Called to Purity: As a Man Thinks in His Heart, So Is He (Ephesians 4:17-19)



2013-01-27 Called to Purity: As a Man Thinks in His Heart, So Is He | Ephesians 4:17-19

Ephesians 4:17-19

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.

Notes:

Do you ever wonder, like me, why so many seemingly good men and women fall into immorality? I’m not talking here about murderers, gang-members and mafia-types. I’m talking about seemingly good people, in responsible positions in their community or company or state or nation or church. In recent months and years we have witnessed the public moral failures of presidents, politicians, clergymen, CIA directors, school teachers, board members, husbands and wives.

Whether it’s embezzlement of school funds, corporate funds, church funds, state funds, or federal funds; whether it’s an affair with another man or woman in the workplace, or with an underage student by a schoolteacher, or the abuse of a minor by a coach, clergyman, or church elder – seemingly good people keep falling into sin left and right. Why don’t they see it coming and stop? Why do they even get started down that road?

Most people seem to agree that sin is a problem. Some would prefer not to call it sin, but very few directly deny that they do wrong things from time to time. The nature of the solution is where there is considerable disagreement. Modern moralists, humanists, philosophers and even some evangelicals believe that the natural mind is the SOLUTION, that we can think our way out of such problems. They believe that by enlightened thinking we can overcome such problems.

However, as we will see today, the natural mind is at the root of the problem we call original sin.

Paul’s point in this passage is to inform us – to warn us – that all men stand under the wrath of God and are in desperate need of the justifying, purifying power of the gospel of Christ. This is the world in which we live. This must become our worldview or we will never come to grips with the importance of the gospel, or be properly motivated to share it.

If we are to live lives of purity in this world we must understand the world that surrounds us and understand why it is as it is.

 

  1. Moral ability lost in the fall. WCF 9.3 “Man fell into a state of sin by his disobedience and so completely lost his ability to will any spiritual good involving salvation. Consequently fallen man is by nature completely opposed to spiritual good, is dead IN sin, and is unable by his own strength either to convert himself or to prepare himself for conversion.”

Most of what I will say today falls under the first heading in your outline – that is, that man lost his moral ability in the fall. Moral ability is the ability to will any spiritual good concerning salvation. Since the fall, unregenerated man, tho he still has a will, is unable to do good, bc we does not want to. Rom 6.7-8.  7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.  8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Most moderns think the same way Pelagius did back around 400AD. They say, “Man is basically good.” Why? Because they believe sin does not change our essential moral nature. They say, we may sin, but we remain basically good. They are concerned with protecting the idea of man’s free will. They say that Adam was given a free will and his will was not affected by the fall, nor was guilt or fallen corruption passed on by natural generation to Adam’s children.

Augustine said before the fall Adam had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. He did not possess the ability to sin or the inability not to sin (we are able only to sin, unable to live without sinning.)

Calvin: This is the hereditary corruption that was called by the church fathers, “original sin,” meaning depravation of a nature formerly good and pure…when it was clearly proved from S that the sin of the first man passed to all his posterity…we…bring an innate corruption from the womb.”

Luther – Lack of power in body and soul

Unregenerate man is like a FUGITIVE, fleeing from God, as Adam and Eve hid in the Garden, aware of guilt, sought covering for their shame, a cover-up, “Eden-gate.”

We want benefits but not God, gifts w/o giver, we have “turned aside,” “gone out of the way”, Rom 3.12.

We must be found by God. Our search begins at conversion.

Edwards said free choice involves choosing what we most desire at the moment. The problem with unregenerate man is that he always chooses according to his own self-interest and a deed which outwardly conforms to God’s law but proceeds from a heart alienated from God is not deemed by God a good deed.

  1. We are called to lives of purity. The first point under that heading is that because of what Christ has done in our lives, we are called not only to live our lives together in unity as we saw in verses 1-16, but also to live our lives together in purity. Verse 17 is directed at Christians.

 

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.

These and the following verses, as we will see, are directed toward Christians to shock us into a renewed awareness of the kind of life we left behind and the kind of life many around us still live – a life of futility brought about by wrong thinking about God and his creation.

  1. We must understand the world in which we live

 

The second point is that in order to live together in purity we must understand the nature of the world system that surrounds us. This is described in verses 18 and 19.

 

 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.

We are surrounded by those whose understanding is darkened, who are alienated from God, ignorant of his ways… and who are given over to sensuality and impurity. We will say more about this in a moment.

  1. We must understand why the world is as it is

 

The third point is that we must understand especially WHY the world is as it is – is because of their hardness of heart. It’s found at the virtual center of verses 18 and 19.

Hardening: poros – marble-like stone; porion – callous; poroo – to petrify, harden

Unsaved have willingly hardened their hearts so became warped in sp understanding

Same as Rom 1:18-23 as we saw earlier – people not innocently ignorant but willfully disobedient to what they know to be true.

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.

 

The progression:

  1. God has revealed himself in nature 19-21

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

  1. People are rejecting or suppressing the truth about God

Eph 4.18 “due to their hardness of heart they have become ignorant”

Rom 1:18 …who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

 

  1. God’s wrath is upon them bc it is willful

 

Eph 4.18 …alienated from the life of God…

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…

 

  1. God darkens their understanding and moral lives as judgment (as inevitable working out of sin) (22-24, 26, 28)

 

Eph 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding…

Rom1:22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

Eph 4:19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Rom 1:24  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves… 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. They were committing shameless acts with one another and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

 

Conclusions and Applications

  1. Know the world as it really is, not as it thinks itself
  2. Recognize the spiritual blindness in which the world operates due to willful hardening of heart
  3. Pray for the world and individuals for eyes to be opened.
  1. Moral ability renewed in conversion. WCF 9.4 “When God converts the sinner and brings him into a state of grace, he frees him from his natural enslavement to sin. By God’s grace alone, freely given, sinful man is enabled to will and to do what is spiritually good. However, the old sinful nature also remains, the believer cannot consistently or perfectly will to do what is good but also wills evil.”

But closer to home, do you ever wonder why so many seemingly true believers fall into immorality? Many of you know personally – pastors, church secretaries, music directors,  organists, elders, deacons, and once faithful husbands and wives, whom we had very little doubt were true believers in Christ – who have fallen prey to some form of immorality. How can this be? Maybe even you have fallen prey to some form of secret sin that has not yet been discovered and are wondering how long you can continue to cover it up or how to get free from it.

What is the cause of all this immorality in seemingly good people, even Christians, and what is the solution?

  • Moral ability perfected in glory. WCF 9.5 “The will of man is perfectly free and permanently inclined to do good alone only in the state of glory.”

 

 

Moral ability renewed in conversion. WCF 9.4 “When God converts the sinner and brings him into a state of grace, he frees him from his natural enslavement to sin. By God’s grace alone, freely given, sinful man is enabled to will and to do what is spiritually good. However, the old sinful nature also remains, the believer cannot consistently or perfectly will to do what is good but also wills evil.”

Moral ability perfected in glory. WCF 9.5 “The will of man is perfectly free and permanently inclined to do good alone only in the state of glory.”

 

 

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