Out with the Old; In with the New
A sermon based on Ephesians 4:17-24
Sunday, August 9, 2015 – Pentecost 11B
So the other day I told my wife that I want a new kitchen appliance: I want to get an air fryer that fries your food with little or even no oil. I think it might make delicious, but healthier, fried foods. But just the idea of adding one more kitchen appliance to our counter led Becky and I into a, well… a discussion, of just how many kitchen appliances we need, and where exactly are we to store these new kitchen appliances. If I want an air fryer, I have to get rid of something else to make room for it. I had several suggestions for her of what we could be rid of, but she didn't like any of them. We're still in negotiations. J
But that's often the way it works, doesn't it? If we want something new, something old has to go. My tie rack only holds so many ties. So a new tie means an old one's getting donated. I only have so much room in my dresser, so new T-shirts mean that old beloved shirts from college sadly now become rags.
But sometimes, it's more than just making room. Sometimes new things just aren't compatible with the old. The new DVD player doesn't work with the old TV. And you can't put on a clean pair of shoes without taking the old pair off first. Sometimes getting something new, means drastically cutting out the old. There is no other option.
In our text for this morning, God through the Apostle Paul tells us that you can't have it both ways. You can't live like a pagan and be a Christian. The two just aren't compatible. When you know Christ, you think differently. What you want is different. What you want is whatever God wants. You change. And the old way of living has to go out to make room for the new way of life in Christ. Out with the old, in with the new. That's the message of our text for this morning from Ephesians 4:17-24…
17 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. 18 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. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
I. Out with the Old
I once heard that natives in the Amazon have an interesting way to hunt monkeys. Maybe you've heard about it? They take a narrow-mouthed jar and tie it firmly to a tree. Then they drop a few nuts inside the jar. The monkeys find the nuts and reach in to take them, but because the mouth of the jar is so narrow their hand, now balled into a fist around the nut, will no longer come out of the jar. And because the jar is tied to the tree and the monkey is unwilling to let go of the nut, the natives easily capture the monkeys.
How foolish, isn't it? The monkeys think the nut will make them happy, but they never get the nut! In fact, because they are unwilling to let go, the nut traps them and dooms to them to captivity or death.
That's the way Paul describes the futile thinking of the unbeliever. They pursue their own pleasure and happiness, but never really find the lasting happiness they seek. In fact, because all they care about is serving themselves, they're trapped; doomed to a life of captivity to sin and death.
In their darkened ignorance, they are alien from God, and grow insensitive in their sin. Like the alcoholic building tolerance and thus needing more and more drinks to get the same buzz, their consciences grow calloused, insensitive to old lusts, needed a bigger fix of sin to get the same thrill.
But it's nothing but a chasing after the wind, or like a marooned sailor drinking the salt water that promises to quench his thirst, but only dehydrates him more, driving him mad the more he drinks and eventually killing him.
What a sad picture Paul paints of those who live with the sole purpose of appeasing their sinful lusts and desires. But it's even more sad when we who call ourselves Christians do the same. And if we're honest with ourselves, every one of us have at one time or another sought to appease our sinful appetites, knowing that we'll only be left feeling guilty and disappointed if we do, that it will callous our consciences to bolder sins when we're done.
We too deserve to be trapped by the jar when we won't let go of some vice that just seems too fun to give up for Jesus. We too deserve to be doomed to a life of slavery to sin, and to an eternal death in hell.
In verse one, Paul urged us to change our thinking. But in verse 17 he insists. Why? Because he knew where such calloused sinning leads. Those "deceitful desires" (v.22) promise happiness, but they lead to misery. They promise heaven but lead to hell.
Paul didn't want to see that happen to the Ephesians. And God doesn't want to see that happen to us. So Paul cried, "No longer! I insist!" "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 were to be out with the old way of living, out with the pagan lifestyle, out with the chasing after more and bigger sins to appease their sinful natures.
But they were also to be in with the new life in Christ; the new life that Paul had taught to them. "You, however, did not come to know Christ that way." You're not like this. You're different…
II. In with the New
The Ephesians understood that. At one point they were into sorcery and magic. They were into trying to control the elements and to control other people. They were into the Greek goddess Artemis, the many-breasted goddess of fertility. But that was before Paul came preaching the Good News of Jesus. When they came to faith, it was incompatible to continue to the old way of life and be a Christian. They had to go out with the old when they went in with the new. They burned about $4 million worth of sorcery books. They threatened to put the silversmiths out of business because they were no longer buying Artemis statues. And that was the way it was supposed to be.
That's the way it's supposed to be with us too. It's no different for us than it was for the Ephesians:
20 You… did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 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; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
You have come to know Christ. You have heard of him and know who Jesus is. You were taught in him and know what he's done for you. And it was done in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus—that is, the Holy Spirit created faith in your heart that understands and believes and trusts in what he's done for you, staking your eternity on Jesus.
And that faith will have an impact on the way you live. Make no mistake: Your good works do not earn you favor with God. But you have favor with God inspite of your rebellion because of Jesus. And because you have favor with God, you must thank him for what he's done. Your sanctification—your life of service to God—isn't optional. It's a natural byproduct of true faith. There's no such thing as a fire that doesn't produce heat. And there is no such thing as a love that doesn't act in some way to show that love. And there's no such thing as a genuine faith in Christ that doesn't look for ways to serve him with good works. Faith alone saves. But saving faith is never alone.
So off with the old self and in with the new! What a foolish garden you would have if you reserved a corner of it grow weeds! What a foolish Christian one would be to harbor and nourish pet sins in their life! But also what a foolish garden you would have if you tried to pick every weed, but never planted any food! What a foolish Christian one would be to try to rid their lives of every sin, but never sought to nurture your faith or do good works of thanks! So pull the weeds of sin in your life! Radically break from your sinful past and ruthlessly take the old out! And look for as many opportunities as you can to do good works! Plant the seed of the gospel in the lives of others. Or support that work as you look for ways to do good works of faith for your Savior!
You are being made new! And notice the passive voice—it's not something you do, but something God works in you. He works this new life through faith and he strengthens that faith by the Word. And he gives not just new life, but a new attitude—one that views works of service to God not as a "have to," but as a "get to," as I thank Jesus for the abundance he's given me, as I use what he's given not just to serve myself in this life, but to do what I can to grow the Kingdom for the life to come.
Out with the old. Quit those pet sins. Take them out back and shoot 'em. Then bury them. Get radical in weeding out your vices. Then you'll have room for the new—for the new life in Christ that's being renewed in the image of God. Go live the life you know Jesus wants you to live as you thank him for the way he lived and died and rose for you.
Will the Guenthers be getting a new kitchen appliance? Maybe. Maybe not. That's yet to be seen. But will you and I all live a new life and put the old aside? There's no question about that! In thanks to God for what he's done for us in Christ and for leading us to faith in Christ, we will do all we can to live for him. Out with the old—the old sins, the old way of thinking, the old life—and in with the new—new thoughts of living for him, new behavior as we do, new goals as we look for ways to please our Savior instead of ourselves.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, dear saints, as you continue to strive for "Out with the old and in with the new!" In his name, dear friends, amen.