“Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
(Ephesians 4:22-23, NLT)
Thoughts… There really ought to be a noticeable difference now that you know Christ as your Savior and Lord. The change in your heart should have made its way outward to your behavior by now. If not, you need to go back and check the authenticity of your salvation experience! If you are still drinking, carousing, gambling your money away, going places you shouldn’t go and doing things you shouldn’t do, hanging with people you shouldn’t hang with, then you’d better take a second look at your walk with Christ.
I am not judging your salvation, I’m simply inspecting your fruit!
Christianity in our day has, by and large, ceased to focus on the never-ending list of “don’ts” that seemed to be the dominate subject matter of sermons when I was growing up. By the time I had reached junior high school, I was well versed in what Christians don’t do: They don’t drink, dance, chew snuff, smoke, play cards, roller skate (that was dancing on wheels, after all), wear jewelry (that one was for the women), go to movies, and on and on that list went.
To say the least, the list was overbearing, it sucked the life out of the relationship with Jesus, and it gave the false impression that righteousness was something determined by outward behavior. It missed the point of faith.
I am afraid, however, that when we got rid of that list, we threw the baby out with the bathwater. We now live in a time when just about anything goes in terms of acceptable Christian behavior. Using grace as their excuse, the behavior of many believers today is, sadly, not all that unlike their non-Christian counterparts.
But there are a few things that we “don’t” do as Christians, or at least we shouldn’t be doing. And Paul talks about a few of these:
We shouldn’t be dominated by lustful thinking: “Live no longer like the Gentiles do…they have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” (vv. 17-18) In the narrow sense, that means we shouldn’t be controlled by sexually impure desires. In the broader sense, “lust” refers to any strong desire other than the desire to please God that controls your thinking and behavior.
Not only must lust go, but deception should not be practiced by a Christ-follower: “Throw off the old sinful nature … which is corrupted by lust and deception.” In other words, there is no room for lying and cheating; no cutting corners on your taxes, no cooking the books at work, no saying “yes” when you really plan on doing “no”. Being a Christian means being a person of honor, a person of your word, and a man or woman of complete and thorough integrity.
Furthermore, greed has got to go: “If you are a thief, quit stealing.” (v. 25) Worshiping at the altar of power, wealth and fame has no place in the Christian’s life. Rather, contentment, hard word and generosity should be our distinguishing characteristics.
Anger has to go too: “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.” (v. 26) There are no excuses for an out-of-control temper. It is a poor reflection of the Christ who lives within you and it is an open door for Satan to work in your life. An angry Christian is an oxymoron—or maybe just a moron.
And, finally, making it on the list of “don’ts” is foul language: “Don’t use foul or abusive language.” (v. 29). If your language hasn’t changed, if four-letter words are still a part of your vocabulary, if you are dropping the F-bomb here and using the B-word there, then you are clearly not being controlled by the Holy Spirit (v. 30). Following Christ means cleaning up your language.
Paul is not promoting living by a list of “don’ts”. If your life is governed by all that you can’t do, then you will miss the whole point of salvation by grace through faith. You will miss out on the pure joy of walking in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. You will be so focused on the don’ts that you never enjoy all the good stuff you get to do.
All Paul is trying to do is to get us to live with a constant consciousness that the Holy Spirit has indwelt us, and because of that powerful reality, there are some things that we just won’t do anymore, and there are a whole bunch of things we will do.
So what is a believer to do? Simply this: The Holy Spirit is living within you, so yield your entire life to him. In all that you do, live to please him, and everything else will fall into place.
Prayer… Holy Spirit, empower me to live my life today, even in the smallest details, in such a way that I bring joy rather than grief to you.
One More Thing… “A baptism of holiness, a demonstration of godly living is the crying need of our day.” —Duncan Campbell