When I was a child my siblings and I would often repeat an old saying. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” As I grew up, became a pastor, and a counselor, I realized more and more just how un-true that saying was. This is due in part to the fact, words have meaning.
This is not an article about being careful with the words we used with each other. Instead I’d like us to look closely at the words the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Ephesians 4:17-24. Remember words have meaning. Words are important.
Paul wrote, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Futility: Paul encouraged the believers in Ephesus to no longer live the way they did before they encounter the Living God. When we live according to the desires of our old selves it is indeed futile, useless. Sin never brings about the joy and peace it promises.
Alienated: In Isaiah 59:2 the Bible tells us that our sin separates us from God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, however we are alienated from fellowship with Him when we choose to have fellowship with darkness. This is why, for Christians, sin always comes with conviction and pain. We can sense that broken fellowship with God.
Ignorance: When we choose to live contrary to the will of God, Paul boldly says, we are ignorant! We have believed the lie that there is a greater love, joy, or peace, through the sin we have chosen to participate in, than can be found in God.
Callous: This is perhaps the most serious one of all. We can become callous, having given in to the same old sin for so long, we no longer feel the pain of broken fellowship with our Creator, Savior, and the Holy Spirit. We no longer hear the small voice crying out, “Stop! Don’t do it!”
Put off: The Word of God is calling us to put off those things that keep us from sweet communion with The Spirit of God. They are those things that belong to our former manner of life. They are corrupt and like poison to a healthy body they corrupt us.
Be renewed: In Romans 12:1-2 Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” One of the tools of the enemy is distraction. You and I are easily distracted by the temptations of this world. The voices of social media, bolggers, TV, newspapers, magazines, movies and more are all calling out for our attention. We are distracted by the TV, internet, smart phones, email, text messages and more. In this sometimes crazy fast paced world we desperately need to refocus. We need to renew our minds. We need to reset our minds once again on the Living God! Like the old song says we need to, Turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face. That the things of this world may grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Put on: Finally, Paul tells us to put on our new selves, created in the likeness of God. I love this. Once again we are confronted with the amazing, wondrous grace of the Living God! The Bible says if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old is gone and the new has come. This is the miracle of regeneration, rebirth. Having been morally bankrupt and separated from fellowship with our Creator, God moved in and washed us clean, made us pure, and entered in our very beings through the Holy Spirit. We are now encouraged to live like the holy men and woman God created us to be.
Father in Heaven, we pray in Jesus Name that we might tune out the voices of this world that are calling us away from Your Holy presence. May we put off the things that belong to our former way of life. We pray that we might experience true transformation as we turn our eyes upon Jesus, and refocus our hearts on You. In the mighty Name of Jesus we pray. Amen!
Pastor Brian H. Fontaine firstname.lastname@example.org