2017-01-01 – Ephesians 4.17-24 – New Life in the New Year

2017-01-01 – Ephesians 4.17-24 – New Life in the New Year, Page 194

The Old Life and the New
17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rules for the New Life
25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Good Morning everyone, so happy to see you all, and so happy to see our guests this morning as well, and I ask that you please fill out our visitor card before you leave today so we can get to know you a little. What an amazing few weeks we’ve had; we have been very busy around here in decorating the church for the holidays, handing out Christmas Stockings to the community, and we had a wonderful blessed Christmas-Eve candlelight service. We also took the youth out caroling in the neighborhood, and this past Wednesday we even had an early New Years Eve with the youth, with whistles, poppers, finger food, a count down and loud Christian music.. What fun. I hope you also were able to spend some time with your families and friends over the holidays and maybe relaxed a bit as well.

Well today is the first day of 2017. Happy New Year Everyone!  We are going to start this new year out right by worshiping the Lord and seeing what God has for us by digging into a little of His Inspired, Infallible, and Living Word.

Please turn in your Bible to Ephesians 4.17-24, Page 194 in the Pew Bible.
To give a little background, understand that the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church after Jesus died, rose from the grave and then ascended into heaven. Sometime between AD 60–61, around the same time he wrote the letters or books of Colossians and Philemon. And he wrote this letter to the church while he sat in a Roman prison.

This Ephesians letter deals with topics at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice. encouraging the Ephesians to mature in their beliefs and walk in accordance with their heavenly calling. So today understand this is instruction from God as was given through the Apostle Paul.

17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

The key words for me in this verse is “you must no longer live as the Gentiles live”. For those that have accepted Christ as their Savior, we are considered to be Born Again. The term Born Again means you no longer live for yourself, your now Born Again with a new standard. Christians also now have the Holy Spirit inside us, guiding us as we go.

We have God’s Word to instruct us, and the church to watch over and encourage us along our new path. “You must no longer” means that which I was, I should no longer be. That which I did, I should no longer do.

When I first accepted Jesus as my Savior and the Holy Spirit into my life I was still trying to live with one foot in the old life and one foot in the new life. Let me tell you that is a very bad position to be in. The Holy Spirit was convicting me from every direction. My understanding of right and wrong was brought up to a new and much higher level. Even though I was washed in the blood and I was considered to be cleansed and white as snow as far as God was concerned, I was still wearing the filthy-dirty rags of sin. Paul tells us here that I must no longer live like the unbelievers. We have to take off those old and filthy garments of sin, otherwise we are living a lie. Lying to our self, and lying to everyone else, but more importantly lying to God and making a mockery of His Son Jesus. I don’t want to do that.. Although I will never be perfect, I need to strive to be better than I was, and more Christ-like in character.

20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Notice the explanation point after that first sentence in verse 20 here; That is not the way you learned Christ!  This whole paragraph shows the importance of learning Christ, especially for new born again believers. We have an important and awesome responsibility to teach and learn Christ here in this church. Yes, I teach while I preach, and that is a good thing, but that is why we also lean heavily upon Sunday School and Bible Classes. Teaching and Learning should be interactive. Although we get a few Amens here from the crowd, it is hardly an interactive learning environment. Make God’s Word a priority in the new year. I will encourage you all to get into a Bible class and read your Bibles regularly.

Paul again tells us here to put away our former life. That, as you might know is not always easy thing to do. Paul isn’t talking about putting away Godly things, but instead Ungodly things. Put away things that do not bring honor to God. We make hundreds of choices daily; and we should examine those choices against God’s Will and God’s Word. We should seek out God’s desire through prayer and paying more attention to the Holy Spirit inside us. We should also surround ourselves with people and mechanisms to help us stay strong and on course along the way.

When I first accepted Christ’s calling on my life, I realized that I needed to make some radical changes to get myself right with God’s Will. So I started by getting involved in what was going on at church. I attended every service, I started reading my Bible and any other Christian books I could get my hands on. I also spent as much time with Christian brothers as I could. Then shortly thereafter I started teaching. I really didn’t know much, but what I knew I shared with others and we learned together. I would have never guessed that I would someday be a Pastor but I trusted the Lord to guide my path and He opened doors I didn’t even know existed. But it all started with a decision, a decision that changed my life, and I know it could change yours too for the better. I am not suggesting that all of you will become pastors of churches, but it will definitely change your heart and change your way of thinking, and you will be blessed to see and share with others as you go. God wants the best for you and it all starts with that decision.

This message today is called New Life in the New Year. The Apostle Paul talks about that New Life in the next section of this letter to the Ephesian Church. Starting in verse 25 of chapter 4, He wrote:

Rules for the New Life

25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil. 28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. 29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

This section is entitled “Rules for the New Life” That is for them and that is for us here today. It could also be called a plan or a prescription for us to follow.
In these verses we can also derive what type of people were these Ephesians that Paul is instructing. Paul tells them first to put away the bad characteristics of what they were. So we might infer here that some of them were liars as he tells them to speak truth; Bullies as he tells them not to be angry sinners; Thieves, as he told them to stop stealing; Evil talkers, people with bitterness, wrath, anger and backbiting liars. They were not all righteous people, they were real broken sinners, like me and like you.

So Paul is instructing them and us to start walking in their new life. But do so, not because it will gain them any more righteousness in heaven, as all who accept Jesus’ payment on the cross will be considered righteous and allowed into Heaven. But instead, choose to do so because you are gracious that despite our sin we are saved. Also know that if you do good, you might live a more fruitful and blessed life.

There is an old saying, Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

The Bible says, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7) Whatever you think about the most is what you will become. Here’s how to make this principle work for you instead of against you.

When your mind is focused on carnal, or “fleshy,” things, there is a higher chance that you’re going to do those things. The opposite is true as well, when you focus on good things, you are more than likely going to do good things. The Bible is packed full of righteousness. When you focus your attention on it, you’re going to do what it says. That is a blessing for you and for those around you. And it pleases God as well.

God is telling us today that if you want to change your life, you have to change your mind. You have to abandon your old carnal thoughts, and replace them with God’s thoughts.

As we contemplate the coming year many people make resolutions. You probably know that most resolutions don’t stick. In fact gymnasiums and Health centers bank upon the yearly memberships around the first of the year as a result of when people make their resolutions. Then People tend to come in January and February to exercise, but then they taper off the rest of the year. But isn’t a little exercise better than no exercise? Of course it it.

I think New Year resolutions can be a good thing as it can help in the building of good habits. If you choose to take on a resolution, you may be more satisfied if you create realistic, positive, God honoring goals. Find a way to build upon good patterns into your life in a way that will benefit you in the years to come. Then you can pray about it and maybe even enlist others in the effort. But keep it in perspective. We still might fail to reach our goals, but if you don’t attempt anything then you will definitely not improve.

Author Stephen Shapiro, offers the following interesting statistics concerning New Year’s resolutions:

Forty-five percent of Americans usually set New Year’s Resolutions; seventeen percent infrequently set resolutions; thirty-eight percent never set resolutions

Eight percent are always successful in achieving their resolutions; nineteen percent achieve their resolutions every other year; forty-nine percent have infrequent success; one in four never succeed.

Forty-seven percent set resolutions related to self-improvement or education
Thirty-eight percent set resolutions related to weight
Thirty-four percent set resolutions related to money
Thirty-one percent set resolutions related to relationships

One thing I can tell you, if you don’t set any goals or don’t try to improve yourself, you will most likely succeed in accomplishing nothing.

The other day when we had our New Year’s Eve party for the youth. Several of them made resolutions.. I am not going to mention names, but here are a few: Spend time with family; Help people; Be nicer; Read the Bible; Not argue with brother; Help people in need: Learn how to save and invest.  Pretty good hey?

Jonathan Edwards was a preacher, philosopher, and Congregationalist theologian. Wrote of his resolutions that might inspire us today. He said:

Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good..
Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind..
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I can.
Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.
Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonor…
Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.
Resolved, Never to count that God not will answer a prayer or accept a confession. (my paraphrase)
Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.
Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
And finally, Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them…

Did any of these from the children of Jonathan Edwards resonate with you? What might you write as far as a resolution? How might you want to improve yourself in the coming year?

Paul today gives us some great instruction in this letter or book to the Ephesian church. But the main theme is to let go of the past and move forward in faith as newly created, born again believers in Christ Jesus. But I would guess that some here today might be carrying a lot of baggage. Hurt, resentment, un-forgiveness, failure, loss, and a plethora of others. You might want to move forward but your load is just so heavy.

Jesus tells us that we should let it go. Quit trying to go forward while looking in your rear-view mirror. You can’t change the past but you can impact the future. The devil wants you to keep morning and dwelling on the past. But as Christians, your chains are gone you have been set free.

I love what Paul said in Philippians 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

So in this next year, I ask you to consider letting go of your baggage and be resolute in a better life, as Jesus would want for you.

Forgive and be forgiven. Think on things that are pure, beneficial and build up your soul. Everything you do now has meaning.. it has impact.. it means something. Make this year of our Lord 2017 your best year ever.

Jesus has wonderful things instore for you, great plans that have big impact. But He doesn’t force you down His path, He instead invites you to consider.

God loves you so much, Will you consider today?