Ephesians 4:17-24 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
There are all kinds of ways to walk, or run or skip or for that matter, march. I am sure I do not walk as I did when I was a young man. Drunks have a hard time walking in a straight line. People on crutches or walkers don’t walk the same way as a normal person would. And to an extent, there are many different walk patterns among healthy people. I recall before I had glasses I could tell who people were, by the way, they walked- provided of course, if I already knew them. One person in particular whom I saw often but didn’t know her name I called “The Sliding Lady.” Her shoes never left the ground. She slid from one point to the other.
However, I have wasted your time unless using this for an introduction gets your attention because in the Bible the word “walk”- and in this case- has nothing to do with our feet and legs and how they get us from place to place. Walk means the entire lifestyle.
St Paul explains how and why the non- Christians walk the way they do. “You should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
1. Their understanding has been darkened. 2. They are ignorant of the ways of God. 3. Their hearts are blind and 4. They have lost their sense of right and wrong.
In another place, St Paul writes, “The gentiles show that the work of the Law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” In other words, all peoples have a sense of right and wrong. However, this inner sense can be destroyed. How else can the Nazis and serial killers and Soviet Communists be explained? To me it is obvious, they lost all sense of right and wrong.
To a lesser degree, I think we have all known people who seem to lack any sense of right and wrong. I am not talking about making mistakes- especially if we learn from them. I am talking about a pattern of life- or to use the term this text uses- a “walk” which demonstrates a complete absence of a conscience. A complete absence of shame.
Years ago in Germany, while having Bible study we heard someone walking about above us. We assumed someone was trying to find us and thought no more about it. Later we discovered someone had stolen the Crucifix and Candelabra! What kind of a person would do that?
Well, I had a nephew who stole my crucifix while I was being ordained! He later went on to steal $6500 from his grandmother and didn’t think he did anything wrong. As far as I know, after several incarcerations, he hasn’t ever changed his ways.
Well, how does God deal with that kind of sin? We would like to say God will get them for those wicked sins! But St James has a different take on that. Listen to what he says: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as your self,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “You shall not commit adultery”, also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.”
St James was writing to Jews who created over 600 points of what to do or don’t do in order to keep the Law perfectly. St James was telling them- and us!- If we break any one point of any of the 10 Commandments- we are guilty of them all.
That means a gossip has broken the Law. That means a murderer is no less nor no more a lawbreaker. Society has graded sin and while some are not so bad, others are terrible and the punishment or lack of punishment must be different. We don’t hang gossips and we don’t turn a blind eye on murderers.
God is different because He is holy. Jesus said, “You must be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That means skipping worship is breaking the Law. That means passing by on the other side of someone who is hurting is breaking the Law. That means not loving our neighbor as our self is breaking the Law. That means that a whole lot of things we may consider as insignificant is serious in God’s eyes. Let us remember- He is our Judge, He makes the rules and He decides what is right and wrong.
The Law is purposefully hard and demanding to show us that we cannot in any way save ourselves. The Law is made to humble us and turn us to our only hope- and that is Jesus. “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus Name. On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”
Standing on that Rock, on that hope, we turn again to our text and read. “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind”, The old trinity of “me, myself and I” drops away and we think in terms of Jesus. What does He want me to do? How does He want me to live? How shall I respond to this situation or that situation? What am I to believe?
The teachings of Jesus! “Turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, blesse those who curse you. Do not return evil with evil, but evil with good.” We cannot be perfect as our heavenly Father is, but Jesus does say this, “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many there be that travel upon it. But straight and narrow is the road that leads to eternal life and just be a few who find it. Strive to enter by that gate!”
To strive is to struggles against our old man- who wants to do things his way, to satisfy himself, to be his own judge and his own god. As our text says, “Put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man.”
The Old man wants to worship himself on a Sunday morning- the new man wants to worship God. The Old man wants to think he is good enough just the way he is. The new man confesses “O most merciful God, I have sinned against You in thought word and deed and I am sorry and I do repent.” The old man struggles within himself because his conscience accuses him. The new man has that peace that passes all understanding.
The Old man think s that he has done more good than bad and that this is what will get him into heaven. The new man trusts in Jesus, that His perfect life, substitutionary death, and His resurrection are what will justify him before our heavenly Father.
On the Last Day, Jesus will say to the old man, “Depart from Me, I never knew you!” On the Last Day, Jesus will say to the new man, “Come blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundations of the earth were laid!”
Question: what do you want Jesus to say to you on that Last Day?