mutual encouragement within the body of Christ, is so that we are not deceived, and so that we are not led astray by those who are cunning, deceitful, crafty, and scheming, who are not teaching the true gospel of our salvation, but who are teaching an altered gospel which removes God’s requirements for repentance, obedience, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
So, we are encouraged to be those who are speaking the truth in love to one another so that we will all grow up together to maturity in Christ. And this is only possible as we all work together, and as each part does its work. For if we are not all being given the opportunity to use our gifts and to fulfill our callings within the body of Christ, then the body is not working properly, and then we can’t grow together, and the body can’t build itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:17-19 ESV
“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.”
And, again, we all need to be ministering to one another and encouraging one another in our walks of faith so that none of us goes back to living like we did before, and so none of us continues in living like we did before without a change of heart, mind, and behavior.
And this is what we need to be saying to one another, for not many Christians are teaching this anymore. We need to be exhorting one another that we must NO LONGER walk (in conduct, in practice) like the ungodly, like we did before we believed in Jesus. We must not harden our hearts against the commands of God and then become callous and thus give ourselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
Now, I am definitely not saying that we are not to take personal responsibility for our own actions. We are. And I am not saying that we can blame the church if we end up continuing in sin or if we return to walking in sin and according to the flesh. We can’t! But we live in a fallen world, and we still live in flesh bodies, and there are so many things out there to tempt us, and sometimes we need brothers and sisters to help hold up our arms, figuratively speaking, so that we will win the battle instead of losing it.
Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV
“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.”
I like it that this is not assuming that everyone who professes the name of Jesus has actually been taught the truth, especially in our day and time when the lies abound and when the majority of those professing faith in Jesus Christ are following those lies and are not following the truth. So, I like it that it then lays out the truth for us very plainly.
We should not have learned that in Christ that we can continue living in habitual and deliberate sin against the Lord and that God’s grace covers it all. We should not have learned that we can just pray a prayer and now we are congratulated that we are part of God’s family and now heaven is guaranteed us when we die and nothing can ever take it away from us.
What we should have learned, if we were taught the truth, is that we are to put off the old self, which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. For by faith in Jesus Christ we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, of God’s Spirit, and we are raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And we are now to live in freedom from slavery to sin and as slaves of God’s righteousness.
This is what it means to believe in Jesus – a belief that comes from the Lord and is perfected by Jesus Christ and is gifted to us by God, and thus it submits to Christ as Lord, and forsakes sin, and follows Jesus in obedience. For Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us.
So, it isn’t just that we are to cease from living for sinful pleasures, but that we are to be renewed in our minds, in our way of thinking and believing, of God’s Spirit, and that we are now to live the new lives we have been given by God via faith in Jesus Christ. We are to put this “new self” into practice in our daily lives, by God’s grace, and in his power and strength. And we are to live holy and righteous lives, in purity of devotion to our Lord, now free from bondage to sin and now empowered of God’s Spirit to live godly lives.
But we can’t do this in our flesh. We can’t just “try” to not do bad things and to “try” to do good things. That is not a life transformed by the Spirit of God. We must surrender our lives to Jesus Christ and let him be Lord (owner-master) of our lives. We must follow the Lord Jesus in obedience, as we are being led by God’s Spirit and empowered by God to live holy lives pleasing to God. And we must walk by the Spirit and not according to the flesh, or we will not have eternal life with God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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