Message: The Contents for Christlike Contentment | Scripture: Ephesians 4:22-24 | Speaker: Pastor Stephen Choy
What does a life resolved not to sin and a life resolved to know Christ look like? It looks like someone who puts off those things that distract us from the true desires of our transformed heart. It looks like someone whose mind is joyfully surrendered to the things of the gospel and of God. It looks like someone who works synergistically with the Holy Spirit for our sanctification having been justified unilaterally by the gospel. Ultimately, one who is resolved against sinning and who is for Christ is someone who is resolved to live a new covenant life based upon all that has been accomplished for him/her in the blood of Jesus who fulfills the promise of God to redeem our sin in Adam. Christ ushers in the new covenant, and that is of indelible hope to us as we seek to live in a way pleasing to our God–the giver of the gospel and sanctifier of our eternal souls.
- Our proposition this week is “Be Resolved to Live a New Life.” How is this proposition proper given what we’ve learned over the last two weeks (re: sin and Christ)?
- What does sin do to us?
- What drives us to sin?
- What is sin?
- Is putting off sin a difficult thing to do? Why/why not?
- If it is difficult to put off sin, why do we do it?
- Once sin is shed, are we regretful in shedding it? Why/why not? Have we benefited in any way?
- When the Bible calls our minds to be renewed, is it a work we do ourselves?
- How have you been renewed in your mind recently? Are you being challenged in the gospel? Are you being challenged in your thinking about what it means to be Christian?
- Do you push yourself to expand your theological depth? Why/why not? Do you think knowing theology and expanding your theological knowledge is important? Why/why not?
- Do you think there’s a relationship between weak theology and a weak faith? Why/why not?
- Have you ever had a crisis of faith? If so, what has helped you get out of that crisis? If you’re still in that crisis, then what doubts have not been solved? To what source(s) are you looking to find the solution? Are they sources that fall in line with what we see in Scripture (if not Scripture itself)?
- In putting on the new self are we working against the intentions of God? Why/why not (from the text)?
- What does Paul mean when he says that you were created in the likeness of God? Is this only in reference to our physical appearance? Why/why not?
- When God makes us in his likeness, why can’t we see that God is acting narcissistically?
- What is the truth of our righteousness and holiness? How does this truth ensure that our actions remain righteous and holy?
When I was around four or five years old, I loved swimming, and we would go to my great grandmother’s condominium where they had a large indoor pool downstairs. Now, I don’t actually remember this story. I know it because my father used to love telling it, and I’m telling it today at great risk of embarrassing myself, but there’s a point to it. The story goes like this: We get to my grandmother’s condo, and, after we go upstairs to say hi and spend some time with her, we promptly make our way down to the swimming pool area. I run ahead of my dad to the changeroom to get ready to swim. I get ready, throw my clothes in one of the lockers. It’s at this point that my dad is just getting into the changeroom with me, and when I see him, I dash right past him up the stairs towards the pool and I jump straight into it. The only problem is that my dad had my swimming suit, and somehow, at the age of 5, I had forgotten that swimming suits were necessary whenever you went swimming. Apparently, my dad came up after me, jumped into the water to retrieve me, jumped out, wrapped me up, and promptly brought me back down to properly get ready for what was probably a couple hours of incredible fun.
The reason I’m telling you this innocent story is because the pool is here before us. It is offered for us to swim in. The truth of the gospel is on display, and it’s ready for all of us to partake in and to declare to the nations! But no one in their right mind wants to swim in the pool with someone improperly dressed. We’ve got to know what we’re supposed to do so that others feel comfortable doing it too. Scripture, this morning, is telling us how to dress as Christians, what we’re supposed to look like, how we’re supposed to function, so that we show that we are not only affected in our minds with the truth, but also that our lives are as well. Chapter 4:17-24 is a snapshot of everything that’s been said from Chapter 1:1 to Chapter 4:16. We’re confronted with our sinful nature—vv. 17-19. We’re compelled into the truth of the grace of Christ (vv. 20-21). Now, we’re called to be and live in a certain way (vv. 22-24). So, let’s learn how we are supposed to be Christians once more, here in Ephesians 4:22-24. TWoL.
But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Our proposition, if you’ll remember for verses 17-19 could have been stated: be resolved not to sin. Then, our proposition for verses 20-21 was be resolved to know Christ. Our proposition, based on these two preceding propositions, this morning is this: Be Resolved to Live a New Life. And how do we do that?
- By Putting Off
- By Being Renewed
- By Putting On
1) Be Resolved to Live a New Life by Putting Off
Look with me at verse 22. We start with a relative pronoun “that.” What is the “that” referring to? Well, it’s connecting us to verse 21, which tells us that the Ephesians have been taught something. You have been taught in Him that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. So, what we’re getting here in verses 22-24 is the content of the teaching. I hope now you’re seeing the flow from verses 17-24. Verses 17-19 speak about the life that was before you received Christ, verses 20-21 discusses the grace, freedom, and hope that comes in what we’ve learned in the person and work of Jesus, then in verses 22-24, we get the actual content of what we’ve learned.
The first thing we’ve learned? To put off, to lay aside the old man. He calls it the old man or the former person, but another way that this word “old” is translated is “worn out.” This old man, this former person, that ragged skin, it’s run its course. It’s time for a new one.
Now, I’m not going to go over explaining this exhaustively because I’ve already done that the last two weeks in discussing sin. However, what I will do here is to once again point you to the all-encompassing nature of sin. The words Paul is using here of the former person is referring to the entire self. In fact, he goes deep by using the word desire specifically—the NASB translates this word as “lusts,” and that’s the right way to use this word in this context. They’re not good desires. The effect of the old man does not bring about anything commendable in us. The lusts of deceit—these words sound bad. You don’t even have to know exactly what they mean, and just by hearing them, they don’t sound right. But if we dive a little into what it means lusts of deceit, we know that they have to do with inordinate passions—those driven by carnality, suffering, and death—that lead us away from the truth.
What does sin do? It deceives you! It takes you out of reality and fixates your whole person on something unsatisfying in itself. Namely, it makes you fixate on yourself. It’s so interesting how nowadays it’s all about taking care of yourself. Making sure that I am okay. Looking out for my “needs” first. What does Paul and God have to say about that? He says that this lust for yourself, this inordinate desire for yourself, it’s all a lie that corrupts. This is what the text actually says, “the old self, which is being corrupted because of the lusts of deceit.” The word for corruption is the same word for ruining something. Sin ruins you not only for a short time, but if you continue to let it ruin you, it’ll ruin you right into eternal condemnation. The lust it feeds is literally deceiving you into hell.
This is what you need to do about that sin in what you’ve learned about Christ: put it off as Christ put it on by hanging upon the cross. Stop lying to yourself about its benefit to you. Stop looking at that website that’s not good for you. Throw out those snacks you shouldn’t be eating. Put an end to those conversations where you hear the name of that person you want to talk about. Give up those pursuits that you’re driven to for the accolades and the recognition. Put it off, lay it aside, confess it to one another. Find rest in your Saviour. It’s an exhausting thing to keep up these appearances, isn’t it? It is! It’s so tiring, and it’s not meant to be! We’re not meant to lie to ourselves. This is why when we find the gospel, we feel like such a burden has been lifted off our shoulders! Why? Because Christ relieves. Christ truly satisfies. Resting in him and finding peace in him is no lie. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
One of the great truths of my life, and you can ask this of anyone who has known me for a long time, is that I hate socks. In fact, I have Darth Vader socks on to remind myself that wearing socks is something invented by the Dark Side. To me, it’s an unnatural evil. So, you can imagine my relief and my satisfaction when I get home, and I get to take off my socks. Brothers and sisters, take off the socks—not literally, of course. Find the rest and peace that comes in desiring to live a new life through the gospel having been made free from the shackles and imposition that sin weighs down upon your heart. There is levity in the cross, but as long as you cling to that old man, as long as you give way to that sin that grips you, it will control you, it will deceive you, and it will condemn you.
2) Be Renewed
But you did not learn Christ in that way. What way were you taught about him? You were taught to put him off, and thus be renewed in the spirit of your mind. This is what verse 23 says. You were taught to put off the whole character of your person that was utterly corrupted in sin by first having the spirit of your mind renewed.
The imperative here is passive one: “be renewed.” It speaks of an action being done to you. Very similar to what we talked about last week, it is God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that comes upon you and reorients your whole person. This is what is meant by the spirit of your mind. “Spirit” here is not referring to the Holy Spirit, no the Holy Spirit is implied by the passive verb. The “spirit of your mind” is talking about that inner being—that thing in you that drives your compulsions, your desires, and your satisfactions. God has come in, and he has renewed that and reoriented it.
But it’s interesting that out of all the organs Paul chooses to bring up, it’s again the mind. It’s the mind that needs to be renewed before the body can catch up. Of course, by mind, here, he could have easily said “heart” because in the Old Testament they’re the same word. But he chooses mind here, because he’s talking about what you’ve been taught. There’s something you know in your mind that the rest of the sinful world does not know. And what you know is not to lie dormant in there. No, what you know—what you have learned is something you’re to ruminate on again and again and again. What you’ve learned is supposed to lead not only to greater knowledge, but it’s to bring about transformation and transplantation in your heart, and God is actively helping you do this work.
Unless God does the work, unless he comes in and makes your desires new, unless he reorients your mind to love what is good and what is holy, you’re going to keep wanting those things that deceive you and lead you to death. The command here, then, is to give way to God’s work in your life.
I know, you’re thinking, you can’t really give way to God. When God wants to act, he acts, and you’re right! But what’s the difference between a Calvinist and an Arminian? The answer: the Calvinist is just someone who can admit after the fact that the one who did the work was not oneself, but the grace of God in Jesus Christ. When transformation is happening, it feels brutal. It’s hard work. Sanctification is the slowest road. It’s not always—in fact, it hardly ever—an instantaneous change. The renewal of our minds and our hearts often starts out feeling like an obligation. It’s something we’re doing dutifully. Those first couple of weeks after not doing your devos for a year, it’s difficult to do. But then you get into a rhythm where your mornings or your evenings feel kind of irreplaceable without them, so the duty because a discipline. Then as the discipline works its way into your heart and into your mind, it becomes a delight not because you’ve stopped working, but because you’ve let the work work on you. You’ve let God work on you. You’ve let Scripture work on you. Give way from that sin, be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Let God transform your desires. Put off the old man. Surrender your life to God.
We have to be okay with language like this, even if we’re Calvinist, and believe me, I’m 100% Calvinist through and through. But Calvinists are ardent believers in the Holy Spirit who was given to us when we believed. Do you believe you have the Holy Spirit? Because if you do, then you know it’s not you doing the work when you’re doing the work. Yes, it’s effortful, but the effort isn’t from your sinful man. Yes, it’s tiring, but the perseverance isn’t from the sinful man. It’s from God, EVEN when we don’t know it’s from God. If our desire is to glorify him. If our desire is to fix our minds and hearts on him. If what we want to see is change for the sake of him who has effected the change, then I can assure you that you may toil and you may strive in your changing, but when that change comes you will know that it wasn’t you at all.
This is what Paul means in Philippians 2:12-13 when he says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It is God who works in you so that God might work out of you, and it is to his glory and for your good that he does this. There would be no lasting effect, if you didn’t put some blood, sweat, and tears into it, but God uses that blood, those tears, and the sweat to make sure you don’t forget what it cost for him to get you this far, and so that you build that habit of looking to him. It was God working in you to renew you and to make you holy, pleasing, and acceptable to him. Give. Way. To. Him! Be resolved to live a new life because you are being renewed day-by-day in your mind and in your heart as those who are purchased by the blood and who are now faithful to the household of God.
3) Be resolved to live a new life by putting on
When we give way to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, wonderful things happen. Because the inner man is now changed and is being changed, you are created anew in the likeness of God. In other words, you can live sanctified lives. You were outfitted with the image of God in your physical creation, and now you are outfitted with the image of God in your spiritual creation. You not only display Christ when people see you, but when you serve people, what they sense is Christ himself. There is this unspeakable disposition of Christians as those set apart, and we would be foolish not to acknowledge it or strive after it—it’s true, we need to use words and declare the gospel, but our lives have to match the zeal of our words. We should want to be different, not for difference sake, but because God’s work is radically transformative and utterly satisfying. A changed man by the gospel is no longer constricted by the sin that once corrupted him, rather he’s filled with a knowledge and presence of the maker of the cosmos. There is no end to our satisfaction in him because there is no end in him. For those who belong to God, there is now zeal without burnout and authenticity without compromise. We can walk as holy people, because we truly are a holy people in Jesus.
Looking specifically here in verse 24, there’s a paradox that takes place. Paul tells us to put on what God has already created. Does that mean that what we’re putting on is something old? Didn’t we just put off what was old? You see, the text isn’t trying to create a separation. It’s trying to reveal the mystery of sanctification. It simply goes back to what we’ve said in the last point—to become renewed in our minds, and to become holy in our living, we need to get out of our own way. God’s already done the work. He’s done the work of renewing our minds, which means he’s also done the work of giving us a whole new man—inside and out. He’s given it to you. In fact, he’s put it on you, but when we live in the old man, when our minds are not being renewed, and when we refuse to act by putting on the new man, we stand in our own way from living how God intended us to live. We are Calvinists, not fatalists. We do not believe that God will do what he wants regardless of what we do. No, we believe that God uses ordinary means and people like us to display him in the world and to effect change through his gospel. So, we not only put to death what he’s already destroyed on the cross, but we also put on what he’s created for us in the glory of the resurrection. We are justified fully and unilaterally by grace. But in sanctification, there is a synergy between our working, which relies on what he’s already done and is still doing to produce good things in us and through us.
And he does this work through us so that we might look like him. Is God just being narcissistic? Absolutely not! Narcissism is the overconfidence in one’s own perfection or worth while ignoring the imperfection. But there is no imperfection in God! He’s not being narcissistic! He’s trying to give you the fullest most joyous life, because the fullest life is found in him! He’s trying to satisfy you incomparably. He wants to make much of us by making much of himself, and he wants to make much of himself by making much of us as new creatures! The world is to know who God is because we display him to them as someone worth knowing.
And, ultimately, we are to display his character not based on what we think is righteous or holy—we do not define him according to “our truth.” No, we are to display the righteousness and holiness of the truth. These last three words: “of the truth.” They tell us the source from which the righteousness and holiness flow. There is only one truth that is righteous and holy—there is only one truth we are called to live by: that God sent his only Son into the world to pay the debt of our sin and to satisfy the penalty of our guilt, so that all who believe in him as Lord and resurrected Saviour might be saved. This is the truth about our righteousness and holiness—the truth of the gospel fuels our faithfulness. The truth of the gospel is the material that makes up the new man, and we’re to put this on every day!
But something is missing. Why does Paul suddenly move into talking about putting off the old man and putting on the new here? Why repeat himself for what seems like the fourth or fifth time without saying anything new?
Well, I think he is trying to say something both old and new by using these terms. Where have we heard this putting on and putting off language before? Surely, it’s everywhere throughout the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. It’s in the Psalms where it speaks of putting on righteousness. It’s in Job, where Job put on honour. It’s in 2 Chronicles, which speaks of putting on salvation. It’s in Isaiah, which talks about putting on strength. But where do we see the first instance of someone putting something on?
Well, we see it in Genesis. If you have your Bibles look quickly with me at Genesis 3 because there we see the entrance of sin into the world. There Adam and Eve take from the tree of good and evil after being tempted by the devil, where he lies to them that if they eat it, they shall be like God. So, they eat it. And what is their reaction? They are ashamed. They see that they’re naked, and they can’t stand what they look like. Now, it’s not their nakedness that they’re ashamed of. No, they were naked before, and they weren’t ashamed. What they’re broken about is that is the fact that they don’t look like God. What they conjured as the solution to their finitude only served to point out that they are more finite than they knew. Not only are they not God himself, in disobeying him, they find out that they’re even farther from being like God, and trust me, when the Beast looks at himself in the mirror for the first time after being transformed into a hideous creature, it’s not something that he wants to see.
So, what do they do? Instead of running to God for help, they make the problem worse. They, once again, try to come up with their own solution. Genesis 3:7 tells us they sew fig leaves together and make loincloths. And they put it on, as if it would cover up their shame. Maybe God won’t notice. But their human endeavour, their brilliant solution, their desire to be their own saviour backfires. Because we know what happens next in Genesis 8-19, God comes, and he condemns everyone involved. The situation is one of utter bleakness, and they deserve it!
However, if you have your Bibles, look at Genesis 3:15 and 21. In verse 15, God gives the first promise of a Saviour that isn’t Adam and Eve—this is called the protevangelium—the first foretelling of the gospel—someone will come and vindicate both God and man from this sin. Then,right after making this promise, in verse 21, what happens? He makes garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and he clothes them. Do you see what’s happened? God’s just promised a Saviour is coming, and to assure the truth of his promise, he shows Adam and Eve what needs to happen when someone sins. God, himself, shows the first humans what it looks like to make a sacrifice of atonement by pouring out the blood of an innocent creature, by putting off the human fig coverings, and by putting on the skin of his sacrifice onto sinful man and woman to show them his mercy. Where they ought to have been slain, something else stood in their place.
What’s more is that whenever you see someone tearing clothes off in the Bible, it’s because sin abounds, and God’s judgment is coming. But when clothes are put on, there’s always a deeper, more beautiful significance. When we flip through the pages of the Bible, what do we see? In Genesis 35, Jacob tells his family to put on new clothes for God is to make a covenant with them. In Exodus 19, Moses tells his people to wash their clothes and to sanctify themselves, why? Because God is about to make a covenant with them. Then in Matthew 17, we find the disciples face down on the floor atop a mountain, why? Because before them stands the Son of Man clothed in radiant glory. Why is glory placed upon Christ? Because God is about to make a covenant with him and his people. God is about to make a covenant with them just like he did with Adam and Eve, just like he did with Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac, just like he did with Israel, and just like he did with David. And how does he do it? He takes our sin and puts it on his Son while he hangs from the cross, and then he takes the righteousness and holiness of his Son and puts it upon us sinners.
See this language of putting off and putting on is covenantal language. Yes, Paul’s talked about the covenant already in this book, but he hasn’t talked about it like this. And Paul brings it up explicitly here to remind us that we put on new clothes—we put on the new man because a new, perfect, and eternal covenant has come. A new covenant has come to present a new humanity, not in Adam, but in Jesus. A new covenant has come to restore the true King to his throne. A new covenant has come to define the people of God who shall live in his house forever. This is why we are resolved not to sin. This is why we are resolved to know Christ. This is why we are resolved to live a new life. Because God has brought about that very thing that he swore to do from the beginning in covenanting with sinners, and it is more marvelous than we could have imagined. He has not only saved us from sin, he has brought us to himself, he has given us new, holy desires, and it is in light of what he’s done in putting off who we were, in renewing our minds to what he’s done, and in putting on who we’re now supposed to be in righteousness and holiness that we look forward to that day:
“Oh, that day, when freed from sinning/I shall see thy lovely face/Clothed then in the blood washed linen/How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace/Come my Lord no longer tarry/Bring thy promises to pass/For I know thy power will keep me/Till I’m home with thee at last.”