"How can I have my prayers answered by God?"

Many people believe answered prayer is God granting a prayer request that is offered to Him. If a prayer request is not granted, it is understood as an “unanswered” prayer. However, this is an incorrect understanding of prayer. God answers every prayer that is lifted to Him. Sometimes God answers “no” or “wait.” God only promises to grant our prayers when we ask according to His will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

What does it mean to pray according to God’s will? Praying according to God’s will is praying for things that honor and glorify God and/or praying for what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be. If we pray for something that is not honoring to God or not God’s will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for. How can we know what God’s will is? God promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it. James 1:5 proclaims, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” A good place to start is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24, which outlines many things that are God’s will for us. The better we understand God’s Word, the better we will know what to pray for (John 15:7). The better we know what to pray for, the more often God will answer “yes” to our requests.

"Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?"

Acts 2:38, “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” As with any single verse or passage, we discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the Bible teaches on the subject at hand. In the case of baptism and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works of any kind, including baptism (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty interpretation. For more information, read section below. 

Why, then, do some come to the conclusion that we must be baptized in order to be saved? Often, the discussion of whether or not this passage teaches baptism is required for salvation centers around the Greek word eis that is translated “for” in this passage. Those who hold to the belief that baptism is required for salvation are quick to point to this verse and the fact that it says “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” assuming that the word translated “for” in this verse means “in order to get.” However, in both Greek and English, there are many possible usages of the word “for.”

As an example, when one says “Take two aspirin for your headache,” it is obvious to everybody that it does not mean “take two aspirin in order to get your headache,” but instead to “take two aspirin because you already have a headache.” There are three possible meanings of the word “for” that might fit the context of Acts 2:38: 1--“in order to be, become, get, have, keep, etc.,” 2—“because of, as the result of,” or 3—“with regard to.” Since any one of the three meanings could fit the context of this passage, additional study is required in order to determine which one is correct.

We need to start by looking back to the original language and the meaning of the Greek word eis. This is a common Greek word (it is used 1774 times in the New Testament) that is translated many different ways. Like the English word “for” it can have several different meanings. So, again, we see at least two or three possible meanings of the passage, one that would seem to support that baptism is required for salvation and others that would not. While both the meanings of the Greek word eis are seen in different passages of Scripture, such noted Greek scholars as A.T. Robertson and J.R. Mantey have maintained that the Greek preposition eis in Acts 2:38 should be translated “because of” or “in view of,” and not “in order to,” or “for the purpose of.”

One example of how this preposition is used in other Scriptures is seen in Matthew 12:41 where the word eis communicates the “result” of an action. In this case it is said that the people of Nineveh “repented at the preaching of Jonah” (the word translated “at” is the same Greek word eis). Clearly, the meaning of this passage is that they repented “because of’” or “as the result of” Jonah’s preaching. In the same way, it would be possible that Acts 2:38 is indeed communicating the fact that they were to be baptized “as the result of” or “because” they already had believed and in doing so had already received forgiveness of their sins (John 1:12; John 3:14-18; John 5:24; John 11:25-26; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:39; Acts 16:31; Acts 26:18; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 1:12-14). This interpretation of the passage is also consistent with the message recorded in Peter’s next two sermons to unbelievers where he associates the forgiveness of sins with the act of repentance and faith in Christ without even mentioning baptism (Acts 3:17-26; Acts 4:8-12).

In addition to Acts 2:38, there are three other verses where the Greek word eis is used in conjunction with the word “baptize” or “baptism.” The first of these is Matthew 3:11, “baptize you with water for repentance.” Clearly the Greek word eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage. They were not baptized “in order to get repentance,” but were “baptized because they had repented.” The second passage is Romans 6:3 where we have the phrase “baptized into (eis) His death.” This again fits with the meaning “because of” or in "regard to." The third and final passage is 1 Corinthians 10:2 and the phrase “baptized into (eis) Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Again, eis cannot mean “in order to get” in this passage because the Israelites were not baptized in order to get Moses to be their leader, but because he was their leader and had led them out of Egypt. If one is consistent with the way the preposition eis is used in conjunction with baptism, we must conclude that Acts 2:38 is indeed referring to their being baptized “because” they had received forgiveness of their sins. Some other verses where the Greek preposition eis does not mean “in order to obtain” are Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 19:3; 1 Corinthians 1:15; and 12:13.

The grammatical evidence surrounding this verse and the preposition eis are clear that while both views on this verse are well within the context and the range of possible meanings of the passage, the majority of the evidence is in favor that the best possible definition of the word “for” in this context is either “because of” or “in regard to” and not “in order to get.” Therefore, Acts 2:38, when interpreted correctly, does not teach that baptism is required for salvation.

Besides the precise meaning of the preposition translated “for” in this passage, there is another grammatical aspect of this verse to carefully consider—the change between the second person and third person between the verbs and pronouns in the passage. For example, in Peter’s commands to repent and be baptized the Greek verb translated “repent” is in the second person plural while the verb “be baptized,” is in the third person singular. When we couple this with the fact that the pronoun “your” in the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” is also second person plural, we see an important distinction being made that helps us understand this passage. The result of this change from second person plural to third person singular and back would seem to connect the phrase “forgiveness of your sins” directly with the command to “repent.” Therefore, when you take into account the change in person and plurality, essentially what you have is “You (plural) repent for the forgiveness of your (plural) sins, and let each one (singular) of you be baptized (singular).” Or, to put it in a more distinct way: “You all repent for the forgiveness of all of your sins, and let each one of you be baptized.”

Another error that is made by those who believe Acts 2:38 teaches baptism is required for salvation is what is sometimes called the Negative Inference Fallacy. Simply put, this is the idea that just because a statement is true, we cannot assume all negations (or opposites) of that statement are true. In other words, just because Acts 2:38 says “repent and be baptized….for the forgiveness of sins…and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” it does not mean that if one repents and is not baptized, he will not receive forgiveness of sins or the gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is an important difference between a condition of salvation and a requirement for salvation. The Bible is clear that belief is both a condition and a requirement, but the same cannot be said for baptism. The Bible does not say that if a man is not baptized then he will not be saved. One can add any number of conditions to faith (which is required for salvation), and the person can still be saved. For example if a person believes, is baptized, goes to church, and gives to the poor he will be saved. Where the error in thinking occurs is if one assumes all these other conditions, “baptism, going to church, giving to the poor,” are required for one to be saved. While they might be the evidence of salvation, they are not a requirement for salvation. (For a more thorough explanation of this logical fallacy, please see the Question: Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is required for salvation?).

The fact that baptism is not required to receive forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit should also be evident by simply reading a little farther in the book of Acts. In Acts 10:43, Peter tells Cornelius that “through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (please note that nothing at this point has been mentioned about being baptized, yet Peter connects believing in Christ with the act of receiving forgiveness for sins). The next thing that happens is, having believed Peter’s message about Christ, the “Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44). It is only after they had believed, and therefore received forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, that Cornelius and his household were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). The context and the passage are very clear; Cornelius and his household received both forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit before they were ever baptized. In fact, the reason Peter allowed them to be baptized was that they showed evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit “just as Peter and the Jewish believers” had.

In conclusion, Acts 2:38 does not teach that baptism is required for salvation. While baptism is important as the sign that one has been justified by faith and as the public declaration of one’s faith in Christ and membership in a local body of believers, it is not the means of remission or forgiveness of sins. The Bible is very clear that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (John 1:12; John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:21-30; Romans 4:5; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:9; Galatians 2:16).

"Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?"

This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?

The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).

Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works.

"What does it mean to be a born again Christian?"

What does it mean to be a born-again Christian? The classic passage from the Bible that answers this question is John 3:1-21. The Lord Jesus Christ is talking to Nicodemus, a prominent Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of the Jews). Nicodemus had come to Jesus at night with some questions.

As Jesus talked with Nicodemus, He said, “‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:3-7).

The phrase "born again" literally means "born from above." Nicodemus had a real need. He needed a change of his heart—a spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again, is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes (2 Corinthians 5:17Titus 3:51 Peter 1:31 John 2:293:94:75:1-418). John 1:1213indicates that being "born again" also carries the idea of "becoming children of God" through trust in the name of Jesus Christ.

The question logically comes, "Why does a person need to be born again?" The apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:1 says, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins" (NKJV). To the Romans he wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Sinners are spiritually “dead”; when they receive spiritual life through faith in Christ, the Bible likens it to a rebirth. Only those who are born again have their sins forgiven and have a relationship with God.

How does that come to be? Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." When one is saved, he/she has been born again, spiritually renewed, and is now a child of God by right of new birth. Trusting in Jesus Christ, the One who paid the penalty of sin when He died on the cross, is the means to be "born again." "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

If you have never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, will you consider the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to your heart? You need to be born again. Will you pray the prayer of repentance and become a new creation in Christ today? "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13).

If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and be born again, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. "God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift of eternal life! Amen!"

"Can a Christian lose salvation?"

First, the term Christian must be defined. A “Christian” is not a person who has said a prayer or walked down an aisle or been raised in a Christian family. While each of these things can be a part of the Christian experience, they are not what makes a Christian. A Christian is a person who has fully trusted in Jesus Christ as the only Savior and therefore possesses the Holy Spirit (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8–9).

So, with this definition in mind, can a Christian lose salvation? It’s a crucially important question. Perhaps the best way to answer it is to examine what the Bible says occurs at salvation and to study what losing salvation would entail:

A Christian is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian is not simply an “improved” version of a person; a Christian is an entirely new creature. He is “in Christ.” For a Christian to lose salvation, the new creation would have to be destroyed.

A Christian is redeemed. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). The word redeemed refers to a purchase being made, a price being paid. We were purchased at the cost of Christ’s death. For a Christian to lose salvation, God Himself would have to revoke His purchase of the individual for whom He paid with the precious blood of Christ.

A Christian is justified. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). To justify is to declare righteous. All those who receive Jesus as Savior are “declared righteous” by God. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to go back on His Word and “un-declare” what He had previously declared. Those absolved of guilt would have to be tried again and found guilty. God would have to reverse the sentence handed down from the divine bench.

A Christian is promised eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Eternal life is the promise of spending forever in heaven with God. God promises, “Believe and you will have eternal life.” For a Christian to lose salvation, eternal life would have to be redefined. The Christian is promised to live forever. Does eternal not mean “eternal”?

A Christian is marked by God and sealed by the Spirit. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13–14). At the moment of faith, the new Christian is marked and sealed with the Spirit, who was promised to act as a deposit to guarantee the heavenly inheritance. The end result is that God’s glory is praised. For a Christian to lose salvation, God would have to erase the mark, withdraw the Spirit, cancel the deposit, break His promise, revoke the guarantee, keep the inheritance, forego the praise, and lessen His glory.

A Christian is guaranteed glorification. “Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). According to Romans 5:1, justification is ours at the moment of faith. According to Romans 8:30, glorification comes with justification. All those whom God justifies are promised to be glorified. This promise will be fulfilled when Christians receive their perfect resurrection bodies in heaven. If a Christian can lose salvation, then Romans 8:30 is in error, because God could not guarantee glorification for all those whom He predestines, calls, and justifies.

A Christian cannot lose salvation. Most, if not all, of what the Bible says happens to us when we receive Christ would be invalidated if salvation could be lost. Salvation is the gift of God, and God’s gifts are “irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). A Christian cannot be un-newly created. The redeemed cannot be unpurchased. Eternal life cannot be temporary. God cannot renege on His Word. Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

Two common objections to the belief that a Christian cannot lose salvation concern these experiential issues: 1) What about Christians who live in a sinful, unrepentant lifestyle? 2) What about Christians who reject the faith and deny Christ? The problem with these objections is the assumption that everyone who calls himself a “Christian” has actually been born again. The Bible declares that a true Christian will not live a state of continual, unrepentant sin (1 John 3:6). The Bible also says that anyone who departs the faith is demonstrating that he was never truly a Christian (1 John 2:19). He may have been religious, he may have put on a good show, but he was never born again by the power of God. “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). The redeemed of God belong “to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

Nothing can separate a child of God from the Father’s love (Romans 8:38–39). Nothing can remove a Christian from God’s hand (John 10:28–29). God guarantees eternal life and maintains the salvation He has given us. The Good Shepherd searches for the lost sheep, and, “when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (Luke 15:5–6). The lamb is found, and the Shepherd gladly bears the burden; our Lord takes full responsibility for bringing the lost one safely home.

Jude 24–25 further emphasizes the goodness and faithfulness of our Savior: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”

"How can I know God`s will for my life? What does the Bible say about knowing God`s will?"

It is important to know God’s will. Jesus said that His true relations are those who know and do the Father’s will: “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). In the parable of the two sons, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and elders for failing to do the will of the Father; specifically, they “did not repent and believe” (Matthew 21:32). At its most basic, the will of God is to repent of our sin and trust in Christ. If we have not taken that first step, then we have not yet accepted God’s will.

Once we receive Christ by faith, we are made God’s children (John 1:12), and He desires to lead us in His way (Psalm 143:10). God is not trying to hide His will from us; He wants to reveal it. In fact, He has already given us many, many directions in His Word. We are to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We are to do good works (1 Peter 2:15). And “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

God’s will is knowable and provable. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” This passage gives us an important sequence: the child of God refuses to be conformed to the world and instead allows himself to be transformed by the Spirit. As his mind is renewed according to the things of God, then he can know God’s perfect will.

As we seek God’s will, we should make sure what we are considering is not something the Bible forbids. For example, the Bible forbids stealing; since God has clearly spoken on the issue, we know it is not His will for us to be a bank robbers—we don’t even need to pray about it. Also, we should make sure what we are considering will glorify God and help us and others grow spiritually.

Knowing God’s will is sometimes difficult because it requires patience. It’s natural to want to know all of God’s will at once, but that’s not how He usually works. He reveals to us a step at a time—each move a step of faith—and allows us to continue to trust Him. The important thing is that, as we wait for further direction, we are busy doing the good that we know to do (James 4:17).

Often, we want God to give us specifics—where to work, where to live, whom to marry, what car to buy, etc. God allows us to make choices, and, if we are yielded to Him, He has ways of preventing wrong choices (see Acts 16:6–7).

The better we get to know a person, the more acquainted we become with his or her desires. For example, a child may look across a busy street at the ball that bounced away, but he doesn’t run after it, because he knows “my dad wouldn’t want me to do that.” He doesn’t have to ask his father for advice on every particular situation; he knows what his father would say because he knows his father. The same is true in our relationship to God. As we walk with the Lord, obeying His Word and relying on His Spirit, we find that we are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We know Him, and that helps us to know His will. We find God’s guidance readily available. “The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, / but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness” (Proverbs 11:5).

If we are walking closely with the Lord and truly desiring His will for our lives, God will place His desires in our hearts. The key is wanting God’s will, not our own. “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

What is the true gospel?"

The true gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. Man is by nature sinful and separated from God with no hope of remedying that situation. But God, by His power, provided the means of man’s redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ. 

The word “gospel” literally means “good news.” But to truly comprehend how good this news is, we must first understand the bad news. As a result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. Because of man’s sinful nature, he does not and cannot seek God. He has no desire to come to God and, in fact, his mind is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7). God has declared that man’s sin dooms him to an eternity in hell, separated from God. It is in hell that man pays the penalty of sin against a holy and righteous God. This would be bad news indeed if there were no remedy. 

But in the gospel, God, in His mercy, has provided that remedy, a substitute for us—Jesus Christ—who came to pay the penalty for our sin by His sacrifice on the cross. This is the essence of the gospel which Paul preached to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:2-4, he explains the three elements of the gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. Our old nature died with Christ on the cross and was buried with Him. Then we were resurrected with Him to a new life (Romans 6:4-8). Paul tells us to “hold firmly” to this true gospel, the only one which saves. Believing in any other gospel is to believe in vain. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul also declares that the true gospel is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” by which he means that salvation is not achieved by man’s efforts, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Because of the gospel, through the power of God, those who believe in Christ (Romans 10:9) are not just saved from hell. We are, in fact, given a completely new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) with a changed heart and a new desire, will, and attitude that are manifested in good works. This is the fruit the Holy Spirit produces in us by His power. Works are never the means of salvation, but they are the proof of it (Ephesians 2:10). Those who are saved by the power of God will always show the evidence of salvation by a changed life


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 16

There’s a deep sense of sin, and that’s why the beatitude we’ll study tonight is so clear to us: “Blessed are they who mourn; for they shall be comforted.”  You see, the real subjects of the kingdom are those that mourn over their sin.  They don’t gloss it over. 

Look at 1 John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive” – What? – “ourselves, and the truth isn’t in us.”  If we say we have no sin, we make God a liar, but if we confess our sin, then we give evidence that we are the ones who are really being forgiven, because a true Christian will acknowledge sin and be sensitive to it.  Paul was never so sensitive in his life to sin as after he became a Christian.  “O, wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  That wasn’t one experience in his life; that was a way of life as long as he lived.  He could cry, “O, wretched man that I am” from the moment he was saved till the moment he was glorified.  That wasn’t one experience; that was a way of life.  So we are sensitive to sin; we face it; we deal with it; we put it off.

Now, let me go to the fourth point.  You learn Christ, and when you learn Christ, He fills you with His truth, and when you have His truth, you have a moral sensitivity, and so sin is a hated thing.  And as long as you have Christ’s truth, and you know what is right and you know what is wrong, then you’re going to have not a reprobate mind but a renewed mind.  Verse 23: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” – the only time in the New Testament ananeóō is ever used.  It means “to create again,” “to make new.”  When you become a Christian, God gives you a new mind, but you’ve got to fill it with new stuff.  That’s why Philippians 4:8 says, “If there be any virtue, if there be any praise” – Do what? – “think on these things that are pure and just, holy, good report, honest.” 

And so a renewed mind, not a reprobate mind.  When you let Christ think through you, you’ll have a standard of truth. That standard of truth will give you a judgment on sin, and it’ll renew your mind to be the kind of mind that pleases God.  What kind of mind?  Verse 24 – it will be a mind “created in righteousness and true holiness.”  Instead of being a reprobate, vile, lascivious, greedy, unclean mind, it’ll be a mind filled with righteousness and a mind filled with holiness, and when that’s true in your mind, that’s the way you’ll live.  “So be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man” – the new mind; the new thinking process that results in righteousness and holiness. 
And so what’s Paul’s message?  To sum it up it’s this:  verse 22, “Put off the former manner of life, the old man”; verse 24, “Put on the new man.”  Listen, when you came to Christ, you said, “I’m a sinner; I forsake it.  I am a member of the world; I forsake it.”  And now that you’ve been a Christian, isn’t it awful that Satan dangles the world and sin in front of you, and you go back to it?  He says, “Don’t do that.  Put it off.  Put it off and put on righteousness and true holiness.”  And by the way, can I add this as I close?  This is not something you do once for all.  This is something you do every day you live.  You say, “Where’s my resource?”  Two things, simple.

One is the Word; one is the Word. For the Word of God, “All scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for” – Watch this – “doctrine, reproof, correction.”  You want to get your life corrected?  Expose yourself to the Word of God.  It’ll help you deal with your sinfulness.  It’ll help you deal with the traces of the world.  The Word of God will reprove you; it will correct you.  And the second thing is prayer.  If we are the ones confessing our sins, then we are the ones that are being forgiven.  Let the Word of God expose it, and let prayer be the catharsis that cleanses it.  Shall we pray?

Father, we thank You that You never lowered the standard, but You gave us the Spirit, the Word, and prayer to meet the standard.  We wouldn’t want a God with shifting standards.  We want an unchanging God, because then, and only then, can we count on You.  Thank You that we can.  Lord, we’re so thankful that You took us out of the old, and You gave us the new. You made us new creations in which all things have become new.  Father, thank You for the word of the apostle Paul, that if we are new, we ought to live new. God, help us to cut the cords with the old.  We have no place with that. 

In fact, as we read our Bible, it’s questionable - if that’s a habit of life - whether we’re even saved. And we may be on the broad road that leadeth to destruction, thinking all the while we’re Christians.  What a tragic delusion.  So Father, help us to really deal with the fact that we’re different, and live it that way.  And Father, as the world gets worse and worse, may we not drift with the world; may our goodness never be relative, but ever absolute. May our righteousness and holiness never be relative, but ever absolute, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.



Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 15

 “You need to be one who confesses his sin, you need to be one who loves the brethren, you need to be one now who continues not in sin, if this is real.”  But he kept on exhorting, and he kept on testifying; he gave us more instruction. 

 It wasn’t just that little quickie thing.

To sum it up, he said this: “You better save yourselves from this crooked generation.”  Listen: nobody gets saved who doesn’t realize he is repenting of personal sin and making a cleavage between himself and the present generation. Do you get the point?  That’s basic.  And you can’t come to Christ on any other terms.  If you came to Jesus Christ thinking all you had to do was believe, and didn’t have to confess your sin and realize what it was, and didn’t have to cut off from this evil world, you missed the point.  You know, there are some people whose lives haven’t changed one bit since they supposedly believed in Christ. 

They were living with somebody they weren’t married to, and they’re still living with them.  They were acting immorally, and they’re still acting immorally.  They were committing adultery, and they’re still committing adultery.  They were committing fornication, and they’re still committing fornication.  And my Bible tells me in 1 Corinthians that fornicators and adulterers do not inherit the kingdom of heaven, period.  If that’s still your lifestyle, I question your salvation.  That’s what he’s saying.  If you really were saved, hey, you made a conscious break.  If you really were saved, you cut it off from the world.  Now, you’re not going to go back and do it again.  That’s the way they live, not the way we live.  We don’t walk that way.

Now, let’s look at that second part, the new walk, and this is just going to take a minute, because we’ve set it up so you’ll see the contrast.  Paul saw the pagan system. He saw men’s hearts petrified so they were unable to know sin. He saw them so dominated by sin that shame and decency were lost. He saw men so much at the mercy of their desires that they didn’t care who they destroyed as long as they were gratified. He saw reprobate minds that were useless, shameless, truthless, graceless.  “That was the old walk,” he says, “let me contrast it with the new walk.”  Again I say, we’re different, people; we’ve got to be different.  We’ve got a different kind of mind, see.  We don’t have that old kind of mind; we’ve got a different kind of mind, we think different now. 

Peter calls it, in 2 Peter 3:1, “a pure mind” – great term, “pure mind” – a renewed mind, a transformed mind (Romans 12).  Now, what are the characteristics of this in contrast to the old?  Well, the old - first contrast - self-centered, useless; the new, Christ-centered, purposeful.  Look at verse 20: “But you have not so learned Christ, if so be that you have heard him.”  Listen, the one thing that a Christian knows from the very beginning is that he doesn’t do what his own mind tells him.  He learns Christ.  Christ acts through me. Christ loves through me. Christ serves through me.  The life that I live is not mine, but Christ lives in me. 

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:5.  “As I have done unto you, so you do to one another.”  “Love as Christ has loved us.”  “If any man say he abide in Christ, he ought so to walk even as He walked.”  We walk like Christ, think like Christ, love like Christ, and serve like Christ.  I get all my impulses from Him.  I didn’t learn Christ to walk in the vanity of my own mind.  When I learned Christ and heard Him and was taught by Him, it was to follow Him.  So the first great difference is the unsaved person walks in the vanity of his own mind, and the saved person walks according to the mind of Christ – big difference. 

I really can say to you, from the depths of my heart, that I want more than anything in my life to do the thing that Christ wants me to do. Do you feel that way?  I just want Him to work through me.  Jesus said that one day - to those who were around Him in the Gospels - He said, “Learn of me.”  “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”  And because of that, it’s not useless; it’s purposeful.  God has a plan of destiny for the universe, and as long as Christ is working in me, He’s working out a part of the reality of that plan; it’s purposeful.  And so that my life counts, “I am able to do exceedingly abundantly above all I can ask or think, according to the power that works in me.”  That’s purposeful, isn’t it?  Not useless. 

Listen, I don’t just go buy me a house in the shade of the freeway, and lay down at night and get up and do my little thing again every day.  I’m not just going in a cycle.  Every day to me is a fantastic adventure, because I’m right in the middle of God’s unfolding plan for the ages.  I have purpose in life.  And so he says, The first thing is you have a Christ-centered purpose, not a self-centered emptiness. 
Second thing: instead of being ignorant of the truth, like they are in verse 18, you know the truth. Look at verse 21: “You have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus.”  You know, when you give your life to Christ and you say, “Christ, You rule, and You are the Lord” – and by the way, you can’t become a Christian until you recognize that.  I think there’s no way to become a Christian without acknowledging that Christ is the Lord.  And so when you give Him your life, and you say, “Rule my life,” then you fall under the truth, and rather than being ignorant, you know the truth.  Oh, the quest for truth, men are after – that’s, you know, that’s the most traveled road in human history, trying to find the truth.  People get cynical.  Pilate says, “What is truth?”

I saw a lady in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, this summer, that had a T-shirt on that said, “I have abandoned my search for the truth.”  There must be a lot of people in that category if somebody’s making T-shirts like that.  There must be somebody to sell them to.  But when you became a Christian, and Christ acts through you, and Christ loves and serves through you, then you’re going to know the truth.  The truth is in Jesus.  Second Corinthians 1l:10 says that.  It says, “As the truth of Christ is in me.”  Oh, what a great thought.  Paul says “the truth of Christ is in me.”  Chapter 5 of 1 John again, and verse 20, closes out with a great word.  “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God, and eternal life.” 

And if all of that truth is in Him – “Little children” – for goodness’ sakes – “keep yourselves from idols.”  There’s certainly no information to be had there; it’s all in Him.  So first of all, we learn Christ, and then we know the truth.  Secondly: the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about sin, Christ, creation, death, life, forever, history, relationships, salvation, happiness, purpose, meaning, heaven and hell, faith, grace – we know the truth about all that.  And because we know the truth, and because Christ thinks through us, instead of being shameless, instead of having no morality, instead of having no basis for life, we are sensitive to sin.  

Verse 22 – we are called to “put off concerning the former manner of life the old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.”  Instead of not knowing what corruption is, boy, we sense it in the smallest doses, don’t we?  There’s nothing as miserable as a sinful Christian - wretched people to be around.  You say, “How do you know?”  I’ve been there; it’s terrible.  See, we know what it is to be corrupt.  We know what it is to see the result of deceitful lust.  We’re sensitive to sin.  There’s no flaunting indecency.  There’s a deep sense of sin, and that’s why the beatitude we’ll study tonight is so clear to us: “Blessed are they who mourn; for they shall be comforted.”  You see, the real subjects of the kingdom are those that mourn over their sin.  They don’t gloss it over. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 14

They went on to say, perhaps most important, is that the material in this chapter has demonstrated that a criminal is not a victim of circumstances.  He makes choices early in life, regardless of his socioeconomic status, race, parents, child-rearing practices.  Changing the environment does not change the man; it’s a reprobate mind you’re dealing with.  It’s so fascinating to me that down the pike some people come up with the things God’s been saying for centuries.  

The researchers said this: eventually the criminal decides that everything is worthless.  His thinking is illogical.  Well, the point of all of this, people, I’m just trying to show you, is that a man becomes what he is, a woman becomes what she is, by a series of processes of thinking, choices he makes. 

You say, “Well, how did that person ever get to be like – made a choice, and another choice to do the same thing again, and it became a habit, and it became a personality, and it became a character, and it’s a determined destiny?” And at that point, God says, “Let them go” – a reprobate mind.  And you know something else I thought interesting? Last week I mentioned to you the word “work” here is the word ergasía, that’s sometimes used of a business.  Isn’t it interesting how these people are so vile and so filthy, that they make filth into a business – they make it into a business.  They work uncleanness; they make a business out of uncleanness.  And they’re greedy; they use it to get money. 

You might be interested to note that there was an article in Forbes magazine somebody gave me, a lead article, entitled, “The X-Rated Economy,” by James Cook, and I thought it was very interesting.  I’ll tell you what it said.  “Pornography is no longer an illegal business.  The market for pornography is not confined to perverts or other emotional cripples; to the contrary, the largest part of the market is middle-class people.  In an increasingly permissive society, those who do enjoy pornography are free to revel in it.”  Now, here’s something that really shocked me; according to the California Department of Justice, the nation’s pornographers do a $4-billion-plus-a-year business.  Do you know that that is more than the movie industry and the music industry combined?  Pornography. 

And by the way, according to one west coast police department, that is only one third of the real business; it’s closer to $12 billion a year.  Skin magazines circulate 16 million copies a month, and generate a half a billion dollars a year in revenue.  Adult films – get this one. Those triple-X and those weird little deals where they have these things, 780 of those film theaters in the United States showing those rotten things; listen to this – 2 million people per week go through the door, at $3.50 a head, or nearly $400 million dollars a year.  Another $100 million goes into what are called sex toys, but the biggest of all are the little book shops where you get the dirty books and look at the little peep shows, whatever they are.  One of them in New York takes in $10,000.00 a day. 

The Los Angeles Police Department estimates in our city there are $125 million annually put in the little peep shows and the book shops.  It’s a business, people; it’s beyond anything we could ever imagine.  Al Goldstein, one of the porno kings in our country, said, “It’s a high risk business, but my lawyers make as much money as I do.  Harassment from the law doesn’t do anything.  It just cuts the profit margin a little.”  And right in the middle of it is a man who claims to be born again – don’t you believe it.
Listen, people – that’s the old life, and that’s what it’ll go to, and that’s what it’s gone to, and you see it, and I see it.  But that’s the old thing.  

The apostle Paul says, Hey, listen – “you,” verse 17, “walk not as the other Gentiles walk.”  That’s not our life, that’s not our lifestyle, that’s not where we’re coming from.  And I’ll tell you something, if when you came to Jesus Christ, you didn’t recognize that that stuff had to be cut off, then I don’t know whether you were really saved.  If you’re still hanging onto that thing as a way of life, I question your salvation, because James, chapter 4, and verse 4, says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.  You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that if you’re a friend of the world you’re the enemy of God?” 

If, when you came to Jesus Christ, you didn’t make a conscious cut from the system of this world, I question whether your salvation was genuine; I question it.  If you didn’t have an overwhelming sense of your sinfulness, so that you cried out to God for mercy, and the evil that was in your life, you wanted it washed away, I question whether you’re a Christian.  First John 2 says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man loves the things of the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  Right?  It’s not there.  Now, when you became a Christian, you, if you really were saved – and I think there are a lot of people who think they are and they’re not, and there are some right in this church like that.

But if you really came, and you were really saved, then you consciously cut the cord with the world.  Now, it keeps coming back and waltzing you from time to time, and that’s what Paul’s talking about here; don’t let it do that.  But when you were a Christian, you had to realize you were a sinner, and you were taking a break from the world, and you were making a cleavage with the system.  You can’t be an immoral, ungodly person, and just come along and accept Jesus, and never change your lifestyle, and tell me it’s real salvation; it isn’t.  I heard a guy on the PTL the other night, and he said, “It’s so wonderful,” he said, “it’s so wonderful you don’t have to change anything on the inside and you don’t have to change anything on the outside when you come to Jesus.” 

That’s a lie right out of hell.

If you think that’s a ministry, you’re wrong; that’s diabolical.  That’s going to send more people on the broad road to destruction than it’ll ever get on the narrow way to salvation.  There better be a change.  The world has its whole lifestyle, and it’s not ours.  This is the way they live: they live with their own minds telling them what to do; they live in ignorance; they live without a sense of decency; and they live in a greedy quest to fulfill their lusts – not us.  And when you came to Jesus Christ, that was what you recognized; your life was going to be different.  Oh, it’s not always easy; that’s why Paul says we can’t live that way, we can’t walk that way.  We’re different; that’s not our lifestyle.

Look with me for a minute at Acts 2:37, Acts 2:37.  Peter preached a sermon.  I mean he really preached a great sermon on the day of Pentecost, and it had a tremendous effect, the people were just really shaken.  And it says in verse 37, “When they heard this, they were pricked in their hearts.”  And they were under a tremendous conviction, “and they said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  In other words, how do we get out of this mess we’re in?  They realized they had to do something different than they were doing, right?  Nobody ever got saved who didn’t realize he had to do something different than what he was doing.  He said, “The first thing you do is repent.”  Listen, I believe with all my heart that nobody can come to Jesus Christ unless he repents.

The first thing Jesus said when He came into the world, He said, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.”  You start there.  Paul says, in Acts 20, that he “preached repentance toward God, and then faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Repentance.  He says, “Repent.”  You’ve got to make a conscious turn from the world, from your sin, from the evil things.  Well, look at now what he went on to say: “Be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Christ for the remission of sins.”  You see, sin’s all involved; you’ve got to recognize that.  

And then you say, “That was the end, just repent of the past, and go.”  No, verse 40, did you miss it? 

“And with many other words did he testify and exhort.”  You say, “What did he say?”  I’ll tell you what I think he said.  He said, “I’ll tell you something else.  You’ve got to cut yourself off from this world, you’ve got to see a change in the life you’re living, you’ve got to turn your back on your sinfulness, you’ve got to walk a holy walk.”  He may have given John’s message, “You need to be one who confesses his sin, you need to be one who loves the brethren, you need to be one now who continues not in sin, if this is real.”  But he kept on exhorting, and he kept on testifying; he gave us more instruction. 

To be continued:


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 13

It’s the madness of drunken, sexual, brawling indecency.  That’s the way the Gentiles live.  And you know where it all comes from?  You say, “Well, not everybody’s gone that far.”  Yes, but nobody in human society has any resources to restrain themselves from going that far.  It is only by the grace of God, that falls on the just and the unjust in general in society, and the preserving influence of the Holy Spirit, and the preserving influence of the church in the world that keeps anybody from not ending up at the pits at that level. 

Because that’s where it all goes; you start out with a self-centered mind, think your own thoughts.  You cut yourself off from God, which means you’re ignorant, and in your ignorance you’ve got no morality, and so you begin to live like an animal.  And once you get into lust, lust is the most damning thing there is, because it knows no limits, and it has a decreasing sense of satisfaction.  And that’s the way it is, shameless, vile, violent, illicit, ambitious, greedy lust.  This is the way the world is.  In Romans 1:29, the word pleonexía, “greediness,” shows the sin of a godless world as they turn their backs on God to fill their desires.  In Luke 12:15, the word pleonexía, “greediness,” is the sin of a person who evaluates life only in material terms; he can’t ever get enough goodies. 

In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 2, and chapter 4, it describes a person who uses his greediness to take advantage of other people; it’s the man who doesn’t care what the woman is like after he gets done raping her; he’ll do it anyway.  In Colossians, chapter 3, pleonexía is identified with idolatry, because it is greediness to worship an idol rather than the true God.  And in passage after passage after passage, it’s connected with sexual evil.  It’s the desire to have what is illicit, it’s the desire to have what is forbidden, and it’s the desire to have it so bad that you have no conscience, no decency, no sense of shock, and you’ll trample and destroy anything and anyone that gets in your way.  This is a mindless lifestyle.

You say, “Well, how do people get there?”  We’ve got them all in our society; there are lots of them, believe me, all over the place.  And there’s nothing to restrain anybody who’s unregenerate from going that far, nothing within themselves, nothing, and believe me, there are going to be more going to this limit than ever before.  You read your Bible, “Evil men shall grow” – What? – “worse and worse” as we get closer to the time of the Lord’s return.  There are going to be more and more and more people like this, especially after the church is removed, and the influence is taken away, and, in 2 Thessalonians, “the one who hinders doesn’t hinder anymore.”  This thing is going to become an absolute inundation of human society, as if it isn’t already. 

You say, “How do people get like that?”  Verse 19 says, “have given themselves over.”  They give themselves over to it.  It is a matter of constant, willful choices.  A choice made often enough becomes a habit, and a habit reaps a personality, and a personality reaps a character, and a character reaps a destiny - that’s exactly what happens.  It’s a series of choices.  They have given themselves over.  Sin is something you can’t blame on anybody but yourself.  You make repeated wrong choices, a choice makes a habit, and a habit makes a personality, and a personality makes a character, and a character determines a destiny. 

Let me illustrate it to you.  Last week, Bob Vernon, of the Los Angeles Police Department, in our church here, gave me a book called The Criminal Personality, written by two Jewish researchers, Samuel Yochelson and Stanton Samenow.  It has become almost like a Bible to the people in law enforcement, analyzing criminal behavior.  This is a result of 15 years of clinical study on criminals; it’s two volumes of over a thousand pages.  And what is most fascinating to me is that, for years and years and years, criminality was based on environment.  Criminality was a result of behavior induced by circumstances - the kind of place you lived, or what your mother did to you, or your father did to you.  But after all their research, this is what they say – most interesting.

The thesis of the book is that criminal behavior is a result of a warped thinking process.  “As a man” – What? – “thinketh in his heart” – What? – “so is he.”  In fact, in three sections of volume 1, page 251 to 457 – over two hundred pages, three whole sections – are devoted to, quote, “The thinking errors of the criminal.”  Now, listen – they say, quoting, “Abandoning the search for causation, and deciding not to work with feelings, we probe the criminal pattern of thought,” end quote.  In other words, they said, “Let’s find out how a criminal thinks,” and that’s what opened up the whole thing. 

And this was their conclusion: it is remarkable, quote, “the criminal often derives as great an impact from his activities during non-arrestable phases as he does from crime.  The criminal’s thinking patterns operate everywhere; they are not restricted to crime,” end quote.  In other words, from the beginning to the end of a criminal life personality, there is a thinking process that is out of whack.  Do you know what that is?  That’s a reprobate mind.  That’s just Romans 1, and they’re just now discovering it.  It’s a thinking issue.  It’s not environment; it’s a reprobate mind; it’s a mind that is no mind.

Policemen have told me, time and time again, “You cannot predict what a criminal will do.”  Why?  Because the normal capacity of the mind doesn’t work that way.  In endeavoring to explain the criminal mind, which God would call a non-mind, a reprobate mind, the researchers say this: “Sociological explanations have been unsatisfactory.”  It isn’t sociological.  Quoting them: “The idea that a man becomes a criminal because he’s corrupted by his environment has proved to be too weak an explanation.”  Now listen to this – a shocking statement: “We have indicated,” quote, “that criminals come from a broad spectrum of homes, both disadvantaged and privileged; within the same neighborhood, some are violators, and most are not.” 

Now listen: “It is not the environment that turns a man into a criminal.  It is a series of choices that he makes starting at a very early age” – right on.  Do you want to hear something interesting?  They say, in some cases, you can begin to detect it at the age of three – choices – choices.  Listen, the heart of a child is a rebel.  You’d better get the rod and drive it out of him, because if you don’t, no question in my mind, Satan has selected out certain human beings in our society to begin early that thinking process that will bring them to the place of being the most reprobate of all society, to drag the whole of society to hell.  You’d better deal with it.

They went on to say, perhaps most important, is that the material in this chapter has demonstrated that a criminal is not a victim of circumstances.  He makes choices early in life, regardless of his socioeconomic status, race, parents, child-rearing practices.  Changing the environment does not change the man; it’s a reprobate mind you’re dealing with.  It’s so fascinating to me that down the pike some people come up with the things God’s been saying for centuries.  


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 12

When you desire to live by your own mind, and you cut yourself off from the life of God, you cut yourself off, then, from the truth of God, and without the truth, you do not have any standards, you do not have any morals, and your life will deteriorate into a shameless degeneracy.  

We see it, don’t we, in our society?  A society that’s going to do everything its way; consequently, it cuts itself off from God, and once it does that, it has no standards, and then indecency runs wild.  And that’s exactly what we have; there’s no base of morality.  The term here translated “being past feeling” means “to be callous,” “to cease to feel pain,” or “to cease to care.”  Self-desire is all they feel, that’s all the sensation there is, and they’re going to get what they want, whatever the cost.  And then another thing results – when you go to live by your own standard and your own mind, in the uselessness of your own mind, you cut yourself off from God.  Therefore, you lose all moral sense, all moral balance, all sense of what’s right and wrong, and you do that which is shameless.  

And the result is you wind up with a fourth characteristic, and that’s a reprobate mind, a mind that ceases to function.  You have literally seared your conscience.  You have burned out your mind, you have torn out of your brain the standards that God has placed there, you have violated conscience to the place where conscience can no longer function.  “Being past feeling,” it says, “they have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”  Now that’s human lifestyle; not very pretty, is it?  Shameless thinking will destroy the mind.  All right, now, let’s go back over it very quickly so you understand it. 

You start out with doing your thing your way.  You think your own thoughts and determine your own destiny.  You’ve cut yourself off from God.  As a result, you’re going to live in ignorance – that’s verse 18 – your heart’s going to be blind; your head’s going to be blind.  As a result of that blindness, you don’t know any morality, and without a morality, you will become shameless and indecent.  And you live in shamelessness and indecency long enough, and it burns out any thinking process you have left, until you come to the place where you totally give yourself over to lasciviousness, and you work uncleanness with greediness.  In other words, you can’t get enough vileness in your life; you can’t dig up enough filth.

Now, I saw a restaurant in Hollywood – I went down there one day – and it’s called Filthy McNasty’s.  I thought, “Now, that just about describes this whole section of town.”  Now, let me look at this word “lasciviousness” with you for a minute.  “Lasciviousness” is the word asélgeia, and I told you a little about it last week.  I want to just enhance it a little.  It is probably the ugliest word in the New Testament; it’s a filthy, vile word, and it’s used very often.  Here is the essence of asélgeia: it is the person in whose soul dwells so much sin, under such total domination, that he doesn’t care what anybody says, he doesn’t care what anybody thinks, he doesn’t feel any shock, he has no sense of decency, and absolutely no sense of shame. 

Now, this word rarely ever occurs alone; it usually occurs with other words.  In fact, let me give you an idea about that.  Three times asélgeia is connected with drunkenness: in Galatians 5:l9, 1 Peter 4:3, and Romans l3:13.  In those three passages it is connected with drunkenness; it is connected with a particular word, kṓmos.  Kṓmos originally was sort of a harmless word.  It meant - it referred to a band of friends who accompanied a victor in the games on his way home, sort of like his pals, his buddies. 
But as time went on, and they were going on their way home, they were laughing and cheering and celebrating the victory, they began to drink.  And they became ribald, and they became carousing, and reveling, and wildness.  And it degenerated into some kind of sheer self-indulgence in a public fashion; it literally means “brawling in drunkenness.”  And the asélgeia, the person who is lascivious, is one whose sheer self-indulgence knows no public restriction.  He doesn’t restrain himself at all in regard to people.  It’s connected with that kind of ribald drunkenness.

Secondly, four times this word is connected with adultery or lust and sexual sin.  In Mark 7:22, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Galatians 5:19, and 2 Peter 2:18, it is connected with sex sin, and in each case it has reference to a person who has no more shame than an animal in gratifying his sexual desire.  That’s where asélgeia fits; it is the kind of lasciviousness that knows only its fulfillment, even if it’s an animalistic thing.  An asélgeia person has no more conscience about immorality and about sexual gratification than a dog.  That’s the word.  So three times it’s connected with ribald drunkenness, four times it’s connected with a degenerate kind of sexual lust that knows no difference than an animal. 

And three times – here’s a third time it’s used – three times it is used with pleonexía, and it’s used with that here.  Pleonexía is the word “greediness” in this verse, and three times it is used with such an uncontrollable lust that people don’t even know the bounds of it.  It’s the kind of thing where if you don’t give me what I want, I’ll rape you to get it, see.  It’s that completely out-of-control greed.  It’s not some nice little isolated inner attitude; it is an evil, vile lusting for that which is wrong to the point where it’s public, to the point where it has no more decency than an animal does. And it has absolutely zero shame, and it’s so greedy it just wants to get itself fulfilled in such a manner that it is never able to be satisfied. 

It’s the madness of drunken, sexual, brawling indecency.  That’s the way the Gentiles live.  And you know where it all comes from?  You say, “Well, not everybody’s gone that far.”  Yes, but nobody in human society has any resources to restrain themselves from going that far.  It is only by the grace of God, that falls on the just and the unjust in general in society, and the preserving influence of the Holy Spirit, and the preserving influence of the church in the world that keeps anybody from not ending up at the pits at that level. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 11

We are the possessors of a newness of life, the possessors of a new nature.  We have the potential to live out a new man, a new lifestyle, a new walk.  That’s what Paul is after. Chapters 1 to 3 describe the newness in the inside, and chapters 4 to 6 describe how that newness ought to work on the outside, what ought to happen as we live - the conduct, the pattern, the behavior - the way we operate in our lives.  And by giving us a contrast, Paul really approaches this theme – the contrast in verses 17 to 24 between the old and the new; the old man or the old lifestyle, and the new lifestyle; the old walk, and the new walk.  You’ll notice, in verse 17, he says: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” 

Your lifestyle is to be different.  As a Christian, there are differences.  You have been, according to chapter 2, “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath foreordained that you should walk in them.”  That’s to be a difference, from the old way, from the old walk, from the old man.  God saved you unto newness of life.  He saved you to be different, to be transformed.  “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  In 1 John, chapter 5, it tells us that we have overcome; on the contrary, in chapter 5 of 1 John, and verse l9, it says: “The whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.”  There’s a big difference. 

The world as we know it is coddled by Satan; we have risen above, to the very presence of God.  We aren’t like the Gentiles.  Paul describes the heathen or the éthne here and 1 Thessalonians 4:5in this way: he says, “The Gentiles who know not God.”  We are not numbered among those who know not God.  When we come to Jesus Christ, we’re different, we are changed, and our lifestyle is to match that new nature, that transformation.  This is basic, people, to the whole of Christian living, and you know that. You’ve heard it many times, and Paul is reiterating it here, I think, in terms that maybe you haven’t thought of before.  Let me show you what he’s saying.  

He describes an old way of life and a new way of life, and says, “This is the way you are to live, in the new way of life.”  He compares an old man and a new man.  Now, the old man and the new man are not talking about your nature in this passage.  Some places in the Bible they can be broadened to include that, but here he’s talking about your lifestyle, your old lifestyle as opposed to the new.  There’s to be a tremendous difference.  Now, remember this: the key to the difference is the way you think – Do you remember that from last week?  It’s the way you think that makes the difference; the old lifestyle with a certain thinking process; the new one with a different thinking process. 

That’s why verse 23 says that salvation demands that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.  There is a new thinking process demanding of a new creation, and the Lord actually begins that process in the transformation of salvation.  Now, let’s look back at the contrast again, as we started to in our last study together.  Verses 17 to 19 describe the old walk and the old man, verses 20 to 24 the new walk and the new man.  I want to review just briefly.  Now, you’ll remember back in chapter 2, verses 1 to 3, that we are told that sinners walk according to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They function according to those three things.  Now, here we see an illustration of how that works out.

You walk according to the world, the flesh, and the devil, and this is what will happen, and he gives us four characteristics of pagan thinking and lifestyle, four things based upon wrong thinking.  One is in verse 17, and this is the first characteristic of an unregenerate, unsaved person who doesn’t know God.  First, at the end of verse 17, “they walk in the emptiness of their mind,” and the first characteristic is what I called self-centered emptiness.  The unregenerate man resolves everything on the basis of his thinking, his mind.  It is his mind that is ultimate; it is what he thinks, what he acquiesces to, what he agrees with, that makes the difference.  The only problem is that he will follow his mind to emptiness, because it is vanity, it is useless, it is aimless, it is pointless, and it is purposeless.

Self-centered emptiness is characteristic of our age, it is characteristic of an unregenerate man – he’s going nowhere, full of sound and fury, but signifying absolutely nothing.  It’s perhaps echoed in the song of Jackson Brown, who’s a current rock star, who sums up life in this way: “I’m going to buy myself a house ’neath the shade of a freeway. I’m going to pack my lunch and go to work every day, and when the evening sun goes down I’m going to lay my body down, and when the morning light comes streaming in, I’m going to get up and do it again.”  That’s just about it.  A useless life produced by a vain, empty mind.  If a man operates on a mind that doesn’t have God’s thoughts, and all he’s got is his own thoughts, it’s going nowhere, it’s useless, it’s empty, and it’s vain.

Second thing: where there is a useless, empty, and vain mind, there will be ignorance of the truth, and that’s the second characteristic of a godless person in verse 18.  “Their understanding is darkened; they are alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that’s in them, and because of the hardness of their heart.”  That word is “hardness.”  In other words, when a person says, “I will live and die on the basis of my own mind.  I will be the master of my own fate, I will be the captain of my own soul, I will be the determiner of my own destiny,” you can be sure he’s going to live his whole life in ignorance, because man doesn’t have any answers.  If he cuts himself off, in verse 18, from the life of God, if he alienates himself from the life of God, he tears out any possibility of ever knowing the truth.

And so the second thing is a willful darkness; spiritually he is dead, incapable of knowing the truth.  And we showed you last time, implied in this verse is the terrifying thought that when a person makes a willful choice to base everything on his own mind, and he becomes his own god, and he turns his back on the true God, that after a certain point, God just lets him go.  The Old Testament put it this way: God said, “Ephraiam is joined to idols; let him alone.”  Romans 1 says, “God gave them up.”  He let them go.  If a person chooses this, after a certain point, God lets them go.  At the end of the Book of Revelation, chapter 22, and verse 11: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”  God lets them go.  Let it be.  And so, to start out with, a useless, self-centered mind can only result in ignorance, and such ignorance as dives deeply into sin.

And that leads to the third thing: shamelessness, shamelessness; verse 19: “Who being past feeling.”  You can stop right there.  Well, listen – if you cut yourself off from the life of God, you will be past feeling any conviction, you will be past sensitivity to sin, you will lose sensation of regret, you will be beyond the reality of shame.  When you desire to live by your own mind, and you cut yourself off from the life of God, you cut yourself off, then, from the truth of God, and without the truth, you do not have any standards, you do not have any morals, and your life will deteriorate into a shameless degeneracy.  

01/31/16 PART II

Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 10

Ephesians 4:19-24

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former manner of life the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” 

One of the most wonderful passages in all of the revelation of God is found in 1 John, chapter 5, verses 4 and 5, and serves as a fitting comparison to our text. First John 5:4 says: “For whatever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”  To believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and by such faith to be redeemed, to be saved, to be transformed, means that you become an overcomer of the world.  The word overcomer simply means victor; it is the Greek word nikáō, from which we get the Nike missile.  It means “to conquer,” “to have victory,” “to be superior,” “to overcome.” 

And one of the basic realities of salvation is that it transforms a loser into a winner; it transforms a victim into a victor; it makes us overcomers - that by very definition.  Do you remember the words of our Lord, who said in John 16:33, “In this world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; for I have overcome the world.” In other words, as we enter into Jesus Christ, we enter into His overcoming of the world.  We rise above the system, we rise above the evil age, we rise above Satan as conquerors of the devil himself, we rise above death as those who can cry with Paul, “O death, where is thy sting?”  We rise above sin as we hear the echo of the words of Romans 6: “Sin shall have no more dominion over you.” 

We rise also above the world, the whole system of Satan, as overcomers.  And so as Christians we have risen above the evil age, we have risen above the system of Satan.  Our citizenship is heavenly, and we are consequently to live as heavenly citizens, we are to live as overcomers.  Paul even goes further than that, and calls us not only nike, “overcomers,” but hupernike, “hyper-overcomers,” “super-overcomers.” And your Authorized Version translates that word “more than conquerors.”  So it is basic, then, to salvation that it is an overcoming transformation; that it lifts us out of the mundane; that we die to the old and we rise to the new; and we are risen with Christ to seek the things that are above. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 9 (previous posting included below)

You’re different, that’s the issue.  The world has its businesses to sell its product; we don’t shop there, we’re different.  A city that’s set on a hill can’t be hid.  We crawl down with the rest of them, they don’t see us, and we’ve got to stand as light and salt.  If we’re corrupted by the system, it’s useless.  Let God speak to your heart. 

But I believe for me, I got to be as far away from that stuff as I can possibly be, as far away.  

As different – I don’t want to be odd in my personality, or unloving, or accepting.  I just want to be different, unique, and set apart.  People say to me sometimes, “Do you believe in separation?”  I say, “If you’re talking about marriage, no; if you’re talking about the world, yes.”  

But I’m not – I don’t believe that we should just stand here and say, “Well, you can do this, you can’t do this,” so forth, make little lists, pretty tough to do, you know.  I know a preacher who used to go around and check out all the movies, so he could tell his people which ones they could see and couldn’t see.  Let’s just covenant in our hearts, people, that our blessed Lord Jesus Christ purchased us at the cost of His own blood, right? 

Gave us a new nature, which is holy, and undefiled, and sanctified forever, and then He simply says, “Would you live up to that?  Would you throw off the old life, and live the new life?”  Let’s just cut the connections, and let’s be so different that we don’t even play on the borderline.  

Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.’ Hebrew 20:35-37

‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” Heb. 10:38-39. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 8 (previous posting included below)

You wonder why, in our society, you have so much mental illness?  Because we have so much unblushing obscenity; it’s a destroying thing.    

That’s what’s going on in our world.  What part in that do we have?  What part do we have in listening to those people?  What part do we have in accommodating that society?  What part do we have in any of this? 

What identification do we have with reprobate minds?  People who have given themselves up, and God has given them up.  You say, “Where does homosexuality come from, and where does lesbianism come from, and where does this kind of orgiastic sexual attraction come from, and where does all of the obscenities of this rock music scene come from, and where do all the evils of our society come from?  Isn’t there something heredity, isn’t there some weakness, isn’t this a psychological problem?”  I’ll tell you what it is, it’s as clear as it could be; it tells you what it is right here, verse 19: They have given themselves over to it.  It isn’t psychological, it isn’t sociological, it is personal, and here’s the whole point: you choose to make a choice.  

You choose to do something evil, and you choose it again, and you choose it again, and you choose it again, and you keep doing that, and you keep pressing the guilt down.  You petrify yourself in the choice, you become unblushing in your commitment to obscenity, and you have a mind that no longer can be a mind for you.  It is incapable of thinking.  

Sinclair Lewis, who wrote against Christianity, and blasted Jesus Christ in the book Elmer Gantry, was hailed as a great literary genius.  Few people know that he died a slobbering alcoholic in a third rate clinic outside of Rome, with a reprobate mind that was no mind at all.  Listen, you choose to drink, and take another drink, and another drink, and another drink, and another drink.  

You just keep giving yourself over, and over, and over, to lasciviousness, and your unblushing obscenity, that allows you to do that without fear of shocking anybody, could care less how indecent it is, and that kind of behavior, and pretty soon you have a mind that can’t think.  Do the same thing with homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual activity, lying, cheating, stealing – anything becomes a way of life to which you commit yourself.  By the way, he adds this statement that’s interesting: “to work all uncleanness with greediness.”  The word work is very interesting.  Ergasia is a word that means business.  It can mean actually business.  They make a business out of uncleanness.

Now, that’s true of our society, you know that?  There was a day when dirty business was sort of on the cuff, right?  It was sort of hidden, up your sleeve.  You know, you had to sneak around a little bit to find the dirty business.  Nowadays, it’s wholesale.  

They make a business out of it.  We’ve got it all – filthy dirty movies, and even the quote, unquote, good movies, many of them, imply a filthy thing, implicit rather than explicit, or by innuendo, an evil thing.  And so it’s a matter of business, filthy books produced constantly, just never-ending.  Billy Graham said one time that the books published in America rival the drippings from a broken sewer.  Pimps, prostitutes, bars, et cetera – big, big, big business – big business. 

Beloved, what part do we have with that; what part do we have with that?  They do it with greediness; the Greek word means an unlawful desire for things that belong to others.  They’re after you.  They’re after the purity that belongs to you, the sanity that belongs to you, the money that belongs to you, the morality that belongs to you, the character that belongs to you – they want it all.  What do we have to do with that stuff?  Paul looks at the pagan, evil world, and he sees its terrible, self-centered, purposeless, fantasizing, useless thinking, that leads to a darkened understanding and a hard heart, which leads to an insensitivity to any sin, and a shamelessness, which leads to unblushing obscenity. 

We tolerate everything, and we make a business out of it to capture people.  And he says verse 20, look at it: “But you have not so learned Christ.”  What part do you have in that?  Put that smelly, stinking old man off; you don’t have any part in that.  See verse 22: “Put off concerning the former manner of life the old man.”  Verse 24: “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  You don’t have any part in that stuff; you’re different, you’re new.  You see the whole point of what he’s saying.  Beloved, you know people say, “Well, you know, it’s kind of borderline; should I or shouldn’t I do this, I don’t really” – listen, you shouldn’t even be messing around on the border.  You know, we ought to be so far away from that stuff that we are a light on a hill, right – that we are apart from that.  
That’s not our life; we have no part with that.  

And as I said, the tough thing that Christianity faces today is that, you know, we like to play around on the edges with the world.  I’m not going to tell you what you can’t do and what you can do, but I’ll tell you one thing, the Word of God doesn’t make specifics.  It just tells you to get so far away that nobody will ever, for one moment, miss the point that you’re different.  You’re different, that’s the issue.  The world has its businesses to sell its product; we don’t shop there, we’re different.  A city that’s set on a hill can’t be hid.  We crawl down with the rest of them, they don’t see us, and we’ve got to stand as light and salt.  If we’re corrupted by the system, it’s useless.  Let God speak to your heart. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 7 (previous posting included below)

They are shameless.  One thing about pagans, when they continue in sin, and they turn themselves off from the life of God, they will become shameless.  Verse l9: “Who being past feeling” – let me stop right there, past feeling.  They just don’t feel anymore – apathetic, insensitive, they don’t care.  There are no standards.  They don’t care what the consequences are.  They don’t mind shocking people.  Their whole processes of thought are just destroyed.  

According to an old story, a Spartan youth stole a fox, ran into the man who owned the fox, and didn’t want to betray that he’d stolen the little fox.  

So he had the little fox under his tunic, and he stood without moving a muscle while the fox tore out his vital organs. 

Our society is so smug, and it stands there with all of its sin while it just eats it out; but it’s so good at wearing the mask for so long that pretty soon, it just doesn’t care anymore, and there’s nothing more to hide, and off comes the tunic, and who cares?  Shameless, past feeling.  

They don’t even feel anything.  You get so petrified that you just – you don’t even feel it anymore; the conscience is seared.  What kind of a life is this?  Self-centered and useless, ignorant of the truth, so it just plays with error, shameless, so there’s no morality, there’s no code, there’s no ethics, there’s no standards, nothing – which finally results in what we could call, borrowing a term from Romans 1, a reprobate mind.

That’s the fourth point, a reprobate mind.  The end of verse 19: “They have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”  

Shameless thinking, people, leads to shameless action.  First of all, center on yourself, that’s where it starts, pagan centers on himself; all his own things, his own attitude.  Centering on himself, in his useless, purposeless, pointless existence, he turns God off, and then he begins the hardening process that hardens him against God, and pretty soon he has no sense of shame.  

He’ll say anything, do anything he can get away with; the only ethic becomes, can you get away with it?  And then he literally is given over to a reprobate mind.  He gives himself to lasciviousness, and he works all uncleanness with greediness.  He can’t get at it fast enough.  He’s greedy to do evil.  Now, the word lasciviousness, aselgeia, a familiar word in the New Testament.  It means shameless wantonness.  It means unblushing obscenity, its primary reference being with sexual obscenities.  

Basil defined it as, quote, “A disposition of the soul incapable of bearing the pain of discipline,” end quote.  It is an undisciplined obscenity.  You know, the bad man some time in his life tries to hide his badness, but the man who has aselgeia couldn’t care less who he shocks, couldn’t care less how indecent he is, as long as he gratifies his own sick, warped mind. 

Do you know what a reprobate mind is?  Romans 1, a reprobate mind is a mind that is no mind.  It is a mind that does not think.  

It is a mind that is no mind at all.  It cannot reason, it cannot produce logic, it cannot receive the truth; it is no mind at all.  It is the kind of mind we see in our world today.  It is a blown mind.  You know you hear about like the other day this fella from The Who named Moon, who is dead in his thirties.  You read about Janis Joplin, you read about Jimi Hendrix, these rock people who died so early, with the total destruction of their own body, their own mind.  

They were so incoherent you could hardly hold a conversation with them – why?  They had given themselves over – now, I want you to note this – to a kind of mind that is no mind at all.

You wonder why, in our society, you have so much mental illness?  Because we have so much unblushing obscenity; it’s a destroying thing.  Whenever I think about this in an illustration that people can grab, I always think about rock singers, the incredible, unblushing obscenities.  One very well-known one, who relieves himself on his audience; he’s not the only, there are several.  

Unblushing, incredible, indecent obscenity – a person becomes a beast, a mind that is no mind.  That’s what was going on in Ephesus.  That’s what’s going on in our world.  What part in that do we have?  What part do we have in listening to those people?  What part do we have in accommodating that society?  What part do we have in any of this? 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 6 (previous posting included below)

This is Romans 1 – what happened in Romans 1?  “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, but they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  And thinking themselves to be wise, they were fools.”

And then it says, “And God gave them over” – God gave them over, and God gave them up.  In other words, they chose the way to go, and God confirmed them in the choice.  

God, judicially acting upon those who choose to live a life alienated from Him. 

There is a thought, too, at the end of verse 18; the word blindness is an interesting word, pōrōsis.  And it was used in medical terms for the kind of callus that forms around a broken bone, which is harder than the bone itself.  It has reference to something that is hard, paralyzing.  It is even also used in some extra-biblical medical source to refer to the kind of thing that forms in joints, like calcium forms, so that the joint ceases to function.  It is an interruptive kind of hardening; it is a negative kind of hardening.  That’s what a pagan man’s life is like, it’s just like he just every time he acts against God, every time he takes another step of willful rejection, he pours more concrete into the hardening of his heart. 

The process is obvious.  It’s a petrifying effect, a man’s sin, a woman’s sins, and they face guilt.  Like LeRoy Aden of Chicago University says, we try to keep our lions in cardboard boxes.  And when we sin, we know it’s the lion there, but we’ve got to do more than keep it in a cardboard box, because it’s right there on the surface, and it’s going to burst out and consume us.  So we begin to build a better box, and by psychological game-playing, or by rationalization, or by self-justification, or by transferring the blame, or by denying sin, or by eliminating morality altogether, one way or another, we try to get rid of the lion of guilt.  

And the more we do it, and the more we do it, and the more we do it, the less remorse we feel, and the less guilt we feel, and finally real guilt is pushed so far down it isn’t felt at all.  

And the Bible says our conscience becomes seared, as with a hot iron, and there is a petrified heart that is insensitive, and when it gets to that point, then it says their understanding is darkened.  Judicially, God moves in, in response to a constant act of the will.  And you can see this distinction clearly by looking at John, for example, chapter 12, verse 37, and you’ll see him quoting from the record of Isaiah in verse 37, John 12: “Though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him.”  They had sufficient information, but they chose to be alienated from the life of God, they chose to be ignorant, they chose to petrify their hearts with constant rejection. 

“That the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report?  To whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?’  Therefore, they could not believe.”  Did you see that?  In verse 37, they would not believe; in verse 39, “they” – what – “could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, ‘He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.’”  Listen, Satan knows that Christianity and the truth of God is an issue of the mind; he knows it’s the mind, it’s the thinking. 

And so in 2 Corinthians 4, it says, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”  

Satan blinds the mind, and as man goes on willfully acquiescing to the activity of Satan, he gets to the place where God blinds his mind.  That becomes the permanent state of having the understanding darkened.  You wonder why people in our society don’t ever seem to get the message; in many cases they’ve got a petrified heart.  

Well, they are not only ignorant, and self-centered, and useless in their thinking, but there’s a third characteristic, and this one we could talk about a lot, but it doesn’t really need it.  It’s simple enough you can fill in the illustrations. 

They are shameless.  One thing about pagans, when they continue in sin, and they turn themselves off from the life of God, they will become shameless.  Verse l9: “Who being past feeling” – let me stop right there, past feeling.  They just don’t feel anymore – apathetic, insensitive, they don’t care.  There are no standards.  They don’t care what the consequences are.  They don’t mind shocking people.  Their whole processes of thought are just destroyed.  


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 5 (previous posting included below)

In Romans 8:20, Paul says, “For the creation was made subject to uselessness.”  The whole thing is just subject to uselessness.  Nothing matters.  You get up every day, and look in the mirror, and repair whatever is reparable, off you go, do your routine, come back, the same thing, same thing, same thing, day after day after day.  As G.B. Hardy says, until you finally have your candle blown out, and it’s boxing day, and they put you in the pine box, and you’re gone, and that’s it.  Useless –  for what purpose?  A perfect illustration of this can be seen in the book of Ecclesiastes.  The wisest man, the richest man, the man with the most women, the man with the most prestige, sums it all up and opens up his book this way, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” 

He closes the second chapter of his book, “Everything is vanity and vexation of spirit.”  Nothing means anything to me.  Shakespeare put it this way: “Life is full of sound and fury, signifying” – what – “nothing” – nothing.  The best man can do is entertain himself with his toys, and they don’t mean anything – they don’t mean anything.  Never ceases to amaze me how people will blow their money, blow their bodies, blow their minds, and sometimes blow their head off, trying to find something that’s never, ever, ever there.  He says their thinking is empty, useless; goes nowhere, produces nothing.  And it’s, in other words, what Jesus said: “Without me, ye can do” – what – “nothing” – nothing.

There’s a second thing that characterizes a pagan lifestyle and the old man.  Not only do they function in their own heads, doing their own thing that they dream up – and by the way, that’s in contrast to us, isn’t it?  We function in response to God’s thinking, and His will, and His purposes, and there’s purpose and meaning.  But the second thing is they’re ignorant of the truth; not only self-centered and empty, but ignorant of the truth.  Look at verse l8: “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”  Not only are they self-centered and useless, but they are ignorant. 

Now, you know you can’t really face people in our world who don’t know Christ and tell them they’re ignorant as a general rule, because we’re such an educated society that people take that as an insult.  And no society in history has ever been much more educated than we have.  But we’re drowning in college graduates; we don’t even know what to do with them all.  We’ve got all kinds of people with quote, unquote, education.  But as the apostle Paul said, they are “ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Men have a natural inability to understand the things of God; they just can’t.  

They have a useless mind, and a useless mind can’t gain truth.  In Romans 1:21, it says they have “vain imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”  And “they thought they were wise, but they were fools,” see. 

So men in the world without God are not only self-centered and useless in their thinking, but they are ignorant.  By the way, the word darkened here is a most interesting perfect participle.  “Having the understanding darkened,” a perfect participle, it simply means to make blind.  And a perfect participle means something that happened in the past with always continuing results.  

So they were darkened in their blindness and ignorance, and it’s been that way all since.  It’s a continuing problem.  But there’s a kind of a pall that hangs over this verse that I want to point out to you.  It’s kind of a circular picture: they have their understanding darkened.  Well, when did that happen?  When did they get it darkened with continuing result? 

Oh – it’s almost the feeling of judicial acting of God; it’s almost as if God did it.  It’s almost as if God is the acting subject, acting on them.  I think that’s true.  Why?  

Being alienated from the life of God, they were cut off from God’s life, “ignorant in their hearts, and blind” – and a better word is hardness of heart.  Now watch – because man willfully is alienated from God, willfully ignorant, and willfully hardens his heart, he gets his understanding darkened judicially by a sovereign God.  In other words, it’s God affirming forever the choice that man makes.  It’s a serious thing.  It is judicial blindness, enacted upon one who willfully chooses to live without God. 

It’s kind of illustrated with Pharaoh; you read in the story of the Exodus.  And Pharaoh hardened his heart, and Pharaoh hardened his heart, and Pharaoh hardened his heart, and all of a sudden, like a thunderbolt, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  If you choose a certain lifestyle and are confirmed in that lifestyle, God judicially and sovereignly acts to keep that lifestyle a permanent thing; the perfect participle, blinded with permanent results.  It’s serious.  

Look again at verse 18; the problem is that this is an individual alienated from the life of God.  God is the truth; Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  And if you are alienated from God, you can’t know the truth.  You can’t know it because you’re dead to God’s dimension; you’re like a corpse. 

A corpse doesn’t hear a conversation in a mortuary, nor does a spiritually dead individual hear God.  That’s something you can’t comprehend – there’s just no connection in those dimensions.  And so it is that being alienated from the life of God, there’s no life of God in them.  And in their deadness, they are ignorant, and they pursue it, and they get harder, and harder, and harder, and then they have their understanding darkened.  


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 4

John said this in 1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  For the world passeth away, and the lust of it” – it’s a fading thing, it’s going to self-destruct; we have no part with that.  Society is hostile to godliness because it is dominated by carnal ambition, it is dominated by pride, it is dominated by selfishness, it is dominated by greed, and lust, and desire for evil.  Its opinions are wrong, its aims are selfish, its pleasures are sinful, its influence is destructive, its politics are corrupt, its honors are empty, its smiles are phony, and its love is fickle.  We have no part with that.  We’re different; we don’t live that way, not like society lives. 

And by the way, if you think this is just Paul talking, look at verse 17: “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord.”  “By the way,” he says, “I’m passing on this information from the Lord.  I testify in the Lord, He is speaking.  

This is the divine lifestyle.  This is God’s standard, not mine.  This is His, basic for the believer.”  Now, having introduced that verse, we’re going to see a contrast here, in verses 17 through 24, between the old walk and the new walk, the old man or lifestyle and the new man or lifestyle.  First, the old walk, and he gives four characteristics, and then next week we’ll go to the new walk, four corresponding characteristics; they are contrasting characteristics. 

Verses 17 to l9 is the old walk.  I read through the passage, and I was struck with the fact that the issue here is the mind.  And I had never really keyed in on that, although it was there – that the whole issue here, frankly, people, is how you think.  Look, for example, at verse 17; it ends with “the mind.”  Verse 18 begins, “the understanding;” verse 18 also talks about ignorance.  Then as you come down to verse 20, you have the word “learned,” and in verse 21, you have the word “taught,” and in verse 23, the word “mind” again. 

In other words, this whole thing of learning, and teaching, and mind, and knowing, as opposed to ignorance – the mind is the issue.  The point being this – now, here’s the key: Christians think different than pagans, “and as a man thinketh in his heart” – what’s the rest – “so is he.”  So is he.  We’ve got to think different, and when we think different we will act different.  Salvation, beloved – and I just remind you of this – salvation first of all is a change of mind.  It is a change of mind; it is a new thinking process.  

Unsaved people can’t think right.  Salvation is a change of mind. He says it in verse 20: “You have not so learned Christ.”  And we have told you enough about that so you understand that Christianity is cognitive before it’s experiential. 

It is a thinking that draws us to God.  We think different about our sin than we used to think, we think different about God than we used to think, we think different about Christ than we used to think, we think different about what we ought to do with our life than we used to think, and a new thinking process brings us to salvation, and salvation is a change of mind.  

That’s really what the word repentance means, to change your mind; new thinking process.  So the pagan thinks one way, and we think another way.  Now, how does a pagan think.  

Well, he’s got some problems.  He shows us four elements of pagan thinking. 
First is self-centeredness, and you could also call it useless thinking, but let’s call it self-centered.  Verse 17 says: “That you not walk as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.”  Their mind is the big deal; their thinking, their desires, their whims.  In other words, they chase the bubbles that they blow.  They run in the circle they made.  They sleep in the bed of their own device.  Their mind is everything.  I tell you, this is a great cover-all for the whole area of human opinion: “Well, I think,” “Well, it’s my opinion,” “Well, I.”  Whatever you think, whatever you want, that’s what governs your behavior. 

In the second chapter of Ephesians, almost the same thing is said when it says, in verse 3, that the unbelieving people have their manner of life in the lusts of the flesh, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the” – what – “mind.”  They function based on their own mind.  But he says here their self-centeredness is vanity.  Now, vanity is not like we think of it – we think of vanity as, you know, fixing your hair, because they have little things called a vanity.  

But vanity is an interesting word in the Greek, mataiotēs, and it means that which is empty, futile, useless, vain.  It’s useless is the best word for it.  Pagan thinking is useless.  Do you know why?  It goes nowhere, it accomplishes nothing, it performs nothing, it gains nothing, it is useless.
I think of Edna St. Vincent Millay who said, “Life must go on.  I just forget why.”  Or the main character in After The Fall, where the wife says to Quentin, “Life isn’t worth living.  It’s deteriorated to how many miles we get on our Volkswagen.”  It’s futile.  

The whole of the pagan man’s life – have you ever noticed this – is bound up in a constant thinking and acting in an area of trivia.  Nothing ever really matters.  And they consume themselves to buy stuff that ends up on the junk pile.  It’s trivia, it’s useless, it’s futile, chasing bubbles and shadows, and never knowing the reality.  Everything in the life of the old unregenerate life is – it’s empty, it’s useless, there’s really nothing there at all. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 3

How am I to walk worthy?  

First, walking not as other Gentiles walk.  Now, the “therefore,” then, I think picks up all of verse 1 to 16.  It’s a debate about what the “therefore” applies to; I think it applies to the whole thing, because of the vocation to which you’re called, because it is humility that God is after, and meekness, and lowliness of mind.  Because of the truth that we are one in every way, because the Lord Jesus Christ has gifted us uniquely as members of His body, because He has given to the church the principle of maturity, and growth, and edification, and speaking the truth in love.  Because of all of these things, therefore you are to walk.

It’s as if he’s saying God has created a marvelous entity in the world known as the church, and because of this unique creation, with a unique lifestyle of humility, with a unique unity, with a unique empowerment by gifts and gifted men, with a unique destiny of being edified in love, because of the marvelous uniqueness of this miracle creation called the church, this is how you are to walk.  You see the totality of what the church is designed to be – now here, you as an individual are to behave in this manner.  So he moves from the general to the specific.  You say, “All right, I’m a part of this church.  I know the gifted men are to do what they’re to do and perfect the saints, and the saints do the work of the ministry.  I know You’ve given me spiritual gifts.  I know I’m to know this unity and this oneness.  I know I’m to be humble and meek. 

 Now how do I work it out in my daily life?  How do I live it in the world? 
Principle number one: you don’t walk like the rest of the world walks.  It’s a different life, it’s unique.  You are a unique group.  You are the church of Jesus Christ.  The world is proud, you’re humble.  The world is fragmented, you’re united.  The world is impotent, you’re gifted.  The world is hateful, you’re full of love.  The world doesn’t know the truth, you do.  Because of all these things, and because of the design of your uniqueness, this is how you walk, different; different than the world walks.  You cannot accomplish the glorious goals of Christ by living the way the world lives.  You know, living like the world lives would be imitating the dead.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense, not much point. 

You see, Christianity – and I think it’s important to realize this – We have a new seed, a spiritual seed, an incorruptible seed, and we’ve got to have a corresponding lifestyle.  We are new creations, we are already suited for an eternal existence, we are already righteous and holy in terms of that new nature, and we might as well throw off that old smelly lifestyle.  And yet, isn’t it tragic that instead of the church conforming the world to the principles of Christ, the world winds up shoving us into its own mold?  The word Gentiles – look at it for a moment in verse 17 – ethnos.

We get the word “ethnic” from it; it is a word that means nations, peoples, heathen, pagans, sometimes translated, or Gentiles.  It is simply an ethnic term, and it is used in the New Testament, when it is used in terms of races, to speak of non-Jews, and that is its nationalistic meaning.  But further than that, it has a religious meaning, and if you want to know what the religious meaning, is you need only to look at 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4, and verse 5, because it says there this – 1 Thessalonians 4:5: “Not in the lust of evil desire, as the ethnos who know not God.”  On the one hand, then, ethnos, or Gentile, refers to an ethnic group of non-Jews racially.  On the other hand, religiously it speaks of people who know not whom?  God – God, who know not God. 
So the point is you do not walk – and walk, by the way, speaks of daily manner of life – you do not live your daily manner of life like people who don’t know God.  It’s that simple; you know God.  

The believers in the ancient world found that difficult.  The pagan life all around them; and the deeds of the pagans were constantly in front of them, and it was very difficult to live a different life, just as it is today.  We have a terrible problem in our own age.  The church in America, the church around the world today, but particularly in America, because of its affluence and because of its media inundation of evil, constantly has a difficult time affecting the world. 

You know, our problem isn’t getting the world to live like Christians; our problem is getting Christians to stop living like the world.  That’s the real issue; very difficult because of the tremendous impact of our society.  

Let me just tell you about Ephesus a little bit, the little church in Ephesus was an island in a cesspool.  It was a vile, sinful world for those early Christians to live in, and so the apostle Paul says to them right off the bat in verse 17, “You’ve got to be different.  You’ve got to be different.  You can’t walk like they walk; you can’t do what they do.”  Living the new life is tough, but living the new life is necessary.  You’ve got to put off that old man, that old lifestyle.  By the way, they took good people and fed them to hungry animals, apparently.  Starved lions, starved wolves, starved dogs, they’d throw good people to them.  Do you remember Paul himself even said that he had to fight beasts at Ephesus?  That was really a bad place, and here were the believers there, and Paul says, “You’ve got to be different.  

“Don’t get sucked into this immorality; don’t get sucked into this old pagan lifestyle.”  Peter said the same thing in 1 Peter, chapter 4, and verse 3, great word he says: “For the time past of our life may suffice us.”  In other words, look, the past life is enough of that stuff, that’s sufficient.  “We wrought the will of the pagans,” the ethnos.  “We walked in lasciviousness, in lusts, excess of wine, wild parties, carousing, abominable idolatries.”  And he says, “We did that, but the time past of our life should suffice for that stuff.”  That’s over, that’s over.  On the basis of all of this, and of what we are in Christ, of all that God has purposed, and all that God has designed, and all that God has desired of the believer and the body, we are to be unique.  We are to be different, not like the rest of the world. 


Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 2

Now, Paul is going to attack that very issue right here.  He’s going to tell us, from chapter 4, verse 17, to the end of this book, how to get rid of that o1d coat, how to chuck that old stuff, how to accommodate a new suit for the new man.  

That’s his whole point.  We have learned what the new man is in the first three chapters, right?  Now we’re going to learn how the new man lives in the last three.  He talked about the new nature and all that was involved in chapters 1 to 3, and now the new clothes, the new man, putting on the new man, putting off the old external, the old outside, the old man.  It’s kind of like Romans 6:13.  

If it’s true that we have risen with Christ, if it’s true that we’re brand new and transformed, then we should “never yield our instruments as instruments of unrighteousness, but we should yield our members as instruments of God.”  The reason the Bible is so full of the word “therefore” is because it is incumbent upon us to behave in accord with who we are.  

That’s why the Bible is loaded with “therefores” and “wherefores.”  In fact, chapter 4 would be a good illustration; verse 1 has a therefore, verse 17 has a therefore, verse 25 has a wherefore, chapter 5 has a therefore.  And the whole of the Christian life is a pile of “therefores” and “wherefores” – why?  Because it is demanding from us a response of obedience to the identity that God has given us in Christ.

Now, we’re going to look at how the new nature functions in behavior in the new man.  

That’s our thought as we examine this text.  Now, I want you to go back to verse 1, so we can really pick up the context.

Chapter 4, verse 1: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy” – now we can stop there for a moment.  All right, that’s the whole thrust of 4, 5, and 6, the worthy walk.  “I beseech you that you walk worthy.”  Worthy of what?  “The vocation to which you’re called,” the new nature, the identity that was delineated in chapter 1, 2, and 3.  “Walk worthy.”  

Now, how is that going to work?  How do we walk worthy?  Jump to verse 17.  Here’s the first way: “I say therefore, testify in the Lord, that you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.” 

Now, here’s the first thing he really has to say directly about walking worthy.  It is a different walk.  We are to live different than the world lives.  Now, there is some debate about whether the phrase, “other Gentiles walk,” is in or out in certain manuscripts, and for our sake we’ll include it, because it’s implied if it isn’t in, and I lean to the fact that’s it’s probably in the text anyway.  But the point is the idea here is that we are to walk worthy, verse 1.  

And then he gives that wonderful interlude in verses 2 to 16 about unity, and spiritual maturity, and growth as a sort of a composite of the church.  In other words, he’s talked in generalities about how the church is to function, and now he gets specific.  Now here, you, as a believer, face the fact of what He wants you to do. 

How am I to walk worthy?  

(Will continue tomorrow, pass it on for others to be blessed)




The Christian’s Walk 

Off with the Old, On with the New, Part 1

Ephesians 4:17-24
17 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.
18 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.
19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!-
21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4:17-24

When you receive Jesus Christ, when you are born again, when you enter into God’s kingdom a tremendous change takes place in your basic nature.  You are a totally different individual.  In fact, the change that occurred when you were saved is more dramatic than the change that will occur when you die, because your new nature has already been created. 

The new you has already been made.  You are already fitted for heaven.  You are already a citizen of God’s kingdom.  All death does is free up that new nature to enter into the presence of God.  The greatest change has already happened, when you were saved, and everything is new.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.”  Now note it: he is a new creation.  He doesn’t receive something new; he is new.  “Old things have passed away; all things have become new.”  There is a new creation.  In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live.”  It’s a new I, only it’s not I – the life which I now live is the life of Christ living in me.  Now keep focused on that thought; it’s a new you, it’s a new I, it’s a new creation.

As you study the epistles of Paul, you find that he talks about a new will, a new mind, a new heart, a new power, a new knowledge, a new wisdom, a new perception, a new understanding, a new life, a new inheritance, a new relationship, a new righteousness, a new love, a new desire, a new citizenship, et cetera.  In fact, summing it all up, the Bible says it is newness of life. 

People teach that when you become a Christian, God gives you something new.  You still have your old nature, your old sin nature is still there and so forth, but God gives you something new.  According to the Word of God you are new; it isn’t just a matter of addition, it is a matter of transformation.  Do you understand the difference?

It is a renewed you, it is “I am crucified with Christ.”  The old “I” goes out of existence.  “Nevertheless I live” – risen again – “but it is not I that lives, but it is Christ living in me.”  “Yet not I,” says Paul, “but Christ liveth in me.”  people, you need to grab this at the very beginning of our thoughts. You are a new you.  You say, “Well if I’m such a new me, how come I sin?”  ’Cause you are a new you in a smelly old coat, and that coat is the flesh, that’s your humanness.  That’s why in Romans 7:17, and Romans 7:20, Paul says, “It is sin that is in me.  And again in 20, “It is sin that is in me.”  In other words, when I sin, it isn’t my new nature sinning. 

Now, this may be new to you, so hang on.  “It is no more I that do it,” he says.  It’s not that resurrected I, it’s not that new nature that sins.  And by the way, there is no old nature; that’s a term foreign to Scripture, there’s the old man.  But the old is gone, you’re new.  But it is not the new I that sins; he says, “it is sin that dwelleth in me.”  In other words, it’s that smelly coat of humanness that that new nature has to endure until it goes to be with the Lord.  So what you need to deal with as a Christian is that smelly old coat; you need to get it off.  That’s why Peter uses the verb strip off, which means to take off dirty clothes and throw them, in 1 Peter 2.  Get rid of that stuff. 
We are not a remodel job, I want you to know that; and we are not just something to which something was added.  I don’t believe that a Christian has two natures.  I think a Christian has one new nature.  I dies, ego dies; I lives, so that Christian is a single new man, a total new creature, a new living I.  But sin is a problem because he’s got a smelly old coat of humanness on him.  And what the Bible approaches is the fact that we need to begin to throw that old smelly stuff off.  The new man is a new kind of human behavior, and we are to put on a new man – that is, a new humanness – to accommodate, and fit, and go with the new nature.  But most of us have to fight to get rid of that old stuff. 
In Colossians, chapter 3, the apostle Paul says that “if we have been risen with Christ” – in other words, the old I died and the new I rose.  If we are a transformed, brand new nature, risen with Christ, then certainly we better, “Kill the members on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil desire, covetousness,” et cetera.  In other words, you’ve got to get rid of the stinky old coat.  

As we have a new nature, as we have been recreated in Jesus Christ, as we have been made new, as we have been transformed, so that we now, right now, this moment, are ready for eternal heaven – our nature is ready – then we need to chuck the old patterns, the old things, the old practices, the old life that hangs on us.  Christ is formed in us.  Paul even said that; he said, “O, I have birth pains until Christ is formed in you,” Galatians 4:19.  It is the very life of Christ in us, and we are, it says in Ephesians 2, “created in Christ Jesus.”  But the struggle is with that sin, that coat of sin that is our humanness.

(Will continue tomorrow, pass it on for others to be blessed)