Put off This, Put on That

Ephesians 4:25-32 ESV

“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.”

In the Scriptures prior to this we learned that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are to no longer live like we did before we believed in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives. And we are not to be hardhearted and callous, giving ourselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. For that is not the way we should have learned Christ, if we were taught the truth in Christ Jesus. For we should have learned to put off our old sinful selves, and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (see Ephesians 4:17-24).

So, lying should not be our practice (habit), not any kind of lying, not even giving out false compliments, and not speaking what are called “white lies,” and not lying to people in any kind of consolation to try to make them feel good about themselves. But we can still be kind to people, for speaking the truth in love to people is kind, and lies are never kind, or silence might be appropriate, or just a hug, or some kind of encouraging words may be in order that would not constitute lying. For now we are to be truth tellers.

Now, it is possible to be angry and to not sin. Jesus got angry. God got angry. And there is such a thing as righteous indignation. For we should be people who get angry and who are grieved over the shenanigans which are going on these days in the name of Christianity. We should be outraged at the mockery of God, the diluting of his Word, the tampering with his gospel, and the altering of his character that is being accepted and promoted in what are called “churches” here in America today.

But some anger is sin in itself for it stems from selfishness, pride, revenge, hatred, unforgiveness, rebellion, bitterness, and resentment. While other anger may just be an emotional reaction to something which should anger us, and so we have to guard our hearts so that it does not turn to something sinful. And an example of this is if we see someone mistreating a child or a handicapped person or an old person (like me). We might be able to speak to someone about it or not, but we should not let it turn to bitterness.

Now regarding thievery, I believe this can be way more than just stealing items out of a store or out of someone’s home. We can steal people’s hearts to come towards us and away from God, and away from their spouses, via trickery and manipulation and seductiveness and deception. We can steal from people their trust in us when we deceive them with lies and when we do harm to them behind their backs or to their faces, or via unkind and hurtful remarks. Or we can steal from them their joy by doing the same.

Yet now we are to be truth tellers, and not liars, and we are not to sin in our righteous anger, and we are to give no opportunity for the devil, and we are not to steal anything from anyone, but we should be generous in sharing with others in need. And all of these are heart issues. For when our hearts are in the wrong place, they impact what we think and feel and how we react and what we do and say. So, it is best if we can look into our hearts and let the Lord show us what is there that needs to go, and then we must cooperate with the Lord in getting those things out of our hearts.

Then, no corrupting talk should be coming out of our mouths, because we are no longer corrupt in heart. For what do the Scriptures say? “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). And “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (see Matthew 15:17-20).

So, if our hearts are corrupt, and if we are holding on to resentment, hatred, bitterness, pride, and unforgiveness, we can try as we may to not speak what is corrupt, but what is stored up in the heart is still going to keep coming out of the mouth when we least expect it. Sometimes it just spills out, which should be a strong indication of what is still stored up in our hearts that needs a good “house cleaning.” But if this is where you are, you have to mean business with God or this “house cleansing” won’t happen.

Now we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit, and how do we grieve him? Mainly by living opposite of what we are supposed to live as children of God and as followers of Christ. For Jesus delivered us out of slavery to sin, so if we continue living in sin, or we return to living in sin, that grieves the Spirit, or when we are hateful and bitter towards others and so we treat others with meanness and not with kindness. All that is of the flesh, and that opposes God, and that is willfully hurtful to others, grieves the Spirit of God.

So, instead, we are to put all those evil things away from us via the heart cleansing, and we are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us. And God forgives when we turn from our sins to follow him in obedience, but I don’t believe the Scriptures teach that as humans we are only to forgive when others truly repent of their wrongdoing and they move away from it to now do what is right. For when we don’t forgive, it stores up bitterness in our hearts. So we have to release that, but it doesn’t grant permission to others to keep on sinning.

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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