Yesterday we began a look at a portion of the fourth chapter of Ephesians where Paul urged Christians to “put off your old self” and “put on the new self.” (Read part 1 here). He was telling them that they needed to have a different way of thinking about life and how it was to be lived as the children of God. They needed to start thinking and living as they had learned Christ and not as they had lived before becoming Christians. They were Gentiles for the most part, and had been immersed in pagan culture and religion. To begin thinking and acting as children of God was not easy for them. It was an entirely different way of life.
It is not easy for us today. We face many of the same challenges they did. We are surrounded by an increasingly godless, pagan society and subjected to its influences and indoctrination. Christians in the 21st century still must put off the old self which has been, to a greater or lesser degree, shaped by worldly philosophies and beliefs. The task of the Christian is to put on the new self – a new way of thinking and acting that is shaped and molded by a knowledge of God as he has been revealed in Jesus Christ and made known to us through the pages of the inspired word of God – the Bible.
In verses 26-27, Paul points out that the new man does not allow anger to get the best of him. He said, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Anger is a natural reaction to something bad that has happened to us or to someone else. When we are angry or outraged at some act of evil, some unfairness done, some inequity, we want to do something about that. Anger is designed to stir us to action but that anger must be kept within bounds. We must keep our emotions under control and not allow them to flare up into an act of violence or revenge we will come to regret. We must never, never allow anger to remain untamed in our heart. It becomes magnified by dwelling on it, sometimes boiling up into rage or malice and leading us to do some greater evil.
The new self is not a thief, but one who works to provide for his own needs but for the needs of those who cannot provide for themselves. “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.” (verse 28). The motivation for this is not that he is required by a specific commandment to do so, but by the law of love which has reached down into his heart and changed him from a self-centered thief to a loving, giving, compassionate child of God.
Again the apostle addresses the Christian’s speech. Not only are we to not lie, but neither are we to speak in any way except in a helpful way. He says…
“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.” (vs. 29).
Of this kind of corrupting speech, the Pulpit Commentary says…
“How revolting is the tendency in some circles to foul and blasphemous conversation; to profane and obscene jests, songs, and allusions: to feed as it were on moral garbage! From Christian mouths no such word should ever issue—it is simply abominable.”
And while on this subject I would add that to post some of the garbage on Facebook and other social networking sites in the internet would be covered by this also. It is simply reprehensible that someone who professes to be a Christian would allow their name to be connected to some of the stuff that I see on my Facebook newsfeed. I try to hide things like that and have “unfriended” some for it. I am inclined to be more aggressive in doing so in the future. I don’t like to see it. I don’t like for people to think I condone that kind of thing. It is not funny. It is not smart. It is coarse and repulsive.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (vs. 30).
The new man is sensitive to the influence of God in his life. The Holy Spirit, by means of his work of revealing Christ to mankind, leads us to become children of God and then helps through our understanding of Christ to greater strength and maturity in him. We do not resist the Spirit’s influence – we yield to it, changing and growing and becoming ever more like the Savior in all our life. To resist the Spirit’s teaching and influence would grieve him because he desires our eternal salvation.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (vs. 31).
The disposition of the new self – the new man – is not steeped in bitter, resentful, angry attitudes. The true Christian is not noisily dissatisfied, insisting on our “rights” because of an overly active ego or imagined wrongs done us. He certainly does not speak evil of others, not even of his enemies if he has such – even if he has been wronged by them.
Instead, the Christian – the new man – is to be a model of meekness as evidenced in the way he treats others. Paul admonishes that we…
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (vs. 32).
What a difference between the old man and the new! Many people look on this description of the new man and think he is a “wimp.” They think real people are not like that. They are rough and tough and crude – real “he men.” Anyone can be obnoxious and offensive, rude and crude. But where is the value of such a life. Where it the challenge in it?
Not everyone will live the new life. It presents the greatest challenge anyone has ever faced. To be like the Son of God is the ultimate goal and we can never achieve that without the greatest effort. And even then we can’t do it by ourselves. We can never lift ourselves out of the mire of sin by pulling up our own bootstraps. We have to have help from above.
Perhaps that is the thing that some find objectionable about the Christian life. We have to humble ourselves. We have to admit our own weaknesses and failings. We have to become dependent as a child upon our heavenly Father. It is only when we reach that point of reliance on him that we can truly grow and become what he intended that we be from the beginning – true, authentic human beings made in his image and reflecting his glory into this dark, benighted world.