Monday, 2 September 2013

Looking like a Christian.

Preached Ephesians 4:17-32 last night as part of our New Identity series.  God calls us, expects us and wants us to live different lives when we find our identity in Christ. He calls us to draw a line in the sand and choose to live a different life.

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. 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. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (Ephesians 4:17-19, ESV)
Paul shows us that living with our old, 'original', identity is totally worthless and useless.  He shows us the life of the person who isn't in Christ is defined by the natural state the find themselves in away from God. Their minds are darkened, their thinking futile.  They have hard hearts which causes them not to want to know the truth. All of this causes their conscious to loose its sensitivity to sin.  People who find their identity away from Christ lose their ability to feel guilt about what they do wrong. Initially they may feel the pang of guilt, but as they continue to ignore it that pang get's less and less.  Guilt is actually a part of us which God created so that we might realise our wrong and know Him and His grace. So as those IN CHRIST we have to draw that line in the sand because we can see how futile and worthless any other life is.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24, ESV)
When you become a Christian there is a fundamental change which takes place... a new life begins... a whole new identity is formed and created which we find ourselves in - losing our old identity.  But in many ways it isn't an instant transformation... salvation wise yes, we are instantly affected, saved by grace... but in terms of our nature, our ability to live like Jesus... there is no instant answer where we become perfect in a moment. It would be nice, but that's not how it works.  Paul uses the word 'taught' over and over again in this part of the passage. We have 'heard' about Jesus, been taught according to 'Jesus' truths', shown how our old identity is worthless and the worth of living IN CHRIST.

With that in mind we must acknowledge the importance of placing ourselves in an environment where we can continue to be taught... to see what Christ has done for us, to experience the Holy Spirit in our lives and to be part of something that shows us what the renewing of our mind is all about.  Because the fact is that all believer's minds change when they become Christians - the Holy Spirit renews the mind, we think differently.  We need to experience this, be trained in it and exercise it.


So what does one who identifies as IN CHRIST look like?
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:25-32, ESV)
So Christians tell the truth, control their anger, work hard and don't steal, encourage others and are kind and compassionate.  Paul very plainly and simply outlines what the nature of one who has this new identity looks like.  It's not a means to salvation, we don't have to do it to be saved... but it is a result of finding our identity in Christ, because Christ first treated us in the same way!

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