Learning and Living in Christ
NKJEphesians 4:17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Pistol Pete Maravich was one of my favorite basketball players. He had a very thrilling career. In his senior year at LSU, he averaged 45 points a game. I was thrilled to score just two points when I played basketball. He played in the NBA for 10 years and was elected to the Hall of Fame as the youngest athlete. What does one do after that? Maravich struggled. He ventured into all sorts of experiences including a astrology, mysticism, surviorism, and the ever common problems of sex and drugs. But at forty years of age he finally realized the Jesus needed to be the reason for living.
As you assess your own life, what is it that charges up your "thrill gauge"? Is it a movie, a concert, a party, an athletic victory, a romance, a lucrative deal, a growing list of assets, a new house? None of these things is necessarily bad. But the problem with many people is that these are the only things that they live for. This is what Jesus is talking about when He says that we should not "labor for food that perishes" (John 6.l7). Paul also speak to this when he reminds us that the world is "alienated from the life of God" (Eph 6.18). Without that life, all these things – no matter how pleasing they may be to us, will turn to dust. Today God wants us to receive a better kind of bread, a better life – a life in Jesus Christ.
1. The World is Corrupted… Don’t Run With It
It is important for Christians to remember that you can’t just run with the world. You can’t just chase after your physical desires. You can’t make compromises with the Devil. But everyday we are tempted to do this very thing. We are in this world, but we cannot be of this world. We are here to change it, not to have it change us. St. John wrote:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2.15-17)
Philip Yancy writes about an imaginary conversation between two newlyweds on their wedding night. The groom says to his new bride, "Now that we’ve signed the contract, I’d like to negotiate the terms. Just how much do I really have to love you? Can I look at other women? Can I kiss them?..." (Finding God in Unexpected Places) Obviously this groom does not understand what marriage is all about. Yet we are tempted to the very same thing with God when we ask, "How good do I have to be and still get to heaven?"
That is the wrong orientation. Paul warns us that such an understanding is darkened and destined to futility. Everyday the unbelievers are going to ask us to walk with them… 1. Forget about God. 2. Take care of yourself and your family. 3. Eat, drink and be merry. Are you going to be drawn into that? Or, are you going to continue to drawn out of that by the Holy Spirit, who has given you a new life.
2. Learning Christ
20But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:
Between 1811-12 three of the most powerful earthquakes in US history occurred in the Mississippi valley, centered near New Madrid, Missouri. These magnitude 8 quakes rang church bells 1,000 miles away in Boston, changed the course of the great river, and created a 10 square mile lake in Tennessee. A spiritual earthquake began with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This quake continues to ring church bells every Sunday and to change the course of the lives of men, women and children. Jesus is the only one who has successfully reversed the course of this world.
One example is found in the author Anne Rice. She was known as the Queen of the Occult. She sold millions of books about vampires and witches. But in 1998 she had a near death experience that challenged her to think about what really mattered. In 2005 she stunned her fans by declaring that she would be writing for the Lord. She released Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, that portrays the seven year old Jesus in painstaking biblical accuracy. She even described Jesus as her ultimate "superhero."
St. Paul was sent to be a preacher of salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles. Salvation began with the Jews. Salvation came to them in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus lived the righteous life and then died to redeem the world from sin. Salvation came through them to all people since Jesus is the Savior of all nations. Just as God gave faith to the Jews, now He is giving faith to all people. As it has always been, some reject this gift and others accept it.
Every other way that men have conceived to live is a deceit. It is the façade of a tunnel painted on the brick wall of God’s judgment. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus alone brings us back to God, who created us.
3. The New Man
Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Those who accept this gift immediately begin a new life with a new orientation. God moves from the background to the foreground. Sin is no longer ignored or covered up. It is continually being presented to God for forgiveness. Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus heals. God also strengthens us with faith to resist temptation and to overcome it often. He uses us – our Gospel life as well as our Gospel words to spread that saving faith further and further from one person to the next. God moves from the background to the foreground. Sins are not covered up or ignored. They are honestly presented to God for forgiveness. Jesus heals the broken heart.
Let’s emphasize this last part. This change is not our doing. It is not simply a matter of moral commitment. This is God making His impact on us. Notice what Jesus says about this in John chapter six:
Labor for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you… (John 6.27).
When people asked what they must do to be saved, Jesus replied… "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6.29).
Again Jesus says, "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (John 6.33)
Why is this important? Is this just a matter of being Biblically correct? No, there is a very important reason: We can imitate being renewed so that we don’t have to give our hearts completely to God… so that we don’t have to be totally broken down in repentance… so that we can keep a little bit of connection with our worldly ways. But when God lifts us up, we are truly lifted up.
If it was merely another moral effort on our part, it would fail. But it is truly a new beginning in Christ. Even as Jesus died and rose, so we die to sin in repentance and rise to a new life in the gift of faith. How? The change occurs when God comes into our lives. Fifty or so years after Jesus was born Paul came to the city of Ephesus. At first he preached in the synagogue, and then he moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. For three years he preached the Gospel everyday (Acts 19.1ff). People who were spiritually dead were brought to life. They were baptized in the name of Jesus. As you read on in Ephesians you notice the kinds of changes that then took place in their physical lives: Lazy people began to become energetic and self-disciplined. They stopped the crude jokes. They put away bitterness. They emphasized kindness and forgiveness. Husbands and wives devoted themselves to Christ and to each other. I would commend to read the six short chapters of Ephesians. See how God changed their lives and how He will change your life also.
Augustine was one of the most important pastors in the Christian church. But his life before becoming a Christian was full of the deceitful, sensual lusts that Paul warns against. Nevertheless God made a great change in his life. And He continued to preserve him in that new life in Christ.
One day, as Augustine was walking through the street, one of his old lovers saw him and began chasing him. She yelled, "Augustine, Augustine… It’s me ‘Claudia.’" Augustine kept walking. When she persisted in trying to bring him back to the old life style, Augustine simply turned and said, "But it’s no longer Augustine."
God grant Your grace to us to experience this change from old to new in Jesus, and continue to keep us walking with Jesus. Amen.
Today, in our worship service, we are putting off the old man and putting on the new man. It began in our baptism, it continues as we hear the Word of the Lord and receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Holy Supper.
Pastor Michael P. Walther
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 20, 2006
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1300 Belt Line Road, Collinsville, Illinois, 62234
618-344-3151 / fax 618-344-3378
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
Michael P. Walther, Copyright, 2006
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