Jason Free

Insist on the New

by Jason Free on August 5th, 2018
Ephesians 4:17-24

You’re maybe familiar with this strange phenomenon. It’s been happening to me a lot lately, and I’ve seen it happen to others, adults both old and young, teens…so really it isn’t anything to be ashamed of, but, still, it is strange. It’s strange to watch a perfectly functioning mature human being who knows how to speak in complete sentences all the sudden be reduced to making cooing noises. Do you know what I’m talking about? Someone walks into a room with a little baby and all the sudden everyone around magically loses the ability to talk in a normal voice. It’s all like “aren’t you just adorable!” Or they make weird noises that sometimes are wildly inappropriate, but apparently not here, not now, because there is a baby within 5 feet of you – “Let me just pinch those little cheeks.”

It’s strange it really is, but you know what would be even more strange? If a person would continue to talk or act like that. Say, if I, after talking baby talk with my child, would then proceed to talk baby talk to Pastor Casmer as he’s trying to tell me something important, that would be weird. He’d urge me to stop, and, if I’d continue, he’d likely insist that I stop and tell me to act my age. And we see something similar in God’s Word today.

Paul at the beginning of Ephesians chapter four is urging his readers, readers who are just like you and me; believers men, women, and children who call Jesus Lord. Paul is urging them to live in maturity of faith, to live their lives worthy of the call they received. And we heard last week Pastor Kolander talk about living that life for Christ. He said we do it together as a body of believers united in Christ or as he put it, we are a chain gang for Christ! So, now we move on to these next words from Paul found in that same chapter and we see that he has gone from urging us to live worthy lives to insisting that we do!

He says in verse 17, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord.”  You can almost sense the urgency Paul has as he writes these words. You read it again, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord.” Before Paul even gets in to what he wants to share with his readers he has to make one thing clear, that what he is about to say next has one source of motivation, the Lord. That’s true of everything Paul has said in this letter. The Lord is his authority, and the Lord is the one through whom Paul now insists.

And, he insists in that Lord, that Savior – back to verse 17 – “that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” Now keep the Lord, keep Jesus, at the forefront here. What is Paul saying? He’s insisting that we live a new life and we do this by being keenly aware that if there is a new life there is also an old life. But what is this old life? It’s the futile life of a gentile, an unbeliever. God, Paul says, wants us to have nothing to do with that way of life.

That old life is one long series of mocked expectations. It is a pursuing and not achieving, a blossoming and not bearing fruit. All the rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never filled. That is the futile life of unbelief. It’s a chasing after the wind. It’s meaningless. “Those who live in that old way of life are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God,” Paul says. This is what makes the old life so dangerous. If someone is physically unable to see, they know and admit it, but the person who is spiritually and morally darkened is blind even to the fact that he or she is blind. And this happens, Paul tells us, by one’s own “ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

This is why Paul insists on the new life. He is aware of the old. He knows and understands sin. I think we all do too. There is something really wrong with us, and the knowledge of it hurts. We might try to hide it, bury it, pretend it’s not there, but now here is Paul ripping it off like a band-aid revealing the festering sore of truth. That I am by nature sinful. That before Christ I was just like any other unbeliever blind and ignorant, but, that’s not all, I deserve punishment both now and in eternity. This is why we need God. Though we don’t deserve him, we will groan in empty, restless misery until we have him. And what’s most incredible is that we do have him; God came to us!

We have been living all this time within a work of art, a creation, a masterpiece. You see the order in the world every day, the intelligence, the beauty. Then one day at Bethlehem, the artist himself stepped in through a door the size of a birth canal. Jesus came in from outside of human bewilderment. He came to be the truth, to reveal the truth, that, yes, we have no excuse for all our sins, but more than that, that, yes, he is the answer to those sins. The truth is that as he was reaching for that cross, he was reaching for us and as he stayed on that cross he did it for you.

This brings us to Paul’s point. Look, he says, you had an old life. A life of sin. A life that had no purpose. But you were shown something, taught something far greater. God came to you. The artist of our creation, the architect of our salvation revealed himself to you in the Word of truth and put on your lips the name of Jesus. “Surely” Paul says, “you heard of him and were taught in him” And here is what he taught you, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self which is being corrupted by the deceitful desires.”  God showed you the corruption inside your soul. He showed you the sin, and the death, but then with one cry of “It is finished” he changed you, created you to “be like him in true righteousness and holiness.”  He set us free to put off the old life and to instead live a new life.

When former Chrysler CEO Lee Iaccoca [ahy-uhkoh-kuh] was reminiscing about his celebrated achievements in his book Talking Straight, he made a startling confession about his life-time of success. “Here I am in the twilight of my years, still wondering what it is all about. I can tell you this. Fame and fortune are for the birds.” He went on to say, “then I look at my children…and I love them.” This was a seismic shift in that man’s foundation of life. I used to live for fame and fortune now I live for my children and their love. Mr. Iaccoca’s words are compelling, yet his new focus of life, though different, still had one tragic flaw. Sin.

Today, Paul shares with us a seismic shift in the foundation of our lives. He insists that we put on a new self, a new life. A life where we can be like God, righteous and holy. And that right there is what makes this life so different. It’s focus is on something that has never had sin, someone perfect. I look at Jesus dying for me, rising for me, I know who he is…I look at the things of this world, things that so often take my love and my energy yet disappoint me…and then I look at him…and I love him. And I know what my life is: from you, for you, to you, my dear God. This is a new life.

To be a Christian is to wake up to a world of facts. It means to be aware of what I am, a sinner, I know I am that. However, in Jesus, we now come to know what? That I am this – I am a child of the Creator-God, a soul bound for his glory, an object of such love that I can scarcely take it in. And this truth is constantly revealing and working itself out in my life. We aren’t always much to look at, as our sinful nature is still with us, and no, it doesn’t go away. But we don’t embrace it, we crucify it daily. We put it to death as we confess our sins, rejoice in our baptisms, and partake of Christ’s body and blood. But then we get to work and we live, new, for Christ.

But here is the thing, God wants no unwilling service. He doesn’t ask us to begrudgingly put on a new self and no one can force you to do what, in your heart of hearts, you don’t really want to do. So, it needs to be you today. You need to insist with Paul on the new. God has given you the ability in Christ to say “no” to sin and the old self that lives in you and to instead see each day’s circumstances and choices, obligations and demands for what they actually are – nothing more and nothing less than the daily raw material out of which you will fashion for God one faithful life for his honor. Why? Because these are the rules God expects you to follow? No, that’s not the mind of a Christian. This is: “I want to know Christ. I want to live for him… be like him in true righteousness and holiness.””

This is freedom, to feel the stirrings of worship as you consider your every thought, word, and deed. To find that you are learning to love, just by seeing again and again the way Christ first loved you. Still, we won’t be perfect, Martin Luther once groaned: “Lord, I’m tired of making promises to you. You must change me; I cannot change myself.” God answers with a pledge, “I will give you a new heart.”[1] And he fulfilled that pledge as his Son now dwells in and with us. In this way, a lifetime of bitter struggle to be more, to be better, to be enough, has become instead a simple. “Thank you for giving me this life to live.”[2]This is change. This is new.

There might be a good reason for a 28-year-old man to, from time to time, talk baby talk and make weird noises, but, for the life of me, I can’t see a good reason to go back to a life of sin? Can you? Insist on the new. Insist in the Lord. To him be the glory always, now, and forever. Amen.

 

[1] Ezekiel 36:26

[2] Paustian 210-211

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