Monday, October 4, 2010

Putting to Rest the Dead Man

When we come to Jesus, the Bible tells us that we are a new creation in Christ.  That new creation is referred to as the New Man.  That "New Man" is no longer compatible with any of those sinful and selfish things we have done in our former lives before Christ.  Our sin, once sweet, becomes more and more bitter as we grow more and more like Jesus.  And now that "New Man" has new priorities and a new heart that strives to grow closer to God and to grow more and more to be like our Lord.  Today I want to talk about that New Man we have become as many of us seem to like to live as though we were still that old man, now crucified with Christ.  I want to talk about how we need to put off the rotten and rotting old man we once were and fully put on that New Man we are in Christ.  Today, we will look at Ephesians for our guidance.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.  Ephesians 4:17-19 NKJV
Before I picked up in verse 17, Paul was sharing about how the church is the body of Christ and how we are all part of that body and should live as part of that body.  Now Paul is going to share how it can be possible to live as one body in Christ.  First, we have to act like Christians.  We are clearly called here not to walk as the unredeemed.  The unredeemed have no understanding of the truth and so walk in uncleanness and selfishness.  In other words, we are not to live as those outside the church who live for themselves and for their sin.  We need to be different than that to be part of the body of Christ. 
But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  Ephesians 4:20-22 NKJV
Jesus taught us to behave differently (and again if Jesus teaches us to behave differently I do not understand churches that do not teach the same).  Jesus taught us the opposite of how the unredeemed live.  He taught us to live selflessly and righteously for the Lord:
Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 'And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. "And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."  Mark 12:29-31 NKJV
Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves and the love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.  Jesus also teaches us that if we love Him, we would follow His commands. 

Back to Ephesians, we are told not only to remember the teaching of Jesus, but to put away that sinful and selfish behavior of the "old man."   And we do that because that old man is dead. 
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  Romans 6:5-6 NKJV
That old man along with all his old behaviors were crucified with Christ.  We need to recognize that.  We need to truly believe that.  We must not believe the lie that we need to keep putting to death the old man or keep putting to death our sin.  They are dead, they are crucified with Christ once and for all.  That old man was a slave to sin, the new man is not.  Our sin now is not the result of a sin nature that we can not escape on our own, but by a willful rebellion against the will of God who promises us a way of escape whenever we are tempted.  That old man is dead, we need to stop carrying him around. 
and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.  Ephesians 4:23-24 NKJV
And once we have put to death that old man, we need to put on that new man.  That new man created according to God, created for righteousness and holiness.  That new man created for the glory of God.  That is who we are now.  That is who God made us to be once we accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives.  And now let us see what that means for our lives.
Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.  Ephesians 4:25-27 NKJV
First we are to be honest with one another.  This is important because as the body of Christ, we are called to be submissive and accountable to one another.  This is only possible if we are honest.  We are also called to call one another out on our sin, which is also only possible if we are honest.  We are called to bear the burdens of one another, which is again only possible if we are honest with each other.  The body of Christ can not function if we are not honest to each other. 

We are also told to be angry and do not sin.  The kind of anger that is not sinful is righteous indignation, that is anger against sin.  That is not an anger of sin against ourselves as selfish anger is sinful anger, but anger about sin in general.  When someone sins, we should be offended and angered.  When that anger crosses into sin is when we make that anger personal.  If someone wrongs us, we are called to forgive as Christ forgave.  Jesus died for us while we were still enemies of God, and we are called to share that same love and grace with one another.  We are called to bless, pray for, minister to, and love our enemy. I am angry that there is sin in the church, I am not angry that someone sinned against me.  Please note the difference.  We are also called to not let the sun go down on our anger, meaning we are not to hold a grudge.  In other words, while it is wrong to be angry at a person for what they have done to us, it is made worse by holding onto that anger.  We need to repent and let go of it.  We can not survive as a body of Christ is we lack forgiveness of one another and hold grudges against one another. 
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.  Ephesians 4:28 NKJV
The new man is not a thief.  Not only are we no longer thieves, but we are called to work.  Not only are we called to work but we are called to be generous with what the Lord provides for us.  Again we see the contrast from the old man who, in the ultimate act of greed, stole from another.  Now we may not all be thieves, but keep in mind that even paying cash to get around paying taxes is a form of thievery.   But now not only are we not to steal, but we are to work and be generous.  We are to give of what the Lord has provided for us.  We go from taking for ourselves to working so that we can help others.  It is a complete change.  A healthy church is a generous church.  The early church member gave all of their goods to the church so that all who had need would have that need met.  May we have the same heart and faith to trust the Lord to give of what the Lord has given us in order to meet the needs of others.
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.  Ephesians 4:29 NKJV
James teaches us to tame the tongue.  A characteristic of the new man is a tamed tongue.  Note how the Word tells us to let "no" corrupt word come out of our mouth.  It does not say limit corrupt words or use less corrupt words, but no corrupt words. And what is a corrupt world?  Well if a good word is "for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers," then a corrupt word would be the opposite.  Our corrupt words are things that are designed to bring people down.  We need to be careful especially in our jesting.  Do we trash-talk in such a way to bring people down when competing?  Do we tell dirty jokes or use foul language?  If what you are saying is not imparting grace or edification to the hearer then you need to make sure that you are speaking good and not corruption. 
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Ephesians 4:30 NKJV
What behaviors of ours grieve the Holy Spirit?  Paul just finished us telling us such things that grieve the Holy Spirit, those things being unrighteousness, selfishness, letting corrupt words come out of our mouth, pride, dishonesty, and sin in general.  In fact, anytime we live in a way that does not Glorify God, we are grieving the Spirit of God, because those things are not of the Holy Spirit.  The new man has the Spirit of God dwelling within him and when we act in our own flesh, we grieve that holy and pure Spirit of God that dwells within us.  Paul now shares how to and how not to grieve the spirit.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-32 NKJV
If we are bitter (holding grudges), wrathful (acting in revenge), angry (not righteous anger, but personal anger), clamoring (complaining), and evil speaking (speaking with corrupt words or in a corrupt manner) grieve the spirit and must be put away from you along with any other kind of evil in your life.  On the other hand, we are called to be kind and tenderhearted to one another.  And, as we saw earlier, we need to forgive one another.  We are to do the complete opposite from what grieves the spirit.  Instead of bitterness, anger, and wrath, we are to forgive and love.  Instead of complaining, we are to be thankful.  Instead of evil speaking, we are to encourage, challenge, and edify one another. 

The old man is dead.  Not only is he dead, but is for eternally dead.  Not only is he eternally dead, but he has been replaced with a new man.  We need to know that and live that.  We need to live in the newness of life God has granted us.  We need to put away those traits from the old man from our own selves just as the body of Christ needs to put away those behaviors from itself.  Put away those old habits, put away that anger, put away that inappropriate speaking, put away all that which is not consistent with the new Spirit-filled man or woman of God that you were created into at your salvation.   That old man is dead and you will never find a truly healthy Christian life as long as you cling to that dead body of what you once were.  Let him go and step into that new life God has for you.  You are not made for that old life, you were recreated into a new life. Be that new man and allow God to make for you a new life in Him.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:1-11 NKJV

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