November 19, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Ephesians 4)

Submitted by Conrad C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:17-19

“Both Ephesians 4:17-19 and Romans 1:21-32 focus on willful futility, darkness, distorted reasoning leading to alienation from God, and resulting passions and desires that lead to uncleanness and sins.  Sins are not the cause of the problem, but the result; the problem lies in the mind and in the choices made against God.  In Romans, God gave people over to the desires of their hearts, whereas Paul uses the same word here to say they give themselves over.” [Klyne Snodgras. Ephesians. The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 230.]

  • What is the significance of Apostle Paul describing the Gentiles in terms of their “futility of … mind,” “darkened…understanding,” and “ignorance?”

You would think that Apostle Paul upon looking at mankind, he would pick at the external effects that have arisen from their rebellion from God.  Given the secular impact on Roman society, those effects would have easily been able to pick out–all kinds of unspeakable acts, diminishing of human dignity, and other “sins” that would cause the modern listener to blush.  Yet, behind all that is a will, a decision, a mind that has chose to not choose good.  This is significant because I think even in our culture, acts are so impressionable.  Yet it all these acts arise from ideas, mindsets, worldviews, and more poignantly, darkened understandings.  So, as quick as I might react to what I see being done, either by others or by myself, I have to ask rather, where it comes from.  What thought, what understanding, what assumption does it arise from?  In the futile mind or darkened understanding lies the concentration of what it means to rebel against God.

  • What is the relationship between the mind, heart, and actions, according to vv. 17-19?

There is a pattern of futile thinking in the mind that causes the heart to grow hardened and stubborn.  Because of that, the heart becomes desensitized, and any sense of self-determination that you think have just results in the lowest cravings and appetites.  Apostle Paul says they gave themselves over, meaning the draw of the appetites meets no resistance either heart or mind, which is another way of saying that neither volition nor reason offer any resistance to the flesh.

  • In what ways have I experienced (or seen at work in others) this progression play out?

Given the season of thanksgiving we are in, there are opportunities to express thanks, and in my ministry, there’s those chances we get to encourage our students to express their thanks to someone in their life in a nice card.  I was thinking today that what if hypothetically I asked one of my students to write a thank you card to someone, but he stubbornly refused despite my pleading.  In theory, he is not against giving thanks to people.  But the fact, as his mentor, I was asking him to write a thank you card, that ignited his rebelliousness to not write anything and close his heart.  Therein lies the significant reality that the futility of darkened mind is in fact the root of all sin.  To know good, yet not choose it (in the language of Romans 1) is the height of human sin and pride.

I’ve seen this scenario played out in reality in many cases not just with others in different scenarios, but with myself as well of course, where the appetites mysteriously bypass reason or will.  Yet it’s not so much the power of the appetites, but rather a fundamental thought or belief, such “I had a hard week; it’s okay to relax a little,” that serves as the catalyst to hardening of heart and releasing yourself to baser cravings.

  • What resources has God provided for me to be renewed in my mind (v. 23)?

“the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him”

Renewing of the mind begins with reviewing the truths and elementary facts of the gospel.  It’s reminding yourself of what is real, and no more of an advanced thought, that 2,000+ years ago, Jesus Christ died for my sins on a cross that I might be set free to live a life of love.  Apostle Paul does not say they need to learn something new, rather the truths they learned, they need to hold on to it.  The basic gospel message is a powerful because it reminds me of what is really true in my life, and in a way, it is the renewing message of the community of believers, to encourage me to remember and hold true.

Submitted by Jeanie O. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV) 

Citation:

Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, p.118, Baker Book House, 1998, Darkness & Light: An Exposition of Ephesians, 4:17-5:17:

“This is precisely the difference between Christianity and Morality. Morality stops at the negative. It tells us “Put off the old man! You must not do this, and you must not do that. Then it is finished. That in essence is morality; it is always negative, it is only concerned with the putting off of the old. But that is never Christianity. We do not merely put off the old and stop at that…the positive preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit (putting on) deals with [the various problems of the “old man”]…it must be a combined action.”

Putting off the old self is easy enough to understand and virtually impossible to do. Perceiving the laws of God written on our hearts, knowing what we are doing is either right or wrong, this is something that is almost instinctively understood for those who are honest with themselves. But we feel so helpless in abstaining from all our wayward desires. If it were not so, how would we have felt the desperate need for the gospel in the first place? Christian life seems so impossible at times because my focus is not really on Christian life. My focus is merely on putting off the old self: don’t look at that, don’t think those mean thoughts, don’t miss daily devotion, don’t lie, don’t sleep when everyone else is slaving away, don’t be selfish, don’t be so moody, etc. As Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones points out, putting off the old self is always concerned with the negative. It is fundamentally concerned with moral rules and unconcerned about the God’s tremendous passion for the lost. Putting off the old self by itself is about denying the flesh with all its seduction, it’s never-ending desires and living that upright, moral life.

Left by itself, “putting off” is mere legalism and although a person may be upright by succeeding in this endeavor, he or she would not necessarily be living a Christian life at all. But if we combine this injunction with “putting on the new self” then we have the focus we need to live out Christian life. The focus is no longer on killing the beast within but it becomes spiritual, it grows into embracing the compelling urgency of the gospel, being convinced that it is the true answer to all the world’s sorrows, sharing in the passion and zeal of building up the church. Yesterday during Sunday message, I had the opportunity to hear a couple of testimonies. One was about how God rescued a brother from a life of hoarding money and meaninglessness. The other was about how God had mended a broken heart that was broken by a torn family background, broken by rejection, and broken by the stress of having to prove herself. It really renewed my joy and happiness to know that God is mightily at work, that he is fiercely trying to reclaim his lost children. It made me forget about how I failed in this or that or how I made another big blunder the day before…I am a part of this body that is giving itself to the work of this wonderful gospel while it is still day. When my heart is preoccupied with the hope that God will rescue another person if I push myself for another few hours to work, to write another message, to do another filming, to cook another meal, to say another encouraging word, to give another smile when my heart is feels like crying, …this is putting on the new self. It is something I would never do if I were not convinced that Jesus is the answer to every significant problem of humanity and the antidote to every sick heart. Putting on the new self means being driven by the vision of the banquet that Pastor Ed shared about in his message this past Sunday, where we are the servants calling in all the sick, the blind, the lame…anyone who will come. When we put on the new self, surprisingly in most cases, it does its job in relinquishing much of the old self. It’s hard to be tempted in worldly endeavors when we are trying to love our Joyland children or Interhigh youth or the elderly at a nursing home.

In this season of Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful to reflect on what a generous God we serve, that he would not only save his lost through the shedding of Jesus’ blood but that he would involve us, invite us to put off our old self and put on the new self he gave us so that we could be part of his work. Just like Pastor Ed preached on the servants at the wedding of Cana, because “we do, we know!” By putting off our old self and putting on our new self, we are given the privilege and opportunity to know more deeply how marvelous God’s ways are in the rescuing people. I’m so thankful that we get to be those servants that were once blind, lame, hopeless but are now being invited to put on the new self!

Submitted by Danielle P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Ephesians 4:17-19

  • What is the significance of Apostle Paul describing the Gentiles in terms of their “futility of … mind,” “darkened…understanding,” and “ignorance?”

Apostle Paul described the Gentiles in terms of “futility of their minds,” “darkened in their understanding,” and “ignorance… in them.”  These phrases have something to do with their minds. When we think about differences between the Gentiles and the Jews, we might think about the differences in heart and actions. When we think about differences between Christians and non-Christians, likewise, we tend to focus on their actions/choices and their hearts. However, living/walking as the Gentiles do starts with the minds even before the actions and heart.

  • What is the relationship between the mind, heart, and actions, according to vv. 17-19?

According to vv. 17-19, living like the Gentiles or non-Christians start with the mind. The futility of the mind leads to the darkened in our understanding, and ignorance in our lives. The futile and darkened mind actually leads us to be alienated from the life of God as our heart becomes hardened. Our heart becomes callous and in the end, it leads to full manifestation in actions as we give ourselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. It starts with our mind, and then affects our heart. In the end, we make choices in our lives giving into our sinful dark desires.

  • In what ways have I experienced (or seen at work in others) this progression play out?

I have seen this progression play out in the lives of some people. I have witnessed them holding onto the idea of romance and marriage, and how their mind became darkened. Although it started with the idea of having a romantic relationship and marriage, they ignored all the warnings that they heard through the Bible studies and friends. Later they alienated themselves from God and other Christians, even their own friends. They did not listen to their friends. Their heart became hardened, and callous. In the end, some of them left God’s calling and walked away from the community of church. Personally it was really heart-breaking to see them going back to the life alienated from God and His people, which they were saved from, and also gave me such a warning to watch out for what my mind is set on.  Besides that, I had witnessed people who pondered on thoughts of a comfortable life, and in the end, their hearts became callous and hardened. They chose the comfortable life, and are now living a powerless life now. Personally, I had experienced this progression in my life as well. I made a bad decision of isolating myself, and hurting many people in my life who love me so much and poured out their love to me for several years. It started with pondering on thought of a carefree life and the deep-seated mistrust over people’s love for me. I started deflecting messages from God and others, and in the end, I made a decision to hurt people in my life, and isolated myself from them. Even though what I set my mind on seemed to be harmless, it led me to actually make a decision that was against God and hurt many people. This personal experience and witnesses of those people cause me to watch out for what my mind sets on, and to be vigilant in struggling to align my mind and heart to God’s words.

  • What resources has God provided for me to be renewed in my mind (v. 23)?

God has provided for me the different resources for me to be renewed in my mind. First of all, He has given me His Word, especially through daily devotions, Bible studies, messages and the bible reading times. I am given so many opportunities to study His Word, and struggle with it.  Unless I struggle with the Word of God, and personalize the messages, I still hold onto my values and ideas on life and people that I learned before I became Christian, and my mind continues to be filled with the voices of the world. Through His Word, I learn what God cherishes, what is more valuable, and how I ought to live and interact with others.  God also has provided me with many leaders and older sisters. I came to realize how God uses mature Christians in my life to shape me and renew my mind from futile thinking. I sometimes feel stuck and tend to zoom into my narrow thinking. My leader helps me correct my thinking, and helps me to redirect my thinking. Moreover, God has provided me His Holy Spirit who prompts me and challenges my thoughts and emotions when I am not aligned with His values. His Spirit prompts me to be convicted of my ways of thinking. It challenges me to confess and turn to God.

Ephesians 4:20-24

“Conversion is renunciation of a self-centered identity in favor of a Christ-defined identity.  All that shapes us is given over to Christ, and his mindset of self-giving love becomes our mindset.  Conversion is the restructuring of a person’s thinking by the Holy Spirit as the result of a direct encounter with the love of God in the person of Christ.  Otherwise, we are not Christians.  In effect, we take off what we thought was life and put on Christ.” [Klyne Snodgras. Ephesians. The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 240.]

  • What is God’s ultimate vision for my life?

God’s ultimate vision for my life is for me to be more like Christ, to be likeness of Christ in a form of His love, characters, and desires.

  • To fulfill God’s vision for my life, what are the things that I need to “put off” and the new self that I need to “put on?”

To fulfill God’s vision for my life, I need to “put off” my tight grip on my resources including time, energy, money and emotional and mental comfort. The way that I selfishly hold onto my resources is truly the former way of my life before I came to know Christ. I thought I had to “preserve,” so then I would not be poor and vulnerable in life. However, I continued to live in the ways that I preserve my resources feeling like I would not have enough if I surrender them freely. I often struggle with my calculative attitude over whether I have enough rest after a hard work. Clearly, I do not need to worry about not having enough as I experienced God replenishing those even more through people and spiritual blessings in my life. But I consistently practice “putting off” my former ways of life preserving my resources. As I “put off” my tight grip on the resources, I need to “put on” the ways to love others and be more giving/sacrificial. There are many ways for me to let go of my grip on the resources. There are people who need my listening ears and struggle together. There are many tasks that I can volunteer and lessen the workload of people who I love. I can be generous with my money and resources to love people and express my love and care for them. Through these acts of kindness, I can learn to “put on” love, sacrifice, mercy and generosity.

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