Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Ephesians 4.
Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do …
We are instructed to no longer walk as the Gentiles but instead be conformed to Christ.
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Do not conform to the world. Conform to Christ.
Conformity: to act in accordance or harmony with the standards, attitudes, and practices of another group or person.
So, the question is, “Who are you conforming to in your life? Whose standards, attitudes, and practices do you live by?” We are called to conform to Jesus, to be known for Jesus, and to look more and more like Jesus.
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
We are called to not conform to the world—not look like the world—but instead be set apart.
1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers
Why are we to be set apart?
James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
“Religion” here means worshipful discipline. James is telling us to live a life of holy discipline as we are refined in the Holy Spirit to be pure and undefiled before God.
God has purposefully set us up in His power to live among the dead and preach life.
John 17:15-18 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
“Sanctify them in the truth.” This is why we must hold fast to the word of God.
Back to Ephesians 4. Paul goes on to clarify the difference between holiness and worldliness.
Ephesians 4:17-19 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.
It says “in the futility of their minds.” Futility means “void of a useful aim or goal”. This is the same understanding we are given in Romans 1:18-25 and in Ephesians 2:1-3 about those who are in sin and apart from God.
Ephesians 4:19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
This is worldliness! Worldliness is a lifestyle of vice instead of virtue.
A List of Vices from Mark 7:21-22, Rom. 1:24-31, Rom. 13:13 Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Col 3:5-9, 1 Tim 1:9-10, and Rev 21:8:
- evil thoughts
- sexual immorality
- practicing homosexuality
- hatred of God
- disobedient to parents
- fits of anger
- obscene talk
Worldliness is whatever makes sin look normal and righteousness look strange.
Those who live a worldly life live for self instead of God.
1 John 2:15… If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
James 4:4 … whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
We live in a culture right now that is preaching a false gospel of tolerance for sin that promotes a misapplication of grace. The truth is God did not send His Son to die for sinners so that they could go on sinning and justify worldliness in the name of grace.
Romans 6:1 (NIV) What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
There is a dangerous practice and belief in modern-day Christian circles, which is that if you believe in grace, you will never talk about obedience and holy living. It is a commonly misplaced view among evangelical Christians that if you are gospel-centered, you don’t need to talk about the commands of God that call for obedience and holy living. We are often so focused on all that God has done (His decrees) that we omit the study and practice of what God has called us to do (His commands). In our laziness we are quick to give up the painful walk through God’s refining fire and just rest on our fire insurance.
Hear me loud and clear: The gospel doesn’t say, “Obey so that you can be accepted.” It says, “You are accepted so that you can obey.”
God has saved us by His grace from eternal hell so that we can practice eternal holiness. He has saved us to set us apart. We read this on Monday in Ephesians 1:4: “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him …”
What is holiness? Holiness means separation. It is a spatial term. When something is holy, it is set apart. God is holy in that He is set apart. He is separate and distinct, not ordinary or common. “… I am God and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).
I love Kevin DeYoung’s words in his book The Hole in our Holiness (I highly recommend this book.) DeYoung explains that the topic of holiness and sanctification occur more than 700 times in the holy Scriptures, and “You can’t make sense of the Bible without understanding that God is holy and that this holy God is intent on making a holy people to live with him forever in a holy heaven.”
In our salvation we are set apart, no longer common or profane, and referred to in the New Testament as saints and no longer as sinners. This is commonly referred to as definitive sanctification. However, we are also to be set apart in a continual way as God refines us in His fire of progressive sanctification.
Being set apart is not just “rule keeping.”
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
It is this and more. The Pharisees kept the rules “religiously” but missed true sanctified holiness that is the result of God refining their hearts and lives. So, holiness is not just external modifications; it is change at our core.
Holiness is the opposite of worldliness
A List of Virtues from Romans 12:9-21, 1 Cor 13:4-7, Gal 5:22-23, Col 3:12-15, and 2 Peter 1:5-7:
doer of good
DeYoung says later, “You can think of holiness, to employ a metaphor, as the sanctification of your body. The mind is filled with the knowledge of God and fixed on what is good. The eyes turn away from sensuality and shudder at the sight of evil. The mouth tells the truth and refuses to gossip, slander, or speak what is coarse or obscene. The spirit is earnest, steadfast, and gentle. The heart is full of joy instead of hopelessness, patience instead of irritability, kindness instead of anger, humility instead of pride, and thankfulness instead of envy. The sexual organs are pure, being reserved for the privacy of marriage between one man and one woman. The feet move toward the lowly and away from senseless conflict, divisions, and wild parties. The hands are quick to help those in need and ready to fold in prayer. This is the anatomy of holiness.”
Back to our text in Ephesians.
Ephesians 4:20-21 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
Let’s start at the end here. The truth is in Jesus—there is no new life apart from Christ. You are lost in lies. Only in Christ are you illuminated with truth that is unto new life. This is the only way one can begin to be set apart. Without discernment, there is no separation. Without separation, there is no holiness.
So, what do we see here? You have “learned Christ.” This is His way of saying that you are saved. You have heard about him. You were saved because you were given ears to hear and eyes to see. You heard! Those saved by Christ are no longer like those who are “darkened in their understanding,” according to Ephesians 4:18. You are taught in Him. In Christ you are discipled, trained, taught, and refined.
He is establishing here, for those of you who are saved in Christ, that you are not like the world any longer; you have heard, been taught, and learned about Jesus. He is yours, and you are His!
Ephesians 4:22-24 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.
“Put off” and “put on” are action phrases. We are instructed to “practice” righteousness—to obey God’s law, to put off the old self (fight indwelling sin), and to put on the new self (grow in holiness). This is a problematic area in the modern church because Christians have become guilty of lofty notions about how to change the world but often are slowest in our willingness to plead that God would deeply change us.
Soldiers, we must get this! Holiness is not an option for believers; it is the very thing God has saved us to do.
Matthew 5:16 “… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Words that are set apart for holiness
Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:29 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.
My question for you, personally, today is, “Is God redeeming your speech?” This is not an area in which we get to be lazy. The writer of Proverbs says the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them” (Proverbs 12:6).
Do you understand the power of your words? Are you using words to build people up or to destroy them? Are they filled with bitterness or blessing; complaining or compliments; lust or love; victory or defeat?
We need to understand that as God grows us, He is going to refine our language. You could have 30 years of your dad having trained you to talk like a sailor, but your heavenly Father is able to supernaturally train your language to be holy and honoring.
I want our club to help each other be accountable to this area of our sanctification. Let’s be willing to lovingly remind each other and help each other grow a new dialogue that glorifies God. Let’s not be ashamed to repent when we let slip a dishonoring word.
Emotions that are set apart for holiness
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
There is a righteous anger modeled in the Scriptures that is a God-given emotion. This anger is troubled at things that don’t glorify God. This is what we are taught here: be angry without sin. In other words, there is a righteous anger that is not taken to the point of consuming our hearts.
Our identity must remain in Christ and not in our circumstances. When we are over-affected by our circumstances, we open the door for the devil to lay claim to our emotions. Do others see a sanctification in your emotional state? More peace and joy despite hard times?
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest ways our testimony shines.
Actions that are set apart for holiness
Ephesians 4:28 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.
I love this verse because it is purely and simply a testimony of a transformed life. This is what God is doing in us after salvation.
The thief on the cross was saved and not given the opportunity to be sanctified and to redeem his old ways with new, holy ways that honor God. But you and I are given that opportunity, so we need to be willing to challenge the things we are currently doing—our actions (the things we do with our lives, our bodies, and our time). For many, this might mean changing the hobbies you have or even changing what you do for a living. But also, it might mean the simpler things of daily life like what we choose to enjoy for entertainment.
Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Brothers and sisters, we need to be attentive to these things. This is not something we can casually or flippantly go about doing. We must understand that we are set apart for holiness. I am praying for you in this.
Don’t go at this alone. Get together and dig in. Be accountable, be humble, submit your life to the word daily, repent, and most of all trust in Jesus every day.