Sunday, January 21, 2024

Put Off the Old, Put on the New: Tips for Christian Living in Ephesians 4

What does it mean to be worldly? 

“The Bible defines worldliness by centering morality where we intuitively know it should be. Worldliness is the lust of the flesh (a passion for sensual satisfaction), the lust of the eyes (an inordinate desire for the finer things of life), and the pride of life (self-satisfaction in who we are, what we have, and what we have done).  Worldliness, then, is a preoccupation with ease and affluence. It elevates creature comfort to the point of idolatry; large salaries and comfortable life-styles become necessities of life. 

Worldliness is reading magazines about people who live hedonistic lives and spend too much money on themselves and wanting to be like them. But more importantly, worldliness is simply pride and selfishness in disguises. It's being resentful when someone snubs us or patronizes us or shows off. It means smarting under every slight, challenging every word spoken against us, cringing when another is preferred before us. Worldliness is harboring grudges, nursing grievance, and wallowing in self-pity. These are the ways in which we are most like the world.” -Dave Roper, The Strength of a Man, quoted in Family Survival in the American Jungle, Steve Farrar, 1991, Multnomah Press, p. 68.

As followers of Jesus we must guard against living worldly lives, chasing after money and stuff and influence and popularity. That is the challenge we face as Christians. Though we want to follow Jesus, the influence of the world can get in the way. And we can end up living a compromised life.

But that’s not what I want for you or me. I want to live a true, real Christian life. I hope you do too. So we’re going to search out in the scriptures some of the most practical teachings we can find.

We’re going to look at the dos and the don'ts and hopefully we’ll find a better understanding of what faith looks like in the grit and grime of everyday life. 

Today we’re going to delving into a new series called “Shapes of Faith.” And all of this is going to revolve around Christian living. How do I live a successful Christian lifestyle? How do I practice what I believe in my heart? We’re going to be focusing in on a lot of the letters of the New Testament, Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, and so on. 

The goal is to put the teachings of Paul into structures, shapes, so we can see them in a deeper way, and begin to process and apply what we’re learning. Right now let's focus in on Ephesians chapter 4. 

The more we read the word, the more we’ll be in tune with God’s agenda. The more we watch tv, well, we’ll be in tune with another agenda. 

“Some years ago, musicians noted that errand boys in a certain part of London all whistled out of tune as they went about their work. It was talked about and someone suggested that it was because the bells of Westminster were slightly out of tune. Something had gone wrong with the chimes and they were discordant. The boys did not know there was anything wrong with the peals, and quite unconsciously they had copied their pitch.

So we tend to copy the people with whom we associate; we borrow thoughts from the books we read and the programs to which we listen, almost without knowing it. God has given us His Word which is the absolute pitch of life and living. If we learn to sing by it, we shall easily detect the false in all of the music of the world. “ -Donald Grey Barnhouse.

It says in our scripture today, in Ephesians 4:17-19: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”

The scripture here is beginning to contrast between the old ways that we used to live in, and the new way we’ve learned in Christ.

We’ve gone from impure before we knew Christ, to now through Christ, we’ve become pure. 

But now we Christians on Earth live in a tension. We still live in the flesh, that wants to drag us back to the old way. Part of us wants to get lazy, and drift back toward that darkened way of the world. 

But the Apostle Paul reminds us here, verses 20-21, “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”

We’re being told yes, that old way is a temptation to us. But you know the right path, it’s the truth we've found in Jesus. 

It continues, 22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Alright, so we’re going to start building our structure for today. This one works from top to bottom, and at the top we see, we’ve been taught in the truth, that is the truth of Jesus, and in that truth, we’ve learned this: We must put off the old self, and put on the new self. 

And the rest of our scripture today is going to be Paul giving us examples of what it looks like to put off the old self, and then put on the new self. He gives us very concrete examples, which is super helpful. 

But it all starts with being taught the truth and living in the truth. And as that happens again and again, it filters down the structure influencing everything else we do. 

That’s why it’s so important to read your Bible, pray and talk to God, and attend small groups and church services. In all of that you’re strengthening the flow of the truth into you. As it flows into you, it filters down into all your actions. 

If I have no truth coming in, am I going to put on the new self? No. The old self is going to grow stronger and stronger. But if I’m feeding myself the truth, I’m strengthened to live a faithful life. 

So now we’re going to learn some practical ways to live in the new self. 

It says in verse 25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

First example, don’t lie. Sometimes we lie and we don’t even know why we just lied. We’re just so used to lying. 

Every time we lie, we put on the old nature. We make something up, to make ourselves sound better. We don’t know what to say to someone so we just lie, well that’s never good. 

But when we target that problem in faith, pray, and ask God’s help, and then we start speaking truthfully, then we are putting on the new self in that. And that’s beautiful. 

The old self is a liar, in sin right? The new self longs to speak truth and live truth. 

Next, we see a great scripture, classic. It says this, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (26-27). 

Notice something, it’s not a sin to be angry. The new self is consistent with being angry. Anger happens. But when you’re angry, don’t let yourself commit sin. 

We all do this, when we’re angry, we’re angry, but we limit what we do. Some of us are better at that then others. But when you’re angry, remind yourself, I need to limit my response, to what the Bible says, "Be angry, but don’t sin." 

We also get instructions on limiting the time table of anger. Don’t let the anger go on too long. As the day gets old and the sky goes dark, find a way to resolve your anger. Because if we go to bed angry, we often will be angry again the next day. And it can begin to consume us. 

In your anger, don’t give the devil a foothold. The enemy is looking for opportunity to enter your life and affairs. Don’t give him one. Keep your anger under control, and then resolve it. 

My fiancé and I have had disagreements, and we've learned to resolve them in the same night. We've had times where we waited until the next day, and it only made things worse. The anger festered and became more powerful. 

Next, verse 28, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

Next, stealing. These are such excellent examples. Some of us before we were Christians, we justified stealing to ourselves. Well, they don’t need it. The store has enough money. My friend has a lot of money. But now, we’re told, we must steal no longer. Stealing is part of the old self. Instead we’re told to find something useful to do with our hands, good work, service, and then we’re told, we’ll have something to share with those in need. We go from stealing, taking what’s not ours, to working to earn a living, and then giving things to others. 

Isn’t that awesome? God will take someone who is a thief, and turn them into a giver. I love what God does. 

Now, before you say, but I don’t steal. Well, let’s double check that quick. Have you cheated on your taxes? That’s called defrauding the government. In other words, stealing. Doesn’t matter if you think the government deserves the money or not. It’s the law. And Christian’s obey the law unless it disturbs our ability to follow Jesus.

Have you downloaded music or movies off the internet illegally? There’s a word for that. It’s called stealing. 

As Christians, we don’t steal. We give. We care for. We provide for. We meet needs. We don’t steal from anyone. 

Next in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

This is one that I need to work on, actually. Sometimes when I’m joking around with friends or with my fiancé, I joke around in a way that’s probably not particularly helpful or good. 

Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth. That’s the old self again, trying to come back. But instead, speak life. Use your words to build others up. And your words will be a benefit. The new man in Christ speaks life. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to tell jokes, it’s OK to make someone laugh, but we need to make sure we’re not speaking filth, but speaking truth and life. 

We as Christians have received the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ. God has become our Father in Heaven. He has adopted us. Jesus is our friend. Not only that, the Holy Spirit now lives within us, and our bodies are the temple of God, housing God’s presence within us. 

So here we find a key centerpiece to our structure today, in verse 30 it says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 

The new self has been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. Therefore, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. It’s a beautiful balance. You have the Holy Spirit. But don’t grieve the Spirit through willful sin. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit within us. You've been sealed with the Holy Spirit. 

A seal is something that holds an envelope closed, wax often melted and then stamped with an emblem. Some use this verse to claim "once saved always saved" but a seal can be broken. In fact that's what happens when you open the envelope, the seal is broken. You have the Spirit, it's sealed, but don't grieve the Holy Spirit, because a seal can always be broken. 

Let me draw you back to the opening, we’ve been made new, but the old self is still here. The monkey may be off our back, but the circus is still in town. Keep your guard up. Stay focused on Jesus. 

The flesh will drag us back if we let it. Instead, we must live by the Spirit, and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. We will overcome, and gain the victory. 

It continues, verse 31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

Are you bitter? Have you been through a lot in your life? Don’t let that bitterness lead into rage, and anger, and brawling and slander. Instead, ask God to heal your bitterness. Speak to a good Christian counselor about bitterness.  Meet privately with your Pastor.  Ask your small group to pray for you. You can find healing from the hurts of the past. God will help you! 

Again, bitterness, slander, rage, all these things are the old self again. And we’ve put that off. 

Lastly, in verse 32, we see the opposite of bitterness and rage and slander.  It says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Be kind and compassionate, show empathy, listen, and give encouragement, forgive those who have hurt you, just as God forgave you. 

Alright notice in all of this, we have two main actions to take, first, we put away sinful things that we used to do. We take off the old self.

Second, we put on the new self. We replace that bad thing, with it’s opposite, a good thing. 

Did we steal? We start giving instead.

Did we tell dirty jokes? We start speaking encouraging words.

Were we bitter? We find healing and forgive others who hurt us. 

It’s always removing something bad, and letting God replace it with something good. 

God is taking sinners like us, and he puts us in the hospital of the church, and he changes us by removing the problem, and then by adding a new attitude and approach to life. 

Now, let’s put it all together, as we review today. Our structure for today shows us how the truth leads to progressive changes of mind and heart, and these changes then lead to different actions, and these different actions out of new attitudes are the process by which we put on the new self and put off the old self. 


1. Learn the Truth – attend church, study your Bible

2. Put Off the Old Self – put off the old ways

3. Put on the New Nature – embrace the new ways

4. Put off Lies / Speak the truth 

5. Be Angry / Don’t sin in your anger

6. Don’t Steal / Use your hands for good

7. Avoid unwholesome talk / Speak words of life

8. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit / Sealed for Redemption

9. Get Rid of Malice – end bitterness and slander

10. Be Kind and Compassionate – forgive quickly