Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:11-24 Sermon Title: Put on the New Self (part 1) Sermon Text: Ephesians 4:17-24 Memory Verse: Ephesians 4:24 MAIN IDEA: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self which is in the likeness of God.
Introduction: The Beauty of Unity
The Disunity of the Mind of Futility
The Unity of the Mind of Truth
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Thanks for understanding.
Introduction: The Beauty of Unity
World of Disunity
We live in a world of disunity. The lack of unity is very unsettling, and it permeates every segment of society. The politicians of our government are very divided. The populace differs in opinion on methods of education, approaches to banking, solving environmental issues, and what is best for the family. There is a lack of unity in the marketplace; it is each person for themselves in our dog eat dog world. Even the world of sports, in what should be just friendly sports entertainment becomes an arena of disruption as fans from opposing teams taunt and even exchange fisticuffs with one another.
Disunity is so common that we see it as the norm. We expect disunity. If there is not disunity, we wonder if we are doing something wrong. What is it like to live in complete unity? For us humans, unity is a pipe-dream. We resign ourselves to think that unity is only a concept and not a reality. Perfect unity is only something we may imagine.
Urged to Walk in Unity
Unity is not a pipe dream. Unity is not a concept, but it is a reality, and we need to have a vision for unity. We need to strive for unity above all things.
The reason Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians is to have them strive for unity. As a prisoner in Rome, Paul learned the church in Ephesus was not in unity. The church became a church with the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
Jewish believers were the “haves.” They were the children of Abraham, and they believed all the promises of Abraham belonged to them. They owned the Scriptures; Abraham is their father, and the Messiah came for the Jews. Therefore, heaven and all the blessings belonged to the children of Abraham. They were a people of great future hope.
The Gentile believers were the “have-nots.” The Gentile believers did not have the same hope as the Jews because they did not see how the blessings of Abraham belonged to them. There was one hope for the Jews and a lesser hope for the Gentiles. The Saints of Ephesus did not have the same hope. The church was not walking in unity.
In the first three chapters, Paul proves that both Jew and Gentile have the same hope. They share in the same inheritance. Jew and Gentile are being fitted together as one building, one holy temple, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone. Paul concludes his presentation by telling the Ephesians that there is one body, one Spirit, one calling, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:4-6).
Therefore, because of the oneness, Paul urges the church to walk in a manner worthy of the calling, by walking in oneness being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit (Eph. 4:1-3).
Unity of God
There is perfect unity in the Universe. Perfect unity existed before Creation. There is perfect unity in the Trinity. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit always are and always will be in perfect unity. They never argue or disagree. They share the same purpose. They love one another perfectly. They cooperate with one another perfectly. There is no fighting for position or power. Each Person of the Trinity does what they are supposed to do without complaint or competition. Each Person of the Trinity finds joy and pleasure in one another.
Unity is an essential attribute bringing purpose and meaning to all the other attributes of the Trinity. Imagine eternity without unity in the Trinity. It is impossible to be holy and righteous when there are disagreement or competition. There is no unity when there is jealousy and not love.
In Him (Son), you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him (Son) with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s (Father) own possession, to the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:13-14)
And He (Son) came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him (Son) we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:17-18)
… He (Father) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Eph. 3:16-17)
Without unity, the Father would not seal our salvation with His Spirit. Without unity, the Father would not send His Son so that Jesus may receive the glory in our salvation. If there is no unity in the Trinity, why would the Son desire to obey the Father? Or, why would the Spirit strengthen our hearts for the indwelling of Christ? Unity in the Trinity is essential for our salvation. Herein is the Gospel: The Father sends the Son for our salvation. The Son is the Holy offspring of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit anoints the Son’s ministry. The Son obeys, not His will, but the Father’s will. The Son demonstrates the Father’s love. The Father is pleased with the Son commands His Spirit to raise Him from the dead. The Spirit glorifies the Son and makes the Son known. The Father draws us to the Son and adopts us as His children. We become joint-heirs with the Son receiving all that the Father gives the Son. The Spirit indwells us and leads us home so we may enjoy the Son eternally in the Kingdom of the Father.
Salvation is a call to be in unity with the saving work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In praising God for His love, holiness, goodness, and mercy, let’s not forget to fall on our knees and worship God who exists in perfect unity in the three Persons of the Trinity.
Jesus Prays for our Unity
The Trinity is in perfect unity, and we are bound together in that unity.
Turn to John 17. Listen to the prayer the Son made to the Father:
The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:22-24)
What a beautiful prayer. There are two observations we may make in these verses.
The first observation is the cooperation of unity between the Father and Son. (This is evident throughout the prayer and not just in these verses.) Jesus acknowledges the loving Father has freely given glory to the Son. God, in perfect unity, gives glory to the Son. He does not keep His glory for Himself but gives it to Jesus. In perfect humility, we hear the Son asking permission of the Father. The Father is not jealous of the Son’s glory. So, Jesus asks the Father for us to be able to see and enjoy His glory. There is no holding back with perfect unity. The Father glorifies the Son. The Son glorifies the Father. The Spirit empowers the believers to see the Son and enjoy His salvation
The second observation is that Jesus and the Father love us and desires for us to join in unity with them. The Son so enjoys the unity of the Trinity that He asks to share it with us. The Son gives us that same glory so that we may be one just as the Trinity is One. Jesus gives us His glory to qualify us in our joining in unity with the Trinity.
We are a privileged people. We are presently in perfect unity with the Trinity. Our future hope is that we see with our eyes the reality of our bond of love with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit in perfect unity.
Once we have the vision of our unity with the Trinity, we may understand the call to unity made by the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Ephesians.
Call to Unity
(turn back to Ephesians 4)
Just like today, we can be sure there were people in the church in Ephesus who rubbed one another the wrong way. There are people with varying degrees of understanding in doctrine. It is inevitable that whenever the people of God gather that there will be friction. We have had our share of friction. However, we need to do all we can to lay aside our differences, to preserve unity. Those who are being conformed to the image of Christ will strive for unity.
The Gospel call is a call to unity with God. In this letter to the church in Ephesus, unity is the theme of this application section of the letter (chapters four through six).
If we read Ephesians and don’t get the message we are to be in unity, then we will have missed Paul’s purpose. Paul first talks of unity in our character (4:1-6) and unity as a church (4:7-16). As we progress through the letter, we will learn how to conduct ourselves in unity in relationships (4:25-5:21), marriage (5:22-33), the family (6:1-4), and in the workplace (6:5-9). The purpose of this letter is to urge the church to live in unity. The importance of unity may not be understated.
In the passage we are looking at today and next week, Ephesians 4:17-24, Paul speaks of how we are to renew our minds, so we have unity in the truth. The main idea of the message is this: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new self which is in the likeness of God. In urging us to be in unity with God, Paul speaks of two different minds. The first is the mind of futility (v.17) and the second the mind of truth (v.23).
This week, we will look at the mind of futility.
The Disunity of the Mind of Futility
In urging us to be in unity, Paul begins by giving us a warning. He is warning us to abandon a lifestyle which is not capable of being in unity with God. In other words, if we want to walk according to the hope of our calling and if we desire to preserve the unity, by all means, DON’T do live this way.
In the Garden of Eden, mankind lost unity with the Trinity. Deceit is the tool used to break the unity between man and God. When we hear and believe lies rather than hear and believe the truth of God’s Word, we are no longer in fellowship with God.
Without the Truth of God’s Word, there is no unity with God. Those who do not put their faith in the truth of the Gospel remain lost and instead, believe the lies of Satan. They are banished from unity with the Trinity. 17So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
In this one sentence, the Apostle urges us to live no longer as the Gentiles live. In this verse, when he refers to Gentiles, he is speaking about the Gentiles who are outside the church. They are alienated from God because they do not know God nor do they worship Him as the Creator. They worship idols. They are caught up in immorality.
It is interesting to note how Paul phrases the beginning of verse 17. He says, “so this I say, and affirm together with the Lord.” It’s the same as Paul saying, “I am writing this letter and I am saying this, but you need to know I am only affirming what the Lord says. I am in unity with the Lord. We are together on this, and you need to be together with us. Stop living as an unbeliever who lives in the futility of their mind.”
In living as the Gentiles live, we are not in unity with God, and we are not in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Gentiles live the way they do because they have a mind of futility. A mind of futility is a mind which is totally useless. It is as Paul’s letter to the Romans says, “All have turned aside, together they have become useless” (3:12). It is vain and pointless. There is no value to a mind of futility. There are four characteristics of the mind of futility.
1- Darkened understanding
No longer walk as the unbeliever walks for their understanding is darkened.
There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none who understands (Rom. 3:11).
Have you ever tried to work with someone who has darkened understanding? Have you ever said to someone, that guy is in the dark, he just doesn’t get it? It is very difficult to be in unity with people who have obscured vision. Because of darkened understanding, they don’t know where they are going. People in the world have not lamp unto their feet nor do they have a light unto their path. They can’t see because their understanding of where to go is dark. They can’t see the map, so they don’t know where to go. They can’t read the instructions, so they leave out important parts, or they do things partially. People with darkened understanding are not in unity with God, and they are not even in unity with one another.
Our understanding is not dark. We are children walking in the light of God’s Word. We know God’s will and His purpose to the Universe. We know and see how God is working all things for good. Therefore, don’t live as though our understanding is in the dark.
No longer walk as an unbeliever walk who is filled with ignorance.
Because of ignorance, they are excluded from the life of God. They refuse to know of God. To them, ignorance is bliss. We may say, come, partake of the goodness of God and they will not respond because of their ignorance. They don’t know of goodness. They much rather live splashing in mud puddles because they are ignorant of the beautiful ocean beaches.
Try all we want to tell them of the peace, joy, and glories of knowing Christ and they will refuse to listen. They believe they already have peace and joy. We beg of them to worship Christ, and in their ignorance, they worship creation and not the Creator. They are content with their life because they are ignorant of the life God offers. In their ignorance, they bend their knee to those things which satisfy the belly, and they go on unwilling to bend their knee to Christ.
There is no unity with those who are in ignorance. They don’t speak our language. They are not satisfied with what brings us satisfaction. Their priorities are not the same. We are no longer ignorant. We have the knowledge of Christ. We are to live in accordance with our knowledge. Therefore, stop walking as though we are ignorant.
3- Hardness of heart
No longer walk as an unbeliever who lives out of the hardness of their heart. They are callous. What this means is that they are past feeling. They laugh at the sick. They torture the disabled. They are filled with glee when people they don’t care for die. They have no true feelings for others because they only care about themselves.
They will say things like, “I got drunk. What’s the big deal? Everybody does it.” The big deal is they don’t see their child crying and hiding alone in their room because dad came home in another drunken rage. They don’t care that they ran a family off the road on their way home after drinking a six-pack at their friend’s house.
People with a hard heart are callous with their words. They write posts on Facebook saying whatever their heart desires. If you try to tell them to be sensitive, they will say things like, “You don’t like my Facebook post? Don’t read my posts. Unfriend me if you don’t like what I say. I don’t care.”
Their heart is hard towards people. Occasionally, we may see a glimpse of mercy or care for others. Usually, the glimpse of a soft-heart might be seen around Christmas or some other holiday. But, for the most part, they drive, speak, and live for themselves and not others. They are heartless.
It is impossible to be in unity with a person who is hard-hearted, and we are in unity with the God of mercy. Their heart is hard towards the things of God. Grace, love, mercy, and kindness are far from them. Scripture describes them this way:
Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:15-18)
Our eyes are open to God’s demonstration of grace, mercy, and love. We are no longer strangers to the glories of God’s good character. We are recipients of His tender mercies. His mercy and grace have taken our heart of stone and made it a heart of flesh. We have God’s Holy Spirit in our heart. We are to be a people of compassion, mercy, and love.
We are to put aside our former callous heart and live as people who mourn at the injustice of those who are ruthless. We are to live shedding tears over the hard-hearted people who are lost and not applauding or standing by as they partake of their violence and greed.
We are no longer people with a hard heart, and we should stop living as though we are.
4- Given over to impurity
No longer walk as an unbeliever whose life is given over to sensuality and impurity. The word sensuality means licentiousness and debauchery. They have given themselves over to a lifestyle just like Sodom and Gomorrah. As they live, they practice every kind of impurity. They have no shame, but revel and party their depravity. Sin is their food and iniquity is their drink.
Scripture describes them as:
There is none who does good; there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues, they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness (Romans 3:12-14).
Practicing impurity is like going to a banquet. “I haven’t tried that, that looks like it tastes good.” They practice every kind of impurity greedily. Their appetite is unwavering. We will have better luck taking a bone away from the mouth of a pit bull then we will in taking away impurity from an unbeliever.
Not only do they practice impurity, but they make movies and write songs to celebrate their impurities. They petition the government to allow them to practice impurities. They will fight tooth and nail for their right to live a depraved lifestyle.
God is holy. The Trinity is holy. The Father, Son, and Spirit are forever righteous and pure. If we are to have unity with God, then we are to be holy and pure.
Every time we seek to enjoy our sin, we might as well walk up to the cross and ask Jesus, “May I have that sin back for a few hours? Allow me to break fellowship with You so that I may enjoy this moment of debauchery with these unbelievers. They are having such a joyous time. Let me gaze on the harlots. Let me speak words of discontent. Allow me some time to satisfy my flesh. My preference is fellowship with the world for just a few hours. You don’t mind. Right, Jesus?”
Shall we walk as the unbelievers who are given over to sensuality and impurity? Certainly not! We are not a people given over to impurity because Christ died to save us from our sin. Our acts of sensuality and impurity are nailed to the cross of Christ. Christ died to set us free from the bondage of sin.
We are to stop walking in the futility of our mind as the Gentiles.
Take hold of the vision of unity which we see in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. We were once dead to that likeness, but now we are born again to be image-bearers of righteousness and holiness. We are invited to participate in the love shared by the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We are to no longer walk according to this world. Don’t let the deceit of sin tempt you to eat of its poison. Don’t break fellowship with the one who died for you for a few passing moments of play time in the garden of iniquity and death. Our eyes are open to the beauty of unity. We have new tastes, knowledge of what is good, and hearts that are no longer hard and callous. We are free from the bondage and slavery of sin so that we may live in holiness and righteousness.
Don’t walk in the futility of the mind as an unbeliever. We are in unity and fellowship with a holy God. Live as though that unity has value.